The look on her face when I walked into that restaurant, it was priceless, it was awesome. It made all the poking and prodding by Lafayette and his evil helper worth it. They’d all but strapped me to the chair when I was given an overhaul. They made me do a facial, and a manicure – which I swore them to secrecy about. They decided I needed a close shave, but not too much, so a little scruff was left, thankfully, or I’d really have felt naked. Then came the tailoring, at which Lafayette was a master. He knew my measurements without even having measured me, and thrust a dozen or so outfits in my direction. I had to admit, the clothes? They felt nice. You could tell they were well made, and of course they fit better than my old clothes, and honestly, when I looked in the mirror I instantly felt better. I felt like a grownup.
I’d never admit to that either though. But they weren’t done with me. They demanded my prescription on my glasses as they rifled through boxes of glasses, settling finally on black thick rimmed ones. I was told they were Gucci, and I really couldn’t have cared less. I was just happy I could see again, and when I did see I had to be honest with them – even if they cut my hair – I really liked what I saw. Not only did I feel like a grownup, but I looked like one too.
What wasn’t so worth my make over – and making me an hour late for picking Emily up – was the summons from Sookie to the meeting that had now been moved to some random place in mid-town. I arrived nervous, and spotted them and their tense body language a mile away. Her Grandmother did not look her age, that’s for sure. I took her for early sixties, when I knew in reality she had a good ten years on that. Sookie though, she looked grey, and pissed. And then they wouldn’t let me leave, which made things about a hundred times more awkward. I had to witness the woman that I’d come to know for her balls of steel, her high heels and her bitch ass attitude, fall apart. I knew she hated this, it was written all over her face. Try as she might she couldn’t lie with her eyes, no matter how much she tried to hold back. What her Grandmother was saying, what she was gently demanding, but demanding nontheless, ripped her apart. I wanted to speak up. I wanted to defend Sookie and her mental work ethic. I wanted to tell the woman that her business and her bank account wouldn’t be what it was without her. But I couldn’t because even thought it had only been a few months, I’d come to know that the last thing Sookie wanted was pity, or anything that could be seen as pity. If I came to her ‘rescue’ of sorts, it would have only made matters worse.
So I sat there, and I witnessed it all, as well as her very dramatic, but classy exit. Leaving me with this strange woman that I knew next to nothing about.
She sighed and sat back in her seat when it was clear Sookie wasn’t coming back.
“That girl, I swear she’ll be the death of me. I was just trying to help her. I don’t know why she can’t see that.”
I was silent.
“Well, what are you thinking? I need someone else’s opinion here, was I too harsh?”
“Honestly, Ma’am … I know nothing about you and your relationship with Sookie, but in the three months that I’ve been working for her, I feel like I’ve gotten to know her, at least a tiny amount. And yes, I think what you said, even though I could see you meant well, it just came across as …”
“Cruel. If I’m just being honest. Ma’am, she works herself so hard because she loves what she does. She loves it. I’ve never seen anyone take so much joy out of their job before. She’s excited about every aspect of it. It’s tiring, sure, but she keeps going because she wants to make you proud, and more to the point she wants to make herself proud. So she doesn’t have relationships, a lot of people choose their career over their love life, they turn out just fine.”
I don’t know where I got the nerve to speak up like I was doing, but I figured she was just some little old lady, and I could take her on.
“You don’t think I know that? That girl has made me a very rich woman with her decisions. I just don’t want her to wake up at forty or fifty and regret wasting her prime years in an office trying to prove something when she has nothing to prove. I know she’s amazing, I know I love her regardless of if she was just a shop girl like I was when I started. But, I want her to realize she can’t spend her life in an office for me, or for herself. She needs people. People need people.”
“With all due respect, Ma’am-”
“Oh child, enough with the ‘Ma’am’ already. You’re talking to me like a man, address me as such.”
“With all due respect, Adele, you don’t think that Sookie doesn’t have her ‘people?’ You haven’t seen her since January if I heard correctly, and her brother … what does he do? He’s meant to be superior to Sookie, and yet I’ve yet to meet him. She does all the work, and she does it well, and it seems to me that you’re punishing her for doing that.”
