I could hear them talking in the kitchen, their whispered voices loud enough to hear from the couch in the living room where I was supposedly sleeping.
“I don’t want him in my house!” Mandy’s dad’s voice was heated.
“Dear, he just lost his dad, and Mandy’s his best friend. It’s the right thing to do.” Mandy’s mom was trying to calm him down, but I could hear the frustration in her voice.
“Right thing to do? You should have asked me before inviting him to spend the night!” His footsteps came closer to the living room and I resolutely kept my eyes closed, pretending to sleep.
“Look here,” he continued when he went back to the kitchen, “I suppose he can spend the night since there’s no help for it now, but I want him out of the house in the morning! I don’t even approve of their friendship, but I definitely am not going to let some delinquent boy in the house with my daughter!”
“He’s not a delinquent!” Mandy’s mom’s voice raised just a bit before she remembered and lowered it again. “Mandy says he skips classes because he finds them boring, but he has excellent memory retention and actually does very well on tests. He just finds classes a waste of time. Unorthodox, I’ll admit, but it’s not like he’s misbehaving while missing classes. He’s apparently out reading mostly, according to Mandy.”
“He skips classes, he’s a delinquent.” Mandy’s dad’s tone was dismissive. “I want him out in the morning.”
“Dear, come on – he doesn’t have anywhere else to go! And Mandy cares about him!”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like it. Even if he wasn’t a delinquent, why on earth would I allow a boy that age in my daughter’s house?” He was defensive now. “It’s not smart. Boys can’t be trusted around girls.”
Ha. He doesn’t even consider the idea that you might be gay. Kat nearly snorted. Nor that Mandy’s already got a secret boyfriend she’s been out with all the time.
I rolled my eyes as I tried to block them out. He probably imagines it’s me. I guess my clothes aren’t a big enough clue? Should I start wearing more flamboyant stuff?
Nah, Dad would – She stopped, remembering, then pretended she hadn’t said that. Anyway, he’s an idiot. Mandy doesn’t have the slightest drop of interest in you that way, not the least bit because she knows you don’t – and never will – feel that way about her. He doesn’t pay much attention to his daughter, does he?
He didn’t, but we already knew that from Mandy herself. She frequently complained about how her dad never listened to a word she said and was just always reading the news or paying attention to stocks or whatever, convinced that some scheme he’d signed onto was going to magically make him rich.
Mandy’s parents’ voices died down as they went upstairs to their own room and I was left alone in the living room – just me, my thoughts, and Kat.
How are you feeling about Dad? Her tone was softer now. You haven’t exactly had a lot of time to process it.
I rolled onto my back and threw and arm over my eyes. I don’t know. Numb, I guess? Relieved? Accepting? He’s been dying for years, we knew that. It sucks it happened before Mom got here, I guess. I had to think for a minute. Do you think I’m too cold? Should I be sadder?
Kat immediately nixed that. No, you’re not. We both know your relationship with Dad was complicated, and you cared, but not being broken up about it is also okay. You had a lot of time to know this was coming.
I wasn’t entirely convinced. Maybe I was calloused, but Dad and I had struggled to have a relationship. He was strict and it felt like he was always looking for an excuse to lecture me about something. It always had to be something. I knew he cared, but sometimes…sometimes I could see the way he looked at me, like he expected me to abruptly turn into a monster or something. Sometimes I thought he genuinely hated me. Other times I thought he was scared of me.
It wasn’t like I didn’t love him, but knowing that he was dying had given me time to process and the last few days had made it clear he was going. I suppose it just felt final now, like a closed book. A little regret, but also like it was time.
The problem was the next book I was opening. I knew nothing about it, and that part scared me.
I wonder what Mom’s like, Kat mused, as if sensing my own thoughts. I wonder if she’s like us?
That seemed likely, given that Dad had been human and we were, uh, not entirely.
Mom was a big question mark to both of us. She’d left before we were old enough to remember, but Dad would never talk about her. He always made it very clear that the subject was closed and I shouldn’t ask again, even though it had felt like a normal question to ask. Why wasn’t I allowed to talk about my mom? Why wasn’t I allowed to know why she and Dad had split up? I got the impression it was some huge blowout between them, but the only comment Dad had ever made was a vague reference to her lying about stuff. What exactly that meant, I didn’t know, but given that he was human and we were…not…I had to wonder if that meant he’d found out she was supernatural and wasn’t happy about it. And if so, that might explain why he was scared of us, because maybe he was afraid we’d turn out to be supernatural, too, and kept watching for signs of it.
