Dancing Round And Round
No sooner than I came out of the bathroom, I realized why CMC locked up… Since the last time I’d laid eyes on Sookie, Hadley had pulled her hair up and Sookie had put a pair of yoga pants on over her shorts…
Ponytail, purple top (sleeveless at that) and navy blue pants… Hell, they were both wearing the same brand of cross-trainer…
That poor fucker thought he’d walked in on his future daughter-in-law mid-grope with his son’s partner… At least that was worth a double take.
Unfortunately, Had and I weren’t going to be able to ‘awkwardly’ ignore that he’d caught us… depending on if he seemed to realize what was up, he might need some kind of hint.
Sookie headed me off in the hall with a determined look on her face. “Just the man I was looking for… I have a job for you.”
“Oh yeah? Is it going to suck as much as having Frannie use me for pole dancing practice?”
She cringed. “She can be pretty persistent. I was serious when I said that you wouldn’t need my help finding a girl though.”
I rolled my eyes. She fucking knew I wasn’t buying that shit. “What’s the job?”
“Quality control. We’re about to start baking and making candies. With all the chocolates Had’s planning, you and JB can gorge like Augustus Gloop.”
“Before we play football… And take up all the room I’m saving for ribs? Your dad said ‘ribs’.”
“Ribs and steak and lobster and… there’s always so much food that there’s no ‘one plate rule’ at our cookouts. The Horsemen have been cooking for a while now… and you’re going to end up in the kitchen anyway because the boys are snoring.”
“Damn… Y’all can wear anyone out… Alright, go change your shirt though. CMC’s getting confused and the way you and Had move around in the kitchen could cause a stroke.”
She raised her eyebrow at me.
She giggled. “You noticed what Had was wearing?” Hard not to since I’d watched her take it off and put it on…
“Smom is wearing a bright pink sweater and gray slacks. Laf is wearing a Wizard of Oz T-shirt and black cargo pants.”
“Yeah, but they don’t look nearly as good without a bra on…” Dirty bitch.
“Keep it up. We’ll see how funny you think you are when Eric gets a mystery dose of Depo.”
She opened her mouth to fire back, but closed it again and dipped into her bedroom.
It ended up being Lafayette, JB, Eric, CMC and me in the kitchen… just waiting for the ‘show’ to start.
Eric went out to the back porch so I followed him thinking that he was grabbing drinks and could use a hand, but he went to the back door and leaned out a little… Like being a busy-body little pischer and using me to start a fight between Jason and Frannie wasn’t enough, he was really going to try eavesdropping.
“Sookie said it wouldn’t get too bad. Stand down. There’s nothing you can do unless you want me to go out there and tell them that y’all were trying to set them up.” Or he could end their fight in a second by telling him that Fran was just trying to handle me and Had.
He waited long enough to hear Jason tell Fran that even he was better at acting like he had a filter around kids. He started shaking his head and grunted, staring out into the yard even though the fight was happening around the corner. “Sookie’d burn too. I’ll ask her what she wants to do. You’ve seen how he gets when she mentions the two of them.”
I opened the fridge and started grabbing beer and teas. “Alright then, in the meantime you need to chill the fuck out. You look like your old man.”
He turned around to scowl at me and I ended up laughing while I filled his hands with drinks.
“Yeah. Just like that… It could still work out. Standing there like a kid waiting on Santa isn’t going to do any good though.”
“I know, but I still feel like an asshole.”
“Good. Your little God complex was getting out of hand.”
“What the fuck do you know about God complexes?” Duh… me can read real good. Fucking asshole.
“I’ve been riding with one for almost 4 years, princess… I’m pretty sure it’s listed in your file with your tattoos and scars.”
I had to turn around and go back into the kitchen so that I wouldn’t laugh at the way his mouth fell open.
The new kitchen table got pushed into the corner to make room for Sookie, Had, Marnie and Smom to have more floor space…
The ‘women folk’ were barely done practically emptying out the fridge and pantry when ‘weird’ happened. It wasn’t one thing… it was the combination of events that made me think something was up… Within about 90 seconds, Laf got a text that made him giggle (yes, giggle), Jason’s Torino spit gravel on the way out of the driveway and Frannie came in from the yard to plop down on Eric’s lap. It actually made him look more guilty…
The look didn’t linger. Not that he felt less guilty for trying to play puppeteer with people he barely knew, but his father was glaring at him. Hard core. Watching made me want to bitch slap Eric… Maybe it was just because I had kids, but the old man was sitting on a pile of shit that added up to his son’s life being less settled and more unsettling… and I hadn’t seen or heard Eric explain anything… but then again, CMC wasn’t asking any questions either… the two of them were a fucking train wreck. It was almost funny that Eric seemed to get along with everyone but his own father.
It was like watching glaciers move around each other. Sookie was going to have to do something. Both of those mother fuckers needed to be handled into talking to each other. And all I could think about was ‘poor Smom’. She had to be a saint to put up with that shit all those years.
To ‘earn our keep’, we ended up crushing cookies, stirring melted chocolate and crushing the juice out of some fruit… all the while Eric and CMC somehow managed to use the population in the kitchen as some kind of deranged conversational shield so that they wouldn’t have to speak directly to each other…
Between the recipes and ingredients getting tossed around, Sookie and Hadley ended up on the topic of me… I needed to be ‘locked in’ for the Stackhouse family Thanksgiving before today’s football game scared me off. Cute. They should’ve realized by then that I’d take an ass stomping for what they consider a normal lunch. Hell, they were already calling me ‘Meal Meister’ and ‘Fridge Doctor’…
What the fuck ever… If I had a problem, they were my enablers and I’d be dragging them with me to my Overeaters’ Anonymous meetings… and I pretty much told them that while I shared a gallon of milk with JB to wash down all of the samples they were shoving at us… not that we were complaining.
He actually put a lot more away than me, so I jokingly asked why no one made fun of him… It turned out that ‘Bear’ was making fun… They’d settled on it back in grade school. He was Bear because no one could decide on Pooh or Yogi… Instead of a lunchbox, he carried a small cooler… I was so not going to admit that I had too. It was even funnier that his mom packed meatloaf sandwiches for him because it was the cheapest way to fill him up… mine packed meatball subs.
With a bad case of ‘sugar gut’ I practically waddled back to my room to grab my stuff so I could get into the shower… God knows I didn’t want to get stuck in line behind Sookie and Eric. I could take a cold shower if I had to, but I wasn’t retarded enough to set myself up for one.
I was barely under the water when there was a knock on the door. “Occupied.”
I heard the door open anyway. “Can I borrow the sink and mirror while you’re in the shower? I’m wearing about as much as you ate.” Had.
“Y’all aren’t big on ‘privacy’ are you?”
“Not really… Momma sits on the damn toilet and chats me up while I take a bath.” Why not? A locked door around these people was probably an insult.
“Come on in… You live with your mom?”
“Yeah… She started staying with me years ago. Visits got longer and longer… When I moved home again, I bought a house with plenty of room for her to stay, so she did… I’m turning the sink on enough to brush my teeth. Watch out.”
“I wish my mom hadn’t been too stubborn to leave Dallas… Where’s your place?”
“About a mile off of your back porch.” That wasn’t much of a walk.
“So I have a neighbor that climbs into my kitchen window, huh?”
“And eagles nesting nearby that’ll retire your alarm clock. If you start thinking pets, get something too big to get carried off.”
“Eagles? No shit? What kind?” I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen one in the wild.
“Bald. Plenty of hawks and stuff, but it’s the eagles that’ll wake the dead.”
“I probably won’t mind them too much for a while. I’m still kind of a tourist out here.”
“You’ve never lived in the country, huh?”
“Nope. Weekend hunting trips once in a while and a couple years in the desert… Not much wildlife out there though.” I made the mistake of looking in her direction to see her silhouette changing… I was so fucked… and it wasn’t escaping me that I was having the kind of conversation with Hadley that I’d never had with my wife… I’d long since given up comparing apples and oranges… Sookie had managed to get it through my head that Ame was the exception, not the rule… It was just dawning on me that I was so comfortable with Had. Sharing a bathroom to get ready to go out was more ‘cozy’ than I could remember feeling. Natural… not guarded… no underlying hostility… fun…
“I bitch about it, but every time I’d come home from somewhere else I was looking forward to it.”
“I already like it here… I’ll get used to the little stuff.”
She laughed a little. “Even if you weren’t so yielding, we could keep you too full to think about moving…”
“Go ahead… you’re just working up to call me a pacifist again.”
“Not now that I’m starting to figure you out.”
“Care to enlighten me?”
Not that I thought I could’ve gotten any more out of her (or was too worried about it for that matter), but there was a knock on the door… I almost threw a bar of soap at Had for opening it. I couldn’t hear who it was at first, but I heard Had giggle, “Sure, how’s my face?”
That’s when I heard Carm tell her, “It’s dood.” Shit. He woke up needing to pee… ten minutes later… ten minutes in either direction and it could’ve spared a lot of potential awkwardness. As it was, I was worried that Carm would read something into Had being in the bathroom while I showered.
