At 1am, there wasn’t any other way to entertain them than taking them to the 7-11 just outside their complex and letting them get whatever they wanted.
They wandered, collecting their snacks and drinks… while I held a tray of chips so that Tina could squirt mock cheese and sludge labeled ‘chili’, Tina smirked and offered, “They have cell phones.”
“I already have one.”
She shook her head. “You said ‘whatever’ we want.”
“Do you want a cell phone?”
She shrugged and looked away from me. “Might be handy.” Like when her father wakes her in the middle of the night calling her mother a whore?
“How long were they fighting?”
She grumbled, “Long time.” Given how quickly Sookie had been returning texts earlier, he’d probably been there for close to an hour.
“Can you read yet?”
She shook her head. “I know letters n numbers.”
“Then I’ll be shopping for a cell phone.”
She nodded, but didn’t say anything else.
I could only imagine what was going through her head… rather, what had been going through her father’s head while he was berating her mother… Four fucking years old and hearing the accusations he’d been spewing and whatever thoughts were behind it all.
Since the girls were just in their pajamas, I went back to their window to reach in and take the comforter from the bed under it…
Tina and Shelly enjoyed the quick lift to the roof of the building across from theirs enough to ask to ‘do it again’. Once the girls confirmed that they were far enough away that they couldn’t hear any part of their parents’ continuing dispute (and I was still close enough to hear everything), they wrapped themselves in the blanket and began snacking and leafing through their magazines while I called Pam to give her details.
The fighting continued while I browsed the internet for cell phones that were as user-friendly for children as possible only to find that there was an actual market for children’s safety devices including phones made specifically for small children that only had a few buttons and most of them had GPS locators. At first glance, they looked like toys.
I did my best to focus on my shopping rather than let myself invest in the fact that without the children in the apartment Sookie was fighting back… maybe the better term was ‘biting’ back.
When Merlotte complained that the apartment reeked of Vampires, she returned with, “Oh shit! Maybe someone I know is a Vampire and didn’t tell me!” Sookie had an impressive grip of sarcasm. The girls looked over when I chuckled.
When he went back to accusing her of fucking me again, she volleyed, “Sorry buddy. You couldn’t be more wrong. By the time you stop this shit, I’ll be a card-carrying, cat-hating lesbian.”
Of course he reminded her that she’d kept a secret of her own, to which she answered, “Because my own mother made me think I was a freak! Meanwhile, your mother makes me feel like trash every time she looks at me and my family is taking your side in this! Why? Because they’re just like you! Your parents AND in-laws are Shifters. I was the only one I’ve EVER known about, but you’ve got yourself a fucking community! You say, ‘Sookie, I’m a Shifter.’ I confide in Calvin and he sets me straight. I say, ‘Sam, I read minds.’ You drop me off for the same Benzo-break my mother did! Don’t. You. Dare. Compare us!” Very nice point.
So he suggested that her ‘Vampire sugar daddy’ would never tell her anything either. Her surprisingly composed answer was, “Stop making this about people I just met. Stop. It’s not fair and it’s as far from why I’m in Shreveport as possible. This… this… you being so hateful is misdirected. The fact of the matter is that I was thinking about leaving you when I found out I’m pregnant again. We haven’t been happy together for a long time. I haven’t missed you when you went ‘hunting’ or ‘fishing’ in a long time. Granted, we might’ve been able to go to couple’s counseling to help get out of the rut we were in, but this is just too big. Any therapist we could’ve sat down with would’ve put trust at the top of any list. When it came up that I hadn’t been reading minds all along, I stopped using my shields. Sam, even if I could’ve gotten past the Shifter lie, there are things I’ve seen and heard since then that I can’t forgive you for. I lied by omission. I was wrong and I’m sorry for that, but… I know you’ve cheated on me and exactly what you think of me now. I’m done helping you be right about how stupid I can be. I won’t be with you anymore. We’re over.”
For a moment I thought the argument was over. The only noises I heard were a toilet flushing in the unit under us and a couple fucking in the building behind us.
I glanced away from my phone to see that I was being stared at. “You two are being very quiet. Are you able to hear them?”
They shook their heads and Tina offered, “Your brain is messy. Can you hear them?”
I nodded. “It’s why we’re here. I didn’t want to be so far away that I couldn’t hear something happen.”
“What are they saying?”
“The same as before, I think. Are you getting cold? We could go sit in my car with the heater on.”
They shook their heads again and both of them yawned before saying, “We like it up here,” in unison.
“Do you need something?”
Shelly mumbled, “Whassa whore? Daddy called mommy a…”
“A whore is someone that trades their pride for material things, and your father meant it as an insult. Your mother isn’t a whore. Babies cry to communicate when they’re uncomfortable or in need. Animals communicate by hurting each other.”
