Three months passed. Rachel and Bill settled comfortably into the lives of busy working parents. Well as comfortably as they could be, Rachel thought as she drove from City Hall to the police station. She gripped the steering wheel and looked at her wedding ring in part-admiration and part-disgust.
Post Silver’s debacle at the high school, there had been an emergency reelection after she had been booted from office. Silver had been enraged, and she took to drinking heavily and smashing dishes in the kitchen. After a few days of fighting with her, Dennis took to sleeping in the guest room or out on the garage couch.
Somehow in a drunken stuper, Silver had managed to get herself hired as an intake clerk at the town funeral home. Dennis told her she couldn’t quit and it would be good for her. She got herself into it and she needed to get herself out of it. Surprisingly, Silver complied, just to show him… well… everyone… she could do it.
With Dennis and now Silver both working the graveyard shift, the house was surprisingly more quiet.The teens usually stopped blasting music after nine o’clock or used headphones, much to Rachel’s relief. Hope was a pretty sound sleeper, thank the Maker, but she still was awakened occasionally by death metal… Shark’s.
Max came and went as he pleased and no one ever questioned him. He was quiet when he came in late, probably from his year’s as a cat burglar, or those were the rumors.
Marigold still went to bed at nine o’clock after saying goodnight to her “little butterfly,” that is Hope. Half the time, Rachel would find the new grandmother rocking back and forth in the nursery. Bill and Rachel had remodeled so their living room area was now the baby’s room.
Surprisingly, the town still wanted a Racket in office, and Bill eagerly quit his job as state representative to take the new position. Something about big fish in a small pond appealed to him more than middle man with the state government.
It suited Rachel well. He was home more, and he seemed to be cleaning up his act. They were “hastily” married by the justice of the peace right before his official announcement as mayor. Of course, Bill wanted everything to be legitimate.
Half the town already thought they were married anyway given their rather long three-week vacation to the Inner Banks last year before Hope was conceived. Rachel had let people believe they eloped. It worked better for her and for him this way.
Still sealing the deal by a quick jaunt to city hall wasn’t exactly romantic. Rachel didn’t really like the ring her new husband had picked out for her. It was too gaudy for her delicate fingers. She would’ve preferred a single solitaire, but leave it to Bill to want to mark her as his own.
Rachel was making marks of her own, though not in the same way. Assemblyman Dorthemeir had been forced to retire after a heart attack in Simgust. This had left Rachel out of a job. The new temporary assemblyman offered to keep Rachel on until the elections in Simvember, but she figured it was just as well she left. As a new mom, she found the commute back and forth to New Simoleans to be rough.
Rachel had accepted an early-admission position on the city council. Twinbrook could use some major improvements and given her experience and connections to the state government, she would be a great asset to the council. They convinced her the elections in Simvember would be a breeze. Already, she had gained the respect of her colleagues and enjoyed a surprising, though modest, bump in pay. If there was one negative thing about the former Assemblyman, it was that he was a cheapskate.
Bill seemed to be thriving in his new job as mayor. He actually woke up early instead of sleeping until noon like he usually did so he could make it into the office before 9 A.M.
He buttered up the constituents by bringing a fall festival to town and brought in some revenue by starting an autumn outdoor concert series at the old Willowglen Amphitheater.
He made appearances at the high school homecoming game, proudly dressed in the Simslaus Crocodiles mossy green and grey colors. He held Hope, smooched Rachel in a way that was much too inappropriate for a public place, much to the crowd’s delight, and posed for pictures in between shoving hot dogs down his throat, sipping cold beer, and screaming, “Simslaus! Thrown ’em to the Swamp!”
He quit drinking so much. He didn’t want to hurt his public image, and he certainly wanted to do a much better job than his sister-in-law ever had. No more liquid lunches or dinners for that matter. Rachel was secretly pleased.
He seemed to waste less time on the Internet too, although Rachel still caught him occasionally making a late night anonymous inappropriate forum post on the town gossip site.
He seemed to be less distant, especially with his daughter. He took the time every morning to kiss her goodbye, and he stopped in her room every evening to hold her while watching the six o’clock news.
Sometimes he’d order in dinner from the bistro on Friday evenings, remembering Rachel’s favorite cheesesteak. It was the only place in town that could compare to her beloved former Bridgeport’s classic sandwich. He’d pour them a glass of champagne or whatever cheap wine his parents had sprung for, and they’d sit and sip by the pool after Hope had gone to sleep.
On Saturdays, he’d order a pizza and drink a beer and hold Hope while watching football and old Westerns all day. Yes, he limited himself to one even on the weekends. He said something about liking the old-style of justice.
