Kith And Kin
We’d only been a couple for 6 months by the time Jason’s wedding came around. As romantic as my ‘we should just get it over with’ invitation was, I was meeting her family for the first time. Jason was it. Her whole family. Anyone she held any claim to.
Her mother and father had been given empty invitations. They were mailed the embossed invites like everyone else, but only because Jason was sure that ‘dear ole mom and dad’ wouldn’t be bothering to make an appearance because they couldn’t afford to travel to Savannah.
He was half right… unfortunately the half wrong he was, was regrettable enough to cause tears before the wedding march started…
The rehearsal dinner had been held at the steakhouse Crystal’s parents owned.
Jason had jokingly told the waitress to bring Sookie 2 of whatever she ordered because she ate like a locust… She was just cutting into her second 20 ounce Porterhouse when her chair was suddenly shoved into mine. No one had seen Sandra arrive. She was yellow and since she stunk of booze and cigarettes, I couldn’t tell if she was nicotine stained or jaundiced. Her dress was at least a size too small, not to mention completely inappropriate for any occasion other than passing out drunk on a sidewalk. After she wedged a chair between Sookie and Jason’s best man, she uncouthly snatched a roll from the middle of the table and chewed it with her mouth open in front of the 50 strangers that made up the base of her son’s life and yelled for the waitress to bring her a drink. ‘The good shit’. It was the first time I’d ever seen Sookie cry. She was mortified by her mother’s behavior… for Jason. She knew I wouldn’t think anything of it. We’d talked, rather, compared notes about our disgusting kin since we’d gotten together. All I could do for her at the time was hold her hand under the table.
Sandra leaned over to Sookie to ask her how she’d been… It didn’t seem like she cared, more that she was just waiting for the chance to insult her. ‘Good’ had apparently been the wrong answer for Sookie to give. After Sandra announced at the top of her lungs that Daddy Dearest was in jail again and figured out a way to blame Sookie for it even though she was hundreds of miles away and not speaking to him, she set about cross examining Crystal’s family and friends as though she’d read a book on the most efficient ways to offend others.
For the obvious reasons, dinner fell flat even though everything had been as enjoyable as a weekend with strangers could be…
As we left the restaurant, Sandra followed us out to the parking lot. “I’m staying with you. All them is stuck up.”
Sookie snorted at her mother. “No. You’re not staying with us. And no, they aren’t stuck up. You’re on your own.”
“Us?” She looked at me like she just noticed I existed.
“Yes, us. Eric and I have a hotel room with one bed and you aren’t invited.”
“Ohhhhh, so not only have you been living it up at that little school of yours, but you got yourself a sugardaddy, huh?” I did clean up nicely, but then again… So did Sookie.
“Yes.” Sookie’s grip on my hand tightened as she tried to get around Sandra to Alcide’s car, but the nasty woman stepped to the side to block her. “Move.”
“Where am I gonna stay?”
“Not my problem. I knew where I was staying and how I was getting here for months now. Take care of yourself for once and stop being everyone else’s problem.”
“You’ve got a job. You can afford to… heyyyyy… Is this your car?” Alcide’s silver Camaro was hot. He knew it… and when he turned over the keys to us he made me promise to take care of it and Sookie… in that order.
“No. It belongs to a friend. He loaned it to us for the weekend so that I could be a bride’s maid in my brother’s wedding. Not so we could tote your unwelcome ass around Savannah. Go back to Bon Temps.”
Since Sandra didn’t seem like she was willing to let Sookie leave the parking lot before there was a catfight, I used the remote to unlock the doors and ‘ordered’ Sookie to get in. As far as Sandra knew, I was being the bad guy. There were still a few people from the wedding party lingering and trickling out of the restaurant. There didn’t need to be more of a scene than there was already and I was perfectly fine with letting Sandra think Sookie was scared of me.
That night in the hotel room Sookie cried angrily and vented… if I had kept track, ‘poor Jason’ and ‘that bitch’ would’ve won a prize from having been said the most and when she finally declared that her rant was over and collapsed to the bed she jokingly broke up with me because I was rubbing off on her… She’d been pacing.
Sookie had cried a couple of times during the service. Even though I was about half a church away from her, I could see her eyes leak the occasional tear. It wasn’t the pinchy shoes or knowing that there would forever be hundreds of pictures of her dressed in ‘Pepto lace over a hoop skirt’… She wouldn’t be able to play it off. She was just happy for Jason, even if his bride had frighteningly bad taste in bride’s maid dresses, which we were sure was mostly to appease her mother. Jason and Crystal’s wedding went off without a hitch and Sookie joked when we were driving to the reception hall that Sandra must’ve listened for the first time in her life since she hadn’t shown up…
Sookie and I had been placed at a table with the other 3 bride’s maids and their dates… four hoopskirts at one table didn’t leave a lot of legroom, but since all four couples were suffering the same problems, we made it a joke instead of a problem.
