It was the morning of Sinbad and Amy’s wedding. Annette should have just worried about herself, but instead had the monstrous task of getting her husband in a nice jacket. Even before the injury, he never liked wearing those.
“And…done.” Annette sat herself down on the floor after tightening Bill’s tie. “You might not like it, but you’re a handsome bastard in that coat.” It was a sharp black one, paired with a teal shirt. She still swooned a bit when seeing her husband dressed in his best.
He looked at the mirror and frowned. “Is there some social clause that can make me miss this? I feel awful,” he whined.
“On a scale from one to ten?”
Annette got up from the carpet and tried to look a little shy and flirty. It often worked with getting on Bill’s good side. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” she said. “Amy will understand.”
“You’re her maid of honor…isn’t that something you can’t break on the day of?” Bill asked. “I’ll go. Just…just don’t bail on this for me.”
“Alright…you wanna do something fun after this? We’ve never really gone on vacation together, and San Severo is pretty accessible.”
He didn’t even nod or shake his head. “Whatever.” Bill started to wheel himself out of the room.
Annette then turned towards her dresser, and a ring box she kept close to the mirror. On most occasions, Harwood’s old ring looked too formal. Plus, it was a heavy piece. No wonder he wore it only for the most formal of events. Annette could feel her finger sink whenever she put it on.
But the gold of the ring almost matched the golden-orange of her dress’ decorative ruffle.
She put it on, and admired its beauty in the light. The big amethyst in the center glimmered back at her.
Annette sighed in contentment at it. “Oh Troy. Best ass in Middlesex, and best rings too,” she said. It was a direct quote from Harwood’s diaries. She skipped ahead to an entry from 2006, just so she knew where his ring came from. That explain that, but was he right about it being a real piece of magic? If it was, no one knew how to activate its powers. And Annette was out of luck for asking Harwood about it.
It still looked snazzy. Getting dressed at home meant that Annette got to wear her ring. But it also meant missing out on womanly bonding with her best friend, and with the emergency bridesmaid too. Amy got dressed by herself well enough, so the other two women were left to relax until the ceremony. Annette watched Amy further preen, and Molly got herself a cup of green tea.
Annette hadn’t spoken with Molly at length. But it made sense to. They had to stand aside each other while Amy and Sinbad exchanged vows, after all. Plus, she had a daughter around Samira’s age. It seemed like everyone got busy around that time! Playdates and picking kids up from school would be a load of fun in the future.
Not to mention that Molly wasn’t quite human. Some mishaps gave her the “blessing” of the fae back when she was in medical school. Though glittering wings of soft light were annoying. Not to mention that a greatly-extended lifespan would start to suck after a while. Annette could sympathize with all of it. She told Molly that the existential dread would never stop. Even more importantly, she told her that her uncommitted and casual Marc would settle down once he hit 65. It happened to Bill in a similar way.
Although Molly agreed to be armed for the event, she looked apprehensive as she brought it up to Annette. “This isn’t a…certainty, right?” she asked her.
Annette didn’t have much to say to that. “Let’s just say 50/50. Remember what Amy told you: keep running, and we keep the spare bullets down here.”
“Nettie’s just being a tease,” Amy said. “Let’s have fun! Big weddings don’t even happen every year.”
The ceremony started later, around 3 in the afternoon. The weather was lovely out, and Annette wanted to keep her eyes on the gorgeous bride. Amy chose a great design for her dress. Ivory-white and stopping at her knees. Accessorized with short white gloves. But being the nosy demon she was, Annette also glanced around the crowd. Amy was able to conjure a big guest list, largely through connections at the school. Spouses, siblings, and in-laws were welcomed. Even Annette had trouble with all the names.
It was amazing how they could fit them all on that little peninsula that stuck out into the pond. Guests stood shoulder-to-shoulder in some patches, but it worked.
Amy’s parents took the two front-most seats and made grouchy faces through the entire event. Maybe it was at the bride and groom themselves, or how they bucked the traditions of wedding fashion. Most of the other guests kept their cool, though. If they thought that Sinbad was a dirty mongrel and that Amy was a drifting loser of a human, they kept those thoughts to themselves.
There was the issue of Goodwin and Jenni too. He kept a sour-looking eye on Annette for the whole time. The only thing that changed was him changing his glance to Sinbad or Amy. As for Jenni, she clung on to her husband, with her teeth nervously clenched for the whole ceremony.
Eh. Just four sour people out of more than thirty.
Uh…it was nice to see Sinbad’s teenage siblings there too. He didn’t want to do it at first, but he let his prejudice against a bunch of children go and sent out invites to their addresses. Plus, Franco wanted Carmen there. Seeing her in a short dress and knee-height boots most likely made his day. And having Patrick there to hold Julian meant one less job for Franco.
Annette had to admit it: Amy orchestrated the perfect wedding. Everyone was so content and well-dressed. Marc and Justin looked sharp in the vests they picked out.
