1.8: Heart Full of Fire

Content Warning for depictions of sexual assault, explicit violence/murder/blood. Proceed at your own discretion.


City Hall still looked so majestic to Annette. Sure, she had gone there for legal matters before, and for surprise visits to Bill at work. Well, back when things were better. She intended for that afternoon to be the last surprise visit. One office away from Bill’s, she could get the divorce papers.

Of course, she wouldn’t kick him out of the house, lest Baphomet himself crush her for disobeying orders. But Annette needed to look towards the future. She could find an honest man and remarry. Bill could snort lines of cocaine off stripper’s asses like he probably dreamed of. And what they needed was a divorce. One to surprise Bill with, just as a little act of revenge.

“Okay, let’s do this,” she muttered to herself. But Annette didn’t even get up the steps without hearing something else.

“Thanks Lolly.”

It looked like Bill stepped out of work to take a personal call. His voice subdued and sad, he got some news of a bad sort.

It was enough for him to cry over. And Annette hadn’t even handed him any papers! She started to reconsider doing it that day. She was enough of a bad girl for taking charge like that, without doing it in the face of…some tragedy. Cancer, death, who knew?

He came down the stairs and spotted Annette. “I guess you heard me,” he said, with sad eyes.

“The tail end of it.”

“She died on the job…my mum, that is. Shot by an enemy.”

“Was she the one you hated or not?” They had estranged themselves from the main Racket clan for long enough to forget.

“It was tense, but we still loved each other. Look, the funeral’s this Friday. I need you to go with me.”

“I’m not doing this for you,” said Annette, with a disgusted grimace on her face.

“But you can do it for our son. And you love that rotten nephew of yours. It’s his grandma too. But I just need you to make things look a little better for me. You’re still my wife,” said Bill.

“Sure.” What a fitting time to bring that up. But she did listen to Bill about going for the other Rackets in her life. She talked to Shark about it, and he had a good relationship with old Marigold. She helped build up a strong, shady business and was the muscle behind it up until the very end. All while raising three belligerent sons too! Annette had some respect for a life like that. She searched for the best black dress to shoplift for the occasion.

However, this is not a touching story about the tragic passing of poor Mrs. Racket. It’s a story about an after-party.

In spite of Annette going just for those two, Shark and Franco were out of the picture by sunset. They buried Marigold in the afternoon and gathered at the Racket manor afterwards to catch up with family, but she and Bill stayed while their nephew pushed Franco in a stroller.

What could have prompted them to do that?

What kept Bill there was a mystery, but Dennis knew how to keep Annette in his couch. He wore a black suit, sure, but he stopped mourning early on so he could do some other work. “I thought you could use a little extra for the job,” he said, looking at the big bottle of Jack Daniel’s on the coffee table. “Shark says you like alcohol, but he didn’t really go beyond that.”

“Whiskey’s fine,” said Annette. “Is it fine to feel worse for myself than, you know, burying my own mother-in-law?”

“Why? She didn’t seem to hate you.”

“Not sayin’ that. But I came here with so many dreams and here I am, with smuggling your guns being the highlight. I at least hoped for a happy marriage. And that’s bringing me down.”

“Well, that’s why you need that whiskey!” Dennis said, in a cheerful tone.

“That I do. I’m gonna find a place here to drink it,” said Annette. “Which room is yours again? I’m not gonna be that mean to you.”

“Usually third floor, right from the stairs.”

“Ah yeah. I got my first anal pounding in that room. I’ll spare you from making it smell like booze tonight.”

You could have killed her entire family and stolen her dog, and Annette still would find a gross way to discuss her former sex life. It was easy to read the suffering in her narrative though, and in the bitter way she laughed at her remark after saying it. Especially as she moped upstairs right afterwards.

It was one of the bedrooms on the second floor. Annette forgot who it belonged to, but she got vigorously fingered by Bill there way back when. It was a nice place, with a king-sized bed and a plush red comforter, and even a burning fireplace that night. All it needed was whiskey in between the floorboards. Annette dropped some there.

After getting little down, maybe a shot’s worth, she dropped it on the end table and slept to troubled thoughts about her troubled life. When would be a good day to get those divorce papers? But her hatred for Bill started to feel more hollow. A lingering itch, but hadn’t she done enough to scratch it? She scratched it enough to get whiskey from Dennis.

She could have slept through that if it wasn’t for the sound of a door’s lock activating.

Annette got up from her nap. It was Max, her father-in-law and the new widower. He was still dressed in his mourning clothes: a modest black pea coat and trousers.

