“But we've told Wednesday, college first.”
Wednesday came home from college with an undergraduate degree in entomology, a postgraduate degree in forensic anthropology, a black leather trenchcoat, a long single braid down the middle of her back, a collection of campus warning signs, and twin seven-year-old girls called Scylla and Charybdis.
Lurch gave a shuddering groan at the sight of them. Wednesday's mother raised an eyebrow, and Wednesday just knew that was going to be a conversation to be avoided at all costs. Her father beat his fist against the door frame, and shouted “What devious wastrel of a cur has touched my daughter?! Let me at him!”
Grandmama waggled a finger. Uncle Fester had his mouth open like he couldn't decide whether to be pleased or angry, leaning over her father's shoulder.
Pubert wasn't there, but that was hardly unusual. But Pugsley was pleased with the signs, which meant that there was at least one person who was glad to see her.
Charybdis frowned, and crossed her arms across her chest. Scylla lowered her eyes, and shuffled backwards behind Wednesday's skirt. She knew exactly how they felt, but she had to set an example for them. It was funny, seeing the reasons behind her own mother's behaviours, from the inside out. A bit like crawling inside someone else's skin, and wearing them, without any of the fun bits.
“Now, children. Play nice. We're home now.”
Charybdis didn't have a single speck of self-preservation in her. She poked her fingers into all of the strange pieces of bric-a-brac around the atrium, and it was only through her grandparents' timely intervention that she didn't lose one of them.
“I don't know why you bother,” Wednesday said calmly. “It's how she learns.”
Charybdis pulled off her right shoe, to show them all. “Mother says that's why we don't swim with the alligators!”
“Or the s-sharks!” Scylla agreed.
Uncle Fester, regrettably, took that as a sign to become Scylla's friend. He leaned in, beaming wide, and said, “Have you ever been eaten by a shark, kiddo?”
Scylla said “Meep,” and hid back behind Wednesday's skirt. Wednesday sighed, closed her eyes, and as Charybdis began embellishing the story about their trip to the zoo, she unthreaded Scylla's arms from between her legs, and knelt down to face her wide, terrified eyes.
“We're home now,” Wednesday said. She didn't pretend to be reassuring. Just said it, like it was. “I know you're worried, but you are one of the family. You'll find your place here, eventually.”
Scylla shuddered, which was quite in character for her. Not for the first time, Wednesday knew they were both thinking the same thing. What if she wasn't a real Addams? Could they come out wrong? Wednesday had never seen it, though you did have to wonder about Aunt Ophelia.
“Everyone has their own style, that's all. Nobody's as manic as Uncle Fester and Father are. Once we introduce you to the entire family, you'll see. You are every bit an Addams.”
“Don't be cute. You're a twin, and I've explained how that works to you already. Go say hello to my Mother, over there. Don't let her see that you're scared. Addams women have been known to prey upon the young. Virgin blood is known to be a restorative.”
As Scylla swallowed tightly, and visibly debated the truth of Wednesday's story, Wednesday's father came to stand at her side. They watched Scylla wobble on uncertain legs, eyeing the creaky floorboards as she walked.
“My dear, that was cruel, even for you!”
“I've changed. It's been eight years.”
With his hands on her shoulders, she felt shorter. Younger. Safer. She didn't like it. She brushed them off, and turned to face him.
He smiled, and sighed. Looked tired. “You called, once a week, and we never knew? My own daughter? Married?!”
“Not married,” she said. “They didn't allow pets. They fumigated the spiders. I... I was alone. It's very different, out there. They have disposable diapers.”
“Wasteful. Destructive. I like it!”
Wednesday rolled her eyes. Her father hadn't changed at all.
“You had children because you missed us?”
“I had children because they would be Addamses,” she said, and hoped he'd leave it at that.
Lurch came into the atrium, and summoned them all to dinner. Which was, in itself, an experience.
“You expect me to eat at a table?” Charybdis was always a little dramatic. She set her foot down, and Scylla lurked silently at her shoulder. “We hate tables.”
Wednesday closed her eyes. Knew she should say something. Knew it should not be shut up and sit the fuck down. She said, “Good. You can sit on your Uncle Fester and Great Grandmama's laps.”
It only took one very obvious look shared between them, for Uncle Fester and Grandmama to play along. They just pulled faces. Sweet, hideous faces. Deliberately ugly. It was an Addams skill, that expression.
“The table will be fine,” Scylla said. She gave Charybdis a look, and took her hand. They sat down together, as far away from Uncle Fester as possible.
He gave Wednesday a sad, heartbroken look. She wasn't going to let herself feel bad about it, though.
“And don't lie about what you think of the food. We're not in public. We don't have to hide who we are, any more.”
After dinner, while the girls were exploring the living room, whispering to each other about the pictures and the fireplace, the size of the place, Wednesday took Lurch aside.
“We won't fit in my room. We barely fit in the dorm room, and that was when they were toddlers and they could still fit into hand luggage. Is there anywhere else we can go?”
Lurch groanded, shuddered, and shuffled away. By the time that the fire had died down, and Pugsley had been able to draw the girls out enough to teach them Cheat, Wednesday's bed and two musty mattresses had been moved upstairs into the attic.
Mostly, the attic was still their old playroom. Wednesday's and Pugsley's. The guillotine. The Iron Maiden. Some old chains and axes. Knives. Darts. A blowgun. But there was somewhere to sleep, and their bags had been brought up.
Charybdis bit her lip. “This isn't what I was expecting.”
“It's a miserable old mansion with creaky floorboards,” Wednesday said. “I told you to expect that.”
“No, they're... they're like us.”
“Of course they are,” Wednesday didn't quite understand. She didn't really want to.
“No, Mother.” Scylla always talked more, when it was just the three of them. “We mean, it's... well, nobody else is like you. I mean, us. I meant us,” she repeated it to Charybdis, meeting her gaze.
“You didn't. But you're an idiot, so I'll forgive you.”
“Right. Well. No sense letting these lumpy mattresses go to waste. Get what you need, and get ready for bed.”
The second they were asleep, Wednesday fled. Her mother found her, after midnight, wandering in the garden. Wednesday didn't turn to look at her, but she spoke to acknowledge her presence. “The walls look shorter, smaller.”
“You've been out into the world, my darling and most vicious child.”
Wednesday stood still, and pretended not to notice the gentle hand that brushed over her plait, ran down the length of her back. It reminded her of being younger than her own children, and gave her a strange sense of dysphoria.
“Barely. I've been to two colleges. Lived in three dorms and campus family housing. I have used a laundrette.”
