Whole Lotta Hoopla
When we got back to the house, Sookie went upstairs and came back down with a sleepy eyed Marnie who had an armful of clothes. Marnie was thanking Sookie for the plate that was left in the fridge for her and when she spotted me, she gave me a sleepy smile. “I must have drifted off. I’ll be ready as fast as I can.” Holy shit, that almost sounded like an apology. I smiled. I couldn’t help it.
Sookie’s shirt was off almost as soon as the bathroom door was closed. “It’s almost like having the house to ourselves.”
I gave her a measuring look while she continued to strip down to nothing. Ungh. “Almost, but not quite.”
She wiggled her eyebrows. “Do you mean to tell me that I couldn’t talk you into… something… since we have to change anyway…”
Calm… counting to ten… clearing my throat… “What kind of something?”
She gave me the look… lifting her hands and running her fingertips along the outside curve of her perfect Ds and I watched her nipples stand up to say ‘hello’. Oh. My. God. Speechless.
“Don’t be cruel… if you aren’t in the mood…” She turned away from me and started to walk towards the back. Trying to keep myself composed was getting… harder. She paused and leaned against the door frame and reached back to slap her own ass. HARD. Biting her bottom lip. “So am I playing a solo, or will it be a duet?”
Deep cleansing breaths… “I guess that would depend on who is going to stop by for a surprise visit.”
She was still staring me down as she reached between her legs and started petting herself. “Why? Do you think you might want to hold them down and fuck them instead?”
FUCK staying calm. Sweet Jesus. Who the fuck would be brain-dead enough to say no to that?! I was undoing my belt on my way down the hall to get to her and grabbed her around the waist… I tossed her onto the bed and flung the door shut. She laid on the bed and watched me yank my clothes off, the fingers of one hand were teasing one of her nipples… the others were drifting back and forth across her clit. I couldn’t get my clothes off fast enough.
I HAD to reign myself in. I approached the bed slowly, putting a hand on each of her ankles and sliding them up to her knees. I grabbed them to flip her over and delivered a real slap that she lifted her ass into and made her moan into the mattress. Oh. God. Help me.
I started chewing on her neck when I laid down on top of her and she moved her hips, her ass under me. Side to side, making me shudder.
From the second I shoved into her, she couldn’t be hushed. She moaned and whimpered… grunting and panting…
Every push felt better than the last and there was no way to get enough. More.
I wedged my hand between her and the mattress to hug her waist… Her fingers laced with mine… her body tensing under mine and pushing up against me.
No matter what I did… she made more noise as time went on… Fuck…
When I moved the hand under us and found her clit, she yelped and squealed my name… instant twitching… throbbing… grabbing my cock like a vice as she came…
Done. She made me come so hard that all I could feel afterwards was throbbing. There almost wasn’t energy left to breathe.
We laid there in a heap trying to catch our breath for what seemed like forever. I was tempted to call my folks and tell them to get a cab to the house. I didn’t want to leave our room… ever.
“Sookie, when Alcide moves out… can we hide in a hotel for a weekend?”
“Minimal contact with the outside world? Check in under assumed names?”
“Do you know CPR?”
“Just in case. 48 hours to ourselves… uninterrupted… at least one of us will need it.”
We both started laughing… “I’m already looking forward to it.”
Even though we opted for some extracurricular fun and then Sookie deliberated over what to wear for an eon, we still managed to leave the house in just enough time to get to the base. She looked like a model… her hair was twisted back and held with wooden sticks, painted on blue jeans with a gold chain in place of a belt, knee high brown suede boots, a honey colored V-neck and a brown suede jacket… she still fussed and tried to slip back into the house to change. I had to gripe at her to get her to stay in the car. I couldn’t help but think it was cute that she was making such a fuss about meeting my parents.
The short drive to the base was relatively uneventful. Unless you count that Marnie was attempting to make friendly chit chat. I was floored. She didn’t interview and accuse like she had yesterday. It all seemed like friendly curiosity… stuff normal sister-in-laws would want to talk about… It was things like what made her want to be a teacher… She asked about the jade in the living room… She mentioned that she thought the area was pretty especially since she always liked to see the trees change color… this year she was getting to see it twice since Maine’s trees turned nearly a month ago… FUCKING FLOORED.
We all started reaching for our IDs as we approached the guard gate to get into Barksdale. I was expecting to be given directions to the pass and ID office. Instead, Sookie leaned over me to tell the guard that there should be a guest pass waiting for her. I’m not sure the guard ever looked at her ID, just down her sweater.
When the guy came back, he leaned into the car and slapped a temp pass on the dashboard and stooped to speak over me to Sookie. “Ma’am, I’ve been instructed to give you an escort.”
“Oh really?” Sookie pulled out her phone and dialed. “Hello… Yes, we’re at the gate… Don’t be an asshole. I don’t need a damned escort!… Lovely, see you in a minute.” She put her phone down and pointed to the guard shack. “You’re gonna want to get that.” The phone inside had started to ring.
Marnie and I were confused to say the least. Sookie was technically the only civilian in the car, but somehow she’d managed to finagle temp passes. I was shocked when the guard came back out to the car and apologized for being ‘confused’ and gave us a half hearted salute as we pressed forward.
“Hon, what was that about?”
She giggled and slid over to hug my arm. “You kinda just met Bravo.”
She wasn’t kidding. When we pulled up to the terminal, we were waved over to park right in front of the entrance and two airmen came jogging up to the car and put posts up at the corner of Rotten. They continued the red carpet treatment by opening the doors for us.
Sookie wasted no time making her way to a man standing at parade rest next to the front doors. His medals alone must have added 10 pounds to his jacket. I didn’t know they made brackets that big. Impressive.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and he hugged her back, lifting her from the ground. “You are a silly old man, Daddy! Why all the hoopla?”
“Well, it’s not like I have a wife to punish them with. So I chose to spoil my little girl.”
“Do the other kids get fringe benefits like I do?”
“The other kids call me to borrow money. You call to tell me you miss me. Fuck them.”
She kissed his cheek. “I do miss you.” She turned and introduced Marnie and me. “Eric, Marnie… This is my godfather, Colonel John Flood.” He was just over 6 foot, UBER neat hair, like it was trained to grow that way. It was almost black with salt behind his ears. “Daddy, this is my fiancé and his sister.”
He took my hand and pulled me in for a half hug, like Corbett does, and insisted that I call him Bravo since ‘we’re family now’. He gave Marnie a friendly hug and called her a ‘cute little thing’. It made her blush.
Once the introductions were out of the way, he gave Sookie a more serious look. “Alpha’s a goner.”
She giggled. “Why? What’d he do now?”
“He talked me into a football game with Mr. Fucking Universe. What’s the other x-factor look like?”
I laughed. “His nickname is the ‘Hulk’. He’s not as tall as me, but he’s stacked a lot thicker. Like the Terminator.”
“First or second movie?”
“FUCK! Either of you play ball?”
I nodded. “Alc and I played in high school.” I figured that I’d leave out that we were both all state champions and that Alc could’ve gone pro if he hadn’t needed to skip college.
He started shaking his head. “Sooks, if JB shows, the old farts have dibs.” This ‘JB’ guy again… Shit.
She giggled at him. “There’s no crying in football. Besides, you guys have an advantage.”
He cut his eyes at her. “Don’t you fucking dare tell me that it’s experience.”
We all started laughing. “Daddy! I’d never tell you that… unless we were talking about Thai hookers.” He blushed and bit the inside of his mouth. “Team Oatmeal has the advantage because you have an actual team… Team Beerios is bogged down with three quarterbacks.”
He started chuckling. “Ahh, that’s what I get for doubting Alpha.”
I gave Sookie a dirty look. “Exactly why didn’t you feel like I needed that information?”
She raised her eyebrow at me. “You have it now don’t you? Both teams were given discovery at the same time.”
I blew a raspberry at her.
We chatted for a little bit longer until Bravo got a call announcing that Smom and Dad’s flight was taxiing up to the terminal so he took his leave to ‘pretend to do something productive’ for his last few paychecks and the three of us headed inside after another round of hugs. He left the airmen behind as bellhops. Funny.
The three of us stood at the large picture window overlooking the airfield and watched the plane pull up. It was like watching molasses in January. I looked over and noticed that Marnie was holding Sookie’s hand…
I thought I’d take advantage of the lull in conversation. “Marnie, are you sure you’re comfortable telling Smom and Dad that you fell?”
She actually seemed to be thinking about it for a moment… “Yeah. I think Sookie’s right. They would be embarrassed. It could ruin the whole visit. I’m kind of ok right now… y’all really… I mean… we…”
I went over and put my arm around her shoulder and gave her a little squeeze. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I really like you like this. I like being able to talk to you.”
So help me God, she started to mist up… and I actually believed it. “I like this better too… Wanna hear something funny?”
Sookie and both nodded.
“I really did almost fall getting out of the shower. Tripped over the edge of the bath mat.”
I started to chuckle and gave her another squeeze, but Sookie’s look stayed serious. “That isn’t funny… You could have split your lip!”
We were all cracking up…
…And we were still having a good time with each other when we heard Smom call my name from the gangway. All of our heads turned at the same time to show a range of goofy to entertained smiles and our parents looked baffled. Marnie and I hadn’t been in the same room and smiling since we were in grade school. I jogged over to Smom and picked her up for a big hug and then gave my dad… the guy hug. I let Marnie get hers in before I started introducing Sookie and Smom and Dad gave me a look over her shoulder like they were hugging a porcupine.
