Content warning: Depictions of alcoholism, implied (not pictured) underage sex.
He had to make a speech, regardless of the outcomes.
Bill had such high hopes for the race. He had his eyes glued to the election results all day, and made sure to draft two speeches: one if he lost, and one if he won. Of course, the race for state representatives was overshadowed by every other election. Why, there was presidential, Federal representatives, the mayoral races in large cities, and so on. Because of that, both Bill and his opponents didn’t get the spotlight. But in spite of that, he hoped to speak to his loyal supporters.
“Of course it feels bad to lose,” he said from the podium. “But the important thing is to get your arguments out there at all, and to try your best!”
The election results for Bill surprised no one but him. Without his family pulling the strings to get a higher number, he lost by a wide margin. Annette tried to look shocked at such an end, but the results didn’t surprise her. And they were just what she was asking for as well. However, she put on a good act for Bill. She even got dressed, in a modest blazer and a miniskirt. At that point, she could have worn sweatpants and her natural hair. Unfortunately, her husband was under the delusion that he still had to maintain an image.
It worked. He even addressed her during his acceptance of the loss. “The fact that I’m here tonight is an accomplishment by itself, though I obviously have a sexy wife who helped me through it.” Annette gave a bit of a fake smirk, with a hand on her round belly. That was sexy, alright. Maybe Bill would be understanding if she told him that she was more worried as to whether she would go into labor that day or not. Especially as he dragged her to his Election Night party and speech in Pearlbrook, when Annette would have preferred not being on her feet all day. But the night was close to over. They could grab dinner, and she could sleep on the ride home.
“Politics has been a blast for me, for these 40-odd years. Thank you, Terrebonne!” Bill waved good-bye to his audience, and stepped down from the podium for the last time. He kept such an upbeat attitude in spite of the outcome, but his face soon melted into a dejected frown.
Annette came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, resting her head on his left one. “Come on, and cheer up. You did an awesome job for the city, and an awesome job tonight,” she said.
“I lost…with two votes. I was expecting, I dunno, at least five,” said Bill.
“Your audience still loved it, though!”
They both looked out to a sea of empty folding chairs. They rented out a warehouse for the event, and expected any sort of audience. The warehouse’s foreman might have been listening, though.
“That was cute,” the foreman said. “You have the $500? I need to clear out this place for the night people.”
The campaign signs went in the dumpster.
Losing made them hungry. Luckily for them, a food truck parked itself outside. They advertised the best cheeseburgers in the Pearlbrook metro area, though Annette and Bill would be the judge of that. She couldn’t speak for her husband, but a greasy cheeseburger fulfilled at least one of Annette’s cravings.
Dinner went by without much conversation. Fatty, comforting street food shut the both of them up. That was, until they cleared the paper plates. Annette wanted to sit down for a little bit longer, before they walked five blocks to where they parked the van.
“It’s not the end of the world, but I still can’t believe that, well, this is it!” Bill said, looking towards his stone-faced wife. She remembered to express emotion before he commented on it.
“So now you get to be a lazy house-husband, who can dote on his beloved dogs, and think of a name for his daughter. Maybe then spend time with her once I squeeze her out,” said Annette. “I dunno. I think it sounds pretty great…I’m kind of in the same boat now too.”
“It does, don’t worry. But, I thought I’d get somewhere with this political thing after 40-odd years. Retiring after nothing? And I know you wanted me to win. You’ve done a great job keeping a happy face all night.” She smiled right then and there, but for a different reason.
“Actually, I was praying that you’d lose this. Now you’ll be at home more…maybe you can finally win over your son again, or practice oral on me. You know I always want more of that.” She playfully chuckled as she ended that sentence.
He looked away from her, with his face tensing up. “So not even my own wife can root for me, huh?” he asked himself, in a low, dejected voice.
“Geez, should I try wording myself better?” Annette asked, biting her lower lip in embarrassment. “I was just being realistic about things.”
No use. Bill ran off, at a respectable pace for a man his age. Annette, hindered by swollen ankles and carrying a cumbersome mass about the size of a hubbard squash, couldn’t catch up with him. He took a sharp turn towards a nearby playground. As much as she didn’t feel like walking, that distance was reasonable.
Annette soon made her way to the playground, which was lit-up yet abandoned for the night. Bill sat on one of the swings, pushing its weight limit. The gentle rocking motion seemed to calm his mood.
She leaned on the frame a little, to try and apologize. “Look, I just had a lot of mixed feelings about this race, and I really should have told you earlier.”
“It’s just…I did this for you,” said Bill. “I based a lot of my platform off you.”
“I’m…aware.” He was anti-police, so they would stop antagonizing Annette. He was pro-charter schools, because Annette thought that the concept was cool. Deactivate nuclear power plants? Annette made an off-hand comment about how they seemed useless when wind and solar were viable options. He made a large point about supporting the movement to legalize same-sex marriage in Terrebonne, citing his gay nephew whom he hated. But Annette loved him like a son (at one point), so he had to support that for her. “Look, I’m really aware. But…you know, elected officials don’t make much of a difference. Name any that you made in Twinbrook.”
