A small smile came to Jocelyne’s lips as her eyes travelled over the crisp white page in front of her. She’d been so busy taking care of the kids and getting settled in her new job at one of the restaurants downtown that she’d barely had time to breathe lately, let alone read.
It was nice to be able to get lost in a story again – it offered her a fleeting moment of normalcy and happiness that she so desperately needed.
But of course, it could not last.
“Can we watch somethin’ diff’rent, Oma?” She heard Zayne ask his grandmother. “Me ‘n Bruce see’d this show a million-jillion times.”
Before Colette could reply, Jocelyne closed her book and crossed to the couch to join her mother and nephew. “Honey, if you’re bored, why don’t you go outside and play in the snow with the girls?” She offered gently.
Colette nodded in agreement. “They’re making snowmen and having a snowball fight… I bet you’d have a lot of fun.”
“Onkel Gu – er, Auggy’s out there too.” Jocelyne was still getting used to using the name Zayne was more familiar with. “I bet he’d love to spend some time with you.”
The little boy appeared thoughtful for a moment at the mention of his uncle’s name. “How long is Onkel Auggy stayin’ with us anyways?”
Jocelyne and her mother exchanged a brief look. Gus had arrived at their doorstep two nights ago with nothing but a duffel bag full of clothes. “Noah and I are taking a break.” He’d said. “Can I stay here for a while?” He’d been sleeping in the cabin out back ever since, and had not given much more of an explanation.
“Just for a little while.” Jocelyne assured her nephew. “He’ll be back home with Noah soon.” All she could do was pray she was right. “That’s why it might be nice to spend time with him while you can.”
Zayne nodded. “Yeah.” He agreed. “And I like playin’ with Onkel Auggy. It’s just…” The little boy bit his lip. “Opa’s out there too, right?” His voice was barely above a whisper.
Colette’s brow furrowed in concern. “He is. And Opa really loves playing with you too, you know that.”
“I know, Oma.” Zayne’s voice was small. “But… I’m just kinda ‘fraid he’s drinkin’ his special juice again.”
Jocelyne felt her heart sink at his words. Oh God… “Special juice?”
He nodded. “He drinks it when he’s sad. I asked him ‘bout it one time. Opa told me it’s just for grownups. He said it makes him not so sad anymore. But I think it makes him more sad… And dif’rent. I don’t like it. It’s scary.”
“Oh, Sweetie. Opa’s just fine.” Jocelyne forced a smile. “He’s not sad. He’s having a really good day today. He’s really happy. And I know he’ll be even happier if you go out and play with him.”
Beside her, her mother’s face had paled. Colette still said nothing.
“Promise, Tante Joce?”
At last, Colette opened her mouth to speak. “C-come on, honey. Let’s get you bundled up.”
Jesus… Jocelyne held her face in her hands as Colette and Zayne left the room. It’s getting worse.
She knew her father was still struggling with his drinking. She knew he was relying on it too much. She knew he needed to cut back. But she hadn’t realized that the kids had started picking up on it. Oh God, do the girls know too? Jocelyne panicked.
She could hear her mother coming back inside after bringing Zayne to join Gus, Tobi, and the triplets. Colette had barely made it back over the threshold before her daughter’s cries filled the air.
“What the hell, maman?!”
Colette’s eyes widened. “Jocelyne, w-what –”
“How much longer are you gonna let Papa do this?!” Jocelyne threw her hands up in frustration.
“I… I don’t know what you’re –”
“Yes you do! You heard what Zayne said…” Jocelyne shook her head in disgust. “Christ, if he’s getting worried, God only knows what the girls must be thinking too…”
“I’m not sure what you expect me to do, Jocelyne!” Colette cried. “You’ve seen how your Papa is. He yells. He gets defensive. He won’t listen to me… or his parents.”
“Yeah, and apparently not his own grandson either.” Jocelyne replied bitterly. “We’ve let this slide for way too long. He needs help, maman.”
“Believe me, I know.” Her mother’s voice was pained. “You should hear the things he says at night, Jocelyne… it’s horrible. He still has nightmares, even after all this time. It’s like he sees things, or hears things…” Colette shook her head. “Part of me died that day we lost your Bruder. But this… This is something even worse.”
“Exactly! And trying to drink away his problems clearly isn’t helping!” Jocelyne felt like she was going to cry. “It’s been six months. He needs to talk to someone about this.”
“Yeah, try telling him that.” Colette shook her head. “He won’t listen. He just keeps saying he’s fine.” She sighed. “And we all know that’s a lie.”
Jocelyne hesitated for a moment. Dare I bring it up? The young woman took a deep breath. “Remember… When you and Papa were having a hard time?” She asked softly. “Back when we were kids? You guys worked through it – with help. You went to counseling.”
For a moment, Colette’s entire body stiffened. “I remember.” She said softly.
“Well… you convinced him to do it back then. Can’t you convince him again?!” Jocelyne shrugged helplessly.
Her mother shook her head. “It’s not that easy, Jocelyne. That was different. Your father was afraid I’d leave him. Our marriage was on the line…”
“Yeah, well this time it’s more than his marriage that’s at risk! He can’t keep drinking all his problems away. He needs a better way to cope! This is killing him, maman! And you know it!”
“What the hell do you expect me to do then?!” Jocelyne could not remember the last time she’d heard her mother so angry. “Drag him to therapy?! Threaten to divorce him if he doesn’t go?!”
“If that’s what you have to do, then yes!”
Colette held her face in her hands. She said nothing for a few moments. “I can’t do that to him.” She said at last, her voice much calmer than it was before. “I can’t.”
Jocelyne regretted her words instantly. “I know you can’t.” She said gently. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, I just… Someone has to do something. We’ve lost so much already… We can’t lose Papa too.”
Her mother just sighed. “I know.”