Taken Into Custody
It took a while to calm down from fucking with Eric’s head…
Smom had come in on the tail end of the joking and we flared up again. Then Marnie spilled the beans that Eric used to have hair down his back until he lost that to his father on a bet.
And I didn’t help myself out at all by taking the extra minute to listen to the recording when I used the bathroom. The way that poor prick said ‘both of your horses’… fucking priceless… and I swear that shit was going to be my new ringtone as soon as he got his gotcha.
Jack and Sookie were snoring together in her room and Carm was trying to teach Marnie how to play Ultimate Alliance in the living room.
Other than the reason for Jack’s nap, everything was great.
It was only 11ish when Had grabbed me by the wrists and dragged me out to the porch. “What are we doing?”
She stretched up and gave me a kiss. “First of all, I’m putting my foot down. You’re not allowed to have a bad day tomorrow. You need a damn break.” Sweet.
“I’ll see what I can do. What’s the second thing?”
She grabbed a box from the dryer and handed it to me before she grabbed the other one. “I was thinking we might’ve seemed too copacetic earlier.”
“Is it time to run cold?”
“Which end do you want?”
“What’s the situation? Is this… what the fuck is this, a wok?”
She nodded. “Ever make chow mein and pancit?”
“All the time. When I make it, I even put it in those little take out containers for authenticity.”
She giggled. “It’s soooo not worth it to make it at home unless you have a big group like this. There’s a ton of ingredients, but 99% is just cutting up the veg.”
“Since it’s cooking… I’ll whine. I’ve been giving Sookie a hard time.”
“I’ll go Gestapo? That’s not a stretch.”
I nodded and took her box to carry it. “Sounds like a plan…” She grabbed my ass when I turned to go back into the kitchen. “Why are we doing this now? I’m still stuffed from breakfast.”
“It takes a couple of hours…”
“A couple of hours? You said it was easy.”
“You’re going to be my sous chef… The lumpia is the hard part.”
I put the boxes on the counter and when she started grabbing for hardware, I pulled my phone out. “Well, hell, if you want chow mein, I can take care of that. Five minutes on the phone and then I can nap until…”
She stabbed a chef’s knife into the cutting board and yanked my phone away from me. “Don’t be a baby. There’s just a lot of prep…”
I grabbed my phone back. “Save the prep work. We order take out and then…”
She snatched my phone again and tossed it to Eric. “Don’t give that back to him.” The funniest part was that he looked scared to disobey her and went back to loading Jack’s iPod.
I faked a ‘fuck you’ face. “Would you like a Midol?”
She tilted her head and bit her lip. “What? Because I’m not putting up with any shit, you assume I’m suffering from PMS?”
“No. I’m not assuming anything. I’m the one suffering.”
“Shut the fuck up. You’re the only one with vaginal discharge.”
“Because you’ve got a cactus damming you up…”
She turned around so that Eric couldn’t see the look on her face and whispered, “Don’t make me laugh.”
“Heil, mein Führer.” It was the only German I knew and just so happened to fit into the act.
She bit her lip again and opted to hide her face in the fridge… She started tossing shit back to me, one thing right after another… like 20 different foods. “What the fuck? Are we cooking for the whole town?”
“No, but if you keep it up, I’ll call Daddy and have him bring the company back from the fire.”
“That’s nice. Punish firefighters for doing their job with however I manage to fuck up lunch.”
“You won’t fuck up. I’m going to watch every move you make.”
She tossed a bag of bean sprouts back to me and they nearly hit me in the face. “Your mom.”
I threw them back and they smacked her in the back of her head. “Your mom.”
“My mom’s what?”
“Your mom’s legs… Those fucking things go all the way up… And I think she was flirting with me when I called her earlier.”
She pitched the bag back at me and nearly hit my nuts. “That shit’s going too far. Why’d you call her?”
“Just to hear her sexy voice. $3.95 for the first minute…” The look on her face was priceless.
“If you’re trying to get me to throw you out of the kitchen, you’re gonna fail… but I will stab you.”
“You won’t be the first crazy bitch to come after me with a knife.”
“Keep it up, and I’ll be the last.” Ooh, nice.
At the rate we were going, I was going to fuck up the act by laughing so I took the knife out of the cutting board and bowed. “Where should I start, princess?”
Had ended up doing most of the work herself. Carrots, onion, celery, chicken, bok choy… she even shelled shrimp before I could get through cutting the cabbage.
She wasn’t a bitch about it… She just motored through most of the ingredients because she was the human equivalent of a wood chipper. I’d have lost a couple of fingers if I tried to slice, dice or julienne at half the speed she did.
We had a grand total of 3 minutes alone since the only time Eric left the kitchen was to get Smom and CMC’s luggage out of the top of the closet so that Smom could start packing.
It was just after noon when there was more company. Had’s workers showed up to get things set up for the construction… delivering materials and doing as much as they could in advance.
It would’ve been great if those assholes had come by an hour later since I was up to my balls in lumpia stuffing. When Had took off to get them squared away, I was left with fumbling my way through it.
When Eric came over and watched me kack up the spring rolls, I was expecting him to start making fun of me. Hell, I was tempted to make fun of me.
I think I would’ve preferred it.
That prick washed his hands and took pity on me… or he just wanted to show off. He managed to get halfway through his fourth in the amount of time it took me to do one and even brought Smom in to help while she was waiting for a load of laundry to finish.
Had still wasn’t back from giving her crew marching orders when we were done, and as soon as I sat down for a smoke I knew why Eric had helped…
He had that look.
The ‘we need to talk’ look.
He was worse than a fucking woman sometimes…
And definitely worse than a Stackhouse woman.
I’d have given my right nut to get interrupted. Of course, because I wanted to be, it didn’t happen.
“You alright?” Why not? I mean, I’d been more ‘married’ to Eric than Ame for years.
“The more I think about it, the closer I get to ‘premeditated’.”
“You should stay here an extra week.” Longer? Not get out before Jack sews himself to Sookie?
“You’re shittin’ me? I was thinking that I should get them the fuck outta here ASAP. Just go buy what we need to get through.”
“Haven’t you noticed how needy Jack’s gotten with Sookie?”
“That your only reason?” Isn’t that enough?
“I don’t know. I guess. He might as well call her ‘mom’ at this point.”
He started shaking his head. “It’s not unhealthy. Sookie told him about her mother. He’s comfortable with her because he knows she’s been there/done that/got the t-shirt.”
“He hasn’t adopted her?”
“No more than you have…” Asshole. “Think about it. Until the ‘boogie man’ called last night, you didn’t have any reason to think twice about being here.” Until. That fucking word.
“He’s not the only one to worry that she’s going to come back though.”
“Yeah, but you have a gun for every room of your house and keep a sniper rifle in your truck. He’s smart enough to know that he really doesn’t have any say in the situation. If you did take her back, he’d have no say.” Maybe Ame coming back would be a good thing… maybe he just needed to see for himself that I wasn’t blowing smoke up his ass about not taking her back.
“This was Sookie’s idea?”
“No. Corbett thought of it first.” Fuck.
“He’s seen all this before.” Double fuck. That was the last thing I needed to hear… Not that I hadn’t already guessed, but hearing it… remembering the encounter with Sheila… Sookie was the one Sheila went after, but it was Jason who was upset enough to storm out… Sookie let it all roll right off of her, didn’t let anything get to her… that was exactly how Jack and Carm were dealing, if you could call it dealing. Not double fuck. Fuck infinity.
