We step outside as the Police seal off the house with crime scene tape. “Thomas,” Mum shouts, searching for me among the mass of Police officers, paramedics, and curious neighbors who’ve been snapped from their sleep by the wailing sound of sirens.
“Mum,” I say. I leave Lucy’s side and meet her at the end of the pathway. She has Belle cradled in her arms, who’s burying her face in Mum’s cardigan. “Are you alright?” she asks.
I nod. “I’m fine,” I say. “We’re all okay. Dad’s just getting checked over by paramedics, but I think he’s okay.”
“Oh God,” she says. “If you’re okay, I’ll just go see how he is.”
I nod and reach out for Belle. “Here, let me take her. Your arms must be hurting.” She smiles as I take her from Mum’s grasp.
I hoist her up, so her head’s resting over my shoulder. “Hey Belle,” I whisper, trying not to wake her.
She opens her eyes and throws her arms around my neck. “Tommy, you’re back,” she pouts. “Where were you? Why did you leave? Did I do something wrong? Are you going to leave again?”
“Hey, shhhh,” I say. “It’s okay. No, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m back for good now, okay? I’m not going anywhere.” I place my hand to the back of her head and run my fingers through her knotted hair.
“Good,” she smiles. “I love you, Tommy.”
I give her a kiss on the top of her head. “I love you too, Belle.”
She cuddles in to my chest. “Tommy, I’m tired,” she whines.
Lucy smiles and approaches us. “Which is why you and Thomas are coming to my house for tonight.”
Belle turns around to Lucy. “What’s wrong with our house?”
Lucy smiles warmly. “There’s just something that the Police need to do in the house, you’ll be able to go back tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she says, her eyes lighting up. “This is going to be fun, a sleepover at Lucy’s.”
“Yeah,” Lucy says. “It will be.”
As Lenny and Cole approach, Lucy turns to face them. “You guys too. I’ve called my parents and they’re cool with it. Come stay at mine for the night.”
“Are you sure?” Cole asks.
She nods. “You need to stay somewhere tonight. Come on.”
Together, we walk down the pathway and out onto the street. In the bitter cold of the night, we stroll towards Lucy’s house, Belle still resting against my shoulder.
“Right,” Lucy’s dad. “The little one can stay in Lucy’s room with her. Nobody else. No boys.” He gives me a pointed look.
I nod and hand Belle over to her. I turn to her father and crack a smile. “Thank you for letting us stay here, Mr Howard, I really appreciate it.”
“I didn’t,” he states. “My wife agreed without acknowledging me. I didn’t even know you were coming.”
“Dad,” Lucy hisses. Her mother steps into the living room and shoots him a glare. He stalks out of the room and Ms Howard approaches me. “I’m so sorry about him, Thomas. Let’s just say, he’s a little bit protective of Lucy.”
“I understand, Mrs Howard. Thank you so much for letting us stay the night.”
She smiles. “Of course, and if you ever need anything, we’re right here.”
She nods and gestures to the hallway. “One of you can take the spare bedroom. One to the sofa, and the mattress on the floor for one of you boys.” She smiles and heads towards the kitchen.
“Cole,” I say. “Why don’t you take the spare room?”
“Are you sure? Lenny, you don’t want it, do you?”
He shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t mind.”
Cole smiles. “Okay. See you in the morning.”
I turn to Lenny. “Do you want the sofa or the floor?”
“I’ll take the sofa, if you don’t mind.”
I nod and crouch down to the floor. I take a seat. “Lenny, what are you going to do now? With your parents, I mean.”
He looks away. “I don’t know,” he confesses. “I mean, I want to go back home and get back to my life, but they also think I’ve been dead for six years, so I don’t know how to drop the bombshell on them. And also, your dad.”
“Don’t worry about my dad,” I say. “What he did to you and put your parents through was unforgivable, so I say, go for it. They’ll be happy to see you. I think you should go back to your house in the morning.”
He swallows. “Yeah, but what do I say? Hi Mum. Hi Dad. It’s me, Lenny. The son you thought died, but no, it turns out, I’m alive.”
I sigh. “Well, I wouldn’t exactly word it like that, but, yeah, something along those lines.”
He nods. “I do want to see them again,” he says. “But, would you go with me, please?”
“Of course,” I say. “And I know you probably hate my dad, and your parents likely will too, once they find out the truth, but I’m hoping that it won’t affect us being friends.”
“It probably would if they knew,” he tells me. “Which is why I’m not going to tell them. I want us to remain friends, Thomas. And I also don’t want you to get any more backlash because of your family’s mistakes.”
I sit up and look at him, my eyes widened. “But if you’re not going to tell them what really happened, then what are you going to tell--”
“I’ll figure something out,” he sighs. “Anyway, let’s try get some sleep, it’s four in the morning.”
I nod and bring myself to lie down on the mattress as Lenny flicks the light off.
“You ready for this,” I ask Lenny. He nods. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
He takes in a deep breath and raps lightly on the door to his parents’ house. I watch him as he fidgets with his hands and bows his head, waiting for the door to be answered. The doorknob turns and the door swings open. A woman, probably of the mid to late forty age bracket, blinks as she comes face to face with Lenny. Her eyes widen and she darts her eyes to me before diverting her gaze back to him. “Lenny?”
He nods. “Yes, it’s me Mum,” he swallows.
She steps outside the door and approaches him slowly. She wraps her arms around him and pulls him into your chest. “Oh my God, baby, you’re alive.”
“Yeah Mum.” He gives me a quick glance and continues. “It’s a long story and I’ll explain it all to you.”
She nods. “Honey, who is it?” I can hear a voice calling. A tall man pushes the door open and gasps at the sight in front of him. His wife gestures for him to join her. He places an arm over her shoulder and pulls Lenny close to him, so that he’s in the centre of the tight group hug. Slowly, they descend to the ground and his mother bursts out into tears as his father remains completely reticent. I smile faintly and step away from them. I turn back onto the street as the couple guide their long lost son inside the family home.
I step onto the grounds of the graveyard and proceed to Alex’s headstone. Coming to a standstill before the gravel, I bottle the tears that are building in my throat. “Hey mate. It’s been a while since I visited. I’m so sorry about what happened to you. Knowing what I know now, I can’t help thinking that if my dad hadn’t continued to conceal the fact that he knew why the Reaper did what he did, maybe you’d still be here, Alex. For that, and for what my family have done, I’m really really sorry.”
I compose myself and wipe away the tears that have escaped my eyes before continuing. “I promised you I’d take the Reaper down, and I guess I’m here to say that I’ve at least done that much. I know it won’t make everything right and it won’t bring you or any of his other victims back, but at least he’s been stopped now. And I’ll never forget you, Alex, but I think it’s time I start moving on.”
I nod and swallow. I can hear footsteps trudging through the blanket of snow. I glimpse and once I realize that it’s Lucy approaching me, I blink back my tears and turn to face her. “Hey.”
“Hey,” she says, as she stops at my side. She leans into me and stretches her arm across the large of my back. I place my arm over her shoulder and pull her closer to me. “I thought I’d find you here,” she says.
I smile and turn to her. “I’m done now,” I say. “Want to go?”
She nods and I take her hand. As we turn to leave the graveyard, I give Alex’s grave one last glance. “Bye mate.”