Oh My Ears And Whiskers, How Late It’s Getting!
I had to figure out how to clear the lump in my throat from watching the boys walk back into the house without me another way…
The text I got from Ame didn’t help. All it did was remind me of why I didn’t want to leave…
“Goodbye to you too asshole.”
“I said goodbye to who counts.”
“I don’t count?”
“So fucking what. Tell me why I should give a shit.”
“Bcuz im ur wife.”
“That dog won’t hunt. I know better than to think you still care.”
“I do still care.”
“You could’ve fooled me. Leave me alone.” I was close to having the cabbie turn around so that I could choke the shit out of her…
What stopped me…
…The idea of Ame’s mother raising the boys while I was doing life for premeditated murder.
Not changing Eric to my ‘next of kin’ was a big reason Ame was still alive.
Sookie opened the door when I got to Eric’s apartment, reminding me that I should warn her about the fucking ‘party’ on its way over.
“Hey! Long time, no see. How was the drive?”
She narrowed her eyes at me, taking the hint that I wasn’t in the mood to talk about it. “We were just eating. Hungry?” Starving.
Eric was analyzing me when I sat down. He had that one-eyed-squint thing going on.
Sookie was the one to ask. “Ok, Alc, what’s wrong?”
Where to start? What’s wrong is that ‘the vampire’ had already done ‘A’ and ‘H’… “Uh… The uh… problem… Pam called ahead and let the rest of the guys know that we were transferring. According to Dahlia… They got it in their heads to throw us a bon voyage.”
Eric started shaking his head. “How do they think they’re going to manage that? I planned on being out of here in half an hour.”
I braced myself, hoping like hell that Sookie was in a joking mood… “They’re on their way here… With a stripper.”
Eric ended up being the one to do the lid flipping… “HERE!? Why? FUCK!”
“Pam told Russell that I was meeting up with you and that we were riding back together. She told them we’d be here, but not that Sookie would be with you to help pack.” The cunt was setting Eric up to fight with Sookie… there’s another bitch that needed to be calibrated.
As soon as Sookie came over and set a pile of food down in front of me, I winced. I was still sure I’d get blamed… Kill the messenger.
I watched her sit down though, and she started giggling while she ate. “I told you that Pam’s funny.” No. Sookie’s funny. This whole situation is ‘funny’. There’s a stripper on her way here to give her fiancé a lap dance and Eric’s the one that’s ready to lock and load…
“She set us up for a surprise stripper. That’s not funny.”
“Yes it is. Well, as long as she’s not a dog. How many guys do you think will show up? You don’t have any groceries in the house. I should run out and grab some stuff while you finish packing.” I started laughing quietly around a mouthful of chicken salad… phenomenal chicken salad.
Eric shook his head again. “No you shouldn’t.”
“You can’t have a party with a stripper and no drinks or anything… Oh, I get it. I’m not invited. OK. I’ll go shopping. Call me when the party’s over?”
“You’re not going anywhere… Us transferring is just an excuse to get a stripper.”
She laughed at him and patted his leg. “Fine, I’ll stay put, but let ‘em have their fun. What better reason to get one… Where’s a good place to get change? All I have is 20s.”
I didn’t even realize my mouth was hanging open until she closed it for me. Most guys I knew caught shit for going to Hooters… And Sookie Stackhouse is pissed that she’s unprepared for ‘g-tipping’? I don’t know why I bothered being surprised.
Eric was just as locked up as I was though… she gave him a confused look. “What?”
“You don’t mind being at a party with a stripper?”
She got up and grabbed her plate. “Sweetie, you’ve seen me dance. Where do you think I learned… I’m gonna hit the Grab N Go at the corner for beer and fives. Alc, need any change?”
Overload! Do what? “You used to be a stripper?”
“No. I’m just this side of too modest for that. Tips at the coffee house sucked so as soon as I turned 18, I started waiting tables at a classy little place called ‘The Melon Baller’. Made a couple hundred a night just stroking egos.”
OH MY GOD!
No no no… How the fuck did Eric get so fucking lucky?
Somebody call the fucking whaaaaa-ambulance!
Not fair. Not fair. Not fair!
I barely waited for the door to close behind her…
“You’ve got to be kidding me! Seriously? You lucky son of a fucking bitch!”
He laughed at me. “That’s me.”
“No fucking way… She’s smoking hot, smart enough to be dangerous, not turned off by ‘the job’, YOUR parents approve, her family is awesome… And what the fuck am I eating? This is incredible.”
“Homemade sourdough bread, roasted chicken with garlic and havarti dill. The mayo has spicy red pepper relish in it.”
“I’d want this as a last meal, but by the time my house is done, I’m going to have love handles.” Unless I let Sookie torture me with her morning ‘jogs’.
“It’s worth the extra time in the gym.”
“If you fuck it up with her, I’ll punch you in your dick.” Maybe a couple of times.
“If I don’t kill myself first, have at it.”
Mr. Clean went to wash his plate wearing his clown smile again. “I can’t believe you actually did any packing. I expected you to take advantage of being alone.” I completely expected to walk in and see them scrambling to fill the first box.
“We did for a couple of hours then she packed while I slept.”
“She packed your shit?”
Prideful fucker smiled at me. “…While I slept.”
Seriously. I’m done. I’m smart enough to know that Eric and Sookie are in a honeymoon type of phase… when both people are ‘relationship heroes’, going above and beyond what they would normally do… but I finally put my finger on why I was so fucking fed up with Ame.
