If I Haven’t Taken Any, How Can I Take Any More?
Sookie’s house was a sight for sore eyes.
Work had sucked and the day was finally over… knock on wood.
It was too late. I’d already jinxed it…
Eric and I had just stepped onto the porch when we heard a deep voice barking, “You cheating bitch! I’m gonna fuck you up.”
Oh, holy fuck of fucks.
Eric and I both drew and had our safeties off before I was through the door.
When he went right, I cleared the kitchen and by the time I turned around from the empty kitchen, Eric was standing with his gun at his side.
The threat was game-rage. Sookie was standing in the living room with a teenage boy… Guitar Hero.
Better than the alternative of there being an actual problem, but still… all it did was remind me that I was getting really close to heart-attack-age.
The kid behind Sookie rolled his eyes and made kissy faces while they hugged and did the’ how was your day?’ thing…
And then we got introduced. “…Guys this is my cousin Hadley’s boy, Hunter. She’s working late tonight.”
He looked like a cross between Corbett and the marine hanging in the stairway not much smaller than Corbett either. Strong genes.
His grip was like a vice when he shook my hand. No wonder he was first string. “Your mom won’t let you drive?”
The kid smiled at me, but Sookie popped my chest. “Of course not. Neither will the STATE. He’s 14!”
14 my ass. He’s HUGE!
Sookie giggled out, “You think he’s big, you should have met his dad. He was bigger than both of you. My little Hunter is gonna be a monster.” Little? He’s the biggest member of the fucking family, well, so far, and she’s calling him ‘little’. He’s got 4 years of growing left to do too… ‘Little’?
Hunter smirked at her. “No ‘monsters’ in this family. Only gods.” That’d be the ego she mentioned.
Sookie chuckled, “Alright ZEUS… Go work on your homework while I see to the kitchen.”
“I don’t have any.”
Sookie gave him a look that screamed ‘bullshit’. “Excuse me? Would you like to revise that statement?”
“Maybe. What do you know?”
“I know that you’re the only blank in my grade book for your Constitutional theology project, due Friday. I know that Cogliandro is still waiting for your captioning project. I know that Marcus’s due date for the Tennessee Williams analysis is Wednesday. And I know that Quinn was bragging on you for being shit hot in practice today and that 2 of your little gigglers nearly clawed each other’s eyes out in the locker room after 5th period OVER YOU. If you have time for football and groupies, your ass has time for homework.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. He might look like he’s NFL ready, but he has the priorities of a normal teenage boy.
She snapped at him. “Boy, go hit the damn books before I start the rumor that you’re mom still tucks you in.”
Ooooh, that’d kill him. No pussy for him… ever.
He knew it too. He tossed himself onto the couch hard enough that I thought I heard it crack and told Sookie she sucks while he pulled out a laptop.
When we ended up in the kitchen, Sookie completed phase one of her promise.
So cold that the bottle was already sweating when she put it my hand. And God bless her, she gave me a Dos Equis instead of that black sludge her and Eric like.
I was pretty sure that I smelled cornbread, maybe chili too, but in Sookie’s kitchen it’s hard to tell since she always seems to be cooking more than one meal at a time.
But there I was, with dinner and a Cowboys game on the horizon, and all the fucked up shit was already starting to fall away…
I still missed my boys, but a lot can be said for ending your day in a clean house with a decent meal…
Maybe I should just have Sookie teach me to cook…
I caught myself. I was picturing coming home to the old Gardener place and relieving the baby sitter…
Settling in with the boys to help them with their homework…
Letting them help make dinner…
Chilling out with them on our leather couch to watch a little TV until it was time for baths and tucking them in…
Not a single image of Ame haunted my retarded thoughts…
It was a fucking pipe dream.
I had to think about something else…
“Has school gotten harder since I got done? Those didn’t sound like freshman classes.” It was the best I could think of. Sue me.
“Because they aren’t. He’s a junior; 2 years ahead, but taking a few college prep classes. No one knows he’s only 14 though. Shhh.” Damn!
“Your whole fucking family?”
She shrugged. “It’s in the genes, I guess.” In the genes…
“Not in those jeans, nothing else would fit. I can’t believe you’d wear that around a bunch of horny teenagers.”
She giggled at me and flipped me the bird. “Thanks for the fashion advice. I wore a blouse over it butthead… Did you get colors from the wife yet?” Blouse? That was a blouse? And the see-through blouse wasn’t the point. The jeans were so tight, anyone (especially a hormonal teen boy) could tell there wasn’t room for underwear… Fuck it… She has a father, a big brother, a fiancé… and a Beretta…
“Nope. I haven’t heard from her since this morning. I am gonna fly down though. Thanks for that tidbit. When she calls to give me my evening berating, I’ll ask again.” And thanks for bringing her up.
Things went quiet for a minute. Sookie was staring at me like she was trying to figure something out and God only knows how long it would have gone on if her phone hadn’t started getting blown up…
One right after another.
She huffed squeezing it out of her pocket…
I snorted at her. “See. Told ya. If getting your phone out is like getting the last of the toothpaste, then they’re too tight.”
She blew a raspberry at me. “Keep it up. I’ll stop feeding you.”
I laughed at her. “You don’t have to be mean.”
She winked at me before she started reading… and then started yelling louder than I thought was humanly possible. “You jerk off! Everyone knows you’re a god damn Doogie Houser! Why play this game?”
Eric leaned over to look at the screen. “What did he do?”
“He just emailed me and the rest of his teachers the whole semester’s worth of projects and papers.”
Hunter chuckled his way into the kitchen. “Just because I’m an uber freak doesn’t mean I have to look like a brownie hound and turn everything in early. Give me a beer.” Ohhohoho… Excuse me?
If Eric hadn’t been shooting death rays at the back of her head as she leaned into the fridge, I’d have said something. But she ended up shaking the shit out of the beer she pulled out and chucked it to the mouthy little turd. “Knock yourself out, sport.”
He barely moved to catch it and sneered at her for a minute. “It doesn’t look like you’re cooking anything.” Whoa! That shit needed to stop and I wanted to reach over and slap the asshole (minor or not) until I realized that Sookie was laughing at him.
