On New Year’s Eve Annalise announces she’s going to an AA meeting before the holiday does her in, and the second she’s out the door Bonnie texts Frank to meet her at their usual bar.
She orders two tumblers of the bourbon they like, drinks both while she waits for him. The smokiness numbs the back of her tongue, grounds her in herself. She’s always preferred dark liquors; since Annalise stopped drinking she hasn’t had vodka once.
“Hey,” Frank says as he slides onto the barstool beside her. “Didn’t wait?”
“You were with your family?” Bonnie asks, eyeing a streak of spaghetti sauce on the cuff of his sleeve.
Frank flicks open the button at his wrist, rolls his cuff up past the stain. “Ma wanted us dressed up.” He signals for a drink of his own. “I’d have invited you but I figured you be with Annalise.”
Bonnie purses her lips. “She’s not much for drinking these days.”
Their bar is tucked away down a side street and is usually quiet, but it’s crowded tonight with New Year’s celebrants. Bonnie lets Frank update her on his mother’s knee surgery, his cousins’ college acceptances and break-ups, their children’s first steps, as she watches the young people toasting and laughing. She wonders where the remaining Keating four are.
“Bonnie?” Frank asks, leaning in.
She startles. “Sorry.”
“What’s going on?”
One of the girls down the bar has dark eyeliner ringing her eyes, dark hair, pale skin. When Bonnie turns her head, the girl is a ghost in her peripheral vision. “Do you ever wonder what she would have done with her life?” Bonnie asks. “Lila?”
Frank jerks away, his brow twitching as he tries to contain his reaction. He blinks fast. “I don’t really know,” he says.
Bonnie shakes her head. She sips at her bourbon and it roughens her voice around the question. “I’m not asking – not what you think, but do you wonder?”
“Sometimes,” Frank mutters. “Try not to.”
“I need you to do something for me,” Bonnie says, and sees the flare of tension at his jaw that says he’ll do anything but also that he’s afraid of what she’ll say next. She lays her hand over his wrist on the bar. “Nothing—it’s not illegal.”
Frank shakes his head to say it doesn’t matter, but his grip on his glass relaxes.
“You know they found Rebecca’s body.”
He holds her gaze hard.
“I talked to Nate today. They went into her child welfare records and found a family member to claim her body, an aunt out toward Pittsburgh.”
Frank lets go of his glass so he can take her hand. “Bon. You did what you did to protect Annalise.”
“Play it out,” Bonnie hisses, slurring at the edge of too much liquor on an empty stomach. “Without Rebecca’s body, they’d never have been able to tempt Wes to turn on Annalise. She’d never have been in jail, or you either.” She shakes her head before he can interrupt. “That’s not the point. I want you to get her aunt some money, for the funeral, for a headstone.”
He squeezes her hand but nods in relief. “Okay.”
The bar erupts around them with the countdown to the new year, and they turn together to watch the ball drop on the TV screen. When it reaches midnight, Frank presses a kiss to the curve of Bonnie’s wrist, and she rests her head against his shoulder.
A week later, Frank shows up at Bonnie’s front door. She opens it at his knock, frowning. “Did you lose your key?”
“Didn’t want to surprise Annalise,” Frank shrugs as she steps back to let him in.
“She’s going down to visit her family for a while,” Bonnie offers.
“Good,” Frank says.
Bonnie cocks her head. “Why?”
“We’re going on a road trip. Pack a bag for the night.” His demeanor suggests it’s not an adventure.
“Where?” she asks, though she’s starting to know.
The drive from Philly to where Rebecca grew up is more than four hours. At first they drive in silence.
“You know, if I’d gotten rid of the body better, no one would have gone to jail either,” Frank says somewhere past Lancaster.
Bonnie doesn’t bother to argue. “What was it like for you, in there?”
He sighs. “I’m not thirteen anymore.”
She looks sideways at him, belatedly worried for the boy she’s seen in pictures on the Delfino mantle. His mother showed her an album once, with school photos that stopped in the eighth grade after a single posed picture from a school dance. He still had acne, already had swagger. “I’m sorry,” she says.