Fuck that Sookie waits on Eric hand and foot… it’s sweet and all, but it’s more of a smack in the face that some people just give a shit and some people don’t…
I’d rather figure out how to raise the boys on my own than be with someone that doesn’t care.
Lesbian cousins notwithstanding… finding a Sookie type of my own would be a wet dream, but as a minimum I’d settle for getting the boys away from Ame…
All bets are off… I’m calling in the imaginary 6 months that I gave Ame for therapy (not that she’d go anyway)…
Ame doesn’t give a shit.
Ame doesn’t try. Sometimes I doubt she ever has…
And the boys don’t seem to trust her any more than I do…
They deserve to have a mom… but they’re better off with no mother at all than one who’d be more preoccupied with a full frontal text assault than her crying children.
…Maybe I was just too pissed to be rational.
And the only person I’ve talked to about any of this shit couldn’t exactly be impartial…
Even if Sookie hadn’t already made it obvious that she was on ‘my side’… it didn’t take a genius to realize that her own mom-issues would be a factor.
More sick to death of Ame than ever, and still just as fucking confused about what to do about it.
“Sookie almost got arrested on the way here.” I almost missed that he said anything.
“How’d she… you aren’t about to tell me a handcuff story are you?”
As soon as he started laughing, I felt… ‘safer’. “No. That would be Sookie’s game… We stopped for gas and coffee… well, we were fooling around in the car…”
“Come the fuck on!”
“We didn’t get to the good stuff, retard… We got drawn down on by a couple of locals this side of Baton Rouge. Somehow Rotten was reported stolen.”
“Most likely. I texted Russell to look into it.”
“How’d she almost get arrested for stealing her own car though?”
“She called the cop Warf and when he pushed the sobriety issue because she was mouthing off, he asked for the alphabet. She asked if he wanted it in Klingon before she gave it to him faster than I could in the radio-signalman’s’ alphabet. Forwards and backwards.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “What had her so spun up?”
He shrugged. “Getting interrupted combined with knowing Bill was behind it.”
What I couldn’t believe was how well he was taking it… “Why aren’t you polishing bullets?”
“You mother fucker! I swear to Christ! You already said that y’all fucked around once you got back here! I don’t need specifics!”
“I’m just fucking with you! God Damn! You’re easy… I had already decided what to do about him before she went down…”
“FUCK! Stop it. What are you going to do about him?”
It took the asshole a minute to stop laughing. “Let him hang himself. I’m going to start documenting the stalking. He knows I’m a Fed now. By harassing her, he’s harassing me… after a few more showings, I’ll have all the excuse I need to put a bullet in his face for stepping foot on the property.”
“Want another shark that bad?”
“He wouldn’t rate.”
I snorted. “Clown fish?”
“He’s more of a bottom feeder. I was thinking: Pleco.”
When Sookie came back, she kicked the leg of my chair on her way by while I was finishing the best fucking cobbler… cherries and peaches… sweet and tart… warm and crunchy… I needed a bigger fucking fork.
“D’you get enough to eat? There’s plenty more.” Good. Leftovers.
“Yeah, it was great thanks. You need to teach Ame how to cook.” And control her temper, keep house, give a shit… But right now, the boys and I would settle on some basic kitchen skills like reading ‘use by’ dates.
“I don’t have a lot of spare time on my hands. You’re going to have to pick between cooking and lap dancing.” Uh oh.
“You heard about that?”
“Yes sir, I did. I told you, Pam’s funny.” She winked at me, but… that shit’s not funny… Since Thursday, Pam had let me worry about Eric, tried to egg me on about my kids and Sookie, thought that a stripper would get Eric in some kind of trouble and now I’m finding out that she ‘tattled’ on me for joking about Ame’s lack of grace… the only reason I could think of for that was that if Sookie wasn’t, well… Sookie, she’d think I was a pervert and feel uncomfortable around me…
No. Pam isn’t funny. She’s an instigating cunt.
A shit stirrer.
Far from funny.
Sookie came over and wiped down the table and shanghaied my plate so that I couldn’t wash it myself so I went over to the window to grab a smoke.
She came over and sat next to me, pulling her feet up to rest on the radiator. “You alright?”
“Can we talk about it later? I’m still tempted to go kill her.”
She nodded. “K… I talked to Daddy a little while ago. He said the yard will get taken care of tomorrow.”
“He get sick of Pam yet?”
“Not yet. She was whining about wanting a break while I talked to him though.”
“A break? From what?” As soon as I asked, I knew it was a mistake…
She smirked. “She said she was sore. He told her to flip over…”
“I’m going to cover my ears again.”
She giggled at me. “I was just letting him know that we got here OK while Eric napped. He’s funny about road trips since that’s how Grandpa died. Anyway, he said once the vines are out of the way he’s going to have the painters out. It’s due. He told me to ask if you have any preferences.” Grey with Navy blue trim… Cowboys colors would spin Ame up like a top. It could be funny.
I shook my head. “I don’t really care…”
“Then just let Ame know to start thinking on it.”
“Yeah. I’ll get right on that.”
“How are the boys doing with the idea of moving. Y’all have been here for a while, right?”
“They seem ok about it. We brought back boxes from the office because they wanted to start packing their toys.”
She smiled. “That’s a good sign.” Thank God.
“I was hoping.”
“I told them about the house a little this morning. They’re excited that it’s bigger than my house.”
“How do you know the house?”
“I had a friend, Sophie, her and her brother lived there in high school… The boys getting their own rooms?”
“Yup. And I’m getting a weight room.”
“Ahh, that’s where Sophie’s dad had his work bench. He built that deck when we were in high school. Does the room still smell like sawdust?”
