Content Warning: although there is not any rough physical abuse happening during the chapter, one character spend the whole chapter with a visible black eye given to her by her mother. It’s more of a gruesome reminder but it’s still gruesome.
It was early one summer afternoon at the Carlton residence, and Franco walked up to the gate. Past it, there was Hannah, in a bright teal sundress. She seemed content playing with her teddy bear in the summer sun, but as he got closer, he noticed a huge, red bruise over her left eye.
“Does she do that all the time?” he asked her, while peering over the fence. She dropped her teddy bear.
“Franco! I mean, you’re not supposed to be here, or see this.” Hannah tried to turn around and cover her face, but it seemed like she was caught. “She…mum usually gives me makeup for this. At least I feel pretty then.”
“How about we run away?” he asked her. “Don’t you have a bike?”
“When you’re dressed up with a tie? And what if she’s watching me right now?” Franco ducked behind the fence before he could give an answer, as the soft purr of Sofia’s sports car started. She drove away, leaving Hannah alone. But alone with the chubby, well-dressed pink boy who cared about her.
“I don’t think she is now,” Franco said, with a cheeky, fang-filled grin. “Like, we gotta have family around here somewhere. Someone’s better than what we have.”
“Like your uncle Dudley?”
“Yeah, like him. But, I wanna have some fun first.” He climbed to the top of the gate and perched on it, reaching a hand out to Hannah.
After the challenge of escaping, they could use some fun.
Funny enough, going to the Summer Festival downtown was a good coverup for the two of them. Hannah’s mother hated fun and whimsy, while Franco’s parents would just be busy with their work. Therefore, they could have fun in the sun without worrying about being caught.
Due to being two rich kids, they carried money on them at all times. Both of them certainly carried enough to pay for face paint and a snow cone each. As for Franco, what he thought was a new life gave him a much sunnier outlook. He smiled a lot while licking off shavings of blue ice, and especially when he glanced over to Hannah.
In spite of her injured face, Hannah seemed to have as much fun as any other kid would. And that was enough to warm her friend’s heart.
“I didn’t even get breakfast today,” said Hannah. “Not that I usually do.”
“So what are you planning?” Franco asked. She pointed at the table for the eating contest, already set with piles of hot dogs.
“Please, Hannah, they’re not even good for sausages and they taste terrible,” he said.
“Come on! I don’t know when I’ll eat again. And I wanna do it with you.”
That turned out to be enough to convince Franco. He got the plate next to Hannah, and wondered if he stood a chance against the older teens next to him.
Hannah got shoveling down fast, but only after telling everybody that she was clearly the best in the contest. She got shoveling down fast, but there was only so much a skinny little girl could eat.
Less than halfway through, and Hannah ran away from the table to throw seven hot dogs up. Franco, having eaten enough himself, decided to walk to her aid.
“I just wanted to win something,” she said.
“Well, you can try beating me at Gnubb,” he said.
“But, I know you’ll win at that. And I shoulda known I couldn’t eat all those dogs either. I just…maybe if I run away, I’ll feel important about something. But it ain’t working!”
Franco grabbed her shoulders, to try and reassure her. “You’re important to me. And you’re pretty good at doing that.” He tried to walk away before getting caught in a hug from behind.
“Thank you, Franco!” Hannah squealed, giving her strongest hug to him. “And you’re great too. You didn’t even throw up those hot dogs.”
Well, five minutes later he did. But that just gave him an empty stomach for everything else they vowed to do there. Spinning around together on the roller rink, bouncing on the trampoline. Kicking a few soccer balls at each other. They planned to stay until the Saturday fireworks later that night, and then head off to wherever two kids could go to.
Around sunset, they found themselves in a water balloon fight against Kermit Greenwood and Carmen’s older brother
And Franco unwound and threw those balloons with all his might. That was, until, a small dog approached and sniffed around.
Twinbrook wasn’t lacking for small dogs, but it just happened that the one he knew the best bounded towards them.
Peanut, with his tongue out and short tail wagging, looked happy to see Franco. And while he was trying to run away from everyone, including Peanut, it was pretty impossible to hate that old spaniel. Though it seemed unusual for him to be so far away from home. He never seemed to leave the yard out of laziness.
Regardless of Peanut acting like a different dog, Franco stopped the game to greet him.
“Tired of them too?” he asked the dog. Peanut wagged his tail more. “I bet. Come here, you.”
The small dog jumped into Franco’s arms for a hug, and it was a normal hug for a while. “I bet you can fit in Hannah’s bike basket,” he said, but the world got more blurry.
