Margot chooses Australia, and Alana doesn’t think to ask why until they’re on the plane. There wasn’t time, really, and anyway she doesn’t particularly care.
She does ask, unconcernedly, as soon as Morgan dozes off under the influence of a dose of tylenol. Margot just shrugs and says, “It’s the predominantly English-speaking country with the highest rate of vegetarianism.”
“Ah.” Alana nods, then twines her fingers with Margot’s. “Okay.”
The choice should be Margot’s, anyway. Margot is the one who’ll have to stay there. She’s the one who’ll have to call the police and report her wife missing even though she knows there isn’t a chance in hell of her being found alive. She’s the one who’ll have to raise a son on her own. Alana has no illusions about her ability to prevent these things from happening; all she can do is prepare for the future. Or rather, prepare Margot and Morgan for it.
“Alana, we don’t need to do this. We’re millionaires, jesus. They have private chefs in Australia too, you know.”
Alana makes a frustrated noise. She’s standing by the oven, a new convection oven/gas range that she’d ordered to replace the old electric unit the moment they’d closed on their house near the beach a few hours south of Perth. Her hands are covered in fish juice, raw egg and bread crumbs, and Margot is standing in the doorway, looking alarmingly perfect.
“You don’t hire a fucking private chef to make fish sticks for your five-year-old, Margot!” Alana feels like crying. First there’s Morgan’s picky eating— normal in a young child, Alana knows, but frustrating nonetheless. Then there’s Margot’s prissy insistence on not doing any of the cooking and cleaning. Alana didn’t grow up poor, but her family certainly wasn’t wealthy enough for her to see the staff of hired help that Margot insists on to be anything but an embarrassing level of luxury.
The cleaners, she doesn’t mind. Normal people hire cleaning help, sometimes. Yard work, too, she can outsource without too much guilt. And a driver just made good sense, at least until Alana fully grasps the habit of driving on the left side of the road.
A chef, though. They’d had a chef back home in Baltimore, but that was— before.
Before Alana knew that she only has so much time with them. Before she knew that she needed to prepare them.
And there is no way that Alana Bloom is going to leave her widow relying on a goddamn private chef to feed their child. If she’s learned nothing else from Hannibal, she knows that feeding is important. If she can just teach Margot to cook, if Morgan can have memories of Alana’s food even after she’s gone, then maybe she won’t have completely failed.
Apparently she’s making the fish sticks that Morgan demanded by herself tonight, though. Margot rolls her eyes, turns on her heels and stomps up the stairs.
“Fuck,” says Alana, and Morgan appears in the doorway, watching her with big eyes.
She ignores him. She needs to prepare.
She gets a chest freezer.
There’s plenty of room in the basement. She fills the freezer with food, prepared meals and frozen soups and cuts of meat that Morgan likes and Margot won’t touch.
She gets bookshelves, and fills them. Picture books on the lowest shelves, teen fare slightly higher, all of her own favourites on top. She wonders if Morgan will make the connection, that Alana left this for him. To introduce him to her after she’s gone.
Sometimes Margot appears on the staircase, as she’s working. She doesn’t comment, any more. Mostly Margot leaves her alone.
Margot doesn’t need to understand. Alana will make the sacrifice of allowing Margot to be angry at her, if that’s what it takes. She loves her enough for that.
She writes letters. She puts them in a box, labelled with dates to be opened. Birthdays, milestones. She’s peripherally aware that it’s maudlin, and possibly traumatizing, but she can’t stop herself.
She needs to do something to fill the time before she disappears.
“Need some help with that?”
She can hear Margot frigging herself under the covers, can feel the bed shaking. Usually she ignores it. They haven’t touched each other since they arrived in Australia. Since Alana started Preparing.
But she needs to try. She can’t live like this, loving and loving and spending every minute of the day preparing, trying to take care of someone she’s barely even holding on to.
Margot’s movement stills, and Alana can see her biting her lip in the dim light of the bedroom.
Then she says viciously, “No, I don’t think you should. Better to teach me to be self-sufficient. So when you’re kidnapped and tortured and killed, like you’re clearly convinced you’re going to be, I don’t have to figure out how to do it on my own. Better to just give up now.”
Alana swallows, rolls over, faces the wall away from Margot. She cannot explain that there is no element of giving up. Holding out or giving up does not matter, when it comes to Hannibal. There is only the deal she made, and the inevitability of its reckoning.
Margot should know that.
The movements on the other side of the bed are no longer squirms of pleasure, but suppressed sobs. Alana closes her eyes, She can’t sleep, any more. But she can do the same thing in the darkness that she does during the day: wait.
By the time Hannibal comes for her, Alana will be ready.
She will leave a freezer full of food, a bookshelf full of books, notes and photos and hard drives and journals and newspaper clippings, obsessively categorized. Margot and Morgan don’t look at her collections, her preparations. They mostly keep away from her. But they will look at them; Alana is certain that once she’s gone, they’ll appreciate what she did for them.
By the time Hannibal comes for her, Alana will have nothing left to miss.