I’d probably spent ten hours on the phone with Rachael and Lexi over the last week, but for some weird reason I was flipping out about meeting them.
The flight seemed like the longest three hours of my life (except of course the time Sookie spent in the florist).
Sookie and I finally watched all of Quantum Of Solace on the laptop from start to finish though, not that I have any more idea what happened than if I slept through it again.
Once we landed, I was frozen.
The sudden cell signal gave me an excuse to check the messages that had backed up…
A text from Marnie: ‘Well? What’s it like?’ She was being sooooo far from what I expected. Jealousy wasn’t even a flavor option. She was curious and hopeful when it came to my meeting Rachael. Marnie really had come around and Smom and Dad reported that they could count on one hand the number of times the ‘old Marnie’ had come out to play since they got back to San Diego. She even found her own therapist.
A voice mail from Smom: “I forgot what time you’re leaving. I’m excited for ya. Call us tonight when you get settled into the hotel. I’m dyin’ to hear how things are going.”
A voice mail from Dad: “I know I’m being nosey, but I want to know how things are going. Love ya, kid. Call us if you have the chance.”
I didn’t get that much support/concern when I left for Quantico at 21.
I’d managed to stall until the flight attendant approached us to ask if we were alright.
Sookie apologized for being the last ones on the plane by explaining that I’m retarded. The poor woman believed my smart ass fiancé and unbuckled my seatbelt for me, calling me ‘sweetheart’ and petting my head.
It made me laugh enough to get me moving. Thank God.
Since we were only going to be in St. Louis for a long weekend, we’d only packed a carryon and Tippy. There was no baggage claim to be used for further stalling…
As soon as we cleared the long concourse into the waiting area of the terminal… I saw them.
Lexi was standing next to Rachael almost hiding behind a poster board sign. It was almost as tall as she was and it read ‘Uncle Eric’ in giant black glitter letters.
If the letters hadn’t taken up the whole board, I might not have been able to read them before the sign starting bouncing off of her legs as she ran up to me. It was a reflex to catch her and the sign got sandwiched between us as she hugged my neck.
“It’s been the longest day ever!”
I was choked up, trying to not be a fucking girl and cry so I tried to make a joke. “It’s not even lunchtime though.”
She giggled at me. “So! We’ve been getting ready for you all week!”
Rachael approached a bit more coolly, but she looked just as raw as I was emotionally… she was actually crying.
She looked antsy, not knowing if she should shake my hand or try to hug me. Maybe I’d been ‘Stackhoused’ when it came to hugging since a handshake was the furthest thing from my mind. I shifted Lexi to one side and put my arm out and Rachael buried her face in my shoulder, happily taking the invitation.
We stood there long enough that Lexi wriggled her arm out and tapped Rachael’s neck. “What about Sookie?”
Rachael laughed and I cleared my throat… Sookie was digging through her purse… tissues… she was a mess.
“I’m just fine. Y’all take your time.”
Rachael took an offered tissue and tackled Sookie into a big hug.
It must have taken us half an hour to say our hellos. Lexi’s interest in Tippy was the catalyst for pulling away from repeated hugging.
We had planned on only checking in and dropping off our bags, but Lexi had other plans.
Sookie made herself busy with unpacking and getting the combination to the safe while I freed the feathered brat from her travel crate.
Lexi smiled like she was discovering a new species. I was planning on leaving her with Hunter for the weekend, but during our chats I’d discovered that Lexi is to animals as Jack is to music (and Carm is to currency).
Tippy humored Lexi as she pet her like she would a cat, from her head to her tail. “Mommy, I want one.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do.”
“We have a deal.”
Lexi snarled at her mother. “Cactuses are stupid.”
Rachael smiled at me. “The deal is that if she can keep the cactus garden in our kitchen alive, I’ll let her get any house pet she wants for her fifth birthday.”
“That’s sounds fair to me. Smom and Dad let me get a beta when I was your age. I was allowed to get a real fish tank when I was 7.”
“My Dad is allergic to dander so stuff with fur wasn’t possible. When I got older I would bring home all kinds of things like snakes and lizards… found a baby squirrel once. My other sister told on me though and I had to let it go.”
“She told!?” She looked as appalled as if I had told her that Marnie killed it.
