“Where will you go now?”
I asked later in the cool confinement of Oxford Police Station. She stared ahead at the whitewashed wall for a minute before quietly replying:
“My mother is dead, and my father in prison for murdering my uncle. How, then, am I going to turn out?”
I turned to her and placed my jumper around her shoulders; though I had a feeling she was not shivering because of the air-con.
I searched my mind for any simple thing I could say to console her. I was surprised at how quickly I could find the words.
“You’re different. I didn’t know your mother but I think she would have had a heart of shining gold-.”
“Then why didn’t she stay with her family, who could have helped…? Why didn’t she choose the sensible route...?” Alicia snapped. The answer to this I drew from several sources...one being my talkative cousin.
“From what I have heard, your mother was a true Christian woman, but timid; she was ashamed. And I think perhaps your father probably contaminated her thoughts, lead her away.”
Alicia’s tone softened, “He does that to everyone… And I was just another object in the deafening pattern.”
“You’re different,” I repeated, trying to win her round, “You could have killed me-twice- but you didn’t. Why?”
Alicia stood up, shrugging off my jumper and began her pacing of the room, again. I felt like a clock, my eyes following her as she moved backwards and forwards, using time up like it was not precious. Everything had its time on this Earth, and, unfortunately, some people had very much less than others. Spending time with others was time well spent.
“I dunno. I sort of felt that you were nice; I couldn’t kill a girl my age; I just couldn’t kill you.”
She stopped and turned to face me, a tear trickling down her white cheek. It wasn’t the first time I had seen her cry, but this was the first time she had done it openly in front of me. As this older girl poured her sorrows into my shoulders, I suddenly felt more of an adult than some adults I had ever met in my life. And now I knew that adults were just children who had learnt their biggest lessons.
Detective Leonard then entered the room. From what I had vaguely heard as we had been driven to the police station, all the team assigned to us had been doing was paperwork. How boring. And we had to wait here all the while. I suppose that’s what police work is like: trying, unsuccessfully to clear the uncertainties of life.
“Right, ladies,” The Detective announced as he strolled into the room, “Mr. Smith is behind bars, but it did seem he registered your birth. Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? A team is searching the warehouse for the certificate; now, Miss Craig, do you have any idea where your father might have hidden it?”
Alicia glanced across at the Detective and hung her head.
“I had no idea anybody even knew I existed…” She muttered.
Changing the subject quickly, Detective Leonard asked, “But I still can’t quite figure out why Mr. Craig was attacked with cucumber yoghurt.”
After considering this for a moment, I answered slowly.
“I think it’s symbolic. Caroline Peterson told me they went on a holiday together to Jordan recently, and Mr. Craig hadn’t liked the cucumber yoghurt. She said they started rowing shortly after they returned to England. Josh probably found out the truth on their holiday.”
“What an odd murder…”
“What an odd and sudden end to such an alive friendship,” I responded as another thought struck me, “It’s ironic that something Josh loved so much could be part of his death.”
The movement of Alicia’s shrug caught my eye, then I remembered that someone she loved had tried to kill her…
“Where will you live now?” Detective Leonard’s voice managed to push through the awkward silence. Alicia looked at me, perhaps considering what I had said, her brain working like pieces of clockwork.
“I can go and live with my grandmother (if that’s alright with you)… She’s alone now, isn’t she? So she’d probably appreciate the company.”
I smiled and The Detective nodded.
“Well girls, you can leave now. Miss King your mother is on her way. She didn’t seem very happy when I phoned her...”
So with that he turned and marched on to a more important case. I sighed, there was always going to be one, wasn’t there? This was all in a days work for him.
Alicia looked to a clock on the wall, the time reading almost half past four, and said to me, “I suppose I’d better go, if I’m to meet my grandmother. What’s she like, by the way?”
“At the moment? Depressed,” I admitted, “But I think she’ll be cheerier with you around. You’re like her children, you know.”
It was then I remembered the small book tucked into a bag that Carrie had given me.
“I want you to have this,” I said, giving it to Alicia, “It’s a photo album from when…when they all were younger.”
Alicia took the little book and slowly flicked through its pages, stopping ever so often on pictures of Mr. Craig and Mr. Smith and tracing her finger around the outlines of her two relatives.
Noticing this, I asked softly, “Do you think you’ll visit him someday?”
“Not now, but someday, maybe. He hurt me and I’m not ready to face him, but I have a power he has never felt. The power of forgiveness!”
I embraced her at that moment because I saw that, in the last few hours, she had gone from a fearful pawn forced to play a game of deadly chess, to a brave young woman now controlling it.