Twenty-Six: Eloise the Drunk

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 "I love all mythical creatures. Vampires, unicorns, werewolves, kids who listen..."



I pull into the police station and haul myself heavily inside. It's bright white inside and I have to squint in the empty waiting room.

Sitting at a desk behind a glass wall is a police officer. He looks up and waves me over.

I've only been in a police station once, when someone thought I'd thrown a bag of kittens into the river. I, obviously, would never do such a thing. I had, however, taken every single No.1 pencil from Chestnut Ridge Middle School and thrown them over a bridge so we couldn't take any standardized tests for a month. That had been better than the cat thing, so I was released without punishment.

This was a lot worse.

And the fact that Eloise is locked up for drinking makes my stomach twist. Alcohol is the one thing I've stayed away from. The one thing that breaks my heart of stone.

And Eloise, of all people, has cracked it.

"Uh, hi, I'm here for Eloise Stetson?" I rap my knuckles nervously on the table.

"Right." He rolls his chair back to a filing cabinet and shuffles through a few sections. He pulls out a stack of papers and hands them to me.

"So, uh, any details?" I prompt.

"One of the Howard boys was having a Halloween party down the street."

I frown. The Howard boys are known for their troublemaking.

"Eloise and three other girls were caught drinking there, so we took them in after we crashed their party."

I bite the inside of my cheek and nod absently. "Thank you."

I make my way over to sit down and fill out the paperwork. The same words repeat in my mind. What am I going to tell Aimee?

I flinch when the side door opens, and I take half a second to finish my signature before looking up. I hesitate before doing so. I'm picturing a heart-stoppingly orange jumpsuit that swallows Eloise's fourteen-year-old figure.

But what I see is just Eloise, dressed in her silly cat costume. The black makeup is smudged across her splotchy red cheeks. Her eyes are bloodshot and unfocused. There are handcuffs on her wrist.

"A-Aunt Beverly..." she murmurs.

I clench my jaw and turn away from her to return the paperwork.

"Can I, uh, take her now?" I ask quietly.

"Free to go," the officer replies.

The two policemen behind Eloise unlock her handcuffs.

She hesitantly makes her way over to me, head hung low.

I put a hand on her shoulder to make sure she doesn't fall over or something.

I can't tell how much she's had to drink, but I can smell the alcohol on her clothes.

It makes my skin crawl.

I remember my Dad coming home after being on a two-day hiatus, the stench of whiskey hanging on his big grey coat. Mom started screaming at him, demanding to know where he'd been. He shot words back at her and it went on and on and on until Dad threw our lamp across the room. I watched it hit the wall and explode across the living room painting before Aimee pulled me away, her big-sister smile wide and forced. She told me we should play house, which she never wanted to do.

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