Pam emerged from the bathroom and sighed, “There. I’m fabulous again… You’re an asshole, but I’m fabulous.”
“What did I do this time?”
“Simply put, Sookie didn’t deserve that.”
“Thank you for your input…”
“Don’t brush me off. I don’t ever interfere with what you fuck and feed from. This time is different. Sookie isn’t just an annoying collection of body parts attached to a pussy. She’s your child’s niece and my friend. Get the fuck over yourself. She already has enough to deal with. Your blue balls don’t rate.”
“My blue balls are a direct result of her ridiculous Were.”
“Ridiculous? You mean the Were who loves and respects her? You’re right. She should be much more concerned about the Vampire who just wants to fuck her. What is she thinking? You haven’t stopped to think about what she’s giving up because you’re too busy thinking with your cock… She had a life. She had friends. And she had a man who adores her so much he was just happy to meet her for lunch because he missed talking to her… You might as well have brought Sookie over with Lynn, considering she doesn’t have much left of her old life and she’s turning her back on all of it for Lynn… So yes, you are an asshole. Find something else to fuck if you can’t get it through your head that there’s much more to her than just somewhere to leave your cum.”
“You don’t need me to repeat myself… You need to stop treating my friend like every other ass-grabbing asshole who’s ever accused her of teasing them as an excuse to cop a feel. She’s a sweet girl, and being with Alcide somehow made her even more naïve because he treats her like she’s already the mother of his children… Children she never let herself want because touching men made her skin crawl thanks to her ability. She could hear their thoughts that much better and all that did was remind her of being molested. When Alcide touches her, he thinks about how beautiful she is and how lucky he is to have her… You fucked yourself. You might as well have told her everything she’s done means fuck-all because she’s just a gash. Congrats…” Pam walked towards the door and added, “By the way, you’re a fucking hypocrite to call the women you fuck ‘nothing more than relief’ and then begrudge Sookie for not being the same.”
“Feel better now that that’s off your chest?”
“No. I’ll feel better if she punches you the next time you touch her.”
Because the braid wasn’t enough, I needed more madness.
“I never said she’s just a gash… And calling me a hypocrite for thinking with my cock is the pot calling the kettle black. Right now, you have five pets. You don’t care about them enough to keep their names straight when you complain about their cycles interfering with your plans for them.”
“Sookie Blanchard Stackhouse. Age: 21. Birthday: July first. Favorite color: Blue. She’s an excellent dancer. She’s a decent chess player. She’s such an avid reader she knows fuck-all about movies and television. She didn’t do well in school, but when she took practice tests for the SATs at home, without being distracted by dozens of other minds, she aced them. I had to hear that from Adele though because Sookie doesn’t like to think about how successful she could be if she didn’t have her ability to contend with. And as much relief as she gets from weed, she said she’d stop smoking if you could taste it in her blood because she feels like she owes you every drop she has for bringing over her aunt… Is that enough trivia to prove I care about Sookie, or do you need more?”
“You’d said enough before you exited the bathroom.”
She rolled her eyes and huffed as she climbed the stairs. “Not because you see the error of making her feel like a whore for kissing you, or even because you care that I’m actually upset about how you spoke to her… because you hate to be called out when you’re being an ass.”
Three nights with Sookie somehow made my own child forget about more than three centuries of being with me.
The last fucking thing I needed was more drama…
The braid (in duplicate), being part of explaining ‘the news’ about Hadley and Maguire to Lynn’s family, interviewing and possibly calibrating Shawn Ingram… Now a disagreement between Pam and me.
Plus blue balls and the subsequent cold shoulders.
I never called her a whore. I asked when the fuck she’d be finished with her Wolf.
Pardon the fuck out of me for not wanting to smell him instead of Sookie.
When I reached the kitchen a few minutes later, Sookie was assisting Gawain, exchanging empty glasses for full ones, and clean knives for used ones while he bled a donor.
While five other donors stared blankly, waiting in queue, Pam motioned towards the three models seated on the island and explained, “Those are typed and clean… A-positive, O-positive and O-negative. One has already been sent away because she reeked of heroin. We’re refrigerating the rest because Lynn went to Glamour for donors earlier with her other Maker.”
Lynn smiled and offered, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I’m getting used to it, the feeding thing… Sookie hit the nail on the head when she mentioned that surgery. Now it’s just… more like drinking warm soda, you know, something I already like so I can get past the temperature.”
That was a relief.
“Then we’ll go to Glamour tomorrow night as well. I need to be sure Shawn isn’t hiding anything regarding his feeding habits. You’ll have that much more refrigerated blood for during the day.”
She nodded and urged, “Sounds fun, but can we get on with this? Their heartbeats are getting to me.”
Without pause, thanks to Gawain’s ability, the A-positive donor slid to the floor and lifted her chin.
I asked Lynn, “Do I need to hold you?”
She shook her head. “The other You didn’t need to, but he did anyway.”
I motioned towards the donor, staying close enough to grab her if necessary, and offered, “Try to prepare her neck first.”