“I turned myself in, remember?”
“But before—that woman, Mahoney’s lawyer. With her little girl. I’m sorry I asked you to do that.”
It takes Frank a long time to answer. “I know you only ever want us to be safe. But no more children,” he says like a vow. “We’ve got to keep them out of this.”
She nods, though she’s not sure he can see her with his eyes on the road. She doesn’t say that children are destroyed all the time, both of them, for example. She doesn’t say their babies would be cute, but could never grow up to be good people with murderers for parents.
They stop at a grocery store half an hour from Rebecca’s town to use the bathroom and pick up snacks. Bonnie hovers over a display of irises, fingering their satin petals.
“Not lilies?” Frank asks at her shoulder.
“Any flowers at all might be out of place, if only her family is coming to visit.” Bonnie’s heart is hammering in her chest at their proximity to the body, the cool she’s felt since she descended the stairs to Annalise’s basement suddenly gone. She was so certain it was necessary but she’s lost the thread of why and all she knows is that there’s a decaying mass of what used to be a frightened girl, and no shred of Rebecca’s determination or fear left in the universe. She doesn’t know she’s crying until Frank wraps his arms around her, hiding her tears against his shirt. The fluorescent lights hum around them.
“Buy them,” he says against her hair. “We can always leave them nearby.”
In the town cemetery, a white plastic cross with Rebecca’s name on it awaits a permanent marker. A yard away a double headstone with two names rises among weeds: Beth and James Sutter, dead on the same date a dozen years earlier. Bonnie stands before them and wants to be numb, but guilt brings her to her knees, brings tears to her eyes.
“Bon,” Frank says, a hand on her back.
The stems of the irises twist and bend in her grip. “They loved their daughter,” Bonnie gasps.
He feathers his fingers through her hair, rubbing in slow circles as Rebecca’s last, pleading words throb around her. An innocent, lost, orphaned girl begging for her life.
“Annalise was right,” Bonnie says. “I’m a monster.”
Frank doesn’t answer, and she knows he thinks she’s judging him too. “They should have left us alone,” he finally says.
Bonnie nods, but she doesn’t mean it.
There’s no date of death on Rebecca’s marker, won’t be one on her headstone. In two weeks a year will have passed.
“I just want to be alone for a minute,” Bonnie says.
Frank nods toward the car in the distance. “I’ll keep an eye out.”
She leaves the flowers for Beth and James and steps onto Rebecca’s grave, the closest they’ll ever be again, not close enough for contact let alone murder. She stares down at the newly turned dirt beneath her feet. Even on that day, Bonnie couldn’t bear the intimacy of it. Every crime ever committed against her own body had been skin to sweaty skin, the brutality of muscles overpowering her, violation and disgrace. She couldn’t imagine using her hands. She offered water, like a sacrament for a sacrifice, and turned away while plastic and tape did the deed for her. A cloud of breath escapes Bonnie’s lips, white in the cold air. How many breaths did Rebecca manage before her last? It seemed to last a long time.
Bonnie turns away from the cross and stumbles down the winter-hardened hill beyond the Sutters’ graves. A pond along one edge of the cemetery offers benches for mourners and a dock that leads a few yards out into the water. The planks are soft and slick with damp under her boots. Perhaps in the summer there are birds here, reminders of life moving on. Perhaps butterflies gather on the flowers she can imagine where dry stalks now cluster along the shore. The water clots brown and green, gives off a whiff of rot.
Bonnie steps off the dock. Cold tries to draw all the heat from her in the first instant, so much cold that she almost forgets her body. She twists and kicks her legs, swimming down. Particles of silt, brown and gold, crowd everything she can see. Her coat is heavy. She drags her bare fingers toward the murk below, deeper than she thought, perhaps endless. Her chest burns. Her next kick is weaker, legs struggling to bend against frozen joints. Another stroke, another. Her vision swims with dark spots. To crave breath is to be essentially alive; to be denied breath is panic. This is the closest they will ever be.