I laughed. “It chewed out of the shoe box I was keeping it in and got into her dresser… jumped out when she opened a drawer. It scared her so bad that she peed! She was really embarrassed.”
Lexi started laughing so hard that Tippy jumped. “That’s funny.”
“I was lucky that Dad was underway. I would’ve gotten grounded for it.”
“Did you ever get another one?”
“Nope. Smom took care of my fish tank when I left after college. 2 of them are still alive. Tippy is the only other pet I’ve gotten.”
Rachael looked a little surprised. “Do I want to know what kind of fish lives… what? 8 years?”
“Ten years… Oscars. They share a hundred gallon tank and they’re big enough for a meal. Tyson and Douglas. Smom calls them Mike and Buster though. They killed every other fish I put in there with them…. Fighters.”
She laughed. “Hence the names. Cute… What’s Smom like?”
“She’s amazing. She’s dying to meet you two.”
“How’s your dad feel about our meet?”
I huffed. “He’s anxious. I’ve already gotten messages from all three of them.”
“I talked to Mark and Junior this morning.”
Oh shit. “I take it that they know I’m visiting.”
She nodded. “Dan’s curious… a bit. Mark’s warming up to the idea of calling you. At first he didn’t even want to hear the history, but curiosity is getting the best of him. He’s called me more this past couple of weeks than… well, since I moved. Every day he thinks of a new question. Yesterday it was if you’re Bi… Because of the dancing with your brother in law. The day before that was if you have bad teeth.”
“Yeah. Him and Dan were pown’d by orthodontists. I lucked out and just had a retainer for a few years.”
“Three miserable years of braces and my wisdom teeth were cut out.”
She grimaced. “Damn. Sorry. He’ll be happy to hear it though. He’s bitter that you’re so good looking.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “What about Aurora?”
“She knows you’re here. My dad promised to check her into a psych ward if she tries to get away from him this weekend. I told her flat out that I’d have her picked up for trespassing and held until your flight leaves if she showed up.”
Aw, fffffuck! “Did she act like she was thinking about it?”
“No, but she didn’t mention crapping on your graduation either. Just covering the bases.” Smart… and oh, so appreciated!
Sookie walked into the room and shoved her phone at me. “Do something with them.”
“Your girlfriends. They’re blowing up my phone because they think it’s less annoying.”
“Alc and Jas?”
She snorted, sitting next to Lexi and Tippy. “And Laf, Had, Daddy, Tara, Sam, Rene, Drew… JB is being a complete turd.”
I rolled my eyes. “He’s so high maintenance… Rachael, do you like football?”
She nodded, clearly confused.
“Would you and Lexi like to go to the Cowboys/Rams game Sunday?”
“I guess.” She was shaking her head, still unsure of my segue.
I sent a text to everyone. “We’d B having more fun if our phones weren’t getting blown up. STFU. We’ll update U all l8r. Nosy fux.” They all replied with ‘LOL’ or the like.
Then I spent 5 minutes on the phone with JB. That enormous asshole was giddy as hell that I agreed to take my sister and niece to see him play on Sunday before we left…
And within minutes of hanging up, I was getting blown up again… JB had texted the rest of the family to brag that he was going to be the first ‘Stackhouse’ to meet them.
Rachael thought it was hilarious once it was explained to her. “You said they were close! Damn!”
“This is why we came here.”
Sookie started laughing. “I’m lucky I had the excuse to come with him, or I’d be just as bad. We have boundary issues.”
Rachael started laughing, probably not fully appreciating what an understatement that had been. “How bad?”
Sookie smiled at me, giving me the floor to complain. “I think everyone in her family and extended family has walked in on us, because they have a key, and said their peace like they weren’t… interrupting.”
Sookie giggled at me. “He’s a little bitter.”
“Not bitter. I wouldn’t say that I’m bitter… I’m just… not going to get used to it… ever. ever. ever.”
“He wants me to change the locks for his birthday present.” Yes I do, but not in a shitty way… In a ‘if-Jason-ruins-one-more-blow-job-I’ll-have-to-kill-him’ kind of way. Twice. This week. I’m just saying…
Rachael snorted. “Don’t go changing the locks, just set up booty twaps.”
I smiled at her. “You mean booby traps.”