Lynn nodded and stepped forward while I hoped something, anything, would go well. The evening wasn’t showing much promise… and with my luck, Glamour would be hosting another homosexual wedding so I wouldn’t find relief there either.
She forced herself to work the donor’s neck until she was trembling… the reaction actually made me smile in spite of everything else happening…
Lynn was finally feeling the urge to feed to go along with the void that came from being hungry. Her Vampire traits were finally beginning to make their way to the surface…
Sookie and Gawain stopped long enough to watch and as Lynn pushed her fangs into the donor’s neck Sookie held her breath…
Six long draws later, Lynn released the donor without my help and healed the marking while Sookie and Pam applauded.
The added bonus of her initial distaste for warm blood put her ahead on the learning curve when it came to feeding.
I offered, “Beautiful. How many donors did you feed from at Glamour?”
“Five. Erik had Hadley go to his house with the baby and said he wouldn’t let me-” She flailed her hands anxiously and whined, “Jesus. Gawain.”
He smiled and had the next donor push to the floor and lift his chin.
Lynn prepared his neck and sunk her fangs into him more eagerly than the last… And I could feel how much more difficult it was for her to release him. She went as far as taking a seventh mouthful before she took his arm and pushed him towards Pam without healing his bite.
“Why does he taste different? O-positive? He’s…” She growled, “He needs more goddamn blood.”
Gawain chuckled, “You’ve had O-positive. I know at least two of last night’s donors were O-positive.”
Pam tasted the donor, and shook her head while she healed the marking. “Nothing out of the ordinary…”
Sookie blurted, “Men. All of the other donors have been women. He’s the first guy. Testosterone versus estrogen? Could that be the difference?”
I offered, “It shouldn’t be. Not at her age. It’s so subtle I couldn’t distinguish a difference until I was a few years old.”
The other man in line stepped forward and Gawain grumbled, “Lynn hasn’t complained about light, volume or scents… perhaps her sense of taste is the leader of the pack. We already know she’s finicky…”
He acted as though I was a fucking fool for not thinking of it.
Linda rushed through preparing the other male donor’s neck and groaned as soon as she bit him… she took a sixth mouthful, and whimpered before pulling away from him.
She breathed, “Coke or Pepsi,” making Sookie giggle. “That’s it. He tastes just as good, but he’s A-neg.”
Gawain mumbled, “You prefer men. You could just be hungry and horny like your Maker.”
Pam argued, “He’s not hungry.”
Hearing I wasn’t hungry, even though I hadn’t fed in several nights that he knew of, actually earned me a scathing look from my friend, but instead of addressing me, he turned back to the queue of donors. “Lynn, finish feeding. Your family is due shortly. Overeat just in case. Jason could be tempting to you and we won’t have more male blood banked for you.”
Her eyes widened when it occurred to her that she could be a threat to Jason’s safety, but she turned back to the O-negative donor as she slid to her feet.
By the time Lynn was finished with her fourth donor, Gawain had puppeteered a fifth to wait for her because he didn’t know she was already quite full…
She forced herself to take three mouthfuls while Sookie assured Lynn that there were no less than three males scheduled for tomorrow night… and when she was finished, she stepped back and shook her head.
“I couldn’t force myself to swallow again, but those two are making me twitch for more.”
I offered, “I’m going to Glamour later. If you’d like to tag along, you might find something worth fucking while you’re there.”
Pam rolled her eyes and scoffed, “Human men? They don’t have any stamina.”
Lynn snorted, “No kidding. You don’t want to know how many assholes got curbed because I refused to finish myself off while they snored. Not worth it. Besides, I’d probably hurt a Human. I’ve always… played rough.”
Pam nodded. “Oh honey, you have no idea. You’re preaching to the choir. All of my pets are female. Fingers don’t go limp and bi-curious ladies aren’t usually shy about toys.”
“Right. God forbid you have a dildo bigger than a guy’s dick. Then you’ve got to have the ‘is mine big enough’ conversation… You know, the one where you tell them ‘of course it is’ while you’re thinking ‘no and you cum too soon to get the job done and you couldn’t find a clit with a map’, but there’s no point in being honest because, no matter how much they’re packing, they need to believe being fucked by them is a religious experience. They’re pussies about hearing anything to the contrary, even if it’s sugarcoated enough to cause diabetes…” Lynn paused, thinking about something for a minute before sucking on her teeth and shaking her head. “No. I’m tempted to try a girl, but I’ll take my chances finding a guy… I need a dick.”
Gawain chuckled, “I can’t fault you for that. I would have died of boredom if I didn’t have one.”
Pam snorted, “Now that I know you don’t die for the day, I’m less confused about why you bothered with attractive maids.”
Lynn’s eyes lit up. “Sookie, I love you honey, but you’re fired. Erik needs a hot day-guy… maybe a pool guy and a landscaper too.”
She snickered, “You’re going to have to suck it up…”
Linda interrupted, gasping, “No more coming up for air!” and Pam had a high-five waiting for her.
Gawain chuckled, “Nice segue.”
