(Guess which parts of this chapter I got Carried Away with. 😐 )
(Warning! Verbal abuse and slurs/nasty insults used!)
“This doesn’t look very appetizing,” Marc said as he held up a piece of carrot. “It looks like he overcooked it a little.”
Harwood made a sound of casual indifference. “This is a complicated dish. He made do with what he had. And from what he’s told us, he’s got a lot on his mind.” Upon taking a bite and swallowing, his eye widened. “That said, he may have overused the salt a bit.”
Outside, the rain pelted the windows, and melted any remaining snow on the ground. Both men then quietly finished eating, before Harwood set his bowl down.
“I guess there’s no sense in waiting any longer. You deserve to know how it happened.”
Marc stopped in mid-chew, in order to listen to what he had to say. He nodded once, to indicate he was all ears.
“Now then, I think I was in Hidden Springs during a tour…”
Shark hadn’t said a word since Dennis took him from the mansion ruins to the theater. Both men were thoroughly soaked from the rain.
“I know this isn’t going to be all explained overnight, so…” Dennis’ attempt at conversation went seemingly ignored. Instead, he placed a hand onto his son’s back, and led him through the hallways. “Tell me what you see, boy.”
Grudgingly, Shark scanned the area, and grunted out his answer. “The theater. The place you work in now.” He now wished he were back home, dressing Sagebear in panda bear pajamas.
“Exactly. And wouldn’t you say that this is better than, well, a run-down warehouse?”
“I guess,” Shark responded with a shrug. He wanted so badly to be back home, thinking that going to the mansion remains was a mistake.
Hearing the indifference in his voice, Dennis sighed. He had a lot of explaining ahead of him, it looked like.
Annette’s search for the runaway assistants led her back into the cellar.
Once again, the combined, powerful smell of alcohol was made evident to her. In the back of the room, the sound of weeping and hiccuping could be heard.
“Moony? Hey, if I knew you were going to react that way, I wouldn’t have given you any of it-” She stopped when she saw it wasn’t him.
Curled up in a ball, Horse-Face was shaking badly while surrounded by a multitude of liquor bottles. A puddle of dried blood had pooled near him, indicative of what might have transpired.
Despite not really wanting to, Annette leaned in closer to him. She noticed that he was naked from the waist down, with blood trailing down the back of his thighs. In his hands, a knife similar to The Builder’s was coated in the red liquid.
“Eww…” Annette drew back, causing Horse-Face to look up at her through his mask’s eyes. When he realized he was there, he made a feeble attempt to cover himself.
“What do you want?” He mumbled out with a noticeable slur.
Suddenly being in the room full of bottles became even more uncomfortable. She stepped back, ready to run for the door.
“Nothing. I was looking for someone else.” Annette was speaking the truth, and he seemed to buy it. Horse-Face then slumped back down with a sob, leaving her to run out for a different room.
His wailing could be heard rising in volume even when she got back upstairs.
“If I recall correctly, it was a decent turnout that day,” Harwood started, with a nostalgic look on his face. Marc just kept quiet and listened dutifully, occasionally glancing over at his emptied food bowl. “It wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t pathetic, either.”
The look of nostalgia gently segued into wistfulness. Harwood seemed almost to be trying to transport himself back into time.
“You had the usual types you see in a crowd like that. You remember the ones here in town? Think them, but more respectful of the work.”
“Okay,” Marc stated while nodding. He knew all too well the oblivious cruelty the people in Twinbrook could be capable of.
Harwood went on after giving him a little time to imagine it. “Nobody tried wrecking the pieces or anything. It was just that most people there were either trying to get out of classes, or blindly praised my work.”
“But isn’t that what all artists want, is to be praised?” Marc instantly felt like he asked an incredibly stupid question.
A pained grimace came upon the old man’s face. “I like praise, Marc. What I don’t like are ass-kissers. And well, that’s all that I encountered that day, it looked like. The ones that weren’t bored of the place, just kept singing nothing but empty praises.”
Quickly, the cringe faded, replaced by a warm smile. “Well, not all of them, I suppose.” He glanced over at Marc again, as if he’d just shaken himself back to reality.
Now it was Marc’s turn to properly react. It seemed he knew who Harwood was referring to now. He still felt he needed to ask:
“Was it her?”
Shark glared angrily at the tools that were often used for making sets. Behind him, Dennis waited for the right time to speak again.
“I’d say those would be better than handguns, right? I mean, you could probably still take someone’s head off with a few of those, but…”
Dennis didn’t even stop Shark from flinging a handsaw to the floor, and just listened to it make a sort of clattering noise.
“Look, boy. I’m trying to excuse my actions. I get I might not be able to make up for two decades of lying to you-”
“You’re definitely not going to,” came the bitter cutoff. Dennis tried not to let it deter him.
He decided to step forward and take the toolbox away from his deeply upset son. “In that case, will you at least let me explain? I at least want to be given that.”
A stern tone to his voice led Shark to easily give up the toolbox. Dennis put it back before properly starting to explain years of events.
“It wasn’t like I wanted to do it, you know. But the thing was, your grandparents were insistent on one of their children being a successor. And since Dudley left, and Bill was being himself…”
He sat down across from Shark, offering him to follow suit. “Look, this is probably going to take a while. Best you take a seat now and listen good.”