“How utterly devastating,” her mother said. “And your father says you chose to have the twins to assuage your homesickness. If you had only told us you were so miserable! Perhaps we could have done something.”
This was exactly the conversation that Wednesday had hoped to avoid.
“I wanted to be there. It was hard, to live in temporary housing, surrounded by middle-class imbeciles and upper-class scum. But, it was worth it. The conversations I had about maggots. About beetles. Arachnids. The corpses I saw.”
“My dear. You did sound satisfied, when you spoke about your studies.”
“Don't tiptoe around it. You and father were worried, that I'd get a job.”
“It wasn't the job, darling, so much as the career. And while you chose admirable subjects to study, there was no avoiding that you'd have to work with some terribly mundane people.”
“The world is bigger than that, now,” Wednesday said quietly. “We're not as alone as we used to be.”
But she said it into the wind, with her mother at her back, and the words were lost.
In the morning, the twins had grown bolder. They woke Wednesday up with their chattering, and when she sat up, they immediately flanked her.
“Mother, show us how you used to electrocute your brother?” Scylla asked, eyes wide with excitement.
“Mother, can you introduce us to the squid?” Charybdis was ready to go. She had put on her bathers.
“Or, can we ask Grandmama how to curse somebody?”
“What about, can we... can you show us the cemetery?”
Wednesday groaned, and pushed them out of her way. She ignored them, as she rubbed at her eyes and got dressed. When she felt able to say something other than get lost, she answered them.
“You'd be better off asking Pugsley to play with you. Your grandparents are going to want to talk to me, and it's hard to do anything fun with Mother trying to stop you.”
“Can we play with explosives?!” Charybdis had always liked the explosives best, when hearing stories about Wednesday's childhood.
“Why do we have three grandparents?” Scylla had always worried more about who all these strange Addamses were.
“Yes, but only the ones Pugsley says you can handle. If you want a bigger bang, you'll let him handle everything, understand? And dear,” It always sounded so cold and cruel, coming from Wednesday. She'd hoped her heart would soften with children, but if anything, it had grown harder. “Dear, you don't have three grandparents. We just all call Grandmama, Grandmama. I think she's my grandmother, but I'm not sure.”
“Can we call your mother Grandmother? What about your father?” There was an edge to her voice, as Charybdis spoke. Wednesday made a note of it. Intense interest in Gomez Addams. Tread carefully, he's a terrible role model. Far too polite and happy.
While Wednesday was wondering about whether or not being called 'grandmother' would upset her mother, Scylla spoke up. She curled her fingers in her wispy short hair, and tugged. As if she could make it longer and straighter, look more like her sister. Wednesday didn't think she knew she was even doing it.
“But can we call Pugsley, Uncle Pugsley?”
“He is your uncle,” Wednesday allowed. Which was how Pugsley was the first person in the family to assume a new role in relation to the twins.
As the distant booms and cracks of explosions filled the air with a singed and chemical smell, Wednesday settled herself into a chair opposite her father's desk.
“Well, now!” He seemed to liked how authoritative that sounded, because he said it again. 'Well! Now! Daughter! Here I thought you were being a devious wastrel, spending all that money at college. Now I know you were being a responsible parent! What do you have to say for yourself?”
“It's hard to find black onesies. Mail order catalogues. The internet. Custom tailoring. These things add up.”
“Too true, too true. But, really. Tell me. Was it miserable, was it intolerable?”
“It was hell on earth, but you already know that.”
Her father leaned forwards, lit up a cigar. Offered her one. He'd never offered her a cigar, before. Only Pugsley, and Pubert. She took it uncomfortably.
“I've spent some time thinking about it, and I think I approve. Most Addamses marry before childbirth, yes. But! What about our boys and their wild oats, eh? Times change. And it's probably for the best, that there's no man. There aren't many men, who are good enough for my Wednesday. You always did like spiders, eh! Eating the male!”
She leaned over, and let him light her cigar for her. Had to hold it away from her mouth as she spoke. “Only an idiot eats another human being, father. Who knows what kinds of diseases they'll have? And, if you eat the brain, you can contract Kuru. Your brain starts replacing cells badly, and it becomes full of holes. Spongy. You go mad, and then, you die.”
Her father's eyes were wide, enthusiastic. “It sounds ghastly.”
“It's a horrible way to go. Besides, I used a sperm bank, and the paper trail only went so far before it grew cold. I have no idea who the donor was. I like to think he was a wastrel.”
Her father nodded, and blew a smoke ring. “When I had you, my eldest, well. Your mother, her beauty. The parasite within. An empty, hollow home. Bleak.”
“I did what I could, in the dorms,” Wednesday replied. “Once I got rid of my roommate, I installed blackout curtains. Redecorated. It still didn't feel much like home.”
“Which is why I asked you in here! So. As a parent, and an adult, you're the head of a family! It's time to set you up with an account, for that. Perhaps a deposit on a nice decaying home? A lot of them have been abandoned since the financial crisis, you know.”
“I know. But we fit quite nicely in the attic.”
“But, my dear. Surely you want your own space? It's all the rage, these days, I've heard. Your Uncle Fester read it in a magazine, at the salon, while he was having his head waxed.”
“Since when have you believed everything that Uncle Fester read in magazines?” Wednesday remembered, though, how gullible her father had been, with that phony psychologist, when Uncle Fester had come back with amnesia. “Never mind, I know what a suggestible fool you are.”
Wednesday held her breath, realising she'd just crossed the line. But her father just laughed, and nodded, sat back in his chair and grinned at her. It was unnerving. Where was her place in the family, if her parents didn't put her in it? She refused to let her uncertainty show, and corrected him.
“I do have a property, near campus, now. You should know, you paid for it. But do you actually mind it, us living here?”
He shrugged. “It makes the house crowded. I'll have to sneak around with Morticia, just to catch a moment's privacy. Like teenagers!”
“I was never like that,” Wednesday pointed out. “But it sounds like you'll have fun with that, so I'm planning to stay. The girls need to know their family.” And Wednesday needed to know how everything fit together. She needed to learn how to relate to her parents. To determine whether she could still live as an Addams, or whether college had broadened and changed her world too much for her to belong anywhere. But she sure as hell wasn't going to tell him that.
“Right you are, then! I'll just give you a few million, then. To cover their basic needs. School supplies. New shoes!”
“Duelling pistols,” Wednesday agreed. “They've been asking since Christmas.”
Her father tapped the side of his nose. “Now don't you worry about those! I have just the thing.”
He brought a suspicious case to lunch. Old cracked leather, and the smell of mold. He leaned over between Scylla and Charybdis, and flung it open on the table between them.
