Having to tell the story to Alc on the way back to the house didn’t cheer me up either… He had a whole different brand of home life… His father was a truck driver and his mom was a waitress raising her son by herself once his dad finally stopped pretending to be faithful. That was probably my reason for believing he’d step out on Amelia so easily, as opposed to why he never did… He joined the marines instead of going to college so that he could help her financially and she died a few years before I met him. The only thing we had in common in that respect was father issues. So the poor bastard was just as lost on the topic of my pain in the ass sister as I was when it came to his wife. At the least the conversation warned him about what we were in for.
I did start calming down once we were home again. The house was ripe with the aroma of Sookie’s chili… Huh. Maybe, there was something to Alcide’s food therapy treatments. I went ahead and switched over laundry and folded the dry load and put away the steamer and the ‘barber kit’ and when I got back to the kitchen, Alc had set the table, sliced the bread and was dishing out lunch. I chuckled to myself about what a good wife Sookie’d turn him into.
While we ate, I texted Pam with an update on the case that wasn’t really ours anymore and then texted Burnham to ask about the case that is.
“So, you think we should leave early and fill the trunk with liquid courage?”Mmmmm. Hard liquor.
I nodded and maybe even spared a smile. “That sounds completely rational, but you should make sure you sleep on your stomach.”
He started laughing. Because he didn’t know I wasn’t joking. “I don’t know how much longer I can stay here. Marnie’s here; sleep on my stomach. Jason’s here; sleep on my back…”
I started chuckling. “Did he behave after we went to bed last night?”
“NO! Fucker followed me to bed after talking my damn ear off for a couple of hours.”
“He followed you to bed?” NO! That’s crazy. My Id peed a little.
“Asshole. I know you were part of that.”
I started to laugh around the same time there was a knock on the door. Fuck.
I drained my beer on my way to the door and for some reason, my legs felt heavier than usual. What was it Lafayette said about monsters in the closet?…
She was wearing Navy sweats and a Navy hoodie with sneakers (The Official Uniform of Unkempt Navy Wives Worldwide) and looked like she hadn’t enjoyed the trip. The door wasn’t open all the way before she started bitching.
“Do you know how hard it is to get to Louisiana from New Hampshire?!”
Sucking it up. Being nice. Giving her a chance. “I think it has something to do with the civil war. They make it hard for you to get here, but they give away return flights.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Stupid.
“Nothing; it was a joke. Come on in. We were just eating lunch. Are you hungry?”
“We? I thought Sookie works.”
“She does. She makes lunch for me and Alcide while she’s making breakfast for everyone.” Dig number 1… since she’s never taken care of anyone and thinks I’m spoiled. I am now.
She walked in, leaving her luggage on the porch (for me to get) and I ignored it. Sorry. I wasn’t feeling hospitable enough to be her fucking porter.
“I’m not hungry, but I could use a drink. Do you have any beer?”
Already nesting? Isn’t it a little early to be vying for mother-of-the-year? I showed her to the kitchen and she rummaged through the fridge like she owned the place while I tried to introduce her to Alc.
“What are you looking for? I have the fridge memorized.” He was trying. Points for him.
“Beer. I don’t see anything to drink in here.”
He gave me a look over his shoulder and rolled his eyes. “Eric and I had the last of them with lunch. We had a bit of a party last night. Sorry… I thought you were preggors anyway.”
She stood up and slammed the door shut, giving me a dirty look. Really dirty.
“What?!? No one told me it was a secret! We were excited. Sue me.” Lie.
“It was a false positive.” Wait… Then why did Smom think that this was because Clancy was ‘ain’t-cho-baby-daddy’ about things.
“Oh… Sorry then. Do you want to call Clancy to let him know you got here OK? I’ll call the folks.”
“I’ll call him later. He’s at work.” She reached into the fridge and pulled out a tea, plopping her chunky ass down in a chair.
“So how was the trip?”
“Miserable.” Fuck. Why would I think she’d make this easy? “Why’d ya have a party last night?”
“It was just an excuse to get together. Sookie’s really close to her family.”
“Oh! My my my… How life has slowed down! Partying with the in-laws, huh? Party animal.” Catty bitch.
Alcide started to wheeze out a laugh. “You’ll learn! The Stackhouses are kind of a party waiting to happen. No one ever defined ‘quiet time’ for them.”
She rolled her eyes at him like she was disappointed at the prospect of fun. “So when does Miss America get home from work?”
“Miss Teen Louisiana gets off at 3 and we’ll go get her.” Dig number 2.
“She doesn’t have a car?”
“Sure she does, but we took them in this morning.”
“Sookie and Alc’s boys… school.”
“Kids? Here?” She looked like she smelled shit.
“Yeah…” I didn’t have the chance to elaborate before there was a knock on the door. Alc nearly knocked over his chair getting up to answer it. Can’t even fault him for it.
I sat and waited.
Finally… Alc came into the room with a huge smile on his face, followed by Terry who was pushing a hand cart.
“Sookie called and gave Terry our wish list… You better marry her fast. I’m about to fight you for her.”
I laughed and stood up to shake Terry’s hand.
“Sookie told me to give you a big kiss.” He looked constipated and apprehensive just mentioning it.
“And as far as she’ll know, you did.”
He smiled and slid the hand truck out from under the stack of boxes. “Good boy. You start putting this away while I get the rest.” THE REST?!
I loved having the excuse to ignore Marnie while I stocked the liquor cabinet and then stacked the extra bottles in the pantry. Jack Daniels, Absolut, Patron, Captain Morgan, Malibu… A case of each. The next cart load was beer. Guinness, Bass Ale, Corona and Killians.
Alc and I started putting the bottles in the fridge on the porch. “Hey Terry.”
“Sookie warn you about Saturday?”
“Yeah. I’ll see ya at Corbett’s. Lookin’ forward to it.”
“No, not the cookout. I told the kids at school today that we’d be at the bar Saturday night.”
“SHIT! You gave them that much warning?”
“That a bad thing?”
“Last week, I had more than a thousand on the lawn and they found out that morning… I’m gonna need to order extra… Everything.”
“Just soda’s though right?”
