I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell
Sookie pulled her phone out of her pocket to call the local Packmaster while we were still on the property… a man she called ‘Colonel’ who called her ‘Little 2’. She offered ‘holiday pay’ for a three man team to watch Patty’s house because her newborn husband had returned. Standing orders were, “If there’s bickering, diffuse it. If there’s violence, end it.”
That was the last thing Shawn heard before he let himself into his family’s home.
Once she slid her phone back into her pocket, she slapped my ribs and laughed, “You’re so lucky that little girl pictured chocolate Tinkerbells, you pervert.”
‘Business Sookie’ had gone away… The feisty little spitfire was back… It wasn’t disappointing, more like watching two favorite shows back to back.
Klaasje snickered quietly.
“As opposed to what?”
She raised her eyebrow, knowing I was testing her. “As opposed to my hands full of your hair while you go thigh-diving.”
“I would imagine your screaming would be more troublesome than anything and that isn’t my fault.”
“Actually, yeah… it’s exactly your fault.”
“Is thigh-diving recognized as an Olympic event yet?”
She very matter-of-factly nodded. “Yeah, but Vampires aren’t allowed to compete because they don’t need air. Cryin’ shame too. You’d be a contender.”
“What about the blow job event?” I’d volunteer to be used as her equipment.
She shrugged. “Same thing. You don’t have to breathe, but I’m sure you’d medal…” That bitch! She knew I meant her. She giggled and reached up to cup my chin. “Word of advice… if you want gold, relax your jaw.”
Klaasje bit her lip and looked away.
Sookie giggled and began walking back towards Alcide’s truck, leaving me on the sidewalk trying to think of a comeback (while refusing to laugh) even though I knew it was too late to recover gracefully.
There was only a handful of ‘people’ who would’ve had the nerve to make that joke with me, and all of them had known me for centuries.
And it actually hurt to keep a straight face.
As Sookie and Klaasje turned the corner, Klaasje offered, “Until the little girl came outside, I didn’t think the wife was going to cooperate. Do you mind if I ask what she was thinking about?”
Sookie giggled, “She was thinking she wished she knew where ‘the local Vampire’ lived because she heard he was a nice guy. She thought she wanted to ask him about Vampires because I was being a bitch…”
Klaasje offered, “I don’t think you were being a bitch… Stern perhaps, but…”
“No, I was being a bitch. If feelings were going to help the situation she wouldn’t have flipped out when he went to her in April… by the way, I bet my eyes, the ‘local Vampire’ she wanted to talk to is Shawn. The timing of the playground being donated to the church is right for it to be him and if there were more Vampires in this town, I would’ve heard about it because Mom and Aunt Linda are out here all the time for Sandwich Island.”
When I suddenly caught up to them, Klaasje was the only one who was surprised.
“Do you mind if I ask what that evil feeling was just before the girl came to the door?”
“Patty was thinking she wanted us to leave because she wasn’t sure she wanted the kids to know Shawn’s alive before she could wrap her head around things… If she was thinking they needed to sit down to talk about boundaries and whatnot, I would’ve backed off and come back tomorrow with Jude, but she was imagining a news report about her and the kids being ‘found exsanguinated’… Fuck that. I called Tammy hoping she’d recognize him…”
She nodded and specified, “Not like a Maker’s call,” and disarmed the alarm for Alcide’s truck.
Klaasje suddenly looked over her shoulder, so I scanned the quiet street behind us. Nothing.
Sookie offered, “Like that.”
Klaasje balked as she climbed into the back seat. “You…”
Sookie nodded as she walked around to the driver’s side. “That paranoid feeling that someone was standing behind you, yeah. That was me. Brandon and I have been practicing since we were in a crib together. Jason and Hadley can actually feel it when we’re reading their thoughts because of their ability. They say it tickles, so Bran and I played on that. If someone is in our range, we can get their attention. If they know what it is they call us, but if they don’t know they get a weird sensation they’re being watched.”
Klaasje breathed, “You tickled Tammy… and drew her outside?”
“Nope. Just tickled. I can’t make anyone do anything. Kids are naturally curious though, so she pulled herself away from The Amanda Show enough to realize her mom was talking to someone.”
