Silence In The Court!
I jumped out of the bed so fast I hit the dresser…
My gun was already in my fucking hand from being scared out of bed by Reveille. Sookie was playing it on the piano so loud and fast, I didn’t know if I was pissed at the rude wake-up or happy she’d gotten more of her dexterity back.
The boys didn’t take their time waking up either. Both of them were off the bed as fast as I was and when they spotted me hunched down with my elbows locked, they thought I was hilarious…
But only for a minute.
Then things came back to them… They realized what was happening today.
Court. A hearing to keep their mother away from them because they didn’t want to breathe the same air as the toxic bitch.
Their smiles didn’t last long enough and I was scared shitless of walking out of the courthouse with bad news.
When Eric came to the door, he laughed at us…
“Think it’s funny that she knocked me out?”
He nodded and leaned on the door jamb. “Yes, but just because she got me too. Turns out, these two lasted 3 more songs.” Eric crashed too? Ooooh. Big surprise. I needed to trick him into a sleep-study.
Jack laughed at us. “Y’all were snoring.”
Carm added, “LOUD.”
Eric shook his head and whined, “I was not!” Instead of owing me $5 for telling him ‘bullshit’ they started grabbing their stuff and took off to get ready for school. “I know you do… Do I snore?” Why didn’t he ask about drooling and grinding teeth and kicking?
“Like a fucking belt sander.”
“I’m surprised you slept when chain smoking and pacing were available.” He wasn’t the only one.
“Me too, but I figure even if the order doesn’t pass, we might be able to set up some ground rules. Regular phone calls and planned visits. Something they can see coming. This outta the blue shit’s gotta stop.”
“You taking them to court?”
“No. They want me to let them know as soon as we’re done, but they don’t want to see her again. They say ever.”
“That won’t last forever though.” Wanna bet?
“If she keeps acting like this it will.”
“If she keeps acting like this, they won’t have to see her.” I honestly couldn’t tell what he meant by that. I opted to believe he meant if Amelia kept playing games, a judge would lock her up…
The other option was worrying he might be considering using ‘poker night’ as an alibi… He hadn’t been in Bon Temps any longer than I had, but the Stackhouses were viral enough Eric could be going over.
I followed the boys down the hall to the kitchen when they were done in the bathroom.
Sookie was doing everything but wearing a T-shirt that said ‘fuck taking it easy’… Coffee was already made. Bacon was already done. Toast was already in the toaster…
“Lemme guess, you made up for all the chilling you were forced to do after we went to sleep last night so we couldn’t give you a hard time about it.”
She shook her head. “Boys, there’s leftover sweets in the fridge for your lunches. Smom put them in little baggies so all you have to do is pick what you want…”
I cleared my throat to get her attention. “Are you ignoring me?”
“I shook my head… No. I wasn’t waiting for y’all to crash so I could do chores. I had nervous energy and all of my company was passed out. I preset breakfast and boxed up the stuff from our bathroom. That’s all.”
“You didn’t listen to me, did you?” Just because I told her to stop feeling guilty, didn’t mean she would. It took Eric narcing on her last night for her to admit she felt like she was responsible for Amelia leaving… Even if the shoe was on the other foot and she’d handle anyone else out of feeling guilty, it didn’t mean she’d stop.
She growled, “It’s okay to stress out about things. It’s not like I’m the only one.”
I nodded, taking that as a ‘no’. “Hey boys, Sookie feels guilty about something she said to your mother. She thinks it’s why Amelia cut us loose…”
Sookie gasped and tried to slap the side of my head, but I dodged it… she didn’t need to hurt herself.
Jack asked, “What did she say?”
“When everyone was here for house hunting, the topic of moms came up. Sookie said that she didn’t have much of a mother and she was better off when Sheila wasn’t around… So now, Sookie’s freaking out and thinking it’s why Amelia quit.”
Jack snorted, “Even if that were true, why would she feel guilty?” And there you have it. Out of the mouths of babes.
“I don’t know… Sookie, even if Amelia wasn’t planning to take off weeks before we ever met you, why do you feel guilty? Have you missed the memo that we’re happy without her?”
She groaned and stared at the fridge for a minute. “She went to a lawyer, Alc. She had papers drawn up, but she didn’t do anything about it. Something was giving her cold feet and then I bragged about how Sheila wasn’t anything to us… Now she’s boomeranging. She’s second guessing…”
I put my hands up to cut her off and said, “She’s not second guessing. She was probably just looking for a way to do it.” Or hoping I’d validate her existence by begging her to come back… God only know what end of the psycho spectrum she was operating from. It was easier to believe she was just orbiting planet Lithium than trying to peg which mental disorder had taken the wheel for the day.
Jack added, “We’re happy now and she doesn’t realize it’s because she’s gone. She thinks she can be happy too if she comes back.” Wow. I honestly thought he was waiting for Had to stop trying to talk him out of running away when she told him that.
Sookie couldn’t argue with it either, not without bursting Jack’s bubble. Had was going to have a little party over being able to shut Sookie down long distance.
I told her, “Now, even if we don’t get the restraining order we want when we go to court today, if Amelia manages to get visitation or drags things out, it’s not because you told her you didn’t miss your mother when Alpha put her on a shelf. Jesus Sookie, if she could be influenced that easily, she’d know how the hell to vacuum.”
Carm finally added to the debate. “She sucks. She always sucked. She’s gonna suck at leaving us alone too. We’re used to it.”
It was hard to not laugh. “Thank you, Carmichael. Are you going to embroider that on a pillow? I think I told you to stop saying ‘suck’.”
“It’s not a cuss though.”
“It’s like ass. Sucking on a straw isn’t a problem.”
“What’s another way to say suck then? Ass has lots of ways.” Blow. Fucked. Shitty… not better. Sookie seemed to be drawing the same blanks I was.
“Nevermind. Don’t make it a habit though.”
The little turd smirked over his little victory. “So… I shouldn’t say Jack sucks for not zipping the cheese shut?” Eric came in the front door and chuckled while the boys bickered about who sucked more… I’m glad he thought it was cute.
“Knock it off. Y’all don’t need to fight over something that stupid. Zip the bag shut and put it away.”
Eric put a stack of envelopes on the counter and started making a cup of coffee. “The mail in the mailbox was junk other than a few stray IDs. The drawer is full of party favors, but the cabinet is low again. … I’m just asking, but is there a reason you don’t have a dispenser at school?”
Sookie shrugged and turned around with plates for the boys. “Small group of parents had a hissy fit so we took them down… then I kept a drawer in my classroom stocked, but they weren’t ever touched because some kids are skittish.”
“Since it’s self-serve on the porch and no one seems to be taking advantage, why not keep a stash in a locker in the locker rooms? Let the kids know they’re there, but it’s not on the wall so it won’t seem like you’re encouraging anything… That was the problem, right?”
“Yeah… I could do that. Would it be obvious if I used locker ‘69’?”
I laughed, “Yes, but you could slap any kid who tried to claim they didn’t remember where they are.”
She snorted, “Good point.”
When she turned around again, she had plates for Eric and me… sandwiches as tall as the plates were wide. They were beautiful…
Leave it to Eric to make fun… “Hon, is there anything NOT on this sandwich?”