She laughed. “Dats what I said, booty twaps!” Goonies. A classic… and inspiration for security measures… Slick shoes… Pinchers of peril… Bully buster… Or I could just find a hulking mutant named Sloth to scare away intruders during naked time… I could pay him in Rocky Road and Baby Ruths.
We spent a while letting Tippy settle in before Lexi decided that it was time to show us her house. The hotel didn’t seem to be far from her house, only about 10 minutes, and in that time dimples rattled off the name of every kid in her preschool and informed us if they were friend, enemy or ‘eh’… habits were also part of her rundown… there were more ‘booger eaters’ and ‘pee pants’ than I would’ve thought…
The cookie cutter neighborhood was cute, quiet, some houses were already starting their competitive holiday decorating…
The Foster residence had two oversized turkey inflatables in the yard and a flag that said ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ anchored to the post on the porch. Grey vinyl siding and dark green trim. It was homey. Normal… Settling.
Lexi towed Sookie and I through the house for our tour… Room by room saving her room (the most important) for last.
It was a plush menagerie. Her bed pillows and blankets were animal print or faux fur including a giraffe print beanbag. Her bathroom even continued the theme. The perimeter of her room was lined with stuffed animals and she was proud as a peacock about it… She described it as ‘wicked cool’. Sookie even took out her phone and made a video, panning around her room. She whispered to me that it would make spoiling her easier if we know what Lexi already has since it seemed more like a plush checklist than an unorganized zoo. That’s why I keep her around.
It was adorable that every time we made an attempt to leave her room, Lexi thought of another thing to show off. I’m still convinced that the only reason we were allowed to exit was that the doorbell rang.
Rachael, a self professed ‘anti-chef’, had ordered lunch… Apologizing for not being any good in a kitchen unless it was a crime scene, but promising that Lexi had planned on feeding us from their favorite local restaurants.
Lexi was the first one to finish eating while us grownups shared some small talk and ate our St. Louis style pizza and toasted ravioli. We were annoying her with veiled details of the Vampire case that I had promised Rachael. Explaining with Lexi around gave me the excuse to ignore some of the details. That was a very good thing. I was still having nightmares.
Sookie offered Lexi a distraction by telling her that there were gifts in her bag. Sookie hadn’t even told me what they were and Lexi seemed irked that Rachael’s was much bigger. I was really starting to understand what Rachael had meant when she called her daughter spoiled. She wasn’t Varuca Salt by any stretch of the imagination, but she really liked being the center of attention…
Rachael smiled and wiped her hands. “You guys didn’t have to do this.”
Sookie grinned at both of us. “We didn’t. These are from the Northmans.” I had a feeling that I knew what they were instantly. Smom.
Rachael’s chin puckered as she pulled the paper away from what turned out to be a scrapbook. Smom and Marnie must’ve spent a week going through all of the old family albums and making copies. The first page of both albums was our first family photo. I was six months old… and looked like a butterball turkey with one tooth. I was taking up most of Smom’s lap.
Sookie scooted her seat closer to Rachael’s, explaining that she’d known what the gifts were, but Smom had sent them wrapped. And as soon as she saw the first picture, she gave me a scared look. “Changed my mind. We’ll adopt. You were huge!”
Rachael laughed at her. “All of us were. All over 9 pounds… But Eric was the biggest. Aurora said that he was just shy of 10… 9 pounds, 15 and ¾ ounces… and the only one of us born on the due date. How big were you?”
“7 and 3 ounces.”
“Your parents tiny?”
“Daddy is 6 foot and built like a tank, mother was the same size as me.”
Sookie raised an eyebrow at her. “Dead to me. She’s a monster.” I agreed with a nod.
Rachael gave her a skeptical look. “You’re talking to the adult child of a rapid cycling bi-polar. You aren’t looking for sympathy are you?”
Sookie laughed. “Oh no! But I bet we could have ourselves one hell of a pity party for two since Eric had Super-Smom.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “You had 4 Uber Dads though.”
Rachael laughed. “She was married 4 times?”
I shook my head. “No. Corbett was the only one charitable enough to marry her. He has these three friends… The four of them are the ones that taught her how to cook, took her shopping… we thought that her sister and friend were going to be the problems while we plan the wedding… Bravo, Terry and Unc have been taking turns being nuts. Terry pitched a fit that we’ve banned suits because he’s ‘the hotness in pin stripes’ and Bravo emailed out a galley schedule and sent a grocery list to our errand guy already. Unc’s already called dibs on making the cake and gone head to head with the restaurant about bringing it with us.”