“K… don’t flush. Your daddy’s still under the water… lemme get outta your way.”
When I heard the door shut behind her, I decided to ‘act casual’. “Y’all missed the women baking… they needed taste testers.”
I could hear him yawning while he peed. “Is there any left?”
“Tons. They put a bunch on a plate for you guys. Your brother up yet?” I turned the water off and grabbed a towel to wrap around me and when I opened the curtain, he was rubbing his eyes and shaking his head.
He went ahead and flushed and decided to sit down. “Not yet. When are we leaving?”
“About an hour. You feeling alright?”
He nodded, but he was barely awake. The poor kid would’ve slept longer if his bladder hadn’t woken him up.
“You want to go back and lay down or you wanna go fill up your sugar tank?”
He yawned again. “Before lunch?”
“The cookout is a little late to call it lunch. You could call it an early dinner…”
“And have a junk lunch?”
“Is it junk food when it’s handmade with fresh ingredients?”
He snorted and slid off of the commode.”I’ll buy dat. Am I waking up Jack?”
“If you can do it nicely, yeah. I’ll be right out.”
“I have to be nice?”
“Unless you have backup, yes.”
The evil little ass was smiling like a deranged anchorman when he took off.
Since Had rode with me and the boys, she explained who was going to be at the cookout that we hadn’t already met… Unc, Bravo and Momma…
Unc and Bravo’s descriptions were given and the boys thought it was funny that Unc and Bravo would look more like brothers than Corbett and Unc do since they both have dark hair.
They were more interested in hearing about Momma though since she used to be Had and Sookie’s dance and gymnastics coach and a very good friend of Rene’s mother since they taught together until Linda took over the family’s dealership. Jack and Carm got even more interested in ‘Momma’ when they heard that she gets insomnia and bakes when she can’t sleep… too much for even Hunter to eat everything… and she’s the one that taught Had and Sookie everything they know about sweets.
The boys ever-so-charitably offered to take extras off their hands.
We pulled into Corbett’s driveway right behind Rotten (and only 7 minutes late) and the boys were trying to take off before the truck stopped.
“Hang on. Act like y’all have some sense… Had, rules of the house?”
She hummed while she thought about it and then turned around to put her face between the seats. “Stay out of the garage unless there’s an adult with you because of all the tools. Once the food starts getting put out, y’all can pick as long as you ask one of the men about what you’re taking because some of it will look normal but be spicy enough to light you up… Don’t let Hunter get you into trouble… I think that’s it. You guys will do fine.”
Jack tilted his head a little. “That’s it? None of the rooms are off limits or anything?”
“Nope. I mean, always knock first if the door is closed, but there’s no ‘chamber of secrets‘ or anything. Just be careful in Daddy’s study. He’s not one for collectibles and what he’s held onto isn’t worth much except to family.”
“Ummmmm, like there is a splinter of wood on one of his bookshelves that looks like charcoal. It’s from the first fire Jason worked. There’s a paper mache fish on his wall that Tara made for him for back when she was in fourth grade for Father’s Day. There’s a deck of cards that Sookie made for him for Christmas when she was 5. She used pictures of him on the kings and drew everything else. And… There’s a little clay mug on his desk. It’s the only dish that didn’t break when his grandparents came over from Ireland. It looks empty, but Grampa always said it’s full of hope.” Wow. Sentimental mother fucker was a master at faking ‘hard ass’. I liked Corbett even more all of a sudden.
Both of the boys smiled at her and gave her a nod so I hit the button to unlock their doors. They didn’t get far though.
They were headed off by a guy about Corbett’s age. About 6 feet tall and had enough meat on him to make me realize the football game wasn’t going to be a gimmie.
The boys stopped dead in their tracks in front of him. He was smiling and wearing jeans and a T, but I’m pretty sure that it was his parade rest that got their attention.
“You men are the Herveauxs, yeah? Jackson and Carmichael?”
They looked at each other and then nodded and Had gave me a wink.
“I’ve been sent to negotiate.”
Carm bit. Surprise, surprise. “Negotiate what?”
“A group rate. We’ve been briefed on the new cussing tax. My partners and I think we’ll all have more fun this afternoon if you don’t have to keep an eye on us.”
“Lemme hear your perposal.” It was hard enough to keep a straight face without the ‘isn’t he adorable’ look Had shot in my direction, so I whispered that I still wasn’t taking offers, even if Carm would be willing to ‘hear her perposal’.
“My associates and I propose a flat rate for the duration of the party. From the time we reach our accord until 1900 hours this evening. The agreement would encompass any language that would fall under the category of ‘game talk’ or ‘talking smack’. The parties included would be Corbett, Dermott, Terry and myself (I’m Bravo, by the way) which would allow for additional taxing of peripheral parties in attendance.”
The boys seemed shocked but whispered back and forth for a minute… And then went to Had for more whispering.
Finally, Carm piped up, “$200.” I wanted to slap the greedy little turd, but Had shushed me as soon as my mouth was open to argue with him.
Bravo reached into his pocket and handed over a wad of bills. “Pleasure doing business with you boys. Hunter’s around back eating all of the snacks.”
Jack went to take off, but Carm stood there long enough to count the cash before shoving it into his pocket and shaking Bravo’s hand.
As soon as they were gone, he walked over to Had and got a big hug. “That just isn’t right.”
I was about to apologize for the little Shylock, but Had was laughing at him. “Tell me about it.”
“Issie and Stan’s kids were never that damn cute.” Cute? Fuck… what are muggers? ‘Adorable’?
She stepped back and slapped his arm. “They’re still your grandbabies. Be nice.”
He growled at her. “That was being nice and you know it. I could’ve said that my grandkids are disrespectful, personality-void asswipes just like their parents.”
“Maybe if you…” He put his hand over her mouth and held the other out to shake mine.
“John Flood, but everyone around here just calls me Bravo. Alc, yeah?”
I was laughing at the way Had rolled her eyes and let him shut her down. “That’s me. Nice to meet you, but… the cussing tax is only for Sookie’s place.”
“Eh, you haven’t met Linda yet, have you?”
“If there’s no tax, then she’ll slap us around whenever the kids are in earshot. If we don’t carry the tax over for the cookout, we’ll all get our asses beat.”
Had muffled into his hand that some of them wouldn’t mind as much as others… and I didn’t have the chance to ask before he’d flung her over his shoulder and started for the back yard…
She was giggling that she’d tell me ‘all about it’ while I grabbed the last of the desserts out of the trunk of Sookie’s car to follow.
Bravo was yelling to Corbett about Had not having any manners while I got introduced to Dermott…. another ‘harmless’ old man… mother fucker looked like he’d been working fields since he could walk.
I was on my way up the stairs when Sookie breezed by me and put a beer in my hand on her way out to restock the ‘Grill Daddies’ with 5 different brews in her arms and a fresh bottle of Jack Daniels… The boys weren’t far behind her, running out to the side yard to play catch with Hunter with handfuls of some kind of finger food. I stood at the railing, watching them for a minute… They sucked. No matter how light the toss was, Carm was afraid of the ball and Jack couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn… But with the way they were smiling and carrying on, who the fuck cared?
Since everyone seemed to be settling in, and Sookie was distracted in the back of the yard, I went looking for answers.
I found Hadley in the kitchen, standing at the stove and snuck up on her. “Watcha doin’?”
She nearly jumped out of her skin and then turned around swinging and calling me a ‘sneaky ninja mother fucker’ again.
“It’s sweet that you already have a nickname for me.”
“I’m sooooo not talking to you.”
“That’s a shame. I was hoping for some information.”
“You should’ve thought about that before you scared the shit out of me.”
“Hmmmm… I could’ve tickled you, but ok…” I turned around like I’d have actually left.
She growled before she caught me by my belt. “Alright. What do you want to know?”
“I want to know why you arranged the diplomacy briefing.”
She giggled and turned around to pretend to worry about the pots on stove. “What makes you think I had anything to do with it?”
“Because I’m not retarded.”
“Hunter could’ve done it.”
“Sure, but… it’s funny how Bravo had the exact amount of cash in his pocket that Carm asked for after talking to you.”
“That’s circumstantial and it’ll never hold up.”
“And Jason isn’t around.”
“We’re playing Clue now? Jas already testified that he saw Bravo this morning.”
“Sure. I’m good at Clue… I think it was Ms. White in the bathtub with the cell phone.”
“I’m always Mrs. Peacock when I play Clue.”
“Do you and Sookie fight over being the blue one?”
“Not in a long time. Nasty bitch decided that I can ‘have her’ because I’m old too.”
I got elbowed for laughing. “Sorry… I’m not laughing because I agree with her… I’m laughing about how bitter you are about winning.”
“Am not… Fuck… You Goddamn Stackhouses! You got me off topic. Dirty bitch.”
She turned around smiling ear to ear and stood on her toes to give me a kiss. “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”
I growled at her. “I had that t-shirt… in high school. You are old.”
Her mouth fell open just before she poked my ribs. “You’re older!”
“And your point? The cuss tax.”
“You’re a shit.”
