I’m here to make it however I can. Easier said than done for Annette, and her insistence on winning over Bill’s sour heart. She made a deal with her roommates, though: until they got the money to put up some drywall and a roof, they could follow her into the Racket abode. Would the other Rackets care? Annette laughed at the thought of caring about their feelings.
Annette didn’t know how to handle dragging two roommates into that racket. However, one valiant soldier marched in to relieve some of the burden by the time winter fell.
Marc Brandt, an actual-if-inactive soldier in a time of peace in the nation, used to live sandwiched between Amy and Harwood. Being a straight man who liked them on the younger side, he looked towards Amy and let her live with him, more or less. She got an easel to paint on and the best selection of oil paints in town, and he got amazing handjobs. And someone to bounce painting ideas off too.
First, it got her out of Annette’s hair, at least for periods of time. But more on that later.
It kicked Annette’s mind into gear when it came to scheming. Congrats to Amy, but how dare Annette be beat to romantic success by someone younger than her! Amy’s absence from the usual affairs still left Annette with a third wheel, not counting her dog, who was never a burden. But her little twinges of guilt over being a distant roommate to Harwood drove her to stick by his side. She watched enough sculpting to get sick of it, and said that he could follow her on dates if he kept to himself for at least half of it.
And sometimes, she got sight on his internet habits too.
They used the library for that. “Funny how they let dogs in here,” said Annette, as she scratched behind Sagebear’s ears. “And funny how they let you watch your porn in here too.”
“It’s a dating site and one person put up nudes. Not my fault,” he said.
“I’ve been that way for a long, long time.”
“As if I don’t know. Well, I just hope it explains why you’re eyeing a-” Annette stopped to get a closer look at the open profile. “29 year-old. Jesus, Harwood! That’s like dating me. You’re just trying to outdo Bill at this point.”
Harwood ended up coming along with them to make it a double-date and not a single date with some third person sulking in the corner. It sounded better, but she still considered herself better off than him. Annette got a strong arm around her and a cup of hot cocoa on Bill’s dime, and Harwood got an earful about podiatry. He ended up meeting Dr. Molly Coddle on the site and they hit it off as friends. It warmed Annette’s heart a little once she saw them talking. It had a sweet quality, even if her friend was probably just looking to get laid.
Unfortunately, it seemed that Harwood did not listen enough about the mechanics of feet to get his reward. He sulked all the way back to the Racket mansion after that.
The situation could be better. Sharing a bed with that old man was only a part of it. It could improve. To try and improve the living situation, Annette brought up the idea of moving in together with Bill. He shot her down. It had been only four months, he said, and even if he would get a home away from his wretched family, he was stuck there with her?
It was part of her rules, she said. Whoever was in her household was there for life. For Annette, she would handle breakups and rifts with compromise and tact, or so she said back then. But Bill seemed to just see a world of misery. Stuck with her for the rest of his life? What if it didn’t work out? What if Annette aged terribly and he needed a younger model? Stuck living with her. She begged. Any situation would be dealt with somehow so everyone would be happy. No luck. She offered a blowjob in exchange for some agreement. Not a chance he would move in, even with that.
And the worst part was, she couldn’t even tell him what the consequences were. For him or for her.
But that wasn’t the only thing. It didn’t work in her favor that she tried getting friendly with the other Rackets as well. Max and Marigold were a lost cause. Too caustic, too old to be worth the effort of befriending. Due to the closeness in age, Annette got along with Bill’s niece better. Little Lolly, at about sixteen, already had the heart and skills of an old grandmother. She was as sweet as a bag of lollies (of course), and cooked pasta that rivaled Annette’s.
That food bruised her ego. She ignored Lolly after a week, and found Shark. She met him before and was unimpressed at first. But Shark burnt instant ramen with his cooking incompetency. He just had different hobbies, though. Whoever owned the gym in town already knew him on a first-name basis. He was in a bulk cycle, and to feed that, he wished that he knew a good cook that wasn’t “his bitchy little sister.” Annette offered food, but it seemed the only way to get Shark on her side was to buy him liquor. Which she did once, but it got her only half the way there. Shark was too smart for her schemes. He knew who she sided with.
He had an angry streak. Bill and Lolly got the biggest brunt of it. Afternoons at the weight rack didn’t give him the help he needed. Therefore, she needed an idea. It took a while, but Annette watched Harwood attack his materials with a chisel and other sharp tools. Magic happened in her planning.
