Chapter 16: But I Don’t Want To Go Among Mad People

Alcide In Wonderland

Chapter 16

But I Don’t Want To Go Among Mad People

**

He’d just walked away.

Eric was halfway down the hall before Sookie stopped watching him to turn to me. “Just stay out of his way.”

“That’s the best you’ve got? I’ve never seen him like that.”

She shrugged. “Sorry. He avoids talking about her. He gave up the shit about his birth mother easier than Marnie.”

“Yeah. Same here.” I was at a loss. He wasn’t shut down like he usually gets. He seriously looked like he was on his way to his own funeral.

“Just get him through practice. I’ll do my best to handle him after that.”

“What do you know about her?”

“She’s epically jealous of him and calls him an asshole for being in a good mood.”

Oh, that’s just great.”

“Yeah. She’s here because she supposedly left her husband for questioning who her baby’s father is.” Pregnant too? Even better.

“So she was a bitch before she had hormones to blame?” It slipped and I half expected to get hit for being a chauvinist, but Sookie raised an eyebrow.

Wellllll, Eric doesn’t think she’s pregnant. He’s pretty sure it’s bullshit to get attention.”

“Since he’s got the spotlight for being engaged… That’s so sweet… I never got that. How does that ever work out? Faking a pregnancy?”

“Any dirty bitch can ride the ‘me train’ for about two months before they go to an ER while everyone’s at work and get treated for an imaginary a migraine. Nothing can be done for a 1st trimester miscarriage so the hospital bracelet is proof enough to the pitiful fucker she shows it to.”

“And then it’s an attention lottery.”

“Oh, you bet your ass, it is… Go on and catch up before he leaves you. He can handle her, but the idea of her fucking up Smom and Dad’s visit is what’s eating him. Smom was crying when he talked to her.”

“So even Saint Smom isn’t keen to have her here?”

“Smom cussed and Dad gave Eric the green light to ‘knock her down a peg’.” Ohhhhh, shit.

**

He stared at the speedometer for a minute before he started the car.

“Out with it. What are we dealing with?”

“A 28 year old version of Sheila. She’s like that river of pink shit in the Ghostbusters sequel. She oozes contempt. The happier people around her are, the worse her mood gets and after all these years, I have no clue what the fuck is wrong with her.”

“Permanent PMS?” One of the boys is going to ask if she’s on her period. I fucking know it.

“And I seem to be a trigger.”

I snorted, but it was all I could do to not laugh. “While every other woman under 50 shoves their number in your pocket, she makes up for it?”

“Something like that.”

“Give me something specific.”

“In high school she told people that I’d knocked her up… While I was in college, ‘my wife’ got a car, rented an apartment and bailed on all of it while her roommates ran up the utility bills that were also in my name… And she still has the balls to use me as a reference so I get calls all the time. It’s more than just sibling rivalry. It’s like she’s declared war and Smom has always been collateral damage. Last Mother’s Day when I went to visit, she’d sent flowers. The card actually said that she was sure the flowers would be forgotten once I got there… And at Christmas, she flew off the handle when Smom and Dad opened their gift from me.”

“The cruise? She was bitter that you sent them on a cruise?” Petty much?

“She claimed I did it just to show her up. Never mind that Smom had wanted to go whale watching for as long as I could remember and told me that I was banned from gift giving for 3 years to make up for how much I spent… It was all about Marnie.”

I laughed. “Never mind that the retired CMC got stuck deploying again.”

“That’s one thing I can say about the man… he never bitched about it. If Smom’s happy, he’s happy as a rule.”

“Sookie gave you hard time about him.”

“I’m going to end up kicking her ass by the end of their visit. Handling bitch.”

“Pshhh. Shut the fuck up. She’ll only handle you when you need it and you know it.”

“You prick! You’re looking forward to this shit aren’t you?” Hehe, more than he could possibly imagine…

Being nice… “Honestly, I’ve been dying to meet ‘Smom’ forever. Your girl will handle ‘dear old dad’ just as fast as she handles the rest of us and between Amelia and Pam, Marnie’s got nothing.”

“She’s not nothing. She’s pure evil.”

“Try to settle down. She won’t embarrass you.”

You wanna bet!?

“We both met Sheila. We both saw how fast the Stackhouses bounce back from bullshit like that. They won’t think anything of it.”

“Here’s the rub… if they don’t react, then she’ll try harder.”

**

When we got back to the house, I did what Sookie told me. I stayed out of Eric’s way.

He made a cleaning party out of the laundry room…

While I moved around in the kitchen putting lunch out, I noticed laundry folding (thank God it was just sheets or things could’ve gotten ugly) and sweeping and stowing…

He was in his own little world… If Marnie didn’t show up soon, he’d run out of shit to clean since Sookie was like housekeeping Spec Ops.

Once I set lunch out, he hovered over his chili and texted an update to Pam like a good little boy, but I wasn’t going to give him a hard time about it. Not then anyway. He knows I’d have made her ask since she’d been fucking off and I know that he just needed something else to be doing…

He even texted Burnham about how things were going on his end, but once he ran out of texting, his knee started bouncing.

I tried talking him down. Conversation with him wasn’t easy though…

He’d barely started to calm down a bit when the company arrived.

**

The way he walked to the door reminded me of how the boys had gone back into the house to get Ame for the airport…

Pained… like a ball trying to will itself uphill…

The door was barely open when she started bitching about how hard it is to get to Shreveport from up north…

I’d forgotten she was stationed in Bath. Navy brats don’t tend to notice that people even have accents because they’ve heard it all, but considering how ‘crisp’ the New England accent was in Maine… We were probably in for more than a couple of redneck digs.

I heard him trying to play it off, but it didn’t work. Her mood wasn’t much worse than mine can be after traveling though.

He tried offering lunch, but she offered herself a beer instead. He’d either been dead on about the make-believe pregnancy or she was the last bitch on the planet to hear about Fetal Alcohol Poisoning.

I’d never seen a picture of her, but I’d seen pictures of Smom… No resemblance.

Ugly and fat had been the closest to a description I’d gotten, but I’m pretty sure he was just wearing hate-goggles… Other than looking pissed, she wasn’t anywhere near the paper bagger he’d hinted at.

She was better looking than Ame. She had that going for her at least.

If she dropped 15 pounds and smiled… That’s all she really needed… well, that and wearing something other than baggy sweats.

Eric cleared his throat and unclenched his jaw. “Marnie, this is my partner Alc.”

She looked my way for about half a second before she grunted opening the fridge. Striking out on her search for beer wasn’t going to make her any happier.

“What are you looking for? I have the fridge memorized.”

“Beer. I don’t see anything to drink in here.” You mean other than 4 flavors of Snapple, Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite? Sookie kept the house stocked better than some restaurants I’d been to.

I looked at Eric and he was rolling his eyes. “Eric and I had the last of them with lunch. We had a bit of a party last night. Sorry… I thought you were preggors anyway.”

Oops. She slammed the door shut and shot daggers at Eric.

“What?!? No one told me it was a secret! We were excited. Sue me.” Liar, liar, pants on fire… but nice cover.

“It was a false positive.” That reaction was hard to hide… false positive my ass.

“Oh… Sorry then. Do you want to call Clancy to let him know you got here OK? I’ll call the folks.”

“I’ll call him later. He’s at work.”

“So how was the trip?”

“Miserable… Why’d ya have a party last night?”

“It was just an excuse to get together. Sookie’s really close to her family.”

“Oh! My my my… How life has slowed down! Partying with the in-laws, huh? Party animal.” Oh, wow! She really could find any way to slam him…

I started laughing. “You’ll learn! The Stackhouses are kind of a party waiting to happen. No one ever defined ‘quiet time’ for them.”

“So when does Miss America get home from work?”

Eric growled, “Miss Teen Louisiana gets off at 3 and we’ll go get her.”

“She doesn’t have a car?”

“Sure she does, but we took them in this morning.”

“Them?”

“Sookie and Alc’s boys… school.”

“Kids? Here?” I wanted to smack the nasty look off of her face.

When there was a knock on the door, I bolted for it. That’s right, I took the chicken-shit way out, but damn if I wanted to hit her so soon after I tried blowing smoke up Eric’s ass.

**

It was Terry.