Tina narrowed her eyes. “I’m gonna be a Shifter too…” I almost laughed… not because I’d offended her, but because it was the first time that came to mind when I’d offended a Shifter accidently.
“We all have the capacity to behave like animals. Shifters might be able to become animals, but we all have the responsibility of controlling ourselves. Your father is very angry and looking for someone to blame.”
Shelly asked, “Why?” Because he’s a malcontented cocksucker with no respect for the mother of his children.
“Because your mother has strength and beauty and intelligence and plenty of pride… and gave him amazing children who seem to have the same traits. It’s not occurring to him at the moment that he hasn’t earned the privilege of having her because he’s too mad at himself for giving her a reason to leave. He’s just behaving badly because he isn’t getting what he wants.”
She stood up carefully and came over to make herself at home on my lap, going as far as tucking herself into my jacket. “Whasse want?”
“To be forgiven.” When Tina noticed that I hadn’t complained, she followed her little sister’s lead and brought the blanket with her.
“Whah for?” I was being used. She might’ve been confirming information they’d already been told, or trying to unfuck what they’d heard from everyone around them, but I had the distinct impression that she was trying to get info that she’d been denied.
“No. Sometimes secrets are smart and necessary. Your father can’t just introduce himself to everyone as ‘Sam the Shifter’ because normal Humans would either worry that he’s crazy or dangerous. One day Shifters and Weres will let the world know about them and he can be honest about himself to everyone.”
“Like Vampires were secrets.”
“Twepathy’s secret. Who’s scared a’us?”
“You have a different reason to keep your ability to yourself. There are people who would be very nasty and greedy about having their own telepath to help them.”
She nodded and yawned most of, “They still fighting?”
“No. It’s quiet now. I’m just waiting until he leaves to take you home.”
They both yawned again as they fumbled under the blanket to find my wrists… within a couple of minutes, they were both asleep, breathing in somewhat of a purr.
It had been close to 20 minutes since the most recent identifiable noise had come from Sookie’s apartment. It was a door closing and nothing more. The only other thing happening seemed to be aimless pacing.
If I had to guess, I’d say the exhausted pregnant woman wasn’t the one needlessly on her feet… more likely in the bathroom.
Without an audible reason, the footfalls’ gate become heavier, more angry… then a few items being rustled, more doors, things being knocked over… then something was hit… If I had to guess, he’d punched a wall.
He bellowed, “YOU CUNT! WHERE ARE MY KIDS!?”
For nearly two hours he’d been in that apartment, an hour since I’d taken them, and that was the first time he’d thought to check on his children?
Before Sookie answered, another door was opened. “They’re safe.”
“What the fuck do you mean, safe? Where the fuck are they?”
“They’re with a friend. Do you really think they needed to be here? This is just like the other night at the house… They shouldn’t have heard what you were saying out loud. They sure as hell didn’t need to hear what you were thinking on top of it.”
“You can’t keep them from me.”
“Yes I can. The first thing I’m going to do when you leave is take pictures of what you did and call my lawyer. Don’t think for a second you’re going to get away with this.”
He growled, “I want to see my girls.”
“I want you to be gored by a deer during the next full moon. Does that make us even?” It could be arranged.
“What did I tell you about mouthing off to me?”
“I dunno. I’ve made a habit to stop listening every time you start a sentence with ‘I want’.” Funny. I’d done that too… with everyone.
“You don’t seem to understand…”
“Because I’m a stupid slut who’s burning her meal ticket?”
“I’m going to make you pay for this…”
“This!? This? Are you fucking kidding me? LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE! I swear to God, you’re THAT guy. Fuck you. This bullshit isn’t my fault. This is what happens when an overgrown child has a tantrum. You can’t put this off on me!”
“I meant leaving me… Sooner or later, you’re going to come crawling back… and you’re going to pay.”
“Why don’t you let me lay it out for you… My whole life has given me an excuse to kill you. Molested, abused, alcoholic mother, slut father… All of it documented thanks to therapy you forced me into when I wasn’t pleasant enough for your liking. My husband, who’s fucked two of my friends and one of my step-cousins and flirts with my 16 year old sister, God knows what else you’ve put your dick into and exposed me to, by extension your children… You’ve flown off the handle because I’ve left you, taking only what we claimed I made last year instead of draining your accounts and safe. I don’t want anything from you but peace and you drove 45 minutes… Your pregnant wife, your children… look at what you’ve done… Give me one fucking reason why I shouldn’t shoot you with the gun you made me start carrying when you lied about being mugged to cover that Calvin fucked you up for what you did to me when I was pregnant with Shelly.”
There was more silence than I knew what to do with. Not knowing how he’d take her threat… and not having more than a vivid imagination to fill the subtext of the conversation I wasn’t meant to hear… Not only did she have the perfect excuse to kill him, but it sounded like she had a great excuse to be bitter that her parents hadn’t died in a flood. I had puzzle pieces… they were all face down, but no matter how they fit together, it didn’t give a picture of a charmed life by anyone’s stretch of the imagination. The other Sookie lost her parents and struggled with her ability for most of her life and bonded to a Vampire who couldn’t give her children. This Sookie, My Sookie had her parents, children and the ability to control her gift… At what cost?
