As I came back to myself I stretched out as much as I could… I let the night get away from us and barely closed the door after Sookie kissed me goodbye when dawn took me.
Most of my blood had pooled into my legs while I was dead for fourteen hours… Normally, the aching caused while everything was redistributed was annoying, but I was too amused by how easily time slipped by while I had Sookie to distract me.
As soon as I could, I went to the bed to enjoy the rank stench we’d added to it the night before while I checked my messages.
I was sure there would be messages from Sookie and she didn’t disappoint.
“Hey there. I came back in to grab some coffee in the restaurant because after I read my first clue, I was sure I was going to need to bring my A-game. So… ‘It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.’ We have fire and weather in there, but the quote is by Frederick Douglas… former slave and abolitionist… I think I know someone who has his very own slave-quarters. Let’s see where that gets me… I’m having a blast already.”
She was too sharp…
She’d figured it out too easily… I had to worry she was going to be disappointed that the clues were too simple since I used some more simple references just for fun.
The next message…
She started with a sigh. “So here I am, using Mayor Norris’s phone to check in. Guess what I found at your place. A very thought provoking quote in a shiny black envelope… Hmmmm… ‘Boys, I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad.’ That’s…” She giggled before continuing, “That’s a good one. Mr. Norris, being an LBJ fan from way back, recognized the quote right away. He thinks that if I don’t have any luck at the chicken plant, I could try LBJ Middle School in Ruston. We’ll see… By the way, still smiling. My cheeks hurt and it’s your fault.”
Since I was alone in my room, I didn’t mind that I was smiling just listening to her fun.
“Here I am…”
Linda interrupted to say, “Hey Erik! You should know how flippin’ happy she is… Never seen her so excited. I’m gonna hug you later.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the woman.
Sookie ordered, “Shut. Up. You. My boyfriend. Call your own… Anyway. Bobby visited Aunt Linda last night after she got home. Very sneaky not cluing her in earlier so I couldn’t get any hints. Love. This. You’re awesome… So… ‘The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are.’ Did you know there was a bunch of Ray Bradbury books in that load of boxes or is this a coinkydink? I guess I’m off to the library.”
The only thing I could do was be happy her assumption would take her to the right place to research the correct answer.
The next message…
I was almost afraid to hear it since it had been left more than an hour later than the last one.
“Your car has EXCELLENT brakes! And it turns on a dime… There I was, on my way to the library when I had a most excellent brainfart passing the fire station. Fahrenheit 451. Nice one. I had to wait for the crew to get back from a call… Say ‘hi’, guys!” There was a loud, low-pitched chorus of greetings from the firemen including one that called me a ‘lucky fucker’. Sookie was giggling when she started, “And this quote… you’re definitely not making it easy on me. Wer mit underwear kraft, mag zoos…” She snorted when she laughed, “I’ll explain later why foreign languages are hard to learn in a classroom. I gotta find a translator. I’ll keep ya posted. Love you… ahhhh ummmm…”
She whimpered and hung up after her accidental ‘love you’, leaving me to laugh at the ceiling.
The next message was left half an hour later…
She was already laughing when the recording started. “You’re sooooo lucky that I’m having so much fun. I don’t think you want to know how much Mrs. Schmidt over-shared, but I’m gonna tell you anyway… especially since Nietzsche went back to the library right before I met you. ‘Battle not with monsters lest ye become one. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.’ So… I’m off to Shreveport. I’m really hoping Jack is expecting me since he’s the only ‘monster’ I know who’s awake during the day.”
I couldn’t remember a time when I was happier to listen to my messages, but I was beginning to worry about how long the scavenger hunt was taking her. It wasn’t as though she slept last night.
The next message came more than two hours later… driving to Shreveport only should have taken her 45 minutes, maybe an hour if there was traffic…
“I’m sitting at lunch with a pair of monsters…” A pair?
Jack interrupted to tease, “And you’re calling the bestest boyfriend ever.” I laughed, having expected as much after calling him a monster.
Sookie giggled, “You’re gonna get it… So, Jack and Alcide were on their way to lunch when I stopped by to get my next clue. ‘I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me… they’re cramming for their final exam.’ Funny, Gran would love whoever it is, but I’m stumped. I suppose I’m going to the church when I’m done eating and hope that was the clue instead of the author like for your house. Grrrrrr… Don’t you laugh at me. I was pretty proud of myself until this one.”
Jack chuckled, “We’re laughing at your growl, chickadee. It needs some work.” He was right about that.
