She woke up in a comfy bed, and instead of wearing her jeans from the night before, she found herself dressed in one of Bill’s old t-shirts. That worked too! The loose garment smelled just like his deodorant and felt like a warm hug around her upper body. Of course, he was there too, sitting in the desk chair.
“I heard what she said,” said Bill, sitting in the desk chair near the bed. “So she admitted to it?”
“Being a drunk?”
“Fucking my dad? Gawd, I really hate saying that. I knew you told me, but-”
“Yeah, guess she did. Right from her mouth.”
“It’s not really surprising. She’s…had a history.”
“Ain’t that neat? It’s gonna be fun breaking that to Dennis,” she said.
“Forget about him, are you okay? She said some other awful things up there.” Annette shrugged. She also remembered something that she should have brought up a while before.
“Bill, just so we’re clear, I still love you. There is nothing I can learn about your past that will change that,” she said. “But Shark brought up something that night, like, the vow renewal night. Are you guys fighting just because you called him a fag when he was a teen?”
“Yeah, it’s probably that,” said Bill.
“Care to explain? That’s pretty low.”
“There was this guy from Falls Harbor, and I thought I could get his money by making him my sugar daddy. So I pretended to be gay for him and Shark got pissed about it.”
“Got my sweet watch out of it,” said Bill, holding up his wrist. “But yeah, that seemed to be it. Also he listened to his dad first, and grandpa second. We weren’t going to like each other.”
“I see…yeah, totally explains burning out a cigarette on his chest,” said Annette.
“I was losing! And I mean, I had it with me at the time,” he said. “Come on, it was so long ago. He was, like, fifteen. It’s his fault for keeping it going.”
“He is a stubborn one,” she said. “But I wish we could be a happy family. Hell, you weren’t making grouchy faces at him and Harwood. That’s pretty progressive.”
“I liked Harwood. It was nice to see him happy, even with my vile nephew.”
“Maybe you need to work on that.”
“Eh, one day.”
“You mean it?”
“Sure. And I mean this: you look really attractive in my clothes,” Bill said.
Annette blushed a bit. “Well, I feel closer to a really attractive man when I wear them.”
He almost tackled her from behind, draping his arms around her torso and kissing the back of her shoulder. Annette just tried to get snuggled a little closer, with his soft gut against the curve of her back.
“I think Lolly can cook breakfast this morning,” she said. “Whatever she cooks…I think you’re offering somethin’ better.” And regardless of one thing he said years and years back, Annette knew that she had a good man hugging her that morning. Peace between him and their nephew was just a bonus in that equation. Discord still meant that Annette had her snuggly spouse.
Dennis said that he made the final sale that night he was out, and that he wanted to celebrate by taking the whole family out for drinks. Lolly wanted to stay over her boyfriend’s house so she could see what a LAN party was like, but the rest? Annette dropped Franco and Sagebear off with Gala from work (she seemed okay with it), and set out with Dennis to find him a stylish shirt for clubbing. And, of course, steal it together.
That worked. The euphoria of retirement and looking stylish must have softened Dennis, because he observed Bill and Annette acting like gooey lovebirds at the bar table with just mild disinterest.
“Can you help me dance, Annette?” Dennis asked. “It’s been ages since I have.”
“I dunno. Your wife seems a little more, uh, fluid tonight,” said Annette.
“You mean filled with fluid?” Bill asked. “Like five martinis and some wine too?”
Silver had lost her footing and spilled her drink all over her blazer, but her empty wine glass stayed. “C’mon, Shark, show yur mummy all those gay dance moves you gotta know,” she said, with a jovial slur.
“Not when you’re like this,” he sighed. He looked over at Amy and Sinbad (invited; they needed a night out too) nuzzling noses and turned away, before something crashed at his feet.
Silver was down for the count, and Shark himself got a drink so that maybe he could be too.
Torn between watching his passed-out mother and sharing a space with his uncle Bill, Shark chose the latter and leaned against the wall with his cocktail. Dennis and the rest watched the sight of drunk Silver with morbid fascination. “I’m really sorry you had to meet mum again like this,” Dennis said to his son.
“It is kinda sad.” He gave Annette a look and wiggled his eyebrows.
“About how I’m a whiny cunt crying about rape?” she whispered, trying to get it above the booming bass.
“Wait, what?” Dennis asked.
“Just something. We were really drunk, okay?” said Annette.
“No, Nettie, if she was saying that about you, I should know. I’m one of the only people who can think of getting through to her now.”
“How long has she had problems for?” she asked.
“I mean, she’s always liked booze. It was fun when we were 29, but it got worse a few years ago.”
Something went off in Annette’s head. “Maybe around the time your parents died?”
“Come to think of it, yes,” said Dennis. “I could see why. She always seemed really close with my dad. Even closer than I ever was. Even…even after I told her what he did to you.”
“Look, we were drunk, but she admitted something to me. She slept with you dad?”