“There! A gift from your maternal grandfather! Two of our ancestors used these on their wedding night! Sadly, their line ended with two bullets. Nevertheless, their legacy has been handed down through the generations.”
“All one of them,” Wednesday muttered under her breath.
“If it's a gift,” Charybdis said cannily, “we're owed more than a pair of old pistols. We're seven years old. That's six birthdays. Seven Christmases. Seven Halloweens.”
“I bought you more than enough gifts,” Wednesday said sternly.
“Nonsense! Let a man indulge his grandchildren in his old age!”
“Dear,” her mother said. “Let him. He'll be intolerable until you do.”
Wednesday closed her eyes, and pretended not to see the smoldering look that passed between her parents. Sex, really? At the table?
“Ooh, I've got some great things I could give as gifts,” Uncle Fester exclaimed.
Pugsley had a look in his eyes, too.
“Well, I always did say they were terrible parents. Spoiling the children, I said.” Grandmama patted a frail hand on Wednesday's arm. Her fingers were more bone than meat.
“Quite. Well, we'll see who's laughing, when those girls rise up and kill them all. I've been reading them bedtime stories. The House of Atreus.”
Grandmama cackled. “Save me for last. That'll be entertaining to watch!”
While the men of the house explored its depths for dangerous and inappropriate gifts for children, Scylla and Charybdis went off into a corner to examine the pistols and whisper in their secret language.
“Twins,” Wednesday shrugged. “I like to think they have very dark secrets between them.”
“Oh, if they take after their mother, I'm sure they do.” Wednesday's mother smiled, and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Why do you keep touching me?”
“You're growing up,” she said, as if it made any sense. “Now, what do you intend to do about their education?”
“They'll go to school, of course.”
“But aren't you concerned, about the things they teach these days? Stories in which poor defenceless dragons are killed by brainwashed cultists.”
“Catholicism isn't a cult, mother. They aren't anywhere near damaging enough to the human mind. Besides, I've already made contact with parents in the local covens, and we're planning to challenge any distasteful depictions of witches, crones, hags, dragons, and the like.”
“But, my dear! Those happy people?”
Wednesday winced at her mother's horrified expression. She'd hated it too, the first time her supervisor had suggested the idea to her at college.
“Now, mother. Wouldn't you say it's better to use people and corrupt the educational system, than to allow all those children to suffer?”
“Perhaps. But I did so regret the court order that forced you and Pugsley to attend school. You seemed to hate it so.”
“It was character building,” Wednesday said. “And a convenient supply of victims.”
Elementary school started a couple of weeks before the university term. It gave Wednesday enough time to prepare Scylla and Charybdis for it. It was a bit of a shame, given that they had finally become interesting. Talking, learning, hiding under tables in the dorm kitchens and surprising timid students. On the other hand, there had already been enough grief with residential services and social services. Wednesday could recall her own parents facing a steady stream of local council officials at the door, before she and Pugsley had been sent to a normal school. Why fight the inevitable? There were better things to save her energy for, like labwork and discussion papers. So she locked them in her room, and made a quick detour through Walmart and Hot Topic. An Invader Zim backpack for Charybdis, and something black and tasteful with skulls for Scylla.
“When I was your age, Hot Topic didn't exist. New Age witchery was only just beginning to dilute the true horror and cruelty of the supernatural. Know this. Everything comes with a cost. Don't enjoy them too much.”
“Pfft,” Charybdis laughed. Scylla tugged on her sister's arm, and shook her head. “Thank you, mother.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Charybdis said. “But I'm bored of GIR now. Jackass is funnier.”
“Be that as it may, this is the only bag I'll buy for you. Make of that what you will.”
There were a few people that Wednesday recognised from around campus. A more diverse group of parents than she'd expected to see. It was a little encouraging, because she wasn't sure she had the reserves to complete her thesis and be the only weird parent at the school. At least she wouldn't stand out, or stand alone.
The moment she'd had the thought, she felt sick. An Addams stood unique and proud. An Addams didn't meekly fade into the background. Even if it was to save her energy, to experiment with worms and pigs in the forest. She still stood out like a sore thumb, with her pale skin and sullen expression. She was sure of it. Her daughters stood alone, together. Scylla was eyeing the other children warily. Charybdis, hungrily. She just had to focus, keep them in view. Remind herself that Addamses bred true.
Straighten your backs, she thought, as she watched the girls hunch their shoulders and eye an approaching girl with distrust. Act proud! You know who you are!
The girl complimented Charybdis on her bag. She offered to share, in defiance of the school rules regarding snack foods, sour gummi worms. It nearly won Scylla over. She reached out a tentative hand, and a smile twitched in the corners of her mouth.
Wednesday shifted to get a better and more discreet angle to watch them from. She brushed past adults, not really seeing them.
A fear struck deep into her heart and took root there. Perhaps, nurture was more important than nature. Perhaps, living in the dorms had been a mistake. It could be possible, that raising them with off-white walls and a bright blue sun outside the window, isolated from family and ignorant of how to be an Addams, was turning them normal.
Watching Charybdis chatting eagerly with their new acquaintance, remembering her miserable social isolation, Wednesday wondered if it was a bad thing, after all. She hadn't really had any friends, before Uncle Fester had come along. Isolation did strange things to a child. It had impaired her judgement. She had first felt the sense of kinship, having finally found a familiar mind and soul, when she had met Joel Glicker during that horrible summer at camp. Perhaps having more friends, being a little more normal than most Addamses, would protect her children from that involuntary weakness Wednesday had. A desperate loneliness, and far too transitory meaningful relationships.
“Why the long face?”
Wednesday turned, to see a woman with long blonde hair and a sensible grey suit. A pentacle hung from around her neck, and she smiled as she held a flier out.
“I'm Jemmy, and I'm from the local Pagan Collective. We're campaigning against negative profiling of witches in schools.”
Against her better judgement, Wednesday took the flier. Without meaning to, she shared a titbit of information about herself. “I'm Wednesday Addams. My own mother fought against the use of anti-witch propaganda by herself, when I was in school.”
Jemmy was bright and sparkly, and she grinned. “Great! Are you practising? Would you like to join our meetings?”
Wednesday snorted. “No, thank-you. The only reason I touch the dead, is to breed my maggots. I let the medical professionals perform the autopsies.”
“Er, I didn't mean for seances...” Jemmy's smile was faltering a little.
“Sorry,” Wednesday forced out. “I meant to say, I'm an entomologist, not a spiritual person. But my mother is, and I'd hate for my children to suffer from any prejudice.”
“In that case,” Jemmy said, “there's a mailing list. The flier has all the information you need.”
