“Did my mum ever tell you who used to own this room?”
Although Franco had finished college, he spent a lot of time in Bridgeport. And he could say that it was for a better position in the art world all he wanted, but he rationalized it all for staying with Hannah. He stopped listening to those rumblings in his gut and the ache in his mind. He couldn’t find a reason to leave Hannah, even if their relationship didn’t feel like it used to. The stagnation was just because…school! Hannah had two more years of that. Then she’d graduate. Or there would be a break before that, and everything would feel peachy again.
And meanwhile, Seng was living with Annette full-time. He took on low-level criminal cases and occasional good buzz about his arguments. It was an arrangement that pleased everyone, given the “unexpected captive” circumstances. Maybe it was him making peace. Maybe it was early-stage Stockholm Syndrome.
But when Franco came back home for a weekend in February, he would have liked Shark’s room to still be intact. While it was cleared out, Annette kept it unused out of a sense of respect. And then she was all too willing to scrub it of his memory just a little more. The dark red, checked wallpaper stayed. The rugs still reeked of lavender, cum, and booze. But she wouldn’t refer to it as Shark’s old room anymore. It was Seng’s room.
“Your drunk cousin? She mentioned it. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same!” He pointed to a dark beer stain on the carpet. “Youa tells me I need to sober up, though. She doesn’t want her kidlet to have a drunk uncle.”
“This is new,” said Franco. Though he thought back to the year before about her regrets. Maybe she made the same initial mistake again and looked down a different road.
“She’s due, like, next week. It’s a good reason to stay here.”
“So you abandon your bastard kid in Bridgeport, but you move across the country to be an uncle.”
“And deal with someone I hate from the floor below me instead of with my awesome little sister? As if. I live for me…as much as I can with this shit.” He gave a little laugh. “But your mum’s been making it a lot better.”
“Well I’m shocked,” said Franco.
“She’s good company,” said Seng. “Though I can’t quite forgive her for rooting against the Packers.”
Franco tried to enjoy his weekend, but it seemed like Annette and Seng were the only happy ones. It was a welcome twist from their recent pasts of trauma and resentment, respectively.
He wanted to bond with Sinbad more, but the bad moods came back to him too. Franco would wake up Saturday morning to find the man in his pajamas, moping on the porch.
And Sunday morning, he found Hannah joining in on the “fun”.
Franco wanted to return to Bridgeport on Monday. On a flexible schedule, as Hannah didn’t have any Monday classes to worry about. When he woke up to find a pouting Amy in his bedroom, he didn’t think it was going to strand him in Twinbrook.
“Good morning…are you okay?” he asked, as he stretched out on the side of his bed. Hannah was elusive the night before, and must have retired in a guest room.
The tears started streaming. “The coroner’s office called me early saying that they had Sinbad’s body.”
The horror rushed over Franco. Even more did as he realized just how miserable Sinbad was acting that weekend. “I…was it…was it his doing?”
“Knowing this family…look, all the coroner said was that it was a gunshot and at another residence.” Amy fell onto Franco, grasping him in a hug and crying into his bathrobe. “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to lose another dad like that.”
“You shouldn’t have had to lose him.” He gave Amy a sympathetic pat on the back of the head. “I know it’s probably the wrong time to ask, but did you see Hannah at all?”
“Oh. She’s downstairs. I checked,” Amy said. She wiped away a tear. “Any advice for breaking the news to the kids?”
It was easy for Hannah to get a waiver from her professors. And she agreed to stay for the mourning and funeral with no hesitation.
In a welcome twist, Franco noticed how much she stayed at home. Not once did she go out to her mum’s, and no bruises appeared on her at all. Well, aside from the one on her face when she slipped on the ice outside Monday night. But Franco watched that one happen. While not always happy, there was peace on her face as she played with her cats. And while keeping her portions in check, she stopped forgetting meals as much.
