Help Me Make It Through The Night
The consolation to rising without Sookie in bed with me was feeling how close she was…
Just a few feet away in the boathouse…
“All night, every night, for the next week until you leave. No sunshine, no candy-coating. Just me and you. Like we’re handcuffed together.”
The best excuse I could imagine to enjoy stalking her.
She was already in a phenomenal mood, blissfully relaxed, but when I called for her I was answered with her amusement and a ringing phone…
I answered, “I’m going to need clarification on your idea of handcuffs.”
The gentle sounds of lapping water in the distance, under a layer of other people’s breathing.
She giggled, “If I was in bed with you right now, we wouldn’t behave… I’m waiting for sunset as patiently as possible.”
“What are you doing?”
“Chillin’ with ma’ hos…” There was a sudden round of overlapping giggles in the background. “We’re in the boathouse bay, working on decorations for the Halloween party. Stackhouse women-folk in their natural habitat.”
“All of you?”
“The only one we’re missing is Pam, but she’s doing the decorations for the adult party… Gran, Mom, Aunt Linda, Hadley, Mini, and Liv.”
“Liv is here without Jason?”
“Yep. He had boring errands to run and Liv wanted to help with decorations, so I offered to take her back to the hotel with us after dinner…”
Olivia whispered, “Ask’em, ask’em.”
Sookie giggled, “I’m supposed to ask you something, two things, and they’re priority numero uno.”
“Go ahead then. Ask, ask.”
“Okay… First, Olivia was playing with Mini in the pool… and when she climbed out, her hair was past her knees. Aunt Linda made a Rapunzel joke… and now she wants to be Rapunzel for Halloween instead of a Magician, but we’re stumped about how to hide how much longer it is.”
“Are we assuming the length of Olivia’s hair could risk exposure for Mini?”
“Yes. We’re usually really careful to cut our hair after every Sunday supper… we thought about the way my hair was braided at Pam’s party, but we tried that. It’s too long for us to work with.”
“So what you’re asking me, while the rest of your think tank is stumped for a way to disguise the length of Olivia’s hair, is… you want beauty tips from me.”
She laughed, “The best we came up with was hiding it under a hat or in a hoodie… but that’s not really camouflage because she can’t pull that off indoors.”
“I’ll see how much I can shorten it once the sun’s set.”
“You’re going to do her hair!?”
She giggled, “Because you have more experience ruining hairstyles than giving them.”
I chuckled, “Pam clearly hasn’t told you everything about me.”
“You were a hairdresser?”
“Only for Pam… I farmed hemp. I was furious it hadn’t made its way to Sweden in my lifetime. It was popular in China. They used it for nearly everything, including rope. You can practically drop the seed in loose soil and it’ll take root. While my Maker teased me for being unable to shake my ‘farmer mentality’ and kissed asses to be given royal chores for unpredictable income, I was making rope, oakum and paper for a steady income.”
“You’d be surprised how much you can shorten a fiber with a tight braid… What was the second thing?”
“Ohhhhhhh yeahhhhh… Bran wouldn’t let Jas and Liv into the room this morning because of the gifts… Somebody’s curious… And she totally just bounced when I finally got to that.”
“How many lessons did we think of? Was it twelve?”
“I think so.”
“Should we give them all to her at once or space them out?”
“I vote for spacing them out.”
“Perhaps when we return to the hotel later, she can choose a couple to open.”
“Making her pick? I like that idea. I wouldn’t be able to decide… Well, other than that one. Should we give her that one tonight with the ones she picks?”
“Are you drawing this out because she’s on tenterhooks?”
“Then wait for me so I can be part of the fun.”
“Yes sir… I’m going to hang up because I have Mache paste running up my arms. See you in a few.”
After my shower and tending to a few emails and messages, I used the tunnel access to the boathouse…
Both bays were open and the boats had been pushed back and tied to the end of the deck between the two slips…. Row after row of dowels were strung from the tracks of the bay doors. Each dowel was lined with large balloons either covered with dark purple paper or muslin shrouds. Hundreds…
Sookie and Hadley were smudged with paste…
Julie and Adele were working at a dress-maker’s form with, what I assumed was, Klaasje’s snake costume… a deep brown floor-length sheath gown had been treated somehow to look like snakeskin.