When she turned around with a knife in her hand, I was tempted to use it on him so I could have his. She cut our sandwiches in half (like it would make them easier to handle) and explained, “I made bread last night.”
Eric snorted, “And slaughtered a pig, robbed a garden…” I kicked him under the table. He was making fun of my fucking therapy. I gave exactly half a shit that Sookie was handling me with comfort food… and that she was handling me to distract herself from her own nerves. It worked for us and I wasn’t going to throw a wrench in those gears.
“I was just going to make bacon and eggs, but I worked up an appetite… fresh cheddar jalapeno bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese, horseradish mayo and fried eggs. Breakfast BLT. Eat before your yolks go cold.” Already chewing. And it wasn’t just a ‘breakfast BLT’. It was as big as one of those sandwiches restaurants put on a menu that came with a dare to finish it…
I barely managed to ask, “When am I getting a bread making lesson?”
“You need a bread maker and a recipe. You throw the ingredients in and go to bed. Then you have fresh bread for breakfast.”
“Any brand in particular?”
“No… you should look for one that makes two loaves at once though.”
She chuckled and called me a goon. “The plan B is dating Momma. She makes bread for sport.”
I nodded. “What kind of flowers does she like?”
Jack nearly choked on his fruit salad. “You can’t date Momma! She’s too old!”
I shook my head. “Naw. It’s perfect. She cooks. She cleans. She’s got amazing stems. She likes baseball and football. She can dance. She’s got a thing for guys with dark hair…” Sookie giggled past a mouthful when she realized I knew something about Bravo. “I think I have a chance.”
“You danced with her?” For half a song before Bravo pounced and told me to ‘sniff another tree’.
I nodded. “At Dirges. She doesn’t dance like she’s old.”
“You think everyone’s old because you’re a kid. If I had a teacher that looked like her… Damn. I’d have tanked my grades just to have an excuse for tutoring.”
Sookie giggled, “You have no idea how many boys traveled that road with Momma. She’s the only reason we ever got male cheerleaders.”
“Awwww… look at you, carrying on the tradition.”
She blew a raspberry at me. “They aren’t looking up my skirt…”
Before she could finish, Eric and I nearly choked on our food… the boys even knew better.
Eric wasn’t going to say anything though. Chicken shit.
Sookie knew I’d need a second sandwich and she served the second one with the jar of oobatz… just in case I wanted to try it.
Just in case?
Died and gone to heaven.
Food therapy worked so fucking well, I hated the sound of my text alert that much more… and it took me a minute to realize it wasn’t just mine going off…
Sookie and Eric’s were too…
Sookie finished her mouthful, looking back and forth between us… She shook her head and whined, “I’m NOT looking. Y’all draw straws or something. Nothing good ever happens when everyone’s phone goes off at the same time.” No shit. On a normal day, when more than one alert went off at once, it usually meant there was a crime scene waiting for us… I actually felt guilty for wishing that was going to be what I saw.
Just what I was afraid of. It was from Lafayette… “Bad news first: I’ve been on the phone all morning with Amelia’s lawyer. She’s asking for custody. Good news: He’s only talked to the friend who hired him. Octavia. All she knows is inflamed, inadmissible and insane. She won’t get them. She’ll just piss off the judge every time she opens her mouth. Tell the boys I like extra cilantro on my fish tacos.”
That good news/bad news shit only works when you can guarantee the ‘good news’.
Hell, it kind of helps to be able to think about ‘good news’ after reading the ‘bad news’.
I was nervous, but I thought I was doing a pretty good job of reminding myself, ‘no matter what, the judge will lay down some ground rules’. It wasn’t exactly, ‘the glass is half FULL’. It was more, ‘hey, at least there’s something to drink’. It was at least somewhat positive.
But… she was asking for custody. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she asked to have visitation every fucking weekend and expected me to drive all over creation to deliver them so she could neglect them.
Fuck that cunt Octavia for hiring a lawyer…
Hell, fuck her for not realizing Amelia had more than enough money to hire her own fucking lawyer. Ha!
Fuck that sympathetic look my partner was giving me.
Fuck that Sookie was close to crying, because when everything was said and done I was going to add it to the list of one-way compassion she was pathological for.
I’d never been so close to finding a cozy little sniper’s perch and getting some 50 caliber treatment…
Short of actually doing it…
I used eating Laf’s breakfast (that sandwich got extra oobatz) as I did a mental run-through…
Use the wooded area behind the jailhouse as my blind…
Extend the barrel.
Slide the bumper back.
Pull back springs and lock them in.
Remove locking pin.
Slide bolt forward.
Slide back bolt and insert upper receiver.
Lock pins in. Front and back.
Check magazines. Full.
Lock magazines into housing.
Slide bolt to chamber a round.
Scope locked in.
Wait for Kevin to transport Amelia and pray for a clean shot the whole fucking time. There was no such thing as ‘winging’ a person with Tank Girl.
Kevin didn’t deserve to lose an arm. Not for that cunt.
Find a spot behind the courthouse…
More difficult because I’d never seen the loading zone.
Possible collateral players to avoid.
Extend the barrel.
Slide the bumper back.
Pull back springs and lock them in.
Remove locking pin.
Slide bolt forward.
Slide back bolt and insert upper receiver.
Lock pins in. Front and back.
Check magazines. Full.
Lock magazines into housing.
Slide bolt to chamber a round.
Scope locked in.
Liquify that cunt’s head.
I had a partner who could ‘diagnose’ me with PTSD.
A few months in treatment.
I’ve got my boys back.
Too many fucking variables.
I wouldn’t walk away from that.
I couldn’t even try it unless I changed my beneficiary from Ame’s mom to Eric.
I’d get taken down with zeal by a local and my boys would go to the same trailer park to be raised just like Amelia.
My little mental trip was fun while it lasted.
I didn’t realize how long I was going on like that until I felt hands on my shoulders.
I’d managed to get through most of sandwich #3 though.
The kitchen was vacant and the table had been cleared of everyone’s plates.
My plate. Oobatz. Lighter. Smokes. Ashtray. Fresh coffee.
Had said, “She won’t win.”
“We can’t be sure.”
“You’re not used to seeing the good guys win, are you?” Almost never… the best I usually saw was the ‘lesser asshole’ coming out on top.
I shook my head. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I don’t think anything is going to take the edge off of this for me. Sorry.”
She gave my shoulders a squeeze, but I was too far gone to enjoy it. “I can appreciate that… I’ll save my energy for celebrating later then.”
“Or cleaning up the pieces of my head after it explodes.”
She hugged my neck and whispered, “When you go to court, I want you to realize you’ll be seen by the judge who gave custody of a black girl to a separated white man.”
“She’s the one who gave Tara to Corbett?”
“Yes, sir. And even if you turn into a stuttering mess, Sookie’s word is golden. She’s got your back.”
All I could muster was, “Okay, thanks.” I was too far gone. Too close to detonating…
“Will you call me when it’s all over?”
I nodded. “Somebody will… I might only get one phone call. If that’s the case, I’ll need a criminal defense team.”
She hugged my neck again and kissed my cheek. “You’re going to make me wear out my rosary today, pal… Come see the boys off. I can tell you’re bottling until they can’t hear the venting you need to do.”