Most of all, Sinbad was one handsome groom. He rejected a tuxedo, and instead wore a bowtie and a black vest. Before the ceremony , he rolled up the sleeves to his white shirt up to his elbows. They showed off just a few of his many tattoos, and Annette always loved the intricacy of his ink.
Yes, what a perfect wedding. With just a few exceptions, a perfect wedding.
If only it was for Annette, though. Goodwin and Jenni and Amy’s parents aside, all but one person looked proud for the new couple. Bill should have been happy for his two housemates as well. They made his life just that much less lonely, but he couldn’t stop scowling harder than either of Amy’s parents. It couldn’t have been the vows either. Sinbad’s “I’m here to break a vicious cycle” almost made Annette cry with joy.
Her only guess was that his “seven” for pain crept its way up to “eight.”
She wanted to be happy for the ceremony, but seeing Bill in a bad mood put Annette in a similar one. Her emotional pain wasn’t comparable to the radiating physical pain her husband often felt. However, it tortured her to feel so helpless towards it. His general mood was never that positive, but Bill started to scare her with how often he slept. How much he muttered about how painful and pointless living was. He never had much good to tell his physician either.
She could keep her eyes on him. After all, Annette’s biggest duty as the maid of honor was to give a speech after the ceremony. Amy wouldn’t mind if she had her head turned another way.
Annette wanted to keep herself at the arch, though. But Bill started to wheel himself away from the crowd. She knew he was an adult, but everything about Bill worried Annette. It was run away from the bride, or risk…something about Bill.
She made her choice, and ran past the chairs.
Bill parked his wheelchair close to the cabin. He held his head and clenched his jaw in misery, as if trying to stem a violent headache.
“I’m sorry it had to hit now,” Annette said.
“No…go back there,” Bill grunted. “Don’t do this for me!”
“You’re my husband. I can’t just leave you alone all the time,” she said. “Is it an eight now?” He nodded. He also swatted Annette’s hand away as she tried to pat his shoulder.
“Fine. But I’m not going back there.”
For the rest of the ceremony, Annette took a seat on the cool grass and tried to reason with her husband. If he wanted to go home, then Annette would take him home, and leave the maid of honor’s speech to Molly. There was little she would do without Bill.
So Annette stayed by his side there at the cabin. The details of the rest of the ceremony came to her in hindsight. The ending kiss got a standing ovation.
As much as Annette wanted to stay by Bill’s side the whole night, there wasn’t a way to worm out of doing the speech. It came quickly too. Marc’s speech as the best man was just one line apologizing to Sinbad for doing his father back in the day. He then passed the mic to Annette.
Aside from the occasional eulogy, speaking to crowds was never her favorite thing. And god forbid she actually write the whole thing in advance.
“I’m just gonna repeat a lot of things I’ve been saying to the bride and groom for a few weeks now,” she started. “So…I’ve known these guys for a while. And we all are pretty bad people when we’re twenty, ain’t we?” She hesitated there.
It was a shaky start, but Annette then looked over to Bill. He took Samira off Franco’s hands, and wheeled himself over close to the peninsula. It was away from most of the tables, but still in view of Annette. Samira sat on his lap and giggled as her mother spoke to the crowd. She even tried to reach out in her direction, smiling a big and fang-filled smile.
Yeah, it was the cuteness to keep Annette going. Her handsome husband and happy, dressed-up baby believed in her public speaking skills.
She gestured to the big, seated crowd. “So I met this ditzy little artist back in 2023…some of you weren’t even born. And I’ll be fair, I just wanted her money. I smelt a lot of money on Amy, and I didn’t believe in her much as a person. She somehow never noticed how I used her toothbrush when staying over her place, and you won’t believe how many things she just forgot about in the oven. I thought I’d be her babysitter forever…now she’s married. She’s an amazing mum to her son, a damn good gunwoman, and she’s learned to leave the cooking to me.”
“Too bad our best man had nothing to say. I have a lot I can say about the groom…as much as he probably hates me for this.” Sinbad actually had a chuckle at it. “But I’ll just leave it at two things. I met him as an angry man who cheated on his fiancee and had the world’s worst daddy issues. Now he’s faithful, happier, and has a few less of those issues.”
Annette gave him a thumb up. “Sinbad Takasugi, you’re gonna go places.”
He stood up and snatched her mic away. Sinbad led Amy up from her seat too, taking her by the shoulder as he spoke. “Thanks Annette. I’ve tried hard to be the guy I am today,” he said. “I just want to give a shoutout to my parents. So, to Harwood and Emma? I finally did what you couldn’t. Suck it.”
Right in back of Sinbad was the deck to the cabin. Three of his young siblings and Franco shared a table away from their parents. He turned towards them, with a few last words.
“But I guess I’m a big brother to a lot of people too,” Sinbad said, looking somewhat towards them. “You can rise above your parents too…or at least learn something from them. All I have to say. Thanks everyone for being here.”
The bride ended up getting the last words.
“Just wanted to say thanks to all you guys from Twinbrook. You’re like a real family to me.” Even with her back turned towards them, Amy and Annette felt Soo’s negative energy emanate from her.