“I figured you’d get annoyed if Carm ran around with his hand out all day and with the way that crew cusses, he’d need deeper pockets because the game would earn him a couple grand. Since the rest of us are already trying to dial it back, you won’t have to worry about if it annoys anyone.”
“Well then, thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. He’s gonna be pissed if he starts counting.”
“Ah, but he’s learning to wheel and deal with you sneaky bitches. He’ll get over it…”
We’d barely sat down after I talked Had into relaxing for a few minutes when Hunter lost his mind…
He ran off, yelling that ‘Momma’ was there and the next time I saw him, he was carrying the woman.
The kid ran around the yard looking like he was trying to give her Shaken Grandmother Syndrome. My boys thought it was hilarious. Hell, I did too, but they were laughing hard enough to hurt themselves. He was running fast enough that when anyone tried to say hello, she barely managed to wave. It looked more like she was reaching for help.
Blond hair, blue eyes, same smile complete with dimples and she really was gorgeous…
Once Hunter put Linda in the seat between Sookie and Hadley, the only major differences between them were the appearance of 15 years that was really closer to 25 years and the small, perfectly square scar near Linda’s ear. If I had to guess, I’d say that her husband had backhanded her wearing a class ring.
I needed to remember to thank Sookie. The heads up she gave me was the perfect way to help me not look like a retard like Eric did. He hadn’t seen it coming, but since I did, I took an extra look at the pictures in the stairway earlier.
She got up to hug me and Eric while Sookie introduced us and insisted that we both call her Momma… Funny since she didn’t look old enough to have babysat me.
She went back to her seat and hugged and kissed Sookie and told her that she missed her and then turned to Had. Instead of getting a kiss, Had got popped on the forehead. “What have you done?”
Had scowled at her mom. “Nothing. What the hell was that for?”
“You’ve been screwing with my baby, haven’t you? He put me next to you because you need calibrating.”
“Do not!” I got kicked under the table for laughing.
Momma looked at me.”You know what she’s been up to… Spill.” Like mother, like daughter.
“MILF issues. She wore gym clothes to a practice… She made some empty threats because he was being a teenager about it.” I got kicked again for answering.
“Empty threats? Brother mentioned that he had to go get an outfit for her.”
“He didn’t have to. She was already planning to change. He just didn’t wait to hear that part.”
“You wouldn’t lie to me, would you?”
Had and Sookie snorted like they thought I was born without the equipment necessary to lie. “God’s honest truth. She wouldn’t have put on what he grabbed for her, but she was going to cover her legs at least.”
She slapped Had’s leg. “That’s just wrong. You stop messing with that boy.”
“He didn’t even know! He never saw the outfit I was going to wear.”
“Don’t you yell at me, little girl. You seem to forget how many bees were in your bonnet at every swim meet.”
Had scowled at me when I started laughing and kicked me again. “I want to see a picture of your mother, pal.”
“Because. You think this is too funny.”
“My mom wasn’t a MILF, princess.” Linda winked at me because she’d caught on that I was calling her one too.
“How are you so sure?”
“Because.” She was the Italian version of Smom with a Dallas drawl, but I wasn’t going to say that out loud since I couldn’t think of a way to not make it sound like an insult to Smom. I tossed my wallet into her lap instead.
Had got a whop from Momma for calling my mom ‘fucking adorable’ when she got to the picture of her with Jack on her last Mothers’ Day.
She was still laughing when she got to the picture of the three of us on Jack’s first birthday. She was holding Jack and she wasn’t up to my chin.
“Jesus Alc! How big were you when you were born?”
“4 pounds 13 ounces.”
“You know me. I’m such a pacifist, I came early to make things easy on her.”
She stuck her tongue out at me. “How much did you weigh at your first check up?”
“At one month, the same week as my due date, I was over 12 pounds.”
“Was she bottle feeding you marinara?” Momma whopped her again, but Sookie and I were laughing.
“I’ve been told that Pesto was the only way to make me take a pacifier.”
“And you teethed on garlic bread?” She managed to dodge the slap she would’ve gotten for that. She was trying to irritate her mother.
Sookie started giggling. “I guess we have her to thank for how easily bought you were. Sold! For the price of a full plate.”
“I’m a ho. It doesn’t have to be full, just not burned.”
Eric finally stopped staring at Had’s mom to call me ‘Junk Yard Dog’. Shit heel.
The boys stopped playing catch long enough to come up to the deck… Hunter burned past everyone to get to the food that had been set out, but my boys stopped dead in their tracks to stare at Linda like they were looking at a unicorn.
“Hadley should’ve warned you about how ugly I am.”
Both boys looked confused, not getting the sarcasm and Carm’s finger started drifting up to point back and forth between the three of them. They still couldn’t say anything.
While the rest of us laughed at him, Sookie took the lead. “I told you it’s creepy, didn’t I?”
They both started nodding, but it was slow, like they were stoned.
Had took over. “Not bad, huh? That’s what I’ll look like when I’m really old.” Not bad at all. Had still got hit.
Jack finally managed to say something. Even if it was just ‘wow’, it was better than catching flies.
Linda stopped snickering at them to try to get them to talk… she mentioned being our neighbor and asked them to keep a cooler on the deck so that she could drop off goodies for them…
But Had and I were distracted… Fran had been walking around with a beer. She’d been quiet enough that it was depressing ever since she had that fight with Jason. It took her a while, but she eventually parked on Eric’s lap while Linda was asking if chocolate covered cherries were something they liked because she had a cherry tree.
Had looked like someone shit in her lap when she spotted Fran with a beer… It kind of blew her pregnancy theory out of the water since the doctor would definitely know better. The funny part was watching Hadley squirm over the whispering going on between Eric and Fran… It was making her nuts to not know what was going on… and it got worse when Fran kind of lost it and started crying until Eric carried her inside.
Sookie barely seemed to notice. She helped the boys grab napkins full of ‘nibbles’ so that they wouldn’t pass around ‘yard cooties’ and introduced Linda to Smom and Marnie.
Had leaned into the table once we were on our own. “Did you hear any of that?”
I smiled at her and shook my head.
“Are you smiling because you think I’m funny or because you know something?”
“You are really nosey.”
She looked desperate before, but all of a sudden she was pissed and got even more pissed when she tried to kick me again, but I’d moved my leg.
She folded her arms and scowled. “Be forthcoming.”
“Oh, like I could.”
“Then what do you suggest? We can’t exactly talk about it here…” I could blame the constipated look on her face for my idea. “…Why don’t you think about it while I run to the head.”
I’d been sitting on the counter long enough that I went ahead and lit a cigarette while I waited for her… I’d even started wondering if she realized that I meant for her to follow me.
But she did… when she came in she looked goofy, like she was about to get an early Christmas present.
She stood between my knees and took a cigarette when I offered since it had been a while since she had one and it made for a good excuse if we were found by anyone but the kids… “This better be good if you couldn’t just text me.”
“I’m. Gonna. Hurt. You.”
“What took you so long?”
“I had to wait for a minute so that no one would notice us both pealing out at the same time. Then I had to give myself an excuse to be inside so I checked on things in the kitchen… There’s 2 other bathrooms down here… Dammit!”
I picked up the bottle I’d grabbed on my way inside, laughing at her little hissy fit. “Want some?”
“No. I thought you like light, Mexican beer anyway… What’s with the Guinness?… Never mind… What did I miss?”
I shrugged. “3 years of on-the-job Eric training.”
“I watch him like I watch my kids… we’ve been partners too long for me to not watch for signals from him.”
“When did he signal you?”
“He didn’t… While you were worrying about Fran’s meltdown, I was watching it. Did you notice that he took her beer and sipped it even though we all had fresh drinks?”
I pushed the beer at her. “You sure you don’t want a sip?”
She yanked it out of my hand and took a quick sip. “There! Happ… That’s tea.”
“Sure is. I smelled the sink in the kitchen on my way through. She dumped it in there and refilled. Now why would a girl go to all the trouble of making everyone think she’s drinking a beer when she isn’t?”
Her face lit up. “Because she’s surrounded by the father’s family and she knows damn good and well we’d think something of ‘party girl’ not drinking.”
“Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner.”
“You sure Eric knows?”
“Yeah. He’s got her in the dining room. When I came in he was trying to convince her that two months was long enough to not say anything.”
She started laughing. “Two months, huh? Hydroponics my ass!”
“Hydroponics were what? A cover?”
“Yeah. Jason borrowed Momma’s cabin in Tahoe 2 months ago. He went to ‘research hydroponics’ at a farm there for the company’s greenhouses… He took off with almost no notice and came home saying that it wasn’t worth the investment… Fran just so happened to go off the grid at the same time. We all knew he was full of shit, but we also know better than to bring Frannie up.”
“Taking a vacation between jobs… She just started at the hospital in NOLA at about the same time.”
“Why didn’t you do the Detective thing?”
“Studied for it, but I got offered the SWAT gig… less hours, uniform instead of a suit…”
“Those too… so am I forgiven?”
She smiled from ear to ear. “For making me wait? Just this once.”
