Authors Note: This story takes place during the first season's Christmas episode called 'The Best Chrismukka'. A lot of this story is taken directly from the episode, and the rest is what I wanted to see happen. Written December 2004.
Ryan hated Christmas. His past Christmases were full of watching his mother get drunk. She would then cry and complain about money and family. If Ryan was lucky she would pass out before she pissed off her boyfriend enough to start hitting her, or him. But this year was his first year with the Cohen family, and there was no escaping Christmas or Hanukkah with Seth around. So while Ryan might want to forget the whole Holiday season, he couldn't. And Seth even made it sound a little appealing.
Marissa also hated Christmas. She could remember liking Christmas in the past. Back when her Mom and Dad were together still, and before they started arguing all the time. Back when her sister had been small, and still believed in Santa. But now she thought that things were just fucked up. Her parents were getting a divorce. Her dad had no job, and wasn't able to pay the bills. Of course he was lucky not to be in prison after he had taken so much money from his friends and business associates in Newport. Her mother was a conniving woman who was out looking for a new husband with lots of money. Her mother was currently dating Caleb, who was old enough to be her grandfather. The only high point in Marissa's life right now was Ryan. She was very attracted to him, and they were in a new relationship that was currently full of happy moments.
Marissa knew she had to go to a horrible party that night put on by her Mom. She was not looking forward to it, so she decided to go see Ryan and find out what he had planned for the day. She found him about to go out the door. Marissa said, "Hi there."
Ryan smiled and said, "Hey."
They kissed and Marissa said, "Where are you off to?"
Ryan gave her a pained look and said, "Christmas shopping."
Marissa smiled at him, "By yourself?"
Ryan gave her a blank look. Marissa said, "I don't think you're ready to face the Newport mall a couple of days before Christmas all by yourself. I better come help you navigate."
Ryan gave her a small smile and nodded.
They both had a great time shopping. Ryan had fun because he was with Marissa. He quickly discovered that almost everything he wanted to get for his new family was way over his budget, but with Marissa there, and smiling, it didn't seem so awful. Marissa loved showing Ryan around to her favorite shops. She was having a good time, and then at the last store they were going to, Ryan looked at a watch for five minutes before shaking his head and walking away to look for something else. She wasn't sure what motivated her. It was a split second decision. She took the watch and stuck it in her purse when Ryan had his back turned. She was nervous for a few seconds, but then when nothing happened, she felt a rush of adrenaline, and decided it felt good. Before they left the store, she had put four more things in her purse.
By the time they got to the car Marissa was almost giddy because she had gotten away with it. Then she heard someone behind her say, "Excuse me Miss, but I'm going to have to ask you to let me see your purse."
She turned to see a security guard looking at her. She could feel her stomach sinking. For some reason Ryan being there when she got caught made it worse. Ryan of course tried to get the guy to leave them alone, but before Ryan could get himself into trouble by defending her she said, "No. It's okay."
She handed over her purse, and the security guard dumped out the contents on the hood of their car. Ryan couldn't believe what he saw. He looked over at Marissa questioningly, but when she wouldn't make eye contact with him, he knew she had done it. The security guard said, "I'm going to have to ask you both to come with me."
Marissa nodded and followed the guard, and Ryan followed them both. He shook his head trying to figure out why Marissa had done it, but by the time they'd made it to the store manager's office he still didn't have a clue.
When they got to the office, the security guard said to Ryan, "If you could go into the office first please, while we wait out here."
Ryan nodded and went in. The store manager was an older man with white hair, and a pleasant face. He had a serious look when he told Ryan to have a seat. Ryan sat and started thinking about the fact that he was still on probation for helping his brother steal the car. He gave the manager a nervous look. The manager said simply, "Did you know what she was doing?"
Ryan shook his head and said, "No sir."
The manager nodded and said, "Okay you can go."
Ryan looked surprised, and the manager gave him a small smile. He said, "We've been monitoring her since one of the clerks saw her take the watch. We could tell from our security cameras that you didn't know what she was doing. This was just a formality."
The store manager stood and so did Ryan. Ryan walked out to the hall, and the security guard told Marissa to go in. Marissa still wouldn't look at Ryan when she walked by. She went into the office and sat down. She mostly looked at the desk, but also stole glances at the store manager. The manager said, "You've taken over three hundred dollars worth of merchandise."
Marissa nodded to the floor. The manager asked, "Why?"
She looked up at him not expecting this question. She whispered out, "I…. I don't know."
The manager said, "How old are you?"
"What's your name?"
"This is a serious offense Miss Cooper. I'm either going to have to call the police, or your parents."
Marissa nodded at the floor again and said, "My father's number is 555-9254."
Marissa sat there wondering why she had done it while the manager called her father.
Jimmy had been to another disappointing job interview. Everyone in Newport seemed to know him one way or another, so getting a job after what he had done wasn't easy. He had recently arrived home and was currently on the couch with his laptop looking for jobs. His phone rang, and he answered with, "Hello?"
"Is this Mister Cooper?"
Jimmy was wary, expecting a sales call, or worse, another unhappy previous client calling. He said, "Yes."
"My name is Phil Johnson, and I'm calling from Nordstrom's at the Newport Mall."
"I'm not interested in any kind of sales pitch buddy."
