It had never occurred to Debbie that old money could be so old, its riches hidden under creaky wooden floorboards and behind dry and flaking wallpaper. That one wouldn’t replace the rusted and threadbare antiques of yesterday with the shiny new toys of today. That one would choose to live in a house where the dim light of the chandeliers could never touch its darkened corners.
But Debbie didn’t get where she was by being squeamish about musty old houses or the creepy families that lived inside them. She wasn’t afraid of the things that went bump in the night; she was one of them.
Debbie smiled inside her tiny cell of a room. It was almost too easy. Fester Addams was a squarish lump of a man that could barely complete whole sentences, but he was also sweet and naïve - the perfect mark to marry and then murder. Separating him from this odd, spooky family would be child’s play; every man loved a 1950’s housewife-turned-sex kitten and Fester, though inexperienced, was no different. She could almost feel the sharp edges of the diamonds she would buy, the lush furs she would drape around her shoulders.
And if there was a moment of regret Debbie knew it was only because the money would eventually run out. It always did.
Debbie understood children. A child wanted what it wanted and didn’t understand when it couldn’t have it; they didn’t understand the concept of bills or mortgages or exit strategies – something she’d had to learn the hard way after Sharon and Dave. It was irritating to change Pubert’s diapers or dodge his flaming arrows but at least he had excellent taste in fairy tales, cooing especially over her reading of the Grimm Brothers’ Snow White. Pugsley reminded Debbie of his uncle, with the same vacant naivety only wrapped in black and white stripes, and so was completely harmless.
The girl, however, was going to be a problem.
Wednesday Addams had somber eyes that followed Debbie everywhere. She didn’t speak much but when she did her words hit like a mallet. She was easily the least trusting of the Addams clan and would therefore be the hardest to win over. Debbie considered trying, starting perhaps with bonding over a shared hatred of Cabbage Patch dolls which would then naturally segue into Malibu Barbies and tragic house fires, then they would continue to build their friendship as they picnicked by the swamp and swapped stories about Fester, and then finally a shining moment of sisterhood when Debbie tearfully asked Wednesday to be her maid of honor and the girl would happily say yes.
But as much as Debbie liked a challenge, it would be stupid to stay longer than necessary. In the end she got the children sent away to summer camp so she could work on Fester without any distractions.
Unfortunately, the camp burned down mysteriously two days later. Morticia and Gomez were clearly relieved to have the children back so they didn’t even mind the awkward boy who returned with them or Pugsley’s half burnt Camp Chipewa trophy shirt. They threw a party to celebrate the children’s return and half of the Addams clan showed up. Debbie did her best to charm them and could admit to herself that she even liked some of them; they were all so kooky and so sure of their place in the world. The world might judge an Addams for being odd or strange but they didn’t seem to care. She envied that almost as much as she envied Fester’s money. Fester, of course, continued to turn into a puddle of goo at her attention, and the rest of the family seemed to like her, but Wednesday only raised a cool eyebrow and then turned her back on Debbie.
She was momentarily taken aback and then her eyes narrowed. Oh, Wednesday thought she could ignore Debbie? No one ignored Debbie for long.
The plan to win Wednesday’s friendship did not start well. She shared her admiration for the girl’s blowtorch then hinted about her own childhood affinity for matchsticks and fire accelerants, but Wednesday was unimpressed.
“Do better,” she said before lowering her hockey mask and stalking after Pubert.
Debbie scowled at Wednesday’s back. Everyone knew that the best way to make friends was to talk about common interests so that they would then have a baseline to explore your tortured psyche. “You’re going too fast,” she yelled after the girl. “It’s step, wait two, and step. Everyone knows that.”
Wednesday paused, then continued down the hall. But this time she was going at the right pace and Debbie smirked in victory.
From then on she couldn’t help but correct Wednesday at every opportunity - every blade was too dull, every recreation of a historical murder scene too cliché. She had thought she might at least be able to drive a wedge between Fester and Wednesday by being the obvious evil girlfriend, but the girl would only follow the advice or argue with Debbie about it.
“It’s sloppy,” Wednesday said.
“It’s poetic,” Debbie insisted. “He wouldn’t give Nadine the Mercedes, the one thing on this earth that would make her happy, so she hit him with his crappy Lexus. And then she got to buy the Mercedes with his money. It’s poetic justice.”
“It’s sloppy,” the girl repeated. “Inefficient. If I wanted to kill someone, I wouldn’t use a car to do it.”
