Chapter 6 - Zoe
We searched for hours on various websites, even paying for access to some courtroom transcripts, but we just hit a brick wall. Tired of researching, I kept coming back to the story about the unidentified woman found in Howardian Hills. There was a sketch of her alongside the report, a girl with long, brunette hair and large, round eyes. Friendly eyes, I thought, but with heavy bags. She looked aged by life despite her short years that weren’t far off mine.
She’d been stabbed in the neck and back. As if struck from behind unsuspectedly. Preyed upon. She wasn’t sexually assaulted, or at least they hadn’t said she was. The report included that she was in possession of drugs, and the idea of her not making major headlines suddenly made more sense. A lady on the fringes of society wasn’t all that interesting. I suspected she was a runaway. Still, she was someone’s daughter. Yet no one declared her missing. Could my father really be responsible? My skin prickled with uncertainty.
“I’ll keep searching,” Viv announced as I potted about making cups of coffee in a sleep-deprived haze.
“Don’t, you’ve done enough. I’ve been thinking how crazy this all is. I shouldn’t have even involved you. You have your own life to live, I don’t want to drag you into this mess.” I felt awful for how much I’d put on Viv. What would I even do with this information anyway?
“I really don’t mind. It might sound twisted, but I had fun last night. We haven’t had a sleepover in years! It feels good to help, to be of use.”
“To what end though?” I asked. Although deep down, I knew exactly what she meant. Viv and I were bonding like sisters over this investigation. I no longer felt absorbed by my mother’s death; I had a mission. A distraction. A very morbid distraction.
Viv’s expressive eyebrows were back. “You’ve already broken one of your mother’s wishes doing this. Are you going to break any more?”
I sighed, “I don’t know what to do. If I up and leave, where would I go? Then there is you. I don’t want to leave you. I like my life here. I like my shitty job. I like my little house. Besides, I have no savings to start again, even if I wanted to.”
“So what about your dad? Are you going to…to accuse him? I need to know Zoe if you are because it might not be safe. I can come with you. Please tell me if you are!”
“No, absolutely not! I can’t do that. Let’s just keep looking for more information for now and regroup when we find something, then go from there,” I instructed. “Mum said killings. Plural. There must be something else.”
With that, I departed Viv’s house and headed home. With each weighted stride, flashes of my life before my mother’s death spiralled through my thoughts.
I remember one birthday, I think it was my tenth or eleventh, and my dad sat sulking in the living room. It wasn’t unusual for him to not help out with party decorations or buffet prep, but he didn’t move for the entirety of the day. It was like he couldn’t see us. I hadn’t thought about that day in so long. His sagging jowls and glazed eyes took on a sinister tone. I shook my head to quieten the scenes.
My cat was probably dying of starvation by now. As suspected, Barney proceeded to meow around my legs upon entry to my home. I flopped into bed after feeding him, ready to sleep for a hundred hours. I must have only drifted off for a few minutes when my phone started to ring. Looking at my screen, I could see who was calling. It was my father.
“Hi love, where’ve you been? I’ve missed you,” he pleaded as soon as I answered.
It felt so strange. A week ago this man was my world. Now, he was a stranger. A heavy feeling grew in the pit of my stomach.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve just been busy. I need to keep busy you know. It helps. How are you coping?” I tried to sound as normal as possible.
“I get that, I just feel like I’ve done something wrong. I didn’t even get to say bye to you at the funeral. Is everything okay?”
He was dodging my question and going straight for the jugular.
I began to pull at the neck of my top. “You know what, I didn’t feel well that night. I don’t know if it was the booze or my nerves. Viv had to take me home.” Can someone tell that you’re lying over the phone?
“That’s strange, because I went to your place, after the funeral, and you weren’t there.”
It dawned on me; he has a key for my place. He must have let himself in. The thought of him walking around my house, stalking, alone, sent shivers down my spine.
“When I say home, I mean Viv’s home. I didn’t want to be alone. You’ve just woken me from a nap, my mind is all over the place.” I tried to say the last part with a yawn for effect.
“Right. Well as long as we’re good. When can I see you next? You know you left mum’s jacket here? I assume you you wanted it?”
Visions of him putting his grubby hands all over her things made my blood boil. I needed to calm down, play it cool.
“Did I? I’ll come over to get it and see you too. How about tomorrow after work? I could stop for tea if you like?” I tried to sound chirpier, aloof even.
“That would mean the world. It has been lonely around here. I think we need each other right now, don’t you think?” Tears sprang from my eyes. I so desperately wanted him to not be a killer - to just be my father.
Images of my mother, father, and I sitting around a dining table came into view. It was on such an evening Grace announced she was sick. The world swept from under me in an instant. You expect your parents to be an anchor you can always rely on. To help you at every hurdle in life. Boy did I take that for granted. Tomorrow isn’t a given. The day I learnt of my mother’s illness was the day I was confronted with mortality. Then she got better, and I felt hopeful.
“Yes. I agree, I’ll do better. See you tomorrow then. About 5 pm sound good?” I sounded so sincere. Really, I was just defeated.
“Perfect, I’ll rustle up one of your favourites. Bye for now.”
I put the phone down first before he could say his usual final words on a call… love you. Afterwards, I curled up under the duvet willing myself to sleep and wake from this nightmare.