Sookie shook her head. “I’m going to be scarred permanently… My aunt’s talking about BJs and dildos…”
The current topic, while amusing, wasn’t going to improve my mood if Sookie was going to join in.
“Wait. Can y’all swallow? It’s not blood.”
Lynn turned to Pam and cooed, “Oooooh, inquiring minds want to know.”
Pam nodded. “It’s a bodily fluid… Swallowing on an empty stomach has caused a stomach pang or two for me, but nothing serious. I’m wholly convinced it’s why God gave Vampires the gift of the femoral artery.”
Sookie opened her mouth to say something, but thought better of it… I thought that was a good thing until Gawain tilted his head back and laughed…
I was already curious before he agreed with her, especially once she pinched the back of his leg and told him to shut up.
Sookie eyed Pam and offered, “So, since some of y’all were out gallivanting with my dead daddy, I went to the bookstore. Brandon quit a while back. He worked there back in high school.”
Pam sighed, “Blatant subject change aside, that’s disappointing. Any leads?”
“His last name. Rousseau. I imagine that helps considering his name is no more original than Jason’s.”
Linda knew something, but I had to assume it was related to the pocket full of photos we were supposed to be waiting to see.
Pam nodded. “That does help. Even if Lynn’s vision was of the past, it led us to a name… I’ll do a background and credit check. He won’t be in the wind for long. Did you get anything else?”
Sookie shook her head. “Books and magazines. I asked about him, and the clerk didn’t know who I was talking about, so I browsed until she could talk to the owner. She was reluctant to say anything to me because she thought I could be one of Brandon’s exes. Loading up on baby related magazines didn’t help my cause either. She thought I was trying to track him down for child support…”
While Sookie explained, I took a knife from the counter and began bleeding donors from the other end of the queue.
If nothing else, I had to give Sookie credit for thinking of the model search… they definitely smelled better than strippers.
She continued, “Brandon’s much younger in the owner’s head… too young to work, young. So she thinks of him as a kid and was trying to protect him… The last time he was in the shop, he stopped by to see her because he went out to lunch with friends nearby…”
The knock on the front door was ill-timed considering Gawain and I had just opened the veins of the last two models.
Sookie breathed, “Shit… that’s Gran and Jason.”
Lynn turned for the front door and mumbled, “You know Momma. I’m sure she’s been ready to come over for hours. I’ll bet good money she tried to get Jason to take off work early so they could be here at sunset.”
Sookie seemed to be torn between tasks for a moment before running to the dining room and clearing a mountain of books from it with Pam’s help. She left the books in the den and returned with the copy of Texarkana’s file on Hadley’s death, and quickly moved through the kitchen to gather plates and forks, pies, ice cream, and coffee…
By the time Sookie joined her family in the foyer, Jason had already asked what was wrong.
I shook my head as I began taking tall glasses of blood to the refrigerator. “And they thought he was without a gift?”
Gawain grumbled, “How old were you when you realized you could have been flying all along? Don’t be a twat about it. Jason’s ability is easily mistaken for consideration because he’s a ‘social butterfly’… I can see how that might elude you though.”
Pam suddenly felt completely justified.
As the models lined up and began walking through the back door like ants at a picnic, he scoffed, “You heard me. I don’t know what the fuck happened downstairs, because Sookie won’t tell me. All I care about is she’s upset. Leave her alone if you aren’t going to do anything but make her life more difficult.”
I couldn’t decide what was more shocking… that he was protecting her, or that he was chiding me. He hadn’t spoken to me in that tone in centuries.
“Since you don’t know what happened, you’re jumping to conclusions.”
“I heard you suggest she’d jump from Alcide’s arms to your dick. I do have some boundaries, and that crossed one of them. She’s anything but a whore…”
“If you’re interested, just say so and she’s yours.”
Anyone else could go fuck themselves… but if Gawain wanted her enough to defend her, I wasn’t going to quarrel with him. Not as long as we’d been friends.
He scowled as he followed the models out. “Show some fucking respect or that’s exactly what I’ll do.”
Lovely. Everyone had gone mad.
Pam didn’t bother saying anything… She let the pitch of her eyebrow remind me of what she’d said about Sookie before turning for the dining room.
I’d lost the popular vote to someone my best friend and child had only known for a few nights.
As I joined the ‘party’ in the dining room, Jason narrowed his eyes and scoffed, “You’re softening the blow with pie? Jesus, Aunt Lin, did you find out Hadley’s dead or something?”
I sat next to Lynn as she nodded and calmly answered, “Yeah Jason, I did.”
He blurted, “What the fuck happened!?”
Sookie stood to begin serving dessert while Lynn answered, “She died back in August, but her motel room was robbed so she didn’t have any identification on her. Sookie and Erik went out to Texarkana last night to talk to detectives and whatnot. Once they could confirm Hadley’s identity, they managed to fill in the blanks of all the time she was gone…”
Adele sighed, “You seem to be taking this pretty well… You faking?”
Lynn shook her head. “No… poor Gawain and Pam held me together last night for my conniption.”
