Content Warning for: Violence/Gun use, depictions of nasty/toxic parent(s)
March 2nd, 1989
Is it over yet?
March 3rd, 1989
March 4th, 1989
(That’s the face of sweet freedom)
Mum has a point. Instead of killing myself for turning 40, I can live with her.
It worked for when I was a kid, right? Except she’ll actually be around this time.
March 6th, 1989
Officially moved in to Twinbrook…again. You know how it always goes here, except with more mum.
Also got that studio space in Pearlbrook. Looks like I’ll be happy for a while.
June 6th, 1990
FUCK, my studio keys!
I never lose those things. What a way to start a new entry.
Mum says that it’s a sign that I should have some coffee with her instead. Like most off days now? Whatever.
June 6th, 1990 (Take Two)
“It’s nicer here with you.”
I don’t like the sound of that.
July 1st, 1990
July 2nd, 1990
Second day without studio time, but that would’ve happened anyways.
Physical went well. HIV negative still, which puts a smile on my face. Uh…regardless of how there’s no way I can get that now. They still won’t let me donate blood. Up 10 pounds? Apparently I needed that. Burn scars are…doing their thing after twelve years. They suck, but I can’t do much else about them.
I’m not dying, and I’ve come to terms with it. Somewhat.
July 3rd, 1990
WHERE ARE MY KEYS: day three.
Harwood, you’re better than this. Mum didn’t leave my side the whole day.
July 4th, 1990
I don’t care if it’s the birthday of the first country that took you in, mum.
Keys are back and so am I.
September 20th, 1990
So many pictures because I’m proud of this baby.
Seriously. I’m so excited to be done with something again. Maybe it will sell like Independent Hands did.
It makes my situation more jarring though. So much money…and I’m still living with mum.
I tell myself that she needs it.
December 15th, 1990
As you can see, only one of us gets something out of the annual Terrebonne Artists’ Gala.
Why did you tag along?
Oh, she did get in the way of me and Patty Wu (great new photographer, keeping my eye on her work). Not to say I’m sure about it, but…you complained to me last year about never remarrying.
Now I feel a little better about moving on. Leave me alone.
It took Annette forever to find the time to do it, but she curled up in her basement to read Harwood’s diaries. She wondered if she could see the awful man that Sinbad kept complaining about. Of course, she wouldn’t want to admit that about a dear friend of hers, but she could pretend to listen.
Granted, she struggled to find any justification for what Sinbad recapped. Even though it was later into his diary entries, the descriptions made her cringe. He stated all the things he did to Franco, and then some. Threatening to kill Troy, his weird partner, even if it was an empty sort of threat. Holding a knife above his heart, almost burning off half his face so he could “see what it was like.” Often threatening suicide to a man who…didn’t care at all. So his partner wasn’t great, but unassuming old Harwood still sounded like a monster, and Annette had to admit it to herself.
But she still knew a different person. And the one she kept reading about kept getting yanked back whenever he tried to be his own person. It was still better than reading the details of suicide attempts beforehand. It surprised Annette that she found Harwood alive at all when she first arrived in Twinbrook.
No matter what, she enjoyed the read. It was something to be enjoyed in a dark basement, while she was dressed in her comfiest overcoat and underpants.
She didn’t expect any guests, but in hindsight, should have been counting the days. Sinbad said that he needed a few days to himself. It was preferable to him rubbing up against strippers before his wedding night, or whatever men tended to do. Unless he wanted to spend over a week in those clubs.
In that beam of electric light, Sinbad soon materialized. He collapsed to the ground in a panic, before all the sparks faded away.
“JESUS FUCK-wait…it’s your place.” Sinbad hyperventilated as he spoke.
“You better not pull this shit after the ceremony,” Annette said. “Where did you go, anyways?”
“Hitchhiked to ABQ…really, just a sightseeing tour. Please don’t tell Amy, I’ll do it myself! I really fucked up-”
“I get it. Wanna read some things with me?”
