“How charming.” A woman’s voice floated through the vast house.
Annabelle smiled as she greeted another one of her dinner guests. In all the quaintness and circularity of her opera circle, the quirks of her kind were far from normal. Everyone adorned themselves in their riches only to display it pompously. They were creatures of sin: lust and gluttony. Oh, how she would burn in the inferno of Dante’s realm. The conceit left hr chuckling as she watched her guest flock around the foyer and living room like pigs waiting for their slop. Some of these individuals were truly nothing more than animals waiting to be hand-fed and led to the slaughter. Tonight’s feast was one of few that she had had time to commence. A breath stroke of brilliance and inspiration was rare to commemorate, but it had been a good sixteen months since she held a party. Tonight, she had even invited some of Will’s coworkers to dine with them.
Jack seemed content to dine on a poached ostrich egg and smoked beef (?). Beverly, Zeller, and Jimmy flocked to each other before dragging Will into their circle to talk. Annabelle watched her kitchen flourish as the waiters walked around serving. She spoke idly to the guest who sought out to compliment her. Upon her way back to her region to see to the appetizers, she found herself pausing at the staircase. With keen eyes, she looked up to see Alana disappearing into one of the bedrooms. Curiosity was never something the younger woman seemed to have as she played along with her morals and set boundaries. Still, Annabelle found herself giving an order to one of the waiters to tell the kitchen to slow up on preparing the main course and begin garnishing. Her eyes shot across the room over to Will who adjusted his glasses far too many times before he finally felt eyes on him. He looked up briefly before nodding and excusing himself from the crowd that had surrounded him.
“How do you do it?” He asked her placing a hand on her shoulder. She smiled knowing what he meant. Social events or people, in general, were something he eagerly avoided, but one must keep up appearances: especially with what they do.
“What’s wrong? Did someone drop a plate or something?” The slight worry in his voice was nice. He genuinely knew what bothered her, but Annabelle pointed to upstairs. He nodded and began to move.
“Stay and watch over our guests. I’d rather not have any more wanderers.” If her face didn’t show it, Will knew by the sound of her voice of what she meant. She watched him disappear into the crowd before she hiked up the entrails of her dress to go upstairs.
She hears Alana before she peaks through the crack in the bedroom door where the other woman stood in the middle of Jameson’s room. The little girl was draped, on the floor, in a beautiful gold dress that matched the golden flower tucked away in her hair. It matched the golden brooch Annabelle wore in her hair- a gift from her aunt she was able to hold onto.
“I don’t believe that.” She heard Alana say. Nothing followed, but Annabelle knew Jameson was signing something to her.
“You don’t know that for sure.” The sigh that followed meant Alana was slightly frustrated.
Annabelle knocked on the door before walking in. Two sets of eyes turned to her as Alana plastered on a tight smile.
“Annabelle, I apologize for the intrusion. I saw Jameson wander off and I got curious. I found her sitting here alone so I wanted to see what was wrong.”
Annabelle flashed a remorseful smile- one she knew Alana would fall for.
“I appreciate the concern, Alana. May I ask what is wrong then?”
Alana sighed again and this time gestured to Jameson who was looking anywhere but at Annabelle.
“She thinks you’d be better off without her or at least for tonight.”
Annabelle trained her face to look displeased. A slight part of her was confused.
“Where did an idea like that come from?” She directed the question to Jameson who shakes her head.
“She doesn’t want to embarrass you.”
Annabelle almost laughs. She catches herself as she eyes the little girl who is clearly discomforted by this conversation.
“Well then, I suppose I will have to call off the party and send everyone home.”
This earns her a look at Jameson peeks at her from under long, black lashes.
“You can’t do that. You worked hard to make yummies.”
“Yes well, they're not very yummy if not everyone enjoys them.” Annabelle shrugs as she bends down to pick Jameson up. The girl rests perfectly on her hip. She tries to pull away which causes Annabelle to grip harder.
“You can enjoy them with friends and Will.”
“Hm, I could, but it won’t be the same.” Without you goes unsaid.
Jameson scrunches up her face at Annabelle’s comment.
“Jamie,” Alana tried as she runs the girl’s back.
Jameson recoils before twisting out of Annabelle’s grasp and running out the door with her ears covered.
Alana stands frozen in awe at this reaction: it was the most emotion both doctors had seen the girl emit since living with them. Annabelle knows she will be looking for Will. Nights when she came home late or had an emergency with a patient, she found the two curled up together waiting for her. Sometimes they were awake and most times they were asleep.