He looked like he was thinking about that for a minute. “No. Extra everything and a few more bartenders… Bravo’s gonna be there so he’ll bring brass for ska… word will spread… FUCK! You’re killing me kid.” Ska? Really? Happy dance.
“Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was going to be such a pain in your ass.”
“Naw. Ts’alright. Thanks for warning me. Never surprise a Vet.” He smirked.
Alc and I chuckled and offered the empty boxes to him for the bonfires and he gladly took them, getting another thanks as he left.
Alc had a few phone calls to make and so did I so I told Marnie that tonight the room upstairs would be hers, but that she’d be on the pull out for the rest of her visit. That made her SO happy, but she went out to the porch to drag her suitcase upstairs after a series of grouchy grumblings.
Calling Dad… Sigh…
“Hey dad. She made it here just fine.”
“She’s as delightful as ever, but she’s behaving.”
“She say anything about Clancy?”
“Well, she’s not pregnant. Says it was a false positive, but who knows with her. I suggested she let Clancy know she got here ok and she said she’d call him later because he’s at work.”
He was quiet for a minute. “How much did she pack?”
“One bag, but it’s pretty big.”
“Deb was right… this is all…”
“Dad, it doesn’t matter why she’s here. If she starts her shit, she’s gone. If she hasn’t really left him, I’ll put her on the next plane northbound.”
“Sookie… she didn’t seem thin skinned… She gonna be able to take it?”
“If she can take what her mother and Ex did to her, Marnie isn’t worth mentioning. We might even get a little show out of it. Sookie’s big on manners.”
“What do you mean? Like etiquette?”
“Social graces. She kicked another teacher today for picking on one of her students.”
“Oh… by the way. We got a cold snap… You and Smom are going to need to bring coats. We’re going to a football game tomorrow night.”
“Yeah, well Sookie is the cheerleading coach and her cousin Hunter… Dad, this kid is amazing… anyway. We need to be there and I thought you’d enjoy it.”
“That sounds like fun. What are the team colors?”
I smiled into the phone. Leave it to Dad to think of that. “Crimson and Pewter.”
“Good to know. What else do you have planned?”
“Well, we have the game tomorrow night and then Saturday, Sookie has practice with the squad here at the house. Then the big lunch. Then we need to put in an appearance at the family bar. Sunday and Monday should be pretty quiet though.”
“Sounds like fun… Keep me posted on Marnie’s shenanigans, K?”
When I was done with that call, I made a quick call to the florist. I nearly whispered the order so that Marnie wouldn’t overhear and blow a gasket because I didn’t send her any flowers. After 5 years of trying though, Tara and Sam deserved a parade.
At 2:30, I yelled for Alc and Marnie. We still had to go to the hardware store.
“Hey Alc! If we’re late for practice again, the coach will make us run laps.”
He came out of his room laughing. “Especially since we cut out early.”
Marnie came thundering down the stairs, griped. “Where are we going?”
“We need to run to the hardware store to get painting supplies and then get to practice to get Sookie, Jack and Carm.”
Alcide butted in. “Shit! Is today a Hunter day? We might need to take two cars.”
I thought about that for a minute. “Both boys, me and Sookie in the back, then you can drive with Hunter and Marnie in the front.”
He snorted. “Can you two control yourselves in the back seat together?”
Of course we could… the kids would be between us.
As expected, Marnie whined and bitched her way through the hardware store with us. She started in on Alc about buying the wrong this and the wrong that and she rode him until he snapped.
I had seen it coming. The eerie calm he gets. His breathing changed and his eyes seemed more focused. Sniper mode…
“Your husband… Does he beat you?”
She gasped. “NO!”
“Huh. He should.”
The look on her face was the high point of her visit so far and totally worth the slap I got for snickering.
When we got to the school we noticed some suspicious activity going on around a motorcycle. Alcide and I shared a look and we pulled in next to it.
The three boys in football uniforms stood at attention as we climbed out.
“What are you up to?”
A collective ‘nothing’.
I smiled over at Alc. “Yeah, right. Let me see your hands.”
They held their hands out and they all had sugar packets. They instantly started stammering.
“Hush. Did you already put any in?”
“Eric… This is Quinn’s bike?”
“You were going to put sugar in his gas tank?”
The kid closest to me cringed. “Yeah.”
“You can’t do that. It causes engine trouble. That’s not a prank, it’s destruction of personal property.”
I watched one kid all but deflate as he screwed the gas cap back on.
I smiled at them. “But if you flip it… that’s a prank. No harm. No foul. It’ll just be a pain in his ass to right it.”
I winked at them on my way into the stadium and heard them all laughing behind me.
Again… with the sentimental sensation as we walked under the bleachers. Marnie followed close behind Alc and me, unhappy with something. I didn’t care enough to ask. I figured it’d come to a head eventually. It always did.
Just like yesterday, we immediately spotted Carm perched on Sookie’s shoulders. What a difference a day makes. He was actually talking to a couple of the cheerleaders standing next to Sookie.
“Alc, he’s really coming out of his shell.”
“No shit. He was borderline xenophobic.”
I looked up and noticed that Jack wasn’t with the groupies today. “You spot Jack yet?”
He pointed over to the other side of the field. It took me a minute to spot him past the tackle sleds and crowd of players. Hunter was playing catch with him.
We went over to grab a seat and watch. After a few minutes, Hunter gave a loud whistle in our direction and two of the football groupies giggled and ran across the field to him and walked back with Jack, holding his hands. He looked like a fucking Cheshire cat and climbed past us, giving his dad a wink on the way to go sit with his ‘friends’. 6 girls. All of them doting over the little ‘Casanova’.
“Oh… You’re fucked. He’s going to need his own phone by the time little league starts.”
Alc’s eyes lit up. “Hey! I bet I’d have time for it here. You wanna help me coach?”
I didn’t even have to think about it. “Sure. Carm old enough for T-ball this year?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“I bet Jas and Corbett would help out so we could coach them both.”
“Volunteers too. I bet some of those boys would rather help in a batting cage than clean up a park.”
I think I might have been just as excited at the idea as Alcide.
I announced that I would go save Carm from Cheerland and left Marnie and Alc to go see Sookie. Yoga shorts and a hoodie again. Mmmm.