She started laughing. “A galley schedule, huh?”
“I thought it was going to cause problems… within a day… everyone had signed off… thanked him. My dad is microwave retarded and told him that he was volunteering for Java Duty so that he doesn’t ‘burn for gun-decking’.”
Sookie and I nodded.
“So how are you related to JB?”
“He became an honorary Stackhouse when I dated him in high school. Of all the people going, most of them are honorary Stackhouses.”
“Everyone’s been picked up along the way?”
“Yeah, even the Northmans.”
“And your sister, Tara right?”
“My best friend from grade school. Daddy got custody of her when we were 12.”
“How did that happen?”
“She got really sick and her parents couldn’t be bothered. Daddy called one of our teachers and the sheriff and took her to the emergency room… It was bad so Mrs. Lanier and Bud backed him up since Daddy had been signing her report cards and taking care of her for a couple of years anyway.”
“What did she have?”
“Her father was… abusing her.” That was an appropriately vague way to say that the fucker gave her an STD and a tubal pregnancy that all but destroyed her fallopian tubes. Sam was the one to finally solve that mystery for me when we went over for dinner a few nights ago.
Rachael took her cue, changing the subject. “But it was just the four Northmans, right? How’s the adjustment going?”
I laughed. “I love it. They’re like club. I met Tara and Sam first. The next night I met Corbett and Jason… Then Lafayette… I got eased into it. Sort of. In college, I roomed in a big house with 15 guys… it’s kind of like that. I have 2 Aunts and an Uncle though. We were all spread out because everyone was military.”
“What are they like?”
“Smom’s brother Lloyd was Army and when he retired he stayed in Germany with his family. I could barely pick them out of a line up, but until I was in college the Northmans had family reunions in Chicago every summer. Aunt Jollee and Aunt Jackie married sailors. We were even stationed with them a couple of times. I have eight cousins between them; all girls though. My dad had another sister, but… she died when she was little. Chicken pox.”
She seemed as interested in my history as I was every time I learned something new about Sookie… They took a minute to coo at a picture of my first Easter. My face, clothes, high chair was covered in what had once been a chocolate bunny. “How’d your Dad meet Smom?”
“Grampa, decided one day to move out to Hawaii when Smom was in high school. Legend has it that he came in from shoveling snow and told Granma to start packing because he wasn’t doing it anymore. Said he could be a mechanic anywhere but he wasn’t going to go through another Minnesota winter. When Smom graduated, she went to nursing school and got a job at the clinic on the base. She met my dad at sick call. He’d partied too hard the night before and fell asleep with his arm against a soldering iron.”
She was smiling. “Why Hawaii though?”
I didn’t really want to answer that in front of Lexi. “Uh… Florida was full of Cubans and Jews. California was full of Hippies and Mexicans.” His only excuse was that he was from the era of free flowing racism and cold war paranoia.
She threw her head back and laughed. “My grandfathers were like that too. Aurora’s father didn’t trust one of my boyfriends because his tan was ‘too dark’… What about you, Sookie? Any bigots in your woodpile?”
She smiled, staring at the album page with a collage of my middle school pictures. “Sheila’s side is really bad to this day. Racist snob WASPs. The Stackhouses are clear though. We’ve got everything in our woodpile. Sheila’s father wouldn’t have let my parents get married if she wasn’t pregnant. His son had done the same thing with my aunt Linda. He called me, Jason and Hadley ‘mutts’ until he died. Refused to come to our baptisms, that kind of stuff.”
Sookie started laughing. “Daddy made sure his funeral services were Catholic and dressed us in white though. He made the mistake of dying during Lent so Daddy banned meat and booze from the reception.” Funny mother fucker.
Rachael was laughing again. “Now that’s getting the last word! I love it!”
When Rachael got to the back of the scrapbook, there was a disc and an envelope. Sookie explained that Marnie and Smom put a few hundred more pictures on the disc since they decided that the scrapbook wasn’t big enough while Rachael opened the envelope.
It was a birth announcement. Smom had them made almost as soon as I was dropped off. Rachael smiled at it. “Aurora gave me your stuff. Well, I took it when she showed it to me. Your hospital bracelet and the cap you wore in the hospital. Your birth certificate too.”