She put her knee on the counter next to my leg to lift herself and kiss me… We were getting carried away again when there was a knock on the door.
“Hadley Crescenta Stackhouse Savoy, you ditched me.” Stackhouse?
Had rolled her eyes and slid off of the counter to unlock the door for her mother while I laughed at the ‘whole-name-treatment’.
When she saw me sitting on the counter, Momma gave Had a dirty look. “I’m gone for a few days and you replace your smoking buddy? I see how it is.”
Had giggled at her. “Sure did. I don’t even have to hide my own anymore. He’s like a dispenser.” Linda called me an enabler while she dug her pack of Virginia Slims out of her jean jacket.
They might have been fine, but being holed up with the two of them was starting to feel awkward for me, so I kicked Had’s ass as a joke and cleared my throat. “Crescenta?”
“You got something to say about it, ALCIDE?”
“Alcide was my grandfather. Born and raised in San Giuseppe, Naples. What now?”
“What’s your middle name?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s your turn.” And knowing her, she probably already knew since she’d just had my wallet… hell, she probably had my social security number memorized too.
“You’re gonna have to wait.”
“Brat. Jackson. My mom was Jacinda. My folks hadn’t decided on my name since I was early and my father was out of town. A nurse suggested it… Jack has the reverse instead of being a ‘junior’. Now it’s your turn.”
“Hadley is kind of a mix up of Adele Hale… Gran was named after her grandmother so she had 3 cousins with the same name. ”
“Corbett already covered that… Crescenta…”
She groaned and gave me an evil stare until her mother reached out and plucked her nose hard enough to bring tears to her eyes… It reminded me of someone telling me that was the only way to get an attacking dog to release, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let myself laugh at how Had was rubbing her face. Especially since she looked used to it and her mom wasn’t exactly apologetic. “She’s a twit about her middle name… She was born on Saint Crescentinus’s Feast Day… family tradition. Mine is Monica.”
“Late August then? Is it the 26th?”
“27th… How do you know that?”
“Father Christopher didn’t play any games… Son of a bitch carried a yard stick. Catechism was do-or-die.”
Linda snickered, “He must’ve been bad. Sister Gertrude made us kneel on dried corn and I still have to look things up. These kids were lucky. Father Riordan takes the honey approach.”
…And that’s what we did…
Until we were all done with our smoke break, we joked about our militant catechists… and agreed that we’d be going to hell for it.
Linda was the first to leave, planning on taking fresh drinks out to the grill to make fun of Corbett for ‘hiding’ Pam from her.
I was the last one out and still got settled into my seat with a fresh beer (since someone got rid of the halfer I’d left) before Eric and Fran were done with their little pow wow.
Once Rene got there, I watched the poor kid get called to the back of the yard and turn beet red while Corbett gushed over how he was responsible for Bill being a guest at Club Fed… I was happy as hell for the kid until I remembered how fucked up his life was and realized that Corbett was probably prouder of Rene than his own father had ever been…
I was wondering how long it would take for the remodeling on Sookie and Eric’s place to get done… wondering if Pam would give us any shit about helping the kid move… when the devil herself showed up with a hand truck stacked with file boxes… Long story short… After Pam gave Eric a shit-eating grin over Frannie being in his lap, we learned that the new director is impressed enough that Eric and I wouldn’t have to deal with an office anymore. We’d been declared ‘free range’. It was a good goddamn thing too since we’d be sorting out IDs for a month in addition to working PTF cases. Didn’t matter. I was shitting myself to think that instead of being unsure about what the kids were doing for dinner, I could take care of it myself because I knew we’d be in Bon Temps unless we were called out to a crime scene. I’d looked it up… by ourselves, Eric and I had cleared 17 cases since New Years. Shreveport’s field office had only seen 4 cases that would’ve landed on our laps since then.
When Pam took our stack of work out to the driveway, Eric toasted, “To little league?” Something else to shit myself over.
I started laughing. “Fuckin-A-Right! To Little league!”
Linda called me with a whistle, “You’re thinking about coaching Little League?”
“Yeah. I didn’t have time for it in NOLA.” Once Jack heard that I might not be able to make it to many of the games, he didn’t ask again, but he still wanted to hit the batting cages whenever I took them to play Mini-golf.
“I have a guy that might want to help you coach. He travels for me for antiques so he’s been upset that he couldn’t commit to team ever since his kid was playing T-ball. He’s about Jack’s age. His wife would team-mom for you in a heartbeat.”
“Really? Eric wants to coach too, but we’d be a package deal so we’d need another coach to take over when we catch a case… Who?”
“I figured as much. His name’s Liam. His little boy is Devon.”
“And his daughter is one hell of a babysitter. I’ll let them know. Thanks.”
“No problem. I’m calling dibs on sponsoring your team too when my brother asks. Rangers?” I didn’t realize that picking the franchise would be an option.
“If I can help it, yeah.”
She chuckled. “Good boy. As you were.”
As you were? I couldn’t help but laugh at her. The whole fucking family was a riot. Linda went back to talking to Smom and they ended up commiserating about trying to make black icing for booster cupcakes. Smom wished she had thought about using Linda’s method of oreo crumbs… fucking cute as hell… My mom would’ve been right at home with the two of them.
While I could, I zoned out listening to them talk about recipes and watching my boys suck at football… and almost got high from feeling so at home.
It took thinking that if Ame had been there, we wouldn’t be as happy for me to think about her at all.
I wasn’t sure why Eric and I were being included, but Corbett called some sort of meeting. He went to the kitchen door to get Sookie and Had to come out and sat down at the table with Rene.
When the girls came out, I became the designated chair. Not that I minded Hadley sitting on my lap, if that was all she was doing… Sookie was sitting on my other leg while Had’s fingernails were running back and forth over my wrist. It didn’t tickle.
It ‘didn’t tickle’ so much that I almost missed that CMC was glaring at the sight of both of them on my lap… well, the meeting wasn’t really a priority either. Not letting the ‘tickle’ get to me was.
The meeting turned out to be more of a briefing. Corbett was putting his foot down about Rene’s new living arrangements. While the kid was back at the grills with the Horsemen, Corbett had talked Rene into a weekend job at Dirges and a place to live so that he wouldn’t feel like he was taking charity.
That was it.
He came. He saw. He conquered. Then he was gone.
It wasn’t until Corbett took off to go back to cooking that Rene had the chance to mention that he’d gotten accepted at Columbia.
By the time everyone was done congratulating him (and setting him up to live in Sookie’s Park Avenue penthouse while he went to school) the kid was close to crying… he really didn’t know how to act when someone was proud of him.
But the sad little bastard got away from the sappy moment when Frannie, Hadley and Sookie started celebrating over Tara and Sam’s baby getting mentioned… Frannie missed the memo while she was working.
I knew it would be… as soon as I had noticed the look on CMC’s face because of the ‘twins’ being on my lap, I fucking knew he’d be making a big deal out of it. Had and Sookie weren’t dressed alike anymore, but neither of them were wearing what they had been when CMC interrupted Had and me in the bathroom… Purple tank tops and navy blue pants were nixed. Had changed into a black top and jeans and Sookie ended up in a white wife beater and khakis… Telling them apart shouldn’t have been a problem for him anymore.
It shouldn’t have been…
But he hauled a tray of food from the back end of the yard, nearly the length of a fucking football field glaring at me. Shit. When Corbett noticed, he thought it was funny enough to ask the girls if I was being punished. Corbett. Their dad/uncle… he didn’t think a single fucking thing about them using my lap their own personal BENCH. That’s what it was. Other than the tickling Hadley’d been spinning me up with when she first sat down, they were talking about baby shower games and tiered cakes. It wasn’t like I was getting a fucking lap dance.
And if it wasn’t for being worried about the possibility of CMC saying something about walking in on make-out time, I probably would’ve laughed when the girls made a joke about if I wanted to be ‘punished’. Corbett even thought that was funny. CMC just looked more like he was ready to start reciting scripture and ended up pushing Corbett into putting him in his place. In the most diplomatic way I’d seen him ‘right’ anyone yet, but it still happened.
And somehow, Corbett managed to contain the problem in less than 2 minutes… 2 minutes of civil conversation! That fucking putz of a partner of mine had tried harder to calm Marnie down and all it was taking to slowly get CMC’s head out of his ass was conversation. Eric and I had actually thrown a real punch or 10 at each other over one thing or another, and I’d never wanted to hit him more than for letting his father jump to conclusions and make everyone around him uncomfortable.
So what did I do?
I ate my feelings.
I was distracted. Not so much by the food, but Corbett gathered everyone around to walk the crowd through the menu. All of us were ‘warned’ about the dishes that someone had garnished with peppers so we’d know if it was spicy… and then there were three red plates… they were spicy enough that smelling them could cause eye watering.