“My room? A fine choice,” he said to Annette.

“Did I offend you or somethin’? Because that’s what I do,” she said.

“Up until a few days ago, I had a different woman in this bed to talk with. You’ll do.”

“Come on, Max, me?” Annette asked, with a chuckle of disbelief.

“She was a crazy one,” Max said. “At least I know you’re lucid. And what better do you have to do tonight?”

“Point taken.”

She got up only for Max to take a seat on the bed. So she sat there once again, to be on his level. Annette still sulked.

“I know you’re not really crying over Marigold,” he said.

“Guess I’m not.”

“It’s that sad fuck Bill, isn’t it?”

“God, it’s like you’re a psychic. Sure it’s about him. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t end up making a kid with him…wouldn’t be in a lot of bad places now without him.”

“It’s always the same with those boys. They can find new and worse ways to disappoint me, but somehow, they both picked such amazing wives,” said Max.

“Oh, stop it,” Annette said, with a cheeky flair. “But…you’re right. He is just one disappointment after another. Like, I’ve spent a while trying to fix him. But hell, you and Marigold couldn’t. Why would I be different? I did my best, but I don’t think he cares about me at all now.”

“Funny thing, I heard Dennis’ wife tell me the same thing, almost 30 years ago. She felt like he didn’t care. And I showed her who could care, alright. Fucked her right when the wife was in the other room.” He said it all with a look of nostalgic euphoria. “And that happened a lot. It seemed to help her. I bet it can help you too.”

His hand inched closer to her thigh until she pushed it away.

Annette tried to deflect that move with an aloof smile and, of course, excuses. “Look, it’s getting late. You met your grandson today, you know how adorable he is. I need to be home for him,” She still nervously tittered in reaction to Max. Perhaps he just said that to lighten the mood after his wife died. Yes, that had to have been it. Even if he had a record of sleeping with in-laws in the past, the whole bad situation of the present softened the old man. It softened him enough to be cordial to Annette, for once. Though she had to be honest: cordial or not, there was no sort of persuasion that could get Annette under the covers with the super-old, overweight, balding Max.

She got up to the door and jiggled the handle. No luck. It was that blasted lock that woke her up in the first place.

“It locks from the inside?” she asked. “That…that’s fucking evil.”

Annette then felt something grab her by the waist, with force. It almost knocked her off her feet.

“I didn’t think you’d be easy enough for a locked door,” he whispered, keeping hold of a startled Annette.

“Christ, Max!” she yelled. “What the hell is this? I mean, her body’s not even cold-”

“Come on, you can do better than him.”

“Yeah, but it ain’t with you. Get your hands off me and lemme go.”

“I don’t think so, Nettie.” He pulled her closer to him, while she tried to get a grasp on one of his arms. Anything would do to get that slimy bastard off her. But in the fight between a large, elderly man and a tiny, younger woman, things seemed equal. She pushed hard, he pushed back the same. And sometimes more, as Max almost got a hand up her dress.

Annette had nothing else to do. She screamed. “BASTARD! LET ME GO. I’ll tell Dennis that you slept with his wife, I’ll fucking ruin your business if I-” Her sentence was cut off by, yet again, a rogue hand. That one covered her mouth to gag her.

“That’s enough out of you, missy,” Max said, as Annette tried to get her face free. Knocking down someone twice her weight was never fun. Even against a man that age, it made her feel like a weak little child. She then got an idea that she usually never could consider.

She kicked up, with a sharp heel straight into Max’s crotch. Thank goodness she thought to dress up for the night. That sent him to the ground, with a high-pitched wail. Annette turned around to pin him to the floor, and clenched a fist.

“I’ll break your nose for that!” she threatened, holding a tight fist over his face. “I’m not gonna be anyone’s bitch again. Not Bill’s, definitely not yours.”

He seemed to edge back, a lot. “Don’t hurt me,” Max whimpered.

“What, let some perv who tried to feel me up walk free?” Annette asked. She loosened her fist, though, while still keeping him pinned down by the chest.

“Look…I set aside trust funds for everyone…I already set up one for Franco…damnit Annette, get off me. I can’t breathe with you doing this so hard.” She could feel him struggle underneath her. Annette got up on her feet and helped Max to his.

“As I was saying, selling guns and whores has made me a rich man. I can give some of that to you, and all you need to do is what you’re told,” said Max.

“No. How about you let me out of here first?”

“I want this, Annette!”

“Well, I’d pass up a million just to get out of here without touching your grody old dick. Unlock that door.”

