(Warning! I’m…I’m really not sure what for, I just think I need to put a warning up here)
Having her youth back was unbelievable.
Annette looked over herself with much curiosity. A pinch here, a squeeze there. Being so limber again felt liberating. If only it weren’t under the circumstances given.
Seeing Twinbrook again brought forth a powerful wave of nostalgia. It was especially good to know that no one was dead yet here.
The Builder’s words still echoed in Annette’s mind, venomous ones that bothered her greatly:
‘I’m afraid you’ll belong to me.’
This alone sounded like a fate worse than death to her. The gravity of the situation weighed heavily on her. It weighed almost as heavily as the Catahoula hound currently in her lap.
Feeling the fur upon the dog’s warm body almost felt like a dream. It had been decades, centuries even, since she last saw her beloved Sagebear. And yet it only seemed like yesterday.
After being dropped off into Twinbrook, Annette took note of her surroundings. It all looked just like it did the first time she arrived.
It almost seemed like her life from then until recently had been nothing more than some extremely long dream. Looking out over the swamp town, she scoffed to herself.
“I guess I have to make the most of these five days, huh? I think I know who’s willing to put up with me here.”
Now Annette turned her attention to Sagebear. Wondering if she recalled the last time this happened, Annette decided to refresh her dog’s memory:
“C’mon, Sagebear,” she began, “We’re going a-hunting for-”
But Sagebear, it seemed, had other ideas. While Annette spoke, she perked up as if she’d smelled something unfathomably delicious. In an instant, she began scampering off into town, much to Annette’s surprise and fright.
“Sagebear! No, come back!” As quick as she could, Annette took off after her.
“Oh hell, they didn’t even bother to clean up the blood…” Dennis was greatly bothered by the dark red stain on the floor. He tried ignoring it as he shopped.
Today, he didn’t think he’d need a cart. Rather, a basket sufficed. There wasn’t much point in hefting a cart around for only a few items.
Dennis was setting a sack of potatoes into the basket when the intercom alerted a disturbance in one of the aisles. From past experiences, he took that to mean Bill was wreaking havoc. Shrugging, he kept browsing the section he was in.
Nearby, the sounds of displays toppling could be heard, followed by several glass jars breaking. A few moments later, Dennis felt something at his feet.
“Hm?” Looking down, Dennis saw a grey cur vigorously sniffing his toes. Slowly, so as not to scare her, he bent down to get closer to her height.
“Well, now where’d you spring from? Were you the one making that ruckus just now?” Setting his basket down, Dennis began scratching behind the dog’s ears.
The scratching turned into petting her, and clearly the dog was delighted at this. She got up on her hind legs, and set her front paws onto his shoulders.
“Awww, well aren’t you the affectionate one! Got your tail wagging and everything!” The dog was practically panting into his ear now. “Now where would your owner happen to be?”
Right on cue, an unfamiliar woman dashed into the aisle they were in. Seeing the two of them, she doubled over and made a show of catching her breath.
“Chasing…Dog…That one…” She croaked out, and then pointed to the cur that was supporting herself on Dennis’ shoulders. Then she coughed once.
Annette couldn’t help but wonder who it was with Sagebear now. She could’ve sworn he was familiar to her, but he was lost to her.
He looked down at Sagebear. “Ohhh, so this little beauty is yours? Well, consider yourself lucky!” He grabbed his basket, and stood back up. “Now what might this darling’s name be?”
Confused that he would ask for her dog’s name before hers, Annette tried to keep herself from showing offense. She stood to her full height after catching her breath, and answered his question:
“Sagebear. Her name is Sagebear.”
This seemed to delight him. He bent back down and pet Sagebear’s head. “Well, now, that’s quite a moniker she’s given you!” Then he made eye contact with her. “Oh, I’m sorry! I forgot to ask for your own name!”
“I go by Annette,” she said while scratching her dog’s chin.
“So, what brings you to this squalid rathole of a town, Miss Annette?” After dealing with the employees at the store, Dennis and Annette were en route to Dennis’ home.
Annette tugged at her ponytail, uncertain whether she should tell him the truth, or give some false story. In the end, she decided to take the easiest option:
“I’d rather not talk about it to someone I barely know.”
Her answer didn’t seem to bother Dennis. All he did was nod once, and watch as Sagebear tried sniffing his grocery bag.
“Fair enough. I can understand wanting to keep some things secret.” He shook the bag gently, as though to try and entice the dog. “By any chance do you intend to remain here, at least?”
This question nearly caused Annette to stop walking. Knowing she couldn’t stay in town, she shook her head.
“I’m only going to be here for a few days. I suppose I do need a place to stay. Any suggestions?” Annette wondered if he caught on to the slight coyness in her voice.
The way he answered indicated he didn’t. “Well, if you’re not opposed to sleeping on the couch, I’m sure the family and I would gladly take you in! You’re all right with the couch, right?”
Annette just shrugged. “I’ve slept on worse.”
