Eric fumbled through the assembly of a gold take out container… bitching the whole time. He’d ruined two while he tried to get the ‘cocked up’ handle into place and claimed that his hands were too big and hoped he could talk Sookie into putting the other 200 of them together for him. It only took me a few seconds at a stop light to get one right on the first try. He growled at me for calling him impatient.
Since Sookie was on her ‘shopping trip’ with Emm, Eric and I were running a few errands. They needed to be done anyway, but if we’d stayed at the house I would’ve worried about what Sookie was up to with Emm.
Our first stop had been Fintan Prep, the second was Dermot Collegiate. Eric filled out the application for Fintan on our way to the party supply store. Even though Chloe went there, Eric liked it more. He’d said that academically speaking both schools were pretty much the same, so his choice was going to boil down to what the schools had to offer ‘extracurricularly’. Dermot’s stadium was multi-purpose and geared for football and the school required uniforms and the Dean seemed to care more about who his parents were than his school history. Fintan had a proper stadium for soccer, plus a lacrosse team, plus had a large atrium that the garden club replanted several times every year, plus a line of graphic art classes that caught his eye in the course catalog, plus offered botany as a science elective, plus the Dean asked what Sookie and I did for a living in passing rather than spit shined my ass over the Jorgen Complex and the Courthouse that I’d designed and dropped hints about fundraising for a new student center like Dermot’s Dean had.
Eric was sold enough to say that he’d be pissed if he didn’t end up dodging Chloe and her uppity friends.
I was pulling into my parking place at the office when Mr. Cornelius called about having information for me, so when I told him that I was available he said he’d be right over.
Our last trip was supposed to be to my office so that we could pick up the cameras Eric was going to use at his party and I could drop off the little bit of work I’d managed to do.
I hadn’t warned anyone that I was going to be stopping by except for Tara since Eric and I were going to go over the plans for the lanai and pool with her so my secretary looked like she’d been smacked when I walked in.
She followed us into my office with my calendar and a legal pad. “It’s about time you show up and give me something to do.” She could’ve been a lumberjack when she was younger. The woman was close to 6 feet tall (and claimed to be shrinking in her old age) and had been forced to retire from the city’s printer after 30 years. I had men working in my office who couldn’t change the water cooler bottle or move a ream of paper without grunting. Jackie called them ‘girly men’ every time she made one of them look bad.
“Bad news, Jackie.”
“Oh God. What?”
“You’re going to be bored for a couple more weeks. You should talk to Hannah to have her take your load and enjoy a vacation of your own. I made plans to go out of town.”
“Two more weeks?”
“At least. Consider this your warning, I might not get back on track until September. I’m having fun playing hookie.”
“You’re killing me. I don’t take vacations.” Or sick days. She’d given me the flu because even though she was sick as a dog, my schedule was busy enough that she didn’t want to let me down.
“If you don’t take a vacation, then you’ll scare everyone off. What have you been up to while I’ve been gone?”
“I reorganized the sample room. I inventoried all of the supplies; clerical, janitorial and creative and organized them. I reconfigured the drafting tables. The shift gives everyone more room in the same space. I tracked and tagged all of your plans so that they can be cross reffed by material, style, location, conditions, size, inspiration…” I was surprised there wasn’t already a stack of resignations on my desk. Hurricane Jackie had done a number on the office already. She was a go-getter that was dangerous to be left untasked.
“See. Take the vacation. I’m sure you want to alphabetize your pantry or something.”
She groaned. “Tell me you need something today, at least.” I couldn’t think of anyone else who’d complain about being given time off.
“We’re picking up the field cameras and I’m dropping off some drafts. I’m meeting with Tara and a Mr. Cornelius. That’s it.”
She lumbered out of the office griping that she’d get the cameras and start rescheduling my appointments and Eric followed her so that he could raid the sample room.
Tara slinked into my office quietly since I was on the phone with Dixie about getting a new mattress delivered while we were in Jackson. After 5 nights, I still couldn’t shake the dirty feeling of my mattress.
