“So that’s when I told him, ‘maybe if you weren’t a worthless piece of garbage with a disgusting combover and no long-term prospects, women would want to suck your cock for reasons other than job advancement’,” said Taylor’s mother. She speared a piece of lasagna with her fork. “And the next day, he comes back with a shaved head. Can you believe it?”
“Of course, honey,” said Danny from across the table. “But you would never do anything like that, right?”
Annette snorted and swallowed a mouthful. “How do you think I got a full professorship? I’m gonna have to ride him hard for tenure, that’s for sure. Hey, which one of you numbnuts cooked dinner?”
“I did,” Taylor piped up proudly.
“It tastes like the inside of a mule’s anus,” Annette informed her. “Your grandma cooked better than this, and she couldn’t tell the difference between pesto and manure.”
“Isn’t that because she ate both on a regular basis, dear?” Danny asked.
“Don’t talk shit about my mother.” Annette smirked. “But yeah, she totally did.”
When they finished dinner, Annette grabbed her phone and walked into the kitchen. It was the only place in the house that had signal.
Taylor followed her, her arms piled high with dirty dishes. There was no more space in the sink, or on the counters, so she set them on top of the cabinet.
“I’m going to marry Emma,” Taylor said without preamble. “She’s going to be a model, and I’m going to be a famous writer and we’re going to live together in a mansion.”
Annette looked up from her texting, annoyed to see that Taylor was picking through the periodical rack on the cabinet instead of washing up.
“That girl’s going to break your heart,” she said, prying the Playboy magazine from her daughter and replacing it with the Gloria Steinem exposé tacked to the fridge. At Taylor’s confused expression, she sighed. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t give a chigger's turd what happens to you, but I made a promise to someone that I was gonna leave this world a slightly less crappy place than it was. Come with me.”
She took Taylor to the solitary computer in their living room and turned it on. The screen flared to life. In a practised gesture, Annette clicked away a flurry of pop-ups and typed into the search engine. Soon, the page filled with promotional images of a certain black-costumed Protectorate leader.
“Alexandria—now there’s a woman’s woman.”
“Oh,” Taylor breathed. “She’s pretty.”
“Pretty?” Annette motioned with the mouse. She brought up the next few pages of images. Posters became fanart, and fanart became beyond graphic. “Look at her. She’s probably got kegels like a jackhammer. She could crush a skyscraper between those thighs. No, you little accident of nature, Alexandria is hot.”
Taylor’s eyes continued to widen. She took the mouse from her mother and clicked the print icon. Over long minutes, their cheap printer sputtered out sheets of images.
Annette was about to snatch them up when her phone began to beep. “Motherfuck. I forgot to refill my AZT prescription. Hey! Danny! Pharmacy run!”
“She’s really beautiful,” said Taylor, as her father hurried over, “but I think I’m still going to marry Emma.”
“You’re adopted,” Annette said.
Later that night, Annette tossed and turned.
When she woke, she tugged her hand out from under the covers and blinked, flexing her fingers. She’d been dreaming of her stint in prison.
She looked around the dark bedroom. Beside her, her husband snored, hogging the blankets as usual. She gave him a hard shove, and he rolled out of sight with a grunt. He could enjoy them on the floor.
The ache below her waist wasn’t dissipating. She slipped on her moccasins as she got out of bed, and padded downstairs to the living room.
She kicked aside books to get to the computer desk. Her hands fumbled over the knickknacks littering the tabletop. Once her eyes had adjusted to the gloom, she realised there was no point searching.
The print-outs were gone.
Her daughter must have taken them to bed. With a disappointed huff, she headed to the kitchen, retrieved a pitcher of water from the fridge and poured herself a tall glass.