“Yeah… He built it… the damn thing is as solid as concrete. He built that 10 years ago?”
Her eyes rolled around… “Yeah. Well, he finished it my senior year… so 12? years ago.”
“You graduated at 16?” Fuck if her and Eric weren’t perfect for each other… I’m surrounded by geniuses.
“15. Turned 16 that summer…” She got interrupted by some impatient as hell knocking on the door…
Russell. Big surprise. Mother fucker couldn’t even knock politely…
And he started in as soon as the door was opened. They hadn’t even gotten over the threshold yet… “I hear you fuckers are starting your own little party in Shreveport and taking the kingpin with you. The riding-crop is moving up and taking her pets along for the trip, huh?” Pets? Fuck him. The only reason that fucker was on the PTF was because he was almost as handy with a computer as Sookie. Almost.
Instead of punching him in his bony neck, I laughed. Dahlia, I’d miss… Russell would be just another schmuck I used to work with.
When he nodded over to Sookie, I was about to have some fun… tell them that Eric’s fiancé didn’t approve of a stripper so she was going to lead us in a prayer or some shit… “I see the stripper’s here early… I asked for a redhead, but she’ll do. Those tits make up for it.”
Oh… this’ll be fun…
When he waved her over I started biting the inside of my lip… she was ‘strutting’.
“Why don’t you turn around for me, jugs?”
Sookie smiled and held her arms out and turned slowly, winking at me on her way around. “You like?”
“So far. You don’t have any stretch marks, do you?” I started to laugh, but covered by clearing my throat…
She slid her shirt up, pushing ‘the girls’ together in the process while she hooked her thumb into her pants to push them down in front… The guys were already starting to drool.
“Are you the one paying me?”
As soon as he handed her the roll of cash that was meant for the real stripper, I lost it. Sookie counted the money and winked at me again as she pocketed the bills.
He finally seemed aware that Eric was in the back end of his apartment… “I hear you’re getting married, Northman. What species did you find to put up with you?”
He practically growled. This shit was better than the pizza guy show. “She’s a rare breed.”
“You mean like a cross between a pig and a goat?…” Sookie popped me in the ribs when my laughing flared up again. This shit was too fucking hilarious! “…Herveaux, what are you going on about!?”
“Eric? You wanna tell him?”
“That ‘stripper’ is my fiancé, you asshole.”
“You’re doing a stripper?”
He finally came over… “No, fuck tard. I’m ‘doing’ a teacher who you mistook as a stripper.”
Sookie’s hand went out and she was finally letting herself laugh at the looks on their faces. “Sookie. Sookie Stackhouse. Nice to meet y’all.”
Pat, Rasul and Andre were gawking, but they managed to get their names out, barely.
When she got to Russ, she slapped the cash back into his hand. “At least you booked a decent dancer instead of a flabby gypsy from the local titty shack.” Titty shack? That was a new one.
“My teacher’s never had a body like yours. What do you teach?”
She deadpanned, “Sex ed.”
“Ser…serious…really?” She had him stuttering? B-E-A-Utiful!
“I’m a history teacher. Close your mouth. You’re drawing flies… Who wants a beer?”
Me. I’m first. I want a beer…
Fuck. I need a fifth of whiskey with a straw in it.
Sookie stood at the counter and twisted off tops for everyone. I was first… by the time she handed out the last one, she had my second out for me and took my empty…
She was better at reading people than Eric was…
Eric cleared his throat while Sookie was spreading beer out in the freezer… “Everybody, this is Amber…”
That’s all he got out before Sookie slammed the freezer closed and jerked around…
I watched her put one hand in the middle of the counter and vault over it like it was a pommel horse and bolt over to the stripper…
They hugged and squealed and the stripper had her legs wrapped around Sookie… and eventually they headed out the door with Eric close behind…
Rasul laughed in Russell’s direction that even if Amber didn’t dance, the ‘girl on girl’ action was worth paying for. He didn’t care if Sookie was Eric’s or not, she’s going to be his ‘lotion date’ when he gets home.
“Knock it off. Show some damn respect.”
He snorted, “What? You hittin’ that too?”
“No. Just don’t embarrass yourself by thinking you could keep up with her.”
“Like you can.”
“Nope. She proved it this morning. Knocked my dick in the dirt when we went running. Since you can’t hang on a treadmill for 10 minutes… don’t kid yourself.”
“Oh, but what a way to die.”
“What? With blisters on your palms?”
“No. With my dick in something that sweet.”
“Might as well fuck a pie. Girls like that don’t date guys with 3 ex-wives especially when they get winded tying their shoes.”
“Oh fuck you! Not everybody can eat whatever they want and keep a washboard. You’re a fucking freak of nature.”
“I’m not a freak of nature, asshole. I’ve been to your house. You use your weight bench to stack your porn.”
“I don’t feel like I need to impress anybody.”
“I don’t work out to make friends. I work out because I like being able to see my cock, dinky-doo!”
“Yeah, your gut stands out farther than your dinky do, shit head. You’re so fucking fat, you need grilling tongs to reach to take a piss.”
“I can’t be so bad, I managed to find three women willing to marry me.”
“Congratulations. You have yourself quite a collection of women who hate you to go with your stretch marks. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one day lard will be the ‘new black’ and double baggers will be something to brag about.”
“Genital dwarf. What else you got?”
“You’re in a pissy mood.”
“Yeah. I am.”
“What’s your problem?”
“I don’t know. I spent the day telling my boys goodbye because I won’t see them for 2 fucking weeks and then I find out that you hilarious mother fuckers decided to use our transfer as an excuse for a lap dance because our twat boss thought it would be a riot to start a fight between Eric and his fiancé before we have to spend 5 hours in the car together on the way back. You tell me why I’m one thing away from emptying a clip.”