Something dawned on Sookie and she narrowed her eyes at me. “Your name… what did Aurora name you?”
I growled. “I don’t remember.”
“Oooooh. Liar.” Her eyes were wide open and she was smirking.
I cringed. “Ray.”
“RAY? Like Raymond?”
“No. Just Ray. Ray Phillip Foster.” Another reason to hate Aurora.
Her face locked up. “We won’t be telling anyone.”
“Thank you.” ThankyouThankyouThankyou. Part of me had expected her to joke about passing the name to one of our kids… It’d get me to agree to Five Northman. In a heartbeat.
Rachael half smiled. “Better you than me. That was going to be my name if I’d been a boy. It was her father’s name. Ray Phillips. It’s bad enough I got stuck with Pearl as a middle name. I was born a month after they transferred there.” Definitely less bitter about the name I ended up with. Pearl?
“What about Lexi? What did you do to her?”
She smirked. “Lexi Ray… Lexi Rachael Foster didn’t work for me. I didn’t even know about you at the time and my nickname through college was Ray-Ray.” Oddly, I thought it was cute for them.
Taking a brief break from studying her scrapbook, Lexi beamed. “It was easy to spell too. Uncle Mark calls me Lexicon though.”
Rachael had flipped back to go back over some pages and found a fifteen year timeline of Halloween costumes starting with a Superman bunting that Smom had made with her own two hands to the year I dressed as a Doctor. Smom of course had helped by collecting scrubs and a stethoscope for me, but was completely unaware that the inspiration for the costume was a speculum stolen from the base clinic. I was 15… that’s the only excuse I have.
They all laughed at my Thundercats costume, rather the story of how long I had to lay with my head hanging off of the dining room table and how much bees wax, aquanet and elbow grease it took to get my hair to stand up like Lionel’s. Most of the costume was courtesy of my makeup artist Smom and about 6 pounds of Mary Kay. I actually won a prize for that one…
Just like the year I went as Bumblebee. Smom collected and painted boxes for a month, going as far as to tape a Transformers episode so that she could use it for reference. She used my dad’s mini-tape recorder so that I could hit a button and sound like I had a radio… ‘I’ played ZZ Top songs.
Rachael got misty. “Makes me wish she gave us both to Smom. You look like you grew up really happy.”
I smiled at her. “I did. I’ve really lucked out.” I gave Sookie a look, feeling sappy enough to let her know that Smom wasn’t the only amazing woman in my life. She blew me a kiss.
“How many do y’all plan on?” It was out of the blue. I knew what Rachael was talking about, but I was still a little… there was no transition into the topic… no chance to brace myself, especially since Sookie and I hadn’t talked finite numbers.
Sookie raised an eyebrow at me, letting me answer. “One.”
Both of them gave me an evil look.
“What? Last time I checked they come one at a time.”
Sookie smiled at me. “I want at least two.”
“Does that count Tippy?”
“Are you counting Alc?”
“How many are you planning on adopting?”
“However many need us and I’m not counting Rene because he’s already 18. Are you giving me a hard time about two?”
“No. Just curious.” I’d already had ‘that’ conversation with Corbett… He was more than happy to hear that I’d be fine with whatever number Sookie, or chance threw at me. My dumb ass was even looking forward to nieces and nephews and the occasional ‘stray’.
Sookie laughed at me. “You putz! I’m going to tell Smom that you’re messing with me.”
“Ha! Go ahead. I already told her that we’re going to need a new wing on the house eventually.” I blew a raspberry at her.
Sookie gave me a playfully pissy snarl and turned her attention to Rachael. “What about you? Is this little perfection going to be it for you?”
“Probably not. I was thinking about another one in a year or two before it’s too late for me. The last guy I dated was a dud though, so Science will more than likely be the next one’s father too…” Fucking good for her. “…What would you have done? If you hadn’t found prince charming here. You’re getting pretty old.”
Sookie stuck her tongue out at her. “Oh, me? My ex promised to father as many as I wanted if I couldn’t find anyone he approved of before I turned 30.”
After the way Quinn had been acting, that mother fucker was going to end up pushing my last button before too long… Then I realized that she meant JB.