“If you keep it up, it doesn’t look like you’re going to make it to 15. Dinner is ready as soon as I feel like taking it out of the oven. I was waiting for your Mom. Be nice and I’ll put a word in with Taryn for you.”
He grabbed the chair in front of him and spun it around to flash a ‘friendly’ smile. “How nice?”
“We’ll work a sliding scale. It all depends on how valuable you want that talk to be.”
Sookie’s face looked like Christmas morning. “Oh, then you are gonna be my bitch, Pea Pie.”
“Stop calling me that.”
I had to believe the misogynistic shit had been them just fooling around. So I anted into the convo… “You’ve got the hots for my babysitter?”
His head jerked to face me. “She watches your kids?” He was probably the ‘boyfriend’ Carm mentioned… the guy Taryn’s ‘into’ that got sick…
“Yeah. She did the other night when we went out. My boys loved her. I need to call her since Ame won’t be here for a while.”
Sookie patted my knee. “No worries. I gotcha covered. I thought about it when Eric texted earlier. I’ll be your gal Friday for everyday stuff if you want, I can take them to school in the morning with me and I’ll be here if y’all get called. Jason’s bringing an extra mattress over to slide under your bed during the day so that you don’t need to fuss with the air mattress every night…” The Gal Friday stuff was pretty much what she had offered on the way back last night, but I was still worried that it would be too much… at least I had something to go on… Eric was practically beaming at her. I guess he wouldn’t mind after all…
And it all sent me spiraling into the same retarded Clark Griswold home-life fantasy that I’d already lidded once already…
The only thing to keep me out of it this time was the sound of a crotch rocket spitting gravel in her driveway… and the vicious look on Hunter’s face.
Angry is just scary on a Stackhouse. Seriously.
Hunter might as well have growled. “What the fuck is Quinn doing here?”
“He’s bringing the enrollment packets for Alcide’s kids. And never you mind who comes to see me at my house, squirt. I have plenty of people keeping after me.” And… we’re completely overlooking that a kid just said ‘fuck’?
The kid grabbed the already shaken beer and shook it hard enough to make it hiss while Sookie slid behind Eric, stopping to explain.
“One of the exes I mentioned… It makes Hunter twitch that his coach and I have history.”
While Eric was grabbing more beer from the fridge on the porch, Hunter grumbled, “History my ass. That mother fucker is a complete waste of carbon.”
“He should come with his own helmet and portable window to lick. No respect. None.”
“How long they date?”
“It wasn’t them dating that was the problem… it was after… He…”
Eric came back, fresh beer for me, Coke for Hunter and sat back down… and it ended the conversation.
When Sookie came back, she had a guy my height with her, but she’d been right about how much ‘bigger’ I am. He barely had any mass to him, but since he’s had back surgery he was built better than most I’ve seen.
The second he spotted the Coke in Hunter’s hand, he went off. “Savoy! Why are you drinking soda? You know that sugar isn’t good for you.”
Hunter shook his head and took a sip of his drink with a shit eating grin on his face. “Because Eric thinks I’m too young for beer.”
“Damn right you are.” Quinn yanked the beer off the table and I was laughing before the head sprayed his shirt… And if I didn’t know better, a 14 year old boy handled a grown man into picking up that beer. It was fabulous!
Quinn barked, “You shit! I should bench you for that.”
“But you won’t.” Hunter’s tone was so unaffected it was chilly.
“Because I’m the best QB you have and you know damn good and well that without me, you’ve got a fat kid’s chance in a foot race of getting to state. Greedy asshole.” I nearly lost beer into my nose. I’m a hypocrite. I didn’t see anything funny about the way he was talking to Sookie, but this… this… I’d pay to see this.
“You’re attitude is reason enough to lose.”
“Whatever. That shite might work for the dullard tools on the defensive line, but I already have my ride lined up without sports, sugar. Throw me off the team if I’m so unmanageable. Otherwise, shut your pie hole and be thankful that I fake a modicum of respect for you on the field. You’re on my time now, Johnny.” Oh snap. Oh snap, right? I was close to pissing my pants.
Sookie ended up being the party pooper. “I told you to be nice.”
Hunter turned around with a really matter-of-fact look on his face. “Excuse me, exception. When we made our arrangement, there were only three parties in the vicinity. I had a reasonable expectation of a limited spectrum of the contract. Furthermore, since Quinn wasn’t named specifically and I had no prior knowledge of his impending arrival, it would be reasonable for you to assume that I would continue with him as ever since he’s fucked my cousin and hit on my mother.” Ohhhhh, wow… that whole hitting on his mom thing… yeah. No problems understanding that protective streak.
Once we were introduced to the first negative aspect of Bon Temps School, Sookie sent Hunter on his way to burn some cell time.
When Quinn was done trying to get rid of the beer stains on his clothes he sat down, bitching in Sookie’s direction.
“I don’t know how you deal with that little prick. He needs a man around to beat his ass for talking to people like that.”
“Thanks for the tip Quinn. When I talk to his father, I’ll let him know you think that his talented, handsome, free spirited, hyper-intellectual son isn’t quite up to your standards because he isn’t knocked around enough. I guess Remy should have thought about that before he decided to vacation in Baghdad!” I wanted to clap, maybe even whistle. She shut Quinn down so fast he was catching flies.
“Shit! Sookie, I didn’t mean that and you know it.”
“Then don’t talk shit. That having been said, how ya doin?”
“I’ve been just great you crazy bitch. How’ve you been… since lunch?”
“I’ve been keeping myself busy. You get the verdict?”
“Yeah. You got the nod.”
She looked like she was up to something when she reached behind her head to grab a file and give it to Eric. He started smiling at whatever was in it and passed it to me…
It was a print out… a list of 8 students. Females. All with a December 2nd birthday… That brilliant bitch.
Quinn gave her a dirty look. “You already printed it? You were going to do it anyway.”
“I printed it just in case. It wouldn’t have been your fault if Eric came across it trying to help me find the water bill.”
“Do you respect any rules? You’re gonna end up with a reputation.”
“Whatever that means… Like I didn’t already have one.”
Eric started chuckling, “You mean you don’t USUALLY wear red lingerie as a Halloween costume, entertain 3 counties on stage and dance with strippers?”
