They have a rule.
Hunting is strictly to be done at night on a school night when Jameson is sleeping. It is the safest way to ensure she never finds out what they do and they never have to deal with the repercussions of their lifestyle. It is quite alarming what that child could sleep through which concerns Will, but at the same time, he welcomes how deep of a sleeper his daughter is because on nights like this, he wishes Annabelle had found a different way to channel her issues.
It began with a trip to the market. Not one of those homey, local markets in their small town, but a gourmet one that sound herbs by the pound for the same price as a steak at a cheaper market. Annabelle refused to compromise on her ingredients referring to local fresh markets and high end ones such as these.
Will sighed thinking back to this morning as Jameson and he secretly indulged in high fructose corn syrup with a funky name and an animal on the box: cereal.
It was early on a Sunday that they both found Annabelle sleeping in from her last night escapades that left Will to keep guard of the house. She returned right before dawn with a smile and a new recipe. Good thing Jameson was vegetarian though Will knew why he didn’t allow her to eat what Annabelle cooked unless it was organic (animal). A compromise that didn’t bother the woman as much as he thought it would. She sought to extend her culinary skills if it meant have the little girl ogle over her. The doctor loved to peacock and having someone practically drool over her only fed into her ever-growing ego.
The pair sat on the stools at the bar sharing their quiet breakfast when the stairs creaked. Jameson was the first react as she quickly began to scarf down her cereal. Will soon followed in her lead as he fumbled to switch the kid’s cartoon channel to a nature documentary.
“Don’t stop on my account.” The Lithuanian woman spoke in a low tone which was dangerous for them. Will turned and smile greeting his wife with open arms and a hesitant kiss on the cheek. She sniffed him and he blinked at her.
“Did you just smell my-”
She held up a hand cutting him off before she accesses the situation.
“Do you know what is in that stuff?” She sneered, glancing at the red cereal box. Jameson turned and flashed her a smile revealing blue dyed teeth. Annabelle veered around to glare at Will, who held his arms up in mock surrender. They often reached a stalemate about breakfast mainly because both Will and Jameson were early risers on the weekend and Annabelle was not.
“I will not be subjected to the scents of artificiality in my own home.” She argued snatching the box up before throwing it away. Will abruptly stood up trying to stop her.
“I did pay for that.”
Dark eyes turned to him with a raised eyebrow.
“So, you can’t control everything.”
Annabelle leaned back against the counter adjacent to her family looking between the two. Jameson shrank in her seat knowing this look while Will indignantly refused to back down.
“We should be able to eat whatever we want.”
“Not if it’s garbage.”
Her tone was vicious. Will growled muttering stuff under his breath earning him an even darker glare. Annabelle’s eyes practically gleamed black.
“I want you both ready in ten. We’ll be heading out.”
That is how William Graham found himself reluctantly throwing on clothes and following a distant Annabelle who refused to speak a word to him in the car. She gripped the steering wheel tighter as she turned with force causing Will to jerk to the side leaning into her. An amused expression fell over her hard features as her jaw loosened. He glared at her which only made her maroon eyes sparkle with mischief.
“Are you done?” He asked after the third corner they turned. This time he gripped the dashboard to prevent himself from moving.
“Whatever do you mean mano meili?” She purred.
Will knew this trap. Annabelle was a vindicative woman at times. She would never (physically) harm him, but that didn’t stop her from using mental tactics to get what she wants. Whether it meant making this car ride miserable or impeding on his Sunday mornings, eventually he would have to say apologize for his ‘rude’ behavior if he wanted to sleep tonight or be subjected to worser tactics.
He ran a hand through his hair.
“I apologize for earlier.” He said more so to the window than Annabelle.
A slender, cold hard wrapped around his squeezing it gently.
“I shall make you something far more satisfying and edible as soon as we get home.”
He didn’t have to look at her to know she was smiling. Annabelle loved when he submitted and did what she wanted. It didn’t help that her aesthetic outweighed his pride, but then again, she had uprooted her rather prestigious way of living to move out into the backwoods of Washington (board line Virginia) to start a new life with him. He had a lot to thank her for especially since she paid for most of the things at the new house.
He could sacrifice his breakfast to appease her.
“So, does that mean you’re apologizing for the cereal?” He teased glancing over his shoulder to check on Jameson. The girl looked up at him flashing a smile which he returned.
“No, but I will teach you how to make a healthier breakfast.”
Annabelle pulled up into a parking spot before cutting the engine. Will began to get out, but before he could unbuckle himself, Annabelle grabbed his face. Her hand tightened around his jaw squeezing his cheeks. Her blood red nails pressed into his skin as she looked into his eyes. Red lips fell upon his chapped ones before she pulled away leaving him breathless.
“Come along geliu.” Annabelle called as Jameson got out the car to follow behind the doctor. Will sat there dazed for a second before he snapped back into reality. He watched from the car as his family turned to wait for him.
Annabelle stood there with a smirk and he knew that no matter what, she always got what she wanted.
This is the case when it comes to shopping.
Will knows driving thirty minutes around town to look at different shops supplying a selection of herbs and spices is hard in the small, historic district they live in. Annabelle sniffs the products then drills the owners on their selections. At one point, Will finds himself dragging Annabelle out of a coffee shop when one of the baristas/owners says,
“Look here old lady, we don’t know where the beans come from, but there are other customers, so order or don’t.”
< Annabelle is already slipping the business card into her suit jacket puckering her ruby red lips as she applies more lipstick in the car.
