Author’s Note: Here’s a quick recap of major happenings in CFT…
When we left off…
- It was revealed that Max was having an affair with Penney Pincher, his longtime mistress. Penney wants out because she wants to marry her fiance, Clark Peddler, but Max won’t let her go. Rachel offered to help Penney, and gets mixed up in helping Max with the family business. Max takes Rachel to Simoridia to “check out” the family business.
- Marigold is suffering from dementia and we learned that Max killed her lover and his brother, Sam. Marigold also reveals she has a sister, Magnolia.
- Dudley, the oldest Racket son, is revealed to be the father of Chase Bayless from an affair long ago in Shang Simla with Gwayne Bayless.
- Bill Racket married Rachel, though she kept her maiden name, and they have an unusual and strained marriage. Bill is the former mayor of Twinbrook. Bill is the father of Rachel’s first child, Hope. Bill is now working on a novel and has a blog. He wandered into a bar and had a strange conversation with the newly divorced Robert Castor.
- Rachel Colt is Twinbrook’s mayor. She is committed to taking down the corrupt Max Racket and his business, Llama Shipping Corps. Her marriage to Bill has its ups and downs, and she has a baby girl, Hope. Rachel visited Simoridia with Max and was threatened and stabbed to prevent her from turning on the family business.
- Hope Colt is now 2 years old, and she was staying with Frances and Gerald Picard while her cousin, Lolly was supposed to be watching her. Hope wouldn’t stop crying until they started watching Fishing Fracas.
- Dennis Racket is a low level accountant in the Racket Family organization, demoted thanks to his cousin, Russ. He was formerly a safecracker. Dennis has been trying to do what’s best for his family and finds himself deeper and deeper in the hole. For some unknown reason, he stays with his wife, Silver, who is holding something over his head and treats him abominably. Dennis decided to save himself and his family by taking down the Racket family organization with an outside agency.
- Silver Racket was the former mayor of Twinbrook and then worked night shifts at the mausoleum in town. She is currently in drug rehab after being found face down in the swimming pool by her husband.
- Shark Racket recently turned 18 and had a crush on Lucy Ferne, Max’s number 2. Max decided to initiate Shark into the business with the help of Lucy and a prostitute working for the family business. Shark was drugged and raped.
- Lolly Racket has a huge crush on Sinbad Rotter and she found him in Florsimdia when traveling with her grandfather, aunt, and cousin. She kissed him, but he has rejected her.
- Robert Castor and his wife, Beverly divorced after he discovered she was pregnant with Goodwin Goode’s son.
- Beverly reverted to her maiden name, Pitts. She and Goodwin moved to New Simoleans with her sons, Jeffery and Thomas. Jeffery joined the military and Thomas is a teenager. Beverly’s son, Apple is now 2 years old. Although they are living together, Beverly and Goodwin never married.
- Sinbad Rotter left the Racket family business and moved to Roaring Heights. He had been working as a bartender at Heir to the Side of Caution bar before being fired for punching a customer in defense of Lolly Racket. He is in a band called Fighting Dragons with Scissors.
- Jenni Jones-Brown, Goodwin’s ex-girlfriend, gave birth to her son, Will Jones-Brown. Since Goodwin is now with Beverly, Jenni moved in with her parents, Lenny and Renee.
- Gala Ball was interested in DeAndre Wolfe, an older retired rock star. They have since then started a relationship.
Dejected, Lolly slipped in the back entrance of the Royal Riverside Hotel. Despite the lateness of the hour, she didn’t want to risk a hotel employee or guest spotting her tear-and-mascara-stained face. Sinbad had utterly rejected her, and to make matters worse, he ran away. As Lolly climbed the stairs, she felt the reality of defeat sinking deep into her soul. Why am I not good enough? she inwardly wailed. I’ve done everything right. I’m a good student. I’m active in school activities. I keep a clean room. I dress nicely. I don’t do drugs or sleep around. I listen to my parents… Lolly made a face as she reached the top step. Well, sort of… I listen to Dad.