She then stood at the wall, pointing at the door, waiting for him to unlock it. She kept her legs tightly clenched too. Annette’s face contorted and fumed with anger, hoping to bring out anything evil or demonic within her to scare Max away. There she stood, breathing heavily, for a good minute, until a threatening click pushed her against the wall.

Max held his cocked handgun out just a foot away from Annette’s face. It got her to freeze and almost black out from the shock of it, even if she should have expected an old crime lord to have that hidden in his suit jacket.

“I think it’s an easier choice now, miss,” Max said, keeping his weapon steady. “All you need to do is be a nice slut when I ask you too.”

With the barrel of a gun pushed up against her, Annette dropped her usual demeanor. Any more sass or rudeness or even plain honesty would kill her and all those dreams she still had. She found the only thing that could stop her from being Annette.

“Fine! Do your worst to this nasty slut.” She said it through clenched teeth and a whole lot of fear. “Serves me right for all the bad shit I’ve done anyways.”

Perhaps the only saving grace was the lack of eye contact, as Annette was free to try and pull disgusted looks as her father-in-law sucked at her neck. But even that was futile. Once he found and squeezed her right breast, she felt like it was over. He was going to do his worst and all Annette could hope for was for the exertion to kill him.

So she just…imagined herself out of it. Her body went a little limp. Annette let the wall support her as she stopped trying with anything. Anything other than imagining any other world, or any other body. Because there was no place she liked less than in the hold of Max Racket.

BOOM.

Annette felt a lot more free, and dragged back to earth with her feet on the black walnut floor of that bedroom. She looked down to a pool of blood on the floor, and expected to find a bullet hole on herself. She did something wrong and Max pulled the gun on her. That had to be it.

Instead, she alternated between shock and blissful relief. The old man was dead on the floor, lying in his own blood. She was dirty and tainted, but intact.

“Thank Jesus, thank Allah, thank…goddamn, what the hell was that?” She turned to her right and to the barrel of another gun.

Bill still kept it held up, but not pointed towards Annette. She didn’t say a word to him, lest it get pointed towards her!

“He deserved that a lot sooner,” said Bill. “I’m sorry you had to see that. What else can I do for you?”

“I…you…I need to take a bath. Yeah.”

Annette had a lot of bathrooms to choose from in that mansion, but she had a favorite. The beautiful masonry and shape of the tub appealed to her more. She needed at least three baths to clean herself of Max’s grimy touch and she was going to make it as nice as possible.

While her skin pruned up in the hot water, Annette lay back to think. I don’t think he cares about me at all now. Well, pulling a handgun out to kill his own father said something. And what he said to her? It sounded as warm as melted butter. Had things changed? Did Bill change to the point of caring?

Annette still remembered smoking a cigarette with him by the pool. She never told anyone else about how she used to be a smoker, not until I asked. She missed those times by his side, with their secrets and affection. No one else came close to offering that to her.

She started to think about those unique things he offered. He had big hands that squeezed hers with no effort at all. In fact, he used to be like a wide pillow she could hug and rest her head on.

It hurt her heart. They used to have so much fun. There was that one Saturday morning when they snuck into the teen’s bedroom for a pillow fight, only to wake up and antagonize Shark. Or perhaps when they took Lolly out for her first drink. She kept herself together, but Annette and Bill? They got shitfaced and left Lolly to sing Brother Firetribe’s “Heart Full of Fire” in the wrong key.

Hell, there was even the night they first made love. Not that it was either of their first times, but there was that goofy smile Bill had before Annette untied his bathrobe’s tie. Well, the thought of this happening is pretty ridiculous, he said. You’re too good for me, Annette.

In fact, Annette would give anything for that again. Not divorce. Love.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Ugly naked woman in here, go away,” she said, thinking it was someone like Lolly.

“It’s me.” It was Bill. “I think you forgot a towel? I can leave it by the door if you’d like.” She hesitated for a moment.

“Nah, it’s unlocked, I think,” said Annette. “Really, you can come in.”

He opened the door, gingerly. He had a white towel draped over his arm.

“I’ll actually take that now,” said Annette. “Enough of stewing in my own filth.” She wrapped the towel around her like a dress and sat at the edge of the tub while the water drained.

“I feel bad for letting that happen,” said Bill. “And I don’t even know how I could have prevented…fuck it, I do. If I was there for you-”

“Don’t defend this silly lush you married. I should know better about guys like that by now,” said Annette. “Don’t get drunk around them, or else. And that’s what I did.”

“…There’s a lot I don’t know about you.”