Linda was working at a table with gold leaf and leather…
Minerva was reclined on a plastic deck chair and snoring.
And from behind, I wouldn’t have been able to recognize my company… Except for Minerva. Her little pigtails were the same length as they’d been every other time I’d seen her. Everyone else had classic length hair or longer. Sookie’s hair was to her thighs.
Fuck the fortune teller costume. How about Lady Godiva?
I joked, “Is it safe to enter the habitat or is it feeding time?”
Hadley answered, “Watch out for Sookie, but the rest of us are waiting for lasagna.”
Sookie turned her head to give me a devilish look… That wasn’t going to make 3AM come any sooner.
“Consider me warned… Where is Rapunzel?”
Sookie offered, “Taking a bath to get rid of the paste she was covered with… She was a sheet of paper away from being a piñata.”
“You aren’t far from it either… What are those going to be?”
“The purple ones are going to be spiders, but they’ll have friendly faces, and the white ones are going to be ghosties. They’re for the ballroom… We’re going to use black balloons to black out the ceiling, and cover the chandeliers with these… Last weekend we made Jack O’ Lanterns, big spider webs for the corners, and gauze mummies that give directions to the party… and we saved some of the stuff we used last year, but we’re kickin’ it up a notch.”
“Paper Mache talks?”
“It does when Aunt Linda rigs it with motion activated speakers…”
Julie giggled, “And my goofy husband does a decent Vincent Price impersonation.”
I nodded. “Fae magic. I don’t trust it… Do I want to know what you used as forms for the mummies? Is that what the Fae do to their enemies? Disguise them as holiday decorations?”
I was only joking, but as soon as I asked, I could imagine macabre discoveries waiting at the center of everything from cigar-store Indians to smiling statues at the entrance to eateries.
Linda nodded, still working diligently. “Yep. Watch yourself. Our last Christmas tree escaped.”
Sookie giggled, “The bases are wellies filled with concrete and the rest is just Styrofoam… Aunt Linda sculpted them…”
Linda added, “Unless you count that my brother and husband gave them all plantain hard-ons.”
Since everyone else was snickering, I assumed it was safe to laugh. “Easily repaired, I hope.”
“They were smart enough to endow the figures before they were covered… otherwise I would have had to eunuch ten forms.”
“Am I correct in assuming there were only eight mummies?”
“Wouldn’t that be cutting your balls off to spite your chin?”
Her shoulders shook while she laughed through her nose, sending little flecks of gold leaf into the air. “I’m trying to concentrate.”
“I can see that. What are you working on?”
“I’m doing a dry run for Klaasje’s body makeup… Sookie had the idea to use a fishnet body stocking and spray tan to give her a subtle harlequin pattern on her upper body. I’m working on the scales to frame her face…”
“And what are you up to? Anthropology research?”
“Sookie and I made a deal last night…”
Sookie sucked air past her teeth and breathed, “I’m gonna kick your ass.”
I chuckled as I finished, “I invited her to visit Eijsden. She said she would, if I could survive the week as though we’re handcuffed to one another.”
Hadley giggled, “If he’s half as stubborn as you, Sook, you better make sure your Passport’s in order.”
Sookie groaned, “My Passport is fine.” Not that she’d really need it when she was traveling with me.
Hadley nodded slowly. “Ohhhh right. I forgot about your couple’s vacation.”
Oh? What did I miss?
Sookie glanced at me over her shoulder and rolled her eyes while the rest her family snickered.
“They think they’re funny…”
Julie explained, “It took us a while to realize it, because we all work at the hotel, but Sookie put in 190 hours in two weeks. Workaholic. We had an intervention during Sunday supper and made her take a vacation…”
Linda finished, “The smart ass took Brandon with her on a couple’s vacation and they went to Costa Rica… They swam with sharks, dove off of waterfalls and climbed a volcano…”
Adele finished, “And they came home with pictures… new recipes for the restaurant, an import contract with a coffee plantation, and they learned to speak Spanish.”
Of course they did.
I chuckled, “At least your failed intervention wasn’t a complete waste…”
I heard footsteps upstairs, and then I was reminded of Leif when I heard Olivia slide down the railing.