Jason nodded. “A’ight, so what all happened?”
“When she left town, she was pregnant. She went to New Orleans and, for once in his life, Carrey actually took responsibility for her. She stayed there while she was pregnant, and she was on her way home with the baby when she died in her motel. She’d stopped playing with drugs because of the baby and she accidentally took too much. Poor thing drowned in the tub because she was knocked out on borrowed medications for a legit injury… The baby’s in foster care…”
In spite of his mouthful of partially chewed pears and blueberries, he shouted, “Bullshit! Ain’t no reason for that! I got room at my house. I can get a babysitter for while I’m at work. I’ll bring him over to see ya every damn night…”
Lynn smiled as she shushed him. “Calm down, Jas. Sookie’s going to get custody and live here so I can raise my grandbaby… Anyway, custody of Maguire shouldn’t take much longer than a week or two. I’ve got a lot to do to get ready for a one-year old.”
Adele raised an eyebrow and snorted, “That’s an understatement… How did you find out about Hadley? Did Carrey call after her?”
Not a single suggestion or hint they questioned Lynn’s ability to care for a child in her state.
Lynn shook her head. “Wouldn’t that have been nice? No. That turd hadn’t heard from her in months and didn’t think to call… How I found out is actually why I wanted to do a family meeting…”
Gawain joined us in the dining room and sat next to Sookie, pulling his chair close enough to drape his arm over her back.
Lynn continued, “My ability is how I found out… I didn’t realize I had one… I’d always chalked it up to an active imagination. It’s much stronger now that I’m a Vampire… We realized something was up when I knew one of the donors Erik called was pregnant… Yesterday, Gawain was trying to distract me from how cagey I was. He mentioned Momma and I saw her canning…”
Adele offered, “I did that… nervous energy and all, while you were in the ground with Erik.”
Lynn nodded. “Gawain mentioned my nephew and I saw him, but we’ll get back to him in a minute. I saw Sookie out to lunch with Alcide, giving him an update about me. Everything was going fine until I had the bright idea to concentrate on Hadley to see what she was up to. I saw a grave, her motel room, a file cabinet… I saw pretty much everything but Maguire.”
Jason snorted, “A- I apologize for anything you saw me doin’. 2-That’s cool as shit. C- Where the fuck is my ability since e’erbody else got one?”
Lynn giggled, “On your sleeve, baby. You’re empathic.”
Lynn smiled and sat back. “Okay, the family meeting isn’t just because Hadley died, and Maguire was born, and I’m a seer or whatever… Last night was miserable. Erik and Sookie got back from Texarkana with the news about Hadley being gone, and I was only just settling down when we had company. Let me tell you, it’s a good thing Vampires can’t because I’d have shit my pants when Hadley walked in the front door after a long day at work and shopping with Sookie and Pam.”
Jason looked at me and asked, “Do Vampires go bat-shit crazy?”
I nodded. “It’s been known to happen, but they don’t usually have witnesses to their hallucinations. Last night, after Sookie and I were shown copies of Hadley’s morgue photos in Texarkana, the five of us relaxed in the Jacuzzi with Hadley…”
Pam left the table and quickly returned with Hadley’s purse, placing it in front of me.
I continued, “She was just as confused as we were about the phenomenon, but Gawain had heard tales about it as a child. What we were faced with is known as ‘the braid’. Different versions of reality become intertwined from time to time for certain Faeries. Apparently, your aunt is one of the Fae who has access to the braid…”
I reached into Hadley’s wallet and removed her driver’s license, clearly displaying her name as Hadley D. Herveaux, and slid it to him.
Jason studied the ID for a moment before passing it to Adele. “That could be a fake.”
I nodded and began removing the photos from the small photo organizer.
The first picture he was given was of Bubba with Josie and Jessie, the teen pushers, dressed in their formal attire with their doting parents.
“Holy shit! That’s my daddy and Elvis!”
Lynn giggled, “That’s your daddy with Elvis, except Elvis was brought over. The lady with your daddy is Julie. He dated her for a while in our version of things too, but in that version, he married her and they had those beautiful girls together. That Julie raised you and Sookie like you were her own.”
Jason passed the photo to Adele and she smiled at it. “I always liked that Julie. She had such a good heart. I hated that Michelle got her hooks back into my baby… Especially seeing the smile on his face.”
Jason had the excuse. He was part Fae… but Adele Stackhouse had yet to argue or reject anything… She seemed to just be taking everything in.
Lynn reached into Hadley’s wallet and removed a recent photo of Sookie and Brandon together.
“Momma, did you know anything about him? Brandon?”
Adele clenched her jaw as she looked at the photo. “I knew she had a little boy… It must’ve been ten years ago, but I ran into her at a flea market. She’d married a nice man, Tom, if I remember, but I didn’t… Brandon… that boy’s got my Corbett’s smile.”
Jason’s eyes bulged and he snatched the photo from his grandmother. “I’ve got a brother!?”
