I was there when he was arrested. We were at a beach party. A birthday party I think, for whom I can’t remember. We were sitting side by side on the cool sand. It was dark and there were people teeming around us. I remember the smell of faint sea salt and bonfire. Sid was with us, he and Fox were talking about fast cars and I was trying not to notice that the girl Sid had brought with him couldn’t take her eyes off of Fox.
I don’t remember the cop cars pulling up, but I remember the sound of everyone fleeing. The cops weren’t busting anyone for possession or for underage drinking. They were here on a mission. My father was leading the charge, he had been police chief for ten years now. It had never bothered me before, not even when I didn’t get invited to parties, or when I was given dirty looks.
“Fitzwilliam Harold Royal,” one of the cops called. I stopped breathing. “You’re under arrest for the murder of Barry Jacobson.” They pushed him down on the ground and pulled his hands behind his back. Everything stopped. Then suddenly, Sid and I were screaming, we were livid, Sid was yelling at one of the officers and I was pushing against another one. They had pulled Fox onto his feet and were marching him towards a squad car.
Suddenly arms were around me, I knew it was my father because I could smell his aftershave but I wouldn’t look at him. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Fox. If I took my eyes off of him I would lose him forever. My father was reaching for his cuffs but someone stopped him. I was let go. Fox was in a cop car, it didn’t matter that my father was standing in front of me yelling something about impeding an investigation, I couldn’t focus on him anyway.
All I could see was Fox, the rest of the world was slowly falling away. I was frantic, I don’t think I remember breathing, or running, or collapsing. He was gone, the car had disappeared from the beach, he was no longer in sight.
“Lyla! Did you hear me?” Someone shouted behind me. It was my father. “Get in the car, or I’ll have you arrested.”
I held out my arms and looked him dead in the eyes.
“Lyla, don’t be such a child. Get in the car.”
“I said no.” I backed up farther from him. His partner whispered something in his ear and he started to relent.
“I have to get back to the station, go home now, I’ll have someone follow you there.” Then he was gone.
Sid was getting back to his feet, he had calmed down but the fight was still behind his eyes. I had lost, I was numb. Fox was gone and there was nothing I could do.
“Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
We walked to his car in silence. I realized now I didn’t have any shoes on but it was too dark to find them. I shivered against the cold as I climbed into Sid’s truck. Wherever his date was, she was gone. Everyone was gone. Fox was gone.
“He didn’t do it.” Sid said finally, he was quiet and the wind made it hard to hear him. I didn’t know if I could speak. If I would speak, I didn’t know what words I would use. “He couldn’t have done it. I mean even if he did, it would have been in self-defense, we all know what that bastard does.”
I nodded slowly but I didn’t say anything. Soon enough we were back at my house.
“Take care of yourself okay? Don’t do anything stupid.” Sid said as I got out.
“You too Sid, be good.” He smiled weakly and drove off.
My father wasn’t home yet. The house was dead, I felt like I was dead. I was sticky from being in sunblock all day and my hair still smelled like a bonfire but I didn’t bother washing the day away. I wanted to hold onto whatever I could. I crawled into my room slowly and went to the back of my closet where I had thrown one of Fox’s old sweatshirts that I had stolen from his room.
I pulled it on and crawled into bed.
Fox wasn’t violent, he couldn’t be even if he wanted to. For all we knew this was only a precaution. But that wasn’t true. I had been the daughter of a cop my whole life, I knew they didn’t make arrests unless they knew they had caught the guy.
And I knew what that meant, that meant that he was gone. Fox was gone. Fox was gone.