Debbie rolled her eyes. “Sometimes, Wednesday, art is more important than practicality. Is it really efficient to murder someone with an axe and then chop their body into little pieces to hide? Eh, only if you really have the time to clean up the mess left behind. But does the axe set the mood, the sudden surprise and betrayal melting into heart pounding existential dread? The way the darkened shadow of the axe as it’s thrown against the cold medical tiles as it arcs towards its final resting place?” Debbie sighed. “Art.”
“I guess I’d have to see it.”
Debbie brightened. “I have slides.”
“Pass,” Wednesday said flatly.
The Addams family graveyard was a marble and granite garden of memorial statues, interspersed here and there with tombstones and tuffs of struggling grass. The statues were surprisingly modern when compared with the the house aesthetic but still effectively menacing; Debbie had also decided wear a cheerful yellow dress outside for the contrast.
Debbie and Wednesday watched as Pugsley and Joel played ‘Which Ancestor Hid the Baby?’ She wasn’t sure if she and Wednesday were exactly friends now but Debbie had decide to move forward with the next part of her plan. “Does … do you think Fester likes me at all?”
She waited but when it became apparent that Wednesday wasn’t going to say anything further, Debbie prodded her with the shovel. “Well, go on.”
“He said you are more lovely and more temperate than a summer day,” Wednesday said woefully.
Debbie was startled into laughter. “He did not!”
“He said his bounty was as boundless as the sea,” Wednesday continued in her hideous monotone. “And that his love was as deep.”
The idea of Fester Addams spouting love poetry, coherently, was absurd. Debbie laughed so hard she started wheezing and Thing, who had been drawn to the sound, gave her a few hard whacks on her back.
Wednesday’s lips twitched into a small smile. “He vomited. He likes you.”
Debbie found her amusement cooling. All her husbands had liked her in the beginning. All of them had thought they’d loved her. But they couldn’t have, not really. They loved the dream of Debbie, the fantasy. Not the real Debbie, who was a delicate jewel to be treasured above all and occasionally offered luxury cars.
But you couldn’t lead with who you really were, what you really wanted. The last time she had tried that they hadn’t paid attention.
Her plan at least seemed to be on the right track. Debbie gave a winning smile. “That’s more than I could have hoped for.”
“Is it?” At Debbie’s stare, Wednesday tilted her head as if examining an interesting specimen in a jar. “It that what you really hope for?”
“Wha … why of course,” Debbie stammered. The question was so honest coming from this little weirdo. She was used to her husbands asking what she wanted but it was always with the expectation that Debbie had to give something first. The only motivation she could see behind Wednesday’s question was whether Debbie’s intentions towards Fester were honorable which they were not. It was a shame, though. For a moment the idea that someone could be interested in how she was feeling had felt … nice.
“It is,” Debbie rallied. “I adore your uncle.”
Debbie couldn’t stop thinking about Wednesday’s question though. Money was the obvious answer. Her parents had not been poor, but they had not had loads of money either, and Debbie had always craved the finer things in life. Jewelry, obviously. Attention. Love.
She considered. Morticia and Gomez had a great love, a rather passionate, all consuming love that was not really her style; Debbie liked being adored but couldn’t really see herself doing the adoring. They loved their children and while Debbie didn’t think she’d ever want to be a parent being an aunt wouldn’t be so bad. She could almost see herself helping to organize birthday parties she wouldn’t pay for, teaching the children about evading the FBI or showing them the beauty of the color wheel, and maybe even be known as the cool aunt that people were always envious of.
But why waste the time thinking about something that was never going to happen? “You’re going too slow,” Debbie told Wednesday. The Addams’ hearse was old but she knew it could push at least 60mph. “You’ll never catch them.”
Wednesday frowned over the steering wheel to where Pugsley and Joel were running. “But there’s a curve up ahead.”
Debbie shrugged. “There’s no bad cars, only bad drivers.”
Wednesday managed to make the curve but missed the boys by an inch. It was fun to watch Joel flail and then throw himself into a ditch though. “Not bad,” Debbie said encouragingly. “It’s much easier to hit a stationary target.”
“Like your second husband?” Wednesday ignored Debbie’s double take and sudden knife. She continued unconcerned down the road towards the house. “Joel showed us your Murders, Killers, and Psychos card.”
Debbie dropped her knife. “I have a card?”
The girl nodded towards the glove box. Debbie removed the pristine trading card with something like awe. She hadn’t gone into this business for recognition but it was nice to have someone see her worth. Debbie flipped it over and was amused by the compact little paragraph about herself until she got to the end. She scowled. “What are these x’s? I have more than three.”
“It’s not my fault they can’t do their jobs,” Debbie huffed.