Sookie gave Smom and Dad her usual warm hug and then came to stand in the crook of my arm and took Marnie’s hand again.
Smom had started crying when she was introduced so she was busy digging tissues out of her purse, so Dad started. “So how has your visit been so far?”
I was going to let Sookie answer, but Marnie took the lead. “We got off to a rocky start because I was being a bitch… today’s been fun though.”
They both looked at me and I nodded, eyebrows raised and their mouths fell open slightly.
Dad suggested that the ladies go to the car while we grabbed the luggage. He wanted to pump me for information. They were barely out of earshot when he started in.
“What the fuck? Who was that and where is the real Marnie?”
“I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you.”
I took a deep breath and blew it out, wishing I’d have thought about how to deliver the information. “Sookie shut her down at the stadium yesterday, and by dinner she needed to be knocked down a peg again. Sookie read her the riot act about her nastiness and then that was it. When the kids went to bed, we called you guys and then turned in… This morning we had another toe to toe… but I’m the one that set her straight. I scared the shit out of her and yelled right in her face… She cooled down again and then she came to me and Sookie. Sookie and her talked for a while and Sookie is pretty sure she is a dead on diagnosis of Passive-Aggressive Behavior Disorder. All of her malice and sadistic behavior… it all falls in line.”
He looked like he’d seen a ghost. “How did you miss it?”
Dick. “The disorder is usually caused in houses with dysfunction… like alcoholism and emotional abuse… where a kid feels stunted emotionally because they can’t share their real feelings.”
“We never did that though.”
“Right… but… her father ditching her caused depression… caused cynicism… Smom is always ‘Mary Sunshine’ and you and I are… well Sookie calls me Mr. Manners because I can bite back a lot… Anyway… Sookie says it’s our ‘fault’ because the rest of us never yelled or got carried away and Marnie would have been better off seeing us vent… Dad, I swear after I yelled at her, and I mean screamed in her face that I hated her… she was lucid as a care bear and asking for help.”
“So what is… is there a treatment?”
“Therapy is it. Anti depressants might work a little, but it’ll just patch the hole in the dam. Sookie gave her a book about the disorder and a journal and she started reading it right away. Took the book upstairs and read until she fell asleep… When Sookie woke her up to come with us, she apologized for dozing off and got ready in twenty minutes. We joked and laughed and she isn’t the same person that showed up yesterday.”
His mouth was still gapped. “Uh… ok. This might be a stupid question, but you were dumped by a parent and raised under the same roof, why didn’t you end up the same way she did?”
“I was dumped as an infant. Aurora didn’t string me along until I was 11. And this isn’t a slight on you, but my mom figure was always home. You couldn’t help deploying, but what that dick did gave her serious abandonment issues.”
I gave him a minute to process things. Finally… “Is there anything else? Is there something we can do to help?”
“Well, I don’t think you’ll have to harangue her into getting into therapy. She knows there isn’t a magic pill for this. I think the best thing for you and Smom to do, is let yourself get angry with her. Let her know when she’s being a twat instead of ignoring it like we had been doing… And Sookie thinks she’s diabetic… once that is under control her mood swings should be easier to deal with.”
“Is she a doctor too?”Sarcastic Asshole.
I smiled at him. “No. Marnie is showing signs of diabetic neuropathy. It affects the circulation in the legs, causing numbness and uneven hair growth. It’s a sign that she’s probably had it for a while and would explain her weight… explaining her self esteem… explaining a fair amount of the moods.”
“You’re going to have to explain most of this to Deb later.”
I smiled and shook my head. “I’m sure the girls are filling her in as we speak. Sookie isn’t one to let things fester. Besides, Marnie actually seems to be happy to have a jumping off point.”
“Sookie have experience with all this, like you do?”
“She was 2 classes away from her BAS in psych and her masters when she came home to tend to her Gran… Dad, she knows her shit inside and out and called me on my shit too.”
He shook his head slightly, probably in disbelief. It would probably bother me if I didn’t know the feeling… and that he’d see for himself soon enough.
I gave his arm a slap. “Come on. Let’s get back to the ladies before Smom floods the car with tears.”
…And when we got back to the car, Smom and Marnie were in the back seat hugging with Sookie smiling at them. Smom’s makeup was all kinds of fucked and for the first time ever, it didn’t seem to bother her…
Dad gave the airmen a steady glare when they took the bags from us and put them in Rotten’s trunk. I told him it was better not to ask… so he didn’t.
On the way back to the house, I listened to the chatter coming from the three women in the back seat. Dad did too. Marnie and Sookie told Dad about the football game that was being put together. Marnie told Smom about how pretty the guest room is and that dinner had been cooking all day and the house smelled great… I had thought she was sulking, but she even told the folks about how cute it was that Alc’s kids were learning how to play music… and that Alc seems like a really nice guy when she wasn’t being a bitch. She was like a tour guide for the house, and we hadn’t even gotten home yet. I was starting to feel really self conscious by the time we were pulling into the driveway. Dad had been staring a hole into the side of my face for most of the drive.
Disbelief seemed to flavor the water supply around these parts.
I had thought that Jack would’ve been heard from a mile away, but the house was quiet when we pulled up. The car doors weren’t even open yet when Jack came running out of the house like a shot. Alc was right behind him, calling him back.
Jack went right over to Sookie’s side of the car and she met him with a big smile while she climbed out.
“Did you paint my room?!”
Sookie giggled at him. “Uh… No. Eric and I were working on your Daddy’s room… Hunter and Taryn worked on your rooms though. Do you like the house? It’s exciting, huh?”
He nodded his head excitedly. “When we got home, there was a box on the porch. It says it’s for Master Jackson Herveaux. Daddy won’t let me open it!”
“Well, of course not. I haven’t had the chance to talk to him about it yet. He might think it’s a better idea to have you wait until Christmas.”
The way he groaned might have scared off every bit of wildlife in the county. “What is it?”
She giggled at him. “A pony.”
Everyone started to laugh, but Jack gave her his father’s fly killing stare.
She raised an eyebrow at him and bent over to kiss his forehead. “I will talk to him about it while I put dinner together, you little butt.”
He grunted at her. “Ok… do we have time to play before the game?”
“Fraid not. But I promise you one song when we get home… And Hunter is planning on coming to play with you tomorrow morning. Where’s your brother?”
“Daddy made him lay down so he wouldn’t be a miserable cuss during the game tonight.”
She shooed Jack away after everyone was introduced and Alc stuck around to meet everyone and then asked if he could help ‘make dinner happen faster’. He was pouting about not getting any of the lunch leftovers so Sookie sent him to start the oven and a fryer. I swear to God, I didn’t realize how right Sookie was when she joked about him being our kid. He could be a complete goon sometimes.
Dad and I carried the bags up to the guest room with Sookie, Marnie and Smom right behind… for the most part. Smom got really sidetracked by the dozens of pictures hanging on the wall in the stairwell and in the hall upstairs so Sookie pointed out a few of them as she asked. All five of the grandchildren’s school pictures. Hadley and Remy’s wedding picture needed to be explained because at first Smom thought that it was Sookie’s wedding picture. The smiles were the dead giveaway though. There was a collection of pictures of Gran’s three kids together as a timeline. All the while, Dad and I stood against the wall on the landing and watched them interact.
I almost grumped at Marnie for being too curious, but she was in good spirits about things, so I let it be.
“Sookie, why didn’t your Gran have any pictures of your wedding and what about your pageants? She has Hadley’s.”
Sookie smiled at her. “Hadley was happy to marry her husband because he was wonderful and she didn’t mind the pageants because her mother LET her do them instead of forced her. If you really want to see that crap, it’s all at my Dad’s house. When I left for college, my mother turned my room into a pageant museum to punish me for ‘throwing it all away’, whatever that means… To rub my nose in it when I came home for holidays. So I bunked with my brother or daddy when I came home to piss her off. I only stepped foot in there once.”
“You didn’t like winning all those pageants?!”
“My mother forced it down my throat. Pretty was all that mattered. She didn’t care that I hated missing school for it or that she was starving me to keep me thin. I had a retainer from the time I lost my first tooth and she had my wisdom teeth cut out when I was 14. She had my tonsils removed because I had tonsillitis once and missed a show and she didn’t want it to happen again. She found an Ear, Nose & Throat in Shreveport… lied to him that it was a reoccurring problem and scheduled it for while my Daddy would be hunting. And I was 9 when she started encouraging me to flirt with the creepy judges.”
Sookie shrugged and smiled at her… “Don’t be. God only knows how boring my life would be if I didn’t have all that.”
“The butterfly effect…”
“Something like that… My squad is the national champion title holder 3 years running because of all the dance and gymnastics Sheila made me do. I love getting up on stage and playing music with my family and that goes back to voice, violin and piano lessons 4 days a week. And since she never gave half a shit about other people or how to deal with them, I probably wouldn’t put so much thought into it. Sometimes a negative influence can be as important as a positive one.”
Marnie started to giggle. “Sometimes a slap in the face works better than a hug.”
Sookie tossed her head back and laughed. “Sometimes.”
