We lived less than a ten minute walk from the barber shop, and on the way home I found myself deliberately slowing down in order to figure out a way of telling Mum about this without creating a full blown crisis. I eventually reached our home, none the wiser as to how I was going to break this to Mum.
I ran up the stairs, let myself in and walked into the kitchen to find Mum slumped on the table with two empty wine bottles and a half empty cognac bottle next to her. There was no sign of my brother.
“This was the last thing anybody needed” I told Fons and the others.
“I tried to get Mum to move but couldn’t. She had passed out once again, as had been happening a lot lately. Pierre had reached a new low in his selfishness, not only had he left Mum on her own in the kitchen, he was simply not in the flat.”
Once again I found myself having to deal with the whole mess on my own. Mum was hell bend on drinking herself to death and Pierre couldn’t care about anybody but himself, so why would I? Moni was the one who made it impossible for me to leave. I simply could not leave her deal with all of this on her own, she was not strong enough for any of this, and had her own devils to deal with.
I went into Mum’s bedroom, stripped back the bed covers and made sure there was nothing she could hurt herself with within reach. I then went back to the kitchen and lifted her off her chair to carry her to her bedroom. Suddenly life got an awful lot more difficult. As soon as I picked her up I knew she had soiled herself in her drunken stupor. There I was, standing in the kitchen, carrying my unconscious mother, not knowing what to do, when somebody knocked on the front door. I put Mum back on the chair, made sure she couldn’t slip off, and went to see who was calling up. Much to my surprise, it was Yvette’s mother who had decided to come and check on things as Yvette had told her she hadn’t seen Moni for such a long time and was getting worried. She must have seen right through me, for she took one look at me, walked in, closed the door and said:
“You better tell me what’s going on here Jean. You look very, very worried. Shall we go to the kitchen and you can tell me over a cup of coffee maybe?”
Before I could stop her, she opened the kitchen door and saw Mum.
“Oh my God! Jean, what is going on here?”
I told her what the problem was with Mum and why I hadn’t managed to get her to bed to sleep it off and she looked at me in absolute horror.
“I can’t say I blame her” she said, “after all she has been put through. I’ll take care of this Jean, don’t worry. Can you get her to the bathroom?”
Between us, we managed to get Mum cleaned up and in bed. I didn’t want to leave Mum alone, so we sat down in the kitchen and I told her everything. I just couldn’t hold back my tears any longer and cried my heart out while talking to this woman who was really a total stranger to me. In the middle of all this, Pierre came back carrying a bag with more wine.
“Oh,” he said when he saw me and Yvette’s mother in the kitchen, “did she finally pass out then? About time, these will hold for the next time.”
Before I managed to get up Yvette’s mother had jumped up, turned around and slapped him so hard he dropped the bottles. The look of total shock and surprise on his face was wiped off with another slap, and before he knew what was happening he was wrestled on to a chair by the woman. She was white with rage and it was obvious she was finding it very hard to control herself. Pierre got another slap across the head before she sat down again.
She looked at me and said
“Jean, I’ll stay here, sort this idiot out and look after your Mum. You need to go to Moni, she needs you now more than any other time. On your way back, will you just drop in to Yvette and tell her I’m here with your Mum. You can also tell her I’ve changed my mind, she can go off tonight with her friends, but she must be back at midnight the latest.”
I hurried back to Sarah and Isaac, with a little stopover at Yvette’s place. When she saw me she wanted to know all about Moni. I told her I didn’t have the time to tell her the full story now, but we would, as her mother suggested, call around very soon. The bribe of being allowed out that evening didn’t work, and I had no choice but to take Yvette with me back to Moni.
“Oh Jean, you must have heard us!” The gendarme smiled when she saw Yvette walk in with me. “We were just talking about Yvette, and here she is.” Moni fell into Yvette’s open arms and they comforted each other while tears freely rolled down their faces.
Isaac got up and went into the kitchen, followed by the gendarme who beckoned me the follow them.
“Jean, things are obviously not good with Moni. We are going to have to work something out for her before she goes off the rails completely“, said the gendarme. “And call me Natalie, please. I’m here as a friend, not as a gendarme. Don’t ever call me by my name in the station or when I’m in uniform, but any other time it’s Natalie, ok?” I nodded in agreement and proceeded to tell her what was going on at home. She looked at me, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re an exceptional young man Jean. Nobody else your age that I know off would be able to handle this the way you do. Let’s find a way of taking some of this load of your shoulders, ok?”
We went back into the living room, where Moni was telling her story to Yvette.
“Yvette proved to be the rock Moni needed. Without her I doubt it if Moni would have gotten through this hell”.
We decided to go back to our flat and see if we talk this over between all of us, including Mum, Yvette’s mother and Pierre. Back at the flat, Pierre was still sitting in the exact same position he had been when I left. Yvette’s mum introduced herself as Sophie, and told me it was quite ok for me to call her by her name.
“We’re a little too involved with all of this to keep up the Madame Florent bit, aren’t we?”
Natalie told us that she knew there would be no action taken against Moni, her boss had confirmed that after talking to the prosecutor. That was conditional on Moni going on this detox program, which she readily agreed to.
“But she needs more than that, ” Natalie said, “Moni needs a lot of help in comming to terms with everything that is happening in her young life. I think she also needs to be taken out of the immediate environment of her family. That is not a reflection on you Jean, far from it. I think that your presence and attitude is what has been preventing her from going off the rails completely. she needs you now, more than ever.”
It was agreed that Moni would go and stay with Sophie and Yvette for the time being. Sophie was a widow and had a pension she could live on, so she didn’t have to work and could keep an eye on the girls. Natalie had already organized the detox program for Moni and would sort some backup for Sophie and Yvette in case it was needed.
“She was absolutely fantastic. She had lots of contacts in the social services, and new a good few broadminded people in the university whom she said she could rely on to help. She actually left the gendarmerie about a year ago, and went back to university to study psychology.”
The whole arrangement did of course hinge on Mum’s agreement. Sophie thought it best that Moni went with them straight away, she really didn’t want Moni to see her Mum in the state she was in. Natalie agreed and promised to visit Moni every day to see how she was doing. She kept that promise for the full two years it took Moni to get back on her feet.
Sophie, Yvette and Moni left a few minutes later, and Natalie turned to Pierre. She asked him how Mum managed to get into the state she was in when he was supposed to be looking after her. He flatly told her that all Mum wanted to do was get drunk, and if that kept her off his back then that was fine by him, he wouldn’t stop her.
“So you just sat and watched her drink herself into a stupor? Where was the alcohol hidden? Jean tells me there was none in the house.”
“There wasn’t. I went a got it and gave it to her. It always works. She gets stupid drunk, falls asleep and I can go and do what I have to do. I not her babysitter, her bottle is!”