Author Caitlin Mazur Logo-white.png

Author Caitlin Mazur

Home for the Holidays

Snow dusted rooftops dotted his childhood street, the frost still fresh and powdery. White flakes still fell now as he coasted down the narrow road, tires leaving slushy tracks in his wake. A picture-perfect snowglobe. Each yard looked pristine, despite the faded grass beneath; indicative of how he felt.


Josiah Newman preferred to live life the way he knew how. One day at a time. If he was honest, it hadn’t served him very well. He was impulsive, selfish, and wild, and without a plan, that made him reckless and susceptible to bad choices. He was the rebellious kid, disappointing his parents day in and day out, year after year. After he’d moved away from home, he’d spent his days pandering for spare change and picking up the occasional bartending gig when he could. 


Things had really taken a turn for the worse from there. The past decade had been endless, riddled with the usual suspects: drugs, alcohol, and bad choices. He knew he’d had some problems. A lack of clear focus, a wandering brain, emotions that stemmed from the trauma he’d never quite grasped as a kid. That uncertainty and lack of support spilled over into his adult life, filling in the crevices of his being with doubt, fear, and anger. 


But the past was behind him. He’d made it now. He’d collected his riches from a lottery winning that made it possible for him to get a bank account. He had all the qualities of what a successful man would look like, at least according to his father. Money, a nice pair of shoes, and a drive to do better. 


So when Josiah saw the house for sale only a mile down the road from where his mom, dad, and younger brother still lived, he knew he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. This was a surprise worth chasing. 


It had been sixteen years since he’d talked to his mom and dad. His brother had barely been a boy when he’d left, still growing into his goofy ears and big feet. He wondered what Adrian looked like now.


He’d find out soon. His heart raced as he climbed a slight incline to a house on the right, a gorgeous Tudor home that looked even more magical in the snow. He’d bought it on a foreclosure, the inside still decent enough to make a home. Shit, after the places he’d lived and slept, a cardboard box looked like the Four Seasons. And this house… well. He’d never dreamed he could own anything quite like it. 


Josiah pulled into the driveway. Carefully planted hedges followed him as he spun his car in the snow, parking just outside the small garage. As he put the car in park, he sat in silence, soaking in the moment. Carefully, he’d rolled up his sleeves, feeling a familiar warmth spread through him so that the snow didn’t matter, even when he stepped out of the car. Peace draped over him, like a loving hug, sweeping him up in comfort. 


Josiah came around the back of his car slowly, stumbling slightly on the slick snow, and, after a little trouble, popped the trunk. Inside sat white bags, stuffed full of decorations he’d gotten from the local store. Thick garland with rosy berries, green wires with twinkling lights, light-up icicles, ribbons, small nutcrackers, and standalone Santas. He’d picked up treats too; tins of cookies, boxes of candy canes, even a damn fruitcake. Everything his newfound wealth could buy.


Proud of his haul, Josiah scooped it all up, his arms straining against the weight of his treasures. He’d had dreams for many nights about decorating his home and inviting his family over for a surprise. What they’d think when they saw him again! How proud they would be! 


As he walked up the front steps, he smiled to himself, thinking of their wide grins, the warmth they’d show him, their bewilderment at the man he was today. He straightened with pride as he opened the front door and took in the gorgeous foyer, rounded staircase, and handsome hardwood floors. 


In the center of the floor, he carefully placed his shopping bags on the floor. He paid it no mind, turning to close the door behind him and take in the space of his new home. The place had come fully furnished, and that was the best part of the whole deal. It needed some work, sure, but it was enough to be livable and impress his family. Tonight, his goal was to make it festive and homey enough to share the surprise of his return with his family tomorrow. 


And so, the man got to work. Delicately, he pushed up his sleeves even higher, as he had when he was still on the street. He still felt the warmth, spreading comfort and cheer through his veins, filling him to the very tips of his fingers and toes with an indescribable euphoria, fueled by the promise of being reunited with his family. 


Josiah took decorating very seriously. He threaded the staircase with the garland, secured the ribbons around the columns that separated the foyer from the living room and kitchen. He hung the lights, tickled when they flickered to life when he plugged them into the wall. Josiah cut snowflakes out of a package of computer paper and sharp scissors, connecting them with scotch tape and sticking them to the walls until he’d created a winter wonderland he felt matched the snow outside. 


In the kitchen, he spread out his snacks across his kitchen, taking a quick bite of each, just to have a little taste, licking his fingers greedily. Somehow, the kitchen was stocked full of plates and serving platters, silverware, and Christmas napkins. He set them all out with precision, taking only a moment to rub the sore spots on his arms. And finally, when he was done, he took one last, long look from the foyer and sat on the floor. 


It was a holiday miracle. Everything was perfect. Just right. Prepared for his family and suddenly terribly exhausted from his hard work, Josiah found a comfortable place on the hardwood floor. He’d certainly slept on worse. And as he settled in, nestling his head into his elbow, staring up at the twinkling lights and lush garland decorating the stairs, he fell asleep with a satisfied smile. 




There was an unpleasant nudge on his shoulder. Josiah scooted away from it, trying to cling to his last moments of sleep. 

“Hey!” The voice shattered the pleasant fog of slumber and Josiah cracked a single eye open, willing them to focus so he could take in the figure standing above him. 


“Eh?” he said, voice sounding slurred and slow, his head pounding wildly. He closed his eye again, pain radiating across his brain, so bad he was certain his head would split in two. He groaned. 

