For a bit, Franco went downstairs to check on Sagebear. It had been so long without Annette for her too, and it was taking a toll on the old dog. She whimpered no matter what Franco did. Even breaking into the liver treats didn’t help.
Of course he loved Sagebear. She had been around since before Franco was born, after all, and never once even growled at him. But Franco couldn’t help but feel like he deserved a better night.
Right outside the dog’s room was the living room and Seng on the couch, reading a book. Clallam Criminal Law, 2051, Vol. III. Franco would rather watch paint dry. Or watch Benji plow Youa and have an excellent time he never deserved.
The funny thing about Seng was about how…indifferent he seemed to intimacy. Yes, he knocked up a floormate and almost went to a sex party. But in the year that he lived with Franco, he swore it all off, at least in front of him. So he could be happy with his nose stuck in the depths of law. But without anyone to lavish attention onto him, Franco was nothing.
And the solution was only half a mile down the road.
He gave two gentle knocks to her front door, as not to wake up something worse.
It seemed like he didn’t, as all he got was an adult Hannah attacking him with a hug. He was sure that her mum had firearms or other weapons in the house, and he’d skip out on sex to avoid that.
“She’s still asleep.” Hannah whispered into his ear. “She’s still downstairs too.”
“I’ll be light on my feet.”
Franco watched Sofia with caution as she slept, and as he tip-toed closer to the stairs. She flinched a bit in her sleep, but maybe it was just a muscle spasm. The car accident that last Thanksgiving messed up a lot on her.
But he didn’t want to expend many thoughts on an abusive piece of shit. Soon, Franco’s shirt fell to the floor and Hannah pressed her warm skin against his again. It had been so long since he took a weekend in Twinbrook to see and touch her.
“Hey, are you sure that you’re okay with the cats watching?” Franco asked. He was about to get on top of her in bed before he noticed Meechum watching them from the top of Hannah’s dresser.
“Is…are you okay, love?” he asked.
“Okay, I just got an idea,” Hannah said, in a protected voice.
“We should move in together…this week.”
Hadn’t they already discussed that? It sounded less than optimal, but Hannah could live in the dorms at Bruegel for a year. Surely she’d befriend a nice set of suite-mates and still have the flat Franco the year after. He would have loved to have her sooner, but what about Seng? Franco didn’t want to cram three people into a bedroom. Especially not if he was having sex with only one of them. His lease was about to expire, but both he and Franco agreed to renew it for another year. Though that was before that day too.
Seng didn’t have too many other places to go. He got paid pennies at his internship and said that getting a raise was a big pain in the ass. Living in Bridgeport was expensive, and something Franco never had to worry about. And no matter what Seng did, he at least deserved a roof over his head. Or the chance to make mistakes.
“I’ll just tell Seng I changed my mind,” he said.
Hannah turned around, and put a hand over his heart. “Ah, I was so hoping we didn’t have to argue tonight! Can you help me pack soon?”
“There’s something else I wanna do first,” said Franco, with a deep chuckle.
At that moment, he wondered why he hesitated at all. The sooner Hannah moved in, the sooner they could have more nights in bed together. After so long apart, nothing felt better than unhooking her satin bra.
But before he could go back to Bridgeport with a beautiful Hannah in tow, Franco had some unfinished business.
Two days later, Annette was released from jail. It turned out that she bought their silence after all, at least for a bit. She wouldn’t go the media about police brutality across Terrebonne, and they could bring her back home. In spite of such a lukewarm solution, Annette jumped for joy when she reached the outdoors again.
And it was soon time to send the Thao siblings off…on vacation.
Franco, in spite of his long-term plans, had no reason to suddenly turn mean towards Seng. When it came time for him to leave for Krung Thep, he said good-bye to him with a hug.
Seng was more than excited to leave the country, but Youa looked out the window with a forlorn stare. And Franco couldn’t help but notice.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“Yeah…look, I’ve never left the country before, but I’m really gonna miss this state,” she said. “And this town.”
“Stop. I don’t care anymore,” said Franco. “Just tell me what you’re really gonna miss.”