“Annabelle, ” She is already out the door when she hears her name from the top of the steps. Will stands, his eyes looking between hers and Alana who is following silently.
“Where is Jameson?”
“She was upset and it seems something has set her off.” Annabelle explains. Will turns his sights to Alana.
“Did you say Jamie?”
Alana nods weakly.
“Her dad used to call her that.” He muttered. Annabelle knew this. Jameson had told her once when spending the day running errands. She didn’t like the nickname, but wanted Annabelle to call her something other than her first name.
“I was raised to be quite formal and we only addressed our family by given names.” The girl had nodded and accepted this. She asked about the accent and then Lithuania becoming engrossed with a Annabelle’s history.
“I didn’t know. She never mentioned it in therapy before.”
“Children are often more perceptive than we perceive them to be,” Annabelle spoke quietly as she walked down the long hallway leading to their bedroom. Her footsteps were echoed by Will’s and Alana’s. “They see the world differently than adults. They are more literal, less advantageous, and more imaginative. Such traits blend well in society when they are young m, but are bled out of them once they hit adolescence.”
Annabelle stood at the master bedroom, the room she shares with Will. The door was closed which it wasn’t when she left earlier after finishing her makeup.
A piece of paper appears from under the door.
Will reads from over her shoulder. He huffs in laughter before pulling out a pen from his suit jacket. He corrects the spelling before handing it back to Annabelle who slips it under the door.
“Very good trying to spell occupied.” Will mumbles encouragingly.
“Alana, I believe we can handle this. Go back down and enjoy the wine.” Annabelle instructs tossing a smile over her shoulder. The woman is about to argue, but gives in with a nod. However, she does longer a bit longer taking in both Will and Annabelle. The older woman wonders if that envy in her eyes is because she wants this too or wants to be her and have the family she now has.
When Alana finally leaves, Annabelle turns her attention back to the closed door.
“How about you go too? I can handle this and you can finish hosting.” Will’s suggestion is tempting, but she declines it. It won’t help the situation or the child if she believes Annabelle absent.
Instead, she knocks in the door again.
“Jameson, we are alone now, so tell me what this is about.”
Another piece of paper taps her big toe as she picks it up.
“Go hav fun. Im gold.”
Annabelle frowns at the misspellings before sighing as Will covers his mouth hiding a smile. The twinkle in his eyes is amusing.
“Have with an e and G O O D spells good.” He corrects on the paper as he says it out and slips it back under the door. They wait a moment, but no more notes come.
“Kinda hard to enjoy ourselves without you flower.” Will sighs dramatically. They both take a seat on the floor.
“We will sit here all night if we have too.” Annabelle adds.
The door clicks open and Jameson stands before them. She falls into Will’s lap, but her gaze is on the older woman.
“What is all this about?”
You don’t love me.
Will winces at this before he looks at Annabelle too. Neither one of them had said those words to Jameson, yet they made an effort to show they were a loving couple in front of her- a healthy couple.
Annabelle doesn’t say anything. Her eyes lower as she tenderly brushes a loose curl behind the child’s ear.
“Love is a circular thing. We crave it, yet we also fear it.” She whispers hearing the voices of her palace call.
“Annabelle, I do love you.” The six year old boy smile as he hugs her. The warmth of his body is a distant memory she barely recognizes. Small arms wrap around her neck and she clutches the fabric that is so familiarly soft.
“Misha, I love you too.” She laughs grasping her brother.
Annabelle stiffens catching herself as the finger stops its trail resting upon the child’s cherub cheek.
“I do love you so.”
It barely escapes her lips. She doesn’t even know if she said it or who she said it too. Bedelia would say it’s a figment of her trauma. She sees her brother in the girl. There is that alarmingly innocent yet complex turmoil tolling behind big eyes. Her brother had been too smart for his age. He had seen her. Truly loved her. Then they took him. Misha had screamed so loud that it rang out in the silent night. Nothing dare disturb her as she drowned in sobs. It broke her. It snapped something in her that wouldn’t arouse until she was a budding young woman returning home to face the nightmares that haunted her.
Had Annabelle not devoured those men, would she stand here, a mortal, and not a creature- a wendigo.
“I love both of you.”
Will grins at her before leaving in for a kiss as they hold Jameson between them.
When they pull away, Annabelle sees Misha smiling at her from behind Will’s back.
“One day, when we’re older, we’ll have a huge house and you’ll cook lots of food and we’ll have a party. We’ll be a family again. Promise me that.”
“Of course Mano vaikas. One day, I promise.”