“You guys were going outta town though.”
“Ohhhhh, we still are… but they’ll still be here where Jack feels safe and the time we’ll be gone will do the three of you some good. They’ll see that you can take care of them without help. You can go over with the boys and unpack some of their stuff and then come back to their comfort zone. Once Sookie is home and goes back to work, things will normalize for Jack. He liked last week’s schedule. Sookie still plans on taking them to practice and having you guys over for dinner until you’re more comfortable cooking. We should’ve seen it coming when they were so relieved that she wasn’t moving with you. Sookie didn’t even expect it though.” At least I wasn’t the only one.
“Alright. I guess we’re staying here a little longer.”
“You know staying longer is what he wants, but it’ll make him feel less powerless if you talk to him about it.”
“I was just going to say that we needed extra time to get everything we need.”
“You want to talk to Sookie about dealing with monstrous maternal figures. I’m the one you talk to about having a father who sets himself up to look like he doesn’t care. I’ve got almost no relationship with my dad because he never gave me any reason to like him. Talk to him. Let him… them see that you give a fuck.” I might have told him to go fuck himself if it wasn’t for the fact that it was the first time Eric had ever told me something concrete… He’d never bitched about letting me vent. He’d never butted in. He’d never pried… That was the first time, even though I couldn’t say the same, he gave me any unsolicited advice.
When Eric had first given me the look, I was afraid he was going to confirm that we needed to hide our cuffs so Jack couldn’t actually attach himself to Sookie.
I finally got the interruption I’d been praying for, but at least I wasn’t trapped in the conversation I’d been afraid of.
Had was on the porch, talking to her workers.
I put my hand out. “Cell.”
“So I can wake Sookie up. I need backup.”
He narrowed his eyes, but he gave it to me. He’d bought the act. I texted, ‘Wake up. Save me. Had’s a kitchen Nazi.”
I barely had the chance to give my phone back to him and light a smoke before Had came in.
My back was to her so I didn’t see the look on her face, I just felt her hands on my shoulders. I’m sure it was supposed to look like she was being bitchy, so it was hard to not let my eyes roll back.
“Who helped you?”
“Smom. She said it was painful to watch, but I didn’t dump it on her. I kept working until it was done.”
She squeezed again. Eric needed to go to the fucking bathroom or something. “God bless her. She really is a sweetheart.”
When Eric’s phone started vibrating, I got my hopes up that he’d leave long enough for Had to give my shoulders more than just a squeeze.
That asshole just sat there and replied.
About a minute later, we both got texts. I took my phone away from my prick partner. “Eric es ser un pendejo. ¿Va a llevar conmigo a la cocina?” I couldn’t help but laugh. Sookie wasn’t kidding when she said her Spanish sucked.
When I got to her bedroom, Jack was still passed out and Sookie was sitting on the side of the bed shaking her head. She whispered, “He’s being a brat about the bet. What did you do?”
I couldn’t resist. I pulled my phone out and played the recording Had sent to me.
The whole time, Sookie held her hands over her mouth and instead of laughing, she cried.
When I went to put my phone away, she shook her head and made me play it again.
“How did you bring it up?”
“I didn’t. It was perfect. I just asked him why hims had a sad.”
“You told Had?”
“Didn’t have to. I still haven’t given her any details. He’s been up our asses the whole time you’ve been out… Smom knows too. He’s in the depression stage of grief.”
“He needs to get to the acceptance stage. I’m making him go to the mall tomorrow.”
“How far are you going to push it?”
“I’m going to make him sit on that table and sweat it for a few minutes.”
“I’m a teacher. He’s learning a very valuable lesson.”
“Which is what?”
“You’ll see. You’re learning it by proxy.”
Corbett was only in the kitchen long enough to apologize for how stoned CMC got from straight oxygen. He made a bee line for the shower while CMC leaned against the counter and ate a raw spring roll between drags and washed it down with cold, black coffee.
Once lunch was finally on the table, Corbett brought out a photo album. I could’ve fucked up every bit of lunch, but I wouldn’t have noticed… The album was full of pictures of the What A Drag fundraisers…
It didn’t take long to figure out that CMC was being eased into the idea of dressing in drag, and it took forever for him to catch on.
I was busy waiting for more pictures of Hadley.
The first one had been a bit of a tease. The first year, she’d gone with Remy. He was a naughty nurse (in a skirt so short I was surprised his balls weren’t hanging out) and she was a patient.
She hadn’t made it home for many of the Fundraisers because she was at school and Remy couldn’t always get leave, but she was in enough of them to have my attention.
Eric was drooling over Sookie’s ability to make everything from South Park to Robin Hood look sexy/slutty.
Once CMC heard that everyone in town dressed in drag, he didn’t care… As long as he didn’t have to go shopping on Black Friday, he was willing to dress like Al Qaeda and go to the airport.
I laughed at him, but Smom kicked him under the table.
None of us had paid as much attention to lunch as the photo album… Unfortunately, the clock had been ticking and the Northmans had to throw it into overdrive to get to the airport in time to catch their flight. Poor Smom was close to crying every time she mentioned getting into gear.
I helped clean up the mess from lunch, while Sookie conned herself out from under Jack. He’d been sitting on her legs since he’d finished eating.
She had him run off to grab a hoodie for her and when he brought it back, he looked like he was going to freak out…
While she carefully slid her arms into the sleeves, she told him, “Alright so while we’re gone our Daddies are gonna put dinner in the oven so that we can get right to watching the movie when we get back from the base. Sofa party, dinner, and then we can play until bedtime if you want to. We’re a 6 man band tonight. You and Carm should get started on our movie snacks while the big guys cook. You can handle that, right.”
That was all it took. A game plan. He smiled at her and told her to hurry back…
Corbett lined up the ingredients for dinner right away.
Two fat ass chickens and a bunch of veg and spices… what caught my eye was the produce baggie full of cherry peppers.
“What are we doing?”
“Cutting the veg, rubbing down the birds and throwing them in the oven. Can’t get any easier… beginner course… NOT LIKE SOME BITCHES WHO’D PUNISH SOMEONE ON TRAINING WHEELS WITH ROLLING LUMPIA, RIGHT HAD!”
I cleared my throat and looked everywhere but Had. I would’ve cracked up.
“It wasn’t that bad, Daddy! Damn, it was just…”
He went to the fridge to dig around. “I was just, you… damn it. Sookie’s got half a jar of Oobatz Bruciare, but no Oobatz Spezia…”
Had shook her head. “Half a jar? I just brought that over yesterday morning…”
I shrugged. “It was really good.”
“How many sandwiches did you eat?”
“One. It was big though…” I grabbed the jar and dug a baguette out of the breadbox… by the time I’d taken a couple of bites, they were looking at me like I was oobatz. “What? Stop watching me eat. What’s the spezia?”
Corbett shook his head and asked Had, “Weak batch?”
Hunter took the jar from the counter and sniffed it. “No… that’ll peel paint if you leave it open.”
Corbett was still staring. “Spezia is pretty much the same thing as the Bruciare, but it doesn’t have the vinegar… we use it as a wet rub on meat. Stand down. I’ve got to run home and grab more.”
