‘No, I just think of her,’ said Rachel in a flat, shut-the-hell-up voice. She certainly wasn’t going to let her feelings loose in front of Lauren. ‘We can go in a moment. It’s very nippy. We don’t want Jacob getting a chill.’
It was ridiculous bringing Jacob here. On this day. To this park. Perhaps in future she’d do something else to mark the anniversary of Janie’s death. Go to her grave like they did on her birthday.
She just had to get through this endless day and then it would be done, for another year. Let’s just move it along. Come on minutes. March on by until it’s midnight.
‘Do you want to say something, honey?’ Lauren asked Rob.
Rachel nearly said, ‘Of course he doesn’t’, but she stopped herself in time. She looked at Rob and saw he was looking up at the sky, stretching his neck out like a turkey, gritting those strong white teeth, his hands awkwardly clenched across his stomach as if he was having a fit.
He hasn’t been here, realised Rachel. He hasn’t been to the park since she was found. She took a step towards him, but Lauren got there first, and took his hand.
‘It’s okay,’ she murmured. ‘You’re okay. Just breathe, honey. Breathe.’
Rachel watched, helpless, as this young woman she didn’t really know that well comforted her son, who she probably didn’t know that well either. She watched how Rob leaned towards his wife, and she thought of how little she knew, had ever really wanted to know, about her son’s grief. Did he wake Lauren with nightmares that twisted the sheets? Did he speak quietly in the darkness to her, telling stories about his sister?
Rachel felt a hand on her knee and looked down.
‘Grandma,’ said Jacob. He beckoned to her.
‘What is it?’ She bent down and he cupped a hand over her ear.
‘Juice,’ he whispered. ‘Please?’
The Fitzpatrick family slept late. Cecilia woke first. She reached for her iPhone sitting on the bedside table and saw that it was half-past nine. Dishwater-grey morning light flooded through their bedroom windows.
Good Friday and Boxing Day were the two precious days of the year when they never scheduled anything. Tomorrow she’d be frantic, preparing for the Easter Sunday lunch, but today there would be no guests, no homework, no rushing, not even grocery shopping. The air was chilly, the bed warm.
John-Paul murdered Rachel Crowley’s daughter. The thought settled on her chest, compressing her heart. She would never again lie in bed on a Good Friday morning and relax in the blissful knowledge that there was nothing to do and nowhere to be, because for the rest of her life there would always, always be something left undone.
She was lying on her side, with her back up against John-Paul. She could feel the warm weight of his arm across her waist. Her husband. Her husband, the murderer. Should she have known? Should she have guessed? The nightmares, the migraines, the times when he was so stubborn and strange. It wouldn’t have made any difference, but it made her feel somehow negligent. ‘That’s just him,’ she’d tell herself. She kept replaying memories of their marriage in light of what she now knew. She remembered, for example, how he’d refused to try for a fourth child. ‘Let’s try for a boy,’ Cecilia had said to him when Polly was a toddler, knowing that both of them would have been perfectly happy if they’d ended up with four girls. John-Paul had mystified her with his stubborn refusal to consider it. It was probably yet another example of his self-flagellation. He’d probably been desperate for a boy.
Think of something else. Maybe she should get up and make a start on the baking for Sunday. How would she cope with all those guests, all that conversation, all that happiness? John-Paul’s mother would sit in her favourite armchair, full of righteousness, holding court, sharing the secret. ‘It was all such a long time ago,’ she’d said. But it must feel like yesterday to Rachel.
Cecilia remembered with a lurch that Rachel had said today was the anniversary of Janie’s death. Did John-Paul know that? Probably not. He was terrible with dates. He didn’t remember his own wedding anniversary unless she reminded him; why would he remember the day he killed a girl?
‘Jesus Christ,’ she said softly to herself as the physical symptoms of her new disease came rushing back: the nausea, the headache. She had to get up. She had to somehow escape from it. She went to throw back the covers and felt John-Paul’s arm tighten around her.
‘I’m getting up,’ she said without turning to face him.
‘How do you think we’d cope financially?’ he said into her neck. He sounded hoarse, as if he had a terrible cold. ‘If I do go to . . . without my salary? We’d have to sell the house, right?’
‘We’d survive,’ answered Cecilia shortly. She took care of the finances. Always had. John-Paul was happy to be oblivious to bills and mortgage payments.
‘Really? We would?’ He sounded doubtful. The Fitzpatricks were relatively wealthy and John-Paul had grown up expecting to be better off than most people he knew. If there was money around, he quite naturally assumed it must emanate from him. Cecilia hadn’t deliberately misled him about how much money she’d been earning the last few years; she just hadn’t got around to mentioning it.
He said, ‘I was thinking that if I’m not here, we could get one of Pete’s boys to come around and do odd jobs for you. Like clearing the gutters. That’s really important. You can’t let that go, Cecilia. Especially around bushfire season. I’ll have to do a list. I keep thinking of things.’