Well, everyone processed it like…unique individuals. Annette took to locking herself in Seng’s room and playing video games. After her tears ran out, Amy always looked as scowling and broody as…as her dead husband. And Julian mirrored every face his mother made.
Annette had an obituary run for Sinbad. He went through the coroner’s office, so what was left to hide? And, as she said openly to Franco, it gave her the opportunity to have “best Cocklord in Terrebonne” written in the a print newspaper.
Her writing was a silly, vulgar trainwreck, and Franco just had to read it for himself.
But he couldn’t read, not with the headline right next to it.
Sofia Duangkamol Carlton, 62
Hannah hadn’t mentioned a single word alluding to her mother’s demise. The obituary read like a generic one, as if an underpaid news intern wrote in the variables. But it was the right Sofia, with a single mention of her leaving her sole daughter, Hannah. Joining her parents, Pixie and Anan, the latter of whom passed on the year prior. Cause of her death: undisclosed.
A lump formed in his throat as Hannah came downstairs for her usual breakfast. She grabbed coffee and an apple, and still spoke nothing about a second death.
And Franco couldn’t bring himself to either.
Wednesday was time for the funeral and burial, and Franco dressed to look mournful. He kept his feelings inside, but took Amy’s words to heart about losing another dad. It sounded weird to call him that. He married Annette when Franco was 17. One year later and Franco was out in college. But in some ways, he was leaning on Sinbad more than he ever did on Bill. Bill would respect Annette’s secrets. Sinbad respected Franco’s questions.
The guy deserved a funeral of mourners, and Franco’s heart was right there.
And then Hannah knocked on the door.
“I know I got dressed for it, but I might skip out on this,” she said. “I…I just don’t feel like the right person to be there.”
“Seng’s going,” said Franco.
“Because his sister will be there. You know…Benji used to think of him as a big brother.”
“I don’t think Sinbad agreed.”
“Well, you can’t stop Benji from…disrespecting. But I…I don’t like doing that.”
“Sinbad was fine with you,” Franco said. “He thought highly of you. He…felt sorry for another kid who had an abusive, half-Asian single mum.”
“I thought I’d just take tonight to visit the cemetery again.” She rushed out all her words. “My dad’s buried there. I feel terrible for never visiting. I’ll come back! I’ll be quick with that.”
Franco gave a nod. “That’s fine. I miss him too.”
It was a terrible night for a burial. The snow was getting thicker on the ground and fell into the hole for his urn, and everyone shivered. Franco paid his respects, but noticed how much time passed without a peep from Hannah. Maybe aunt Lolly tagged along and had so much more mourning to do for her dead husband. Maybe the snow blocked the roads.
Maybe she was alone, and the only one around to bury her mother.
He should have been lying prostrate on the ground in bereavement, like Amy. He should have been crying like Julian. But Franco buried his feelings about Sinbad for a night. Hannah’s mum confused him more. Wouldn’t she be celebrating? At least cooing to her cats about it?
He went up one of the ampitheatre steps to call Hannah, but the call dropped immediately.
And someone, or two, was trudging their way through the snow.
Franco looked back. He was dreading that moment, when Benji found where the Waverlys buried their friends. Seng stopped comforting the sad children and rushed over to greet his sister. And Benji’s big hazel eyes darted around. He looked at his girlfriend with a big scoop of love, and he saw Franco with a bigger scoop of malice.
When Benji started walking towards him, Franco just groaned.
“Sorry about your loss, but you want in on a secret?” Benji asked. His voice had not even a trace of sorrow. “Look, it’s relevant. Remember that one of my mums still works with the coroner.”
“It’s really not the time for that,” Franco said, sighing. “I…I want to let you mourn if you want to. But I don’t have time for your sh…nonsense.”
“Your girlfriend did all this.”
Benji’s presence alone summoned Annette and Amy to rush to Franco’s defense. Amy had her fists clenched. Each heavy, snorting, rage-filled breath created a fierce cloud of fog in that cold. She was ready to pounce of her former student, former brother-in-law, or whatever Benji was to her.