The toasts had been made, dinner had been served… I had to grab extra champagne for Sookie so that she’d loosen up enough to dance with me in her ‘pink hell’.
Everyone was getting into position to watch the bouquet and garter get tossed when Sandra made her entrance by knocking over the buffet tables. The horrible bitch was still wearing the same dress as she had the night before and she was so hammered that she grabbed the best man by the lapels and called him Jason. I’m not sure anyone ever got a straight answer about what had possessed her, but as she was dragged, kicking and screaming some of the most inflammatory shit I’d ever heard and she ‘warned’ Crystal that Jason wouldn’t take care of her and she was stupid to think otherwise since he’d turned his back on his own blood.
As she was pulled past where I was standing with my arms around Sookie, she called her children the biggest mistakes she’d ever made.
A lovely woman.
As we pulled up to the house, we noticed that Jason’s truck was already parked on the curb… He was sitting on the front stoop talking on his cell phone… I’d never seen him look less happy.
In fact, I’d never seen him more pissed.
By the time we dragged our overstuffed asses out of Sookie’s car, he’d ended the call and stood. He wasn’t just pissed. He was fuming enough to look red even in the dark.
When Sookie hugged him as a greeting, he barely returned it and when Eric said hello, he was given a grunt in return.
If Eric hadn’t been rattling on about checking on his fish before we left the restaurant, I might’ve wondered if the fire under his ass was lit by his pissy uncle. He put his to-go order in the fridge and wasted no time getting to the back doors.
Jason watched until the door slid shut behind Eric and as soon as he was gone, Jason started in…
Looking at me. Me? “Have you known all along?”
“About where Sookie was or about Eric… any of it?”
“Of course not. I just called you again a couple months ago. Why would I…?”
He shook his head. “You’ve been calling our mom too.”
“Yeah. And she’s just as good of a liar as you are. Hell, the day Crystal showed up, I was running my usual internet search. What the hell is this about?”
He turned to Sookie and gave her a look he was close to having punched off of his face. “Because our mother called yesterday to ask me for money.” From what I knew of Sandra, I’d hardly call that newsworthy.
Sookie instantly looked like she was on the verge of tears again, but the set of her jaw made it seem like she was just that angry. “I’ll kill her.”
“You let her blackmail you.”
“Like I had the choice!?”
“You could’ve just come clean.”
“I wasn’t… Jason, you don’t understand…”
“You’re goddamn right I don’t understand! I left Bon Temps for the same reason you did… To get away from that shit! We promised each other. We promised. No bailing anybody out. No sending money. No hand outs for anyone. No matter what we let them figure out their own shit! All this time…”
“Yeah. I broke the promise. She got my damn phone number from Crystal to begin with… She found where I was living… She just showed up.”
“So you’ve been paying for her place all along because you were afraid she’d tell Eric how to find y’all?”
“No. I’ve been paying for her dream doublewide all along so that she wouldn’t tell my son that she knew his father didn’t want him. That…” She started gasping for air and held herself up at the counter until I grabbed her. “That… bitch… that… she…”
I tried shushing her, but I ended up carrying her to the sofa after her knees acted like they were going to give out. “Do you need anything?” Concentrating on the way she seemed very close to passing out was the only thing to keep me from digging another pond that would be the perfect place to hide Sandra’s body… That cunt could’ve sold Sookie’s address to me, but it only would’ve paid out once… she was smart and low enough to make Sookie her cash cow… again.
She shook her head and held onto my hand with a death grip.
Jason didn’t have the sense to shut up. “Sook, you’re stopping now, right? Now that Eric knows better. Now that everybody knows everything. You told her to fuck off, right?”
She nodded, still heaving and I saw Eric pacing back and forth on the lanai so I waved for him to come in.
Jason started shaking his head as Eric came in. “No. He don’t need to…”
I growled at him. “Yes, Jason. He does. I’m not making him wait outside like a dog while he’s worried about his mother so that he can be spared the fact that his grandmother is an opportunistic, scheming cunt.”
“He’s just a boy…”
“He’s not just a boy. He’s my son and he’s grown enough to know that some of his own family would fuck with him for their own gain. You’ve got kids. How long do you think it’ll be before ‘Granny’ starts trying to use them?”
“This ain’t your family. You should just stay out of it.”
