Soon after the police, ambulance and fire fighters surrendered the street. Alex sat in the Peterson’s yard huddled into Tia’s lap: who had her arms around the boy in a protective manner. Lily and Robert were talking to the inspector completely out of hearing ranch so Tia didn’t know what they were talking about. Chris had called Scarlet and was telling her what had happened as the fire was slowly put out by large amounts of water taking away the oxygen around it.
“Am I going to be in trouble?” Alex asked barely above a whisper, he was scared and didn’t know what was going to happen to him.
“No.” Tia softly told him, kissing him on the forehead and drawing circles on his back with her fingers “You didn’t start the fire.”
“But… I was... the one; who cut the ladder.” Alex sobbed putting his arms around Tia’s waist “And he fell. Oh my… did I kill him. First I murder my mum and now my dad!”
“Alex… sweetie calm down, can you tell me why you cut the ladder?” Tia softly asked him, brushing his messy hair.
“What?” Alex was surprised by the question, so much that he looked at Tia.
“Why did you cut the ladder Alex… and no lies.”
“Because I didn’t want to die.” Alex softly replied looking at the green grass in shame for what he had done.
“Then you were acting out of self-defence.” Tia told him, she wasn’t sure what she was saying was true or not, but you wouldn’t go to jail… because you were trying not to get killed, but the murder turned out to be the one that died? Right? “You won’t get in trouble. He had already tried to kill you at school. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would have killed you. You wouldn’t be here if you let him get to the top… alive at least. Alex I’m glad that you didn’t let him… also you know you didn’t kill your mum, she killed herself, but that doesn’t matter, because you’re in no way in any shape or form to blame.”
The tone she used was soft and kind; it helped sooth Alex’s nerves, most of them anyway, but sadly not all of them. Those nerves flared up again when the three adults walked over, all of them wearng grim faces.
“How are you holding up sweetie?” Lily asked kneeling down to face the two teens face to face.
Alex just shrugged, it was strange to be asked that question and he didn’t know how to answer it… how did he feel, he was glad that he was alive, scared about going to jail, worried that he may have just killed someone and then guilt because he wanted that person dead. Alex felt that this wasn’t an answer Lily was looking for, so he chose not to answer it. Luckily for him she didn’t try to ask again, but he knew that Tia was going to ask later and she was more likely to get the truth out of him than Lily was, he just couldn’t lie to her, so someone was going to find out.
“Mr Foster, I’m Mr Starlight.” The inspector said, looking at Alex. The strangeness of his name made Alex want to laugh, but he settled for giggles… quiet giggles, but still giggling.
I’m in shock Alex realized hiding his face in Tia’s shirt.
“I want to ask you a few questions.” Mr Starlight continued, not noticing Alex’s figure shake from his silent laugh and if he did… he’s used to it. “I’ll need you to come to the station and gave an official statement.”
“Don’t worry Alex; we’ll be with you, if you want.” Lily softly said, Tia smiling at her. Lily knew that her daughter was going to go with him… not matter what they said, she was going to with him “You don’t have to be alone.”
“Okay.” Alex whispered, through it was slightly muffled by Tia’s shirt.
Tia moved her arms to Alex’s knees and shoulders, before slowly standing up. She made sure that Alex had a good grip on her shoulders before walking to her mum’s car. Alex was surprised when she did this, but graceful because he knew he wouldn’t be able to walk with his wobbling knees and jelly-like legs at the moment, but of course that didn’t stop his face from matching an apple in colour, nice and red.
“Tia, I can walk.” Alex whispered, he didn’t know what her reaction was going to be, but he couldn’t let himself be carried.
“I know Alex, but do this for my peace of mind.” Tia whispered to him.
Robert followed the state vehicle to the station, where they were lead into a room that reminded Alex of old war council room, but it was missing maps. He sat next to Tia, while the others sat down in the room. Mr Starlight sat opposite them, he tried to look friendly, or as friendly as he could get… he wasn’t doing so well.
