Chapter 1: Chapter 1
A/N: New story! What would happen if two single people, who don’t like each other all that much, inherited a baby? We’re about to find out.
Warning for : Possible swearing, possible cuteness, mountains of sexual tension, one baby girl and two idiots.
Reviews are of course encouraged since I’m on tender hooks over what to make of this plot bunny!
Crying. All I heard was her crying. Not a full blown wail of a cry, but a small simpering cry that at any moment I just knew could blow up into a scream that would wake the neighbours. How did I know what kind of cry she had? That was easy. It came with the experience of the last six months raising this baby girl. This baby girl who biologically had nothing whatsoever to do with me; the baby girl who saw me, this random guy, as her daddy. And that right there, sitting in the rocking chair to the left of her crib, would be her mommy (not biological, of course). Somehow we both ended up here, two strangers, in our friends’ house, raising their only child. How? That, I’m still not one hundred percent sure to tell you the truth. One minute I am free as a bird, single as they come – and loving it. I had a job I loved, a life I loved and lived to the fullest. The next minute, I get a call and suddenly I’m responsible.
Responsible for her, for this house, and in many ways for the woman who was also present on that life changing night. In a heartbeat we became a family.
A completely out of whack, out of sorts, insane, dysfunctional, family.
A little over six month ago I was in the middle of a date. Well, I say ‘date’ but I mean the sex after an hour at dinner flirting with her. It was my usual M.O.—flirt my heart out, go in for the kill, if they’re easy it’s a panty dropper right then and there, if not spring for a dinner or something that looks like a date—bang, and leave. It had worked well for me for years, and I saw no need to stop since it got me exactly what I wanted—laid, then left alone. What more could a guy ask for?
Apparently he might not ask for more, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to get it.
I got the call from the hospital, asking for my presence right away. There had been an accident. I froze, a chill of dread making its way down my spine. I knew, despite the fact that the nurse wouldn’t tell me a damn thing of detail over the phone—but I just knew something very bad was very wrong.
I dumped Ginger, or Saffron or Garlic, or whatever the hell her name was, leaving her there in my bed with a stern warning to get her shit and go. She didn’t take it well, but then again I didn’t really give a damn. My best friend was dying, or worse, possibly dead. The last thing I wanted to be worrying about was some trick and her ‘feelings’.
Rushing through the damp roads it seemed like my foot was made of lead. I parked my Corvette though I couldn’t tell you where, and ran as fast as my legs would take me, to the emergency entrance. I got to intensive care and saw her standing there talking to a cop, tears in her eyes, makeup streaked, hair wet. Sookie Stackhouse.
Ms. Stackhouse and I had a rather…tempestuous relationship to put it mildly. My best friend Alcide, and her cousin Hadley had set us up on a date once. It was a complete disaster. She hated me on sight, and her hate made me forget her hotness and all we were left with was a hostile silent dinner. Like I said, a disaster.
It just so happened that my best friend and her cousin had married each other, and it was because of them that we both ended up in the hospital that night.
“Mr. Northman?” The heavy set cop asked reaching out his hand to shake mine. I obliged as he told me he was sorry for my loss.
Alcide was dead.
I heard Sookie sob, “Eric, they’re both gone.”
I felt my stomach drop. God what about the baby?
As if she was reading my mind Sookie spoke up. “What about baby Jessica? God…!” She ran her fingers through her hair as more tears flowed from her eyes. I just couldn’t deal with women when they cried.
“Miss…the child is fine.”
“Fine?” Sookie and I said in unison.”Yes, fine. The truck skidded on the wet road… there was a undiscovered oil spill, and as I told you, the collision was mainly to the front side of the vehicle. The child was securely fastened in her car seat and the back of the car wasn’t touched. She’s a little shaken up, but mostly she’s fine. She’s a baby Miss, I’m sure she’s not even aware what has happened.”
My heart sank again. It felt like it should maybe relocate into my stomach since it had been there most of the night. That baby was Al’s life. He’d always wanted children, and when he and Hadley got married it was all he talked about. It made him an amazing wing man for me. Talking up babies and wanting babies with single women looking for that father figure was the pathway to golden sex opportunities—for me. He’d talk them up, then flash the ring and bow out like a good honest husband and amazing best friend. Not that I needed help getting women—the only trouble with the women is sometimes there were just too many of them and not enough hours in the night—but his sweet talk ensured that I didn’t have to, saving me precious time.
Time was the one thing I’d never really considered until that night, standing there in that dank hospital corridor, with the fat cop and the crying blonde who hated my guts. Time started to slow down as he told me Jessica was being checked over in the ER, and that she’d stay with a foster family for the night until CPS decided what was best for her. It was then we were approached by a small man in a black suit, carrying a Hermes suitcase and looking as sharp as a pin.
“Mr. Northman I assume?” He shook my hand and turned to address Sookie.
“I’m Mr. and Mrs. Herveaux’s attorney. I know now isn’t the best time but I’d really like to speak with you both, if that’s okay?” Sookie nodded, wrapping her pink cardigan around her body in a comforting motion before we both took our seats near the reception desk/area.
Trust Alcide to be on his damn deathbed, but still remember to call a lawyer.
“I’ve been called in to deal with my client’s last will and testament.””Look buddy, no offense or anything but my best friend, and her cousin have just died. Don’t you think you could give us a day to deal with that?”
“I would Sir, believe me, but this is rather urgent. There were stipulations made in the will that I do this should they both meet an untimely death.”
I motioned for him to continue, and he did, bringing out a stack of papers from his case.
“It was stipulated that in the event of their untimely death, and should their daughter survive and remain under the age of legal consent, that she and any and all possessions that she should inherit would pass to you.”
“Excuse me?” Sookie spoke up. A stunned look on her tired face.
“What I mean is Jessica is willed, to you… both of you.””WHAT?” She jumped as I yelled at the sharp lawyer sitting in front of me.
“Willed? What do you mean willed? She’s not an asset, she’s a baby, a human being! That…That…””Why us?” Sookie asked gently.
“They believed you both to be the best option available to them should this occur. Believe me Ms. Stackhouse, when people your age make a will the very idea that it may become a reality sooner rather than later is rare. But it is stated that you, and Mr. Northman, should you accept, will inherit the main house in Shreveport, the Summer home in California, as well as the two cars and all contents…And of course little Jessica.”
Sookie was stunned into silence. I knew she was stunned because in the couple of times I’d been around her she was a little mouthy, so this silence was new.
“I don’t understand.” She spoke meekly to the lawyer. “I just don’t get it. Why would they choose US of all people? I mean, they knew we…don’t exactly see eye-to-eye.”That was a mild way of putting it.
“Why would Hadley and Alcide choose us both?””Like I said Ms., they believed you both to be the best choice, and in the best interests of the child. There are other items pertaining to the will but they are currently at my office. I’ll have them forwarded to you first thing on Monday morning if that is acceptable.”
She just nodded.
He shook her hand and apologized for our loss again, promising to be in touch.
There was that word again—loss. They couldn’t really be dead, could they? It still felt like they’d just stepped out to the next room and any minute they’d jump in on us yelling and laughing about how good they got us with a prank.
That feeling began to fade when the female doctor approached us about identifying the bodies.
I saw Sookie inhale a breath she didn’t let go of. The panic and fear in her eyes got to me more than I would admit, so I did something I never did with women.
I reached for her hand.
I saw her finally blink before she exhaled, staring at our hands joined for a second before she tenderly squeezed back. We walked to the morgue to say goodbye to our best friends.