“Does that shit work for anger management?” she asked him.
“Believe me, you’d kick me out if I didn’t have this,” said Harwood, with a grin. “It’s calming.”
“Have you ever taught anyone?”
“Always wanted to.”
“Then do a job for me. You know Shark by now. He’s at the gym every afternoon.”
He had a story for Annette when he was finished. There Shark was on the bench, overestimating his strength and showing off with only red track pants on. He looked over towards Harwood, hearing someone walk down the stairs.
“You’re that geezer Annette drags around with her, aren’t you?” Shark asked.
“I have a name,” said Harwood.
“Yeah, Mr. Clay, I know that. What, are you here to fetch me? I’m not done.” He went back to the machine to finish his reps.
“Look, I know that Annette probably doesn’t seem like authority to you, but she’s young. And she once knew what it was like to be your age. Angry and a little restless. Hell, even I remember that, and that’s almost 60 years in the past.”
“I don’t care. It’s not her job to do that,” Shark said. “It ain’t yours either, buddy.”
He continued regardless. “Anyways, I was asking if you wanted to start sculpting. I see you more than you think. You lash out at your sister and your uncle all the time, and failing at lifting 150 pounds isn’t helping you with that.”
“So what are you asking of me, Mr. Clay? What, you want me to try art? That’s stupid.”
“It’s not stupid, and you know what? Your aunt and uncle agree with me.”
Shark got up, with an angry pout and crossed arms. “She’s not my aunt,” he snarled.
“She’s the closest you’ll get,” Harwood said. “And she’s a smarter woman than you think.”
When he recounted the story to Annette she sighed. “Damnit Harwood, you know things are tense between that kid and I. Don’t bring me up if you want him to listen.”
“At least it wasn’t you suggesting art lessons,” he said. “I hope he listens. I mean, he’s 17. There’s still time for him to mellow down, and after that, you might have a great nephew.”
The real estate market was in a stand-still. Amy and Harwood had houses to sell, and a dearth of buyers. It mattered for both their bank accounts, and for one other development in Annette’s life. “It still hasn’t sold?” she asked Harwood, regarding his place.
“Not yet,” he said.
“For once, that’s good. And something else is good! Apparently Shark listened to you.”
“At last. So what does this have to do with a bad market?”
Annette wasn’t lying to try and cheer up a friend. Shark indeed bugged his parents to get some clay delivered to another address. It seemed like a safe place to start, and lugging around the heavy material made up for the time he missed working out. With a chisel in hand, he started making whatever he could. Tables and elephants and oversized vases.
He just did it with some breaking and entering, to remind everyone that he was a Racket from the core.
“To be fair, it’s a nice spot to sculpt,” said Harwood. “Why else do you think I bought the place? Living next to attractive young women? Excellent lakeside views?”
“I’d do the same thing he did too. So, whatever works. Probably beats trying it on our lawn. I just need to work the impossible now.”
“Getting him to follow Bill to our doorstep? How about you leave that to me.”
“You’re too good-hearted, and a bad liar too,” said Annette. Perhaps he hadn’t thought through alibis enough when he was out one night just to find a private place to have a wank.
“Says the woman who thinks everyone believes her changing stories. You can’t even decide if you’re Lebanese or Italian on your dad’s side,” Harwood said. “Annette, I can do this. Once he’s an adult, anyways.”
“You have until July to figure out a plan…pretty sure it’s July. As for me, I have a hopeless mission ahead of me.”
“Maybe one day you’ll offer him enough sex to make it work.”
He said that in early March. Annette could offer quite a bit between then and July! She said, with a bit of a nervous jitter to her voice, that sex was just amazing back then. It was a free ticket to a bed for the night, and it pissed off Bill’s family so much with how loud she could get. I mostly played it up, Annette told me. But you know how Julienne said he was terrible at it? Oh dear, she was wrong. Maybe if he nailed her from behind while she leaned over the counter, she’d be a lot nicer.
(I’d say writing that took dry-heaving and willpower, but there’s worse from Annette to bear)
Sometime that following July, things proceeded as they tended to. Bill and Annette might have originally been in the parlor to have some legitimate family time with the Rackets, but with that ordeal over with, it was time for some fun. They took some of each other’s clothes off. Down to their underwear and whatever shirt they were wearing on that hot summer day, the two of them were on the track to desecrating the parlor with their sexual filth. Just as planned.
