“Madman, come.” Jared barked, shocking me out of my little uptopia. “Visitation’s over.” He whistled and pulled the board back, so Madman could slip through.
“You hear that?” I choked, my lips quivering. “Back to your cell, little guy.” I let the dog lick my face, and then I patted his behind before gently pushing him away. Jared whistled again, and Madman ran back through the fence.
“Jared, are you out here?” a woman called out. Jared turned to the voice but didn’t nod or respond.
“Tate, is that you honey?” Katherine, Jared’s mom, stepped up onto whatever he was standing on to see over the fence.
“Hey, Ms. Trent.” I waved lazily. “It’s good to see you.” His mom looked great with her shoulder length brown hair and stylish blouse. A lot better than the last time I’d seen her. She must’ve gotten herself sober in the past year.
Growing up, I often saw her hair in messy ponytails from being too hung over to bother with a shower and dull looking skin from lack of healthy sustenance.
“You, too.” Her eyes flickered with genuine sweetness. “And it’s good to see you two talking again.”
Of course she had no idea we were still at each other’s throats. It seemed Jared and I had that in common. We kept the parents out of the loop.
“Why don’t you come over for a few? I’d love to catch up with you and see how your year went.”
“Come on, not now.” Jared’s face was twisted up in displeasure, much to my delight.
“That’s sounds great, Ms. Trent. Just let me throw on some clothes.” Jared’s eyes swept over me, as if just realizing I was in a bikini. His gaze lingered too long, and yet, not long enough, making my toes curl.
“Fine.” Jared sighed and looked away. “I’m off, anyway.” With that, he hopped off his step and disappeared inside the house. Before I had reached my room to change, I heard the thunder of his engine and the peel of tires.
“So why haven’t I seen you in the two weeks I’ve been home?” I asked Katherine after we’d discussed my trip and plans for senior year.
She poured more coffee for herself. “Well, I met someone a few months ago, and I stay with him a lot.
I raised my eyebrows in surprise, and she must’ve seen it. She shook her head and gave me a contrite smile.
“I guess it sounds bad,” she offered. “Me leaving Jared alone so much. Between my job, his school and job, and then all of the things he’s involved in, we just don’t run into each other a lot. I figure he’s happier on his own more and well…”
Her over-explanation and inability to finish her thought said more about her disappointment over her relationship with her son than anything else.
And why was he so busy that her being home was unecessary?
“What do mean ‘all the things he’s involved in’?” I asked.
She knitted her brows. “Well, he works at the garage a few days a week, races, and then has other obligations. He’s hardly ever home, and when he is, it’s just to sleep usually. But, I do keep tabs on him. When I bought us both new phones for Christmas last year, I installed a GPS app on his so I always know where he is.”
Okay, that’s not weird.
“What other obligations did you mean?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said with a nervous smile, “around the time you left last year, things got pretty bad here. Jared was out at all hours. Sometimes, he didn’t even come home. My…drinking…got worse with the stress of Jared’s behavior.” She paused and shrugged her shoulders. “Or maybe his behavior got worse with my drinking. I don’t know. But I entered rehab for about a month and got detoxed.”
Since I’d lived on this street, eight years now, Jared’s mom had had a drinking problem. Most of the time she’d been functional, able to go to work and handle Jared. After he came back from visiting his dad that summer three years ago, he’d changed, and Jared’s mom had sought escape in the bottle more often.
“He got into some trouble, and then he got it together. But steps needed to be taken, for both of us.”
I continued to listen, unfortunately too interested into this rare peek of Jared’s life. She still hadn’t explained the “other obligations”, but I wasn’t going to pry further.
“Anyway, a few months ago I started seeing someone, and I’ve been staying with him on the weekends in Chicago. Jared has a lot going on, and I just don’t feel like he needs me. I stay here most school nights, but he knows to stay out of trouble on the weekends.”
Yeah, instead of taking his debauchery elsewhere, he brought it home with him.
Some people might see her reasoning as logical, since Jared was almost an adult, but I let my judgment form. As much as I liked her, I blamed her for a lot of Jared’s unhappiness growing up.
I didn’t know the whole story, but I’d heard enough to figure out that Jared’s father wasn’t a good man. He had left when Jared was two, before I even lived in the neighborhood. Katherine raised her son almost completely alone, but she had developed a drinking problem during her marriage. When Jared was fourteen, his father called and asked if Jared could come and visit him for the summer. Happily, Jared agreed and left for eight weeks. After the visit, though, he returned cold and cruel. His mother’s problem got worse, and he was utterly alone.