SPOV:I’d been in the middle of yet another fight with Bill when the phone rang. He, of course, demanded that I ignore it; that I pay attention to him and his problems. Bill and I had been dating—if you could call it dating—for a few months, though in all honesty I had checked out emotionally and physically, weeks into the relationship. He had too. I knew that. It was one of the reasons I began to pull away from him to begin with. Our hearts weren’t in it, but we stayed together…because well, it beat being alone.
I’d ignored his demand to let the phone ring as he continued to yell about how I didn’t trust him around his co-workers—which I didn’t, and for good reason. I knew that I wasn’t having sex with him, and if I wasn’t, someone else sure as hell was. I didn’t care. I should have cared, but I didn’t. I’d been wanting to break up for a while, and the phone call from his little girlfriend Selah just pushed me in the direction I needed to go. I was minutes away from walking out of the apartment when my cell rang.
Accident. Highway. Truck. Car. Hadley and Alcide.
It was all I heard. The rest I remember, came out almost like white noise. I knew to get to the hospital as soon as I could; Hadley meant the world to me. Outside of my idiot brother, she was the only family either of us had. We had each other, and we’d been raised liked sisters. The idea of anything happening to her, it almost made my heart stop.
I heard Bill yell for me to come back. I just closed the door as gently as I could before I got into my car in the parking lot, took the deepest breath I could manage before I started the car. It was now or never; my best friend needed me.
It was well into the a.m. so the traffic on the roads was thankfully minimal. Wet, rainy, and dark, it almost reflected my mood.
I got to the hospital to find the police, the doctors, and the on site paramedics talking outside the reception area of the floor I was told to check into. Greeted and pitied they each told me of the accident—how it happened when a lorry had been speeding with a large load, and due to the stormy weather, it overturned on the highway. It had landed on Alcide’s Land Rover once it stopped rolling. They told me of their injuries, that all attempts were made to resuscitate them. Hadley had died at the scene, broken neck, broken back…a number of other injuries. Alcide had held on until they got to the hospital, they said he was awake, talking, lucid all of it. He’d even had the frame of mind to give them his lawyers name, mine and Eric’s as a contact. I wasn’t surprised; he was a big guy, more than capable of holding his own. Sadly, due to internal bleeding and complications with a particularly bad skull fracture that they thought they had a handle on, he couldn’t hold on any longer, and passed away a half hour later.
As I stood there stunned listening to the cop tell me the story, I saw him burst through the double doors. He was drenched from the rain, dishevelled and sporting a bad case of bed head. He looked as tired and as worried as I felt, so I buried my reflexive hostility for him and decided that he had as much right as anyone to be there.
He and Alcide, according to Hadley, had been like brothers. College roommates and partners in crime all the way. How? I never understood. Alcide was kind, warm, jovial and loving. Eric….he was none of those things. They had made the mistake in judgment to try and set us up on a blind date a few years prior, and it was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. I’d just broken up with my boyfriend Quinn—another disaster but of a different kind—and Hadley was a fan of the ‘to get over one man, get under another’ mantra. She suggested a blind date with this guy she and Al both swore by. They said he was sweet, kind, funny, and sarcastic but nice. He owned his own business, a chain of businesses actually, so he had goals and independence; all of that plus, he was good looking. They sold him well. I ticked all my boxes, and even some boxes I didn’t even know I had. That was until I met him. And while he was hot, he was tall and brooding and had these stunning blue eyes…he was also a complete and utter dick. I hated him on principle. He didn’t seem interested in talking to me or listening to me. My confidence in conversing with men was already at an all time low, and having tall blond and douche-tastic all but ignore me in favor of staring at my breasts for an hour and a half…well, it wasn’t the green light I was particularly looking for. Once he’d confessed that he didn’t really want to be there, that it was a ‘favor’ to Alcide… I saw red. And when I got mad, I got real talkative. I told him exactly what I thought of what he could do with his ‘favor’. And I may have also told him what he could do instead of staring at my breasts because he was never going to get anywhere near them. He of course, was a sore loser, and retaliated with comments on how he wasn’t in fact fascinated with my breasts, but wondering if ‘Icy the Snow Bitch had nipples made of glass like the rest of her?’ That was the last straw; I stormed over to the bar, ordered the most expensive bottle of champagne and billed it to our table. If Icy the Snow Bitch was going to go home alone, at least she’d have the eight hundred dollar bottle of champagne to keep her company. Well, that and the satisfaction of knowing he paid for it.
All thoughts of his douchebaggery were put aside for the moment, as the lawyer told us the strangest thing I’d ever heard.
We’d inherited a baby. A living breathing, co-dependent baby. Al and Had’s baby. Their world. And they left her to US? Needless to say, I was as baffled as he looked. Well, he looked like he might puke too, but there was definite wonderment in there somewhere. Why would they do that? Why would they pick us of all the people in their world? So many thoughts were spinning through my head all at once and I couldn’t get a hold of myself when the doctor told us that we’d have to go and identify the bodies.
That’s all that was left now. Not their souls, not their smiles or the light behind their eyes. No, just their cold bodies and nothing more. I felt myself begin to break down, when something most unexpected happened. Eric reached down and took my hand in his. He squeezed it once before leading me behind the doctor to where I assumed the morgue would be. His gesture was startling, mainly because I wasn’t sure if he was capable of human contact that didn’t involve a naked slut.
But he did. He took and held my hand the whole way through. Seeing them laying there unlocked all the tears I’d been fighting hard with myself to contain. But I couldn’t hold them in any longer. There they were, grey and lifeless, with cuts and stitches all over their beautiful faces. I sobbed over my cousin holding her cold hand in my free one. I felt like this wasn’t happening to me, it felt like I was on the roof looking down at this other girl. This other girl who just lost her best friend; who just received the biggest responsibility of her life; who didn’t have a fucking clue how to deal with any of it.
Next to that girl stood a man—a man who was doing his best to wear his poker face—but for the first time, I saw the cracks as he let his tears fall too. I’d forgotten, in losing my best friends, he’d lost his too.
I was shocked to realize Northman was human after all.
I’d left Sookie talking to one of the nurses as the doctor handed me a box, in the box was whatever my friends had on them as ‘possessions’ at the time of the accident. There were keys, a purse, a wallet, and a few things they’d managed to extract from the car wreck, a soiled baby blanket and a birthday card with a big One on it.
Today was Jessica’s first birthday. I closed my eyes at the next rush of pain to hit me in the gut. They were out celebrating their baby’s birthday when some asshole decided to speed on a flooding road and kill my friends. I felt the anger bubble up inside me, all I wanted to do was hit something, or someone until that anger subsided. Accident, how could you accidentally kill two people, just wipe out two whole lives just in a blink of an eye, leaving a little baby girl orphaned.
Except, she wasn’t orphaned, according to Alcide, I was to become her father.
I was a lot of things, and a father, to anything, I was not. I couldn’t even handle a dog! Never mind raising a baby.
No, it was insane, it could not happen. It would not happen. There had to be a better choice, a better choice than me and her.
I could see that she was not handling this very well at all, and in all honesty I was not really sure what I was feeling or not feeling either. All I knew was she asked to see the baby, but was informed that the foster family had her for the night and the best thing everyone could do was to go home and try and get some rest.
She was stubborn. Even beat on her feet, she still stood her ground with pushy nurses, but eventually gave in and took a seat, on the hard plastic chairs her hands buried in her hair instantly.
” I should go to the house, check on things.” She offered.
“I’ll…I’ll go with you, if you want?”
She looked me in the eye, maybe for the second time that night.
“No, it’s fine I can handle it by myself, and I’m sure you were interrupted from something that you should maybe be getting back to anyway, so I’ll just go alone.”