Jimmy almost hung up, but as he was taking the phone away from his ear he heard the man say, "I have your daughter here with me."
Jimmy sat up and almost dumped his laptop on the floor as he said, "What was that?"
"I have your daughter here in my office. She was caught shoplifting."
Jimmy didn't know what to say. The line was silent for a few seconds and then Mr. Johnson said, "I'm going to need you to come down here and talk with me and collect your daughter."
Jimmy shook himself out of his daze and said, "Of course. I'll be right there."
As Jimmy hung up, all he could think about was what Julie was going to say about it. But even though he might like to, he knew he couldn't keep this from her. He called and left her a voice mail explaining the situation. Then he got in the car and headed to the mall. The whole way there his thoughts went back and forth between Marissa and why she had done it, and Julie and what she would do about it.
Once the manager was done on the phone, he went to open the office door. He said to Ryan, "You're free to go."
Ryan looked in at Marissa still sitting on the chair and not getting up to go with him. He said, "I'll wait. I'm her ride home."
Marissa panicked at the thought of what her dad might say to Ryan. He might try to blame Ryan for this, the same way her mother always did. She got up and walked over. She looked at Ryan for the first time since getting caught as she said, "It's okay Ryan, go on home. My dad's coming to get me."
Ryan looked surprised but then said, "You sure? I could stay if you need me to."
Marissa shook her head and said, "No. It's gonna be bad enough, and you being here might make it worse. But I'll probably see you tonight at the party."
Ryan didn't like it, but he also didn't want to be there in the middle of it either. "Okay. If I don't see you, I'll call."
Marissa nodded, and Ryan slowly walked back to the Cohen's car unsure if it was the right thing for him to be doing.
Once Ryan was gone, Marissa sat and fidgeted with her skirt, waiting in silence for her dad to arrive.
Finally Marissa heard footsteps in the hall, and looked up to see her dad standing there. As Marissa had expected and dreaded, her dad had that look of worry and disbelief that she hated. Jimmy went over to Marissa and put a hand on her face as he said, "You okay honey?"
Marissa wanted to cry because he was being so nice to her when she had been rotten. She gave him a smile and said, "I'm okay. I'm really sorry."
Jimmy gave her a smile back, "I know."
Jimmy and the manager talked while Marissa sat there. Jimmy assured the manager that nothing like this had happened before, and that it wouldn't happen again. The manager followed policy and let her off with a warning for a first offence, but kept her name, and her father's name and number on record in case there was a second offence.
Then they were free to go. It was a silent walk back to the car. Once they were both buckled up and out of the parking lot Jimmy asked, "What happened?"
"I… I don't know. I was shopping with Ryan, and we were having a good time. Then I just did it. I don't know why. I don't have a good reason. I just…. I don't know."
Jimmy sighed and said, "That's not really good enough kiddo. Is it the money?"
Marissa was taken aback by that comment, because money had never entered her mind. She asked, "What?"
"I know we don't have the kind of money we used to. Is that why you said you didn't want to do Christmas? Because you were worried about getting people expensive gifts like you used to, but you couldn't afford it now?"
Marissa shook her head violently. She said, "No, Dad. It's not that at all. I swear."
"Then why? Does it have something to do with your mom?"
Marissa couldn't deny that one as quickly. She said, "I don't think so. I mean, I know she'll be mad, but I don't really care. I wasn't thinking about her when I did it."
Jimmy shook his head wondering what else it could be. The rest of the ride home was silent. When they pulled up to the apartment Jimmy said, "I guess we should go talk about punishment."
Marissa didn't look at her dad but nodded. It was going to be an uncomfortable conversation for both of them. Julie was the one who had handed out punishments when her and Jimmy had been married. Marissa and Jimmy went in. Marissa sat on the couch, and Jimmy sat across from her in the easy chair. He wasn't sure what to do at first. He said, "So…. What do you think would be appropriate?"
Marissa gave him a lost look. He said, "It's pretty serious. Shoplifting for no reason."
Marissa nodded, "I know."
"Do you think being grounded for a week sounds fair?"
Marissa was about to say yes, when Julie barged into the apartment and said, "What the hell do you think you were doing young lady?"
Marissa stood up and said, "Mom."
Julie looked over at Jimmy who had also stood. She said, "She would do this during your watch."
Jimmy rolled his eyes and said, "So this is my fault too now?"
Julie snipped, "Well we know who the other thief in this family is."
Marissa said, "No. It's my fault, not Dad's."
Julie turned back around and said, "That's right it is."
Jimmy trying to calm Julie down said, "We were just discussing what punishment might be appropriate."
Julie gave him a look and said, "Way to take charge Jimmy. Are you ever gonna grow a spine? You're the adult, you don't discuss it."
Julie turned to Marissa and said, "No weekends, no dates, no car, no TV or computer for a month."
Marissa nodded. Julie said, "And you'll be going to therapy."
Marissa's eyes opened wide and she said, "No. Mom please."
Julie toned her anger down a notch, and tried to sound soothing when she said, "I've called and made you an appointment for tomorrow. Dr. Nickels is a respected…"
Marissa cut her off with, "Mom, I swear I won't do it again. Please don't make me go."
Julie said, "Therapy was part of the agreement when I let you live here."
Marissa sounding desperate said, "Look, I know it was dumb, and I swear I won't do it again."