She blew a raspberry and laughed, “Okay… Erik, stand by for your next update.”
She was laughing again as she hung up.
The next message was left exactly an hour after the last. At 12:30 it was a very good thing she was close to the end of her hunt.
There was a pause at the beginning of the recording just before Sookie and a male voice began singing, “Night and you… Come with me… While the moon is on the sea, the night is young… and so are we, so are we… dreams come true in blue Hawaii… and mine could all come true… this magic night of nights with you…” They were singing so painfully out of key and sync it had to be put on. The man had even mumbled most of the lyrics. Sookie thanked Pastor Roper for the ‘worst duet ever’ and giggled, “You learn something new every day. As much as I can hear, I’m tone deaf. How’s that for irony? So Pastor Roper gave me my clue, which I would have known from a mile away even if my Daddy hadn’t been an Elvis-man, and this one included a key. Since the Hawaiian Islands were called the Sandwich Islands for a while, I guess I’m heading over there… Oh! By the way, Pastor Roper told me the bible quote is by a guy named Carlin, George Carlin. He’s a fan too. Call ya back.”
As much as I avoided clergy, because one can only endure so many reformation attempts, I suddenly wanted to hear how a pastor would enjoy a comedian who spent so much time making a joke of organized religion.
The eighth of nine messages came too soon. I knew she needed to go home and rest so she’d have the energy she needed to enjoy her party, but I was still disappointed to hear it was Sookie. Hearing her voice meant that her scavenger hunt was over. I was hoping the other random call would be first, just to delay the end… My updates, like most anything where Sookie was concerned, weren’t enough.
The first thing to be heard was a sniffle, then she sighed, “This is just… too sweet… I don’t know how specific you were with Bobby, but there’s enough fixings here for surf and turf for my whole family. And the cake is big enough for you to jump out of. This has been the best present ever. I hope you’re proud of yourself… I’ve been thinking about you the whole time and you can bet your ass I’ll be going to bed thinking about you too. Promise me something though. If you’re still putting up with me next year, I want you to be with me. It’s the only way I could have had more fun. I know you said you don’t dream, so I’ll make sure to have sweet dreams for both of us. Nite.”
Yes, I was proud of myself. So proud of myself I was tempted to call Pam and rub her nose in the fact that my little girlfriend had spent her day delighting in something Pam considered a punishment. Yes, Sookie was young, but not immature. Sprightly and energetic, but grounded. Bubbly and sweet, but insightful. Naïve and unrefined, but willing to learn. Most importantly, Sookie was Mine.
I almost didn’t want to spoil my mood by listening to the last message. I was sure it was business.
I was lucky enough that Sookie had made a clean sweep of my messages.
She started with a long yawn and a sleepy giggle. “Mission accomplished. I had very sweet dreams. They starred a sexy blond Vampire. Brad Pitt…” While I growled at her message, she giggled evilly, “Just kidding. While I was getting my clue from Aunt Linda, I told her Pam’s coming tonight. I woke up an hour later than I planned to because someone changed my alarm. There was a neat little stack of clothes on my dresser with a note. ‘In honor of meeting your future sister-in-law, we decided the party should have a theme. Everyone’s in on it.’ Erik…” She giggled, “Erik, brace yourself. It’s going to be hard for you to keep a straight face. I don’t know if you’ve seen The Dukes of Hazzard, but picture a Daisy Duke costume meant for someone Jules’s size. Pam’s gonna bite through her lip all night. They let me oversleep because they were heading over to the shop to make dinner for everyone. Miss you. See you soon.”
The sooner the better. The extra message from Sookie had been an unexpected bonus… and the promise of seeing her in a tacky little redneck costume was all the motivation I needed to leave the scent of my bed to dress.
Sookie was already watching the door when I walked into the bowling alley.
Pig tails, the shortest pair of denim shorts I’d seen her wear, a halter top that looked like it had once been a bandana…
Glamour needed to have a Redneck themed night.
Sookie ran towards me, smiling and bouncing up to hug my neck. She laughed, “Best fiancé ever,” against my neck while her family ‘hooped and hollered’. It was the only way to describe it. I might have heard my first ‘rebel yell’ too.
“Did you enjoy your dinner?”
She nodded. “Everyone did… my whole day was as perfect as it could be, thanks to you.”
When she stepped back, I couldn’t help but grab her pigtails. “Your aunt’s idea of toying with Pam might not help me stay focused.”
Sookie blushed and bit her lip. “We’re even. She was a little upset when I told her I met Alcide, so now that the shoe jockey and the creepy mechanic are daydreaming about me, she doesn’t get to complain.”