When I got to her I gave her ass a slap, making her jump out of her skin.
She playfully slapped my cheek when she turned around and saw that it was me. Ungh. “You’re mean.”
“Who me? You started it.”
“How did I start it?”
“When you put those shorts on.” I wiggled my eyebrows at her.
She giggled at me while I helped Carm down and he ran off to his Dad. “You’re a troublemaker. I didn’t get any teaching done after you left. All the kids wanted to talk about was you and Alc… How are things with Drizella?”
I shrugged. “She’s still in a funk since Alc told her that Clancy should beat her.”
She threw her head back and laughed.
“She’s behaving about as well as she can. The pregnancy was a ‘false positive’ and Dad and I don’t think she really left her husband. Other than that… things are hunky dory.”
“I have something that might cheer you up, but you have to kiss me to get it.”
I leaned over and kissed her and she grabbed my lip with her teeth and pulled away slowly. Mmmm. “You’re killing me… Where’s my present?”
“In my pants.”
I narrowed my eyes at her and clenched my jaw. Cruel.
She started to giggle. “My track pants. Over on the bench.”
I gave her a dirty look over my shoulder on the way. When I picked up her pants, they were a lot heavier than they should have been. The first pocket I found was empty… The other was holding a stack of envelopes a couple inches thick and rubber banded together.
She shook her head. “In my in-box. I didn’t look at the cards… The envelopes… see for yourself.”
I started flipping through them and I noticed that not all of the email addresses on the outside were the same. A few of them were ‘ComptonWT’ at his Telcom job. He’d used his WORK email for some? What a fucking asshole! He really did think he was too smart to get caught. I looked up at Sookie and smiled.
“Try to control yourself. Christmas came early. Now there won’t be any way for his lawyer to dispute the validity of the email connection by claiming the anonymity of the public server.” She really did think like a cop sometimes.
She walked over and started pulling the hoodie off to show a snug white tank top and grabbed a walkie from the bench, giving me a kiss.
She called over to Quinn for her boys and told me to go get a ‘good seat’…
I dropped the stack onto the bench next to Alc and it made a loud thud. “MORE?”
“LOTS… They didn’t all come from ‘oldenuff’ though.”
“Oh… Oh well. We’re beating a dead horse at this point any way…”
“He used his work email too.”
“NO Ffffff…” Carm was sitting on his lap and looked up at Alc, waiting for him to slip. “You’re serious?” Carm turned around giggling.
“As a heart attack.”
I looked back at Marnie who seemed to just be sulking and when I looked back at Alc, he rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly. Shit.
“Marnie, I’ll introduce you when practice is over. Alcide and I caused a ruckus when we were here earlier so I don’t want to interrupt her anymore.”
“How’d you manage that?”
“We were looking for evidence and the students couldn’t get back on track.”
“She a gym teacher?”
“History. We sat in on one of her classes this morning. It was fun.” Small talk attempt: number two, maybe?
“For a dork like you maybe.” Negative.
Alcide cleared his throat and shot a dirty look over his shoulder at her. “It WAS fun and I hated history in school.”
“Something tells me that you weren’t paying attention to the lecture.”
It wasn’t worth answering. She was being a catty bitch just so that we’d keep talking to her.
We watched Hunter while the squad regrouped and after a few minutes, we were found…
Hannah came running up to us calling us by name in a very cheerleadery way with a guy walking up behind her.
“Guys, this is my cousin Cal Meyers. I gotta get back to practice!” She gave Alc and I both a peck on the cheek and ran off. Bubbly, at the very least. A drive by introduction.
Cal shook our hands and handed Alc a stack of IDs. Dozens.
Alc set Carm on the bench and flipped through them. “What made you keep these?”
“Little things. Me and the other guys use the usual system. One at the door, one trolls the line, pulling fakers. Some of them handed me their ID and didn’t even argue when I bluffed and told them I could spot a fake. Some of them were just dumb enough to wear a class ring or were talking about school when I walked by.” He shrugged.
Hadley came up into the stands and joined us quietly, bumping Alc’s hip with hers and mussing Carm’s hair.
“How long did it take you to get all of these?”
Cal winced and sucked air past his teeth as he thought about it. “A couple a months… maybe a little more. We toss ‘em after a while. I’ve been working there for about 3 years, but we didn’t start collecting them until that stuff happened in Clarice last summer. When those guys got shafted, we started keeping them to cover ourselves… Kinda to prove we’re making the effort… We almost never get any trouble for keeping them. Once in a while the kids will try to keep ‘em because they paid so much for them. I had a couple say they cost a couple hundred bucks.”
“What kind of problems after?”
“Once. I kept one and the guy came back with a copy of his wedding license and his wife. I swear though… He looked 12 and his ID said he’s 29. Honest mistake… I called the other guys, some at other bars and I’ve got them bringing them to me tonight so B’Nana will be bringing you a bunch more tomorrow. Says she’s painting with y’all.”
We thanked him (nearly kissed his feet is more like it) and told him to keep an eye out for more since we had a feeling that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Once he was gone, Had came over and gave me a hug and asked how Hunter looked today. Then I introduced her to my very confused step sister…
“Yeah. We get it all the time.”
Marnie, with all of her grace, scoffed in my direction. “It must be nice to have a backup if something happens to the other ho.” She was about to set a new land speed record for wearing out a welcome… Being shitty is on thing, but being insulting to strangers… that’s another thing entirely…
Had looked up at her with a scowl. “You know there’s something to help with that.”
Marnie snarled… “What would that be?”
Had stepped over the bench and bent to get right down in Marnie’s face. “An uppercut in your trash talking mouth.”
Alcide and I were both laughing and he managed to get his arm around Hadley’s hips and carry her to the other side of the bleachers. He laughed the whole way while she tried to fight him off.
She looked scared. “Marnie, you need to watch yourself. There isn’t a single member of this family who’ll let you get away with being nasty like that.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to be nice than to have to worry about getting punched?”
She grunted at me and fidgeted while she pretended to care about what was going on with practice. “Nice is overrated.”
“Sookie won’t put up with any less.”
I couldn’t tell by the way she looked at me if she knew I was serious or if she considered it a dare. I guess we’d find out soon enough.
