Alex knew on some level what had to be done. Staring at his dad as he continued to climb the rope ladder, his mind has went back to the primal place, the long forgotten instants that were left behind in an attempt to remain civil. He didn’t question how his dad got out of jail, although it found the image of his dad climbing out of a window in orange to be funny, especially when the man was usually so well dressed, but in reality one of his friends or many contacts had posted bail and, of course, after promising to show up to his trail was allowed to go home. An ex-police office wouldn’t lie, not even one accused of attacking a high school with a loaded gun? No, Alex had to stop his train of thoughts right there.
Without a second thought Alex’s body moved away from the edge of the platform, breaking contact with his dad’s tanned face, in what felt like years and opened the waterproof safe box just inside the walls of the tree house. Putting aside his favourite novel, different sheets of paper, his walkie talkie and matches until he found what he was looking for. It was a black rough military blade that he had brought from the thrift shop shortly after moving here, the serrated edge was well kept, but it was still old from the amount of times he had used it to patch up the walls and such, quick little repairs until he could probably repair it. Breathing slow deep breaths he turned his attention back to the rope ladder where the squeaked and just begged to be cut.
His messy hair fell into his eyes, covering icy red from the cruel world around him before he swiped it out of the way. With the blade in hand, he began to think in a mantra in times with the cuts to the ropes.
Back He isn’t my dad anymore Forth
Back He hasn’t been for a long time Forth
Back Family isn’t always blood Forth
Back We’re never going to be a family again Forth
Back I don’t want to die, I want to love Forth
Back But I don’t want to kill anyone Forth
Back I love someone and he can’t take that away from me Forth
With a creak and a snap the ladder went tumbling down to the ground below and with it Antonio went head over hills, heels overhead, falling longer than was thought was possible, it was like time had slowed down or gravity wanted to take time pulling this man down to the earth below him. When the rope ladder snapped under him he was almost at the top, for a moment icy red meet brown, understanding passing through Antonio’s eyes, for a moment he understood what he had missed, but he also knew things between him and Alex would never be the same. Too many scars and broken bridges lay between them, ones that will never heal or rebuild.
Antonio smiled, showing all his yellow stained teeth in a way that made Alex question who had really won. Looking timidly over the edge, he saw the broken body of his dad, blood turning the ground red. He didn’t move an inch and limps were at comical angles that Alex would have laughed… laughed if this wasn’t real, but a cartoon. It remembered him of a war movie, a fine grey mist moving in to hide the body from his view.
“That’s smoke.” Alex told himself, it was as if he believed saying it out loud would make it go away. Antonio had more trick up his sleeve, and that more than likely explained the smile on his face when he landed on snow covered ground. The lower limps of the tree were dry from the winter weather, dead leaves still on the tree as if super glue kept them in their place, were alight, fire licking up them like his playful puppy.
“This can’t be happing.” Alex whispered to himself as reality sat in. Grapping the discarded walkie talkie hopping to the high heavens that Tia still had hers and it was somewhere nearby.
“Tia?” Alex asked, his voice shaking more than the slim finger that was on the talk button “Tia… I need you to answer me.”
“Mmm?” Her voice was still breaking through the crackling on the other end, tone was still thick and bleary from sleep “Alex you have a cell phone now. Besides aren’t you in your tree house? Or are you in your room? Either way… you could walk over to my room and knock.”
“Tia… the tree is on fire… the one that has the tree house.” Alex rushed, wasting no time ‘beating around the bush’ nor should he.
“What?” Tia yelled. He could hear her running to the window of her room, the one that faced the backyard and had a view of the large oak tree.
“Please tell me you’re not in the tree house right now.” Tia begged ripping open the curtains.
“You’re up there… aren’t you?”
“You told me not to tell you that.”
“How did this happen?”
Even over the fire he could hear Tia yelling to her parents to ring the fire department, because her voice was so loud and desperate that it rang through the paint, dry walls, insulation, brick, outside, smoke and then tree branches to Alex’s ears.
“My dad or should I say Antonio.” Alex told her, trembling as the smoke got thicker “He got out somehow, of jail I mean. He was climbing the ladder and I thought it was you at first, but when I looked down it wasn’t… I think I cut the rope and I think he’s dead, I killed him. Shit… I just killed someone. I’m going to go to jail for sure. I don’t want to go to jail Tia! But he lid the lower branches on fire before he fall. He must have used some lighter fluid or something similar because the fire’s moving too quickly and I can’t get out, the ladders on the ground.”
Tia ran outside and saw the large oak going up in flames, smoke making it hard to see the mop of white hair she knew was hidden in the higher branches of the tree, but just out of reach. After all she done, after promising to project him, Alex was just out of reach and all she could do was stand there and watch her snowflake, her bundle of joy and the one she had come to love; burn alive.