Had was definitely right about that.
The hard part was making myself stand up…
I wasn’t sure I could face them.
There wasn’t even any time to brace myself. They had their jackets and backpacks on already…
They weren’t in much better moods than me.
I hadn’t even told them… I didn’t have to. Even if Eric and Sookie kept the custody thing to themselves, and I was pretty sure they would’ve… the boys would’ve been able to tell something was up.
I fucked up. I shut down instead. I took the easy way out. I should have faked it.
My only saving grace was they weren’t up for talking either…
But the way they hugged me like they weren’t sure they’d ever see me again nearly broke me. It was the kind of hug I witnessed leaving for my first deployment… That kind of hug was why I never seriously considered being a lifer.
I watched them trudge out to Had’s car… it wasn’t much different than watching them walk to the bus stop before we left New Orleans… and it was because of the same fucking thing.
Everyone felt like there was a funeral happening today.
I wasn’t the only one.
I barely kept the lid on that bottle Had mentioned until I saw her car turn off of the driveway…
Then I flipped my shit.
“That fucking cunt! She threw them away! She’s got no fucking right!”
I was screaming at nothing and I didn’t give a shit.
I didn’t even realize Eric was standing right behind me until he said, “You’re right. She doesn’t and the judge will see through her lawyer’s bullshit.” That asshole was giving me the canned answer?
“What if she doesn’t? Depending on how old school the judge is, Ame could be covered in track marks and still get them! We’ve seen that shit happen.”
“That case came down to the lesser of two evils. You’re stable and she’s not.” That case came down to the mother getting a restraining order she had no intention of enforcing against her pimp so she could get her kids out of stable foster care. Eric was 0 for 2.
“That twat Octavia is behind this shit. She’s had it in for me since I knocked Amelia up and ended her little Club Buddy thing.”
“She probably got the lawyer, but Amelia is the one asking for custody. You pissed her off and now she’s punishing you.” No… Amelia used her one call to ask for bail and played the sympathy card too hard. I clearly hadn’t explained Amelia and Octavia well enough to Eric. Octavia played into Ame’s bullshit about how I kept her from being happy. Amelia would probably play along just for the Munchausen’s Academy Award and get the boys by accident! Fuck! Where was Sookie when I needed therapy!?
“Eric, if she gets those kids, they’re going to go nuts…”
“Don’t do that. You need to calm down. We don’t know anything yet. We’ll know more in court. You know damn good and well Laf won’t just let anything happen…”
He stopped when Sookie whistled to get our attention and yelled, “Boys, I need y’all back here for a minute… If any heads are going to explode, it should be in a room that wasn’t just painted.”
I needed to be handled SO FUCKING BAD… I practically ran to the back of the house to see how she was going to do it.
She was dressed and ready to go and grabbed my hand to tow me to the desk…
“I’ve got the medicine that’ll cure your ills.”
I growled, “I don’t see how.”
“Am I going to have to hit you again?”
Maybe… No. Wait. She’d hurt her hands… I was about to suggest having Eric do it when she pointed to the desk chair.
“Sit down and enjoy the show.”
“I have to get dressed.” In a suit. Because I was going to court. To fight for my kids. August Rush wasn’t going to help this time.
“Yeah, you do. But you need some ‘I-know-something-you-don’t-know’ so you can stomach the shit Amelia and her lawyer will hash up.”
She folded her arms and huffed, “A piece of brain candy. Something to think about when she starts being nasty so that you don’t flip out and go postal.” Postal rampages were sloppy.
“What could she say though?”
“That you’re a whore. That you’re fucking me. That you’re an abusive father. That you beat her. Have a drinking problem…”
“What?!” Ame’s balls weren’t that big! No fucking way. I’d bet my own nuts Ame would say I was cheating, but the rest was off the charts for even her.
“And your reaction will say more to the judge than her accusations. This isn’t going to be the same kind of court you’re used to. You’ll have to stay calm… This will help.”
She spun the chair around to face the TV and turned it on…
When the video started playing…
I could have fucking cried…
Surveillance footage of the clusterfuck from last night.
Every ‘fuck’. Every ‘cunt’. Every accusation. Every last insane word.
The way the boys avoided their mother.
The way Carm defended himself.
The way Jack lost it.
All from the vantage of the tree on the other side of the driveway.
I was soooo leaving the ‘mommy dearest’ journal at home instead of risking how that would look… I’d been keeping notes, which meant I’d noticed things weren’t right, which meant I turned a blind eye, which made it look like I didn’t care enough to do anything about it…
I wanted to watch it again, but Sookie spun the chair around to face her. “Feeling better?”
She giggled at me. “Daddy made me put them in when Bill bought the property next door. I forgot I have them until Daddy mentioned it last night.” When I asked Had where Hunter and Corbett were, she said they were ‘watching’. Fuck. Had wouldn’t have kept that to herself… she had to figure I knew about the camera.
Sookie handed some disks to me and shoved the chair to roll me to the door with marching orders…
I was getting dressed.
I had a task.
Something to do.
One thing. Several steps…
I heard Eric yell ‘bitch’ through the wall and even if it was a joke I normally would’ve laughed at, that shit needed to stop. Sookie was mine until court was over. I needed my handler to stay focused.
Fucking hate dress socks.
They were worse…
Original papers since all Laf had was scanned, faxed copies…
No. The gun was staying at home. If anything happened, I could get to Eric’s… No. I had to stop that shit.
I needed Sookie for that. I didn’t want to look like Bozo in court.
And she didn’t even make me wait…
As soon as I walked into the kitchen, she stopped cleaning up my breakfast to tie it for me.
She shook her head. “You need to relax.”
“Easier said than done. Besides you said be calm. This is calm.”
“That sniper thing you do isn’t going to help. I know you’re forcing yourself to be calm in spite of your surroundings, but it can come off as austere. Amelia is going to be spouting that you’re a controlling asshole. You need to find the fine line.”
“You say that like it’s no biggie, Sookie…”
“I’m saying that now, so you have some time to crawl out of your head a little. You’re built like a tank and on paper you have nothing but regimental experience and a Houdini father. You don’t look like the type of guy who’d get choked up over a George Strait song.”
I growled, “I knew I wasn’t going to live that shit down. I have a defense. You caught me while my nerves were raw.”
She giggled, “Don’t make me hum it in court to bring you down from your blind.”
“You would play dirty like that.”
“You bet your awesome ass I would. You’re an amazing father. You’ve got a lock on this. You are not going to lose your boys. If I have to push Amelia until her nut cracks and she comes after me in the courtroom, that judge is going to see through her bullshit… If you don’t realize how home field advantage is going to help you now, when Sarah rules in your favor, you’re going to shit in your pants.”
I shook my head. “Stop. Had called her Sarah too. Don’t humanize her. She might be Sarah to you, but she’s just another robe to me.”
She patted my chest and backed away. “You’re mindfucking yourself…”
“Oh that’s rich coming from you!”
She laughed, “Think I don’t know what it looks like? Speaking of which…” She yelled down the hall, “Hey princess! Are you ready or what?” I know she wasn’t implying he was the only one to mindfuck themselves.