“Can you just NOT?” Frustration and sheer tiredness took me over, I was in no mood for her games.”Not what?”
“Be so fucking stubborn for five minutes, maybe I wanted to go to the house, maybe I wanted to check on things, maybe-”
“Alright. Fine. I’m too tired to argue with you now. You have the keys?”
“Fine, meet me there in twenty.”
With that she got up, and walked away. I watched her walk to the elevators, wrapping her cardigan around her again, fixing her hair back from her face. I waited for a few seconds before I followed. She didn’t want to talk to me, or anyone else, and that was fine, hell that was easy to deal with, but I just knew that from here on out nothing was ever going to be easy again.
A/N : Thoughts? *Bites nails*
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
A/N : Hey guys! Thank you so so much for all the reviews, adds, pm’s etc, it was awesome to know what you thought of the first chapter! So without further ado, here’s chapter two! 😀
When I got to the house, Eric was already there sitting in front of me in his blood red corvette, just waiting.
I gave myself a healthy pep talk on the short drive over to their house. Life was for living; all sorts of horrible things happened to good people every day; this would be just another obstacle to overcome; this too shall pass—all of it I repeated, and then some.
I couldn’t focus on my dead cousin or her dead husband right now. They had a very much living breathing dependant baby girl that needed me. And they’d known she would need me.
Why they thought she’d need him, is beyond me… But again, people made crazy choices every day. This was one of theirs.
Their house in Shreveport was, for lack of a better word, huge.
Alcide graduated top of his class to go on to become one of the most promising young defense attorneys in the state, which translated into: he was loaded and then some. My cousin wasn’t too shabby either. She’d become a pediatric nurse and while it didn’t afford her the same income as Alcide, she was just as rich in experiences by the end of the day. She’d loved kids; she’d wanted a whole house full of them, Al too. He’d been an only child and had always sworn his own kids wouldn’t grow up alone.
My heart clenched again. His kid would be growing up alone, except now she’d be growing up without any brothers or sisters, or even a mother and father.
Pushing those thoughts out of my head I got out of the car. The rain had started to die down and for that I was thankful. What was going on with the freak hail showers in the middle of May? I’d never understand.
He stood silently by the engine of his flashy car, motioning a ‘ladies first’ with his hands, we walked up the darkened path together. He dug the keys from his pocket and snapped open the first door by turning the knob once.
Darkness is what greeted us, their large hallway illuminated only by the small green light of the security system.
“Shit, I don’t know the code!”
Eric pursed his lips together once before going over and hitting a few digits. It worked first try.
“How did you-”
“College basketball, his gym locker combo. He used it for everything since.”
With that he flipped one switch on the wall and several lights came on.
The first thing you noticed is the vast size of the house. Alcide had said he’d fill it with kids if Hadley would let him. They wanted a big family, so they bought a big—too big—house that now just looked and felt cold and empty.
Eric and I walked from the hallway into the kitchen; he flipped on some lights as I took a seat at the giant island. It was just after three a.m., but I felt like I’d been awake for days. My head was spinning, my eyes hurt from crying and I just needed a cuddle.
That was clearly the last thing I was ever getting with my present company. He opened the fridge and capped a beer, before offering me one, which I declined. I felt too sick to drink.
He stood and I sat in silence for a few minutes before he spoke.
“We can’t do this. That’s the bottom line. We just… can’t.” He stated staring at the pictures of them on the fridge.
“Of course, I don’t know what they were thinking … But they did, and since I’m the only family that she could really depend on, I get why she picked me in theory but… It’s nuts. And you? You and me together raising her? That’s just the most ridiculous idea! Hardly a peaceful and loving environment for their kid.”
He smiled. “Yeah that’s what I thought too, I mean… we can’t be in the same room together without some kind of hostility, raising a kid? It’s just not possible.”
“I agree completely. I have no idea why Alcide involved you, but you’re off the hook.” Nice normal tone used, somehow managed to keep my hate for him under control. Doing good Stackhouse.
“Excuse me?” He raised a brow at me, still leaning against the fridge like he owned the place. Which, I guess now he technically did.
“You’re off the hook. You don’t have to do this, any of this. I’ll step up and do it.”
He stared at me.
“Alone? By yourself? You’re just gonna take on someone else’s kid, someone else’s house? All on your own?”
I nodded, not really getting how this was hard for him to understand.
“If CPS let’s me, then why not?”
“Why not?” He raised his voice. “Why…? Look alright I get it, you’re a hard ass, and that’s fine, but you cannot do this by yourself, it’s not… not…”
“Not what? Not right? Not right for a woman to raise a kid on her own? News flash, millions of women do it every day, I’ll be fine.”
“No, you’re not letting me off the hook here. It’s not only you who’s been shouldered with this responsibility, and I do not crap out on my responsibilities.”
“Riiight, you just crap out on dates.”
Oops, couldn’t help it I guess.
He swallowed his beer, his face switching from thoughtful to sarcastic in a second.
“Only the dates where the chick is practically an iceberg. It gets a little chilly, what can I say.”
“In fact, last time I saw you, you were doing an amazing impersonation of an Ice Queen, and stiffing me for eight hundred dollars.”
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Well, I felt the need to stiff you for something, and it certainly wasn’t going to be something fun… It was delicious by the way.”
“The champagne, that you paid for, it was magnificent. Thank you.”
He pressed his lips together in a pout.
“Glad you enjoyed it; at least one of us got something out of it.”
He rolled his eyes at me before dumping his beer in the trash.
“So what now, Sookie?”
Strike me down, but I shouldn’t have liked the way he said my name, but damn it, I did.
“I don’t know, we get to pick her up tomorrow morning at nine a.m., the lawyer is coming here to look things over and talk to us some more, then… I don’t know.”
“Alright, I’m going to be honest. I don’t want this life, I don’t want a kid, I don’t want a huge ass house that’s not mine, I never asked for any of this―”
“And you think I did? I―”
“Let me finish.”
I shut up.
“I don’t want these things, and shit, I spend enough on condoms that I could own a share in Trojan for fucks sake, and enough time worrying about knocking some chick up, to go now and end up saddled with a baby anyway? It’s not fair. But, Alcide is… was my friend, my best friend, outside of Pam, he was the only other person that I―”
His voice cracked a little and it shocked me.
“Fuck! Look, basically they had their reasons for doing and signing and saying that this is what happens and none of us asked for this shit to happen, so fine, whatever. I’m in.”
“You sound so thrilled.”
He glared at me.
“You can’t honestly tell me this is how you imagined your life right now? Stuck with a house and a kid with some asshole you hate? It’s not exactly the ideal situation.”
“No it’s not. But then again neither is having my cousin die with her husband before either of them hit thirty-five.”
“Yeah. Look, you should try and maybe get some sleep.”
“No, I should make some calls… What about you?” I asked, not really sure where the concern came from.
“I’ll be fine. I’m used to being up late so this is normal hours for me. And don’t worry about calling everyone, I’ll find their address book and do it in the morning. No sense in waking the world when we don’t have to right?”
Right, he ran a bar.
“Okay, yeah that’s true… I mean I already left my brother a message on his cell, but God knows where he’s at tonight…” I sighed. I never could rely on Jason. “I guess I’ll crash in one of the guest rooms.”
I excused myself and made my way up the large staircase to the bedroom. I walked past their bedroom, not ready to go inside there yet. Next to their room was Jessica’s room—a baby wonderland—done to Hadley’s idea of perfection for her baby girl. Not over done in pink like I’d worried she’d do, but softer lilac and whites. It was beautiful. I felt my tears threaten to spill on me again, but exhaustion just took me over and I sat on the overstuffed nursing chair, put my feet up on the foot stool and before I knew it I was out cold.