They smiled at each other, sharing a moment while I had to bite the inside of my mouth to keep from laughing.
We started Smom and Dad’s tour with their room. Smom really was impressed with the antiques and if I had known that Sookie’s great grandfather had carved the headboard by hand I wouldn’t have shoved the bed like I had that morning. That was the bed that Corbett and Linda had been born in (not the mattress, obviously) and the marble tops on the dressers and vanity were brought back with Gran and Grampa from their honeymoon in Vermont. The quilt on the bed is one of eight nearly identical blankets. Gran made them for each of her children and grandchildren when they left for college out of their old clothes. The one on the bed had pieces of Corbett’s coveralls from his first job, his favorite shirt as a kid, Gran’s wedding dress and Grampa’s army uniform. The door to the room was originally the front door to house from when it was all one room (the kitchen) and had dozens of notches carved into it from measuring generations of children as they grew. Learning the details… made me feel like I was in a Stackhouse museum. Hearing the way Sookie told each story… made me think she’d like my grandmother’s ring more than any diamond.
Sookie almost glossed over the music room, but Marnie asked if we would mind if she slept on the couch in there instead of the pullout in the living room since she wasn’t much of a morning person and didn’t want to have anymore outbursts. We couldn’t argue with that logic so I moved her suitcase for her, setting it in the corner chair.
Once we were downstairs, Sookie left me to finish the tour so that she could go pacify Alcide and get dinner moving and Marnie went with her… holding her hand.
I took my parents through the living room and my father stopped in his tracks, calling it ‘striking’ and ‘tranquil’. I pointed out the entertainment center and let them know that Sookie had everything from 12 Angry Men to Zorro on the hard drive… forcing my tech challenged parents to ask how that was possible… I’d have sent them a picture of Sookie, but they still didn’t know how to view them on their cell phones.
…The hall bath…
…Smom shut the door behind us. She’d been really quiet so far, worrying me a little. She nearly knocked me over, grabbing me for a tight hug. “Eric, I don’t know what you did, but thank you.”
“Smom, it was all Sookie. Things won’t be this easy once you get her back to San Diego. Sookie is like a security blanket.”
Dad joked… “Maybe we should leave her here then.”
Smom hit him in the stomach.
“Sookie told you that you need to be grouchy with her, right. Marnie needs to see negative emotions too. So when she acts up, you need to put her in her place. Can you do that?”
“Ooh yah. I’m willing to try. We thought it would just make things worse.”
“We all did.”
Back in the kitchen, Marnie and Alc were sitting at opposite ends of the table smoking while Sookie tended to the fryer and waited for the cornbread to bake and the blackened catfish to sear. Dad jumped on the lung cancer express and sat down at the back of the table to join them and I went out to the porch to grab a handful of beers.
Sookie had leaned against the counter between batches of some kind of appetizer from the fryer and had barely gotten a sip of her beer before Alc started questioning her. “So what’s in the box?”
“What’d you do that for?”
“Well, he originally wanted to learn piano.”
“But sheet music…”
“It’s not that kind of keyboard. A couple years ago one of my students designed it for Tech-Fair. It’s like guitar hero meets piano. The keys light up as cues. It only has about a hundred songs programmed into it, but she told me how to program more. It’ll be a great learning aid. It’ll get him used to fingerwork and it’ll grade him.”
His eyes had lit up. “If you give it to him now, what’ll you get him for Christmas?”
She smiled at him… ear to ear. “By then he’ll be ready for a real piano.”
“Oh no you don’t!”
“Because it’s too much… You’ll spoil him.”
“So. That’s my job… Besides, you don’t mind that I spoil you, Meal-Meister.”
He started to laugh. “SOooo not the point. Don’t try to handle me.”
“Oh! You’ve been handled! Get used to it.”
He growled at her. “Fine. I’ll pay for the keyboard though.”
“How much was it?”
She laughed at him. “Free.” And she blew a raspberry.
“Brat. She sent me one of the prototypes. The real thing is still in R&D stages. You couldn’t get it until next Christmas. We done?”
He growled and nodded so Sookie called Jack in and told him he could open it. He was out of the room like lightening. And in minutes we heard him start playing Fur Elise slowly.
“So… CAN I get Carm a pony?”
He flung a bottle cap at her. “Don’t even think about it. I don’t think it’d like the trip home.”
Smom cocked her head to the side a little. “Trip?”
Alc got an ‘oh shit’ look on his face, not realizing that I hadn’t mentioned it yet. I shook it off… “It’s wedding related. You know we want to do it at Christmas, right?”
Smom nodded, engrossed. Dad and Marnie looked just as interested.
“Well, we decided to do it in New York. That way we can all spend the holiday together and do a quickie wedding while we act like ridiculous tourists.”
Smom’s eyes actually twinkled. “You mean like the parade?”
Sookie giggled. “And ice skating in central park and the Santa at Macy’s and carriage rides and whatever we want. We can run all over town and do sightseeing and shopping and then Christmas morning we can open what Santa brings us and have a huge breakfast and then go to Rockefeller Plaza so we can get married at the big Christmas tree. Find a nice restaurant and do our reception as Christmas dinner.”
“Ooh that sounds like a good time! Do you think we can get reservations this close though?”
“Sookie has an apartment there. We were thinking we could all stay together.”
“How many are going?”
“17 right now. We might be adding a couple more.”
“In one apartment?! Don’t you think we’d give each other cabin fever?”
I turned it over to Sookie and she rolled her eyes at me for being a chicken shit. “Well, not really all together. The apartment is pretty big, but there are two separate guest suites on the floor. We’re going to put you and Dad in one and then my Daddy and Pam in the other so you don’t have to deal with our rowdiness. The apartment has 8 bedrooms counting the servants quarters.”
Dad blurted… “Servants’ quarters!?”
“Yes sir. My father in-law gave it to me kind of as an apology for his son. It’s a penthouse overlooking central park.”
I slapped her leg. The… luxurious nature of the ‘apartment’… had been overlooked during the explanation I got.
Smom, seemingly unfazed, went into planning mode. “Well then, do we need to make any arrangements? Is the apartment set up for so many people?”
“Well… Eric and I have hired a guy to help… he’s going to have a tree set up and take care of things on that end like washing the new kitchen stuff we need to get and stocking the pantry. Daddy and Jason and I went this summer and there wasn’t the hardware there to make a proper breakfast for three. I was thinking that Sunday us girls could go into Shreveport and find some china and cookware and bedding. That kind of stuff. And we need to go online and order a butt load of hall-decking supplies.”
While Sookie kicked the dinner prep into gear, we went over a few more of the wedding details. My father’s jaw dropped when the ‘private plane’ detail was dropped. I thought he was going to shit himself.
Sookie had set out a few batches of what turned out to be her dad’s recipe of ‘cranky balls’. It was crab meat with cheese and jalapenos and Alcide did his best to control himself. He still ate about a dozen of them and then demanded that Sookie make sure his next cooking lesson included them. Sookie set up the buffet line and made plates for the boys, putting a crawfish on each one, just for fun. When she came back through the kitchen she grabbed beers for everyone and then kissed my cheek, excusing herself to get changed.
“Hon? You’re not eating?”
“I ate a big lunch to get me through. I can’t fill up right before.” She put two fingers to her lips and puffed out her cheeks. I guess it made sense that she’d get queasy flipping around like that on a full stomach. She pointed and scowled at Alc. “The Hallow Leg better leave some food for me too. I’ll be starving by the time I get home.”
He laughed. “I promise. Hey, you’re not going to stop cooking for me, just ‘cause you’re teaching me, are you?”
“Claro que no, esse. I ordered a crockpot for you just like mine as your housewarming. That way, I can send you your own batches of therapy.”
He slapped her 5. “How tall do you want that statue to be?”
She giggled on her way out of the room, giving Marnie’s shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Small, like a nail salon Buddha. Life size would JUST be creepy.”
With Sookie gone and food in front of us, we spent a while just chewing… Smom actually hummed a few times and quietly thanked god that I found someone to feed me right. Dad and Marnie didn’t have any complaints either.
Dad finally broke the silence… “She get so nervous about football that she can’t eat?”
He’d asked me, but Marnie jumped in. I wasn’t bothered… I just felt like I was in a Body Snatcher remake. “One of the cheerleaders on her squad hurt her knee and Sookie has to fill in. Wait ‘til you see it. This isn’t like King George. Our high school would be embarrassed to be in the same room with them, huh Eric.”
I nodded. “Yeah. I was robbed. When we go to the school to get Jack and Carm, I can’t decide what’s the better show.”
Alc laughed. “That’s what you get for going to school in Virginia. Down here… we take that shit seriously. D’you hear the marching band yesterday?”
“I didn’t notice. Why?” They’d been practicing somewhere nearby, but other than that…
“You know that song the squad did the half time show to? For Whom The Bell Tolls… They were playing it.” Fucking hell! Something told me that Sookie probably handled that arrangement for them. She might as well be the principal. She does everything else. Hell, if she didn’t spend so damned much time dealing with Quinn, she could get more done.
