“Stay together for the kids” by Blink 182
I sit, cuddled up on the chaise part of the couch, his spot, buried under my kids’ blankets, sipping my coffee. Well... it was coffee when they were still here, now it’s mostly vodka.
On repeat is “Stay Together for the Kids,” fitting for the pathetic loser I’ve become. And apparently, I will forever love Blink, no matter how old I get. It’s my closet music. Not really. All my good friends know my music taste will always live in the nineties and early two-thousands. That’s my style.
Tears come in violent spurts 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 on 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. Sporting identical smiles that Retrievers always seem to have.
“Go! Leave me alone. Everyone else does.”
They pace around the room for about ten seconds before returning. They’ve always been in tune with people’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... they do. They’re probably the most loyal beings in the entire Universe.
Ripped to shreds wrapping paper is scattered everywhere on the floor, along with open and carelessly torn boxes strewn across the family room. The kids frantic to open them so they could take their toys 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 shred. 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, making sure everyone was crossed off the list was enough, then you have to add picking up after wasted hours of perfect wrapping.
A messy fucking house... No thanks.
So here’s your holiday... hope you enjoy it this time, you gave it all away... reverberates from my Alexa speaker, prompting me to sob and bury my face in an oversized unicorn mug—compliments of my son—taking another sip of my drink.
My cup’s almost empty, I pull the Grey Goose outta the freezer. The large bottle my friend 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. Shit... gonna have to move to the kids’ 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 today was different.
For starters, it’s Christmas. They have gifts they wanted to play with—gifts from both of us. Jake and I decided that with all this being brand 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 fuck 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 sob, my nephews... God, will I ever get to see them again!?
A slug of my botched version of a screwdriver burns its way down to my stomach.
I loved 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!?
Three more kids and sixteen years later... life was so far from perfect. Life was 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, had been chipping away at us for years. It took one thing. One act of betrayal for it to all blow up.
The leftover breakfast spread still covers the island. French toast, bacon, sausage. Keep it the same. Don’t change anything. 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 doesn’t process things in the same way as other kids her age, but she seems alright.
We sat them down three months ago and promised we were gonna work hard. That sometimes parents need a little break. This isn’t their fault. This isn’t permanent.
We were full of shit. We haven’t done a thing except fight since.
We held it together this morning. I let the snide comments flow when the kids hugged him and thanked him so much for their gifts, like he wasn’t as surprised as they were to see what was inside. So that was something I kept the same as every other year.
God, this house looks like a shit storm hit it. I could fucking give a rip! More vodka, Merry fucking Christmas.
We get along, so why can’t they?
If this is what he wants
And this is what she wants
Then why is there so much pain?
“Fuck off, Alexa!”
“Sorry, 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 as 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 color combinations.
An artificial fucking tree.
Matches nicely with my artificial fucking life.
I pick at someone’s leftover french toast, drenched in syrup... gross. Why do kids have to completely ruin things with condiments? A little really can go a long way. The mixture of hours old breakfast and gingerbread candle makes my stomach churn. Or maybe that’s from the vodka?
Fuck! Someone needs to clean this shit up.
I let myself fixate on the TV, Christmas Vacation playing silently. I can quote most of it. We watch it every year; at least twice. My kids can quote 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?”
Cal and Rips tilt their heads to the side, concerned with the crazy lady taking up space on their couch.
I put my mug on the side table and scratch each of their heads. You can’t pet one and not the other. They’re a package deal. They lay their heads in my lap.
“You guys are my only friends.”
Their heads pop up in response to the 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 goes off multiple times. 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 don’t know how to do any of this shit. Technology is his thing, and this house is filled to the max with smart switches and Wi-Fi boxes and all that kinda bullshit.
Thump! Thump! Thump!
“I know you’re in there! I can hear the music.”
Ugh! Perfect! Fucking, Annie.
“Open up Bi-”
I pull the door open and stare at her for a quick second, before turning to head back to my blanket fort.
No adulting today!
Adulting, hah! That’s a funny word. Close to adultery; that makes my nose sting. Another shot of my medicine burns its way down.
“Wow!” Annie scans the room, her eyes wide, mouth hanging open. “What the actual fuck, Alex?”
I stare back at her judgy face, holding the mug to my lips.
She unloads gifts on the island, pushing the food to the side, scrunching her nose, and pinching her lips together.
“I brought booze,” she says, plopping onto the couch next to me.
“Thanks,” I mutter into my mug.
“Damn, you look like shit!”
I shoot her an evil death stare and she laughs in response. She’s a full body laugher, thinks she’s funny majority of the time.
“God, you smell like a fucking bar.”
“What the hell are you listening to?”
The fast beats and angsty voice cry out from the speaker.
“Oh, God..... Alexa!! Power off.”
It’s not right... it’s not right.
A/N: Hey! If you are looking for unicorns and rainbows, I promise this ain’t your book. However, if you’re looking for real life... this is your jam! Also, each chapter is focused around a song. Title at the top, lyrics at the bottom.