“Get out, Sam. You’ve been at the wheel for 5 years now. I’m taking over. You won’t control me anymore. For now, you can call the girls on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 7 to talk to them. When you call on Saturdays, we will make arrangements to meet on Sundays in public for dinner so that you can see them. You are not welcome at the hospital when Maggie is born. You will suffice with pictures and video that I send to you until I’m up to meeting you in public again. This is where we’re at and I’m sure you’ll understand, because it’s what you’ve always told me… ‘This is your fault. You pushed me to do this’… This is not your home. You are not welcome here. The next time I see you here, I’ll shoot first and ask questions later. Tell me you understand.”
There was another long pause, but that time he answered her, “What would you do if I told you I’m not leaving?”
“Remind you that I shot a good man and went to bed with a monster this week and that I need to make up for that…” I heard the distinctive sound of a hammer being ratcheted into position. “Look around, Sam. When I call 9-1-1, do you think the police aren’t going to believe that I was defending myself? Get. The. Fuck. Out.” Good girl. I couldn’t help but wonder who the fuck she’d shot, but she’d confronted him beautifully. I was genuinely proud for her.
He didn’t test her. Only a moment later, his heavy steps echoed through the apartment until the front door opened and he stomped to his truck. The prick purposefully backed into her van, pulled forward and backed into it a second time before tearing out of the parking lot, hopefully breaking teeth as he ricocheted over the speed bumps.
I watched as he ran a red light leaving the complex before I took the girls home.
The scene I walked into was galling. However Sookie had arranged her new home, it had been undone.
The evidence that Merlotte had kicked in the door was the first thing to be seen. From the threshold I could see that the living room/dining room/kitchen had been destroyed. Broken glass and ceramics all over the kitchen, the dining room table had been broken, and the living room furniture had been ripped to shreds… stuffing, splinters, and debris were everywhere. There was no way to tell which hole in the wall was the one I’d heard happen. There were plenty.
The most disturbing damage had been done to Sookie… blood was trickling from the corner of her mouth and nose. She was leaning against the arm of her eviscerated loveseat in her pajamas, holding a camera in one hand and digging a piece of glass out of the bottom of her foot with the other… her gun sitting on a mound of stuffing that had formally been a cushion.
Instead of risking waking the girls to see the chaos, even if I was sure they’d heard most of it, I took them back to their room after Sookie quietly issued my invitation. As it turned out, their father had flipped their beds when he discovered they weren’t in them.
He could’ve claimed that he was looking for their hiding place if he hadn’t done the same thing to Sookie’s bed. Her room was completely ransacked. Dresser drawers had been dumped, lamps had been broken, linens slashed, exercise bike upturned, television smashed, ceiling fan pulled from its fixture…
Sookie was surveying the damage when I returned to the living room, still holding her sleeping children since there hadn’t been a suitable place to put them.
“Sookie, are you calling the police?”
She shook her head slowly without looking back to me. “No. I can’t. He’d bully someone into giving him an alibi and blame my ‘Vampire boyfriend’.”
“There’s no way for you to stay here tonight.”
She helplessly shook her head, again, without looking back.
It seemed as though the bathroom was the only room that escaped the destruction, making it easier to find a washrag even if it took an effort to put both girls into one arm without waking them…
Sookie still hadn’t moved from her place when I returned. I held the rag out to her and waited until she cleaned away the blood and the surprisingly few tears she’d let escape. When I lifted her chin to look over what Merlotte had done to her, her hair fell away to expose a cut on her cheek I hadn’t seen before.
As soon as I pricked my finger on my fang she caught my wrist and shook her head. “Eric… I…”
“Shhhh. It won’t affect you. It’s superficial, but the girls don’t need to see this… Not when you lied to them and said you were fine.”
She closed her eyes and nodded, letting me rub the tiny amount necessary where it was needed. “Thank you… I hate that the girls heard it… all of it…”
I nodded. “I’m aware. I had the pleasure of defining ‘whore’ for them…” I took the rag from her hand and dabbed the already healed injuries. She gave a puzzled look when I squatted next to her until I told her to lift her foot. Instead of just standing up, I put my arm behind her legs and had Sookie put her arms around my neck so that I could lift her.
When I started for the door, she shook her head. “I can’t… where are we going? I need to…”
“You’ve been through enough tonight. If he decides to come back for round 2, he’ll find Pam collecting what little bit is salvageable.”
She whimpered and turned away to close the door behind us. “We were so proud of how it looked… after all Pam’s help… I hate for her to see it…”
“Pam’s more concerned about you and the girls. She berated me for leaving her to worry…”
“Why did you come… wait. Thank you. I mean that, but I mean, you…” I’d only had a few conversations with her while Pam had wedged herself into the position of meddling Auntie?