Peanut jumped out of his arms. As it turned out, the dog snatched Franco’s glasses and started a route back home. Franco, being himself, moped.
Hannah tried to approach him. “Everything okay?” she asked. “I’d be happy to see your dog, you know.”
“He got my glasses and now I can’t even see the road,” he said, sighing. “How can I run away now?”
“C’mon, you can still see the route. And you can see me, right?”
The most important things about her were still there.
Hannah led the way as they left the festival a little early. As it turned out, eating enough hot dogs for a year meant nothing if they ended up on the grass no matter what. So they needed to find a place for the night, where no one would find them. Where neither of their families would even dare to go.
As the stars lit up the dark sky, those two wealthy children ventured into the dank swamps of Twinbrook and searched for a porch light. Tucked away in the grass and trees was one single house that looked occupied at all. There weren’t any cars parked nearby, but the lights were all on.
It was worth a shot. They left their bikes near the streetlight and ran up to ring the doorbell.
And their simple request was answered.
A pale, lanky man in a camo-print henley shirt answered the door with a friendly smile. “And what brings these two young’ins here tonight?” he asked them.
“We ran away” was the simple answer.
“Aww shucks, I remember tryin’ that. But I think I can keep you two for the night.” He didn’t mention anything about Hannah until she entered the house and full indoor lighting. The burgundy-colored mark stood out against her golden skin. Too much for anyone to ignore.
“Jesus, what happened to you?” the man asked.
Franco was about to answer until Hannah interjected. “Took a bad fall. I’m fine.”
Poor Franco. That guy might have benefited from knowing the truth. Maybe he’d have enough sympathy to keep them for longer! As much as the cheap furniture horrified Franco, he took solace in the large chance that their host wasn’t a criminal.
“So I’m Mr. Bayless, but you kids can call me Tay,” he said. “How ‘bout some dinner? I caught one huge flathead today.”
On that warm summer night, they could sit outside and have fun swatting away the mosquitoes. Meanwhile, Tay took some filets to the grill.
“Do you always look that happy?” Franco asked.
“Ma never lets me do this!” he said. “She’s always on the grill, but it’s just us tonight. What, are you never happy?”
“Why should I be? My parents are criminals and my best friend got hit by-” Hannah had to cut him off.
“It was a railing,” she said.
“Fine,” Franco grumbled. “But mum steals cars and dad supports her! Why should I listen to them or be happy with it?”
Franco did not get an answer, considering that Tay seemed to have a bigger emergency.
“Aww shit, this is why I never do this!” he cried out, trying to fan the smoke away. But it was too late. His flathead pieces were blackened to a crisp and not in the appetizing way. “Sorry y’all had to hear that. I’ll do something else.”
Mac n’ cheese from a box it was! He had a lot more success with that, considering that it was served at its intended bright orange and not black. For those two hungry kids, it worked as well as a plate of steamed hot dogs, but they managed to keep the pasta down.
Franco tried to encourage Hannah to be truthful about what happened. “Maybe he can do something about her, get her in trouble,” Franco whispered.
“No, she told me not to. She had a knife out when she did,” Hannah said. “I’m sorry, Franco.”
She was finished enough with her bowl, and got up from the table without a word other than “I’m getting this facepaint off.” Tay gave Franco a worried look once she was inside.
“What’s with her?” he asked.
“Her mum,” said Franco.
“And what’s so bad ‘bout her?”
“Well, she hits Hannah. A lot. And I didn’t know that, but she told me that’s how she got her black eye. And it happens a lot.”
“What, are you too rich to get spanked? Every kid gets that,” said Tay. Franco punched the inside of his palm.
“No, like that. And I don’t even know why.”
Tay stopped looking quite as cheerful. “I think I need to talk to yer friend,” he said.
Franco ended up doing the dishes before the cheese got too crusty on them. He always hated it when people forgot to clean before that happened. It always made the plates look worse. But he overheard Tay and Hannah talking just ten feet away from him. A serious talk about the things her mother did. Fists and belts and, yes, a threat with a knife. She had another bruise under her dress strap to show for it.
At least Tay seemed to offer something, even if it was a hug. It was enough for Hannah to smile and say “Thanks Mr. Bayless!”
Of course, his solution was to call CPS and hope that two separate people nagging them about the same case would get them to take action. Otherwise, all he could do was offer the two kids a place to sleep for a little bit. There was a spare bedroom upstairs, and a sleeping bag for whoever was brave enough to use it.