Jimmy said, "Your Mom's right kiddo, you need to go. And you might enjoy it once you try it."
Julie cut Marissa off, "You know I love you honey, but right now, I just don't believe you when you say you won't do it again."
Marissa realized there was no getting out of it, and got angry. She yelled, "Fine! At least if I'm grounded I won't have to go to your stupid party!"
Marissa started to walk away and Julie said, "Oh no young lady! I'm not going to let your sticky fingers ruin this party for me. I've put a lot of time and effort into getting this party together, and you will make an appearance and put on a happy face for Caleb. Have I made myself clear?"
Marissa rolled her eyes and said, "Fine."
Julie glared at Jimmy and said, "Make sure she's there."
Julie stormed out the door, and Jimmy looked at Marissa. Marissa said, "I better go get ready."
Jimmy nodded and said, "Me too."
Once Marissa was ready she called Ryan. He was starting to get ready himself. He saw who it was on the caller ID and answered with, "Hey, how did it go with your dad?"
"It was okay until my mom showed up, but then she makes everything worse."
"So did the store press charges?"
"No. They let me off with a warning."
"Well that's good."
The line was silent for a few seconds, and then Marissa said, "Are you all ready for the party?"
Ryan looked down at his jeans and said, "I'm getting ready right now."
"You want me to come pick you up so we can go together?"
"Um…. Okay. I mean if that's okay with your dad."
"Great. I'll be there in ten minutes."
When Marissa hung up the phone, she went downstairs to find her dad. She heard the shower going and sat on the couch to wait for him. Then she started thinking about the party and how horrible it was going to be. She couldn't stand being fake the way her mother constantly wanted her to be. She was always supposed to smile and pretend everything in her life was ideal, when in reality she hated most things in her life. And the thought of her mom with Caleb was just plain yucky. The more she thought about it, the more she didn't want to go. She heard the water turn off and decided that if she had to go to the party, she might as well try to enjoy it. She went to the liquor cabinet and got a bottle of vodka that fit nicely into her purse. As soon as the alcohol was in her purse she felt better.
A few minutes later Jimmy walked out in his suit and said, "Ready to go?"
"Yep, but Ryan doesn't have a ride, so I was hoping I could take my car and pick him up on the way."
"Why isn't he going with Kirsten and Sandy?"
"They left early to talk to Caleb."
"Then why isn't he going with Seth?"
"He went with his parents."
Jimmy shook his head and said, "They wouldn't just leave him there."
Marissa gave him a smile and said, "Okay, you're right. Ryan didn't want to go, and they were letting him stay home, but I talked him into going. I'm sure mom wants to have as many people there as possible."
Jimmy looked at Marissa not sure if he believed her, but he didn't want her to think he didn't trust her any more either. Finally he nodded and said, "Okay, but don't be late. Go get him, and then straight to the party, right?"
Marissa got up and gave her dad a kiss on the cheek as she said, "Thanks Daddy. See you there."
Jimmy loved it when she called him Daddy. It didn't happen that often anymore, and it made him feel warm inside. He gave her a quick hug and said, "I love you kiddo."
"I love you too."
He let her go and watched her walk out to her car. He smiled thinking he had made the right decision. And even though he had been dreading the party, now he didn't think the party would be that bad. He knew Sandy and Kirsten were going to be there to talk to, and he was sure he could avoid his evil bitch of an ex-wife.
Marissa picked up Ryan and after the first few minutes, which were a little awkward, things got back to normal. By the time they arrived they were laughing about Seth and his ideas on Christmas and Hanukkah. The first part of the party went well for everyone. Marissa and Ryan were having a nice quiet time talking and visiting on the sidelines of the party. Then Julie came up and complemented Marissa on her choice of dresses. Marissa just rolled her eyes knowing her mother only approved because it would let the other guests know that they had money. Julie then said, "You haven't said hi to Caleb yet."
"Because he was busy talking to other people and I didn't want to be rude."
Julie gave Marissa a little glare and said, "Well he's not talking to anyone right now, so why don't you go over there and visit for a while."
"Maybe I don't feel like it right now."
"Maybe I don't care what you feel like doing. Go mingle and be pleasant."
Marissa glared and said, "I'm going to the bathroom."
She stormed off and Julie muttered, "I hate the Holidays."
Ryan muttered back, "I'm right there with you."
When Marissa got to the bathroom she got out the vodka. She had a large glass that was full of coke. She poured half of it down the drain and filled the cup back up with vodka. She choked down five big swallows and smiled at herself in the mirror. She stood in the bathroom taking drinks until the glass was empty. It had only been about ten minutes, but she had consumed at least six shots in that time. When she left the bathroom she could feel the buzz starting. She found Ryan and kissed him for a long time. At first he kissed her back, but then after a few seconds he could tell something was wrong. He pulled back and said, "I'm guessing you've had more then coke."
Marissa smiled and held up her purse as she said, "Yeah. Want some?"
Ryan shook his head no, and Marissa pulled on his arm saying, "Let's dance."
"You know how I feel about dancing."
"And you know how I feel about making you."
Ryan stopped her and said, "You've had too much."
Marissa started to get irritated with Ryan and said, "What's the problem. You drink."
"Not alone in the bathroom."
"Don't spoil the fun Ryan. Come on, let's dance."
"No. We're going home."