My flirtatious project manager sat on my desk in front of me and put her feet in my lap like she usually did unless she was pissed at me… It was only ever mildly annoying before, but having Sookie back made it feel disgusting. I’d taken Tara to a charity function with me a few years back. It was a friendly date, for me anyway. She, of course, thought of it as an actual date instead of just an invitation to a benefit auction where she could rub elbows and we could keep each other company. Silly me, I thought she got it since she was married. Ever since then she’s been flirting with a vengeance… Even at our Christmas party in front of her poor husband. I was surprised that the way she acted combined with the (actual) long hours she works hadn’t made Mike suspicious enough to confront me, give me dirty looks, something.
I was stuck… trying to rush through the chatty interior designer’s questions about brands, pillowtops, quilting and size while hoping like hell Eric wouldn’t walk in on something problematic before I could defuse the situation…
Tara had started getting handsy by the time Dixie was done overselling Kingsdown and the more I pushed her hands away, the more playful she thought I was being.
My skin was crawling.
She tried to get her hands around my neck when I put the phone on the rocker, but I grabbed them. “That shit’s got to stop, Tara.”
“Why would I stop? We could have a lot of fun.”
“You need more than our work relationship as a reason for you to stop groping me?”
“And because you have a husband?”
“I don’t belong to anyone.”
“Well I do. Back off.”
She snorted and slid off of my desk and onto my lap. “Liar. You’re a big ole slut. I’m probably the only girl…”
“I used to be. Now, I’m with someone.”
“I am too…”
“Which is why I haven’t been interested all along. You grabbing other men is your husband’s problem. Grabbing me when I’m spoken for is my problem.”
She put her hands on the side of my face and got too close. “You never minded before.”
“I just told you that I was single before. Let go. Get off. Stop. Don’t make this more awkward than it has to be.”
“Are you just playing hard to get? I thought that your sudden plans for a pool were an excuse to have me at your house.”
“No. My sudden plans for a pool are because I plan on spending a lot more time at home… with my family.”
“No. Seriously, Tara, off.”
“Who the hell got under your skin so fast?”
I opened my mouth to tell her, but I didn’t have the chance. Eric had come back. He growled, “My. Mom.” He practically tossed the slate and tile samples he’d brought from the sample room onto my desk. Fuck fuck fucketty fuck fuck.
Tara was giggling when she turned around, but she still hadn’t gotten off of my lap. “Who are you?”
“I’m Eric Northman, but you can call me Junior since you seem to have a hard time with the idea that he has a fucking family. Do you think you could get off of my dad like he asked so that we can talk about the pool MY MOM will be tanning next to.”
“Mom? You… he…?”
“Yeah. You’re still on his lap.” Sookie’s ‘Imakillyou’ face looked frightening when combined with my features.
She got off of me faster than I thought was possible and stared back and forth at us. “I’m… I thought you were… I’m sooooo sorry.”
Eric snorted and grabbed the folder with our plans for the house. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your damn hands to yourself. My mom won’t say please. She’ll just dot your eye. Try explaining a shiner to your husband.”
“I… he didn’t tell me he wasn’t single.”
“I heard him say he was taken. Nice try.”
“I meant before. I thought he was single. If I knew he was… I wouldn’t.”
“Now you do. Can we get to work on the pool or do you want to advertise all the reasons you should be embarrassed? We have another meeting coming in.”
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing since Tara went directly to the stack of drawings on the project table and got right to work. He had the balls to make fun of how scary/serious I could be… He made me look like a fucking teddy bear.
While Tara and I discussed the more technical aspects of the project, Eric used my computer for something. I assumed he was giving Tara (and maybe me) the silent treatment and checking his emails until she mentioned the flooring options.
I barely had the chance to tell her that we hadn’t fallen in love with any ideas when Eric slapped a couple of pages against my chest. “Mom’s fault.”