She put her hands to her heart. “I’m so glad you were totally wrong about Benji! These four days have been the best…do you know if there’s good enough reception abroad to send pics?”
Franco just turned his head to Seng, to give him a sickeningly sweet smile. “Well, I guess I have to send you guys off now. It was really nice knowing you two.”
“Come on, it’s just gonna be a month,” said Seng. “Though I guess we’ve never even spent a week apart. Weird how that happened.”
“I think it’s a well-needed break. We’ll discuss the lease when you get back.”
As soon as the Thao siblings left Twinbrook, it was the start of Day One.
The next day, on Day Two, Franco was there to help Hannah pack. It took all day. The way they did it, one shirt would get folded and then they’d make out for ten minutes. And they had two suitcases to pack! Not to mention forcing two cats into pet carriers.
But it wasn’t like Hannah had infinite shirts and dresses either. Just a bunch. For as shitty as she was, Sofia kept her daughter’s closet well-stocked. So it got done, but it was late that night when the happy couple was done packing.
They clasped hands at the top of the stairs. The two might have left right there, without Franco having one objection.
“I skipped lunch today,” he said. It was hard when they were busy packing and kissing. “I know I made a sandwich this morning, but I must have left it at home.”
“I think we have some capicola in the fridge?”
Man, Annette rarely bought cold cuts. They were Franco’s guiltiest pleasure. His mum spoiled her kids, but was just more quick to satisfy his cravings for pastas or fresh bagels. But lucky for him, he shared a guilty pleasure with Hannah’s terrible, no-good mother.
Christ, NOW you emerge.
Hannah promised Franco that Sofia was out that day. She had physical therapy and a meeting with her lawyer, all in another city. Maybe in a rash of karma, she was in the middle of a difficult lawsuit over the accident.
But alas, she was mistaken. Her mother stood at the bottom of the stairs, leaning on a cane. She brandished a long knife in her free hand.
Hannah whispered to him. “Look, I thought she was out today. It’s not like she expected me to dri…crap.”
“I’ll handle it,” he said.
“No! You shouldn’t even get-” But Franco was undeterred, even by Hannah.
Sofia seemed like a non-issue to Franco. Once he got down the stairs, she collapsed to her bottom, dropping both her cane and her knife. Her injuries weren’t bad enough to stop her from standing. Just from standing for more than a matter of minutes.
“Christ, not tonight,” she muttered, rubbing her eyes.
With her being unarmed and helpless once more, Franco wasn’t going to be the aggressor. Not like he had aggression in him anyways.
Fearless, he stood in front of her, with stern crossed arms. “I thought you’d be glad that I’m getting her out of your hair. What’s the matter with you anyways?”
“You’d honestly leave someone like me here alone?”
“Why should I care? Why should Hannah?” He did notice how Hannah was nowhere in sight.
“I know you think I shouldn’t mess with you or your awful family,” Sofia said, reaching an arm out to him. “But maybe you should listen!”
“I don’t have to do anything for you. Leave me alone.”
“I thought you’d know what this struggle’s like! Would you have left your dad alone? I have no one in this town! No one but Hannah! We’ve had our differences, but…I’m not gonna deal with you anymore.”
She lunged at him. And Franco was quite embarrassed at losing his footing from the force of a tiny older woman like Sofia. Even if Hannah could do the same too, if she hit the right place. That was at his knees and Sofia hit him there too.
Although on the ground, Franco tried backing up. Sofia had grabbed her knife again, and was inching towards Franco too.
“Don’t do this,” he snarled.
“You’ll be just fine if you leave right now without her,” said Sofia. “You used to be a pretty harmless kid!”
“And you’d mess with me? After what my family did to your mum?”
He covered his mouth in shame after saying it. And that shame was his downfall.
Ah, if only he was like his dad. Bill probably would have held the plight of poor Pixie Carlton over her head, were he in the same place, without getting distracted! Blinded by his guilt, though, Franco found himself bleeding out the side.
Driving a knife into him took all of Sofia’s might. She was down and gasping for air, while Franco groaned in pain. He clutched his belly where there was a new tear in his shirt. It felt more and more damp within seconds.