“Pam is more impulsive than I am. She’d most likely have done to your husband what he did to the walls… but to be fair, if I’d known he hit you, I would’ve too.”
She sniffled when she saw that he’d hit her van hard enough to break the axle. “I should’ve shot him when I had the chance. He broke everything…”
I nodded. “He wants you to have no choice but to go back. I have a car you can drive in the meantime.”
She whimpered, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. I shouldn’t have a stranger protecting me from my husband. It’s supposed to be the other way around… Why are you helping me? You just met me.”
“I wouldn’t necessarily call us strangers though. Thanks to the journal we know a lot about one another.”
She snorted, “Like pen-pals, online chat buddies?”
“I was thinking that you’re my favorite character in a story I’ve been reading.”
She blushed slightly and sighed, “That’s better. More fantastical, but considering how I met you, appropriate.”
When I stopped, lowering her gently next to my car, she balked. I was already aware that my two-seater was a hitch and promised that we weren’t going far.
I put Shelly in her arms once Sookie had awkwardly lowered herself into the car and took Tina to my side of the car with me…
A notable first… I’d never worn a seat belt before.
I called Pam to give instructions and handed my phone to Sookie so that she could make a list of things she wanted Pam to gather for her. It was a shameless distraction from letting her become anxious about what came next.
Neither of the girls stirred until the sound of my garage door disturbed them.
Tina mumbled, “Where are we?”
Her eyes flew open. “Why?” Because there wasn’t anywhere in her house that could be used as a bed.
“Because your mother is upset after arguing with your father. I thought we could try cheering her up by starting the slumber party early.”
She squealed, “Really!?”
I nodded, “Maybe a long bath will help her relax. I think I know of something fun we can do while she calms down.”
She grinned when I winked at her and set her down… and tugged my hand as we went from room to room. She was actually annoyed enough to groan when I stepped into my study. “Great. Mommy won’t take a bath now.”
Sookie stared at the shelves and blinked repeatedly while I found the book I was looking for. “They aren’t going anywhere. She’s welcome to read as much as she wants.”
Sookie lifted her chin and eyebrows, curious about the book in my hand, so I held it up. She giggled, “Why do you own Stories from Bygone Eras? Mother Goose and Vampires?”
I opened it to the copyright page, held it out to her and waited.
“1729! Is that…? That’s a…”
“First edition. I collect. I have it in French too. 1697. I have Pentamerone and Grimm’s, but this isn’t laden with metaphors or violence.”
She shook her head. “No… no. This is good… are all of those…?”
“First editions? Most of them. Some of them are just antiques that I bought as part of a larger lot… estate sales and such.”
“Did I mention that I have a thing for books?”
I was nodding when Tina groaned, “Toldya.”
Sookie bit her lip and shook her head. “I’m not that bad.”
Tina rolled her eyes to tell me, “She is too. She reads All. The. Time.”
I shook my head. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
“Cuz you got your own library. Duh.” It was like I was in the room with Pam.
Sookie and I ‘obediently’ followed her out of the study when she told us ‘let’s go’.
Once we’d gotten upstairs, I told everyone to take their pick of rooms. They were identical in essence… similar sizes with king sized beds and private bathrooms and since I lived in a neighborhood, the view wasn’t more impressive from any of them. Nothing but the neighbors’ yards.
Once that was out of the way, I told the girls to wait for me in the kitchen.
I closed the door to Sookie’s room behind us and pulled my phone out of my pocket. “I need your step-father’s phone number.”
She gasped, “Eric… I don’t want to put him in the middle…”
“He accepted an outsider into his pack. He’s the Were equivalent of a Sheriff. He needs to know what one of his members has done.”
“Don’t be too hard on him. He really is a good man.” The ‘good man’ she’d shot?
“Give me an example.”
“He took a lot from my mother to shield us kids from her… Him and Daddy shared a 6-pack while they waited for me to come home from my first date. He went halfsies with Daddy on my graduation present so that I got what I really wanted. He’s the one that helped me move into my dorm. My Daddy is alright, but it’s always been because he followed Calvin’s lead.”
I nodded. “Understood. I’ll be more diplomatic, but I’m still not going to be soft.”
She huffed and buried her face in her hands to mumble the phone number to me. I turned the speaker on while it rang and explained that she shouldn’t say anything because I knew what I was doing.
“Packmaster Norris, Sheriff Eric Northman. How are you?”
“What do you want?”
“I want to talk to you about the Shifter, Sam Merlotte. He belongs to you and you need to do something with him before he gets your whole pack slaughtered.”
“Excuse me? Sam’s got enough going on right now. I know damn good and well that he isn’t causing any problems with Vampires.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Norris. What your Shifter has going on for him right now is that he’s causing problems for me directly. I don’t appreciate it.”