“Here we go again,” he grumbled. “You think that the best thing for me is to get over my daddy issues and read his diaries.”
“Nice work,” Annette said.
“Like, you do realize that I got away just to lash out, right? I was just so…pissed at what he did. Like, he managed to damage two partners back to back? What a great guy, huh!”
“I’ll take your word for it…I’m stuck in 1990, okay?”
Sinbad looked away and mumbled a bit. “…Was he better then?” he asked her.
“Something like that,” she said. “You know, he was a lot like you. Bitter, no dad, mum had her set of issues. Except he still had to live with that into his 40’s.”
“Plus the half-burnt face and stuff?” Annette smiled and nodded.
“See, you care more than you’d like to admit,” she said. “So why not read with me?”
Sinbad rolled his eyes and took a seat next to his half-clothed landlady.
He put an arm around her. While Annette had a husband and everything, it made her smile a bit to feel Sinbad’s lean biceps against her back.
“Don’t get too excited about this,” he said. “We have our spouses…or soon enough.”
“Fine. We’re reading, aren’t we?”
And just as Annette hoped, he at last nodded to her question.
December 25th, 1990
“You better not see that friend up the road.”
Like you’d be lonely? You’re not even a Christian but you still celebrate this. But we have Nadine here. You always gush about how she’s such a caring daughter. Even if she has her husband and her kid and her own fucking place in Queen City-
Also got a lot of sweaters. Not complaining.
December 26th, 1990
“Hey, be glad she doesn’t see you as a failure of a son. She’s fine with her pathetic, long-haired bachelor […] I thought you’d be dead from AIDS by now.”
December 28th, 1990
Nadine’s gone. Let there be peace on earth.
August 8th, 1991
All I can say is…SCORE.
I wish I got a picture of her face today. Ms. Wu has a nice one.
Not saying she’s the one, but date #2 is looking good already.
August 10th, 1991
October 12th, 1991
October 13th, 1991
“Your mum’s getting in the way too much. I can’t deal with this with you.”
October 14th, 1991
Obviously, mum does not understand.
I can’t talk to her like this. And she can’t either! I understand even less Arabic than I thought I did.
It’s all terrible.
October 16th, 1991
“I thought you’d be too ugly to date. And then you could take care of me.”
How about another picture of my face that’s just too ugly for the world? All those burn scars that feel weird to kiss. Cheekbones mangled by “the best plastic surgeon in the area.”
I still usually kind of hate myself for that.
I’m pissed about that. And I’m pissed about this. At least mum’s speaking in a language I understand again.
November 28th, 1991
I spent Thanksgiving in the art studio and I’m proud of it.
November 29th, 1991
“This is why I kept stealing your keys!”
December 2nd, 1991
It’s time to leave.
December 3rd, 1991
I hope that one was the phone line. Whatever it was, cut with the hedge clippers.
This is why I’m not an electrician.
Also, sleeping in the studio tonight. Check out my setup.
December 4th, 1991
Sculpting, peace, and quiet.
December 5th, 1991
“She’s been calling the studio all day.” FUCK.
December 6th, 1991
I don’t know where else to go, or what to do with her.
December 8th, 1991
I’m in a Catholic church right now. Send help.
…They keep it warm.
December 9th, 1991
“We have daily masses.”
Last place mum would think to find me.
February 15th, 1992
Nadine tried to guilt me with that picture.
It’s some sort of residential…thing. If that angry phone call back in January was true, she had some sort of breakdown without me.
I’ll take it.
P.S. New opportunity in Middlesex. Time to hit the road.
“…And that’s where I started,” Sinbad said. “Well, Middlesex times.”
“They sound fun,” Annette said, in a flat voice. She felt Sinbad’s anger, in an odd way. “Though I can’t believe it took eight years things to come to a head and-”
“Yeah, make me. I’m not thrilled about just being…dad’s birthday sex gone wrong!” Sinbad buried his face into his hands for a second. “Really. February 27th, 2000, if you think I’m lying.”
