‘Yes,’ said Cecilia. She curled her fingers around the slats of the bench seat and watched her daughters as their faces simultaneously dissolved into laughter over something they were watching on the television. ‘Intolerable is a pretty good word for it.’
‘All day at work, I was thinking, how can I fix this? How can I make it better for you?’ He came over and sat next to her. She felt the welcoming warmth of his body next to hers. ‘Obviously I can’t make it better. Not really. But I wanted to say this to you: if you want me to turn myself in, I will. I’m not going to ask you to carry this too, if you can’t carry it.’
He took her hand and squeezed it. ‘I’ll do whatever you want me to do, Cecilia. If you want me to go straight to the police or to Rachel Crowley, then that’s what I’ll do. If you want me to leave, if you can’t bear to live in the same house as me, then I’ll leave. I’ll tell the girls we’re separating because – I don’t know what I’ll tell the girls, but I’d take the blame, obviously.’
Cecilia could feel John-Paul’s whole body shaking. His palm was sweaty over hers.
‘So you’re prepared to go to jail. What about your claustrophobia?’ she asked.
‘I’d just have to deal with it,’ he said. His palm got sweatier. ‘It’s all in my head anyway. It’s not real.’
She flicked his hand away with a sudden feeling of revulsion, and stood.
‘So why didn’t you put up with it before? Why didn’t you turn yourself in before I even knew you?’
He lifted his palms and looked up at her with a contorted, pleading face. ‘I can’t really answer that, Cecilia. I’ve tried to explain. I’m sorry –’
‘And now you’re saying I get to make the decision. It’s nothing to do with you any more. Now it’s my responsibility whether Rachel hears the truth or not!’ She thought of the blue crumb on Rachel’s mouth and shuddered.
‘Not if you don’t want it to be!’ John-Paul was almost in tears now. ‘I was trying to make things easier for you.’
‘Can’t you see that you’re making it my problem?’ cried Cecilia, but the rage was already fading, to be replaced by a great wave of despair. John-Paul’s offer to confess made no difference. Not really. She was already accountable. The moment she’d opened that letter she’d become accountable.
She sank back down on the bench on the opposite side of the cabana.
‘I saw Rachel Crowley today,’ she said. ‘I dropped off her Tupperware. She said she had new evidence that implicates Janie’s murderer.’
John-Paul’s head jerked up. ‘She couldn’t have. There’s nothing. There is no evidence.’
‘I’m just telling you what she said.’
‘Well then,’ said John-Paul. He swayed a little, as if he was having a dizzy spell, and briefly closed his eyes. He opened them again. ‘Maybe the decision will be made for us. For me.’
Cecilia thought back to exactly what Rachel had said. Something like: ‘I’ve found something that proves who killed Janie.’
‘This evidence she’s found,’ said Cecilia suddenly. ‘It might actually implicate someone else.’
‘In that case, I’d have to turn myself in,’ said John-Paul flatly. ‘Obviously I would.’
‘Obviously,’ repeated Cecilia.
‘It just seems unlikely,’ said John-Paul. He sounded exhausted. ‘Doesn’t it? After all these years.’
‘It does,’ agreed Cecilia. She watched as he lifted his head and turned towards the back of the house to look at the girls. In the silence, the sound of the pool filter became loud. It didn’t sound like a choking baby. It sounded like the wheezing breaths of something monstrous, like an ogre from a child’s nightmare, creeping around their house.
‘I’ll look at that filter tomorrow,’ said John-Paul, his eyes fixed on his daughters.
Cecilia said nothing. She sat and breathed in time with the ogre.
‘This is sort of the ultimate second date,’ said Tess.
She and Connor were sitting on a low brick wall overlooking Dee Why Beach, drinking hot chocolate in takeaway cups. The bike was parked behind them, the chrome gleaming in the moonlight. The night was cold but Tess was warm in the big leather jacket Connor had lent her. It smelled of aftershave. ‘Yeah, it normally works like a charm,’ said Connor.
‘Except you already scored with me on the first date,’ said Tess. ‘So you know, you don’t need to waste all your seductive charms.’
She sounded odd, as if she was trying out someone else’s personality: one of those sassy, feisty girls. Actually, it was like she was trying to be Felicity and not doing a very good job of it. The magical, heightened sensations she’d felt on the bike seemed to have dissipated, and now she felt awkward. It was too much. The moonlight, the bike, the leather jacket and the hot chocolate. It was horribly romantic. She’d never been fond of classic romantic moments. They made her snicker.
Connor turned to look at her with a deadly serious expression. ‘So you’re saying the other night was a first date.’ He had grey, serious eyes. Unlike Will, Connor didn’t laugh a lot. It made his occasional deep chuckles all the more precious. See, quality, not quantity, Will.
‘Oh, well,’ said Tess. Did he think they were dating? ‘I don’t know. I mean –’