Double or Nothing

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7 - Mother Knows Best

It was the end of November, Christmas was around the corner, cafés were playing Christmas music and selling gingerbread lattes. People were putting decorations up and wrapping presents. In my opinion, it was still too early, but I didn’t really care all that much.

I was sat at home, watching TV on a Saturday, Caleb and Josh had gone to get the shopping, and I had stayed behind to do some cleaning, which I had finished at this point.

The doorbell rang, and I thought it might have been the boys, possibly having forgotten their keys, so I went to answer it. Instead of my amazing boyfriends, I found a middle-aged woman stood on the doorstep, looking at me as though she had seen an angel.

‘Ryan?’ She asked, seemingly breathless.

‘Mum?’ I asked, staring at her. I hadn’t seen her since she ran away from my dad, 6 years previously. It was disturbingly nostalgic to see her gain.

‘It is you!’ She yelled and as she did, she fell forward. I caught her and set her upright, I walked her into the house and made her sit down. She was obviously exhausted, she was thin, like she hadn’t eaten in a month, and her lips were dry and chapped.

I made her a cup of tea and something to eat and she attacked it like she hadn’t seen food or drink for days. She looked like she was on deaths door and I grew worried. My mum, though not perfect by any means, was the better of my parents, and tried her best to stick up for me against my dangerous father. Of course, I had a resentment that she didn’t try harder, that she didn’t take me with her when she ran away. Of course, looking at her now, I began to understand why. It appeared she had been homeless for some time.

I told her to have a nap on the sofa, and that I would sort more food out for her when Caleb and Josh came back from shopping. She didn’t know who they were, so I told her they were the guys I lived with. I didn’t feel it was the time to explain I had two boyfriends.

I let her sleep and ran her a bath, which I had just finished preparing when Josh and Caleb got back. The brought the shopping in, saw my mum asleep on the sofa and did a double take. Of course, they didn’t say anything until they had me in the kitchen, away from her.

‘Who is that?’ Caleb asked. ‘Why did you let a homeless person in our house?’

‘That’s my mum.’ I told him. ‘Remember she ran away from my dad when I was 13? Well she just turned up on the doorstep and I want to help her out. I mean, she can’t live here really, the spare room has nothing in it to accommodate a person, but I figured I would at least let her in, give her something eat, let her have a bath, and then we could find somewhere for her to go.’ I said, looking at Caleb with pleading eyes. Begging him to understand.

‘Okay. We’ll do that. I’ll prepare a proper meal for her while she’s in the bath. Josh, you look up the nearest places she can stay, temporarily, until we get her some official help. She ran away from domestic violence and turns up 6 years later, homeless and near-death. We can’t let that go unnoticed.’ He said. Josh nodded and walked to the spare bedroom to get his laptop, I woke my mum and told her I had ran her a bath and that Caleb was preparing a meal for her when she got out. She thanked me and went to the bathroom to get clean. There seemed to be months of grime coating her, and I worried even more. How long had she been on the streets? How did she find me? What had she gone through these past 6 years? Why was she so incredibly thin and unhealthy? All of these thoughts ran through my head as I watched her walk to the bathroom. Once I was satisfied that she was out of earshot, I walked back in the kitchen and up to Caleb.

‘I wonder how she found me.’ I mused. ‘Homeless people don’t exactly have access to computers, so they can’t really look people up.’ I noted.

‘She could have used a library. Most of them have computers now, and they’re free to use.’ Caleb replied, shrugging. ‘It’s not completely impossible. It’s actually pretty likely. She probably found out your dad had died and then tried to get in touch with you, because now she wouldn’t have anything to fear. She probably didn’t know you’d moved out, and thought that now it would be safe to come and find you, to get back in touch, to become part of your life again, if you wanted her to.’

‘You’ve been doing far too much psychology studying.’ I told him. ‘You need to stop getting in people’s heads like that. It’s not fair if you know all of their motives and history.’

He shrugged. ‘What can I say? Some people are just like an open book. I could read her so easily because she doesn’t hide anything. She’s not being secretive, or suspicious, she’s being open. I know I’ve only seen her asleep, but if you were doing something you knew was wrong, especially to a family member, you wouldn’t fall asleep on their sofa. People are most vulnerable when they sleep, and if someone talks in their sleep, they could let something slip. Trust me, she wouldn’t have slept on our sofa if she was doing anything other than trying to become part of your life again. She loves you, and she has obviously missed you like crazy.’