“Hey, I shoulda been a Fed with the hours y’all keep.”

I laughed at him. “NOLA’s field office served up 80 hour weeks on the reg… The key to happiness is being in Bon Temps apparently.”

He grinned. “Shit boy, I coulda told you that.” Boy? It was nice to be younger than someone.

He had a dolly stacked to the handle with cases of booze… “Party supplies?”

“Sookie called and said the house was kinda dry after last night. Said y’all were gonna need something to wet your whistles.”

I stared at the boxes for a minute. “God bless her.”

He started laughing. “Rough day?”

“Not yet, but it’s getting there… Come on in…”

Eric was waiting like he needed a life raft… He didn’t bother introducing Marnie either…

We started restocking the liquor cabinet and pantry while Terry went out for another load… I guess Sookie was planning on ‘medicating’ Eric through Marnie’s visit.

Load #1: Hard liquor staples. Whiskey, vodka, tequila and both kinds of rum worth mentioning…

Load #2: Beer. Pale ale, stout, red and Mexican-ish…

We started stocking the fridge on the porch while Eric admitted to spilling the beans about the Stackhouses being at Dirges again… As it turned out, the Stackhouses weren’t prone to ‘leaking’ troop movements… The place was going to swamped since the news would be all over the parrish by dinner time…

First of all, if there’s more than a thousand kids there, we might be able to get more IDs…

Secondly… Terry mentioned ‘Bravo’. Who the fuck is Bravo?

**

I grabbed a Corona for me and took one to Marnie, just trying to be nice. Eric killed a Killian’s before he left the porch and had another one in hand when he came into the kitchen.

“Hey Marnie, you can sleep in the guest room upstairs tonight, but you’re gonna be on the couch for the rest of the visit.”

“The couch!”

“It pulls out, but Jason slept on it last night and didn’t complain. They’re comfortable.”

“And oh-so-fucking private. You said there’re kids staying here.”

Good kids. They won’t bother you.”

“What-fucking-ever… I bet your dead ass wouldn’t know if they danced on you.”

I snorted and got a dirty look for it. “Sorry… My phone’s gotten blown up. I’m going to go check it.”

Eric bounced a bottle cap off of the back of my head and called me an asshole under his breath when I walked out…

**

My first message was from Sookie. “You know I need an update.”

Of course she did. I replied, “Not that bad. Terry’s been by with mood enhancers. Good call.”

Next message, Cater. “We have our own guys monitoring, but help yourself. I can loan you one of mine if you need tech support.”

“Thanks, but we have a tech guy of our own.” That was too fun to send… If it had been Russell, Eric and I would’ve jumped at the offer for extra help… but we ‘had’ Sookie. That was all the help we needed.

My next message was from Hadley. “Will y’all be at practice?”

As opposed to being trapped in the house with Marnie? Fuck yeah, we’d be at practice.

By the time I replied to Hadley, I had another text from Sookie. “Not that bad how? Vinegar or battery acid?”

“Confrontational. Not much worse than you’ve seen Pam.”

Another one from Hadley. I was going to get a texting injury… “Good. I’ll bring a couple of books for them (and you) to shop.”

I thanked her and grabbed my laptop and Jack’s music wish list to get started.

Ding.

Text alert. Sookie. I started laughing and just called her. “Between you and Had, I’m going to have arthritis.”

“I’m going nuts. How’s he doing?”

“He flipped his shit until she got here. She’s picking on him ex-wife style, but he’s dealing.”

“How pissy is she right now?”

“The biggest splinter is that there’re kids here…”

That fucking bitch!

I laughed at her. “Settle down or I’m taking your gun from you.”

“Fuck that. You can have it. If she’s nasty to those boys, I’ll beat her to death. They’ve been through enough! Goddamnit… How are you staying so calm? Are you nursing a bottle of whiskey?”

“I’m out of the line of fire for now. I brought a Corona to my room and I’m downloading a list of songs for Jack.”

She sighed, “Beer and music. Jealous… Hey, go into my router. My music file is public. I just didn’t tell Jack that because I have stuff like 50 Cent and raunchy movie quotes. I probably have whatever he’s wanting.”

I opened her file and hit the jackpot… “Wow. That’s a time saver. Thanks.”

“No prob… If you’re hiding in your room…”

“She’s stomping around upstairs. He’s either on the phone or he’s answering the voices in his head from the living room.”

“So… Give me something concrete.”

“We’ve both tried being nice… It’s like she’s Scotch Guarded against friendly.”

“Yeah. She was like that Sunday… When she called to tell her folks that she’s pregnant…”

“He was right, by the way. She’s saying it was a false positive now.”

“Those poor people… Dad already suspected… Damn.”

“She’s a peach.”

“Smom seems so sweet. How hard of handle do you think she’ll be?”

“No telling. You’ll probably figure her out pretty fast though.”

“From your lips to God’s ears. I have to get back. See ya at practice.”

As soon as I ended the call and set my phone down, I got dinged again. Hadley. “Are you staying away from colors or just patterns?”

I shook my head… “Neither, but I don’t want anything you’d see in Steel Magnolias.”

I was shopping through Sookie’s file for me since I noticed how much Johnny Cash she had… and I got another text.

“LMAO roger that.”

I had just finished syncing our iPods when I realized I’d been left alone… finally

And realized that I actually had to text Hadley… “Since most of my helpers are going to be kids, how do I shop for that? Brushes or rollers?”

I polished off my beer while I waited… “Assorted. Disposable brushes, rollers, trays and trim tools. All of your paint is semi-gloss. Lots of wide masking tape. I’ll bring plenty of newspaper so don’t worry about plastic or tarps.”

She’d be there? Damn. The whole fucking town was going to be splattered with paint. “Thanks. Now I have someone to blame if I get the wrong shit.”

“:P see you at practice.”

**

I tried shushing Marnie, but the longer we were in the hardware store (if you could call it that since I’d been in bigger pharmacies) the shorter her fuse got.

She was worse than Ame had ever been (in public, at least) and it was bad enough that folks were starting to stare.

“If you get the disposable brushes, you’ll have bristles on your wall. Tell him, Eric.”

Eric shook his head.

“You know I’m right.”

“Marnie, the interior designer told him to get…”

“If you fuck it up, she can charge you to…”

“If it sheds bristles then you just pick them out.”

She rolled her eyes and shut up for about three seconds… “The blue tape is the same as regular. It just costs more.”

I had to remind myself that if I could be with Ame for 9 years and work with Pam for 4, I could make it until Tuesday without punching Marnie. “The blue stuff’s adhesive lets go easier so it won’t pull up the paint on the trim.”

“Still… You should get the ¾ inch… the 2 inch is too wide.”

“My helpers are high school students….”

“You need tarps then.”

“Someone’s bringing newspaper. Thanks.” Damn! Shut the fuck up already

She stayed quiet for a few more minutes while Eric and I cleared the hooks of all the small, medium and large disposable brushes the store had… 26. I was starting to sweat that I might not have enough supplies, but with rollers too, I had to keep my fingers crossed that I’d have enough…

As soon as I reached for the roller trays, she flared back up again… like a fucking hemorrhoid.

“Those are too flimsy…”

Eric huffed at her. “You could’ve stayed in the car.”

She gave him a pissy look, but I snorted. “Didn’t you see Turner & Hooch? Sookie’d kill you if anything happened to her new upholstery.”

“Good point.”

“You two are a fucking riot! You know what, fine. I was just going to say that those things can’t get moved because the weight of the paint in them…”

I couldn’t help it… “Aisle 3.”

“What?”

“That’s where they keep the sandpaper and steel wool… I saw it on the way back.”

“So?”

“Why don’t you go see if they carry your grade of tampon?”

Her back bolted straight and I didn’t even fight the urge to laugh when she gasped hard enough to cave in the building. Neither did Eric for that matter… At least he could still laugh at her.

She backed off, so I thought… it turned out she was just waiting… When we started trying to figure out which trim tools to get, she opened her mouth again…

“Those things are a waste. Any retard can edge just fine…”

“Marnie… Your husband… Does he beat you?”

“NO!”

“Huh. He should.”

That was it. Eric did get hit for laughing, but her mouth puckered up to look like a cat’s ass and stayed that way… for a while.

