Content Warning for: Depictions of suicide. Talk of abortion, incest/rape of a minor.
Although everyone else walked free, they kept Annette in jail for a few days. When someone finally paid her bail, she emerged in a grimy bridesmaid’s dress. Her makeup had smeared, and her curly hair flew out in wild directions. She lost the elastic that held her braid together a few hours in.
Not to mention that they confiscated her ring, but Annette almost couldn’t blame them. She too would be curious about a piece of jewelry that vaporized or teleported a man. Getting it back would be an adventure for a different day. Shit was piling up, and her magic ring was actually the least of her concerns.
The law wasn’t much of one either. The case against her wouldn’t make it far. She had to do something against an army of neo-Nazis with sniper rifles, after all. Annette still did less evil than Goodwin did that day, and all he got was paid leave from his job for killing his own wife. And, of course, offing Annette’s beloved nephew-in-law too.
It mortified her to think that Justin was gone. He was the only casualty on her side that night, but the fact that he was gone pained Annette. While they didn’t see each other much, she considered him an important part of her extended family. And he always gave out useful gift cards at Christmas too!
There were so many implications to think about with his death. Hannah would be stuck with her awful mother, and Lolly? Annette had no idea how her only niece was holding up. She knew how loss devastated Shark, and things like that could run in the family, for all she knew.
But she would get that answer right away.
Lolly stood out in the rain for her aunt, smiling a nervous kind of smile. It wasn’t like Annette expected a genuine one from her, after being widowed less than a week before.
“It’s the least I can do,” she said.
“…You paid my bail?” Annette asked. Lolly nodded.
She latched on to her niece with a strong hug. Annette couldn’t even think to be careful for the growing fetus inside of Lolly. She felt the little guy move around in there, and remembered how bad fearing being a pregnant widow was. That was her big fear, and now Lolly’s reality.
“Look, you mind doing me a favor?” Lolly whispered into her aunt’s ear. “And I know it’s gonna sound awful.”
“Awful is what I do,” Annette said.
“…I can’t raise a baby like this.”
Annette let go of her, and Lolly looked like she wanted to run off. Though she just stopped and looked at the road.
“Isn’t it a little…late, for this?” Annette asked. “I’m not judging. I’m just not driving to fucking Multnomah-”
“22 weeks in Terrebonne. We have the time.”
“…For bailing me out,” Annette said.
And that is why Annette sat with Lolly at a bakery, just outside of the capital city. They got a plate full of brownies and two chai spice lattes. And Lolly, maybe because of the sedative she was under, looked strangely at-ease with herself and the world. She told Annette that she just wanted to talk about anything, and enjoy a dessert.
“…Yeah, I remember when things started to turn around for Shark and I,” Lolly said. She had just finished a riveting tale of teenage sibling rivalry between them. No matter what, she did not regret rigging the votes to be prom royalty instead of him. “You know, maybe I can thank you for that.”
“You mind telling me? I’m not drinking my chai in silence,” said Annette.
Her niece gave her a confident smile. It stood in stark contrast to their difficult morning. “Sounds like something you’ve probably been wondering about anyways.”
“Deep Racket family lore?” Annette asked. It was a topic she would listen to, anyways. But Lolly shook her head no.
“What, you never wondered how my dad reacted to his son dating that old man?”
“It never weirded me out,” said Annette, shrugging. She remembered that Bill joked about being sorry for Harwood, but the age gap alone didn’t seem to faze him either. “Guess I assumed the rest of the world thought so too.”
“You are kind of a weirdo, aren’t you?” Lolly asked. “But I guess so you know how us humans work, we’re pretty protective of who our kids date…”
If Lolly recounted it correctly, then it happened not too long after her grandparents died. She did notice how much easier it was to invite guests over without their malignance clouding the place. A dinner with Shark was Dennis’ idea. The rumors that his son was finally in a happy relationship took a while to reach him, but they did.
“To be fair to that bastard, Shark had some trouble in high school with this one guy,” said Lolly. “Dad felt like he lost Shark for a while there. So now that he was happy, he made sure that everything was just perfect that night. Mum out of the house, lasagna in the oven, lots of beer on hand. The works. But I knew who it was, and I wasn’t really convinced at first.”
“He was a nice guy,” Annette muttered.
“Don’t care,” Lolly said. “Well, I do. But back then? I had a lot of…bad feelings about people my grandparents’ age.”
In spite of anyone else’s thoughts, Shark acted like there wasn’t anything he needed to hide. He came into the house with a friendly wave, and an arm around his much older partner.