Rachel would just shrug and hope he didn’t mean to suggest ‘old-style cowboy duels’. It was better than a distant husband and an absentee father. They tried to be together when they could, though lately it had been quickies in the showers on Sunday morning and the occasional dalliance when they found themselves at home at the same time on a workday evening.
She was busy with her own work. The City Council was trying to repair the town’s bridges before winter, and the budget was a bit tight. Rachel had been creatively maneuvering funds and reaching out to her state construction contacts to see if they could get her a manageable rate.
As City Council treasurer, Rachel also found herself faced with creating a budget to help the local homeless population. She had yet to find a solution and with winter descending in less than two months, the rains would pick up, although hurricane season would end soon.
This year, Twinbrook had been blessed not to be hit with terrible storms, but they still had fifty-six days to go. The citizens of Twinbrook, homeless or not, would take a personal and economic hit if a hurricane happened. The local shelters would be overcrowded with displaced peoples, and they wouldn’t be able to support the additional bodies.
The town council president wanted to focus on building a new shelter in another part of town. Rachel disagreed. She was convinced that the increase in homelessness was due to the lack of jobs and access to good food. She hoped to pitch an idea or two at the next council meeting. It would be better to tackle the underlying issue.
Rachel pulled into the parking lot of the police station, turning off the engine and reaching for her file folder in the back seat. She walked up the steps to deliver her paperwork on the requested background checks for the new council interns. The town council president had thought it would be a good idea to have the interns shadow her, figuring it would help boost her image for the upcoming election.
As she was about to step inside, Rachel was nearly knocked over by a teenage girl barreling out the double doors. Rachel gasped and the young girl cried out a quick apology. When she tilted her head upward, Rachel recognized the girl as another occupant of the Racket household.
“Lolly?” Rachel said. “What are you doing here?”
“Uh… hi… Aunt Rae,” Lolly turned her head back to the building, averting her eyes. “I’m… just…”
Rachel spied the ‘desk clerk’ badge clipped conspicuously to Lolly’s navy blouse. She smiled as she pieced things together. Her niece was working here. The girl quickly removed the badge and shoved it in her skirt pocket.
“I didn’t know you worked at the police station,” Rachel said casually.
“Please… please… please… Aunt Rae… don’t tell my dad I’m here,” she begged.
Rachel quirked a brow in surprise. She knew about the Racket family’s criminal ties and she wasn’t sure how much the kids knew, but she would imagine Dennis wouldn’t mind his daughter working on the right side of the law for a change. In fact, he struck Rachel as a fair-minded person when it came to his children. He worked hard to give them a better life and in hopes they would make better choices. His daughter’s choice in internships hardly seemed like something that would make Dennis upset.
“You mean he doesn’t know?” Rachel asked.
“Uh, no…” Lolly shook her head, her silver hoops waving around in the air. “I kinda got in trouble.”
“With the law?” Rachel frowned.
“Well… no… not exactly… I mean…I did break a law… sort of…” Lolly shifted her weight again.
Rachel’s eyes widened. Lolly? The angel child? Broke the law?
“Is that why you’re here?” she asked.
“Oh no… no… I… mean… yes… kinda… it’s a long story, Aunt Rachel… just please don’t tell my dad I’m here. I can tell you all about it and everything… it’s not like I’m doing community service or anything. I just got a job as a junior neighborhood watch patrol to make a little extra money… I’m on desk duty most nights so…”
Rachel was puzzled, but decided to let Lolly finish. The girl had a sizable allowance from what she could remember. Perhaps Dennis had decided to let his kids get some real-world experience or something, though she doubted it from the way Lolly was talking, since Dennis didn’t even know his daughter worked here.
“Don’t worry, Lolly, your secret is safe with me,” Rachel reassured with a smile. “We can meet at the diner tomorrow, chéri?”
“Yes,” Lolly bobbed her head up and down enthusiastically. “I’ll meet you there after school if that’s okay. Four o’clock?”
“Sure,” Rachel agreed. “Do you need a ride home?”
“Oh no,” Lolly replied. “I rode my bicycle.”
“Are you sure? It is dark,” Rachel offered again.
But Lolly was already running down the stairs, waving goodbye and promising to meet Rachel tomorrow. Rachel gave her a half-smile. As she walked into the police station, she found herself wondering what Lolly’s secret could possibly be.
Author’s Note: I choose to switch back to third-person POV in this chapter. I started writing this way naturally and decided it worked so I’ll be writing in third-person from now on. I broke this up into 3 parts because the word count reached —. Hope you enjoyed.
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