The rest of the vacation was a drag to you. The only thing you ever did was either sleep, eat, or finish your homework. You wanted it to be the last day already so you could’ve gone to see Arthur and tell him how you had practically bored yourself to death this past week.
You were sitting in the living room on the evening of New Year’s Eve, blankly watching the special from Times Square in New York City on TV, your whole body practically sunk into the couch that you were sitting in, when you heard the unlocking of the front door, making you jump in shock, the sound very rare to you. But your surprise quickly turned to disgust once you realized who was at the door.
You let out an audible groan as you watched your mom hastily and energetically walk into the living room, followed by your dad, who closed the door behind him. “We’re home!” your mother breathed, exhaustion detectable in her voice as she stopped at the entrance to the living room and took a look around. Only a second passed before her gaze finally settled on you as you looked up at her coldly, and an excited smile quickly made its way to her face.
“_____!” your mother squeaked before she quickly walked up to you, pulled you off of the couch, and wrapped her arms tightly around you, causing you to let out a yelp. “We’ve missed you so much! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! I’m so excited to get to see you now! How have you been? How is everything? How was your vacation? Did you spend it well? Did you like the present we gave you?”
Whoa, whoa, one question at a time...You didn’t return the hug as you closed your eyes and took in the smell of your mother. You were surprised and disgusted to find out that she smelled like liquor which attempted to be hidden with perfume. When your dad entered the room, you found that the smell of liquor was stronger on him.
Oh god...Did your parents really go drinking on New Year’s Eve instead of spending the day with you?
...You wanted to cry. You were just so angry right now you wanted to yell the crap out of them, but you found that you were unable to move as your mother continued hugging you.
As soon as she finally pulled away and took a step back, your father looked at you and smiled. “Happy New Year, _____,” he said before he walked up to you and planted a wet kiss on your forehead, making you resist the terrible urge to cringe. “How have you been?”
“Oh, I’ve been...great,” you murmured as you dropped your gaze down to the ground. Great was actually an understatement. You’ve been feeling a whole lot better these past two months because of everything that Arthur did for you, but there was no way you were going to tell your parents about that.
Your mother sat down next to you on the couch and put her arm around your shoulder, making you flinch at the unwanted contact, though she took no notice of it. “So...how was school?”
“School was...wonderful,” you muttered as you stared blankly down at your hands.
“Are you getting good grades?”
“Yeah, yeah.” That was a lie, but it wasn't like your parents seemed to care anyway. They always asked you the plainest, vaguest questions on the holidays, such as how was school, how was life, how you were doing...What the hell. It wasn't like they ever asked any personal questions, like if there was anything in particular that was bothering you or if you needed any help with anything. But even if you did, it’s not like you could've just walked up to them and asked them for assistance. Because one, they were almost always out of the house, and two, you treated them almost as if they were strangers. You didn’t trust them as much as you would've wanted to.
In fact, you hardly had anybody that you could've trusted with all your heart.
Attempting to make a pointless conversation with your parents, you asked, “So...how’s it been with you guys?”
Your father ran his hand through his hair and sighed. “Busy, busy, busy.”
“We hardly ever have time to see you!” your mother said as she pulled you into another tight hug, making you force yourself to resist the urge to push her away. “Your father and I spent all day overwhelmed with our jobs!”
More like you and dad spent all day overwhelmed with drinking. The stench of liquor became so strong that you started to feel nauseous. You had to find some excuse to leave and go to the refuge that was your room.
“Um...listen,” you said as you pulled away from your mother and stood up. “I'm going to go upstairs.”
“Why?” your mother asked, and when you met her gaze, you saw that it was filled with sadness. “Doesn’t our daughter want to spend New Year’s with her parents?”
“No, I don’t,” you said through gritted teeth, too annoyed to play any of her stupid little POV games. “Actually, I have a lot of, uh...homework that I need to complete for school. It’s kind of urgent.”
“Oh, alright then,” your mother said with a sigh of disappointment. “But feel free to come downstairs whenever you want, honey.”
“Uh...sure,” you said before you hastily walked out of the room, headed up the stairs, entered your room, slammed the door behind you, and threw yourself onto your bed, burying your face in your pillow and letting out a groan.