I was glad she went to bed when she did, mainly because I couldn’t take the debating any more. She looked like shit; I felt like shit, and I’m pretty sure she felt like the shit she looked like. We both needed some alone time. I was pretty much nocturnal from years of running my bar so being up this late—or early however you look at it—didn’t bother me. What bothered me was her, her sheer stubborn determination to take things on alone. Who the hell does that? Agrees to be a single parent when there was an out option? She was crazy. Or maybe she was right? I just felt sick about the whole thing. We had a few hours to digest everything before that innocent baby girl was handed into our hands—forever.
I was convinced Alcide and Hadley had done drugs before they’d signed that damn will. I wasn’t cut out to be someone’s father, or father figure, or whatever the fuck I was meant to be now. The baby, yeah I knew her. I’d visited Al enough to be familiar with the kid, but only barely. Hadley was always with her, and Alcide and I would break off and watch sports or go golfing or running together. I was never around babies. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it and suddenly I get hours to adjust to the idea of ‘Hey! By the way your best friend and his wife just died and here’s their kid. Bye.’
I poured myself a whiskey neat. I needed it.
I never backed out on my responsibilities. Ever. It wasn’t how I was raised, and I’d be damned if I was going to do it now. I knew that if I didn’t, or Sookie didn’t that they’d look into another family member to do it. That, or she’d be left in some kids home somewhere till someone came and adopted her.
And that just wasn’t right.
She deserved to grow up in the home her mom and dad had made for her…and the only other family options on Alcide’s side were his eighty-year old Aunt Maud on his mother’s side. Being an only child of older parents, he was kind of screwed. They’d died and he was alone. All his cousins were either in Europe, or there was that one cousin of his that lived in New York, but last he told me of her she was doing soft core porn… So yeah, she was out.
On Hadley’s side there really only were two people.
Sookie, or Sookie’s brother. And from what I knew from stories Alcide had told me, he was a few fries short of a happy meal upstairs. Alcide described him as a “dumber version of you, thinks with his dick… only unlike you, his upstairs brain is pretty dormant.”
So… He was out.
Really, Sookie and I were the only options for the kid.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Nine a.m. came quickly. I’d managed maybe two hours sleep on the couch—if that. I got up at eight and brewed the strongest pot of coffee I could before taking a quick shower. The shower was wet and the bathroom misty when I went in—alerting me to Sookie’s prior use of the bathroom—meaning she’d been up for a while.
My mind was reeling with everything that definitely would happen today, and things that might happen today. I showered in record time, which was pointless since I was changing back into my previously worn clothes. I still felt gross.
Sookie, however, looked a lot better. Her hair was dried and shiny even though she’d stuck it up in a messy bun. She’d been applying lip gloss in a mirror from her purse when I entered the kitchen.
“Morning.” She said quietly taking her mug from the island. “Thanks for the coffee.”
“Welcome.” Yeah, I really wasn’t a morning person.
She smiled. “Not a morning person, huh?”
I shook my head no. I was trying to wake myself up, and while looking at her breasts in that tank top was fun, it wasn’t helping the situation of her yapping.
“I get that. My brother is a total night owl too. I’m the annoying perky one at seven a.m.”Awesome.
“You want something to eat?”
“No, I’m good thanks.” I slugged my coffee as fast as I could without burning off my tongue.
“Should we take your car or mine? I think mine’s better, or maybe we should take Hadley’s? Or maybe just get the baby seat and bring it in my car? Or maybe―”
“I… I’m sorry. I’m just―”
“Nervous? Yeah, I know. I am too, but you need to relax a little, and maybe tone down the decibel. I’m not functioning on all cylinders right now.”
After her ranting session and my second cup of coffee we decided on taking the baby seat from Hadley’s Rover in the garage and sticking it in Sookie’s little beat up Nova. How she thought that was safer than a range rover, I’ll never understand. I grabbed the address book from Alcide’s office and began to make some calls to friends of theirs that I knew said they’d call the friends of theirs that I didn’t know. Everyone was shocked and saddened.
At that point I think I was starting to feel numb to it all. A few dozen phone calls later, we were heading into the CPS offices, where the foster parents would be meeting us. Alcide’s lawyer was called in, and I called my lawyer to act on my behalf, as well as Sookie’s, in this matter. Sookie was nervous, her hands were shaking and she really never shut up the whole way there. I’d need to find a trick to tone her out, and soon.
We were greeted by our social worker, a seemingly sweet woman named Megan. She was taller than Sookie, with shoulder length highlighted hair, and big expressive eyes that danced when she talked. She was very animated too—hand gesturing here and there as she explained the procedures to us alone at first. She wasn’t overly formal or overly friendly at first. I liked that.
“Now I know this situation is highly unusual—two single people—you’re not a couple is that correct?” She looked at her file.
“No.” I responded.
“Hell no!” She responded. She was just so mature.
“I see.” Megan looked at me and smiled. Oh now was so not the time to flirt, but I couldn’t help it.
“No Megan, we’re definitely not seeing each other. I’m single, she’s single. Its just that circumstances are as you say, unusual. But I do date. That’s not wrong, is it?” I may have batted my eyelashes, so sue me.
She blushed, Sookie scoffed.
“N-no, of course it’s not wrong. It’s perfectly… healthy.” She coughed and looked at her file again. “However, with circumstances as unique as these, should you agree to take custody of Jessica by signing all the necessary paperwork, I will be your case worker. And, because of the situation, we want to ensure that Jessica is going to the best home and parents that we can give her. Do you understand?”
Sookie and I both responded with a confident, “Yes.”
“Good. Talk with your lawyer, he’ll advise you on what to do. Jessica is in the other room and if all goes to plan, I can bring you guys in to meet with her in a few minutes?”
Both lawyers came in. There were negotiations and other legal mumbo-jumbo, but in a matter of minutes Sookie and I had signed an agreement to take custody of Jessica—the estate left by Alcide and Hadley—and changed our lives forever.
I’d be needing a big drink after all this.
“The estate, what exactly is that?” Sookie asked.
Alcide’s lawyer—and a friend of his—we’d found out they worked in the same office building. Alcide had done well for himself, carving out a career quickly as one of the best lawyers in the whole state of Louisiana. So of course, “Mr. Hermes Briefcase” was his ‘friend’. He told us the estate in total did amount to a sizeable sum, but because they had a mortgage on that huge ass house of theirs, most of it went to paying that off. And whatever was left over was for Jessica’s college fund.
Interesting. We also inherited any and all bills from the estate, which thankfully there were very few of, just a car and a loan that was almost paid in full. It wouldn’t have been an issue.
After we signed everything that needed signing, we all shook hands and the suits left. Just like that, we’d gotten a baby. We’d signed an agreement for her like a car. Sometimes the world confused me.
I heard Sookie take several deep breaths as Megan, who insisted I call her Meg, led us into the other room. A playroom filled with toys, other kids, a few parents and case workers.
I saw her before they brought her over to us. She was sitting in a circle of other kids playing happily with some building blocks, a little pink dress and white shoes with a ribbon in her barely there hair.
We met the foster parents and made awkward conversation as Meg brought Jessica to us. Sookie took her first, cuddling her closely and kissing her cheeks, whispering to her how she was going to be okay, that Aunt Sookie was there and that she was safe now. She was a baby and I doubt she understood, but to Sookie, I guess the gesture was more for comforting herself than it was Jessica. They gave us a small bag of her things, some diapers, a bottle, and wipes. Then they said we could take her home.
Where was home? My place was home for me, Sookie’s place was home for her, but their place was home for Jessica.