“She did?” Bill started laughing uproariously at his brother’s question.
“Are you fucking dense?” asked Bill. “What am I saying, of course you are. Everyone’s slept with Silver.”
“This isn’t funny! My wife wouldn’t do that to me!”
Bill got up to try and shout over the music. “Hey there Twinbrook. Who here has slept with Silver Racket, huh? Raise your hand.”
The club went silent. They cut the music. Hands shot up from all over the dance floor. Amy and Sinbad even stopped sucking face in order to raise their hands. The both of them. For the sake of honesty, Bill raised his.
Shark shrugged. “Kind of knew it, to be honest.”
Heck, Annette felt that Harwood probably came back from the afterlife to raise a spiritual hand.
Dennis bent over to sob. “But…but…oh god, was that what they were doing during all those holidays? When I took the kids up to East Mangrove State Park by myself? Jesus, this is horrible.”
Annette ended up leaving early and driving the distraught Dennis home, but they had a chance to speak in the car.
“She said that he left her a million for it,” Annette said. “And that I would have gotten that if I was just a good slut to that nasty old man.”
“I…I just expected better, that’s all,” said Dennis.
“But you can retire now, that should give you time to reconcile.”
“I hope we can. I do love Silver, and we’ve been married for so long and I’m…I just can’t imagine life without her at this point. Even with her problems. But can she imagine life without me? I mean, god, it almost seems like she had feelings for my dad now.”
“I’ll leave that to you,” she said. “So I take it the sale went well?”
“Yes, but the guy’s kind of a bad vigilante. I’ll see if I regret it,” said Dennis. “He’s hopefully back in Saint Peter now.”
Their days with Silver would come to a close, though. Well, the Waverlys’ days would. Dennis and Lolly would have to send her to rehab or just communicate on their own.
Annette knew that maybe her nephew had good ideas. The new house looked spectacular. Walls and floors laid out by a professional, and interior design overseen by Shark and his good sense for color schemes and decor. He had to hit one gay stereotype, didn’t he? The two sculptures at the end of the stairs impressed Annette almost as much as her new kitchen did.
The new house sacrificed on some walking space for the kitchen, but she had everything she wanted. New counters! Cabinets to place her best pans! A small breakfast nook! Surfaces and stovetops for almost anything she could imagine.
And everyone could enjoy it, as long as they cleaned up and didn’t touch Annette’s favorite toys.
It seemed to mark the beginning of one brief, euphoric moment for Shark. He had a house he could be proud of his aunt and uncle owning, and he also got a job. In spite of having no education beyond high school, the Twinbrook School District was out of art teachers. Plus, Shark had an impressive resume regardless. Studied under the late and great Harwood Clay? Did, uh, other things under him too? It was an instant hire. Amy got the second spot based on her portfolio and winning smile.
The family did not need extra jobs. Finding new ways to inherit parts of the Racket fortune and finding new “found” goods to pawn off made the family rich without anyone’s help. Plus a politician’s salary to help them stay afloat for a long, long time. But everyone needed a way to get out of the house, and god forbid Annette send her son to a school without any support for the arts. His finger paintings were far too good!
So, going back to Shark, he seemed like he was on the road to recovery. On the road to his lover’s death just being a bitter, distant memory. But he prodded Annette for one more thing that spring.
“Do you mind driving me to the animal shelter?” he asked his aunt.
“We have one here?” she asked back.
“It’s the next town over, in Willowhelm. But, I just really want to pet some animals. And they’re partnered with the Terrebonne Catahoula rescue and they have some puppies!” Annette lit up at that last word. Puppies! Like little baby Sagebears!
“Say no more, I need some time with a wriggly puppy. I’ll even get your uncle.”
Shark couldn’t stop them. Bill squealed like a little child when Annette mentioned “puppies” and “they’re basically little baby Sagebears.”
They got what they came for. Puppies! And two lazy Catahoula parents, probably tired of chasing after their tiny, rambunctious spawn. Annette and Bill picked up one each and cooed over the new, precious doggies. But she couldn’t help but notice that Shark completely ignored the little baby dogs and headed into another room. Curious, she followed him past the door.
As it turned out, Shark wasn’t as much of a dog person as she expected him to be. He was in a state of clear bliss with two fluffy Birman cats near him.
“So you ignore the puppies for this?” Annette asked. “Do you even have a soul?”
He picked up the one without a black mask. “I’m a sucker for fluff,” he said. “I know you like dogs, but how can you not like a cat like Rose here?” Annette reached over to pet her head and all of that white, abundant fur.
“They are cute,” she said, admitting defeat to the endless fluff. “It’s like you’ve known them for years.”
“Well, it is! But just for some months. I like this place,” said Shark, obviously straining to keep a cheerful face. “I got so attached to these two. Meechum and Rose Quartz. It’s hard to find homes for cats who need to stay together, but I keep telling myself I can be the one to do it for them.”