She sat back in her chair, clearly with a head full of thoughts.
“She’ll hate me, Eric, but I have to stand my ground on this. I want her to remember what the rest of her life was like. She’s a young woman, she should be enjoying these years. That’s why I’m stepping in. Jason will be back full time if I can help it, and I know Sookie hates having him ‘under her feet,’ but I stand by my decisions.”
“And I respect that, I just don’t think she’ll agree.”
She smiled, “She gets that from me.”
“Are you sleeping with my Granddaughter, Eric?”
I almost spit out my water, seriously, why did everyone think that?
“No. Why do you ask?”
She looked me up and down. “You’re just her type. I mean, you were, last time I knew anything about her that was…” she said, pointedly. “Nice suit, good hair, tall. It ticks some boxes if I recall, and I also recall her never having hired a male assistant before. So, I have to wonder if work is all you’re assisting her with.”
Lady had balls, that’s for sure.
I smiled. “I can say that I’m not, I can’t say that I don’t realize that she’s a beautiful woman though, Adele. She is. But, as she explained, she loves her work, and she wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that, including embracing the age old, but tired cliché of screwing around with the assistant.”
She laughed, a full on, hearty laugh.
“Professional, even to her own detriment,” she shook her head, and poked at her salad. “I want you to talk to her. If you’re not embracing the cliché with each other, then maybe you know someone else that would be willing-”
“Adele, every man would be willing, she’s a beautiful woman, she’s smart, and she herself ticks a lot of boxes.”
“But, it’s not what SHE wants. If she wanted it so badly, she’d change some things around, she’d try, she’d date – even bad dates. Believe me, I know the feeling.”
“Of knowing that if you don’t do something about it, you’ll end up alone. You’ll end up old and alone, and bitter, and twisted, but the unwillingness to change the bad habits so that you can set yourself up to sift through the shitty dates, to maybe, just maybe, find that one that’ll stick. It’s too hard. Rejection, and or crazy girls from Brooklyn.” She smiled. “It’s hard to want to deal with.”
She nodded again.
“Eric, I want you to go check on her.”
“I don’t know where she-”
“She’s gone home, to lick her wounds. Are you on good terms, you and her?”
“We are … I think. Most of the time,” I said. She got up, threw a lot of cash on the table, and we made our way outside. A car wasn’t necessary, we got a cab. I guess Gran didn’t have the standards that Sookie had when it came to transport.
“Where are you going, Mrs…”
“Adele,” I corrected.
“I’m going back to the office. It’s been a long time, and I feel like looking through all her hard work, since I’m sure she terrorized you all into making it perfect for my arrival.”
“You have no idea,” I laughed.
“Oh, believe me, I do. You’re on good terms with her, I suggest pizza, something with cheese and ham. Oh and some kind of ice-cream. She’s not fussy on that, as long as it’s not coffee. For a woman with such an addiction she hates coffee ice-cream,” she smiled.
“Oh … okay. But work, I have-”
“No, you have to go check on Sookie, that’s your job for today. I’m your bosses, bosses boss, Eric.”
“I could call you car instead of-”
“No, I like to live dangerously,” she winked. “Make sure she’s okay for me.”
And that I did. I showed up to her place a half hour later, a hot pizza in one hand, and some beers and ice-cream in the other. The beers were my idea, since I figured we’d both need them after a day like that.
It was just after three when I got there. I buzzed the button on her very fancy building, and I was let in, but only to the lobby.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“Um, it’s Eric. Your door guy, he doesn’t know me.”
“Put him on the phone.”
I passed the phone to ‘Carl,’ a very round and snotty looking English doorman, who was insistent that ‘Miss Stackhouse didn’t announce’ me. So I was stuck with him eyeballing me.
Whatever she said, it worked, and I was given my elevator key. Damn, talk about security. Even the elevator was nice. Clean, shiny, and didn’t smell like piss. It was a nice change from my building, that’s for sure.
I got to her door, the Penthouse, naturally, and she answered it, looking like I’d never seen her before. Her eyes were red, and her nose too, and her mascara was wiped around her eyes while her hair sat in a messy bun on top of her head.