“His failure as a husband and father put him in my neck of the woods tonight.”
“I doubt Flood would bitch that my Shifter went to see his kids.”
“I can’t argue with that, but how do you think Flood would feel about a psychotic rogue Shifter kicking in the door of his pregnant wife’s apartment and destroying everything he could get his hands on?”
“He did WHAT?”
“You heard me.”
“That’s not what he told me. I’ve been trying to get aholt of Sookie for a while. She’s ignoring my calls…”
“Correction. That Shifting piece of shit destroyed her cell phone and laptop along with everything else in the apartment so that she couldn’t call for help. He assaulted her and the only reason he left was because she put a gun to his head. The cherry on top was that he destroyed her minivan when he left.”
“He… Are they alright?”
“They’ve fled their new home because he’s insane. How the fuck do you think they are? No. They are not alright. A four year old and a three year old leapt out of their bedroom window into the arms of a Vampire to get away from their own father. There’s nothing alright about that.”
“I’ll deal with it.”
“You’d better, Norris…”
“Why the fuck do you even care? This is my Pack, my family. This ain’t nothin’ to you.”
“Because Sookie is Mine now…” Sookie took a step back with a shocked expression. She didn’t seem unhappy that I called her Mine though. It took me a moment to realize that since she’d grown up surrounded by Weres, she’d have been desensitized to the term to an extent. Unlike her skipping counterparts, she wasn’t appalled by the idea of belonging to someone. “She came to me when she left her husband because her own family turned a blind eye to the abuse he’s guilty of… As his Packmaster, you should also know Sookie explained the terms of his visitation to him already. He’ll be allowed phone calls and a supervised visitation with the children each week. Sookie is no longer in the apartment and won’t be. Her home will not be a matter of public record. Because of the damage your Shifter caused tonight, I’m giving Sookie $50,000 to help her recoup her losses. The debt is not hers to repay. It’s Merlotte’s and he’ll be sending a cashier’s check to Fangtasia. He has one week, starting now, to repay me before Merlotte and another member of your pack begins getting nightly reminders of the debt. Are we clear so far?”
“Norris, you need to do something with your Shifter. He’s out of control and if he lays another hand on Sookie, your whole pack will suffer. Understand?”
“I… I’m… I get it…”
“I don’t think you do. There are more than 400 Vampires at my disposal. Do you think the few inbred, hick felines you have can hold up?”
“Just stop! I get it. I told you I’ll take care of it as best I can. How is Sookie? How bad is she? She see a doctor?”
“Her injuries were minor, but given her condition, we’re doing our best to reduce her stress level.”
“The babies, how are they?”
“Distracted, but they heard every fucking thing Merlotte did to their mother and home.”
“She… Sookie should go stay with Jason. Sam can track like nobody’s business…”
“So can I.”
When I slid my phone back into my pocket, Sookie huffed. “You’ve already done so much. I don’t want your money.”
“Then don’t take it, but Merlotte’s going to pay for what he ruined. I’ll just sign the check over to you.”
She took a deep breath, shaking her head witlessly. “What do I do next, Eric? I mean… I don’t know how to keep this from… the girls deserve better.”
“That isn’t something you worry about. Defense is my department…” When Tina and Shelly yelled for me to hurry up, I smiled and kissed Sookie’s forehead. “Take your bath. Yell if you need anything. I’ll send Pam up when she arrives with your things.”
She forced a smile. “Watch out for that. If you make a habit of answering to their every beck and call, you’re going to end up wrapped around their little fingers.”
“I’ve never had a problem telling anyone no. Just ask Pam.”
“Pam’s not that cute.”
The girls were impatient enough that I jokingly sped through the kitchen to get my laptop from my room and they were giggling when I took a seat at the counter.
Shelly chirped, “Wha we doin’?”
“I have a problem. Open the refrigerator.”
The girls struggled to open the door to see how empty it was. The only thing in 28 cubic feet of chilled storage space was 6 pints of bagged blood. They took the bags out and inspected them, gaping and silent.
Tina finally breathed, “Is this blood?”
“It is. It’s the only thing I can ‘eat’… The last time I ate a meal like you do, it was an animal I’d killed myself from my own farm because it was long before there was a such thing as a grocery store.”
Shelly gasped, “How old are you?”
“About a thousand years old. So… I’m going to need your help. I’m going to send someone to run some errands for me. He’ll start by going to fetch some groceries so your mother can make breakfast. I need your help with making a list for him unless you want to eat smoked fish and boiled eggs.”
They pulled their faces and shook their heads… and immediately began the shopping list. One item after another until they were stumped for more and we moved onto lunch items… once I asked for snacks and drinks, the list doubled.
