“My grandparents weren’t rich by any means, I should say,” Harwood spoke, clearly reminiscing about his long ended childhood. “I knew that the first time I saw their house.”
He gestured with his hands, trying to give Annette some kind of idea. “It was all right for an elderly Chinese couple. Not so much with their mixed-blood grandson thrown into all of it.”
“You said couple,” Annette stopped him. “So what, you had a grandmother there, too?”
“Indeed I did.” The smile he gave when she asked indicated a now happy memory. “I think my grandmother was glad to see me, even if I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Language barriers and such.”
Annette gave a shrug. “Yeah, those can be a pain in the ass to deal with. So what was granny like besides that?”
“Oh, Laolao was an absolute joy. She just wasn’t one of those cuddly, ‘hug you as part of her greeting’ types. And there was this smell about her. I didn’t ask about it, though, since I had to respect my elders.”
This piqued Annette’s interest. “So she was the hard-ass kind?”
“No, she was in a wheelchair.”
The first thing that Horse-Face noticed after coming to, was just how putrid the smell in his mask was.
The second thing he noticed was his companion sitting next to him. When Horse-Face groaned, the young man turned to look at him.
“Are you all right?” Came the young man’s defeated-sounding question.
“Horse-Face answered him with a pained groan. “What all happened?”
His companion shrugged. “According to the Builder’s Twin, you murdered a clone, and then passed out.”
“Wait, what? I killed a clone?” Close by, The Twin sat up against the wall. They slowly nodded, confirming it was true.
“Well, half his face was ripped off, and he wasn’t breathing. Who else could it have been?”
He then reached over, and took a brief peek at the state of Horse-Face’s mutilated junk. “They also let me know about that. I’d kind of like to know why you tried to emasculate yourself.”
“You know why. You were there, remember?” Here his companion said nothing, and instead just turned to look away.
For the first time, Horse-Face was stricken by just how pale his companion’s skin was.
“You look like a ghost, I swear.” The young man crossed his arms after hearing this comment.
“After what happened between you and me, what makes you think I’m not?”
Helping herself to more of Harwood’s dragon beard candy, Annette waited for him to keep talking.
“For the first few days, Laolao and Gonggong made sure I was doing all right in my new home,” Harwood stated as he sat on the back of the couch. “But…Well, you know that feeling you get when you don’t feel like you’re welcome in someone’s house?”
“Uh…Sort of?” Annette didn’t know whether or not that was meant to be a crack at her breaking into his house.
He went on. “That’s what it felt like whenever I saw my grandparents’ faces. And who could blame them? I was the filthy mixed-race child their daughter had. I was initially surprised they didn’t give me back.”
The moment Harwood said the last three words, Annette’s blood ran cold. All she could hear now was her zombified nephew, with the words ‘give him back’ echoing in her mind. She swallowed, and tried to keep her composure.
“So it turns out they didn’t hate you, I take it. How’d you know for sure?” She hoped he didn’t take note of the shaking in her voice.
Tapping his cane against his feet, Harwood cringed.
“Hard to say, there. I don’t think my grandparents had a hateful bone in their bodies. They certainly liked each other enough. I mean…”
His expression turned wistful. “She was a good Han woman. He was a good Hakka man. He couldn’t understand some of the things her people did, but he was good to her. He never abused her, at least. Oh, but I digress…”
He closed his visible eye, as if he were trying to shut out any pain associated with his story. “One night, I remember sneaking out to the cemetery. I guess I wanted to visit my parents.
“I don’t remember exactly long I was there, but it had to be a while. I remember sitting there, and hearing my grandmother’s wheelchair behind me. She was…My grandfather had apparently helped her there, and…”
Harwood swallowed, clearly emotional now. “She didn’t say anything to me for a little while. And then she started getting up out of her wheelchair-”
“Now hold on a second.” Annette felt the need to point out the possible hole in his story. “How’s she getting up out of the wheelchair if she’s paralyzed?”
Now Harwood cringed. “I said she was in a wheelchair. Never said a word about her being paralyzed. She was in that wheelchair for a completely different reason.”
“Which was…?” The answer she got was a vague, but still implicitly frightening one:
“I don’t think feet were supposed to look like hers did.”
Sinbad continued to listen on with a sober look on his face.
“What? What’s eating you? You heard something you shouldn’t have?” Marc asked quietly when he noticed.
Stepping back, Sinbad just shrugged. “For some reason, a bunch of people I meet either have abusive moms, or dead moms.”
“Is that so?” Marc jumped off the bed, and extended his hand out to him. “Count me in the second one, then.”
“Uh…Do I want to know how it happened?”
Marc grunted. “All you need to know are the words ‘stepdad’ and ‘beating’.”
“Oh. Eh…” Sinbad reluctantly took hold of his hand, and shook it. “Sorry for your loss, man.”
“Don’t be. He got what was coming to him in the end.”
Dennis somehow had a feeling he knew where Shark was. He didn’t even feel the need to call his brother for help.
After leaving the property, he made a beeline straight for the mansion ruins. When he reached the badly neglected lawn, he saw him sitting amongst the charred remains.
“Is the moon more visible from this place, boy?” Shark turned to see Dennis approaching him, and shook his head.
“I needed to be alone, is all. I didn’t know where else to go.”
Shark moved over to give Dennis a spot to sit next to him. Both men then proceeded to stare up at the moon and stars, before Shark broke the silence again.
“Dad? Do you think maybe I shouldn’t have thrown Sinbad out?”
“Hm? Well, I can’t say. He wasn’t my fiance, just a former employee. And you were pretty hurt and upset over what you’d found out, so…”
He paused, to bite his lip. “You could’ve at least given him a chance to explain. I mean, he kept it secret so you weren’t hurt by any of the truth. That’s probably why he did it.”
“Yeah, sounds about right.” Shark then looked next to his father, noting the absence of a certain grey dog. “No Sagebear?”
Dennis shook his head. “The ladies wanted some time with her. I figured it was a good way for the dog to bond with her future Grandma, so I let her stay there.”
“Sounds good enough.” They were silent again, turning their gazes back up to the starry skies.