“You gotta get up,” the voice said. “You can’t be here, Josiah.” Another poke came. Josiah grumbled before finally curling himself upright into a sitting position.


“Huh?” Josiah mumbled, feebly attempting to wipe the sleep from his eyes. God, he felt like shit. He tried to focus, to push past the pounding headache that seized his focus. He’d come here last night, hadn’t he? He remembered the snow. Decorations. The house!  


The memory skyrocketed his drive to awaken and he found a moment of focus necessary to take in the man before him. He wore a blue uniform and hat, and around his black belt buckle was a gun inside its holster. A cop. With a groan, Josiah crashed backward, flat on his back in defeat. 


It was then he took in the garland he’d hung. What he’d thought was beautiful, lush, greenery, in fact, was no more than a bare thread with plastic green frays that had shed all over the floor. The once twinkling lights were not bright, but dull and clouded over lazily draped over the side of the banister in a mismatched pattern. The snowflakes he’d cut were covered in bloody fingerprints, mismatched and torn, hanging from the walls and dusty furniture like flaking paint.


And the house! He’d nearly cried as he took in the sorry state of it, the dull, scratched, and moldy wooden floor, the peeling wallpapers, the trash, dirt, and glass scattered across the floor. Torn plastic bags surrounded him, with remnants of his treasures spilling from them, some torn open and ruined, others still in their flimsy packaging. The stairs beside him were not grand or sturdy, instead they looked as though they were crumbling, the banister chewed away by termites, black mold covering the walls in an unsettling vein-like pattern. 


He looked down at himself, a ball forming in his throat, his chest feeling tight and heavy. He flushed with embarrassment and frustration as he found his lap filled with candy wrappers, cookie crumbs, and sticky candy cane  morsels. With a tremble, he mustered up enough courage to look towards his rolled-up sleeves. 


Sure enough, as clear as day, there remained the telltale sign of a high he hadn’t even remembered taking, the blood clotted against his forearm, trailing right up to the needle hole in his arm. He grimaced at it, letting his tears flow now, angry at himself, at the drug, at his thoughts. Had he truly imagined it all?  


“You gotta get out of here,” the officer repeated. “You can’t squat here. You know this, Josiah.” 


“I’m not squatting!” Josiah shrieked, angered by the accusation. “I own this house!” 


“You don’t,” the officer insisted. “And look at yourself,” he answered, his face twisted into a mixture of pity and laughter. “Spending that million dollars on nothing but dope, needles, and Christmas candies.” 


Josiah’s anger surged. He stood, wobbling on his feet, feeling off balance from the cravings he felt deep in his belly. But his frustration and shame had all gathered together, forcing him to lunge forward. The officer wasted no time, getting himself into position, tackling Josiah with a quick pull of his arm. Josiah found himself under the knee of the officer, arms behind his back, handcuffs secured around his wrists. His face was squashed against the empty candy cane box and wrappers, half of the candies still intact, their white and red swirls mocking him. 


The officer led Josiah out of the crumbling home, both men needing to duck beneath the sagging roof as they made their way out of the house. 


And in the driveway stood Josiah’s mother, arms crossed, rollers still in her hair, next to the cop car, looking startled. Beside her stood his father. Older now, with crease lines across his forehead and white scattered through his gray hair. 


“I’ve got him,” the officer said, speaking not to Josiah but to the family he’d so desperately wanted to impress. “I’ll get him there safely.”


“Thank you, Officer Mercer,” Josiah’s mother said, avoiding her son’s eye. He half expected her to shout at him, but she said nothing as she and his father returned to the street to walk home, paying him no mind. 


The officer loaded Josiah back into the patrol car, leaving him like a small child in the backseat, with no access to his hands. The cravings and withdrawal were already settling in his body, in the worst way possible. He felt like the pain would rip his head in two, but it was nothing to the agony he felt watching his own family discard him like some forgotten toy.


To his surprise, the officer opened the back door and gestured with one hand for Josiah to slide to the edge of the seat. Still struggling with the pain and nausea ricocheting through his body, he did as he was told. 


“Now,” the cop said, “don’t do anything stupid.” 


“Won’t,” was all Josiah could muster the energy for, before his wrists were released from the cuffs. He turned his head, nodding thanks at the man. 


“This is for you,” he said, handing Josiah an envelope. “Read it.” 


Josiah stared at the blank envelope in his hands as his companion got into the front of the patrol car, settling in behind the plexiglass. His hands shook with withdrawal tremors as he tore open the lip of the envelope to discover what was inside.


It was a greeting card, covered with red and white glitter, an image of poinsettias glinting in the winter sun. Josiah stared at it, perplexed. It had been years since he’d received a Christmas card. A genuine excitement built up as he examined it. 


The patrol car began its descent from the driveway, the hedges now looking brown and dead, so different from the beautiful greenery he’d sworn he’d seen on his way in. And as the car pulled away from the once beautiful home, Josiah strained to look out the window as his parents entered the front door of his childhood home. 


His heart hurt as he watched them disappear inside to the warm home he’d taken for granted as a teenager. He glanced back down at the card, fumbling to open it, as if it was some sort of reprieve from reality. Scrawled on the inside were four words. 


We love you, Josiah.


A second, smaller card fell into his lap. The card forgotten, he took the small business card between his fingers. 


Green Pastures: A Rehab Detox Program. 


A new warmth spread through Josiah then, not one fueled by the drugs or the needles or the high. It was one that spread from his belly, filling him with the one thing he’d been trying to catch after all these years.