“Alcide is Jack’s son, yes?”
“Yeah. He’s a nice guy… I got hung up with Jack because Aunt Linda didn’t talk to him last night. She and Hadley had a long talk when she got home. News about Brandon and Hadley’s ability. That went really well too. Anyway, poor Alcide showed up at the office to ask his dad if he wanted to grab lunch and saw us walking through the parking lot while I gave him the Stackhouse news… Alcide thought I was the one Jack’s dating, that his dad hooked up with someone his little sister’s age. He was fit to be tied.”
I nodded. “That’s disgusting. He’s old enough to be your father.”
She snorted when she laughed, “I know right… It was an easy fix though. I asked Jack if he wanted me to take a hike so he didn’t have to introduce him to his girlfriend’s niece and I did it just loud enough for Alcide to hear. Jack doesn’t even know Alcide was close to flipping out…”
“How very clever.”
“Hey, I told you I wanted to bring my A-game. I was kicking ass and taking names today. Once Alcide was set straight, he wanted to meet Aunt Linda that much more. He’s dying to meet the woman who makes his dad smile. His mom was sick for a long time and he was afraid Jack would just be an asshole forever. Aunt Linda’s making dinner for them tomorrow night. She was worried about meeting them because she was afraid Alcide was being pessimistic about it… It didn’t help that Alcide and Jack were being guys about talking about feelings. I told Jack to stop worrying about Alcide’s curiosity when he walked me to the car. So even my accidental meeting that could have been really awkward ended up being super.”
“Apparently…” Before I could jokingly suggest a career as a mediator, there was a tug on my pant leg.
Jules smiled up at me and offered, “Hi,” in a little red gingham sundress.
I lifted her and said, “Hello. Are you having fun bowling?”
She shook her head. “Too hebby…” I understood that she meant the ball was too heavy for her, but what came after was a mystery.
As soon as Jules was finished explaining, she looked at Sookie and waited for her to translate.
Sookie offered, “She’s sick of throwing gutter-balls. She tried pushing the ball down the lane, but it moves really slow.”
Jules pouted, “Gudder.”
Sookie nodded. “And they end up in the gutter anyway. She’s decided to watch.”
“You gave up?”
Jules scowled at me. “No dib up. Lyyk shocker. Ball not hebby. Shocker kick.”
“Have you tried kicking the bowling ball like a soccer ball?”
The look Jules gave me… eventually, she was going to learn the word retard and she was going to call me one.
Sookie looked away to keep from laughing.
I offered, “Perhaps we can think of a way for you to have some fun bowling… In the meantime, I have a job for you.”
I chuckled, “Aren’t you smart… Yes. I want to make a deal.”
I nodded. “And chocolate. Do you like chocolate?”
Her eyes widened as she nodded.
I reached into my pocket and offered her a ‘king sized’ candy bar. “This kind of chocolate?”
“Yeah. Shockit. Shools?”
I nodded. “It’s all yours. I want you to make as much mess as you can. When Pam arrives, make her messy too and I’ll give you a whole package of cookies as your reward.”
While Sookie laughed at my plans to fuck with Pam, Jules made it obvious I’d over complicated my explanation.
I tried again, “You’ll make a big mess and smear some on Pam, then you’ll have cookies for later.”
Jules only blinked at me.
Sookie giggled and called for her brother while Jules remained frozen, staring at the candy bar in my hand as though she was afraid to take it.
Brandon jogged over wearing a sleeveless undershirt and a pair of jeans with the knees split and asked, “What’s up?”
Sookie explained, “Pam’s a diva about her clothes, so Eric offered Jules a candy bar. He wants her to make a mess and then get Pam as messy as possible, but Jules locked up. He offered to pay her with cookies and everything.”
He chuckled, “Nice… She understands… Your problem is that she’s wearing her favorite dress. She’s not a messy eater. Never has been… Hey Jules, wanna go out to the car and change into your other outfit so you can take the job?”
She looked up to study the ceiling for a moment before nodding. “Yeah. Mess. Sisser. Cooxies.”
I nodded to confirm the arrangement. “Make a mess of my sister then you’ll be given cookies. Yes.”
She grinned to show all of her teeth. “Deeeeeeeeeal.”
Brandon took Jules to change her clothes and as soon as my hands were free, Sookie grabbed them to begin towing me towards the lanes her family was waiting at.
As she walked backwards slowly, she offered, “Alright, so we’ve been strategizing since dinner. I got the feeling last night that you’re getting kind of sick of defending yourself so you’re going to come clean soon, right?”
