“Lucas, wake up, Lucas.”
I wake to see my father peering over me from my bedside, already dressed. It takes me a second to remember where I am.
“What’s going on?”
“Let’s take a drive. Be ready to leave in ten.”
The urgency in his voice propels me upright. I stretch my arms and arch my back before throwing the covers off my body. How can I ache?
Leaving the duvet unmade, I decide to throw on a pair of dark blue denim jeans and a polo shirt. I’d almost forgotten the heavenly lavender scent of my mum’s laundry. As my nose inhales the delicious aroma, a soft knock ripples across my door and my dad returns encouraging me to hurry up. After furiously brushing my teeth and sighing longingly at the shower I don’t have time for, I flurry down the stairs to push on my sneakers.
“Where are we going?” I ask in between tying my laces.
“Just follow me.”
We venture to our driveway out front. My dad inserts the car key into the driver door and tells me to get in. Diligently, I swing the passenger door ajar and take a seat. The car smells fusty from baking in the sun. The dense heat envelops my skin making me feel claustrophobic.
“So?” I turn and say to him as he buckles in behind the steering wheel and I wind down the window.
“We are going for a drive.”
“I can see that, but where are we driving to exactly?”
He turns his face towards the road and pushes down on the acceleration, “Richmond.”
“Richmond? Am I allowed to go to Richmond?”
“If we are back by 8 pm you are.”
We edge away from my neighbourhood, and I watch the houses of the street grow ever smaller in the wing mirror. Where is Fred Andrews? I haven’t noticed him or Janice since returning home. Has their marriage suffered since my allegations? If so – good. That’s exactly what Fred deserves. Janice doesn’t need a paedophile as a husband. Sophia doesn’t need a paedophile as a father.
The road stretches straight beyond us now, a line of grey concrete fringed with the odd boxy shop and petrol station. The grass near the sidewalks is parched straw yellow. Although it isn’t officially Summer, we’ve had weeks of sunshine and no rain. So I’ve heard at least. Within my peripheral vision, I catch my dad reaching for the radio. My fingers stop him from pressing the button. We need to talk before the insistent mumbling of music can drown out our thoughts.
“Where does mum think we are going?” I say, my eyes still fixated on the road.
“I left her a note. I worried if she knew what we were doing then she’d try and stop us but once we set off she couldn’t intervene.”
“What are we doing?”
I can tell by my dad’s expression that he’s ready to spill the beans. The question is, am I ready to hear it? He doesn’t give me much time to prepare before he unleashes his secret.
“She accidentally ran someone over, back in Richmond, and Fred helped to cover it up. She’s frightened that he’ll expose her to the police if she confesses what’s really going on behind closed doors.”
My head can’t stop shaking in dismay. I need to know one question, “Did they die? The person she ran over?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch as my dad’s profile nods.
My eyes close tight and a groan escapes my lips. Forcefully, my clenched hand punches the side door of the car, and I recoil from the instant pain.
“Fuck!” I explode in response to the throbbing, and at the dire situation I find myself in, and at the revelation of Sophia’s indiscretion. Who is this girl? Did I ever really know her? The whole state of affairs is so messed up. Ultimately, I’m fucked.
“I’m obviously going to let that language slide, given the context.”
As my blood shimmers, doubt begins to set in.
“Why are we going to Richmond? What’s the point?”
“I think we need to track down friends of Sophia and see what they can remember from the crash. Maybe they can attest to Fred’s demeanour. She might have disclosed her abuse. Then we’d have witnesses to support our case.” As my dad speaks I hang my head between my legs, this is such a lost cause. “It is worth a shot, Lucas. You’re worth a shot,” he declares sternly.
What have I got to lose? I sit back against my seat and smile a half-smile for just a split second. It is long enough for my dad to respond with a much larger and more positive grin. This time when his hand reaches for the radio dial, I let it turn. The car fills with the sounds of Motown and my father rhythmically tapping along to the beat. Having a plan, as dismal as the plan may be, cloaks me with a sense of optimism. The optimism is wafer thin, but it is there. Maybe, just maybe, we might be able to find a way out of this web of lies.