“Right,” Wednesday said. When she looked back to her children, they were already gone. The bell rang, and then the children were gone. Wednesday felt a little aimless and bereft. Alone, for the first time in years. No more interruptions to her work, no more childcare bills. No more misery.
“It always hurts, the first year,” someone said kindly beside her.
“That's just the problem,” Wednesday said. “It doesn't, anymore.”
The stranger laughed awkwardly, and walked away unseen.
Wednesday went home, and called her parents.
“I hate it here. I want somewhere better to live.”
Morticia had picked up. She made a sympathetic sound.
“Well, you know you can just draw whatever you need against the accounts, dear. You shouldn't feel you even have to ask.”
“I know. It was simply... a trying morning.”
“Well, dear.” Her mother sounded pleased. “You know how we miss you, I'd love to talk for a while. I'm taking it you don't mean the usual kind of misery.”
“There are fraternities,” Wednesday said. “There have been since the start, of course, but some days, it becomes noticeable.” It was a lie that came easily, and Wednesday didn't let herself feel too much guilt over keeping the twins as her own secret. At first, it had been a way to avoid the inevitable lectures about parenting. But after some time, it had become more than that. The twins were only hers.
“Oh, dear, I know. It sounds utterly hideous. Well. Perhaps you would like a distraction. Your brother Pugsley and Uncle Fester volunteered their pyrotechnic skills for the spring fair this year. The results were spectacular. Sadly, the spinners and weavers guild took rather poorly to the incineration of their prize-winning yarn.”
“I'm sorry I missed it,” but really, she wasn't. She'd had better things to do than go home over spring break.
“Of course, dear. But that's all right. We took pictures, to commemorate the boys' big day. We're very proud of them.”
“I can imagine. Anything with gunpowder.”
They spoke for an hour about small, insignificant things. The weather. Recipes. Lurch's emotional attachment to the harpsichord, and how it interfered with the housework.
When it was time to say goodbye, her mother said something that struck too close to Wednesday's heart.
“Call again soon, dear. It's not the same without you here.”
“It isn't,” Wednesday said, as usual. It was a factual statement. But she felt it in her bones. The room wasn't the same, without the twins.
There were some nice, old rickety houses near campus. She made a brief inspection, and wasn't surprised when the real estate agent dropped the price. The front hall was draughty. Old trees cast a damp and chilling shadow over the kitchen and living room. The unsealed porch deck had twisted and greyed with age.
“I'll take it,” she said. And then, because she didn't want to do any heavy lifting, she called Lurch. Her family would know that she'd bought the house, anyway. And Lurch knew how to keep a secret.
Three weeks into the school year, Charybdis came home with a black eye, and a split lip. When she saw them, Wednesday smiled. Trouble, at last. She'd been feeling suffocated, walking a fine line between sarcasm and antagonising the PTA, on Morticia's advice. She wasn't as sweet as her mother. It burned, made her skin itch.
“What does the other party look like? I hope you took them down a peg.”
Charybdis sniffed, and rubbed a fist with raw-red knuckles beneath her nose. “They took Scylla home. For milk and cookies.”
Wednesday was very taken aback. Shocked. “Forcefully?”
Charybdis grimaced. She never did like telling on her sister. “She said she wanted to go. That she wasn't a real Addams. That death scared her. So I tried to hold her, and she punched me!”
Charybdis looked indignant, heartbroken, and a little lost. Wednesday felt the same, to be honest. Horrified.
“Get your Uncle Pugsley, and get the car. I've got some things to get ready.”
When they pulled up outside the house, white and gleaming bright in a garden full of green grass and pink and yellow flowers, all of Wednesday's suspicions were confirmed. Scylla was rebelling, or trying to satisfy her own curiosity. It wasn't a visit for fun. She was allergic to pollen. It took a lot of effort to overcome Scylla's fears regarding her allergies.
Wednesday nodded at Pugsley, and put a hand on Charybdis's shoulder. “Dear, I don't want you to come in with me. What I want is for you to be here, when we come back out. Scylla is going to need her sister. And I don't want you to pick another fight. Save it for when we get home. You have such lovely weapons there.”
She kissed Charybdis's forehead, and slammed the car door shut. Braced herself, and mounted the steps, crossed the porch. Rang the tinkly doorbell and then, with a sigh, rapped the back of her knuckles sharply on the door. A window beside the door showed a small, yappy dog, deciding whether it wanted to scare her away or welcome her.
Wednesday bared her teeth and stared it into submission. It didn't take long to cower it, and by then, a healthy looking woman was opening the door.
“Hello? Oh, you must be Skye's mother.” She smiled, in that strained let's-be-polite-mothers way, and kept holding on to the door.
“Scylla,” Wednesday corrected her. “But it's an easy mistake. Not everybody in this country is literate, I always tell her. Forgive strangers for being unfamiliar with basic classics like the Odyssey. We can't all be scholars.”
The woman laughed, nervously. “No, of course,” she said, for something to say.
Wednesday crossed her arms, and smiled cruelly. She knew just how to get under this kind of woman's skin. Bleached hair, tan. A baby pink twin-set cardigan, and an A-line skirt. Tennis shoes, and a pair of pink heels visible beneath the coat rack.
“Well? Are you going to invite me in? Now that our daughters are friends, we should get to know each other, don't you think? I can take Scylla home with me, when I'm done here.”
The kitchen was, again, bright and white. “What a nice home. You must spend all your time keeping it clean.”
The woman sighed, and forced a smile back onto her face. Wednesday wondered how, and why, women like her tried to keep it up. What was so important about all of this needless posing and wasted energy?
“I do my best. It's such a mess still.”
Wednesday stared at the fruit bowl, which had a receipt from a supermarket amongst the apples, and a folded plastic bag beside it.
“Hardly. Don't brag. If Scylla ever invites... your daughter... over to our house, she'll get to see what a true mess is. Our home is a complete hole.”
“Oh, I'm sure it's fine,” the woman said. She seemed reassured, and Wednesday realised that she'd misunderstood.
“Oh, no. We like it that way. The damp does wonders for the skin, and I can hardly breed my insects and worms without adequate garbage piles, now, can I?”
“O-oh. How... nice.”
It would just be a waiting game, surely. Wednesday did not want to see any more of the house. It was eerie. Depressing. One person's life, wasted on such pointless and disappointing activities.
Upstairs, a child screamed, and began to sob. Another stomped down the stairs. Scylla appeared, fury tightening her usually calm face. In her quiet voice, stammering, she held up a Barbie doll's head by the hair, and said, “I didn't even cut it! She could put it back on if she really wanted to, but she just keeps whining about how hard everything is!”
