“Hi mum,” he shouted, putting his school blazer on the coat hook in the toilet. “Mum?” He was never sure if she was going to be there or not, or whether she would even be in the right state of sobriety to answer him.
Nothing. Another afternoon when he was looking after himself. Another evening when he was making his own dinner. Another night he was putting himself to bed.
He emptied his school bag, putting his work in pride of place on the worktop. His little gift for her, his way of helping out a little. Despite the loneliness, he went to sleep with a smile on his face.
He smelled her before he saw her, slumped over the kitchen table, an overturned bottle of gin lying next to her head. He stroked her hair and gave her a kiss on the forehead, hoping she’d get the help she so desperately needed.
“Jack,” she mumbled, “you going to get some tea?”
“It’s morning, mum, I’m getting breakfast. Do you want anything?”
She stirred and looked up at him, her eyes narrowing as she attempted to focus on her surroundings. “Just don’t make a noise. Get yourself off to bed soon. Oh, and stop leaving your crap lying around.” She closed her eyes again, the alcohol taking its toll once more.
Jack looked towards the empty worktop, his shoulders sagging as he realised it had happened again. He headed straight for the bin, opening it to see the gift he’d left lying at the top.
He fought back the tears as he grabbed his bag, turning to face the kitchen and looking at his prostrate mother.
“But I did it for you!” his frustrated whisper, wondering what else he could do to help her.