Wasted Youth

Leia hummed as she got out of her car.  She was in a good mood.  She had just worked an eight-hour shift at the bookstore one town over and now had a bag of new books sitting in her backseat.  The job at the Baker Books was her favorite – she loathed cashiering at the local grocery store.  Leia skipped happily up the front steps of the Stone residence, excited to hear about Eowyn’s doctor’s appointment.

Leia sang softly as she unlocked her best friend’s front door, some upbeat pop song from the radio stuck in her head.  “Eowyn!” She called out as she stepped inside.

Leia was greeted with silence.  She shook her head and closed the front door behind her.  The lazy girl had probably gone back to bed, or was trying to take a quick shower before Leia got there.

She took the familiar steps quickly and knocked on Eowyn’s door three times before swinging it open.  It swung halfway before it thumped against something.

“Oh!” She jumped as the door bounced back toward her.  She squeezed through the small gap and peaked around the door.  Leia gasped.

Eowyn sat slumped against the wall behind the door, dressed in a pair of loose sweatpants and a bright-colored tee that hung loosely over her slightly swollen belly.  Her honey brown hair was in disarray, down around her shoulders.  Her wispy bangs fell into her brown eyes, whose green flecks would glint in the light like emeralds.  Eyes that were wide open, their empty gaze on fixed on Leia.

Leia reached down and touched a shaky hand to Eowyn’s face.  Her hand jerked away when her fingertips met cold skin.   A broken sob left Leia’s throat as she turned and ran from the room.

______

Leia sat huddled in a blanket in the lobby of the police station.  She had called 911 after she fled from Eowyn’s room and watched as the police studied the scene and as Eowyn’s body was taken away.  She had been questioned relentlessly by the police.  How could they get in touch with Miss Stones family?  Did you see anything out of place?  Is there anything missing?   She was taken back to the station from the scene.  Leia had no idea how long she had been there.  She vaguely remembered being told her mom would be there as soon as possible, and that her dad hadn’t been able to get away from work.

“Miss?” the young officer who had gotten her the blanket was standing in front of her.  “Could you come with me?”

Leia nodded mutely and followed him through the hallways until he opened a door for her and ushered her inside.  The room was small and held only a table and two chairs, one of which was occupied by an older officer whose hair was beginning to gray.

She sat down wordlessly and pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders.  The officer in front of her was giving his condolences, asking if she wanted something to drink.  His name-tag said Officer Mack.

“Miss Valenti, could you please tell me the nature of your relationship with Miss Stone?”

“She was my best friend.”

“Could you please tell me what happened when you arrived at the Stone residence today?  From the beginning.”

Leia nodded and took a steadying breath, clutching the blanket even tighter.  She looked down at the scratched metal surface of the table as she spoke.  “I went straight to Eowyn’s after work.  She had wanted me to come over after my shift so she could tell me something.  Since she was expecting me, I let myself in when I got there.”

“You told the officers on scene that you have a key to the Stone residence, is that correct?” Officer Mack interrupted.

Leia nodded.  “I’ve had one forever.  Eowyn and her mother Sarah are practically fam – family.”  Tears welled up in her eyes and Officer Mack gave her a sympathetic smile.  She continued shakily. “I called her name and when no one answered I figured she was asleep or something and went upstairs to her room.”  Leia paused, her voice falling to a whisper.  “I went to open the door but it h – hit something.  When I stepped around it I sa–” Leia closed her eyes. “I saw her.  Her eyes were still open and when I touched her she was so cold.”  She wiped away the tears that squeezed their way from under her lids. “That’s when I went downstairs and called 911.”

Officer Mack slid a box of tissue towards her.  “Why didn’t you stay upstairs?”

“I – I couldn’t,” Leia said softly. “I felt so bad leaving her alone but I just couldn’t.”

The officer nodded.  After twenty years of being a cop it was still hard for him to be around death.  “Did you touch anything in the room?”

“No.”

“Did you notice anything different about it?”

Leia shook her head.

“Nothing seemed strange or off about the room?  You didn’t find anything odd about it?”

“I overheard one of the officers asking if anyone found a cellphone.  I guess that’s odd,” she said.  “Eowyn always had her phone with her.”

Officer Mack nodded and made a note is his notebook.  “Were you aware that Miss Stone was pregnant?”

Leia nodded gravely.  “Yes.”

“Do you know who the father was?”

“Her boyfriend, Adam.  Adam Ross.  Oh, God.”  Leia gasped. “Does he know?”

“Yes.  We’ve spoken with him,” Officer Mack said.  “How were Miss Stone and Mr. Ross getting along?”

“They got along just fine.”

“How did he feel about the baby?”

Leia looked questioningly at Officer Mack before answering.  “It was a bit of a shock for him at first, but I mean, it was a shock to me too.  A shock for all of us.” she said. “It wasn’t what either of them wanted, but he was coming around.”

