Your mother didn't answer her phone. She had left hours ago, off to collect the meager "bonus" she was offered at work. It was a few extra dollars from the manager, your grandfather. It was Christmas Eve, the sun had gone down hours ago. You were supposed to be in bed.
You call again.
Your younger brothers are all asleep.
Maybe your brother knows where she is. He is older. He is responsible. He has his own flat.
You call him.
He picks up the phone and slurs a "hello," at you. You hear a crash and some swearing. He can't stop laughing. The voices in the background laugh too.
You hang up.
Call Mom again.
You look next to you on the couch. An aging quilt that always rests on Mom's lap stares back at you. It has been folded.
It is never folded.
You swallow your fear and try again.
You keep calling.
Never an answer.
You sigh, giving up. You make your way slowly to your crowded shared bedroom and lay down, stroking your dog for comfort until you drift off.
You don't wake until the afternoon. It's Christmas, but the only things waiting for you in the living room is a small trinket offered to you by your hung-over brother. You watch as he drinks countless cups of coffee and your younger siblings play with their gifts.
You ask about Mom.
He offers to bring you and your brothers back to his apartment for the weekend and you agree. It is the best gift ever. He is grown up. He is cool. He has his own apartment in the city.
You spend a few days there, in the city. You fall asleep to gunshots and a cacophony of inebriated slurs from the parties held in the next room.
Every day you ask about Mom.
Finally, it is Monday. Mom knocks on the door in the morning. Your brother is dragging himself out of the shower to get ready for work.
You ask where she has been.
You say good-bye to your brother.
The drive home is quiet. The rest of the day is quiet. Everything in your chaotic home is quiet. She does not wish you a merry Christmas. She does not bring you a gift. You do not ask for one.
When she goes to bed, you stare at the crumpled old quilt next to you on the couch.
You beg it to never be folded again.