Jenna stumbled out Ellie’s front door and tried to balance herself. She straightened up, cleared her throat, and made her way to her home next door. As she walked through the lawn she started to wish she had gum or perfume—she reeked of alcohol.
“I really don’t need another damn lecture from my mother...” she thought to herself.
Even though she was a grown woman, she still feared her mother’s judgement. She had never known her father (was always told not to ask), and was brought up by Florence alone. Jenna’s life had always been a little complicated. She was only a senior in high school when she became pregnant with her son, Tobias. She never told the father, a boy named Damien, and her mother made her switch schools to avoid embarrassment. The father wasn't serious—he had dreams of playing music all around the world. When she found out she was with child, she decided best to go it alone, leave him to his dreams, and broke up with him after only a few months of dating.
She made the transfer to Pleasantview high and finished her senior year and then graduated. Her mother had always helped out with Tobias and had been good to them. Actually, she’d helped them in many more ways than just heling Jenna with raising her son, she had provided a place to live when Jenna lost her job and got evicted from the little apartment. As stern as she may be, Florence had a heart of gold and just wanted to best for her family. But sometimes Jenna took it for granted and often overlooked her good intentions. Florence had tried everything to raise a well behaved, responsible young woman... but Jenna had always been a rebellious one.
Jenna was pondering her nature as she came to the corner of her home. Maybe that’s why Tobias was acting out now—was this revenge she was now receiving because of the way she was to HER mother? Her thoughts were running faster than what she could process, so she shook them off. The porch lights were still on and she could see the light on in the kitchen, which was right inside the front door. She entered and saw her mother and her red-headed son at the kitchen table. His head was down, facing toward his hands in his lap. His thick, long hair hid his expression. She could smell marijuana from the door step.
“What in the Hell were you thinking, Tobias? Vandalism?! On Main Street of all places. Jesus, Tobias. What possessed you to—what in the hell were you thinking?” she looked at her son with a deep glare, “You know you’re lucky they let you off with no charges. You could’ve been sent off. Why? Why the hell would you do this?”
Florence just sat in silence and looked on in a disapproving manner. Jenna could tell she wouldn't escape a stern conversation either—the stench of alcohol was just as strong as the marijuana. Tobias just shrugged and remained quiet.
“No phone, No guitar, and no computer—for a month. I’ll be taking them out in the morning.”
He lifted his head and gave her a look of utter disdain, “Why my guitar? Music didn’t have a damn thing to do with this, Mom.”
Jenna cut him off, “Don’t take that tone with me, Tobias.”
Florence chimed in, “Watch your mouth young man. And you too, Jenna.”
Jenna shot her a dark look. After a moment she rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to her son, “Go to your room. Not a single sound from you. I’m disconnecting the Wi-Fi, so don’t even try getting on the computer. Leave the phone on the counter and go.”
He slammed his phone down in wordless sass, and walked from the room. She listened and heard his door slam as well. She could feel the heat rising in her face from agitation and shouted, “I’ll take that door off the hinges too if you don’t watch it!”
She then took a seat to face the inevitable.
“Where were you?” Florence looked up at her daughter, her tone as calm but Jenna could sense the disappointment.
Jenna gave her mother a hard look, maintaining face because unlike her son, she was an adult, participating in legal frivolities and so therefore had nothing to be ashamed of, “I was next door. Ellie had a hard night and needed some help.”
“Well, we had a little bit going on here, too, in case you hadn’t noticed. I woke up to use the bathroom to find nobody home and all the lights still on, the doors unlocked! You were gone, Tobias was gone. Someone could’ve broken in! You all could’ve been hurt or stranded somewhere. You couldn’t have left a note or anything? Then I get a call from an officer. Do you know what went through my mind? My nerves are shot, Jenna!”
Jenna put her head in her hands. “Mother, I am a grown woman. I don’t have to have permission to do things. You can ease off of me.”
“You know, Jen. This is probably why your son is acting up, though—you’re not setting much of an example, here. And look at you! It’s nearly 3 in the morning. You smell of liquor and—“
Jenna’s anger started to peak, and before she knew it, the words came tumbling out like an avalanche, “Now hold on just a minute! You can say whatever you want about me, but you CANNOT tell me I’m a bad parent. I didn’t give my son a bottle of spray paint and a joint and say, ‘have at it, son!’ He made the conscious decision to hang out with a bunch of damn hooligans. I’ve never behaved like that in front of my child. I’m doing the best I can with the hand I’ve been dealt, just like YOU did with me. So hold your judgement. I’m a person too, mother! I have a life as well! Maybe you ought to remember that.”
She got up, grabbed Tobais's phone from the counter, and stormed to the bathroom. She ran the shower as hot as she could stand it; she let the water run over her head and felt a little guilty for being so harsh towards Florence, but her mom knew better than to word such a judgement. Jenna had never even gotten to be a real teenager...it wasn't fair that she couldn't even have just a little, if not any fun to herself now that Tobias was self-sufficient. Well, obviously not as much as she would have hoped.
When Jenna awoke the next day, her head was spinning and her stomach was churning. “Damn!” She thought, “never again will I drink that much. Probably shouldn’t have mixed jack and red wine either.”
She tried to sit up and almost got sick. She checked her phone for the time. It was almost four o’clock in the evening.
“Dammit.” She whispered to herself. She went to the bathroom and washed her face and decided to brush her teeth; she could smell the rot on her own breath. Once she was finished, she changed into a new set of pajama bottoms and a loose tee shirt.