Annette put the book down. “I don’t like making you feel this way either,” she said to him. “But as you said, we have to know something about him.”
“Yeah…whatever.” He pulled his knees in close to him. “I thought I was better, but I’m just the same pathetic man he was. Down to every detail.”
Annette got up from the floor and sighed, seeming to be out of ideas. The night shouldn’t be like that! Sinbad was just a couple weeks away from getting married to someone he adored. And Annette knew the sort of pathetic shit the man pulled. Cheating on the same woman he adored. Cooking meth behind their backs. Always struggling with panic and violence. But he improved himself in recent years.
And some time earlier, his dad had to do the same.
She needed anything that could lift his spirits immediately, though. Anything at all. It was tough to think about what he liked. Cooking dinner? Listening to Radiohead’s Kid A again? He cited it as one of his favorite albums, a collection of unbridled pretension that got him through some difficult times. Seeing friends? As it turned out, he had very few. Hence why he hitchhiked to ABQ alone. He even chose his groomsmen based on who hated him the least, as opposed to liking him the most.
That could work.
Annette turned around, with a hand on her hip and her near-naked body out for display. “So why don’t we have a safe night of unmarried awesomeness for Mr. Takasugi?” she asked him.
“You can just refer to me in the second-person. I know my own name,” he said. “And doing what? I don’t drink, I don’t like strippers…I kinda just like being alone all the time.”
“Don’t care. Name one fun fact about each of your groomsmen.” Sinbad didn’t even try to pretend. He looked at Annette blankly.
“Fine. They’re free?”
“I hope. And we might need to tell them about…you know, the ‘being armed’ thing. Unless you already have.”
Sinbad glanced around the room. “You’ll get dressed, right?”
“Only because you mentioned it.” She did need to get into something that was easier to hide a handgun in, after all.
In spite of Sinbad not knowing his groomsmen much at all, they both would listen to Annette. The best man was Marc Brandt, known to the family for being that man that Amy banged one winter. Without any hard feelings (the breakup was his fault anyways), he thought that it would be fun. And Justin Kayes was the second groomsman, hired for the sake of symmetry. He complied, because Annette could do a lot as his weird in-law.
If they would listen for that, they would listen for a night out at The Grind.
It took less than an hour for Annette to forget that Sinbad was not a drinker. She swore that she saw him have a beer at some point in their friendship. She leaned on the tall table they occupied, and pointed the brown bottle towards him. “Come on, it’s your big fun night!”
“I mentioned this an hour ago,” he groaned.
“Come on, I know you’ve had a beer before-”
“Think of it like self-harm. I never liked this stuff. It reeks of…Emma.”
She leaned over and lowered her voice. However, it was tough to speak over the booming bass.
“Look, this isn’t the time to angst. If it was, we could cry about our parents and disabled spouses and stuff, but I’m not. And you aren’t gonna either. Plus, your groomsmen look like they’re having a blast.”
It wasn’t a wild bash at all. Justin ordered a cocktail for himself, and Marc chatted with a younger woman. Annette wasn’t going to judge him after her half-naked basement time with Sinbad. But it was a clean sort of fun, and no one was complaining, except for a surly groom.
“We’re just gonna talk about the situation, and then I’m done,” said Sinbad. “No drinks, no dancing, no looking up miniskirts, nothing.”
Justin came over, with some sort of yellow cocktail. A spiked lemonade, maybe? It was the first time Annette had seen him drink since his wedding.
“Good idea! Sinbad, why don’t you tell my innocent nephew-in-law about our little…predicament,” Annette said. “It’s something your wife’s family did. No biggie.”
“It’s not like she leaves me in the dark about these things,” said Justin. “…neo-Nazis? Do we really have to?”
Sinbad rolled his eyes. “Not my first choice either. But yeah, my wedding planner here wants all the important people armed.”