“Her sample room is full of damasks and velvet, mosaic and honeycomb tiles… She’s all about old school style. I didn’t know they make tiles in some shapes.”
I smiled at him before I looked at the pages. He’d done a couple of patterns in Photoshop. One was done in diamonds and one was in circles. “What am I looking at?”
“Flooring ideas. We already decided that the pool would be tinted concrete because it’s low maintenance, right?”
“K. So our problem was transition from one thing to the next. Soooo… Once we make the call on a pattern for around the pool, we can have the pool guys set some of those tiles into the pool floor as accents and have the masons do the same thing with the pavers and instead of an abrupt stop, have the pavers and the grass fade into each other like…”
“Like Escher’s Day and Night.”
He nodded. “You know it?”
“I love it. Colors?”
“I like the light slate you have already. We could fry bacon on darker ones. Walking on them once the sun’s on them for a while would be miserable.”
“Sorry. I meant the border around the pool.”
He shrugged. “Your favorite color is red, Mom’s is blue, mine is black and I like the way they look together… Do you like the diamonds or circles better?”
“I’m… what do you think?”
He narrowed his eyes. “You first. You’re just going to agree with me.”
“I would not. Same time. On the count of three… 1… 2… 3…” I laughed at the look on his face when we said ‘diamonds’ at the same time. “See. We just have similar taste.”
“What do we do about Mom then? Do you want to interrupt whatever they’re doing to Alcide’s ex?”
“No. She wouldn’t like the circles… the negative space in between them would irritate her.”
He started laughing. “Ten bucks says she asks why we didn’t think about a mosaic of honeycombs.”
I held my hand out to shake on the bet. “Twenty. She’ll have wanted stripes in subway tiles.”
“Done. She’ll get it though once we mention Day and Night… we couldn’t do that with hex tiles or stripes. They won’t get to it before we’re back will they?”
“No. They can go ahead with the lanai and get the pool poured, set the accents… We can have them hold off on the patio until we get back from Indiana. Do you not trust them to get the fade perfect?”
He shook his head. “No. Not at all.”
Tara laughed at him and said that the ‘control freak’ didn’t fall far from the tree.
Eric was gluing tiles to a sample board for Tara when Jackie brought Mr. Cornelius into my office.
Once Jackie and Tara showed themselves out, I realized that Eric and I were staring at the private investigator who acted like he’d seen The Maltese Falcon too many times.
I had to tell him 3 times that I was sure that Eric should be there for our conversation.
Eric and I nodded.
“The woman in question, Sandra Joy Dalton Stackhouse, has a police record in 4 states; Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Georgia for nuisance crimes. Drunk and disorderly, resisting arrest, DUI, DWI, assault, vagrancy, trespassing and an animal cruelty charge that she’s awaiting a hearing for as well as a pile of traffic tickets for driving while suspended, in an unregistered vehicle with stolen tags, while intoxicated and littering.”
Eric rolled his eyes, and sighed, “Ahhhh, Granny sure knows how to party.” No shit.
“I assume she’s looking at some sort of jailtime.”
“That depends on how Bossier’s PD wants to handle things. She pressed charges against the arresting officer for sexual assault.” Cue laughter. That woman was so pickled she wouldn’t get a second look in a triple max facility and that was based on what she looked like the last time I laid eyes on her at Jason’s wedding.
“Wonderful. Other than her legal issues…?”
“I don’t think that anything about the woman is above-board… From what I dug up, all of her rent and utilities have been mysteriously paid from an account out of Jackson, Mississippi under the name of Belle Stackhouse, the daughter. Sandra Stackhouse is receiving benefits from family services. Fuel assistance, Medicaid and food stamps…”
Eric snorted, “She isn’t on Social Security too?”
I shook my head. “She isn’t old enough.”