‘Okay stop. You don’t need to read my mum to tell me that she loves me. I know she does. She tried to protect me, even when it led to her getting injured. Trust me, that woman cares about me more than any other family member I have.’ I told him. ‘And I know she didn’t take me with her when she ran away, but that’s because she wasn’t sure where she was going. And she probably thought that social services would get involved or something and take me away. She had the best of intentions, of course she did.’ I convinced myself.

‘She’s your mum. Of course she was wanting what was best for you. It’s in her nature to try and do what’s best for you, but at the same time, she needed to escape that situation, just like you did when you started staying at mine.’ Caleb told me.

‘Anyway, I’ll go and help Josh look for somewhere she can stay while you cook.’ I told him, turning away and walking into the living room, where Josh was sat on the sofa, his laptop perching on his lap, looking up places my mum could stay while we found her somewhere more permanent.

‘There are a couple of homeless shelters in the area. It might be an idea to look into one of them. They have support workers and stuff as well who might be able to help her better than we can at getting her somewhere to live properly. I’m sure they can help. Especially after your father was convicted of a violent crime.’ Josh suggested.

‘Sounds like a plan.’ I nodded. ‘Can you contact one of them and try and see if we can get her there?’ I asked.

‘Sure, leave it to me, I’ll make some calls.’ He nodded, taking his phone out, and jotting down the numbers of three homeless shelters he found in the local area.

I sat alone, in silence, while Josh walked into the bedroom to make the calls and Caleb cooked in the kitchen. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. My mum poked her head out of the bathroom and called down to me. She asked if I had anything she could wear, as she didn’t want to put her grimy clothes back on now that she was clean. I said I would have a look and told her to stay in the bathroom while I did. I went into the bedroom and rummaged around for some unisex clothes. I picked out a t-shirt and a pair of jeans that were around the right size for her to wear and I handed them to her from outside the bathroom. She thanked me and went back inside to put them on.

She came out and I took her old, grimy clothes and put them in the washing machine. Hopefully they would be clean enough after a cycle through the wash for her to take with her when she went to the homeless shelter. A spare set of clean clothes would be good for her to have.

Caleb came through with a rather lavish meal. He had obviously gone all out making a ravioli for us all. He had dished it out into 4 servings, my mums being larger than anyone else’s. He put them around the kitchen table and made us all sit around it to eat, rather than our usual habit of eating in front of the TV. It was different, but nice, in a way.

As we ate we talked. I asked my mum where she had been, what she had been doing, what had happened over the past 6 years, and she shared her story. She had been staying at various friends’ houses until she, eventually, found out I had moved again. So, a couple of years ago, she had decided to try and find me. She had left the safety of her friends, and slowly made her was down the country. Hitch-hiking and walking for the most part, until eventually she got into Canterbury, but she didn’t know my address, and she couldn’t just come up to me on the street. She had been here for around a month, trying to work out the best way to catch me, and eventually she had found out where I lived, so she decided to just brave it and knock on the door. She hadn’t done well being homeless. It was a difficult time, and she had almost regretted coming here until I opened the door to her.

Then, of course, it was my turn to share my story. How me and my dad had moved around, how eventually we had arrived here and he had agreed to stay here while I completed college, how I had met Caleb, and then, eventually Josh, how my dad had died earlier that year, how I had been the one to get him sent to prison, how he had killed himself in his cell. How things had gone since then, where everything was quieter because he was no longer turning up uninvited. I told her everything, and she gasped and smiled in all the right places.

Eventually, when I was finished, she hugged me, and apologised profusely for leaving me behind. She told me that she thought that social services would have came, would have taken me away, that it would have ended then, but it didn’t. She told me that if she had known it wouldn’t happen she would have taken me with her, tears were running down her face and I told her I forgave her. That it wasn’t her fault. That she had the best intentions and that’s all that mattered.

Josh eventually told me that one of the homeless shelters did have space available, and we could get her there that evening, if she wanted to go, and we all agreed it would be best. They could fill at any time, and they could help her better than we could, so we took her to the homeless shelter, I told her to come and see us any time, but that we were at work during the week, and she understood and then got out of the car, waving goodbye to us as she headed inside.

We waited until she was inside, and until I was satisfied that she wasn’t going to come back out, having been turned away, and then we left. I stayed silent for the journey back home, not paying much attention to what Josh and Caleb were talking about. I just stared out the window in silence and thought about everything that had happened.

Life was somewhat hectic, but better than it had been in a long time. I didn’t have to worry about my dad randomly showing up. My mum had finally turned up, and was beginning to get her life on track, I had 2 amazing boyfriends, and I was working in a job that paid enough to cover my expenses.

Things weren’t perfect, but they would do for now…

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