Sookie and Hadley let the boys make their own plates by letting them stand in chairs and scooting them down the buffet line a little bit at a time. They loved every second of it even if they didn’t know how to act when Linda told them that Thanksgiving was much bigger and right around the corner. I’d been buying our Thanksgiving dinners from a restaurant since my mom died so they were already out of their element…
I got the boys set up at the table with their drinks and then set out to inspect the ‘not for pussies’ plates… Dermott looked like he was about to warn me when I started eying the red platter full of wings and ribs, but Corbett cut him off by passing me a beer and telling him that I could handle Had’s poppers… No label. Just a clear bottle full of beer with chilies floating in it… One of the other volunteer firefighters brewed it at home. They called it ‘Scoville’ and you couldn’t get it anywhere but Bon Temps.
Fuck my lease.
Buying. That. House.
I had to make the conscious effort to not overeat… I really could’ve eaten until I split my sides, but we still had a game to play and I’d be damned if I was going to lose my lunch the first time I got tackled. And judging by the shit slinging that was already going on while everyone ate, I’d have regretted gorging.
Eric wasn’t as smart.
That stupid fuck filled 3 plates and a soup bowl and ate every fucking crumb. Then I watched pretty boy stretch out for a nappy-poo across the railing of the deck.
Bitch looked like a lizard on a hot rock.
If we lost, it would be because one of our quarterbacks ate his weight in chowder and meat… If he got hit the right way, there’d be shrimp and caprese everywhere. I wasn’t going to volunteer to be his center, that was for damn sure.
Now… I’d witnessed a lot of unorthodox stuff while I’d been staying at Sookie’s house…
A 14 year old boy who could pass for 18 and cussed like a sailor on liberty… Grown men fighting over which New Kid they got to be… A ‘good ole boy’ who pretty much ran a town like a gangster… I’d been told to beat my wife by a woman, been happier to have a guy grab my ass than a woman, and heard my son tell me how happy he was to not have a mother anymore…
I figured I’d run the gamut of irony and eccentric surprises…
When I tried to help carry leftovers to the kitchen, I was headed off. Linda took the dishes out of my hands…
That wasn’t really the surprise… when she called me a sweetheart and explained that I was trying to do ‘women’s work’ is when my head nearly exploded…
Quickly follow that with Linda telling Pam that if she didn’t come off of her curmudgeon and earn her keep, she wouldn’t know what hit her…
I think I swallowed a fly because my mouth was hanging open for so long.
Ok, a southern born and bred woman was allowed to be somewhat ‘old fashioned’…
Ok, Pam hadn’t been anything but antisocial since she got back from Shreveport…
Ok, I can’t say that hearing any member of the Stackhouse family make a threat was a shock to my system at that point…
The fact that no one laughed, not a single chuckle from the rest of the clan, nothing to indicate that Linda was anything but serious as a heart attack… That’s what got me.
She was exactly like Sookie described… cupcakes and ammunition. Had, minus the cussing.
The men had been shooed from the deck to make way for the cleanup and I followed them all out to the garage while Linda took the boys to the den…
I was thinking that I’d end up being made fun of for selling my bike a few years back because once Jack was born I stopped riding it…
As it turned out, I only drooled over the collection of classic Harleys on our way to a door in the back of the garage to The. Full. Gym.
The goddamn room was a weight emporium!
We were going to be ‘working off’ our lunch before we played…
When the ‘old’ guys’ shirts all came off and got tossed against the same spot on the floor, I realized what Had meant about seeing them with their shirts off… You’d think that considering two of them owned a bar, at least one of the assholes would have love handles… no such luck.
I thought for a second about going back to wake up Sleeping Beauty, but since Sookie didn’t I figured she was letting Eric sleep for a reason even if it was just to prove the point that he’d been getting lazy.
JB and I were the only ones to adjust any of the weights, so after a while Bravo assigned us our own bench and leg press because we were fucking with their workouts… While I was waiting between sets, I watched 4 ‘old men’ and a ‘boy’ bench press 240 with no problem. Lafayette called them all ‘show offs’ while he stuck to dumbbells with CMC.
We’d only been at it for a few minutes before the women started bringing water bottles out to us like a bucket brigade. Every few minutes another one would stop in with another handful.
The last of them was Linda. Like it was a fucking standard, at the one hour mark she came out to the garage with a stack of towels and an arm full of beer… Not just one kind either. She walked around from one of us to the next and handed everyone a specific beer; everything from the Sam Adams for Bravo to the Yuengling for Lafayette… and my Dos Equis.
JB and I were the last ones to leave the garage since we decided to do an extra set (maybe two, but I’m not admitting to anything) and by the time we were coming through the yard Jason had come back from wherever his time-out had taken him. He was in the P-way between the garage and house… Pinned to the wall by Corbett and getting chewed a new asshole… “You’re too smart to keep being such a fucking moron, boy. Make it right or I’ll do it for you.”
JB and I avoided the awkward stroll past them and took the long way around to the front of the house since I wanted to check on the boys anyway… It was still a relief to hear Jason promise his dad that he was ‘working on it’.
Every year from 3rd grade until I was a senior…
Every chance I’d had since; whether it was flag or tackle, at cookouts or during downtime in the desert… Ever since I was big enough to run and hold a football at the same time, I’d play.
Since Hadley gave us a warning, I wasn’t blindsided or anything. After seeing Corbett go after Bill, I wouldn’t have thought we were dealing with decrepit geezers anyway, but damn!
Those ‘old farts’ fucked us up and it didn’t have a damn thing to do with Jason not working out beforehand or Laf taking off to go deal with a ‘visitation crisis’ just before game time.
And as much as I hated him for it, Eric’s laziness hadn’t been a problem… The first move he made that was bigger than lifting a beer to drink was toss the ball about 80 yards like he fired the fucking thing from a cannon. Smom and Marnie started cheering and called him ‘T-Mail’… It looked like his father was pissed to hear it and ended up explaining that it had been Eric’s nickname in high school. It was after Tomahawk missiles… CMC was letting that ‘asshole’ bit show again. He was still pissy that Eric hadn’t played in college.
The first tackle of the game was CMC. Even though he’d been acting like a prick, I still took him down easy. I wasn’t about to break him if I could help it.
But just a few minutes later, I tried to tackle Terry.
That fucker shrugged me off like I was nothing when I grabbed him… and then laughed about it.
My lesson came in the form of Dermott. I had my hand on Corbett, about to sack his ass when I got hit from behind so hard that I was spitting out grass before he called me ‘buttercup’.
Usually a ‘friendly game’ didn’t call for pads and helmets. I was still worried about hurting one of them when Hunter said something. “Seriously. Do not take it easy on them. They’ve been kicking the shit out of me and Jas since we were 4. Those tanks are why the college scouts were all over my dad and JB since they were freshmen. Get them before they get you… and if we lose, we’ll never hear the fucking end of it.”
I spent most of the rest of the game hurling myself at old men and collecting grass stains.
I knew that I was going to be covered in bruises and scrapes and eventually I was going to feel like I’d been steamrolled…
And it was so much fucking fun, I was counting the days until the Thanksgiving game before I grabbed my shirt.
We’d only won by one field goal, and I felt like I’d gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson…
The best part was that the boys had sat through the whole game on the deck railing with all the women. Over the yelling and cheering and music, I could hear them laughing and carrying on… Watching me get my ass kicked made for a great Saturday afternoon.
The boys were still happy all over themselves while we ate dessert… We sat at the table together to eat our cake, when Linda and Smom came by… my coffee got topped off, the boys were given tall glasses of chocolate milk and we got a sampler plate… Linda told Jack and Carm to let her know what their favorites were so that she’d have a better idea of what to make when she couldn’t sleep…
I ended up eating most of it. Jack put a decent dent in the sampler plate, but he stopped eating his cake when he got to the layer of apricot icing… since he was 6 months old, getting him to go near any kind of apricot was like trying to get milk back into a cow. When Linda came back, I told her as much… So she promised to make one for him with peaches instead and brought him a slice of the bananas Foster pie he’d liked.
The damn women in that family were going to spoil the shit out of the boys… even if they were the type of kids to ask for stuff, they hadn’t had the chance to ask for a goddamn thing all day. They were eating it up. Thank God.
The boys went back to play Corbett’s Xbox when it was time for everyone to start getting ready to head out. Sookie dropped CMC off at Corbett’s office and then led us upstairs…
She stopped in the hallway and dug into the bag we’d all stowed our fresh clothes in and Eric just stared at the door. “The bathroom is the door on the right.”
“Good. You going to come wake me up when it’s time to go?”
“Oh, you won’t want to nap in there. It’s my old room.” Weird…
“Why aren’t you using your old room?”
“I haven’t been in there in… 12 years. I’m a stubborn bitch. We’ll use the den.” I still wasn’t getting it… with the way those two went at it, they were going to use a bathroom in an unsecure room when they could have privacy and a bed…
I didn’t get it… not at all… not until I opened the door.
I thought, maybe as a defense mechanism, that it was a joke. But it wouldn’t have been. Eric had been protecting Sookie from the disgusting shit we deal with… he wouldn’t have told her about the room… He wouldn’t have told her anything about it… He sure as shit wouldn’t have told her enough that she could’ve turned her room into a flashback waiting to happen as a joke…
The red bedding. The pictures. The souvenirs… Her mother had turned her room into a stomach turning shrine to how ‘pretty’ Sookie was… every fucking thing about that room reminded me of finding DeCastro’s ‘love nest’.