It seemed like your parents hardly seemed to care about you. You could've gone on a month long trip across the world and they wouldn’t have cared. You could've run away from home, called yourself an orphan, permanently lived on the streets, and they wouldn’t have cared. Sometimes you really did feel as if you were an orphan, living a life without parents. Sometimes you felt that nobody in this world ever seemed to care about you. Sometimes you felt as if you were invisible.
You couldn't wait for the New Year to be over, for your parents to leave and go back to their routines of leaving the house for the whole day, and for the last day of your Christmas vacation to come so you finally could've seen Arthur.
You felt like it took forever for this day to finally arrive. You headed out the door at 10:30 like usual, and by the time you had arrived at the park it was almost 11. Arthur still wasn't there, waiting at the front like he usually did, so you leaned against one of the poles next to the front entrance to the park and waited, feeling the cool winter breeze beat against your face. You hoped that he came back from his trip to England and had enough time to at least spend a few hours in the park with you. You hated to admit it, but...a part of you actually missed him. You had gotten used to seeing him every day that not seeing him for over a week came as kind of a let-down to you. But now that week was over, and you were looking forward to resuming all of your meetings and conversations that you had with him before.
You continued standing there for the next few minutes, letting your gaze wander off to various parts of the street. Finally, you were able to spot a familiar figure walking on the sidewalk heading towards you, and your gaze instantly brightened when you realized that it was Arthur.
Too impatient to wait for him to come over to you, you left your place against the pole near the front entrance to the park and walked over to him at a rather hasty pace, trying to resist the urge to run. “Hi, Arthur!” you said as soon as you were within earshot of him.
At the sound of your voice, Arthur, who previously had his gaze fixed on the ground, lifted his head so that he was looking up at you. “Oh, hello, _____,” he replied, pausing when the two of you were only a few feet away from each other. He eyed you up and down momentarily before a smile came to his face. “You seem rather excited today.”
You let out a sigh. “I just haven’t seen you in a long time....How was England?”
“It was good,” Arthur said with a nod as you turned around so that you were directly next to him and the both of you resumed heading to the park. “Christmas and the New Year are the only times when I ever get to travel to England to see my grandparents, so it was nice to get to spend the holidays with them again.”
I wish I could feel the same way about my parents...you thought with an upset expression on your face as you lowered your gaze down to your feet. You wondered what it must've felt like to spend the holidays with relatives who actually cared about you and devoted their time to you in the way that you wanted. Too bad it was a feeling that you knew you were most likely never going to experience.
The both of you entered the park and started walking down the main path, as usual. There were very few people there, which made you figure that most of them were probably at home relaxing from the holidays, or they had already gone off to work, like your parents.
“_____, are you alright?” Arthur asked as he turned his head to the side to look at you as you still kept staring down at the ground with that same desolated expression on your face.
The sudden sound of his voice startled you a bit, and you instantly lifted your head to look up at him, your eyes slightly wide in surprise. “O-Oh, I'm fine...” you muttered before you turned your gaze away from him and back down to the ground. “Just fine.”
Arthur frowned, your statement hardly seeming to convince him. He could tell by the look on your face and the way you kept quiet that something wasn't right. Before he could've had any other thoughts, he reached out to grasp your hand, making you lift your gaze from the ground and look at him in surprise and a bit of confusion. “I know something is wrong with you,” Arthur said as he stopped walking, causing you to do the same, and met your gaze seriously. “I can tell by the expression on your face. And don’t bother lying to me, because that will only convince me even more that you're not okay.”
You continued to stare at him in silence for a few more moments before you finally let out a sigh and dropped your gaze down to the ground. “Alright, fine,” you mumbled. You already figured that it would've been very hard for you to hide any recent problems you had faced from Arthur.
“You wouldn’t mind if you told me what's wrong, would you?” Arthur asked gently, still tightly grasping your hand. “I promise I’ll try to make things better for you.”
“Of course I wouldn’t mind,” you replied in the same soft tone as his. You didn’t think that your problem could've gotten better in any kind of way, but a part of you felt better and more secure knowing that you weren’t the only one who knew about the situation you were currently in. “But we have to fine someplace to sit, first.”