When I mailed the list to Bobby, I closed my laptop and leaned on the counter. “Now for the fun part. I understand that you ladies are a bit confused about what happened the other night, but that’s when you met Paulette, yes?”
They both nodded… The consensus was that Paulette was ‘really pretty’ and ‘really nice’.
“I’m still trying to get Paulette to come work for me. In the meantime, I’m stuck with a troll named Bobby. He’s a disgusting little man and when you met the other Sookie and Eric we found out that their Bobby was very rude to Sookie. Are you with me so far?”
“Since we have to put up with him while I’m waiting for Paulette to accept my offer, we’re going to toy with Bobby.”
“We’re pulling a prank?”
I nodded. “We can’t tell him that you’re all telepaths so that he makes an effort to be friendly, but we can tell him that you’re royalty.”
They cringed, “Princesses?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Shelly rolled her eyes and reminded me that, “Pwincesses are lame.”
“Disney princesses might be, but you’re anything but lame.”
Tina groaned, “We had to get rescued though.”
“You weren’t rescued. You escaped a nasty situation on your own. I just kept you company. You didn’t need my help opening your window. You got away from an unpleasant state of affairs because you chose to come with me and you could’ve resisted. I wouldn’t have abducted you… You couldn’t have gotten onto the roof on your own, but once you were there, you didn’t do anything foolish to give gravity an excuse to take you down. And I’d also like to point out that your mother wasn’t rescued either. She knew that a Vampire was there and willing to help her, but she was strong enough to stand up for herself. I could’ve thrown your father to the next parish, but he left because your mother took control of what was happening. All three of you were very proactive tonight. You all did everything in your power to take care of yourself. There’s not a bit of shame in that. Take pride in knowing that you made good choices.”
Tina seemed less annoyed, but still said, “We didn’t leave on our own though.”
“I said that you did everything in your power. You’re only 4 years old. I wouldn’t have expected for you to think of going through the window. You mentioned wanting a cell phone so that you could call for help. If you called someone and they told you to go through your bedroom window and wait under the slide on the playground, you’d have done it, yes?”
She shrugged. “I guess.”
“And your mother could have insisted that you stay at the apartment so that she could clean up. She knows that she has options. She weighed them. Your father can’t find you here. You’ll be able to sleep peacefully without worrying about waking up to another argument and your mother will have the chance to think about the decisions she needs to make. She’s not just going to hand the task over to someone else. Anything that happens will be her decision.”
“Are we gonna stay here for a while?”
“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I can convince her to stay until Monday night so that we can still have our party.”
“She could make us have it tomorrow night.”
I winked at her. “We couldn’t have a slumber party tomorrow night. We’re all working… So, Your Grace, are you ready to set up your fun for tomorrow?”
Both girls were nodding excitedly while I dialed and set my phone on the counter with the speaker on so that they could hear to collaborate.
Bobby groaned, “mmmHello?”
“Wake up, asshole! You have work to do!” The girls covered their mouths to quiet their giggling.
He snorted, “Eric?”
“Northman. You’ve been told this.”
“Uhhhh… What time is it?” Pam had perfect timing. She walked in and placed a large box on the floor and lifted the girls to greet them silently and set them on the counter. Shelly whispered an explanation into her ear.
“I pay you more than enough. If you’re too lazy to purchase a clock, don’t make it my problem. I have chores for you and they need to be tended to immediately. I have VIP houseguests and I need provisions for their care. I’m not offering any specifics, but there seems to be disharmony within one of the royal houses of Europe. I’m sure I don’t have to explain that business and politics go hand in hand. My guests’ safety is worth billions to me so I’ve brought work home with me. Not only could their safety affect me, but their happiness and comfort could dictate my livelihood as well. There is a list that’s been emailed to you with detailed instructions and links to specific items I’ll need… Have you gone back to sleep?”
“Nnnnnno. No sir. What country are they from? Do they speak English?”
“What country they’re from is immaterial. You don’t need to know that much about them. You’ll have no problem understanding them. You’ll need to behave as though you’re in the company of a queen though… because… well, you are. One of them will be crowned eventually.”
“Princesses? Damn. Yeah. Ok. What kinda manners?”
“For starters, you should speak proper English, asshole. Yeah doesn’t cut it around royalty. You’ll need to address them properly. Lady Tina, Lady Shelly… You will not address their mother by anything but ‘Your Grace’ or ‘Duchess’. To keep you from fucking that up, I’m not even going to bother telling you her name. Every time you are told to do something, you thank them and bow. Every. Time. You never, EVER turn your back to them. You’ll back out of rooms… Any time they sneeze or yawn or cough… you say, ‘God save the crown’ and genuflect. Most importantly, you need to do everything they tell you to. If they choose to amuse themselves by watching you do pushups, that’s what you’ll do until one of them tells you to stop. Understand?” Pam mimed a suggestion that made the girls cover their mouths again. “And you’ll need to wear a formal suit and white gloves in their presence.”