Upon reaching their supposed destination, Annette was confused at the small house in front of her. She could’ve sworn he lived in a mansion, but didn’t dare bring it up for fear of blowing her cover. Now she simply waited as he opened the door and went in.
“Just let me put everything away and-Oh, what in the hell?!” Dennis jumped back and interrupted himself mid-sentence. “I was gone for fifteen minutes, you two!”
Peeking in, Annette caught sight of two shirtless men on the couch. One was awkwardly positioned on the other’s lap, and it was clear they’d been fooling around. The way their pants were unzipped indicated they were about to go even further.
“Uh…” The redhead briefly trailed off in an attempt to dim the weirdness. “Hey, boss.”
Dennis just rolled his eyes. “You really have to do that on there? Really, I’m tired of having to clean that couch so often…”
As he scolded them, Sagebear pushed herself past the door. Her tail wagged at the prospect of new faces to lick. The second he saw her, the brunet’s eyes practically lit up with surprise and delight.
“Doggy!” He shouted before jumping off the redhead in a rather painful-looking manner. He then began to quickly clamber toward Sagebear.
As expected, Sagebear nearly jumped, and bolted back outside. He followed her.
“Oh, no…” Dennis looked out towards the front yard, watching his son chase the poor dog. “Would you hold these, Miss Annette? I have to go calm him down.”
He handed her the bag of groceries, and ran back outside shouting, “Boy! Stop chasing Miss Annette’s dog!”
A few minutes later, everyone was calmed down and dressed.
Annette was seated at the breakfast table, watching Shark happily pet Sagebear. Despite the incredibly rude first impression, she seemed quite willing now to give him dog kisses.
Sitting across from her, Sinbad was leaning back on his chair. He glared intently at her, his arms crossed as though he were trying to intimidate her.
“I do apologize for that, Miss Annette,” Dennis said as he poured a few glasses of pop out of a 2-liter bottle. “The boy can’t help himself whenever he sees a dog he finds adorable.”
He then took notice of Sinbad and his glowering. “Mister Rotter, don’t stare at Miss Annette. It’s rude.” Then he handed Annette one of the glasses.
On the floor, Sagebear stuck her rear end in the air, and lowered her chest to the ground. Apparently, Shark was unsure as to what that meant.
“Hey, Dad?” He pointed towards the semi-prostrate pooch. “What does it mean if she does that?”
Now Dennis chuckled. “That means she wants to play with you, boy. Go ahead and mirror what she does. See what happens.” Nodding, Shark then got to his knees, and mimicked Sagebear.
As if on cue, the front door swung open again. This time, it revealed a rather disgruntled teenager in a red dress.
“Oh, you’re home already, Lolly! Say hello to Miss Annette!” Dennis put on a smile in an attempt to cheer his daughter up.
Lolly took one look at Annette, then blew a raspberry. “Great! Another addition to this hereditary freakshow!” She then stomped off to her room, stepping over her brother and Sagebear on the way.
Later that evening, Annette was sitting on the couch made up to be her bed. The blanket smelled off, and the pillow was shapeless and saggy. Still, it was better than nothing.
She didn’t really like how close the TV was to the couch. Part of her wondered how none of the household members wore glasses as a result.
After she covered herself with the blanket, Annette then saw Dennis hurriedly making his way to the front door.
“I’ll most likely be gone for the rest of the night, Miss Annette,” he said when seeing her. “If you have any questions, go ahead and ask Mister Rotter or the boy.”
He grabbed hold of his leather jacket, then looked contemplative as he put it on. “But, uh…Depending on how late it is, I would knock on the door first. Well, see you in the morning!”
Then Dennis was out the door before she could say anything. Hearing the truck start up outside, she sat up and decided she wasn’t going to go to sleep yet.
Nearby, Annette could hear what might have been rustling and whispers. Annette couldn’t make out every single word, but some of the words were quite filthy in nature. Sometimes the words were accompanied by giggles.
The sound of a door opening followed, along with Sinbad clearly, but quietly shooing Sagebear out.
“Just ’cause I like to do it doggy-style, does not give you the right to watch!” The door then squealed in motion, but the sound of it shutting wasn’t heard.
“Got thrown out, huh?” Annette patted the cushion next to her, offering Sagebear to jump up onto the couch. “Maybe it’s for the best you didn’t watch what was going to happen later.”
Taking hold of the remote stuck in the cushions, Annette turned the TV on, and quickly muted the news program.
Said news program featured a distraught reporter, frantically describing something claimed to be breaking news. As she spoke, the camera panned upwards to the top of a roof.
The man standing on the rooftop was screaming unintelligibly. In his hands was a shotgun that was clearly loaded. As he blathered, the shotgun would go off at arbitrary intervals.
Annette and Sagebear watched in mortified amazement, surprised at the difference between time and universes.
After the broadcast switched back to the newsroom, Annette grinned. She gave a chuckle before speaking to her dog:
“Nice to see Bill again, isn’t it, Sagebear?” She asked while petting Sagebear.