Something tangles around Bonnie’s ankle and she jerks instinctively, pushing away from the grip of it. Her foot connects with something solid. Her face bursts into the wall of air, her mouth greedily open.
Frank surfaces a yard away, his eyes wide and scared as he treads water.
“They couldn’t breathe,” Bonnie gasps.
“Come on.” Frank urges her toward the grassy bank. When they get there her legs are trembling with cold and he scoops her up into his arms without a word or a pause and carries her toward the car. Bonnie lets herself go limp, imagining how he moved Rebecca’s body, or Lila’s. People more innocent than she is.
At the car Frank puts her down long enough to open the trunk and dig out a dark, fleecy blanket and a fifth of whiskey. Bonnie feels distant, absent, her body pulsing with tides of shivers as he strips off her coat and sweater, her boots and jeans, and gently pushes her into the backseat of the car with the blanket swaddled around her body. When he joins her from the other side, he’s down to his boxers and a dry t-shirt he must have taken from his bag. “Hey,” he says, and she holds open the edge of the blanket to let him join her. Frank pulls her onto his lap and tugs the blanket around both of them. He uncaps the whiskey, swallows long, and passes it to Bonnie. She drinks until she’s dizzy again. Frank doesn’t stop her.
“I’m right here,” Frank says, rubbing her back through the damp camisole stuck to her skin.
“No one watched while she died,” Bonnie whispers.
His hand works its way up the back of her neck, stroking her hair, tucking her head against his collarbone.
“Bonnie,” Frank says after a while.
“Do you ever wonder about—about what you would have done with your life? If you’d grown up different?”
She used to: as a girl she’d watch the other kids on the playground, or in the middle school cafeteria, or in the high school locker room, and wonder what their lives might possibly be like. Since she met Annalise she’s tried to believe that her life is as good as it ever could have been, just different. But so different…a murderer. The email chain for her twentieth high school reunion last year was mostly about how old everyone’s children were and what their local businesses could sponsor. Bonnie didn’t go, but she read every message. “Dreaming of Oregon again?” she whispers harshly.
Something turns electric between them, a spark that could destroy the day. Neither of them has dared mention their shared fantasy since he abandoned her.
But Frank only says, “I bet you’d smile more. You wouldn’t have to be on guard all the time. You’d let the kids get away with more of their antics.”
Her cheek is wet, but there’s still pond water and muck all over them. She clears her throat. “And you, huh? If you hadn’t spent your formative years locked up?”
Frank shrugs against her cheek. “Delfino Motor Works for me.”
“Naw.” He drawls out his Philly accent to make her smile.
“That morning—” she starts.
“No, it’s—it wasn’t just—you said I deserved to be happy. And I never had to think about him again, and for just a minute I imagined that we were running away and we’d have a whole life. I forgot Rebecca for a little while. I got what I deserved.”
Frank’s his grip tightens on the back of her neck and she wants him to bear down, to grip her with the force that she deserves too. “We only did this, either of us, for them,” Frank says.
“You’d killed before,” Bonnie whispers. She’s never confirmed it, but she knows the answer.
“And since,” Frank says. “But only those who had it coming. Except the babies.” His hands clench into fists and fall to his sides, leaving her cold. “You just can’t think about it.”
“Rebecca was the age my baby would have been.” Which is to say: Bonnie was full to the brim with things she can’t think about long before she met Rebecca.
“God,” Frank pleads, like a prayer.
“I booked us a room at a motel,” Frank says as they clamber into the front seats again a while later. “Didn’t know how this was going to go.”
Bonnie nods. “We can stay somewhere nice if you want, I can pay for it.”
He shrugs and starts the car. When they reach the motel, named for the state road it faces, Bonnie lets him check in and stares out the window at the faded siding, its drooping lines intersected by streaks of air conditioner run off. She imagines that to anyone watching from inside, she looks just as forlorn: wrapped in a blanket, pale with cold, cheeks smeared with makeup. Her teeth are chattering relentlessly.
