Mom surprised me by calling me a few days before Christmas. Apparently her and dad are coming to visit me for Christmas. So I get to spend my Christmas probation this year with my parents in a motel room.
Needless to say, I'm less than happy about this arrangement. I'd rather be spending it with Kyle. I mean, Nathan. I sigh, leaning my head on the window of my probation officer's car as he drops me off at the motel. "See you later," he says as I get out, and I nod, not really wanting to look up at my waiting parents' faces. He drives off, and I have no choice but to turn and face them, slapping a fake grin on my lips for them.
Mom instantly bursts into tears and rushes over, wrapping me in a smothering hug. Dad hangs back, arms folded across his chest, his whole demeanour saying he's only doing this for mom. I hug her back awkwardly, just waiting for the comments about how I look different, how I seem like a new person, and the questions about what I'm gonna do once I get out of prison.
"How are you doing?" she asks, standing back and wiping her eyes.
"I'm alright. I mean, I'd rather not being in jail, but y'know." She nods, steering me up to their room. "How are you?"
"Oh, I'm fine, honey," she tells me, lying through her teeth. I let it drop, glancing at dad who's not said a word to me yet. He meets my gaze, disappointment etched into his features. I turn my eyes downward, watching my feet slapping against the stairs awkwardly. Once we're in their room, I feel more imprisoned than I do in jail, and perch on the edge of the bed, feeling kinda weird and tense. "Make yourself comfortable, honey, you must be dying for a day of not having to stick to the rules."
I shrug slightly, "it's not so bad, I guess. It's odd not having a structure to my day, to be honest," I smile weakly and she mirrors it, turning to her overnight bag.
"Well, we couldn't get you anything very nice - I can't imagine they'd let you take it into prison with you anyway," she says, rummaging around for something, "I don't know how these things work, really," she lets out a sort of nervous laugh, pulling out whatever she was looking for. She hands me a small box, wrapped in shiny red paper with my name written on the front in biro. I unwrap it when she nods and smiles encouragingly, revealing a box of chocolates. I feel a lump form in my throat as I remember for the hundredth time today how I spent last Christmas.
"Thanks," I force myself to smile up at her, "I'll save them for later."
We go out for dinner, settling down in some restaurant for whatever their take on a Christmas roast is. Mom studies me intently as we wait for the food to arrive, and I fix my eyes on the table, wondering what she's looking at me like that for.
"You've filled out more since you've been away," she says eventually, and I risk a glance up, flashing her a tiny smile.
"Probably has something to do with the fact I'm not a junkie bum anymore," I reply.
"No, you're just a criminal bum now," dad mutters under his breath irritably. I glance at him, not really bothering to hide the fact I'm stung by his comment. Mom smiles, ignoring him.
"You do look a lot better," she nods, "it's nice to see you looking healthy for once."
"What are you going to do with yourself once you get out?" dad cuts in, and me and mom look at him, surprised he's actually talking.
"I... I dunno. I've still got like a year and a half til I get out. I haven't really thought about it."
"Are you gonna actually do something with your life for once? Make something of yourself?" I lean back in my chair, not sure how to react to the aggression behind his questions. "I told you time and time again you'd end up like this, but you never listened, did you? And now because you didn't fucking listen to me, we're eating in some shitty restaurant away from home because you can't travel to see us." Mom puts a hand on his shoulder, opening her mouth to no doubt tell him to shut up, but now he's started, he won't be stopped til he runs out of steam. After a while I tune out his ranting and mom's quiet sobbing. He stops long enough to let the waiter set down our plates, and starts up again, the second the poor guy's back is turned.
"I'm not hungry anymore," I mutter, pushing my food away. He snaps.
"You ungrateful little bastard!" he yells, momentarily quietening the entire place. All eyes search for the source of the shouting, and a few people start muttering about him.
"Maybe this was a bad idea," I say quietly, and mom nods ever so slightly. I stand up, walking out without another word to either of them. I feel kinda bad for mom, but I can't deal with my dad, not today. I follow my feet back to the prison and force them to let me back in. I'd rather fucking sleep.