"I don't know," Anne murmured, and sort of pushed Jonah away from her. She looked scared, like she was wondering about the police, too. Angela stood up with a fierce determination.
"I'll go see about this," Angela's full, batiked skirts swirled around her as made her way to the door, wielding a packet of Oreos like a weapon.
The front door swung open and they heard Angela's loud, deep voice. "Yes? Can I help you?" Then there was a thunk, like the sound of a body falling to the floor.
"Oh my god!" Katie pushed away from Eoin and ran to the front of the house. There she found her aunt towered over a young woman, who was sprawled across the hallway, moaning.
"Aunt Angela!" Katie hissed, coming forward. The bag of Oreos hung limply at her aunt's side."What did you do?"
"Nothing!" Angela hissed back. "Honestly! I just opened the door and this ... person just tumbled inside and collapsed."
"Well, is she okay?" Katie bent down to look at the woman, whom she recognized as the squatter she'd met the first time she'd come to this house looking for Anne. "Becky?" Katie shook her gently. "Are you okay?"
Becky rolled her eyes back and stared at Katie through shaggy bangs. "Oh, hello," she slurred. "I forgot my key."
"We don't have locks, Becks." Anne was there, using that tired, patient tone she'd used on Katie many, many times in her role as Big Sister. Anne came forward and knelt beside her roommate. (Does one call them roommates when one shares an unheated, waterless squat? Katie wondered but suspected this was probably the wrong time to ask). "Come on. I'll get you upstairs."
"Can I help?" Katie asked as Anne hauled Becky to her feet and the two women began to stumble toward the stairs.
"It's okay," Anne said, smiling somewhat sadly. "We've done this before." The two of them disappeared into the darkness of the stairwell and Katie looked at her aunt, who was now munching on an Oreo.
"What do we do now?" Katie asked, just as Eoin, her mother, and Jonah traipsed into the hallway. Eoin was holding Jonah's little hand in his giant one and Katie felt her insides squeeze.
"What's going on?" Katie's mother demanded in a rather tight, tense voice. "Where's your sister?"
"She's just dealing with something. Her friend -- roommate, I guess? -- is unwell so she's helping her out."
"Unwell?" Her mother said, crossing her arms across her chest. "I should think drunk's more like it." She glanced at Jonah. "I think we should get him out of here. This is no place for a little boy."
"You're right," Katie said, somewhat reluctantly. She'd loved seeing her sister and her nephew reunite, but the rolling, drunk eyes and the desperate, dirty smell coming off of Becky as she lay there on the floor had reminded her about the reality of Anne's situation. "Just let them say goodbye."
"Good bye?" Her mother frowned. "Why? Anne's coming home with me."
"You can't just decide that for her, mum." Katie said, her voice rising. "She's an adult."
"Look, I'm just going to take Jonah outside for a bit," Eoin said, then he leaned down til he was eye-to-eye with Jonah. "Hey, kiddo. Want to see a big pick up truck? I'll let you pick the flaky rust off the doors."
Katie watched them go, and then it was just her, her mother, and her Aunt, who continued to consume Oreos.
"Look, we can't force Anne to do anything," Katie began, but then her sister came down the stairs. "How's Becky?" Katie asked her.
"She's okay," Anne sighed. "She's been having a really hard time with sobriety."
Their mother snorted, and Katie jabbed an elbow into her side. Anne said nothing -- she either hadn't noticed or was pretending she hadn't. Instead she looked around, and asked, "Where's Jonah?", panic on the edge of her words.
"He's outside with Eoin, but he can come back in to say good-bye," said Katie.
"There's no need for good-byes," their mother said. "Anne, go get your things and we'll get out of here right away."
"I'm not...." Anne glanced at Katie, who smiled at her older sister, offering support. "I'm not going anywhere, mum. Becky needs me."
"Becky!" Her mother scoffed. "Who's she? Your son needs you, Annie. You know what Jason's trying to do, you know that you only have a few weeks here to get yourself organized, get a job--"
"--I have a job," Anne cut in.
"Walking dogs isn't going to cut it in court, Anne. You should know that. You're a lawyer."
"I was. I was a lawyer," Anne's eyes were filling with frustrated, angry tears. "Listen, you guys need to go, okay? I really appreciate you coming, and bringing Jonah. And I am going to get out of here soon, okay? But I need to get Becky to a meeting, I need to help her. I can't leave her behind."
When they were younger Anne took Katie to the mall one afternoon, and they'd run into some of Anne's friends. Older girls, with puffed-up bangs and flower-patterned jeans, high-top sneakers and cigarettes. They'd wanted to hit the food court, and Katie had trailed along behind them, for nearly an entire afternoon, watching her sister laughing, tossing french fries at cute grade 8 boys and trying on outfits at the Le Chateau. But when Katie started getting tired, when she'd started trailing further and further behind, and when she balked and refused to go inside the La Senza to try on bras that wouldn't fit any of them yet, that's when Anne stopped being a fourteen-year-old mall rat and remembered to be a big sister. She'd taken her little sister's hand and together they'd walked to the Baskin-Robbins for ice cream cones, which they'd eaten on the way home.
"I'll call you, mum." Anne raked her hands through her hair, a sure sign she was getting stressed. "I'll call you tomorrow, and we can talk about the next steps. But tonight, right now, I need to be here."
Their mother looked like she wanted to say something, wanted to protest, but Aunt Angela pressed an Oreo cookie into her hand and said, "Come on. It's been a long afternoon." The older women both came forward and hugged Anne, and she hugged them back, a bit stiff, almost like she'd forgotten how.
And then it was just the sisters, Anne and Katie standing together in the hallway. Anne was holding the nearly-empty bag of cookies. "Do you want to say goodbye to Jonah? Eoin could bring him back inside." They looked out the window where Eoin and Jonah were playing tag on the sidewalk.
"No, he looks so happy. I don't want to confuse him by saying goodbye again. I'll see him, soon, Katie."
"I know." Katie hugged her sister. "You're sure you'll be okay? I mean, with Becky....you won't..."
Anne shook her head. "No, I won't drink. At least, I'll try my very hardest not to. That's all I can promise."
"Of course." Katie didn't want to let her sister go, but she knew she had to get out before they started crying again.
"Listen, that Eoin guy seems really great," Anne said, and Katie smiled wide.
"I know! I wish you'd gotten to meet him properly."
"I will. Soon. That I can promise."
Once Aunt Angela, Jonah, and her mother had been tucked into their cars and sent on their way, Eoin and Katie sat quietly in the front seat of the pick-up. Eoin started the engine, and the truck rumbled loudly to life. "Where to, Kate?" he asked.
Just as Katie was about to suggest they go to Lick's for a burger and some entertainment by sullen, singing teenaged employees, her cell phone rang. "It's Melissa," she said, and Eoin killed the noisy engine.
"Hey Melissa. What's up?"
"Katie!" Melissa's voice was loud. "I'm so glad I found you." Her voice was loud, urgent. "Listen, can you get to the office straight away?"
"What? It's nearly 8 o'clock! What's happened? Is everything okay?"
Melissa says, "Yes, everything is amazing! Your add campaign is all ready to go, and Rebecca wants us to implement the guerrilla marketing tonight!"
Melissa says, "No, it's awful. The office building burnt down and the art department lost all your prototypes for Rebecca's guerrilla-marketing add campaign."