“Mother fucker. I think I’m going to throw up.” I would… all it would’ve taken was one more thing… If Sookie’s old bathroom had a clawfoot tub, I’d have lost it. But at least I’d have been close to a toilet by then.
Sookie shrugged. “I have pictures of how I kept it. You wouldn’t recognize it.” Bullshit… That psycho-analyzing engine of hers fucking knew how wrong that shit was… She didn’t have to know specifics of how close of an actual alter her room was, she knew that making a museum was twisted as all hell.
“Eric, did you see this psycho shit?”
“It’s just like…”
“Yeah. I know. Get your shower. You smell like a stray dog.”
That poor girl… Her mother was a serial killer in the making personality-wise and Sookie was acting like it wasn’t that big of a deal. I still wanted to throw up… It was my turn to feel sorry for Sookie.
She tried to get an explanation out of us, but Eric managed to keep it vague. She still acted like she hadn’t been raised by a crazy woman.
Not knowing what kind of flashbacks I’d get from the bathroom, I still sped through the bedroom like I was afraid something would jump up and bite me.
I had a hallelujah moment when there wasn’t a tub at all. Sure, the only thing that wasn’t Pepto-pink marble was the ceiling… flowery pink shower curtain, shell shaped sink, shag bathmat… That wasn’t Sookie’s bathroom, it belonged to the Golden Girls. But I’d rather look at all that than see an old tub or lace curtains.
My immediate problem was that someone was already in the shower stall. “Shit. Sorry. Sookie told me to use this bathroom.”
I watched the towel disappear from where it was hanging over the curtain bar. “I used this one because I didn’t figure she’d send anyone through the Valley Of The Dolls.” Had stepped out of the shower with the towel only half wrapped around her.
“Good way to put it.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Did you just growl at me?”
“Probably. You gonna hide in here for a smoke while I clean up?”
“Not if you mind.”
“I don’t mind.” I dug my smokes out to hand them over and turned around to start kicking my shoes off and stripping for my shower… still confused as hell about how Sookie managed to be ok after everything she’d been through. It didn’t take long to realize why she’d have taken up psychology as a hobby… It took less time to realize how she could’ve put up with Bill… The only reason I could think of for how Sookie could trust new people was that she was spot on when it came to reading folks.
I’d gotten so wrapped up in feeling sorry for Sookie that I forgot that Had was even in the room with me. When I came out of the shower, she was sitting on the counter with her back against the mirror. She wasn’t wearing anything but her bra and underwear. “You did growl at me.”
“Was that what your mind-fuck looks like, or you just needing to reset?”
I had to think about it for a minute. “Both, I guess.”
“You gonna share with the class or are you over it?”
“Over it as much as I can be, I guess.”
“Good… it’s bad juju to tie one on when you’re in a shitty mood.”
“Don’t plan on having that much to drink.”
She cringed. “Then how am I supposed to take advantage of you?”
“I’m not sure you could.”
She slid off the counter like I’d dared her… She was biting her lip and close enough that I could’ve counted her eyelashes when her mother practically kicked in the door… Instead of starting another kiss that would’ve spun us up again, Had called her mother a ‘cock blocker’ under her breath while I yanked my pants on for a ‘smoke break’…
Just when you think it’s safe to go back into the bathroom…
Other than the outfit that Had was wearing making her look like a pinup calendar… and the fact that my truck was towed back to Sookie’s so that we could take limos (bringing new meaning to ‘drink responsibly’) the only thing worth mentioning for a while was the mood Eric was in after his shower.
I figured he’d ended up talking to Sookie about the same thing that had me so zoned out, so I didn’t waste a lot of time thinking about it… But when the two of them looked like they were about to kill each other in the limo, I started to worry.
The two of them didn’t get out of the limo either… Since no one from our limo was answering Corbett about why, he went to open the door to get to the bottom of things by himself… and the damn thing pulled off before his hand was on the door handle… That was a ‘happy’ mother fucker right there. He was even happier when he called Sookie’s cell, only to hear JB’s pocket start ringing… Since Sookie didn’t have pockets, she had given him both of their phones while she was getting ready.
Corbett stood there and watched the lights on the back of the limo fade into the trees while Had pulled me into the bar and straight to the dance floor to avoid getting cross examined. Sookie was going to have to explain that she was calibrating Eric out of his mindfuck when they got back.
My arms were barely around her when we were joined. Not interrupted. Joined. Beautiful fucking girl… short gray dress showing off one hell of a rack… the only fucking thing to complain about was that she’d been drinking enough to smell like rum. Had knew her well enough to ‘share’ me though. She moved over to make room and gave her a kiss putting her arm around her.
“Alc, this is Keisha. This is the bitch that beat me for prom queen.”
Before I had the chance to say ‘hi’, Keisha laughed. “That’s just because she told everybody she wasn’t going… Either way, you’re dancing with the best of ’94. Nice to meet you.” The best of ’94… no shit… she was just as much a knockout as Hadley. Poor me… fuck… more like poor Bon Temps… in ’94 Bon Temps High had Hadley, Sookie, Keisha, Kenya and even though Sophie was a over-flirting lush and I’d only seen Arlene weepy they were between pretty and gorgeous. It wasn’t just a good year for football.
I told her it was nice to meet her, but then there was a long stare between them when Had asked her what brought her out.
Had finally cringed. “You heard.”
Keisha nodded. “Small town.”
“I just wanted to talk to him. See for myself.”
“Keisha, he’s got a date.” Even with her dark complexion and the dim lights, she turned green.
“No… Are they…?”
“No, but you don’t want to cause a scene.”
“She might.” Fuck… it wasn’t just Sookie and Had that did it… Had was having another half conversation…
“I can take her.”
Had started laughing. “I know, and I’d have your back, but still…”
“Fine. I’ll behave.”
“Go say hi to JB. If I have to take one for the team, I’ll get you a few minutes with prince charming.”
Keisha kissed Had on the cheek. “I’ll owe you one. Keisha loves you.”
Had swatted her ass. “Hadley loves you back.”
As soon as Keisha was out of earshot Had growled into my chest.
I figured I’d ask, “Jason?”
“Why would life be that fucking easy?”
“Keisha being here could be a huge problem… Oh, fuck…”
“The bartender just lined up some shots for her. She’s already buzzed enough to be a wild card… And Daddy just spotted her.”
I turned my head enough to find Corbett in the crowd and even though Pam was glommed onto his arm, Corbett was completely fucking frozen and staring in Keisha’s direction. I’d have given just about anything to see the look on his face… I needed a clue.
We were barely moving, just pretending to dance, while we watched… Keisha knocked back her shots while she talked to Terry and Linda and gave them the same cheerful hug… and she was still being watched by Corbett who hadn’t moved a damn muscle except to drop his arm when Pam walked away from him. He was acting like he saw a damn ghost.
When I looked around, every damn member of the family was watching for Corbett to do something like they were waiting for a bomb to drop. I wasn’t sure about the rest of them, but since I had no idea what they were all waiting for, the fucking suspense was killing me. “Had. What. The. Fuck?”
She shook her head and grabbed my hand just as Corbett finally moved to take a step towards Keisha. “You’re about to find out. C’mon.”
Bravo spotted us on our way over and made his way through the crowd to head off Corbett. As we passed by, he told him that Hadley would take care of it…
And as soon as we were at the bar, Keisha swayed into Hadley…
Had did her best to hold her up on the way to the door and as soon as we were outside, she asked me to carry Keisha.
Keisha was still conscious when I scooped her up, but I ended up staring at Had… I didn’t know where I was taking her, but I sure as shit wasn’t putting her into a fucking car.
Keisha slurred, flinging her arm over my shoulder. “the shhhtackhouse shhhhtonewall.” At least she was cooperative.
Had waved for me to follow her and looked like she felt sorry for her friend. “It’s for your own good, doll.”
“But I miss him. This is all wrong.”
“You’re timing is just bad. It’ll be ok.”
“Soon. You just have to…”
“When did Sheila get cut loose? Why? What happened?”
“She’d been behaving. Laying low… Friday night she pushed him too far. Daddy packed her shit and Laf already started filing.”
“For good? For real?”
Had snorted, “You know how he is. He said he was done. He told me that she was lucky to be getting an allowance instead of a shallow grave after everything she’s pulled.”
When we cleared the corner of the hanger, I saw where we were headed. There was a small house tucked behind the place. Tiny little shotgun style house. It didn’t look any bigger than a single-wide trailer. I was guessing that it was the place Corbett was putting Rene in.
Keisha stayed quiet until we were through the door. “Had?”
Had pointed to the couch so I’d know where I was setting Keisha down. “Yeah, sweetie?”
“I never should’ve gone back. It made everything worse.”
“Dixon deserved it though, right? You went back for him.”
“Yeah. I did. And now I hate his father instead of just not liking him… and now the guy I love is with some pasty, bony bitch with an eye problem.” I got a dirty look for laughing, but that just about summed Pam up.