**

We spotted Carm right away again… On Sookie’s shoulders… Instead of blowing a whistle, he was leaning over to talk to one of the cheerleaders. He even had a smile on his face.

“Alc, he’s really coming out of his shell.” I was hoping… I thought I might have been seeing what I wanted to see, but Eric noticing too confirmed it…

“No shit. He was borderline xenophobic.” All I could figure was that he’d been isolated enough to cause his usual anxiety around new people instead of the other way around… I was the only adult he ever spent any time around until now. Eric might’ve grabbed dinner or breakfast with us a couple times a week… now Carm was almost as social as Jack…

“You spot Jack yet?”

I pointed across the field… Again, Hunter was hanging out with a kid when he didn’t have to be. They were playing catch on the visitor’s sidelines…

I might be able to get them into a sport after all…

Marnie followed us up to sit on the bleachers behind us and groaned about being at a football field… ‘never is too soon’… but otherwise she was quiet.

After a while, Hunter whistled loud enough to call every dog in the county… it worked. Two of his groupies ran across the field to fetch Jack and he came back holding hands with both of them. He barely looked in our direction and went straight to sit with Hunter’s flunkies. More grays.

Eric thought it was hilarious. “Oh… You’re fucked. He’s going to need his own phone by the time little league starts.”

I chose to ignore the rest of what he’d said to focus on little league. “Hey! I bet I’d have time for it here. You wanna help me coach?”

“Sure. Carm old enough for T-ball this year?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“I bet Jas and Corbett would help out so we could coach them both.”

“Volunteers too. I bet some of those boys would rather help in a batting cage than clean up a park.”

He laughed. “I bet Sookie would know about registrations… You know, when they are and all.”

“She mentioned February… The volunteer program hosts a baseball clinic on the weekends. They do Pony instead of Little League. Judging by the way she was talking, it’s as big as football here.”

“I guess we’ll find out how ‘big’ that is tomorrow night… Since it’s a grudge match.”

**

When Eric decided to go grab Carm, I got a chill… that horror movie, being stalked chill… It was like I could feel Marnie firing up again…

Eric snuck up behind Sookie and slapped her ass, and that was all the trigger the twat needed.

“That’s her? That’s Sookie?”

“It is.”

“I thought that was a cheerleader… She doesn’t even look old enough to drink.”

“She’s 28.”

“She’s 28 and she looks like…”

“A co-ed? Yeah, the whole family ages well.”

“Bullshit. That bitch has had work done. Lots!Ooooh, bitter much? At least she said it before Carm was in ear shot…

He had a big grin on when he climbed into my lap. Not only was I happy to see his great mood holding out, but I loved having the excuse to ignore Marnie. “How was school?”

“Marvelous.”

I laughed at him. “Marvelous, huh?”

“Awesome. Tool. Superb. We filled the board with ‘great’ cinnamons and Mr. Andy pulled breakfast out of the hat.”

“Synonyms… sounds fun. What’s with the hat?”

“Oh. It has a bunch of cards in it. Stuff like breakfast or friends or games… whatever he pulls out of de hat is what we do while we wait for the pledge o’llegiance. We draw it then we talk about it. So I drew the fajitas and Crystal was jealous. She’s had ‘em before and she dot stuck with peaches and tream o’wheat this morning.” I couldn’t help but notice that he was batting about 500 with his speech… that was marvelous.

“Crystal, huh? Am I gonna have to worry about you flirting like your brother?”

He scoffed. “Not her… She’s too bossy. Deputy Kenya is her aunt so she knows Sookie and Jason.”

“I think everyone in town knows them.” Marnie mumbled that it wasn’t too hard to stand out in ‘Bum Fuck’ so Carm leaned to look over my shoulder. “Who’s dat?”

“Carm, that’s Eric’s sister. Marnie.”

“Eric has a sister?” Shit…

“Yeah. Turns out he has parents too. He’s not an alien after all.”

He giggled. “I know dat! Master Chief and Smom! They’re visiting tomorrow. Are they bringing Tippy?” Even better… he knows Eric’s family tree except for the sister Eric would rather gargle broken glass than talk about…

“Tippy is in Pasadena with Miss Jane. There’s no telling when she’ll get back.”

“Pasadena? Why would…” He was cut off…

I’d barely noticed, but once Sookie took her hoodie off, sight of her in a tank top was all Marnie needed. “Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me… Of course she looks like a goddamn model…”

Carm leaned to scowl at her.

“…Don’t try telling me she hasn’t had any work done… Nothing that fucking tight is natural.”

I cleared my throat, hoping Carm would just ignore her swearing tally. “She works out a couple times a day. She’s been doing sports and whatnot since she was a kid.”

“Pshhhh… Just like Eric. That’s just un-fucking-natural. I bet he’s still paying for the tits on that tramp…” Ding. Fries are done… Enough was enough.

“Marnie, I’ve been staying with them for a week now and I can tell you for a fact that she works her ass off to maintain. And for the record, she isn’t a tramp. She’s very friendly, but if you keep it up she’ll have no problems shutting you the fuck down. You need to watch your damn mouth before it gets knocked around to the back.”

“Did you just threaten to hit me?” Even Carm knew better.

“No. I warned you that the tiny little girl that’s marrying your brother would calibrate you so fucking fast that you wouldn’t know what hit you. Sookie packs one hell of a whollop when you push her into bringing out her bitch.” I got a giggle out of Carm when I winked at him. I knew Jack wouldn’t have been able to resist sharing that Sookie’d put me in my place.

Carm waited to see if she was going to fire back before he put his hand up under my nose. Eric had laughed when I ‘bought’ all of the fives the hardware store had, but I had a feeling I’d need them.

**

Carm was explaining the rules of ‘dodge ball’ as played with ping pong balls and paddles when Eric came back.

He had a shit eating grin screwed on tight and dropped a stack of envelopes on the bench next to me. Nuh-uh… “MORE?”

He grinned like a nut. “LOTS… They didn’t all come from ‘oldenuff’ though.”

“Oh… Oh well. We’re beating a dead horse at this point any way…”

“He used his work email too.”

“NO Ffffff…” Carm’s head twisted around in a blink. The little turd was hoping I’d say ‘fuck’. “You’re serious?”

“As a heart attack.”

“Now he can’t claim it was a coincidence that he was at the mall… the other email is technically anonymous… he’s connected himself to the IDs now.”

“That’s what Sookie said.”

“Damn. She should be a cop.” Unless she watches Law & Order religiously, defensive loopholes aren’t really a jump most civilians make.

The hell she should. I’m fine with her playing detective at home and NOT getting shot at.”

“Good point. Jason says she’s a crack shot though.”

“Not funny.”

Sure it is… It’d be funnier if she’s a better shot than me since she’s smarter than you… and half of either of us.”

That finally got a good laugh out of him. “She probably is. At least she’s lacking in the languages department. We aren’t obsolete yet.”

“Ahhh, but she’s fluent in Java.”

“As well as Klingon.” She’s a closet dork?

“No way…”

He shook his head. “Just a joke. It’s a Weird Al lyric. White and Nerdy… I’ll ace any trivia quiz you bring on. I’m fluent in Java Script as well as Klingon…

Carm and I both started laughing.

He leaned over to Carm while he continued to make an ass out of himself. “I’m nerdy in the extreme and whiter than sour cream. I was in AV club and Glee club and even the chess team. Only question I ever thought was hard, was do I like Kirk or do I like Picard? I spend every weekend at the Renaissance fair… Got my name on my underwear.

I was still laughing when I told him to NEVER rap again. He probably managed to sound more square than Weird Al.

**

When Eric remembered about our ‘shadow’ he told Marnie that he’d introduce Sookie after practice since we’d disrupted most of the school day… She didn’t waste any time at all finding another way to insult him, but I had to give him credit for trying…

Carm was less antsy, more relaxed than he had been yesterday. He was actually having fun watching the practices and asking questions about the different plays and drills the team was running. I was having fun answering him.

While Hannah’s cousin was handing over another stack of IDs, Hadley showed up. She was wearing yoga shorts and a tank top and her hair was wet and pulled back in a pony tail. At least ‘the twins’ were wearing different colors so that Eric’s head wouldn’t pop. Since we were still talking to Cal Meyers, she sat right down next to Carm and asked if he liked Mr. Andy as much as he liked Carm. The boy lit up when Had told him that she’d talked to Andy today and he told her to watch out for how smart Carm is.