“She seemed cool about it though.”
“She is cool about it, but that isn’t the point. The intent was there. And then none of you answered my fucking calls to let you know to just have your party somewhere else. Sookie’s the only one of us who’s in the mood for this bullshit.”
As soon as Eric came back into the apartment, I nearly bulldozed my way over to settle my curiosity.
“What the fuck was all that about?”
“They know each other.” You don’t say!
“No shit, Sherlock.”
Dated? Like… Noooooo. Oh, bloody fucking hell! Like the ‘wet dream’ list of golden goddamn qualities she already had wasn’t enough… Sookie’s into girls too?
Righteously jealous… I don’t think I’ve ever met a normal guy that would turn his nose up at a threesome… And I knew for a fact the lucky prick in front of me… Hate him. Only on principle, but damn!
I was seriously close to needing a Whiners Club Card.
“You didn’t know?”
He shrugged. He was trying to play it off, but he was locked up. “It never came up.”
“I might just punch you in the dick now.”
“For all men everywhere.”
A few minutes of downing beer and rubbing it in that Eric and I had made more headway on the Vampire case over the weekend than the whole bunch of us had in over a year, even if it was because of Sookie… Eric didn’t name our ‘source’ so I figured he had a reason…
Sookie finally made her way out of the bathroom to start the music and sat on the counter long enough for a redbull and a whispered conversation with Eric while Amber started her thing…
And then Sookie left to load the car with our stuff so that Eric didn’t think he had to ‘behave’ on her account… seriously?
I punched him.
I got him right in the back of the goddamn shoulder.
I’m not a picky guy. I’d settle for Ame to be dependable enough to be trusted to feed my kids.
…And he hit the girlfriend lottery.
Sookie really should be cloned.
Eric spent the stretch of the floorshow watching Sookie come and go with our stuff and I spent it on the window ledge, smoking and waiting to get on the damn road…
I ended up getting a half-lap dance that I pretended to be into…
Normally I have more than a little fun at the bars and strip clubs (titty shacks), a few drinks and a little dancing… who wouldn’t have fun?
But between the last two days I’d had and wanting to shoot Rasul’s disturbing ass, I just wanted to climb into bed and get some damn sleep.
I might even be able to sleep through the fuck-a-thon in the room next door at this point.
It was 11 o’clock before we managed to wriggle out of the apartment. It would have been later if Sookie hadn’t put Rasul into the floor when he grabbed her ass…
To expedite our exit, I offered to take out the leftover snacks and the last of the bags and walk Amber to her car.
“You’re the partner, Alc, right?”
“How long have you known Eric? Is he going to be good to her?”
“If he isn’t Corbett will stomp a fresh hole in his ass, but he’s a good guy. I’ve been staying with them. They’re ‘cute’ together… when they’re dressed.”
She started laughing. “So what’s wrong with you? Eric was busy watching for Sook, but you were ignoring me too. You gay?”
“Married guys still look.”
“Only proving that they aren’t pissed enough at their wives to not be apathetic to all women at the moment.”
“You don’t seem to mind Sookie.”
“She’s one of the guys.” More like my own private therapist at the moment.
“You aren’t thinking about turning your back on all of us are you?”
“No.” Just how the fuck to get away from one without chewing off my own arm.
“I don’t believe you.” What the fuck? Another woman who’s convinced that I’m full of shit?
When I tried to give her a dirty look, she reached up and grabbed the back of my neck. Before I knew what the fuck was going on (or how to react) her tongue was in my mouth.
I finally had a rational thought that didn’t include thinking I could get away with it and put my hands on her shoulders to pry her off of me.
She was smiling. “No strings.” Ha.
“There’s always strings. No thanks.”
“Your loss.” More than likely.
Sookie looked pissed at me before she was halfway across the street.
She stopped toe to toe with me and reached up to rub her hand over my mouth. “That color’s no good on you.” Oh shit.
“She kissed me! I didn’t… I told her… She kissed me!”
Thanks to that fucking lipstick, Sookie was probably going to think that I was a full on fucking dog… And a liar.
She scowled at me until her phone went off. She was already showing signs of being pissed by the way she yanked her phone out of her pocket.
She snorted and started walking around to the driver’s side. “You’re off the hook. Get in the car.”
“What did it say?”
“Tell the hulk I said sorry and give him my number if he reconsiders.”
Oh thank God! The last thing I needed was for Sookie to think I’m a dirt bag too.
As we piled into the car, I realized it was a good thing that Jane had bird-napped Tippy because there wasn’t room for much else in the back of the car…
Sookie started laughing at me once she was settled behind the wheel. “Why are you shaking your head? If you were single, I would totally hook you two up.” I didn’t even notice that I had been. Nice idea though. Like my custody battle wouldn’t be scary enough.
“Ame would love the extra ammo in court. Dirt bag ex dating stripper.”
“But you wouldn’t be dating ‘Amber the stripper’. You’d be dating ‘Frannie the orthopedic surgeon’.”
No fucking way. “Surgeon?” Sookie must like a big fat… IQ.
Sookie shrugged like it was nothing that her exgirlfriend grinds laps between knee replacements. “Med school isn’t cheap. She still does it from time to time when she’s single to decompress. Her job isn’t low impact.”
Eric started her interview. “So how did you meet?”
“She put the pins in my wrist. It was her first surgery. She was still an intern.”
I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. “She hit on a patient?”