Now, everyone else in the household knew to stay away from the two of them alone, lest they get an eyeful of Bill reaching into his girlfriend’s panties. But alas, someone beamed into the room anyways.
Yes, beamed. In a stream of light.
It was Amy.
Needless to say, it confused her. She struggled to even get a hold of her physical being, clutching on to the sides of her face just to confirm that she was still alive and on earth. “Holy shit, who’s house is this now?”
Annette was busy counting off on her fingers. “Six, seven, eight, it’s been eight days since I’ve seen you. So…well, I learned something today. That you used to visit more often.”
“I…I think you’re still right about not being human. Is this normal?” Amy asked.
She gave her confused friend a flat look. “Never seen it, but yeah. Probably is normal. So…you have to check in with me every eight days as per those stupid rules? I guess. Seems fair.”
“Yeah, fair.” Annette wanted to ignore the defeat in her alleged roommate’s voice, but at that point, was young and incorrupt enough to not.
She got up from her seat to try and say something comforting. “And it’s great that I know now! In fact, it’s the big kick to my ass that I need to do something about this.”
“Which would be…whatever you were planning,” said Amy, seeming to be cautious around the watchful eyes of Annette’s partner.
“Yeah, that thing,” Annette muttered.
“Can I go now?”
“If not, you’ll figure out soon.”
Amy had one last, still-cautious thing to say to her negligent landlady-figure. “Just be careful. Sometimes I fear what you’re getting into.”
“Sure, mum,” she replied. As if she would take that sort of tone from someone younger than her. But Annette sometimes told the truth, and she felt a hearty kick in the ass from Amy. She still felt it as she watched her friend hurry out the door before someone saw her in her pajamas. That probably was a sight she would have rather saved for Marc.
She tried to forget about it as she tried to instead remember the best positions for fucking on the couch. But most of her former partners, well, fit on a couch better. A little turned off from the failure, Annette tried to call it bedtime. But she lay on the plaid comforter on the bed upstairs, wide awake and in thought. Bill was right next to her, and not snoring, so she hoped that his mind was in the same place.
“Wanna be a sweetie for once and cuddle?” Annette asked. “I don’t think I’m tired.”
“Better than going to sleep at 10,” he said.
The best moments of any night, to Annette, were those spent stroking the fingers of her beloved. He had such big hands and a nigh-unbelievable ring size. And while there were plenty of places those fingers felt nice in, laced with her own slender fingers and on top of her tummy was probably one of the nicer ones.
She looked up at him, into those grey eyes she loved, and brought up a difficult subject. “So, I know you might not like what I’m bringing up.”
“That can be a lot of things,” Bill said. “Like not arranging a threesome with that cute roomie of yours.”
“Pretty much, now that you bring it up. But there’s something else you seemed sour on.”
“My family? Commitment? Getting banned from that server?”
“Sure, but…something else.”
“Jesus, Annette, don’t play these games with me.”
“What if you reconsider refusing to move in with me?” There was then a moment of silence.
Bill didn’t keep it going for too long, though. “Funny how you ask me that just after that happened. Like you think I’d be fine with being stuck with you.”
“Only once every eight days. And…look, Bill, I care about everyone I live with. But not enough to give up because they’ve had enough. But you? I’d…I’d probably love you enough to let you go if it hurt to be with me. Like, maybe it hurts to go through the warp stream. But what’s the harm in trying it out with me?”
“Being stuck with you if you don’t age well?” He laughed to try and reassure her that it was a playful jab. “But…living on your lawn?”
“You’re rich, and the world cares about Harwood again! It doesn’t have to be a lawn for much longer,” said Annette.
“Being away from…this…awful place. Never mind.”
“Never mind what?” she asked.
“I would be away from all of them. Dad, Dennis, that harpy of a wife, the nephew…you should have just mentioned that, honey,” he said. “You win.”
“Let’s get started sometime soon. I’ll be away from all of them.”
“Yeah, that sounds…completely correct.” Oh, how she was going to have to explain that to him later. “Well, you’ve been a good boy, haven’t you? I’m up for getting you up again.”
Annette had to do well with that to take the edge off her lies. She disagreed with her boyfriend about his nephew. Shark, when on his own, became a lot more calm and lovable when he had art as an outlet. After he got good at sculpting, he started to warm up to Annette too, laughing with her at breakfast and playing with Sagebear when she hung around. Not to mention that he could amass the same skill and profitability as his sculpting mentor once did, which would keep the household rich and stable. It was shaping up to be not a miserable family dynamic after all! And Annette sent out an agent to change that.