“Are you sure about that?”

She narrowed her eyes at his tone.  “Yes.”

“A young man like Adam has a bright future ahead of him.  Got accepted to Harvard didn’t he?

“Yes, but –”

“Where does a child work into that future?”

Leia’s mouth hardened into a thin line.  “What are you saying officer?”

“I’m saying that we are holding Adam Ross as a suspect for the murder of Eowyn Stone.”

Leia gasped.  “You can’t be serious!  What evidence do you even have?”

“Forensic evidence and there’s no one to back up his alibi.  Plenty to hold him here.”

Leia shook her head.  “Adam would never kill someone,” she stated firmly.

Officer Mack shrugged and stood up from the table.  “That remains to be seen Miss Valenti.”  He moved to the door and held it open for her.

“You’re wrong,” Leia said softly as she passed him.  “Completely wrong.”

______

When Leia’s mother Emily collected her from the police station her eyes just as red and wet as her daughters.

Leia couldn’t sleep.  In the morning her eyes were red and swollen and she had dark bags under them.  When she went downstairs to join her parents for breakfast, her mother, to Leia’s relief, immediately called the school to inform them her daughter would not be coming to class for the rest of the week.

The only time Leia left the house that day was to visit Adam.  She knew being allowed to see him was a long shot but she had to try anyways.  Luckily the nice, young police officer she had met the day before (whose name was Officer Pires) was there and he agreed to let her see him.  He led her to the room she had been questioned in the day before and told her to wait.

A few minutes later Officer Pires came back with Adam.  “I’ll be right outside this door.  You have five minutes.”

As soon as the door shut Adam pulled her into a hug.  “Leia.”

“How are you doing in here?”  She asked him, though the answer was pretty obvious.  Adam was pale, his clothes wrinkled from having slept in them.  His eyes were red rimmed and he had deep bags under them.  He looked horrible.

Adam shrugged.  “I’m great,” he said sarcastically.  But more seriously he added, “I’m just trying to stay together.  I don’t want to fall apart in here, you know? But,” his voice broke, “God, I can’t believe she’s gone.”  He moved to one of the empty chairs and collapsed into it.  “They think I killed her.”

Leia sat down next to him.  “I know.”

“I just – I can’t believe it.  How could anyone think that I would ever hurt her?  Kill her? Kill m – my child?”  Adam hung his head.  “I could never.”

She put her hand on his arm and gave a reassuring squeeze.  “I know you didn’t do it,” Leia said softly.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

When Leia left the station a few minutes later she was determined to prove Adam was innocent and to find the bastard that had killed her best friend and god child.

______

“I need your help.”

Leia had never been the type of person that asked for help.  Her mother always told her she was too stubborn for her own good.  But trying to find a murderer was more than Leia could do on her own.  By the time she came to this conclusion it was well into the early hours in the morning, but she didn’t notice.

“Leia?” A deep voice thick with sleep asked.

“Dex,” Leia sobbed, “I need your help.”

Growing up, her cousin Dex had always had a knack for finding things out.  It was impossible to keep a secret from him.  Though he co-owned and helped his father run their family hardware store, Dex did “detective work” on the side.  He called it his fun money.

Dex sat up in his bed.  “Leia, talk to me.  Is this about Eowyn?”  He hated the heart wrenching sobs Leia was making.

“Yes.”

Though he was a good seven years older than his cousin they had always been close.  Family was important to Dex and right now his cousin needed him.

“I’ll be there in the afternoon.”

______

When Dex pulled into the Valenti’s driveway, Leia was huddle on the front steps, chin resting on her knees.

She lifted a tear-stained face when Dex walked towards her.  Wordlessly, they met in the middle and Dex wrapped his arms around the younger Valenti.

“Tell me everything.”

And she did.  She told Dex the same story she gave the police, only adding in the recent activity.  “I know Adam didn’t kill her, he couldn’t have.  I don’t know what “forensic evidence” the police think they have, but it probably wouldn’t have been enough to hold him there on its own,” Leia said.  “These small town police are grasping at straws.”

“So who do you think did it,” Dex asked, looking up from the list Leia had given him.  He had asked her to write down all of Eowyn and Adam’s friends and family.

Leia’s shoulders slumped.  “I don’t know.  Who would want to kill Eowyn?  You knew her.  She was always so sweet.  And with a baby coming…”

He squeezed his cousin’s hand.  “We’ll find out, okay?  Now let’s go talk to this,” he looked at the list, “Victoria person.”

“I’m coming with you?”

“Of course,” He stood.  “You can be my beautiful sidekick.”

______

Victoria Fry was a bitch.  But she was also Adam’s best friend.  She lived near the middle school in the “upscale” part of town.  The whole town was pretty nice, but the houses near the school were doubled in size and their owners twice as snobby.

