I sit, cuddled up on the chaise part of the couch—his spot—buried under my kids’ blankets, sipping some coffee. Well... it was coffee when they were here. Now it’s mostly vodka.
On repeat is a song by one of my favorite bands, though they’ve definitely dropped down the list after their lead singer left. Still, it goes on and on about a child’s perspective of their parents fighting, the pain, the wonderings of why they can’t get along. Oh, and the lyrics focus on the holidays… fitting.
I sigh, loose strands of hair that’ve slipped from my poor excuse for a ponytail fall over my face, becoming matted as I drown in the vodka… in the music. It really is a great song, all things considered. The type of music we’d always blast out from the speakers, gaining us serious eye rolls from our two teenage daughters. Doesn’t matter, my taste in tunes will always and forever live in the nineties and early two-thousands.
That’s my style.
Tears come in violent waves when I actually listen to the lyrics. Which is annoyingly often, since I keep stopping and restarting, begging for the torture to continue.
My dogs—Cal and Ripley—lay their heads in my lap, tails thumping against the ottoman, completely oblivious to the chaos that has become their life. My life. Big circular brown eyes wide with concern, mouths open, tongues out. They sport identical smiles that Retrievers always seem to have down pat.
“Go! Leave me alone. Everyone else does.” I try to stifle the sobs that have begun free-flowing, compliments of alcohol.
They pace around the room for about ten seconds before returning. They’ve always been in tune with every member of this household’s emotions. They can’t stand to see anyone sad. It’s like their actual fucking life’s mission to instill joy in people’s hearts. And I’m not about joy and all that bullshit right now.
Also, I’m being ridiculously dramatic. It’s my specialty.
I want to sit here, sip my vodka, and wallow in self-pity. My first Christmas Day spent without my children.
My first Christmas alone.
My first fucking Christmas in my life where I have nobody. Minus the dogs, who don’t count. Okay, that’s not fair, they definitely do. They’re probably the most loyal beings in the entire universe.
Ripped to shreds wrapping paper litters the floor, along with open and carelessly torn boxes strewn across the family room. The kids were so frantic and rushed, trying to move as fast as possible, not even taking the time to enjoy the contents of their gifts. Maybe a brief muttered thank you here and there. They knew they had—for once, on Christmas—a schedule to keep. They were on a mission, desperate to take their toys and clothes when they had to leave with their dad.
I couldn’t even bother to get my micro-managing ass up off the couch to pick up a single scrap of paper. My house would’ve never looked like this in the past—always had a trash bag out, ready to make the cleanup quick. The stress of trying to find all the perfect gifts, ensuring everyone got crossed off the list, was enough. Then you have to add picking up after wasted hours of precise wrapping?
A messy fucking house? No thanks.
The pained song, the high-pitched and almost whiny singer’s voice, reverberates from my speaker, prompting me to bawl and bury my face in an oversized unicorn mug—compliments of my son, Will—gulping another stinging sip of my drink.
My cup’s almost empty. Shit, that was fast. I pull the Grey Goose outta the freezer, the large bottle one of my friends, Kelsey, dropped off a few days ago. I’m pretty sure she knew I’d need it for this exact moment.
I’m no alkie, but today calls for it. The OJ is almost out, gonna have to move to the juice pouches soon, because I can’t drink this shit straight.
The entire exchange of kids was so damn weird today. We’ve done the swap before, but this time was different.
For starters, it’s Christmas. They have gifts they wanted to play with, gifts supposedly from both of us. Jake—my ex, I guess he’s my ex, who the fuck knows—and I decided that with all this being still fairly new, we should try to keep this one day somewhat normal for them. Try to make it easy.
He came over early so he could be here when they woke up. Because that’s normal!? Laughable. What the hell is normal anymore!? Nothing is easy. It’s all hard. It’s all bullshit.
So normal meant I still did majority of the work. I made him get the gifts for his family, which felt the worst, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And why the fuck should I, anyway?
Another wail. His family... God, will I ever get to see them again?
A mouthful of my botched version of a screwdriver burns its way down to my stomach.
I love my in-laws. We always got along. They were my family.
And now they aren’t.
We were the success story. Met the day after high school graduation. Had a baby young, married young, moved out of state. Both working our dream jobs, living in our dream house. Life was fucking perfect. We beat the odds. He was still the one.
God, now I’m quoting Shania Twain!?
Sixteen years and three more kids later... things are so far from perfect. Life is falling apart, the walls crumbling around me. They have been for years.
The stress of work, kids—one with special needs—the house, keeping up with the bullshit perfection, all of it’s been chipping away at us. It took one thing. One act of betrayal for the last shred we were hanging on to give way.
A grossly overcompensating leftover breakfast spread still covers the island. French toast, bacon, sausage. Keep it the same. Change nothing. Make the kids think things will be alright. They aren’t stupid; they know. Brynn and Jordan are teenagers. They know how this shit goes, seen it with their own friends.
Roo and Will seem to be fine with all of it. They were pumped to get new rooms at Dad’s temporary house. Bunk beds. That was all they cared about. That’s probably all I would’ve cared about at seven, Will’s age. As for Roo, she’s eleven, but doesn’t process things in the same way as others her age. She seems alright.