Hunter was right behind him because he wanted to search Corbett’s house for his iPod.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Had started giggling. “You lied to me. You have to have nerve damage to be able to eat that much of it at once.”
“Protein shakes when I was still playing ball tasted like ass. It didn’t matter what flavor they were labeled, they were like drinking mud. My mom tried everything. Chocolate syrup, fruit, coffee. Nothing worked. She finally dropped a jalapeno in the blender one morning as a joke since I was basically chasing my salsa with eggs. It worked. Jalapenos became habaneras. Habaneras became Scotch Bonnets… I was on Savinas when I joined the Corps and stopped working out as much.
“And you can probably be maced…”
“No probably. It screws with my eyes, but I don’t get sick. I had a run in with a light OC spray a couple years ago. I thank peppers for why only a couple of smells get to me. Comes in handy on the job.”
“Eyes don’t count. I can’t eat a sandwich without Oobatz anymore, but I got sunblock in my eye last summer… couldn’t wear my contacts for a month.”
She nodded. “Family flaw. Most of us are far sighted.”
“What color are your eyes?”
“What makes you think they’re tinted lenses?”
“Because you’re all vain as hell too. What color?”
She walked over to me and took one of them out and held her finger up to show me… Her eyes were the exact same pale blue as Sookie’s… and Corbett’s… and Hunter’s… “Not a big difference, but when I wear light colors, they seem washed out a little.”
“Have y’all gone in for genetic profiling?”
She snickered. “No… Hunter made me go in for a maternity test though. When he passed me in height, he claimed I climbed a beanstalk and stole him because he didn’t remember how tall his father was. His Grampy is only 6 feet tall… so was Me-maw though. She was huge… and wore heels when she could find them in her size. Feet like a man.”
I chuckled, “I don’t know which part of that is funnier.”
She managed to flip me off while she put her contact back in. “Don’t be a height snob. You might as well brag about not getting a period too.” I wasn’t being a snob, but the beanstalk bit was funny.
Jack snickered, “Don’t pick on her handicaps, Daddy. It’s not nice.”
I had the chance to put together my ‘blame Sookie’ defense before Had hugged her ribs and bent in half to laugh at her knees. “That’s right, Killer! Back me up!” I should’ve known.
I’d almost forgotten until she said ‘back up’… “Hey traitor, why don’t you go look through Sookie’s albums with your brother. I need to talk to Had for a minute.”
“If you’re gonna keep making fun of her for being short, you’re doing it in the wrong room. Knives.” Funny little shit.
“I’ll be nice. I swear.” He shrugged and left the table, taking a hunk of my bread with him on his way. “No matter what you hear, don’t come back until someone says it’s ok.”
He mumbled with a mouthful, “It’s not close enough to Christmas for that.”
“Uh… Yeah, it is… But it’s not that kind of secret.” I’d have a lot of fun telling him all about the joke Sookie was playing on Eric later, but if he found out before, he might not hold it.
As soon as he was around the corner, Had stepped on the ends of my boots and stood on her toes. “Better?”
“Much.” And for a couple of reasons, but judging by the way she kissed me, she must’ve thought I sent Jack out of the room just so we could grope one another.
It was too easy to just let her climb me…
Even walk out to the porch and put her on the dryer…
I needed something to lean on when she started chewing on my neck…
God knows who would’ve caught us if she hadn’t come to her senses.
I actually had to make myself take a step back though… she hadn’t come to her senses for long…
And by the time I had the keys to the penthouse back, Corbett’s truck was rolling up the driveway.
Had rolled her eyes and panted, “If we were already trying to calm down, is he still a cockblock?”
I nodded. “Sure, but I think we might’ve needed it… Want to hear a funny story?”
“Funny ha-ha or funny cold shower?”
“A little of both…” I pinched her nipple, just because it was there. “This isn’t why I sent Jack out of the room.”
She snorted, “It’s not?”
“Nope. Nice bonus though.”
“Do we have time to talk about the ‘secret’ now?”
I grabbed a couple of beers out of the fridge and hopped up to sit on the washer. “Yeah, it’ll be more fun with them anyway… Hey Corbett, Hunter, you’re just in time. Wanna hear about what’s up Eric’s ass today?”
Hunter came out and Corbett stopped at the door and held up a jar. “Can we talk about it while we cook?”
“The boys are going to want to do their thing too. It’ll just take a minute… Guess who thinks he’s going to be getting a needle through his dick?”
I almost had to yell so they could hear me over their laughing fit.
It was funny before, but knowing that EVERYONE but Eric knew, was going to make it that much harder to keep from pissing my pants when Corbett got the chance to ‘add his layer’.
We were still laughing when we got to work on dinner, but we flared up again like a bunch of retards when Hunter borrowed a zucchini and got creative with toothpicks. The little wooden Jacob’s ladder disappeared for a while… Had went searching for it and found it sitting on Eric’s nightstand.
I was shoving cherry peppers and garlic into a chicken and we were still debating whether to leave the pierced zucchini or get rid of it when my phone started ringing…
My hands were covered in slop and I was stuck staring at my pocket for a second… and realized it was the first time I’d ever had that problem…
Corbett licked his lips and reached for my leg. “Lemme get that for you, Handsome.”
“That’s sweet. I’ll make sure to let Jason know you’re hitting on his butch while his back was turned… Jack. Help me out.” Hunter was closer, but I was afraid he’d grab my dick to prove a point.
Jack said that it was Sookie calling and set my cell on the counter for me.
“Hey Sookie. What’s up?”
“Ummm. Brace yourself.” Oh shit.
“What am I braced for? Am I making another chicken because Smom and CMC got bumped from their flight?” I wouldn’t mind.
“We should be so lucky… We’re on our way back now… we… we just passed Amelia’s Odyssey.” Every bit of activity in the kitchen came to a screeching halt.
“Tell me you mean that she was going in the other direction.”
“Sorry, sweetie. She’s heading your way with her GPS lit up. There’s your cards. Do you want to fold or check?” Why weren’t ‘ready’ and ‘aim’ in my list of options?
Fold. Hide. Put the kids in the truck and take them out to dinner, maybe as much as stay in a hotel room overnight. Like one night would be enough. The only thing Amelia did with any consistency was outstay her welcome.
Check. Stay put. Deal with her. Prove to Jack that I wasn’t going to back down. Prove that taking her back wasn’t something I was going to do to them. I’d end up fighting with her, but I wasn’t going to let her bully us out of our lives every time she decided she wanted to see them. That wasn’t a precedent I wanted to set.
I rinsed my hands and dried them on my jeans so I could pick up my phone. “I’m going to check unless you have a reason I shouldn’t.” Jack wasn’t happy about my choice…
The poor kid shot out of the room, screaming, sobbing, “I won’t see her! I won’t! I’ll die first!” Had’s lip quivered as she followed him.
“No. I think that’s smarter. Sweetie, Jack has it in his head that because she did the official part of the break up, you might still love her enough to take her back or give her another chance.” Fuck me.
“Am I on speaker?”
“Alright… I think seeing you tell her under no uncertain terms to fuck off will be good for him… it might minimize the threat in his mind. The only thing I’m really worried about at the moment is that he’s drawn a straight line from my hell to his… Sheila was allowed to boomerang back into my life. He should see that you aren’t willing to let that happen… he needs proof that y’all aren’t going to take this shit from her.” Thank God I wasn’t completely off base.