“Alright, son… what gives… I’m not an idiot. She has an apartment in New York City that probably costs her a million dollars in taxes every year… she’s paying alimony to her ex… ”
“Her ex, Bill, is such an asshole that his own father doesn’t like him. He hates how he turned out. So last year he had his lawyers transfer his estate over to Sookie because if he waited to leave it to her, Bill could claim that his father wasn’t in his right mind. Bill would have liquidated the businesses and put a lot of people out of work. The apartment, the plane, the car service… it’s all part of the company as corporate perks. I’m a little bare for the details, but Sookie turned the furniture company part of the business into a nonprofit. Her cousin Hadley runs it. I’m not sure what else there is to it, the board of executives takes care of the rest. Sookie is CEO, but only in title.”
“Why would… Bill say his father wasn’t fit?”
“Because he’s an ethics void prick and Tom has ALS… Lou Gehrig’s. It’s pretty advanced. He signed it all over to Sookie and she pays his bills. He didn’t even want to keep any to live on and risk Bill getting a penny… She doesn’t even really consider it hers. It’s more of a favor to Tom in her mind. Apparently, he was the only good thing about being married to Bill.”
“How bad could this Bill guy be for his father to hate him?”
Alc shot a look my way while I tried to come up with a good answer, and thank God, Sookie bought me some time…
I heard her feet stop in the doorway. “Hey handsome, I need your help with my ‘spirit’. Think you can handle giving me a temp tattoo?”
The look on my father’s face made me think she was armed. Alc’s wasn’t much better. Their mouths were open, wide eyed and colorless. I was afraid to turn around and had to brace myself. “Sure.”
She laughed in her throat. “Well then, come on. Taryn will be here in just a minute.” She put her hand on my shoulder and my whole body tensed.
Fuck. I turned around and figured out right away why Dad and Alc looked like they’d seen a ghost. Her uniform. It wasn’t any better than the devil costume. The shorts were… short. Black. A lace up panel in the front like a pair of uniform pants and they rode so low, that she might as well have been wearing her underwear. Glorified boy shorts. Her top… was tight… red… it was made from jersey material with cap sleeves and it tied together in the front leaving her whole chest, cleavage and all, bare. Corbett had NOT been exaggerating… The tiny sleeves were all that kept it from being a skimpy bathing suit.
She put her hands up by her shoulders and spun around. “What d’ya think?”
What do I think? I think that I really wanted to lean her over the table and fuck her until one of us was broken. I was paralyzed.
She giggled and put her hand under my chin to close my mouth and grabbed my hand to pull me out of my chair to the sink where she handed me a damp rag and the paper with the silhouette of a soaring eagle.
I had to clear the lump from my throat. “Ok. Where am I putting this?”
She licked her lips and turned around. Oh no… “On the back of my hip, just over the shorts. Left side.”
I took a deep breath and squatted down putting the tattoo to her hip and holding the rag over it, trying DESPERATELY to ignore that her ass was inches away from my face. “You look like you’re on your way to dance at a bachelor party.”
She giggled again. “You going to have a hissy like Daddy did earlier?”
“Maybe. Where’s your track suit?”
“What if I told you I’m not wearing one?”
“Sookie, you promised him.”
“I’m wearing sweats. They’re on the banister. K, boss?”
“Yes ma’am.” When I stood up, I noticed that she had little streaks of red and black running through her ponytail as ‘flare’… and a couple specks of paint, so I scraped them out.
She hopped up to sit on the edge of the sink and gave me a kiss. “Thanks… OK… Game starts at 8. Take Rotten if you want so you can park under the stands. In the coat closet are 3 space saver bags. You’re going to want to grab those on your way out. They have cushions and fleece blankets in them. The concession stand’s coffee is utter shite, so you might want to make a couple of pots and fill the thermoses. They do have hot chocolate or cider for the kids and the boosters will have made tons of sweets especially since the whole town is going through withdrawals after no game last week. Cool?”
I smiled and nodded so she gave me another kiss. “How early should we get there to get a decent seat?”
“Oh, I’m sure the stadium is already half full by now. There’s going to be three rows on our 50 where you’ve been sitting for practice that will be taped off as ‘reserved’. One of the perks to being the Athletic Director. The first row is where the scouts sit, you guys can take up the 2nd and 3rd.”
“Scouts, this early in the season?”
“Hunter, Terrence and Chester… HARD… And UCLA, FSU and Vanderbilt will be there for the girls tonight. We’ve been pimped for years ever since the year Remy, Quinn, Jas and JB played together. We get college AND pro now.” Again… Who is JB? She leaned back and noticed the headlights coming up the drive. “That’s my ride… I’m just warming up with the girls, so I’ll be watching the game with you guys except during the breaks.”
She slid down from the counter and I followed her to the foyer. I snuck my finger into the back of her shorts and pulled her back to me, hugging her tight. “This is SO much worse than the devil.”
“Really?” She wedged her hand between us and grabbed my cock through my pants and I grunted.
“Well then it’s a good thing this won’t get retired after one night. Set me loose and give me a kiss.”
She snickered… “I need to go.”
“You didn’t say ‘please’.” That was a mistake. Just because I’m stronger, didn’t mean I had the upper hand. AT ALL!
She started to pant and whimper. “Mmm, please. Please, Eric… Please…” She let go of my dick and rubbed her ass against it, still panting and begging.
FUCK! I was ruined. I let her go, more like let my arms go limp because I couldn’t feel anything but my throbbing cock. She turned around wearing a victorious smile and grabbed my head, pulling me down for a kiss… her tongue massaged mine… my fucking ears were ringing…
After she pulled her sweats on and left, I stood in the dim foyer waiting to calm down enough to not be embarrassed when I went back into the kitchen. I finally engaged my other brain enough to remember that she told me about blankets and cushions. Distracting myself with digging them out and putting them by the door so I wouldn’t forget them helped… slightly. So I continued the trend and went to start brewing some coffee. I was putting the carafe onto the burner when I realized that no one was talking.
I turned around and they were all staring at me. Smom’s face was the color of a well polished apple.
Dad cleared his throat. “We heard that.”
Fuck. Now all the blood was rushing to my face. “She was playing around.”
Alc started laughing. “I told you… She’s evil.”
I sat back down and finished eating my food. Eventually… conversation continued. Smom and Dad were still very curious about Sookie and it didn’t bother me at all to talk about my favorite subject. It kind of surprised me though that Dad didn’t ask me about work. It was all he ever really asked about in years… Then again… it was the only thing TO ask me about.
When Alc got up to go get the boys ready, Marnie followed him. She had been so well behaved that I just kept my fingers crossed that everything would be fine.
I got up and started rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher, Smom helped, Dad lit a cigarette and leaned back, resting a hand on his swollen gut.
Like I said, still curious. “So we know that her mother was overbearing… but you said ‘after what her mother AND her ex did to her’…”
Smom fussed at him for prying.
“He raped and beat her. He would ground her and since she left him, he stalked her.”
Smom stared at me and I watched the tears build up. “That sweet little thing?”
I nodded. “That sweet little thing… and her mother forced her to marry him and then blamed the abuse on Sookie.”
Dad jumped back in. “You said they were friendlys.”
“Since Sheila was disavowed recently, I can say with all honesty that her whole family is awesome. I haven’t met a single one that I would mind spending time with… even the orphans they’ve taken in.”
“Do you see them often?”
I nodded. “Everyday. Dad and Hadley helped with Alc’s house today, Had and Hunter were over for dinner last night, Jason spent the night the night before… They’re always around.”
“Sounds more like a Frat house than a home.”
“We like it.”
Smom put her two cents in as my father was winding up… She reached up and patted my arm… “It sounds a heck of a lot better than a quiet apartment and NO social life. I’m glad she’s teaching my sweet boy how to have some fun.” No shit. See, that’s why I always loved her.
Sookie was SERIOUSLY understating the popularity of Bon Temps football. The several acres of lawn were GONE… The bus ramp clogged. The baseball field covered. Every bit of it was under an even layer of cars and trucks. There were people walking from out of the neighborhood across the street. It was like someone kicked a beehive. People were everywhere.
There was a boy behind a blockade wearing a COP t-shirt when I pulled into the parking lot and he walked over to my window. “Hey Lyle!”
“Hey, Mr… Eric. Did Miss Stackhouse tell you to park under the stands?”
“She did. Is there still room?”
He chuckled. “If there isn’t, I can arrange to tow Mr. Quinn’s bike.” I laughed and slapped him 5. “Is that Alcide behind you?”
He gave a nod and went over to move the glorified sawhorse out of our way and grabbed a walkie out of his pocket and announced the ‘the FEDs are coming’ and waved us through.
If I thought the outside of the stadium was nuts… I had just entered the asylum. The stands were jammed, visitor and home, and the lawn behind both end zones looked like Woodstock. Fucking unbelievable. Alc and I both put a kid on our shoulders and made our way to our benches.
Hadley was waiting for us and once everyone sat down on their cushions I realized that the 1st row was full. I counted 20 heads… and as I watched the crowd move around a little, I counted 3 news crews. A few minutes went by and Corbett and Pam… then Jason all joined us. Hugs and smiles made their way around during introductions. I laughed at my dad when he shifted uncomfortably when Jason started flirting with me and Alc. My father is a peculiar guy. Lafayette, he’d have no reaction to. However… bro-mance… THAT made him twitch.
Jason had sat down on the bench behind me and decided to be funny. He came around to sit on my lap. “There that’s better! Couldn’t see.”