“So why haven’t you adopted them? Sagebear hasn’t attacked a cat in years.”
“I mean, it’s a long story, I’m not gonna burden you with-”
“Are you saying that you and Harwood ducked out on multiple occasions so you could pet the animals and try and become gay daddies to some cats?” Annette asked.
Shark pouted, like he was good at doing. “Alright, yes!”
He sighed and continued, into a flashback. “It was his idea to come here at first because he loved the Catahoulas. I mean, you knew that. But then we met Meech and Rose and, god, that’s what it feels like to love a child, right? He said he’d consider it, but…you can see where that plan fell through. But goodness, I think he really turned around to these two by the end.”
While he told his sob story, Annette was busy writing out a blue check for 600 dollars. 600 was enough to adopt two cats and get some basic supplies. Made out to no one other than Shark Racket. “Consider it my treat,” she said, handing him the slip. “We have enough hands at home to take in some more furry friends.”
“You mean it?”
“I think spoiling you is my schtick now. Give me Meechum. I gotta appreciate that name, you know.”
Annette held the cat up close to her face. Meech turned out to be a pleasant feline who didn’t scratch her. He meowed with contentment.
“Yep, I’d have him on my detail!” she said, with a laugh. “Oh Shark, having a politician in your family means you better watch House of Cards. I’m surprised you haven’t.”
“Consider me burnt out on that bullshit,” he said, before apologizing to Rose for using such foul language.
“Oh well. New cats, new cats are good,” said Annette. “Maybe these furbabies will stop me from begging your uncle for another human one. He’s a little tired of that, and he still uses condoms!”
Shark made some gagging noises and went to get the paperwork filled out for a home inspection.
Meanwhile, Annette found that Bill might have fallen for another precious furry angel too. Albeit not a hyperactive puppy, but an old spaniel mix with little brown spots near his nose.
“I thought you were pretty sold on those pups,” Annette said. “What’s the deal with this one?”
“His name’s Peanut and he’s just the best,” said Bill. “I’m old, Annette. I can’t keep up with a baby and I can’t keep up with a puppy. But I can keep up with lazy old Peanut here, yes I can you darling little angel.”
“Look, our household is now slated for two new cats. You really want this?” Annette asked.
“Please don’t let your need to spoil our awful nephew ruin my dreams!” he whined. “Come on, I really want Peanut! And I think you’ll like him too.”
Annette looked into his big, dark eyes. Into that darling, squishy face. She gave Peanut a quick scratch behind the ears and said “I just hope Sagebear loves him too.”
They passed the inspection and Sagebear did not loathe any of the new critters. She even gave a loving lick on the face to one of the cats.
So, I could end this chapter on a happy household. As mourning passed them by, and as they reveled in finding new life to enjoy. But that was rarely the case for these Waverlys.
Annette had a plan, one that only a PI-turned-vigilante could give her. She got a look at Dennis’ records and found the very last sale: six sniper rifles to one Delvin Armstrong. A man from the other side of Terrebonne. He had an infamous job being able to get people what they want due to what he called a commanding presence. Annette needed something like that, just for the little task of inheriting a diner instead of that awful Julienne.
Though gifted with a low and gravelly voice, Armstrong sounded reasonable over the phone. He even had a pleasant, if slight, Cajun accent from living on the other side of Terrebonne. He agreed easily to things. They could meet in Twinbrook, as he visited the area often anyways. He’d be at the junkyard, that is, the smaller one. She would recognize him: leather jacket, and a lit cigarette.
He leaned on the streetlight post, with the cigarette he promised. Annette had grown sick of them, but she tolerated it for the services he promised. Using his PI skills, he could dig up dirt that could oust Julienne from having any job. With his tough demeanor, he could convince the town to follow through.
Annette smiled at the deal. “It sounds dastardly enough to work,” she said.
He gave her a bold glare back. “I’m glad you’re an easy one.”
She was about to shake on it before getting a call. The message itself was unclear, but Annette could recognize Dennis crying on the phone no matter what he had to say.
A/N: White roses are symbolic of many things, including new starts. Which is what Shark’s cats were supposed to be for him. Alas, his arc is not the one solved through the intervention of adorable animals. That’s for the end of Chapter 17 instead!
However, Shark adopting a white cat nicknamed Rose was not meant to be symbolic either. I already explained Meechum’s name, but Rose Quartz? Named after a Steven Universe character. 😛
Now, them adopting new pets isn’t really supposed to be story-changing. Heck, I described this to Nessa as “dogs for the sake of dogs.” Did you know that I love dogs? Well I fucking love dogs. Especially those darling little Catahoula puppies. The pic of Bill, Annette, and the puppies is one of my favorites because of those little guys.
No, Bill is not going to leave their world without addressing his conflict with Shark. I can imagine that after so long, he’s a little tired of fighting about it…