The smile on his face was beautiful… and still stuck on his face when he grabbed for the giant binder on Hadley’s lap, asking if the dining room and living room were all they were shopping for.

**

The look on Marnie’s face was priceless… and probably not much different than what Eric and I looked like when we first saw the twins together.

Eric cringed. “Marnie, this is Hadley. She’s Sookie’s cousin.”

“No. Seriously.”

Hadley nodded and shook her hand. “Yeah. Sorry I’m so casual… I bailed on work early to hit the gym and couldn’t make myself get back into my suit.” No shame there. Completely understandable.

“Just cousins?”

“Yeah. We get it all the time.”

Marnie turned to Eric and made a nasty clucking noise. “It must be nice to have a backup if something happens to the other ho.” I wasn’t sure which grenade to throw myself on. The looks on Had and Eric’s faces went south too fast to be caught on film.

Had practically hissed, “You know there’s something to help with that.”

Marnie snarled back, “What would that be?”

Hadley. Hadley was the primary objective. She was over the bench and in Marnie’s face too fast… “An uppercut in your trash talking mouth.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Eric was going to let Had clobber Marnie into a pulp, so I grabbed her… I couldn’t help but laugh at her. Piss and vinegar and putting up one hell of a fight.

**

She had her hands around my wrist trying to pry my arm from around her waist as I carried her to the other end of the bleachers. “Come on, now Bruiser. You’re not pissed at me. Don’t make me regret breaking that up.”

“She… that cunt…”

“She’s a pisser, I’ll give you that.”

“Then why can’t I calibrate the bitch!?”

I set her down when I got her as far away from temptation as I could go.

She looked up at me when she turned around and started laughing. “You can’t think of a reason, can you?”

“Other than violence not answering every…”

“Says the ex-marine with a sniper riffle in the back of his Trooper and an arm covered in reminders. Nice try. I’ll get right on that email to Mother Teresa for sex advice too.” Wise ass.

I laughed at her. “Mother Teresa’s gone since 97, but I get the point. How about… we just don’t want to make it harder on Eric?”

“Harder on him? Why what’s up?”

“He’s shitting razor blades. He was already sweating his dad’s visit and with his bitchy sister thrown into the kettle… He’s freaking out like I’ve never seen.”

“She… That ‘backup’ bullshit… That’s the same shit Quinn pulls… I still want to hit her.”

“She called you a ‘ho’ too in case you missed that.”

She laughed. “You tool! You volunteered yourself to calm me down.”

“Nuh-uh. Just keep you from hurting your painting hand.”

She slapped my arm, giggling. “So we’re waiting to serve her up to Dr. Sookie?”

“Pretty much.”

“Flawed objective, pal. Sookie’ll neutralize that hostile faster than me. I’m the calm one.” Oh. Holy. Fuck.

All I could do is laugh. “She’ll at least try to handle her first.”

She growled and leaned against the railing after she zipped her hoodie. “Did you get all the supplies you need?”

Changing the subject? “I cleaned them out of most of the stuff on the list you gave me. I’m just praying that it’s enough.”

“If there’s too many volunteers then we can assign paint jockeys and whatnot. It’ll be alright. The last time we did painting as a COP project we had enough that three rooms got done in an hour. The kids were knocking elbows it was so tight.”

“That Jake kid have any ideas for the boys’ rooms?”

“Yeah. I can’t wait to show them. He did sample boards once I mixed the paint.”

“Slow day at the showroom?”

“Nope. Running the place has its perks. I fucked off for most of the day now that inventory’s finally taken care of. I broke in your sofa while I drew better renderings for the boys and then I made your ottoman and pillows for your den.”

“Pillows?” It was nice that she thought of it, but… pillows…

“Yeah. Hope you don’t mind, but I made the executive decision to nix throw pillows. I made 3 huge 36” by 36” floor pillows for lounging purposes. I used what little bit of black suede I had to do a checker board with the gray since Jack seemed to want the black so much.”

“Really?” Sweet baby Jesus, I’d never been more excited to see a sofa in all my life.

“Yeah. Your paint was the last stop. It’s waiting in the garage with a mountain of newspaper.”

“How’d you get in?”

She raised an eyebrow at me. “I picked the lock.”

“No you didn’t.”

She giggled. “Okay… I was going to leave it on the deck if I didn’t luck out, but the kitchen window wasn’t latched.”

“So you figured that aggravated assault would top of your day since you’d already pulled a B&E.”

“No ‘B’… Just ‘E’. I even rinsed my footprint out of your sink.”

“Covering your tracks?”

Being a courteous guest… Uh oh…”

Her attention shifted to the field, so I turned to see Sookie standing toe to toe with Quinn.

“…You gonna go break that up too?”

“No. I can shoot him from here. What the fuck…?” I couldn’t hear what was being said, but they were yelling in each other’s faces.

“I’d bet a snakebite it’s over the barbells.”

“Her piercings? Why the hell would he have anything to say about them?” I leaned against the railing next to her so that I could see Sookie hit Quinn… or poke him in the eyes like the Stooge he is.

“Officially, it’s inappropriate for them to be visible by students and since it’s chilly and she’s pulled her hoodie off to do a run through with the squad…”

“Unofficially, they make him hard.”

“Ding, ding, ding… we have a winner. He’s been a walking THUD over them since she got them. We fuck with him on purpose though.”

“How’s that?”

“I only put mine in anymore when I ‘help’ with the squad’s carwashes and stuff like that.”

“A piercing club?”

“Lafayette. In college he waited tables, groomed dogs and pierced to make ends meet… Frannie and Tara got them too. Tara got sick of hers ages ago though.”

“Speaking of Tara…”

She didn’t react other than to give me a look like she was waiting for me to finish. I figured she’d have heard…

“…You didn’t hear?”

“No. What happened?”

“Their luck changed.”

She took a deep breath and held it, like she was waiting for me to admit I was fucking with her. “You… You’re serious. She’s…”

I nodded. “The call woke up most of the house this morning.”

She started laughing like a maniac… and crying. “Oh my God! That’s so! The timing… I missed a bunch of calls from her and Sam this morning but when I called back… Oh God! How fucking awesome…”

“She’s being superstitious though… I’m guessing ‘just family’ will know for a while so it probably shouldn’t get mentioned around the boys.”

He started wiping her face. “Sure, sure… I thought they were just tagging me back after I called them last night to tell them about Bill… They were calling to let me know I’m fired.”

“Fired?”

“Yeah, well… She wanted to do it on her own, but… in the spring it would have been 5 years of trying… they were going to harvest and I was going to ‘rent them a room’, so to speak.” That’s probably the kindest thing… then again, in my line of work I don’t see what folks do for each other as much as to each other…

“Well, I guess you’re off the mood swinging, bloating and waddling hook… but I bet it was nice for them to know they had backup.”

She laughed and slapped my leg. “Funny man… Uh, how on edge is Eric? Should you leave him to that?” Eric was walking out to the 50 yard line with his hands shoved into his pockets.

“Bully mode. He won’t hurt him, just scare the living shit out of him.”

“Bully mode?”

“Yeah… I don’t know how the fuck he does it, but he can summon up a look… it’s like ice. It’d make a mother fucker throw a tank into reverse.”

“Quinn might be too stupid to be scared.”

“If he is, he needs to be sterilized. How the fuck did that numb nuts end up in education?”

“Gen Ed degree got him his job as the middle school gym teacher once he recovered from his broken back. He always had that ‘super star’ chip on his shoulder so when he found out the old principal was retiring he put in the for the job. He’d only been teaching for a year, but he’s less of a prick now than he was when he considered himself a burn out.”

“How’d his back get broken? Bike accident?”

“He was starting strongside for the Sundevils. He was NFL bound until he took a bad hit senior year. Technically he had herniated disks, but… I don’t care how you slice it, when you need to re-learn how to walk it’s broken.”

“Damn.”

“That’s all you’ve got?”

“Well, I wanted to avoid saying out loud that I feel sorry for him. Thanks for fucking that up.”

