Chapter One - The Old Woman
“MOM?” Elias threw his bag down at the door. He always stops by and checks on his Mother after school on his way back to Grandma’s house “Mom?“. Still no reply. It wasn’t until Elias was rounding the door into the lounge, its yellow walls tinted green from years of nicotine abuse and its lime green carpet scorched here and there from dropped cigarettes, that he saw his Mom laying face down on the torn brown sofa, from the knee down her legs hovered over an empty bottle of Jack. it was obvious from the overwhelming smell of whisky that she had kicked it over in a drunken stupor and it had poured out onto the carpet.
“Mom?” Elias lowered his voice so as not to wake her abruptly. “Mom, wake up.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and shook gently with no success. He shook again harder.
“What? What do you want Elias?“. Ah. She was alive. “Shouldn’t you be at school? Or your Grandmas? Or... anywhere else?” The smell alone of the alcohol on her breath was enough to send a ship full of sailors to the hospital with liver failure.
Elias was used to his Mom being drunk... and angry but it didn’t stop the pang in his chest when she spat her venom. “Okay Mom, I’ll come back tomorrow,” Elias said defeated. He knew that every time he left her house could be the last time he sees his Mom. The human body is made up of sixty percent water but he always had a sneaky suspicion that when his Mother finally kicks the bucket, the medical examiner would find that hers is twenty percent water... and forty percent booze.
No sooner was the door slammed behind him that he heard the irritating, intoxicated yells of his “Mom” from within shouting at some guy, or woman, for drinking the last of her Jack. Poor sod. Elias threw up the hood of his deep purple sweatshirt and skulked towards home.
It was the same path Elias walked every day but this close to Christmas he could feel the sparks of excitement in the air. People walking faster than usual to get as much shopping as possible done before closing time and other people hiding from the snow in cafes and coffee shops. He was watching everyone so closely that he never saw the lamp post quickly approaching and he strut straight into it. Admittedly if he had been walking at a “normal” pace it would have hurt, but he had been walking so slowly that he hardly felt it. What he did feel was the pain striking through his leg as he slipped on the ice and clattered to the concrete.
Elias tried to get up as fast as he could in hopes that no-one had seen his embarrassing incident - “are you okay?” came a voice from nowhere - Damn.
Elias looked round with a start, his face shone a brilliant humiliated red. “I’m fine tha-” his voice caught in his throat. Out of all the people walking on the street, doing their Christmas shopping, the person that had stopped to check he was okay was an old woman, soaked through to the bone.
“That was a nasty fall, are you okay?” Came the question again.
“Yes thank you” Elias didn’t know what else to say but couldn’t move from where he was standing. Something struck him as odd about the woman in front of him. She was old, he’d guess around her mid-sixties, she looked kind and had the lines next to her eyes that say she’s had both good times and bad. Her clothes were the kind of clothes that you would expect a grandmother to wear only worn and tired looking. A plain skirt, tan shoes with no heel, a quilted coat that’s seen better days and that plastic thing that older ladies always seem to wear in poor weather to stop their hair from getting wet. “I should really get going,” he said as he turned to walk down the street. “thanks again”.
Elias’ mind had been racing since his brief interaction from earlier and whilst he lay on his bed staring at the ceiling he wondered. Does she have somewhere to be this Christmas? He knew he was wrong to draw the conclusion that she was homeless solely based on the clothes she was wearing but something about her face, kind but hardened by sadness, told him he was right.
His sister came crashing through his bedroom door and jumped up onto his legs where she sat. No, apparently there is no such thing as privacy. He had been that deep in thought that he never even noticed them returning from... wherever they had been that day. They were always off galavanting and Elias could never keep track of what adventures they were going on and when.
“Look what Grandma got me!” Sarah practically screamed from a foot away. She held up her trophy in a way that could only be described as Lion King-esque. It was a doll... a really... REALLY... ugly doll. Like Raggedy Ann and one of those old china dolls had a baby. It had a hard, almost porcelain looking head with strange blue stringy hair made from, what felt like cheap carpet. Its eyes were an emerald green and he didn’t know why but Elias couldn’t stand to look in them for more than a second at a time. The dress it was wearing looked like an old-fashioned tablecloth, cream with a red floral pattern and its shoes a dull navy colour. To contradict its hard head, the body of the doll was soft... pillow like to touch.
“That’s cute Sarah” Elias lied. As much as she annoyed him, he loved his sister more than anything in the world and wouldn’t dare tell her that her new doll was the ugliest creation of man since lip fillers and butt implants. “where did you get it? It doesn’t exactly look new”.
“You know Grandma” she said with a sigh “She’s always prowling those goodwill stores because ‘if other people don’t want them they don’t just disappear so if I can put them to use, I will’” She ended with an almost mocking impersonation of her Grandmother and to be fair to her, for a six-year-old, it was pretty damn close to perfect.
“So... it was someone’s doll that they gave away?” Elias couldn’t begin to wonder why someone would give away such a... beautiful... doll. “Well, at least you got a new member of the TPC?” The Tea Party Club was something that Elias took pride in, NOT, being a member of. “If you don’t mind Sarah, I was kind of in the middle of something.”
“No you weren’t” Sarah replied in that tone that only a six-year-old girl could. “you were just lying there staring at the ceiling like a goofy zombie.”
“That was just a polite way of telling you to get out of my room,” Elias stated with some frustration. Without replying, she stomped out of the room with a face reminiscent of thunder. He didn’t like getting annoyed with Sarah but sometime the girl just couldn’t take a hint.
Elias woke and reached over for his phone. Three text messages from Sarah, all three were single angry emojis. He wasn’t that rude to her, was he? A missed call from Johnathan, Jay as he was better known. He hit Jay’s name on his phone and placed the handset to his ear.
“Hey, about time you call me back. You should come with us to Grant’s house tonight. His parents aren’t home and we’ve got bee-eer” as-if mentioning alcohol and prolonging the word is going to make him more inclined to accept the invitation.
“I think I’ll pass for tonight. I’ve upset Sarah so should probably make it up to her and I think Grandma’s going out with old Mr Creeper from next door.” Okay so his name isn’t really Mr Creeper but any old man going for Elias’ sweet, loving Grandma will be unofficially named... Mr Creeper.
“Before you give me more crappy excuses... Noah’s going to be there...” Elias felt his chest jump at the mention on his name and was frustrated that Jay could push his buttons so well. Crap. Jay was one of Elias’ oldest friends, He’d known him all through school and he was the only one who knew what boys Elias liked without having to be told. And he knew how to use that to his advantage.
“I really can’t tonight Jay. Babysitting. Makeup time with Sarah. Remember? I literally told you a second ago and. I know that goldfish have three times your memory capacity but surely you could write it down somewhere and stop boring me with your repetitive questioning?” Elias knew he had to shoot Jay down harshly or else he would just keep asking and pestering, which was annoying because he really did WANT to go. He just couldn’t.
“Elias?” A voice from the great beyond beckoned.
“Okay gotta’ go John-boy, Grandma’s callin’ for supper,” Elias said in a rather un-impressive southern accent. Jay hated being called John-boy... Button... Pushed. Before Jay could reply, Elias ended the call and headed down to the dining room for dinner.