“They want my head, and it’s good that I try to save everyone’s heads in the process,” she said. “But look, we’re here to have fun. We can go over this another time.”
“Eh, Dennis made me take gun training before I popped the question…I’ll take it,” said Justin. “So Sinbad…you like Big Data?”
Annette left the table, hoping for that conversation to go well. Justin had a way of turning any conversation into something pleasant. When discussing Dennis’ will years back, he lightened the mood with sharing the latest development in machine learning once everyone else was too depressed to discuss much else. Sure, it was nerdy, but Annette could ask for a worse in-law.
She carried her beer over the bar, where Marc still was. Because he wasn’t a part of her extended family, Annette knew about as much about him as Sinbad did. Lived on 5 Poker Flats Drive, but that might have changed. Was a hell of a good painter. Retired from the military…or at least Annette hoped, at his age.
And he wouldn’t let go of that younger woman at the bar, in the blue-striped dress. He leaned on the counter and watched her down a simple drink.
“Dude, just let it go,” Annette said, after swallowing a little more beer.
“I dunno, I think she was really keen on the three-way idea…what do you expect me to do tonight?” Marc asked. “I didn’t know I was gonna be best man to the world’s most boring groom when he asked me.”
“Why don’t you shut your mouth about that?”
Marc turned towards her, with a disgusted look in his stern, dark eyes. “I’m too old to take shit like that from you.”
“Can’t you just help him loosen up…without alcohol?” Annette asked him. “Sinbad and I had a rough afternoon with some personal stuff, and…yeah, we have serious wedding things to discuss with you too. But later. I don’t think Justin’s Big Data lecture is doing it for him.”
“I don’t even remember much about him,” Marc said. “Like, from when he lived on the street.”
“I doubt he really was happy then either…okay. Do you remember anything about Harwood, the guy next to you?”
Marc let out a shy chuckle. “Oh god, what a year it was with him…and now I’m best man for his son.”
Annette just smiled. “Sounds great. Now talk about literally anything else to him…maybe get him on the dance floor.” She then wandered off to make a request for the song list. After all, the DJ upstairs would probably do anything to improve the world’s lamest bachelor party. If they had any good in their heart, they would.
She asked for the extended mix of the “Mechanical” theme from RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. Sinbad used to play the game on an old laptop that his cousin Kai gave him, back in the day. It worked beyond being looped for rides. It had a dance-worthy beat too.
If the night ended there, it would have turned into an awesome way to spend one of Sinbad’s last weeks before getting married. Even he loosened up, once he remembered where that beat came from. And he had a good conversation with Marc over the RollerCoaster Tycoon games. It turned out that their appeal spanned over decades.
However, Annette learned something important long before that. If she was having a normal night, it had at least a 50 percent chance of taking a dark turn.
The woman who walked in almost looked normal. A fur-lined red jacket and combat boots, for a cold autumn day like that. She also held a rifle close to her side. Its muzzle was sawed off, but the mechanics were left intact.
Annette scrambled to find Sinbad and pulled him away by the arm. “You see that?” she said to him.
He squinted his eyes and scowled, in his usual way. “Armstrong’s scum…looks like we’re handling this early. You have the gun in your jacket?”
They exited through a garage bay towards the back of the club, and hid behind a wall. Annette handed Sinbad the gun and kept a hold of his shoulder as they waited for the target.
“I’ll tell you when to pounce,” she whispered to him, through her clenched teeth. “Of all nights too.”
“Right…sucks for my groomsmen,” he said.
For a minute, it was just Annette and Sinbad’s heavy breathing and waiting in the cold. Someone came running out soon, and Sinbad was ready to point the barrel at them. But he flinched back and cursed under his breath.
“False alarm?” Annette asked him.
She took a quick glance past the corner, at a pair of men running out of the club. Their pair of men! As much as Annette risked throwing them into the situation at the wedding itself, she wanted to handle the club invader herself. Questions from them could come later. Running into the scene unarmed could come never, but Annette had to make an exception.