Mr. Cornelius continued, “She does get $81 in survivor benefits since her husband’s death… It doesn’t seem like Nate Stackhouse put much into the system. The registration for the ’81 Pontiac Catalina that she was arrested for driving expired 19 years ago and was under her son’s name. Jason Stackhouse. She claims that she lives alone and does child care on her assistance applications and her income is coincidentally the same amount as her rent.”
“However… I sat in front of her trailer for two days and spoke to some neighbors. The structure she lives in is a three bedroom double-wide and I simply thought she had a lot of company. As it turns out, she has several roommates. Two single men and a woman who is evading deportation to El Salvadore and her 3 children.”
“Welfare fraud.” Why wasn’t I surprised?
“Not just that, the men are registered sex offenders who aren’t allowed within a thousand feet of the school the trailer is 740 feet from. I think I mentioned that there are children in the house.”
Eric shook his head. “I’m afraid to ask. What’s the animal cruelty charge?”
“She ‘allegedly’ threatened to harm a neighbor’s dog. The next morning it was found choked by its lead and laid out on the neighbors stoop. The family found it on their way to church.”
I didn’t even want to think about what kind of nut would kill a kid’s dog, or why. “Is that all?”
“Drunk driver. Dog killer. Social services con-artist. Baby raper landlord. Alien inn keeper. Felon’s widow. Estranged mother… Isn’t that enough?”
I nodded. “I think so. It’s no wonder she’s on welfare. She’s too busy breaking laws to get a job.”
For the next hour, Eric and I wore ruts into the polished concrete floor of my office by pacing at opposite sides. Once in a while, we’d stop to look up a detail in the file Mr. Cornelius put together and when I called Jason to give him an update I used speaker phone so that we wouldn’t have to stop moving. Speaker phones were a pacer’s best friend.
I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to bait the children out of the trailer, douse the place with gasoline and strike a match. Yes, even the refugee mother of three. Squatting in an abandoned building would have been better than having her kids stay with pedophiles. A child is a lot less likely to remember not having cable than the alternatives she’d exposed them to.
Even if I wouldn’t, there was nothing saying that Jason wasn’t considering it though. Jason’s reaction was adding to the problem. If Eric and I didn’t come up with something, Jason was likely to go off half-cocked like he had when he found out about the blackmail.
Eric finally made the executive decision to start driving because it would help him think. He wasn’t the only one.
We were probably 10 minutes to Bon Temps when he finally said something and it was only then that I realized how long it had been since either of us had said anything. “We should just call the cops.”
“We have plenty to use to get her to leave everyone alone without sending her to jail.”
He gave me a dirty look. “Um, just because you haven’t gotten to the chapter on morals in your How-To-Be-A-Dad-Overnight manual, I’ll help you out. You’re the one who’s supposed to explain that bad people go to jail on the way to hell.”
“She won’t get life. She’ll go right back to taking advantage of everyone when she gets out.”
“If she doesn’t die in jail like Grampa. They don’t put inmates on transplant lists… Her lungs and liver are toast. I don’t like the blackmail thing.”
“I don’t mind sinking to her level so that she can’t get to anyone to play her games anymore.”
“I don’t care about sinking to her level. She’s going to get out of a DWI by pressing charges against the cop. God only knows what she could cook up to say about you. Uncle Jason sounded like he was going to kill her… putting her in jail would hold her off just like blackmail would.”
“So, we call 9-1-1 and when the cops get here turn over the file Mr. Cornelius put together.”
“Because that’s what the police are for?”
He nodded, very sure of his answer. “Putting away criminals.” I couldn’t remember a time when I’d been so idealistic. Sookie had done a phenomenal job of sheltering him.
“Eric, my manual doesn’t include everything. Sometimes criminals get away with it.”
“Maybe she’s used up her luck.”
“She can’t afford a good lawyer.”
I shrugged trying to see his point. “She probably won’t get bail, considering.”
“She couldn’t raise that much bail anyway. Even if baby-didlers get away with too much, she’s harboring an alien. That shit’s federal.”
“There’s no guarantee that she won’t be out and back to old tricks eventually.”