After a moment, I had the same urge to look behind me… even though I knew why, I still glanced back.
“Some people are less perceptive than others so it doesn’t always work. I can only get a couple of people at once, but since Bran spends most of his time on the floor of the casino, he can get bigger groups. He plays when he gets bored. Jason though, he can draw people to him. If they’re in his range, he can direct his feelings at them. That is more like a Maker’s call because Makers are empathically connected to their children.”
Klaasje gasped, “That’s amazing… Your family, their abilities alone, could keep me entertained indefinitely.”
Sookie giggled, “I take it Eric hasn’t mentioned Josie and Jessie…”
I offered, “I didn’t know they’re pushers until tonight. It hadn’t been mentioned, falling through conversational gaps, perhaps. I have amused myself watching for clues about their ability. I was almost certain they had a bizarre, heightened twin connection of some sort… Klaasje, they move like one entity. Their cadence is perfectly matched, so they sound like a single, average sized man, instead of two slender girls.”
Klaasje widened her eyes. “That’s just… I noticed they spoke in chorus several times last night. They sounded like one person as well…”
Sookie offered, “And they have identical fingerprints.”
“Everyone has unique fingerprints.” Klaasje and I had argued in unison.
Sookie shrugged. “Not them. They’re identical-identical… Bran and I can’t even tell them apart from their thoughts.”
“How does your family differentiate between them?”
Sookie pointed to the seatbelt, waiting to solve my curiosity until I was ‘buckled up’.
She started the truck and pulled away from the curb as she explained, “The difference between Josie and Jessie are the ‘oh’ and ‘e’ sounds. Opals and emeralds. It’s subtle, but one of them always wears something either green or iridescent. Typically, it’s either a gemstone stud in the top of their ear or Josie will wear an opal finish on her nails…”
Fuck. Last night… the sneakers Sookie called Jessie back for… green laces.
“The few times I’ve had occasion to see them, there didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason.”
“They do it on purpose. They switched on Mom and Daddy once because Josie was grounded and Jessie wasn’t. Daddy took them to Jie and had locks of their hair dyed to mark them… told them if they tried cutting them out, they’d be getting tattoos on their scalps after he buzzed their heads. They haven’t switched again… then again, they haven’t been grounded separately a lot. They tend to get in trouble as one entity too.”
I snorted, “And my father thought I was trouble.”
Sookie giggled, “Your father was soooooo lucky you weren’t a twin… come to think of it, a millennium of women is too…”
She’d turned onto Magnolia Creek Road, heading away from Patty’s house and pulled into a driveway… A large white house, with a more Victorian style… decorated for autumn, rather than Halloween, with uncarved pumpkins and gourds on the porch.
“Since we’re in this neck of the woods, this is my humble beginning.”
I’d been picturing something more like the house Shawn had been living in. A standard, two to three bedroom house with less than 2,000 square feet. The house we were looking at was more than twice the size.
“Your father was a carpenter.”
“He still is. When he ditched Michelle, he started doing extra side-work. He got called to do an estimate for this place because the tenants let it get really run down. The owner couldn’t swing the cost of repairs between renters, so Daddy offered to buy it because he saw the potential… Aunt Linda moved in when her husband took off. It was supposed to be temporary, but… ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’… She stayed until she moved in with Jack. There’s 22 years of hash marks in the jamb of the pantry door.”
Klaasje offered, “That’s lovely. Most families don’t enjoy each other.”
Sookie nodded and began backing out of the driveway, winking at Klaasje. “We keep things interesting with fresh meat… If it weren’t for the timing, I probably would’ve already known Patty. She knows my Mom… She recognized my name and thought Mom sent me with treats for the kids because Mom promised the kids ‘something special’ when they ran into each other recently.”
That explained why Patty looked at Sookie’s hands. I assumed she was looking for pamphlets or something of the like.
Sookie blindly began rifling through her purse when her phone began ringing.
She answered, “I was just about to call you,” and set the phone on the center console.
Corbett asked, “What for?”
“Oh… sorry Daddy. I thought Mom was calling. What’s up?”
She pulled to the curb and killed the engine. “What do you mean be careful?”
“Just… Alcide came by, but he’s got your car. When I heard it, I started worrying about you.”