“Hope we aren’t late,” Shark said. His voice had a cheer that none of those other Rackets had heard in years. “But I’m late with this. This is Harwood, my…well, probably the love of my life!”
Dennis and Lolly both squinted at him. “I guess…I guess he’s older than I expected,” Dennis said.
Harwood brushed that insult off. “I’m aware…probably the only person here who remembers the 1950’s, aren’t I?”
Dennis extended a hand out to the man, though kept a sour look on his face. Lolly felt a lot of disgust and embarrassment at everyone there with her.
“Right, I wasn’t born yet,” Dennis said, through clenched teeth. “But my parents told me a lot about it.”
Dinner was a painful and awkward experience for everyone, and Lolly watched it like it was a trainwreck. Her father’s face grew angry and stayed that way towards the other elderly man. And that night, Shark acted as dense as a brick. Lolly couldn’t forget how his eyes sparkled when he described falling for Harwood when he was in the ER. His face was bloody and bruised after nephew Tarek assaulted him, but Shark didn’t care. He just wanted Harwood to realize how he felt.
Shark was beaming, and he kept squeezing his lover’s hand under the table while Dennis glared. He and Lolly were fast on the track to being the despised in-laws. It wasn’t like Lolly expected much better if Shark ever got serious with someone.
Then they cracked open the beers, and things changed.
It took a lot to get big, tall Dennis to act drunk and fun, but he got there. “Maybe you’re a pretty cool son-in-law when I’m plastered like this.” The alcohol broke Dennis’ shell enough for him to let out a shy chuckle. “We’ll keep ya, Harwood.”
Harwood was somewhat sober, being less than half done with his only beer of the night. “Never thought I’d be buttering up a Racket…well, these Rackets,” he muttered.
Lolly just laughed at how he thought that the Rackets were still big and scary. Or at least that a big softie like Dennis was. He was the sort of criminal who threw up whenever witnessing a murder scene, and once said “I’m sorry” to a cashier he robbed.
But time went on, and Lolly stopped being a shithead about it (in her own words). She found love herself shortly after, with Justin. He held her close while they watched the sunset one day. It was some sort of family beach gathering, without Silver and with whoever the kids were dating. Of course Shark took it as an opportunity. After all, it meant seeing his beloved partner shirtless.
The two of them preferred to throw a frisbee around on the sand. Lolly watched, and finally saw her older brother as a decent guy. He seemed at ease with himself, and had the ability to love a man with some ugly burn scars on his back.
“And to think…I’m the last one alive from those days,” Lolly said. Her face melted into a bit of a frown. “The last one.”
Annette tried to save herself there. “Okay…sorry for making you say that,” she said.
“Eh, I do like thinking about the good times. It helped me a lot after dad died,” said Lolly. “Even after Shark died. I almost thought I’d be thrilled, but…well, sometimes I wake up and there’s this pit in my stomach because he’s gone. I grew up with him, and he’s gone!”
“I want to think I’m at peace with that, but…I want to think he could have been helped too. Believe it or not, I don’t want to be a terrible person. I just…am.”
“Well, you’re pretty damn great for a Racket. How about that?” Lolly smiled at her aunt.
“And Bill and I are happy to have you as family.” Annette looked off into the window of the bakery, focusing her eyes on a steaming fresh pie cooling on the rack. It felt less awkward than looking Lolly in the eye for much longer. “…So what are you gonna do with Nicky?”
“Raise him,” Lolly said. “He’s two. It’s weird, but I feel better knowing that Justin knew him. He might remember something about his daddy. I just…I just can’t do it with another now…without him.” She winced in pain as she looked down at her newly-flat belly.
“I told you this right into the clinic: I’m not gonna judge,” Annette said. “I’m just glad…okay, I’m glad I never had to make such a choice for myself. And I’m too old to have to make it again.”
“I’m just…I’m just ashamed I had to abort again,” Lolly said. She seemed to turn away in embarrassment. “It’s like one of those mistakes you should only make once. I dunno. That’s how it felt the first time.”
“The first time?”
“I’m so…angry at it,” Lolly grumbled. She leaned over the table and bit her lip. “I still am. I was fifteen-ish…I don’t even think Bill knew you. But, well, I guess he did right by me.”
“I’m happy to hear that?” It wasn’t like it surprised Annette that her husband might have had a heart, even before they met. They didn’t grow in people after 50. “And whether you want to tell me about it, or just eat another brownie…we’re here to heal up.”
Lolly took one bite out of a brownie that was on the plate, but she looked like she had to force it down.