I started laughing. “Jason! I told you that you have to buy me dinner first!”
Alc felt left out and started to fake cry. “You shouldn’t complain. At least he doesn’t use YOU. I’m always a bride’s maid… never the bride.”
Jason leaned over and kissed Alc’s cheek and Corbett’s hand shot from between our heads and whopped him. “Corbett Jason Stackhouse Jr. get your ass on the bench. Quit being a slut.”
Terry joined Corbett on the 3rd row and I blew him a kiss, earning an awkward grin (from Terry and my father) at about the same time 4 girls from the squad came running up to us. Hannah at the lead. She handed Alc a large brown document envelope. “Sorry I didn’t have them earlier, Alcide. Mom said Cal got to the house just after I left this morning.”
“That’s fine, girlie. Thank you.”
“We were wondering if Jack and Carm wanted to come down and warm the benches with us? They won’t be any trouble.”
Alc looked at the boys for their reaction. Carm was already getting up and Jack was wearing a shit-eating grin again. As the boys abandoned their father for greener pastures with the snacks Hadley had packed just for them, Alc stood up to kiss Hannah’s cheek and she leaned over to kiss mine.
I watched Alc open the envelope and peek in, laughing immediately. It was almost maniacal. “Oh Fuck you, ya fuckin’ FUCK!… Eric, there must be a hundred more in here.” He reached in and pulled out a piece of paper. “More to come. Still waiting on a few guys. –Cal.”
He handed the envelope back to Pam and she pulled a few out and looked through them… Eventually she put her face between our heads. “So… What do boys do when they get a hard on in public?”
When we were done laughing Alc told her to lean over and think about ice.
While I was at the booster table buying Eagles hoodies and t-shirts (they even had Jack and Carm’s sizes), I spotted Kenya meandering through the crowd and wanted to go check on her. I managed to sneak up behind her and scoop her up, making her yelp and drawing attention to us. “FEDERALE! I’m going to shoot you! Put me down!”
I laughed at her. “Hug me first.”
Oh! She gave me a look that could kill.
I gave her my serious face. “I know you need it. Hug me first.”
She stared me down for a minute, but gave in. She put her arm over my shoulder and I gave her a good hug, setting her down and keeping my hold on her. She didn’t loosen her grip on me quickly like I thought she would. She stuck with it.
“Her services were this morning.”
“You should’ve said something, I’d have gone with you.”
“I did ok.”
“Liar. Stop trying to be hard for everyone. K?”
“I’ll try. I’m going to let go now.”
“Ok.” She didn’t… Not for a while. So I just held on to her and rubbed her shoulders.
When she finally let go of me, she slapped my shoulder. “I’m supposed to be working.”
“I know… I just saw like four drug deals and I’m pretty sure my wallet got boosted from my pocket…”
She started laughing and hit me again.
“Pam’s here too. Come by and say hi?”
She gave me a nod and I kissed her forehead on my way back, stopping to give the boys their new hoodies.
No sooner than I sat down, Sookie plopped into my lap. “Hey, Mr. Popular.”
I smiled at her and pecked her cheek. “Hey. I missed you.”
She giggled. “That’s not what it looked like to me. Watcha been up to?”
“Uh… Hannah’s cousin sent us about a hundred nails for Prince Charming’s coffin… Jack and Carm are now unofficial Eagle’s mascots and Kenya needed a hug. How about you?”
“Busting my butt with the girls and settling a marching band problem.” Aha! I was right. She really does do everything.
Hadley came over and sat on me too. She put her arms around my neck and whispered into my ear. “Sookie told me to ask you, did you ever see Alcide’s bedroom?”
I gave her a nod.
“What color did she decorate it in?”
I whispered back… “Dark purple, almost black and the yellow was like… butter, I guess.”
She chuckled. “Not bad for a guy.”
“Hey… I’m a lady’s man. I pay attention to shit like that. It impresses bitches.”
She threw her head back and laughed.
So there I was… I had a beautiful blonde on each leg and was getting dirty looks from my father, when Kenya came by. “Now, why would you invite a girl over if there wasn’t room for her?”
Hadley giggled. “Hooray! The handcuffs are here!” and she moved to sit on my other leg with Sookie, clearing a spot for Kenya.
Kenya smirked and played along, sitting down and leaning over me to give the twins a peck and then I introduced her to Smom, Dad and Marnie. Another dirty look from Dad.
Jason slapped Alc’s shoulder. “Where’s the fucking fairness in the world?! We’re a sexy couple of mother fuckers! How come he gets all the bitches?”
He laughed. “Probably because they can sense our true feelings for each other.” He blew Jas a kiss, Jas returned it.
Kenya and Hadley jokingly got up and moved to the guys’ laps. Had surprised Alc, but what got my attention was the way Kenya told Corbett that her sister ‘says hi’. The way he asked how she’d been made me wonder… Notes for a later conversation…
Instead, I griped about my legs getting cold. Sookie called me greedy and gave me kisses while shifting in my lap. I wasn’t cold anymore.
There was about 10 minutes until game time and we were minding our own business, enjoying the company and the atmosphere, when Quinn decided to piss me off just by showing up.
The smile on her face evaporated like water on a hot skillet when she turned to see it was him. “Yeah?”
“I need a favor. Can I talk to you?”
She grunted as she got up and started walking towards the field, not realizing that I was right behind them until she stopped to turn and face him. I waited, standing right behind her.
I could tell by the look on his face that he thought about asking me to leave but decided it would be safer not to. “Sookie, the singer cancelled.”
“What? Just now?”
“Yeah. I can’t find anyone else. Sophie says she can’t do it.”
“Because she doesn’t have the range. Bethany Rogers, Desiree Dumas?”
“Missing in action. I need you to do it.”
“The marching band?”
He whined. “The news is here.”
“I can’t do it dressed like this. I won’t.”
“You could borrow something from your girls.”
She stared at him for what felt like forever… And then she detonated… “WHY THE FUCK NOT!?!? I ALREADY DO THE REST OF YOUR FUCKING JOB! I’M THE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR! I’M THE SCHOOL COUNSILOR! I’M THE CHEER COACH!! I’M THE TEAM NUTRITIONIST! I’M THE COP COORDINATOR! I SPONSOR A CLUB!! I CARRY A DOUBLE LOAD OF STUDENTS AND SERVE AS YOUR PERSONAL FUCKING TAMPON WHEN YOU’RE ON THE FUCKING RAG! WHY THE FUCK SHOULDN’T I SCRAMBLE… LOOKING THROUGH LOCKERS FOR SOMETHING TO WEAR SO I CAN SING THE NATIONAL FUCKING ANTHEM ON THE 11 O’CLOCK FUCKING NEWS BECAUSE BLOW JOBS RATED HIGHER FOR YOU THAN MUSICAL ABILITY DURING YOUR HUNT FOR A CHORAL TEACHER!!! IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN DO FOR YOU???”
I swear to God, I think he was close to crying. “No Sookie. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, Quinn. Give me the chorus room.”
“Selah can’t even play the piano and don’t give me any shit about the acoustics. They’re the same in my room. She has 19 students per period… MAX. I average 56 in my room. The chorus room has room for 80 desks. I could add to my load next year.”
He stared her down for a while.
“You can either give it to me as payment on the favor, or I can go to the board that wants to gift wrap your job and hand it to me.”
“Fine. Fucking bitch.” I gave him a dirty look. Ok, I made the dirty look I was already giving him meaner.
She stepped up to him and put her finger directly in his face. “You watch your mouth. I’m done with your shit. I’ve proven that I’m worth every penny of my fucking paycheck and if you don’t knock it off, your job won’t be your only concern. Got it?”
“I’m sick and fucking tired of being threatened.”
“So fucking what. I’m sick and tired of you picking on me like a bully. The only time you’ve ever acted human around me was when you were hitting on me. You’ve been playing this same tired little game ever since I started seeing JB. Grow up. Be a man. Find your very own girlfriend to pick on and leave me the fuck alone to do my job.” Grrrr. JB. I have to ask her. That’s like the third time he’s come up today.
She shoved by him and I followed her back to the stands.
She winced in Hadley’s direction. “Had, I need your clothes for a few minutes, please.” She took a blanket from our pile and apologized to my parents for her outburst as she blazed her path up to the press box, holding my hand.
The booth was empty except for Rene and Dearborn. That seemed cozy. They both gave her a wide smile over their shoulders as she started to peel off her sweats, explaining… colorfully… about singing.
Dearborn was actually laughing. “Damn… Sookie, I could shoot him for ya.”
She went over and gave him a kiss on his cheek. “Not with your eyesight.”
I held a blanket so that Had could start switching clothes and Sookie started pulling on her new outfit over her uniform.
Sookie ran down the bleachers with Had and I right behind her, just as the teams took the field at 8 o’clock sharp. We didn’t have the chance to say anything to our family before Rene filled them in for us… Over the PA.
“Tonight, the National Anthem will be sung by the heart and soul of Bon Temps School, Sookie Stackhouse. Please rise.”
As Sookie’s smooth voice filled the stadium, I got a couple of looks from my parents. Smom was misty again, but the anthem always did that to her.
It seemed like forever before the applause died down when the song was over. She sat right back on my lap when she was done and laid her head on my shoulder.
“You sounded great. Yelling at Quinn must have been good for your pipes.”