I chose to act like a child and pretend she wasn’t there while I watched Alc deal with calming Hadley down. She didn’t seem to have much fight left in her by the time the football team ran across the field and took to the bleachers. Quinn was standing in the middle of the field arguing with Sookie and judging by the look on her face, Norris wasn’t the only one that was going to get kicked today. He was looming over her and the look on his face was menacing. I didn’t like it one bit.
Hunter came over and sat next to me, dropping to his ass and nearly spiking his helmet. “I thought I saw my mom. She take off?”
I pointed to where she was. “No. Alc is talking her down. She was ready to kick my step sister’s ass.”No. I didn’t introduce her.
He looked over at them and they were standing a respectable distance apart and nothing about their body language said that it was anything other than a normal discussion. Hunter groaned anyway.
I patted his arm and pointed to the field to change his focus. “What the fuck is that about? Am I going to have to shoot your principal?”
Hunter snorted. “I’ll help you hide his body, but this time it was her fault.”
“What did she do?”
“She forgot to take the barbells out again. She’s not allowed to wear anything that’ll show ’em.”
“So he’s yelling at her like that for forgetting about something she wears all the time.”
“Not really. He’s using the barbells as an excuse to posture. She knows how he is. He has no control over this school. She runs it and everyone knows it. Even the school board wants her to be the Principal, but she doesn’t want to give up teaching. He thinks he’s too cool to be a figurehead.” Like I said, smart.
“How bad could this get?”
“Weren’t you here when she kicked Mr. Norris?”
I got up and went out to the join the argument. As I came up behind her, she was telling him that he’s the only person to ever make an issue out of them.
I put myself between them, facing her and holding my hand out.
Quinn taunted her over my shoulder. “Even your boyfriend…
I cut him off by putting my other hand up. “Your turn’s coming.”
Sookie returned my stare for a minute before she discretely reached into her shirt and took her barbells out, gently placing each in my hand. I had to force myself to keep my eyes on hers. With the mood I was in, watching her take them out might trigger her getting carried off.
“Thank you.” Then I turned around to deal with Quinn.
He tried to thank me, but I wasn’t interested.
“You were yelling at my fiancé.”
“I told her…”
“No, you don’t get to tell her anything THAT way… THAT wasn’t a boss talking down to an employee. THAT wasn’t two old friends having a disagreement. THAT was a chicken-shit display of power over an ex-girlfriend. Wonderful example you’re setting for the hundred hormonal teenagers who saw it. The only reason I haven’t already force fed you my fist is because there are two small children over there. You’ll want to watch yourself from now on so that we can play nice. Understand?”
He had been slowly backing up and I kept up with him, staying inches from him. “Yeah, yeah. Ok. I get it.”
I grinned at him. Alc calls it the ‘shit-your-pants’ grin. “Good. I’m glad we agree.”
I gave Sookie a wink on my way back to sit next to Hunter. I’d been watched every step of the way and when my ass hit the seat, I set my stare on Quinn and noticed that you could hear a pin drop.
Marnie didn’t even bother saying anything.
It took Sookie and Quinn a minute to regroup; Sookie was the first to shake off the argument. She was shooting tempting looks at me while her and the girls lined up for a run through while the players were still in the stands. The PA in the stadium started to hum and then music started. Fire Burning. She and the squad bounced to life and as if my nerves weren’t raw enough, she put on one hell of a show. The routine was a well put together mix of dance and gymnastics, peppered with a little step work. It was clear that I missed out since my high school had 6 cheerleaders who worked in a straight line without style, never to music, and weren’t very cheerful.
This show, however, made it very obvious that these girls competed… They were regimented. In perfect cadence. Never missing a step.
When it was over, they did a second number. This one was longer. 9 minutes. Impressive by itself, notwithstanding the fact that they were working in rhythm to a sped up techno version of For Whom The Bell Tolls. Again, Sookie looked amazing. Keeping up with the girls who were 10 years her junior and making a few look bad by not being as out of breath or visibly fatigued. Watching her calmed me down and gave me energy at the same time. And she made me forget about the pain in the ass sitting behind me and the one ogling her from the other side of the field.
I barely noticed as Alc and Had came over and joined Carm, Hunter and I, other than the questioning looks I got from both.
I thought for a minute that the show (my therapy) was over until I saw Sookie go to the bench that had been home to her track pants. I watched her slide on a pair of wrist braces, blowing a kiss in my direction before she returned to the squad.
The song was a remix of Girls and Hey Ladies by the Beastie Boys. It was only 5 minutes, but it was easily worth a million dollars.
The routine started with 8 of the girls (including Sookie) doing a handstand, backs to the stands, 5 behind 3, doing the splits. As soon as the music started, the girls brought their legs up and then let their feet fall to the ground to start a very impressive marathon of back handsprings in tight formation. The rest of the girls moved into place as two rows and raced at each other like they were playing Red Rover while doing tucked cartwheels. This routine was almost completely gymnastics and it was just as impressive as the others.
When it was all over, she cut the girls loose, hugging each one just like she had the other times and hit the locker room. I started pouting again.
She emerged in her dress and heels, wet hair pulled back in a clip and sat down with me. She smelled like coconut. I introduced her to Marnie and when she reached back to shake her hand with her warm welcoming grin, I noticed that she was still wearing one of her braces.
“Is that ok?”
She acted like she didn’t notice it. “Yeah, after that much I’m sore especially with it being cold like this.” She gave me a kiss and then apologized for being ‘trouble’.
“What trouble?… If you’re rehearsing with the girls like that, who will fill your spot tomorrow?”
She huffed. “Me. One of my girls, Melanie, took a dive today in gym doing hurdles. She’s fine, but her knee is banged up, so she won’t be back on the squad until after Christmas break… and probably 10 pounds fatter.” She groaned.
Marnie picked the wrong time to butt in. “I feel like I’m reliving high school. Why is 10 pounds so bad?”
Sookie gave her a friendly smile. “10 pounds isn’t a bad thing at all, as long as you don’t expect someone 30 pounds lighter than you to catch you from a double-decker dismount.”
“Is that why you’re so skinny?” That question was asked more nicely. I’ll give her that.
“No. I just never sit still.”
