It was hard to hear over the buzz of a loud cicada near her, but Annette perked up at some footsteps coming closer to her. Against the asphalt of the road, it sounded like dress shoes. It sounded like a slower gait too. As it turned out, her Plan C might have worked.
“Up so late?” she asked her visitor.
She guessed that it was past midnight. It didn’t seem to phase Harwood, who stood there on her pitiful lawn, shaking his head at that late hour.
“You broke me, Annette,” he said.
“I knew you’d come. I bought the supplies just for you.”
“I mean…the sculpting stone…you really had this all planned out didn’t you? And now I have no idea what to do.”
“I’m pretty good at that, but I’m a high school dropout. You might be broken, but I ain’t exactly a therapist, you know? But, I mean, you can sit by the fire if you want. It’s cold tonight,” Annette said.
He took a seat on the grass, in the orange glow of the fire, and sulked. Harwood barely bothered to look at Annette next to him. “I really can’t believe that you’re the first good job offer I’ve gotten in a while,” he said. “I mean, who would want someone my age when you can get someone young to do the same thing? And no one cares about having my name attached to their work anymore…except…you do.”
“Don’t look into it too deep,” she said. “I thought you were interesting.”
“And that’s all your boss asks for?”
She gave a sly grin. “Nah. He asks for nothin’ from you.”
“I need to pay the bills too, but guess who can make more money? I can scout out some jobs for you, and then we have some cash.”
“And you want to enslave me for the rest of my life just because you’re poor?” Harwood said it with a livid scowl on his face.
“That’s a harsh word,” said Annette. “You’re my roomie. Just the one that contributes the most, if you end up taking up my offer.” She didn’t get much of a response. “Well, I might not be human, but I can have fun like a human. And if any demonic baddies come around, don’t worry! They have to answer to me.” Still nothing. “Can I really make your life any worse? You sounded pretty broken in those interviews from the 2010’s too.”
He still hung his head down in some sort of sorrow. “Yes, I did.”
“Somethin’ about being a bitter, childless bachelor. I can’t help you with that, but sculpting? I can get you some jobs. Promise.”
There was a minute of silence, save for Sagebear sniffing around, which Annette took with patience.
“So what happens if I leave?” Harwood asked.
“That…uh…I wish I was told that? I mean, I still have to answer to someone, even if you don’t. They just haven’t told me what happens if I break that rule of theirs. But I think it’s either that you get teleported back to me, or I get crushed by some hellbeast. And I’m not risking that.”
Harwood smiled a bit, for the first time that night. “This could be interesting.”
“So you’re in?” Annette asked him.
“At least I won’t die completely alone.”
“Nice work. I’ll see who wants your work. But until then, uh, I think the Terrebonne State Sperm Bank has a branch here. I’d love getting paid to stroke it if it worked that way for me.”
Annette left the night on that vulgar note. Harwood seemed to be listening, but he soon took off his formal jacket and fell asleep slumped over one of the rough-looking chairs around the firepit. Not yet tired or drunk enough, Annette twisted another glass bottle open and enjoyed her third beer that night. She slouched over in her seat and celebrated her first victory, all by herself.
There was a lot of work to do, but Annette had the determination to do it. She found a rich buyer in one of the neighboring towns who would pay well for a genuine piece from Harwood. With that, she fulfilled her only real promise to her new housemate. However, as it seemed, he worked hard. But Annette? She still seemed like a drifting slacker, with the only twist being that she had a mysterious mission to a dark lord. And said dark lord might not have been impressed either (I’m not sure, don’t need to be).
It was not long after Harwood had moved in. He was making progress with that new commission, and Annette got the mail. After balking at all the nagging from City Hall for legal concerns, she pocketed a clothes catalog, and also had a good attitude about a fifty dollar check that arrived.
“Terrbonne State Sperm Bank…I was kidding about that at first, but I like us getting money for your orgasms,” she said, in a loud outdoors voice suited for their outdoors setup.
