My key clicked in the door of our modern Didcot abode and I slowly stepped in; a light was on and Ben looked up from his homework as I walked in; he was happy for any kind of distraction this moment from the ‘evil’ mathematics.
My mother entered out living room, a saucepan and spoon in her hand.
“And where have you been?” She said with a frown, almost too stereotypically.
“Nowhere,” I muttered, casting the eyes that would give away my lying, down to the floor. “I just needed to get out for a bit, after what happened yesterday.”
Suddenly my mother’s expression changed.
“I know,” she said and came over to give me a hug. I squirmed but she held me close and continued, “you were close to Mr. Craig, it’s only natural that you would react in…this way. That you would be shocked.”
Instead of squirming again, this time I nodded, also not trusting my voice to speak any more truths, glared at my brother to get on with his work, and switched on our small square, box telly. The picture flickered on to reveal a News reader behind her desk and a photo of startled kitten held tightly by its owners. I sighed pleasantly and settled down to watch. This was my kind of TV: real life, real stories, real time.
I was just starting to relax and dismiss the afternoon’s events, when the newsreader reported:
“And now…an explosion rocked ‘Rose Street’ in East Oxford. Late this afternoon the house of Irene Craig was bombed. No one was hurt and Mrs. Craig says that the small bomb only destroyed part of unused office. There were old no witnesses and the nearby neighbours phoned the police as soon as they heard the explosion. Police are now questioning Irene and her daughter-in-law and have asked for fourteen-year-old Agnetha King to come forward and give evidence.”
My brother started and my mother gasped.
“Aggie?” she whispered. There was an awkward silence, not even broken by a new jingle on the TV.
“I know you were friendly with Mr. Craig, but…well, what? What have you done? I don’t know anymore…” My mother finally spoke, in such a heartbreaking voice, that I had to reply.
“Okay, I went to my late teacher’s mother’s house, because something was troubling me, and then it just happened to explode when we were in the middle of an important conversation.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that so matter-of-factly. And after that, the silence again was strained, well, until my brother burst out laughing and grabbed the TV remote, using this time as an excuse to be distracted from his homework.
My mother took a deep breath and said simply, “Okay, tomorrow, you’ll go to the police station then you’re grounded till further notice!”
“But why?” I protested, “I’ve done nothing-”
“I don’t want you going off again and having any more ‘adventures’. If they’re like the last one, I could lose you.”
She stomped back out of the room to continue with dinner.
I sunk into the tatty armchair. The last couple of days had been exhausting, but I had ploughed on because I felt I needed to find the killer. Now all the fight had gone out of me. I sat in contemplative silence whilst I gazed at the television and ate my dinner, then hid in my lifeless bedroom until I knew my mother would be coming up to command my brother and I to sleep. As I expected, a knock soon came from the wooden door. I glared up at it and stayed on my bed. My mother rapped hard again and called.
“Aggie… I know you’re mad…but it’s for the best… I don’t want you hurt…” She paused before asking me again. “Please open the door.”
So I opened the door onto her distressed face and let her go on with the evening’s activities. It was the best I could do for her at this moment, although I was boiling up like a volcano inside…