I growled, “That was low.”
She snorted, “Yet accurate.”
When Eric waltzed into the kitchen, tie in hand, he shook his head. “Sorry. I didn’t realize we’re in a rush.”
She growled at him and chewed his ass about his ‘daddy-issue gig line’… she squared him away and tied his tie for him. “Alc has rejected pep talks from Had, you, and me… we need to keep him moving so he doesn’t overheat.”
He shrugged. “You should try to relax. You look ready to kill something.”
“I am.” Both… I was as relaxed as I was going to get and I was riding with them so Tank Girl wouldn’t tempt me from the back of the Trooper.
“Amelia’s going to push every fucking button you have. How many witnesses have we coached? Chill the fuck out. What looks more parental? Melodramatic crocodile tears or sadistic death rays?”
Sookie beat me to say, “You aren’t helping. You hit your word limit. Get in the car.” She delivered it without the punch I’d have thrown though.
When he thought she was joking, she made her point by nudging him towards the door.
So help me, he looked like he’d been put in a corner… and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t playing that up.
He didn’t close the front door behind himself, so Sookie waited until we heard Rotten’s engine start before she hugged me. “Would I lie to the guy who saved my life?”
“Sookie, you said it yourself. I’m allowed to be nervous.”
“Fine. Be nervous. You want the Joe Friday?”
“Joe Friday… Just the facts, ma’am… Yeah. Give it to me.”
“You have a notarized letter stating she hates all of you. You have video of her tormenting the children and the testimony of the officer who arrested her for assaulting you while you held one of them. You have a guy with a Masters in Psych to testify to their reactions to the visit. You have the testimony of their school counselor attesting to how easily they transitioned into their new living arrangements. Your lawyer already has letters from their teachers. You have pictures of the house you’re staying in and the house you’re moving to on one of those disks. You have a service record full of mandated psych profiles done during your service that you cooperated with. You have the income. You have a large extended family of friends. Amelia has one tacky friend, a rent-a-lawyer and a psychodynamic dissociative disorder she pathologically refuses treatment for. You win… Alc, without the evidence you’re still the better parent. You don’t know how to cook, so you accept lessons. You relocate, so you put yourself out there to make new acquaintances. You don’t know the area, so you take referrals for rentals and babysitters. She refuses to accept any help or suggestions and two beautiful boys have been suffering for it for years. You have everything you need to prove you’re the man for the job.”
“From your lips…”
She nodded as she stepped back. “To God’s ears. This is serious. You are fighting for your boys. But you have backup and evidence. What happens to bitches who back themselves into corners? What happens when stupid fuckers take scissors to a gunfight? She’s NOT going to walk away from this. You’ve got this, Alc.” Fuck if I wasn’t calming down.
“Nice pep talk.”
“I’ve got more if you need it.”
I shook my head. “No. I think I’m good for now. Put it in reserve. I might need it later.”
“You sure? Eric thinks he’s getting his dick impaled right after court and I’m planning a little ribbing in your honor.”
“Ribbed for her pleasure?”
“Nope. Ribbed for your pleasure. He’s just going to pout at me. You’ll be able to have more fun with it.”
“You’re going to handle me by sacrificing Eric?”
She nodded and grabbed my hand, pulling me to the front door. “You bet. I owe you that much.”
Sookie had Eric park as far away from the building as possible. Even though she should have been taking it easy, she wanted me to breathe…
She was giving me the excuse to smoke as much as possible before we had to go inside and I loved her that much more for it.
I wasn’t going to take the nicotine stroll alone though. Kevin was a step ahead of me…
He spotted us early enough he had to yell, “Hey Sook! Rachel says ‘hey ho’.”
When we got to him, Sookie reached for his bluetooth. “Gimmie that. I wanna hear why I didn’t get to dance with you Saturday night!”
He dodged her and drawled, “Aww. You don’t need to talk to her to know I was misbehaving.” I couldn’t help but wonder what his girlfriend considered ‘misbehaving’ when the whole town knew about him and Jason.
Sookie yanked the damn thing from his ear and took his phone, wandering away like she wanted privacy. “I’ll purple nurple you, D&D. Watch yourself.” D&D? Seriously? Kevin seemed like the kind of guy to get confused by 6 sided die.
I couldn’t help myself. I asked, “Dungeons and Dragons?”
“Drunk and Disorderly. Long story.” I wasn’t the least bit surprised, but I still wanted to hear the story.
“Long story short then.”
“Don’t ever bet with a Stackhouse.” There it was. Ribbed for my pleasure.
I fucking lost it. Like I’d been holding it in. Like I hadn’t been tempted to pull the head off of every fucking bird and squirrel I’d seen on the way to court. I laughed my ass off and I didn’t even have a full explanation yet. Eric was scowling at me because he knew I was laughing at the fact he was having nightmares about having his plumbing redone. Poor Kevin was clueless.
The best part… the best fucking part of the whole goddamn thing was that I was laughing so hard, Eric had to say it. He had to make the excuse for me.
He bitched, “I lost a bet to Sookie. A piercing.”
And I wasn’t the only one… Kevin spit coffee pretty much everywhere but on me and Eric.
When Eric was finally sick of being laughed at in stereo, he asked Kevin, “What did you lose?”
Eric looked like he was going to be sick. “Sookie made you get a tattoo?”
Kevin shook his head. “CJ did. Ms. Pac-Man, left nut. Pretzel on the right.”
I was just calming down when Eric flinched like he’d actually taken a shot to his balls.
And I lost it all over again… Kevin was so bad off, he leaned on me and hugged his stomach.
We were still going when Sookie came back. “What’s wrong?” She knew. She knew and she was going to make Eric say ‘it’…
“Kevin was just explaining his nickname… and that betting with any Stackhouse is a bad idea.”
She tried to hug him, but he stepped back like she was the one who was going to stab him. “You won’t hate me forever.”
Yes. Yes, he would. I’d make sure of it. I was going to tell that story to their grandchildren.
Sookie’s fantastic job of handling me lasted until I realized we had ten minutes to go until we were due in court and my lawyer was still in the wind.
I went right back to mindfucking myself, pacing and lighting one cigarette with the last one… considered switching to 100s so they’d last longer.
When Laf found us, he came from inside the courthouse though. He practically ran up to me, apologizing for having another TRO to get…
I actually felt guilty about bitching to myself about him being late when I found out it was because the kid was in a coma. I knew how fucked up people were. I should’ve known he’d have a good reason to be cutting it so close.
Nerves were my only excuse.
We race-walked to the courtroom and sat down with seconds to spare.
Laf had just opened his briefcase and I’d just slid over the envelope full of crazy and the disks Sookie gave me when Amelia was brought in.
She stared at me like it was my fault her hands and ankles were cuffed.
I had 23 minutes of video proving she needed a leash.
She was still settling in when Octavia and the rent-a-lawyer came in…
Octavia looked like she went as a sausage for Halloween and couldn’t get out of her costume… The lawyer was wearing cowboy boots and a bolo tie. Seriously?
Laf leaned over and asked, “How handled are you?”
“Sookie managed about halfway, I think.”
“At least you’re half way there… Why four disks?”