“That’s the plan.”

“And…I’ll admit to being scared of this weird demon I married. I never thought it was even possible…I guess that’s how explain this bad thing I did. But I’m actually sorry this time.”

“Like it would’ve prevented tonight?”

“He liked weakness…beating down the weak, anyways.” Bill seemed to sink a bit at that thought.

Annette hesitated to speak up again, until a question bugged her. “How far did he get?” Her mind went far enough for her to question that.

“Hand up your dress, somewhere up there. It was awful to watch…maybe we can go home. I’ll do whatever you need me to.”

“You will?” He nodded back. “Then we’re staying here to decompress. I always liked this bathroom.”

“It is a nice one.” Bill took a seat on the floor, to get down close to Annette’s level. She found a place on the cold bricks too.

“Decompress, then,” he said.

Annette had run out of tears, but she still could wail. “I AM A DIRTY AWFUL WOMAN AND I JUST WANT MY LIFE BACK. I just…just…I want YOU. I WANT TO BE YOUR WIFE AND BE IN LOVE AGAIN.” She buried her face in her hands, only to feel Bill’s embrace for the first time in ages.

“I missed that too,” he whispered. “I missed everything about you, and I hated myself for messing up.”

“I messed up too. Beyond this. I’ve done so many horrible things,” said Annette, through a few sobs. “I hate all of what happened. I just want something normal now.”

Eventually, they could let go, though Annette still looked remorseful. “I made a deal with Dennis after Franco was born. I’m in his business now…I thought I could trust that side of the family a little more. And look where I am now, Bill?

“I’ll still take you back,” he said. “Maybe things can change with my parents gone. We’ve spent too long fighting, though. I’m fine with fixing things now.”

“I want that too. If it means getting back with you, I’ll do everything to find a truce, or a way out. Something.”

He held a hand out to her. For the first time in what might have been years, their fingers touched again.

“I forgot how you felt,” Annette said in a quiet voice. “We used to have a lot of fun. Like when we belted out ‘Heart Full of Fire.'”

“I thought you were too drunk to remember that night,” said Bill.

Although her throat was sore and her voice a little hoarser than usual, Annette tried to carry a tune. “I called the bluff, watching you is not enough…”

“Hey, I sung that part!” he said, with a timid laugh. “That song’s so ironic tonight.”

“Like I had any fire in my heart before this. I’m finally feeling something.” Her voice still had that shaky quality, Bill’s wasn’t at its best either, and they didn’t have a backing track in that empty bathroom. But they remembered the chorus of the song, and how it was the part where they sang together. Irony or not, it started to fit more and more in Annette’s mind.

I, I surrender to your love
And though I’m torn apart
Fresh before my eyes
I got a heart full of fire

They both broke down in laughter upon finishing the last line together, before Annette was scooped up off the ground in her husband’s strong hug.

Although he loosened his hold and let her stand on his own, Annette still hugged Bill around his waist. “I’d say that I’m giving you space to breathe this time, but nah.” She gave him a strong squeeze.

“Consider it making up for lost time,” he said.

Annette rested her head on his shoulder for a few minutes. “So…what do you guys do with corpses?” she asked him.

“Hate to say it, but we might need to get Dennis to help us with that one.”


A/N: Let’s just say I had a lot of hang-ups about writing this chapter. Mostly because there are about a billion different ways I could do it wrong.

Look, it’s a chapter that could have ended in Annette getting raped. And the Sims fandom has a bad, bad track record with handling rape in stories.

I can lighten the mood with one thing, though. So the song that the narrative references, “Heart Full of Fire” is indeed a duet and about relationships (or at least great sex).

 

23 thoughts on “1.8: Heart Full of Fire

  1. I admit, the chapter warning made me concerned for the content – the whole ‘sims community handling rape badly’ thing was clear in my mind. But then I was hopeful because you’re talented and I was sure you could pull it off. And you did. It was done well, both in regards to the content and Annette’s character. It was grand!

    Like

    • I think it’s a subject to be avoided in most cases. Like, my advice to most legacy writers is “don’t you fucking dare…unless your story is a serious narrative to begin with.” Which I think is my only saving grace. That and spending enough time in feminist circles to know better than to handle it REALLY badly (victim-blaming, making the victim fall in love with the rapist, other gross shit like that).

      Thank you! Some better times for Annette are in the horizon, with some also bad ones because this is Eight Cicadas, after all.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Indeed. Some topics should not be handled unless you do it carefully, respectfully, and with some serious thought behind it. It’s so gross when it’s just used for cheap drama and I personally just avoid it altogether. There are so many other good ways to create drama.
        I hope so. Despite all her shortcomings, I find her really endearing in a weird way. It’s probably just the skillful way you write your characters.

