Content Warning for: domestic/partner violence. Blood, gun use.
“Look, Shaun, it’s something that’s just worrying me.”
“And this isn’t about your kid.”
“It’s about the kid you hired me to care for. I have a problem with you forcing yourself on Farida in-”
Shaun towers over her, and gives Clara a poke in the chest. “I have had it up to here already today thanks to Maeve’s main guys canceling. Stop being such a bitch and get your fucking nose out of our life. We have to leave tonight! I don’t have time for this.”
“T-tonight? But Tank called me to San Severo, and-”
“Forget about him! He might call the shots, but I have all the power in the world to have his fucking yellow head fall to the ground. We’re leaving TONIGHT. From the Julia Drive portal.”
“Ugh, we have to go through the green one? All she does is talk about her lemon trees and her dead husband.”
He pushes Clara a bit…to him. Her smaller body almost topples. The pears in her paper bag knock around, and they’ll be gashed up and soggy if she gets home with them. Which makes me sad. I enjoy a perfect pear like anyone else would.
Meanwhile, Bridget plays a game on her phone. She stands not even ten feet away from her vulgar, belligerent dad. No wonder her language is as salty as…let’s not complete that joke.
“Quit your complaining! You’re going to get the package from Sallie, you’re going to come back home, and we’re leaving tonight whether you like it or not. Do you understand?”
It takes little more effort to push Clara to the ground, right on her ass. And Shaun takes the pears too. One crushed one starts to bleed through the bag.
“Come on, peanut. I’ll have someone get you home.”
“Which era, dad?”
“Be quiet about that…but your aunt Eileen should be there.”
“What about mum?”
“Oh, she’ll just have to live with it. She’s survived worse.”
I don’t need to feign surprise over time travel being involved here, even for fleshy human Shaun. Judging by Bridget and everything about her, he has some intimate ties to our world and technology. Beyond work. He knows Eileen too, but should I get into that web of time travel? His dialogue was thick with implications of that, of some Eileen being trapped in the bygone past or far-away future.
Eh, I should have guessed, knowing the discrepancies in dates already.
And I’d have to go through Shaun, who has me hating him after five minutes. But terrible as he is, I could lose him by the end of the night!
Maybe it’s just how it means losing Clara too, but that’s not all of it. I’m not a shallow pervert…though would you like it better if I admitted to it? Regardless, even the asshole Shaun knows things that I don’t. Innocent things about this lost culture! And maybe I can be a worse person than Clara and turn a complete blind eye to what he does to his family. It’d be for the sake of answers, of course. At least I wouldn’t be the first Waverly to embrace abusers.
Shaun runs off with Bridget into another skyscraper, and I have no will to go through their security desk. Ironically for an author, I wouldn’t have a good story to fool them with. There was a period of nation-wide loosened building security starting in the 2050’s, but here in 2028, I missed it by a lot.
Clara, meanwhile, starts down an open road.
It is a slow amble for her, even with Shaun’s demands and shoves fresh on her mind. The sun goes down further and further until it’s black, and only then does he make it out of downtown. Granted, Clara did stop at a food truck for ten minutes. She stood around and considered a late-night grilled cheese. Was Cuban food on the beach not good enough? But she passes that by. Maybe she left her money in her suitcase, leaving it to a clone army, I guess! Hopefully they’re not tainted by consumerism.
I sneak behind her, and Clara doesn’t notice a thing. She gets past the Public Gardens without a suspicion. It leads to, you guessed it, more of the historic Art Deco buildings! They’re all swanky apartments now. An old woman gives me the middle finger from her balcony. I just assume she’d do that to anyone.
And Clara doesn’t even avert her gaze. Still safe.
Instead, she approaches the dark, rusty gates of the historic San Pedro Claver Cemetery. There was a road sign two blocks away pointing to it. And from a distance, it looks like a poor place to pick up a “package”. My bio-dad used the euphemism just out of tradition. We all knew it was hard drugs. Or insert your automatic weapons, plagiarized money, or unpasteurized milk here. But Dad had the knowledge to pick it up indoors. Not in lit-up public cemeteries, visible from the road!
Though I must admit, the glowing light against the teal stained glass of the mausoleum and chapel looks great from my vantage point. Once Clara has her back turned, I start to…yeah, scale a wall. There’s a rooftop deck on the second floor of this building, and it’s empty.
Thank goodness it was worth it, as I can still watch Clara. I see her well, even as she becomes just a small indigo dot in a big graveyard. And even as she becomes nothing at all, as the view inside the chapel is poor. She enters, and barring a secret tunnel system back to Shaun’s house or death, she’ll exit for me soon enough.
Three minutes. I counted because I got that bored.
“You get these bottles at a fucking cut-rate just to tell me that there’s gonna be no Farida?”
“Yeah, she leaves with us. Kind of a given.”
“And you know why you get such a cut-rate?! Delfino was promised two hours with her! And you’re just-”
“Wait, you gotta just listen-”
It looks like a narrowly-avoided pistol whipping. Clara swerves and ducks, avoiding the blunt handle of a handgun. She struggles to grab her new suitcase of wares.
Before she can wrap her fingers around the handle, she has to speak into the muzzle of a gun.
“We’ll see if Shaun really gives a damn about you.”
It’s a chase! And as Clara gets closer, her cool expression shows how much of this is shit so normal to someone so young. While I’m “25”, she doesn’t need sarcastic ditto marks around 22 or 23.
No shots are fired, which is good. As mundane-yet-horrifying as immortality became to me, I don’t think it’s that common. And in hopes of discovery and getting laid again, I want a living Clara.