Lynn assured, “We don’t have any reason to think your daddy knew about him. Not only did Hadley tell us last night that her Julie kept the pregnancy to herself because she didn’t want to be a home-wrecker, but… well, the braid popped up again tonight and I met another version where Corbett didn’t know about Brandon…”
Pam added, “Make that three.”
Lynn continued, “We’ve got Brandon out there… I’m going to do what I can to push and get more info, but we’re going to find him. I saw him when Gawain asked about my nephew. He was working at a bookstore, so Sookie went out there to meet him, but all she got was a last name because he hasn’t worked there since high school.”
Lynn took the photo organizer and passed it to Jason, then pulled the photo of Maguire from her back pocket and handed it to Adele.
“There’s your first great-grandbaby, Momma. Maguire Corbett Delahoussaye. Isn’t he beautiful?”
Adele sniffled as she nodded and choked, “Absolutely perfect… look at that strawberry blond mop. Just precious.”
Jason leaned to see the photo and smiled before looking at Hadley’s collection.
While Jason and Adele marveled at the photos, Lynn explained the details and differences Hadley’s version experienced, including a very thorough description of Jason’s ability…
Sookie was anxious about something, but managed to appear perfectly calm… It wasn’t until Jason and Adele began revisiting the photos that Sookie showed her frustration, reaching over and shoving Pam from her chair.
She giggled at the shocked look on Pam’s face, “Gawain made me do it. Go get your ‘braid treasures’ and share with the class.”
Pam growled, “Eager, are we?” as she pushed herself to her feet.
Sookie nodded. “You hung out with my daddy, you brat. Hell yeah, I’m eager.”
Jason gasped, “What? She did? I thought it was a Faerie thing.”
Gawain offered, “We aren’t sure how Pam was involved yet, but while Lynn vanished into one strand of the braid, Pam was in another. Pam spent the evening with your father, explaining there was an alternative to watching his sister die of cancer, helping Hadley’s children realize they had an actual ability, and helping him realize he was affected by his heritage as well…”
“He had somethin’ goin’ on too?”
Lynn nodded. “Hadley called him a harbinger. He got a really strong sense when something big was going to happen…”
Adele gasped, “Good Lord! He knew when Mitchell died… He called from work and asked to talk to his dad. You know how Mitchell was about talking on the phone, so that was odd enough, but… I forgot all about it when I found him…”
Jason served himself a third slice of pie and sighed, “And it makes more sense… Sook, you remember how he kept ditchin’ work early. He was home by the time we got off the bus like every day for a while. He said he worked too much… Mom hated it ‘cuz he was leavin’ extra early so he could get off and then he’d fall asleep with us.”
I would have done the same thing… If I’d known I’d never see my children again… They would have, at least, had more memories of me, instead of watching me leave for work.
Sookie was frowning when she nodded. “Yeah. We always thought it was the couples’ therapist that suggested it.”
Jason seemed to physically shake off his melancholy, reaching over to swat Pam’s ass and ask, “What are ya waiting for? What did ya bring back from the braid?”
“Why do I have to go first? Lynn has wedding photos of Erik and Sookie.”
Jason and Gawain laughed, “What!?” at the same time and Gawain continued, “You twat! You’ve been holding out on me!”
Him? I was her Maker… and I was in the photos in question.
Lynn laughed, “Don’t hate me because I can keep a secret.”
“If you can keep a secret, how does Pam know?”
“Because she tried sneaking them out of my pocket while you were playing with my food…”
He left his seat and circled the table to reach her quickly enough for Jason and Adele to yelp… and Lynn cackled when he lifted her from her chair pinning her arms to her sides.
“You crazy bitch! Put me down!”
She scoffed, “I need my arm to get them.”
Gawain laughed, “You think I’m daft enough to give you use of your arms? So you can hobble me? No.”
While Adele snickered about Gawain and Lynn ‘horsing around’ at their ages, Jason left his seat and approached his aunt…
He reached between them and quickly removed the stack of photos from Lynn’s pocket, and then cringed at Gawain…
“How you gonna see the pictures when you’re running for your life? You cain’t put her down now.”
Meanwhile, the photos in his hand were more curious to me by the second.
“If I run, she’d chase me. You wouldn’t know anything about the photos.”
Lynn chuckled, “I wouldn’t chase you. I’d rather have you live in fear.”
He chuckled at her and pulled her chair away from the table enough to sit, keeping her on his lap and taking her wrists as insurance.
“You aren’t stronger than me.”
She giggled, “No, but I’m evil…”
Jason and Sookie nodded… vehemently.
She continued, “All I need is a little Super Glue and-” She gasped and reached for Hadley’s purse, taking Gawain’s arms with her as she moved. “Momma! The Hadley that visited last night, she had your purse kit! Look!”
As Adele sniffled, I asked, “Purse kit?”
Jason pulled Sookie’s chair closer to his as he explained, “Hadley always made fun of it, but… I keep that stuff in my glove box. Crazy Glue, Swiss Army Knife, Chapstick, little motel soap… Cain’t tell ya haw many times I’ve used that stuff. Matter of fact, I used the Chapstick yesterday on a tool box… hinge was grinding.”
