House of Mourning: Jon

You know your stepfather isn’t doing well, Jon.

Shaking his head, Jon heard the words in his head in his mother’s judgy little voice. He could picture her eyes, the same shade of blue as his, but smaller and mean.

Small and mean pretty much described his mother as a person.

It wasn’t a text he wanted to answer.

His sister Faith wasn’t going home for Thanksgiving. That much he knew. His older sibling was headstrong just like their father had been. It would have been so easy to assign some of the blame for their family’s perpetual combustible state on that.

But that wasn’t exactly the truth.

Charles Lynskey, their father, had been a formidable man in his younger days. Handsome and successful, he’d been a well-known assistant district attorney in the small Massachusetts town where he and his sister had been born. When they were little, their father had worked long hours. Sometimes when he was home, he had to work too, not able to spend a lot of time with his family.

But they had plenty of money. And in between cases, Charles had been content to catch up on everything he’d missed. He took his family out to restaurants to celebrate or to the movies. Sometimes he took all of them on short, weekend vacations.

To Jon, those outings between cases were something to look forward to as a boy. He’d eagerly wait for each break, excited at the prospect of where they would go next, what they would do.

His mother and sister shared an intense resentment. Jon hadn’t recognized their unhappiness when he was little. By the time he reached his teens, he started seeing his family for who they truly were.

Charles was able to work so many hours as a successful attorney because of cocaine addiction. His mother hadn’t approved. Nights of being sent to sleep on the couch when he was high turned into nights spent late at the office, apparently fucking secretaries, paralegals, and various interns.

His many infidelities only grew his mother’s resentment, poisoning the time he spent with his family. Faith followed her mother’s lead. If his sister had known about the cheating before it all went to shit, Jon didn’t know about it.

He just remembered when the time between cases led to huge fights. Their mother would end up crying in her bedroom, his sister storming off to her own after letting her father know how little she thought of him. Threats of grounding her had less and less impact over time.

Jon usually ended up sitting alone and confused on the couch. He remembered his father taking a seat next to him once, defiant and frustrated. His father’s smiles then never reached his eyes.

“You’re my boy, right?” his father would ask him.

Jon always nodded.

“Never get married, Johnny,” his father would tell him meaningfully. “Never fucking get married.”