Like I needed to be reminded that I was offered… No. “You know, I was behaving. I’d gone all day without thinking about that!”
Eric flipped a bottle cap at me. “That’s because you’ve been having food-gasms all fucking day!”
Sookie smiled at me. “It’s nice to be appreciated… What do you want for breakfast big guy?”
I had no fucking clue how to answer that question. How sad is that? “I don’t know… I’ll have to be out of the house by 5, so don’t worry about it. Rain check?”
“Fine, but I’ll come up with something. You’ll need your strength.” She made claws out of her hands and hissed at me… She looked like that cat from Pet Cemetery… Churchill.
It was too fucking funny. Maybe I was just punchy from a shit day at work, but I laughed my ass off.
Sookie grabbed a couple of pens from one of the drawers behind her and scooted over to sit close…
While I filled out Jack’s enrollment packet, she copied the duplicate info for Carm’s so I’d have less writing to do… She even listed herself as the emergency contact since it was pretty much guaranteed that they’d be able to get in touch with her if something happened.
I caught myself thinking about an Ame-free existence again… Sookie really did seem like she had my back.
When I was done with Jack’s packet, Quinn took a look. “Well, Damn. Most dads have to ask who their kid’s pediatrician is… Sookie already cleared it with Bellefluer that he doesn’t mind the extra kid. I’m sure she’s already called Amy about getting them in for new physicals too… Once we have their birth certificates, social security cards and shot records… they’re all set.”
Sookie nodded. “A week from Thursday. I scheduled it for my lunch break in case you get wrapped up since it’s just a checkup. They’ll change it if you mind.” Why the fuck would I mind? I wanted to kiss her for thinking about it.
“Shit… thanks. Really.”
“Just helping where I can. Don’t forget to grab their documents when you’re in NOLA though.”
“Can y’all take a scan?”
Quinn looked like he was tracking a moth when he shook his head. “Of what?”
“Yeah, I guess so. We just make a copy of them anyway.”
That makes shit a lot easier… I pulled out my phone and started digging into the files… “What email should I send them to? I can fax them if you’d rather.”
“You have them on your phone?”
“Yeah… I have their Ident-A-Kid stuff too if y’all want it.”
“In your phone?” He acted like I told him I knew the damn tooth fairy.
I had just emailed them to Sookie when Hunter came into the kitchen again… he looked like he was foraging.
After some whining and lap sitting (yes, Hunter perched his 200+ pound ass on Sookie’s lap) Eric ended up tossing the kid a sandwich leftover from our lunch…
Which led to Eric hushing Sookie…
…And led to me thanking God that I was so far from the knives.
She looked like she was ready to kill Eric for being right and the only thing that saved us was Jason stopping by.
It took him all of 30 seconds to scare off Quinn… That’s a story I needed to hear.
And after he whined about not getting breakfast burritos this morning when we had, Hunter and I were put to work…
Whatever the fuck ‘Monday Night’ is, it meant the bigger TV needed to be moved from Sookie and Eric’s room to the living room…
Hunter went straight back to the bedroom (where Jason sent us) and started disconnecting the wires and pulling out the massive desk to unplug things.
“You’re a virgin?”
“You look like a babe in the woods. You never did the Monday Night thing before.” Oh. That. Ok…
“No. What am I in for?”
“You better like football and food or you’re fucked. Sookie makes cornbread and chili and whatever else she’s up to making. I’m pretty sure I smelled her honey barbeque sauce though. That means wings. Daddy makes his with garlic and parmesan… fucking killer. Mom doesn’t do chili… She does Mexican. Chili rellanos, fajitas, chori pollo… Anyway, betting pool, drinking game… Whole nine yards. Every Monday one of us takes a turn. I’ll bet Jason’s already called Daddy… he’s gotta do something to get him off that bitchy boss of yours.”
“How do you know about that?” Not a single member of this family has any boundaries! Seriously.
He started chuckling like it was silly for me to think it’s weird for him to know about his uncle’s sex life. “Mom finally let me out of the house yesterday to work on my bike with Jas. We could hear them all the way out in the garage… with music going.” Ew. My fault. I asked… again.
Changing the subject. “Who are you betting on?”
“JB’s knee is still fucked, but the team is pretty strong this year and since the Falcons are playing 4 guys fresh from the DL… I’ll risk it and go for Dallas, but with a high score. Both defensive lines are weak at the moment.”
“DuRone’s knee isn’t enough to make me bet against them.”
“Oh, a diehard, huh? DuRone is the backbone of the line. If he rides the bench, they shit the bed. He knows that. That’s why he plays when he’s hurt… So… Your kids, they like football?”
“Not a lot. They like playing, but they’re too little to like watching it yet. Jack likes music and Carm… damnedest thing, likes money, like business.”
“Yeah? Carm… I could have some fun with him. I could turn him into a little day-trader in no time.”
“Is that the ‘ride’ you mentioned?”
“Yeah. Wharton. Mom’s flipping her shit though. I caught her looking at houses in Phillie. Sookie’s still working on her for me.”
“Yeah, well… You kinda have her at a disadvantage. She was supposed to have you until you’re 18… Not that it matters. My mom drove me all the way to boot camp. I was 19.”
“Sounds like fun. She ever loosen the strings?”
“Kept up on me until the day she died.”
“Thanks an ass-load. Dick.”
We hoisted the TV from the wall and started for the front. “What?”
He snorted. “That whole ‘at least you still have a mom’ shit. That’s what. You’ll fit in just fine with the Stackhouses. Handling bunch of mother fuckers.”
I started laughing. “Uh-huh… You think I didn’t notice that you didn’t even have to look at Quinn to make him want that shaken beer?”
He chuckled, “Noticed that, huh?”
“Yeah. Nice work.”
Jason had just moved two pictures from the wall that were coincidentally the perfect distance apart to hang the TV when my phone started ringing and he laughed at Ame’s ringtone.
Once the TV was mounted, I went back to ‘my’ room to answer…
“Hey. How’d errands go?”
“They went great. Did you get everything done?”
“Actually, most of our list for today got bumped because something came up, but Eric is fine with handling it while I’m gone.”
“Oh, well at least there’s that.”