“There’s no guarantee that she won’t turn the blackmail around on one of us. You and Uncle Jason are established here, but Mom’s a newbie.” Sookie had always been the one she went after.
“See. I’m not just incredibly sexy.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Ok. You win. We call the police.”
“Good. The other thing…”
“Mom can’t be conflicted about this. It’s black and white. What Granny is doing is all kinds of screwed up. Mom can feel a little guilty about her going to jail, but she can’t hold it against us.”
“Very good point.” As well as things had been going, I’d almost let myself forget how fragile Sookie’s psyche was. Handle With Care. I was proud of him for thinking about it.
“Like a boss.”
He made the call. Instead of 9-1-1 he called the station and asked to talk to a detective. He explained everything from the pedophiles to the welfare fraud while I did my best to find Lot 46 of Primrose Courts and he fudged ‘our’ reason for hiring an investigator by saying that we had a feeling that Sandra had been lying to Sookie to get her bills paid.
It didn’t look bad as far as trailers went. It was nothing but a glorified shipping container with windows and a faded flamingo in the ‘lawn’ full of crab grass and dandelions. The outside was neat enough. Clean at least. The windows and front door of the trailer told a different story.
The door was dented. From the looks of it, it had been kicked in a few times. And the vinyl blinds on the windows probably hadn’t been yellow when they’d been installed… they definitely wouldn’t have had broken slats and weren’t meant to be drawn up to hang at sloppy, fucked up angles.
While Eric and I watched the house, waiting for Detective Fitchetti to arrive with his band of merry men, we were spotted by several of the neighbors and no less than 2 of the children Sandra had ‘taken in’.
They didn’t seem to alert anyone else in the house that someone was gawking at the trailer. They just peeked through the bent and mangled blinds. They couldn’t have been older than 10. All I could do was hope that the child molesters they were living with had different perversions.
I still felt like I was going to throw up.
We’d been easy to spot since my car was worth more than the 4 trailers on the cul de sac combined. Detective Fitchetti was driving the car at the front of the small caravan of official vehicles and introduced himself right away.
Fitchetti spent a few minutes going over the file that Eric had gone through more times than I counted… once two more cars arrived, the court was a parking lot so we wouldn’t have had the option to leave even if Eric hadn’t already decided he wanted to stick around.
We leaned against the side of my car and watched as no less than a dozen men went in through the front and back doors of Sandra’s castle.
It wasn’t nearly as exciting as I would’ve imagined. Nothing like Cops. No drama. No chase. No yelling or ridiculous behavior. Eric actually complained.
When the first person was brought out of the house in handcuffs, he started recording the ‘show’ on his phone. I immediately regretted getting the bigger memory card for him.
Man #1 wore a dress shirt buttoned all the way up and khakis. His hair was short and parted down the side and he didn’t seem anymore affected than he would’ve been if he was going out to check the mail… and he looked more like a Jehovah’s Witness than a Law & Order episode waiting to happen.
Man #2 wore a leather vest without a shirt under it and dirty jeans. He needed a haircut and a bath (probably a delousing too). That fucker looked like he drove a van with ‘free candy’ painted on the side…
I watched, curious to see what a woman who’d have her children living with pedophiles would look like so that I could fill that void with what would become a stereotype in my mental index… Nothing.
As far as I could tell, there was still several officers (including Fitchetti) in the trailer and the kids weren’t looking out the windows anymore. Eric and I heard over one of the radios that the police were waiting for Child Services to arrive and take them into custody since the mother was MIA.
Granny made her showing in a pair of leggings and an oversized T-Shirt that went down to her knees. Slippers too, of course, but they weren’t the reason she was having a hard time walking on her own. She was already drunk at 2 in the afternoon. If I didn’t know who she was, what she was capable of, I might have felt sorry for her. Scrawny, petite woman looking much older than her mid-fifties, practically being carried from her home to a squad car, another officer was just behind her carrying her oxygen tank and what looked like a bag of medication.