“Christ,” she muttered.
Marc and Justin backed against the opposite wall. Annette had only a few minutes, if that, to give them a warning. “Look, if you wanna see the stuff we do, be my guest. But no pressing charges if she makes your chest look like Swiss cheese,” she told the both of them.
Annette just got two men nodding yes, and just in time too.
Their unnamed gunwoman peeked out from the open garage bay, with her weapon raised. Her two severe eyes surveyed the area, and must have caught a glimpse of any of the four from behind the wall. She started to approach the scene, but did not get far before falling to the ground in a dead heap.
Sinbad delivered a precise kill-shot to her heart, and an extra one around her neck as she was falling down.
For the innocent bystanders, it was a gruesome sight that interrupted their drum n’ bass. She lay in full view of the dance floor, as no one bothered to close the garage door.
But for Annette, she looked at Sinbad’s kill as if she was a proud mentor. She considered herself that. She leaned to her right a bit and smirked as she soaked that victory in.
“Nice carnage,” she said to him. It took the two of them a good while to remember the two shocked civilians standing less than twenty feet away.
“So that’s what it’s like,” Marc said, in a flat voice. Justin just shrugged.
“My father-in-law had a lot of stories,” he said.
Annette turned to them, and tried on her most diplomatic tone of voice. “We…have a small chance of seeing this or worse at the wedding. You’re the last two we have to arm, and we’re not gonna do this unarmed thing again. Still in?”
She received a better response than she expected.
“Eh, why not?” Marc said, with jarring nonchalance.
“I guess it’s only fair that I do it…as a Racket,” Justin said. His nervous smile seemed to tell a different story, but Annette wasn’t going to inquire further.
She extended a hand out to Marc, so they could seal the deal. “Did my tax dollars fund anything useful?” she asked him. It would stink if Marc was in the military just to engineer drones, after all.
“War for Northern Greenland, 2011,” he said, mirroring Annette’s grin. “One confirmed kill.”
Combined with whatever weapon tactics Justin picked up from marrying a Racket, Sinbad might have chose a decent army after all.
She took a seat on some loaded boxes. If Annette marked them right, they were full of Shark’s old clothes. “I’d rather skip to something I know too,” she said.
“Yeah, learn awful things from a whole new point of view!” Sinbad then grunted and crossed his arms, as Annette flipped through the pages.
June 21st, 2023
Seventeen years and she’s the one who steals that ring.
I’ll be back…
June 22nd, 2023
I just…let that happen, didn’t I?
Glad that she admitted that her story about being from the Devil was a load of shit. I’m the one man who can see through that.
Though, Annette is…different. She really is.
I really am this lonely. So lonely that I’m siding with the newest…ring-stealing cosmic asshole. And I’m probably still the worst person in this pair.
Annette flipped the page in a hurry.
June 23rd, 2023
Annette says she’s half-human. Which explains a lot.
P.S. 6/10 face, 4/10 ass. I’m keeping this friendly.
“Sinbad, you’re not getting a goddamn answer from me about this,” she said. She then flipped to the next page. “I have my own secrets.”
“Whatever, I’ll just infer,” he said. “Looks like there’s a lot he didn’t tell you either. Typical.”
“And I turned out to be his best friend, so we can cut the hate now.”
“Even after he hid all this from you?” He looked livid again. “You complain all the time about what you don’t know. Imagine who he met that you didn’t. Imagine all the answers about your kind that he hid from…his best friend.”
Annette got up from her seat and into Sinbad’s face. “I’m doing this to help you! I don’t care if Harwood has some secret history with some weirdos like me wanting his ring. That’s my problem, and yours is…not accepting that people change!”
Sinbad crossed his arms and grimaced. “Prove it to me.”
She took a seat on the boxes again and flipped to an entry from July of that year. The content was perfect for changing Sinbad’s mind. Or at least taking a stab at it.
