Content Warning for: nudity.
Many weird people passed through our house. Only two of them were weird enough to split a pint of durian ice cream together.
A durian is a strange, spiky, smelly fruit. As for the last quality, its stench can empty a room, and only a handful of people can stand it. One such person was Annette, who claimed to grow up on fresh durians and durian smoothies. She had to leave the house to enjoy those, as I knew first-hand. Another was Harwood, who ate one on a dare back in his 30’s and ended up liking it.
Getting it blended into ice cream was a way to eliminate the grossest aspect of the fruit. While the both of them would have preferred to crack open a fresh durian, ice cream was a way to eat it and not offend the rest of the house. Because it was so hard to find, Annette and Harwood saved their celebratory durian ice cream only for his birthday. As much as he denied it, every new birthday for him was a blessing, at that age. So Annette spoiled her old friend with everything he asked for on his birthday.
Every February 27th, Annette and Harwood waited until everyone was asleep. He was fine with sharing dinner that night with everyone. Everyone deserved delicious vegetarian stuffed grape leaves. But dessert was only for Harwood and Annette. They conversed and gossiped over their shared bowl of ice cream. It was a tradition that nothing could get in the way of. Even after Harwood started dating Shark, he passed up birthday sex for some personal time with his landlady and their favorite dessert.
That day had become painful to Annette. It marked the anniversary of Harwood’s death too. But pain or no pain, she still felt the intense need to honor him. Always with a visit to his grave, and with a pint of durian ice cream later. She wasn’t going to make an exception for February 27h, 2049. It was too important.
For one, Harwood would have turned 100 that day. An impressive age, but one that some people lived to. Annette, for a while, believed he would make it as well. And to think about how it would be like if he did. There were so many what-ifs surrounding that. It made her a little misty-eyed to think about Harwood meeting his grandson, or having many more happy years with Shark. But she couldn’t spend her entire night dreaming of a beautiful life with her friend.
She just focused on the granite obelisk in front of her and sighed.
“So…uh…life’s been weird,” said Annette.
Starting in September, Annette’s life might have been weird. But damn was she in love with it.
She had the perfect lovers.
The perfect perversions.
And best of all, the perfect children. She couldn’t thank Franco enough, sometimes. He, almost without Annette asking him to, would babysit Samira and Julian most afternoons. Whether it meant holing himself up in the nursery with the kids, or taking them out when he was with friends, Franco gave so much attention to them. And he always had a smile when around those babies.
It did leave time so Annette could have her three-ways. Five-ways. An eight-way on one lucky evening, and she hoped for more.
Things were fine and perfect, even if Annette wanted more if she could get it. It felt the same one evening too, earlier that February. Annette laughed at an email. She spent the whole afternoon laughing on the internet, while dressed in her most comfortable pair of Sinbad’s jeans. It was one of those lazy, amazing days. She then realized that she had some important work to do.
It was regarding the Swingers’ club. Annette was trying to form one, and they organized in a private IRC group. The platform was too obsolete for anyone to be there and find them. And Annette got a little more serious for that. She did make some sort of effort to weed out the worst potential swingers from her house. Background checks were mandatory, and three people were waiting for them. Annette had no tolerance for rapists, and no tolerance for her enemies. Julienne and Goodwin didn’t deserve orgasms from her.
However, her concentration wasn’t intense enough to not notice the pitter-pattering of her precious Samira’s feet. She was out all day with her big brother, and Annette missed her so much.
Samira started to climb onto Annette’s chair, before she scooped her toddler up.
“You don’t want to see that,” she said to her baby. Annette had the county sex offender registry open, and someone to ban from her group. It was a conversation she wasn’t ready to have a three year-old.
“Yes I do!” Samira made grabbing-hands towards Annette’s laptop.
“No, there’s something you want more!” Annette then launched her fingers towards Samira’s squishy tummy, for a tickle attack. The toddler laughed in her arms as hard as she could.
She had just started to quiet down when Annette heard another familiar voice or two.
“Oh, you’re home!” It was Franco, who sounded almost afraid of his contented mother.
When Annette turned around, it was just him standing in the archway.
“I am…did you bring Carmen with you? I swore I heard her, and it’s been ages since I’ve seen my…sister-in-law.” She still struggled when thinking of Sinbad’s extended family in relation to her. Being married to him was amazing, but it made her dizzy trying to navigate the family tree. But it was true. Annette hadn’t seen the girl since Christmas.
“No…it’s just me,” he said.
“Okay. It’s like you’ve been hiding her from me for a while, but I like Carmen. She’s literal family to me now…you guys are still together, right?”
“Yeah. I see her all the time.”
“So why don’t I?” Annette asked.