She seemed relatively self absorbed, no surprise there, for the first few minutes she was in the back of the nearby cruiser. Eventually, while her ‘roommates’ were taken away, she started looking around… It seemed like everyone in the trailer park had come out of their homes to brave the heat and humidity so they could see the drama unfold. Sandra seemed to be counting them until her eyes tallied Eric and me… then it was her turn to gawk.
Eye contact seemed to be what Eric had been waiting for. I followed as he marched over with purpose, asking an officer for Sandra’s window to be cracked so he could speak to his grandmother.
“Eric? What are you doing here?”
“I came to Shreveport to visit Uncle Jason for the summer.”
“Yeah? Do you have a good number for him?”
“I have four numbers for him… I guess you aren’t going to bother trying to call my mom, huh?”
“What can she do from Jackson?” More like, ‘what would she be willing to do?’
He shrugged. “She could get in her Benz and drive out here to bail you out… But right now she’s in Shreveport buying up all the Valentino and Balenciaga she can find. Mom doesn’t go shopping often but when she does, she goes off the radar like a Seal Team. She’ll probably get her hair done too. Being loaded is fun when she stops working long enough to enjoy it.”
She slurred, “I need to talk to her. I need her to find a lawyer for me.”
“You can get a public defender.”
“That won’t do me any good. This isn’t a speeding ticket I’m dealing with.”
“It’s a shame you’ve been blackmailing her. She might’ve been willing to help you out if you hadn’t been.”
“She told you?”
“Actually, my Dad told me. He hired a PI when we found out what you’ve been doing to Mom all this time. Shame of it is that you’ll be too busy feeling sorry for yourself to be ashamed.”
“What do you know? You’re just a kid. You don’t know what it’s like to not know where your next meal is coming from.”
He faked a smile and pointed into the distance, the path her ‘roommates’ had taken on their way out of the neighborhood. “Yeah. Maybe that’s why I wouldn’t take candy from strangers… Enjoy jail. I hear they feed you three squares a day.”
“Your mother spoiled you. You won’t…”
“You’re right about that. In fact, the more I think about it, the only thing I can come up with that I didn’t have is A FATHER.”
She shrugged like it was nothing. “Kids grow up without dads all the time. Ain’t no big deal. I did fine.”
He stepped back to make a show of looking over her current situation. “Yeah. How’s that working out for you?”
She scoffed. “Oh, I should’ve known she’d raise you to be a snob and forget your roots.”
She was in the back of a squad car for a list of crimes it could take weeks to tally and she had the audacity to call him a snob for mentioning it, suggesting that his ‘roots’ were something he could ignore… since his roots had been haunting him his whole life without him knowing it, I think I was just as pissed as he was… but I still grabbed his arm when it looked like he was going to try to get to her. “She’s not worth it. Your mother went through everything she did to prove that you don’t have to be like them.”
He nodded without looking back. “I know.”
“Let’s go home… We need to talk to Sookie.”
Sandra glanced over Eric’s shoulder to snarl at me. “I guess it’s easy to be a parent when you’re rich, huh.”
I stepped closer to the car. The only thing keeping me from hurting her was how many witnesses there would be. “I wouldn’t know since I just started. You should’ve just told me where to find my family.”
She rolled her eyes. “You should thank me for saving you from that bitch daughter of mine.” Thank her? Thank her? Thank her?
“I didn’t need to be saved, you cunt. I needed to be with my family. If you thought about anything other than where your next bottle of Wild Turkey came from, you might understand that.”
“They’d have just held you back. You owe me…”
Before I realized I’d taken another step forward, Eric was pushing into my chest. “Home.”
I growled. Actually growled. I knew he was right.
We needed to go home.
We needed to go home.
I’d said it myself. Home. Sookie. Talk.
But fuck if I could convince my l legs to move back.
It was hard enough to stop.
“Is this the temper Mom was worried about?”