We sat them down three months ago and promised we’d work hard. That sometimes parents need a time out. This isn’t their fault. This isn’t permanent.
So full of shit. We haven’t done a thing except fight since.
Both of us held it together this morning. I let the snide comments flow when the kids hugged and thanked Jake so much for their gifts, like he wasn’t as surprised as they were to see what was inside.
So that’s something I kept the same as every other year.
God, this house looks like a tornado hit it. I give a rip! More vodka, Merry fucking Christmas.
I drown once more in the difficult to listen to and sadly spot-on in such a tormenting way, lyrics. Okay, I’ve had enough.
“Fuck off, Alexa.” The words garble together.
“Sorry.” The reprimanding robotic voice booms out into my house. “I’m having trouble understanding you.”
Ugh. Me, too. Me, too.
Damn, I know this isn’t the answer, but I have a pleasant buzz at this point. I’m gonna have to make sure to turn off my phone so I don’t make any drunk text mistakes. Another specialty of late.
The artificial tree blinks both colored and white lights at an exhausting speed. The little ones—that’s what we call Roo and Will—fought over it all morning, fascinated with the twelve different available combinations.
An artificial tree.
Matches nicely with my artificial life.
I pick at someone’s leftover breakfast, drenched in syrup—gross. Why must kids completely ruin things with condiments? A tiny bit can really go a long way. The mixture of several hours old breakfast and the gingerbread candle wafting throughout downstairs is forcing my stomach to churn. Or maybe that’s from the vodka?
Fuck! Someone needs to clean this shit up.
Abandoning my brief attempt to soak up any of my liquid breakfast, I settle back onto the couch, fixating on the TV, a funny Christmas classic playing silently. I can quote most of it. We watch it every year; at least twice. My kids can script it. Last year, Will told a cashier at Target, “Merry Christmas, kiss my ass, kiss his ass, kiss your ass.”
Not my proudest mom moment, but what can ya do!?
“Hallelujah. Holy shit. Where’s the Tylenol?”
The dogs dip their heads from side to side, concerned with the crazy lady taking up space on their couch.
Putting my cup on the side table, I let out a completely lost type of sigh, patting both of them. You can’t pet one and not the other; they’re a package deal. They snuggle into me, silently pleading with their eyes for me to put a stop to the current pity party I’m attending.
“You guys are my only friends.”
Their heads pop up in response to multiple loud bangs on the front door. Jumping into attack mode with fierce barking and all. As if they would do anything but lick an intruder to death. At least they put on a good show.
The doorbell dings in an annoyingly fast succession.
Shit! Who the F!?
I load up the app to check who’s at the door because… who even looks out a window anymore?
-Poor Connection- check your internet settings.
Perfect. I have no clue how to do any of this shit. Technology is his thing, and we filled this house to the max with smart switches, Wi-Fi boxes, and all that kinda unnecessary bullshit.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
“I know you’re in there! I can hear the music,” a muffled voice calls out beyond the barrier of my front door.
Ugh! Perfect! Fucking Annie.
“Open up Bi—”
I throw the door open, glaring at my perfectly together-looking best friend, shivering from the cold and gray weather outside. Not much better in here. I stare at her, expressionless for a few seconds, before turning, retreating to my blanket fort.
No adulting today!
Adulting, hah! That’s a funny word. Close to adultery; that one makes my nose sting. Another shot of my medicine burns its way down.
“Wow!” Annie examines the room, blinking fast, nose scrunched with her lips curled on one side. “What the actual fuck, Alex?”
I stare blankly at her judgy face, lifting the mug to my mouth. It’s really not judgy, I’m just caught up in my own misery at the moment.
She unloads gifts on the island, pushing the food to the side, shaking her head, lips pursed.
“I brought booze,” she announces, as if that’ll solve all my problems. Oh, wait. Plopping onto the couch next to me, I feel her disgusted—okay, they’re concerned—eyes piercing the side of my face.
“Thanks,” I mumble into my ridiculous cup. My fingers literally curled around a rainbow unicorn tail as the handle. Well, it’s the thought that counts.
“Damn, you look like shit!”
I shoot her an evil death glare and she chuckles with an unapologetic shrug in response. This bitch is a full-body laugher; thinks she’s funny almost all the time.
She kind of is. But I’m in no mood for that mess today.
“God, you smell like a bar.” Annie waves a hand in front of her face before pinching her nostrils.
“What the hell song are you playing?”
The fast beats and angsty voice cry out from the speaker. Her eyes go wide, jaw drops with a horrific expression when she really listens to the mental torment I’m subjecting myself to.
“Oh, God... Alexa!” she yells out, head shaking rapidly. “Power off.”
It’s not right... it’s not right.
A/N: Aaaannnnd they’re back! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Okay so mega shouts to so many people but how bout _Dark_Romantic Who is going through this gut wrenching journey again! Editing the fuck out of this. As well as _iheartcoffee_. I’m thankful to have met these ladies. Huge props to msunshinebooks helping tremendously with the summary and. booksrmypassion6LACannonAlexaWarren1 for being constant sounding boards. The fact that you guys love this story fuels me!
A few changes... no more lyrics (at least in the actual story) but if you know how I roll you know that I have a song in mind for each chapter. On Wattpad, lyrics will always be below ✌️😻.