Hey guys! New chapter time! Don’t forget I’ve been kindly asked to join a chat for my writing with the @FangreadersChat on Sat 14th of Jan 9pm GMT (4pmEST) bit.ly/A0tDMC
Enjoy the newness, reviews are adored I love hearing what you think!
Two and a half weeks just seemed to fly by; I spent my days with Gran, and my nights alone. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but the more time I spent with her, at the house, fixing it up the best I could with what I had, the more I noticed Gran returning to her old lucid self. I busied myself cleaning, fixing, cooking, and gardening trying to keep my mind occupied, and of course in an attempt to get the house back to rights. My father had called, still stuck working, now in Dallas for another week, and utterly annoyed that he wouldn’t get to see me before I left. I knew word had spread across town that people had seen me. I knew because Hadley had called a few times, telling me how Tara, Sarah, and Claudine had all called her asking if it were true. So, everyone well and truly knew, and my mother still made no attempt to call, nor I to call her. I didn’t really care, yes I missed my mother because she’s my mother, but I didn’t miss the eye of disgust and judgement and I was honestly just not in the mood for her bullshit. Talking to Eric every night just wasn’t the same as seeing him, as being next to him, in taking comfort in his arms. And to make matters worse couldn’t even Skype because apparently Internet didn’t live where my Gran did, but we did our best to keep each other up to date, even if I figured out early on that Eric just wasn’t a fan of talking on the phone. I understood it, he was always big on eye contact, or on contact in general, phones frustrated him.
And then it happened, I woke up on my second Sunday there, wanting to get ready for Church with her, since we’d both skipped the previous session, to find she wasn’t in her room. She wasn’t in the house. She was a half a mile away, by the lake, in her nightie. I did my best to bring her in, in the car, wrapping her up, drying her as best as I could with the blankets in the trunk, but it was too much. She didn’t know who she was this time, or where she was, but when I brought her back and put her into a hot shower all the while trying to hold off my own breakdown, and then when she recognised my face I just let the tears fall silently.
“Sookie? Sookie what are we doing?” She asked, as I showered her, while I stood there fully clothed getting soaked myself.
“We’re getting you warmed up Gran, you were freezing. How long had you been out there?”
“Out where? I can shower myself you know!” She seemed embarrassed and I didn’t blame her when she was at herself was a very proud woman. I simply stood out, and let her finish herself, where as before, I had to get into the cubicle with her because she wouldn’t even stand up for me. This was far too much for one person to deal with, I needed more help, and I needed it soon. I got her tucked up in bed again, with some hot tea, and some cake for her sugar levels, and some magazines. She seemed fine, utterly content, so why was she wandering.
I called Maxine, the neighbour and person she’d relied on most for day to day things, she was a friend, but then she wasn’t, and I needed to know what happened. Over a cup of coffee, and some chocolate cake that she brought, we sat at the kitchen table an hour later. Maxine was a large typically southern woman, nosy to a fault but with a heart of gold underneath. She thought she knew everyone’s business (and sometimes she really did) and couldn’t mind her own. But, she wanted to help; I could see that much was genuine.
“Sookie, I don’t know what to tell you, I came by with your mother, and all hell broke loose when I left them alone to go make some tea. I came back, and Adele had the shot gun out, and was kicking us out. I didn’t want to get shot, so, I left.”
“Did my mom?”
“No, she left a few minutes later, I don’t know what was said, but whatever it was, they were both shaken when I drove us away…” she said, implying with her usual subtle as a brick manner, as she sipped her coffee.
“Listen, Maxine I’d really like it if you’d stick around, I can get Gran up and ready, and maybe we can try and fix this?”
“I’d like that Sookie, but –“
“I’ve hidden the shot gun…” I said, smiling, and it made her smile too.
“Well, in that case… let’s try and fix this.”