“Copies for you and copies for the record. Two of the video of what happened in the yard last night. The other two are pictures of Sookie’s house and ours if it comes up.”
“Sarah won’t ask. She’s seen Sookie’s house… The rest is walking papers?”
I nodded. “What do you need to know?”
“Nothin’ baby. We got this. Had got ahold of Andy and Tara to have them substantiate the babies is well adjusted, clean, fed… Hunter had Taryn send over her resume and references to prove you’ve got a reliable sitter. Sam sent over a maintenance record on your house to prove they’ll be sleeping in a sound house. We. Got. This.”
“Just like that? You aren’t concerned about anything?”
He slapped my shoulder and snorted, “You should know better. Baby, you just wheeled a Trojan Horse into court. Amelia won’t know what hit her.”
My fucking mouth was hanging open when the door to the judge’s chamber opened.
That was the ‘more’ I told Sookie to keep for later, I guess.
The Clerk… Then the Deputy…
He announced, “All rise. The honorable Judge Sarah Holiday Compton presiding.”
Okay… granted. Compton wasn’t one of those ‘never heard that one’ names. There was a place in California named Compton I was sure Bill Compton’s family had nothing to do with…
Why the fuck would… breathe… they knew. Had and Sookie called her Sarah instead of Judge Compton. They knew I’d freak out. Why the fuck wouldn’t they brace me for that?
What the crispy fuck?
Not fair. Not fair. Not fucking fair.
And the only hints I got were a wink from Sookie and the way the Judge kept looking at her.
Sookie said she knew the Judge.
Was Judge COMPTON looking at Sookie because she wasn’t happy to see her or was she looking at how beaten up Sookie was?
I was going to need a fucking pacemaker.
The Judge didn’t even wait for everyone to sit back down before she started. She pretty much scowled at the cowboy attorney. “Mr. Wybert. I understand that you’re from the Dallas area.”
He croaked, “Yes, your Honor.”
“Have you passed the BAR in my great state of Louisiana?”
“No, Your honor.”
She nodded slightly, but she wasn’t looking happy. “Then be warned. You being here without proper credentials makes me question your professionalism and as such misconduct will be taken as disrespect and/or contempt. Are we clear?”
He was already sweating bullets. “Yes, Your Honor. Crystal. Thank you.”
Laf leaned over to whisper, “She just did that for fun, Sarah barely looks at attorneys unless one of their clients needs to chill.” Good to know… I think?
The judge spent a minute looking over the case file before she said, “Sweetness, I’m going to need your help so that I don’t ruin your name. Is it Her-VEE-Oh?” Close enough.
“Yes, your honor.”
“Alright then, Mr. Herveaux has requested a restraining order to prevent Mrs. Herveaux from contacting the minors Jackson, age 8 and Carmichael, age 4. Mrs. Herveaux, explain how it is that your children ended up in his custody in the first place.” She put their things in a garbage bag and dumped them at an airport. She did cry though… granted, it was for her laptop, but it was a weepy fairwell.
“He transferred to Bon Temps and then took them with him.” Nice. She was already starting. She was trying to make it sound like I took them from her.
“Without your consent?”
“Sort of.” Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.
The Judge cleared her throat and pressed, “Mrs. Herveaux, half answers won’t do anything but encourage me to get all of my answers from someone else. Did he have your consent to bring the children 350 miles from your home in New Orleans or not?”
“I let him. He told me he was going to come get them and I was afraid to tell him ‘no’.” Afraid? Twat.
“Why were you afraid?”
“Because of how he gets when he’s angry.” Yup. I’m a monster. I yell and call her on her BULLSHIT. I’m such a meanie.
“Last warning about half answers. You are implying that you have a reason to be afraid of your husband?”
“He’s a killer.” This week as a matter of fact. I’m good enough to make it two in one week though. Fucking bitch. Hate her. I wanted to say something so bad my skin was fucking crawling.
The judge shook her head and let out an eerie chuckle while she flipped through the file. “6 years as a Marine, 3 as an Officer on the Dallas force, 2 as Dallas SWAT and now 5 as an FBI agent… Mr. Herveaux, would you mind taking your jacket off please?”
I stopped breathing so I wouldn’t growl. As soon as I took my jacket off, it was going to be obvious I was strong enough to hurt Amelia if I wanted to.
I laid my jacket over the back of my chair and the Judge told me I could sit down right away. “He could bruise you without thinking about it. Do you have any evidence or testimony?” No. Of course she didn’t.
Amelia just stuttered.
“Mrs. Herveaux, do you have any medical or photographic evidence that he has ever caused harm to you or your children?”
“He broke Jack’s collarbone.” Oh. No. She. Didn’t!
The judge didn’t seem to buy it, at least. “Explain how that happened.”
Amelia stuttered again. Did she really think that shit would work in a courtroom?
The Judge turned to me. “Mr. Herveaux, did you harm your son?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“When did this happen and how?”
“A year ago March, we went to a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Carm was sitting on my shoulders and when Jack stumbled in front of a float. I knocked him out of the way because there wasn’t time to put Carm down and keep him from getting run over. He landed on the side of a cooler.” And I still felt like shit about it.
“Where was your wife that she didn’t try to help?”
“At home. She didn’t want to go because we aren’t Irish.” I was tempted to mention that it didn’t keep her from going out and getting trashed that night though… Her son was in a traction splint and when I said something to her about staying home, she told me to deal with him because it was my fault. My fault he was hurt AND my fault he was ‘whiney’ when he was hurt.
The Judge chuckled, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s day… Tell me, Mr. Herveaux, how did you become separated?”
“That’s a bit of a long story.”
“That’s what we’re here for. Start wherever you’re comfortable.”
Here goes nothing… Deep breath… “We dated for a while, about 6 months, and we got married when we found out she was pregnant with Jack. We moved from Dallas to New Orleans when I was assigned to the Field Office there. That’s when things started to go downhill. It got to the point where we hated each other. I was transferred to the Shreveport office on November 1st. She drove up the next day, Saturday, to meet me to go house hunting. We found a house and then Sunday we drove back to New Orleans so I could get what I needed to go back to Bon Temps and she was going to pack our New Orleans house and she and the kids were moving up in about two weeks. The day after I got back from New Orleans, Monday, she called and complained the boys were underfoot while she was trying to pack, so I offered to bring the kids up to solve the problem. The next morning I flew down to get them and when she drove us to the airport, I finally told her that I wasn’t happy and asked for a divorce. When we unloaded, she handed me separation and custody papers.”
“Separation and custody papers? Do you have them?”
I nodded and told her, “Yes ma’am,” while the Deputy took the whole stack of original papers from Laf.
The Judge must have read every fucking word on every fucking page. It went on long enough I took the copies from Laf and started rereading so I wouldn’t fidget.
She finally cleared her throat and got Amelia’s attention. “Mrs. Herveaux?”
“You had your name taken off of the joint bank accounts. You had a lawyer draw up papers of intent to divorce and you relinquished your parental rights and responsibilities. You even wrote a letter to your husband explaining that you don’t like being a mother. These papers were notarized in early October. Care to explain why you suddenly want the children that were so insignificant to you a month ago.” Yeah, Ame. Care to explain?
