After a long shower full of vigorous scrubbing, cold splashes of water, and strawberry scented body wash, I was finally clean, with an odd aroma of berries on my body. I changed into some fresh clothes, food splatter free, and headed downstairs. Flo was feeding Alice in the kitchen, managing to get her mouth open, and not spill a single drop on herself. I wondered how she did it, did she have some secret method she'd forgotten to tell me about? Were her and Alice just determined to ruin me? I shook these thoughts away and went to the living room, I could hear George watching a football match in the basement, and couldn't bear the noise.
Delilah was on the sofa, doing something on her phone, her expression blank. She would occasionally sigh, or roll her eyes, but this was all normal for her, so I took no notice of it. I sat down on the other side of the sofa, and flicked through the channels.
News, watched it this morning.
Reality TV, too fake.
Food program, made me hungry.
Soap Opera, way too dramatic.
I sighed, opening the box set to some old drama series and playing that instead. I was on episode three when there was a rotation of the doorknob and a click of the lock. At first I thought it might be the police back again, or Drew Peters making an uninvited visit, but the heavy footprints with a slowing pace informed me it was in fact my dad. Back from his endless nights at the pub, he had returned. I heard his hand heavily lower the keys to the hall table, and ruffle his coat as he carelessly flung it over the banister. I paused my show, and took a small, anxious step outside the door.
His eyes bore soot black rings across their hazy radius, his shoulders were hunched as though tired, and his hands shook timidly with every gesture. He was beyond hung over, he was barely alive. He didn't walk, he stumbled, right into the awaiting arms of Flo.
"Fl...fl...Florida? Is that you?" He mumbled.
"Yes dad, it's me" she assured him, setting him steady. He lent against the counter top, his eyes absent.
"They said horrible things Florida...such dreadful things, they think I killed her...that I did it" he sobbed, clearly far from sober.
"Shh dad, it's okay" she cooed.
"Do you believe them? Do you think I did it" dad said with a start, making us all jump a little.
"No, of course not, we believe you" she promised him, he relaxed.
"I think I could do with a drink..."
"No." Flo shielded the glasses, "I think what you need is, um... a good rest."
"Rest, you'll feel better in the morning, trust me" she urged him up the stairs. He nodded slowly, doing as told. Once he was safely in bed, we all headed into the living room. After all, we needed to talk about the clue hunting I had slaved over babysitting for.
"That was a close one" George lent back, clearly tired.
"We'll need to keep a close eye on him from now on" Flo agreed.
"So, did you find anything?" I got to the point, exhausted, and wanting some hope from this dismal day.
"Not much" Delilah twiddled her thumbs, not looking up from her phone.
"We found something..." George disagreed.
"It was some dumb love note near the bar" she spat at him, looking up from her screen.
"It was from that rat Zach Peters!" George rose his voice a bit, a hint of anger flashed over Dianne's face, but it settled, and she got back to her facetwit, or whatever it was that had her so occupied.
"Whats this?" I asked, curious. Flo handed me a slim slip of dirty paper in reply. I read it.
Your lips are red,
Your eyes are blue,
I was wondering...
If you liked me too?
Meet me inside - Zach P (aka Zachyboo).
It was just an ordinary note. Flirtatious and fun, with an edge of mystery. Very Zach.
"Who was he meeting?" I passed the slip back to Flo.
"We don't know" George grimaced.
"Well, at least it's a clue" I tried to cheer everyone up.
"A pretty rubbish one" Delilah grumbled. Flo glared at her, "I'm going to bed" she announced. She stormed out so fast she left her phone behind.
"Dianne wait..." but she was gone. Then her phone began to buzz, playing its usual pop song ringtone. We all leaned in, then out. Not believing the caller.
It was Zach, Zach peters.
There, on her phone screen, were the words, that shouldn't have been quite so terrifying, but still were.
Zachyboo xoxo is calling.