“Jason, just because I’m only now finding out about Eric, doesn’t make him any less mine. He needs to know that being around your mother is like tea-bagging a piranha tank. If you haven’t told your own kids that, then whatever she does to exploit them is on your head.”
“Oh, and I bet your family is full of saints, huh?” Hardly.
Eric finally had enough. “Will one of you tell me what Granny did that’s got Mom so upset!?”
Jason refused to answer him and Sookie still wasn’t calming down. “Your grandmother called Jason for money because your mother told her the gravy train stopped. Her bills have been getting paid every month in exchange for not telling you that I didn’t want you.”
“She… she told Mom that she’d tell me you took off… seriously?”
All Sookie could do is nod.
“That’s low… Mom? Since she stayed with us?”
Another nod and Sookie clutched her chest. She was starting to turn pink and even though she wasn’t calming down at all, her hand wasn’t holding mine as tightly. “Sookie, would a Xanex help? Octavia said that you have some.”
She shook her head and Eric added, “They don’t work that fast. If she passes out, she’ll start breathing normal again on her own.” Pass out? Fuck that… I wasn’t going to just let her pass out.
“Sookie… Sookie, look at me.”
She tried. I honestly believe that she did, but by the time her eyes met mine, she was crying too hard and having a hard time seeing past her tears. She ended up focusing on my mouth instead of my eyes…
“Sookie, it’s over now, right? Sandra can go fuck herself. She doesn’t have anything left to hold over you. Right? When you move here, she doesn’t need your new address or your phone number. Everything’s in the open. Eric knows about me and knows I love him and he knows to watch out for her. Ok? Blame me for this. When I was looking for you, I told her that finding you was worth everything to me… It’s probably where she got the idea…”
Between gasps for air, she panted out a ‘nnnnnn’, trying to shake her head.
“She could’ve gotten any amount out of me just for giving me your address… but she used our son and how much you love him for extortion… but it’s all over. She’s got nothing left.”
She tried nodding, her breathing was still so panicked that I could’ve sworn I felt it.
“Are you feeling up to it or do you want me to call her? I want to have some fun.”
She gasped, “What… what would… How…?” I smiled at her for managing to get words out, even if it wasn’t complete sentences…
“I could see how much your address is worth to her now that she’s desperate. Let her think she’ll get one more payday while you have the chance to take your name off of everything and cut her off…”
She finally managed to meet my eyes. “Nnnnno.”
“It’s a double wide. We could arrange to have all of her stuff taken out of it and leave it arranged on the empty lot. Oops. Where’d it go?”
She closed her eyes and let a snort get out between breaths. The corners of her mouth managed to turn up just a little.
“Does she have a cell phone? We can take a picture of the three of us and send it to her… All the message would have to say is: Game over.”
She started to nod. “I like… I like that… that one’s good… no cell… no cell though.”
“We could hire a camera crew to pose as Publisher’s Clearing House and deliver the picture instead… balloons, champagne, confetti… The recording could be the gift that keeps on giving.”
A real smile finally started to form. “That’s… that’s the winner.”
I smiled back and kissed her forehead. “Welcome back. Need anything?”
She gave my hand a squeeze and shook her head. “I’m… fine… I’ll be fine.”
I left Sookie with Eric so that I could walk Jason out…
As soon as I shut the door behind us, I shoved the stupid fucker so hard that he looked like he was running backwards to keep from falling. “It hasn’t been a whole fucking week since I told you that your sister has PTSD and you showed up to pick a fucking fight! You have the balls to stand in MY house and tell me that isn’t my family! Who the fuck do you think you are!?”
“I’m the mother fucker that learned to drive when I was 12 so that I could get her to the emergency room when our folks fucked her up! That’s who I am!”
“I know that! Why would you think our kids wouldn’t need to know what those people are capable of!?”
“Don’t say ‘THOSE PEOPLE’! Just because you didn’t…”
“Jason! I taught myself to drive at 13 because my parents were too broke to call a cab and too drunk to find their own car! My parents would beat the shit out of each other and make up in the emergency room or the drunk tank… I started working construction at 14 because they couldn’t stand up long enough to keep a job. I might not have gotten the severe beatings you did, but that would’ve required that they remembered I existed between paydays… My father is 53 and dying of cirrhosis and my mother is so saturated that she doesn’t need a drink to fail a sobriety test. If you think for a second that my opinion of your family is in any fucking way because I was spoiled by a charmed life you’re just as wrong as you were to come into my house and tell me how to handle something that’s effected MY SON for most of his life. IDIOT!” Writing the check to Sandra every month most likely compounded Sookie’s guilt and helped drag everything out for god knows how long.