“Where am I going to find white gloves?”
“Call the White Rabbit from Alice In Wonderland. Perhaps he knows. Stop being a fucking idiot. You have a phone. Call around.”
“I guess it’s better than having to dress like the Swiss Guard.” FUCK! Pam and I should’ve thought of that. She was just as pissed as I was over the missed opportunity.
“They’ve expressed an interest in doing some American things while they’re here and I want to make sure they enjoy themselves because it benefits me in the long run. Make arrangements to rent a bounce house. Have it installed in my back yard tomorrow. Find the best fried chicken and apple pie you can and some fireworks so they can have an ‘American picnic’ for dinner…. You’ll need to bring a bald eagle to them at some point. That shouldn’t be too difficult…” Pam fought off the urge to laugh and whispered another suggestion that made the girls offer her a high five. Sookie was ‘craving’. “Her Grace has heard of eggnog waffles and wants to try them. That’s what they’ll have for breakfast in the morning.”
“Ok… I know of a restaurant that makes them. What time should I deliver them?”
“11:30 which is your deadline for the rest of the list as well.”
Bobby whined, “How much is on the list?”
“Enough that you’re getting a wakeup call at 3am, asshole. Get started. I might be adding more to your list before I die for the day.”
As soon as I ended the call, the girls started cackling and Shelly shouted, “AWESOME!”
Pam nodded. “Whenever he makes a mistake and addresses you incorrectly, spit on his feet. Make it a point to move around so that his back has to be facing you, then correct him… Eric hired him because he has no sense of humor, which makes it more fun to toy with him.”
Tina clapped her hands. “Where are we from?”
Pam shrugged, “Make up an accent that he’ll barely understand and call him Booby Burn Ham. And you should think of more stuff for tomorrow. In the meantime, you should get to bed. You don’t want your schedules to get confused.”
“We don’t?” Tina wasn’t asking for clarification. She was challenging the statement. “Our bestist friends’re Vampires. Not like y’all can do lunch with us…” She pushed herself from the counter and landed gracefully in spite of her size, already showing heightened agility.
Pam called her cheeky as she set Shelly on the floor and reached into the box to hand over their toothbrushes and a backpack.
Pam barely waited for the girls to get up the stairs. “I feel horrible. I think it was my fault.”
“Last night… my smell got everywhere and I sat on Sookie’s bed and helped her fold clothes… He must not be able to tell between…”
“He was ranting and raving about Sookie fucking me, fucking the Wolf in the journal, Herveaux. He’s deranged. It wouldn’t matter if no one helped Sookie unpack. He’d have wanted to know what hotel she used for her adultry even though he actually had women on the side while they were married.”
“Sookie told me. She actually heard him thinking about them before the skip was over. She said she already had an idea, but didn’t love him enough to care. It was less time that she had to spend with him.”
“At 25, she has a relatively outdated standpoint on the matter. It’s almost as though it was an arranged marriage.”
Pam shrugged. “It was of sorts. Sookie was dating someone she met in college. When she came home between terms, she was encouraged towards Sam.”
“Merlotte looks good on paper to a Packmaster with a shallow gene pool. It makes me wonder how many strawberry blond Panthers there are in Hotshot.”
“Three. Sookie showed me pictures of the girls’ birthday parties…” Beautiful. Because Sookie’s life wasn’t complicated enough, she’d been abused and controlled for years as a stud fee. “That apartment looks like a bomb went off. I can’t believe no one was hurt.”
“The girls were asleep when he got there. They were smart enough to stay in her room.”
“What about Sookie?”
“She’s fine now.”
“What. The. Fuck. Did. He. Do. To. Her?”
“He backhanded her a few times from what I can tell. There were 3 small cuts on the same side of her face. You saw the holes in the wall. He’s strong enough that he could’ve killed her…”
“And the baby… I’m going to kill him.”
“Attached so soon?”
She raised her eyebrow and snatched the box from the floor. She waited until she was on the stairs before she snarked, “Says the indifferent prick that shot out of Fangtasia like it was on fire to go check on them. Nevermind this now of course, you need to apathetically read a bedtime story. ”
Tina and Shelly were sitting on the bed, leafing through the book to look at the pictures when I joined them.
Since there were pictures, I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to sit on the side of the bed. I found myself sitting between them with my back to the headboard, both of them resting their heads on my arms…
Pam came in briefly, putting away the clothing she’d collected from their apartment when she was done quietly talking to Sookie.
I was only two pages into the story before Shelly began snoring… and on the fourth when Tina slipped away.
Stuck as I was, I barely managed to get my cell phone out of my pocket without waking Shelly since when I tried to leave, she wrapped her arm around mine.
Pam laughed when I texted ‘SOS’ to her, and stayed with Sookie in her room leaving me with little to do but be drooled on and use my phone to fill my time.