The look I got was so… fuck, unreadable. It was weird. “What makes you think that I waited for her to hit on me… She was terrified when she talked to me before the surgery and checked on me twice a day for a week afterwards. I sent her flowers when I got home, thanking her for a job well done. The rest, as they say, is history.” Oh damn. ‘Alpha’ must run in the family.
“So if I were single, you’d toss me your sloppy seconds.”
“Sweetie, there’s nothing sloppy about Frannie; she’s pickier than I am. Besides, I said ‘if’ and you’re not… there’s the problem of geography. It’s a shame, too.”
“Really? Why is that?” Twice. Twice in one night. I’ve got to stop asking questions I don’t want the answer to.
“Because she’s got the patience of Job. She’s exceptionally smart and funny and her mouth should be insured by Lloyd’s of London.”
I should have shut the fuck up, but… beer. “On a scale of one to ten?”
“What am I?”
“Ten.” She’d be a fucking 15 if she were single.
“Then what’s Amelia?” 5 on sight. Negative eleventy thousand once she opens her mouth.
“Not the point.”
“Frannie’s at least a twelve then. I am but her grasshopper.”
Eric started laughing. “Fuck HIM! Can I have my cake and eat it too?” His fucking filter was fried. I elbowed his gluttonous ass.
Sookie leaned over to his ear. “Don’t be greedy, sir. If you need more, I’m not trying hard enough. I’ll have to double my efforts.”
Not only did she make the color drain from his face, but I got to watch his throat clench. The bastard actually looked afraid at the idea.
“So Alc, did you and the wife talk or did she sulk for the whole drive.” This is later, I guess. Do we have to do this shit in front of Eric? Damn.
“She announced that she wants to go to counseling and told me that if I fucked you she’d kill us both.”
“Yeah. That’s what I said… I told her I’d go, even though I don’t think it’ll work.”
“Did you tell her why you don’t think it’ll work?”
“Why not?” It wouldn’t do any fucking good.
“Because the boys were awake.”
“Ok. You need to talk about it though. Telling her that you don’t think it will work without telling her why makes you look like a pessimist. Until she knows that you know, she’s going to twist it around in her head that you think SHE won’t forgive YOU.” And the only thing keeping me from eating a bullet was that Eric looked like he was just as fucking miserable overhearing it as I was talking about it.
“She spent most of the drive sleeping and I spent it thinking.”
“I don’t want to end up like your father.”
“You mean held emotionally hostage by a self righteous bitch?”
“That’s about the size of it. She told her friend that I had a girlfriend where Jack could hear.”
She looked like she might be about to turn around and kill Ame herself. “She WHAT?!”
“Yeah… I wanted to kill her when he brought it up… And I’m sure that the second she knows that I know she fucked around, she’ll twist it around in her head that my ‘affairs’ were why she did it. This is a huge cluster fuck and I don’t think there’s a way for this to end well.”
“What do you want to do?” Arrange for an industrial accident.
“I guess that right now the plan is to try counseling.”
“That isn’t what I asked.”
“I want to toss her out on her ass. I’m sick of all the bullshit. If I could find a way to keep the boys with my schedule, I would.”
“YES. I really would. I don’t want to do this to my kids. If you have any ideas on a way for me to keep my kids I’m listening.”
“Single parents have been figuring it out for ages. I’ll teach you to cook. You’ll figure it out.” She said it like it was no big deal.
“Kids need a mom though.”
“Not if their mother is going to use them as their father’s shackle. You’re preaching to the wrong choir, friend…”
That was the perspective I was afraid of. When she finished her drink, she handed the empty can to me.
“…Ashtray. Crack the window.”
A life line. I thanked her, but I was willing to kiss her. Eric was a shit about smoking in his car and I smoke a lot in the car, while we’re working and when I’m fighting with Ame… basically all the time.
“What did you do when you got back into town?”
“Our first trip was to the grocery store…”
She smiled at me and took her hands away from the wheel to clap and tell me I was already a better ‘mom’ than Ame.
“…When we got to the house the boys helped me put away the groceries, then I washed their sheets, packed, took out the garbage… oh, fuck. Thanks for putting the bug in their ears about Skype. That’ll be fun… Then we went to the office and out to dinner.”
“And what was Ame doing?”
“She was online.”
“Alc, you’re already a single parent. You just ended up with a nasty teenager in the bargain.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
“No. It’s supposed to put it in perspective for you. Really, you already take better care of them than she does.”
“Taryn did too for that matter. By the time I left the house, Ame hadn’t lifted a finger for them in 24 hours. How did your dad do it?”
“Daddy woke up every morning and made breakfast for us and then he’d drop us off with his sister on the way to work. Then he’d pick us up after school and do our homework with us, make dinner… We didn’t get left alone with Sheila and Hadley wasn’t ever alone with her father until Had got her drivers license and we could leave if we wanted.”
“Damn. Did your entire family marry assholes?”
“Everybody but Hadley.” The gay widow.
“And still no happy ending.” Still not making me feel any better. “Jason managed to escape the fate.”
“Ahh. Not really. He’s playing the same game that Eric cashed out of. He dates girls too dumb for him so he has an excuse to not get serious.”
I laughed when Eric growled at her. “That doesn’t always work either.”
“Tell me about it. I tried it once. I quickly retired from killing time with a ‘boring window licker’.” At least we were off the topic of me.
“Yeah… ‘Oy, you… adult swim! outta the gene pool!’ He was… ‘special’.” I’d have to remember that one too.
“Physically fuckable, but paralyzed from the neck up. We were seeing each other for about a week when he asked me to get a boob job. Asked me why we didn’t ‘dump’ Gran in a home so that I didn’t have to take care of her… Shit like that.”