Wednesday nodded, and tried to be a responsible parent. No yelling. “Not everybody is as precocious or rational as an Addams, dear. If you want to play with them, you do have to be patient. Or prepared to burn a few bridges.”
“I'd be happy if the whole house b-burned down!” Scylla's upper lip twitched.
“That can be arranged,” Wednesday said. “I brought your uncle with us, and he's been fiddling with saltpeter today. Something about making better fireworks for next year.”
“You're those Addamses,” the woman said, face paling and her fists clenching. “Get out of my house!”
Wednesday raised an eyebrow, and with a defeated sigh, Scylla stormed out the front door ahead of her.
In the car, Charybdis eyed Scylla warily. Scylla slumped, and shivered, and said, “If you want to punch me back, that's okay.”
“Don't worry. I'll get you back.”
The girls grinned at each other, everything repaired between them. They ran off up the stairs as soon as they got home, giggling. Pugsley took one look at them, and shook his head.
“What the hell was all that about?”
“Scylla is convinced she isn't an Addams.”
“But... she's Charybdis's twin!”
“Yes. And she doesn't seem to ever doubt that relationship. Perhaps she thinks she came out... wrong.”
Pugsley smiled in confusion. “Did she?”
“Of course, but they both did. As we did, you and I. But no, nothing about her conception or birth could have made her into a normal person. Besides, nurture determines a lot, and I've raised both of them as I should have.” Or at least, she had raised them as properly as she had been able to. But that was true of any parent.
“They don't have a father,” Pugsley said. “Family counts. Don't you remember what happened with Pubert, when Uncle Fester went missing?”
“And we grew up loving flowers and daisies, because he wasn't at home when we were born, right? Their sperm donor was never a part of our family. Ugh, you're slow, sometimes. Do you want me to kill you in your sleep? It would be merciful.”
Pugsley shrugged. “You could try to do it while I'm awake, if you like. For old time's sake.”
It certainly was one way to waste an afternoon.
The wait in the doctor's office was interminable. Charybdis found a bin full of toys in the corner, and politely borrowed Wednesday's pocket knife, for their necks. Scylla shivered and wheezed, and tried not to look at anybody. In the corner, a woman wearing a mauve blouse and a pink pencil skirt, rubbed ineffectively at her daughter's runny nose. The daughter, perhaps five, sneered away from her mother, and tried to wriggle out of her pinafore.
"Look," the pink woman said, after some struggle with her daughter's nose. "Is that your child? You should stop her doing that."
Wednesday levelled her gaze on the woman. "You're entitled to your opinion, but if we're airing our feelings, I have to tell you. My daughter is developing her fine motor skills. She excels in cutting and pasting. While your daughter appears to be a disease vector. But that's not my opinion, these things are simply facts."
Scylla whimpered, and tried to hide. Charybdis grinned, and started watching her.
It was times like those, that Wednesday realised she was probably being a poor role model. Imprinting too much of her own spite onto her children. They deserved the chance to grow into their own, after all. She pushed on, anyway.
"My opinion of you is this. Too scared of the sexist and threatening environment that women exist in today, you have internalised a hatred of women into your own expression of gender. Which is your right, we all choose our own miseries. But it is patently clear that your daughter resents you for it, and always will."
Scylla coughed, and wheezed, and coughed some more.
Charybdis sniggered, and went back to ripping the seams out of Dorothy the Dinosaur's neck.
The pink woman shook in fury.
Her daughter escaped, and with that sociopathic gleam in her eyes that small children get, she began to strip.
"Miss Addams? The doctor will see you now."
Inside the doctor's office, Charybdis and Scylla sat, quiet except for Scylla's occasional wheezing.
"I wouldn't come to you, unless it were entirely necessary," Wednesday explained. "It's starting to keep up the whole family at night. Campus housing, you understand."
The doctor frowned, as if trying to parse that.
"Yes, I can see that your daughter has some kind of respiratory issue, here. May I have her sit on the bed?"
Wednesday lifted Scylla up, and settled her on the bed. The doctor tried to listen to her lungs, and Charybdis pulled faces, to try and make Scylla act up.
"Has she come down with this recently?"
Wednesday thought about it. "Some years ago, though it has become more severe, recently."
The doctor's eyes widened. "Your daughter has asthma. I'm amazed she hasn't been diagnosed before now!"
Wednesday felt an uncomfortable twinge in her gut. She put that aside, was not thinking about it.
"An Addams is usually quite precocious, with chronic illnesses," she said, hoping that the girls bought it.
Children absorbed everything. It terrified her, it was glorious.
"I... well. I'm going to test her lung capacity, and then prescribe her some inhalers. She'll have to take..."
Wednesday eyed the prescription warily, but took it to the chemist's.
Charybdis got ready to wheedle and whine, as usual. "But mother, we don't usually take that kind of..."
"If I wanted to know your opinion on health, I'd have asked for it!" Wednesday snapped. She clenched her hand into a fist around the bag, and opened the car door. "Sometimes, arsenic isn't the only answer to a problem. In this case, the answer is aspirated steroids."
"Steroids?" Scylla quavered.
"She'll get stronger than me, no fair!"
Wednesday rolled her eyes, and prayed for someone to end up with a stronger pair of lungs than Charybdis.
Scylla's allergies were acting up nastily that year. Everyone had been sympathetic for the first week, but after that, it was a little hard to care. The little kshoo sounds she made faded into the everyday creaks and rattles of the house as it settled. Charybdis insisted on staying home from school the first week, but eventually went back out of boredom.
"Bored? In this house? Why, I never!" Grandmama was affronted. "You spoil children these days, you know? Spoil them rotten!"
"It's not my fault, it's the Lacrosse team. She's discovering what she can get away with doing to the other students."
"Ahh, shins," Pugsley nodded with nostalgia. "I remember."
"You never played any sport."
"I watched some!"
"Aaaaaah!" Scylla said. She sneezed into her lunch, which unfortunately was soup.
Gomez sighed, and patted her back. "It's all right, dear. I was just like you, when I was your age."
"You were?" Scylla gaped.
"You were?" Wednesday rasied a skeptical eyebrow.
"He was," Morticia confirmed. "Huge sinus problems. They cleared up, somehow, not long after we met."
They began making gooey eyes at each other, so Wednesday cleared her throat. Gomez glanced back down at Scylla, who was gazing up at him in adoration.
"Apparently, it's genetic," Wednesday said.
"Grandfather," Scylla wheezed. She looked teary, and it wasn't entirely from her sinuses. She clutched at his jacket sleeve, and her nose dribbled.
"My most gorgeous granddaughter! Nieta!" He lifted her up into his arms, and gave her soup a skeptical glance. "Let's go upstairs! To the living room! I'll show you how a real man uses a towel!"