Had smiled and sat down to help Keisha take off her shoes. “Pam’s on life support. Just a ‘one-der’ that turned into a ‘week-ling’. She’s not in your way, baby. I swear.”
“So why drag me out here then?”
“Because he needs to break away from the fam quietly. We’re breaking in newbies. Sookie’s getting married and her new in-laws are with us… Miss Pasty would make a scene if he just tossed her cab fare.”
She cooed, “Sookie’s getting married? Do we like the guy?”
“Yeah… as much as we like Sookie… You want some help with the shower? Pot of coffee?”
“No. I’m fine… You’re too pretty tonight for me to let you get messed up. I’ll be fine.”
“Yeah… I’ll just wait for him.”
“No drunk dialing.”
“No buts… You can make all the decisions you want to when you’re drunk, but you need to wait until you give sobriety the chance to agree. Got it?” Good advice.
“You know this isn’t the 151 talking.”
“Yeah, but calling SuPaul and telling him ‘fuck off/I don’t love you/pack your shit’ won’t go as well as ‘it’s just not working out/we gave it a shot, but it’s over’. The only reason I’m not taking your phone…”
Keisha pointed at Had. “Bossy.”
“Fine. I promise.”
Had grinned as she stood up and kissed Keisha’s cheek on our way out.
She tried to just zip back to the bar.
I got my arm around her before her foot was off the porch of the house though. “Negative.”
She started laughing, “What?”
“I’m playing catch up… Corbett and Keisha hooked up for a while, then went back to their spouses…”
She nodded. “They were both separated when they started dating. They’d been dating for a couple of months before she found out she was 3 months pregnant… She didn’t want to go back, but she felt guilty. Going back was a Hail Mary pass. Daddy’s been a bitch ever since, but he doesn’t hold it against her.”
“She went back just because she was pregnant?”
“She was getting a lot of grief from her dad as it was… She didn’t have a ‘good enough’ reason to get a divorce. They just didn’t like each other anymore… It won’t be a thing. Momma said that their counselor actually told them to throw the towel in. He found someone while they were split too.”
“She told your mom…”
“She’s a manager at the dealership. She spends as much time with Momma as I do.”
I started laughing. “So ‘Miss Pasty’ is getting recycled?”
“Oh, with a vengeance. Even if Daddy liked her, Momma is not amused that Pam had to be bullied into ‘women’s work’. There was a standoff in the kitchen while y’all lifted… Momma won.” Had. To. Hear. That. Story.
“Pam had a hissy and called Bon Temps ‘Stepford’… Momma told her that since her femi-nazi sensibilities had been bruised, her ass would be too if she thought she was too good to do dishes since Pam hadn’t lifted a finger to do anything for the cookout. She gave her the Firehouse rules… If you cook you don’t clean… The men made dinner, we cleaned up… We made dessert, y’all cleared it. Momma told her that having a badge didn’t make her a man anymore than eyeliner made her a woman. Either way, she wasn’t leaving the kitchen alive until the job was done… She told Pam she wasn’t afraid of shooting a hostage.”
“Did Pam actually do anything to help?”
“Just dig her own grave… She’s been staying with Daddy for a week and didn’t know where anything was kept. Pam might actually think that a ‘Bonne a Rein’ is a compliment.”
“Good for nothing, right?”
She hit me with a thick Cajun accent, “Oooh’eee. Not bad for a texian.”
I laughed at her. “Ha! Texian, weh… cooyon, non. What say we get back ta fay dodo?”
She started giggling, but she looked surprised. “Really not bad… How long were you in NOLA?”
“All the Cajun I know, I learned in a month. We caught a case that had us in the middle of nowhere for a while… but to answer your question, four years…” Too fucking long.
We managed to get to the bar and order our drinks before Corbett came over to steal Had. He only managed to get about 10 feet away before she dug her heels in and almost got her arm yanked out of socket when he didn’t notice she’d stopped walking right away. The one-way whispered conversation lasted all of 30 seconds and then he made a bee line for Pam to take her to the dance floor… Had pulled her cell out of her shirt and started texting on her way back.
I almost asked her what the plan was, but all of a sudden Bravo, Dermott and Terry fished their cells out of their pockets like it was synchronized. I watched them huddle together and shoot a couple of dirty looks at Had… and then play Rock/Paper/Scissors… Bravo looked like he’d been kicked in the nuts when he lost that first round… It wasn’t until the song was nearly over and he started to walk towards Pam and Corbett that it came together. The three of them were lining up an End Around with Had as coach… Bravo was the first in line to dance with Pam and distract her so that Corbett could go talk to Keisha.
When Had went behind the bar she stood at a laptop for a few minutes before she came back around… She got a murder/death/kill looks from everyone but Corbett when Stairway To Heaven started playing. When he walked by her he pounded her fist and called her his favorite wingman…
Had and I watched Pam and Bravo dance like awkward 5th graders for a minute before I asked, “What did you do? The music…”
She smirked and handed me a shot of whiskey to clink her glass to mine. “Zeppelin, Meatloaf and an ACDC remix will buy Daddy twice as much time as dance music.”
“I think I remember you saying something about ‘handling bitches’…”
“I don’t handle, per se… I don’t waste any energy trying to hide it when I manipulate people. Sookie’s a rank amateur.” Bullshit. Sookie could talk the Pope into canonizing Archie and Jughead… Then again, Had would just have him be too afraid not to.
“Maybe you can take a break from playing everyone so that we can go dance?”
She was grinning while we tossed back our other two shots. “That’s the best idea you’ve had since your hand went up my shirt.”
I did just fine, even with the innuendo, through the songs set up to give Corbett more time outside. They weren’t really meant for dancing anyway, and Thunderstruck just gave me temporary retardation because that was the first song the boys had played… but when the next song was Objection, I started to lose it. I saw right away why Hunter didn’t want her anywhere near a Shakira song…
Had’s arms being over my shoulders hadn’t been a problem until her ass started moving like it had a mind of its own… She seemed hell bent on spinning me up until my jeans were my enemy. When Low started playing, I fucking quit. I pussied right the fuck out… There wasn’t any way for me to leave the dance floor without a hard on if Had started popping her ass.
I shook my head and started leading her off the dance floor to hit the bar again. For a split second, she acted like she was going to go along. I should’ve known better. She hopped up onto my back and put her mouth to my ear. “What if I promise to behave?” I grabbed her legs to help her stay put.
“You? That’s a joke, right?”
She giggled into my ear and it gave me chills. “No. Come on. Throw me a bone here. Tonight’s already going to be a wash.”
“How’s that? I’m having fun as long as long as I’m not thinking about version 3.2.”
“That’s what I’m talking about… Whose dumbass idea was it to slow down?”
“Oh contrare mon frere. I just said it was an option, do-able… You said it seemed smart.”
“It still does.”
“Smart isn’t always fun.” No shit.
She tightened her legs, hugging my sides before I set her on a barstool. “So… What’s the point of giving ourselves a brilliant set of blue balls when we could be retarded and nasty all over each other?”
I might have laughed just because I shouldn’t have spent too much time thinking about how much I liked the idea… “How much have you had to drink today?”
“I only have two speeds when I’m drunk. War and coma. Ask around… If I were bombed, I’d be throwing punches or using you as a pillow. My clothes don’t come off just because I’m drinking if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Your clothes don’t stay on just because you’re sober either.”
“Fair point. You’re still avoiding explaining how I can get into your pants.” One button. One zipper. She could figure it out.
“We can’t even kiss and not get walked in on, Had.”
“You’re kind of helping me make my point… I mean, if you’re going to have a ‘dirty little secret’, shouldn’t we get to have the fun of making it as ‘dirty’ as we can?”
“I wasn’t thinking of it as ‘dirty’.” The way she stared at me while she took a sip of her whiskey sour though…
She raised an eyebrow. “That’s a shame.”
While we waited out Low and then Fever (I was starting to think ‘shuffle’ had it in for me), Pam came over to us to ask if we’d seen where Corbett went… Had told her that he was in the back straightening out some paperwork. Not that I was surprised, but Pam went back to the table instead of looking for him… that bitch even avoided running into other people’s jobs…
When Corbett finally came in, he breezed by just long enough to get his alibi and kiss Had’s cheek…
As soon as he was gone, Had hopped off her barstool. “I’m taking a pit stop and then you have to dance with me to the song they’re playing when I’m done. Got it?”
“Is that an order?”
“Yep. No more excuses.”
“Yes, sir. Right behind you.”
She laughed at me. “You can’t hide in the bathroom all night.”
“I could, but I need to hit the head too.”
I was in and out of the bathroom in less than 3 minutes. No problems. But when I came back out, Had and Fran were standing together in the standard line. The two of them flipped me off.
They rolled their eyes at me and said, ‘penis envy‘ in unison.
“I don’t think it’s quite the same if you only want a dick so you can avoid the ‘loo queue’.”
Fran snorted, “That’s not the only thing they’re good for… Damnit, I gotta pee and no one’s been in or out of there since I got here… It’d be easier to get through airport security with a box cutter.” Oooh, nice mood swing.
