Her eyes were darting, always returning back to the same shelf on her left. She licked her lips, said “Andrew get me that sauce”.
Another lick of her lips. Andrew knew what was going on. He had anticipated it.
They were in the mall, holiday shopping it is. And the worse time of the year for his mom.
Holidays meant happiness, ideally. But for his mom they were cooking and cleaning and every other household chore that needs to be done so that the holidays all in all becomes perfect.
And the holidays were also the time when He left. His father. Her husband. Two years ago, no warning, no fights nothing. And till today no phone call or any message. Andrew was 11 then.
Mom cried and cried. Then she shouted and threw his stuff out of the house. Then she picked up whiskey. And she drank till she was peeing whiskey and drank more with arms she cut herself. Andrew and his sister Sophia cowed whenever she went into a rampage in the house. He was glad that the day mother cut herself, Sophia was not at home. Somebody called the authorities, it was not Andrew.
Large amount of anonymous alcoholics and anti-depressants later she came back. Sophia cried herself to sleep every night, Andrew used to hold her while she slept. And now while mother is almost normal the holidays are here. And they are standing in the mall with alcohol on the shelf to the left.
Mother pulls herself together and moves forward. They shop, Andrew pleading for every new toy he sees, mother persuading him to buy it the next time he comes there. But he could see her hustle. She wants to leave and drive home and have coffee, have this mall as far behind as possible. So he stops pleading eventually.
Sophia is not at home, at some of her friends place. Its snowing outside, driveway is piled up with snow. They get inside the home, mother whining about having to clean the driveway after dinner. Leaves the shopping bags on the kitchen and just drops on the couch.
Unsure of what to do, Andrew turns on the TV. They watch a couple of minutes while mother is drinking water, like three bottles of water. She is keeping her hands busy, with remote or with her hair or with her sweater. Anything to keep her mind off.
Sophia is about to be home any minute now, its almost 7 pm. Mother has fallen asleep on the couch. Andrew wakes her up with a coffee.
“You know how to make coffee?”
“Yeah I watched you make them. You were asleep and tired so I made one for you. And no mom, I did not drink it”
She smiled. And Andrew recalled her old smile. There was just a hint of that old smile and laughter now. But it was there.
“Andrew!!” Sophia shouted from the driveway, “come here and help me clean it up.”
Mother looked perplexed, Andrew gave a loop sided smile and said “I may have ordered her to clean the snow. She refused. We had to have a compromise.”
He wore his gloves and opened the door, and there was Sophia with a big fistful of snow in her hands. She threw it at his face.
Mother gasped. Andrew gasped. Sophia laughed and bolted outside.
Andrew ran after her. Mother sighed suddenly remembering that they are just children yet. For now.
(Post inspired by reading Candid Kay’s blog post: Christmas tree left of centre)