She laughed and nudged me with her elbow while Eric intimidated Quinn back a few yards. “He’s about as useless as tits on a trout, but even I felt a little sorry for him.” Tits on a fucking trout… beautiful.

“You think you can cease-fire long enough to get through practice without hitting Marnie?”

“No.”

“Sure you can.”

“I’m not making any promises.”

“C’mon. You can ignore her. Distract yourself with Carm and Jack. They need help picking furniture.”

She snorted and pushed herself off the railing. “Not as much as you did with paint.”

**

Eric wasn’t talking when we sat down. He wasn’t shut down as much as still shooting his diemotherfuckerdie look to Quinn.

Hunter leaned (over me) to Had. “Tell me you went home to work out.”

She rolled her eyes and did her own leaning. “Little man, stand down.”

He growled back, “Stop dressing like that around my friends.”

“What friends? Not only was the weight room empty because everyone is on the field, but I did my workout in sweats. I borrowed this from Sookie’s locker after my shower. Oh yeah, and… stand down before I remind you which one of us is in charge.”

“So you decided to stay covered while you were alone and now you’re showing your…”

She reached up and grabbed his ear, yanking his head sideways and putting their noses together (still over me). “Me. I’m it. I’m the boss of you. Not the other way around. I’ll dress how I like, when I like because I’m a grown damn woman…”

He managed to grind his teeth while he interrupted her. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“Maybe you should have thought about that when you were warned.” She shoved him away hard enough that he looked surprised, but he got shitty again when she told him one more word would put her on the field with the squad… and the hoodie wouldn’t go with her.

Hunter sat uncomfortably close and shot daggers at Hadley and Eric was still giving the same treatment to Quinn when the music started for the cheerleading expo. While the rest of us watched, Carm (because he’s not making an art out of aging me by being prematurely interested in girls) pulled his furniture picks out of the binder for Jack’s consideration.

Every few seconds, Hadley winced at something that happened in the routine, but as hard I tried I couldn’t see where they were fucking up. She finally leaned over to tell me that Sookie would be ‘feeling that later’. I’d almost forgotten about Sookie’s wrist until Had said something, even though she was wearing braces. Then, all of a sudden, I was distracted from the seemingly perfect routine every time Sookie did a handstand, handspring or cartwheel…

**

By the time Sookie was back from the locker room, the boys had decided on khaki with red ‘piping’ for the living room furniture and a round table with a dark stain and 6 chairs for the dining room. They’d even found end tables they liked… wrought iron and glass for the ‘man cave’ and more dark wood for the living room. Hadley ended up asking them out for a ‘date’ to shop for lamps.

Once their shopping was done, Jack disappeared to go back to the group of giggling teenie-boppers and Carm sat in my lap while Hadley tried to break the news to me gently that I would eventually have to go into the showroom to pick mattresses… I could handle that… as long as all the other shit was taken care of beforehand, I’d be fine.

The three of us had front row seats for Marnie’s enlightenment as delivered by Sookie… I actually had to cover Carm’s mouth a couple of times to keep him out of it… But it was gorgeous the way Sookie put Marnie down like a lame horse. It happened smooth and quick and it happened without yelling or hitting

Not that Carm was happy about it… On the way home the little turd told me that I should’ve let Had punch Marnie.

**

When we walked into the house, Sookie went straight to the kitchen. The look she gave me from the sink while a pot of water was filling wasn’t good…

I already knew… She’d asked Hadley and Hunter to come over when football practice was over for a ‘special dinner’

I was not going down without a fight…

I went to the bedroom with the boys’ backpacks and started checking Jack’s homework. Those damn girls had managed to do too good of a job helping him again…

Shit.

When Sookie stopped in the doorway to give me a look, the boys started laughing their asses off. So I decided to make a joke of it and dove to ‘hide’ in the closet.

I held on to the doorknob while the three of them pounded and kicked, but then it suddenly stopped.

Dead calm.

I’m not dumb enough to miss that I was being set up. I hadn’t heard any footsteps to make me think they had left the room. I knew they were just waiting to pounce as soon as the door cracked. I just knew it, but I had the advantage since I could sleep standing right where I was… I wouldn’t have… I was just planning on letting them think I was going to be an asshole…

I know from experience that watching a stationary object could make someone go apeshit. It only would’ve taken 2 minutes before they’d feel like they’d been waiting an hour…

I was starting to worry when I heard something move near my feet. With no pets in the house, I was worried that the old house might have mice, but I decided to believe that a raccoon had gotten under the house. I was fine with that.

I could’ve ignored the idea of a raccoon being under the house, but when something grabbed my fucking calf I nearly shit my pants tying to find the doorknob again!

My heart was too close to pounding out of my chest to know what I yelled, but whatever it was, Carm was laughing that it was going to cost me $25… And when I looked back at the closet…

That. Fucking. Bitch…

Sookie was smiling her ass off when she winked at me.

“HOW DID YOU GET IN THERE!?”

“Old laundry shute from when this was the only bedroom. Give up yet?”

“Not fair. Not nice.” She’d gotten me so good that I was out of breath. If she’d done it to anyone else, I’d be laughing too hard to breath instead.

She came over (trying to not laugh, but not hard enough) and took my hand from my chest. “Come on. Willing hostages are always happier.” She started backing up.

“I’m not talking to you.”

“That’s just going to make things difficult… Boys, a little help here?”

They were to happy to bounce off the bed and get behind me… shoving my ass toward the door…

Not that they could’ve moved me if I didn’t want to, but I could actually feel a strength difference between Sookie’s hands when she was pulling on me…

Even if I was serious about refusing, I sure as hell didn’t want her to hurt herself over a joke…

**

Sookie started gathering stuff to put on the counter in front of me and she gave the boys corn to shuck…

“No fair! I want to shuck the corn.”

Both of the boys laughed at me and Sookie put a massive metal mixing bowl on the counter. “Lesson one: Minimizing risk… If you have several available options, you take the path of least resistance that could yield the desired effect. Right?”

I nodded.

“Dairy tends to burn quickly over direct heat. So you’re going to want to use indirect or low heat. The pot of boiling water for the noodles will make the perfect double boiler for the cheese sauce.”

“Double boiler?”

She gave me a blank look for a second… “The hot water pack in an MRE… You set it off and it gets hot so you sink your meal packet into the hot pack and you have warm primavera. No matter what happens, the heat won’t burn the meal… Same thing.” I probably smiled when I realized that she was ‘Catherine the Greating’ me… I’d heard of ‘double boilers’ before but never had a clue… but I’d sure as shit had more than fair share of MREs…

That’s a smart bitch who can translate… she turned history into gossip so teenagers would remember it like it’d been on Perez Hilton’s blog and she was turning cooking into guy shit… She might teach me how to cook after all…

She had me dice the butter and cheese, then pour the cream over it…

Then it was time to move on.

After I washed and dried the chicken pieces and laid them out on a sheet pan and then put the salt in my hand. When I stared at she started laughing.

“You want to knock it down not kill it…” She took the salt back from me and dumped some into her hand… then rubbed the whole damn lot of it onto a thigh. “Point blank with a shotgun… you’d die if you bit into that piece… but if you fire from a distance, you’ll still know it’s there. They call it ‘peppered’ for a reason.” She took some more salt and sprinkled it from a ways up and it made me feel better to see her rinse the over salted piece. At least with the chicken I could have a do-over if I over-spiced anything.

“The oil should be hot enough for the breasts…”

“Ok. A- why aren’t we using the fryer. And B- why the breasts first?”

“We could use the fryer but when the breasts go in, because they’re so big it’d take too long for the oil temp to come back up because the heating element is so small. The fryer is better for small things like fries, nuggets or like the fish we did for tacos because fish is low in fats and has a quick cooking time… If the oil temp falls, then the fat in the oil will bond with the fat in the chicken before the oil is hot enough to cook it again. It’s how you end up with greasy fried diner food as opposed to crispy southern goodness.”

“And doing it on the stovetop is better because the burner is about the same size as the pan… like having registers in every room instead of trying to heat a whole house with a fireplace.”

She did a little happy dance, but the look she gave me was halfway between evil and victory. “I told you you’d get it… We’re doing the breasts first because since they’re bigger, they’ll hold their temp longer. Then the thighs, then drumsticks, then wings… Once we drain the oil off, the heat from the next batch of chicken will insulate the batch under it.”