As Olivia emerged from the stairwell (with her head wrapped with a towel), she asked, “What’s an intervention?”
Sookie offered, “It’s supposed to be when a bunch of people get together to gang up on someone to give them a wakeup call… like when someone used to just play the occasional poker game for fun or have an occasional drink, but things have gotten really out of hand for them… In my case, my family ganged up on me to tell me there’s something wrong with how much I love my job.”
Olivia giggled “I’m on Sookie’s side. That’s not a real problem,” and held a small tool box up for me and asked, “Should I go back for the hair dryer?”
“Did you leave it upstairs because you wanted an excuse to slide down the railing again?”
She cringed and giggled, “Maybe.”
“Try not to be disappointed then… Let me see what I’m going to be dealing with.”
She yanked her towel from her head and her hair fell, cascading down to brush the floor.
That was impressive.
“Has anyone had any adverse side effects?”
Hadley shook her head. “Nope. Mini’s only four months old though. We expect things to get crazy before she gets a handle on her gift.”
At least they were expecting bizarreness.
Julie and Adele abandoned their project, offering their hands if I needed them…
I had an audience (and a photographer) while I brushed out and sectioned Olivia’s hair, then sectioned it again, then again… While Sookie and I spoke openly about Olivia’s presents (referring to them by lesson number to tease her), I made two thick cable braids, plaited as tightly as possible, and proceeded to cover them with the sections of hair I’d left down to give her a fishtail braid… I’d managed to shorten it to her waist, and if she wanted to, she could hurt someone by whipping her head around.
Once Julie showed Olivia a photo of the final product, I was hugged and declared a ‘Halloween hero’ and temporarily forgiven for teasing her about her gifts.
I chuckled, “If anyone asks, those elastics at the top of the cable braids are clip-in extensions. I doubt anyone will notice though. You’re a new fixture at the hotel… A zigzagging waterfall braid might be befitting of Rapunzel and it would keep your hair together without shortening it.”
Olivia chirped, “Can my new mom do that?”
I nodded. “It’s just her own she can’t do… She always misses a few strands no matter how many mirrors she uses.”
“That’s why you can braid? ‘Cuz you braided hers?”
“When I was much younger, I made rope… and as soon as your mother heard about that, she grabbed a comb and sat on my legs.”
“What about my mom? What did she do?”
“This may come as a shock, but… Her favorite jobs to date have been ‘set designer’ and ‘wardrobe mistress’. She was miserably bored whenever we lived anywhere without a shopping district and a theater. We almost didn’t leave New York, but we opted to move to Los Angeles because the movie industry was booming and we weren’t fond of apartment living. I barely saw her once she began designing sets and costumes in Hollywood.”
Olivia gasped, “Which movies?”
There were dozens, but I wasn’t willing to take the wind out of Pam’s sails by stealing her thunder.
“You’ll have to ask her. I’m sure she’ll be happy to show you.” Pam probably still had her Oscars somewhere.
Her eyes lit up and she looked back to Adele and asked, “Is it dinnertime yet?”
Adele nodded. “If it isn’t, we can set the table while it finishes… Sookie, get your rump in the shower before you’re a piñata.”
Sookie sighed, flinging Mache paste into the lake water and turning towards the stairwell. “Save a corner piece for me? I’m going to be a while.”
Adele rolled her eyes and took Olivia’s hand to begin leaving, but Olivia was curious enough to turn back. “What? Why are you going to be ‘a while’?”
Sookie’s face pinched together while she was trying to formulate her answer. She finally offered, “Extra grooming. I’ll hurry through everything I can.”
I snorted when it occurred to me that her mane wasn’t the only hair at classic length… but the extra time Sookie needed to shave was fortunate…
As much as I was looking forward to being her shadow while she worked, I was told to do what I could to stall when I called about a delivery before leaving the saferoom.
Sookie giggled Me And My Shadow when I followed her upstairs… through the living room… and into her bathroom…
When she finally stopped, I asked, “Does your Sammy Davis impersonator perform that number?”
She shook her head. “Not without a Frank… We aren’t really handcuffed together. I didn’t mean you had to stay within three feet of me.”