Frank waves the keys at her through the window and gives the parking lot a onceover for anyone watching before he opens her door.
The building is one story; their room is at the end. As soon as they’re inside, Frank dumps their bags on the bed and turns the shower on. “You go first,” he says with a nod toward the bathroom.
Bonnie doesn’t protest. For one, it would take too much energy. But also Frank knows how she is with showers. She told him once, about how the only bit of religion she got as a child convinced her that baptism could wash her clean. How she showered off all the men. The hot water nearly scalds her, and she turns her face up to it.
That night Frank sleeps on the floor while Bonnie takes the bed. Neither of them interrupts the darkness with fantasy; this trip is too much like penance. But in the morning when Frank stands and stretches, Bonnie reaches out a hand to him, tugs him to sit on the edge of the bed as she sits up against the headboard.
Shadows mar his tired face. He laid awake, too. “Do you want to kill yourself?” Frank asks.
“You did,” Bonnie says. “You wanted to.”
“I couldn’t—I couldn’t contain that kind of guilt anymore. Not if she’d never forgive me.” He doesn’t meet her eyes as he answers, but he leans against her drawn-up knees.
“Frank,” Bonnie starts.
He interrupts. “If I had told you. If I had told you I killed Lila, you wouldn’t have suspected Rebecca. We wouldn’t be here right now.”
The icy dislocation of imagination hits her nearly as hard as the first splash of pond water. “Or Annalise would have killed you herself way back then.” She grimaces toward a smile and answers his question. “I don’t want to die.”
Frank pulls her against him, into him, and Bonnie relaxes with an ease that makes her want to cry. He’s so easily physical that he doesn’t wholly understand what it means that it’s so easy to let him touch her, to just be in his arms. At least he, like Bonnie, can’t bear to convey love in words.
She burrows her face into his bicep as he warms her body against and doesn’t tell him that he’s right: if she’d known the truth, she wouldn’t have killed Rebecca. She’s always been less vulnerable to the household murder drama than the kids, not because she wasn’t afraid but because she lived so many years moving forward through fear. The first time her father suggested they play a game, she was five years old. The first time he left her alone in a room with a strange man, she was seven. Every day from the time she could remember for what felt like it would be the rest of her life, she waited to know if she would be raped that day, and by whom, and how badly. And after Sam’s death the constant uncertainty became too like all that old, stomach-churning fear and if Rebecca was the weak link who would bring them all the horror she could imagine, Bonnie had to kill her and make them all safe again.
She can’t say any of that to Frank, and so she tilts her head and kisses him, sealing once again the pact of their lives.
As they get ready to check out, Bonnie draws an envelope from her bag and holds out a crumpled mix of tens and twenties. The bills are dark green, with narrow presidential portraits: old.
Frank frowns as he accepts the cash. “Where’d the money come from?”
Bonnie closes her eyes and lets emotion drain away. “I got a suitcase of my own.”
When she looks at him again Frank is frowning. “From where?” he asks.
She answers from the other side of a gulf. “My sister found it, cleaning out my dad’s old place.”
She stares at him until he understands the disorderly stacks she gave him for the Sutters. His body jerks and the time-softened papers drift to the floor.
Bonnie doesn’t remember her father conducting the transactions, but there’s a lot she’s tried to forget. “God only knows what he was saving it for,” she says, and leans to pick up the money.
Frank lunges forward to get there first, to protect her as if it isn’t far too late. “Some things I don’t regret,” he says, and she nods.
This morning Bonnie drives, along a route she looked up while Frank was brushing his teeth. She turns off the interstate a few exits before Philly, heads into the wealthy suburbs. Frank doesn’t comment on her deviation, and she assumes he knows where they’re going. Out here houses display themselves a hundred yards back from the road with grandeur and columns and cobblestone driveways. Bonnie doesn’t look at them straight on, intimidated even after all her years in the Keating household. Frank must be studying the circular driveways, because he mutters the names and prices of luxury sports cars as they drive.