We didn’t have any pictures about Mom or information about her other than when Dad had told us, a few days ago when it was clear he was nearing the end. All he’d said was that he’d called her about coming to take care of me. He refused to talk about it further, just saying I’d go and live with her after he was gone, and that was that.
It was weird, really, waiting for her to show up. She was a perfect stranger to me – to us – and I wondered why on earth she’d just abandoned us and never said a word. Even if things had gone down like I suspected, why had she never tried to get involved in my life? It didn’t exactly make me want to trust her first thing, so I was honestly more nervous about meeting her than I was grieving about Dad’s death.
Mandy’s parents noticed that the following morning during breakfast, before which Mandy’s mom was going to drive me back over to Dad’s house to wait for my mom to appear – hoping she’d come today, of course. I heard Mandy’s dad mutter something about psychopaths under his breath, but that really wasn’t it. I’d had my tears during the past days and weeks especially, but now I’d just accepted it. He was gone, and it wasn’t a surprise, but now I had to figure out the next part of my life.
The downside to being a minor, I guess. Not able to make choices about stuff like that on my own.
Mandy’s mom hesitated when she dropped me off at our house. “You’ll be okay, in there by yourself?” She asked a little reluctantly. “They took his body yesterday, right?” She winced a bit at the question, then hurried on before I could answer. “Do you have food and everything you need until she arrives? Do you know when she gets here?”
I just shrugged a bit. “I’ve been handling the shopping and cooking and household upkeep for almost two years now. I’ll be fine.”
“Oh. Right.” She gave me an awkward smile. “Look, I’m sorry we can’t keep you longer. I can’t imagine it’s great to be alone for this, I just wish we could do something.”
“I’ll be fine,” I repeated, stepping back. She reluctantly rolled up the window and started to drive back, looking back once to see if I’d gotten into the house okay. I’d unlocked the door by then, so I kind of waved at her, and then stepped inside the silent house and closed the door behind me.
It was almost unearthly quiet. Dad wasn’t yelling at me from his room to bring him food or to get the remote for him or whatever thing he needed now. He wasn’t struggling to breathe with every breath sounding like it could be his last. It was all just silent.
I don’t know how I feel about all this. Kat’s voice interrupted my thoughts. Like, on the one hand, he’s Dad, so I care, but on the other hand, he was sick and it was his time and all, we knew it was coming. And then there was the whole part about how he treated you. Sometimes I really wanted to punch him directly in the mouth and watch his teeth fall out. I honestly can’t be entirely sad he’s gone.
Mixed feelings. Yeah. It wasn’t like Dad was technically abusive, but it wasn’t like we’d been close, either. I wasn’t even sure I could genuinely call him family. It wasn’t like he was actually there for me like Kat was.
I think I’m glad he’s gone. For his sake, because he was miserable, and for ours, because sometimes I was afraid he was just going to snap and try to kill us or something, I admitted quietly, wondering if Mandy’s dad was a bit right after all about the psychopath part. Shouldn’t I be sadder? Sometimes I wondered if he would have if he hadn’t gotten sick. It felt like the older I got, the more paranoid he became.
Kat immediately knew what I was talking about. Oh yeah, I totally got that vibe, too. I know he was thinking about it a couple of times. I could see it in his eyes, like he thought you were a wild animal just waiting to attack and couldn’t decide if he should act preemptively. Don’t know if you would have survived till adulthood if he hadn’t gotten sick. Or, well, if it wasn’t for me. I wouldn’t have let anything actually happen to you, she assured me. But in his mind, anyway, I think he was thinking about it.
I wandered to my room, which was fairly simple, actually. I’d always claimed to not be that interested in putting up posters or personal stuff or making the room really mine, but the truth was that I didn’t want Kat to feel bad. I didn’t want to come into a room that was clearly mine with nothing of hers to claim – and of course, she couldn’t really do that with Dad. He’d have freaked out if he found me with girls’ stuff in my room and probably have hated me all the more. It wasn’t like I could explain it belonged to a girlfriend – uh, gay – or that it was even for me, because, um, yeah that would have just made him angrier. He was already annoyed enough that I had clothes that were balancing gender lines and definitely wouldn’t have been cool with outright girls’ clothes.