“Well shit… What kind of bad? I just finished business and that went fine. I’m with two really strong Vampires and I’m driving Alcide’s truck. I couldn’t be safer if I was bubble-wrapped.”
“I know… I’m just… you know how this shit works. I’ve got that funeral feeling and it’s for you.”
Sookie nodded as though he could see her and sighed, “Yeah. You got it. We’ll keep an eye on things and avoid potential funerals, Daddy. Thanks.”
“Good. What did you want to talk to Mom about?”
“I ran into Patty Ingram.”
“Ahhh. That’s the widow I was telling you about. The one that moved in down the street after you and Bran left for school. Jo n’ Jess babysat for her until we moved to town. Sweet bunch.”
“Well, she’s not a widow… The business I just finished with was telling her that her husband was turned.”
Corbett chuckled, “Well, hot damn. Good on her then… I’ma let you go. Runnin’ out for Chinese to cover the call. You know how they worry so if anything happens to ya, I’ma get my ass whooped. Watch your ass, baby girl.”
“Gotcha. Thanks again…” She ended the call and looked at me. “Holy-fucking-intertwined-realities, Batman!”
I nodded. “Then… since she’s already a friend of your family, it wasn’t just a business reason for you to intervene.”
She breathed, “I guess not,” and pushed her door open. She jogged around the front of the truck and tapped on my window. “Not taking any chances. The guy with fast reflexes is driving.”
“Will I be paid for my services as a chauffeur?”
She nodded. “Aggressively.”
That was all I needed to hear.
Sookie had me drive to my mall, the one I’d built while I was still Sheriff… she was proving the point that I would have known where to shop without her help. Pam had taken it over when I left and it showed. She’d replaced original anchors with Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Big surprise… Pam replaced Sears with Saks. I might have made fun of her if the mall wasn’t bustling in the middle of the week.
Sookie found a pink iBook for Olivia’s ‘Wishlist’ lesson… and convinced me to buy an iPod to go with the leotards and ballet classes.
We easily found the items needed for the lesson on ‘Basics’ at Bloomingdale’s. A large bag of simple leggings, jeans, and blouses had only taken a few minutes to fill… And a bonus lesson was born as well. ‘Flexibility’. Sookie easily found a collection of tops and bottoms that were completely interchangeable with each other and easily accessorized.
Body wash, lotion and spray collections of ‘Apricot Orange’ and ‘Fresh Lemon’ were found at Bath & Body Works… but after Sookie tested them all to be sure her scent was masked under the perfumes, I wasn’t as proud of the ‘Masking’ lesson idea as I had been originally. Sookie smelled like a fruit bowl.
As we moved through the mall, we found a lesson (some bigger than others) in nearly every store. Klaasje had already found a suitable gift for Olivia (a magenta fur swing coat Sookie and I couldn’t think of a lesson for) and was shopping for souvenirs.
When we stopped so Sookie could order a pretzel and a drink, Klaasje and I found a nearby bench… Klaasje had just suggested raffia burns, like the ones she had on her hand from shopping bags, as a torture technique when a man approached Sookie from behind.
Most of a man.
Initially, I assumed he was standing on queue for a pretzel… but then he reached up and cupped Sookie’s ass with both of his small hands.
He crooned, “If all women had an ass like yours, no one would make fun of my height.”
He made an excellent point about his view, but the little bastard would need a ladder to understand exactly what that sweater did for Sookie’s cleavage.
Without turning around, Sookie giggled, “What are you up to, Elliot?”
“Shopping for a motor boat…” At a mall? “Bring the girls down to play with Daddy.”
She laughed and turned to stoop down… He wouldn’t have been able to reach round her for a hug anyway, but the way he cupped her breasts was a bit fucking much.
He growled at her when she leaned back. She remained squatting, with her ass resting on her heels, and offered, “I’m shopping for my new niece. Jason and Pam adopted THE sweetest little girl.”
He licked his lips and nodded before shaking his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear anything you just said. Your tits were begging to come out and play.”
She grinned and offered, “I’m booked for the night,” pointing in my direction.
He looked over his shoulder and his eyes widened, “Fuck me. I’ll pay just to hold the camera for you two… What’s her name?”
