Winter came. Winter passed. Spring came. Spring passed. Summer arrived again.
I went back and stayed at my grandmother’s house for a few days so I could close the sale of the property. It felt strange being back in my tiny hut, but the peace and quiet did me some good. Waking up in the morning to my alarm clock was a welcome relief after waking up nearly every morning in the Racket household to well… a racket…
I found myself missing Bill though. Who would’ve thought I’d be head-over-heels in love with a dirty old man, but I couldn’t help it. Bill made me feel alive even if he was past his prime in his fifties and I was merely in my twenties. I found myself absently staring at my left hand wondering what it’d be like to have a little hunk of metal on a certain finger.
Snap out of it, Rachel, I told myself.
It wasn’t likely to happen. I knew Bill was a player and a commitment phobe and he was swamped with work. It was an election year. Bill decided to step out of state politics and run for mayor against Silver, deciding to concentrate on local constitutes. Although he said it was because he liked being a big fish in a little pond, he really did it out of spite, I think. He hated Silver.
Silver was more dramatic than usual in the house. She screamed at Max to kick Bill and I out, and this of course was met with threats of violence. She yelled at her mother about Bill backstabbing and circumventing her so I could get my current position. Marigold always came to my defense. For some reason, the old goose liked me. She cried to Dennis who primarily ignored her. He was busy with “family business” anyhow. When that didn’t work, she complained to Lolly, who usually redirected her mother to Shark. Silver may have been a terrible mother and wife but she was a good chauffeur, and Shark figured he only had to listen to her bitch and whine during the twenty-minute drive to the gym every day, a small price to pay for stronger muscles.
Despite how dysfunctional the Rackets were, I found myself daydreaming at the office about having a little “Racket” of my own. I wondered if Bill would ever get his act together and settle down with me for real. I was partly surprised he hadn’t already popped the question, given he was planning to be a local public figure. State politicians and people from other towns may have loved him, or at least tolerated him, but the good people of Twinbrook might have a hard time voting for him because of… I didn’t want to admit it… me…
After all the Knacks hated me, not even after I managed to convince the boss to add a trauma ward to the hospital and helped Pattina get the expansion she wanted, although they probably had no way of knowing I orchestrated it. They mostly hated me for splitting up Julienne and Bill, but I figured I did her a favor. Bill had been ignoring me a lot recently, and despite her sugary-sweet personality, the queen of delectable pastries deserved better. Since breaking up with Bill, she had moved from small-town line cook to executive chef at a restaurant in New Simoleans. Rumor was it she even had a new boyfriend, some famous chef with his own cooking show on the cooking channel. I think she mostly disliked me because I scooped up her man while she was busy frying fish and testing new tart recipes. When she was in town and we happened to cross paths, she played it cool and distant.
Most of my colleagues disliked me too, partly because of my “shortcut to success.” Assemblyman Dorthemier liked my killer instincts and my “go-get-it” attitude, but we weren’t really friends. He spent three out of five days in New Simoleans during the week, commuting up to Twinbrook for two of them, and usually we only actually spent ten-to-fifteen minutes chatting about work before we went our separate ways. I occasionally dined with them in New Simoleans and once they had Bill and I over to their house for dinner.
Earl’s wife, Lucy, was cool to me at best, and snippy at worst. She didn’t particularly like how I managed to convince Earl to sell their second property in town to the Knacks. “Second properties added clout and status,” she had said, adding that she couldn’t believe I “took advantage” of my relationship with the assemblyman. Earl decided it was good for votes as the Knacks were big contributers to his campaign.
Frankly, I hadn’t made many friends in town since I started working for Earl and was openly dating Bill. As I sat at my desk one afternoon, I decided I was going to try and fix that and convince Bill marriage was a good idea. A woman could have it all – career, family, and friends, right?
I decided to take a cooking class at the grocery store. When I arrived, there were mostly older retirees, a couple of teenagers, and one good-looking guy… who turned out to be gay. I gravitated toward the only young woman around my age.
“Peeling potatoes? You’d think they’d have us starting on something a little bit more challenging,” I shrugged as I took up a place next to her.
She laughed. “Yeah, you’re lucky this is the second class. In the first class, we were learning how to hard boil an egg. Talk about a watch-pot never boils.”
After class, we walked outside and stood on the lawn a few minutes to talk. Her name was Gala Ball. She had opted to take cooking classes so she could make gourmet food for her supposedly famous parties.
“You’ll have to come to one,” she offered. “I’m having a BBQ down at the beach tomorrow evening. Bring a date. Bring a friend. Fly solo. It’s up to you.”
“My boyfriend’s out of town,” I replied. “But I’d be happy to come.”
“Your boyfriend is Bill Racket, right?” Gala inquired.
“Yes,” I said, hesitantly. Many people got nervous when I mentioned the Rackets.
“Girl, I got to hand it to you… you must have some big cojones because the Rackets? Everyone knows the men are trouble with a capital T but I guess all that power makes them kind-of hot… that is, if you’re into bad boys.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. At least she wasn’t screaming, cursing, or calling me names.
“You know, I dated Dennis once back when I was barely legal.”
“He was actually a pretty sweet guy,” she smiled girlishly. “We talked about running away together and seeing the world, but when Max named him his successor instead of Bill… well…” she paused. “…he couldn’t be messing around with a girl half his age anymore.”
“Yeah, Dennis seems nice,” was all I could think to say. “Sorry it didn’t work out for you.”
“I have no regrets. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyhow. The only thing now is I feel sorry for him getting stuck with that whiny snit of a wife of his,” Gala said. “He can’t be all that happy.”
I wondered about what she said for a moment. Dennis was so busy with work that I hardly saw him. Silver, on the other hand, made her presence known anytime she was home between the complaining, moaning, groaning, and howling. She was certainly a handful.
“What’s it like living with the rest of the family?” Gala asked. “I was glad I never lived there because that elder Racket… the old guy… what’s his name?”
“Yeah he gave me the heebie-jeebies…”
I let out a strange laugh.
“So what’s it like?” she asked again.
“Complicated…” I sighed heavily. “It’s kind-of hard knowing if I fit or not given well… no one really knows one another in that house.”
“Well, make a point to get to know them,” Gala suggested. “Who knows? It might improve your living situation and at least make it more bearable maybe. You don’t need to be best friends with anyone, but it can’t hurt to try to be friendly.”
“Yeah, I guess. I didn’t think of it that way,” I shrugged.
“Listen girl, I’ve gotta take off. Got some details to work out for tomorrow, but seriously, swing by the beach if you get a chance. Bring some of the Rackets with you if you’d like. Nothing says bonding like beach volleyball and some BBQ.”
“Alright thanks for inviting me.”
“Are you kidding me? You need a friend if you’re dating a Racket… especially Bill.”
“See you tomorrow then, Rachel.”
“See you there.”
I had a feeling what Gala was asking was impossible, but it was worth a try. Maybe the Rackets would come around and at least be polite to me if I tried a little harder. At the very least though, I had a new friend in Gala. She wasn’t kidding. I needed one.
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