Fuck me… there was no way in hell I was going to admit that she’d been right about it being easier than I thought…

But I was learning how to cook…

**

The boys ‘checked on’ me when they brought the corn in from the porch. Carm grinned at me. “Told ya, you couldn’t hide forever… We’re gonna watch TV in our room.”

Smart ass.

As soon as they were around the corner Sookie slapped my shoulder. “Two Ts a C and a G!? When the hell…”

I started laughing… “Believe it or not, Jason.”

“How?”

“He told Carm he had the same problem and it got better when he started singing… Carm sang in the shower this morning.”

She took a deep breath and held it, just like Hadley’d done… “I forgot about that… Damn…” She giggled and clapped her hands and it was the girliest damn thing I’d seen her do. “…I’m happy for Carm, but Jason needs to hurry up and have his own before he steals him.”

“Hadley’s already offered a trade.”

“I bet. Hunter’s been trying to give Had grays for years.”

“Hunter’s going to have to learn to flirt with a broken nose if he doesn’t settle down. He was giving her a hard time about being in PTs. She nearly took his ear off before he shut up.”

“He gets a lot of shit about her being a MILF. She’s generally more modest than me, but her options were suit and yogas. We understand that, but Hunter…”

“Yeah, but she was wearing your clothes…”

“I’m not his mom though… I get why he’s shitty and I get why she refuses to dress in gunny sacks… She joked about getting Botox when she noticed crow’s feet starting. He didn’t talk to her for a week until she signed an agreement to not have anything done to make her look younger until one of them is married.” What fucking crow’s feet?

I laughed. “That little shit! She barely looks your age as it is, so Botox would just be stupid, but damn… So what? He’s planning on dogging around until she’s in her 50s?”

“Probably. It doesn’t help that Daddy and Bravo make no bones about bitching over my wardrobe…”

“That reminds me… Terry mentioned ‘Bravo’ today. Who’s that?”

“Daddy and Terry are really tight… Uncle Dermot and Bravo are the rest of the team… Bravo is my godfather. He’ll be out from Bossier this weekend.”

“You ever call your father Alpha?”

She giggled. “Yeah. When they’re together since we all call them both Daddy.” Cute…

“So why don’t you call Terry ‘Charlie’?”

She started laughing. “You try calling a Nam POW with PTSD ‘Charlie’ and see where that gets ya!”

I could have choked, I was laughing so hard. Calling him ‘Charlie’ in normal conversation probably wouldn’t be a problem, but yelling it across a crowd to get his attention wouldn’t get the desired effect.

**

Hunter barely said hi before he went to search out the boys. Hadley was getting the silent treatment.

I wanted to laugh about how much she didn’t give a shit too…

She grabbed a beer and took up residence on Eric’s lap with Sookie. “Gee, Eric, Sookie looks tired, but don’t worry… Backup’s here.”

“Back up? Oh shit… Did Quinn pick a fight with you after we took off?”

She giggled. “No… The Nor’easter suggested that your man had ‘backup’ if anything happened to you.”

“You didn’t hit her? Quinn’s nose is still tender from the last time.”

She whined, “I tried. Alc is a party pooper. Damn passivist.”

I laughed at her while I pulled the thighs out of the oil… “Watch your mouth. I’m no passivist… Eric’s been putting up with her for longer and there’s no gender between siblings. He gets dibs.”

“I was DEPRIORITIZED!?”

“Yeah…”

She growled. “So I can hit her after Eric does?”

“Nope. After me.”

“Why would you get to go next? She called me a backup ho.”

“Because when Sookie’s hoodie came off, Carm found out that she has no filter and argued about how much work Sookie’s had done… by asking how much Eric was paying for the ‘tits on that tramp’. It cost me $20 bucks, but I didn’t hit her.”

Eric added, “And she rode his ass like a rodeo clown in the hardware store.

She jokingly huffed and bobbed her head from side to side. “Ohhhh kayyyyy… Fine, but I’m going third. She got to me before Sookie.”

Eric chuckled at her. “Agreed, but don’t hold your breath. If I lose it enough to hit her after all these years, you’d have to go through the coroner to get your turn.”

**

Sookie and Hadley spent a while doing their pseudo-convo-broken-twin-talking… I risked a look at Eric and he didn’t have any more clue about what they were talking about than I did. Neither one of them had ANY trouble understanding one another… a stranger really could have thought they shared a fucking womb, I swear.

I started to feel a little better about dinner when Sookie shared a piece of chicken with me… It was actually good… heat the oil. Wash, season, flour the chicken (in that order), fry, drain. Done…

Like that hadn’t been easy enough, the macaroni was good too and it doesn’t get much simpler…

I actually got pissed for a minute… all the bitching I did about Ame’s cooking… I wasn’t pissed at her so much. I could’ve been cooking on nights I was home. The cleaning is what had always been the major bone of contention… I always understood about the cooking… mostly because I thought it was so complicated though… I caught myself trying to mindfuck myself into a guilt trip and quit. Even with the cooking set aside, there was still a list of shit a mile long that made her a shitty mom and wife… Good riddance.

By the time the food was ready, Sookie had already started plates for the boys so their drumsticks could cool off. She was barely out of the kitchen before Hunter charged into the room and managed to fit 2 ears of corn and 5 pieces of chicken on his plate with a huge fucking heap of macaroni… And the gluttonous pig had already ninja’ed his way into the room to steal two pieces (that I noticed)… After watching that, I told Eric that I got two days off from being oinked at. I’m not anywhere near that bad

**

I was worried about how much the boys would like it, but I’d barely sat down before Jack yelled ‘eggplant parmesan’.

When I asked him what he was talking about, he informed me that dinner was ‘real good’ and that I needed to make sure I learn how to make eggplant parmesan. Carm added shrimp alfredo to the request… Ahhhh, Mom would be proud.

Sookie winked at me and yelled back to them that she’d ‘make it happen’ before we move out.

We hadn’t been eating long before Eric got sick of his sister staring at him with the ugliest ‘eat shit’ look I could’ve imagined… “What?”

“You’re just as big an asshole as you were when we were kids.” Uh-oh…

He dropped his fork and sat back. “What the fuck have I done now?”

“Mom and Dad are going to be pleased as punch that you managed to find Little Miss Perfect here to go with your perfect job and your perfect…”

Eric’s eyes were still tilting when Sookie cut her off… her voice had basically done what Eric’s face does… subarctic… “Shut your mouth. Shut it RIGHT now. Your envy isn’t his problem. You seem to pay an awful lot of attention to what he is and has. You could put some of your pity party energy into reading a book or getting some therapy… This is your last warning. Use some manners or I will give you a come-to-Jesus to write home about. You’re already luckier than Alc was. He didn’t get a warning.” No, I didn’t. All of a sudden, I was in the floor… I’d already warned her too.

“Let him answer! I wasn’t even talking to you.”

“Answer what? You weren’t asking him about his life, you were forcing your perspective of it down his throat. Is he supposed to feel badly about his life because you’ve made a mess of yours?” Oh shit!

That… That was better than the Sookie v. Ame showdown… Had and I scooted our seats closer as a joke and I fished my phone out to text Eric… “I’d pay the $39.95 to watch this shit on PPV. Dinner and a floor show.”

I got back: “Asshole. I’m trying not to laugh.”

In the meantime, Marnie fired back, “What do you mean a mess?”

Sookie cocked her head to the side and gave a look that said ‘you asked for it’… “Well, I mean… do you think that in order to make you feel better about being of no use, he should have tried to not make you look bad. Do you think that he should have tanked tests to look AS ordinary as you? Do you think he should have sat on his ass and gotten lazy feeling sorry for you like you did? Do you think he should have fucked anyone to smile at him like you did? Fritos and guys without last names made you the fabulous person before me. I guess I could see how you’d be disappointed in his choices. Damn him for reading and being friendly and putting in an effort. Damn him for getting an education and a job that fucking means something and not using you as a scapegoat. The fucking nerve of this guy.” Ooooohohohohohoooo SHIT! I think I bit through my lip!

“What fucking right do you have? You don’t know me!”