“Clearly… You would have been in bed with me when I rose if that was what you meant… You couldn’t possibly be trying to sabotage me.”
She raised an eyebrow at me and removed a package of razors from the cabinet and slid the bin closer to the tub.
“Actually, I was doing us both a favor by not being in bed with you. We aren’t having sex until 3AM, remember?”
“Are you afraid you wouldn’t be able to keep your hands to yourself?”
She was completely serious when she answered, “Absolutely.” She began shaking a bottle she’d removed from the cabinet and explained, “You aren’t going to want to stick around for this. This stuff smells like burning hair.”
Nair. Napalm for hair. The scent irritated Pam enough that she opened Shreveport’s first salon to offer waxing and she sent all of her pets to it.
As she began removing her clothing (keeping her back to me), I chuckled, “Consider me warned… Are we working tonight?”
“Of course we are. I took the night before last off, then I couldn’t work last night… You… are bonded to a certified control freak.”
“What will our duties entail?”
“We’ll pass through the casino a few times to scan the gamblers. We’ll touch base with all of the department heads. We’ll inspect the lounge, gym, locker room, pool, meeting rooms, bathrooms, halls, elevators and stairwells to be sure housekeeping isn’t fucking off. We’ll randomly select a handful of empty rooms to be sure they’re up to par. We’ll visit a few rooms to check on guests’ satisfaction. We’ll check on a VIP. We’ll review the schedule.”
“We’ll do all of that by 2:30?”
She raised her eyebrow and glanced at me over her shoulder. “Three.”
“Travel time between here and the hotel.”
“We’ll stay at the hotel tonight.”
“When you stay at the hotel, you’re a slave to your phone.”
“I’ll turn it off until dawn, if you want… There’s a pair of scissors in the drawer on the right. Could you pa-?”
“No. I like your hair. It suits you.”
She giggled, “I haven’t been gone from the hotel for long enough to explain why my hair is past my ass.”
“I proved it’s possible to make hair seem shorter.”
She raised an eyebrow. “All so you have a little more to pull on, huh?”
When I nodded, she shrugged. “If you can hide it, I’ll keep it… we just worry someone will catch on to Mini’s ability. We aren’t sure what she can do exactly. Hair and nails grow really fast. None of us have scars anymore. It’s weird though because Daddy and Jack had tattoos that were so old they needed to be touched up, but they look fresh now. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that a tattoo would fade?”
I chuckled, “You say that as though any part of her ability stands to reason… Does she have an effect on Vampires?”
“Nope. You’re safe…”
While Sookie removed all of her unwanted body hair, she explained the mysteriousness of Minerva’s ability… Jude’s mother had been able to completely heal anything, but she could control it. The family was concerned Mini’s ability would be an open channel, that Jude’s mother had control only because she was full Daemon, and that the poor child could suffer a life of seclusion. They knew for a fact Mini could cure what Vampire blood couldn’t because Jason had been approached by a local radio station about offering room and board to a family while one of their children had a cancerous tumor removed from her brain… After Jude and Hadley considered the risks, Mini spent an hour playing with the ailing child and when she was tested, the tumor was gone. The family returned to their rural home, believing in miracles and thanking God for the child’s previous treatments.
For the day Sookie was ‘retarded’ after our accident, Sookie’s family pushed for her to be taken to a hospital for blood therapy and for Mini to be brought to visit her, but Sookie didn’t want to exploit the baby… not when I was more than willing to heal her and I was old enough to make the decision. She refused to take advantage of the baby’s ability unless there wasn’t a choice. Her family was just being impatient about her recovery… and Sookie enjoyed a day of delivering I-told-you-sos.
Sookie wore simple jeans and a baggy T-shirt to dinner and we carried our suits with us so we could leave for work as soon as she was finished eating…
It was more than a little amusing to walk into the house to see Corbett holding Mini, sporting a full beard and shoulder length hair, but mostly because Mini was scratching his beard for him. Both of her tiny hands practically disappeared into his whiskers.