“Yeah. Uh, since I’m gonna be down there tomorrow, that only leaves Wednesday and Thursday to get to the hardware store. Any ideas on colors yet?”
“No. You know what, you pick.”
“Yeah. You know what everything looks like. I don’t even like the house so what color the walls are don’t make any difference.”
“You won’t like the house any more if you hate the color in every room either. You aren’t even going to try?”
“If I hate it, we can repaint one room at a time, but right now I’m not worried about it. I have too much other stuff to do.”
“Alright. If you promise to not kill me for the wrong red or whatever.”
“Yeah… I promise.” I’m being set up. Period. It wouldn’t matter if I paint every room the exact color it is in the other house, I’m doomed.
“Ohhhh kay… The boys are all signed up for school. They can start Wednesday.”
“How’d you manage that?”
“Sookie had the principal over. Everything’s all taken care of.”
“The boys are bouncing off the walls. I got all their clothes together while they were at school and they’re trying to prioritize their toys.”
“K. I’m leaving really early…”
“Good. I’ll be able to get something done tomorrow night… Hey, the oven timer just went off. The boys wanted fish sticks. Here’s Carm…” She’s actually using the oven?
“Hey, there. I hear you’re excited to come stay down here.”
“Oh yeah! We liked it dare. Even de air mattress.”
“Well, Sookie has a different mattress for y’all to use and then slide under my bed during the day. You guys are bunking with me.”
“Really? Dat’s tool!”
“Yeah. And you guys can start school the next day. I already talked to the principal.”
He started relaying the new info to Jack who tried to snatch the phone from him… ending in an argument…
“Daddy?” Jack won.
“You didn’t have to fight for the phone, son. I have plenty of time.”
“Tell your brother that.”
“Sorry, Carm…” He could have sounded like he meant it. “…Daddy, did Sookie say when she’d start teaching me?”
I should’ve known… “No. I’ll ask her, but she won’t waste any time. You saw how mad she was with Miss Seward.”
He giggled. “Yeah. It was funny.”
“No it wasn’t. It was scary.”
“She’s little, but I bet she could really beat up that lady.”
“Wanna hear a secret?”
He whispered, “Yeah.”
“When I first met her, I said something nasty to her because I was in a bad mood… She knocked me over and told me she’d feed me to pigs if I didn’t behave.”
He started laughing so loud it hurt my ear. “No she didn’t!”
“Oh, yeah she did. I believed her too.”
Still laughing, “Is that why you’re in a better mood? So Sookie doesn’t feed you to pigs?” Shit, even the kids think I’m in a better mood.
“Maybe… It could be that she cooks well enough to have a TV show too. I’ve been too full to be cranky.”
“That’ll do it… What do we need to do? To get ready to go?”
“Your mom says she already has your stuff together… Hey, what do y’all want in your rooms? Mom says I can pick the wall paint.”
“I don’t know… uhhhhhh… I want something musicy… Carm… Daddy wants to know what you want in your room. So he can pick paint.”
Carm blurted out, “Green! Like money green.” Figures.
I started laughing. “What’s mom look like? She seem ok with what y’all want?”
“Yeah. She’s doesn’t look angry or nothing.”
“Alright. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Sweeet! Don’t forget to ask Sookie about my lessons.”
“I won’t. I’m gonna let y’all go eat. There’s company over.”
“Ok. When will you be here to get us?”
“I’m not sure what time the plane lands, but early.”
“Yeah. It’ll be faster and we won’t be as tired when we get back.”
“We’ll be back in time for dinner?”
“Oh. I was hoping we could stop at Mezzo for fish tacos before we leave.”
“You know, I bet Sookie can make them if you ask nicely.”
He giggled again. “They might even be better than Mezzo’s… She made corn soup that we both liked.”
“She’s going to make us all fat.”
I had just stepped out of my room when I was hit…
Sookie ran into me tearing down the hallway and actually bounced off of me and into the floor.
“Shit! You hurt?”
She grunted, taking my hand to stand up. “My fault. Jas threatened to tickle me when I already needed to get to the bathroom. Shithead.” Funny bastard.
“Will be in about 30 seconds…” Practically as soon as she was on her feet, she was slamming the bathroom door behind herself. The boys would have called that a ‘PEE-mergency’.
She didn’t even give me the chance to make fun of her… She wore a silver washrag to Dirges, but for Monday Night Football with the family, she puts on a sweater?
That’s some funny shit, right there.
By the time I got back to the living room, Jason and Hunter had rearranged it so the couches were both facing the TV and all I really did to help was pull the coffee table to the middle and slide the armchair so whoever sat in it wouldn’t be staring at the back of someone’s head… and went looking for Sookie…
The kitchen was the obvious choice, but I got a text from Ame along the way that nearly put me in the floor.
“BTW, the den is urs. I prob wont ev go in there anyway.”
No. Fucking. Way.
“Yeah. Do whatev u want.”
I was still wondering if one of her errands today were to an exorcist when I walked in on a ‘serious’ moment between Eric and Sookie…
I’m guessing, my face gave me away. Eric snorted, “What are you guilty of now?”
“Uh… She called to tell me that the boys are all packed and that she is going to leave the paint up to me. She put the boys on to tell me good night and they are all kinds of excited to get here tomorrow. She sounded like… like she was… in a good mood.”
Sookie tensed up, I guess I interrupted a really serious moment… “So what colors are you thinking?”
“I think she’s setting me up. Every room in the other house is a different color. Red kitchen, yellow dining room, blue living room. She calls the bedroom eggplant… I’ll fuck it all up.”
She shook her head and faked a smile. Something was definitely up… “You’ll do fine.”
“You’ll help though, right?”
“Sure… You and Jas should go get that mattress out of the truck before it dews.”
Oh… and I’m uninvited from the room…
Shit. I sure as hell hoped they weren’t fighting already…
I found Jason on the porch, cigarette in one hand, cell in the other… Telling whoever was on the line (please, God, don’t let it be Corbett) that ‘her’ cooch won’t get cobwebs if ‘he’ rolls it up long enough to watch the game…
He was laughing when he put the phone back in his pocket… “You ain’t lived until your own father calls you a cock block.”
It was Corbett.
