Content Warning for: Talk of suicide.
None of them would have to worry about money for a long, long time.
Lolly was close to jumping for joy once they reached the verdict, but Annette had a lot of joy in her heart too. She grabbed Franco around the shoulders and grinned. “Now are you glad to be a Racket?” He nodded. Being the rightful recipient of some of grandpa Max’s millions would make any jilted Racket proud. They couldn’t take the rape cases to court, as the evidence was scattered to the wind, but all they needed were some ambiguous clauses in his will.
“Next of kin, and not that sad fuck Bill” had to have meant his surviving grandkids, after Dennis’ untimely death.
For them, it was almost unneeded money, but still so sweet to get. It was the last, satisfying middle finger to scummy grandpa Max. His money or not, Annette wanted some extra security as she kept risking everything for her crazy schemes.
And those three were not the only ones who would love the news.
Bill had a lot of time on his hands for watching over Samira while Annette, Franco, and Lolly suffered through the boredom of court. He waited in the park for them on their last court date. For once, everyone had a great afternoon.
Annette couldn’t just let her son live easily on his inheritance, though. If she had to learn the value of working, he did too. Franco was doing so well with making clothes, after all. And Annette had a wonderful friend and housemate who was getting hitched in November.
For a bride with money, hiring a teenager for the dressmaking honors seemed like a silly idea to propose to Amy. However, Annette didn’t even have to beg her to consider Franco as the lucky dressmaker. He had the advantage of knowing Amy ever since he was born, and she believed in his skills. If he could hem a skirt and tailor fitted blouses, then he could try something a little more substantial.
He was promised lots of good karma around the house for the job, and also that car he wanted for his 16th birthday.
The boy was given a tall order: one dress for a bride, two dresses for the bridesmaids, one miscellaneous dress too. Amy picked out Annette and Jenni, her long-time friend, to stand at her side during the ceremony. As for Lolly, it was the least Franco could do after she orchestrated the court case for Max’s inheritance. They had to do it in his cramped bedroom, and couldn’t undress for the measurements for obvious reasons.
It was hard to move around the small area without putting a tall mirror in the center of it too. And those heels. The ladies had to wear them to get the most accurate fit for their dress, but Annette wanted to go barefoot as soon as it was over.
Franco didn’t complain, oddly enough. It was fine. He did pick out a fantastic car as his reward.
Granted, there seemed to be things about the wedding to care more about than dresses. The threat of Armstrong’s gang wasn’t gone. They just hadn’t targeted the family since that afternoon with Gavin. The state had plenty of more uppity brown people to terrorize. But would their luck run out? A wedding was high-profile enough to make Annette into a glowing red target, and she wanted enough armed people to fight back.
Amy was open to the idea of arming at least a few. She could hold a handgun in her garter, and could convince the bridesmaids to do the same. Annette would, of course. Amy’s maid of honor was the only one left to convince, and doing it at a dress-fitting session could work.
It felt foolish to bring it up in a crowded room, though.
Plus, it would ruin Franco’s focus on his work. He measured all four women. It was a reminder to Annette that she still had a trim waist, and the hip measurements of a scrawny teenager. She thought that two kids and her home cooking would change that about her. But it could be worse. Amy and Lolly were unfortunate A-cups for bra size. Jenni’s proportions were almost something to envy, though. 70 inches tall in stiletto heels, 34D bra, and shapely hips. Franco had a cheeky grin on his face when he wrapped the measuring tape around her.
It didn’t matter to Annette at all. She could carry a handgun at any size.
Franco stopped to discuss patterns and fabric choices with Amy, and Jenni stepped out to use the restroom. Annette followed too and yelled down the hall for her. Jenni stopped, and Annette staggered towards her in those godawful heels. The wedding was going to be loads of fun with those, alright.
Her guest acted cheerful at first. “I know you wanna be a good host, but I can find the bathroom myself,” said Jenni. She chuckled a bit to lighten the mood.
“I trust you there. It’s just…well, I guess I should know a few things about the maid of honor, right?”
“As much as you can learn in a few minutes?”
“Sure,” said Annette. “So…you’re Officer Goode’s wife, right?”
“Yeah? It’s not like you’re new to town anymore,” said Jenni. “It’s not like we hide it.”
“Just makin’ sure. Do you think he’s in the right?” Jenni’s face cringed. She must have remembered the kind of person Annette was.
She grit her teeth. “Yes. More or less, yes.”
“Would you still listen to the other side of things?” Somehow, she still had to convince Jenni to wield a gun against her husband’s favorite gang. Maybe Annette wouldn’t mourn Goodwin’s death, if it came down to that. But even after watching him strangle a man at sunrise, death seemed too harsh. “Accountability” for him could be left up to interpretation. “I bet he’s a fine husband, but I’m in danger ‘cause of him.”
Jenni pointed an angry finger at Annette. “I see where you’re goin’ with this. I’m not gonna throw away twenty plus years with him on the likes of…you! Don’t you ever stop and think that you’re not so holy, and he ain’t so bad?”
“As I was saying,” Annette snarled. “As I was saying, he’s backing a gang that wants me gone. They shot my husband, they wanted to shoot my kids…they shot my dog!” Not to mention the time that Goodwin shot Sagebear on his own.
“And you believe that myth?” Jenni’s voice started to crack with anger. “It’s a smear tactic! They’ve been repeating it for the force since god-knows when.”
She wanted to blow like a kettle, but Annette kept her lips clenched shut. Clenched shut lest she tell Jenni that Goodwin admitted that to her. It would be nice if she could meet her halfway about the situation.