“It’s not like she’s your girlfriend. Why can’t you just let me handle my life-” Franco stopped as he saw Annette walk towards the arch. “Mum, this is ridiculous! It’s my life!”
“Then there’s nothing we should fear behind that wall,” Annette said. She propped Samira up on her hip a little more, and took a calm stroll into the hallway.
Carmen looked guilty as Annette approached her, though it took a hard look for Annette to figure out why. Heck, she had never seen that rude, arrogant little munchkin look so humbled. She almost wanted to praise Carmen for that! But then she took a look at her below her defeated face.
It hadn’t even been two months since she last saw Carmen up-close, but the six or seven weeks changed her a lot. That baggy sweater she wore at Christmas hid everything, or so it seemed. But she wore a fitted hoodie that afternoon, and it hugged her swollen belly a lot closer. From her own personal experience, Annette guessed that she was somewhere around 28 or 30 weeks pregnant. And that totaled up to months and months without Franco telling her a thing.
She couldn’t even form a good response. “Uh…welcome to hell,” Annette said.
“I know,” Carmen said, in a hushed voice.
“And I’m really happy for you.” She said it through clenched fangs. “Buuuuuut I have to talk to Franco ‘bout something…in private. How about you take little Samira for practice?”
Annette led her son towards the living room. “I’m not mad at you,” she said, as they walked. “I guess this just caught me off-guard.”
Franco still looked like he was about to piss himself.
Once they got into the other room, Annette tried to discuss the issue with Franco. “Look, I know you were careful. But…you know…yeah, it’s a billion times more complicated-”
Annette took a small step back. “Excuse me?”
Franco gestured to shush her. “I’d rather you back out of this,” he said. His voice sounded hushed. Perhaps he didn’t want Carmen to hear it. “We’re 17, and we can handle it.”
“You being 17 is kind of the problem here, kiddo,” she said. “Not to mention-”
“Not in the mood, mum,” he said.
Annette grimaced. “Fine. We’ll talk another time. But I’m not letting that kid come out without prepping you for it.”
Franco rolled his eyes and escaped back to his babymomma. And Annette hid herself in the kitchen, to cook anything that would take up her time. She settled on a layered ratatouille, and those always took forever for her to assemble.
But that helped nothing but her stomach. Annette decided that she would wait until late that night for some expert advice.
She always knew where to find that.
Annette flopped down onto Sinbad and Amy’s bed. She curled up her legs to her chest and hugged herself, just so her spouses knew that they had to be concerned. Just as she planned, the two of them pelted her with questions and worries. Amy even stroked Annette’s thigh, just in case that would coax an answer out of her.
But Annette just wanted to bury her face into the comforter, even with her wonderful lovers there. “It’s just stuff like aging and dread,” she said. “I’m too young to be a grandma.”
The color drained from Sinbad’s face for a moment. “Christ…this is the move that makes me an uncle, right?”
Amy just raised a confused eyebrow. “We’re all only children here.” She got a rather angry scowl from her husband. “Riiiiight. Sorry that I don’t obsess over your dad and remember those things.”
Eventually, they all lay side-by-side on the bed. Annette on the left, Sinbad on the right, and Amy in the middle of an angry and stressed sandwich.
“…And the worst part is how much he doesn’t want to talk about it,” said Annette. “I feel so stupid! He kept this hidden from me for, like, six months. And it’s like he planned to do that right until that baby comes out of her.”
Amy almost sounded sick to her stomach. “You think that’s bad? I teach those kids and hear all the school gossip, and I still didn’t know until you told me.”
“Franco’s been a little shithead about things since that Bridgeport trip anyways. Not even surprised.” Sinbad grumbled out his words, turning away from the two women. “Lovely job knocking up my sister. A-plus.”
Annette hugged herself tighter. “There’s just so much I need to tell him. All the immortality stuff depends on first-borns, and this one’s gonna be his,” she said. “I dunno what will happen if he doesn’t listen to me about that.”
Whether they liked it or not, she needed to find a way.
It took a lot of persuasion, and the promise of making his favorite pesto sauce for dinner. But Annette led Franco down to her basement a few days later.
For the first time, Annette showed her son one of her most secret rooms. “So this is where I keep my esoteric bullshit,” she said. “And also where your uncle Shark hanged himself, but I try to put that in the past.”
“It’s…weird,” said Franco. He must have been referring to that humming orb in the center of the room. “So you actually have things I don’t know about, or?”
“Yes, yes I do. There’s a lot you don’t know about me, and a lot you know about us.” She wagged a finger, signaling Franco to join her inside.
Annette looked over at the large chest, over by the wall. “I keep my rulebook down there, because I do have to follow it. The whole thing’s pretty simple.”