“Wow. There’s a keeper. I bet you beat yourself up over cutting him loose.”
“Every time I see him.”
“See him a lot?”
“Monday through Friday. I work with the jackass…”
Eric and I both sucked air past our teeth. Bad move. Never fuck where you work.
“…Yeah, I know. That mistake was short lived… Not like yours.” Uh oh, here we go.
“Yeah. You could say that.”
“How long have the kitchen issues been going on?” Fuck. Back on me already?
“Don’t get me wrong, she’s never been a decent cook. Her mom tried. My mom tried. Hamburger helper was about as complicated as she could get without fucking up. We ate out a lot. She started trying after Jack was born though. I guess she got frustrated. She’d given up by the time Carm came along.”
“So…. what? Like, cereal breakfasts, sandwiches for lunch then dinner out?”
“Pretty much. Before, when she was trying, she’d make dinner every night even if it was the recipe off of a can of soup. Even put a plate in the fridge for me. But, like I said, by the time she got pregnant with Carm, she was back to eating out.”
“So you forgave a lot because you were being sympathetic about the pregnancy taking a lot out of her.”
“Not really. I was an asshole about it a few times. Jack went through a ‘chicken nugget only’ phase because of all the drive thru. He’d pitch a fit at restaurants when he saw anything but nuggets. We had more than a few arguments about it.”
“I hate being the devil’s advocate, but it’s normal for kids to go through picky stages. It probably wasn’t helping that she was using the drive thrus as a crutch, but…”
I cringed. “I know. I took him to the pediatrician… He told me the same thing.”
“Did you tell her that?”
“Yup. Apologized for being an asshole and everything.”
She laughed. “You’re a better man than me. I’d have kept that shit to myself to get her ass back in the kitchen.” I should have, especially after months of told-you-sos.
“I thought about it.”
“How is she on housework?”
“What house work?”
“She doesn’t do anything?”
“Not really… I hid the windex and pledge to see if she’d notice… That was a month ago. She didn’t used to be like that either. She wasn’t ever great at it, but we split the work until I became a Fed. I didn’t mind because she was working and I always helped my mom since it was just the two of us. A couple of years ago though, I went to do a load of laundry and the only stuff in the hamper was mine… a few months later it got to the point where it was the boys’. She only washes her stuff now. She buys paper plates and cups so she doesn’t have to do dishes. She’s made an art out of cutting corners.”
“Call me old-fashioned, but if she isn’t working, your house should look like a model home now that the boys are both in school.”
“Now see, I felt like an asshole for thinking like that.”
“Why? It’s called earning your fucking keep. Your paychecks feed and clothe her, the least she can do is your laundry to make up for her room and board. Shit. Taryn did our dinner dishes, took out the trash and then didn’t give you any shit when you got in. I bet she even costs less.”
“I told Ame that. Not about Taryn… In general. When I told her I was thinking about hiring a nanny… that a nanny would do a better job and cost less.”
“And not treat you like shit.”
“Oh, come on! You aren’t even going to burn me on that? That was shitty enough that I regretted saying it.”
“No, you regretted saying it because it was easier than admitting how spot on it was.”
She started laughing again. “We’re friends, right?”
“I’m not your wife?” Not even on the same planet.
“Then you seem to be confused. A wife’s job is to lie to make you feel better. ‘No, honey. Those jeans don’t make your ass look fat.’ Your friends are supposed to tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it. ‘Naw, buddy. Those jeans don’t make your ass look fat. The cottage cheese back there does’.” Definitely worth a laugh.
“Ok. Then where does Ame come in?”
“Alc, whether you share an address or not, she’s already assumed the role of ex-wife. Her to-do list has nothing to do with taking care of you or your kids. She puts up a fight when it comes to anything marriage related…”
“What would you do if Eric got transferred?”
“Start packing.” I wanted to punch the self satisfied smile right off of Eric’s mug, but I let it slide… just because he had the right to be happy.
“I got lucky this time. If the time comes for him to get moved to another office, then so be it. I’d miss my students and family, but I’d go home to visit often to help with the adjustment. And I actually have a few hundred people I’d miss. She doesn’t have that issue… Then again, I think we’ve already established that I’m nothing like Sheila, oops, I mean Ame.”
“Damn! Stop doing that!”
“Why? You made the jump first… And you already said you don’t love her anymore, that you’d cut her loose if you could…”
“I’d feel like an asshole for dumping her.”
“FUCK! Dude! How old were you when your dad left?” He could have died… damn!
“Would you stop doing that too? That Sherlock thing? Seriously.”
She popped open another redbull and I lit another smoke. “Well?” Pushy.
“Like 10, I guess.”
“How’d that go down?”
“He was a truck driver. He left for a long trip and called to say he wasn’t coming home from Hurricane fucking Utah. He had another woman and wanted mom to sign the papers so he could get remarried.”
“And mom gave him what he wanted?”
“Yeah. Said she didn’t want… Goddamn it.”
“You’re a bitch. That’s ‘what’… She said she wasn’t going to waste any time or tears on someone that didn’t love her.”
She giggled and leaned forward to give me a knowing grin. “And she never told you to stick it out with Ame, but you think of what your father did to your mom when you think about calling it quits.”
“Often enough. But it’s not… Seriously, the one thing that’s kept me from leaving is that I’m sure with our hours, I couldn’t keep the boys.”
“And it’s gotten so bad you’d rather deal with all the other shit so that you can keep an eye on things.”
“If it came to visitation, the boys… I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Why’d you jump on moving to Bon Temps?”