The family enjoyed their meal of lasagna, salads and garlic bread, jokingly apologizing about the cliché use of garlic… and Olivia boasted about helping prepare the meal because she’d never really been welcome in a kitchen. Even in smaller foster homes, her foster mothers either didn’t like to cook or were ‘in love with their crockpots’. She’d made an extra dish of lasagna and a pie to take home with her, and had plans to learn new recipes as often as possible… her grandmother and great aunt had invited her to come to the hotel restaurants to help make dinner for herself whenever she wanted. And of course, Sunday dinners were mandatory.
I was beginning to worry that I’d need to stall, fill the time my coconspirator had told me he’d need, but while I was twisting Sookie’s braids into a Chinese bun, I heard him creeping along the driveway.
Saved… Sookie would have sensed I was up to something if I was forced to think of a reason to stay at the house… I was already concerned about Olivia’s reaction to being put off… She was eager to talk to Pam about her life in Los Angeles.
Alcide was walking into the house just as Sookie and I left the restroom in our suits (and I was promising not to tell Pam how much Sookie missed her ‘uniform’)…
The first thing Alcide did was toss a key to me.
Sookie scowled and groaned, “What did you do?”
I shrugged. “Nothing we didn’t discuss last night.”
She shook her head and chuckled, “If that’s the key to a baby blue tank, I’m going to die laughing.”
“What if it’s the key to a cobalt blue Hummer?”
She slapped my shoulder and gasped, “You didn’t!”
“You thought I was joking?”
“Of course I thought you were- You know what…” She snatched the key from my hand and ran towards the door as quickly as her pencil skirt would allow. “If nothing else, Elliot won’t be able to make suggestions about how I like compact rides anymore.”
A collateral benefit.
While her family laughed at Elliot’s expense, Olivia complained Sookie would ditch us and ran to the kitchen for her leftovers and hurriedly said goodbye to everyone…
She was trying to push her arms through her sweatshirt and kiss everyone while balancing containers until I offered to take them for her… and Sookie was revving the engine and honking the horn by the time we stepped onto the porch.
I lifted Olivia to the backseat and watched her walk over to sit behind the driver’s seat without hunching over…
And as soon as I climbed into my seat, Sookie leaned over to kiss me. “This is probably the sweetest thing ever.”
“This isn’t sweet… it’s practically a bedroom on wheels.”
“Because you don’t have a sweet bone in your body, right?”
I shook my head. “No… you’re just confused because Alcide had to special-order the grenade launcher assembly for the roof.”
She giggled as she sat up and shifted into reverse, “You win … Our shift is over at 2:30… We need to christen this beast.”
I didn’t have to say anything about how disappointed I wasn’t… Sookie giggled, “Poor you.”
Not only had I won the debate over what time we’d leave the hotel, but Sookie took the long way to get there…
It didn’t seem as though Olivia knew the difference and Sookie was enjoying testing every bit of the SUV’s handling and power…
While en route, Sookie explained that she owned a Jeep when she lived in Las Vegas with her brothers. Jason and Brandon had bought old Broncos and they occasionally enjoyed off-roading to unwind.
Olivia was still more interested in hearing about her mother’s experiences in Hollywood.
Jason was already waiting with the valets when we arrived at The Palace. He chuckled and shook his head, going as far as offering me a high-five for thinking of a way to gift Sookie a car without being injured. Perhaps I was just high on her excitement, but I didn’t ‘leave him hanging’…
But as he helped Olivia from the backseat, he noticed her hair.
As soon as Sookie was finished threatening to kill the valet slowly if he fucked up her new wheels, she ran to Jason’s side and tugged him by his hand to her office… leaving me to carry the leftovers again.
As soon as the door to Sookie’s office was closed, Olivia started, “Mini made my hair super long and I wanna be Rapunzel for Halloween instead… They said I could just hang out with Mini on Halloween if it makes you super nervous, but Eric made it really short with a braid Mom can do. Can I keep it since no one can really tell how long it is?”
Sookie turned around to show her bun to Jason and offered, “If the braid is long enough for you to be iffy, this is the whole shebang. I didn’t even trim the ends.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Past your ass?”
She nodded. “I feel like I’m wearing a helmet, but you can’t really tell how insane my hair is.”
Olivia chirped, “Eric said Mom could disguise how long my hair is… and people probably won’t notice anyway because I’m new here.”