I’d counted down; I’d thrown myself into work and even socializing with Alexei and his crew, getting hit on constantly when I would go for a drink with them, too. But I took it all in my stride, and in a weird way I guess it was flattering, girls hit on me from time to time and now I guess some of the gays liked what they saw too. Alexei was always very protective of me which in it’s own way was sort of hilarious considering I had a good six inches on him as well as actual muscle – but I appreciated it anyway. Sookie and I called each other every night, well, night my time since I was still on the job, and for her, every time she called she sounded more and more tired. That wasn’t what a vacation was supposed to do to you, I thought, and I told her as much each time. She explained the situation with Adele, and how the small changes had led to big changes, and she just wasn’t the woman she remembered most of the time, and most of the time Adele didn’t remember herself either. Her three weeks were almost up, and every time we discussed what we’d do when she got back, things got tense. I wasn’t stupid, I knew Sookie, and I knew what her sense of guilt did to her. It ate her up, and this wasn’t just guilt but it was family responsibility too, which was doubly worse in her mind. In my head I also knew that I should expect a delay, but it still didn’t stop me from getting excited to see her again, I had missed her, and us, being us, and I really just couldn’t wait to roll over in bed and feel her next to me again. So, when I got the call, when she was meant to be at the airport checking in, needless to say I was more than a little bummed.
“Hey…” she said, silence behind her, automatically I knew, but I’d let her tell me.
“Hey, you checked in? I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.” Guilt tripping, me? Never… well…maybe a little.
“Um, yeah, that’s why I’m calling,” I heard her struggle with the words that I knew were coming, “I just… there’s so much that I need to do here still, and I just –“
“You’re not getting on the plane, are you?” I asked, calmly. She sniffled, and was quiet for a few seconds.
“No, I’m not…”
“Any idea when you might decide to come home?” Again, calm as a pond.
“I really… don’t know. I just… Eric if you could see her, and see how she is when I leave, or when someone else tries to take care of her, I mean, it’s just heartbreaking, I can’t leave her alone, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
“But it’s okay to leave me, here, alone.”
“That’s not the same thing and you know it. I’m not ‘leaving you’ for anything, I’m just…staying a little longer than planned, that’s all! And you aren’t depending on me to stay alive right now. Look, I feel guilty enough as it is –“
“Do you really? Because how am I supposed to know that you haven’t just found something better back home and are staying to weigh up your options, huh?” Yeah, I regretted that word vomit as soon as it came out and even more when she went silent, deathly silent.
“You did not just say that to me.”
“No, you listen to me, Eric Northman, you’re being a total asshole right now, and I don’t think I really want to talk to you, like this. I have things to do here, things that no one else can deal with right now, so no, I’m not flying back just yet. I feel beyond shitty about it, but you know what I have to take care of really the only member of my family that I love and that loves me, so excuse me for being a shitty girlfriend, and excuse you for your insecurities popping out! But you know what, right now this is more important at the moment, and if you can’t see that, then you’re not the man I thought you were… So fuck you.” With that she slammed down the phone, and I was left with nothing but the dial tone.
“Tut, tut, tut.” Alexei said, leaning against my bedroom door.
“I don’t wanna hear it.”
“No baby, I can see that, but maybe you need to hear it. Her Grandmother is old, and from what I can tell, the only warm hearted person in Sookie’s family, of course she wants to help her…”
“This is none of your business, Alexei.”
“I know that, but then again most things aren’t my business until I make them my business. You’re my friend, I adore you, you be like…” he gestured with his hands, attempting to find the right phrase, “a brother to me, Eric. A very sarcastic, standoffish brother at first, but you warm up eventually.” He smiled, coming to sit next to me on the bed, Petal in hand.
“Your point… I mean, thank you, that’s very nice, but what’s your point.”
“My point is you silly Swed-merican, is that girl loves you, grumpy standoffish you, goofy you, control freak you.”
“I’m not a –“
“You are, little bit but then she is too, and I’ve seen you both balance each other out. You fight, you makeup.”
“We’ve never fought like this though, not with her thousands of miles away…me stuck here.”
“So … go to her. She clearly needs you if her situation is as you tell me it is.”
“I can’t just leave; I’m booked up with work for the next month at least… Lafayette would kill me.”
“They’re all important.”
“More important than Sookie?” He raised his brow, I guess I wasn’t the only one guilt tripping.
“No, not more important than her, not much else is.” I mumbled, “but the truth is, it would take me at least two weeks to get cover for these jobs, they’re high paying clients, they won’t accept just anyone.”