By the time she turned around, Harwood stood in front of her, with his arms crossed and his brows furrowed in anger.
“Sorry for being happy about getting paid and for you leaving a legacy behind,” she said, rolling her eyes in defiance.
“So what have you done for us?” he asked her, in a low voice.
“You’re not senile yet. You have to have noticed my stash!”
Annette referred to a growing collection of stolen goods, ranging from a flat iron for hair to a vintage, avocado-green fridge. While Harwood sculpted, Annette set off and lifted whatever could be smuggled out without anyone noticing. She did it with the intention of selling her ill-gotten gains.
“Look, I don’t want to seem so demanding, but I thought you would better yourself. Even if this is what Lucifer asks of you, surely he wouldn’t mind you getting a second job,” said Harwood. “Plus, I don’t want to have to deal with the police. I’m too old for that.”
“Nah, I just need to be successful, whatever that means. And best thief in Terrebonne sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t think that will happen.”
Annette’s face soured. “What, you want me to aspire to be best grocery bagger or somethin’? Best cocksucking slut in Terrebonne if I’m lucky? Newsflash, Mister Clay, no one wants to hire demons. We’re not a protected class yet.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m not saying that. But you could always go into culinary.”
“Like they’d hire me.”
“It worked for my mum back in the 40’s. I thought you knew, I mean, I had to have said some things about her in an interview,” he said.
Annette dug into her memories. He was right. Mentioned something about his mother back in 1996, about how she was a hard-working Lebanese immigrant who worked seven days a week in a kitchen to support her two kids (and that she had passed away, rest her soul).
Social progress had marched on since then. They had to have been open to hiring feisty female demons seventy or more years later.
“Fine, I’ll give it a shot,” said Annette.
She applied to be a line cook, but got accepted for waitressing instead. Society must have marched on even more than she thought. Waiting tables put her and her pale blue skin in full view of the public, and the owner of the place? She was okay with that. She even complimented Annette’s brilliant smile, fangs and all.
With a legal job, Annette’s thievery got sidetracked and her stash didn’t grow much at all. And it gave Harwood a better attitude about her. No longer would he nag her about working hard, and instead he acted like…a friend. He had loads of dark jokes for Annette about life as a starving artist and a lonely bachelor. He also played with Sagebear and bore with her when she brought home really odd shit from around town. The two humans and the dogs got along fine. There turned out to be few cultural differences between an old human man and a hybrid. Heck, they probably found more incongruity between their differing ethnic backgrounds. And the differences between being half-Lebanese and half–well, she claimed it was Greek at first–didn’t cause much conflict between them.
There was one problem with Harwood, however. A superficial one, but Annette claimed it was a problem anyways. She liked neutral colors herself, but she used her limited sense of fashion to deem her roommate’s wardrobe as drab and boring. Boy, did he like grey t-shirts and khakis. But she had a remedy, one that could be made with the tips she saved up.
“What’s your favorite color?” she asked him one morning. It turned out to be purple, like the coffee mugs he had at his old home, or that one unusual t-shirt he had. “Weird.” But she ended up forgoing a few cases of beer for some second-hand clothes for her friend. They had a worn-in feel and more purple than most men would be comfortable wearing. Along with that came a different suggestion.
“Ever go clubbing?” Annette asked Harwood.
“You know the answer,” he replied.
“Well, we’re here to try new things, aren’t we? I was talking with some chick behind the store. Apparently there’s this place out in the bayou. The Grind ring a bell to you? Any young whippersnappers talking about that?”
“It’s been there for a few years.”
“Neat. We’re going, and why not show off that new shirt I got you? It’s not dayglo bright, but I think you’ll be fine. And heck, you might even pick up some ladies.”
“As if,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Fine. Drag me to the club. I guess I’m tired of being productive right now.”
Annette’s only advice was to follow his instinct. Every human had an instinct to dance to pounding bass and a four-on-the-floor beat. And even if they didn’t, it worked to make Harwood look just as foolish as Annette did.