“Ugh, what do you want, you should have just taken her back to the office.”
“She insisted that I come see you.”
“Oh, with food. So she thinks she can be a dick, and then send you to fix it. No thanks.”
“Can I at least come in? The pizza is burning my hands, and I’m pretty sure this fancy suit might get grease-”
With that, she let me in; I knew she liked the suit. She silently returned to where she had been sitting, on her big comfy looking bright white couch, while I silently went about sticking the ice-cream in the freezer, and fixing us pizza and beer. Her apartment was massive, truly huge. There were stairs too, and I assumed there was more than one story since we were the ‘penthouse,’ but there was still a lot of building space up there, I’d noticed. And there was a grey cat. She was perched on one of the floor to ceiling windowsills, judging me from afar. She had a purple collar, and a bored expression. Not that cats had a whole lot of expressions though.
“Nice place,” I mentioned, casually, as I set the pizza down in front of her, and she looked at it, then at me.
“Cheese, ham, and bacon? Did she tell you that?”
“I guessed the bacon, but yes. Are you okay?”
“You didn’t have to come find me, you know,” she said, taking a bite of the slice.
“I know, but I kind of did. I didn’t want to spend the day with her, no offense,” I joked, and she just half smiled.
“Sookie, what she said back there…”
“I can’t even deal with her right now,” she said, her tone getting angry whereas before it was just sad. “I mean what the fuck was that? I mean, for real! Did someone build a time machine; are we back in the motherfucking fifties? It’s ridiculous! I do a fucking good job for her company, better than her, and certainly better than Jason … and what? She wants to just ignore how hard I’ve worked – and I have worked hard, Eric, I have worked my ASS off for her, and this is the thanks I get? A fucking ultimatum? Get married; find a MAN to COMPLETE ME. I mean, what is this? Jerry Maguire? I swear she’s touched in the head, I don’t need anyone to fucking complete me. It’s just … I can’t!”
“It was weird,” I admitted.
“Of course it was weird, I mean who does she think she is? My life is just fine how it is. I love my life. People love me! People want to BE me for crying out loud, but no, that’s not enough for her, so I need a guy. I need ‘love.’ What does that even mean, anyway? Do you know what that means? I certainly don’t! It’s bullshit, that’s what it is. Total, elderly, old ass, bullshit.”
She exhaled loudly. On her rant I guess she forgot to breathe.
“I don’t really think she expects you to get married tomorrow. I mean, she just wants you to have a fuller -”
“You don’t think my life is full? Have you SEEN my schedule? Of course you have, you type it out every week, you know what I do and how long I do it for, when in the utter hell would I have time to fall in love?!”
I nodded, agreeing with her, I got both sides of their intentions, however misguided both were. We ate silently for a few minutes, both of us pretending to be engrossed in whatever reality show she had going on, shockingly it was about fashion. Then I spoke again, breaking the silence.
“I know I just think that if she thought you were happy, in your personal life … n- not happy then, just not so … single or… alone… that maybe she’d ease up? I really don’t know why she made that her stipulation, but maybe if you just started dating someone that it would be better. If she saw it, and you, making the effort in that area of your life, like you do for work.”
“I don’t have the time, or the energy to deal with dating bullshit. All the rules, all the waiting around, no. I can’t do that, not right now, I have too much to do.”
“If you don’t, this Claudine chick, walks into your job.”
“I am aware,” she snapped.
I wanted to help her. I hated her sad face, it didn’t suit her. She suited her usual air of confidence. It was sexy.
“Well I guess you better start dating or something then. I mean even if it’s not really great, in reality she doesn’t have to know that, she just has to know that you’re expanding your life, as long as she sees the-”
“Wait, what did you just say?”
“I mean, if she thinks you’re happy, isn’t that the same thing? It’s what she wants, and it’s only until your birthday-”
“Oh, my, GOD. Eric, you’re a genius. You’re a GENIUS!” she said, hopping off the couch, and standing in front of her giant TV.
“Wait, why again?”