So, I guess that’s where we were going.
Meg met with us in the hallway to give us, well… me, her card, and to ensure that if we had any questions to call her, about anything.
Sookie was a channeling the ice queen I knew so well as we made our way to the parking lot. She focused entirely on Jessica, ignoring me completely.
Getting her into the car was a disaster. The car seat was designed by NASA. Honestly, how the hell did those things work? So many straps all wired up to one little claspy thing. I just did not get it.
I tried and tried but with Sookie glaring at me in the rear view mirror, threatening to ‘come back there and do it herself’ I had to give up. So I tied the kid in, literally tied her with the straps, hoping Sookie wouldn’t noticed, and offered to sit in the backseat with her.
She kept staring at me, which ordinarily would freak me out, but she was just so innocent and sweet that I was awed. Her big blue eyes, reminiscent of Hadley, and come to think of it, Sookie’s, looking up at me, her pacifier bobbing in and out of her little mouth, tiny hand clasping on to my fingers.
“Hey Jess, you hungry? Huh? You hungry? Can you say hungry?” I offered, and she just continued to stare. Huh… kids, they didn’t do a whole lot, did they?
Sookie giggled from the front seat.
“You might have better luck with a response if you took the pacifier out.”
I pulled it out gently and apparently that equals slapping her upside the head since the scream she gave me in return almost busted my ear drums.
Note to self: Never take that shit out. Ever.
“I’msorryi’msorryi’msorry, baby, here baby, I’m sorry.” I went to give it back but apparently she was having none of my shit. I’d tainted her sucky thing.
“How do I make it stop?”
“I don’t know give it back!”
“I DID, she doesn’t want it now!”
“Try giving her the bottle?”
I tried and no dice. Shit, I’d broken the kid and we hadn’t even had her a full hour.
Sookie started calling Jessica’s name from the front seat before she broke into a verse of Row Your Boat.
I looked between the singing lunatic in the front seat and the sobbing baby in the back. I was in hell.
“Row row row your boat gently down the stream… ROW YOUR BOAT, ERIC!” I got threatening eyes in the mirror again and I agreed to join in, rowing the damn boat like she asked. It didn’t work and Jessica was turning redder with each passing minute.
Jesus, what did I do!
Sookie switched on the radio in attempts to either drown her out or shut her up. Both worked.
Thank you, Katy Perry.
Sookie began to sing along and Jessica seemed to respond to the music. Her cries lessened to smaller whimpers to suddenly having her fists in her mouth with her little leg bopping up and down on the seat.
“… it felt so wrong, it felt so right… don’t mean I’m in love to-night.” Sookie sang, off key of course, but she was smiling at me through the mirror, and I don’t know why but I smiled back.
I’d texted Pam the night before just before I’d gotten to the hospital, and with everything that had happened since, I hadn’t had the chance to call her back. I called in from the back of the car as Sookie pulled up to my place. We figured we should at least get some things from both our places since going home alone anytime soon wasn’t going to be an option.
“This is Pam.”
“Eric, thank God. What happened was the accident bad?”
“They’re dead, Pam.”
I heard a sharp intake of breath.
“Oh Eric, I’m so sorry. I know Alcide was―”
“It’s fine. I mean no, it’s not fine, but it’s fine you know? I’m dealing. But there’s something else.”
“They left me custody of the baby.”
She was silent on the other end.
“I… What? Where they high?”
“I know, believe me.” I saw Sookie look at me through the mirror again, obviously trying to make it look like she wasn’t listening in. Not that I gave a damn if she listened or not.
“Well, not just me. Hadley’s cousin, Sookie, too.”
“Ice Queen? Ohhh Eric you’re so fucked right now.”
“I know. But we’re dealing.”
“You’re actually agreeing to this madness?”
“Why? Eric this is huge! You can’t just take on a kid with some bitch ass woman. What the fuck?”
“I’m sorry, but I think it’s crazy.”
“It is crazy, but it’s not like any of us expected this you know? Look, we’re at my place and I’m going to pack a bag and try to make funeral arrangements. Come by Alcide’s after your shift okay? We’ll talk then.”
She agreed and I hung up just as Sookie pulled into the parking lot of my building.
I untied Jessica when I got out of the car, reaching into the backseat to take her in my arms. I was waiting for her to start crying again, but she just looked at me, her tiny hands grabbing onto my chin.
Sookie folded her arms and motioned to get back into the car.
“I’ll just… wait here.”
“No, it’s fine. Come with me if you’d like? This is a good neighborhood, but I can’t say the same for people who hang out in parking lots.”
“Oh.” She looked out the window of her car again, looking nervous. “Okay. If you… insist.”She was scared of being alone in the lot, not that I blame her. That place was creepy as hell, even during the day.
“Sure, come on.”
“Hey, Jess you wanna see my place? Will we go see my place, huh?”
She just bubbled spit at me. I’d take that as a yes.
Sookie, Jessica and I got into the elevator together. Sookie was unusually silent.
“Nothing. I just… I’m just thinking that’s all.”
“Well, don’t think too hard you might break something in there.”
She glared at me. She was just too easy to wind up. It was awesome.
We stepped inside and suddenly my apartment felt like another world.
I threw my keys down on the coffee table, leaving Jessica on the couch. She was on her feet in an instant, but Sookie went to her as she started gliding along the couch holding onto the cushions before falling on her little butt and looking around.
“I’ll just throw some stuff in a bag.”
I saw Sookie looking around, more than likely judging my place. I suddenly felt uncomfortable, my place being under her judging eye. Not that I gave a damn what she thought but… still.
I walked into my room and was instantly hit by the scent of sex. Right. Ginger.
Christ, it had been a matter of hours and already that had felt like a lifetime ago. I opened my blinds, and popped open a window just as Sookie came into the room.
“Oh!” She was repelled. Ah… sex smell. “Jesus Eric what did you do? Hold an orgy?” Her face in scrunched up disgust was annoyingly judgmental.
“So, what if I did?”
She rolled her eyes.
“I just wanted to ask, I’m going to order us some lunch to pick up when we stop at my place. What do you feel like?”
“Where are you ordering from?”
“Uh, my restaurant.”
Shit, that’s right I’d almost forgotten. She ran that big fancy place on the other side of town from my bar.
“You own that place?”
“No… I just run it.” She looked uncomfortable.
“I hear it’s doing well.”
She nodded shifting Jessica up in her arms as she was slipping a little.
“It is. It wasn’t before I came on board, but we’re good now, thankfully. Do you want something or…”
“Well, maybe we could stop by? We’ve got to run to the funeral home and make arrangements. So maybe we could do it there, while we get something to eat?”
She nodded. “Sure.”
Nice, civilized. Then she looked at my floor.
God, I was a gross bastard; but in fairness, I had left in a bit of a hurry.
“Classy, Northman.” She looked at me, disgusted, before turning on her heel and leaving. I even heard the front door shut.
And we’re back… just when I think we can be civil to each other her sarcasm comes out to play. No, it wasn’t exactly classy; yes, she’s right, but she doesn’t always have to be such a bitch about it.
Or maybe she does. Oh God, Pam was right. I am so fucked right now, and not in the fun need of a condom sense either.
A/N: Remember, reviews are loved! 😀
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
It was just disgusting, he was disgusting. He was an embarrassment to the male race, that’s what he was. No… worse. He was a man whore.
Christ, I’d just agreed to raise a baby with a man whore. What was I thinking? His apartment was exactly what I expected, ultra modern, sleek and cold – just like him. There were very few personal pictures around the place I noticed. He was big on art, nice tasteful abstract pieces mostly, but very little on the personal touches. It felt like a show house more than a lived in home.