Klaasje began laughing harder than I’d ever seen.
Sookie giggled, “Klaasje, but…”
Elliot called, “Well hellooooo, Klaasje. I’m Elliot. I’ll be your cameraman for the evening.”
Sookie snickered, “The mountain next to her is my play-date, Ell.”
He rolled his eyes and barked, “Of course he is, but you had to ruin it for me, didn’t you!”
“Sorry…” She stood and took her pretzel and cup from the counter and began walking towards Klaasje and me, with Elliot at her heels (pun intended). “So other than shopping for motorboats…?”
Sookie sat on my lap and nibbled her cinnamon covered pretzel while he stared back and forth between her and Klaasje.
“A girl-on-girl kiss would suffice.”
Sookie was simultaneously amused and annoyed, but she didn’t reject the idea…
“I’ll tell you what… We’ll kiss if you agree to dressing like one of Santa’s elves to distribute goodies at the children’s hospital this Christmas.”
“That’s absolutely humiliating, Sookie. You could just hire a midget…”
It wasn’t until he made it sound as though he wasn’t a midget that I sampled the air. Between the horde of shoppers and the fact that Sookie didn’t smell like herself, there hadn’t been much point.
He reeked of green wood and Drakkar Noir. That asshole was an actual Elf.
“I like the idea of you being my bitch in felt and jingle bells…”
“With tongue will cost you two hospitals.”
He narrowed his eyes and growled, “You drive a hard bargain.”
She shrugged. “Take it or leave it.”
Klaasje asked, “Do I get any say in the matter?”
Yes. Of course, and then I’d get a say.
Elliot shook his head. “I’d prefer not. I’m already considering degrading myself…”
Sookie interrupted, “Sick kids, Klaasje… C’mon… just a kiss.”
I should have taken my turn to air opinions first.
Just a kiss… with tongue… but still just a kiss… and the pleading look Sookie gave Klaasje for all the sick children… Even if I thought of a rational reason to argue against the kiss, I probably wouldn’t have finished it once she turned that look on me.
I would have thought Sookie was trying to prove a point after the way I reacted when Shawn thanked her, but she wasn’t feeling evil.
Klaasje closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Only because it’s for children.”
No. No. No.
Sookie took a sip from her cup and leaned towards Klaasje and whispered, “The little perv called my bluff. Sorry.”
Klaasje snickered, “I assumed as much,” just before their lips met.
Something about the kiss made Sookie happy and amused, but I couldn’t decide how I felt…
Punting Elliot into the rafters was an option before he demanded, “With tongue.”
I had a front row seat, watching their tongues meet, hearing Klaasje hum while Sookie’s tongue was in her mouth…
And of course, because the universe was in a laughing fucking mood, Sookie had to be the one to pull away… leaving a quixotic smile on Klaasje’s face.
Fucking garden gnome. His smile needed to be punched from his face. “Yeah… I’m feeling the Christmas spirit already…” He walked away singing, “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane…”
Sookie ignored him, and giggled at Klaasje, “Is it the cinnamon or the hot chocolate?”
Klaasje shrugged. “I think it’s the combination.”
At least Klaasje hadn’t been so excited by the kiss itself.
Sookie smirked and that was when I felt her evil streak. “Hot chocolate with cinnamon in it… hmmm… maybe someone should call room service for a carafe of abuelita and some churros…”
Klaasje nodded slowly and licked her lips.
Sookie wiggled her eyebrows. “Brandon’s always up for a midnight snack too… if you want company.”
Olivia’s lesson on ‘Grace’ was finally completed at the Danskin store before Klaasje realized she’d been left at Build-A-Bear Workshop. While Klaasje bought dozens of stuffed animals for the tiny pervert to distribute for Christmas, Sookie and I found leotards and warm-ups for Olivia, gym clothes for Sookie, had been accosted by a perfume ‘sniper’, and thought of two new lessons…
At Waldenbooks, Sookie bought the Laura Ingalls Wilder collection that inspired the lesson in ‘Worth’. ‘Don’t confuse price tags with preciousness. When the lights go out on the beauty around you, it’s the voices in the dark that will get you through the storm.’