I started shaking my head. “You fucking Stackhouses are killing me… I don’t want to know that much about the people I have to work with.”
“So I guess you don’t wanna hear the ringtone I made from outside the bedroom window. She’s screaming…”
Hands over ears… “LaLaLaLaLaLa…”
He waited for me to stop. “You finished?”
“I don’t know. Are you?”
“I guess so, since you’re vag is acting up and all.”
“She’s my boss…”
“So. I know she’s a bitch and all, but you met Sheila. Pam’s nothing compared to that.”
I shrugged. “Got me there. But Eric was already cruisin’ for a bruisin’ earlier when he called her ‘mom’. He asked her if she’d be at dinner because ‘us kids’ miss her.”
“Oh, that’ll be fun to play with… Okay, so did you just want to flirt with me or were you given a mission?”
“Marching orders. Dew point versus mattress. Payload extraction.”
“The humidity is low enough… ohhhhh, what did you interrupt?” Smart mother fucker.
“Serious. No other clues.”
“That isn’t why everything was quiet when I got here was it? They aren’t fighting already?”
I shrugged. “Couldn’t say. Eric did shut her up, but it wasn’t much of a thing at the time.”
He started for the truck. “Well let’s stop procasterbating and get this thing inside and then I’ll go interrupt so they’ll get pissed at me instead.” Another one for the list… ‘procasterbating’… beautiful.
“Taking one for the team?”
“If I have to.”
Jason dipped out of the room and came right back with bedding to help me dress the mattress… he even thought to half sheet it so the boys could rack out at opposite ends…
He took off again to get caught in the cross-fire of whatever was going on with Eric and Sookie and I was just tucking the mattress under ‘my’ bed when I heard Sookie griping from the bathroom… Guess Jason was going to have to wait to butt in.
“You can tell females don’t use this head often… There’s no TP… is anyone in earshot?”
I went to the door. “Where will I find more?”
“Condom-nation… Master bath, under the sink… next to the mountain of rubbers.”
Thanks a lot…
And she wasn’t kidding about the ‘mountain’… they were stocked up for Armageddon…
When I got back to the hall bathroom, I asked her where she wanted the rolls…
She started laughing. “How long have you been here that you think shyness is a family trait?”
“Damn. Some people… my own wife locks the door to pee.”
“Sounds like a peach… are you gonna stand out there until I’m done air drying?”
I cracked the door and slid in (not looking) with the handful of toilet paper rolls held out to her.
“Awww. That’s sweet. Thanks.”
I slid out again… “You could’ve checked before you copped your squat.” …and shut the door.
She giggled at me through the closed door. “I might have thought about it if I didn’t drink 3 pots of coffee today before bouncing off a wall o’cop at my saturation point.”
I was only halfway down the hall when Jason whistled to get my attention and told me to get my camera ready…
When I got to the foyer, phone in hand, Jason was holding the door open for Pam and Corbett… Jason hugged his Dad and joked about almost forgetting what he looked like and then turned to Pam…
The surprised look she had when he hugged her, pinning her arms to her sides and picking her up, was priceless enough… but my camera captured the beginning of the snarl mixed with big eyes when called her mom.
She looked like Darrin Stevens from Bewitched… fucking creepy…
But instead of correcting Jason or joking back, she went after Eric… “So, Eric, how was the Bon Voyage Bash? Was the stripper entertaining?” She watched Sookie for her reaction… and while seeing Pam’s reaction to her failed attempt to cause a fight was going to be fun, I still resented that shit.
Sookie giggled at her, wiping the fun from Pam’s face while Eric shrugged it off. “The stripper was great. She turned out to be a friend of Sookie’s.”
Pam dug, “Know a lot of strippers, do you?”
Sookie nodded. “A few, but I just so happen to have dated that one.”
And Corbett gave Pam an unamused look (like he could tell that she was trying to stir shit up) and jumped in, “How is Frannie?”
It made everything even better that Corbett wasn’t surprised by any of it.
Not that I was shocked, but his daughter went through a bi-phase with a stripping doctor… and by the way they were talking, he liked her.
Sookie was catching Corbett up on Frannie when I heard the bathroom door open behind me…
I might not have noticed if Jason and Hunter weren’t in my line of sight… and I watched the color drain from Eric’s face…
I turned around to see what the fuck he was looking at…
And I probably lost my color just as fast as Eric did.
I had to look down at Sookie… a couple of times…
The Sookie standing on the other side of Eric was still wearing a tank top…
The Sookie coming down the hall (and stopping to straighten a picture along the way) was wearing the sweater I knocked over earlier…
The closer she got to where we were standing, the worse it got…
They hadn’t been kidding.
Cousins don’t look that much alike.
Shit. I’ve seen identical fucking twins that look less alike.
I gave two shits that I was staring, but I started looking for differences…
Tank-Top-Sookie had shorter hair… bluer eyes… wider hips…
Sweater-Sookie looked a little older, but not enough considering she’d fucking lost her husband and raised a kid on her own…
They were the same height, but when I looked down, Sweater-Sookie’s boots didn’t have a heel and Tank-Top-Sookie’s were almost stilettos. Even with the height difference, they still looked like they wore the same size.
The two of them stood in front of me and Eric, waiting for one of us to say something, wearing the same fucking amused-as-hell smiles too.
Tank-Top-Sookie finally started laughing and put her hand on Eric’s chest. “This one is Eric…” Then tagged my chest like there would be a problem telling us apart. “…This one is Alc… Guys, this is my cousin Hadley.”
No shit, Sherlock.
I don’t know why, but I ended up laughing. “You sure you’re just cousins?”
Sweater-Sookie snorted at me. “It’s complicated. My mother is Uncle Corbett’s sister…”
Tank-Top-Sookie finished. “…Her father is Sheila’s brother.”
And then they spoke in stereo, “Double cousins.”
Sweater-Sookie kept explaining. “We have the same grandparents… without any in breeding. I swear!”
Tag. Tank-Top-Sookie took a turn and I’m pretty sure they were doing that shit on purpose. “Genetically, we register as sisters. I don’t see it. It’s just because we’re dressed alike.” Well, ‘double cousins’ register as half-siblings, but I wasn’t going to nit-pick.