“You expect me to believe that you don’t have an eating disorder to thank for being so skinny?”
“Oh, Marnie… where to start… First of all, since I’ve heard the way you speak to your own brother, I don’t EXPECT you to do anything other than shamelessly attempt to camouflage that you have nothing to offer to the conversation by being uncouth and hateful. Secondly, the word skinny has a cornucopia of synonyms. Undernourished, emaciated, skeletal, slight… None of them apply to me since all of those adjectives imply a lack of health. I rock a D cup, can bench press my weight and run a 3 minute mile. Once you see me eat, you’ll realize that anorexia isn’t a concern and bulimia would be impossible for me since I have NO gag reflex. Just ask Eric. Lastly, since I don’t have the manners of a rabid pit bull, I’m going to offer you a tip. If I were new to a crowd of people and trying to work my way into small talk. I can think of a hundred different ways to have started than to imply that your future sister-in-law is a weight bigoted snob with a psychological disorder.” Damn.
“Talking points? Well, you’ve been to my home and my job. How long have I lived here in general or in that specific house. How long have I been teaching? Questions about my car… Why I’m wearing a brace, the most common I get is carpal tunnel related… The first time I talked to your father, he TRIED pushing my buttons and I didn’t once calm myself down by fantasizing about watching the life leave his eyes while I smothered him with saran wrap like I am with you… right now.” Saran wrap? Nice.
The look on her face was just as good as the one she gave Alc in the hardware store and everyone but Sookie and Marnie was choking back laughter with varying degrees of success.
“Fine. How long have you lived in the sticks? What about the house from Psycho? Why does your car look like a pimp mobile? Why are you wearing the brace if you don’t have carpal tunnel?”
Sookie hugged my arm, laying her head on my shoulder and watching the field with her back turned to the wicked step sister. “I was born in town, delivered by Dr. Alan Burley, the father of my current doctor. I moved into that house 2 years ago after I left my ex. My father and Aunt were born in the room Alcide and the boys are staying in. Every timber in the house was put there by a Stackhouse. My car looks like a ‘pimp-mobile’ because a student of mine was arrested for writing bad checks. I bailed him out and paid off the debt so he wouldn’t have a record before graduation since they were to a grocery store so that he could feed his little sisters after his mother skipped out on them the day after his 18th birthday. He insisted on paying me back, so I let him paint my car and drum set… and I LOVE it. They stayed with me until graduation and now Jake is working for Hadley full time building furniture. He built all of the new wood furniture in my house. And my brace is because I have pins holding together my forearm and wrist. I broke it when I was 16.”
“Oh… How’d you break it?”
Innocent as the question was, I tensed . Sookie’s hand went to my knee and gave it a squeeze. “It was stepped on… So what is Bath like? Spending part of sea duty as a pre-com must be a relief.” I really needed to ask her how she knew so much about the military.
“It’s nice, but I miss the lower states. Snow before Halloween is hard to get used to. And we just found out that the ship Clancy is on is going to home port in Mayport, not Norfolk like we hoped.”
I thought I’d jump in. “The reason we hated Mayport was the school though. And it’s been, what? 19 years since we were there. That’s a long time.”
“What did you hate about school there?”
“Don’t you remember? We had those neighbor girls who were in our classes and they would slap themselves and then say we did it. The bus driver, our teachers, the principal. Everyone believed them except for Smom and Dad. We were ‘criminals’ because they were psychopaths.”
She actually laughed. “I remember that now. Dad pulled rank on their father to get them to stop just in time for us to move again.”
I wasn’t sure how long it was going to last, but something Sookie said had struck a chord for Marnie and she seemed to put her bitch hat away for a while. Oh, so grateful for my Sookie. She could be a hostage negotiator. I swear.
Since it was chilly out, we decided to go ahead and take the boys home inviting Had and Hunter to join us when he was done with practice.
On the way home, Alcide rode in the back with the boys and Sookie snuggled up to me, letting me drive and giving Marnie plenty of room at her end of the seat.
In the rear view mirror, I saw Carm stretch up to whisper something to Alcide a few times. Whatever it was, it made Alc laugh and pat Carm’s head… Jack pleaded with Sookie for more ‘playtime’ and she agreed, making me happy too. Since I missed the chance to watch her last night, this might make up for it.
As soon as we were through the door, Sookie went to the kitchen and set a large pot of water on the stove to boil and started two fryers so that the oil could heat up. She disappeared into the back of the house so I waited for her in the club chair while Marnie searched through the channels from the couch. Sookie came back a few minutes later in a pair of purple yoga pants and a purple tank top, barefoot… She had both of her hands wrapped around one of Alcide’s, pulling with all her strength… one of the boys on each side of his ass, shoving him towards the kitchen and he was laughing at how hard they were trying.
“Come on! This is funny as hell until you realize you have to eat what I make!”
Sookie stopped pulling and turned around, putting her hands on her hips. “You’ve never cooked anything?”
“Not real food. Microwave stuff.”
She smiled at him. “Then this will be one of the happy things the boys will remember. They’ll be able to tell their children how their dad learned how to cook JUST for them.”
“OH!…” He was smiling and shaking his head. “You… you… you’re good. You pulled the kid card! That’s low.”
“Thank you.” She started pulling him again. “Now let’s get dinner done so that I can do the I-told-you-so dance.”
I decided that it would be better than the Super Bowl to watch a 260 pound man play Julia Child and grabbed a seat after bringing beer in for us. The boys were given a paper grocery bag full of corn and excitedly dragged the garbage can out to the porch to start shucking. Sookie went to the fridge and grabbed the chicken, cream, butter and cheese and took it all to the counter.
She put a large metal mixing bowl in front of Alcide. “Lesson one: Minimizing risk… If you have several available options, you take the path of least resistance that could yield the desired effect. Right?”
She gave him a smile. “Dairy tends to burn quickly over direct heat. So you’re going to want to use indirect or low heat. The pot of boiling water for the noodles will make the perfect double boiler for the cheese sauce.”
She stared at him for a minute and I actually saw ‘it’ when the thought popped into her head. “The hot water pack in an MRE… You set it off and it gets hot so you sink your meal packet into the hot pack and, Viola! You have warm primavera. No matter what happens, the heat won’t burn the meal… Same thing.”