“Fine,” said Annette. “Convince me that he’s better than that.”
Jenni then segued into a love story.
It was a rainy day in Twinbrook. What a perfect day for a tragic death too, if Jenni got her way. Her mum left her pain meds unlocked, and had enough Vicodin in a bottle to kill a young woman.
She never asked to go that way, but neither did her childhood friend. Poor Kristen never asked to be at the end of a hit-and-run. Jenni couldn’t even bear to make her funeral, and what was left after that? She hadn’t made any friends on the street she lived on. It was a new development that attracted an odd assortment of locals and newcomers.
All she knew was that they would have no reason to care about her.
Someone came running up the driveway. Both of her parents weren’t going to be home until later, and this man was…different. Something was ageless about him. Stark white hair framed his young and smooth face. In fact, he wore a lot of white.
He crouched down in front of her. “Couldn’t help but notice that someone was crying,” he said. “Uh…I live down the road.” He pointed towards another lake house. “New to the area and such.”
Jenni looked up at him. While her voice was still meek and weepy, she wanted to reciprocate whatever he was giving her. “Where’d you come from?”
“San Mateo. You?” She pointed towards the main part of town. Her parents wanted a change of scenery and moved to the new development on the lake. It seemed to be a place full of young artists (and one old one) instead, and they stuck out by being corporate slaves. And Jenni didn’t have a lick of ambition at all. College would be a waste, and what was left?
Well, there was him.
He got up and extended a hand to her. “Look, if you’re lonely here, I can at least show you my friends.”
“Could you be mine?” Jenni asked.
“Sure. I’m…I’m Goodwin.”
She started to grab his outreached hand. “Jenni.”
Goodwin held her hand as they walked down the street. He said that he didn’t come to Terrebonne alone. He wanted to see if he could get through the firefighter academy there, after failing that in San Mateo. But another friend of his just wanted to leave. She fit in on the street better. Young, tattooed, artistic, mixed-race. She had it all, and also had a knack for making new friends.
At first, the strange young woman seemed un-amused. “Dude, it’s a day for staying indoors,” she said. Jenni didn’t even notice her distinctive style that day. Mismatched colors, thick-rimmed glasses, dyed hair, and tattoos everywhere.
“She needs a few friends,” Goodwin said to the woman at the door.
She held one arm akimbo and grinned. “Well, why didn’t you say so!” She looked Goodwin’s new companion in the eyes. “It’s Amy. I need someone too after leaving them all behind.”
It was a nice story, but Annette saw right through Jenni’s intentions. Goodwin had to have been a decent person, if he helped introduce Amy to someone she spent so many nights with. She always told Annette about the fun times watching Netflix and eating ice cream together. For a while, they were close enough so that their periods synced up. Annette couldn’t brag about that happening with her and Amy.
And if Annette was a good person, she had to give a damn about one of her old friends’ proclaimed “best friends.”
Jenni had a tear in her eye after finishing, but Annette crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “That’s…very nice. I have a detailed story about the time he strangled a man to death, or shot my other dog. Or I can get Franco to tell you everything about his day in jail with your good husband.”
“And I have the anecdotes from hundreds he’s helped, so-” Someone else stepped in at the right time.
Amy came up from behind Annette to stop any fighting before it happened. “Okay, things sound a little heated here,” Amy said, gesturing to calm the situation. “I love both of you guys. Can’t we just…act civilized?”
Annette sighed in frustration. “She’s trying to convince me that her beloved husband isn’t a threat.”
“Oh god, she used her suicide story, didn’t she?” They both nodded. “Ugh. We were 20 then. He used to be okay, but things changed.”
“You’re siding with her?” Jenni asked. Her voice sounded more choked than anything. “And not with me?”
“I’m sorry, but Goodwin’s changed too much. He’s gone from wanting to save lives to defending gangs and…and…”
“You’re struggling,” Jenni said, in a flat voice.
“…He pulled a gun on me!” Amy grew more livid at her maid of honor. “He was off-duty and pulled a gun on me…fuck, it was at your parents’ house! I know you want to still like him, but he’s not the good cop here.”
Amy couldn’t even look at Jenni. She directed her sour face to the wall. “We’re in danger and he won’t help us,” she said.
Annette continued on from her sentence. “All I was trying to tell you was that you have to be armed for this. Not against Goodwin. Just against his neo-Nazi scum friends…should they come.”
Jenni’s face looked drained. “So it’s that, or…?”
Amy turned towards her, with a stern frown. “…Or you’re a normal guest like the rest of them. I don’t care what we promised each other.”
“But who…who else would do that?” Jenni asked, before glaring at Annette.
“In fact, I think Annette’s a much better choice,” Amy grumbled.
Jenni waved her hands and scowled. “Fine. I quit.” She stormed down the stairs, but didn’t leave the house without having the last word. “The state thinks you’re scum, you know! You’re just Racket scum to them!”
Annette put an arm around her angry friend’s shoulder. “Nice work,” she whispered to Amy.
“What a way to soil a friendship, though.” Amy sighed. “It’s just…you know, it’s hard to imagine a time without her? It’s just also hard to imagine a time without…you.”
“Was that just a bluff about making me your maid of honor?” Annette asked.
Amy’s face melted into a smile. She looked Annette deep into her big blue eyes. “No, I meant it.” She gave her landlady an extra squeeze around the waist.
They could hear Lolly and Franco chatting in the back. “Take it from me: don’t have anyone stand with you at your wedding,” she said to him. “Less drama that way.”
A/N: Kind of a short chapter. It was originally going to be part of a split chapter with Chapter 43, but that one got pretty long on its own.