Besides, I wasn’t buying the ‘don’t see it’ line. “Bullshit! You two even have the same voice. I need a beer…” I popped Eric’s shoulder to bring him back. “You shouldn’t drink. That hilarious bitch right there WILL have too much fun with this if you get tanked.”
I turned to leave the room and Tank-Top-Sookie gave me a dirty look like I shouldn’t have warned him.
Fucking Patty Duke Show…
Cousins… Still they’re cousins, identical cousins and you’ll find…
They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike…
You can lose your mind… when cousins are two of a kind!
The Sookies were right behind me when I got to the kitchen. I leaned against the counter next to Jason where he was using the sink drain as an ashtray and followed his lead.
I watched both Sookies move around the kitchen to set up the plates and utensils and lay out an assortment of beer. They finished each other’s sentences when they even bothered with more than fragments, but for the most part it was like watching a dolphin show with the way they navigated around each other and communicated in code.
‘Had, can you…?’
‘yeah, no prob.’
‘Sook, do we…?’
Hunter had asked at least 10 times if we could ‘go’ yet and after getting a stereophonic ‘no’ every fucking time, he decided on a new approach…
Help the virgin.
…And Jason was all over helping, telling Sookie that after the other night everyone would starve if I didn’t have someone to coach me through the buffet.
I played along, taking my plate from Hunter… Of course, they used their own plates as ‘visual aids’.
Hunter pointed everything out… “Pulled pork (Carolina style), honey barbeque wings, stuffed mushrooms, cornbread, suicide rolls and slaw (sweet not bitter).”
“What’s in the mushrooms and suicide rolls?”
One of the Sookies answered, “The mushrooms are stuffed with bread crumbs, sausage and cheddar. The suicide rolls are flat bread filled with steak, Colby jack, jalapeno, onion and pepper.”
Fucking hell… “I’ve paid for tickets to Super Bowl parties with less… Y’all do this every week?”
A Sookie giggled behind me while I watched Hunter shove a suicide roll into his mouth… and then regret it. “Fuck! MOM! Are you trying to kill me?”
She laughed, shaking her head and handing him a bottle of tea. “I have failed as a mother… Tell me you aren’t such a pussy in public. What would people say?”
He flipped her off, downing the tea. He’d emptied the bottle and tossed it across the room into the garbage. “I’m not a pussy!”
“Well then, maybe some dirty bitch booby trapped the tray and put the high octane rolls on top to deter pickers.” I started laughing and grabbed one. It was good enough that I grabbed another one. They were spicy, but not worth crying over.
“You… That’s not funny!”
“P’owned.” She sang it, dragging it out to piss him off.
Hunter gave me the ‘law of the land’, making sure that I understood the one-plate rule like he was explaining nuclear fission. By the time Jason was done instructing me on BBQ sandwich ‘engineering’, using the sandwich as a ‘retaining wall’ for a pile of wings and proper stacking techniques for the rest of the ‘vittles’, Hadley and Sookie were done spreading out the ‘chili bar’ on the table… bowls of chili and a huge spread of toppings…
I wanted to be adopted. Alcide Stackhouse had a certain ring to it.
Hell, Eric should be the one to change his name when they get married…
I watched Jason cover his chili with cheese, jalapenos and sour cream and then set his plate on top of his bowl to free his other hand for his spoon and three beers.
I turned around from grabbing my chili and Jason, Hunter, Sookie and Eric were all gone…
“Where the fuck did everybody go?”
Hadley chuckled. “Hunter and Jason are probably half way through their first plates… You were used and tossed aside, pal… Daddy just took Pam out front for calibrating because she whined about not liking football… and Sookie had some sort of brain fart and dragged Eric to the back of the house.”
“Yeah, I let her know that her new furniture and tile came into the shop today… she’s probably showing him the plans for the new bathroom.” At least they weren’t fighting.
I leaned against the counter and started picking from my plate and trying to make conversation. “Furniture, huh?”
“Yeah. I’m an interior designer.” Oh, hell yeah!
“Sweet. I’ll ask you then… I’m in the market for the biggest, most comfortable sofa a man cave has ever seen. Know where I can get one?”
She squinted while she thought about it and looked like she was counting. “I have no less than 5 large sectionals and 3 sets in stock at the moment that are Man’tastic. I’ll bring pictures the next time I’m over to save you the trip to the showroom.”
“Wow. Thanks. Last time I went into one, I glazed over and I don’t remember anything.”
She laughed. “We have a word for that… G’eyes (guy eyes)… we can see y’all coming from a mile away. What did you end up with?”
“Yellow and blue flowers… Whatever Waverly is, I think they make tampons too.”
She even laughed like Sookie. “Yeah, we carry that too. You might have flashbacks if you come in.” She walked over to the oven when the timer went off and when she bent over to take the tray out, I caught myself looking…
It’s a good thing she’s gay. She’s not dating my best friend which would activate that man’law force field… and she’s got a nice little heart shaped ass… yeah… it’s a damn good thing she’s gay.
She slid the pepper poppers from the oven onto a plate and put some on my pile of food, warning me that they have ‘more bite’ than the suicide rolls.
Not dating my best friend. Beautiful. Heart shaped ass. Knew what the fuck jalapenos are for… if she weren’t gay, I could be convinced to be a dirtbag.
“So, is the girlfriend coming over too?”
I had no idea what the look on her face meant. It could be pissed, it could be confused… “Girlfriend?”
Shit… Sookie had said ‘girlfriend’. Partner… fuck. Like I’d know… “Uh… yeah, Naeve. Right?”
She started laughing. “Oh, you poor thing! Sookie needs to be more specific. No, no, no… Wrong cousin. Claudine and Neave are the couple.”
Wait… she said that Claudine was with Naeve… not that she was single…
Haha! I could hold onto that. Right?
“Sorry about that… Sookie said ‘my cousin’.” And come to think of it… She said ‘my cousin’ when she was dealing with Ame… She let Ame think that Hadley is gay to shut her up. She’s good.
Hadley was nicely dismissing that I’d put my foot in my mouth when Corbett and Pam came in.
He pointed to the counter, giving her a dirty look. “Don’t embarrass yourself by opening your mouth. Make your plate then park your ass and act like you’ve got some sense.”
