"I'm really sorry, Rosa, babe. I'm literally just about to sit down to dinner with Hadley's family. Can I call you back later?" There's a pause and I bite my lip, hoping it isn't something that can't wait. I glance up to a slight glare coming from Momma Smith.
"Oh. Y-yeah. Sorry," she mumbles and hangs up. Ah, fuck. With a sigh, I join the others at the table, sitting next to Hadley, opposite Ava. I smile a little as Hadley's hand finds mine under the table and I squeeze it gently. As Momma Smith starts dishing up, I sort of watch and at the same time, do my best to be invisible. Ava smiles at me as I'm handed a plate and I mumble a thank you, looking down at the roast dinner in front of me. I get the impression that Momma isn't best impressed at that, but she doesn't say anything, and even if she was about to, Eric talks before she can.
"Well, dig in everyone," he says. I glance down at the beef and start eating, as does everyone else. I'm not a huge fan of beef. Whenever I've been given beef before, it's been like eating school shoes - y'know the kind your parents make you wear until you're old enough to tell them to fuck off? But as I start eating, I realise that beef can actually taste of something that isn't like leather.
"Anyone know when Cayden's coming down?" Ava asks after a while. Hadley pauses to answer.
"We're not exactly sure if he's even coming this year," he tells her.
"Seriously?" Hadley nods a little sadly.
"Good," I hear Momma sort of mumble. I look up, surprised. Why good? Shouldn't you be kinda like, upset, that your son is skipping Christmas with you? Ava looks just as shocked as me and Eric sighs.
"Can't we just forget all that, Caitlin?" She seems to ignore him, going back to her food. I, on the other hand, look at Eric, hoping that there may be some kind of explanation behind that, but... well, why did I bother even hoping? "Right, now let's just try and have a nice family meal," he says, turning to Ava and Ryan, "What's been happening with you two, then?" They talk about stuff that I don't really listen to. I'm too busy wondering what happened to make Momma Smith not want her kid there for Christmas, and noticing that she's staying totally silent.
I glance at Hadley, wondering if he might explain it to me later and sort of go back to my food, a tiny bit put off by the thought that Cay's about as welcome here as I am. Hadley's knee sort of brushes against mine and, surprised by the contact, I look up at him again. He smiles a little and I give him a small smile in return, doing my best to not feel increasingly uncomfortable. Honestly, I'm beginning to think the conversation about boobs was more comfortable to listen to than this. We go back to eating, and I watch as Eric keeps trying to start conversations with people, whilst still attempting to be invisible. Of course, that doesn't work.
"So, uh, Maxxie... Hadley was telling me you went back to London." I nod.
"Yeah. I went back to sell my house," I mutter, not looking forward to the next question.
"Oh right. How much did it go for?" I sort of mumble the reply. "Sorry?"
"Three million," I mumble a bit louder. Eric drops his fork in surprise and I blush.
"Hadley's got himself a sugar daddy," Ava laughs a little. That just makes me blush more. Hadley's blushing too, bless him, but Momma cuts in with:
"Can we not have talk like that at the dinner table?" I just look back down at my food, kinda embarrassed.
"Sorry, Mom," Hadley mumbles, even though he hadn't said anything. I manage to not let my eyebrow jerk up at that and just keep quiet. After everyone's gotten over that, Eric and Ryan go back for seconds, but Hadley still hasn't eaten much. I nudge him ever so slightly, nodding at his food a little when he looks round at me. Because aside from worrying about his appetite fucking off again, I would probably, somehow, be blamed for Hadley not eating. He gives me this look that says he's not hungry and all I can really do is shrug. I mean, I can hardly shove it down his throat can I?
He still forces himself to try and eat some more though and you can't really fault the effort behind that. I finish my own plate and thank Momma with a smile, hoping that maybe this at least might not get me glared at. In fact, she even manages a tiny smile, which I think is a huge improvement. Give the woman a medal.
"D'you want any help clearing up?" I ask, not exactly hoping to earn any brownie points - I just don't feel like sitting around being a spare part all the time. She glances at Ava, who sort of shakes her head.
With a shrug, she says: "sure," in a way that suggests to me she really means ‘no, but I don't really feel like I have a choice in the matter'. I smile slightly and do my best to prepare for whatever she might throw at me - if anything.