Scylla sniffed, but didn't avoid dripping snot on him. Wednesday wasn't sure whether Morticia or Lurch was more disturbed, but they all followed, to watch from a safe distance. Through the spy-holes in Great-Aunt Tertia's portrait. There were three of them, after all. Lurch guarded the door.
"We're spying on children, now?" Wednesday asked, quietly.
"We did this all the time, when you were young!" Uncle Fester snickered. "You little brats had no idea!"
"We knew," Wednesday said, but they really hadn't. It was disturbing to think about.
"We had them installed when you discovered boys," Morticia explained.
"It was one boy, and I was only interested in his card collection."
"I meant that dear little boy that you brought home from school. The French-sounding one."
Wednesday closed her eyes, wishing she didn't remember. "He refused to play Revolution. He didn't last long."
"No, well. They never do, do they?" Morticia smiled fondly, and stroked Wednesday's hair. It felt as uncomfortable as it always had, to be the focus of her mother's gentle fingers and warm affection. A little strange.
Inside the room, Gomez and Scylla had their heads covered in towels, over a bucket of boiling hot water. Gomez was using a teat pipette to drop a concoction in. "Now, this is best for..." his voice was muffled.
Scylla's sniffling became rumbling wet snorts. She kept reaching for her handkerchief, and blowing into it, and Wednesday eventually turned away, just so she didn't have to think about the state of it.
"I'm really one of us, after all!"
Scylla's voice was still hoarse, but it was clear and bright.
Wednesday clenched her fists and said, "I could have told her that! I've told her that so many times that my tongue is wearing out!"
"Well, we always do, dear. But if children listened to their mothers, the world would be a very dull place. For one, I wouldn't have any grandchildren."
"Or the rotting animals in the yard," Uncle Fester piped up helpfully.
"There's not enough scavengers here," Wednesday sighed. "Our house isn't really comparable to a killer's dumping ground."
Scylla wasn't better by the evening, but she was liveable. She didn't interrupt dinner with a coughing fit, and if her eyes were shining, Gomez was weeping with joy.
"A legacy! A true legacy! Not like Pubert's wild oats, bless the lad, but honest-to-god grandchildren!"
"We've been here nearly a year, father," Wednesday reminded him.
"No! Not me, ah! My eyes! I'm an old fogey now, there's nothing else for it. I am... Grandfather Addams!"
The pose he held as he leapt on the table put paid to any assertions he made about aging frailty. He held a hand out to Morticia.
"Grandpere," she replied.
"Spare me," Wednesday said. "I refuse to become the Mom. Or the breadwinner. I've seen grandparents in this family, before. I know you'll become good-for-nothing slackers."
"Hey!" said Grandmama. "I cook!"
Uncle Pugsley frowned. "I thought you wanted to work, Wednesday?"
"Humans are quite similar to pigs," Wednesday explained her research to her daughters. They were a little too young to understand it all, but they liked it when she paid attention to them, and it helped her to get her thoughts sorted out, for her paper.
"And in a research environment, which is where you get all the fun tools that private citizens can't buy, you require ethics approval. Which imposes limitations on what one can do to human flesh, alive or dead. But pigs, now. Those intelligent, marvellous creatures. They are often served up for dinner. So nobody minds us killing them."
Charybdis threw a lego block at the wall. "So?"
"So, they're great for testing theories on. How much force can tear muscle, how much will break bone? Which insects are drawn to the corpse, and how soon? The real trouble is, though. Insects."
"Like your maggots?" Scylla was such a suck-up. Wednesday could see a future for her, in rigging politics. Or perhaps the law.
"Yes, my maggots. Because what is the greatest barrier to anything? It's your skin, isn't it?"
She tickled Charybdis until she kicked, and shared a smirk with Scylla.
"But when the farmer executes pigs for me, he shoots them in the head."
"BANG!" Charybdis shouted. She formed her hands into the shape of twin pistols.
"Indeed," Wednesday said. She shushed their giggles. "So, the skin is broken, and the brain is no longer intact. They show up wet, and smelling of death, and I haven't been granted approval to poison them. Ethics! This is what's holding science back! That, and the body farm! Such a small, small-minded, limited bunch of people! Such a small space. As if murderers are going to go looking for small plots of land in high traffic areas, with chain-linked fences? None of the right scavengers get in!"
"Mother," Scylla said, carefully.
"Right, so. On track. I can only, basically, model insect scavenging of pig bodies that can be used for victims of gunshot wounds. When most gunshot related deaths are hot-blooded, or mass murders, and they're all confessed to or shown on live television! Nobody needs data for that, and..."
Wednesday sighed. "And I don't even know why I care. Catching serial killers isn't driving me. I just want to know. Knowing where an egg-casing comes from, that's only half the mystery. Time-since-death is so fine an art."
"I like the maggots in the video that eat the smaller ones," Charybdis said.
"Me too, dear," Wednesday said despondently. "Me, too. But that doesn't get me a strangulated pig."
"I'm hungry," Scylla said. "Can we have pork?"
Wednesday's dorm-mate, Hyacinth the mousy-brown coward, who used fabric softener and had nearly killed Joel with her spare comforter, was the one who answered the door, when Lurch showed up.
“Ugh,” she said. “Who are you?”
“Urgh,” Lurch replied politely. “Lurch.”
“He's here to change nappies. Mid-terms, you know. I've cleared space for him in the cupboard.”
Hyacinth frowned and wrinkled her nose up. “It's illegal, right? To have three unregistered people in a campus dorm?”
Wednesday shrugged. “You're too afraid, and rightly so, that I will kill you in your sleep. You won't tell. And besides, you've complained about how I keep their diapers in the wastepaper basket. Lurch will take care of that from now on. At least until my exams are over.”
Lurch shuddered, and lifted his carpet bag. Wednesday nodded. “Settle yourself in, make yourself at home. The girls are in the suitcase. I've just fed them, so they'll be good for a few hours. I'm off to the library.”
She snapped open her parasol indoors, because she liked to see Hyacinth flinch.
“This is why teenagers shouldn't become mothers,” Hyacinth called out after her. “You're not responsible enough to take care of them!”
“That's why I called for Lurch,” Wednesday muttered under her breath. She stalked into the library, and shared her bad mood with everyone that she came across. Luckily for her, there weren't that many students interested in bugs. She moved past the fluffy animal aisles, and spun the handle on the compactus shelves. Safe between books on entomological processes and spider venom, she took a few calming breaths, and began skimming tables of contents and indexes for useful references.