It continues as a bloodless, quiet chase down the street. I crouch as they pass by my deck, but I doubt they would have spotted me in the heat of the action.
Though, I think Shaun and his own gun could have. And what would Clara do to me? Chew me out? God forbid what Shaun would resort to. Not like a gun scares undying me that much, but what’s attached to him scares me a ton. I try to shut down all speculation of what goes on between him and Farida, based on Clara’s accusations.
And I peek up above the railing just a little bit.
Oh, a bleeding corpse in a parking lot. How lovely.
“But what about our deal with her?”
“Gotta weed out the problem ones. I could’ve been home by now.”
“You signed onto this job! If you’re gonna use this as an excuse to get cozy with my wife, do the work! Don’t be a fucking drag to me.”
“Y…yes, Mr. Chou.”
“Let’s just go home.”
Shaun gives the new cadaver a little kick with his boot as he leaves.
And “cozy”. I don’t want to demonize Clara. Of course I want to picture her as a single young woman, and it’s easy when a bastard like Shaun is the only contrarian.
It as an easy follow home, at least compared to a journey fully on-foot. They take the yellow line out to the last stop on Sandpiper Street. I board a different car and go unnoticed. However, there’s still a mile and a half of walking down an abandoned strip of beach. To be done in heels. It just never ends! At least Shaun and Clara are slow and serious.
I hide in the dark well, staying close to their stop.
Shaun clenches his fists. “Get dressed, make sure everything’s in the bag, and give the green one a call. I need a sandwich”
“Sh-should I wake up Farida?”
“I can handle my own wife.”
They disappear inside, to do things unknown. And yet, while unknown things are my passion now, I’m more interested in that house. It’s the only one for half a mile on that road. It’s steps away from the beach, and yet for an occupied beach house, it looks terrible! The lawn is a foot high in its worst parts, and curtains hide every opening to the house. A dirty picket fence surrounds the front yard.
I like the palm trees, though.
With everyone inside and having no view out, I can situate myself wherever I want to. My preferred stakeout spot turns out to be behind a tangle of trees, towards the backyard. It’s so close to the ocean. I’ll give myself away just by smelling like seaweed and low tide by the time this is done.
But why here?
Well, they seem to have a real backyard. Complete with porchlights, a lounger, and a see-saw. Someone drew a hopscotch game in the sand. Nothing unusual for a couple and their young girl, and poor lackey Clara.
So I’m not stupid for thinking that if anyone was to go outside, it would be to the flat backyard. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a lemonade, or a smoke. The perfect place to exit for a fun, open-ocean swim. When I hear a door slide open, all I assume is that they have a sliding door to the backyard.
“You want some fresh air? Or should I just keep the door open?”
I can’t hear a response.
“Alright. As long as you’re feeling well.”
With just an open door, all I can hear is a few grunts. One woman letting out a gigantic, yelping cry before a muffled “I’m sorry. Let’s get an extra pillow for that.”
So it was Clara all along, and a woman she pushes in a wheelchair. Well, it’s just strong conjecture. I see little about the shape of her body, or even a face, as it’s hidden by a fluffy mass of curly hair.
“Should I get you in something warmer?”
“It’s good.” Her undeniable womanly voice is feeble and shaking. If I were Clara, I’d get her an extra coat. It’s a crisp night, even at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. My legs are freezing, but I don’t have a caretaker to help me with that. “Is it gonna be summer?”
“Here? You know the order of things.”
“No…where we’re going.”
“You want the heat back, huh?”
“I miss the beach.”
Their banter goes on. The other woman, who I’ll guess is the fabled Farida, speaks in short sentences. Her voice never warms up, and can barely be heard, if I’m going to be honest. I also can’t place her accent. Farida slurs her words a bit too, whenever there are enough to slur over.
“Can you…get me those bottles?”
“You know how I feel about that. And haven’t you been sober for a month now?”
“Not with you gone.” Farida makes it sound like one word.
“Christ…it’s still a ‘no’ from me.”
Clara crouches down to hug her around the shoulder. “At least I won’t have to do that again for a while. I might have met some great people, but none of them compare to Farida Al-Amir!”
“I could kiss you.”
Oh, fuck me.
It looks like just a peck on Clara’s cheek, and it lasts for not even a second until Farida has to slump in her chair again. But I can’t compare to her? All I’ve seen is a crippled drunk! And at least I can walk. Clara’s been making me do that all day.
“I almost forgot about the pears we bought today! They’re a little mangled, but-”
“I thought I gave you a job.” Shaun stands in the doorway, arms crossed and tense.
“Shaun! I…you were taking so long with your sandwich that I-”
“Get your bony ass inside, and do as you’re told! I thought I gave you a whole closet to choose from.”
“Well…yes, sir.” Clara walks back inside, with her metaphorical tail between her legs.
Shaun turns towards Farida, and kneels down in front of her. “I hope you can see that I’ve had a helluva day today.”
“It’s just been so hard, babe. Maeve wants us back in 1928, Delfino canceled our plan, and Clara just won’t shut up, will she? I bet she wanted to take your booze away.”
He stands up again, and takes one sob for himself.
“But at least I have you.”
It takes little effort for him to lift Farida up by her neck. Her slight frame is outlined in near-silhouette.
He hangs down his head to cry a little more.
“Oh, babe, I still have you.”
She just wriggles a bit, in a half-hearted attempt to get out of his choke-hold. Shaun draws her closer. With his free hand, he pinches her cheeks together.
“Let’s go back a hundred years. I bet I’ll have so much more time for you.”
He drops her back into her seat, and turns the wheelchair around.
“Do you think you need a coat tonight?”
Again, Farida gives him silence.