“Now Mr Foster, if at any time you don’t feel comfortable answering a question in front of anyone, just tell us and we can ask them to wait outside the room.” He said, getting straight to the point “I’m sure they’ll understand. It’s very important that you answer every question truthfully and fully. I’m sure you’ll want to get this done in one sitting.”
“Now… as I’m aware you know that Antonio Foster was already scheduled to have a hearing for activity at your school. Do you have any idea why he would come to your home?”
“Well… technically it’s his house.” Alex softly said he didn’t want to come off as snarky; he just wanted to have all the facts right “I think he wanted to kill me.
“And what makes you say that?”
“The fact that he had a gun, almost burned me alive in a tree and had tried to kill me at school a few weeks ago… those were the big giveaways.”
“And what happened today?”
“Well… I celebrated Christmas with the Petersons, since I’m living with them for the time being.” Alex softly said, as he thought about what happened in the last few hours “It was just a lazy day and I went to my tree house to think. After a few minutes I heard the ladder creak, so I leaned over to ask Tia a question… because I thought it was her coming up… but it wasn’t Tia.”
“And who it Tia?”
“This is Tia.” Alex told him, pointing to Tia who was still sitting next to him, she waved at Mr Starlight showing that she was indeed the person he was talking about “Laurentia Ivory Rosamund Peterson, she’s my best friend and we frequently hang out in my tree house. But like I said… it was Tia, it was Antonio.” Tia grabbed Alex’s hand in her hers giving him a resurging squeeze, Alex gave her a shy smile turning back to Mr Starlight.
“Hang on… why are you calling your dad Antonio?”
“Well… he did try to kill me, not once but twitch, so I don’t think of him as my dad anymore, so I’ll see use his name instead same with my mum.”
“Like I was saying, he had a gun in his hand and was trying to climb the ladder. Antonio wasn’t a very climber… so it took him a while to reach the top. As he climbed I had a panic attack, I knew that if I let him come to the platform I would be killed, since we now have a track record. So I used a knife, which I kept up there for repairs, to cut the rope. He fell, but he was still able to light the tree on fire, I was able to call Tia on my walkie talkie and she helped me climb onto the tree branch near my bedroom window and caught me when I jumped. We went back to her yard and that’s when you guys showed up… so you know what happened after that.” Alex explained; glad to have it off his chest.
“Why would Antonio try to kill you in the first place?”
“Because I’m alive? Because I remind him of his dead wife and daughter, even though we didn’t look alike? Because he hates my guts? You can take your pick of reason.” Alex shrugged, he was far to use to the idea of Antonio hating his guts for things out of his control.
“Had he ever struck or mistreated you before?”
“Almost every day for the last; eight years, nine months and two days. At first it was just emotionally abuse, but about a year into it he started to physically harm me.”
As the hour wore on… Alex wished he never asked that question. Mr Starlight wanted him to go into detail about his years of abuse and neglect… he even wanted to know about Seana’s suicide. At some point he had to ask Lily and Chris to leave the room, because they were crying so much. It was emotionally draining for everyone. At first it was painful to talk about, but like sucking poison out of a wound, it hurt, but it lessened the overall hurt.
After about two hours of questions Mr Starlight sent them on their way, telling Robert that he would be in contact with them… to tell them any updates about the case.
“Wait.” Alex said “Do this mean his still alive?”
“Yes.” Mr Starlight sighed, he should have known that Alex would have asked that question “But he has been arrested and is currently staying in a high security hospital in a coma. Most of the doctors working there don’t think he’ll wake up and if he does, he’ll be going to jail no questions asked. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you this, but I have to, I think it’ll be wise if you don’t have any contact with him.”
Alex nodded, he was going to talk to the person that made the last eight years of his life hell… just because his wife and daughter had passed on, the first five years he understood, but the rest he didn’t. Tia hugged him before grabbing his hand and walking to where Chris and Lily were waiting for them, Robert shaking his head behind them.