That snapped me out of it. “What?” Yes. Yes, it was. It was exactly what she was worried about enough to leave me.
“Car.” That time when he pushed, I moved… I took his lead and let him shove me all the way back to my car.
I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back and kill her.
If for no better reason, than for putting me in the position to need my kid to be my voice of reason.
The more I thought about it, the more pissed I got. She was so wrong. So. Fucking. Wrong. She’d managed to justify every fucking thing she’d ever done. She’d convinced herself that she was right to lie to me, to blackmail her daughter, to use anyone and everyone she could…
She was a black cat.
Whoever had the misfortune of crossing paths with her was fucked…
It would’ve been better if I hadn’t seen her, but Eric wanted to see her. Even if it was just to rub her nose in the fact that she’d burned every bridge she could, he had the right. She was his grandmother.
Realizing how long we’d been fuming again, I forced myself to say something. I hated that most of the time we’d been in the car together had been spent silently pondering situations that were too fucked up to manage conversation. “I’m proud of you for staying so calm.”
“Pssh. Calm, my ass. I was ready to kill her. Did you catch that she said YOU owed HER? That bitch. I hope she chokes to death on her own lung butter.”
“If I agree with you, are you going to call me a lemming again?”
“No. We’ll just call it a club. Maybe the shock of not drinking will kill her. Did you smell her?”
“I’m sorry I almost lost it.”
“You should be. I wanted to lose it. Not fair.” He pulled his phone out and started texting.
“You aren’t telling Sookie in a text are you?”
“No. I’ll let you tell her. I’m texting Uncle Jason to call me.”
“You don’t want to tell your mom?”
“No…” He stopped texting to look at me. “She… She takes stuff better from you. I’ll tell Uncle Jason to keep his gob glued long enough for you to tell her.”
“What makes you think she takes stuff better from me?”
He snorted, “When we see her again, ask Claudia how many times she’s talked someone out of a panic attack. A real one. I’ve never done it. I’ve seen Mom drop at least a dozen times… Now that I’m thinking about it, most of them were after talking to her mom… Damn it. I don’t want to talk about that bitch unless I have to.”
“Alright, have you thought about what you want to plant around the waterfall? We might need to order some of it.”
“More elephant ears and spider wort… just transplant the other ones… Can you think of anything with purple leaves or something? I feel bad for Mom because she loves stuff like hyacinth and honeysuckle, but we’d have to have a damn epi-pen every time we went in the yard because of the bees that stuff would bring.”
“We might be able to find some flowers that don’t bait bees with some research. We can leave a list for Tara.”
“K… I won’t say anything to Mom about her.”
“What about her?”
“The way she was all over you.”
“Oh. That? I already told her.”
“You told Mom you get lap dances from your PM?”
“No. I told her that Tara is a problem. Hopefully, she’ll back off so that I don’t have to fire her.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No. While you were getting tiles to make the sample board, I told her that if she didn’t stop that she’d need to look for another job.”
“You told Mom that your PM molests you? What did she say?”
“She laughed at me.” And called me a pussy magnet… And she’d do it again when I tell her about what happened.
“Yeah. You’re definitely telling her about her jailbird mother. If you can tell her that you work with someone who’s crushing on you and get a laugh… damn.”
I was an idiot. I didn’t start bracing myself for explaining things to Sookie until I saw her car in the driveway. I should’ve at least tried to plan part of the conversation. My only excuse was listening to Eric’s end of his conversation with Jason. From what I could gather, Jason was pissed that we hadn’t just fed his mother to a pack of wild dogs.
Sookie was on her way down the stairs when we walked in and Eric made a bee-line for her, wrapping his arms around her.
She giggled at him at first, lightheartedly returning the hug and failing at hiding her surprise.
It didn’t take long for her mood to change.
Seeing the look on my face, which I’m sure was anxious, and the long, out of character hug… she started to worry.
He kissed her cheek on his way to take a shower and left me to enlighten her about our day.