“Well, that’s just it, that’s IT. It doesn’t have to be REAL, she just has to THINK it’s real! Oh, my, GOD why didn’t I think of that?!” she said, still pacing. I had no clue what was happening.
“Think of what? I’m a little lost…”
“I don’t have to fall in love, I don’t have to bat my lashes and wait for a phone call, I can just… fake it.”
“Fake … a relationship?”
“Exactly! That’s it exactly. I just have to find someone, someone believable, willing, and able, and I just have to fake it for a few months until she gives in, signs everything over to me and oops, suddenly we’re not in love and I’m free to run the business as I please! GENIUS!”
“Um, Sookie, I don’t know that that’s what I-” I did not say what she thought I said. I just didn’t.
“Please, it works all the time in Hollywood. Seriously, Tom Cruise for crying out loud, those bitches are on ten year contracts! I just need a few months!” She was riled up. She was a woman on a mission, no longer feeling sorry for herself.
“Okay, I need you to go to my files; the laptop is in my bedroom. And I need you to access the little black book. It’s a black file and everything, very easy to find. And on that I need you to find me guys. There are a few that I know would be okay with this. One is an actor, so that won’t be hard for him; it’ll be the role of a lifetime! The other two are in the business, and that’s how I know them, but they’d be willing, for the right price I guess, one would for the promotion I could give his business alone. Go…”
“Where is your-” I asked, walking up her large staircase.
“Second on the right,” she yelled, frantically scrolling through her phone for whatever reason.
Her room was immaculate, not that I expected anything else really. It was also spacious, and designed within an inch of its life. Everything was neat and tidy, but it smelled like her, and it felt like her, and there was a desk full of photos I was tempted to nosy at, but I decided against it. In the few I glanced at though, she looked happy. Different from how she was now, I noticed.
I gave her what she asked for, and suddenly we were through the pizza, and a couple of beers, and we had a list of six guys we had to ‘screen’ in the next week, as dates, for her.
I was baffled, truly baffled by her project, and her stubborn refusal to trying things the old fashioned way.
“I can’t, Eric, I just don’t have the time. I never have the time, and honestly I’ve been fucked over a few times, and I have no desire to go through that again.”
“We’re not all bad,” I said, defending my gender, or at the very least, defending myself.
She stopped her frantic typing then, and looked at me. We were seated next to each other, but a comfortable distance apart.
“I know that,” she said, gently. “And I don’t mean to … dismiss you, or the kisses …”
“There were … very nice,” she blushed a little, and I liked that. It wasn’t something I saw from her often. “But that’s not what this is about. This is business. I can’t get emotionally attached about this. This is for her, not for me.”
“And going to a bar, doing it the old fashioned way-”
“Time,” she answered.
“We could go right now; my friend Sam owns this great place in Brooklyn,” I half joked.
“It’s easier this way. There will be a contract, there will be obligations, and when the contract is up, no one’s feelings get hurt,” she shrugged, as if it made perfect sense, and I guess in her shoes, it did.
“If you say so.”
“I do. I just need her to sign the damn contracts, Eric. She knows it’s for the best, she’s just digging her heels in whatever way she can, for whatever reason. I do this, I secure my job, my future, and yours too, if you want to keep your job. If we all do…” she sighed.
She was right, no one knew what happened if or when Sookie was passed over. I didn’t know her brother or how he operated, and chances were he didn’t want a dude as his assistant. It would be weird, I guessed. Or if that Claudine girl took over, I didn’t even know any of those people. Hell, I barely knew Sookie, but it felt like I did. And for that reason I decided again that I didn’t want to let her down, and I went about setting up fake dates for men to become her fake boyfriend, all the while questioning why I couldn’t just find the courage to ask her out myself.
They would be a disaster from start to finish of course, which led me once again to stepping up for Sookie, only this time it caused a hell of a lot more trouble than a simple makeover.
A/N: Hey guys! This one came out quickly! What do we think of adding a ‘Cast & Settings’ album of sorts to the fics? Photos of the pretty an all that! Just something I’m toying with, so hopefully it’s not a totally fail idea. Reviews are, as always, adored.