On a night somewhat close to that one, Harwood found his way to the back of the house, at the pool. As it turned out, finding a Racket smoking there was a common find. Shark, all grown up but in clothes that didn’t quite fit his tall, bulky frame, looked out towards the distance with a lit cigarette. Harwood gave him a disgusted look.
“You listened to me about sculpting. Will you listen to me about not killing yourself?” he asked Shark.
“Afraid of a cigarette?” Shark asked.
“Yes, in fact. I plan to live for a long time and not die of lung cancer.”
Shark dropped the cigarette and smothered it out under his shoe. “Fine, I’m done. I really just did that to piss uncle Bill off. He hates it when his cigarettes go missing.”
“Funny news about your uncle,” Harwood said. “Annette has this weird rule she has to follow about not letting anyone leave the household. It sent him running. But I was thinking. If you lived with us instead, you’d get to learn under me, eat Annette’s great cooking, and maybe have a future that isn’t violating laws against racketeering.”
“So I don’t have to live with that bastard anymore?” Shark asked, with a beaming smile at the thought of that.
“Yeah, but it’s all Annette’s idea.” Harwood gave him a thumb up. “Talk about that with her. I’m just the messenger.” And being just that, he ran off. Annette could probably take the anger and bone-breaking strength of a fit young man better than he could, or at least have a better chance of healing from it.
Once both Bill and Shark saw that they were tricked into living together once again, Annette needed to do damage control, lest they kill each other. Getting into a fight on their new lawn was bad enough. She dragged Shark away by the wrist that night, pulling 200 or more pounds of muscle by herself.
“Goddamnit Annette, get off me,” Shark argued, trying to hit her and bat her away. She kept a strong grip on the young man in spite of it.
“Not a chance, Shark. For one, you need a haircut,” she said. “And I think you need some jeans with a longer inseam too. Come on, what’s your favorite color? I’m treating you to this, as your aunt.”
“You’re not my aunt” was something he grumbled a lot. He did it right through Annette calling the shots on his new haircut and getting in contact with an optometrist.
The end result pleased the young man a little more. He saw red beforehand, so Annette decided to make it much more literal with a red argyle shirt and burgundy jeans. “And your butt in those pants? Fantastic,” said Annette. “Plus, you can see it all in hi-def with those glasses.”
“Yeah, it’s like a whole new world and I look great, I get it,” said Shark. “Doesn’t mean that I like you.”
She took those words to heart, and did her best to make Shark like her better. The real estate market took a sharp turn towards the better, with Harwood’s and Amy’s houses selling and more money landing in their account. More than Annette expected, as she forgot how much extra people paid for a view of the water. So she had plans for a house, and tried to accommodate Shark first. How could she be a bad aunt, if she wanted a full sculpting studio and a personal gym finished first? She’d do them before the kitchen! Annette could also buy him coffee, right from the diner, which she did one morning at sunrise.
He still glowered at her, with his fists clenched on the table. “You still tricked me into this.”
“I’ve heard enough of that, kiddo,” she said, with an arm slouched over the chair. “Like it or not, I’m offering you something great. When you’re the greatest sculptor alive, you won’t care that you did it all because of a woman who’s banging your uncle.”
“Doesn’t matter if that’s all you talk about. You’re disgusting,” said Shark.
“I take it with pride.”
“I’m ashamed to call you my aunt.” Annette got up from her seat. With Shark still sitting down, it was the only chance that tiny woman would have of towering over him.
“You don’t need to call me your aunt. You don’t even have to like me,” she said. “But that thing you’re doing with all that clay and stone and whatnot…that’s gonna help a lot of people. You know what won’t? Dealing illegal weapons to please your mean old grandpa.”
He pouted at her, still.
“I think you’re a good kid, Shark,” Annette continued. “And believe it or not, I value the good in this world too.”
“We’ll see about that,” said Shark. He gulped down the rest of his coffee, and followed Annette as she walked back home.
A/N: Blah blah sorry but not sorry for this chapter having a lot of gross talk about Annette’s sex life. She doesn’t get better. Also, listen to her: choking your partner during the act is never, ever okay.
While I like this chapter enough, I really want to get to Chapter 8 and some juicy plot! Or at least a snag in Annette’s life.