Friday, July 4, 2014
"What have I told you about using slang in the office?"
"Do it when I have doughnuts?"
"Ha ha. Very funny. What do you have for me?"
"Well, there's been a development in the William Spears case."
"Oh, I'm all ears."
"The boy who confessed to doing the deed, Elias Connor, was found dead in his home last night."
"Breaking news. Right to your TV. Oregon News."
"Baby, turn it up."
Kenton turned up the television as they ate breakfast in the living room.
"Tragedy has struck our city once again. A child has been found dead due to a series of events started by a freak electrical accident."
The news, in the greatest act of dignity and tact, showed paramedics wheeling a gurney with a sheet-covered lump and placing it into the ambulance.
"It's… just… something that you don't expect every day. Elias was the kind of kid that would make sure to take the proper precautions…" a neighbor said to the field reporter. Kenton did a double take. Surely, they couldn't have meant…
"Did… they just say…"
"The coroner has indeed confirmed that the boy found is named Elias Conner. Connor, thirteen, resided in the house with his parents."
"…Oh, my God." Charmaine said as she raised her hands to her mouth.
"No… NO. NO." Kenton shouted out as he saw more interviews and a statement from the local fire chief.
"Kenton… baby…" Charmaine said, trying to help her son process the fact that his best friend was now dead.
"No! This isn't real!" Kenton yelled as he shook off the hand on his shoulder. He walked into his room and slammed the door.
Charmaine didn't know what to do. She could only keep her hands to her mouth and weep silently.
Three hours later, Kenton found himself walking around the town. He walked down the street where Elias once lived. Just like Mia, he was never invited inside. It was almost as if Elias was trying to shield him from something.
The front of the house was surrounded by yellow tape as several squad cars were parked in the driveway and on the street in front of the house. On the opposite corner from where Kenton stood was Olivia, sitting on her bike.
"Olivia!" he shouted as he ran over to her.
"Are you okay?" she said as she wrapped her arms around him. As the two friends shared a quick hug, Kenton didn't have an answer.
"What was he doing when it happened?"
Olivia could only shrug.
"…How's she doing?"
"I can't find her."
"What do you mean?"
"She's not home. Her parents didn't know until I told them. It's almost like the whole park incident made them… well, indifferent to whatever could happen to him."
"Damn it." Kenton uttered as he looked down at the ground. Elias was going to be remembered as an "attempted murderer" and it was all his fault.
"Well, if her parents didn't know, then maybe she doesn't know?"
"I don’t know. Did you hear it from the news?"
"Yeah…" Kenton breathed out as he remembered just how tasteless they were.
"Me too. I don't want her to see it."
"Why did those idiots have to show his body?"
"Well, he was under a blanket…"
"I don't care!"
Olivia didn't know how to react to this. Kenton was always a mild-tempered person. Death can apparently change people more than we think.
"Well, what are we going to do?"
"I dunno. Find her, maybe?"
"Where would we even begin?"
The two of them took off and searched high and low for Mia. The grocery store, the restaurant, the school, the school playground, all turned up nothing.
"I… hope that she's okay…" Olivia said as they met up back at Kenton's house. Charmaine had already left to open the restaurant for the lunch shift.
"Do you want something to drink?" Kenton asked as Olivia wiped some sweat off her brow.
"Sure… are you sure it's going to be okay? I mean, for me to be here without your mom?"
Kenton gave her a look that said "Really? You have to ask that now?"
The two went up the stairs and into the above-garage apartment. Kenton clicked on the television before opening the fridge.
"Breaking news has come out of the Conner family case."
Kenton turned his attention to the television.
"It appears that there was some sort of illegal manufacturing going on in the house. The parents of Elias Conner have been taken into custody. The Police commissioner will be giving a statement shortly."
"You have got to be kidding me…" Kenton quietly said. This day was just continuing to pile on the shocking news. Grabbing the two glasses from the counter, Kenton sat down next to Olivia on the couch and set the drinks on the coffee table.
"Did… he know?"
"I'm fairly sure that he did. Think about it. He always quickly shot down anytime anyone suggested that we hang out at his house. Mia was never allowed inside." Olivia said as her brain tried its best to process the information that was just released.
"So… what happens now?"
"What do you mean?"
"Who's going to have the funeral if his parents are in jail? They're just going…"
"…going to what?"
"They'll… just cremate him and throw his ashes in a field!" Olivia said as the tears finally started running out of her eyes. That thought horrified the boy and it took a few good seconds for him to recompose himself so that he would not start crying, too.
There was nothing that Kenton could say to console her. There was nothing that said that wouldn't happen. They knew that Elias wouldn't have done anything like this, so why in the hell wouldn't he get the farewell that he deserved?
"Well, ready to head back out? Now we really have to find Mia before she sees this!"
Olivia nodded and wiped away the tears that had already fallen before getting up. Kenton did a little better job but thinking about that couldn't prevent the couple of tears that fell from his eyes.
The two of them walked out of the house and down Jaguar Street. As they passed the restaurant, they could hear several people walking out and talking about everything that was going down. It made Kenton feel a little better that they were talking about the fact that Elias was a victim of horrible parents and not the "attempted murderer" reputation that he feared would stick forever.
"Kenton, look! That's Mia's mom's car!" Olivia said as she saw a red car pull up and parallel park in front of the video store across the street. The owner walked out and talked to the lady as the two kids crossed Jaguar Street.
"I am so sorry… I don't know why she's being a handful."