“Well, then I suggest you put that pretty face, and cute butt to work right now, and work them both to the max to find a replacement, you know what you have to do.”
“You think I don’t want to go to her? I do, I don’t want to apologise over the damn phone.”
“So, don’t. Do it in person.”
I hated when he was right.
“Okay guys, that’s just great there, thank you so much…” I said to the construction crew that had taken over the house in a matter of hours, we were installing a en-suite to my Gran’s large downstairs bedroom, after she’d almost fallen going up and coming down the stairs in the middle of the night. They were working swiftly, but only because Alcide’s site manager was a mean old bastard, who was apparently, scared of my mother’s reputation, and thought I was cut from the same cloth. I’d yet to run into Alcide though, I was both dreading and looking forward to when I did. Looking forward to it, because mostly, once it was done, it was done and I could just get the awkwardness out of the way, dreading for that same reason – the awkward. I’d sent Gran, after a lot of talk, and a lot of tea, to stay with Maxine for a night or two while things got settled in her room. It also gave me a chance to have them repaint it for her, in the same colours of course, but I thought that maybe a fresh coat of paint might cheer her up. I had no idea what I was doing to be honest; I was just trying to make things easier where I could. Speaking of making things easier, I was serving the ice-tea to the guys doing the speediest job in the history of tiny toilets, when the black BMW pulled up, and out stepped my mother, looking as constipated as ever.
“Hi, Mom. Ice-tea?” Let’s ignore the fact that I haven’t see you in over two years, and when I did it ended badly.
“Oh, no I’m fine thank you.” She said, walking up the steps, ignoring the work men that bid her good day.
“Can we talk inside, in private?” she asked, slipping off her sunglasses even though it was over cast and drizzling outside.
“Sure, I don’t see why not…”
I could see many why not’s, but I figured now wasn’t the time to start world war three.
“You look…well,” she glanced at me, up and down as if she were inspecting me.
“Thanks, you too. How’ve you been?”
“Oh, you know…divorced.”
“Mmm, know the feeling.” I smiled, trying to make a joke of it, clearly she didn’t get it, or if she did, she didn’t find it funny.
“Your father has a new…” she gulped, “girlfriend, did you know?”
“No, I didn’t. That must be hard to deal with, but then again you were having affairs left right and centre, so I guess maybe its just karma that he’s moved on.”
She raised her brow in my direction.
“Really, you’re going to lecture ME on having affairs. That’s rich.”
“ Isn’t it just!” I said, smiling wide, faking my happiness through sarcasm.
“How is your Grandmother?” she asked, looking around the house.
“She’s fine, she’s with Maxine, they made up.”
“Are you getting her into a home, I hope so, I mean it’s just too much her being her on her own, unable to take care of herself like she is.”
“Is that what you said to her, when she threatened you with the gun?”
She scoffed, “I knew it wasn’t loaded, but yes, the woman has to face facts, she’s not able to do things like she used to. She’s an old woman.”
“You are such a cold hearted bitch, you know that?”
Her eyes widened, “How dare you –“
“No, I do dare, you know why I dare? That woman, her son, took care of you for thirty years, took you into their family, made you one of their own, started you off with the bar when you and Daddy just got married, and this is how you thank her? By sticking her in some God forsaken ‘home’? You’re disgusting.”
“Well, what do you think? You think you’re just going to swan back in here and save her, is that it?”
“I can try! We can all try, it’s the least we can do!”
“Please, and what of your little boyfriend, I’m sure he’s not too thrilled with the idea of you choosing some old crippled woman over him! You’ll never keep him, you know? You and he started with you fucking around with him, he clearly likes easy little sluts, why would he stay faithful to you when you’re all the way here, and he’s’ all the way –“
I didn’t let her finish because I heard the crack, of my palm against her cheek. She attempted to slap me back, but I countered on her ass and twisted her arm.
“Don’t you dare even try it, Mommy Dearest.”
“You’re fucking insane!! Just like your crazy ass old Grandmother!” She said, as I took her, by her arm, that was still twisted up her back, and pushed her out the kitchen, to the door, down the porch and onto the ground, where she stood red faced and pissed.
