By the end of the evening the rest of the family had made it to the house. Cait had picked up Oni and his partner, Dan. The house was stuffed with guests, and most of them were staying the weekend. Pear and Penny gave up their rooms to Carter and Jamie, and Cait and Aaron. I spent most of the evening chatting with Kaliq, Casey, Joe and Oni outside by the bar. We were interrupted when the sliding glass door opened, and Scott and Sean came out. Sean waved his hands to us and asked Kaliq, “You mind if I smoke out here?”
“Umm, sure. Just maybe go around the corner of the house.” Kaliq pointed to the side of the house. “I think that’s where Pear and Jamie snuck off to smoke.”
“You know,” I asked. I’ve caught both boys sneaking off around the house to smoke for the longest time. Lecturing didn’t help. They always forgot the camera on that side of the house, and eventually they didn’t care as long as their parents didn’t catch them.
“Casey told me.”
“Surprise you didn’t rip their head off,” I said.
Kaliq shrugged, “If they want to put poison in their lungs, then fine. I caught Pear a few times and tried grounding him—which we all know never works—eventually I gave up and put an ashtray out there for him.”
“Maybe I should go over there and scare him about the risks of smoking,” Joe added. “I have tar build up along my lungs from burning houses. It’s scary shit.”
I watched Oni head toward the corner of the house as we talked about the effects of smoking. I shook my head. I wanted to pound his ass. I knew he smoked, and I had hoped he’d given it up. I was wrong. Scott grabbed a beer from our mini fridge and joined our conversation. He even clinked my glass in a silent toast. The rest of the night was a blur as we all drank and talked. I don’t remember going up to bed, and I was sure I didn’t make it up there on my own. I woke with a massive headache and realized I drank far more than I should have.
It was Christmas Eve, and I woke to an empty bed with my head pounding. I washed up and dressed. My arm had been removed sometime during the night, thankfully. When I was ready to join my family I found all the ladies in the kitchen cooking, including Hana. I snuck up on her and kissed her on the neck. She smelled amazing. Her body reacted differently than normal. She straightened up and pushed me away. Hana turned and I gulped. Her arms were crossed and her eyes narrowed into slits and her mouth pursed into a very thin line. Oh shit. I knew that look. I was in deep shit, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out why. I fucked up. I got shit-faced drunk—something I usually never did.
The rest of the women in the room stopped what they were doing when I had been spotted. Riddle shook her head at me, and I knew she didn’t approve either. None of the girls looked happy around me. Was I not alone in getting wasted? I hope so. For once I hoped we all did, and all were in trouble. Kaliq walked in from the back and saw us all. “Oh shit,” he said and left as fast as he entered the room. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t good.
“Okay, um, I may be slightly out of it, but what’s going on?”
“You don’t remember?” Rose asked.
“Uh,” I scratched my head. “Not particularly, no. What did I do?”
Hana stormed out at me, “You passed out drunk in the snow! Your brothers found you freezing outside! They carried you and dumped you on the sofa and wrapped you with a shit ton of blankets before waking me up. Then God knows when, but you woke up, puked all over Riddle’s bathroom, made your way upstairs, puked again in our place, and landed in the bed next to me. I tried to wake you, but nope, you were out cold! What the hell possessed you to drink that much, Parker! You could have frozen to death outside if your brothers didn’t find you!”
Oh shit. I have no recollection of drinking that much. I remember talking with the guys, maybe doing a shot or two with Oni and Kaliq. But after that…nothing. “Uhhh,” was all I could say. How was I going to make it up to Hana? Shit, she probably was freaking out last night.
She stormed at me and slapped me hard. Hana’s never so much as laid a finger on me, much less slapped me. It hurt. “You ever drink again, Parker, you’ll be out of this house faster than you can say Vodka. Understood?”
“Parker, I’m not playing. I want the Vodka dumped, and I want it to stop. No more.”