Sookie offered, “I used my little soap on the closet door in my room upstairs. Damn thing did not want to open at first.”
That would explain why her handbag smelled like a Dove bar.
Lynn snickered, “And I didn’t have scissors with me in the den, so I use my little Swiss Army scissors while I crocheted.”
Jason finally looked at the stack of photos and started laughing. As he held the photo up for Adele, He asked, “And what the hell is this?”
While Lynn moved to the side, not so she could see the photo, but so she could try to block Gawain’s view, she explained, “That is a big fat fake wedding…”
He passed the photo to me, and since I was standing at the altar in a tux with Sookie in an obscenely embellished gown, I was relieved to hear it was fake.
Lynn nodded to the stack of photos and continued, “For the version I met tonight, Eric and Sookie were dating. He was Shreveport’s Most Eligible Bachelor and Sookie was just a small-town girl who rented storage units. Some reporter went off the deep end and started all kinds of wedding gossip, so Erik and Sookie made that their new hobby. The big fancy wedding all scheduled and they planned to cancel it at the last minute, but… Erik and Sookie ended up going on vacation, just a little getaway on a quiet beach, and they got married before the big wedding and then went through with the big to do.”
Jason nodded at the next photo and grinned. “Yeah. THIS is much more Sook’s speed, right here.”
When the second photo made its way to Pam, she chuckled, “Leave it to Sookie to marry a tycoon wearing a Hilo Hattie sundress.”
Lynn agreed, “Tell me about it. You had to make all the wedding plans because Sookie refused to piss away that much money for a joke…”
Me and Sookie?
What the fuck?
Jason laughed at the next photo, and I was scared to ask…
Lynn snickered, “Momma’s gentleman friend?”
Jason cackled, “Yeah! Who is this dude and where can we find Gran some strange!?”
Adele slapped Jason’s arm and snatched the stack of pictures from him. “You’re slowing us down.”
Lynn giggled while her mother stared at the photo and teased, “Apparently, he moved all the way from New Orleans to live in sin with you, Momma… Erik hired him to teach everyone how to ward their property on account of the attention Sookie was getting and us being Faeries… Price couldn’t have been more curious about me being in their reality.”
Pam and I had blurted in unison…
He’d introduced himself by knocking on my door one night just after I moved to New Orleans… he explained he’d been secretly harvesting flowers from the garden (specifically, the rare jade vine and chocolate cosmos) and the previous owners (Humans) had been none the wiser, but he ‘knew better’ than to steal from a Vampire. At 19-years old the natural Witch bargained to maintain my gardens and ward my property in exchange for permission to continue harvesting. That arrangement was so mutually beneficial, I’d happily hired him to be caretaker even after I was forced to relocate, and then I extended that arrangement to his daughter when he retired.
Lynn giggled again, “Yeah. Price Simonette. Livin’ with Momma. His son, Porter, married a nice girl and has a couple of kids here in Shreveport. Paulette… well, Paulette took a shine to Alcide Herveaux. They’re engaged and planning to get married in August.”
Sookie felt relieved and troubled simultaneously.
I asked, “Even though she’s a Witch? Didn’t you say Jack was stressing the importance of breeding?”
Lynn wiggled her eyebrows. “Apparently, Jack stops caring about bloodlines when his son finds a girl who makes him happy.”
Fuck… I was hoping, and only for the sake of Sookie’s conscience, Jack Herveaux had disowned his son for blatantly ignoring his wishes. It might have lightened Sookie’s burden when it came to breaking up with Alcide… Instead, she felt as though she’d been kicked in the stomach.
It only annoyed me more when Gawain and Pam scowled at me as though I’d pushed for details to intentionally hurt Sookie… Yes, I wanted to fuck her, but Pam couldn’t have been more wrong when she accused me of being oblivious to Sookie’s sacrifices… Estranging herself from her Wolf was the practical choice in the greater scheme of things. THAT didn’t have anything to do with my cock. Assholes.
I offered, “Perhaps his wife helped sway his opinion.”
Lynn shrugged, “Perhaps, but I’m sure it helps that Paulette said she’d support Alcide if he changed his mind about adding to the pack… so Jack isn’t worried she’ll get in the way.”
She was speaking to Sookie instead of me… she was still pushing for Sookie to admit to dating Alcide.
In the interest of moving things along, maybe just because I wasn’t fond of feeling pain I couldn’t return, I took the photo of Price and Adele from Pam and explained how I came to hire him.
Photos of a happy and healthy Hadley had been what swayed everyone’s mood, and it all started with a snapshot of Hadley, hiding a pregnant waistline in an empire-waisted wedding gown and marrying Shawn Ingram (while I officiated) in a park. Shawn’s daughter served as maid of honor, his older son was his best man, and the youngest of his children was holding a little satin pillow with a pair of rings tied to it.
While everyone studied the photos, Lynn explained there wouldn’t be a burial in the family plot… After spending time with a happy version of her daughter, they decided to cremate Hadley and have her loved ones spread portions of her remains where they had pleasant memories of her.