“Are they alright?” Carm was still whisking ranch dip. He wasn’t exactly numb, more like keeping busy… Jack on the other hand…
“Yes and no.”
“Our ETA is 12 minutes. I know he’s freaking out right now, but this could be the best thing, you know? Having her show up so they can see you fight for them, their happiness, what they want… Want me to try to talk to Jack?” I had to force myself to remember what Had and Eric had said… As much as I wanted to fix it myself, Jack was ‘commiserating’ with Sookie… sharing war stories.
I walked to the back of the house, phone in hand to find Jack. Had was on her knees between him and our closet with her hands cupped over his.
“You can’t run away, Killer…”
“Yes, I can. We have lots in the cuss bank.”
“If you’re that scared to see her, then I’ll take you to my house to hang out until she’s gone…”
“She’ll just come back. She’ll come back and come back and come back! She’ll never go away! She knows we’re happy and she wants to RUIN IT!”
“Nooooo. She wants to be part of it. She doesn’t realize she was the reason you weren’t happy. She doesn’t realize the change is because she left.” That was probably more generous than even Had thought she could be. I could’ve stood in the doorway forever thinking about what was behind us and what we had to look forward to.
“We need to just leave.”
She shook her head. “You should be brave. Stand your ground. Make sure she knows you want to be here…”
“She doesn’t care what we want!”
Had smiled at him and thumbed tears from his cheeks. “Then we’re even because none of us care about what she wants. We’re all rooting for Team Herveaux.”
“So? She’s our mother. Mother’s have rights.”
“So do kids and dads, little man.”
When I cleared my throat, Jack jumped, but Had didn’t seem surprised. “Jack, do you want to talk to Sookie?”
When I held the phone out, Had stood up and passed it to him. “I know you trust her. If she thinks it’s smart for you to try running from your troubles, then you boys can hide out with me. I was serious about not packing though.”
She kissed his forehead and took my hand on her way to the hallway and wrapped her arms around my neck. “You alright?”
“Can I shoot her?”
She stepped back from hugging me, shaking her head. “Not in front of the babies. Sorry… I’m gonna take Hunter and split. You need to get on…”
“You don’t have to take off.”
“She accused you of sleeping with Sookie. When she sees me, that there’s a Sookie that isn’t spoken for… that’s the last thing you need.”
“I’m not letting her into the house. You can stay.” I wanted her to stay. Hadley had more right to be there than Ame did.
She stared at me for a minute before she leaned back against the wall. I couldn’t tell if she was listening to Jack tell Sookie that he hated his mother or if she was trying to decide if she was staying. “Plan?”
“I’m calling Lafayette about a restraining order and the station to send a unit in case she gets out of control.”
Her cheeks puffed out as she reached into her pocket. “I’ll call Laf about getting you onto tomorrow’s docket. You go ahead and call Kevin.”
“You’ll stay?” I wanted her to stay.
She nodded, kissed my cheek and walked towards the bathroom.
I was just about in the kitchen when Hunter passed me, going in the opposite direction.
Corbett yelled, “Had. Get a move on. You need to be out 5 minutes ago!”
I shook my head and put the chickens into the oven, lit a smoke and dialed the phone. While it rang, I told him, “She’s staying.”
He gave me dirty look. “Oh. Hell. No.”
“She was going to go. I asked her to stay.”
“She needs to…”
“She needs to see what she’s in for.” I couldn’t say much more since Carm was arranging cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes on the snack platter less than 10 feet away… thank God, Corbett of all people didn’t need any more explanation.
The Stackhouses knew how to circle their wagons.
It was that simple.
In the 11 minutes that it took for Sookie and Eric to get back to the house, Had filled Lafayette in about the situation and went back to stay with Jack, Corbett met Kevin out back and gave him the rundown when he arrived at the 8 minute mark, and Hunter took my gun out of my belt and took my magazine and the chambered round out by the time I turned around to ask him what the fuck he was doing. He put it on top of the fridge and then started tidying up the kitchen without a word.
I might’ve argued about being disarmed, but it was probably wiser given how many ways I’d pictured ‘winging’ Ame earlier that morning. Pictured? No. Daydreamed. Yeah, daydreamed would fit into that sentence better.
I could’ve done it on my own, but seeing everyone rally around us was amazing.
I was well into my third cigarette by the time I saw Rotten’s headlights coming up the driveway. I’d been pacing a rut in the planked wood and wishing Sookie’s porch was wider because I could make it from one side to the other in 7 steps. It seemed like I memorized every knot, creak and buckle between the exterior wall of the kitchen and where the swing got in my way.
I was still flipping my shit until I saw the second set of headlights…
Then I started running through my dos and don’ts…
I’d seen every kind of domestic dispute imaginable. EVERY kind. And this wasn’t just another argument about a shopping spree or forgetting to do laundry. I wasn’t fighting to prove that I was right. I was fighting to prove that I wasn’t going to let her terrorize my boys.
- Stay calm. Screaming didn’t get any hostile to calm down.
- Stay on the lawn. The boys needed to see that Ame wasn’t going to be allowed to invade their home.
- Stick to facts. She was going to do everything she could to push me. If I got too emotional, the boys would think I was conflicted.
- Don’t let her twist anything to her favor. Correct her only when there are facts to substantiate.
- Don’t let her think she had a chance of coming back. Make it clear that she wasn’t welcome.
- Don’t let her drag it out. Keep her on the subject of showing up unannounced and what it’s doing to the kids.
Crisis Negotiations 101… Give her the chance to speak her peace. Tell her she isn’t welcome. If she doesn’t leave on her own, have her arrested for trespassing.
I could do it. I had to.
Sookie was struggling to get out of the car when Jack came flying out of the house. He hit her hard enough that she almost fell over, and he had his arms and legs wrapped around her before she could react… He’d hurt her- by the sound she made, he hurt her bad.
Eric watched Sookie sway with him like she was trying to put a baby to sleep, whispering into Jack’s ear…
I only stopped watching to see Ame’s reaction. She looked ape-shit from where she parked her van.
Eric growled as he joined me on the porch… He leaned against the doorjamb so I gave my partner a status report. “While Jack was on the phone with Sookie, I called Kevin. He’s already parked around back if shit gets ugly. Laf is calling me back in a few to tell me when we go to court for a restraining order.”
“You think it’ll come to that?” That was almost funny.
“Trespassing charges or putting up legal razor wire?”
“You’ve met her.”
Since my attention was split between keeping an eye on Ame and Jack, I couldn’t tell if Eric nodded or shrugged, but it didn’t really matter.
He was quiet until Ame’s door opened and she started to slide out of the van. “Where do you want me?” On the roof with a rifle.
“Witness.” The next thing I knew, I felt my gun leave my belt again. With everything going on, it still made me wonder if everyone thought I was nuts. It didn’t matter that it was empty.
Jack had hit Sookie hard enough that she was limping as she tried to get to the porch before Ame did. She didn’t make it.
Sookie winced as Jack tightened his grip on her. All it had taken was the sound of his own mother’s voice. “Jacky, I missed you.”
She glared at me when he didn’t answer her.
“Don’t look at me like that. They told you that they didn’t want you around last night. Don’t you dare act surprised that he’s upset.”