“Yes I do. You’re a self centered malcontent with low self esteem. You use other people’s accomplishments to validate your own existence because you are useless. You use your own inadequacies as an equalizer, making others feel sorry enough for you that they can’t be truly happy for themselves when you’re around. And you go as far as to blame your husband’s career for your inability to go to school or get a job when, in reality, you’re just too lazy. I bet that you didn’t even leave your husband… I bet that you’re husband has been sick of you for a while so you cooked up the pregnancy so that he’d have to ignore his impulse to kick your ass to the curb. But he found out that you were lying and packed your shit for you, drove you to the airport and handed you a couple hundred dollars of spending cash. Bon Voyage…”

Marnie just stared with her mouth hanging open. She didn’t deny any of it either… Sookie fucking pegged her ass! That smart bitch put together all of the half truths and ran them through that ‘machine’ as Had called it… Fucking wow!

Sookie looked like she was giving Marnie the chance to recover, but when it didn’t happen she snorted. “Fucking figures… So unless you want to wear out your welcome within the next 4 days you need to watch your mouth. You owe it to the people who raised you… You won’t show your ass and make your folks regret this visit. You WILL pretend to show Eric some respect under his roof since he was kind enough to not send your instigating ass back to the airport.”

“He wouldn’t have done that, he’s too perfect to…”

“Enough. Shut it.”

“You can’t control me.”

“You’d be surprised at how much I know about control. I might not be able to pull your strings, but I can very FUCKING WELL control this situation. Eat.” Even I was scared to say anything…

Fork. Chew. Dinner. Dinner. Chicken. Corn… minding my own fucking business and avoiding eye contact… Even with Hadley since the ‘holy shit’ look left on her face made it hard not to laugh…

When Hunter came in to reload his plate (how the fuck could he possibly eat more?) Carm was hot on his heels…

Sookie didn’t even give him the chance… “Alc, hand my purse over, if you don’t mind…”

Yes ma’am… I grabbed it from the microwave and passed it across.

“…What’d you hear, cutie?”

“The brown word, the donkey word twice and you dropped the bomb… loud.” He missed more than a few by my count, but his hand was out before he was done with the list.

Money in hand, he mumbled on the way out, “Pleasure doing business to ya.” That little turd…

Hadley started laughing quietly and leaned over. “Ok, Hunter and my Harley.” She rides a Harley?

Sweetening the trade… humph. “Year and body?”

“75 Sportster. Perfect chrome, custom gunmetal blue tank and fenders, we replaced the original 1,100 engine with a new 1,200 this summer. It’s only got 600 miles on it. Interested?” Sweet Jesus, nice bike.

“No, just curious.”

She hissed at me.

**

While everyone else cleaned up, Marnie watched with a cigarette. Twat.

Finally, with everything else out of the way, Hadley yanked me outside to ‘help grab the sample boards’…

I laughed at her. “I think it’s safe. Hunter’s already upstairs.”

“Need to grab the boards anyway and this way the smell won’t be stuck to me as much.”

“As opposed to that oh-so-sexy fried chicken smell?” The whole house and everyone in it smelled like they’d been fried.

“Speaking of dinner… As tempting as it is to make virgin jokes, dinner was great. Nice job.”

“Thanks. I was sure we’d end up ordering takeout…” When we turned the corner I was staring at a fucking monster truck. Full sized Bronco… on a lift kit and tires high enough that I’d need to plan ahead to get in. There was no way that thing was street legal. “Holy shit! This is you?”

She started cackling. “It was my husband’s. Technically it’s waiting for Hunter, but I was moving paint so I figured I’d fire it up…”

“Instead of risking a paint-foul in your GT?”

“Not like that, ya big jerk… My car doesn’t have enough trunk space for me to grocery shop…”

“After seeing Hunter put food away, neither does this.”

“Ohhh, you have no idea… you should see me at a warehouse store. Everyone thinks I’m a damn caterer.” Even though it’s just the two of them, I could still see that… He’d eaten a chicken and a half.

She barely reached to lift the back window so that she could lower the tailgate. It was nearly as high as her chest, but she had no problem lifting herself up to sit on it…

She reached back and held up the first board… plain dark red. The right color paint

When she flipped the board around though, Jake had done some vertical airbrushing and the board looked like a stage curtain…

“Very nice… Jack’ll love it… Whatcha got for Carm?”

She handed the one down to me and grabbed the other… Green… the green we actually matched to real money…

When she flipped it around she cringed… But I started laughing. “It’s perfect. The little shit will love it.” All over the bottom half of the board were little metallic green money bags and piggy banks… I could picture it in Baron Trump’s nursery.

“Really? Jake said it was really simple once he made the stencils…”

I took the board from her and helped her down. “Jake’s going to find himself with a couple of fans. He did a great job.”

“He’s got time to go over and do it one day next week… We’ll have to put a glaze over it though so it won’t rub away, but with the 5 of us, that won’t be a biggie.”

**

By the time we got inside, the boys were chomping at the bit to get started on ‘band practice’.

I left the samples leaning against the wall in the foyer so that we could head up…

“Alright. Y’all were up late last night, so I’m warning you now, you have one hour before bath and bed. It’s already 7:00.”

They growled at me… all three of the little bastards…

Like it didn’t suck enough to play the hard ass… If it wasn’t a school night, I could’ve sat and watched them play until they passed out.

While they played, I made a memo on my phone of what they’d played so that downloading later would be easier…

Just like the night before, they had a blast… Jack was busting at the seams and I had so much fun watching them that I would’ve given them a few more minutes…

…If Hadley hadn’t been the heavy anyway. Sookie managed to be a brat and squeeze one more song in though…

“Okay boys… pack it in. Hunter needs a good night sleep so he can play tomorrow night.”

He gave her a dirty look. “I still have a couple hours until ‘bedtime’.”

“I might care about that if you weren’t such a jerk earlier. Now I have to go home and spend my night at the sewing machine.”

“Why? What are you sewing?”

“I have to shorten all of my skirts.”

“THAT’S NOT FUNNY!” Sure it was… I was laughing.

I nodded over to Jack so that his sweaty little butt could hit the showers first. He wasn’t happy about it, but he started getting up.

Sookie smiled over at Jack. “If you want to bring your iPod up here tomorrow after school, knock yourself out. I won’t be here, but you can teach yourself something to wow us with.”

Jack attacked her. He slammed into her to hug her hard enough to knock her back a step before he started high fiving everyone.

Hunter was still staring Hadley down, so she decided to push his buttons. “It’s a shame it’s so chilly out or I’d just wear a bikini top…”

“Mom! Seriously… Knock it off!”

Jack snorted on his way by Hunter to do what his parent told him.

“What’s so funny?”

Jack gave him a high eyebrow. “If you want to make a list we can compare moms.”

“She wear’s clothes that make my friends flirt with her.” At least he sugar-coated that. He could’ve said ‘causes hard-ons’ a hundred different ways.

Jack actually pouted his bottom lip at him and folded his arms. “Really? Last week my mom took us to Taco Bell for dinner because she doesn’t cook and we ran into one of my friends… She’d been wearing the same PJs for two days. Your turn.”

Hunter just looked at him like he felt sorry for him.

“Come on… this could be fun. Poor Hunter has a pretty mom. Wanna hear about how Sookie had to make my mom take a shower to go out?”

Embarrassing as it was, Hunter was slack jawed… He had nothing. Jack was more upset about things than he’d shown, but… it was more like he’d been keeping a leash on how happy he was to not have Ame around…

Jack shrugged… “Didn’t think so.” …and walked out.

Uh… Wow.

**

While Jack was cleaning up, Sookie helped Carm rehearse the song he’d be singing in the Christmas show…

Both boys flipped out over the paint samples and flipped out again when Had gave them a bigger and more detailed ‘rendering’ of their rooms… and once Hunter and Hadley took off I went to our room…

Jack was already laid out on the mattress with his iPod.

“You alright?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Because you kind of bit Hunter’s head off.”

“He was being a butt.”

“I know that, but…”

“I like Hadley. She’s fun. She can’t help being pretty. He acts like she should be ashamed of it. Sookie says perspective is important.”

“She does, huh?”

“Yeah… she says that me and her have the same kind of mother. Unhappy and mean about it, but we could have it worse and we need to keep things in perspective so that we don’t waste time feeling sorry for ourselves.”

