The next morning was bright and clear, and already warm by the time I came down to breakfast at eight o’clock.
Mother and Daddy were already sitting at the table. Daddy had that crease between his brow, which could only mean Mother had already told him about my escapade the night before.
Slinking into my place at the table, I offered Rose, our housekeeper, a half smile as she set down a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast in front of me. Mother, in her dark blue uniform, gave me a stern look over the pitcher of orange juice. Before she could lecture me, however, Daddy folded up the newspaper he’d been perusing. “Tell me about last night,” he said, his voice neutral, as though asking my opinion of the weather.
I took a tiny sip of juice, my mouth already dry. “I went out with some friends.”
“That’s funny, because I thought you went to bed early last night.”
I stared at my toast. “I’m really sorry. Really. I shouldn’t have gone.”
“What you did last night was reckless and dangerous, not to mention illegal. And how does it look for my own daughter to be pulled out of a raid in handcuffs, smelling like a bottle of gin?”
“Mother, I swear, I wasn’t drinking. I’ve helped Daddy with enough of his tests to know how dangerous it is. I was drinking water, and the gin must have spilled when the police came–”
Daddy held up a hand for silence when it looked like Mother would launch into a full-scale diatribe. “I think we are all aware that last night was a mistake.” I nodded guiltily. “Dru, you’re hardly the type of girl who gets into trouble. I think what your mother is trying to say, is that we don’t understand what precipitated this.”
Daddy’s disappointment was even worse than Mother’s anger. I fiddled with my fork without picking it up. “I just wanted to have some fun. To go out and dance with my friends. I knew it was wrong, but I just wanted to try it, just once. It’s what everyone is doing these days.”
Mother opened her mouth, but Daddy held up his hand again. “Finish your breakfast, Dru. Your mother and I will discuss an appropriate punishment later.”
Mother didn’t seem any more pleased with that response than I was, but I nodded anyway. I took a few bites of my eggs, but they were already cold.
“I need to get to work,” Mother said at last, brushing crumbs off her hands and onto the plate.
She gave Daddy a perfunctory kiss. As she came around the table to me, she stroked my light brown bob. “I’m not angry with you, Dru.”
“You’re a little angry.”
“Well, yes. I’m a bit angry. But was more worried when I saw Bill O’Neil leading you out of that place. Promise me you’ll never do anything that reckless again.”
“I promise, Mama.”
“Good girl.” She kissed the top of my head, then disappeared into the hall.
“So what are the plans today?” Daddy asked when she was gone.
I shrugged. “I don’t know yet. I might stay home and read. I have some new library books.”
Daddy smiled. “Don’t devour them too fast. Make sure you save room for dinner.” He refilled his coffee cup and added a spoonful of sugar. “Do you think you could help me with some tests this afternoon?”
“Of course. What are we testing?”
“Samples taken from the raid last night. The police want to know what’s in the alcohol.”
“Do they think it’s linked to the case last week?” Recently, many people had fallen sick after consuming bad bootleg liquor. There were at least eight people in the State Hospital downtown, some of them on the brink of death after ingesting a toxic combination of mercury and methanol, a potentially lethal chemical found in some of the homemade alcoholic drinks people had started making since Prohibition went into effect.
“That’s what we mean to find out. If we can find methanol in the same concentration as the other samples, they we may be able to prove a link between them, and help the police trace the alcohol back to its origin.”
“I’d be glad to help,” I said. Helping Daddy in his lab downstairs was one of my favorite things.
“Excellent. I’ve got some patients to see at the hospital this morning, then I’ll pick up the samples on my way home.”
“I’ll be ready and waiting.”
Daddy, too, got up, leaving a kiss on top of my head on his way out the door. I was left with my unpalatable eggs.
With a sigh, I collected the plates and took them into the kitchen.
Rose was just drying the pans used to make breakfast.
“Oh, Miss Dru, you don’t need to do that. I was just about to clear the table myself.”
“It’s no trouble, Rose. I like helping.” I scraped my uneaten breakfast into the bin.
“Are you feeling well?”
“I’m fine, just not hungry.”
Rose put the dirty plates in the sink and began wiping away at them. “It’s laundry day. I’ll be sending Elizabeth up later to get your things. Everything in the basket?”
I nodded, picking up a cloth to dry the dishes as she set them on the counter. Our housekeeper, Rose, had been with us since I was small.
“You’re awful quiet this morning. Everything copacetic?”
I nodded again, giving her a smile. “Just remembering the day you and Elizabeth came to live with us.”
Rose’s lips twitched a little. “No one’s ever been so kind to me as your mama and Daddy. I thought we were gonna lose everything when my Billy died, be out on the streets. I didn’t know who would look after my baby if I was working. I thought I’d have to go back to my family in Georgia. And then Mr. Faust comes to me and he says, ‘Rose, we don’t want you to go. We got a little room in back. You’ll have your own entrance, your own space, it’s sunny and warm in the winter, and got lots of windows to open in the summer.’ Well, I nearly died on the spot. I started bawlin’ so hard, he must have thought I was touched.”
I giggled a little. “I remember. Daddy didn’t know what to do with you.” Like most men, my clever, intelligent father was at a loss when it came to tears. Thankfully, he hadn’t been upset when Rose threw her arms around his neck in gratitude. Still, it had been Mother who showed her to the room. Nearly the size of our sitting room, it now had a thin wall down the middle so Rose and Elizabeth could each have their own small bedroom. Rose’s room, the one the back door opened onto, also doubled as their sitting room.
Rose put one arm around me in a slightly soapy hug. “I’m just glad I didn’t have to leave one of my girls behind. You almost as much my little girl as Elizabeth.” She kissed the top of my head and I hugged her back. Sometimes, I felt like I had two mothers.
“You know, we’d both be upset if something happened to you, Dru.”
I sighed. “You heard all that, huh?”
She nodded. “Comes from workin’ in the kitchen. You hear everything.”
“Well, I don’t have any more plans to sneak out. I think I’ll save my dancing for the Widow’s and Orphan’s fund.”
“Sounds like a good plan. Now scoot. I got work to do, and it’s too nice a day for you to be in here doin’ other people’s work.” She swatted me lightly with a tea towel. Laughing, I danced out of her way.