Grant was at work; he’d just gotten his license to work at a bar, and he had started a job at the Anchor Bar, where a lot of his club mates went. He wanted me to go there soon, and meet the guys, and I was ecstatic. Part of me thought I could even go down and surprise him. He finally was ready to pull me into that side of his life, and I had an entire speech prepared about how much I loved his motorbike and his passions.
The stupid thing was sitting on the kitchen table. It was old and rumpled, as though Grant had flicked through it many, many times. I probably should have left it alone. But I didn’t. I was curious. So I flicked it open. There was an article on top, and I stared at the title that blared out at me.
“Murder Suspect Still at Large”
I remember being surprised and unsure. Why was Grant keeping something like this? The article was slightly yellowed, so it was a few years old. It was dated several years before I met Grant. So I read it, and my heart froze in my chest as key statements leaped out at me.
“Victim found stabbed several times….”
“Police allegedly caught sight of the perpetrator fleeing the scene…”
“The public is asked to keep an eye out for Grant Johnson (19), as he is still at large and possibly dangerous…”
Did Grant murder someone? I flipped frantically through the papers Grant had collected. There were other articles, several about the manhunt from Grant, one about his eventual arrest, and then another detailing the upcoming court case. There was a piece of another that had been ripped to pieces, but I could see, in the small bit that was there, the image of Grant walking beside a man I didn’t recognize, his hands in cuffs. Grant had scrawled all over the words of the article, so I couldn’t even read what was there.
Grant had been hunted for a horrific murder. He had been arrested. He had been put on trial.
It felt like everything I thought I knew was falling down around me. I put the folder down, leaving it where it was, and fled to my friend’s place for the remainder of the weekend.
I tried to talk to Grant about it. But I couldn’t find the words. How did I ask him about something like that? The longer I left it alone, though, the more my terror grew.
Was Grant a murderer?
I rebuffed all his attempts to get me to meet his club mates. Maybe the Roughshod Rollers were actually a gang. Was that why Grant had been so cagey about joining them? Had he found some like-minded individuals that reminded him of the life he had once had?
I tried to investigate it. But each piece of evidence came back more damning. I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t ask Grant. Alex, the only one who knew, who had reluctantly helped me look into it, didn’t seem to want to look much further for me. I felt alone, lost and scared.
And, eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. So I ran. And I tried my hardest not to look back.
But it was impossible. Because, no matter what I tried, Grant and what we once had has haunted me for three years, especially every time I looked at my son.
When we pull up in front of my apartment, I open my eyes and pay the driver, who gives me a painful looking smile (he’s obviously not much of a morning person and I feel sorry that he has to work at this time when he so clearly hates it) and drives off. Then I face my door and breathe in deeply before entering.
The apartment is quiet, of course. The sun has only just started rising. Owen’s bedroom door is cracked open, exactly how he likes it, and I peer in to see him curled around his blankets, deeply asleep. He would have gone to bed not long after I left, though putting him to bed with ice cream in his system would have been a thankless job. He wouldn’t even have noticed that I was missing so long.
I head further into the apartment. My room looks a little messy, with several clothes spilling onto the floor, and I turn to the living room. I’m not surprised to see Hazel splayed out on the couch, snoring gently, dressed in a pair of pajamas that belong to me. She’s been with Owen and me long enough that I can’t even muster the energy to be annoyed that she messed up my room, or that she went through my clothes without permission. I’m just grateful that she found something to wear to bed.
I owe her a massive apology for this.
I head into the kitchen. It’ll mean dealing with a sugar-crazed son all day, but I could do with some pancakes, and I know Hazel’s sweet tooth well enough to know that she’ll appreciate them, too.
It’s as I finish mixing the batter that Hazel wanders in, yawning. It’s still early, but I likely woke her as I moved around the apartment.
“Morning, Hazel,” I say, offering her a sheepish smile.
Hazel’s eyes light up.
“Morning!” she beams. “So, what did you get up to that you didn’t come home last night.”
She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively, and I can’t help but blush. I busy myself with the batter; I can’t even deny it because she’s right.
“Wait, seriously?” Hazel asks incredulously. She grins, eyes bright. “Go, Jessica! I didn’t know you had it in you!”
“It was…a pretty sudden thing,” I say weakly. “It wasn’t planned.”