By the time she returned to the dorm room, Hyacinth was gone, for good, with a note in Lurch's hand saying that she would send her parents with a car, for her things.
Wednesday looked at Lurch, who shrugged and tried to look innocent.
“You're not fooling me, what did you do?”
Charybdis began to wail. Wednesday dangled her fingers idly, let Charybdis nibble and bite at them, until she calmed down. Beside her, Scylla blinked, blearily waking up from a nap.
“I don't know,” Lurch said sadly. “I brought Thing along with me.”
“Twins are a handful,” Wednesday admitted. “That makes sense. I suppose I'll have to talk to Thing, about keeping things quieter here. There's no sense in letting my parents know before I have to.”
“You can tell them it was my idea, if they ever find out. Are they going to find out?”
Lurch didn't answer, which was reassuring. He would keep everything quiet, while she had the space she needed to figure out what to do with two children. Thing, who was a right personality, insisted on shaking on it.
With the extra space, Lurch had a bed to himself. Wednesday had the space to take care of the twins, and study. They kept the curtains drawn, and after circumventing the mandatory fire alarms, managed to get a camp stove working, and a stock pot.
Once mid-terms were over, Lurch left, and it was just the three of them.
Being a mother, all that Wednesday remembered of her first year of college, was faeces and chitinous exoskeletons.
Wednesday could hardly call for Lurch to visit during every exam period. She decided to bite the bullet, and make use of campus childcare services. Most of the other parents were lecturers, or at the very least postgraduates. She got a few double-takes, and even the fundamentalist Christian said “But you're so young!”
“Compared to whom,” Wednesday snapped back. She let go of her daughter's hands, and walked away without looking back.
“And where's the father, hmm?”
“She ate him!” Charybdis said, proudly.
Wednesday grinned, and tried not to let her shoulders shake with laughter, as she walked away.
The problem with childcare, Wednesday soon discovered, was that she spent as much time being called back to answer stupid pointless questions about her daughters' behaviour, as she did being freed of their demands for her attention.
“I don't know how they pierced skin with safety scissors, but I'll appreciate it if you reprimanded them.”
Wednesday turned to the twins, and raised a finger. “Learn this lesson well, girls. Your grandmother taught it to me, when I was about your age. A blunt edge is much, much harder to sew back together again. If you have a clean cut, well, you can heal nearly anything. But something blunt tears and bruises. You also lose a lot of control over the wound. For example, you may slip with the force you are applying, and plunge a point into somebody's thigh, instead of slashing their wrist. Any questions?”
The girls shook their heads, eyes wide. Soaking up the information. They were good kids.
“Mrs Addams! I'm going to have to ask you to take this seriously!”
“It's Miss, and I take weapon safety very seriously. As they were only hurting each other, I don't see how it's a problem. It's not as if they're hurting the other children.”
The gleam in Scylla's eyes warned Wednesday that it was only a matter of time. Charybdis simply grinned.
“Well! We have an explicit policy of non-violence, here.”
“I see.” Wednesday folded her hands together. “Children, pay close attention. You may not engage in violence while within the jurisdiction of this day-care centre. Which is?”
It took the childcare worker some time to understand the question. “Oh, er, the playground gates.”
“There you go, then. You're just going to have to be creative, and find ways to use your time outside the gates effectively.”
Her daughters nodded dutifully. The childcare worker spluttered, and looked aghast. “The other parents will complain, if they see...”
“Is it your problem, provided that my girls are well behaved when you have duty of care?”
“Well, no but-”
“There you go, then. All sorted. We're leaving now, girls.”
She'd thought that she'd had the normal people conversation with them, but apparently these things needed to be repeated.
“I know it's boring, but normal people are boring. I can't just take you into the lab with me.”
“Why not?” Charybdis held on to Scylla's hand, and swung their arms as they walked.
“Because,” and with that word, Wednesday felt the weight of three years of sleepless nights, exams, essays and projects. Group labwork. Diapers and toilet training and cooking three meals, every day. Infants grabbing at her braids, from either side. Notices from campus housing, and the curious, judging stares of tidy, clean mothers with pastel shirts and body-control spandex underwear.
“Because we are Addamses, and I am going to finish my degree. But mostly, because you ate the first year's practical assignments.”
“They were crunchy!” Scylla said, in her helpful voice.
“Thank you dear, yes. I'm sure they were delicious. But Americans aren't used to eating bugs. I'll take you on a holiday in South-East Asia one day. You'll enjoy that.”
“But, but mother!” Charybdis tugged at her skirt from one side. “We're Americans!”
Wednesday was about ready to tear her hair out. “Yes. But we're Addamses!”
“We're Addamses!” Scylla echoed. She tugged on the other side of Wednesday's skirt. Wednesday looked down at her.
“Just for balance,” Scylla said sheepishly. Wednesday sighed, and ruffled her fingers through Scylla's soft, frizzy hair. She smoothed her hand over Charybdis's straight, dark hair. Always two of everything. Except of her.
Joel shook his head, and sighed. "I didn't drive across two states just to babysit. I thought we were going to spend time together!"
"And we shall," Wednesday fastened Charybdis's diaper, before she started kicking again. "But first, I have to go to the lab. I didn't stay here for summer just to have fun. There are cicadas. I want to observe them."
"I liked it better when you were trying to kill me," Joel muttered. He bounced Scylla on his knee, though, and pinched her pale little chin. "Their hair is pretty dark and thick, for their age."
Wednesday shrugged, and headed out. She didn't really have cicadas to care about. She was far more interested in other species. The corpse scavengers. Flesh eaters. Disease carriers. None of them were what you'd call 'summer' bugs, however, and she needed a summer excuse.
She took a left turn at the labs, and checked herself in the bathroom. No spills on her clothing, no signs of children visible at all. Good. Perhaps she was taking the secrecy a step too far. On the other hand, they were only in town for a day. Her parents.
"It's so... happy," Morticia said critically. "Sunny."
"The labs are on the lower ground floor, and there's a climbing plant on the windows."
"Ahh," Morticia said, in understanding. "Suffering for your art."
"It's not an art," Wednesday said, a little irritated. "It's all about accurate observation and rational thought. A lot more counting, than they prepare you for in your first year. I like the sense of humor that comes with the discipline."
"Morbid?" Gomez leaned forwards, avid.
"Very," Wednesday said. She didn't feel very much in the mood for conversation. She couldn't close her mind to the parallels. Couldn't stop imagining what her girls would be like, when they were old enough for college. Would they still spend time together, or would they be drawn apart by sibling rivalry? What would they study, and why?
"It's a little heartbreaking, when one's children begin to leave the nest," Morticia sniffed.