I nodded. “She suggested singing a song from Madame Butterfly during our wedding reception.”
Sookie pouted her lip. “Awwww… you shouldn’t have told me that she’s thinking about my feelings. Now I feel guilty for being evil.”
“Don’t. She’ll return the favor… What have you lined up?”
“Ummmm… first of all, Jason and Brandon are planning to mack on her, hard. Unless you say otherwise, of course.” I looked over her shoulder to see Jason was wearing nothing but a pair of denim overalls.
“Hit on her. Sit too close, touch her… Gran bought a pitcher of beer so their breath would stink and everything. Brandon’s not old enough, but he’s going to sneak a couple of sips.”
“Perfect. What else?”
“Aunt Linda rented two pairs of shoes in Pam’s size and hid one of each so they don’t match… Hadley is prepared to ‘flirt’ with you. Just to make Pam think you’re going for the buy-one-get-one thing.”
“Does my fiancé mind if I flirt with her cousin?”
Sookie giggled, “We’re just talking about being a creepy bowling instructor and stuff like that. You’re Mine, buddy.”
I chuckled, forcing myself to ignore how much I enjoyed that she was being passively territorial. “And what is Adele planning?”
“She’s planning to nod… Our neighbor is older than dirt and he does it all the time at DGD meetings. He’ll be talking one minute, snoring the next. It’s not a country thing, but we figure it’ll throw Pam off.”
“It will… And thank you for the warning. I might have thought she was having a stroke. Is there anything else I should know about?”
Sookie shook her head. “I don’t think so. You know how far you can push her, so we’re all prepared to follow your lead.”
“Seeing your ring will be the first thing to annoy her… Everyone should hug her too…”
She giggled, “Done,” and announced, “Huggy hellos for Pam, guys,” as we reached her family at the other side of the building.
Linda bounced from her seat to throw her arms around me. “Like this?”
I nodded. “Exactly. Pam won’t be a bitch because she won’t want to embarrass me, but hugs will make her skin crawl.”
Linda snorted as she stepped back. “You say that like you aren’t still getting used to it.” But I was getting used to it.
“That isn’t the point.”
Linda winked at me as Hadley announced, “My turn,” and hugged me from behind. “Hey Erik.”
“Hello. How are you feeling?”
She snorted when she laughed, “Uh, knowing is half the battle… I’m… I’m awesome. I know I’m picking up on everyone else’s moods, but I’m feeling good on my own too.”
I nodded, sure that her mother’s positivity (if not the rest of her family’s as well) was encouraging her feelings about the discovery of her ability…
At least there was hope for Jason when the family finally decided to have the discussion with him.
In spite of how sour Pam’s mood was as she drove towards the bowling alley, I was quite enjoying myself.
Once it was decided that I needed a handicap of some kind because I was well on my way to bowling 300, Jules hugged my arm, riding it and cackling as I pitched the ball.
She enjoyed it enough to insist on doing the same to Brandon. While she didn’t hinder my game, Brandon’s accuracy suffered enough to make up for it…
Since Linda bowled 240 and refused to accept a handicap, she and I were locked in a debate over whether to even the ‘Guys V Gals’ teams by calling Jack and Alcide.
I’d just (jokingly) accused her of unsportsmanlike conduct when Pam arrived.
She looked like she smelled shit long before she was given the first of six hugs… and the process of hugging and introductions didn’t change her foul mood in either direction…
Since Hadley didn’t know better, she whispered, “Why would she be pissed about the parking lot?” Pam raised a curious eyebrow.
I asked, “You can tell she’s bothered and… and is it directional?”
Hadley thought about that for a moment before she gave me an excited nod and since Sookie understood how acute our hearing was she turned her back to Pam… She secretively held up two fingers and mouthed ‘two vampires’…
I growled, “You brought business with you to Sookie’s birthday party?”
She huffed, “I told Leland that you’d make him wish he was dead for interrupting. He seems fine with that. He said it would only take a moment.”
She nodded. “And his young friend… He says it won’t take but a moment.”
Pam inadvertently led a newborn Vampire to a horde of Faeries…
In public no less.
Leland, in all of his infinite wisdom, walked into the bowling alley with his child at his side.
Since everyone was already ignoring the lanes in favor of Pam’s greeting, their approach was noticed…
I made the mistake of thinking the situation couldn’t have been more awkward…
And then Julie gasped, “Shawn! Is that you!? Ohmygod! Where have you been? We’ve all been worried sick!”