“Okay? Couldn’t you have brought this up earlier?” Franco said, sounding a little annoyed.
“It just slipped my mind until you said that you knocked up your girlfriend. Mistakes happen. But it matters a whole lot now, because I have to follow these rules. You have to follow these rules, and your little sprog has to whether they like it or not. And somehow, you have to either get along enough with Carmen to spend the rest of her life with her, or get full custody of your child. Got it?”
“Great, wait until now to tell me that there’s rules.”
“Geez, you’re still a kid. I could have forgotten until you were 30 or somethin’.”
“I’m not just a kid…wait, how does that just slip your mind?”
Annette tried to stay rational. “Life’s crazy, and I often don’t think about these. It just boils down to being successful and eating some crazy life fruit custard anyways. There’s no elaborate ceremony around it.”
Franco looked at his mother, with a tight-lipped frown.
“I know what you want to say, so just say it,” she said.
He took a deep breath. “You’re petty and lazy and only care about filling up your empty life. And somehow you’ve turned your super-serious mission into no big deal until your kid messes up and you can use it against him. Are you happy? I’m not.”
“Fine. Guilty as charged,” Annette said, scratching the back of her head in frustration. “But you know? You need those petty and selfish things to keep going. Life sucks. And you’ll know soon once you have a kid!”
It ended bad, and Annette couldn’t help but yearn for something better. She looked on with a pained pout as Franco stormed out of the room.
“…And we haven’t had a friendly interaction since. So it’s five years ago all over again, ‘cept we’re both gonna be grandparents now.”
She still wished that she was talking to Harwood about that over a bowl of durian ice cream. While he was still alive. It hit Annette, once she went silent, that she just spent fifteen minutes talking to a gravestone.
Annette bowed down in defeat, burying her hands into the deep snow. “He is right. I’m useless with this,” she said. “And I don’t know who else to turn to. I…I always turned to you. You guys…” She trailed off as she looked around the cemetery. Everyone buried there had, at one point or another, given everything to help Annette.
She slowly rose to her feet. “Gawd, you know how much I miss the three of you. I have trouble grasping everything in life now.”
Her breaths became heavier as she thought about them. “This could be easy, you know.” Annette started shouting her words. “It could have been fucking easy!” She then spread out her arms in rage, furrowing her brows as intensely as she could.
“IT ALL COULD HAVE BEEN EASY IF YOU DIDN’T FUCKING KILL YOURSELVES!”
Her words echoed through the ampitheatre and the cold winter air. They sounded harsher the second time around.
She collapsed back onto the ground, with a tear rolling down from her right eye. “I’m sorry. I just keep wishing for when you were here. Things were so much easier when you were around.” Annette reached out to Harwood’s obelisk, touching the cold granite. “You must have kept me saner than I thought you did.”
Annette scooted closer to the stone. “It’s just…sometimes I miss you so much it hurts. And I dunno if I should be ashamed or not.”
It took her a while to get herself up from the snowy ground. It took a while to admit that there was nothing magic about his grave that made the pain go away. More than ever, Annette wanted Harwood, like he was a magical totem that made life easier. No teenage drama, she’d still have a job, and no neo-Nazis attacking in droves.
She then checked her phone, and it still February 27th. In fact, Annette had more than an hour left. And she was going to do something at home.
A lump formed in Annette’s throat as she walked back into her strange and crazy home. She looked inside the crowded living room. Franco and Carmen were sharing a kiss on the couch and not getting Samira to bed like they promised. Sinbad was scowling in the corner like a little snothead (she sometimes had to admit it).
But she exhaled. It was not the night to care.
Annette undressed, and had thirty minutes left to celebrate Harwood’s birthday. Every other year, she ate a pint of durian ice cream in his honor. She almost wanted to miss it, but the thought of missing it just added to her pain.
It sucked for her, knowing that she would never get a night like those again. Those personal moments with Harwood were as much of a gift for her as they were for him. She would miss it all. From the rest of his stories about those two years he spent in Beirut, to the customary hug they shared once the bowl was polished clean.
But there was still a lot of joy and hope that radiated out of each scoop. Hard as it was, nothing said that she couldn’t wait for a future as golden and sunny-looking as a bowl full of durian ice cream.
A/N: Durian ice cream is a real thing and I’ve never had it. In fact, I’ve never had any durians or durian products. The driving force of this chapter was simply an inside joke Nessa and I had about durians. 😛
You know, that and Franco being a lousy little shit. He does seem like the teenager who would grossly overestimate his maturity, just because he can seem like the sane man in his messed-up family. And that’s not the mark of being a bad teen! It happens to the best of them. Even to me, but those stories are pretty unpleasant.