Rylan smiled; Eliza munched a sugar cookie; his cocky attitude at knowing she would apologise was a hard swallow. She came because Emilie asked; another Winterfest of Rylan and her bickering, Charlotte crying, and Patrick doing some solo activity in his bedroom; Eliza needed to step down, accept her part in disrupting family life. Her father would continue to believe he was correct, issue strong-worded suggestions for her future, something Eliza was still considering. He no longer had any say in where she lived; the occasional snarky comment of her sharing her bed with cockroaches made Eliza shudder; rather than fighting, she laughed it off, nodding in agreement that perhaps she should find a new place. Eliza hung by the kitchen door; Rylan had a craving for ice cream; the snow falling outside made it seem surreal, as Eliza offered to find him some yellow snow. A horrified stare worried her; a deep bellow erupted as he turned on the machine.
Their relationship was problematic, but it was nice to spend time together, open to rebuilding a friendship. Rylan missed the little girl who would beg him to read stories, came home excited to show her excellent grades; he was proud of her achievements, results were outstanding, but Eliza had declined a place at university. Lecturing her, pressing the issue of responsibility, it was his job, and accepting it was unlikely Eliza would nominate him as “father of the year”, elevated the disappointment in himself for failing to keep control of her. Eliza folded her arms; fatherhood should have been who he was rather than a job. As for controlling her or her siblings, it was a child’s place to challenge their parents; it’s how they learn, grow and develop, the tests bonds of the family; it’s love that sees them through, keeps them together. She knows talking through her issues with him, taking time to ensure he understood and finding common ground would have been the mature route. They had to find that now, to move forwards, they were both wrong, neither willing to listen; they were alike, stubborn and unyielding.
The gifts piled beneath the tree; Patrick observed his father’s interest; every year, Rylan sneaks a gift, checks and rewraps. This year, however, Patrick had a plan, placing his sibling’s gifts atop Rylan’s; he was careful to wrap a special gift, easy to open, no one could suspect Rylan had tampered with it. Patrick waited, sneaking downstairs to watch his father. He rattled a few, checked the label, checking he was alone he held the blue box, the yellow bow neat and promising with his name and a message from Sparky. Grinning, Rylan wondered which member of the family thought how sweet it would be to send him a gift from the family pet. It was light, made no noise; he guessed socks or those chocolate covered marshmallows they brought in the city. Inside, he rustled the yellow tissue paper, the smell hit him, suppressing the urge to vomit, he dropped the box. Thud, Patrick lay crumpled in hysterics; Charlotte bit her lip, trying to hide her amusement as Sparky barked. Emilie rushed in to see what had happened; the doggy excrement splattered the hardwood floor; Rylan clenched his fists, but he laughed, infected by his children, both of whom were responsible for the clean-up.