Wednesday parked the hearse in front of the house. Debbie eyed the girl warily, not sure what her next step should be. The smart thing to do would be to use the knife and then hunt down the other two, torch the house and property to hide the evidence, and start over in another state, preferably one where her intended didn’t have a nosy niece that would ruin everything. Yes, she would change her name to something like Madison or Isabella, try her luck out on some upper crust normal billionaire, and write this one off as a kind of seven-year itch.
Wednesday didn’t blink.
“Do you want to show me the slides?” she asked Debbie a moment later.
The slide projector was old fashioned but Debbie had always thought that it added a more authentic quality to her life even if some of her images were somewhat staged. She tried to input a few anecdotes here and there but Wednesday finally silenced her with a look and Debbie was forced to wait silently until the slideshow was done.
Then Wednesday invited the boys to watch which Debbie argued against at first but ultimately decided having them all together in the same room would make it easier to get rid of, especially if their review was negative. Pugsley and Joel watched with fascination (Joel watching nervously through his fingers) and Pubert stared intently at the doll’s head that Wednesday had given him after Debbie had removed its wild mushrooms. When the second viewing was over Pugsley clapped, Joel looked appropriately terrified, and Wednesday said “You should show Uncle Fester.”
“What!?” While it was true Fester wasn’t the brightest lightbulb in the box, there was no way he could watch the slides and then miss the fact that Debbie wanted to kill him. “I can’t show him these! I shouldn’t even be showing you these!”
“He’ll like it,” Pugsley chimed in. “He likes weapons.”
“He’ll like the part with the mafia boyfriend,” Wednesday said.
“I was always very proud of that,” Debbie confided. “Chainsaws aren’t as hard as everyone says you know and I didn’t get a drop on my new dress!”
“You’re an artist,” Joel said as he inched towards the door. He was stopped by the appearance of Morticia and Gomez. Morticia started to ask what the children were doing but Gomez saw there was a projector and gleefully sat down to watch. Debbie threw up her hands but started the slideshow for the third time. By the end Lurch, Grandmama, and Thing had joined as well and someone had brought along a bucket of popcorn to share.
Debbie was torn between the logistics of removing an entire family, figuring once again that fire was probably the best choice, and anxiously awaiting their reaction.
“Bravo!” Gomez shouted when it was finished, clapping his hands fiercely. “Bravo!”
“It was marvelous,” Morticia said happily. “So much tragedy and despair!”
“I liked the part with the skull,” Grandmama added.
“Encore!” Gomez shouted.
“Oh, Gomez. It reminds me of our trip to the Catacombes de Paris.”
“Pulling teeth is a lost art.”
“Mother can I have a pickaxe?”
Debbie was speechless. She had never felt such validation before, not from her parents, her friends, or her husbands. It felt - good. No, she felt elated, like she could do anything she set her mind to. Not enough to give up on the money, of course, but Fester wasn’t just going to give it to her so she couldn’t give up on her plans.
But the thought of destroying this weird little family hurt, like someone had just cut her credit cards in half or had destroyed her current favorite pair of designer shoes.
She felt so conflicted which was also a new, and decidedly unwelcome, sensation. “I … think I need a minute,” Debbie said and escaped.
The swamp was not exactly where she had planned to go but the house had so many trap doors and hatches that Debbie had ended up tumbling outside and eventually found her way there. It was a bit dreary and a little damp but at least Debbie would be a vision to behold when the mists parted to reveal a sad figure wearing a lovely pink dress. Not that Debbie wanted anyone to find her but on the off chance that someone did she would look appropriately tragic.
Of course then Wednesday showed up and ruined her vision, emerging from the mists like a tiny specter of death.
“I can’t show Fester,” Debbie told her. “He’ll think I want to kill him. Which I do because I want his money. He’s got so much of it and I’ve never seen him spend one dime and that … that’s wrong! That’s wasting good money! I would never waste that kind of money. Your whole family is loaded and none of you even seem to care!” Debbie was aware that she had started to babble but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. "You just sit around in your perfect creepy house, Gomez and Morticia flaunting their their perfect love affair, you kids playing your perfect creepy games, just one big happy family content in your weird little lives and people like me are just just …”
“Miserable!” Debbie exploded. “No one has ever understood me at all and then … and then all of you were clapping and praising me and it all just felt so wonderful! But what I’m a supposed to do! I don’t really love Fester. I do want his money. “
“I want to stay,” Debbie whispered.
The girl shrugged her shoulders. “Then stay.”
“But .. but…”
“Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc,” Wednesday said.