I actually saw him smile as he started adding the ingredients to the bowl. He set the bowl over the pot and she moved on to explain the chicken to him. I couldn’t help but notice that he had the same look on his face as the boys did the first time she let them help. Not the goofy expression. The commitment to the task.
She had him rinse and then dry the chicken, showed him that it’s hard to mess up the seasoning when you drop the salt, garlic pepper and cayenne from a height. And she explained why with a buckshot analogy that he completely understood. ‘Lesson two’ was time management and priority assessment. She explained that the breasts go in first and the wings go in last; everything in between and why… And used another correlation to explain why cooking oil has to be hot otherwise you end up with greasy food…
When the boys were done shucking the corn they brought it in and went to the bedroom to watch TV until they were needed to make dessert. Sookie sat on the counter and directed him until there were no other steps to be explained, letting him find his way. She stayed close to help if he asked though. The only time her hands touched the food was to take it out of the fridge and when she saw through the front window that Hadley and Hunter were done with practice, she came over to sit in my lap and leaned back against me.
As Hunter and Hadley came in, Hunter went looking for the boys and Hadley came through, patting Alc’s shoulder on the way to grab a beer and then joining Sookie in my lap.
“Gee, Eric, Sookie looks tired, but don’t worry… Backup’s here.” She smiled with an evil twinkle in her eye. The comment made Sookie curious so we spent the next few minutes explaining the multitude of spiteful comments that Marnie had made including why Alc looked annoyed when I got back to him after getting Carm. Marnie had waited until Carm was on Alc’s lap to ask if I was ‘still paying for the tits on that tramp’. Carm got a brand new twenty dollar bill to add to the ‘cuss bank’ because of Alc’s answer. That also explained why Carm was waiting for Alc to finish saying ‘fuck’ when he was talking to me. Carm was thinking dollar signs.
Neither one of the ‘twins’ got up, they both sat on my lap as though my legs were the most comfortable things in the room while they spoke in code about something. From what I gathered it was furniture related judging by the hand gestures they were using when Alc wasn’t looking. I gave them both a tickle on the ribs and got poked in stereo, well… Hi-fi.
Hadley got up to look over what Alc was doing and steal a cigarette while Hunter wasn’t looking. She was about halfway through when we heard Hunter’s trademark stomp heading in our direction… and like it was choreographed, Sookie leapt out of my lap to glide by Had for the hand off. Sookie returned a split second later with an armful of beer and the cigarette between her fingers. Her first stop was Had, offering her a fresh beer and kissing her cheek to explain the smell and then Hadley returned to the table while Sookie passed out the other beers and then stood at the sink, ‘sharing’ the cigarette with Alc by holding it up for him from time to time because his hands were messy. It was hilarious.
The boys actually complained that the peach berry cobbler was too easy, so Alc joked with them that next time they could make the chicken and he would make dessert. They blew raspberries at him and called him a wuss as they ran back to find Hunter.
When the last piece of chicken came out of the oil, Sookie helped Alc to make plates for the boys and took the plates to the living room for them. I heard her tell Marnie that dinner was ready and my lovely sister followed Sookie into the kitchen grumbling about pork rinds and baked beans. Hunter made his heaping plate quickly and took off to join Jack and Carm at the coffee table, confirming Sookie’s promise to Jack about ‘playing’ again on his way.
Sookie made my plate and hers, bringing us both cold beers and sitting on my lap to make room for the three singles at the table. The boys in the living room had gotten the chance to start eating first and yelled in to praise Alcide for a job well done and the adults in the kitchen did the same as soon as we started to chew… Marnie being the exception. She was too busy eyeballing me and Sookie. My patience for her was used up by the time the front door closed behind her. It had been a long day and I was in no mood to be leered at while I ate…
“You’re just as big an asshole as you were when we were kids.” Here we go again.
“What the fuck have I done now?”
“Mom and Dad are going to be pleased as punch that you managed to find Little Miss Perfect here to go with your perfect job and your perfect…” And that’s when Sookie went off. Not with yelling and uncontrolled anger… this was eerie. She was almost too calm. Like Alc gets.
“Shut your mouth. Shut it RIGHT now. Your envy isn’t his problem. You seem to pay an awful lot of attention to what he is and has. You could put some of your pity party energy into reading a book or getting some therapy… This is your last warning. Use some manners or I will give you a come-to-Jesus to write home about. You’re already luckier than Alc was. He didn’t get a warning.” Damn! Alc nodded, confirming that she’d do ‘it’.
“Let him answer! I wasn’t even talking to you.”
“Answer what? You weren’t asking him about his life, you were forcing your perspective of it down his throat. Is he supposed to feel badly about his life because you’ve made a mess of yours?”
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing at Alc and Had when they scooted their seats closer together to get a ‘better view’ of the show like a pair of cartoon sidekicks. Alc texted me under the table that this should be on pay-per-view, making not-laughing even harder. Asshole.
“What do you mean a mess?” Uh oh…
“Well, I mean… do you think that in order to make you feel better about being of no use, he should have tried to not make you look bad. Do you think that he should have tanked tests to look AS ordinary as you? Do you think he should have sat on his ass and gotten lazy feeling sorry for you like you did? Do you think he should have fucked anyone to smile at him like you did? Fritos and guys without last names made you the fabulous person before me. I guess I could see how you’d be disappointed in his choices. Damn him for reading and being friendly and putting in an effort. Damn him for getting an education and a job that fucking means something and not using you as a scapegoat. The fucking nerve of this guy.”
“What fucking right do you have? You don’t know me!”
Without blinking… “Yes I do. You’re a self centered malcontent with low self esteem. You use other people’s accomplishments to validate your own existence because you are useless. You use your own inadequacies as an equalizer, making others feel sorry enough for you that they can’t be truly happy for themselves when you’re around. And you go as far as to blame your husband’s career for your inability to go to school or get a job when, in reality, you’re just too lazy. I bet that you didn’t even leave your husband… I bet that you’re husband has been sick of you for a while so you cooked up the pregnancy so that he’d have to ignore his impulse to kick your ass to the curb. But he found out that you were lying and packed your shit for you, drove you to the airport and handed you a couple hundred dollars of spending cash. Bon Voyage.”