“Understood?” When I didn’t answer, because I was fucking speechless, she left the room. The rest of the women in my life all turned and picked up what they were doing in the kitchen. I was standing there speechless. I had to give up drinking for good. It was one thing to sneak a drink, because Hana always knew. She wasn’t dumb, and neither was I. This was different. I turned to see the elevator doors closing. Shit. Would she really kick me out of her life before…
I turned and headed for my apartment. I made it to the garage when I heard the door upstairs open, and slam closed. I leaned against the staircase and listened. Nothing. No sound. I tiptoed up And spied through the window pane on the top of the stairs. Hana sat on the bed and gathered a pillow and a blanket. She stood and went into the closet area and pulled out clothes—my clothes. My heart stung as I watched her put it all in a duffle bag.
Kaliq knocked on the door and stepped through it. He watched Hana continue packing a bag. “Ma? Are you sure you want to do this? It’s Christmas Eve.”
“He could have died last night, Kaliq. I’ve been watching him every night polish a bottle or two off. He doesn’t notice he’s doing it. In the morning he thinks he’s only had one or two glasses. It’s getting worse, and I am not going to have him kill himself in front of me.” My breath hitched. Have I really been drinking that much? Was I drinking myself to death?
“It’s all my fault. He’s killing himself because he can’t stand to see me die.” She wailed into his arms.
“Shh,” Kaliq hushed her, “It’s not your fault.”
“Yes, it is.” She backed away from him and gathered more of my things. “Rose said he could stay at her place this weekend. Just take this out to Casey’s jeep for me.” She handed him a duffle bag.
“Okay. When are you going to tell him?”
“Tonight when Casey and Rose leave.”
I descended the stairs and sat at the bottom. I cried in my arms. She really was going to kick me out. It was Christmas—her last Christmas—and she didn’t want to spend it with me. I stood up, wiped my eye, and knew what I had to do. I grabbed a box in the corner of the garage and gathered the Vodka I had hidden in there. I went to each hiding spot around the house, ignoring everyone’s questioning glares. When I filled a box I placed it on the kitchen table and gathered more in another box. I had two and a half boxes filled of my favorite drink.
The girls in the kitchen (Rose, Riddle, Penny, Anna, Jahi, Dani, and Cait) had ignored me all day—siding with Hana. They were cooking and chatting away when I finally interrupted them. I cleared my throat. Most of them stopped and turned to glare at me. It was sickening how that particular stare could spread across on to every woman’s face. Rose was at the sink peeling potatoes. “Rose, may I use the sink?”
“I have stuff to dump.” Rose gave me an appeasing grin. She gathered the potatoes and went over the trash can. I hauled a box over to the sink and silently poured each bottle down the drain.When I was done I took the bottles out to the recycling container. Just as I dumped the last box when Kali wandered down the stairs carrying two duffle bags. We both froze at the sight of one another. One look at the duffle bags and I knew what was happening.
“Fuck!” I screamed and kicked the trash bin. I repeated the sentiment until my foot was sore.
Kalif glanced inside the recycling container after I finished my swearing tantrum, “That’s all of them?”
“Every last one.”
“Go talk to her.” Kaliq motioned to the stairs.
“And say what? Kaliq, I royally fucked up. How was I supposed to know how much I was drinking? I haven’t been sane since the diagnosis. Tell me last night was the first time I passed out somewhere other than my bed? Because I can’t remember most nights getting to bed now that I think about it.”
“I’ve helped you to bed when I’ve found you passed out downstairs. Last night was the first outside. You usually make it to the couch.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Kaliq put the bags down and sighed, “Because it was helping you. That’s what I keep telling myself. I’ve listened to you outside with a bottle or two. You cry and you swear and you get all the frustrations out. I’ve listened to you yell at thin air and to God. It’s how you’re coping with Ma, and believe me I understand it. You hold up this brave, strong exterior, Dad, and I can’t imagine what you’re feeling inside. It’s good to have an outlet.”
“Not if it’s going to get me tossed out.” I pointed out. “I should have never gotten that drunk, Kaliq. Not once. You know our genetics. You know I’ve had problems in the past. You should have stopped me when you noticed it.”
“Yeah, me too. Now, help me win back your mother.”