“You mother fucker! You’ve turned them against me! You bastard!” Yeah, because along with everything else, I made her sign them away.
“I haven’t done anything.” Carm came outside, his hands were still wet and smelling like cucumbers from finishing the snack tray. Unlike his brother, he seemed like he was just being nosey, maybe just picking sides since he wanted me to pick him up.
“Then why are they acting like they’re scared of me?”
“They don’t want you here anymore than I do.”
“I left you!”
“Funny how that worked out. You had everything all set and still didn’t say anything until I told you I wanted a divorce.”
“We shouldn’t talk about this in front of them!?”
“Why not? I don’t have anything to hide. I’m not ashamed of anything. I love my boys. I’m going to raise them and none of us want you to be anywhere nearby.”
“Is that so?” Abso-motherfucking-lutely, twat.
“I want to hear them say it. I want to hear them say that they don’t love me.”
Sookie took her opening. While Ame was busy giving me an eat-shit look, Sookie maneuvered around Ame and carried Jack up to the porch and sat on the swing with him.
Sookie hissed when she sat down because of whatever Jack had done when he jumped on her, but as confrontational (crazy) as Ame was, I guess she thought Sookie laughed at her. “What do you think is so funny, busybody cunt?”
I growled at Ame to watch herself. I might not have had any bullets, but I could’ve gotten my gun back from Eric and thrown it at her.
Sookie cleared her throat. “That you would want them to say something like that… Then you can make them feel guilty by behaving in a self-destructive way.”
“You bitch! I’m a good mother.”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
“What makes you think you know me?”
Sookie stared at me for a sec before she got up again and handed Jack to me… She walked into the yard and stopped to bow up on Ame. She got so close that Ame took a step back even though Sookie hands were in her pockets.
There I was, with a kid in each arm.
Sookie’s voice sounded like ice. “My brother and I can smell you from a mile away. We were raised by ‘you’. The best thing you ever did for those boys is sign them over to their father. You can love them until you’re blue in the face, but they don’t know it because you’ve been too busy punishing them when you’re angry with your husband.” Ex, Sookie. EX husband.
“He told you that?”
“Not Alcide, pumpkin. Your son.”
“What could he have told you?”
“Enough… Look, your sons were relieved when they found out that you wouldn’t be living with them now. Last night they stood up to you and told you that they don’t like you. And here you are, proving that rather than thinking about their emotional well being, you’re itching for a fight with Alc to feed your selfish need to be the center of attention. You won’t get it here, even now while I’m trying to talk you into getting in your car and leaving, my concern lies with them. Your son has been on my lap every chance he’s had since your call last night. He had a nightmare that you’d come back…”
“I don’t know why! I’m a good mother!”
Sookie took another step, driving Ame back. “A ‘good mother’ would understand that this behavior is terrifying her children. A ‘good mother’ would have waited until her children mentioned missing her to plan a visit. A ‘good mother’ would’ve spared a look towards her children while a childless stranger lectured her on motherhood.” Good points. All of them.
“YOU FUCKING CUNT!”
I thought I was going to have to drop the boys to break up a fight when I saw the outlines of Sookie’s hands become fists in her pockets.
I felt like a lotto winner when she turned around and came back to the porch and sat down with the boys.
Ame stood there watching Sookie while we watched her. I may or may not have been praying for a lightning bolt.
I could see it. I could see Ame start to unravel. It happened in slow motion and it was bad enough that she started to sweat. She really was a lunatic. She started screeching, “You’ve stolen my fucking kids from me! You fucking whore! You should just have your own and leave mine the fuck alone!”
“Sookie hasn’t stolen anything from you. All she’s done is be their friend. They needed one.”
“Is that right? What’s she been doing for you, Asshole?”
“Reminding me that not all women are on the rag 24/7.” I slipped. Sue me.
“Oh, like you’re a fucking prince!?” Not even close, but I was starting to understand what a niche was… and loving the shit out of finding mine.
“I never said I am, but our downward spiral started years ago. The only thing we’ve agreed on in years was in the envelope you gave me.”
“What’s that?” That Ame didn’t have a selfless bone in her body and hated her own children for smiling.
“That we need to be apart and the kids need to be with me.”
“I never said that the kids needed to be with you!” Seriously?
“You included custody papers…” Talk about a ‘speak of the devil’ moment. My lawyer called at the perfect time.
Ame looked like she wanted to shoot me while I pulled my phone out. “Herveaux.”
“Hey baby. How you doin’?”
“She’s there? She actually showed up?”
“Aren’t you lucky? Alright. Here’s the short and curlies… Had called in a favor to get you at the top of the docket in the AM. You’ve got the best judge money can’t buy at 9. She’ll issue a restraining order that’ll make you hard.”
“Yes, yes lord… It’s mighty quiet. Did you shoot her?”
“On a scale of one to ten, how close are you to pressing charges?”
“Fifty, give or take.”
“Good. Have Kev call me with the details once he processes her.”
“I can do that.”
“Kiss the babies for me. Tell them I said that TRO is practically written already, I’ll bet dinner on it.”
“I don’t want to do that…” I didn’t want to get their hopes up… or mine.
“Oh baby, I’m not bullshitting. I’m right as rain and those boys is gonna be making fish tacos for me this weekend. I heard Sookie gave ‘em her secrets.”
“I’ll pass it along.”
“I’ll see ya for breakfast, Lover. Nite.”
“See you at breakfast then. Goodnight.”
Ame didn’t wait for me to take the phone from my ear. “You have balls! You’re going to stand there and let that bitch call me a bad mother, but you’re answering the phone while we’re in the middle of this shit.”
Why wouldn’t she just go away? “I let Sookie call you a bad mother like I’d let Carm say grass is green. And the phone call was important. It was my lawyer. He was letting me know that we have a date with a judge in the morning to get a restraining order.”
“Restraining order?! You fucking bastard!” She said it like she was surprised even though she’d been calling me an asshole for years.
I nodded. “Re. Strain. Ning. Or. Der.”
“What grounds could you have for getting a restraining order?” The fact that the boys were both using me and Eric as a shield to stay away from her wasn’t enough?
“For starters, you signed over custody to me and now you’re standing in the yard screaming like a loon and cussing up a storm in front of the kids who are obviously traumatized by your visit. I’m just a cop, but the psychologists on the porch might be able to clear it up for you that what you’re doing is considered emotional abuse.”
“I am not!”
I had my mouth open to call her a psychotic bitch… Admittedly, it would’ve been a bad play. Carm was the one to save me though. He blurted, “Seventy five dollars!” I almost laughed.
“You tussed 15 times. You tussed 15 times and you owe us $75 for the tuss bank.”
“You started a cuss bank?” Uh oh. Time to get a job, maybe?
“Sookie said Daddy and her tuss too much, but when we move we’re only donna get money for the f-bomb because we’ll get an allowance for chores.” He was slipping. The articulation issues he’d fixed were suddenly fucked because he was too upset to focus. What a mom.
“Why don’t you have chores here?”
“Because Sookie takes care of us. She says we’re on vacation.”
“SEE! We’re back on that bitch hijacking MY family!” I shouldn’t have made her quit smoking pot when we got together. She’d have been calmer at least.
When she yelled, the boys nearly jumped out of their skin. Jack leaned over and mumbled to Sookie, “Had said we should stand up for ourselves.” Sookie barely nodded before he launched himself off of the swing and went after Ame like he was going to kill her. “WE ARE NOT YOUR FAMILY! I. HATE. YOU!”