“Yeah, maybe I fuckin’ am crazy, but you know what, at least I feel something! At least I still give a shit! Unlike you, you spoiled, self involved bitter OLD bitch. You are no longer welcome on this land, near this house, or anywhere near Adele, nor me.”
“No, I don’t want to hear it. I’m so beyond sick of your shit! I just wanted a mom, a normal mom that cared and had access to her heart, but I see now you locked that shit up and threw away the key years ago. There’s no hope for you! You’re going to end up just as you are now, only worse. Old, bitter and alone, and you deserve it!”
The work men were speechless; I was simply just shaking with rage as I walked in the house and slammed the door, sliding down it, sobbing. Some time, I couldn’t tell you how much time later, but Quinn, the foreman came in through the back door, as timidly as someone his size could.
“Um, Miss Stackhouse?”
I wiped my eyes, “Yes, Quinn?”
“We’re done, I mean we’re about done, we just got to clear out of here… um, Alcide usually comes by to inspect the work, but um, he thought it might be … well that he might be unwelcome.”
I shook my head, “it’s fine, it’s his job, and I won’t bite his head off or nothin’.”
“You sure, the way you handled your Momma makes me think twice about letting him in here.”
I laughed, still wiping my face, as I picked myself up.
“No, it’s fine. Thank you, Quinn.”
“You’re welcome, and I know it’s not my place, but I just think that Alcide is just crazy, letting a girl like you get away.”
“Oh? You like a girl that can throw down, huh?” I joked, but the way he looked at me, made me realize he was serious.
“Oh, no Buddy, not happenin’. I’m involved, very much involved with someone I love very much. I mean we might not be on speaking terms right now, but he’s still there…I’m sorry…if you thought…”
“No… no not at all, I just… well Alcide is still crazy. You have a good evenin’ okay?”
“You too, Quinn, and thank you for your hard work, my Grandmother will love it, I’m sure.”
He nodded and bid me good day.
As I was cleaning up, there was a tap on the door and a clean shaven Alcide poked his head around the door.
“You’re not handing out slaps to everyone, right?”
“Hello to you, too,” I said just finishing up my dishes.
He walked in, looking surprisingly neat, the Alcide I knew was always rough and scruff, and made no apologies for it. He looked different now, tidy hair and clean shaven, in a crisp white shirt with a tan.
“I heard you gave your mother what for, not that I’m sorry about that.”
“Eh, she had it coming, she’s awful…”
“So, you look…lovely…” he said, smiling, “skinny though.”
“Well, you would be too if you lived somewhere where fried everything wasn’t the norm. I just started eating right, and then eating wrong when I need to.”
“I love fried everything, I’ll never give it up.”
“Mmhmm I know, take a seat.” I said, gesturing to the seat by the kitchen table. “Your guys did an amazing job, so fast too. You’ll send me the invoice, right?”
“No, I won’t.” He grinned.
“Huh? Yes, you will.”
“No, consider this one on me, for your Gran. She’s a nice lady.”
“Alcide you can’t be doing jobs for free –“
“I’m not, I’m doing a job for free. That’s all.”
I just glared at him, “Alcide they put the best of stuff in that bathroom, I can’t just let you –“
“Yes, you can. It’s the least I can do. Considering.”
I looked at him, and waited until he looked at me, “Considering nothing, we left things on good terms…”
“But I’m still sorry I put you though that…”
“It’s not like I was innocent, either.”
“No, it’s not, but still, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the choices I made, and why I made them, and I’m sorry you got caught up in it. You deserve better.”
“We both deserve better, we deserve to be happy.” I mused.
“Are you happy?” He asked.
“Right now?” I scoffed, “I’m exhausted right now, but in general, before this, yes, I was very happy –“ it had to come out sometime, I didn’t know if he knew about Eric and I. Chances are he did, but was waiting for me to comment on it first. “Where I’m at in my life, right now, and how things are, yes, I’m really happy.”
“With Eric.” He said, no real emotion in his voice but looking straight at me.
“Yes, with Eric. Running into him again, it wasn’t something either of us sought out, but it happened… in the weirdest way it happened, and I just… we just felt like we owed it to ourselves to give it a go, a proper go of things without any resentment or hurting.”