After a few more minutes of walking, the both of you finally came across a bench on one side of a narrower path than the main one that you had walked through upon entering the park. The bench was kind of small, but it was enough to fit both you and Arthur with about a foot of space in between.
“So, I bet by now you want to know how I spent my vacation, right?” you asked with a tiny smile as you leaned back so that your back was pressed against the bench.
“Hmm...I suppose so,” Arthur replied as he turned his gaze to the side to look at you.
You let out a sigh and cleared your throat, the tiny smile disappearing and being replaced with a frown. “Well, I guess I’ll start it like this: On Christmas morning when I went downstairs, my parents weren’t there, but I saw a present under the tree. It was a Christmas tree-shaped cookie covered in frosting—the same thing that they get me every year—and on top of it was a note that apologized for my parents not being able to spend the day at home with me, but they still love me as much as always. They tell the same thing to me every year on Christmas, and instead of being disappointed this time, I just got really frustrated.”
“Oh...” Arthur said quietly, frowning in concern. “What did you do then?”
You took a deep breath before you continued. “Well, I went into the kitchen and I saw the chocolate that you had given me. I decided that I didn’t need any more of my parents’ gifts so I just threw out the cookie and kept the chocolate.”
“Oh. Do you think that was the right thing to do?” Arthur asked.
You shrugged carelessly in return. “Of course it was. I didn’t really feel like my parents were genuinely upset that they weren’t able to spend the holidays with me. They hardly ever see me anyway, so it shouldn’t have really bothered them. But when New Year’s Eve came and I was sitting in the living room by myself, they arrived home looking all exhausted. They seemed like they were so happy to see me and kept on giving me hugs and kisses and stuff, but I was just really uncomfortable and wanted to get away from them. They said that they were busy with work all day and couldn't find time to come home until the evening, but when they were around me, they smelled like...a-alcohol....”
You were cut off from saying anymore as you felt a lump form in your throat, and you let out a sigh before you rested your elbows on your knees and buried your face in your hands. “Sometimes I wish that I actually had parents who didn’t work their whole lives and actually spent time with me like they really cared about me. I wish I wasn't so alone all the time at school and at home....”
Arthur continued to stare at you for a few moments in silence, his gaze filled with sorrow and pity, before he finally let out a sigh and wrapped his arm around your shoulders. “I'm really sorry, _____,” he murmured. “You don’t deserve to feel so lonely because of the actions of someone else. I just wish there was something I could do to help.”
“You can help me run away from home,” you muttered as you lifted your face from your hands and looked up at him.
Arthur frowned. “Running away won't solve anything. In fact, it might only make things worse.”
“I know, but what else am I supposed to do?” you asked desolately as you continued to look up at him with a miserable expression on your face.
Arthur sighed and dropped his arm back down to his side. “Nothing much, really. If you want, I can come to your house after school and we can do your work there, just so you’ll feel less lonely at home.”
You shook your head. “That won't change anything. It won't make my parents spend more time with me. But even if they did, I never would've gotten used to their presence. They’re practically like strangers to me.”
“Well, maybe spending less time at home will help you forget about the absence of your parents, even if it’s at least for a little bit,” Arthur suggested. “After school when we’re done with your homework we can walk around town for a little bit, then when it’s the end of the evening you can go home, eat, and go directly to sleep.”
“But what about you?” you asked. “You have a family that you actually see before and after school. You have homework, too. Not just me. When are you going to have time for all of this when you're out with me almost all the time?”
“I’ll figure something out,” Arthur replied with a shrug. “As long as I'm helping you feel better, I don’t really mind.”
A tiny smile came to your face that quickly faded as you studied him carefully up and down. After a few seconds, you sighed. “You're so...you’re so...good to me. A-And...You’re like...the only person that...really understands me and the only person who I know I can trust with talking about my problems. Everybody else, they're just...they’re just...” You paused as you struggled for the right words to say. “They’re just...hardly or not important or influential to me. But you’ve been a really great friend to me for these past two months. I can't believe there was once a time when I only thought of you as someone who gets in my way.”
“Well, anything can change overtime, right?” Arthur asked you as a tiny smile came to his face.
“Of course it can,” you answered as you moved closer to him enough so that your shoulder was pressed against his. “And if we keep on working hard like this, I bet pretty soon I’ll be passing all of my classes, too.”