That dancing was done sober too! She gave into the siren-song of alcohol and happy hour and dragged her friend into it, taking a seat on a sectional near a speaker.
“Yo, I’m making great tips these days,” said Annette, with one eyebrow deviously raised. “And I think we can have some fun here with that money.”
“What, buy me more beer?” asked Harwood. He enjoyed the one bottle he had, it seemed.
“Yup. And, you know, I’m getting paid soon. I think. I’ll give you a nice sum of that for whatever if you can get the youngest adult here to smooch you.”
“That’s not going to happe-”
“Hey bartender! Get this man some more drinks. I’m payin’ with my spiffy new tip money!”
Annette found a way to use her obnoxious traits, again, to break her roommate. Harwood found himself with a second beer and an open enough mind for a third drink. Annette put away quite a few herself, but she had her own things to do. Be rude to other patrons and attempted pickpocketing.
She got drunk, for sure, but she stayed lucid enough to see that Harwood would end up getting to use her first paycheck after all. His new lady looked pretty young, anyways.
But after five seconds of internal wow, he really went through with that, Annette got into the song playing and found a new dancing partner. She got a few details about her: worked at the diner. 31. Single. Straight. Capricorn.
Harwood knew a few things about his random hookup. Amy Bull: an old neighbor of his. 21. Single. Straight. Silly trust fund kid who was a homeowner by age 20. She seemed like a catch to anyone, and to him for maybe an hour, but he regretted it by dawn.
“Well, you looked like you were having fun last night,” Annette said, the next morning. Poor Harwood woke up with a killer hangover and a need for a hangover cure. “And you get my tips tonight!”
“At what cost?” he grumbled. “Acting like a creep towards Amy? Who’s younger than you?”
“You snogged her and did some questionable things in the men’s room with someone guys half your age would kill to be with. I’d be thankful for that if I was you.”
“It wasn’t even that great!”
“Aww hell, really? How far did you get?” He held up two fingers. “Well, at your age, beggars can’t be choosers. Now I just need to find someone to awkwardly grope me in the bathroom next.”
He ate his breakfast in shame and silence. “It’s the salt in this, isn’t it?” was his only break from it, until after they paid. Harwood then expressed remorse that Annette didn’t understand.
“Can we just visit her and apologize?” he asked Annette.
“You don’t need to. One-night stands happen, old man. Get with the times!”
“Not like they never did when I was your age, but I knew her before this. It’s only fair.”
“Man, you’re the worst clubbing partner I’ve ever had,” said Annette. “But you know what? Fine. Maybe she’ll leave her wallet out for the taking.” It seemed like Harwood was beyond the point of caring about his kleptomaniac friend. He didn’t comment on it like he would have a month earlier.
He made a sincere apology and Amy took it well, agreeing to just be his friend. Annette left them to break down any awkwardness, instead to admire a drawing on Amy’s wall. It was nice to start with, but she noticed the signature at the bottom. It looked a little like Amy’s name.
“Hey you! I get that you forgive him. Now tell me if you drew this awesome thing or not.”
Amy looked back and, beneath all her makeup, appeared to blush at the compliment. “Oh! Yep, that’s mine,” said Amy. “I’m pretty proud of it.”
“Have you gotten money for that?”
“Yup! Well, for other ones. Yeah.”
“Hmm.” Annette took a look around the house, not entirely to steal, but to also get a feel for the place. After all, living outdoors got tiring, for the both of them. Harwood could find shelter somewhere; he had friends, or at least contacts. Annette had yet to make a significant one. If she was lucky enough, she could get Amy’s drawing skills too, more portraits of her, and more ways to bask in her narcissism.
It seemed like a good deal.
Annette boarded at Amy’s house while she left Harwood to his own devices. He may have had a few more contacts in Twinbrook than she thought, and they didn’t seem to ask for any pay. Plus, he could stay on the lawn in their summer sun without his dark skin burning, something Annette wished for herself to have. But Amy, young and kind and up to her neck in gullible glee, let Annette stay for free. Amy slept or spaced out and got distracted, and Annette found herself stealing. It turned out to be small things: forks, trinkets, unopened tubes of acrylic paint. Stuff she tucked inside her shirt without her hostess noticing.