By the time Pam came to the door, only to wave a silent goodbye, I’d tended to all of my emails, sent a message about Merlotte to Flood and added a few more chores to ‘Booby Burn Ham’s’ list.
Sookie might’ve giggled when she saw that I was at a loss as to an escape route that wouldn’t wake them, but she did ‘save’ me.
It took her a moment to loosen Shelly’s death grip from my arm and once one arm was free, I managed to free myself from Tina. If any other Shifter drooled on me like she had…
Sookie waited until I closed the door behind us to tease, “Who needs silver? Eric Northman can be held down by cute.”
“I didn’t want to wake them. They’ve been disturbed enough tonight.”
She nodded. “So you make it up to them by giving them a whipping horse, huh?”
I narrowed my eyes. “You heard.”
“I heard them ask about blood and got curious. I was spying from the top of the stairs until Pam sent them upstairs.”
“You were supposed to be relaxing.”
She smiled. “That was relaxing. They were having so much fun, I forgot why we’re here for a few minutes.”
I jokingly bowed. “I’m happy to have your approval, Your Grace.”
She giggled and took a step towards me, wrapping her arms around my side. “Thank you. I can’t say it enough. You’ve been awesome tonight. I owe you big.”
“I’m the one that owes you. You can’t possibly understand how bored I was until Thursday night.”
She smiled at me. “I’m sure you didn’t need domestic drama to make things interesting… you told the girls about me needing to think. Do you have any suggestions on what I do? Short of shooting him.” Given that every Sookie in the journal was described as stubborn to a fault, I was surprised she was asking for input.
“If I can’t suggest shooting him then…”
“I’m already thinking about it. I’m giving him the chance to adjust. I’m hoping he chills out.”
“It’s entirely possible that he pushes your hand, or mine for that matter.”
She sighed and stepped back. “I know. I just don’t know what to do in the meantime. I don’t want to put the girls through that again.”
“I think that the best course of action is to take away his options for terrorizing you… This house is safe and available to you for however long you need shelter. If you aren’t comfortable here, I have several safe-houses in the area that you’re free to use. You have a job and the key to my SUV is hanging in the garage. You’ll leave for work during the day and as soon as sun sets, I’ll meet you there and follow you home to make sure he doesn’t try to follow you. If you want, I’ll accompany you when you meet him in public.”
“That’ll piss him off.”
“So be it. He’ll see that he’s out of options. He’ll see that there are consequences to his actions. He’ll also see that the girls are doing well which is the only rational concern he has at the moment. He’ll either adjust or he’ll lash out one last time.”
“He’ll be a big enough asshole to upset the girls though.”
“Prepare them. Hypothetically, we try my way. Next Saturday you make arrangements to meet for dinner. Explain to the girls ahead of time that I intend to remove the three of you if Merlotte becomes agitated or upsets them. They’d know what to expect and might even feel better to know that they aren’t trapped with intolerable tension. I don’t like being in a situation where I’m unsure of the outcome either. If they know ahead of time that there is an exit strategy, then they’ll feel less anxiety about the meeting.”
She huffed and began to pace, nodding as she thought. “Ok… alright… but I think you being there will be a problem too though.”
She shook her head vehemently. “Nonono… I’d probably sit with you at another table while they visit. It’s not like I have anything I want to say to him. He’s been going on and on… all week it’s been ‘that Vampire’ this and ‘that Vampire’ that. He’s been calling you and me both every name under the sun and then some… He hates you just for being a Vampire. You being there will be ‘proof’ that we’re involved, that I left him for you, that I have you there just to piss him off, that I’m exposing ‘his’ children to a monster…”
“Then I take the three of you to the car and keep him from following you. Rinse and repeat next Sunday. He’ll learn to not cause a scene because the scene will be ended.”
She nodded, staying quiet for a moment. “You win.”
“Sookie, I’m not trying to win. You asked for my suggestion…”
“No. I don’t mean, ‘you win’ like I’m throwing in the towel. You win because if you’re really willing to go with us on Sundays, that’s the best way to make sure he can’t/won’t follow us back and start a fight at home. You win because unless I’m willing to sink to his level and break my promise to let him see the girls, your suggestion is the only way to keep where we live from him and keep the girls from getting screwed up enough to accept his nastiness.”
“Then other than establishing rules, I’ll be nothing more than a fly on the wall unless I’m needed.”
She grinned and let out a long breath, seeming like a weight had been lifted. “I just have to think of a way to repay you. Thank you doesn’t cut it.”
“I’ve already thought of a way.”
Instead of being suspicious, her eyes brightened. “Yeah? How?”
“Have you mentioned to Pam what you plan to name the baby?”
She shook her head. “No. Sam is the only one who knows. I keep it a secret until the baby’s born because everyone and their brother tries to change the parents minds about it. The girls would know though. Why?”
“Because I want you to let Pam think you’re naming the baby Winifred.”