But that was over with, and the guests got what they came to the wedding for in the first place. Dinner and cake placated everyone. Annette swore that she saw grumpy old Stan smile a bit after tasting her hand-baked wedding cake.
The reception went well too. The DJ arrived only ten minutes later than expected, and he provided a tracklist good enough to make up for that.
Annette stayed inside the cabin instead. She eschewed beer for tickling her little Samira. It would have been hard to do both. At least Annette didn’t look like a trainwreck at the event. Soo getting into an argument with Jade Greenwood at the bar made Annette look like a pretty upstanding woman.
It was hard for her to notice things when she was wrapped up in a tender family moment. In a twist of events, it took Amy to point out the obvious to Annette.
After getting ski advice from the bartender, for her honeymoon in the Green Mountains, Amy walked over to Annette’s side. “Uh…you need me to calm this situation down?” she asked.
There was no pleasing Goodwin, was there? He didn’t say anything to either of them as he glared in their direction. Jenni’s face as harder to read. Sadness or regret? Or a third option? She looked pained and frowning, anyways.
“If they’re hoping for my death…I don’t know if I work that way anyways,” Annette said. “Want some merlot?”
Eventually, Annette found her husband again. He crossed his arms and frowned as Franco walked off with Samira. She toddled alongside him, on her two legs, while holding his hand. As for Bill, that was a lofty dream. Tiny little Annette couldn’t support him up anyways.
“Just be happy that you’re watching her grow up,” Annette said, looking away from her phone. “Sometimes, I’m amazed that I even know these kids.”
“Sure,” he grumbled. Annette couldn’t help but want to hug him, but Bill flinched back. It was just one of those days.
She stayed glued to her screen, and was still there when a text message arrived. Although the number didn’t ring a bell, Annette’s curiosity was piqued. The area code was from west Terrebonne, a place she was unfamiliar with. She opened the message as soon as she could.
15 minutes. Four are coming.
“Whatever fucking threat this is,” Annette said, close to yelling at her phone. “I said small chance…”
It then hit her what sort of danger everyone was in. There were upwards of thirty oblivious people on the same lot as her. Thirty unarmed people. A big collection of innocent meat targets.
“Shit,” she muttered, and then ran towards the one civilian who could help her.
Annette did tell Franco about what they risked that day, but he got distracted quickly. Carmen lead him to the dance floor, and even the promise of watching over Samira couldn’t stop him. He was about to try and slow-dance while balancing his baby sister on his side.
But like an embarrassing, overbearing parent, Annette came up behind Carmen to grab his attention. “Franco, you know the ‘danger word’ I told you about yesterday?” she asked him. If she or someone else yelled “BOMB”, then Franco had to run. Immortal or not, Annette was not putting Franco in one of those scenes again. The incident with Gavin left him paranoid over the whole town for a month.
“Yeah? It was just yesterday,” he said.
“I need you to yell that at the top of your lungs, and get everyone out of here. If they don’t run, then they’re with me and know what they’re getting into.”
Franco nodded, and the word sent everyone into a frenzy. The place was clearing out fast.
With that, Annette wanted to assemble her “soldiers,” but at the same time, did they need to risk their lives? In the end, there were only two people responsible for that gang being on their trail. Annette made a deal with their leader, and also aided in his arrest. And Goodwin had a hand in turning a blind eye to everything they did, as long as it served him.
He was enjoying a beer inside, as everyone else evacuated the area. Even the bartender heard the warning, so Goodwin must have already figured out the truth for himself.
“Goodwin, this is a real emergency,” Annette cried out, standing about twenty feet away. “We gotta come to an agreement here!”
He turned towards her, with angry, outstretched arms. “Are you a fucking idiot? I’ve spent my whole career trying to tear you down! I’m not giving that up.”
Annette approached him. She was armed, after all, or would be with just one reach into her garter. Yet, the worry and distress on her face was evident. “Look, we all are in danger because of this gang. I’ll go easy on you if you go hard on them, it’s that simple!”
“I don’t give a damn about scum like you, or your husband, or whoever’s stupid enough to still be your friend,” he said.
She leaned in, trying to grab Goodwin by his coat’s lapel. He grabbed Annette by the wrist first.
Annette lowered her voice. “Innocent people are going to die because of them. Whether tonight or tomorrow…can’t you just call the cops on them? Or be the cop?”
“And only one person here has a warrant for their arrest…and I will use it if you mess this up,” Goodwin snarled. “I didn’t send them, but I’m glad they found you.”
She was close to sobbing, as Goodwin wouldn’t budge an inch on the decision. “This isn’t just about me, it’s about everyone I love…can’t we just deal with this another way?”
“No,” he said.
Goodwin let go of Annette and gave her a smug smirk. “As we say in the force: justice never sleeps.”
A/N: I never like to fish for praise, but GODDAMN, I spent at least a week on those crowd scenes at the wedding. I need a pat of the back.
This was originally going to be one chapter with Chapter 47 too, but things got to nearly 6,000 words and 100 images with them together. And I know how bad loading normal chapters can be.