Billy saw from a distance the smog hung over Los Angeles like the gloom of the aftermath of a city under attack. Soon he was a part of it. He found Colden Avenue and drove to Willard’s and Ruth’s home.
They sat on the porch enjoying a golden California sunset.
Billy turned into their drive. As he walked near the porch they both started to stand. “Please stay seated,” he said.
“Pull up a chair for yourself, Mr. Smith,” Willard said.
“Thank you,” Billy said and lifted a chair and sat it in front of them. He shook their hands and sat.
“Did you have a chance to visit with your mother?” Ruth said.
“Yes,” Billy said, “but I found some important information; first, she is not my mother and second, I am now able to recall vividly events that will be of importance to you.”
“Is it about Alicia?” Willard said.
“Yes,” Billy said.
“Let me state that the woman in Vinton is bitter and vile,” Billy said.
“We always assumed that,” Willard said.
“And along with that she is a liar,” Billy said.
“That only makes sense,” Ruth said.
“This will be difficult for me to talk about,” Billy said. “It laid dormant in my mind for years. It was held secret in some respects for my own protection and also by the urging of who I believed to be my mother. If you want me to make statements to the police I will be more than willing.”
“It’s been too long ago.” Willard said. “We don’t want our remaining days to be centered around a trial. We want peace and want the truth, that – we can live with.”
“Alicia was the sweetest girl I have ever known,” Billy said. “She was kind, gentle, and understanding. She befriended me because that was who she was. I loved her as much as a fourteen year old boy could and she told me she loved me.”
“Her nature and natural beauty did not escape the man who I thought was my father. He became attracted to her in a perverse way. She told me he made advances toward her. I talked to him privately. He said he was only having fun and teasing, but you don‘t do that. I caught him leering at her and one night trying to watch her undress. It was all very sadistic and sickening.”
“He could not help but talk about her all the time. He bought little gifts and trinkets for her. Marcel became jealous. It was the source of many heated arguments.”
“I asked Alicia to stay away and she did. I came over to your house or we met at school or the pizza place a couple of blocks away.”
“Pete’s,” Ruth said.
“Yes,” Billy said. “That was it.”
“One Saturday,” Billy continued. “I thought Dad had to go to work. I thought Mom drove him to work. I mowed the lawn and Alicia came across the street when I finished. I wheeled the lawnmower inside the garage and she came in with me. We talked and laughed for a while. She smiled at me and I kissed her and she kissed me back. We kissed a couple more times and just suddenly stopped. All of the sudden I thought of flowers. I told Alicia to wait right there in the garage; I had a gift I wanted to give her. I ran out of the garage to the other side of the house. There were flowerers there. I picked some and came back to the garage.”
“I just wanted to see her alone standing in the garage. I wanted to see if she was smiling about the kiss. I looked through the window. My dad was trying to force himself on her. She struggled. I ran for your house. I heard this whoosh. I turned around and flames came from the window. I ran to the door. Alicia was on the floor consumed by fire. Dad was trying to make it to the front of the garage. Nothing could be done for either. Mom stood behind me. She blocked my way to the phone. Eventually I got around her and called the fire department.”
“She tossed five gallons of gas on them and struck a match,” Billy said.
Willard and Ruth held each other and sobbed. Billy hung his head and burst into tears.
“Mom grabbed me and told me if I didn’t forget what I saw it would drive me crazy and I’d someday kill myself over it,” Billy said. “She told me to give it time and you will not have to live with it. Just give it time. She was right. Suddenly it was gone. I forgot it.”
“I’m sorry you have to remember,” Willard said.
“I’m glad I could bring you something that will bring you peace,” Billy said. “She was a good girl.”
“We knew that,” Ruth said. “And we knew you were a good boy too.”
“It is strange,” Billy said, “it is as if it all happened yesterday. It’s not a distant memory.”
“It isn’t for us either,” Willard said. “We always thought the memory would fade until it seemed like their might be some doubt that it happened.”
Ruth reached over and rested her hand on Billy’s knee. “Have you had supper?”
Billy grinned. “Haven’t had a bite all day.”
“Have supper with us, Billy,” Ruth said.
“It will be a pleasure,” Billy said.
“You and Willard sit out her and talk for awhile and I’ll fix us something,” Ruth said.