The family didn’t need to be convinced, especially considering another Hadley had been part of making the decision.
Jason had eaten an entire pie by the time Lynn was finished explaining her experience with the braid… I wasn’t sure if sugar or caffeine was to blame, but he enjoyed convincing Pam to share her ‘braid goodies’… given that even I wanted her to share what she brought back, I was sure empathy was just as responsible as the needy look he gave her.
She took the bag from its hiding place and led everyone to the relocated entertainment center in the living room… and stood in front of the television after sliding a DVD into the player.
She was building the suspense intentionally.
She offered a small photo album to Adele and explained that Corbett was excited to hear she was still alive because his mother had died in a flood… Pam said he was upset to hear he’d died because of the flood instead, and said it was better for him to have died because Adele had more to offer the world than he did.
While Adele was crying and waiting for Gawain to bring tissues for her, Jason and Sookie were presented with tattered baseball cards… their own baseball cards. Corbett Stackhouse was still carrying their cards in his wallet years after his children played little league. Even though he’d had to share Jason and Sookie with their stepfather, he was endlessly proud of his children and Pam described how he beamed whenever he mentioned them.
Oddly enough, Pam handed a note to me, but before I could read it, she grabbed my head and yanked me down to kiss me… When I asked her why the fuck she’d done it, she told me to read the note… “If it makes you feel better, another you is getting one of those from me in three nights. Thank you.”
Lynn cried as she laughed that he wasn’t exaggerating. Her brother was ‘goofy’ enough to ‘mouth rape’ a Vampire.
Adele was agreeing with a nod when Gawain returned to the living room with her tissues… by then, all of the Stackhouses needed them. And Pam promised it would only get ‘worse’.
Pam had a balled up piece of paper for Lynn… As she opened the discarded note, she noticed it was written in her own handwriting… Titled ‘Bucket List’, the list included visiting London, going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, learning another language, and SCUBA diving… and it filled the page. Pam explained, “Your brother said you need to get your ass to work on that list because you don’t have an excuse anymore.”
Lynn snorted past the tears, “Are you done playing Santa’s melancholy elf so we can see the video?”
“Are you going to work on the list? I’m not supposed to play the video unless you promise to do it. He said it broke his heart when you tore it out of your journal and threw it away after you talked to your doctor.”
Lynn croaked, “Yeah, I’ll work on the list… I think he’ll understand if I pace myself now that I’ve got time.”
Pam grinned. “Good. Your bucket list is a great excuse to visit London…” She turned for the television and offered, “A few days ago, when Hadley dropped off Misty and Jenny, you had the idea to record bedtime stories for them… for posterity… Corbett wasn’t exactly pleased by the connotation, but he took the children and bought a video camera just to record you reading to them, so you wouldn’t just be a ‘book on tape’ to them…”
Lynn stomped and blurted, “You’re killing me! Just play the damn thing.”
Gawain quickly seconded Lynn’s demands and blamed Jason’s empathy for how much he wanted to see the video. Jason, Sookie and Adele agreed and Lynn asked me to command Pam to push play.
When the video started, Lynn sat on the arm of the sofa and reached for the tissues…
Linda Delahoussaye was sitting in a chair in an unfamiliar house with two little girls on her lap, reading the first scene of As You Like It until the girls dozed off to the sound of her voice…
Misty and Jenny were only three and four years old, aging Hadley to have been part of the teen pregnancy epidemic, but everyone seemed more focused on the difference in Lynn’s appearance.
There was a flaw in the video caused by stopping and restarting the recording, and Linda was beginning the scene where she’d left off during the last session, but there was another flaw in the video… And then Corbett moved from behind the camera to sit on the steps in my foyer… and Misty and Jenny quickly bounced up to sit on his legs.
He smiled and asked, “You got it?”
Linda giggled, “You were right about how easy this is to work…”
He snorted, “You put in your own breaker box. How the hell are you so tech-tarded?”
“Because I can’t open up this new stuff and play around.”
“You better work on that. Won’t be long before everything is microchips and circuit boards… If you’re gonna live forever, you best adjust to technology.”
The children clapped and cheered, “Gramma’s gonna live f’rever! Yaaaayyyyyyy!”
Corbett chuckled, “So what do I say to my kids? I talked to them half an hour ago and they asked me if I was on crack… but these ain’t seen me since they were- Jesus Lin, they lost me when they were so young, I have to pull out albums to remember what they looked like back then.”
Jason mumbled, “Just seein’ him’s enough,” and the other Stackhouses agreed with a collective ‘amen’.
Linda suggested, “You could tell them how you cried when Jason showed you his college acceptance letter…”
He scowled. “You would bring that up.”
“Or that you hate the whole state of California just because Jason’s put roots down there…”
“You’re being evil…”
“And you cut two cords of wood when Sookie decided to stay with Jas and Lauren while she went to school out there too…”
“Both of my kids have left the nest. You know how much I wanted to hate Calvin and they were only 20 minutes away.”