He drew a blank.
“I always wonder if people think I’m useful,” he said. “Maybe I just wanted that.”
“Find a good protest against police brutality, donate money to the nearest charter school. Over half our bills are drafted by simple lay-people anyways,” said Annette.
“I guess.” He leaned over and sighed. Annette sunk to the ground, seating her tired ass on the cold, dewey grass.
“You wanted to prove something to people too?” Annette asked.
“I’ll admit it,” said Bill.
“You’re better than that.”
“I’m fine with being hated, but being a loser? I just thought that maybe I had a shot with…something.”
“You know, I’m in awe over all the work you put into this. You’re not a loser to me with that, and…” She curled up as much as she could, bringing her knees close to her chest. “…and I doubt your daughter will think that either. I know we’re not the best parents, but we’ll try…right?”
Bill took a seat on the ground next to her, probably getting grass stains on his best suit. “You girls do know how make me feel better.”
An arm around Annette pulled her closer to her husband. She put a hand near his shoulder and leaned in a bit, soaking in his soft, cuddly warmth. They both looked up towards the clear, starry sky.
“You ready for the next step in life?” Annette asked Bill.
“Not really…but I’ll try this time,” he said. “You know, there were a lot of times that I just wanted to run away from my family and run off here to Pearlbrook…before I met you, anyways.”
Annette could see why, a little bit. Pearlbrook was clean and high-income. Waking up to a view of high-rises was quite different from all the willows and swamps in Twinbrook. The water shone in the moonlight, and the air smelled great once they got out of the industrial strip.
“I’m pretty happy where we are now,” said Annette. “And we can always visit.”
They stayed close to each other for a while that night. Everyone else at home could hold their own without them.
“Do you like Samira?” Bill asked, after a period of silence.
“Like Samira Wiley? I had a crush on her when I was a teen…no shame,” said Annette.
“Same, but I think the name sounds nice too,” Bill said. “And we’re honoring your heritage with it…right?”
Annette smiled. “Yeah, probably.”
The Red Rendezvous didn’t have any football games to broadcast that night anyways. The wall-mounted television in there was tuned to the news and the election results. Perhaps it distracted everyone there, as they allowed an underage Franco in.
Granted, he asked for a bottle of Coke and nothing else. No one could complain about that. As for him, he watched his father lose the election in the worst way possible. It didn’t need to be that, but it made Franco beam with joy. He helped keep corruption out of politics (before he learned that it just came with the territory), and his dad could retire in peace. Maybe he would see the light when out of the darkness of political office. Maybe.
He thought that Shark would be happy too. Instead, he sucked down four beers and started to sob at the bar counter. The people in back of them at the foosball tables, part of the Terrebonne Foosball League, seemed not to notice. The bartender kept giving him more to drink. It hurt Franco to see his cousin like that, so he tried to intervene. It wasn’t like Annette told him how useless that was.
“You know, we can go home if you’re feeling bad about other things,” Franco said. “I don’t know if I can help, but maybe someone can.”
“Thanks for the offer,” Shark grumbled, before ordering himself a few shots. Perhaps overtaken by a headache, he put his head down on the counter and buried his face into the sleeves of his hooded jacket.
“You know, cousin Lolly is here. I think I’ll let you be alone,” Franco said, stepping away from the scene to where his other cousin was seated, about ten feet away. She had a beer in her hand, and a baby carrier behind her barstool.
“Congrats!” Franco said, switching to polite-if-fake cheerfulness in a second. He hadn’t seen Lolly since before she gave birth, but some months before, she had a perfect baby boy. Clearly, that was old enough for him to go a bar with her too. “Are you sure he likes it here?”
“It’s either drag him here, or hangout at Justin’s LAN parties,” she said. “We both win. I have some fun, and he gets to nerd out with his friends. Apparently Hannah likes it, though. We have her this week, and she begged to stay with dad and his nerds.”
“I just hope she’s okay,” Franco said. He glanced around with caution and anger, as he noticed Hannah’s piece-of-shit mum wandering around the bar by herself. All things considered, it was an improvement for the rotten Ms. Carlton. She could hurt only herself there.
“She’s fine with us, I can say that much. And she loves her new baby brother. I dunno if holding him will cramp your style or somethin’-”
He picked up baby Nicky from the carrier. He was old enough to hold his head up, which made things easier.
“It’s not cramping my style,” Franco said, holding Nicky up from under the arms. “God knows mum and dad will put me on babysitting duty while they’re doing…awful things.”
“Yeah, true,” Lolly said. “Uh, rough time for your dad tonight, huh?”