“I guess she’s right. Not that I’m happy with what y’all got stuck with, I’ve seen a lot worse.”

“She said that too. Hunter just needed some perspective.”

“Back to the original point though. You seem really bitter.”

He snorted. “I am. I wish Amelia left a long time ago. I’ve gotten angry at how happy I’ve been since you brought us here… But when we talked to Sookie about it today she told us not to be angry that she made us unhappy for so long because if she hadn’t we wouldn’t notice how happy we are now. It makes sense.” God bless her…

“I’ve been worried about you guys. You know, how you’d handle your parents breaking up.”

“Don’t worry about that. We’re happy about it.”

“What were you two really fighting about yesterday morning?”

“Carm didn’t get it. He was thinking that since our house is bigger than this one that Sookie and Eric will move with us. That’s why he asked about Sookie being our new mom.”

“He didn’t seem upset to get set straight though.”

“He isn’t. He was just confused.”

“That still doesn’t explain why y’all argued though.”

“I told him we don’t need a mom. He thought I was full of it until Sookie told him we’d be ok, just the three of us.”

“Do you buy it?”

He giggled. “If you keep cussing like you did today, I’ll be able to buy anything.”

I actually chuckled at the little wise ass… “Seriously though.”

“We’ll be great. I don’t have to buy it… I can already tell. Sookie wouldn’t lie to us anyway.”

“I don’t think she would either. So… you guys are really alright?”

“Why wouldn’t we be? We’ve got it really good with you.”

**

As exhausted as she was, the boys managed to talk Sookie into singing to them before they turned in. By the time American Pie was over, Carm was snoring, Jack wasn’t far behind and Eric and I were as dead on our feet as Sookie was.

We met in the hall to discuss the mountain of IDs that were waiting to be looked at but in less than 3 minutes we decided 2 things…

The IDs would still there tomorrow and if Pam could fuck off for a solid week, we could get away with turning in early this once.

My head had just hit my pillow when I heard Jack’s snoring start to go with his brother’s…

And it didn’t take long for my lights to go out either.
 

NEXT>>

28 thoughts on “Chapter 16: But I Don’t Want To Go Among Mad People

  1. Brill chapter as usual, but you’ve left me with a major dilemma now. I so wanted to steal Carm away before this chapter, but the heart breaking way in which Jack put down Hunter makes me want to wrap him up. Loving all the Alc and Hadley moments. Especially love hertrying to sweeten the pot to claim Carm. Her knocking Hunter down a little was so well deserved, and well played. Little boy needs to grow up and realise mom has a life too. Because he’s so big and smart it’s easy to forget how young he actually is. I love the Marnie moments, been looking forward to this. Also can’t wait for Alc’s view of SMom.

  2. I love this story so much! I love how Alc and Hadley are developing, and Jack giving Hunter his own come-to-Jesus. I could go on and on. Fabulous as always! And the picture at the top, fuck hot! He really would be pretty with tattoos.

  3. i was really surprised that it was Jack who took Hunter down, but it worked out really well. I love the conversation that followed between Jack & Alc. Jack is one very smart little boy!

    Great Chapter!

  4. Wow again. I love Alc’s description of poor Eric and his cleaning and pacing. It is fascinating to get all the decorating info on what Had is doing with the boys and their rooms. Jack shutting down Hunter – yowza. Needing a bigger truck for food for Hunter – LMAO. Looking forward to more Sookie handling Marnie. Thanks for another awesome update.

  5. three times the Alc….no complaints here woman. damn! we missed SO much from Eric’s pov!! I just LOVED how Jack gave Hunter some perspective and then called his “mother” by her name with his convo with Alc :o

    now why would we be mad about the other stories not getting updated when THIS is that damn good?! never gonna happen lady! :D

  6. Love this story, especially good chapter this time between Jack telling Hunter of and the heart to heart, and of course the fight over who get s to hit Eric’s sister hehe, great chapter!!

  7. Love this version – Jack taking on Hunter to tell him how good he really has it… Hadley being 3rd in line to sock it to Marnie. Great job

  8. I just LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE Jack and his ‘perspective’ as he put it!
    Seeing Sookie but Marnie in her place again was just as awesome!
    Thanks for such a quick update – but you always leave me wanting more!
    Juls

  9. Aww how absolutely adorable is Jack. I loved his perspective and how he put Hunter in his place about Hadley. I also enjoyed the interactions between Hadley and Alc, especially when she was fighting to calibrate Eric’s sister. It’s cool to see their chemistry happening, especially with her having a bike and a man truck. i think the romance has officially begun and something tells me the kids will adjust nicely

  10. This was a really great chapter. I don’t think anyone minds the other stories getting a bit neglected to have more AIW. I love Alcide’s perspective on everything, and I love how Marnie isn’t as fat and ugly as Eric sees her. It’s funny how being a grade A bitch can color how people see you. I love how Alcide is getting along with Hadley, and can’t wait for hurricane Ame to screech back into town so he can get a divorce already! More please!

  11. This story…

    You know how you get caught up in the book, and even though you KNOW it’s 2 am, and you KNOW you have to get up in 3 hours, you can’t put it down, because dang it, you only have 100 pages left, and that won’t take too long…

    That’s exactly how I feel right now, like I can not put it down, except THERE ISN’T ANY MORE STORY!

    Mostly want to know how Hunter and Hadley reacted to Jack’s observations; I can’t imagine Hunter apologizing, and honestly, I see his point. And as smart as he is, as advanced as he is, he is still a 14 year old at heart. It isn’t fair to expect him to handle it any better or more maturely than he has. But I hope it did give him the perspective Jack wanted it to.

    (Also, at the risk of embarrassing myself, I have spent entire weekends in the same jammies. Granted, I don’t go out with my kid in them, because it’s usually the weekends she’s with her dad and I become a hermit and suck up the quiet and solitude, but you just gave ME some perspective!)

    Seriously, I love this version, and I am in love with Alc and his boys. Hadley is going to spoil them rotten, and soon Jack will feel Hunter’s pain of having a pretty mom.

  12. I just re-read this chapter in S&S’s; I totally forgot that Hadley’s Jake is Sookie’s car painting Jake. I had to come back and tell you how amazing it is to see the different POVs, and how amazing it is that Hadley can tout Jake’s talents without ever once mentioning anything resembling pity, or even ‘motherly pride’ (I’m sure Jake is still taking care of his little sisters, and the Stackhouse women would be all over that).
    You are amazing. Truly.

  13. again a wonderful chapter, loved the Jack and Hunter show, and can’t wait for the come to Jesus with Marnie. love this story, so glad for the update.

  14. ok this quote “Why wouldn’t we be? We’ve got it really good with you.” pretty much made me cry. that was so freakin adorable.

  15. Wow! Jack’s speech to Hunter… and he actually shut Hunter up.

    I love reading about Had and Alc. Their conversation at the ball field and out on the truck. Hadley has a Harley? LOVE it!

    Interesting that Marnie isn’t quite so ugly… Just ugly on the inside.

  16. I’m with Lynn, I need Mr Andy to help me with cinnamons for awesome. I loved the convo between Jack and Alc at the end. I’m sorry that the poor little guy was made to feel like that, but I’m glad that he’s so much happier now. He’s already turning into a Stackhouse.
    Beautiful chapter, awesome way to start my catchup after 4 days without internetz *cries*… can’t wait for the next one though :) Thank you for all your hard work :)

  17. Still love that this story is showing the amazing love that a dad has for his kids. Thank you so much for continue writing.

  18. ha! hunter totally got told by jack! glad the boys love how their rooms are going to be. happy that the boys are doing just great and that alc made a good dinner.

  19. HA! Alcide telling off Marnie just as fun as the first time I read it :P
    And reading Sookie go off on her AGAIN lmao! can’t wait for her smacking Marnie in the morning…
    LMAO! Jack handled Hunter?!? PRICELESS! HA!

  20. Jack calibrating Hunter was Brilliant! I’m so glad Alcide saw that, and was able to have the conversation with him afterward. How the boys are settling into things has obviously been on his mind. I was good for him to hear how ok they are, even if it wasn’t easy to hear ok they WEREN’T.
    Awesome chapter as always. Really looking forward to continuing to read Alcides take on things.

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