The second lesson was more of a joke. Even though it had been Sookie’s idea, the gift was funnier coming from me… After Tim Burroughs mentioned how sensitive Olivia’s skin was, the lesson in ‘Skin Care’ couldn’t be ignored. I walked away from a kiosk with an assortment of sunglasses and wide-brim hats. The lesson was simply, ‘Sunlight is bad.’
All the while, Sookie and I had left no stone unturned in search of anything with a carrousel. Music box, snow globe… at one point Sookie and I agreed a nightshirt would be sufficient.
We almost didn’t venture into the jewelry store, sure Pam and Jason would want to enjoy buying most of the basics for her… but Sookie thought of buying alexandrite pendants for Pam and Olivia now that we knew her true birthday. Sookie and I were looking over the limited collection of Olivia’s birthstone (and discussing making an appointment to visit Mr. Desai), when Klaasje breathed, “Carrousel.”
A bomb could have detonated in the food court and we wouldn’t have noticed… or moved faster.
The large enameled egg was done in the style of Faberge and the gold horses within the shell had jeweled saddles; each one wore a different color.
“I’ll take it.”
I didn’t care that the clerk saw dollar signs… We’d finally found a carrousel.
Several thousands of dollars later, we’d finally found a carrousel.
And to be honest, even if we hadn’t found it, I couldn’t remember a time when I’d had more fun shopping.
The clerk was removing the carrousel from the case for me when I reached for my wallet…
Before I had the time to be concerned that I could have left my wallet behind and some backwater hick was using my Black card to pay for misspelled tattoos, Sookie gave me a devilish smirk and her eyebrows pulled up to points.
Sookie licked her lips while the clerk wound the music box mechanism, never taking her eyes off of mine while The Entertainer played. Klaasje actually inched back so she wouldn’t be caught between us.
“You practically dared me…”
“I dared you to steal my wallet?”
“When you pointed out how much faster you are. If you can use your speed, it’s only fair that I’m allowed to take advantage of my talents.”
“Like grabbing my ass on the elevator… I could just take it back from you.”
She shrugged and reached into her back pocket, acting as though she’d just return the wallet… but I knew better before she placed her card on the counter.
“Since you’re so fast, find your wallet before the carrousel is boxed.”
“Did you leave it somewhere in the mall?”
“I’m evil, not stupid.”
I growled and took her wrist, pulling her to me… She squirmed and cackled loud enough to cause a scene while I frisked her, then frisked her again because I hadn’t found what I was looking for…
The fact that the clerk was fumbling with the box because she was amused by watching me and Sookie was only helping me by buying time…
When I didn’t find the wallet in my other pockets, Klaasje was frisked (albeit, less aggressively) and her purse was searched…
Meanwhile Sookie giggled and told the clerk to ‘light a fire under it’… because I’d figure ‘it’ out soon.
Not on Sookie.
Not on me.
Not on Klaasje…
I looked at the floor… at the dozens of bags we’d been schlepping… the bags that led to jokes that Pam should research llama services, or use being a valet for soccer-moms as a form of punishment…
Sookie leaned over the counter and drummed her hands on the glass, urging the clerk to hurry as soon as I looked up from the floor.
I quickly dropped to one knee and dumped all of the bags out, hoping I’d find the wallet easily… She only had time to drop it into a bag. I would have noticed if she wrapped it in something…
I was shaking out the clothing we’d bought, just in case, when Sookie dropped to her knees in front of me…
With my fucking wallet in her hand!
“YOU BITCH! Where was it?”
She put her hands on the sides of my neck and giggled, “It was in my pocket…”
“I frisked you… TWICE.”
“When I took my card out of my pocket, I dropped your wallet… and kicked it under the counter.”
Trying to keep a straight face would have killed me.
I laughed and shook my head. “I won’t fall for it again.”
“That’s fine. I’ve got more in my bag of tricks… I got you, but a real carrousel still wins.”
I nodded. “There will be a villainous horse… with a blonde mane… and a pitchfork… all of the children of Eijsden will think ‘Sookie’ means evil.”
She hummed and nibbled her lip. “Pretty, wicked, wildly amusing while the ride lasts…” She had no idea. “It could end up being pretty popular.”
That went without saying… the problem would be thinking of a way to keep something so incredible to myself.