Linda continued, “And you might be the first American in history to hate a neutral country. You stopped buying Swiss Miss, Swiss Army knives… Jesus Corbett, you gave me the stink-eye for buying Lindt chocolates…”
“That Swiss asshole almost kept Sookie in Bern! And with my luck I would’ve liked Allecks too much to hate him… Like Calvin and Lauren…”
Pam paused the video long enough to quickly explain Lauren Young was Jason’s wife and mother of Jason Young Stackhouse (also known as Junior) and Sookie had a short-lived relationship with Allecks Auers while she vacationed in Switzerland between high school and university.
When the video resumed, Linda giggled and suggested, “How about you just tell them that you love them so much you can’t stand for them to be so far away, that I’m the last reason you have to stay in Louisiana now that Daddy’s gone. Tell them you looked up oncologists in San Francisco and if your house had sold…”
He grumbled, “You weren’t supposed to know about that… Fuckin’ recession.”
Linda sighed, “Just tell them you love them, Corbett. It’s been thirteen years since they heard it.”
He nodded and looked into the camera. “She’s right. I know it’s not much. Hell, I don’t even know if you remember anything about me, but I love ya. Both of ya. More than anything… I only ever had y’all on weekends, and it nearly killed me to put y’all on a plane to send y’all off to school… I don’t guess it really matters what y’all are up to… Pam said there’s a pair of y’all gamblin’ professionally, using y’alls abilities, and y’all are takin’ care of Lin… I guess I’d be proud of y’all no matter what you’re doin’. If Pam’s right, and this is a Faerie thing, maybe I’ll get to meet y’all, catch up on some bear hugs… God knows I won’t ever get enough of those… And Momma…” He stopped to clear his throat. “It don’t matter that losin’ your parents is the natural order of things. I wasn’t ready to lose you. I had a wife, kids of my own… Lin did too… we still miss you… I think about you all the time. My grandson sleeps on that last quilt you made. It’s been thirteen years, and last fall I still skinned a dear to make your damn bookmarks. Just realize I’m lovin’ ya from here. Maybe one day, we’ll meet in the middle, but until then, it makes me feel better to know you’re out there, lovin’ me back…”
The camera suddenly jerked to focus on another me… I was covered with dirt and glaring at Corbett.
Pam was just behind Me when I growled, “Something has to be done about his scent.”
Pam offered, “Orange oil. Hadley fervently endorsed orange oil. Another Corbett and Linda have frequent contact with another me. She also mentioned we’d build a resistance to it.”
“I’m still unsure about Linda as a newborn… If she-”
Pam interrupted, “She has no reaction to Sookie’s scent. Gawain isn’t tempted either. Lynn wasn’t even tempted to feed when she first rose. She’ll be fine. I swear on all things Louboutin, I’m not hiding or exaggerating anything.”
I cringed and asked, “Cold blood? Really?”
Pam snickered and walked towards the camera. “Yes, really…” The camera began shaking as Pam took it from Linda. “You look like shit, darling. Go get your makeover.”
Linda laughed, “You’re a trip. I’m going to like you…”
Pam snorted, “Don’t be so sure about that. If I didn’t have Gawain and Sookie with me while Eric had you in the ground, I probably would have been a jealous, petty cunt when you rose. Give your Me some time to adjust to having a sister…”
At least I wasn’t the only one to have considered the possibility.
“Corbett, have you finished your message?”
“Not quite… I didn’t get to Brandon…”
The other Me took Linda’s hand and began walking towards the kitchen. “We’ll get started while you hold the camera for him…”
Pam offered, “I’ll be right out…” She turned the camera back to Corbett. “Alright Corbett, let’s make this as meaningful as possible. I need to go tuck them in and still get to the safe-room before dawn.”
“Think you can fit me into that bag o’ yours so Brandon can meet his father?”
Pam cooed, “Oh sweetness, if I could put you in my pocket, I’d keep you all to myself and I’d never let you come back to meet your own Brandon.”
He chuckled, “You’re why I’m short on time. Stop flirtin’ with me… Alright… Brandon… I’m a damn sap for my kids, and if I’d known you were mine, you’da known that all along. I cain’t blame your mom for keeping you a secret. My wife was the devil and would’ve treated you like shit. Unless they were great at hiding ugly, your folks were good people, so I’m happy you at least had that goin’ for ya. It doesn’t mean I’m not gonna be having a sit-down with Julie in the morning though… I missed out on 21 years and unless you tell me to fuck off, you’re gonna be stuck with me. I love ya already and I only found out you’re mine a little while ago…”
Suddenly, Sookie left her seat with Gawain just behind her and they bolted for the foyer without explanation.
That didn’t bode well… two telepaths on high alert.
They stopped at the door for just a moment before Gawain opened it to dart outside and Sookie whispered to me, “Three Wolves, shifted, and a Human. Gawain’s got two, but…”
“Near the end of the driveway. On foot.”
Lovely. So much for thinking the demanding portion of the evening was behind me.