anything but a happy family. // drabble
trigger warning for domestic abuse
It’s 8pm on a Thursday night, and Jacob’s sitting at the desk in his room with his geography textbook before him and Dream On whispering through the speakers of his stereo. The words on his page jump around – they’re distracting and part of the reason he’s been doing homework for the last three hours. With a heavy sigh, and the desire to give up, he leans back in his chair and he just listens to the satisfying screech of the legend, Steven Tyler, and he wonders if he ever struggled so much with his homework. He considers asking for help, since dad’s not home and mom’s probably not busy. He closes his book and he takes it with him across the hallway.
When he comes into his parents’ bedroom, Mary’s already there with mom. He stops in the doorway when he sees they’re watching reruns of I Love Lucy together like they always do when dad’s not home and Mary’s not doing homework. That’s usually the only time Jacob feels comfortable even asking for help – it’s that special time they get to pretend to be a happy family. Cindy sits up and welcomes him in with a smile. “You gonna watch with us, Jakey?” Mary then asks and Jacob finds himself smiling. He comes in beyond the doorway and he sits at the edge of the bed on Eric’s side, to Mary’s left.
“Nahh, I got homework,” he says and then he looks up at his mom. “Can you help me?”
He slides the book between them, and he opens it to the page he was just attempting to work through. Mary sits up then, and she starts to read it too. She doesn’t have the same kind of issues he does – in fact, no one else in the family seems to. No one in the world seems to. But he doesn’t want to wish that one anyone – especially not Mary, because it bugs their dad so much. Mom’s ready to help him, and she takes the book from between them but then suddenly the front door slams downstairs. At first Cindy ignores it, only giving it a single eye roll before she begins reading words off from Jacob’s book. He tries to listen to her, as his heart begins to sink in his stomach. There’s cabinets slamming downstairs and then footsteps stomping up the stairs that now have him and Mary completely distracted.
How is his mom so calm right now?
“What’s going on in here?” Eric announces his arrival with a loaded question. Mary and Jacob both look at each other, feeling as if they have a reason to be guilty but they haven’t done anything.
“I’m helping my kids with their homework, Eric,” Cindy says quickly, and coldly.
“Your kids, your kids…” Eric repeats while pacing around the room. He then tosses something silky at her, and because it’s balled up, it gets her attention when it smacks against her cheek. She picks it up slowly and lets it unravel – it’s a shiny, short dress with black lace. She then gasps for some reason and she holds the dress close to her. “Phil told me what you’ve been up to,” Eric says. “Said Charlie told him EVERYTHING!” Eric continues to rant. By then, David had come out of his room, and made his way to the master bedroom doorway. He asks what’s going on, and Cindy tries to make him leave, but Eric stops her.
“Nooo, no, I want ALL of you to be right here when I tell you – your mother’s a WHORE, and she’ll f*** anyone that looks at her! That’s it, right? Is that it, Cindy, huh?!”
“Don’t talk like that in front of the kids!” His mom yells. Her yelling takes Mary from frightened to devastated and she begins to cry. Jacob straightens up and he puts his arm around Mary, pulling her to his side of the bed and away from Cindy’s. “We’re not going to have this conversation right now, Eric! We’re not doing this in front of the kids – you ALWAYS do this in front of the kids!”
“You don’t give a sh*t about the kids, Cindy! Or else you wouldn’t be f***ing around with Charlie behind my back!”
“That has nothing to do with them, it’s because of YOU!” Cindy yells back.
Jacob’s grip on Mary tightens, and even David starts to get closer now – away from Eric, and over to Jacob’s other side as they watch the two go back and forth with each other. “Oh, because of me – because why, because I put a roof over your head?! I make all the money YOU use to feed these f***in’ kids, and what does Charlie do, huh?! What does Charlie do?!” Eric yanks – for some reason – one of Cindy’s tiny jewelry boxes off the vanity behind him and he throws it at the wall just beyond Cindy’s head. The box breaks, jewelry goes everywhere, and even Jacob is starting to feel horrified tears collect at the rims of his eyes. Mary and David are practically using him to hide, and he’s holding so tight he’s probably suffocating them.
“You go ‘head and leave with Charlie then, huh? And I’ll make sure you never see these kids again, so help me God, Cindy,” Eric practically growls like a wild animal. Jacob could swear his eyes were turning black.
“Don’t you dare!” Cindy yells.
“I f***ing will! I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure they know you’re a f***ing WHORE, and a bitch, and you ran out on all of us!”
“I didn’t run!” Cindy practically shrieks. “I’m right here, taking care of MY kids, because you’re never home!”
“Oh, and what are you doing, huh?” Eric finally crosses that line, and he comes from his side of the room, to the other side of the room where the rest of them are. He picks up the book from the bed and he starts waving it around. “Helping ‘em with homework, huh? Know how I can tell you’re a sh*t mom? Because we got a f***ing twelve year old who CAN’T READ!” He then throws the back on the ground, and all the kids yelp or gasp.
“I’m a hell of a lot better than you!” Cindy cries out, clutching her silky dress to her. “What have you done?! What have YOU done to help any of us around here, huh?! You come home every night, and you’re parked in front of the TV, and the only time you say anything to ANY of us, is when you’re screaming!”
“Bullsh*t!” Eric interrupts her. “I’m the whole entire reason these kids have books to read – clothes to wear, someone to take them to f***in’ school! All of that is ME!” he continues to scream and shout.
They both continue to scream and shout. Cindy gets up from the bed and she creates space between the kids and Eric by getting in between them. As for the kids – all they can do is listen. Jacob watches everything, while Mary and David keep their eyes closed and their arms wrapped around Jacob so no one takes them away. The entire show reminds Jacob that they’re anything but a happy family.