“Now that I remember it, it was 2023. Probably around the time you first came to town,” said Lolly. “And…well, I guess there isn’t much of a mystery as to how I got into that mess.” Annette shuddered a bit, remembering the vague words Lolly said about how horrible her grandfather was. If Annette was the one victim he could never have, it just meant that there was a long line of others.
“Yeah, not really.” Annette sighed. “So…that happened to you.”
Lolly nodded. Her lips were clenched in a tight pout.
“Honestly, it was bad enough without that.”
She waited until nighttime, when she was certain that everyone else was asleep or at work. At least Grandpa Max was out managing affairs at that awful strip club he owned. Lolly had that dreadful feeling inside of her ever since…it happened. While it would be cruel to say that she got used to her grandfather feeling her up, that was about as much as she expected from him. Until one night, he got bored of that. Lolly could be treated like the other women in his life.
He whispered in her ear about how he was going to add another million to her trust fund for it. As far as she was concerned, it was the lies of a sick man.
The test came up positive. She regretted wearing eyeliner that night, as it mixed with tears and streamed down her face. Being alone, she could wail all she wanted to, seated on the cold bathroom floor. It wasn’t going to change the fact that she was carrying a rape baby, but then again, who in that house would change it?
It being a big mansion, Lolly often could miss a person in there. She assumed that uncle Bill was gone too, maybe to replenish his cigarette supply. Or was it his turn to buy groceries? Neither was true.
He opened the door after hearing his niece in there. He took a step back at the scene.
“Well, ain’t that cruel…oh.” Bill shut his mouth, as if he could read Lolly’s mind. Or maybe he witnessed more than he should have earlier.
He knelt down in front of her, but Lolly wasn’t having it. “Go away,” she said, in a low voice.
“And who else is gonna help you here?”
“Like you will?” Lolly considered “hate” far too strong of a word for her uncle, but even she sometimes lost her patience for him. He was unruly and disobedient. He smoked indoors and tended to take the most food at dinner, and fought with his family all the time. If there was a compassionate soul who could help her, it wasn’t using the body of uncle Bill.
Well, it was a fair assumption, anyways.
He gave her a tender look, though. “Look, I can’t stop what your grandpa does. But I can at least try to make it better.”
“Don’t touch me,” she snarled.
“I won’t. I mean…I have to go to the capital next week anyways. You mind tagging along?” She didn’t answer him. Talking while crying was a tough job, after all. “You know, you should at least calm down so we can talk about this. I’m trying to help! You’re the only person worth helping here!”
Lolly quieted down, and looked her uncle in the eyes. “…You mean it?”
“I think I do.”
It took a while, but she got to her feet.
She still felt timid when she looked up at him. “Just…just tell me what your idea is.”
“How far along are you?” Lolly counted on her fingers. Seven weeks, or somewhere around there. “If that’s weeks, then I think we’re all set. I do my business in the capital, and I drop you off at the clinic. Just…stay strong and make the right choice, okay?”
“And you won’t tell anybody?”
“And trust these bastards with that info? Not a chance.”
For the first time in days, Lolly felt like smiling. She smiled directly at her uncle. “I…I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“If it’s a way to spite my old man, I do,” said Bill. He looked so cocky with a hand on his hip, but it seemed to fit for that night. For once, he rose above the typical Racket awfulness. And he bought Lolly some ice cream after it was all done.
Coming out of the abortion clinic when she was fifteen was one of the most liberating feelings for her. At forty, it hurt much like Justin’s funeral did.
A tear rolled down from her right eye when she finished. “I miss my babies,” she whispered. “And I really shouldn’t, but I do. I wanted the best for them, and that’s the best? What a shame.”
Annette pouted, and then reached across the table to take one of Lolly’s hands. “I think you’ve done a pretty good job,” she said.
“I guess,” said Lolly. “Thank Bill for me, though. Sometimes, the man’s a saint. And I’ll always be thankful for those rare moments.”
“Hey, your story just makes me love the man more. I’ll tell him that you still feel that way…god knows he needs the motivation.”
“It’s been rough?” Lolly asked. All Annette could do was nod.
They left their table a little later with a strong, friendly hug. Annette’s hair had a wet spot from her niece crying into it. But she had a lot of faith in Lolly. Unlike her brother, she seemed comfortable as her own person.
After getting Lolly home, Annette walked inside her own house, hoping to spend some time with Bill. She would have for the whole day, had it not been for escorting Lolly to an abortion clinic. Bill told her it was a good deed to do, and now Annette knew why! She wanted to let him know that she appreciated him even more for that little story of the past.
Most of the time, he was upstairs in bed. He liked napping more and more, and Annette let him do that.