Taking pity on the preggo with the full bladder…”C’mon… No one’s using the stalls in the men’s.”
I had them cover their eyes on their way through even though Fran argued that she knew what a cock looked like long before she was a doctor, I didn’t figure that the trolls that were in there when I walked out would know how to act if a pretty woman looked at them, let alone while their dicks were out… And I was still growled at when I announced ‘ladies on deck’…
Fran was done first and by then, the ‘gentlemen’ had cleared out so she could wash her hands. She kissed my cheek and thanked me for the escort like it was a big deal…
Had griped at me from her stall as Fran was taking off. “Hey Alc, recurring theme.”
“What, no ribbon?”
“And you still sat down, huh?” I grabbed a roll from another stall and waited for her to start bitching.
“Silly me. I thought I came in here with backup instead of a fucking comedian.”
“What’s he look like? I’ll try to find him for you.”
“Would you? That would be just thooper… He should be easy to spot. He’s big- like retard big, kinda old, got a crooked snout. Look for feathers because the chicken’s scared to dance with me… And he’s got a limp… Wait. The limp hasn’t happened YET.”
I laughed and passed the roll of TP under the stall. “Wow. Sounds rough. Why would he be afraid to dance with you? Ohhhhh… Are you a dog?“
She started laughing with a loud ‘ha’ and she was still smiling when she opened the door and I got punched in my shoulder for ‘gagging’ at the sight of her. But she was still laughing. “You think you’re funny, don’t you?”
“I’m a fucking riot.”
She grabbed my belt buckle and tugged it until my options were to fall over or step into the stall with her. “Do you still need convincing?”
“What are you trying to convince me of?”
She moved her hand from my belt and rubbed down to grab my dick, cup my balls, the perfect amount of pressure… “A test drive.” Isn’t that what we’d been doing all day?
“You say that like I’m a hard sell.”
She smirked on her way up to kiss me, still rubbing, practically jerking me off through my jeans… it was insane to think we’d go uninterrupted with our luck, but I was too fucking retarded to care…
As soon as she started fumbling with my belt, I unzipped her pants…
Pushed them down to her hips…
She moaned against my neck and twitched her hips as soon as I grazed her little hoop… she bit me when I did it again…
She dug her nails into my back when I pushed my fingers into her… bit my shirt to quiet herself…
We battled for control… she tried to take over a few times, but every time she moved, it was too far away…
I backed her into the wall… my hand was on its way to her hair when I remembered that fucking it up would be a retarded move… I grabbed her throat instead…
Her grip on my dick got tighter… fuck… the moaning she was doing…
Squirming too much… biting her lip… her face was turning red…
Until it didn’t anymore… all of a sudden her look went blank and she slammed her forehead into my shoulder…
She tightened up around my fingers enough that it might’ve hurt them if my hand wasn’t going numb from the iron grip she around my wrist… still squeezing, wringing, stroking my dick… while she came at the top of her lungs.
She panted against my chest for a few seconds before she put her hands on my shoulders and shoved me back…
I thought she was pissed at me, maybe for pinning her… my back slammed into the other wall and I didn’t get to see the look on her face before she dropped to her knees and grabbed my dick between her lips.
She dragged her teeth over the head so fucking slow that I felt it my ears…
And the way she looked up at me…
Deep enough to gag…
Every fucking time I got close to cumming, she’d change…
Angle, pace, what she was doing with her tongue, her hands…
When the bathroom started to fill up, I nearly bit through my lip trying to keep my dumb ass quiet…
But she started pushing me…
Harder, faster, until my knees tried to buckle… and she ignored me when I tried to warn her…
She shoved down, deep and hard and moved her tongue back and forth over my dick…
The vibration in her throat, the one I know she did on purpose, was it for me…
When she pulled away, she stopped to flick her tongue over my sweet spot and it made we wish I hadn’t just cum… I wanted more.
I slid down the wall since my legs felt like rubber and I got giggled at when Had relaxed against my leg. “What’s so funny?”
“The look on your face.”
“Yeah… phenomenal blow jobs can do that to a guy… Feel free to ask around.”
She opened her mouth like she was actually going to yell into bathroom with no less than three guys to ask, so I slapped my hand over her mouth until she started laughing into it. “Prude.”
“Not me… we just don’t know who’s out there.”
“This is a problem.”
“Why? Recognize some shoes?”
“No… I have to stay functioning enough to go out on stage… after cumming like that, I need a nap.”
“You too, huh?”
“We could sneak to the ‘landing pad’ and crash. Think anyone will notice?”
“With your family? Every fucking one of them would notice… And Keisha’s still out there.”
“Nah, Daddy would’ve had one of the cars take her home so that he wouldn’t be tempted to completely ditch Pam. Poor form and all.” Fuck ‘poor form’. He should definitely ditch Pam for the hot girl with a personality who actually likes him.
“Maybe while you’re on stage I’ll go catch a snooze in one of the cars.”
She started laughing and the rest of the room got quiet when the drunks heard her. “Fuck you, pal! If I don’t get a siesta, you don’t either.”
I started putting my legs under me. “Fine. I guess we’ll have to motor through… Can I ask you a question?”
“Did you even need to go to the bathroom?”
She smirked at me. There was my answer, right there. “Why?”
I tossed a roll of toilet paper at her and bounced it off of her head. “There was already a roll in here, you handling bitch.”
Straight to the bar to get fresh drinks and when we were walking over to join the group for the first time, Quinn stopped right in front of Had, blocking her way. Our way. “You’re actually socializing with someone you aren’t related to?”
She gave me a quick smirk over her shoulder. “You could say that.”
“Wow. What are the chances of getting you to dance with me?”
“Aww, not if you were the last mammal left with legs… but thanks for asking.”
For a split second, I might’ve had a problem with the way she stretched up to give him a fast kiss… then I thought about where her mouth had just been… if it hadn’t been for the mouthful of beer I had, I would’ve laughed and given us away. As it was, he couldn’t figure out why she was giggling…
But when Jason snuck up behind him and slapped his shoulder… “Hey fuck nugget. How’s Alc’s dick taste?” Yeah… that’s when I lost it. I had to make a conscious effort to not spill my beer while I laughed my ass off.
Had high fived Jas while Quinn stomped away (wiping his mouth). “Jason, you ever gonna get sick of that line?” Line? He hadn’t seen Had and me going into the bathroom? He hadn’t been one of the guys who used the head while we were in there? Oh. Thank. God. I was starting to think we were busted already.
“Nope. It’s not as much fun when I gotta use another guy’s name though.”
She snorted back, “Like you’re not gonna wait five minutes and have Sophie go kiss him?”
He looked over the crowd and started to smile again. “Just Soph? I might go kiss him and ask how his mom tastes.”
She slapped his cheek when she started walking again. “You’re not allowed to hang out with Hunter anymore.”
Had and I were still calming down when Sookie and Eric came in. CMC had been watching everyone like he was writing a book and nursing a rum and coke while Smom and Linda shared two bottles of wine… and Marnie came out of her shell enough to dance with nearly everyone… She was all smiles while she did it too. She was not the hostile bitch that showed up a few days before. If I’d met her tonight, I wouldn’t believe the stories Eric told me.
Most everyone had come back to the family’s group of tables after making rounds or dancing until they needed to catch their breath just in time to see Sookie embarrass the living shit out of Eric… the calibrating he got was the kind I usually did everything I could to avoid details of… but since Sookie wasn’t shy about saying they’d just been fucking in the back of the limo for the last 90 minutes (give or take) watching my partner’s blood rush to his face like a teenager caught in the middle of ‘quality time’ with his first Penthouse was priceless.
But that’s where shit kind of fell apart for me…
Just before me and Had hit the dance floor again, Jason came over with a tray full of shots. Kamikazes, Brain Freezes, Napalms… I had 2 of each…
I made it through 1 dance with Had…
Going outside and watching Sookie charm a crowd of kids into giving up their IDs with smiles on…
And me and Eric were counting them when my eyes started to cross.
I felt like I was moving in quicksand…
Beer… plus whiskey… plus vodka… plus rum… plus tequila… equals amnesia.
I usually stuck to beer and whiskey… I should’ve known better.
Little stuff made it into my mind…
I remember thinking don’t be a retard and puke…
Eric ended up dancing with Jason…
Don’t be a retard. Hold the phone still. There won’t be another chance for that video…
Jason made a circus out of proposing to Fran…
Don’t be a retard. Stop laughing…
More blurry dancing with Had…
Don’t be a retard. Keep things PG. We’re still being quiet…
The ride home with Had sprawled out across my lap and carrying her into the house…
Don’t drop her. Don’t drop her. Watch the door jamb. Don’t drop her…
It was 3:30… when Hunter finally coached us through sleeping arrangements and when I caught myself being jealous of Laf because he got to be Had’s bed buddy…
I stopped being a retard and went to the bathroom to make myself sick up the dumbass combo of drinks I’d had.
It was a little too late for that though…
As soon as my head hit the pillow, everything still went black.