“You can’t do it, ya know?” Will says from the passenger seat as they pull up to another store. “The town needs a coffee shop.”
“Business extends beyond this small center. It can be monopolized by anyone with good sense and better coffee beans.” She chides.
They get out the car following Annabelle into battle for vegetables. The farmer’s market is beginning to get crowded. Will holds onto Jameson’s hand so they don’t get separated as Annabelle marches with purpose towards the caseiculture stand. He didn’t even know that was such a thing but leave it to his wife to find the only high-end cheese making culture club in the tristate area.
The owners, an uptight man with slicked back hair and a button-down shirt hidden under an apron and his partner, a shorter man with blond hair and a bright smile, easily answer all of Annabelle’s tedious questions. The blonde man gives Will and Jameson a sample as their counterparts have a show down of who has the better palate. In the end, they walk out with two packs of Delice de Bourgogne French Cheese.
From there, Annabelle leads them to her favorite produce stand.
“I need some basil, turmeric, pepper, sage, and garlic powder.” She states passing Will a list of ingredients. She assigns Jameson to holding the back as she picks over her selections. Jameson begins signing to him with one hand as they trail Annabelle like dogs.
He laughs at her accusatory statement of saying how she is their alpha in the pack. This only prompts the older woman to look up the pair with dark eyes. It is strange, but he finds himself enjoying the outing. Jameson is eager to help which Annabelle indulges the child in teaching her about how to tell which fruits the ripest or what honeys are best served with tea or to bake with. Wandering behind them with a relaxed gait, Will barely notices someone calling for his attention.
“Excuse me,” a voice speaks up louder.
He looks over his shoulder to a couple, not much older than him, smiling. The man starts to ask if he knows where the chocolate stand is. Will shrugs.
“Honestly, it’s my first time here.”
Then they start to converse which irks him because he hates small talk, but the man is persistent. His wife, not girlfriend (she has no ring on) finds herself wandering over to Annabelle.
“You seem to know you’re way around here. Are you a chef?”
“Only in my pastime.” He hears Annabelle say.
He tries to focus on both conversations, but it is hard especially when the man begins to digress into flowers and what not for his date with his girlfriend. Honestly, who comes to farmer’s markets to make friends.
“Is this your daughter?” The woman interrupts pulling Will away from her boyfriend. He didn’t even notice Jameson hiding between his right hip and the vegetable stand. The girl looks smaller with her big eyes staring endlessly.
“Uh, yeah.” He mutters placing a protective hand on top of her head. It is more for his comfort than hers, but she leans into his leg a bit more.
“How old is she?”
The question is for Jameson to answer, but Annabelle speaks up for her.
“Six.” She offers no birthday or any other significant details as most parents would. A sign that she wants this conversation to end.
“Oh, she’s a shy one, isn't she? Hi sweetie.” The woman bends down and pinches Jameson’s cheek. Will grunts.
“Yeah, well we should get going,” he begins, but the woman cuts him off.
“What’s your name sweetie?”
Jameson looks up at the woman then up at Will before she looks over to Annabelle. Will is about to say something, before the girl stutters out some words.
It is the first time he’s ever heard her speak. He is almost too shocked to realize the situation as the woman jerks away from her with a look of abhorrence on her face. The man-boyfriend- doesn’t say anything as he ducks his head. Jameson closes her mouth and her eyes. Will thinks she might faint.
The couple moves quickly away from the scene. Annabelle doesn't let the man go she politely points out his uniform which he states he’s a contractor. Within a few seconds, Annabelle acts as if nothing just transpired as she asks for a business card because they just moved into an older house that needs work. The man is quick to give her one smiling a bit too big when she bends down to pick Jameson up. Without further interaction, Annabelle pays for her vegetables and they head to the car.
The day progresses with Annabelle driving them around town to different shops. Sometimes they don’t even go in before she starts the engine and they’re driving. Once they get home, Will realizes they spent the day hunting. The couple is in for a big surprise realizing their rudeness (and utter disrespect) has sealed their fates.
“I have a good recipe for tongue soup and a hearty chili.” Annabelle speaks over her shoulder as she begins to prep. The couple have put Jameson to bed which is easy considering she hasn’t left it since they got home. Will allowed the dogs to sleep in a pile with her tonight to ensure her safety since they’ll both be going out tonight.
“She tried to speak.” He states numbly.
“Hm, yes. I will have to access that when we get home. I found it rather strange of her to do so in the confides of a rather stressful situation.”
“Maybe, it wasn’t to her.” That earns him a look before he continues, “I mean maybe speaking to strangers is easier.”
“It doesn’t require much thought because you know you won’t see them again. You believe her to be testing out her voice. Possibly she was just trying to copy what she saw.”
“We have never forced her to speak.” Will grabs the duffle bag padding it with plastic to avoid any sounds being made by the knives. Annabelles dawns on a plastic covering before tossing him one.
“Why would we? In earnest, most mutism cases are caused by extreme stress or quite prolific trauma. Going over her file, a girl her age was force to be quiet as her father killed her mother in front of her then cut out his own tongue before swallowing it. He killed himself. You found her under the bed staring into the eyes of a man and woman who had been laying there for hours.”
Will shakes the memory away as Annabelle pulls him into her chest. They stay like this for a moment.
“We’re not better than them, are we?” He asks softly.
“No, we are not, but she is safe. She sleeps without fear.”
Will nods before they begin their night escapades.
In the end, he really wishes they had just stayed home.