Ryan pulled on her arm, starting to lead her out of the party. Marissa pulled away from him and said, "No! I have plenty of people telling me what to do in my life. You're not one of them. Get away from me. I'm leaving."
Ryan watched her stumble away and towards the front of the building. He just stood there for a few seconds thinking about what she had said. She was right. He was her boyfriend, and he didn't really have any right to tell her what to do, but at the same time he couldn't just sit by and let her do things that were harmful to herself. He followed her to see what she was going to do.
When he got to the front door, he saw the valet give her the keys to her car. He ran over to her and got there just as she had closed the driver's door. He tried to open the passenger door, but it was locked. She looked at him through the window and he said, "You can't drive."
She said, "I'm fine."
"Just give me the keys and I'll drive."
She started the car and put it in drive. He jumped in front of the car and looked at her. She glared at him, hating him for trying to tell her what to do, and hating her life in general. She put it in reverse and put her foot on the gas. She felt the bump as she ran into the car behind her. Ryan went to the driver's door and gave her a seriously unhappy look, and she put her head on the steering wheel and tried not to cry. He said, "Open the door."
She did, and she got out. He said, "Get in the passenger seat."
She did, and wondered where all her fight had gone. Ryan got in and moved the car up a foot. Then he got out and checked out the damage to both cars. He didn't see any damage on the car that Marissa had hit, but he asked the valet to have the owner paged anyway. Fifteen minutes later Ryan got back in the car and said, "There was no damage to the other car. The owner said not to worry about it. He didn't even ask for our insurance information. You have a busted tail light though."
Marissa stared out the windshield and nodded. Ryan said, "Ready to go home?"
She nodded again.
They drove in silence for a few minutes. The streets were mostly empty now that it was past midnight. Marissa was feeling worse and worse about the whole night. She decided to do what she always did in this situation. She pulled out her vodka and was about to finish it off in an attempt to pass out when Ryan said, "That's great."
She had unscrewed the lid, and it had fallen to the ground as he was talking. Ryan said, "I'm still on probation Marissa."
She sounded petulant when she said, "Fine. I'll put it back."
She looked around on the floor for the lid, and after a couple of minutes she still hadn't found it. Ryan growled, "Put it away!"
She yelled back, "I'm trying."
Then Ryan saw the lights in his rear view mirror. He felt his stomach sink and his anger grow. He muttered, "Of course this is happening."
Marissa looked scared. She put the open bottle on the floor between her feet and hoped it was too dark on the beachfront road for the cop to notice. Ryan pulled over and the officer got out. He shined a flashlight in their eyes and said, "License and registration please."
Ryan handed them over and the cop said, "You know you have a broken taillight?"
"Yeah, it just happened."
The cop shined his light on Marissa and said, "Everything okay here Miss."
She gave him what she hoped was a nice smile and said, "Yeah. We're fine."
The cop said, "Neither one of you kids has been drinking have you?"
Ryan said, "No sir."
The cop shined his light back on Marissa and said, "Miss, I'm gonna have to ask you to…."
He got a call on his radio about a domestic disturbance and he called back, "I'm on my way."
He handed the license and registration back to Ryan and said, "I've got another call. I'm gonna let you off with a warning. You go straight home and get that taillight fixed."
Ryan nodded and said, "Yes sir." again.
Ryan and Marissa both just sat there for a few minutes while the policeman drove off. Ryan was relieved they hadn't gotten caught, but he was so angry with Marissa for having put him in the situation, that he wasn't sure what to do with himself. He wanted to hit something or someone. He undid his seatbelt and got out of the car. He walked with determination to the passenger side of the car. He pulled the door open, grabbed the vodka from between Marissa's feet, and threw the bottle as far as he could down the bank at the side of the road. Then he stood there looking down until he saw it smash. He went back to Marissa's door and slammed it shut. She gave a startled yell, and Ryan opened and slammed the door five more times getting out some of his frustration and anger. She started crying and said, "Ryan! Stop! You're scaring me!"
Ryan stopped and looked at her through the glass. He felt his anger dissipating and he said in a drained voice, "Good, cause you're scaring me."
He turned and walked a few steps away from the car and said with irony, "There's crying, and drinking, and police. It must be Christmas."
Marissa heard this, and for the first time that night thought about Ryan's past, and felt guilty. She got out of the car and quietly walked over to him. She slipped her hand into his and said, "I'm sorry, Okay?"
He gave her a deadly serious look as he said, "I left this behind. I won't do it again."
She nodded and tried to stop crying as she said, "Okay."
He let go of her hand, got back in the car, and waited for her to do the same. They finished the ride back to her house in silence. Marissa was asleep by the time they got there, and Ryan had to shake her pretty hard to get her to wake up enough to get out of the car. He put her arm around his shoulders and helped her walk to the door. Once they were inside he headed her towards the couch. He knew from experience that trying to get a drunken person upstairs wasn't easy. He got her settled on the couch, and she immediately fell back asleep. He went up to her room and pulled a blanket off her bed, and went back down to cover her up. Then he stood there for a second looking at her, and sunk down into the easy chair thinking about what had happened.
Jimmy saw when Marissa arrived at the party with Ryan, and once he was sure she was there, he went in search of Kirsten or Sandy to visit with. He found Kirsten first and ended up dancing with her. A few minutes into the dance Jimmy asked her, "Do you ever have one of those moments where you question yourself as a parent?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, has Seth ever done anything that made you think maybe you had failed him as a parent?"