Lolly didn’t want to think about her mother. Right now, Silver was in some rehabilitation facility in New Simoleans. Out of sight. Out of mind. It might be cruel, but Lolly was happy her drug-addicted slutty mother wasn’t around to embarrass the family. Her dad had promised Silver would get better and she would come home a new woman. Lolly trusted her dad implicitly. She only trusted her mother as far as she could throw her, which was no distance at all. Silver had consistently let Lolly down, and so at the start of high school, Lolly just started shutting her out.
Plopping down in a hallway chair, Lolly hugged the cushion to her chest and tried to recall good memories of her mother. One of Lolly’s earliest memories was when Dad took the family to Golden Arches. I was what? Three? Four? Lolly frowned. It didn’t matter. Her mother had refused to eat any of the greasy food saying it was beneath the Rackets to eat at a fast food establishment. Dennis had sent Lolly and her brother to the play structure area while he had a “conversation” with Silver.
Lolly recalled her mother coming and climbing into the ball pit with her. It had been fun. Mother and daughter had giggled and played until Silver somehow decided the ball pit was a hot tub and started stripping off all her clothes. Management had kicked them out. Dennis was horrified. Shark was crying as they piled into the car because he didn’t get to play on the slides anymore. Lolly had sat in her car seat and nursed her thumb. Her mother had accidentally stepped on it. But Lolly was a big girl. She didn’t need to cry. In the chaos of everything else, no one would’ve noticed or cared anyway.
Maybe that’s not true, Lolly exhaled heavily. But her father had been preoccupied with her mother’s wildly inappropriate behavior. Come on, Lolly, think. There has to be a good family memory. A happy one with mom?
Once when Lolly was six and she had to stay home from school due to llama pox, she recalled Silver sitting on her bed and reading all sorts of magazines together, including ones with pictures of Silver from her modeling days. Lolly smiled wistfully. I guess that counts.
There was that other time when Lolly was nine and Silver took her out of school for the day and the two flew to Big Apple City. Lolly had been thrilled to miss school, and the ladies had a grand two days on the town. Silver promised to buy Lolly all the toys and books she wanted. They ate the best food. Silver even rented a limousine to drive the ladies around town. It was all fun and games until Dad showed up, Lolly blinked, recalling her parents freakish argument. Her mother had run out of money and her father had to come to bail them out and he proceeded to lecture Silver about taking their daughter out of school for no good reason. That’s Mom, Lolly sighed.
Once for Lolly’s twelfth birthday, Silver planned a pool party. She had arranged for a special tent and heaters since it was the middle of Simvember. She invited everyone Lolly knew and she hired caterers to serve all of Lolly’s favorite foods like rice balls, fruit parfaits, grilled pineapple kabobs, and cinnamon rolls on a stick in fancy silver serving trays. Silver even arranged for all the guests to go home with an extra large lollipop with Lolly’s name and birthday custom printed on the stick. It had been one of the best birthdays. Of course, Silver had served adult beverages – a cotton candy flavored martini, if Lolly recalled correctly, drank one too many, and was caught by Dennis making out with one of the wait staff. Lolly just sat in her room and licked her lollipop and listened to the birthday mix cd Shark had made her while her parents argued loudly downstairs.
It was the thought that counted, right? Lolly tried to convince herself, still feeling rather miserable. She slid off the chair onto the floor and tried to picture her mother happy. Once when Lolly was fourteen, she locked herself in the bathroom crying. Lolly had come home from Kay Pebble’s house party in tears because she started her menstrual cycle and she leaked all over her white pants, humiliating herself. Lolly recalled how Silver had come into the bathroom, sat on the tile floor with a box of tampons in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other. She explained the female body and its intricacies to a clueless and hopelessly distraught teen. Then afterward, she took Lolly shopping for new clothes. Lolly recalled how happy her mother was to dress her daughter up in all sorts of fun “grownup” outfits. On the drive home from the mall, Silver stopped at Kay Pebble’s house. When Lolly asked why they were there, Silver said it was a mother-daughter bonding moment and handed Lolly a package of pads. Bewildered, Lolly watched her mother pelt the front porch with the feminine products. About halfway through, she joined in. The moment was hilariously misguided now in Lolly’s mind, but nonetheless, she had to admit – fun.