Maybe at Mom’s place we could have more of a shared room? If Mom really was supernatural, that was. Maybe she would be okay with Kat existing more officially. I kind of hoped maybe this would be a good thing.
I started packing up my stuff while Kat chatted about whatever – mostly wondering about what Mom was like and where she lived and what it would be like starting all over somewhere. We lived in a small town, and one thing we could guarantee was that things were going to be very different wherever we moved to, even if it was another small town. I was a little nervous about the idea, but not as much as if I’d been facing this alone. It helped a lot to have someone with me and on my side no matter what.
It didn’t take me long to pack my stuff, so then I went around the house gathering anything else I might want. Dad rented the house, so at least Mom or whoever didn’t have to deal with trying to sell it, but I figured I needed to take anything I wanted to keep with me unless Mom was going to have it all boxed up and sent to wherever we would live after this. I had no idea whether she’d want anything of his, especially given the apparent animosity between her and Dad.
I wanted to keep the few pictures we had, mostly because even if I had mixed feelings about Dad, it still felt right. I wanted pictures of us together. There was also this blanket I really liked that was super comfy and weird as it might be, I really wanted to keep it. Most of the dishes were mismatched and not particularly interesting to me, but Kat really liked this set of two teacups and plates, so I packed them up carefully and then looked around to see if there was anything else I really liked.
Maybe the bookends? Kat suggested.
Yeah, I agreed. I like those. I carefully went to take the carved bookends down and add them to a box had set out for all of my non-personal stuff.
We went through the rest of it, adding some books and other random things to the box, then I looked around, trying to figure out if we’d forgotten anything.
Kat seemed almost hesitant to make the suggestion, but she did anyway. What about Dad’s stuff? Should we check and see if there’s anything you might want there? You don’t exactly share styles, but, uh, maybe it’s still worth checking?
I felt a little reluctant to do so, because it felt weird to go through his stuff, but I knew she was right. I went to his bedroom door and pushed it open, taking a moment to just look at the empty bed before taking a deep breath and stepping inside the room.
I headed to the dresser and swiftly went through the drawers, but other than Dad’s clothes, there was nothing of interest in there. Kat suggested I take a pair of his boots, but they were too big and I wasn’t confident that I’d grow into them, so I opted against it. Dad’s wallet was on the dresser, and I checked it to see if he had Mom’s phone number in there – since I didn’t have it anywhere myself – but apart from his ID, there was genuinely nothing in there. I already had all the cash and his bank card since I’d been handling bills and shopping, but I was disappointed there wasn’t anything more informative about Mom. Probably had that info on his phone, but that was locked and I had no idea how to get into it.
I went over to the closet, going through the stuff in there. Kat insisted I keep a coat Dad had which was a little big on me, but I didn’t have a proper coat since I’d outgrown my last one, so that made sense.
What’s with the box? Kat asked, just as I went to shut the door.
Box? I looked around, confused.
The one in the top of the closet, behind his hats. See there?
I looked up, then saw what she meant. Huh. It was pushed way back where it was barely visible. I had to stand on my toes to get it, but I managed to pull it out after a bit of wiggling and then set it down on the floor to open it.
When I did, I stared at it blankly for a long, silent moment.
Uh, Kat? I finally asked faintly.
Yeah, yeah, I’m seeing it too. What the hell? She sounded as shocked as I was. Weapons? What kind of – why – I don’t get it! These aren’t even like a gun or normal stuff! What is that, a curved knife? Ninja throwing stars? Why the fuck would Dad have those?
I stared at the box’s contents, lost, then reached out to touch one, curious. When I did, Kat almost hissed.
That is not normal! I can feel it! It’s not just a knife, there’s something there that affects magic.
For a moment we were both silent again, and then I looked up at the mirror, looking into my eyes as if I was looking at Kat, as the realization struck me.
Kat, I whispered. They’re Hunter weapons.
Kat finally responded, her mind clearly spinning as she came to the same conclusion. Oh fuck. Dad used to be a Hunter.
Talk about a post-death revelation.
Maybe we knew why Mom left after all.
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