        Like

  2. I want to say “beautifully written”, but I’m not sure that’s the right phrase for the darker content. I love the way Annette is written: both lovable and despicable at the same time.

    Like

  3. Actually, beautifully written is quite apt… This chapter was written in such a way that one almost thinks Trip has some experience with rape/potential rape herself. As someone who was almost raped by a extended family member I feel for Annette and also know that just-cant-get-clean feeling… Although Annette is more materialistic-ish cuz I just wanted to be clean, screw the surroundings! But I’m glad she has Bill back, she will need someone to love her again!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really loved this chapter. They way you wrote what happened between Anette and the old perv was brilliant.
    It’s a sensitive topic, but not one that should be ignored or never mentioned, and in this case it fit the story well.
    The point where Anette just gives up is so sad. But that’s the worst part of it, when these things happen they just feel so unreal that the brain just stops accepting and gives up…
    😦

    Like

    • In the end…I really wanted an excuse to kill Max because staging that murder scene was the most therapeutic thing ever. Even at Annette’s expense. 😦

      I tried to research dissociation beforehand…it seemed cheap to drop the technical name into the story but describing it otherwise felt flat too. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad they made up.

    I don’t read a whole whole lot of Sims stories. Worst I’ve seen is when a friend did it, and I thought it was handled reasonably well, but her other readers were victim-blamers. Like she was worried about the reaction and she honestly didn’t understand that her readers didn’t see it as rape. As in when it came up later they said of the female who’d been raped “Oh, I knew she;’d cry rape.”

    I guess that’s part of why I don’t advertise my work that much – scared of getting readers like that.

    Also from your little author’s notes at the end of each chapter you seem like a cool person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes my author’s notes get long, so be prepared.

      I guess I like to read around. Generally, I don’t take shit from readers who say awful things in regards to characters, though the worst I had was someone calling one of my abusive villains hot. Like…probably the last thing you should get out of a character like that…

      Liked by 1 person

      • The dude in my avatar is….well, in Valley he’s just dissociated a lot and not at all rational, but in Moonfall he is more directly emotionally abusive to Sarah. I do try to stress that it’s not a healthy relationship and it’s not something that anyone should idealize, but I’ll admit that I am rather fond of my Seth. But it’s an authorial fondness and I would not want to be around him IRL. And of course the reason I really really hope that no one thinks of Moonfall as romanticizing emotional abuse is that it’s based a lot in my experiences with an emotionally abusive ex-best friend.

        But then Moonfall’s been on hiatus for like two years so anyway. Just not in that mindspace anymore and happier writing the somewhat healthier relationship between the darkness and the narrator in Surreal Darkness – which it does get healthier after the first chapter, promise. 😉

        Good. I like not taking shit.

        Like

  6. I didn’t see that coming. That was awful. I was praying “Dear God, don’t let it be Dennis…” no wonder Max’s kids are screwed up. What a. . . No I don’t even have words. I’m so glad Bill came in and stopped it before it went too far. I’m glad Max is dead. I cried a little when Bill and Annette made up. I didn’t think they could especially when she was talking about divorce back in the beginning of the chapter. As sick and twisted as the situation was, I’m glad it brought Bill and Annette back together. I recently wrote a sexual assault/rape scene into one of my stories. It was hard to write, but I think I pulled it off. I figured if I lost or pissed off readers then oh well. Not to be nonchalant about it but the story was serious and necessary to backstory so I included it. I’m all for pushing and/or completely obliterating boundaries in SimLit. You handled it really well. You’re not scaring me away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Max is terrible and staging his death was the most cathartic thing ever (he acted like a creep towards Annette in other games). And it just begins a line of deaths, good or bad!

      Bill might be an ass, but he’s an ass with a heart (full of fire!)

      I think I was overestimating how pissed off readers can get with sexual assault in stories. My best advice is to listen to others’ first about it.

      Like

      • Thanks. I felt like I handled it tastefully and still captured the awfulness. Sexual assault isn’t something we should shy away from talking about and writing. I can imagine how cathartic it is to kill off an evil character. The song have the chapter a melancholy twist. I liked it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Going to be honest here, I wasn’t sure what to expect when there was a warning of sexual assault in the beginning of the chapter. So much of the sims community doesn’t do the research about it and approach it carefully like you did. I’m just in awe of how you handled it. You just handled it beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

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