“Why?” That was it? That was all she had to say. My fucking heart would break if he whispered it. Jack screams that he hates Ame and all that bitch has is ‘why’.
“Because you’re MEAN. Because you’re ANGRY. Because you yell at us FOR NO REASON. Because you send us to our room FOR NO REASON.”
“I have my reasons.” Like being a hateful bitch who never wanted kids. Right. Great reason. Punish the kids because she forgot to take her pill.
“LIKE WHEN YOU SLAP ME, JUST FOR LOOKING LIKE DADDY?!” Hearing that nearly knocked me off my feet. If I tried to move right away, I would’ve gone into the house for Corbett’s gun… How the fuck… THAT broke my fucking heart…
I couldn’t count how many times I’d fought with her on the phone… and didn’t know what the fuck they had to deal with once I hung up.
When he first started kicking and swinging, part of me thought she deserved every blow… the rest of me knew she deserved a few from me… Jack couldn’t possibly kick the evil bitch hard enough.
I had to make myself go after him to stop it… He was practically goose-stepping, pushing her back across the yard one punt at a time.
He made it hard for me to get a hold of his arms without hurting him.
I had to force myself to sound calm. “Amelia, you need to leave.” First attempt.
“What if I don’t?” Swing and a miss.
“Then I’ll have you arrested for trespassing.”
“Nothing would come of it.”
“You’re probably right, but you wouldn’t be arraigned in time to be in family court.”
“You would seriously put the blue wall up between me and my kids?” The Blue Wall, The Great Wall, The Berlin Wall, Hadrian’s fucking Wall… yes. Anything to help my kids sleep better at night.
I picked Jack up and he held my neck so tight it was hard to breath. “No Blue Wall. No ‘you and your kids’. Me and my boys will do what we need to do to keep your poison out of their lives. Leave.” Second pitch.
“I’m not going anywhere! You fucking son of a…” Foul ball.
I watched Ame’s face and nothing else… the expression she made when she spotted Kevin coming out of the house was priceless.
He stopped just behind me and honked Jack’s nose. “You sure, Alc?”
“Yeah. She’s not catching on.”
“What’s the charge? Disorderly conduct, trespassing?”
“Both if she doesn’t leave right now.” Last chance…
She stared at me like she didn’t believe I’d have her arrested… long enough that Jack turned around to see why she hadn’t answered me yet.
When I saw her arm moving, I wasn’t sure who she was aiming for, me or Jack. I pulled him back, and so help me if she ever admitted that she had been aiming for Jack, it would be the last thing she said. She barely missed him and hit me hard enough that she left behind a handprint. Strike three.
Before she knew what was happening, Kevin was cuffing her. “Ma’am, you shouldn’t have hit your husband. You’re under arrest for disorderly conduct, criminal trespass with the intent to assault and assault. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been given to you?”
“Fuck you… And fuck him.”
Kevin repeated, all business, “Do you understand these rights as they have been given to you?”
She snapped, “Yes.”
“Cool. Alc, I’ll see ya in court in the morning. Want me to bring her with?”
“Might as well. Even in a parish jumpsuit, she should get the chance to tell the judge why she deserves the chance to terrorize the kids.”
Kevin wasn’t exactly gentle with her, but I’d never been either. I’d never seen anyone act like Ame when drugs or pimps weren’t involved, but still.
Kevin was nice enough to get her purse out of her van when she said that she had medication in it. The only bottle of meds he found was for a tranquilizer instead of the migraine pills she claimed to need. Nice try. She was dumb enough to think cops wouldn’t know better.
Jack didn’t act like he wanted to be put down.
I stood in the damn yard and held him while we waited… His mouth was hanging open until Kevin’s taillights turned onto the highway.
He whispered, “She’s arrested?”
I nodded and waited for the questions I was going to get.
“You really had her arrested?”
I nodded again. “I told you. You’re with me until you say otherwise… Laf…”
“That was him on the phone?”
“Yeah. He’s pretty sure that we’re going to get a restraining order. He says he bets dinner on it.”
“What if he’s wrong?”
“Then we’ll think of somewhere really expensive for him to take you for…”
“Not the bet. What if the judge doesn’t make Amelia stay away?”
“I think after the way she acted tonight, we’ll at least be able to bargain for supervised visitation.”
“I don’t want to go see her. I don’t…”
“Supervised visitation means that someone will take you to somewhere neutral and babysit her while she visits you. It’s only a couple hours at a time and I don’t think she’d come from Dallas to do it often. Lafayette knows what he’s doing. We’ll have to trust him.”
He frowned, but he nodded anyway. “What if the…”
“We’ll know tomorrow morning.”
“I might go crazy before then.”
“Me too. I guess we’re even.”
He groaned. “I need Sookie to handle me. I don’t want to be freaking out until tomorrow.”
“Handle you, huh?”
“Like she handles you and Eric.”
“How does she handle me?” I was dying to know what the little turd had caught… maybe just to see what I’d missed.
“Like when you worry… she makes us laugh so you’ll cheer up.”
“She’s good at it, isn’t she?”
He nodded and when Sookie called from the porch, “Come on y’all. Let’s get inside before we all catch our deaths,” he grinned.
“The best part is that she always knows when we need it.”
I wasn’t going to spoil it by telling him that Sookie was never ‘not handling’ us… Then again, over the past week, we’d pretty much needed it constantly.
Sookie’d put another smile on his face before we left the foyer. All it took was telling him that Amelia’s visit hadn’t changed anything. We’d planned on watching a movie, eating dinner and going upstairs so the boys could play… Ame’s visit just messed with our schedule, nothing more.
Going by how he acted, that was exactly what he’d needed to hear.
As soon as Jack was in the kitchen grabbing our snacks for the ‘sofa party’, I asked, “How the fuck do you do that?”
She gave me a shit-eating grin. “I’ve got a lot of practice staying sane while drama bombs get dropped all around me.”
“So we aren’t pretending it didn’t happen?”
“Nope. We were there. It happened and there’s no ‘back button’. She isn’t allowed to treat y’all like that anymore and you’re going to live your lives IN SPITE of her.”
“That’s how you managed?”
She looked dead serious when she nodded. “That and voodoo dolls.”
I headed down the hall to use the bathroom and the first thing I saw when I opened the door was Had sitting on the counter with earbuds in.
I almost laughed at her. “What are you doing?”
“You know me. I’m not good at dialing back my temper… Are the boys alright?”
“I think they’re better now that their mother has been arrested…”
She gasped and tossed the iPod onto the counter. “What happened?”
“Jack went after her, hit her a few times… he just lost it in general… I threatened to have her arrested if she didn’t leave… I was holding Jack and she pulled her hand back and slapped the shit out of me… Kevin was standing right there. He didn’t have a choice, but I’m sure she’ll try spinning it in court… Laf called. Everything’s set for tomorrow morning, by the way.”
She practically jumped off of the counter and grabbed my chin to yank my face to the side. “She hit you!?”
I nodded. “Almost got Jack…”
She clenched her jaw and shook her head. “I guess it was a good thing I kept my ass in here, huh.”
I nodded. “Definitely. It would be hard to deny using the ‘blue wall’ if she got arrested for slapping me… and then the rest of us made popcorn to watch you beat the shit out of her.”