“Really? I always figured you was just slumming.” The way he switched channels, from willing to throw a punch to ‘ding, fries ‘r done’ was infuriating.
“I wasn’t slumming. Sookie and I left home for the same fucking reasons.”
“You ain’t gonna let her send any more money to our mom, are ya? She don’t deserve it. She ain’t never worked for nothing like Sookie does. It ain’t fair.”
“Sandra doesn’t deserve it, but what Sookie does with her money is her business. Not mine…”
“Then tell her how stupid it is. She won’t listen to me.”
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. Sookie doesn’t seem to have anything left for her.”
“Will you let me know? I mean… So I can do something if you think Sookie might get sucked under by her shit again?”
“If Sookie lets me know anything, I’ll do what I can, but I’m not going to do anything that’ll cause trust issues right now.” Period.
It took him a while to understand that I wasn’t going to puppeteer his sister. I wasn’t then, nor was I ever, interested in controlling her. I’d always loved Sookie as a complete package… not as someone with potential. I’d always tried to tell Alcide that he wasted time with ‘fixer uppers’ when he should just find one he liked as-is.
After half an hour, I finally came up with something that made him feel better. His sense of redneck pride approved even if he wasn’t happy when I told him I’d be letting Sookie know about it every step of the way.
When I got back to the great room, Eric was still sitting next to Sookie. She’d calmed down so much that her eyes weren’t even red anymore.
Sookie patted his leg. “There. He’s back. You don’t have to worry about me being alone. Now, go download one of those ringtones that old people can’t hear. That text alert you’re using is annoying as all hell.”
He kissed her cheek as he got up. “Fine. I have blogs to look up anyway.”
I sat down next to her and she smiled at me and sighed, “It never ends.”
I nodded, fully understanding what she meant. “I want her address. I’m going to hire a private investigator to watch her and dig up something so that we can blackmail her to stay the fuck away… They shouldn’t have to dig too deep.”
“Don’t go through all that… I really am going to sever all ties.”
“I’m lumping Jason’s family into it. His kids are just as susceptible to her bullshit as Eric. It turns out that they have small trust funds for school that Crystal’s parents set up. He’s afraid that his oldest could get wrangled into helping her out next year when he gets access to it… How much time does she have before she would get evicted?”
“She’s current. Everything has a zero balance… Are you sure you want to do this?”
“She took advantage of you. I’m absolutely certain that it’s time she gets a taste of her own medicine.”
“Does Jason know?”
I nodded. “He’s pissed that I wasn’t willing to do anything behind your back. I think he’d rather we dress in camouflage and burn the trailer down around her.”
“Y’all could blow it up. She’s on oxygen now from smoking so much. She still smokes constantly.”
I actually smiled at the idea of seeing that happen. Accidentally, of course.
We went a few minutes without saying anything and Sookie finally sighed, “Eric Northman.”
“Uh oh. What I do?” I figured I was going to finally hear something about Eric’s cell phone or new clothes or that I’d been teaching him how to drive in a $90,000 high performance sports car…
“You yelled at my brother for upsetting me, but that’s not why I said Eric Northman.”
“Then what’s up?”
“He made up his mind… Eric did… about his name.”
“He wants to change it?”
“Shit, Sookie, I want him to change his name, but not just so he’s not a Stackhouse anymore… that’s just…” I didn’t want to just be the lesser of two evils… and he still hadn’t met my side of the ‘family’ yet.
She scooted close enough to grab my hand. “Eric, it’s not so he’s not a Stackhouse. He said it felt weird before, the idea of changing his name when y’all just met… He said you two have been getting along great, but more like friends… He said that when you bitched at Jason because of him, stuck up for him… he said it felt different. He blamed his friends… said that he was probably just confused because none of them like their dads, stepdads, whatever.”
Fighting the smile on my face would’ve been pointless. I was too busy dealing with the lump in my throat anyway. I could’ve cried. Really.
He wanted my name… “How sure do you think he is?”
“Metabolism isn’t the only thing he got from me. He got my stubborn streak too. He’s sure. He told me to tell you to call your lawyer… His pissed he’s going to have to go back to the DMV though… and decided that when he’s emperor of the universe, ugly people will be relocated to Rhode Island.”
I chuckled. “He went on for hours about the clerk that did his learner’s permit. He said she was the reason kids are afraid of clowns… and dogs… and jack-o-lanterns…”
She giggled, “That’s our boy… so humble.”
“He was right. I woke up screaming.” I jokingly shuddered.
She cackled and slapped my arm. “Nevermind. He’s yours… damn chip off the old block.”