“Alright, alright, sit down. My grandmother always said a cup of sweet tea is the perfect tonic for frayed nerves.” Anna started fussing around with the kettle, clicking it to boil, then fussing with the tea bags.
“I’m a fucking diabetic, Anna.”
Anna stopped and looked at Lucy, hands shaking. It was as though Lucy had just pulled the rug from under her.
“Alright. Then you’ll have brandy in it.”
“I can’t, I’m –“
“YOU’LL HAVE BRANDY IN IT!”
There was silence. The kettle’s hiss as it started to boil filled the silence. Lucy looked down.
“Alright. I’ll have brandy in it.”
“Thank you.” Anna put two teabags into mugs, and leaned forwards, eyes screwed shut against the tears that threatened.
“What do we do, then?” Lucy asked. “I’m in no position to do much more at the moment.”
“I know. I don’t know what to do either.” Anna pressed her lips together. A sob escaped her, and she turned her back fully from Lucy, who twisted her mouth into a vaguely sympathetic grimace. “All I can think about is running away from it all. Hit pause, run, go away. Far away.”
“He’ll be coming for you, though. You know that, right?”
“I’d hoped he’ll have forgotten about me, actually. Ten years in prison is a long time.”
“But he didn’t do anything wrong.” As the kettle clicked, Anna picked it up and poured the scalding water into the mugs. “You were the only one who didn’t believe him.”
“And you were! Come on, Lucy, you’re not squeaky clean yourself! We both told the police outright lies to get rid of him!” Lucy closed her eyes and sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. Anna bit her lip, stirring the teabags in the cups.
“Look. I… I know he’ll come here, at least. That’s why I’m saying we get away for a bit. I hear Cornwall is lovely –“
“WE ARE NOT GOING TO FUCKING CORNWALL TO ESCAPE FROM YOUR FUCKING BROTHER, LUCY, AND THAT’S FINAL!” Anna’s chest heaved. The teaspoon flew past Lucy’s left ear, so fast that she barely had time to register its appearance and disappearance. “Your brother… is a menace. And we lied about him and what he did.”
“My brother could handle prison. Do you think your Michael could? Do you think he’d be okay getting arse shagged every night?! Or battered for being gay?! No! He couldn’t! So it was either Michael goes to prison and gets killed for being – what did that guy call him in court? A disgusting f-“
“Point proven. David could take it. David is strong enough to take it. And yeah, he’ll be pissed off with you. But he’s not a murderer, and I think you forget that sometimes.” Lucy looked at Anna, her eyes huge and hard. She pressed her lips together and sighed. “Michael was the one driving the car that night, and Michael was over the limit. David took the heat for Michael because he knew how hard it would be. He didn’t need you to go and stick nails in his coffin by telling them all it was David who’d clipped the cyclist they found on Stirling Road.”
Anna nodded, looking down. She felt sick to her stomach. That night had been hard enough, but seeing the events unfold… she’d been sure it was Michael’s car. Sure of it.
“I know he won’t take my apology,” Anna replied quietly, after a moment.
“Good. He won’t.” Lucy stood up and moved to the kitchen. She pulled the milk from the fridge. “But stressing about this now won’t get you anywhere.”
“When does he get out?”
“In about six hours, I think. Six o’clock. I’ll go to get him.”
“I know what I saw that night, Loo.”
“And I know that you wanted to do the right thing. But the police were looking for an easy night. I used to work on the force. I know what the paperwork is like on a hit and run that turns to manslaughter. It’s horrible, and that’s without having to hunt down the hitter, find the parents or guardians or family of the victim, and sort out the court case, evidence, and –“
“Alright! I get it…”
“Where’s the brandy?” Lucy started to hunt through the cupboards, but Anna gestured to a wine-rack. Sure enough, a large bottle of brandy was lay in place of wine. Lucy poured out two glasses of the stuff.
“Put it in the tea.”
“Or we can just admit we need it right now and save the tea for the aftertaste?” Anna could only nod. She took the glass from Lucy, and let another tear slide down her cheek.
“Why did you stay friends with me after that, Loo?”
“Because I wasn’t about to throw away thirty years of friendship for this. I know you well enough to know that your moral code is fucking reinforced with steel. Expecting you to sit on that information would have killed you. And I’d rather have a best friend I hate alive and well and here to annoy the shit out of me, than having to stand at your graveside every day wondering why I didn’t just let you tell the police what you saw.”
“I don’t deserve you.”
“No, you don’t, Anana. You really don’t. But here I am. Drink. Down in one. Ready? Three, two, one –“
They downed the drinks, and headed into the living room to enjoy that cup of tea.
A few hours later, Lucy returned to the house, her voice arriving well before the thundering pounding at the door.
“David – DAVID, STOP IT!”
“I’LL FUCKING KILL HER, LOO! GET OFF ME – I’LL KILL HER! TEN YEARS OF MY FUCKING LIFE!”
The door swung open, and Anna stood there, terrified. David pushed past her, throwing her into the wall.
“Fucking hey Dave! Hey Dave! Ten years – ten years of my fucking life and all you can say is ‘I’m sorry’?! I’ve got no fucking life now, Anna! It’s gone! Where’s your brother?!” David was in a rage. “Because when I find him, I’m going to kill him, too.”
“David, seriously, you didn’t miss much. You were unemployed and a stoner and you lived on the dole.”
“More than I fucking had in prison!”
There was a moment of terse silence as David tried to calm himself. Anna, still pressed against the wall, opened her mouth.
“Cup of tea?”