We were all stunned. Marnie won the prize for ‘most stunned’. Her mouth was hanging open… And she didn’t deny it.
Sookie snorted at her and mumbled ‘figures’. “So unless you want to wear out your welcome within the next 4 days you need to watch your mouth. You owe it to the people who raised you… You won’t show your ass and make your folks regret this visit. You WILL pretend to show Eric some respect under his roof since he was kind enough to not send your instigating ass back to the airport.”
“He wouldn’t have done that, he’s too perfect to…”
“Enough. Shut it.”
“You can’t control me.”
“You’d be surprised at how much I know about control. I might not be able to pull your strings, but I can very FUCKING WELL control this situation. Eat.”
And that was it. No shit. That was all she wrote. There wasn’t any more staring. There wasn’t any more bickering. There wasn’t anything. Marnie sat there and ate her dinner. Wordlessly. And the rest of us went on like she wasn’t there.
A few minutes passed… Sookie got up for seconds for us, Hunter came in and grabbed 3 more pieces of chicken and another mountain of mac n’ cheese then Carm came into the room and stopped right next to us, beaming up at Sookie.
She cringed and asked Alc to pass her purse over to her. “What’d you hear, cutie?”
“The brown word, the donkey word twice and you dropped the bomb… loud.” He held his hand out.
She put $40 in hand and apologized to him, giving him a kiss on the cheek. I could have sworn that I heard him mumble that it was a pleasure doing business TO her as he headed back to the other boys. Funny little shit.
While we finished our food, Sookie quizzed Alc about dinner. He smiled and played along as she teased him about making such a big deal out of it. She got up and went out to the back porch, coming back with one of his clean t-shirts and asked for his in trade so that she could get the grease spatter out (and warning him that laundry tips were next on the list of lessons). So he pulled his shirt off and handed it to her.
Hadley started laughing and declared that his ‘titties’ were bigger than hers. I think he blushed… Hmmm. I’d always joked around about his huge tits and he never blushed when I did it. Maybe Jason was right.
Sookie, Alc, Had and I… We all worked together to make short work of the dinner mess so that we could go upstairs as soon as possible. All of us looking forward to the show. Hunter had already taken the boys up and we could hear them starting to learn a new song. Upbeat and familiar. Marnie, of course, sat and watched us all work without offering to help or joining in the conversation.
When we finally got to the music room, Alc announced that they only had an hour before ‘bath & bed’ and all 3 boys growled at him as he and Had took a seat on the couch next to Carm. I watched Sookie roll her eyes when Hunter started playing. The horny little fucker decided to play Pink by Aerosmith. Like his obsession with girls wasn’t bad enough, he was dragging Jack into his skirt chasing ways. Alc and I thought it was funny. Sookie and Had on the other hand, were slightly less entertained.
Alc and I were awed by the boys grasp of the music again. Staring at them I turn. Without any help, Jack remembered three of the songs that they had played last night and then moved on to learning a new and improved version of Ring Of Fire. Old school country meets metal. Nice. All sung by Hunter and the boys as back up. Jack wanted to play a song named ‘Hey!’ and since Sookie and Hunter didn’t know it, Jack ran downstairs like he was being chased to get his iPod so that they could learn it. Sookie and Hunter messed with them at first, playing bits from Hey Jude, then Hey Joe, and Hey Ya.
Sookie and Hunter each used an ear bud, listening to the song only twice and then they had it. Shit. Twice? That’s it? As soon as they started playing it, Alc recognized it and told me and Had that it was a ‘Disney kid’ song. It was a song about NOT missing someone after a break up. ‘Better off without you…’ I wonder how much of the choice was directed at Amelia. Jack and Carm were both (ok, we all were) really surprised when Sookie and Hunter knew the Jonas Brothers song that they wanted to play. Live To Party.
By my watch time was up. It had been 62 minutes, but I wasn’t going to be the party pooper. I was having too much fun. Had was the heavy though, announcing that it was ‘pumpkin time’ for Hunter. Jack looked over to Hunter and told him that his mother was a ‘buzz kill’. Everyone but Hadley thought it was funny. She told him that being a poor sport wasn’t going to get him any favors.
But Sookie was having fun ‘spoiling’ them with fun and played a piece…
Jack’s eyes lit up and he started playing along without tutoring. We all watched him find the rhythm, playing a few beats in time then adding to it while Sookie played. Carm actually sang along. Loud and out of key, but he knew the words. It was a cute song. A little punk. A little country. At least the way they played it. Alc rolled his eyes with a smile and told us it was a Hannah Montana song; He’s Got Something Special.
When Sookie was done rebelling, she told Jack that tomorrow after school he was allowed to come upstairs with his iPod and try to teach himself a few songs if he wanted… I would have thought she told him that we were skipping the next 6 weeks and going straight to Christmas. He tackled her hips with a hug and then high 5ed the rest of us on his way down to take his bath.
Once he was gone, Sookie and Hunter hung up the guitars and bass. Then Sookie went and sat down at the keyboard and called Carm over to her lap. She started playing a Christmas song. Dominic the Donkey. Apparently, it was the song his preschool class was going to be singing in the Christmas program. Well, the 4th graders would be singing most of it. Carm needed practice putting the ‘hee haw, hee haw’s where they belonged. Adorable.
…And the more time I spent with Alc’s kids… the longer I watched Sookie with them… the more disappointment I felt about the news we got this morning…
The kids had demanded that Sookie sing a song to them at bedtime. So with Hadley and Hunter out of the house, Sookie leaned against the door to their room, apologized that she only knew one ‘lullaby’ and sang the song her father always did… American Pie. And I stood in the hall, mesmerized. Carm was asleep before it was over and Jack watched her like he was in the presence of God. 8 and a half minutes of her sweet voice and soft strumming. Mmmm. Heaven. I could have gone to sleep myself.
It was only 9 o’clock, but the day had been so long, such a roller coaster, that Sookie, Alc and I unanimously voted to turn in early in spite of the pile of IDs we could have sorted out. We were spent and decided that tomorrow night we could hole up in the bedroom and take care of it after the game since we’d be getting more tomorrow anyway. We all smiled at a completely rational pretext to put off work in favor of rest.
