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We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us

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It isn’t the oddness of the Addams family that frightens Margaret Alford. It isn’t their obsession with the macabre or their propensity to flout acceptable fashion by dressing in black in all seasons that makes her cringe.

It’s their unflappable confidence that makes her tremble with fear and dismay whenever she has to interact with them. (As her husband is their lawyer, this is distressingly often.) Each and every Addams, even the children, carries themselves with the utter poise and surety of aristocracy, or perhaps even royalty. They do not seem to notice how stunningly different they are from everybody else, and if they do, they don’t care.

For a woman who was raised in the WASP-iest of homes, such unconcerned aplomb in the face of social discomfort and disapproval is unthinkable, as well as utterly baffling. Margaret was taught from the cradle that appearances are paramount above all else. It does not matter what one thinks, or how one feels, or what the real truth of a matter is – what matters is how it looks.

This philosophy is exactly how she got trapped in a loveless marriage with Tully Alford, trapped as surely as her fingers in that wretched Chinese dragon heirloom that Mrs. Addams so kindly donated to the charitable auction.

To be fair, Margaret thought it was love, at least at first. She used to call him Alf, in the earliest days of their marriage. He hated it. This made her laugh. Perhaps she should have been warned by this incompatibility early on. Though it is never discussed – the worst breach of etiquette anyone could commit is to discuss such things – Tully is clearly as unhappy with their marriage as she is. When she snaps at him as they are walking up the Addams driveway, her nerves raw and rubbed to the point of daring to openly admit she doesn’t know what possessed her to marry him, he retorts that it was because he said yes.

Margaret is too angry – and too well-bred – to do anything but seethe in silence at the implied insult. Her husband, having been brought up in the exact same environment of polite subterfuge as she was, knows exactly what buttons to push. Their parents, clearly anxious to unite their houses, had conspired to introduce them to each other. She hadn’t been entirely enthusiastic about the match, but she hadn’t found a reason to object, either. Tully Alford had a promising legal career ahead of him and he was handsome enough. She shouldn’t want for more than that. (At least, not according to her mother, who possessed perfectly manicured razor-sharp nails and an even sharper tongue.) So she muzzled the part of her that screamed not to do this, convinced herself she was in love, and found herself married – he proposed, thank you very much – and now they have a son who is named for his father and is starting to perfect the hollow eyes and glib smile that she was taught to wear as a child.

Margaret loathes her life, but she doesn’t know how to escape it. Her parents are dead, as are Tully’s, and she has to continue to endure in the gilded but empty hell they have so carefully constructed for the two of them. It isn’t helping matters that they are increasingly having financial troubles. She doesn’t know exactly what her husband is up to in that fancy office of his, but she is getting the disquieting inkling that he isn’t entirely aboveboard in his legal practice. But in true WASP fashion, she ignores it.

But what she can’t ignore is the question that is starting to gnaw at her, especially when the menacing phone calls from one Abigail Craven increase to the point of interrupting their dinner: what was the point of marrying Tully if he could not support her in the manner to which she was accustomed and was raised to expect? She was told implicitly – and even explicitly – that the only use of college for a woman was to obtain her MRS, and she was all but forced to drop out when Tully was foisted upon her in her sophomore year. She hadn’t even had the chance to declare a major yet.

Robbed of both tenderness and a career, it hurts her to watch how passionately in love Gomez and Morticia Addams are. When they buy back their silly heirloom for an obscene amount of money, crying out in even more obscene pleasure as their unseemly public embrace turns downright orgasmic, she glares at them and tugs fruitlessly at the finger trap that’s kept her inexorably imprisoned in the same outfit for several days.

XXX

After finally escaping that detestable dragon trap a second time, Margaret is terrified to go to the Addams family ball honoring the return of their beloved brother, Fester. She has the dreadful feeling that something else in that accursed mansion lies in wait to ensnare her, something that will prove even harder to elude if it succeeds in catching her. In desperation, she begs her useless coward of a husband not to leave her side as they enter the ballroom.

In the course of their long marriage, Tully has done many unforgivable things. But the most unforgivable act of all is when he shoves her into the ridiculous, chittering pile of hair that’s requesting to dance with her, and runs off.

No matter how frightened she is, she cannot bring herself to be rude. Cursing her proper upbringing, Margaret stiffly introduces herself as she dances with the pile of hair. He likewise introduces himself, his manners as polished as any Yale JD as he informs her they call him Cousin Itt.

