A Gilded Cage

Racing out of the elevator, Harrison and Sparrow dropped their bags and froze.

Meredith King was sitting on the couch across the room, her eyes intent on them as an unnatural smile spread across her face. Slowly getting to her feet, she slowly opened her arms to them, the golden bangles on her wrists rattling around. “Harrison love, come on over.”

Harrison walked over, wrapping his arms around her. “Mom. What are you doing here? I didn’t know you were coming.”

Holding him away from her, Meredith admired his face, pushing his hair back from his face as she smiled at him. “I just missed you so much, I couldn’t stay away. I detest you living here, in Toronto. I really do wish you would come home with me.”

Smiling up at him, he said nothing. He was tired of the same conversation. It was one he had with his mother every night on the phone, every couple of weeks when she came to visit him and literally every moment she could add it to the conversation.

We were older now, and he had been living here in this apartment with Vincent and I for four years. We would both be going to high school in a couple years, and Harrison seemed more determined to stay now than ever.

Meredith’s anger towards Vincent for convincing Harrison to stay was painstakingly evident. Her visits usually had her on edge, unaware if she would be able to finally take Harrison back with her this time.

Sparrow stood awkwardly on the top of the steps, looking at the two of them together. In a way, she couldn’t blame Meredith for her persistence. A mother should desperately want her son with her. Yet, Harrison at times was all she had to keep her from floating away, and imagining her life without him made her ache.

Looking past Harrison, Meredith eyed Sparrow. “And how is our little…” she paused looking for the right word, knowing full well if she came at her with her talons out it would only push Harrison away. “Girl.” She settled with the obvious and simple word.

Nodding and smiling at her politely, she took in a long breath before answering. “I’ve been well.”

“Of course you have been, dear. Look at this apartment, it is far better than any group home of foster family you would have been shipped off to after-”

“Mom.” Harrison intervened.

It was for these very jabs, that Sparrow had always seen Meredith as villainous. “Vincent takes very good care of me.” She said, unwilling to argue with her.

“I often wonder if he could take better care of you if Harrison was home with me. Then he could just give you all his attention, focus more on your schooling and grooming.”

“She’s already skipped ahead a grade. She is in the same class as me. We both do very well.” Harrison told her.

Meredith curled her nose slightly, then remembering herself, smiled down at Harrison. “Well, that’s wonderful to hear.”

No longer wanted to stand there and speak to Meredith, Sparrow picked up her bag. “I am just going to go and get started on my homework.” She said.

“I thought we were going to work on it together.”

She shook her head. “No, you should spend time with your mother. She did come all this way to see you.” She gave Meredith a faint smile before walking down the hall and into her room. As she closed the door behind her, she pressed her back to it, praying to whoever would listen that Meredith’s stay would be short this time.

A few hours later her bedroom door opened. She looked up from the desk by her bedroom window and saw Vincent close the door behind him, letting out a long breath. “Can I hide in here with you?” He whispered.

Sparrow laughed. “I could use the company.”

Holding up a brown paper bag, he smiled at her. “I brought food. We could wait out her whole trip if we wanted to.” He joked. Walking over, he sat in the large circle chair in the corner of her room. Opening the bag, he put some of the contents on her teal bedside table. “Was she mean to you?” He asked her.

Saying yes would mean he would get up, march out there and confront Meredith. He would tell her he wasn’t welcome in their home if she behaved that way. She loved and respected Vincent too much to have him do that for her… again. Instead, she pushed away and walked over to sit on the floor next to her bed across from him. “No. She was pleasant enough.”

He looked at her for a long while as he opened his Chinese food container trying to judge whether or not she was lying with him. After a few moments and a knowing look, he offered her the carton. “What should we watch?” He asked her, flipping the television across the room on.

After a few hours, full bellies and some reality television, the braved sneaking out of the room to spend some time with Meredith and Harrison.

Joining them on the couch, Vincent gave Meredith a harsh glare. “What have the two of you been up to?” He asked them.

“Harrison here has just been singing Sparrow’s praises. It seems like he is quite taken with her. Good grades, great manners, funny, ambitious.” She raised a brow at the little girl sitting next to Vincent. “It seems you are raising her right.”

Vincent shook his head. “She was like this when we met her,” He gave her shoulders a squeeze. “She really is amazing, isn’t she Harrison?”

Harrison smiled over at her. “She is the best! We both love her.”

Meredith looked at Harrison, surprised.

Sparrow could see the cogs in Meredith’s mind turning. Harrison’s affection for Sparrow made his mother ridiculously uncomfortable. She thought where Sparrow came from made her unworthy of her son’s time. She was trying to think of a way to sway him, to drive him back home and away from Vincent and Sparrow. “She does seem rather spectacular. She seems to be the only girl you’ve taken to.”

“Harrison and Sparrow are very close.” Vincent said to her, his words cautious.

“Who knows. Maybe in a few more years Sparrow will have grandmother’s ring on her finger.” She wiggled her eyebrows at Harrison before smiling at Sparrow. “Wouldn’t that just be something?”

Vincent crossed his arms over his chest, but said nothing.

Lifting his shoulders, Harrison looked at Sparrow.

Clapping his hands together, Vincent got to his feet. “Maybe we should all go out and do something. Meredith did come all this way, I’m sure she wants to see more than this apartment. Where should we take her, Harrison?”

“Our favourite place?”

Sparrow beamed. “Our favourite place!”

Meredith smiled. “Where to? The movies? A ball game? A museum maybe?”

Vincent undid his tie and smiled at her, a genuine smile that went from ear to ear. “Paint-balling.”