Amelia’s lawyer was white as a sheet. That poor bastard didn’t have any idea what he’d signed up for and Octavia looked like she was trying to burn a hole in the back of Ame’s head.
My not-soon-enough Ex-wife sputtered, “I… I… I… was giving up. I wasn’t happy. I was miserable. He’s been cheating on me for years and when I realized that he was sleeping with her, I changed my mind and decided to fight.” The adultery card, so soon? Wow.
The Judge raised an eyebrow. “Sleeping with whom?”
“Her! Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie shot out of her seat. She was dying to say something about as bad as I was. “Your Honor.”
“In what capacity are you here today?”
“As a friend of the family and a character witness, ma’am.”
“Alc is my fiancé’s partner. When they were transferred, he was invited to stay at our house in the interim. The invitation was extended to the children. They are staying with us until their things arrive from New Orleans.”
“I see. And you said that you were a character witness.”
“When Alc mentioned getting custody of the children, he was concerned that he was kind of lost on how to do the more utilitarian aspects of taking care of them. I’ve been helping the three of them adjust, learn how to cook and do laundry. He’s an eager student… very patient.” More like a willing hostage.
“Have you ever seen him be rough or abusive with the children?”
“No ma’am. Nothing outside the realm of horseplay.”
“Do you have reason to suspect he’s ever been abusive?”
“No ma’am. He’s one of the best dads I’ve ever seen.” Laying it on a little thick, huh Sookie?
The Judge nodded and made a couple of notes. “What have his lessons included?”
“Separating laundry and general housekeeping… Time management, like having the boys choose their clothes for the next day while they’re getting into their pajamas to save the time in the morning. He’s been getting cooking lessons. Although, he’s decided that ordering takeout is much easier than making his own spring rolls.”
The Judge giggled, “Amen… and he’s catching on well?”
“Yes ma’am. Better than he thought he would. The three of them are very proud of each other. The boys have been enjoying cooking lessons with him.”
“And you’re confident that he’ll be able to tend to the children once they move to their own home.”
“More than confident. Absolutely positive.”
“And what is your opinion on how he’s handled the separation in regards to the children? How are they handling the distance?”
“His biggest concern was telling them. When it came up, the boys relieved him by already having a grasp of what was going on around them and were accepting of the new family status. They were only minimally confused…”
“Sorry, how so?”
“They wanted to know if I was going to be their new mom. They have a typical archetype ingrained. They were sure that Alc would be shopping to replace Amelia until we explained that there is a such thing as single parents.”
“Thank you…” I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until Sookie sat down. “Mrs. Herveaux, it seems that I know what I need to know up until last night unless you have something to add.”
Amelia shook her head and pointed at Sookie. I swear she thought she was on Springer. “She’s lying! She’s sleeping with my husband. I’ve known since I met her.”
The Judge rolled her eyes. “Do you have anything to add other than accusing her of sleeping with Mr. Herveaux?”
“You aren’t even going to ask her?”
“I don’t have to… First of all, I’m the Judge. Me… Not you. Secondly, once you serve a man with papers, he’s free to roam. Finally, you’ve all but admitted that you didn’t want your children until you were jealous of her presence in their life. So I’m sure you’re jealous enough to accuse him of infidelity regardless of proof.”
“He’s an asshole. He’s always an asshole and now that he’s around her, he’s in a good mood.”
The Judge huffed, “You’re in a court of law, not a bar. The next curse will earn you a fine…” At least I wasn’t the only one to get fed up with Ame’s shit. She made a few notes while she continued, “Perhaps you’ve never known someone with cancer. Once it’s gone, they feel alive again… That’s exactly what a bad marriage is, ma’am. A cancer. If untreated it will spread to everything and eventually kill you… Mr. Herveaux, could you explain what happened last night?”
Cancer? That fit. Bon Temps was my Chemo…
I nodded. “Eric and Sookie left the house for a while. I was making dinner with Sookie’s father’s help when she called. They passed Amelia on the highway. I called Mr. Reynolds to let him know that her visit was unwelcome when Jack started flipping out.”
“Flipping out?” Shit. I tried to think of another way I could have put that… went ballistic. Flipped his lid… it was all the same. ‘Panic attack’ was too clinical.
“I had my hands in a chicken so I had Jack hit the speaker button. When he heard Sookie ask if I wanted to stay put and deal with her or leave the house and lay low until she was gone, he started yelling that he wouldn’t see her. That he’d run away. That he’d use his piggy bank to hide from her. Sookie had to talk him down.”
“And what was Carmichael’s reaction?”
“He suggested that I call 9-1-1 so that they could come get her for trespassing.”
“Yes ma’am. They’re both very concerned that she might try to take off with them. Legalities were mentioned to help calm them down.”
“Ok. Walk me through what happened when she arrived.”
“Ma’am. If I may, Sookie has surveillance cameras.”
She nodded and practically sang, “Yes, she does. Did you get the incident in its entirety?” Last name, Compton… but she was smiling at the idea of cameras installed because of Bill… I needed to hear that fucking story.
The Deputy took the disk from me and for the next 29 minutes, we listened to the video and re-listened to some of the ‘highlights’. I was starting to chill out enough to close my eyes, remembering what went with the audio while the lawyers got to watch it over the Judge’s shoulder.
It was either close my eyes or laugh at the ‘coyote ugly’ look on Mr. Wybert’s face. He really didn’t want to be there anymore.
Once the video was over, the Judge took her time making an assload of notes. She wrote for long enough Amelia was fidgeting and rattling her restraints like she was auditioning for the role of Jacob Marley.
The Judge finally put her pen down and leaned on her elbows, scowling at Amelia. “Mrs. Herveaux, do you care to make any explanations for your actions?”
“I went to see my sons. I talked to them on the phone the night before last. Alcide was listening in and he’s turned them against me. They act like they’re afraid of me. Carm called me the boogie man and told me that he hated me. My friend Octavia Fant was with me when I called. She heard the whole thing.”
“What did you hear Ms. Fant?”
Big surprise, Octavia didn’t bother standing up. “The first thing Alcide did was tell her that someone was listening to the call…” Um… It was news to me Octavia was listening. At least I warned Ame. An ugly, meddling hypocrite. Why wasn’t she married? “Then he rubbed Ame’s nose in how happy the kids are in Bon Temps… that Alcide’s girlfriend was spoiling the children and not disciplining them. Then Carm called her the boogie man and Jack told her that if she came to see them she’d ruin something.”
“Mr. Herveaux, is it true that you had a witness to your conversation?” Hell yes, it’s true.
“Yes ma’am. Mr. Reynolds suggested it, so when she called I had my partner listen in.”
She turned to Eric to give him his turn. “Do you have a name?”
He nodded and stood up. “Yes ma’am. Eric Northman.”
“Mr. Northman, in your opinion, was Ms. Fant’s description of the conversation accurate?”
“Only in the loosest sense. She inflamed the facts.”
“Then clear it up for me.”
“Alc told her that someone was listening in just as he told you… because his lawyer recommended it. She asked how the boys were doing and he didn’t rub anything in. He stated plainly that they were enjoying their new school and what they’ve been doing with their time…” And hearing how happy her children were, pissed off the mother of the year. Go figure.
