On my home from school I saw Cherry across the street; she was talking to Josie, Charli’s sister. I hoisted my bag onto my back and crossed the street, Cherry saw me but didn’t acknowledge me as I stepped over the low white fence which ran around the entirety of the town green.
“Tyler,” Josie nodded in my direction,
“Hey Jo,” I muttered, “Cherry, you free for a moment?” I asked her,
“Sure,” she smiled, hugging Josie and then turning to me. I waited for Josie to walk out of earshot and then sat on the floor, “what’s up?” Cherry asked looking down at me, I patted the ground beside me and Cherry sat down. “Say something Tyler!” she said watching me pick at the grass and toss it away,
“I just needed to talk to someone, other than my family,” I told her, “no one else will listen,”
“Well you can talk to me,” Cherry smiled picking a daisy and slowly plucking the petals off one by one,
“I want to get to the bottom of Mollie’s death, I want to find the murderer and prove to the rest of the town that it wasn’t me,” Cherry didn’t look up from the daisy, but she stopped picking off the petals,
“How do you plan on doing that?” she asked peering up through her strawberry blonde curls, she tucked her hair behind her ear and threw the daisy aside.
“We need alibis; we need to know where people were doing on the seventeenth of July, four years ago,”
“Ty, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, people won’t know this stuff, you’ve left it too long – I’m sorry,” she squeezed my knee and stood up.
“I know where I was,” I said getting up and picking up my school bag,
“Well then you have an alibi, why didn’t you tell police and get your name cleared?” Cherry asked astounded,
“Because my alibi is almost worse than being convicted for the crime itself,” I mumbled looking at the ground. The grass had been flattened where we had been sitting and as I watched three daisies popped up after being squashed to resume their position upright.
“Where were you?” Cherry asked, curiosity burning her tone,
“I can’t say, I can’t even tell you,” I said watching her reaction. She raised her eyebrows and sighed,
“Well then I guess your name will always be tainted with the death of an innocent victim,” I knew what she was doing, she was trying to guilt-trip me into telling her and I very nearly did but we were interrupted by Meghan Tate. She had seen us and stepped off the path over to where we were standing, her guitar was slung across her back and her hair was down, it fell passed her shoulders and made her face more radiant than ever.
“Hey Cherry,” Meghan smiled, they had been good friends ever since Cherry had moved into Long Meadow and I didn’t blame them, they were very few young people living here these days.
“Meg!” Cherry beamed at her, “This is Tyler, Tyler this is Meghan Tate,” Cherry introduced us and I grinned,
“Yeah, we know each other,” I told Cherry,
“We used to bake mud pies,” Meghan smiled, Cherry blushed slightly but didn’t seem too fazed,
“Well I feel the idiot,” Cherry mumbled, “you must go way back, or do you still make mud pies?”
“Nope, we were friends for eleven years,” Megan explained, I noted the use of the past tense. Mollie had died when I was fourteen, I had moved to Long Meadow when I was three, the eleven years Meghan had mentioned were the years in-between my moving here and Mollie’s death.
“Well you probably know each other better than I know you,” Cherry smiled not noticing the tension,
“Not really,” I spoke,
“We lost touch when…” Meghan drifted off pretending not to have spoken at all, I could finish her sentence for her; ‘when Tyler killed Mollie.’ Instead Meghan ended with, “when I went to High School.” Cherry finally picked up on tension and changed the subject…well almost did.
“Tyler’s doing a bit of detective work,”
“You are?” Meghan asked, I could tell she was regretting coming over and starting a conversation,
“Yeah,” I muttered hoping to leave,
“What are you detecting?” Meg asked,
“Mollie’s death,” I said flatly, Meghan’s eyes widened but she didn’t say anything, there was an awkward silence,
“He’s looking into everybody’s alibi,” Cherry said suddenly, “hey Ty, why don’t you take Meghan’s?” Meghan and my eyes both widened, “What were you doing on the seventeenth of July, on the day of Mollie’s death?” Cherry asked Meghan, she was being obtuse and hadn’t noticed our expressions.
“I…” Meghan began, “I think Tyler already knows my alibi,” Cherry looked across at me, but I was already ten feet away,
“Tyler?” Cherry called, I turned and began to walk away, “Meghan?” Cherry called, seconds later Meg appeared at my side and we looked at each other. “Guys?!” Cherry called,
“Run!” Meghan hissed and we began to sprint across the road and into Meghan’s studio apartment.
Meghan slammed the door shut and let out a sigh of relief, she bolted the door and then took three steps across to me, she grabbed a fistful of my collar and narrowed her eyes. “If you dare tell anyone what we did…” she threatened,
“I won’t, I won’t!” I promised her, not letting her finish her threat,
“Then why are you investigating this murder? If the police find out who killed Mollie, they’ll be bound to find out about what we were up to,”
“They won’t, I just want to get my name cleared, is that too much to ask?!” I demanded pulling her hands off my collar; I pushed her away and sat down on a stool. “No one in this town can look me in the eye, I’ve lost all my old friends, I’ve lost you…”
“I’m still here,” Meghan muttered switching on her coffee machine,
“We can’t have a conversation without you looking all awkward and upset,” I told her, “everything changed the night of Mollie’s death and you stood at my side and let me take the blame,”
“I’m sorry Tyler, I don’t expect you to forgive me, I don’t expect you to do anything but please don’t say anything about that night, to anyone!”
“Fine!” I grumbled, I got off the stool and unbolted the door,
“Tyler!” Meghan called before I stepped through the threshold; I turned to look at her, “Thank you.” She murmured and I could see in her eyes she meant it.