Everyone was hurting. It looked like Sofia was passed out on the floor by the time Franco did the same. He didn’t fear death, but it could have been worth it to sleep the pain away.
But even if he took a knife to the heart, it would be for Hannah.
Hannah. Wherever she was.
If there was a part of Franco that feared whether he would wake up in the morning or not, it shut up by that morning. Groggy and still aching, Franco moaned and realized he was on a familiar mattress. His shirt was off and replaced with wrapping of ace bandages, but he was home.
Sinbad said that was so stupid.
Franco craned his neck up a bit, to find a curious Samira perched by his feet. It was still early enough for her hair to be unbraided, and to be wearing her favorite slippers. And Sagebear was there, sniffing him like she did on many other mornings.
“What was?” he asked her.
“Goin’ over there…or something.”
“You know, he’s right.” He placed a hand on his bandages again. White and dry. The spot felt raw underneath them, but it would soon be of no concern. “How did I even get here?”
Sinbad called me.
Franco got up, to find Hannah near his dresser. She hadn’t changed since the day before, still in that geometric-print dress and sandals. She gave him those sad eyes that could make him do anything.
“I froze up while it all happened,” she said. “And then you were there, bleeding on the floor, and Sinbad called. I guess he expected you home a lot earlier…and you left a sandwich in the fridge…”
“Did he do all this?” Franco asked.
“I cleaned it out and did your bandages! But he said you should probably see a doctor about it soon.” Hannah let out a deep exhale. “I’m sorry, okay? I’ve gotten caught in enough of those, and-”
He finally stood by Hannah, and raised an eyebrow. “Did you get your luggage?” Franco asked her.
“Yeah…snuck everything in through the window.”
“Even the cats?”
“Sagebear was pretty tickled to see them again.”
“I have an empty flat back in Bridgeport…as you know.”
Her bright blue eyes lit up again, for the first time that morning. “And I guess your mum’s back home to beam us there, isn’t she?” Hannah asked.
“Just gonna warn you, the landing is always rough the first few times,” he said.
After unpacking, Days Three to Seven were nice and normal for Franco and Hannah. They enjoyed their newfound solitude in that glass tower. She practiced guitar each morning and he was the best audience she could ask for. They had never been truly alone together until then. And what could beat playing with Rose and Meechum? Having Hannah pose for portraits, lest Franco’s grasp of human facial anatomy get shabby that summer? Doing it in Seng’s bed?!
Poor Seng. A mere five days with Hannah, and Franco couldn’t wait to kick out his other roommate once he was back in North America.
Back to the couple, they did leave the flat. There was so much of a city to show Hannah, from the subway routes to the best parks. Butterfly Esplanade was a favorite of Franco’s, and they went there on Day Eight. The huge biodome full of tropical plants and butterflies was only half of the appeal. The park had plenty of open space too. An expansive view of the Salish Sea, and best of all, plenty of dogs! Franco watched with joy as he watched Hannah get enamored with an off-leash Greyhound.
He abandoned her for a fluffy Samoyed three minutes later, so it was even.
Franco left his plans open for that day, as long as the plans involved time with Hannah. There was so much lost time to make up for, after all. But as he walked towards the exit of the park, signaling that there weren’t any new dogs to play with and it was time to go, Hannah grabbed his arm.
“Okay, I really should have told you this earlier,” she said. “But my aunt Diana finally realized I was town.”
“Well, one of my grandpa’s daughters. There are tons of them, and they keep discovering me…I just feel really bad saying no to her,” she said.
Do you really want to be a doormat for the rest of your life? She said it all with meek defeat, after all. Ever since she first met Anan, Hannah often got dragged into socializing with Pradchaphets. They were everywhere! Plenty on the other side of Terrebonne, for starters. And she hated all of it. Either feeling unloved, or the way Hannah could cause an awkward silence like no one else could.
He looked around. There was a lingerie shop just up the block, and Hannah needed some new undergarments after Youa spirited away plenty of them. None of the bras seemed to fit well on her, so what was the point of taking three?