She was practically pleading with me to say something by the time I’d led her into the kitchen. “Seriously, Eric, I’m starting to freak out.”
“We ran a few errands. Schools, Eric likes Fintan Prep, party store, my office for cameras and getting Tara started…”
“Did she come on to you in front of Eric?”
She sighed and rolled her eyes, not realizing that Tara wasn’t the problem. “I’ll kick her ass.”
“She thought I was ‘teasing’ her until Eric came in and asked her to get off his dad’s lap. Alcide needs to come up with something new. Eric’s ‘diaper tone’ makes me sound like a girl.” She didn’t know I was stalling.
She giggled. “That scary, huh?”
“Tara jumped off of my lap.”
“Good. I hope he scared the shit out of the slut.”
I raised my eyebrow at her. “Slut? Are you being possessive?”
She looked confused for a second. “Oh! No… I meant because she’s married, not because of your pussy magnet.”
I tried to act like I was disappointed. “Oh well… That could’ve been fun. Anyway, she started behaving herself. Hopefully it sticks… How was your date with Emm?”
She giggled, “Officially, we laid waste to the area’s shopping centers.”
“We had a lot of fun. I really like her. And Barbara Herveaux thinks that she spied on her ex-husband’s new girlfriend while she was shopping… and complaining that she was going to be bored all weekend since the guy she’s seeing is going out of town with friends for the weekend.”
“That’s all you did?”
“She took me to an old school drive in. The place had car hops in rollerskates and they mixed their own lime-ades. The burgers are worth killing for.”
I nodded. “Cruisers. Eric liked all 8 of the burgers he had when I took him. I was talking about with Barb.”
“Yeah. We had another scenario planned, but when she spotted Emm and decided to creep around like a stalker, we changed our mind. If it was just Alcide, we’d have been bitches, joked about it over lunch, but since Belle is getting wrapped up in Barb’s anti-Alcide manifesto, we opted to just make her feel stupid. Passively. We never spoke directly to her.”
“I’m sure Alcide had a heart attack every time his phone rang today.”
“Nah. It was our first stop and I called him when we left. He’s fine. Surprised, but fine. Where did y’all eat lunch?” I hated that my stall had petered out.
“We didn’t. We weren’t in the mood to eat.”
“Eric wasn’t…? What happened?”
“The private investigator called and we ended up driving out to Bon Temps and watched your mother get arrested.”
She gasped, “Why? What for?”
“While you were paying all of her overhead, she was lying to still receive Welfare and had 6 roommates. Two convicted pedophiles, three children and an illegal immigrant dodging deportation.”
Her mouth hung open. While her eyes misted over, her chin moved slightly like she was close to saying something. I couldn’t read it. I stepped closer… even if it meant she could kill me faster, I wanted to be able to catch her if her knees tried to buckle again. Finally she asked, “How long ago?”
“We came straight home. She’s probably updating her mugshot and being fingerprinted right now.”
She gave a nod just before she left me, race-walking into the hallway.
“Sookie? Where are you going?”
She’d gotten to my office by the time she answered. “I need to start calling lawyers.” She had to be kidding.
“Sookie, after everything she did…”
She came back out to meet me in the hall and grabbed my wrist, yanking me into the office. “Help me?”
“If she didn’t belong in jail, then Eric and I wouldn’t have…”
She spun around, grabbing my neck, pulling me to her, kissing me… Even if she was just trying to shut me up, keep me from discouraging her from hiring a lawyer for her jackal mother… I still let myself enjoy the kiss enough to pull her back when she tried to back away. She started to giggle. “No time.”
I barely left an inch between us. “Why would you hire a lawyer for her…?”
“Not for her… For me. My mother was just arrested for Welfare fraud while I was paying all of her rent and utilities for the past 11 years. I need to make sure my ass is covered so that she doesn’t try to take me down with her. Then we’re going to sing Jailhouse Rock all the way to our celebration dinner.”