Sookie led the way, climbing up to sit in the middle of the bed and as soon as the door was shut behind me, she apologized.
“What are you sorry for?”
“I’m really sorry that I lost my temper with Quinn and you had to referee a fight with another one of my exes and I’m even more sorry that I went off on your sister. I’m sorry.”
I sat on the edge of the bed and fell back. “Quinn is the one who should apologize. He was out of line… And don’t regret putting Marnie in her place for a second. If she weren’t here and being a cunt about the sky being blue, you wouldn’t have needed to.”
She laid down, using my ribs as her pillow and I started playing with her hair. “I thought I had her at the field. She dialed it back a lot. Then it was like she fueled up for more once we got back. It’s weird, like she’s medicating herself with meanness.”
“You’ll probably have to hit her tomorrow.” She started laughing.
“Why don’t you do it? Are you too old fashioned to hit a girl?”
“Uh, yeah!… And YOU don’t get to call me old fashioned like it’s a bad thing. You work full time, take care of 250 kids and still wait on me hand and foot like I expect it.”
She giggled. “So. I like taking care of people, you in particular because you appreciate it. On the other hand, you’ve had a hard on for hitting Marnie since you were kids.”
“Soooo not the point… How did you know about Clancy giving her walking papers?”
“I didn’t. I knew that she told conflicting stories. I guessed. You need to call ‘them’ so that they don’t worry.”
I growled about hating that she was right while I dialed the phone.
Smom picked up during the first ring like she’d been sitting on the phone.
“Jim, pick it up. It’s Eric… Eric, Hi.”
“Hi Smom, Dad. All packed?”
“Yah, yah, yah. What is she doing? How bad is it?” That right there is testament to what Marnie had become. Her own mother thought of her as the anti-Christ. Fuck.
“She’s been pissy, as a minimum.”
“Are we on speaker? Is Sookie with you?”
Sookie smiled up at me. “I’m right here Smom. Stop fretting. I’ve seen worse.”
“Oh b’Jesus, I don’t know how. I’m so sorry to put you through this.”
“Nonsense. We’ll do just fine.”
My dad cut in. “What kind of stuff has she pulled?”
“Random acts of shit-mouthing. Nothing we haven’t seen before. Sookie’s cousin had to be carried off to keep from punching her…”
“Why didn’t you let him?”
“Her. Alcide is the one who carted Hadley to a neutral corner.”
Sookie didn’t let me answer. “It doesn’t matter… Guys… We’re fine. The bigger picture is that Clancy has thrown her out.”
“Clancy? Threw her out?”
“Yes sir. Because the pregnancy was a lie.”
I heard Smom starting to sniffle. She was a drippy crier and couldn’t hide it to save herself. Sookie almost looked amused at the look on my face while I searched for something to make Smom feel better.
“You can’t do that. It’s a waste. You need to cheer up… Marnie will not ruin our visit. We won’t let her. Promise me you won’t worry too much about Marnie. Please. She’s here and we’re dealing with her. I’m not afraid of a little confrontation. We’ll be fine.”
“How can you be so sure?” My dad sounded like he was challenging her.
“Because Eric has put up with her for this long.”
“We’re worried about you.”
“Dad, I told you not to worry about Sookie. She can handle anything Marnie can dish out. She shut her down at dinner earlier and Marnie didn’t speak another word that we know of all night.”
“Holy Shit! What did she say to shut her up? I didn’t think it was possible.”
I looked at Sookie and smiled, still reeling at the memory. “She told her to shut up and eat. So she did.”
Once my parents were handled and our phones were checked for messages, Sookie and I grunted our way into bed.
She snuggled right up to me and everything felt right with the world.
“We need to talk.”
Uh oh… “Ok. Are we going to talk about what you and Hadley are up to?”
“No. My new stalker.”
“I’ve been watched all day long.” Her smirk started to sneak out.
“That’s not funny. You had me worried.”
She giggled into my chest and found my hand to lace our fingers together. “You should be worried. I think he’s pretty obsessed with me.”
“We could take care of it, but I think you might be getting attached to him.”
“Hmmm. You’re right. He seems harmless enough.”
I growled… “Harmless, huh?”
“Yeah, like a goldfish or a kitten…”
She started laughing and put her hand over my mouth. “Shhh. You’ll wake the neighbors… Maybe more like a bunny with red eyes. You know, they look scary, but they’re just so sweet. They couldn’t really hurt someone. They just don’t have it in them.”
She still had her hand over my mouth, so I pinched her ass. When she squealed, I put my hand over her mouth and the look in her eyes went from playful to something more… untamed. She rubbed her body against mine and all of a sudden, we had a second wind.
We rolled around and grunted and laughed, yanking at clothes, destroying the bed, I even fell out of it at one point. She sat on the edge of the bed on her knees, cackling until I came back by tackling her back on the bed and pinned her. My turn to laugh, but it didn’t last long before we got serious again. She latched onto my shoulder and chewed, my eyes rolling back while I enjoyed every second. When she released me, she started giggling… she’d given me a hickey. A huge hickey. How old are we?
That was it. I put my hand under her chin holding her head still while I went in for payback. I had to put my hand back over her mouth to keep her quiet until she had a pair of her own and then moved on. Her hands fisted into my hair, her toned thighs squeezed my ribs. Biting her nipples, squeezing her tits. Mmmm. Ffffuck.
As soon as I slid into her, my entire fucking body felt how perfect she was. I couldn’t imagine ever using rubbers again. Everything felt better. Feeling how wet, every twitch, every throb. Overcome. Oh God. I was completely defeated. I never wanted to be with anyone else EVER again.
Her breathing sped up, bucking underneath me, ragged breaths until she pulled my hand back to her mouth. Sucking my fingers to keep from moaning. Oh Fuck. I took them from her. Too much. I lowered and kissing her was worse. The taste of her lips. The way she nibbled on my lip. She started moaning into my mouth, clenching around me. Her hips jerked to me and her jaw clenched trying to stay quiet, digging her heels into my ass as she came. I rocked back onto my knees and I let go…
We didn’t even bother covering up. Delirium became sleep.