She ambled her way to the kitchen, where she found Florence at the table, apparently waiting for her daughter. There was a sleeve of crackers, a bowl of veggie soup, and a cup of black coffee. She gave Jenna a small smile.
“ I figured you might need these.”
Jenna smiled back. “Thanks mom. Got any Tylenol?”
Florence got up and nodded looking in the cabinet drawer, “How many do you need?”
Jenna tried to laugh and felt her head spin, “The whole bottle would be great.”
Florence returned a chuckle and handed her the bottle. Before Jenna took a bite of her food, she popped 3 Tylenol and swallowed them down with a sip of her coffee. It was heavenly—the coffee, not the pills.
“Where’s Tobias?” Jenna asked.
Florence looked toward the living room which was across the hall. “I think he’s watching some show on the TV. He’s taking your punishment seriously. He hasn’t touched his guitar, or his computer. I don’t even know where his phone is.”
Jenna swallowed her bite before saying, “It’s locked in my nightstand.”
“Wise hiding place. I’m glad it has a lock on it,” Florence smiled with approval but then it mellowed, “Jenna, I wanted to say that I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did. It was in the heat of the moment and I—“
Jenna held her hand up. “Mom. It’s okay. I should’ve let you know I was going out. Tobias shouldn’t have snuck off. Let’s just forget about it. I’ll handle it from here.”
Florence smiled and stood from her chair. She grabbed up her own cup of coffee and headed toward the living room, patting Jenna’s shoulder as she left the room. Jenna was enjoying her soup and coffee. She was starting to feel even guiltier for being so hard on Florence because Jenna knew she was always the one who had a poor temper and let it out rather think it through. It’d gotten her into trouble before. Florence was just worried, and she too, let her words slip before realizing what they implied.
Tobias was a bit different. He was sixteen now and was quiet for the most part. When he spoke up, he usually liked to make everything humorous. He had a gift for music; the guitar, specifically. Jenna knew he’d take something after his father, one way or another, and that was his love for music. He was even self-taught, which was great because that saved money rather than paying for lessons—Jenna could never afford ongoing lessons. Jenna was always impressed by his playing. He had just formed a newer band with a few boys who lived a couple of blocks down the road; they were talented, she couldn’t deny, but the style they played wasn't something she was keen on. She was never into heavier, metal sounding music. It drove her up the walls to be completely honest. Thankfully they didn't practice here.
While Jenna had always been a little too outgoing, sometimes, Tobias was the total opposite. He was very reserved and never got personal if he could help it. He hadn’t made many friends up until the end of last year, his freshman year of high school. He was a bright boy, and Jenna was proud of him--but last night really got to her head. This didn’t sound like his normal behavior. She wasn’t near as worried about the marijuana, (for she had always seen it as a natural medicine and would occasionally partake), but the vandalism? It did not seem like his usual self. She decided she would talk to him about it that evening after dinner. Maybe her hangover might ease off by then. And to prove she was meaning serious business about his punishments, she had a job to take care of after finishing her soup.
It was already nearing seven and Florence was busying herself in front of the stove. It was dinner time and Tobias was looking furious sitting once again at the kitchen table, trying to distract himself with a comic book. Jenna had just walked into the kitchen with her cellphone in her hand. She took a seat adjacent to her son. She could tell he was still pissed; his guitar and amplifier were now locked in Jenna’s trunk, along with his computer. She had always given in on punishments, but this time was different. This wasn’t a simple case of talking back, failing a test, or hiding homework assignments. He had committed a crime. It was time to make him realize that she was not only his friend, but his parent, too. She hated how upset he was at her, but she brushed it off. He had acted in such a way she never would’ve believed possible.
Jenna refrained from making eye contact with Tobias and continued to tend to her unread text messages. Florence broke the silence.
“Homemade chili. Eat up, you two,” She placed the bowls in front of them.
“Thanks, Mom. Smells awesome,” she scooped a spoonful and blew the heat away before taking a bite and then turned to her son. “Homework done?”
He nodded without making any noise of confirmation nor eye contact.
“All of it?” she pressed on.
He finally looked up in agitation. Florence sat down and began to eat. Jenna could tell that she was going to keep to herself this time around.
“Yup. Don’t really have anything else to do now that you’ve raided my room.”
“Well, maybe next time you’ll make smarter choices for yourself. You have nobody to blame but yourself. You don’t go out without permission and you sure as hell don’t vandalize other people’s shit.”
He shot her an even angrier look, “Maybe I wouldn’t have “snuck out” and actually asked your permission had you not been getting wasted with Ellie. Gran was asleep. I’m aware that it was a mistake, I’m not perfect and you sure as hell aren’t either. I didn’t know they were going to be doing that shit. I just thought we would hang out and play some music. It wasn’t my idea.”
Jenna knew he was trying to get a rise out of her and fought even harder to keep her cool. Her voice remained calm, “I think that’s another month without your gadgets. Oh! And no more hanging out with those juvies. PERIOD. Tell the boys they can get someone else to play guitar for them.”
“MOM! YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!”
“Dead serious, Tobias. Not another word unless you want me to cancel your driver’s education classes, too. I will go up to the school and cause a scene if I have to.”
Tobias got up and stormed off yet again. Before he could get far, Jenna yelled another warning, “SLAM THE DOOR AND IT WILL BE GONE TOO.”
Florence looked up at Jenna. “Think he will try his window?”
Jenna smiled, “Took a leaf outta your book. Nailed it shut.”
Florence couldn’t help but let a giggle slip. “You’re more like me than I thought.”