Not quite sleepy, Franco and Hannah got out of their nice clothes and ended up chattering while in their undershirts. “Maybe he could adopt us,” Hannah said. “I mean, he seems pretty cool. I never knew they were so nice out here.”
“Maybe,” Franco shrugged. Perhaps he held out hope that he had rich, moral relatives who would recognize him by his sharp teeth. Maybe his mother was just estranged from them, running off to a grungy place because they didn’t want her criminal antics ruining them. For all he knew, he had grandparents still around. Rich grandparents, like his other ones but without all the bad deeds.
He could dream about that, but Hannah stopped him from sleeping. Curled up in a ball, she started shaking with fear.
“That’s my mum’s voice,” she whispered. “I really hope she didn’t find me. I need to stay here.”
“And I’ll call that Waverly bitch too. It’s her son’s fault I have to go out to this dump,” they heard in the distance. Yep, it was likely Hannah’s mum.
“I’ve heard some bad things ‘bout you, Miss,” said Tay. “I’m not letting you leave with her.”
“But I can call the police on you, kidnapping a young girl, huh?”
That seemed to scare Tay, as he headed upstairs to knock on the door. “I’m sorry.”
“No, Mr. Bayless, don’t let me go with her,” Hannah said, ready to cry. “You know what she did. I need to go somewhere else…anywhere!”
Her mother came upstairs anyways to snatch Hannah off the bed, grabbing her by the waist. She carried Hannah all the way downstairs before grumbling about having to call Annette. It did not take long. Hannah was gone, and Franco feared for what could happen to her next.
“Maybe you oughta get dressed,” Tay said to Franco, before heading downstairs.
The two of them took a seat on the couch while they waited for one of the adults to pick Franco up. Franco took a sad, longing look at Tay and asked “you really couldn’t adopt her?”
“You can’t really do that when yer like me,” he said. “You gotta get hitched before that.”
Franco scratched his chin in thought. It made sense as to why his uncle Shark didn’t have children either, because he was unmarried. And gay. “So are you like my uncle Shark?”
“Well, he loves other guys.”
“Naw, just looking for the right lady, that’s all. But he’s outta luck here in Terrebonne for gettin’ hitched. I wish the laws were different. I could use someone like you or yer little friend to keep me company here. I can’t see the niece all the time.”
They kept up conversation until Annette walked in the door, with her arms crossed in anger.
“Come on, Franco,” she said, in an annoyed voice. “I knew you were still in town anyways. Peanut came home with your glasses.”
“Fine,” Franco mumbled. “Thanks, Mr. Bayless.”
Annette grabbed his arm and led him to under the streetlight to give him a stern talking to. “Honestly, we were worried about you. All of us. You could have at least said where you were going! But I had to spend all day driving around town to find you.”
“I did this for her. But all you guys care about is yourselves!”
“Franco, that’s ridiculous.”
“Well, I did this to try and help Hannah. What have you done to help her?” Franco asked, with a strong frown.
“What have I done? I’ve actually tried to cooperate with CPS and get her into a better home! I had to break into her father’s house just to get a DNA sample from him to prove it. All you did with this is make that bitch think that some innocent man kidnapped her daughter. And you set this whole case back!”
“I don’t want to be a criminal like you,” said Franco. “Maybe I want to be a better person than a car thief.”
Annette stood straight up, trying to stand her ground. “Franco, what I do is harmless. And maybe you’ll see that one day.” Her phone vibrated in her pocket once, indicating a text. “I’m taking you home once I answer this.”
She walked away to see what it was. “Damnit, wrong timing,” she muttered.
A/N: And that might be the last chapter for a bit because the West Coast is calling my name (starting Monday, anyways)! I did think of the crazy scheme of doing a limited Sims install on my brother’s laptop (essential EPs + essential content and just that) so I could shoot something, but I’m so done trying to play the game on a laptop. My gaming desktop has spoiled me. 😛
Oh well. Adventures await. I’m hoping to hit up Crater Lake National Park this time around.
If there’s one Twinbrook family that gets even less sympathy than the Rackets, it’s the Baylesses. Because yeah, the easy way out is to dredge them in Southern stereotypes and only those. Not like I don’t, but I like to take things deeper. They also remind me a little of a lot of backwoods homeschooling families I knew, but without all of the weird religious stuff. Which is an improvement. And their traits point to all of them being nice, open people. So it’s the good Southern stereotypes at play for them here. =D