He nodded, “I’m glad, really, I am. I wanted to be pissed, because in my head for the longest time you were still mine, you know?”
I didn’t know.
“But when I heard that you’d… you and he had started up a thing, I thought it wouldn’t last more than a week, bitterly I wanted it to fail because the idea of Eric getting to be with you, even when I couldn’t, just bugged the hell out of me.”
I just glared.
“I don’t mean…like that,” he blushed “just… in general. You’re an awesome woman, Sookie, and I just wish we’d become….friends under different circumstances,” he shrugged.
“I kind of wish that too, all that ‘what if’ questioning would get us nowhere though.”
“We could just try something…a different approach from here on out though?”
“Could we?” I thought it would be too weird, I thought even sitting here would be too weird between Alcide and I, but in truth it felt from my point of view that we were two different people now. We didn’t just look different, what we’d been through both together and apart changed us both, hopefully for the better.
“Yeah, I guess there’s a first time for anything.” I said, smiling, before I offered him a cup of coffee while he inspected his men’s work. First time for anything, indeed. We talked about all manner of things, his regrets, mine, how he was now – still in the closet, but ‘sort of testing the waters’ as well as his dancing around the subject of Eric and I. It was interesting that’s for sure, and not a thing I would have thought would have been possible when I first left.
Gran came back when the room was aired out, and was pleased with the job, as she was with the trip to the Country Fair, Maxine had insisted on doing before they came back a few days later. I still hadn’t called Eric, nor he hadn’t called me. I wasn’t sure what to do, to be honest. The guy, in situations like this, had always been the one to call, and we’d never been thousands of miles apart when a fight would happen, so it made is easier to make up. Now, it was a whole new ball game, and I just wasn’t sure how to play. The days got easier with Gran, it was the nights that were hard, and I had taken to locking all the doors at night, something we’d never done around these parts. It wasn’t a matter of distrust, it was a matter of keeping her inside the house, to stop her wandering and ending up God knows where in the cold or the wet. I just couldn’t take the chance. Jason kept calling, checking up, bringing food and staying until I cooked it for all of us, like old times, only I’d taken over as cook, both of us knew what was up with Gran, and both of us were just so unwilling to say it out loud. Alzheimer’s was such a horrible condition, one I’d gotten information leaflets on to read up a little at least, when I went to pick up her monthly prescriptions for her heart and blood pressure, too. I knew she had it, we all did, the question was how severe it was, and what it would mean for her long term. What would that mean for me, long term too? I wasn’t sure, I knew I loved Eric more than anything, but I also knew he had commitments in a place I couldn’t be, and I understood that he was nothing if not committed to everything he did, even if that meant being less present in my life, I still needed to do this, and he still needed to do that. We were torn apart both physically by distance, and emotionally by choices that in reality weren’t really our choices to make in the first place and that along with how mentally and physically tired looking after Gran made me, well, I was convinced I was losing my mind. I wanted everything to fall into place, but it just looked like it wasn’t going to. A week and a half more went by, still no word from Eric, so I decided to let him be the brat in this instance, and just suck it up. I missed him, even if he didn’t miss me. The clear day had given birth to a dark and stormy night, the rain falling hard and fast, making things automatically seem much bleaker than they probably were. So I settled myself down I called. And I called, and I called some more. The house phone, the office phone, and his cell weren’t answering. I was pissed off, I was emotionally drained and sobbing because my stupid boyfriend wouldn’t answer his phone, I was sobbing because my Grandmother didn’t recognize me, for the fourth time in a week, I was sobbing because it was all too much, and I couldn’t deal with it alone. I ended up sobbing myself to sleep that night, like an emotionally wrecked toddler that wanted comfort. I was awakened at five twenty by a banging noise, jumping up I automatically assumed it was Gran trying to get out, trying to wander, so I slipped on my robe and ran down stairs, only to find the house in darkness, and completely empty. Then the rattling started again, someone was at the front door.
At that hour?
I went from afraid, to annoyed, to elated in about three seconds when I opened the door to a soaked Eric, standing on my porch, with his bags in toe. Then I bust into tears again, I was sensing a theme to that night!