"The two of you, all alone in that big house..." Wednesday was playing dirty, she knew, but it was an easy way to deflect attention away from herself.
"My darling," Gomez said.
"Dear," Moritica inclined her head.
"Mother, father. Thank you for coming to visit. But I really do have to focus on my work, right now. Perhaps I'll come visit you at home, during one of my semester breaks."
"You're on one now, my darling," Morticia said.
"Tish," Gomez said, insistently.
Wednesday stood, and clasped her hands before her. She had intended for it to be a much longer visit, but something was uneasy inside her. She was terrified of feeling like a child. She felt the arrogance and hubris of her decision to become a mother. She felt young and stupid. She had to overcome it. An Addams did not doubt herself.
"Enjoy your hotel," she said, and walked away before they had a chance to stop her. She knew she was going to pay for that, one day. But they couldn't hold her there, and she was back in her dorm room before she knew it.
Joel was sitting on the spare bed, reading to the girls from a collection of short stories.
"In tidal sweeps and swoons of sound, it robbed the graves of dust from stone angel's eyes, vacuumed the tombs of spectral flesh, seized funeral flowers with no names..."
"Homecoming? Ray Bradbury?" Wednesday took her shoes off, and sighed. She lay back down in her own bed, to listen.
"It seemed like something you'd read to them," Joel paused to stretch his neck and drink a glass of water. "They've been asleep for a while."
She closed her eyes, and wished he'd kept reading. "We've got a copy somewhere. Grandmama likes to think that it was written about our family. I don't think we've got any bat-wings, though. Perhaps the Scandanavian branch."
"You have a pretty big family."
She disagreed. "Just a few of us. The whole clan is... distant. I've never met most of them. In America, we're pretty isolated from the family politics."
Joel set his glass down, and made awkward sounds.
"I'm not going to sleep, I just need to think a little. I... my parents came. I chased them away."
Joel sighed, and came to sit down on the bed beside her. "Wednesday, they're going to think you hate them. I'm your friend, and you know I'll-"
"And that's why I didn't tell you. I don't need a lecture. I just need somebody who can come over, sometimes, to read depressing stories to my daughters."
"All right. I can do that. But when they're older, they had better call me Uncle Joel."
Wednesday rolled onto her side, and fingered her hair. "I had to change the braids, they kept tugging at them," she said.
"I know," Joel said.
"I like you better, like this. As friends. I suppose I can let you live, since they like you."
He laughed, and got up. Checked on the girls. Picked the book up again. "I'm going to finish reading this, and then we're going to actually catch up, all right?"
Wednesday rolled back over, and flung an arm over her eyes. "Do what you like."
She'd never really thought about finding a family, given how important bloodlines and inheritance were, in her own. She'd probably have chosen her whole family anyway, from Lurch right down to obnoxious little Pugsley. But Joel, for all that she saw him once in a blue moon, she felt kinship with him. He understood her. Had never questioned why she'd chosen to have them. He'd liked their names.
"Yes, all right," she interrupted his reading, "you can be an Uncle."
"But mother! It won't be the same without Uncle Joel!"
Morticia was suddenly paying very close attention to the conversation, over the breakfast table. She had that suspicious knowing look in her eyes, that she'd had nearly every time the subject of conception came up. Morticia seemed unable to understand that Wednesday could live without that kind of romance in her life. The thought of Joel as a father, twitching in paranoia every step of the way, made Wednesday laugh.
"I used a sperm donor. From a service. Joel was two day's drive away at the time. Not that it would matter."
"Not in the slightest," Morticia said calmly. "The two of you are still friends, then?"
"Last year, he brought a book of pictures of death-masks!" Charybdis said, eagerly. "And, and he has asthma like Scylla, so they're always nearly dying together!"
"He's got allergies, it's different!" Scylla protested. "But we both have inhalers! Mine's stronger."
"We're all proud of you, dear," Wednesday said.
"I said the white plastic was boring. So he gave me spider stickers!"
"Yes, he's a very nice friend." Wednesday smiled apologetically. "But we're with family, now. So we're going to have a family Halloween. I've bred some spiders specifically for today. It's going to be magnificent."
"Yes, mother," Charybdis said sullenly.
"When I was your age, a new generation of venomous spiders was a treat, young lady!"
"You can't make me!" Charybdis shouted, which made no sense, except to convey how very angry she was. She shoved her plate back, and stormed off.
With an apologetic look – and to Lurch, not to Wednesday herself – Scylla excused herself and ran after Charybdis.
Uncle Fester frowned. "Wednesday, was that really necessary?"
"Yes." Wednesday measured her relatives' abilty to keep a secret, and came to the conclusion that Uncle Fester was far too soft, and Uncle Puglsey was just too dim. He took after their father in that way.
She left the table quite soon herself, and found herself looking in at her old bedroom. Bare, empty. But the nicks in the walls and the old pink peroxide stains in the rug were still there. She didn't feel any loss, just nostalgia for her childhood. She'd been expecting to feel some kind of despondence, but all there truly was, was contentment.
"I never had to be like her," Wednesday said to herself. "She wasn't like Grandmama. We're all different." It was a little galling, to realise that she should have been listening to what she'd been telling her daughters, all along.
There wasn't any real explanation that Wednesday could find, as to why she had finally figured it out, at that moment in her life. But there was no time to worry about it. It was Halloween, and there were things to prepare.
After dinner, the doorbell rang. Everyone – except Wednesday, of course – jumped in their seats.
"Trick or treaters?!" Uncle Pugsley asked, eagerly. His hand strayed to his knife.
"Ooh! I'll get the chains!" Grandmama was up and out of her seat, spindly bony ankles carrying her down the hall faster than the eye could follow.
"Chains, Tish." Gomez crooned.
"Children," Wednesday said sharply, because she was having none of that. "Why don't you go see who it is?"
She followed at a safe distance, and when they found Uncle Joel waiting there, they screamed. Charybdis from joy. Scylla, well. She would always be herself, wouldn't she. The poor thing was terrified.
"I brought shovels!" He said proudly, holding up two that were just the right size for girls their age.
"Why would we need shovels," Charybdis asked, poutily. "And where were you?"
Wednesday pulled them back, and said "Come in, Joel. You're just in time for Wake the Dead."
They gathered everyone. Strode out towards the cemetery. Grandmama and Uncle Fester were trying to explain the importance of their ancestors, but Scylla was too busy trying to keep up with Grandpere Gomez, and Charybdis was talking Joel's ear off.
The sky was dark and gloomy. It was a good night to be an Addams. Wednesday gathered herself, and joined her family. Some things were better off remaining buried, but a skull was not one of them.