I moved in with Bill. The women at the office hated me. The men at the office envied me. But everyone knew better than to mess with a Rackets’ girl. The last person who did ended up at the bottom of the river gully, and they never resurfaced for air. At least that’s what I’m told by Silver, and there’s only so much that comes out of her mouth that I’m willing to believe.
Still, the Rackets may have fought internally like cats and dogs sometimes but they protected their own. United, they were a force to be reckoned with, and I liked to be on their good side. State Assemblyman Dorthemeir once asked me if I really wanted to get into bed with the Rackets.
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure, but Bill was a good companion, albeit a neglectful one, but that suited me because I was an independent woman climbing to the top. I was always busy with work. Bill met my needs on a somewhat consistent basis and his family provided me some powerful insurance against my opponents. I provided him with a good romp in the sheets and lent credibility to his public persona. It wasn’t love, but it wasn’t half-bad. It was comfortable. It was routine. It was safe, oddly enough.
Bill understood the late night hours, the long weekends, and the 60+ hour workweeks. He understood the trips to the State Capitol and all the schmoozing I had to do to secure votes for the State Assemblyman. Still there were moments when I wanted more. I didn’t let myself think about it. I didn’t let myself feel. I had made my bed and I had to lie in it now. I didn’t have a choice. I could be content. I could be the perfect companion.
When I did start to worry about my love life, I distracted myself by working out in the awesome gym the Rackets had in their garage. I didn’t need to leave the property if I wanted to tone my upper arm muscles or strengthen my quads and thighs. I kept to myself, turned on the radio, and exercised until it was out of my mind. I didn’t even ask when cars would randomly appear and disappear from the garage – nice ones too.
You didn’t ask about the Racket family business. It was better that way. Even if I was Bill’s girl… lover… partner… friend with benefits… whatever. I still wasn’t officially family. Marigold was the only one who really accepted and liked me. I never understood why.
Perhaps it was because she had three sons, a whiny grandson, and overachieving granddaughter, and a daughter-in-law who was just waiting for her to croak so she and Dennis could move into the master suite and presumably inherit a huge chunk of change.
Perhaps it was because I was the only one who cared enough to ask if she was okay when bruises would appear on her arms or under her eyes. Everyone knew Max smacked her around. He smacked his sons around. I’d even seen him hit Shark once. He called Silver a “poisonous viper,” but I don’t think he ever laid a hand on her. He avoided me so I’d never had the chance to find out if he would hit me. It was best to avoid him when he was in his moods.
When Marigold started wearing sunglasses and long gloves, she would retreat to her room. I’d coax her out of her room. We’d take our whiskey and biscuits out to the porch and soak up the sun rays. She would turn her head toward the sun and tell me Bill was a good guy. All her boys were. They might be criminals and thieves, but they had good hearts. Actually one of her sons was a state trooper. I’d never met him but apparently he lived in town.
“If only they didn’t have a bastard for a father,” she’d grunt, and gulp down the rest of her whiskey and throw her crumbs on the lawn for the birds.
After my workouts, I’d run a hot bath for myself. Usually this was when the loneliness would set in. Bill took long trips for work too, and sometimes he’d spend almost a month in New Simoleans. I wondered if he had someone else. I wouldn’t be surprised. I had once been his side dish to his main entree, Julienne. Once a cheat. Always a…
He would call every couple of days and check in. Sometimes he’d even flirt a little. Once we tried phone sex, but Bill dropped his phone in the tub. It wasn’t the same. He said “I love you,” but it was devoid of any real emotion. Of course, he loved me. I let him do what he wanted, he helped me get what I wanted, and we pretended to be happy. That was “our love” – convenience.
This was the life I had signed up for, I guessed, when I started sleeping with Bill. I might as well have sold my soul to the devil. The physical pain I’d feel after a workout was supposed to mask the emotional pain, but it never did.
Tonight as I slipped in the tub, I heard everything. You would think with all the wealth the Rackets had, they could afford better than paper-thin walls.
I heard Max cussing at Marigold one floor above me, hatefully claiming her forgetfulness was going to “get this family in trouble.” Marigold once told me she could’ve been running the family business, that she had once been the brains behind everything. She could’ve been a real “empress of evil.”
The doctor told her she had early stage dementia. Marigold didn’t want to believe it, but she had been forced to accept early retirement because of it. Max had to take on a much more heavy load than he had previously, and because he didn’t know how she had cultivated all the contacts she had, he had lost a few of them, and a bunch of Simos in the process. He took his anger and frustration out on Marigold, who always said she deserved it.
I once told her she should seek help or try counseling, and she laughed cheerlessly and said, “Who’d want to help an old washed-up criminal like me?” So she took the blows.
I heard Silver screaming at Dennis next door. My bathroom shared a wall with their bedroom. Silver was pissed because Dennis said they couldn’t take a trip to the Simirribbean this Christmas. Dennis couldn’t leave his dad alone with the work load. Max, too, was getting up there in his years, and even if he was still sharp, he couldn’t pull the same physical weight he did formerly. I heard sounds of what sounded like slapping and Silver playing the victim card, crying, “You just think I’m an ungrateful wife, don’t you? Because staying in Twinbrook with you and the kids isn’t enough for the holidays? But it isn’t, Dennis! We never get to go anywhere and we have all this money, why can’t we? Get some other loser to babysit your dad like one of your brothers.”
I heard Dennis sigh and respond, “Silver, I can’t. We’ll go next year.”
“Next year?” Silver screeched. “I won’t have this same body next winter, and all my friends get to go to the Simirribbean and I don’t. It’s so unfair.”
“Well all your friends don’t have husbands who have deep family obligations, Silver, please try to understand. The business is very important. If I don’t keep it up, we could have a lot of angry people on our doorstep, hurting you, hurting Shark, hurting Lolly…”
“What’s the point of having money if you never use it?” Silver snipped as if she hadn’t heard anything Dennis just said.
“I can’t just leave the business or we won’t have any money!” Dennis yelled.
I heard Lolly slam a door one floor below me, and Shark banging on the wood, screeching, “Lolls, if you don’t do my physics project I’m going to fail and everyone will call me an idiot.”
“You are a idiot,” Lolly hollered through the door. “I can’t. I’ve got a date tonight.”
“You can’t spend thirty minutes on my project?”
“Shark, I already said no! Stop it. Go away. You are irritating me.”
“You’re such a… a… a… horrible person! You always do it!”
“And you’re such a drama queen. Not tonight.”
“I’m going to tell Mom that you’re messing around with Newton.”
“Am not! You’re such a liar!”
“GAH!” Shark pounded the door with his fist.
If the whole thing hadn’t been tragic, I would’ve laughed. I threw my hands up in the air, frustrated that my peaceful bath time had been destroyed.
I lived in a house full of people… but no one actually cared.
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