She giggled. “I don’t know about that, but it did feel good. How would you rate the line?” No doubt talking about the line she promised to draw for her annoying ex.
“Hmmmm, I think it was probably the straightest line you’ve ever drawn.”
She giggled and slapped my cheek.
The game… Well… The Eagles lost the coin toss, but that was it. One of ours managed to get his hands on the ball to turn over the kick off and my ass didn’t touch the bench for most of the first quarter. Sookie was so engrossed in the game, that she pulled Had’s clothes off when the time came by using Alc and I as a wall, but believe me she waited until the last minute. By the time she was needed for the first cheer, the Eagles had scored 3 touchdowns and the mood on the other side of the field had changed drastically. The fans that weren’t sulking… were leaving. Wow.
The world stopped… no shit. Not just for me, the whole stadium shut up and watched the squad… Fire Burning was played over the PA and the marching band accompanied it while the girls worked their magic on the fans.
By the time Sookie came back, Alc and I had held blankets up for Had so she could put her clothes back on… She jokingly accused us of peeking… Alcide snorted at her that it was only fair since she’d seen his ‘titties’. She thumped him in the stomach while she laughed. And… Let the flirting commence…
The game went on… We watched from our feet while Hunter swatted away the other teams linemen like flies, waiting for the perfect window and finding it every time… Terrence and Chester could intercept a scud missile… the Eagles never met a first down they didn’t like and the added bonus was watching the Minden Braves’ resolve fall apart on the sidelines… fighting and knocking over the coolers. Their cheerleaders all looked like they’d had the pep surgically removed from them.
The halftime show…. Oh sweet halftime… The marching band… the cheer… Shit hot! And there wasn’t a man in the stadium that hadn’t noticed. My father especially. I caught a glimpse or two over at him and he looked like a child watching fireworks.
Alc and I had been very popular during the game. We’d been visited by more than a dozen teenagers and handed stacks of envelopes. To an outsider, we probably looked like loan sharks.
By the time the game was over, the Eagles fans were actually starting to feel sorry for Minden. The score was 65 to 3 and I’m pretty sure that the points were given to them out of pity…
Sookie took a few minutes to go speak to the scouts, who all huddled around her and gave her cards and folders for their individual programs and I watched her woo them like she did everyone else. She invited them all back anytime, and promised them all that their offers would be given to the athletes that they were interested in. She asked them questions about the details about their schools, including family dorms and spent a few extra minutes with the cheer scouts talking about the competition schedule in the spring. Apparently, the squad was going to Phoenix in March.
When the cheerleaders brought Jack and Carm to us after the game, their little faces were covered in lipstick kisses. Alc and I looked down at them and laughed hysterically. It actually hurt their feelings. They didn’t realize that being good luck for the squad would cause trace evidence. Hadley took her compact out of her purse and handed it to them and they inspected their faces in the small mirror.
Jack scowled up at his cheery entourage. “See if I let you kiss me anymore!” ‘LET’? Cute.
One of the girls squatted down to meet him at his level, starting to wipe it off. “Awww. Jacky… don’t be mad at us. What if we promise to wash them off from now on.”
She giggled at him and kissed his forehead, immediately wiping her mark away. “Thanks, handsome.”
I looked over at Alc and he had turned around and was choking it back with his hand fisted over his mouth to hide his smile. Hadley was holding it together pretty well though.
When the girls turned to leave, Jack popped one of them on her butt… And that was it… Had spun around, her body was facing Alc’s, but they were stifling back their outbursts in opposite directions.
All I could do was bury my face in my hands and laugh my apology. I knew damn good and well that he must’ve seen me swat at Sookie’s ass. FUCK!
We’d hung out in the stadium for a while, knowing that we’d have a hell of a time leaving if we didn’t wait for some of the crowd to dissipate… Eventually the 2 cars pulled up to the house and before Alc had the chance to cut the engine, the boys had bolted up to the porch calling Sookie and reminding her that she’d promised to play.
She told them to go get their baths so she could eat and went to the kitchen to make herself a plate. I sat down while she watched the microwave and everyone joined us at the table when she opted to sit on my lap… The smokers fired up and I rubbed her back while she ate. She seemed completely drained.
And my dad was still curious… “So those guys that you mentioned earlier, that had scouts crawling all over the area. Who are they?” Never mind that she’s trying to eat, Dad. Nice.
She hummed. “The guy I was yelling at is John Quinn. He went to Arizona for school. Wide receiver… he was all set for pro until he got tackled from behind and herniated 3 disks late in his senior year. Remy Savoy, the Quarterback’s father was wooed by every college in the PAC 10 but opted for the Corps. My brother went to UPenn and told the NFL to fuck off. He went to Australia for a season and played pro Rugby for fun when he was done at Wharton. And JB went to Texas for School. Linebacker like Remy… First round draft pick. That was a big year for the Eagles. Undefeated all the way.”
My dad couldn’t have been more surprised if she shit in his lap. “JB? You mean… JB DuRone?! He went to school here in Bon Temps?”
She chuckled. “That’s what his Wiki page says.”
Alc snorted. “Fuck him. He was responsible for half the shots I took last week.”
She smiled at him. “He was having a hard time with his new knee, but I’ll tell him you said hi.”
“You still talk to him?”
“All the time.”
Her phone started ringing…
“Hey Bear! You’re ears must’ve been itching. I was just talking about you… Well technically my friend was talking trash. He says ‘fuck you’ because you got him drunk on Monday. Me too.”
She laughed and looked up at Alc. “He says hi… Aww, how bad?… Ok… Oh! We stomped the shit out of them! Their cheerleaders cried… No I’m fine, just on Empty… Be safe. I’ll see you tomorrow, bye.”
When she hung up, she set her phone down and went back to eating.
Alc and Dad looked like they’d seen a train wreck. I swear their chins were resting on their chests.
“Don’t do that when you meet him. It’s creepy.”
I chuckled when they closed their mouths, embarrassed.
“He put himself on the disabled list for the week. He’s coming home to see his mom and visit the family.”
Alc gave me a look and then studied her for a minute. “So if he played ball with Jas, how are you still in touch with him?”
She let a long sigh. “Because he was the best boyfriend I had before Eric.” Oh shit. Asshole exes are one thing… ‘THE EX’ is another thing entirely. Wait… She’s only comparing him to two other guys. I keep forgetting that. AND they’re goons… But still.
She got up to rinse her plate and then headed towards the very active rhythm section, now warming up upstairs…
Alc and Marnie had gone upstairs to watch while Smom and Dad stayed in the kitchen. And as promised, Sookie started teaching them their tracks.
Dad came over to the counter and leaned next to the sink while I finished cleaning the dishes.
“Was it that I asked? She seems to be upset.”
I shook my head. “No. She’s just spent. It’s been a long week and today has been crazy. She’s been up since 3 and those routines that she did on the field tonight were all she did until we saw her again. She’s probably hurting really bad too. She has a bad wrist.”
“You sure? The way she went off on that guy at the field, it looks like she has a temper on her.”
“No. The argument she got into with her boss was my fault. She was standing up for herself because I told her to. I’m sick of the way he talks to her around the students. Yesterday at practice he threw a shit fit in front of God and everybody about her nipple rings. He’s completely inappropriate with her. He feels entitled because they dated for a while about 10 years ago.”
I laughed at him while I dried my hands. “Way to stay focused, Dad. Come on… The boys like a big audience.” As I turned around, I caught sight of Smom thumping his ribs.
For once, I recognized the song before they started playing the different parts together. The Hell Song. I’m not normally a Sum41 fan, but they got a lot of airtime. The song was borderline Emo… angsty to say the least… all about insecurity… and I quickly realized how much better it sounded when Sookie sang it…
I saw Sookie wincing a bit towards the end of the song, worrying me… She’d held her fork with her left hand while she ate too.
When the song was over they got a round of applause and Sookie gave both boys a very proud high 5. “You two get better EVERYDAY!” They really were improving. Not that the first show was mediocre by any stretch of the imagination, just… ‘impressive’ was getting to be an understatement.
Smom piped up as Sookie was stretching to hang her guitar over Alc’s head. “Sookie, how long have you been working with them?”
“A couple of hours?”
Alc nodded. “Over… well two days… Wednesday and Thursday. Right?”
They nodded at each other while Smom waited to be told they were joking and Jack started begging for ‘JUST one more… PLEASE’.
She looked back at him and then kicked Alc’s shin. “It’s your fault… he got those ‘puppy dogs’ from you.” She huffed and fisted her hand. “I guess I have one more in me… Smom, Dad, what’s y’alls poison?”
“Ooh… yah know… we don’t really…”
I cut her off. “They like bluesy rock.” It was late and Sookie was hurting. Being bashful about the kind of music she liked was silly.
Sookie smiled as she opened the closet to pull out a case and opened it to pull out a steel guitar. “Stevie Ray Vaughan OK?”
My dad looked doubtful and told her that Vaughan was more than ok. I don’t think he doubted her, I think he was unsure of the kids.
She plugged in and told the boys that they were going to do like they did last night. ‘Find it on your own’. She bent over and showed Carm the place to hold his fingers and which one to ‘thump’ as he called it.
She turned and faced Jack and gave him some instructions that I didn’t understand and he smiled excitedly and waited for her to start.