She tried to smile, but she ended up putting her head on my shoulder and hugging my ribs. “I’m sorry you’re dealing with this… Don’t worry. Sarah won’t let her terrorize y’all.”
“The judge. She knows what happens when that shit happens…”
Both of us froze when there was a knock on the bathroom door. “Had?”
It was Sookie and the busted-as-fuck look on Had’s face said it all as she jumped back on the counter. I barely turned the knob before Sookie pushed the door in. She spotted me then Had right away, but didn’t seem like she wanted to make any jokes.
“Thank God. More help.”
Had shook her head. “What’s up?”
Sookie tossed a bundle of clothes onto the counter, pulled her top off and held her arms out to give the full view. No less than 8 of her cuts had opened up when Jack was clinging to her. “I need help. I have to work fast so that Jack doesn’t know he hurt me… it’ll crush him. He’s been so gentle…”
Had pushed herself from the counter and dug a first aid kit out of the cabinet. “Not to mention what it’ll do to Eric. He was finally starting to get that rod out of his ass.”
She started unbuckling her pants and kicking her shoes off. “Tell me about it… They’re superficial… I checked. It’s just the shallow ones that got liquid stitches. They’re bleeding like mad though.”
Had soaked a washrag with warm water and Dial and wrung it out while Sookie stripped down to her underwear… and I grabbed another rag and doused it with Bactine for the second scrub.
The Dial had been fine. It never stung at all when I used it on fresh tattoos, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem… I was trying to be as gentle as possible with the Bactine treated rag, but then I realized why Sookie was glad to have extra hands in the room… She had Dermabond in her first aid kit. We were going to have to pinch each and every Godforsaken wound closed while we waited for the Dermabond to set.
Sookie leaned against the counter, wincing and close to crying while we held her together. “Thanks guys… So, Had, you put yourself in a timeout in here… Where were Daddy and Hunter?” Trying to take her mind off of it.
Sookie snorted, “Thanks, but I was hoping for the long answer.”
“Sorry love. I was playing solitaire on Jack’s Nano. I didn’t know it was over until Alc had to use the head.”
“Nobody came to get you?”
“If they did, I didn’t hear it. I was listening to Skynard. We getting back to our regularly scheduled programming?”
Sookie winced and blew out a long breath. “Yes ma’am.”
I shook my head. “How the hell do y’all do that? I get that it’s how y’all cope, but… I swear, it’s like y’all just hit a kill switch.”
Had grinned. “We do. Don’t worry if y’all don’t take to it right away, but families are little circles… when kids are troubled, parents are troubled, so on and so on… Us old people can fake it, push it aside long enough to love our kids with a hug or a kiss goodnight… there’s an awesome amount of power in a child’s smile. Once they’re back on track, it’s easier to get back on track. Happy kids make happy parents. Don’t get us wrong, we know smiles can’t cure cancer, but every smile has hope in it…”
Sookie grit her teeth to add, “What we don’t get is how Momma and Daddy did it. Gran and Grampa never had any drama. 100% love. They never argued. Momma and Daddy didn’t have any practice dealing with hateful, nasty bullshit. The worst they ever went through until they were adults was helping Unc through losing his parents.”
“I almost feel sorry for them. That euphoria is probably why they thought they could get through to the evil bitches they married.”
“It made them appreciate the good stuff all the more though…”
Had nodded. “A hug is just a hug until you can compare it to a beating.”
Sookie growled as Had apologized for pinching another cut closed. “Which is why we’re going back to our plan. The boys just got caught in a squall. Even if Amelia gets visitation, they need to see that they just have to wait it out. Getting swept away won’t help them get over it. Wallowing will just eat them up.”
“And eventually, they’ll get so good at ignoring misery that they can pretend near-death experiences didn’t happen.”
Sookie slapped the side of my head, and when Had started giggling that I was right, she got the same treatment.
Sookie made a special request for pepperoni to be added to the snack tray, so the boys went back to the kitchen…
The beers in Corbett and Had’s hands when they got to the living room were a welcome sight… and I’d be lying if I tried to deny how hard it was to not laugh at the first thing out of Corbett’s mouth…
“So… uh… did Sookie lose the bet?”
Eric growled and slammed his ass into his chair. “No! The bet only covered until we left for the base.”
Sookie sat on his lap and pinched him. “Stop pouting.”
Corbett started laughing, “Alright, someone tell me what the bet was.”
Eric whimpered, “A piercing.”
“It’s not that bad. I’ve got two. Wanna see?” Corbett stood up and reached for his zipper.
“Healing time was the worst of it. Couldn’t fuck for 2 months. I was a cranky bitch.” When Eric looked like he was going to throw up, I couldn’t help it. I started laughing, Had too.
Eric grumbled, “I hate all of you.”
Corbett sounded like a little girl when he giggled. “If you keep that up, you can just get a clit ring, you little bitch. Healing time’s a mother fucker, but you’ll be grateful for it once it’s better. I’ll be buried with mine in.”
“You’re nuts though.”
“You want me to go with you… hold your hand?”
“K… I’m offering… bite down on something other than your lip though. Jason bit through his.”
“Invest in some tightie whities too. You don’t want your pants to rub when you walk…”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if you could get it pierced when you’re limp…”
Since Had, Hunter and I were already laughing hard enough to piss our pants by that point, when Eric covered his ears, Corbett finally lost it.
When the boys finally came back from the kitchen, Sookie started the movie and grabbed a fistful of pepperoni while the boys loaded their plates…
‘… Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you, but I believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales…’
I’d seen the movie before, but it wasn’t until Jack’s eyes lit up hearing the opening that I realized how much he could enjoy August Rush.
I was worried that it was over the boys’ heads, but if nothing else, they’d get a kick out of the music…
I couldn’t have been more surprised when they didn’t ask anything about it…
No questions. No fidgeting. No heckling.
The sad part was that they could identify with the kid in the movie… from the bullying to being used as a meal ticket to getting lost in music to cope with having a shitty life.
When the boy played a duet in the park, I was expecting to need to explain why Had and Sookie were weepy, but Carm yelled, “That’s his Daddy!” at the TV…
And when it was all over, Sookie was ordered to replay the duet twice because Jack liked it so much… and he wanted the movie and the soundtrack on his iPod.
Sookie kidnapped the boys and took them outside while the rest of us were sent to the kitchen to put dinner on the table. Corbett mentioned that the boys were probably getting some sort of bat related life lesson that gave me the creeps, but I wasn’t going to bitch about it considering how much better the kids were already. If it took bats, ew, but ok.
Dinner was on the table… two carved chickens, one honey glazed and one ‘not for pussies’… everything was ready to go and the only thing we were waiting for was everyone to be present and accounted for…
When Sookie brought the boys back, they were both grinning from ear to ear with their hands clasped together in front of them.
I already knew something was up before Sookie turned off the overhead light.
“What do you have?”
The boys giggled, “Bats.”
“No, really.” How the fuck did they catch bats?
Jack nodded, “They’re cute. Can we keep them?”
“Uh… lemme think about that… NO.”
Carm gave me an eat-shit look. “What about the snakes?”
“What!?” They both shushed me. “No, really… what’s in your hands?”