Well… at least I hadn’t fucked up as bad as Pam.
Corbett watched her make her plate and when she turned around with her mouth open to say something, he handed her a bottle of tea. “What did I say? Go eat. Pretend to have some manners.”
She scowled at him and huffed her way out of the room.
I was still picking at my food, watching Pam crumple into the loveseat and slam her bottle into the coffee table when Hadley slapped Corbett’s arm. “Daddy. What the hell?”
He cracked a beer and took a swig. “She’s a football hater.”
“Not everybody has to like football.”
“I understand that, Angel. The problem is that she decided to share that the only thing dumber than a football player was the useless assholes who watch football.”
Hadley faked a gasp. “Did you hit her?”
He started laughing. “No. I gently informed her that dumb is subjective.”
Hadley cleared her throat. “How did you do that?”
“I reminded her that this house was full of dumb, football watching and playing assholes, yet she’s the one that brings down the IQ average.”
He shrugged. “I might have told her that there are a lot of things that are dumber than football, such as a woman who hides behind her x chromosomes in order to advance in a male driven field with the sole purpose of having someone to bully since she couldn’t find anyone dumb enough to marry her… and I pointed out, since we were discussing ‘dumb’, that she has Bananarma and Rick Astley on her iPod.”
I lost it… I had to cover my mouth so that my cornbread didn’t fall out when I laughed.
I was just sitting down on the couch as Jason and Hunter were doing a coin toss. Best of 3… “What are y’all deciding?”
Jason laughed, “Who has to go interrupt whatever’s going on back there so we can get seconds.”
Hunter flipped the quarter again and growled at it before he bounced it off of Jason’s forehead and got up.
“Hunter, do NOT open that door.”
He gave me a weird look. “Why?”
“Trust me, kid… you could end up scarred for life. Just tell Eric through the door that the poppers are worth punching a baby for and if they aren’t out here soon, they’re mine. He’ll get his ass out here.”
“What about Sookie?”
“She’s been feeding me… she knows I’ll do it.”
By the time Eric and Sookie came out of the back, I was practically licking my chili bowl…
Fucking phenomenal… all of it…
And I wanted more.
Sookie pulled a knife out of the storage block to keep Hunter, Jason and me in the foyer while they made their plates… but by the time Sookie and Eric had moved to the ‘chili bar’, Jason and Hunter looked like they were in a pay-per-view cage match… and I was more than happy to let them have at it since they were afraid of the pepper poppers. I took the plate they were on and set up another bowl of chili.
I held the plate of poppers out for Corbett. “Last chance.”
He chuckled while he grabbed a fistful. “Ever meet a pepper you didn’t like?”
“Savinas have to be cooked into something or they light me up.”
“But they taste like heaven… you ever come across Ghost chilies?”
“Not yet. You?”
“Nope. Heard some guys died making the elephant bombs… closed up and they suffocated on their own snot… Had’s already been to India, got busted at the airport trying to bring some back for me.”
She giggled and swiped a few peppers from the plate when I offered. “The customs agent gagged when he cracked the bag.”
“So what’s in these? They’re better than the ones that just have cream cheese in them.”
“I roast garlic, red bells and habaneras and mix them into the shmear. I keep it around for my bagels.” Oh God bless…
I was tempted to tell Sookie that I was moving to stay at Hadley’s.
Even just as a joke…
I munched (almost ate until I split my gut) while Sookie and Hadley discussed redecorating the living room… I almost started to wonder how fem the room would be once it was done, but Eric didn’t have a damn thing to offer the conversation. The first time he went into the living room at my house, he told me that admitting I’m gay wouldn’t change the way he felt about me… asshole… if Sookie gardens the place up, I’d never let him hear the end of it…
But I wasn’t going to get that lucky. Her bedroom was blue and green, my room was khaki and green… not even the air fresheners and candles she has in every room were flowery…
Nope. I wasn’t going to get that satisfaction.
When everyone started talking about having a cookout for Eric’s folks, I put in my vote to have pepper poppers again… If Sookie’s going to teach me to cook, she can start with those things…
But seriously… I wanted to be adopted.
We horse-assed around on the couch, laughed our asses off because Sookie and Hadley tried (and failed) to confuse Eric, Hunter and I nearly got broken ribs from Hadley for wrestling over desert, then Hunter went through the damn couch…
And I must’ve had 20 drinks…
…and the more fun I had, the more pissed I got.
I know how fucking stupid it might sound… I blamed it on the fact that it had been a couple of years since I’d been so wasted…
Even though Pam was moping because she’d been shut down… Even though Sookie passed out early and got carried to bed (which, to be honest, I was happy to see because I was starting to worry about how long she could go on without real sleep)… Even though the couch got busted…
We all had fun.
We all had fun and I actually started to get paranoid that my phone might fuck everything up.
Not my phone as much as Ame…
And the real mood turner was when a text vibrated my leg…
I sat in the floor, legs going numb, afraid to look at what kind of craziness she was trying to shove down my throat…
I must’ve tried to ignore that I’d gotten the text at all for what felt like hours.
I finally managed to muster the nuts to pull my cell out of my pocket… “Too excited to sleep. –J”
I was in the middle of typing my reply when his icon turned gray because he signed out…
I could have told him I was excited too if I hadn’t been too fucking paranoid to look at my phone…
Like that shit hadn’t been enough, Jason ended up talking about the ‘happiest Thanksgiving on record’… it won the title of ‘happiest’ because Sheila and her brother were sick and didn’t celebrate (rain on the parade)… the Stackhouses didn’t have to wait for them to leave before they could have any fun.
Fuck if that wasn’t a ‘wake up call’…
Maybe if I got out then, the boys wouldn’t remember what it had been like…
Maybe if I got out then, I’d get to the point where I wouldn’t be afraid to look at my caller ID anymore…
The boys had fun here…
They had fun playing and watching a movie…
They had fun drawing with Eric and Sookie…
They had fun playing with Devon and Taryn…
They had fun with me and Sookie in the kitchen…
Every fucking bit of fun they had was Ame free…
And I could say the same for me.
Call it and epiphany… but I was done.