“What have they been doing with their time?”
“As Sookie said, they’ve been spending time in the kitchen. That’s been the source of a lot of bonding for the three of them. Carm likes to help Sookie with cheer practice after school and Jack flirts with the girls in the stands. Their teachers are both very impressed with how quickly the boys have adjusted to their new circumstances. And Sookie and some of her family have been helping to teach the boys how to play music. They play almost nightly and it’s very therapeutic for them.”
“I heard a couple buzz words. Do you have a background in mental health?” Buzz words? From Mr. Clinical? Nooooo. Words like bonding, adjusted, and therapeutic? Hmmm.
“I have a Masters in Psychology from Berkeley, but I specialized in criminal psychology.”
She nodded. “Thank you. Continue.”
“As for his ‘girlfriend’ spoiling them and not disciplining them… Carm mentioned that Sookie had taken them shopping, but they spent their own money on a video game and Carm did brag that no one had yelled at them since they got there.”
“I see. How are the children disciplined that you’ve seen?”
“They’re really well behaved children. I’ve never seen it take more than a stern look from Alc to get them to behave. When Jack gives Sookie lip, she calls him a ‘little butt’ to let him know he’s not being nice and it straightens him right out.”
“So you’ve had 2 little boys living under your roof with you for over a week and they’ve never done anything that would warrant a trip to the corner or a grounding?”
“No ma’am.” I might have been impressed if I didn’t know what a pain in the ass Tippy was on her best day.
“I assume that you have prior knowledge of the children. Have you noticed any changes in Carmichael and Jackson since they left Amelia’s care?”
“Carm has always been very introverted. Shy to a concern. Over the past week, he’s started coming out of his shell. He joins conversations without prompting. He socializes with people outside of his peer group such as adults and older children without the anxiety he used to have. His sense of humor is starting to come out and he makes his wishes known. An example would be that before he wouldn’t express a preference or curiosity and now he’s got no qualms voicing that he wants a different salad dressing or prefers one shirt to another…” Teasing his old man about jam versus syrup… I actually smiled. It wasn’t until then I realized he didn’t ever get in on the ribbing Jack and I did. “…Jack has relaxed. Before he was relatively tense. Because of his learning disability, school was never a topic he enjoyed discussing. Now he nearly bounces as he heads off for school and spends most of dinner rattling on about his day. As it turns out, he’s a bit of a flirt and enjoys the attention he gets from girls during football and cheer practice. On Saturday, he was showing off. During cheer practice, Sookie’s cousin was over and they had a large audience as they played music.”
“So in your professional opinion, their dispositions have improved.”
“Yes, and the phone call seemed to be quite a setback for them.” Fuck. I owed him a hug from bringing that up.
“Carm’s speech impediment had waned, but after the call, it became more noticeable. Jack on the other hand, seemed haunted emotionally. He spent the better part of Tuesday on Sookie’s lap seeking comfort.
The Judge came right back to me. “Mr. Herveaux, is that more accurate?”
“And what of your son’s attachment to Sookie on Tuesday?”
“Jack was clinging to her like a colicky infant. He only left her lap when she needed to get up.”
“What improved the situation?”
“When she had to leave for an errand, he was given a task to fill the time until she got back. He made a veggie tray and mixed dip to snack on during the movie Sookie promised him. He seemed alright until Sookie called to warn us.”
The Judge shook her head while she wrote more notes and turned back to Amelia. “Mrs. Herveaux, have the two of you come to an amicable division of assets?” Huh? Division of assets? That was a topic for a divorce hearing… Looking to Laf for something was useless. He looked just as surprised by the subject change as I was.
“Your divorce. Have the two of you divided the property?” She said it. The Judge said ‘divorce’. What the fuck?
“I have my car, he has his, and we rented our house.”
“What about the household goods?”
“Mr. Herveaux, what of the furniture and incidentals? Do you have any requests?”
It was my turn to stutter. “No ma’am. I’ve told her she could have the community property type stuff… furniture… I want to buy new things anyway.” I knew an amazing interior designer.
She made MORE notes… ripped a page off, held it out to the clerk and said, “Rachel, check my math, please dear… Mr. Reynolds, might you already have a proposed divorce settlement?”
Fifteen fucking minutes. I had no clue. Amelia was squirming like her seat was on fire. Eric and Laf just kept shrugging… Sookie. Sookie didn’t even look at me that I noticed. She was too busy smiling at the Judge.
Her smile, that know-it-all smile was the only fucking thing to keep me from coming right out and blurting ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ in court.
The Judge finally opened her mouth…
I swear to God, I scooted to the edge of my fucking seat like a kid.
“I’m appalled with your behavior last night, Mrs. Herveaux. What’s more, I’m horrified by your children’s reaction to your visit. I watched an 8 year old launch himself into the arms of a woman he’s only known for a couple of weeks and a 4 year old avoid contact with you. You did rant and rave and curse and inflame the situation on your own. Judging by the reactions of the children you have abused them. Emotionally and physically. You didn’t even bother to deny the allegation of slapping Jack to punish his father… As such, I’m awarding sole legal and physical custody to their father, Alcide Herveaux, and granting the restraining order for a term of six months. You will not be permitted within a thousand feet of them, their home, their school, Mr. Herveaux’s office, their church or Miss Stackhouse’s home. You will be permitted to call once each week to speak to them as the children are comfortable. At the end of the term, you may feel free to re-petition the court to lift the restraining order providing you show proof of mental stability in the form of full psychological screening and treatment. Otherwise, Misters Herveaux and Reynolds and I will enjoy a quick ‘how do’ while I renew the order…”
HOLD THE FUCK UP!
I wanted to call a time out.
I had custody of the boys. CHECK.
Sole custody. Bonus.
Restraining order. CHECK.
Six months pending psych screening. Bonus.
Scheduled phone calls. CHECK.
The boys could refuse them. Bonus.
I FUCKING WON.
Sookie was right. I was close to shitting my pants.
Oh my fucking God. I wasn’t going to have to tell the boys any bad news.
I was thinking my best case scenario was going to include ‘buts’.
I have the boys. My boys. I won. They won.
Fuck her. I was too happy to be prideful.
The Judge smiled at me and said, “Mr. Herveaux, I trust that you will continue your re-education. Normally I would suggest that you seek some psych support for your children, but you already have better than money can buy…” Fuck yeah, I did. I had a full staff of Stackhouses. She leaned back and kept going… and I braced myself for the ‘but’… “Under normal circumstances, a period of one year must pass before a couple with children can dissolve a union. However, in light of how detrimental the statutory period could be for the well being of the family in question, I’m choosing to dissolve the marriage, overriding the full separation period. This will be a ‘no fault’ filing. Since you own no property of substantial value, Mrs. Herveaux, your vehicle is worth $25,000 more than Mr. Herveaux’s and you claimed half of the savings account and you haven’t been working, in all fairness you should consider yourself lucky to get anything.”
I have my boys. I have my boys and I was getting a drive through divorce…
It was the only perk to her being a nut, but damn if I was going to turn my nose up at it.
I was on overload. One extreme to the other. Too much.