It was clear a break was in order.
A break was exactly what The Builder was taking, whilst sucking their hunting knife clean of any dried blood. They leaned up against the door to the last room they had been in.
When Annette came running down the hallway, they took the opportunity and shot their leg out into her path.
“Ha! You drunk,” they taunted her as she stumbled and fell to the floor. Annette scrambled to stand back up, dusting and glaring at her cruel spouse.
“Like you’re one to talk. I’m not the one with a huge cellar in my place now, am I?”
The Builder just sniffed at her countering. “And I’m not the one who used to be married to an abuser and a Korean whore now, am I?”
Annette had no idea why they were bringing that up, of all subjects. She tried to keep her composure anyway.
“That was a legitimate marriage! It was a polyamorous one, but-”
“A polyamorous marriage?” The Builder faked shock. “That’s just fancy talk for ‘I’m too chickenshit to actually cheat on my main bitch again’.”
The vile words just angered her more. “Don’t call her that! She was a good friend, and a wonderful wife and mother-”
“A wife to an abusive cheater, and a mother to a noisy accident that’s only good for eating. Yeah, real honorable.” They got to their feet, putting their knife back into its holster. “Tell me, what was it like to ram your face into that skank’s diseased cunt?”
Annette really didn’t want to honor their disgusting questions with proper answers. “Think what you want. They were two good friends who helped me when I needed it.”
“There was something different about her when I first saw her,” Harwood went on as Marc stared, listening far more intently now. “I mean, she didn’t just ignore the artwork or slather on the empty compliments. She was…”
Harwood stopped again, hoping Marc didn’t notice the hint of a blush on his cheek.
Marc gently prodded him to keep going. “What? She was what?” He was quietly silenced by a finger being put up.
“Well, for context, I don’t think anyone in the exhibit knew who I was, including her. Power of glasses and a hat, I suppose. Anyway, it may have been the way she was studying one of my more well-known pieces, but something about her drew me to her.
“When I asked her what she thought of it, I must have startled the poor woman half to death,” Harwood said, taking on an expression of embarrassment. “That, eh…That was rather uncouth of me, I’ll admit.”
His speech then trailed into a few awkward forced laughs, then into a noise that sounded to Marc like, “Waaah…”
“What happened after that? What did she say about the sculpture?” He was acting much like an excited child at story time now.
Harwood sat up straighter on the couch. “She told me what she liked, and what she didn’t like. Then she said she wished she could meet the man who created it.”
Once again, a look of astounded realization came upon Marc’s face. “And she didn’t know that was you?”
“Apparently not!” Harwood answered with a laugh, before sobering up. “I did tell her later. I didn’t want her to think a sculptor she must’ve admired was a con artist of sorts…”
He trailed off, before perking back up again. “Anyway! After the exhibit was closed, I caught her just as she was leaving. I wanted to…I wanted to know what she was like, and…”
Marc once more patiently waited for him to go on. “Then what?”
“Well, I did what I should’ve done in the first place; I asked her a few questions about her, and I let her do the same in turn. I learned her name was…Melanie?”
Harwood looked to Marc to make sure he got the name right. Marc nodded, knowing it was correct.
“Yes, Melanie Brandt. She was a junior in college, I forget which major. A sweet young woman, and she was quite knowledgeable of the world of art. And she also…Well…”
A sheepish half-grin was visible now. “She said she had a dream of dating an artist. Poor girl must’ve thought it was stupid, for whatever reason. And I told her, ‘well, that isn’t a stupid dream at all’.”
“And that was when you revealed yourself?”
Marc saw Harwood nod at this. “It was! And the look on her face when she realized it was me…Well, you’d think she’d seen the bottom of Fuxian Lake. but I tried not to scare her too much more. I just asked if it were all right that I could help her with that dream of hers.”
Harwood leaned back, his face having taken on a look of immense gloom. “It was only for a couple of days, and then I had to leave town. But I guess that was still enough time, I take it?”
“Yeah.” An uncomfortable, burning question was at the front of Marc’s mind now…
Sinbad only now realized he knew little about what went into authentic Chinese food. He was at least grateful that the store was open after work ended early.
He didn’t want to intrude on his boss’ family-related emergency. All he could do was wish her good luck, while keeping his own recent woes to himself. This was admittedly difficult to do.
It appeared to be rather quiet in the vegetable section. No one else save for the grocery employees were around. Sinbad could at least browse the interesting-looking produce in solitude.
Sinbad was no stranger to this particular aisle, but he also never really looked up closely to the more uncommon types. Still, he looked them all over, just in case.
“I can’t remember if I’ve ever actually cooked with napa cabbage,” he mumbled to himself as he held up one of the mentioned cabbages. He then thought to himself that it was high time he do so.
Grabbing a few, Sinbad ran out of the produce aisle to find any other potential components for it. He figured he could ask Marc and Harwood when he got back to the house.
(Once again, chapter has been cut due to length, and a rush to get this posted. I didn’t realize I went past 2000 words until near the end. So think of this as a Part 1 of sorts)