"No. I mean, Seth has made his share of mistakes, and sure it makes me wonder if I'm doing the right thing for him, but I really believe he's basically a good kid. Both our kids are good kids. You just have to trust that when they do mess up, that they'll learn from it."
Jimmy felt a little better and nodded. Kirsten gave him a small laugh and said, "It's not like we never did anything bad when we were kids."
Jimmy laughed too and said, "That's true. My parent's didn't know about half the stuff I did."
Jimmy spent the rest of the night visiting with various friends, and was able to avoid his ex-wife the entire evening.
When Jimmy noticed that about half the original partygoers were gone, he decided to head home. He looked around for Marissa, and when he didn't see her, he thought she must have gone home already. He drove home thinking about money, and how he was going to get a job.
He arrived home and walked in the door to see Marissa sleeping on the couch and Ryan sitting in the chair across from her. Ryan looked up as Jimmy came in. Jimmy said, "Ryan. Were you waiting for me or something?"
"Yeah. Kind of."
Jimmy took off his tie as he walked into the living room and sat down on the edge of the coffee table. He whispered, "Let's go talk in the kitchen so we don't wake up Marissa."
Ryan looked over at Marissa. He had debated telling Jimmy what had happened that night, but in the end he decided it was the right thing to do. He sighed and said, "She won't wake up."
Jimmy felt the adrenaline shoot through his body, and his stomach turned as he thought that Marissa had taken too many pills again. He went and knelt by Marissa and smoothed her hair away from her forehead as he said, "What happened?"
Jimmy looked confused for a second. Then he took a deep breath and relaxed a little. He sat back down on the coffee table and looked at Ryan. He said "Did you guys have some of the champagne at the party?"
Ryan glared at Jimmy and said, "No."
"Then how did she get drunk?"
"She brought a bottle of vodka in her purse."
Jimmy stared at Ryan for a few seconds. He shook his head and said, "But that's not like her. Why would she do that? She doesn't drink."
Ryan sighed and shook his head as he slumped back into the easy chair. He was quiet for a few seconds. Then he looked at Jimmy and said, "Look Mr. Cooper. I've been sitting here thinking about this for the past two hours, and even if it makes Marissa hate me, I'm going to be completely honest with you for her sake. Marissa has a drinking problem."
"What?! No she doesn't."
"My mom is an alcoholic. I know the signs. Trust me, Marissa may not be an alcoholic yet, but she's getting close."
"I've never seen her drunk before tonight."
Ryan got a little angry at that comment. He clenched his jaw and said, "Well maybe that means you haven't been paying much attention, because I've seen her drunk at least three times, and one of those was before we were even going out. Pretty soon after I moved in, when you still lived next to the Cohen's, I found her passed out on your porch and carried her back to my place to sleep it off so she wouldn't get caught."
Jimmy just shook his head not believing. Ryan continued, "Tonight she put the bottle in her purse before she went to the party, because she thought it might be stressful. Then when she had an argument with Mrs. Cooper she went off to the bathroom for fifteen minutes or so. When she came back she was drunk. I'm not sure how much she had, but I'll bet it was a lot."
Jimmy looked at the floor trying to take all this in. He tried to justify things by saying, "Well it was a party, and maybe she didn't want to get caught drinking."
Ryan shot up out of the chair and tossed his hands in the air as he said, "Jesus! How can you be so blind? When I saw she was drunk I told her we should go home, and she got mad at me for telling her what to do. Then she went out to her car and tried to drive herself home. I had to stand in front of the car to keep her from driving away. She backed up into a parked car before finally giving up and letting me in to drive. She could be out there dead from a car wreck that she had caused, and you just can't see it."
Jimmy got a flash of Marissa bloody after a car accident and not moving. He whispered, "She was gonna drive?"
Ryan sat back down and put his elbows on his knees, and laced his hands together. He looked over at Jimmy and said, "Yes she was."
There was silence for a few seconds while Jimmy absorbed this information. Ryan said, "There's always been the drinking, but add to that what happened in Mexico, and the shoplifting, and…. Well… she needs help."
Jimmy looked over at Ryan and said, "We're making her go to see a therapist tomorrow morning."
Jimmy looked away and said, "I guess she needs it more then I thought."
Ryan said, "That's a good idea. Where I'm from, no one has the money for that kind of thing, so I hadn't thought about that."
Jimmy said, "What were you going to suggest?"
It was Ryan's turn to look away. He said, "Back home I used to date a girl named Teresa."
Jimmy nodded, "Marissa said she met her."
"Yeah, well if her grandma had caught her drunk every other night, and then watched her OD on pills, she would have spanked her."
"What?! That's…. That's just not right. People don't do that anymore."
Ryan said, "Maybe not in Newport, but believe me when I tell you that in Chino they do."
Jimmy muttered, "I'm sure lot's of things happen in Chino that shouldn't happen anywhere."