“Mr. Herveaux, while we’re here, would you like for me to formalize your name change to ‘Stackhouse’?” No. That would be just creepy since I was ‘dating’ a Stackhouse. Ew.
“No ma’am. The adoption isn’t final yet.”
She was chuckling when Ame’s lawyer stood up and blurted, “Your honor, I want to move that you recuse yourself and allow Mrs. Herveaux a change of venue.” That mother fucker was about to get shot. He just didn’t know it. Even Kevin gave him a dirty look.
The Judge snorted, “Based on what, Dallas?”
“It seems that you are prejudiced towards the position of Mr. Herveaux based on his relationship with Ms. Stackhouse.”
She. Was. Not. Amused. “Sweetness, I am always prejudiced to the parent with their children’s best interest at heart, not to mention the parent with some self control.”
“For the record, will you state your knowledge of Sookie Stackhouse?”
She rolled her eyes like she was dealing with ‘the help’. “For the record, Miss Stackhouse divorced my ex-husband’s son. For the record, my personal and limited knowledge of Sookie Stackhouse isn’t the concern you should have. Perhaps you might have been better prepared and spared yourself the embarrassment of this conversation if your client had given you a complete answer rather than simply stating that her husband was living with a ‘woman’. Sookie Stackhouse has been the Parrish’s Teacher of the Year for 3 years now. She has served as guardian ad litem no less than 6 times over the last year alone. She is the counselor for Bon Temps School and you, sir, would have done well to find that out before you took the client to your left. You can bump your billable hours by appealing my ruling, but given Miss Stackhouse’s credentials, it won’t help your client see her children any sooner. Sookie is who the Parrish calls when we can’t tell who’s on the level. I’d also like to point out that my record shows I usually swing in the mother’s direction.”
As soon as he sat down, Amelia and Octavia snapped like a bear trap. They were ‘whispering’ so loud we could’ve heard them in the hall.
Instead of Amelia, who’d just been ordered into therapy if she ever wanted to visit her kids again, Octavia was the one to explode, “That’s not fair! She puts up with a lot from him.”
Amelia stood up and almost fell over from being off balance. “He’s a son of a bitch…”
The Judge didn’t miss a beat. “$500 dollars.”
“He’s a pain in the ass.”
“Another $500.” Bam! What now? I was close to laughing again. I know it was wrong since it was money I earned that would pay her fines, but fuck it. All she was doing was proving me right. She didn’t know when to shut her mouth and listen. Ever.
“He’s grouchy and he all but abandoned us for the Bureau. He tells me that he spends the night on Eric’s couch but he’s spending it with someone else. I have the right to be angry.”
The judge huffed, “We’ve been through this already. Mr. Herveaux, have you ever strayed from your marriage?”
“No. I spend the occasional night in a hotel or work late to avoid her though… I’m not the one who cheated.”
Oops. I wasn’t supposed to know that, was I? I might have been close to shitting my pants, but when I dropped that bomb, I think she actually DID.
The judge asked me, “Mr. Herveaux, why didn’t you mention it earlier?”
“Because it has nothing to do with the boys.” Not a bit. And bringing it up earlier would have opened the door for Amelia to use Carm against me. That wasn’t a can of worms I wanted opened. Ever.
“No sir. It certainly does not.”
As soon as the Judge banged her gavel, Sookie practically pushed Eric out of the way to hug me.
She was already crying and if she didn’t do my laundry, I might have made a joke about her makeup being on my shirt.
“I’m sorry I was such a prick this mor-“
She slapped her hand over my mouth. “You could’ve been much worse and we wouldn’t hold it against you. Don’t apologize. Just be happy for yourself. You deserve it.”
“You’re welcome… you ready to see my list yet?”
“Don’t need it… I’m going after the Cougar.”
Lafayette laughed, “Pie?”
I shook my head. “Bread and oobatz…”
She sucked air past his teeth. “You can take oobatz?”
Sookie nodded and backed up to wipe her face. “Yeah. Now I know why he hasn’t complained about the dog food I’ve been feeding him. He doesn’t have any taste buds.” Funny.
“I do have taste buds. If you ever ate an omelet MRE, cold, with sand in it, you’d realize how spoiled dog food can make a guy.”
Ame snarled at me again as she was getting taken over to criminal court. Fuck her.
Laf shook his head and hissed, “Nasty,” Just in time for the deputy to come over.
He cleared his throat as soon as the courtroom door closed behind Amelia. “Hey Sook, Sarah wants a word. Laf, Rachel needs you for papers and whatnot.” First names. Fuck. Tiny town. I was in a tiny town. I needed to get used to that.
Lafayette joked that he’d be back after he earned his keep… Sookie acted like she’d be busy for a while and told Eric and me to meet her outside.
Eric gave me one of those looks. “You alright now?”
I nodded. “I should probably just throw these pants away though. They’re full.”
He snorted, “You weren’t worried for nothing. We’ve seen good cases go to shit.”
I nodded and I wasn’t sure I knew how to act… he was validating my mindfuck? “I can’t believe she brought up the parade… as soon as the judge told me to take my jacket off, I was scared to death it was going to look like I threw Jack across the room from roid rage.”
“Instead, the judge is smart enough to realize when a guy your size goes off the deep end, doctor’s document it… I don’t think they’re usually still wearing shamrock antennae in the ER either… What next?”
“I need to run by the school and tell the boys.”
He nodded. “That’s a given.”
“I was thinking I’d get my nails done… Asshole. Don’t pressure me. That’s as far as I got. Court. Boys. What do y’all have planned?”
His jaw clenched. He wanted to punch me for reminding him about his little trip to the mall.
He didn’t have the chance to say anything before Lafayette was back. “I think I need nachos too. Lunch Saturday?”
I shook my head. “I won’t be here. I’m going down to NOLA to get some stuff out of the house…”
Eric shook his head. “We’re going to be in Miami. You’re taking the boys?”
“Yeah. With everything happening so fast, they should probably officially shove off. We’re just going to drive down and get what we want and leave the rest for Amelia to pick through.”
He shrugged. “A little closure would be good for them. Jack probably doesn’t remember living anywhere else… With all the stuff you’re getting from Hadley, what are you bringing back?”
“Weights. Keepsakes. Pictures. Whatever the boys want to bring. I’m not even staying there. I’m getting a hotel room… So Laf, Monday night? Fish tacos, nachos and football?”
“Hells yeah. With bells on… Now. You wanna hear about what I have to do to the first draft of the divorce?”
“I don’t know.”
He gave me a wide, creepy grin. “I have to change the wording to say everything has already been divided ‘mutually and equitably’. She has until 5pm to contact me with a list of community property she wants. According to Sarah everything is yours and you don’t have to give her shit. When you go to NOLA, grab what’s on her list and bring it to me. Her lawyer has to make arrangements to get it to her.” Fucking beautiful. She wouldn’t go to the trouble. She might ask for a box or two of stuff. No problems with that.
“Then, I’m gonna send that sexy little agreement back to the judge. She said she’d sign it as soon as she sees it and then it’s all filing fees and waiting for clerks. You’re gonna have something extra to toast at Thanksgiving.”
“Thanks. Fucking. Giving, baby. You won and your divorce caught the Stackhouse Express.”