“So, where do they want to meet you?”
The last stop on Blue Line B took them up to the hills past the city, where all the mansions and best sex parties were. Hannah’s aunt said to meet there, especially as there were benches and a nice view. And it was a short walk away from her house, where they could…discuss Anan’s will.
Franco wanted little part of that. He already lived through enough deaths and the chaos after them. Fighting over even more of a will with even more people? Pass.
Getting back to the city would cost only three dollars. But the weather was great that day; 70 degrees and sunny. Clallam’s dry season was upon them or would be soon. And as much as Franco wanted to explore the hills beyond Bridgeport, he never did. School was too busy, or it was too rainy, or everything was fine but Seng offered wine.
There was a lot of ground to cover, and Franco didn’t get even a text message from Hannah. It was late in the afternoon, the sun was setting, and Franco still didn’t have any duties. All he needed to do was watch the sun set over the skyscrapers of Bridgeport proper, and that was for his own fulfillment.
He did fear that it wouldn’t be as fabulous at night.
But Franco soldiered on through the night too. He ambled further and further into the hills. It took him away from the city, and close to actual Clallam wilderness.
Even after an afternoon, he thought he knew what to expect up there. Roads, trees, mansions, and wild blackberry bushes. The last one wouldn’t come into season until later that summer. And there was one tall building that Franco always thought was just another mansion, if a weird one. From a distance, it looked like a few separate buildings, the tallest being topped with a spire. Who lived there? He guessed a tech mogul, but the possibilities were endless.
But then Franco got a closer look at its splendor, glowing in the nighttime. It wasn’t a house at all. It was…an observatory? There was a large telescope on top of one of the towers. But it also looked empty and abandoned everywhere else. He could see through the myriad glass windows, into rooms full of nothing. The two guarding statues had no reason to guard.
It took a while to see that he wasn’t alone either. The whole property was fenced off, but it didn’t stop a group of five with their candles.
Their intentions were obvious. They were so in awe of something so strange, that they worshiped it. They all folded their hands in silent prayer.
Franco would have felt bad if he disturbed him, but the older man at the front noticed him before anyone else did.
He was friendly enough. “Are you here to worship too?” he asked Franco.
“I…I just found my way here. What is this thing?”
“The city says it’s an abandoned project from the Clallam/Lewis Institute of Technology. But I went to CLIT years ago, and…it’s not theirs and I doubt it’s any other humans. Whether it’s gods or aliens it what…you look like you’d know more, come to think of it.”
“Not really,” said Franco. He wasn’t even going to touch that college’s acronym. “Sorry if you were looking for answers…can I take a closer look?”
“Just be careful what you touch.”
He didn’t touch a thing. There was so much to take in from sight alone. The statues weren’t even the tallest part of it, but they still towered over six-foot-one Franco. As far as he could see, they were both identical in every way. Made out of marble or some other kind of smooth, white stone.
Could he have an unknown association with them? Franco’s guess was as good as any. Annette never seemed to care about anything up in the hills either, aside from getting laid. And maybe she was different, but Franco hated the idea of getting naked in front of the stone ladies.
Whatever it was, it was both awe-inspiring and mundane. It wasn’t like anything magical or unexplained happened once Franco was there. It instead took two and a half minutes for something unusual to happen, and it was likely unrelated.
He wasn’t counting then, but the last eight days had been different. Franco had something missing, something he thought he could live without too.
Once the light dissipated, Franco got a better view of the ground. And while it didn’t need to talk back to him, he got that too.
What is this supernatural bullshit?
Franco could have lived without seeing Seng again, if he had to. But it looked like, after eight days, that good-byes were impossible.
A/N: I might be 22, but I’m secretly 12 because I just had to do that CLIT acronym because it made me giggle-snort. I guess Bridgeport University of Technology and Teaching (BUTT) wasn’t raunchy enough (it’s probably a rival school). Though like MIT, I think it’s spelled out letter-by-letter instead of made into one word.
Subway prices are kind of bullshitted because I highly doubt they’d get inflated to just three dollars a ride by the 2050’s.