“Read it and weep, asshole,” she said, shoving the book to him.
July 18th, 2023
But why? They charge $4 for a scoop of rum raisin now. What a scam.
Also, this wily little…thing that Annette is can knock out a fully-grown man. Thankfully not me. Just a mugger, and she got him out cold! She did drop her ice cream for that, which is a shame.
She said that it just seemed like the right thing to do. It makes me wonder what she sees in me. You know the details.
I’m honestly floored. She’s this immortal…alien, I guess, who’s after some magic jewelry I’m not giving up. But there’s a real innocent sort of friendliness that comes from her. And to this awful human! I forget what being twenty-three was like. Probably like that. I’d feel bad breaking that in her, to be honest. It’s really magical to get along with someone like that.
So: apologies to you all. I want to change for Annette. If she’ll put everything into being my friend, I’ll put everything into being hers.
P.S. she’s a mint chocolate chip kind of girl. I need to find time to buy her another scoop.
That was a great day for Annette. The rush of punching a man who wanted to crush Harwood’s neck or get his wallet made the day shine. And she didn’t even care about that ice cream afterwards. She took the journal back and looked over at Sinbad. She laughed a bit. He had a timid, radiantly-warm smile on his face, and looked towards the floor. “Wait, it worked?”
Sinbad’s voice sounded a little hoarse when he said it. “Yeah…in a way. I guess…well, if I’m the same guy he is, it could be worse.”
“Yeah,” Annette said, in a low voice. “You could be me instead.”
“Putting everything into being my friend?” Sinbad was then standing in front of her, with his arms open.
Annette fell into them. “You are like your dad,” she said, close to tears. “…you’re worth the effort too.”
A/N: Let’s get mechanical!
Anyways, real things to note.
I loved and hated writing this chapter. Having to juggle a look into a dead character’s past, a present event, plus a twist in terms of the lore of the story is something I’d rather not do again. But I did get to say a lot of things I wanted to.
So…I never planned for that amethyst ring that Annette stole in Chapter 3/became something Shark obsessed over since Chapter 18 to really be much at all beyond a piece of human bling. And my plans for what species Annette really is were originally “non-descript fantasy woman; fill in blanks when time comes.” Let’s just say that ideas change.
I won’t confirm Annette’s origins (“demon” is a nice-sounding catch-all term for people like her, and human characters will continue to assume things), but I can say that Harwood’s old ring was some sort of ill-gotten, otherworldly treasure. Not his fault.
Expect more about it as time goes on.
Harwood himself…I’ll admit to having an extreme fascination with his potential character and background. It starts with realizing that he’s likely an old widower, who may have gotten his face damaged in the same fire that killed his wife, and it goes downhill from there! And the characterization I’ve always preferred for him is a mixture of “reformed jerkass” and “perpetual butt monkey.” Actually…a lot like Sinbad. Hmm.
Basically, mix a long backstory with the potential for him to have experienced a side of Annette’s heritage that Annette doesn’t even know, and you have a character that may get a TON of flashbacks (I’m trying to limit myself…I have Annette’s story to tell first).
Oh well. Have a picture of ~1990’s Harwood and Mariam in full color. The greyscale + film grain mix kind of removed the impact of seeing the scarred-up right side of his face:
And one more thing! So, funny enough, so far in the story, there are only two characters who have had their exact birthdays mentioned. Harwood and Sinbad! February 27th, 1949 (from Chapter 3), and October 17th, 2000 (from Chapter 21), respectively.
(Lots of other characters have “canon” birthdays, but I have yet to mention them in the story because it just hasn’t come up)
Sinbad easily could have been the result of birthday sex for Harwood’s 51st, gross as it is to think about. It would just necessitate him being born at 35 or 36 weeks instead of at full-term. And stuff like that happens.
I came up with their birthdays arbitrarily, without ever planning for that to be a detail. But it worked as yet another thing to bother Sinbad with. 😛