That was her schtick, but it wasn’t what made Annette evil. She, on a technicality, paid Amy back.
Both of them needed to eat, after all, and Annette learned a waffle recipe just for Amy. She got the proportions down on the first try, and presented Amy with fluffy waffles and syrup on demand. She also got a breakfast guest each morning she cooked. If Harwood was bitterly sweet, Amy was like swallowing a whole capsule of sugar pills. She had good news every day. She met a long-lost friend while she was working the desk at the spa downtown! Pears were half-price last afternoon! Her hot neighbor said hi to her the night before!
Every sentence and action dripped with honey. She cheered for everything her guest did, from making pancakes with a modified recipe, to making blueberry pancakes the next morning.
She kept up the gig as she further and further gained Amy’s trust. It even cummulated in showing off each other’s impeccable bikini bodies to each other at a summer party. Annette offered to cook ratatouille right there; an odd choice, but she learned the recipe and needed a kitchen to practice it in.
Amy also attracted handsome, fit party guests, which was the bonus.
Annette ended up staying the night, lounging around watching TV and wondering if she should have brought a change of clothes. Amy wandered off somewhere. Saying good-bye to guests one minute, and heading upstairs without even acknowledging Annette adding to her cable bill with some pay-per-view.
After getting bored, Annette thought. She did end up baring her awesome cleavage to Amy for the whole night. True friends did that, of course! Amy never heard the story du jour of why she was in Twinbrook, but that night could be the night to hear it. With a month of trust and cooking breakfast built up behind her, Annette had a chance of a good reaction.
She went upstairs too. Catching Amy in shorts and a bra wasn’t awkward after seeing her in a string bikini.
“I forgot you were still here,” said Amy. “But the couch is always open, don’t worry!”
“Can we put your pillows to use?” Annette asked, looking over at the two on Amy’s bed.
“Oh my god, I haven’t done this in years.”
“Well, that’s why we’re gonna do it like we’re two teenage girls.”
Due to being alone, two young women pillow fighting in skimpy clothing was far less erotic than it could have been. Amy’s strong pillow-fighting blow caught Annette off guard too. But they had fun, and Amy looked excited and tired enough to convince of some odd things.
Once they put the pillows back where they belonged, Annette made her move. “Listen, I know you might have wondered why someone who looks like me is in a town like this.”
“Maybe for a bit, but you’re just so darn cool!” Amy squealed.
“But it’s…it’s for something serious. I have a task to do before I’m let back…on…my home planet.”
“You’re…you’re an alien, Annette?”
“Half, which is why I need to prove myself. And the Grand Queen of Arcturus Planet B13 loves the art of this world. I’ve seen your paintings, and my god, they’re to die for. I could never-”
“Oh Annette, I’d be honored to,” said Amy. “Imagine me, recognized by a queen of a whole planet! I’m just so humbled, Annette. I need to get out of this place anyways. All my forks have gone missing and I don’t know why.”
Oh, that poor girl. Amy kept a good attitude about it, though. She needed the fresh air, she said, and living outside was an easy way to do it.
But as that happened, Annette found herself with some ambitions about that diner that hired her. She could be a cook and not just a waitress hoping for big tips. She proved to Amy that she made awesome breakfasts, anyways.
And could that lead to something bigger? In a lot of ways, of course.
A/N: Annette sure loved clubbing. And she was the real fool all along:
In game, she never dragged Harwood along with her because he had more important things to do. So no, he couldn’t get Amy to touch him. There were plenty of other women out there for him anyways.
And welcome to Amy! A painter like…I had two others, and they were better than her. But she did a fine job in the beginning before the others came along.
Because I could only stand her screaming wardrobe for so long, here’s the makeover pic:
What a cutie!