She smiles, charmed both by his deportment and the whimsicality of his name. It isn’t long before she stops seeing a ridiculous pile of hair, but a charming, brilliant, playful, observant, and endearing man. He converses with her both intelligently and respectfully, proving himself both well-read and well-traveled. For the first time in her life, she appreciates her education and breeding, as she draws upon all of it to match wits with Itt. She relishes the challenge in a way that she never did with Tully. Itt laughs at much of what she says, but unlike her husband, it is always with her, and never at her.

“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen – your husband was a fool to abandon you,” he coos, though it was her husband’s willingness to throw her to the wolves that allows him to woo her. “But unfortunately, most women only ever see a pile of hair when they look at me.”

Margaret strokes him sympathetically. Coming from a world of polished veneers and carefully constructed lies, she knows raw honesty and longing when she sees it. And it’s both refreshing and revitalizing, like drinking a tall, cool glass of water after stumbling across an endless desert.

In such close proximity, she can’t help noticing that his grooming is as impeccable as his manners – he smells wonderful, like leather and Old Spice. As he tugs her closer, she unabashedly breathes him in and starts wondering in the most unseemly way just what else he has tucked beneath that long, flowing mane of his besides a first-rate brain and a deliciously wicked sense of humor. As if he can read her thoughts, Itt sweetly and flirtatiously informs her that he is as fully equipped as any other male she might meet. She blushes and giggles, and shocks herself by nestling even closer to him.

As she continues to dance with Itt, and then allows him to escort her to a secluded balcony to continue their conversation, she realizes that while the Addams may appear dead on the outside, on the inside they live more fully and passionately than anyone she’s ever known. She, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite.

She doesn’t want to be dead on the inside anymore. But she doesn’t know how to live. When Itt asks her to come with him at the end of the evening, she balks. She’s still too concerned with how it would look.

But she can’t quite let him go, either. “Call me,” she sputters as he drives away in his charming little car, and winces at how silly and desperate she sounds.

XXX

Itt does call her, not long after her husband is dead and buried in the Addams family graveyard along with Dr. Greta Pinder-Schloss. (She doesn’t know how exactly they died, and doesn’t ask. Her upbringing can still prove useful in certain cases.) Their courtship is romantic, passionate, spontaneous, wild – everything her courtship with Tully wasn’t. Itt makes her feel like the carefree, head-over-heels teenage girl she was never allowed to be. They are married by the end of the summer.

Her son is not happy. Little Tully misses his father, and he has not at all warmed to the Addams family or his new stepfather. Well used to prejudice, Itt is perfectly understanding of the boy's reluctance, and advises her to give him all the space he needs to adjust.

So while Margaret insists on basic courtesy, she doesn’t force her son to come to any parties or play happy blended family with her and Itt. The first time she gives him a choice, a real spark of emotion brightens his dull eyes. He even thanks her, before rushing off to his friend’s house. She knows that one meager gesture can’t undo a lifetime of misguided parenting, but she hopes it’s at least a start.

XXX

She isn’t sure if she should dress as a pink fairy princess for the Halloween party at the Addams mansion. She would very much like to, as she will never be the kind of woman who enjoys wearing black, but perhaps she ought to try to fit in a bit more sartorially with her new family.

Tully would have told her to change. Itt kisses her sweetly, coos that he loves her no matter what color she has on, and urges her to wear what she likes best. So she goes as a fairy princess, and none of the Addams bats an eye at her choice of attire. Morticia even kindly compliments her costume.

When Wednesday reveals that she’s a homicidal maniac, Margaret doesn’t see a disturbed and deranged child who needs intervention. She sees a girl who is cleverer than most adults, and who uses that biting wit to unsettle them. She sees a girl who will never be trapped in a loveless marriage or a gilded cage. She sees the girl she could have been, if she’d been raised in the Addams family. So instead of frowning, she smiles both conspiratorially and approvingly.

An Addams freed her from the finger trap. Another Addams freed her from her lifeless life. Really, she owes them so much, and she will defend them both fiercely and proudly to the end of her days. For a woman of her background, it is the highest compliment she can think of to pay.

XXX

When Margaret finds out she’s expecting, she has Morticia show her how to embroider the family motto, Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc, on the first blanket her child will ever be wrapped in.