The graveyard where Lila is buried is as different from Rebecca’s as the mansions are from the trailer park where Rebecca grew up. Bonnie can’t help feeling the poorer girl’s resentment, her need for justice. But the two girls were friends. Rebecca said so herself in one of many interviews: she loved Lila. She was amazed that this bubbly sorority girl seemed to see her, to want to be her friend. Out of all the interviews, it’s the moment Bonnie remembers best. She recognized the feeling, had once been mesmerized by the same interest Annalise took in her. What could that interest inspire in a lonely girl but the most desperate devotion? She should have known Rebecca could never kill Lila.
“It’s down that way,” Frank says, as Bonnie turns into the cemetery.
She looks over at him.
“Aisle E, halfway down,” he offers. “There’s a statue of an angel.”
When they walk up to it, the grave bears a granite memorial and a dried bouquet of pink roses. Bonnie slips her hand into Frank’s. The angel’s folded wings drag nearly to the ground, offering a shallow puddle of noon shadow.
“She hadn’t picked a major yet,” he says. “She was only a sophomore. Sam was her intro psych professor. Maybe she’d have been a psychologist?”
“A better therapist than him,” Bonnie snorts.
Frank shakes his head. “She was just a girl. And our whole lives fell apart.”
Bonnie squeezes his hand. “This isn’t on her, it’s on Sam. Preying on college girls and their fantasies. He could get into anyone’s head.”
“He saved my life,” Frank says, softly, staunchly.
“That night—the night they killed him—I had gone to confront him,” Bonnie scoffs, “about him knowing Lila was pregnant. And he kissed me, because he thought I wanted him to. And because he wanted me to keep his secret. Because he knew how well I’d learned to keep those kinds of secrets.”
“You didn’t want him to kiss you?” Frank’s voice takes on a questioning lilt.
Bonnie stares at the curve of the angel’s cheek. “I wanted him to be the kind of father who could love me without ever wanting that.”
He nods in her peripheral vision and then goes totally still. “He knew she was pregnant.”
Bonnie’s whole body flashes hot with anger. “Fucking Sam,” she says.
Frank grips her hand so hard Bonnie grits her teeth against the pain of it. “I didn’t know she was pregnant, Bon,” he whispers. “I’d never have done that again.”
There’s no monument for Lila and Sam’s baby, though Bonnie knows Sam and Annalise’s child got his own tiny casket and marker. In the days that Annalise laid in bed depressed, Bonnie helped Sam pick the marker out. He cried through the whole process, and yet he’d dared to ask Frank to repeat the worst offense of his life. “Fucking Sam,” she repeats.
Frank drives them back out of the cemetery and down the winding suburban roads. “I’d never want to live anywhere like this,” he says.
Bonnie shakes her head.
“Maybe a Craftsman? Or an old farm house.”
“A bungalow,” Bonnie says, letting the roundness of the word fill her mouth. She turns to study his profile, defined against the afternoon light by dark stubble. “We could change our names?” she suggests.
“I’m kind of surprised you didn’t already,” Frank says. “I could be a Kevin. Used that before.”
“I’ve always liked Julie,” Bonnie nods. She leans her head against the window, watching the dry grass of the verge speed past. The temptation to imagine they’re on the road west vibrates through her with the subtle rumble of the car over smooth pavement. After a long quiet stretch of road, Bonnie lifts her head, refusing the dream. “We’ll always be murderers.” The fear is with her again, has been with her this whole time at the back of her mind. When will they get caught? When will that rasp of breath against plastic bag catch up to her? This time she deserves the fear, and whatever it brings.
“The cases are closed,” Frank says. “Wes killed Rebecca. Annalise will protect us.”
Bonnie shakes her head. “That doesn’t change anything. We are who they made us. Who loving them made us. Monsters.”
“We owe them everything,” Frank answers, and she hears it in his voice: everything, good or bad, forever.
“We have to go back,” Bonnie says.
Frank, Kevin, reaches over and rests a hand on her knee, warm against the cold of January and guilt. “I know.”