Dex had instructed Leia to ring the bell to the Fry residence alone and she wished he were there beside her as she rang the doorbell.

Tori was not glad to see Leia on her front steps.  “Oh God.  Why are you here?”

“I – uh,” Leia fidgeted under Tori’s glare.  “I wanted to talk to you.”

“Talk to me?  What on earth could I possibly have to say to yo – Oh!  Hello.”

Dex had walked up behind Leia, and was standing on the front stoop with his hands casually stuffed in his pockets.  He flashed Victoria a boyish grin that made his dimples stand out.  “Hello to you too.”

Leia had always been annoyed with Dex’s good looks and his tendency to flirt his way through everything, but now she was grateful.

“Can I help you?”  Victoria had stood up straighter and put her charmer smile on.

Dex stepped closer to me.  “Just came along with my cousin.”

Tori’s smile faltered only a moment.  “Well come in, both of you.”  She ushered them inside.  “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Well, Eowyn actually.”

Not even Dex’s presence could stop the ugly sneer that came over Victoria’s face.  “Eowyn?  Why the fuck would I want to talk about that little slut?”

“She’s not a slut,” Leia grit out.

“Oh?  She’s pregnant isn’t she?  That screams ‘slut’ to me.” Victoria sneered.  “And poor Ada –”

“Poor Adam nothing!”

“He has his whole life in front of him!  Fucking Harvard!  And that bitch,” Victoria spat, “is trying to trap him!  They’re only 18 for Christ’s sake.”

Leia was fuming.  “Well that ‘bitch’ is dead.”

The color drained from Victoria’s face.  “What?”

“Eowyn’s dead.”

The room was silent until Dex spoke.  “Victoria, can you tell us where you were Saturday morning between the times of 9 and 12 o’clock?”

“I – I was at my Aunt’s all day Saturday,” Victoria said softly.  “You can ask my parents.  She’s really dead?”

Leia nodded, “yes.”

“Well,” Victoria said after a moment, “good riddance if you ask me.  Her and her baby would have ruined Adams life.”

Leia looked like she was ready to jump across the room and strangle Victoria.  Without another word she turned and left, Dex following close behind.

______

They spent the rest of the day questioning people, with no luck.  Everyone had solid alibis and couldn’t supply no insight as to why anyone would want to murder Eowyn.  By 7 o’clock that night Leia was tired, disheartened, and out of suspects.

“We’ll find who did it,” Dex said.  “We’re not done yet, don’t worry.”

Leia nodded.  “Can we stop at the Stones before we head back home?  I want to see how Sarah’s doing.”

Sarah had been on a day trip a few hours away with a friend when Eowyn had been murdered.  Leia hadn’t been around when Sarah had been told about her daughter and she was concerned about the older woman.

When they pulled up to the Stone’s house Sarah’s car was in the driveway, a sleek shiny black car parked next to hers.

Dex whistled.  “That’s a nice car man.  Whose is it?”

“Never seen it before.”

At the front door Leia hesitated, and then reached out and rang the doorbell.  She could hear laughter inside and when the door swung open it revealed a smiling, well dressed Ms. Stone.

Leia was surprised.  For someone who had just lost her daughter Ms. Stone looked very put together.  One could even say she looked happy.

“Oh! Leia, what are you doing here?”  Mrs. Stone glanced behind her.

“Who’s at the door baby?” A handsome and obviously tipsy gentleman appeared in the doorway and snaked his arms around Ms. Stone.

There was an uncomfortable silence where it seemed neither Ms. Stone nor I knew what to say, and tipsy, hot car guy looked between the two of us with an eyebrow raised.

“I, uh, didn’t get to see you yesterday, so I thought I’d stop by.” I said awkwardly.

“We’re so sorry for your loss Ms. Stone,” Dex added.  “Your daughter was a special girl.”

“Wait,” the guy let go of Sara, “you have a daughter?”

“Had,” Dex corrected.

Sarah turned toward her guest. “Baby, can you give me a few minutes?”  She flashed him a flirtatious smile and squeezed his arm.  He smiled dopily at her before kissing her cheek and walking away toward the kitchen.

As soon as he was out of ear shot Sarah whipped back around to face Dex and me, lips tight.

“What are you trying to do?” She asked angrily.

“Trying to do?” Leia asked. “I just – I wanted to see how you were doing.”

Ms. Stone glanced behind her into the house. “I’m doing fine, Leia.”  She turned back the young girl on her porch. “Thanks for coming by.  Have a nice night.”

Leia jumped as the door clammed shut in her face.

“What just happened?” Dex asked.

Leia looked strangely at the closed door.  “I don’t know.”

The above is the beginning of a piece I discovered when looking through my documents, written for the creative writing class I took last year.  The assignment was to write a murder mystery.

 

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