Jack held his hands up to me, and I swear, I did not want whatever the fuck he was about to give me. No shit, he put a tiny little bat in my hand… a bat. A fucking bat. Are grown men who’d seen what I’d seen allowed to get the fucking creeps from a bat?
I was barely able to keep my shit together enough to not toss the thing, but my asshole partner ended up taking Carm’s bat from him… The boys thought it was funny enough to call him ‘Crocodile Hunter’…
Eric poked his lip out and whined, “Awww… come on Dad. Why can’t we keep them?” Prick.
“They eat bugs. Bugs that you’d have to bring into the house.”
“Nuh uh… The pet store sells sterile crickets for feed. They only cost…” ASSHOLE!
“Can it Northman. Bats aren’t pets. They’re wild.” Grown up that he was, he stuck his tongue out at me and if I wasn’t holding a bat that I didn’t want to spook, I’d have hit his chin.
“Do you guys really have snakes?” God, please no. Wildlife is one thing. I’d never been that guy, but there was a place for wildlife and it wasn’t in the kitchen when dinner was on the table. Wildlife belonged outside… once it was inside, it became target practice. I didn’t grow up in the country. Sue me.
“We’re not keeping snakes either…” I barely had it out of my mouth before they were pulling snakes out of their pockets…
I was NOT going to hold a snake. No. Fucking. Way.
Eventually, after Had and Hunter took turns giving me the heebie jeebies and playing with the snakes and bats, the animals were taken outside so that we could all disinfect our hands…
Maybe I washed mine a second time when no one was looking…
The kids said that they liked their dinner, but I was pretty sure I could’ve shit in it and they’d have eaten just as quickly since they scarfed it down just so they could get to the after dinner activities.
But they didn’t exactly wait patiently. They nagged until Sookie sent them upstairs for an acoustic guitar…
I don’t think they realized that bringing the guitar to Sookie actually slowed shit down.
I managed to keep eating while she played Over The Hills and Far Away even if it was impressive as hell that she could still move her fingers so well, but I didn’t even bother with my fork while she played Little Wing or Texas Flood.
I could’ve skipped dinner to be honest. I didn’t feel so bad about being distracted once I caught Eric’s eyes crossing while Sookie played some Clapton.
And, of course, once we were upstairs, nothing else existed.
Just music and smiles and laughter and my boys didn’t show any signs that they’d just watched their mother get arrested.
It was absolutely beautiful.
They could’ve played until they fell asleep… I didn’t care how hard it would be to get them going for school in the morning. As long as they were happy, every fucking thing was right in the world.
One song right after another of the best therapy I could’ve hoped for.
Had caught me in the hallway when she was on her way out and reminded me that I wasn’t allowed to have a bad day tomorrow and told me to call her as soon as we were done in court… and she didn’t seem to care that Hunter caught her hugging me… then again, he did too once he handed my magazine back to me…
And Corbett reminded me that poker night was Thursday and it’s always been his favorite alibi. I decided that I wasn’t going to spend much time thinking about that… not only did I need to think about what I could do with a solid alibi from the good-ole-boy network, but I really didn’t want to know what Corbett had done with a solid alibi.
Or how many times he’d used it…
Or what might be under the deck at the house I was about to move into…
Yeah. Not thinking about it.
Sookie grabbed a suit out of my closet to press it for me while the boys were getting their stuff ready for their showers.
They wanted to sleep with me… They wanted Sookie to sing to them again…
They did NOT want to talk about anything that happened since dinner was put in the oven.
Since we were waiting for Sookie to finish pressing suits, I did manage to ask the boys if they wanted to go to court.
Their only question was if Amelia would be there…
They said, “No,” so fast and loud that it sounded like a race… Not if it meant having to see her again.
I might have sat there for a while if a phone hadn’t started ringing in the damn bathroom.
I hadn’t been in there since I helped put Humpty Dumpty Sookie back together again, and the boys just shrugged…
I had to dig through the hamper and I found it in the pants Had borrowed from Sookie.
I chuckled as I answered, “You should sew it to your ear so you don’t leave it behind.”
She groaned, “No. I should run to the jail and kick Amelia in her box for distracting me.”
“Or that. Send my love.”
“Will do… So… um… I hear that you’re going to be without a chaperone for the weekend.”
“Sort of. The handlers are going surfing.”
“Wanna run away with me?”
“Good. I’ll have your furniture delivered to the house Friday and we can take the box truck down to NOLA to pack up your old place.”
“That wasn’t the kind of running away I was thinking about. I was thinking along the lines of a hypothetical hiding place with a liberal dress code and well insulated walls.”
She giggled, “We’ll get there. But for now, I’m thinking that the boys might benefit from a bonfire of the vanities. Closing the metaphorical door on their life in New Orleans.”
“I told you, we’ll get to do the fun stuff. I’m proposing that we drive down after school gets out and let them get what they want…”
“Had, that house will make your skin crawl…”
“I’m a big girl. Hunter suggested it. He’s willing to ditch a game to help out.”
“We can’t stay in the house.”
“We’ll get a few rooms at a hotel with a pool and a gym so we can blow off some steam after we pack.”
I growled, “Keep talking.”
“We’ll drive back Sunday morning and Momma will make a big dinner for us to eat while we watch the game…”
“Fuck. You could’ve just said, ‘bikini, food, football’. It would’ve saved a lot of time.”
“Yeah. That’s a deal breaker. No bikini, no trip to Purgatory.”
She giggled, “I’ll see what I can do. We’ll come over tomorrow afternoon. Hunter can help sell it to the boys. I don’t figure they’ll want to go back any more than you do.”
“Tell him to bring his A-game. I don’t think a bikini will work on the boys.”
“I’ll look for a hotel. You take it easy. Love you guys.”
By the time I got done making plans with Had, the boys were settled into the bed, just waiting for Sookie.
I was plugging Had’s phone into my laptop so it wouldn’t be dead when she grabbed it in the morning, when Sookie came in.
Carm barely let her through the door before he asked her to sing the one from church. Maybe it was because the first time I’d seen Sookie, she was dressed lighter than some pros I’d picked up… but I hadn’t even thought about putting together how sweet and calm her singing voice was with a choir.
When she kissed them goodnight like it was the last chance she had to talk to them, I couldn’t help but ask, “You really think you’re going to put them out?”
“I put Carm out with American Pie. I bet I can put YOU out tonight.” Fat fucking chance. Not with what I had on my plate. Wait… she said bet. My ass. I wasn’t going to bet anything with her sneaky ass.
“Nope. I’m smart enough to not bet with you. Consider it a dare.” Eric flipped me off when he realized it was a dig on his soon-to-be pierced ass.
I sat on the bed and kicked my shoes off, figuring I’d end up in the kitchen in a few minutes with my laptop, highlighting notes I’d been keeping on the little shit Ame had pulled over the years that had turned into a mountain.
But I gave Sookie a shot, laying back and asking the boys what she sang at church, but since it wasn’t in English they didn’t know…
All they knew was that Smom fussed at them when they started giggling that the priest was trying to doze off.
I couldn’t have been sure by the piano, but as soon as she sang the first words of Ave Maria, I spent a split second thinking I was being handled…
I was so used to being handled like Play-Doh, I jumped right to assuming it until I realized the boys had requested the song specifically.
They couldn’t have known that it was a prayer for intercession…
And it was exactly what we needed.