“How sweet of him.” Rachael gave me weird look to go with her sarcasm.
I smiled at her. “No, it was sweet. They’ve known each other for half her life and he’d have been the best backup plan. Him or Laff… either one.”
Sookie giggled. “I love Laff to death, but he owns how selfish he is… He’s looking forward to all of us having babies so that he can spoil them to death and send them home with us… JB was going to move in… he would have been a Dad. He used to stay with Had during off seasons when Remy was deployed.” I’d quickly realized that JB was one of those guys that fit into the ‘what a waste’ category that women talk about when finding out that a guy is gay… Hell, if I were a woman, I’d be bitter that he wasn’t an option.
I didn’t do a lot of asking Rachael about how her childhood went. I had enough, between little tidbits I’d gathered while talking and what I knew of bipolar disorder in general to know that things probably weren’t hunky dory. She grew up under a roof with 3 bipolars and a man who wasn’t smart enough to try to escape, for fuck sake.
Not thinking about things for so many years got me through, but now that I was forced to deal with the shitty business of being dumped on Smom, I didn’t mind thinking about it so much… It gave me a whole new appreciation when I weighed my ‘what if’ against my actual life. ‘Ditching’ me was the best thing Aurora could have done for me.
And it took a trip to the pet store with Jack and Carm for me to realize it…
There was something very eye opening about having two kids tell me how lucky I was that I never knew my real mother.
After Amelia showed up and wreaked her havoc on the house, Alc felt a little guilty when he came down from his courtroom victory high. It did take him a few days, but he was starting to think that maybe he’d done something to cause Amelia’s issues. ‘I was gone a lot. It couldn’t have been easy’…
As though the universe wanted to answer whatever doubts he had, we had a surprise visitor the night we returned from Miami… Sheila showed up while we were eating Alc’s first attempt at Italian food. She’d found out about Bill’s arrest on the news and thought she’d come by to congratulate Sookie for ‘finally pushing it until it couldn’t be unfucked’.
The boys watched through the front window while I watched from the doorway. Not normally a scene they should have watched, but in my mind, they were just seeing proof that Sookie was living testament that having a sordid mother could be overcome. Carm even asked with a straight face if Sheila could be related to Amelia.
Alc’s worries were gone before the door was closed behind Sookie. She’d left her mother standing in the yard, screaming at the house and smiled at the boys the instant she saw them.
‘That’s why God gave us doors. Open or locked, you always have a choice. C’mon, dinner’s getting cold.’
And suddenly the chicken parmesan and baked ziti became our focus.
After a late dinner of the best hot tamales I’d ever had, Rachael dropped us at our hotel for the night. Lexi didn’t want to let us out of the car and stalled long enough to run through the ‘POD’ for Saturday. Breakfast at her favorite waffle house because they have peanut butter banana topping, taking us to The Arch and at some point she was going to take me to meet her friend Britt. Britt (not a booger-eater or a pee-pants) accused her of lying about having uncles because she doesn’t have a father. Britt sounded like a little bitch that needed to be knocked down a peg.
Sookie had been uncharacteristically quiet all day long. I knew why. I knew she was taking a back seat so that I could get to know my ‘new’ sister. It was another mark on the list of reasons I love her. My Sookie, my security blanket.
After more hugging and making sure I grabbed my ‘uncle eric’ sign, Sookie held my hand as we walked through the lobby.
The elevator doors had just bumped closed when she smiled up at me. “We’ll make room.”
I smiled, giving her a kiss. “Are you sure?”
“Positive.” I hadn’t even needed to say anything. She’d just known that I was reconsidering not inviting them to go to New York with us.
As I tried to push open the door to our room, I got some resistance…
That fucking ‘adorable’ bird had a damned hissy fit and went on a toilet paper run riot. Bitch. She was asleep in the middle of the bed like the queen of fucking Sheba. It was probably the only surface that she hadn’t covered in TP.
I stood at the foot of the bed and stared at her, debating taxidermy options silently until Sookie took my hand and led me out to the sitting room. She reached into my pocket and put my phone in my hand. “Sit down and send your texts and call your folks. I’ll clean up because I’m the genius that said she’d be fine.”
I almost argued with her because I’d been the dumb ass who wanted to believe that Tippy might behave, but Sookie hadn’t given me the chance. She walked out of our room before I had the chance to be contrary. No doubt looking for a supply closet so that we’d have usable toilet paper.
