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Chapter 2  

The next morning, a Saturday, Clayton came down the stairs, hungry for some morning cereal. He saw his mother on the phone in the kitchen with her back turned to him. She was still in her light pink bathrobe. Thinking nothing of it, Clayton went to the cupboard, got out the cereal, and went to fetch the milk from the refrigerator. Only when he turned around did he see that there was something wrong. His mother’s face was twisted up into something that looked like fear. Clayton paused, looking at her, puzzled. Katherine didn’t look up at him, though, and she just kept her head down, her eyes on the floor, with that same troubled, fearful expression on her face. Clayton shrugged and sat down at the table, poured his cereal, and started to eat.  

“But I don’t see how it’s fair that…yes…y-yes…yes, I understand that he put that in the contract,” said Katherine into the phone. Clayton couldn’t really hear the voice on the other end, but it sounded like a woman’s voice.  

“Yes…yes, but I didn’t sign any part of that!” said Katherine, suddenly animated. She gestured to Clayton. “And neither did he! Neither of us had anything to do with my husband’s crazy agreement!” 

Clayton’s ears perked up as he put down his spoon. Katherine’s husband?? Clayton’s…father!? 

The woman’s voice on the other end seemed to be talking slowly, steadily, despite Katherine’s animation.  

“That’s…that’s just…just ridiculous,” said Katherine in a different voice. Clayton could tell that she was trying to keep her composure, but it was clear that something the woman on the other end had said had scared Katherine.  

“That’s…th-that’s just…uh…that’s nonsense!” repeated Katherine. “I…I don’t believe it!” 

The woman’s voice on the other end kept talking steadily, and Katherine’s eyes widened.  

“N-no! No, p-please…please don’t come here! N-no, please! There’s…th-there’s no need for that!”  

Clayton tried to catch his mother’s eye as his own eyebrows creased into each other. What on earth was going on?! Who was his mom talking to!? And why did she seem so…afraid?? 

“Ok…o-ok…yes…y-yes, I, uh…I understand,” said Katherine, suddenly submissive, nodding her head up and down. “Yes, yes your instructions are clear enough. J-just…just, uh, s-send me the address and…and I’ll…uh…we’ll…we’ll make our way over there.”  

Katherine hung up the phone and stared straight ahead. Even though her eyes were wide, they were completely blank. 

“What’s up, mom?” asked Clayton, leaning forward in his chair. For a few seconds, Katherine didn’t even answer. She wrinkled her nose and shook her head, almost seeming to shake off Clayton’s question. Clearly, she was in a completely different place.  

“Mom!” asked Clayton, louder this time. She jumped in place, seemingly surprised by the sound of his voice.  

“Who was that?” Clayton repeated, more emphatically.  

“That was…that was Kazehana…Kazehana Asmodeus,” murmured Katherine, almost to herself. She wasn’t even looking at Clayton.  

“Who’s that?” asked Clayton. “And what was she saying about…about your…your husband. That’s the same guy as my…uh…my father, right? What’s going on?” 

Katherine was silent for another few moments, still staring blankly at the floor. She seemed like she was in shock…but it wasn’t just that. Something else was going on. She seemed…afraid…and like she was attempting to get everything straight in her head…like she was…attempting to hatch some kind of plot or something. Clayton was about to loudly repeat his question when Katherine suddenly looked up, straight at him.  

“Your father has just died, Clayton. His name was Jonathan. He died last night.” 

“Wh-what!?” blurted Clayton, feeling himself go numb on the inside. He had no positive emotional connection to his father, and had long since stopped thinking about him in any real, meaningful way. However, this sudden news cut him to his core. After all, this man was his father, even if he hadn’t really been in Clayton’s life. The fact that he had just died meant…something. 

“He died last night,” repeated Katherine in that same monotone voice. “And we have to go…to go to where he was staying…immediately.” 

“Why? To, like, claim the body or something?” asked Clayton. He was surprised how normal he felt, despite the persistent numbness in his body. Yes, his father had died, but he had never really known his father, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. More than anything, he felt sorry for his mother, who, even though she had grown to hate and despise her husband, nonetheless still love him in some way. Hate and love were two sides of the same coin, after all, right?  

“No…not…not to claim his body,” said Katherine.  

“Well…why, then?” asked Clayton. “Is there, like, some kind of funeral or something?” He paused for a moment, and then spoke up again. “Because, if it’s like some kind of funeral that’s being held by…you know…whoever he ran away to, whoever he decided to run to instead of living with us…yeah, I’m not going.” 

Katherine looked up, her eyes sharpening. “You have to go. We both have to go,” she said simply.  

“What the hell, mom!?” protested Clayton. “I don’t want to go to the funeral of a man who I didn’t even know, who abandoned us, just so I can see the woman he decided to live with instead! No way, mom, I’m not doing it! And…and you shouldn’t do it, either! It won’t be good for your mental health!” 

Katherine looked at her son, and something like pity flashed across her face. Even now, her son was trying to look out for her. she wished that she could have done a better job looking out for him. But it was too late now…too late.  

“It’s not a funeral, honey,” said Katherine quietly. “It’s…it’s something else. And there aren’t any questions to be asked, you understand? We both have to get ready and go there…right now.” 

“Right now??” asked Clayton. “Oh come on, mom! I was gonna go hang out in the park with Chris and Andrea today!” 

“Well then, tell them you can’t make it today,” said Katherine, turning to go towards her bedroom. “This is…um…an important legal matter, ok? That’s all I can say right now. You’ll learn more about what’s going on when we get there, alright? But right now, what you need to do is finish eating breakfast, get your shoes, and bring a couple snacks. It’s gonna be a long car ride to the mansion.” 

“Th-the…the mansion?” asked Clayton, but Katherine had already gone into her bedroom to change. Clayton was left alone, sitting there in the kitchen, with his cereal getting soggy. He scratched his head, shaking it a couple times to try and clear it. But there were still just so many questions bouncing around inside. So the man who had been his father was dead…and Clayton didn’t really feel any strong way about it…but what was really intriguing and puzzling was this whole “mansion” business…why did he and his mom have to go? What were they going to do there? And who was that mysterious woman on the other end of the phone? What had his mom called her? Kaze…Kazehana? Asmodeus? What kind of a name was that? Was she some kind of classical music composer or something?  

Clayton couldn’t help but shake his head again. He was very confused…but his mom’s words had seemed urgent enough that he didn’t want to increase her stress level by disobeying her. Sighing, he texted Chris and Andrea that he wasn’t going to be able to make it to the park, finished his cereal, went up to brush his teeth, and put his shoes on.  

Five minutes later, Clayton and his mom were on the road. Neither of them talked. A few minutes of driving through the quiet, private residential streets, Katherine pulled the car onto the expressway, and they were truly off. Clayton took to staring silently out the window, wondering where they were headed, and what awaited them at this mansion when they got there. 

Chapter End Notes:

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