Debbie frowned. “Did you just curse me?”
“The Addams family credo,” Wednesday explained. “We gladly feast on those that would subdue us.”
And with that statement Wednesday left, an echoing ‘talk’ and ‘Fester’ floating over the mists. Debbie was a bit floundered. What was she supposed to do with that? It was all very well and good to say they would feast on their enemies - they were the Addams family and didn’t care what people thought and, well … why should Debbie? She had always done what she wanted, what was needed to be done. Why should this be any different? If she wanted to stay with this weird little family then she would or she would just axe murder them.
Debbie found Fester in his room. His pale flesh blushed under her scrutiny, even more so when she grabbed his hand and led him to the unofficial movie room. She sat down and showed the slides again.
When they were done she looked at him anxiously. He was gaping a bit at the screen, and she honestly wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, as it seemed to be one of his default expression.
“Well,” she said finally in exasperation.
He sprang up with more speed than she expected. “I will worship you forever. I will devote my every waking moment to your happiness alone! Henceforth, I am your eternal and helpless slave!”
Debbie blinked. “What?”
“I adore you!”
“But I’m trying to kill you!” she protested.
“Every relationship has its problems,” Fester said earnestly.
Debbie barked out a slightly hysterical laugh because it was all too funny. And here she had thought Fester could never spout love poetry! Fester even added that he and Gomez tried to kill each other all the time which only made her laugh harder because it was true. The Addams family did spend as much time trying to kill each other as they spent being a loving family.
She wiped her eyes. “Honestly Fester I like you. You’re too ridiculous. But I don’t love you and I don’t think I ever will.”
His face fell slightly but then he perked up. “We can be friends!”
For the millionth time this afternoon, Debbie was flabbergasted. “Friends?”
“Friends!” he said expansively. “You can stay here and we will have loads of fun!”
She didn’t think friends just moved into their family’s home but when Fester brought the subject up to the family later everyone thought it was a wonderful idea. Debbie watched their antics in kind of a bemused haze - one second Debbie had been accepted and the next second they were discussing what to bring to the school bake sale with some kind of Victorian funeral cake being the front runner.
Debbie asked timidly for a slightly larger room which she was immediately granted. Then she asked a bit more confidently if she could decorate it and they said yes.
Debbie decided to push her luck. “Actually, I could use a grand.”
And astonishingly they gave it to her.
Debbie sat with Wednesday in the graveyard, lounging comfortably against one of the many Addams family headstones. It had been a strange couple of months but probably one of the best times she had ever had. She continued to live with the Addams’ home, slowly decorating her room in the Rococo style and expanding her collection of riches. Morticia had looked a bit skeptical at her color scheme until she had explained the use of pastels in combat against unsuspecting males and Morticia had grinned.
Debbie and Fester remained friends with benefits, namely Fester got her company and Debbie got an allowance. But Debbie was truly starting to see him as a friend. They talked everyday and his stories were amazing, the one about his shakedown scams with his fake mother were priceless. The only hiccup so far had been when he had met a girl at one of the latest family shindigs and Debbie had automatically started planning where to hide the body before Wednesday had talked her down. Once Debbie knew that her place in the family wouldn’t be usurped she had been okay and now the whole family was taking bets on when Fester would pop the question to Dementia. Debbie was going to win because she and Fester had practiced his proposal yesterday after Debbie had carefully worded it to hint that Debbie would get a kind of finder’s fee for approving the marriage.
Debbie was content.
“I’m just not sure what to get them,” Debbie said to Wednesday. “I’ve had so many of these things but honestly all I ever got from people was toasters and microwaves. As if I wasn’t going to hire a three star chef.”
“She has a hat collection.”
“That’s boring,” Debbie argued. “I should get her jewelry. No one ever got me jewelry.”
“You got three wedding rings,” Wednesday pointed out.
“Eh, those don’t count,” she said. “Better yet I could help him pick it out. I have excellent taste. And then I could bump my finder’s fee up a another few hundred.”
Wednesday looked thoughtful. “Well, Grandmother had a ring.”
“Oooh, an antique! That might do.”
“But she was buried with it.”
They both looked at each other and then smiled. “I’ll get the shovel,” Wedneday said jumping up while Debbie screamed over her shoulder that she was claiming the pickaxe.
Debbie raced to the gardening shed with a grin. It would be dirty work but that had never stopped her before and besides it would be nice to finally dig a grave with someone. The Addams’ wouldn’t judge her for her morbid interests, her homicidal tendencies, or her fixation with sparkly things.
After all, she was one of them.