I felt like I was at confession. Deep breath… “To be honest, because I was (all jokes aside) hoping you’d rub off on her. Octavia just thinks I’m being a prick. I’ll come home and Octavia will be over. The ashtray is overflowing, there’s a pile of empty soda cans. The boys’ laundry hasn’t been touched. They haven’t been helped with their homework… I have to do dishes so that there’s room at the table to sit down with them and they act like I’m being an asshole for thinking it makes sense for two adult women to be able to figure out where the garbage can is. They’ll sit in the living room and make fun of me for helping the kids with their assignments.”
“So you thought that without Octavia around, Ame might see that I can manage to keep my house clean even though I put in 80 hours a week.”
“But it would be like Pat’s wife all over. I know that. She’d be sure that not only am I fucking you but that you’re trying to make her look bad too.”
“And she’s sure that you’re fucking anything anatomically correct because she isn’t even taking care of that anymore.”
“I own it. Well?”
“That’s a source of much debate. She says that I started cheating while she was pregnant with Carm…”
“But that was her cutting you off because she wasn’t in the mood…”
“Yeah, but he was about 6 months old before she realized that it didn’t bother me anymore. It’s been like 2 years. Shit, she even tried the other night.”
“She was drunk enough to forget that you’re ‘cheating’?”
“More like drunk enough that she forgot she’s not worth it. The last time we had sex, she accused me of using roofies on her. I don’t drink enough to make that mistake again. The last time I got trashed, I had the cabbie take me to a hotel so I wouldn’t get accused of rape.”
“So everything fell apart while she was pregnant with Carm?”
“It had been a… The couple of years right before that were rough. My mom died. Her dad died. She had a miscarriage. I got shot and was laid up for a couple of months…”
“Hold up… Miscarriage?”
“Yeah. She was 14 weeks along when her dad died. She had the miscarriage the week we got back from the funeral.”
“Well there you go.”
“Death, death, death, brush with death… then she started dissociating with her husband and son… then Carm… she didn’t let herself get attached to him because she was afraid to lose him too. Now she keeps friends online and one ‘yes man’ pal.”
“I didn’t get to it from that angle, but that’s when I started asking her to go talk to someone. She was going through a lot. We all were. I even talked about that shit during my ‘post trauma counseling’ sessions with the department shrink. She never had any kind of relationship with her dad, so I figured that she had regrets in that department.”
“Therapy might have helped her then.”
Eric actually looked like he was telling me someone died, but didn’t say anything. Sookie shrugged. “She’s so far gone, it could take years of therapy to get her to the point of bonding with her kids. She’s so anti-social…”
“She blames me for her dad too.”
“I don’t know. It works in her head. If I hadn’t gotten us moved to New Orleans, he would have called her instead of driving himself home from the bar. That’s a load of horse shit though. He has 4 other kids in Forth Worth and didn’t call any of them. His BAC was twice the legal limit. He was lucky to find his car… I was less than sympathetic.”
“I mean… I wasn’t an asshole or anything. I felt sorry for his wife and his kids… but he was lucky he didn’t kill someone else. All the ‘poor daddy’ bullshit got to me.”
“Understandable… But she agreed to go to counseling though, right. That’s a step?”
“She agreed to couples counseling. I told her I wasn’t going to budge about her getting help on her own and she argued it. Asked me if I still love her and went back to you.”
“Did you tell her the truth?”
“Yeah. Told her I haven’t loved her in a long time… This… the shit with the kids this last week has kind of been the last straw.”
“And what about me?”
“After she told me she’d kill us, she asked what I like about you. I told her that you’re fun and only go off on people when they deserve it.”
“You didn’t remind her about my ass?”
I snorted at the idea. “No. Talked about your tits though.”
She elbowed Eric for giving me a dirty look and laughed, “How the fuck?… You… digging your own grave much? Damn!”
“She started it! I said you’re fun and only go ballistic when a situation calls for it, nice work on Rasul by the way, and she tried to finish my thought by saying you’re a size 2 with double Ds.”
“I told her I might care about that if you weren’t with Eric. She countered that I’d change my mind if I’d seen you naked… I told her that I had… because you assholes don’t know how to close a door… It wasn’t like I was being a creep. She just jumps to that shit. Every fucking time.”
“It might be a good thing Hunter’s sick then. If she met Hadley, there’d be no hope for you. She’d think you’re doing us both. You’d be a philandering pervert with a twin fantasy.”
“Shit. If I meet the kid, remind me to thank him for getting the flu.”
“You’ll probably meet him this week. Had’s by a lot.”
“What about the other cousins? You said you barely ever see them.”
“Claude lives in Shreveport, but he’s a stripper and works nights. So I only see him on holidays for the most part… Claudine is in Key Largo. She’s a glass artist.”
“How many strippers do you know?”
“Uh, Claude and ‘Amber’… I’m still in touch with a bunch from college… Jason and Kevin tend to get a little naked when they drink too much. Do they count?” That’s a frightening mental image… worse when you picture both…
“I’ll let you know… Kevin’s an idiot. How long have you known him?”
“Since grade school. He’s an idiot but he’s a sweetheart. He was the mascot in high school. I think he might have inhaled something in that Eagle head.”
“And you’ve known Kenya for a while too?”
“Yeah. Same with her. I’ve known her and her sister for forever. We used to hang out at the fire station together when our dads went out on calls. She started dispatching in high school. She’s a volunteer too. She’d be a real fireman if it paid.”
“So you know almost everyone in town?”