Ryan shook his head and said, "Try to be open minded. Lots of things happen in Chino that shouldn't happen, you're right about that, but Teresa was one of the lucky ones. She had a good home. She loved her grandma, and her grandma was a good replacement mother to her. Hell, she was sometimes a good replacement mother to me, but that's not the point. The point I'm trying to make is that… Marissa doesn't believe you're words. Talking to her isn't enough anymore. You can tell her anything you want, but…. It doesn't prove to her that you love her. She needs someone to take control. Someone to make her stop hurting herself. She doesn't want to hurt herself, she's looking for someone to tell her no, and mean it, and I… I can't be that person for her…. It has to be you."
Jimmy shook his head and said, "Why me?"
"Because you're the only one she trusts that much."
Jimmy sat there thinking. Ryan stood and said, "I hope you think about what I've said. I'm going home."
Ryan picked up his jacket off the back of the easy chair and headed towards the door. When the door opened Jimmy stood up and said, "Hey Ryan."
Ryan turned back around, "Yeah?"
"Thanks… For making sure she made it home, and for…. For letting me know what was going on."
Ryan nodded and walked out the door. He stood there for a second and realized Marissa had picked him up, and he had no ride home. He muttered, "Crap."
He went back in and said, "Could I get a ride home?"
Jimmy nodded and said, "Yeah, of course."
Jimmy walked towards the door and said, "Sorry, I forgot she picked you up."
The ride back to the Cohen's house was quiet, but Jimmy put some music on, so it didn't seem too uncomfortable, and both of them had a lot to think about.
When Jimmy got home he sat in the chair Ryan had been in and stared at his sleeping daughter. He stayed that way for a couple of hours thinking about everything, and wondering what the right thing to do was. He couldn't picture himself actually spanking Marissa, but at the same time he didn't want to picture her in the hospital after another overdose, or after a drunken car crash. He kept thinking about grounding her. That was what he wanted to do, because it was familiar, and she would be expecting it, but he also wondered if he was taking the easy way out because he was too chicken shit to do what Ryan thought was the right thing. Jimmy still hadn't decided what the right thing to do was, and right before dawn he fell asleep in the chair.
The next morning Ryan was getting ready to go over to Marissa's house, when Sandy came to his door. Sandy said, "Hey where are you going?"
"It's Marissa's first day of therapy, and I thought I would go with her. You know make sure everything's okay."
Sandy nodded and said, "You could, or you could stay here and watch movies with us."
Ryan gave him a look that clearly said, 'But that's not the responsible thing to do.'
Sandy saw the look and said, "Marissa has a lot to work through, and your gonna have to let her do it. You're here with us now. You don't have to be the parent anymore."
That comment hit Ryan so hard he had to look away. His mind flashed back and he could picture himself putting his drunken mom to bed. He could picture himself cleaning up her vomit. He could picture himself making dinner for himself, and his mom's boyfriend. He could picture himself trying to stop his mom's boyfriend when he started to beat her up. When he looked back at Sandy he said, "A movie huh?"
Sandy smiled and put an arm around Ryan's shoulders as he said, "Yeah, but it's my pick, so you might be in for something unusual."
Ryan smiled to himself thinking how nice it was not to be the parent for a change, as he let himself be led into the living room for some quality family time with his new parents and brother.
Around nine AM Marissa woke up with the morning sun shining in her face. She groaned and pulled the cover over her head. Her head hurt and her stomach was queasy, but she had been there before more then once and wasn't surprised.
Jimmy woke with a start at hearing Marissa groan. He was having a slight nightmare about her in the hospital not waking up after her overdose in Mexico. He shook his head and sat up straight noticing right away the pain in his neck from sleeping in the chair. He gave a groan himself and muttered, "Getting old sucks."
Marissa quickly realized she wasn't in her room, and pulled the cover's back. She looked over at her dad, and knew she had to cover quickly. She gave him a smile and said, "Morning Dad."
He looked over at her and smiled back at her, thinking how beautiful she was. He said, "Hey, how are you feeling?"
Marissa lied, "Good. I tried waiting up for you last night, but I must have been pretty tired and fell asleep."
Jimmy looked at her closely. He said, "Don't you have a headache?"
Marissa sat up and tried not to wince. She gave him another smile and said, "Of course not. Sleeping on the couch isn't nearly as bad as sleeping on the chair like you did. Do you want me to go get you an Advil or something?"
Jimmy just sat there for a minute. He couldn't believe he hadn't seen it before. Now that he knew she was lying, it seemed obvious. He had seen her this way before. He could tell she was covering up pain, but he just hadn't been paying enough attention to realize it in the past. He was quiet so long Marissa gave a short laugh that made pain shoot through her head. She said, "You gonna be okay Dad? Did you have too much to drink or something?"
He shook his head slowly and said, "I can't believe you're lying to me."
Marissa started to panic wondering what he might know. She remembered the taillight on the car and said, "Lying? I'm not lying. Is this about the car? I backed into… a fence. Sorry about that. I know we don't have the money to fix it. We can tape it up or…."
Jimmy held up a hand and said, "Just stop."
Marissa sat there waiting. He said, "You got drunk last night."
Marissa tried to sound indignant as she said, "Drunk?! I did no such thing. I may have had some champagne at the party, but well…. I didn't think you would mind since it was a party, and you know how Mom gets me upset. Where did you get that idea anyway?"
Jimmy stood up and said, "Go take something for your headache, and take a long hot shower. Then come back down, and we'll see if you can eat something."
Marissa opened her mouth to protest and Jimmy said, "Marissa honey, Ryan told me about last night. I'd appreciate it if you stopped lying to me."