I sent the text… To pretty much everyone we know.
“The meeting went gr8. Having a lot of fun getting 2 know them. Looking forward 2 tomorrow. Lexi’s taking us out 2 breakfast & 2 the Arch.”
When I called my parents… the whole damn lot of them picked up the phone within seconds of the first ring and I got a 3 way ‘hello’. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“You three are hilarious. I’m in St. Louis, not Sarajevo.”
Marnie laughed. “Oh, shut up! We’re allowed to be excited for you! How’s it going?”
“It’s going really well. We get along like we’ve known each other right from the start… They loved the scrapbooks. You two did a beautiful job. It was very sweet. Lexi has already announced that she’s taking hers to Show & Tell”
I could almost feel Smom’s pride through the phone. “What’s the little one like?”
I laughed a little. “Fascinating as a minimum. 5 going on 15. She’s adorable.”
Dad decided to take a turn… “So… are you inviting them?”
“To what?” Sookie came back into the room with an armful of toilet paper and a borrowed vacuum, giving me a wink and a sweet smile as she set herself on task.
He snorted. He knew I was giving him a hard time. “Thanksgiving, the wedding? Anything. Jackass. Don’t waste time with old people, kid.”
I was laughing again. “Yeah. I’m inviting them to the wedding. I’m worried about how they’ll react to everyone at once though.”
“Why? I was the only asshole to overreact to anything. You said she thought that dance you did with your boyfriend was funny… They’ll do fine…”
Smom butted in, laughing. “If you’re worried, then invite them to Bon Temps for a weekend to test them… Start them in the shallow end.”
“You mean before they jump into the shark tank?”
Marnie giggled. “Maybe having a Tea Party before a kegger would be a better way of putting it.”
I chuckled. That was a better way of putting it. “I guess I could invite them down for the weekend after Thanksgiving. Doing it Thanksgiving weekend would be just as crazy as the Wedding…” I was mostly just thinking out loud. “…You guys sure that you wouldn’t feel weird?”
Collectively, unified and unquestionable answers came from them. Their overlapping assurances that they would be excited to have them there was more encouragement than I needed.
I was just getting off the phone with my ‘family of dwindling dysfunction’ (as Hadley called it) as Sookie finished gathering the bird’s prank into the garbage.
I had a text waiting from Rachael.
“It took her 5 minutes to fall asleep. Think she likes you?” The picture attached was taken from above. A puddle of hair on a pillow behind an angelic little face… her scrapbook pulled under her little chin…
I forwarded it to Marnie and Smom’s phones… Smom would cry, but Marnie needed to see how happy her project had made Lexi.
Then I dialed Rachael…
“Wait a minute…” Her tone was… It was biting, nasty even.
I waited, curious about her mood change and heard a door open and then close.
“…You fucking bitch! You don’t get to do this! If you gave a shit you should have shown him years ago. Maybe then you wouldn’t have fucked us out of knowing our brother…”
“Yeah. Is everything alright?”
“Shit. I’m sorry. Aurora just called and started interrogating me. I’d just hung up on her when you called. I thought she was calling back.”
“This is causing you problems… I’m sorry.”
“Oh no. Fuck that. She got pissed when I told her that you were happy and your parents were great. It hurt her to hear me say ‘that’. For once I wished I was in the room with her… so I could throw something at her.”
“You alright now?”
She took a deep breath. “Yeah. I guess. You know, on the way home I started feeling really shitty about things. I never had a damn thing in common with any of them and all that time you were out there and we just… we fucking clicked and… well, it pisses me off that it took all this time. Part of me is happy that you ended up with really good people, but the selfish side of me… I guess you could say my Id, is pissed that I didn’t have someone to be sane with… You know?”
…Since I had a sister who hated me for years just for being normal, my Id knew all too well exactly what Rachael was talking about.
“I would think that it would feel really good to have someone you don’t have to be sane with.”
She laughed. “That too.”
“I only recently started to understand my family.”
“My problem isn’t understanding them. It’s that I don’t like them.” Been there, done that.
I snorted at how much I got it. “Then you should get a new family.”
She snorted. “Nice. Wish I’d have thought of that… Know where I can get one?”
“I sure do. When can you come visit me?”