She walked in on him awake, sitting on the side of the bed. One arm clutched himself around the torso, as if trying to stem a horrible bellyache. The other hand held a handgun, with the barrel only half an inch away from his temple.
“Put that down! What’s the matter with you?” She barked it out in a sharp tone, and scrambled to get close to him.
“I didn’t think you’d be here so soon,” he said, in an exasperated voice.
Annette knelt down in front of him, to beg at her husband. She placed one hand on Bill’s leg and looked ready to cry. “Just tell me what’s wrong. Whatever it is…that isn’t gonna fix it! I want to help you-”
He pointed a finger at her. “I want to help you! I’m doing this for you. You guys…you uprooted your lives for me. You shouldn’t have to do…live with me like this…I shouldn’t have to live like this.”
“What else can I do to help, then?!” She tried squeezing his thigh, but he lost a lot of the feeling there anyways. “Look, I’m willing to do a lot! We can find a better pain specialist, or…or…”
“You deserve better,” he said, his voice dropping down close to a whisper. “You never had to do this for me.”
She choked back a tear before telling Bill anything else. It wasn’t like she could stop any other suicides before that. In fact, she might have made it worse. But living with what Shark or Harwood did was, after a while, doable. Sometimes she could forgive herself for their deaths. And Annette better accepted them as mortals in general. Like everyone else, they were no more than fleeting figures in her long, eternal life. Bill had to be the same way, right? Surely, Annette had the sense to accept his mortality once she learned how old he was.
But as much as she told herself otherwise, she never could see Bill as something so low.
Annette folded her hands in a plea. “There has to be something worth living for! Think about our kids. You bring so much joy to both of them, or think…PLEASE. I won’t be able to live with myself if I let you do this. You saved me, and I need to save you now.”
“And what have I been doing for you since this happened?”
Annette sniffled a bit. “Everything.”
“You have! You’re why I wake up each morning…why I’m so proud to be here.” She started to trail off. “We all think so much of you.”
“Even now…I want you to put down the gun, though,” Annette said. “Put down the gun…and give me a kiss. Right where you are.” She stood up a little and leaned closer to where Bill sat. With a hand caressing his upper back, Annette closed her eyes. They had been together for so many years. She could find his lips with her eyes closed by then.
He had to have put it down. The hand that once held his gun stroked her cheek. His big fingers brushed against the side of her face, and Annette could stay there forever. For a solid minute, she held him in a kiss.
And from what she could feel, Bill melted into it too. For the whole time, he kept his left hand on her shoulder. His nose touched her cheek, and halfway through, he wormed his tongue into Annette’s mouth. He gently bit her lower lip. It made her weak in the knees, as usual. She could stay like that all night.
If there wasn’t an emergency, she easily would have. She could have laid there kissing Bill all night, reminding him how much she loved and needed him. It felt like forever since they shared such a moment.
After a minute or two, she opened her eyes and pulled away, but just a little bit. Annette still pet his back as she asked him the last question she wanted to. “So you’ll do the right thing?”
He looked lost in her eyes. Bill nodded, and even smiled a bit. “Yes.”
She was ready to give him a peck on the cheek, until she noticed the handgun again. His hand shook as he held it up, but soon the muzzle was in the perfect alignment for a kill-shot. Annette tried to reach for his left arm before he squeezed the trigger.
How could she not disarm him? All she needed to do was reach her arm out a foot and point the weapon away from him.
Time crept by at half its speed to Annette. She still was holding him by the back, and felt him fall back and go limp. There was nothing left to save, with his blood pouring out onto the comforter, and grey matter splattered on the wall.
The cruelest part was how he died with a smile.
A/N: I’m not saying it’s the most painful death the story will ever see, but it’s the worst I’ve had to do for a while. Especially because Annette had to watch it all happen. And the narrative says it all. She saved him from whatever would have happened if he stayed in the family he hated (I say “addiction relapse”), and he saved Annette from a feeling of loneliness that would figuratively kill her.
(I realize that Bill would have naturally died sooner or later, but he lived FOREVER while playing the game and I wanted to go with that instead.
I’m just so damn tired of making wheelchair poses for him I want Annette to suffer I think it was a decision that made more sense. He’s the sort of guy who’d like to die on his own terms)
Let’s talk about abortion? Just for a bit. I do have a pretty radical stance on the issue, albeit of the “women should have the right to an abortion at any point in their pregnancy, for whatever reason.” And, yeah, it can be a pretty painful decision. So can the decision to carry a pregnancy to term. Edit 2-12-2017: Got a bit of flack for this but I’m sticking by it.
Doesn’t mean that Terrebonne is immune to a cut-off date.