Marissa sat there for a few seconds thinking horrible thoughts about Ryan. Then she looked up at Jimmy and pouted as she said, "And you believe him over me?"
Jimmy looked away and said, "Yeah, I think I do."
Marissa didn't know what to say to that, and Jimmy walked away into the kitchen. Marissa's head was throbbing, so she did get up and do what her father had told her to do.
Half an hour later Marissa's headache was mostly gone, and she was in clean clothes. Her hair and makeup were done, but she didn't exactly feel better. She had been worrying the whole time about what her father was going to say. She just knew he was going to call her mother, and then there would be that whole mess to deal with. They might try to make her go to some horrible alcoholic anonymous program. She thought about her mother shouting and ranting while her father gave her that blank look of disbelief and almost pity. She wanted to run away. She wanted to slit her wrists. She wanted to drink herself into oblivion. But in the end she went into the kitchen to face whatever breakfast her dad had made.
Jimmy had spent the past half an hour thinking that Ryan was right, and thinking that he didn't have the guts to actually spank his daughter. He was disrupted when Marissa walked in and looked around at the empty table and counters. She looked over at him and said, "No breakfast?"
He looked at the table too and said, "Toast or cereal?"
He nodded and when he made no move to actually make it, she went over to the toaster and made some for both of them. While she was waiting for it to pop up she asked, "Coffee?"
He nodded again, and she started some. The whole time she was thinking that something was very wrong with her dad. Usually they made breakfast together, and he was always cheerful in the morning. Now he was just standing there staring at nothing, and she was getting worried. Once the toast was ready and the coffee was dripping she brought him a plate with the toast and sat down at the table with her own. They ate in uncomfortable silence. When they were done eating the coffee was ready, and Marissa asked quietly, "You want me to get you a cup?"
He looked at her and said, "Okay."
She picked up their plates and put them in the sink. Then she got them both coffee and set one in front of her dad as she sipped on hers. Finally she couldn't stand it anymore and said, "Dad is…. Is something wrong?"
He looked over at her and said, "I think so kiddo. I think I've been a lousy father."
Marissa shook her head and put her hand over her father's hand on the table. She said, "No! You're the best Dad. Why would you say that?"
He gave a short laugh and said, "Because I just realized this morning that you have a drinking problem that's been going on for months if not years, and I've never noticed."
Marissa took her hand away and said, "I don't have a problem. I don't know what Ryan told you, but you shouldn't believe him."
He looked into her eyes as he said, "I didn't actually believe him until I saw you this morning. It was so easy for you to lie to me. It came so naturally, and you're obviously a pro at hiding a hangover. That's not normal for a sixteen year old girl Marissa."
Marissa sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. She said, "So I have a drink now and then when things are stressful. It's not like you and mom don't drink."
"Try that argument on me again when you're twenty one."
She glared at him but said nothing. He said, "I love you with all my heart. I love you so much sometimes it hurts. Seeing you in that hospital after Tijuana….. and thinking about you getting drunk and trying to drive….. It has to stop Marissa."
"I wasn't going to drive!"
Jimmy glared at her and said, "Will the valet confirm that?"
Marissa backed down, never having seen her dad give her that look before. She said nothing and looked away. Jimmy felt his anger growing at her continued lying and said, "You listen to me, and listen good. Starting today, you are going to stop drinking, and you are never going to try to hurt yourself again."
Marissa just stared at him with big eyes. He had never given her orders before. He was the laid back parent, the easy parent, the parent she went to when she had messed up, because he would make it all better. Jimmy saw the look she was giving him and hated it. He stood up and pushed his chair away from the table as he did it. He held out a hand to her and said quietly, "Come here."
Marissa got up and put her hand in his, and leaned into him for a hug. He held her for a few minutes. He let go of her and put both his hands on either side of her face and tilted her head up to look at him. He said, "What you did was dangerous Marissa, and you were already grounded for shoplifting when you did it."
Marissa blushed and felt guilty. She knew he was right, but she hated him putting it so bluntly. He said, "I'm going to make sure that it never happens again. I won't let you hurt yourself anymore."
Marissa wasn't sure what he planned to do, but she felt relieved that someone was going to help her stop, because she knew, deep down in her guts, that she couldn't stop herself even if she wanted to. She nodded and whispered, "Okay."
Jimmy looked at his watch and said, "You have to go to therapy in an hour, so that gives us plenty of time."
Marissa shuddered at the thought of telling her problems to some shrink she didn't even know. She really didn't want to go, but knew she would have to. She was so wrapped up in thinking about therapy, that she had missed the last part of his sentence at first. Then she said, "Time for what?"
Jimmy kept a hold on her hand and walked the two steps to his kitchen chair. He sat down and tugged her face down over his lap. She gave a startled yelp as she landed on his lap. Then when she tried to immediately get up, he wrapped his arm around her waist to keep her in place. She had never been in this position before, but she knew exactly what it implied. She pleaded, "No! Daddy, don't!"
Jimmy felt kind of ill when he heard that, and hoped to God he was doing the right thing. He gritted his teeth and brought his hand down on the seat of her black cotton pants. She squeaked out an 'Oh!' at the first spank and then yelled even louder, "Please Daddy! Please don't!"