"It's okay. I've seen her in here a lot with that Elias kid recently. I understand."
"Mrs. Kleve, is everything okay?" Olivia asked the woman as they approached.
"It's Mia. I got a call saying that she's refusing to leave the video store."
"Is it alright if I go in and talk to her?"
Mrs. Kleve looked up at the video store owner who nodded.
"Stay here. I'll handle this." Olivia said to Kenton before going into the building.
She looked up and down every aisle until she came across the fantasy movie aisle on the far end of the building. Mia, her eyes puffy and red from crying, was sitting against the wall clutching a video.
"So… you've heard?" Olivia awkwardly asked as she approached Mia carefully. Mia could only nod while holding back a sob. With a silent sigh, Olivia sat down next to her best friend and wrapped a gentle arm over her shoulder.
"The… the… last time I saw him… was on a stretcher…" Mia said before breaking down into tears. Olivia wanted to go punch the living daylights out of that field reporter for doing that. Someone was going to hear about that, for sure.
"And now… everyone's saying that he was the heir of a criminal empire!"
"Mia, two people does not make for a criminal empire!"
"Why… didn't he tell me? We could have saved him!"
"I know, Mia."
"And they're saying that William bastard is going to be okay."
Normally, Olivia would politely ask Mia to watch her language, but this was not the time as Olivia had a few worse adjectives in mind for him.
"Mia, we can talk about this later, but we have to get out of here."
"Right over there… that's where I first realized that I liked him." Mia said, pointing to a spot on the shelf where Elias was looking at a movie (the same one she was clutching in her hand) during that day when she discovered that Kenton had left that valentine in Olivia's locker.
"I don't want to go. It's like I feel his presence here."
"Mia, what would Elias be saying to you if he knew that you were sitting here?"
"He… he would be embarrassed and trying to pretend… not to know me…"
Mia started crying yet again and Olivia embraced her in a hug and offered her a shoulder to cry on.
Outside, the owner looked at the time on his cell phone.
"I apologize, sir, for causing you so much trouble."
The man shrugged and said "It's okay. I know your mom. I also know what you all have gone through."
"This Elias kid… I just don't know. He started off being the perfect guy for Mia, but now it seems like he was bad news."
Kenton's eye twitched a bit at that remark.
"I'll have you know; Elias was a good person. The alleged 'victim' was threatening us with a knife! If Elias hadn't done what he had done, we might not be here!"
Mrs. Kleve fell into silence.
"Yeah, but can you tell me where that is stated in the news? You can’t because it was never said! That's the horrible thing about this mess! Nobody's getting the right story, and I'm sick of it!" Kenton said loudly as he felt more tears coming on.
Mrs. Kleve turned to the video store owner who nodded and said "The lady who runs that there restaurant is his mother, Charmaine. She's told me exactly what he's telling me right now. I believe him."
Just as the lady started to nod, the door opened, and Mia walked out with Olivia behind her.
"Mom… I'm so sorry…" Mia said as she ran into her arms.
"No, I'm sorry… I'm sorry that your father and I kept you away from him. This boy… what is your name?"
"Kenton Hayes, mam."
"Kenton told me everything. Did Elias ever tell you… about…?"
"No. He didn't."
"Well… let's get away from this store… I'm sure this man's wanting to close up for the day…"
"How about we go over to my mom's place?" Kenton said as he pointed across the street.
The group made their way over there just as Charmaine was finishing up the lunch rush. Despite the circumstances, she remained open and served lunch for the group and they sat around the biggest table in the place.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The next few days were hectic. Elias's parents were about as uncooperative as you could imagine a couple of criminals to be and they wanted the state to cremate his body just to be done with it. While the state had to follow his parent's wishes, Charmaine and the Kleves came together and bought a small gravestone with a small plot of land in the graveyard.
Elias's parents didn't have very many friends and the few family that remained in the area were withdrawn over time. A cousin of Elias's father stepped forward and claimed custody of the remains, allowing his ashes to be interred at the grave marker.
Then came the day of the funeral. The clergyman gave his words and then it was time for the eulogy, Kenton stood up and took a deep breath. Originally, it was going to be Mia, but she wisely decided to hand the task off due to her own fear that she wouldn't be able to hold herself together.
"Elias Conner… he was a good person… a good son… and above all, a good friend. He was willing to give up the few comforts in his life to ensure that his friends were unharmed. He was always ready to make you laugh or to at least make you smile on the worst days of your life. Although he was quiet, when he talked, he was often insightful and supportive every step of the way…"
Kenton wasn't the best at giving speeches, but for Elias, he was going to try. If a quiet and awkward boy could go up in front of hundreds of people and make them laugh, then it was all he could to make it through this one brief speech. Every word felt like a step through a swamp with a million-ton weight on his shoulders.
"…And for all of that we'll always be grateful of everything Elias brought into our lives. We'll miss you, Elias."
Kenton couldn't take it anymore, he walked off back to his seat. Charmaine wrapped her arm around her son as he finally started to have his first real cry over this situation.
The funeral ended and one-by-one people started to leave. First it was the relatives and the random assortment of people from all around town that started to go. Then Olivia, followed by Kenton and Charmaine.
"Do you want to be alone right now?" Mr. Kleve said as they stood up. Mia shook her head and her two parents started to walk ahead of her.
She stopped and took one more look at the marker that was placed on his grave.
ELIAS A. CONNOR
AUGUST 1, 2000 – JULY 3, 2014