I was drunker than I’d been in a long time (maybe ever) but I wanted my kids to be happy and ‘happy as long as she wasn’t around’ wasn’t good enough.
I’d been stewing.
I know I had.
I spent the last quarter of the game only paying enough attention to know when I was due another shot…
I ended up taking a couple more shots at the very end of the game and Eric was so drunk he looked like he had a sunburn and thought it was hilarious…
I ended up turning on Hunter. “You need to age up. If Sookie can’t hang any better, I don’t want to be the only Dallas Drunk.”
He pointed at his mom. “She’s the buzz kill. If y’all really cared, you’d have said something earlier. She might have let me have a beer. Shit.” Gee, kid, I wonder why she doesn’t want you drinking… and I almost told him exactly what a buzz kill Hadley wasn’t…
I opted to change the subject. “If we end up at Dirges Saturday night, you want to ‘babysit’?”
I’m pretty sure he made the babysitting/Taryn connection faster than a Google search… “You bet. I bet we could have lots of fun.”
Hadley gave me an evil stare that was almost as bad as Sookie’s. “What are you two up to?”
“Nothing.” If I was a laughing drunk, I might’ve lost it when I realized Hunter said it at the same time I did… it only made her more suspicious… shit, I couldn’t blame her.
I was still trying to get up when she went off. “Hunter Savoy! What are you two talking about?”
“You heard him! He asked me to babysit. You want details, ask him… Damn!”
“Fine…” She charged me like a bull and got so close I could see the little flecks of silver around her irises… “What is babysitting code for?”
She had really pretty eyes… “Babysitting tends to be a common vernacular regarding short term child care on an irregular or part time basis.” The peanut gallery started laughing…
“Wiseass! Who would he be watching?”
“My 8 and 4 year old sons. Jackson and Carmichael.”
“Who are where?”
“At the moment, they’re in bed in New Orleans. In the morning I’m going to go get them from their mother.”
“Do you mind explaining why my son wanting a beer made you segue to him being alone in a well stocked house?” She was so close and her breath smelled like the chocolate cake… NO. Fuck, that’s why I don’t drink that much.
“It didn’t. Your son wanting to break ABC laws reminded me that we might be going to a bar. There aren’t a whole lot of stones in that path, honey. I’m too smashed to be Machiavellian.” She actually looked like she was backing down a little… even made an ‘oops’ type of face. It was kind of… cute. Fuck! I had to stop that shit… And for once I wasn’t irritated to hear the sound of Pam’s voice…
“I thought you were fucking with me. She’s really letting you get them?”
“They’re a pain in her ass. She wants them out from underfoot.” Hadley was still standing too close and the way her arms were folded across her ribs was pushing her tits together… Goddamn… I needed AA.
“So all three of you boys are staying here? Until next week?” She actually acknowledged that they’re boys? Wow.
“Well then, I’ll have to cancel the strip-o-gram house warming.” I’d have the chance to apologize to Fran for being a grumpy prick…
“I wouldn’t mind seeing Amber again… Just send her on over after the boys are in bed.” That came out so wrong. I needed to stop talking before I dug my own grave.
Jason showed Pam and Corbett out and told them that he was sleeping over… and I realized that Hadley was still too close… I could smell her…
Hunter was the only reason she stepped back.
“Mom. I’m staying too.”
“No you’re not.”
“Mostly because you ask me instead of telling me…”
He hugged her and laid his head on top of hers with a shit eating grin. “Mommy, since there’s no school tomorrow, can I stay over? Pleasepleaseplease?”
“There isn’t anyone here that could pass a sobriety test.”
“Somebody has to tend to them… I’ll just watch porn on my laptop until I get tired and then I’ll be here to help Sookie move stuff.”
She snorted at him. “Porn, huh?”
“Did I say porn? I meant… the History Channel. Why would I say porn? That stuff is gross. Ewwwie.”
“I don’t think so. Get your stuff.”
“But I’ll be bored while you’re at work all day.”
“No you won’t. You’ll wake up at noon. Go for a run. Work out. Call all the girls I don’t like and con someone into picking you up before I get home from work. Get your stuff.”
He grumbled and let her go, then nudged me on his way by. “Work on her while I’m in the bathroom.”
She stared a hole into the back of his head until the bathroom door closed behind him. “Work on me?”
I shrugged. “Whatever that means.”
“So you’re not going to tell me how I’m being unreasonable?”
“Would it help his cause for me to butt in?”
Her hands went to her hips. “No!”
She was even cute when she’s pissed. “That was rhetorical.”
“Oh… Shit. Sorry… I’m sorry about earlier too…” No. No. No… Like it wasn’t bad enough that she’s hot and cooks and likes football and… fuck… she actually has it in her to apologize when she knows she was wrong… I didn’t think such a creature existed….
“It’s fine. Anyone would have been suspicious with the way we both said ‘nothing’ at the same time.”
“I could have been suspicious without jumping down your throat though. So I’m sorry.”
“K.” It was all I could say… all of the amazing physical stuff there was about her and I was so fucked up that I was fighting a hard on over a god damn apology.
After Hunter and Hadley left, I tried being social in the kitchen with Jason and Eric (and a beer, like I needed more) but I kept going over the day…
The work day wasn’t the worst we’d ever had, not by a long shot, but it was still draining as a mother fucker…
But as soon as we got back to the house, we managed to leave it behind us…
Spotless house. Excellent food. Friendly company. Hassle free football game…
And to boot, the only time I was bitched at… I got an apology for it.
I ended up dozing off at the table in spite of my best efforts to stay conscious and eventually Eric woke me up so I could stagger back to my room, plug my phone in and yank off my clothes…
My phone. I was staring at the damn thing. I could barely see it between the room being dark and being nearly cross-eyed…
‘He has to answer his phone in order to get treated like shit.’
Sookie’d hit the nail on the head.
5 days in Bon Temps and I was only miserable for the 20 hours Ame was here.
Sookie saw it.
Eric saw it.
The boys even saw it…
There wasn’t any way I could go back to the way things were…
There wasn’t any way I could let the boys get a taste of what normal and fun was like and then make them go back…
I finally passed out praying that Sookie didn’t end up resenting me for how much help I was going to need.