Jessica seemed to get over her wailing fit nicely. She was finding bouncing up and down on Eric’s couch very entertaining. When I remembered that she might have been hungry, I wanted to see if maybe Eric was too. I knew I was starving having not eaten anything since the day before.
Walking into his bedroom was a bold move, and one I regretted instantly. Being greeted by the smell of sex and … cheap perfume on an empty stomach wasn’t pleasant. He was shoving some t-shirts into a suitcase, and had a suit-cover lying on the bed.
Right, a suit, because there would be a funeral. I held on to Jessica tighter as I judged him and his man whoring ways before I made a swift exit.
Like I said, disgusting.
We set off for the other side of Shreveport to my restaurant silently, this time he was in the front seat beside me.
“What crawled up your ass?”
“Nothing. Right. Is it because of my place? Did it not meet the Ice Queen’s standards?”
I flashed him a glare, keeping my eyes on the road. Jessica was sitting quietly, her pacifier firmly planted in her mouth this time, playing with a set of keys Eric gave her to amuse herself with.
“Stop calling me that.”
“Then stop acting like that.”
“Acting like what? This is me, this is who I am.”
“Yeah well, that…” I guessed he meant the state of his place, more to the point, his bedroom. “Is who I am, and if you have an issue with that, then that’s your deal.”
“Meaning just that, I’m doing this for Alcide and Hadley, no one else, and just because I’m stuck with a kid doesn’t mean I’m stuck full stop. My life is still my own. Yours too. None of that has to change, it just has to be… readjusted.”
I was silent, I really didn’t want to have that conversation with him right there in the car on a busy lane-way. We rode in silence for the twenty minutes it took us to get across town to the restaurant. I got Jessica out of the baby seat and by that time she was starting to get fussy. I only hoped Lafayette could give me something simple and soft for her to eat.
Walking into the restaurant I was immediately group hugged by both Tara and Amelia. Both of them sprouting questions—how was I, how was the baby, how was I dealing, who the guy staring at us was…?
“I’m fine, tired and starving, but fine. She’s fine, a little restless but that’s to be expected, and this…Well, this is Eric Northman. Eric, these are my friends, Tara Thornton and Amelia Broadway.”
They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries as I dragged over a high chair with one arm, holding Jess in the other. She went in without a fuss thankfully, still playing away with Eric’s huge ass bundle of keys. I guess she liked them because they were shiny and made noise. I’d keep that in mind.
“Wait, Northman… Not…” Tara turned to look at me her eyes widening. “This is Asshole?”
“Uhh Tara, not now okay?”
“You’re the guy… the date guy. Oh. Wow. This is fucked up!”
Eric smiled awkwardly before admitting. “Yep, I’m Asshole date guy, nice to meet you, can we have some menus here please?” His pleasant demeanor instantly gone.
“Sook, can we talk to you for a second?” She asked pushing me towards the kitchen, Amelia in tow. We left Eric sitting at the booth with the baby.
“What are you doin’ here with him!” Tara whispered hashly.
I took a deep breath before I went to explain, changing my mind mid-sentence. “Hold on, where is Lafayette. I’ m not repeating this speech three times. Go get him.”
She hollered into the kitchen and he came outside the door, his cloth on his shoulder.
“Sookie has shit to say, listen up.”
He offered me a hug first and foremost, then I began to tell them exactly what had happened. All about the accident and the will, and how Eric and I were meant to look after Jessica and the house and all their assets. My three friends stood mouths agape, not that I blamed them.
“But that’s the asshole that you tricked for that champagne right? He’s still an asshole from the looks of things.” Tara commented.
“Yeah but a hot one… Damn, look at those shoulders though… They’re nice.” Ames added peeking around the corner again. “And his neck? Damn girl, it’s lick-able. He’s an asshole, but he’s a pretty asshole.”
“And WHAT has that to do with his baby raising skills? Huh? Amelia, really, stop being such a slut for dick.”
“I am not a slut! I’m just… pointing out the obvious here.”
“Look guys, really that’s the least of my worries right now.” I looked around the corner to see Eric on the phone, deep in conversation as one of the busboys brought him his water. “We have so much to do, there has to be a funeral, I don’t know what I’m going to do about my place, I can’t even think straight right now. So yes, he’s a pretty asshole, but right now he’s the only other asshole that knows what’s happening here. So, we’re gonna get something to eat. I’m going to go to my place and pack some things and I don’t know what to do from there.” I was starting to freak out again. Lafayette butted in as usual with his sage advise.
“Okay baby girl, listen. I’mma cook for you and that tall glass of fine you got over there, and make that baby something good too. You’re gonna sit, relax and eat for an hour. You’s also gonna have some wine.”
“I’m driving. I can’t.”
He gave me the stink eye. “Let your man drive then.”
“He’s not my man. BELIEVE ME, he’s so not my man.”
“Fine, whatever he is. Let him drive. You need to relax; you need to breathe and when you do the solutions will come.”
“What are you like Yoda for single women?”
“My talents are endless baby girl, you know that.”
He motioned for his ‘two bitches’ to come and leave me alone for awhile and actually “do their jobs.” To anyone else that may seem degrading and harsh, but to everyone Lafayette had a love for, he called us bitches. And he loved his bitches.
This bitch swallowed whatever panic I’d been feeling and made my way back to the table. Eric had just hung up the phone.
“What was that, another hot date?”
He glared at me. “No, smartass! I was calling the funeral home if you must know. The hospital has released the bod—released Hadley and Alcide, and the funeral home is making the arrangements now. All we have to do is tell people the time and the place for the service, and I guess hold a wake after.”
“I’m sorry I assumed… I…God, I’m not usually this much of a bitch I swear.”
“I just bring it out in you, huh?” He grinned, still sarcastic.
“Yeah you do, it’s annoying as hell.”
We ordered and while we were waiting Lafayette brought me a little bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy for Jessica with pureed carrots and a pint of warmed milk that I transferred into her bottle before I fed her. The potatoes went down like a charm right before she almost pulled her “uhhhh” out of my hand. She hadn’t mastered her words yet, so it seemed most things were an “uhhh” for now.
Eric and I ate in comparative silence—the only sounds from our table were us breathing, chewing and the sucking sound of Jessica at her bottle. I caved and had one glass of wine to attempt to chill me out and by the time we were done, Jessica was just drifting off to sleep. I guess one p.m. was as good a time as any for a nap.
I lifted the check to go pay, but Eric wasn’t having it. I argued that I stiffed him for eight hundred dollars the last time we shared a meal, and that I owed him. Then he handed it right over. Of course, when I went to the bar to pay Amelia waved it off.
“Sook, you’re my boss. I’m not charging my grieving boss for food. And besides, Lafayette said he isn’t taking your money for his cookin’. So just go.”
“Nuh uh, go.”
I thanked her and made my way back to the table. Eric had already scooped a sleeping Jessica out of the high chair and into the blanket in his arms.
“Ready?” He asked holding this little bundle of pink to his shoulder.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Since I’d had a glass of wine, Eric insisted he “drive that piece of crap before I got us both killed,” a comment that he hadn’t thought through, given our current circumstances. We rode to my place in awkward silence. And since we didn’t even have the noise of Jessica to filter it, it became stifling.
Speaking of stifling, the heat had begun to rise rapidly since we left The Crown.
“I’ll wait here.” He offered nodding to the sleeping madamoiselle in the back seat. Unlike Eric, my parking was outside and very much in the heat, and I didn’t know how long I’d be.
“No, you can’t sit out here with her in the car, not in this heat. It’s dangerous.”