My father looked like he was having a stroke when Sookie started playing Pride and Joy. Smom smiled like she was having her picture done. It was fun to watch them… it wasn’t but a week ago that I found out how amazing she is, so when Jack had the drums down pat before Sookie started singing they were allowed to look awed. When it was all over, my parents were too dumbstruck to clap right away, but they fell in line and Dad even gave out high 5s.
Alc was tucking in the boys, Sookie had taken off to get a shower leaving me alone with my parents and sister in the kitchen, so I started playing bartender… Marnie actually helped. While she mixed, she asked if Sookie would like a Sea Breeze like her and Smom… I joked with her that Sookie drinks like a ‘real man’ while I made black and tans for us. She giggled and bumped my hip with hers…
This was going to be hard… I really could see myself liking Marnie as she is. She seemed so different, but the stress of waiting for the other shoe to drop… that was getting to me…
We were relaxing around the table when my phone and Sookie’s started to chime. It was an email from Bubba… “reservations for the Hard Rock, tickets for Joseph, tree delivery and lighting are all a go. You WILL need linens and dinnerware.” It went on with a list of measurements and had a link… He’d taken pictures of the apartment and uploaded them.
I was getting pissed that my phone didn’t want to cooperate with the flickr site when Sookie came from her shower in a lightweight black knit robe.
She had a big smile on her face. “What are you pouting about, Northman?”
“Bubba emailed us a link to an album of apartment photos and my phone doesn’t like flickr.” I handed her drink to her. “You look like you feel better.”
She nodded and gave me a kiss. “So, what did Bubba report?”
“That dishes and linens are definitely needed and he’s already made arrangements with the nursery, Hard Rock… and who is Joseph?”
“Jesus’s stepfather.” Deadpan.
When we were done laughing… “I beg your pardon for the confusion… Which Joseph might Bubba have been referring to?”
She giggled at me and took my phone before I broke it. “Joseph is a musical… Andrew Lloyd Weber… There’s about 50 kids on stage as a chorus. I thought with the way the boys are getting into music, they’d like it. Jesus Christ Superstar would be over their heads… So Joseph is the next best thing… even if it is Old Testament at Christmastime.”
Smom got excited. “I love that one! I saw it years ago… drove to Baltimore with some of the other wives. It was something!”
Sookie looked really relieved. “It’s the only musical I like the whole soundtrack to… Les Mis is so sad that I only like the one song.” Smom grinned and they said ‘Master of the House’ at the same time. I was lost. I know jack shit about musicals… It was nice to see them bonding though.
Smom smiled at her… “It’s not as bad as Miss Saigon though… Yah know, I didn’t think I was ever going to stop crying.”
I gave Sookie a dirty look. “You’re going to drag me and the other men to a Musical? That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.”
“3… And for some fucked up reason, there isn’t a single ticket to be found for any sport in the city that week unless you want to watch the Rangers practice. That’s why I plan to lubricate y’all with booze at lunch beforehand. Besides… Pottifar’s Wife is a hottie. Right Smom?”
“Ooh yah! Yah know… she’s in beads if I remember right.”
“I doubt you’ll hate it and if you do… I’ll owe you one.” She looked at me with those eyes… pools of sky blue… pleading with me to be a good sport.
“That’s not fair… Don’t look at me like that… I’ll have to wear a suit…”
“I thought of that too… We’re going to a matinee. You’ll have to dress up, but no suits.” She pouted her bottom lip out at me.
I stared at her… she could tell that I wasn’t going to refuse to go… I was just waiting for her to sweeten the pot.
“It’s for the kids… You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. Us girls can take care of them, no problem. Even if ALL the men decide to punk out like you…” OH! She went the other way.
I started laughing… “You’re mean.”
“You were waiting for me to offer you something I’d do anyway.”
I kissed her cheek. “So.”
She took my hand and waved for everyone to follow her, leading us to the living room. She took the mouse and keyboard and waited for me to sit in the club chair and then got comfy on my lap… Mmmm, cinnamon again.
She went straight to the email and clicked on the link to flickr from Bubba. Bubba had gone to the trouble of naming every single picture. He’d stood in every corner and taken a picture of each room… Each bedroom… Each bathroom… The servants’ quarters were nicer than I expected the master to be when I first heard of the apartment. Both of the rooms looked like an efficiency hotel room… queen bed… desk and dresser with a TV then a small kitchenette at the other end. They had their own bathrooms; small but not cramped. Marnie laughed when Sookie told her that one of them was hers because they were really quiet; in case she needed a ‘time out’. Lafayette would get the other one because he places a high value on peace. The other bedrooms were huge. Normally a bed shrinks a room… these rooms dwarfed the beds… And the master bedroom was embarrassing. The bathroom was nearly the size of our bedroom. And the common areas… floor to ceiling windows… shiny black floors… black marble counter tops with lacquered cabinets… huge and open.
Smom and Dad’s eyes grew to look like dinner plates when we got to the pictures of the guest suites. King beds… sitting area… gas fireplace… small, but full kitchen… luxury bathroom… and private entrances from the hall and to the terrace. Bubba even took a couple pictures from the balcony and since the trees were bare Sookie was able to point out Belvedere castle. She also mentioned to Smom that calling down to the doorman is all it would take to have a carriage waiting since the building is right on Park Avenue.
As the slideshow flipped Sookie apologized for how boring it was. She hadn’t had the chance to decorate it yet. Had was going to be taking care of that through Bubba since the only furniture in the house was beds and dressers.
My father eyed Sookie more than a couple times while Smom, Marnie and Sookie chatted about ideas… whatever the fuck a topiary was, Smom thought lights would look nice on them. Marnie suggested little bows. Sookie agreed with them and was given another look from Dad. WTF?
When all was said and done, and Alcide had asked if he could be her house boy, Sookie kissed my cheek and excused herself for bed… ‘too pooped to party’. She hugged Smom and Dad and asked Marnie if she could talk to her for a minute… she followed her like a well trained puppy. Alc mentioned that he had work to do… subtle, really subtle… and went to the back after shaking my dad’s hand and giving Smom a peck…
No sooner than he was in the hall, Dad started… “This can’t be real… This is all for show, right?”
My eyebrows went up while I tried to figure out what the fuck I could be faking…
“Marnie’s drugged isn’t she?”
“She’s had one beer and a sea breeze all day. Sookie told her to watch it until she finds out about being diabetic.” Here’s the asshole I was expecting.
“Did you search her bag?”
“I didn’t need to. She flew commercial… all the bags are run by K9s.”
He scooted to the edge of the couch and his face looked more angry than anything. “You can’t tell me with a straight face that this is because she knows what she has?”
“Yes, I can… You can’t imagine how much peace comes from a diagnosis. Sookie didn’t just diagnose Marnie either. With the what, she gave the why and how to help.”
“You said that she wouldn’t stay this good though.”
“She won’t. She’ll start to slip from time to time… She’s on a high from finding out what she’s working with… And Sookie is handling her.”
I nodded. “Marnie’s thing roots from a severe lack of self esteem… watch Sookie… it’ll help. Sookie isn’t building her up, she’s just making sure that Marnie feels included… when we were eating and we had spent so much time talking about the wedding, Sookie made sure to acknowledge Marnie’s existence by giving her shoulder a squeeze and invited her to go shopping. The first song she played with the boys was about having confidence… When we were focused on the apartment, she made it a point to make sure Marnie knew that we were thinking of her accommodations…” I stopped when I heard a door open, and sure enough it was Marnie and she’d been crying again.
I gave her a smile. “Be careful… all that crying… everyone will start to confuse you with Smom.”
She smiled back and sniffed. “Like that would be a bad thing… I’m gonna turn in.”
I got up and went back to the closet to get a pillow and blanket. Alc passed me in the hall on the way to my room with his laptop. Asshole…
When I tried to hand the bedding to Marnie, she hugged me instead. I quickly realized why Smom and Dad looked like they had at the airport… I couldn’t remember the last time she’d hugged me. I wrapped my arms around her and whispered that I was proud of her, that I knew how hard she’d been trying, and thanked her… she started crying again so I waited for her to be the one to let go…
“Alright… now, just so you aren’t surprised… Saturday mornings here are crazy… lots of people coming and going… lots of loudness… and the kids will be the least of it. K?”
She grinned and nodded. “How early?”
“Lafayette gets here early, but he’ll be back in my room and you shouldn’t hear us at the front of the house… the noise starts around 9 or so when the squad starts showing up.”
“Gotcha… Thanks for the heads up.”
Once she left for bed… more staring from my father. Smom was getting sick of it too and started giving HIM a dirty look.
“What? This is just crazy! Yesterday we thought we were going to have to check her in somewhere so that we could visit.”
I just shook my head… the asshole I was used to was back. I gave Smom a kiss goodnight. I had explained it as best I could and I wasn’t going to stay up all night repeating myself. I figured he’d wrap his head around things with more time.
When I walked into my room… Alc was sitting in the middle of the bed with his laptop and Sookie was sitting up with him surrounded by IDs and printed emails.
I grabbed a pair of sweats and started changing. “You assholes bailed on me!”
Neither of them looked amused with themselves.
Sookie actually cringed. “I’m sorry, your dad looked like he was getting into a bad mood. He was giving me dirty looks.”