“Well your half-brother’s wife can do a whole lot more to you,” Amy muttered. Annette tried to lead her back.
Franco’s shoulders slumped. His face melted into a sunken, sullen look. “I don’t want you to try and drag her into this,” he said. “She’s not your problem.”
“So is she your problem? I guess she’s always been something like that,” Benji said. “But really, I’m not here for that. There’s a lot the coroner won’t tell you guys.”
“Fine. How can you try tying Hannah into this?”
“They found his body at her mother’s house.”
Franco folded his hands, and his eyes widened. All in silence.
“Conveniently, her mother was also killed with a gunshot too. Not self-inflicted for either of them. Neither were holding a weapon, and the one living person who made the call to the police? Hannah! The one who admitted to holding a weapon? Hannah. She apparently had a clear case of self-defense, but it all makes me wonder.”
He reverted back to his typical smug grin, and looked down at his hands. “You know, my life ain’t perfect. But at least Youa hasn’t killed any of my siblings.”
“You’re making me want to add to that.”
Amy had crept up behind Benji. The snow must have muffled her steps. But he was unphased by her.
“Sorry about your loss, Ms. Bull,” he said, as if she was still his art teacher.
She didn’t respond back until she had him in a headlock. Benji tried to fight, but Amy tightened her hold a little more.
“Come on! Your wife says worse things on the regular,” he said, still struggling in her grasp. “And I have info from the inside! From the inside!”
“We don’t need it like this,” said Amy. “I had to teach you for years. I’m tired of you harassing my wife’s son. My son!”
“After what he took from me? I’m not going to-”
Amy tripped him, and toppled Benji with ease after that. She crouched on the ground where he sat, trying to get up.
“I don’t want that bitch to get away with it either, but stay away from my family,” she snarled. Her voice lowered, and she crept in closer to Benji’s face.
“Maybe you’d still have her if we never met.”
His face clenched, and he looked to be fighting back a tear as he ran off. Amy brushed the snow off her stockings, and gave Franco a sympathetic look.
He just looked down at the snow. “I hate to listen to him,” he said.
“Honey, just because we knew his bio-dad doesn’t mean we have to,” said Annette. She was giving a worrying, un-blinking stare at her son. “His arguments were poor anyways. God knows what Sinbad tried to do without-”
“I loved him,” said Amy. “Don’t blame him like that.”
“I’m…I’m gonna try and find her,” Franco said. “I’ll pick you guys up after I do.”
When he walked away, towards the car parked at the curb, he overheard Amy a little more.
“…but the thing is, I think he should dump her. ”
The cemetery was empty, save for her. She sounded desperate as she spoke into her phone as it rang and waited. Franco felt his pocket, and he came just in time for her.
“Hey, uh, I guess I had a feeling you had enough time here,” said Franco.
Her face melted into a bit of a smile. “Oh, thank God.”
Hannah took his hands once he got close. “I just got lost in some feelings here.” He look at her fingers, with dirt and ashes caked under her nails. “I can pay a visit to Sinbad’s grave before we leave. I wish I did it now, but…I’m sorry. Time really slipped away from me here.”
Franco looked up into her eyes, and could say only the one thing he had said to Hannah ever since they met.
“It’s fine. You can do that.”
A/N: Sooooo…those funeral scenes were shot way back around Chapter 63. I’ve been planning this chapter for a while. Still, it kind of shows with some details. Like the bruise/scrape around Hannah’s eye. When it came to shooting an undisclosed scene where she was supposed to get it, I forgot to include any physical action or accident where she would get injured that way. So I just went with it being a red herring. 😛
It’s also why I 100% forgot what Benji wore and put Professor Barnes from the last chapter in the same turtleneck and blazer. It’s a nice look, what can I say!
I wasn’t able to find any real Packers jerseys for the game (just for TS2), so I improvised with a generic jersey and the Packers’ hex codes. It looks just a touch too dark, but eh. I don’t follow sportsball.