He lifted her braid and sighed, “How long is it?”
“To… the… flooooooor.”
He grumbled, “We’ll talk to your mom about it, but… we need practice telling you no, so don’t get your hopes up too high.”
She nodded. “I can deal with that. How’d your errands go?”
“Not great. The architects I sent sketches to want to make all kinds of changes to the castle. No respect for history…”
Sookie snorted, “I might know a drafter who can do the job. He’s less likely to want to add his essence to the place…”
He nodded. “That was my next stop. Who’d ya have in mind?”
“Tucker Archer. Shawn was a drafter with a civil engineering background before he was brought over. You’d probably have to have someone convert measurements for you once he’s done, but he’s probably pretty eager to make amends with the Sheriff after wasting so much of her time.”
“True that… I’ll call him once I settle Liv in…”
“Ask him to come out later. He’s supposed to be with his kids all week. Things are going pretty good with his family. I called his detail today… He’s been cooking dinner with the kids and taking food to the guys outside… he’s thanked them because it makes his wife feel safer about him being in the house… and asked if he could hire them once I cancel the order.”
Jason shook his head and grumbled, “Poor fucker… but I guess if that’s what it takes for the old lady to cotton to the changes… She’s a sweetheart though. She should come around.”
“And Mom and Daddy are waiting in the wings if they need to help Patty realize he’s not a bomb waiting to go off. He’s past the hard part.”
“I might pay her a visit too… since she knows me.”
Sookie giggled, “I thought you’d never volunteer.”
He showed Sookie his middle finger and took Olivia’s hand. “I’ll see you later… I know you’re dying to get to work.”
Sookie was already jogging towards her desk as Jason finally relieved me of Olivia’s food…
Sookie was excited to read through the notes the staff had left for her, and she didn’t even seem to mind explaining the details of each one to me…
A customer with a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder wanted to know if housekeeping could be banned from his room during his stay and wanted all of the linens removed before his arrival…
A customer complained about having neighbors who spent the night arguing, then fucking at the top of their lungs, so Sookie called the room and asked if they’d accept an upgrade for the remainder of their stay and the management’s apologies…
Lucy Swerenger called to thank the hotel for intervening with a blacklisted player and mentioned that she’d faxed the details of another problem gambler…
A vague message was waiting from ‘D. Thrash’, but Sookie explained he was the VIP we’d be checking on…
A message from a woman representing a spouses’ support group at Barksdale, asked about the details of non-profit functions…
The editor of a travel magazine wanted to send a correspondent to write a piece about The Palace’s Supernatural amenities…
An employee had walked out in the middle of a shift and another had given notice…
Isabel called from Dallas to ask about The Palace’s linens supplier and cleaning process. It was an excuse to flirt with and flatter Sookie…
The convenience store manager wanted to know if he could fire someone for farting constantly.
The refrigerator behind the bar in the lounge was ‘on the blink’; specifically, it was either freezing garnish fruit or barely chilling bottles of beer.
One of the security staff left a note for Sookie that reminded her it was poor form to fuck in a public pool even if the person owned a percentage of it… Since Sookie wasn’t the culprit, we deduced Brandon had found another mermaid.
For over an hour, I watched while Sookie happily acted on the messages waiting for her attention. The only item Sookie hadn’t dealt with, and that was because she planned to do it in person, was responding to D. Thrash’s message…
She was discussing a new refrigerator for the lounge with the maintenance department when the concierge knocked on the door to Sookie’s office.
She cracked the door, but before she could say anything, a woman in the lobby snarled, “Don’t you dare! I demand to speak to the Sheriff.”
Even if Sookie didn’t smile devilishly at the promise of a challenge, I felt how thrilled she was.
As she stood from her chair, she straightened her skirt and offered, “Hasn’t anyone ever told you you’ll get more flies with honey?”
The woman replied, “I don’t want flies. I want the head of the bitch who condoned the abuse of my child last night.”
As I followed Sookie out of her office, she giggled, “See, if I was a Maker, I wouldn’t walk around yelling about how a Human bullied my child…” She turned to address the seething man next to the mouthy bitch and sighed, “Bill Compton, I presume?”