“Uh… for the most part. Anyone who’s been there for a long time or anyone with teenagers. Tara has all the younger parents covered. And Jason and Daddy know most of the rest between the landscapers and mechanics and the other businesses.”
“Nice to be in a small town, huh?”
“Not getting cold feet about country life, are you?”
“No. Not at… Is he sleeping?” Eric was almost snoring. He’d had his head tilted back for most of the drive so far, but… it was like he was avoiding the train wreck of a conversation going on around him.
“Not yet. Close.”
“How can you tell?”
“He’s drifting. Once he’s out for good, he grinds his teeth.”
“You always been so good at picking up on tells?”
“Yeah. Daddy is like a lie detector. Taught us all a few tricks.”
“Hence… being able to tell I’m not used to a decent meal.”
“More than that.” Uh oh.
“You were ‘off the hook’ before I got the text, Hulk. You look like a scolded puppy when you’re innocent. Your eyes get big and your ears shift… You cringe when you sugarcoat shit, like when you said that Ame is ‘insecure’… And you concentrate on your food like it’s rocket science.”
“Yeah. There’s plastic utensils if you want to hit that cobbler again too.”
“No shit?” I nearly broke Eric’s nose with my elbow when I reached around to the back seat for the bag of leftovers.
Sookie started giggling at me.
“Don’t laugh. It’s sad.”
“It’s not sad. It’s flattering. I’m happy y’all enjoy it. It makes cooking more fun.”
“No complaints. Have as much fun as you want.” I dug into the cobbler and it was still warm…
“I was serious, Alc.”
“I know. Feel free to send your leftovers my way anytime.”
“I meant about helping you.”
“With what?” Sticky sweet, crunchy… Eric started grinding his teeth and it was like nails on a chalkboard. She has to love him to put up with that shit.
“You and Eric are on the same schedule. Me and the boys are on the same schedule with school… I can teach you how to cook for them… The three of us can keep each other company if you guys get called at night… If you want to get away from Ame, I’ll help you as much as I can with adjusting.”
I growled at her through a mouthful. “You’re distracting me with cobbler…”
“So I can plant the seed. Yes, sir.”
“This… I’m worried that you’re just thinking about the shit your mother…”
“Sheila. I know. It is. I watched your babies shut down this morning when Ame came into the room like she sucked the fun away from what they were doing. She insulted the cooking of a four year old when Eric– no kids, no nieces or nephews, Eric– had the instinct to be encouraging. Maybe with some help, she’ll learn how to show them that she loves them, but… they’re so sweet. I hate to see that. If you want help, I’m volunteering.”
“Seriously?” That’s probably the nicest… fuck…
“I’m going to teach you how to cook anyway. There’s only 2 sit down restaurants in town that aren’t under investigation by the health department. But I know that your hours are the big issue for you. If you sit down and think about how much time you spend fighting with Ame when you could be getting work taken care of, all the channel changes she causes that break your concentration… You could be spending so much more time being a father to your kids than you are to your wife… because that’s what it seems like your marriage has become.” Telling it how it is…
“That’s sweet, but why would you want to help me out like that?”
“I have a lot of grounds… the obvious reason being that my father could get away from Sheila by sending her away and you don’t have that luxury… reason #2- I’ll take care of anyone who sits still long enough, the evidence of that is disappearing from that container… and a little on your shirt. Oink… The biggest reason is that it breaks my fucking heart to see children worried about anything. The boys assumed that Eric’s cleaning jag last night was because we fought. I had to explain to them that Eric cleans while he’s thinking about big things like cases. So, Jack said that he liked it at my house because y’all didn’t fight there either.” Awww. Dammmmn.
“Did he really?”
“Yeah. That’s why I’m saying I’ll help. I’m not telling you what to do one way or the other. I’m just telling you that the one concern you keep going back to has a remedy.”
“In New Orleans, Eric and I get called out in the middle of the night at least a couple times a week though. That’s a lot.”
“So. I’ll keep a change of clothes for me at your place. I can crash on your bed until y’all are done and if it goes into the AM then I’ll take the boys into school with me. They’d like working out with my athletes. Jack may very well learn to love yoga… little flirt.” I couldn’t help but laugh.
“What about Eric? Did you talk to him about it?” I stuck the fork into the container and nearly pouted that the cobbler was gone… Shit.
“No, but you seriously underestimated your boy. He feels like a complete asshole just because he didn’t get the whole story and all I did was tell him that you weren’t running around on Ame, that she’s just assuming it because of your hours. Nothing else. Me helping you out wouldn’t affect him anyway. I’d be watching the boys while you’re both at work. I’d have y’all over for dinner anyway… Taryn can watch the boys when you start dating…”
“Whoa! Let’s not jump the gun on that.”
She started laughing. “Haven’t you been celibate long enough?”
“Dude, you need to get laid!” She’s got NO boundaries. I swear.
“Let’s just focus on what I’m going to do about the…”
“Bear trap your dick’s already in. Roger that.”
“I’ll think about it. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Thanks for considering it.”
‘Thanks for considering it’? She’s thanking me for considering taking advantage of her soft spot for kids with fucked up mothers… She really is too sweet.
She let a few minutes go by before she suggested I try to get some shut eye since Eric and I have a lot of work to do when the sun comes up…
I didn’t know how she was still going, since Eric was the one that slept until 8, got a nap at the apartment and was the first to crash out…
I tried to hold off so that I could keep her company, but not only was the beer responsible for my buzz, but I was close to slipping into diabetic shock from the cobbler… when she turned the radio to the country station…
The lights started to dim.
“You play dirty.”
“Yes, sir. I do. Get some sleep. Nite.”