Franco didn’t know or care about his father’s feelings about the election. He kept smiling, and lowered Nicky until he was resting in his arms. “Well, it just shows that I did something successful instead.”
“Like sabotaging campaigns is a nice, noble thing?” Lolly asked.
“Like he’d be a good force in the state?”
Lolly’s face scrunched up in frustration. “You honestly believed that Shark did a careful analysis of your dad’s policies?”
“You’re just as bad as he is, I knew it!” She bit on her tongue before it went further. “Okay, what I’m trying to say is that he’s always been a reactive little drama queen, and he loves being right.”
“So you’re saying that he’s wrong?”
“We fought over the phone about this back in the summer. He kept railing on about how your dad is a some fucking homophobe-”
Franco cut her off. “You have heard why he thinks that, right?”
“It’s been 25 goddamn years! And every single thing I could cite said that Bill was running for every single cause that Shark would embrace. Gay marriage, clean energy, maybe not charter schools, but…you name it.”
“So what are you trying to teach me?” Franco asked.
“Think for yourself, that’s what. It’s hard, but at least I beat my older brother in some way,” she said.
He put Nicky back in the baby carrier and took maybe five steps before his phone vibrated. There were only three reasons why it would: Amy finally had that baby, mum remembered what leftovers she had in the fridge for him, or Carmen had something better planned.
It was Carmen’s number. I have something nice waiting at my place. 😉
He couldn’t help but cheer at that. While they had been dating for over half a year, he and Carmen remained more-or-less chaste. Suggestive tickling didn’t count for anything, right? When either of them brought it up, it went forgotten just as fast. However, if he was reading that message right, it could be his lucky night! But there was something important he needed first.
He stepped up behind Shark, who still had his head down on the counter. “Do you mind if I call a taxi and get you home?” he asked his cousin.
“Why?” Shark grumbled.
“Well, I kind of need to bail, and you shouldn’t be here alone like this,” Franco said. “Also, I got a text from Carmen and I was wondering if you had any…you know…”
Shark picked his head up, the tension clear to Franco even when looking at him from behind. “Did I not word that right?” Franco asked him.
“Yeah, go fuck her. That’s just grand,” he said.
“I don’t want to know what you’re projecting. Just want a yes or no answer to the last thing,” Franco said.
Shark passed him a condom under the counter.
Franco walked away, ashamed for no good reason, but not without asking Lolly if she could make sure that Shark got home safe. And not without texting Carmen to change it to his place. She could form an alibi for her mums, and they would be alone.
She arrived at the house in matching clothes, as usual. It was so rare among some of his other classmates. And he almost appreciated the feel of Carmen’s leather jacket more than he did for the feeling of her soft, full lips.
She pulled away from the kiss, and gave Franco a sultry look. “Get yourself upstairs…I need some time ‘cause had the bright idea to dress in layers today.”
He was fine with waiting. After learning how to mend dresses, tights, and camisoles on his own, Franco had to count his blessings as a man. No layers, no brassieres, just a turtleneck and an undershirt on a cold day!
But he couldn’t feel bad about women’s fashion when he saw Carmen in the doorway, dressed down to her purple underwear. He could see most of her radiant, tanned skin. She had her hands on her slim hips, and one of her sharp eyebrows raised. “Bet it was worth the wait, big boy.”
For the frustrated teenage virgin: yes, yes it was. As soon as he shooed a shell-shocked Sagebear from the doorway, Carmen took Franco for a wild ride. It made sense. Everyone speculated that she was loud and crazy enough to be the sort of girl to do that in bed, instead of being a passive pillow princess.
It did seem anathema to the advice Franco got maybe two hours beforehand. Think for himself? The night was better feeling a little dependent on however Carmen made him feel.
After Carmen fell asleep in his bed, Franco checked his phone. He was busy while he got another text message that night, coming from Sinbad’s phone. He was one of my recipients to whatever that man had to say. Considering what Franco was doing to Sinbad’s younger sister, it seemed a little awkward. Still, he must have had something important to say. He never texted anyone for trivial things.
It’s a boy. Julian Rotter, 7lb 10oz. We’re all fine.
How nice, but Franco was going to need to be a bit of a mindless follower to the whims of sex and relationships. Julian’s arrival was just the start of Franco not being the baby of the family. Being sandwiched in the middle scared him.
A/N: “Evening Companion” takes its name from the meaning of the name Samir (the feminine form of it being Samira), and most cited translated meanings for it are “jovial, entertaining or pleasant companion,” or “evening companion.” The latter made for the best title, and the implication is that Samira might be a way for Annette to replace Bill as someone she can let loose around and spend the evenings with (without any of the romantic/sexual components of her relationship with Bill, of course).
Though I guess this is where we have to officially welcome Julian. For now in the story, Franco is kind-of Julian’s uncle, because Carmen is his aunt. Half-aunt by the virtue of biology. Something like that. 😛