“He was… He’s having a hard time believing the change in Marnie.”
“Well, I think there’s a club forming for that. They know she’ll slip a little… right?… once she’s away from us. She’s just identifying us as her savior. I told Smom already.”
“I told him that, he suggested that they leave her here.”
“Oh! Wow… K. There’s the asshole you were telling me about.”
“You know… I bet I could find her a job.”
I just stared at her.
“I don’t mean to live with US… but if your dad is going to be a putz, it would set her back. Taking care of herself would be a boost for her too.” Ignoring it.
“What are we doing here? Organizing?” I could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t think it was funny that I’d changed the subject this time, so she let Alc answer me while she went back to work.
“Just finishing with organizing. Sookie was able to match most of the ones from the assembly because she knew the kids’ emails. We ruled a handful of Cal’s out because they were missing the prism watermark… or were just bad cut and paste jobs…”
“Jennifer said that they didn’t inventory anything from his house that could print these.”
Sookie gave me a look. “I have a theory on that… VDB Telecom has a lot of contracts for networking maintenance. Looking into Bill’s service records would probably help. If he got his hands on the plastic laminate from the DMV… he could have been printing the IDs from his office. I know they used to have a printer for their pass-cards. With as little as I picked up from him, I could probably rig it to print IDs.” Alc and I gave her matching nods… I wonder if we could get her on the payroll.
“How much did he make? I mean… he risked a lot for $200.”
“When we split he was pulling in just under 80… I think this was directed at me.”
“By fucking with your students.”
She nodded. “If just one of my kids fucked up and did what Charlsie did… He would have had a little party knowing what it would do to me.”
“Too bad for him that your kids knew better.”
“Fuck him. I hope his cellmate has thorns on his dick. He’s lucky you found out before I did…”
Alc elbowed her. “Watch it. He doesn’t need any ideas.” Sure I do.
She raised an eyebrow at him. “What? I kicked another teacher for picking on ONE of my students. He gave more than a hundred of MY kids the equivalent of a loaded gun… I’m just saying.”
I smiled at her. “You know… I could make a couple of phone calls.”
Her eyes lit up. “Don’t tease.”
Sookie checked her emails and had replies from two of the cheering coaches from out of town, confirming that they had their girls surrender their ‘fakies’ and that between the two squads, 27 more IDs were already in the mail. She also ‘Faced’ and ‘tweeted’ that she’d be at Dirges tomorrow night and asked everyone to wear their ‘spirit’ so that she could get their help getting more IDs. She had more than 20 affirmative replies by the time she logged off.
Sookie had grabbed a binder and a hole punch and put all of the emails in the folder by name… paper clipping the IDs (and envelope when there was one) to each of the corresponding papers… marking each email without an ID with a tab… making a separate page for the IDs without emails…
“Hon, you don’t have to do all that.”
“Think about how much trouble this will save Pam.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, but she’s the Agent in charge. She gets paid extra to do that shit.”
“That’s fucked up.” Dead serious.
“That she busted her ass and paid her dues… pretended to be someone she isn’t to get there in a ‘man’s world’… and now she gets paid extra to NOT be as much a cop anymore, but to be YOUR secretary. That sounds like a demotion to me. How pissed would you be if an underling dropped this unorganized pile of shit on your desk and went home while you were stuck wading through it all? It’s already in front of us and we know more about where they all came from. It’s taking us an extra few minutes, it would take her hours. Think about it, if you dislike it enough to pawn it off to her, think about how much more she hates it, having been on the job 8 years longer.”
Alc and I shared a look and growled about her being right ALL the time.
We worked until nearly 2. Sookie had gotten out her laptop and did a spreadsheet and started putting pins into a google map and backed them up to disk to put it in the binder. Between the emails and the addresses on the IDs most of them fell in Minden, Clarice, and Bon Temps. There were a few scattered here and there, but even after the bogus IDs were taken out of the scenario we’d found more than 300 IDs that Bill was responsible for… so far.
All done with work, Sookie and I finally… FINALLY climbed between the sheets… done. Completely exhausted.
She hummed and snuggled up to me. “You mad that I implied Marnie could stay in Bon Temps?”
“No. I’m just not sure I want to be that close to her when she goes back. This is great…”
“Waiting for the backsliding? Small doses?”
“Gotcha. Nuff said.”
“Thank you.” I kissed her forehead. I loved that I didn’t have to explain that I wasn’t ready to play the forgive and forget game yet… not after nearly 20 years of hating Marnie. Sookie just gets it. She gets me.
“Do you want to ask me anything about JB? I would have thought that you’d have asked by now since you met the rest of them.”
I chuckled. “Jason mentioned ‘JB’ Monday night, that he’d been with you on spring break a couple of times and then he came up a bunch of times today… where on the timeline does he fall?”
“That depends on how you look at it, technically first and last.”
“He was your first boyfriend?”
“Yeah. He was a senior with Remy and Had when Jason and I were freshmen. Him and Remy were so tight that he’s Hunter’s godfather. Well, for away games everyone would pair off, Sam with Arlene (that was before Tara), Remy and Had, Jason and Sophie, Kenya and her boyfriend Max… The first time we went Jas and Remy nearly killed Quinn for being handsy with me. He was 18 messing around with a 13 year old. I was like Hunter, I didn’t want anyone to know I was a 13 year old freak, so Jas and I told everyone we were twins.”
“I’d believe that. Except, you’re more mature.”
She giggled. “Well the next time we went out of town, JB sat next to me on the bus and put his hand on my knee and TOLD me that he was my boyfriend. He wasn’t as big as he is now, but he’s always been huge, so he scared the shit out of me… for all of 5 minutes. When Quinn got on the bus, he had the infinite wisdom to lean over JB to ask me to join him at the back of the bus. JB gave him a dead-leg and told him to find his own girl. Then he gave me a wink. He was just helping me avoid dealing with Quinn… And it helped keep off Bill too. Well, JB was 19 so all we really did was hold hands and make out, especially for show. Jas and Remy never dropped their guard and never had a problem, Daddy even approved. He was always a perfect gentleman. He was always around, dinners and homework, movies and the mall on weekends. When he started getting pimped by scouts, Sheila even approved. When he came home for vacations, my house was always the first stop. He’d even stay over. Shit, one summer he stayed with me for a month before he saw his mom.”
“So what broke you two up?”
“I assumed that he found a girlfriend at school. JB’s a smart guy, but it’s more street smarts. Common sense. He always struggled with his grades. Junior year for him was really rough and he was spending his breaks in his dorm with his tutors instead of coming home, that was my first year at college and I kind of closed myself off… I made Daddy and Jason promise not to tell him about me getting jumped. I didn’t want him running off like Remy did… Anyway, I was carrying 26 credits and he had a full course load with football and we just didn’t have time for each other.”
“So he’s the one that got away?” shit.
She snorted. “Someone let it slip about what happened to me and Lafayette and when he found out about me marrying Bill he stopped talking to me. He didn’t approve. He didn’t talk to me for 4 years. He called Daddy and Jason to ask after me. The weekend after I left Bill, he showed up on the doorstep while I was unpacking. And stayed here for over a month. Never left my side. I love that man with all my heart. I’m probably as close to him as Jason. We talk or text every week, at least.”
“Ok… so what broke you two up?” Still shitting myself…
“That year we went to Cancun… We got completely shitfaced trashed. We were rowdy and raucous… like drunk soccer fans… And we finally slept together. When I woke up I laid in bed for a while trying to process everything… worrying that having sex after all that time would fuck things up because it hadn’t felt like a natural step. He cured me of my little dilemma when he told me he was gay.”
She laughed into my chest and shushed me. “We had done everything else over the years, but we only slept together the once… When we were in high school I figured it was because of the age difference creeping him out and I wasn’t ready anyway. ‘Cherry’ as a nickname was a multi-layered joke. Most everyone thought that he called me ‘his cherry’ because he had ‘gotten’ it. A few guys thought it was because he was denying statutory rape and the inner circle laughed about it because it was true, but no one believed it. Then later I thought he was seeing someone else… After Bill, I figured he was just being a gentleman and not putting the moves on a recently separated and abused friend… And mother fucker if you tell ANYONE I will cut your throat in your sleep. The world has changed a lot since we were in high school, but he still has to deal with locker room bullshit. Got it?”
I started laughing. “Got it. Why even tell me though?”
“Because I’m the same with him as I am with Laf, but you know it’s no different than the way you goof off with Jas… But JB has no tells… Laf doesn’t even know. I don’t want you sitting around seething if I perch on his lap or if you think we’re flirting.” I probably would, considering how I was sweating bullets when I thought he was a ‘what if guy’.
“Well, thank you. Who knows?”
“Daddy and Jas have better gaydar than I do… that’s why they never blinked when I was running around as jailbait with a 6’6”, 310 pound Creole that could crack walnuts with his bare hands. Had and Frannie know. You should tell Alc… I don’t want my new big brother picking a fight… like when he took care of Bill last week.”
“How’d you find out about that?”
“Laundry. I couldn’t help but ask why he had grass stains on his knees and a bottle of Tabasco in his pocket.”
“I told him… I’ll tell you… I don’t EVER want to know.”
She snickered. “Fine… Don’t ever piss him off though.”
“We say the same about you.”
She chuckled. “Because you’re smart.”