I opened my closet, wondering what people wore on interviews. When I Googled What to wear to magazine interview, it resulted in a thousand outfits I would never wear, including a ball gown with a plummeting neckline and see-through skirt I was sure no one wore outside a runway show.
I pressed my back against the wall and slid to the floor, perching my elbows on my knees and resting my forehead on my fists. I was known for a lot worse things in this town than being the daughter of the local billionaire. No one was going to hire me, and once Finley found out what I’d done, she would never forgive me. I had lost everything, and my future seemed very bleak.
Tears streamed down the bridge of my nose, pooling at the tip and dripping to the carpet. Soon, I couldn’t control the sobs rattling my body, and all I could think about was how unfair it was that my parents dropped this bomb on me and took all the liquor in the house. Mother couldn’t even pack without consuming two bottles of wine to calm her nerves.
“Miss Ellison!” Maricela said, crouching in front of me. “What is it? Are you hurt?”
When I looked up at her, she used her apron to wipe my eyes. “No one’s going to hire me, Maricela. I’m the town drunk.”
“Not for the last two days, you’re not.”
“I can’t do this,” I cried. “I have no idea how to do this. They’re just throwing me to the wolves.”
Maricela rubbed my arms. “That’s how I learned to swim, muñequita. Sometimes we have to be thrown in, or we’ll never do it on our own.”
“I messed up,” I said, wiping my nose with the back of my hand. “I hurt Finley.” I looked up, my bottom lip quivering. “She doesn’t even know it yet. All I can think about is getting high to make it go away.”
Maricela touched my cheek. “It won’t go away unless you face it. Admit to your mistakes, and then make amends.”
The little resolve I had left crumbled. “She won’t forgive me. Not this time.”
“Miss Ellison, is this about the place where José took you? To the Planned Parenthood? What did they say? What did they do?”
I sniffed. The pregnancy test came back negative, and it had been more than two weeks since I’d been tested for STDs, and they hadn’t called about results. With Planned Parenthood, no news was good news.
“Finley is your sister. She loves you the most. She wants the best for you.”
I began to sob again. “I really fucked up this time. I can’t believe I’m that person. Someone who would…” I shook my head again, despondent. “I’ve thought so many times since it happened that maybe it would be easier if … I can’t do this.” I looked Maricela in the eyes, solemn.
“I just want it to be over.” The words sounded insincere, such a powerful statement with so little emotion. I wondered if that’s how Betsy felt about her own end—too damaged to feel anything but numb.
Maricela took my chin between her fingers. “Niña, no more of this. The Ellison who is destructive and full of anger … go on. Kill her. But you can live.”
I tried to look away, but she wouldn’t let me.
“If you want to prove that you’re not that person, then you have to stop being that person. Let her go. Look at you. She’s not making you happy.”
I blinked, and then nodded slowly. Maricela always knew what to say when I was upset, but she’d never raised her voice at me before. She was fighting for me. I couldn’t let her fight alone. “You’re right. She has to go.”
Maricela helped me to my feet.
I looked at my closet again. It was full of plaid flannels, hoodies, and ripped jeans, revealing shirts, and concert tees. “The interview is in an hour. I’m going to show up looking like I just left a drug deal.”
Maricela stood behind me, touched my shoulders, and whispered into my ear, “She’s dead. Go find a new Ellison.”
“What if I don’t know where to start?”
“You already have.” She kissed my cheek and left the room.
I stared at the clothes for a bit longer, and then slammed the doors and ran down the hall to Finley’s room, pulling open her closet with the hope she hadn’t taken everything fantastic to her Manhattan apartment. Clanging through her hangers, I found a pair of black leather skinnies and a burgundy sweater. With a tall pair of black boots, a bit of makeup, and after raking a brush through my waves, I snarled at my appearance in the mirror. I rifled through Finley’s hair products, sprayed some frizz control on my hair, and then brushed it through. I looked at my reflection again and sighed. I was so used to dressing like I didn’t care, anything that took more effort seemed like I was trying too hard.
“You look nice, Miss Ellison,” Maricela said from the doorway. “Shall I collect your laundry?”
“Thank you. But I don’t think you’re supposed to. I don’t want to get you into trouble.”
Maricela’s expression fell, and then she nodded, knowing I was right. “I’ll teach you when you’re ready.” She waved once before turning for the hall. “José is sure Mr. Edson forgot to mention that you’re to be driven to any job interviews.”
“I don’t know if they’ve asked you to report on what I’m doing, but I’d prefer you not tell them about the interview.”
Maricela had been with our family since I was in grade school, and she looked at me with maternal love in her eyes. “I just want you to get better, Miss Ellie.”
She closed the door, and I turned to look in the mirror, deciding to pull my hair into a high, smooth bun. Mr. Wick was going to hire me, even if he didn’t know it yet.
José glanced into the rearview mirror of the Audi. “You look nice, Miss Ellison.”
“Thank you,” I responded, turning to look out the window at the buildings passing by.
Our home was hidden away south of Highway 66, and the magazine was almost due north. It took José just over ten minutes to reach the highway, and he turned south, driving the opposite way from everyone else on their way to their jobs, and the tourists on their way to the mountain base. The sand trucks were out in full force, scraping a path toward Estes Park. We passed resorts and inns, a river and a cemetery … so many things I’d never paid attention to because they weren’t bars or restaurants without a dress code.
José turned down Mills Drive, and my heart began to race. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had a feeling I was about to humiliate myself. We passed several buildings, all brown and filled with matching vehicles. Farther down from the rest, sat a small building with two garages and several emergency trucks parked along a circle drive. I sat up when I saw the sign.
I sat up, touching the glass with my fingertips. I wasn’t sure if their crew stuck around throughout the year, but if I was going to be down the street for forty hours a week, I hoped not.
Next door to the fire station was a large RV park, and a quarter-mile of trailers dotted the landscape. Across the street from the station and the park was a new steel building. A driveway curved in front of the entrance, also continuing back toward another, smaller steel building that might have served as a garage, or storage building, or possibly both. The MountainEar office was small, a non-descript steel structure, newly finished on the outskirts of town.