“Can’t you just slam some shit in a bag and go?”
“I’m a woman, what does that tell you?”
He rolled his eyes and angled himself out of my car, a car that was just not built for a man with legs as long as his. He stretched himself out, his white t-shirt riding up a little too much exposing a quick glance of what looked like a very tanned and toned tummy.
Not that I was looking or anything.
He suddenly became gentle when he managed to scoop the baby up out of her seat and into his arms without waking her. Hmm, maybe he had skills other than just epic asshole-itious after all.
We rode the elevator to the third floor, apartment three one four.
My apartment was nothing like Eric’s. The only place that was white was the kitchen, everywhere else I’d done with warm comforting colors, soft fabrics and big over stuffed furniture. Thankfully, Hadley shared my interior design tastes and though her house was large, in my opinion too large, it felt warm.
Eric made it known that he was being nosy looking around my walls—family, friends, holiday pictures hung up—unlike at his place. He was looking at the books on my shelves and coffee table. I watched him saunter around my living room like he’d been there a hundred times before.
“You about through giving it the once over?”
“Just about, I might start on the bedroom next. Is that where the magic happens?” He teased me.
“You are so gross you know that?”
“And you are so easy to wind up you know that?” He smirked. “Besides I’m willing to bet the ice chamber doesn’t get much action. No guy is willing to risk freezing his dick off… No matter how nice your tits are.”
I rolled my eyes at him and his juvenile behaviour not wanting to give him the response he was so obviously looking for. Instead, I watched as he nursed Jessica and went to look out my window, while I went to my room to pack a few suitcases.
I threw a few sundresses, sandals, underwear sets, and pyjamas all into a bag—the necessary stuff for right away would be folded. I had a black shift dress that was light and formal enough for a funeral without being sexy, even if it encased my ass like a Kardashian, according to Tara. I threw in a few pairs of heels and zipped everything up. My makeup was already sitting on my dresser so I dumped it into my vanity along with my tooth brush, and I was set.
By the time I got back to the living room, Eric was reading my subscription of Cosmo to himself. It was a funny sight to see—a six-five asshole sitting with his legs crossed against my coffee table, reading Cosmo with a baby beside him.
“If you’re finished finding cures for your monthly cramps, we can go.” I said wheeling my stuff to the door.
“Two suitcases? Really?”
“For now. I’m not like you. I actually have stuff that has to be folded and ironed, not just rolled in a ball and thrown into a sports bag.”
He scooped Jessica up, this time I noticed she stirred a little. I was guessing thirty minutes wasn’t long enough for a sufficient nap. But she’d be in her own crib soon and maybe she’d stay calm.
By the time we got back to the house it was well after two p.m. Eric had been on the phone to the lawyers, the funeral home and various friends he and Alcide had in common on the ride back. This time I got Jessica out of her seat, and shocker of all shocks, he got my bags. I was almost waiting for him to tell me to deal with it myself, but I guess anyone can have a freak moment of chivalry.
From what I understood of the will, Alcide and Hadley wished to be buried together in his family plot in the local cemetery. They wanted a simple service, and Hadley requested if possible, white roses as the flower of choice.
It was organized for the next day. Neither Eric nor I saw the point in delaying the inevitable, and since neither of them had family that needed to travel a great deal, the timing was fine. I called Lafayette and asked if he and the cooks could cover a buffet service for the wake, and they agreed. Tara and Amelia and Tommy from the restaurant agreed to cater. All in all, it was planned in a few hours. Two lives, laid to rest and all it took was a few hours to organize. It was a chilling thought how quickly it all went by.
I left my things in the guest room I’d slept in, Eric put Jessica in her crib and knocked the batteries out of the baby monitor by just touching it. Seriously, how I’d he walk upright?
I’d agreed to go to the market after seeing that there weren’t things in the fridge that needed to be there. Necessities, like milk, coffee, an AK47 for Eric … Okay, maybe not.
Sookie had been out of the driveway maybe five minutes when I heard the unholy screaming coming from Jessica’s baby monitor—the twin of that I couldn’t SEE but I could hear. It was somewhere in the kitchen. Either way, I ran taking the stairs two at a time till I got to her room. The way she was screaming her little lungs out, you’d think someone slapped her or something.
“Hey, hey baby it’s okay, it’s okay!” I tried to calm her in my softest voice. No deal. She still kept on screaming. I tried the floating heads hanging over her crib, seriously? Floating heads of clowns and ducks? No wonder this kid was so messed up. Who does that?
“Okay, Jessica work with me here…” I reasoned picking her up, and swaying her in my arms, ‘hushing’ her as best as I could. That’s when I felt it. Something… something very wrong. Something squishy and wet in her diaper region.
OH HELL NO!
“Jess, please tell me that’s not what I think it is?”
She just kept on crying. Well, I guess if I was lying in an encasement of my own piss and God knows what else, I’d be crying too. It was humiliating. Poor thing.
“It’s okay, Uncle Eric will get you clean… he hopes.”
I looked around the room and there was everything a kid could need, and a few things she wouldn’t for a few more years. I laid her down on the changing table that had everything I thought I’d need right there. Thank you for being weirdly organized Hadley. Diaper… check; white weird cream stuff… check. Wipes… check.
“Okay, here goes.” I unsnapped her sleep suit, slid off her booties and found the diaper. Level one, complete.
“Okay, I know you’re a girl and I’m a guy and usually there is some protocol for this, but since I’m kinda like your caregiver-diaper changer-feeder person now, I think it’s okay that I do this? Right?”
God I couldn’t stand it when women cried, even tiny little women. I opened the tabs and sweet baby JESUS what the hell.
“When did you eat a bomb? Sweet Christ.” I almost gagged. Thank God Sookie wasn’t around to see this.
I wiped and folded any extra… waste. Gross. And dumped it in the tiny pink trashcan. I used the wipes till she was all clean, and it took like ten of them, good God. Cream, and new diaper. Only when I went to close it, it wouldn’t stick and then the little sticky things kept ripping off. By the time I’d cleaned her off and found her pacifier, she was enjoying the air on her bottom while I freaked out over the tiny sticky tabs sticking to my FINGERS and not to the plastic of the diaper. What the hell!
Three diapers later and six sticky tabs used on one diaper to close it, I thought I had it, but I lifted her up and the damn thing just fell right off again. She laughed at me. Even the one-year old was laughing at my failure. This sucked.
I opened a drawer in the changing table and found a roll of duct tape stuffed up under some leaflets on breastfeeding and after birth? What the hell…? But the duct tape I thought could work.
“Okay, so this is weird but it just might work. What do you say, Jess?”
Again, with the staring.
“Okay then!” I took the tape and managed to stick two massive bits on one side and then the other. Perfection! Diaper was secure, baby was no longer crying, I no longer wanted to jump out the window.
I didn’t bother to put her pants back on as it was a hot day and the kid seemed to like the air at her skin. Not that I could blame her. Even with the air conditioner on, the house was stifling, and it was too hot for her outside.
I knew Alcide’s den—or his ‘man den’ as Hadley had called it—was to the back of the house and had the most shade from the trees outside, so I decided that Jessica and I could chill and maybe watch some TV till Sookie came back. I flipped on some football, much to Jessica’s chagrin, but of course the second I hit a kids channel her little ass was crawling towards the TV like that kid from Poltergeist.
Annoying singing furry things it was then.
My cell rang telling me it was Pam.
“You sound like shit.”
“Well, I feel like it.”
“You should get some rest, Eric. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.”
“I know, I know, but I have a one-year old here, Sookie’s gone to the market for things, and I can’t leave the kid to sleep; she just woke up.”