Jimmy brought his hand down again and again while she squirmed and begged him not to do what he was already doing. After the first ten swats Marissa's emotions got caught in her throat and she couldn't say anything, because she was sure she would start to cry if she tried. She couldn't believe it was really happening. She was shocked, embarrassed, hurt, angry, and remorseful all at the same time. She felt so many emotions at once, that she couldn't form a coherent sentence to convince him to stop.
Jimmy noticed as her pleas died down and she lay still. He had only given her twelve swats, and as he gave her four more she continued to lay still. At that point he realized he probably wasn't doing it hard enough. He wanted to stop all together. He wanted to take it back and pretend it hadn't happened. But he also wanted to make sure Marissa knew he was serious about what he'd said, and he never wanted to see her in the hospital after hurting herself again. So, for swat number fifteen, he brought his hand down much harder then he had before. Marissa's whole body jerked with surprise and she yelled out an involuntary 'Ow!'
Jimmy, surprised at her reaction for a second, stopped the spanking with his hand in mid air. Then his ex-wife's comment about growing a spine came back to him, and he started spanking Marissa again with the same force.
Marissa, who had been caught up in her emotions, and had been on the verge of tears because of it, now found her voice again. She yelped and hissed with each swat, and after five of them she said, "Dad! Stop it! It hurts!"
Jimmy thought Marissa sounded almost demanding when she said that. He shook his head no and kept going. Marissa yelled at him to stop repeatedly, during the next ten spanks, and was kind of surprised when he did stop. Jimmy found he was almost angry at her tone, because it reminded him of Julie, so he put the hand he had been spanking her with on her back and looked at the back of her head as he said, "Marissa."
She tried to look back at him over her shoulder at him. He said, "Can you tell me why I'm spanking you?"
Marissa looked back down at the floor and realized she had to think about it for a second. Her guilt came back full force as she said, "Because…. Because of the shoplifting, and the drinking."
Jimmy said, "That's right. And also to make sure you know that I'll make you stop if you keep trying to hurt yourself, because I love you."
Jimmy wasn't sure if he should be done, or if he should give her a few more swats while she was still thinking about what she had done and what he had just said. He lifted his hand and hesitated, but after a second he brought it down just as hard as before. Marissa yelled, "Ow, ow ow!… Daddy!…. I'm sorry!…. Really sorry!…. Daddyyyyy!"
After hearing her yell out 'Daddy' in such a distressed voice, Jimmy couldn't go on. He stopped and let her go. He could hear that she had started crying, and he helped her to stand up. The second she was on her feet, she dove to sit in his lap, and wrapped her arms around his neck clinging to him while she cried. Jimmy wasn't really expecting that. He thought she would yell, storm off, or stop talking to him for a few weeks. It was slightly delayed, but he put his arms around her and hugged her close to him. He hated hearing her cry, especially knowing he had caused it, but at the same time, she hadn't sat in his lap or hugged him for so long in years, so that part was nice. After a few minutes he started to rub her back soothingly and said quietly, "It's gonna be okay kiddo. You're okay now. I love you, and I know you're sorry. I know you've been hurting inside for a long time now, but we're going to work together to make you feel better, okay?"
Marissa nodded her head against his shoulder. He said, "Good."
They sat like that for the next fifteen minutes. Marissa had stopped crying and was currently wishing she could just stay there where she felt safe and loved for the rest of the day. Jimmy could feel his leg falling asleep under her weight and said, "Are you feeling better?"
Marissa sat up a little and whispered, "Yeah." to the floor.
Jimmy said, "You should go wash your face before we head to your therapy session. You have black streaks from your mascara."
Marissa nodded and started to get up, but Jimmy stopped her by saying, "Hey."
Marissa looked at him and he kissed her forehead. He said, "Do you… are you mad?"
Marissa shook her head no before even thinking about it. He smiled at her and said, "Okay."
Marissa got up and went into the bathroom. She took one look at her face and thought she would have to redo all her makeup. As she washed her face and started her makeup over, she wondered why she wasn't mad. By the time she was done, she could honestly say she still had no idea. What she did know, was that she felt relieved. As she was about to walk back out she gave her bottom an experimental rub and was kind of surprised at how much the pain had gone down. It had been hurting a lot by the end of the spanking, but now she was just kind of sore. She muttered, "I bet if he catches me drinking again it will be worse."
She put a hand over her mouth and looked at herself in the mirror with surprise. She couldn't believe she had even thought that let alone said it. She turned around and put her hand down. As she walked out the door she decided to think about the therapist and what she was going to talk to him about in an attempt to distract herself from thinking about the spanking and what it had meant.
Once Marissa was gone Jimmy just sat there for a few minutes thinking that the whole thing had gone better then he could have imagined. He hadn't liked it, but he thought that it had helped Marissa, and he wasn't sure how he knew, but he did know that it would help her to get better. He scooted his chair back to the table and had a sip of lukewarm coffee. He got them both fresh cups of coffee in travel mugs and thought to himself that a combination of therapy and firm guidelines of acceptable behavior were going to help Marissa to feel better then she had in a long time. He told himself that even if he hated every minute of it, he would be more of a parent to her and less of a friend, because it would be worth it to see her happy in the end.
Marissa walked into the kitchen. He handed the travel mug full of coffee to her, and pointed towards the door with his own mug as he said, "Let's get going."