Lolly tried to recall earlier childhood memories with the whole family. She remembered one Christmas when the power was out in the Racket mansion, and her dad lit a fire in the fireplace and Silver brought down a cardboard box from the attic. She reached inside and pulled out Candy Land, and how she used to play this game with her own mother. Silver proceeded to pull out two tarnished silver plastic crowns with pink fur and two faded pink feather boas. Silver placed one on Lolly’s head, and Lolly remembered feeling like a princess. Silver said she always wanted to be the Ice Cream Queen and of course, Lolly could be the Princess Lollipop. Dad, Mom, Shark and me played Candy Land for hours, and of course, we caught Mom cheating twice, Lolly remembered, but only because she really wanted to land on the Ice Cream Queen space. Silver hadn’t really cared about winning at the candy castle.
What am I doing? Lolly leaned her head back against the chair. The trip down memory lane wouldn’t change the fact that Silver was a lousy mother. Making excuses for her mother seemed like a terrible thing to do. The woman was a cheat, in more than one way. Lolly wasn’t so naive as to think her mother wasn’t interested in other men at times. She preferred not to think about it, but it didn’t change reality.
Maybe that’s my problem. I can’t deal with reality, Lolly thought dejectedly, lifting herself to her feet. She started down the hallway again toward her room. Or maybe I can’t be with Sinbad because my mother is terrible with men. Maybe I’m terrible with men too?
Lolly stopped outside her aunt’s room upon hearing a strange noise. She pressed her ear to the door, hoping Rachel hadn’t noticed the absence of Hope. Lolly would have to leave super early in the morning to fetch her cousin from Frances’ house so as not to panic Rachel.
Pulling back from the door, Lolly frowned. She heard erratic breathing through the thin wood.
“Aunt Rachel?” she knocked on the door softly, feeling worried.
When her aunt cried out, Lolly knew something was wrong. She tried the doorknob. It gave a little too easily. Frowning more, Lolly cautiously stepped into the darkened room. A figure lay crumpled in the center of the floor. Lolly gasped and ran forward.
“Oh my gawd!” she exclaimed.
The crumpled figure was her aunt, and around the body was a pool of a dark red substance that Lolly was certain was blood. Shrieking, Lolly pulled her hands to her mouth and took a panicked step backward. Her legs felt like gelatin, wobbling beneath her one-hundred-and-ten pound weight. She fumbled with her pockets, pulling out her cell phone and shakily drew a breath as she flipped through her contacts.
Pops? I should call Pops. But what’s his number? Oh my gawd! What’s his room number? He’s nearby right? I think?
“Oh,” Lolly gasped, feeling queasy.
She backed away more and leaned against the doorway, trying to steady her own erratic breathing. She’s alive, right? Maybe I should’ve checked… of course, she’s alive, dummy. You heard her breathing and she made a noise. Maybe you should’ve checked her pulse though.
Lolly clutched the phone to her chest, gulping back the rising nausea.
“Pops!” she called out, feeling stupid that she couldn’t remember where in the hotel her grandfather was staying.
Lifting the phone again, she pushed buttons, trying to make sense of what was happening. Sinbad! He’d know what to do. But oh dear… I don’t know if I have his new number. I should call 0-0-0. Okay… what’s the number?
Lolly pressed her forehead against the door frame and squeezed her eyes shut. Idiot! Idiot! Emergency number zero-zero-zero.
“Aunt Rachel?” she called softly and shakily. “You’re gonna be okay. I’m gonna get help…”
Help… help! Do I know how? In a moment of clarity, Lolly punched a few familiar numbers into her phone as she suddenly became aware of who could be of greatest assistance.
“Dad?” she hated how hoarse her voice sounded. “I’m scared.”
“Lolly, what the hell? It’s nearly two a.m. Are you okay?” Dennis’ concerned voice came through the speaker.
“Daddy?” Lolly’s voice cracked. “I need you.”