“I’m coming over.”
“What about the bar?”
“It’s dead right now. You know the after work buzz doesn’t start till after six. Gimme fifteen minutes.”
With that she hung up. So I guess she was coming over then. What was it with all these women in my life just pushing me out of decisions? I needed to start putting my foot down… but later. I was too tired to give a damn.
True to her word, Pam arrived in style as usual, fifteen minutes later. She’d brought me a twelve pack of beer and two takeout pizzas.
“How’d you get them so fast?”
“Maybe I’m magic…? Or maybe when I called you I was already picking up the food?”
“I had a big lunch like … not even two hours ago.”
“So? You’re like waste disposal and you know it. It’s highly unfair how you eat like a horse and still stay skinny.”
“I’m not ‘skinny’.”
“Fine, you’re built like a brick shit house but your waist is still smaller than mine.”
She waltzed into the kitchen as I carried the pizzas in one had and Jessica in the other.
“So, this is little Jessica.” Pam said in a flat tone. Most people went all baby voice when they spoke to a baby, but not Pam. Pam didn’t ‘do’ baby voice.
“Hi Jessica, I’m your Auntie Pam, I’ll be the one you come to for sex advice and who’ll take you on your very first trip to Chanel, okay my darling?”
Jessica tightened her grip on my t-shirt and turned her face into my neck.
“Where’s the Ice Queen?”
“At the store still.” I set Jessica in her high chair and switched on the TV in the kitchen, she was instantly entranced.
Good to know.
But just in case I left her, her sucky thing and some rattling pink things she seemed to like as Pam and I took a seat at the island. She popped me a beer and opened the pizza.
“So what the fuck, Northman?”
“You know what! Last time I saw you, less than twenty-four hours ago I might add, you where about to go balls deep with some trampy looking broad, now? You’re covered in … what is that?”
I looked at my jeans, the baby crème. Oh.
“It’s baby crème for the diapers.”
“My point exactly. What the hell are you thinking? You can’t do this!”
“Don’t tell me what I can’t do, Pam.”
“Fine, but even you have to admit this is insane. Taking on a kid? And HER and this … massive yet stylish house? The house I love; I love the vibe. It’s country yet cool—”
“Right no, not the time for style tips. Look my point is, you don’t like her, she apparently dislikes you enough to stick you with a eight hundred dollar bill…”
“You said that was elegantly evil, at the time if I recall.”
“Hey, I didn’t say I didn’t like the girl’s style, I just mean you’ve bitched about her ever since. She’s the one with the nice rack that didn’t fall for the world famous charms of the Dick of Northman, and that bothered you… now you’re raising a kid together? What, are you gonna live here too?”
I was too tired for this.
“No, don’t Pam me. You need to think about this, Eric.”
“Yes okay, it would be easier if we lived in the same house, so yeah, maybe that’s what happens. But for right now, I’m a little preoccupied with the idea that I have to bury one of my oldest friends and his wife tomorrow okay? So where I live doesn’t really matter to me right now, because you know what? I get to live. They don’t.”
She looked to the floor.
I heard the front door close and Sookie shuffled in with three bags piled in her two arms.
“Hi.” Pam turned on her bitch mode faster than I blinked.
Sookie dumped the three bags on the counter before fixing her shirt. Was she self conscious?
“Uh, hi. I’m Sookie… And you are?”
I smirked, Pam wasn’t about to admit any unnecessary details.
Sookie looked weirded out.
“Um, Eric if you’re going to be bringing … ladies of a certain… um… employment to the house, could you at least not do it when the baby is awake? Or when the neighbor’s might see?”
Oh, God. I burst out laughing. Sookie though Pam was a prostitute. HA!
“What? No! Pam is my business partner.”
“Is that what you call it? Look it’s fine if that’s your… thing but really…”
“Sookie, in my bar, she’s my co-worker.”
“Ahem, co-owner. And you little Miss country bumpkin, you are too funny.”
Trust Pam to find funny what normal people find insulting.
“Oh. Oh crap. Shit, I’m so… so sorry. I …ugh it’s been a stressful time I’m not really thinking all that straight.”
“Or thinking at all.” Pam added.
“You two really think you can take care of a kid, together? You can’t stand each other. This makes no sense!”
Sookie looked at me and I looked at her, and for the first time I think there was a sense of team work, because we’d both had it with people telling us what we could and couldn’t do.
“Pam, is it? Okay, Pam listen cause I’m not going to say it twice. Jessica is my blood, and Hadley was my cousin, but she was like a sister to me. I wasn’t around for her much this last year, and for that I ‘m sorry, but she trusted me to take care of her baby girl for her, and now she’s dead Pam. Dead and not coming back and won’t be around for her little girl like I know she so desperately wanted to be.
And yes, Eric and I don’t get along but I trust that Alcide knew him better than I do, and I trust that underneath his asshole persona is actually maybe a person—otherwise, why would they have chosen him too? I don’t understand their logic with that one, I’ll be honest. But I’ve been with him and Jess all day, and she likes him, she responds to him, and he’s good with her. That’s all I know, and right now, that’s all I give a damn about. Because that baby girl is the last of my family that honestly, is fading fast. So I might not be able to do this very well, Eric might suck too, but goddammit I know we’re gonna try. What else do people want?”
I was stunned, Pam was stunned and I think even little Jessica had her mouth open, but that might have been so the rattle could go back in there.
“Oh.” Pam said looking from me to Sookie before she smiled. “Fine. Well, if that’s how it’s gonna be, that’s how it’s gonna be. Does this mean I’m Auntie Pam officially then?”
My hands were killing me. I’d stuffed everything I could into the three bags so I wouldn’t have to do a second trip to the car. I’d taken my time strolling around the market, mainly because I needed the time away to collect my thoughts. I was scared shitless and I couldn’t lie about that, but either way, all I knew is that it was Hadley’s wish that I be there for her little girl. And I knew I would be. Even if Eric wouldn’t feel the same way in a week, I knew I had to be there for her, despite the fear.
I carried the bags into the house and heard talking in the kitchen. I really hoped that if Eric was going to have a date over so soon they’d at least wait until nighttime, or until Jessica was in bed.
When I walked into the kitchen the talking stopped. All I heard was the TV and the sound of an excited Jessica babbling away to herself in her high chair.
She was sharply dressed, but in an elaborate way. Her heels were easily six inches, and her tank top was a size too small, showing off her breasts to the world at large. She wore wide legged pants from what I could see of her sitting, but she was in full makeup that was a little too heavy on the eyeliner and lipstick for that time of day.
So yes, it was an assumption—a wrong one that I made on a snap judgement. Eric, was, from what I knew, kind of a slut. Sluts like sex, hookers provide sex, sue me for making the common steps to that flawed thought.
Pam got on my last nerve with her version of bad assumptions, since I’d already dealt with a phone call from Jason at the store, yelling at me about Hadley and how I couldn’t take care of a baby with some stranger, yadda, yadda… I offered the job to him, which promptly shut him the fuck up, so when Pam got up on her high horse, I decided to knock her down a peg or two.
It seemed that I ranted when things got too much for me. Gran always said it was like I built everything up inside for so long that somehow it just had to find a way out—and it usually did in rant form.
Eric’s eyebrows were raised and he had a sly smirk on his face. Apparently I’d taken one for the team because he uncapped me a beer, handed it to me and got me a plate for my pizza. He then dragged Jessica’s highchair between us at the island and chopped tiny bits of the soft pizza topping and bread into her little bowl. We sat quietly; Jessica ate the pizza happily and so did I. Pam was silently observing us, but I didn’t really care. We could do this.
We would do this.