New DWD! It won the vote and it’s taken me a little while longer to write because I started watching Fringe and it’s sucked me in big time! Not sure if I’ll do another poll or not, I may just fire ahead with this until we finish up now! Tell me what you think!
I looked around the extravagantly decorated party room, and suddenly got a surge of anxiety.
“This is too much, Sookie, usually we just… have cake and balloons at home. I mean sure we all go to McDonalds after and stuff, but for the most part the parties are pretty under the radar.” I explained hoping to appeal to her more, low key sensibilities.
“But it’s her birthday, and she’s six, and I wanted to do something nice for her.”
“You already do nice things for her, you don’t need… this.” I said as I gestured around the private room of giant well known candy store in the middle of Manhattan. It was excessive, that’s for sure. I was also sure Emily would have a ball, but what I wasn’t so sure about was letting this happen. I really didn’t want her getting used to this kind of… lifestyle.
“Eric, it’s a kid fantasy, they’ll have so much fun, and I know you’ve been sampling, so you can’t say you wouldn’t enjoy it either.”
I paced, and I had some twizzlers as I did so.
“But,” she sighed, “if it’s not appropriate, then, we can just forget about it and go with whatever you were planning. No harm.”
I looked at her, sampling some gummy bears, and I knew that was lie. There would be harm, harm to me in form of her mood change at the rejection of her idea. It had been a week and a half since the Thanksgiving mess, and since we came back to New York, we’d fallen somewhat accidentally into a routine of sorts, she’d come back from work with me, we’d all have dinner and then, sadly, she’d leave and go back to her place to work some more. It wasn’t ideal since it was fairly obvious she was stressed to the max and freaking out internally, but, she insisted on having it that way until things were as she called them ‘settled’. Emily’s birthday was a week away, and while I had just planned a handful of her school friends coming over for cake, games and tons of ice-cream, I guess the other half did things differently, as in renting out a floor of a store for hours on a Saturday so the kids could go nuts and fill up on sugar. It was literally Emily and the Chocolate factory if I let this go ahead and while I was wary of letting Sookie loose with her amex, it was obvious she was only doing it to do something sweet for Emily, I was torn.
We walked out of the establishment, promising to let them know by the next morning, since they had a magical cancellation once they heard Sookie’s name, and saw her credit card.
“I don’t know, Sook, this seems too much.”
“It’s not that expens-”
“I meant, in general. You have a shit load on your plate right now and now you want to plan a kids birthday party? Those things are a test at the best of times, maybe it’s best we just do something … low key?”
“Is that your new phrase for today?” She asked as we got back into her town car and out of the snow. It had been snowing up a storm all week, and we were lucky to be going anywhere in that traffic. With that our conversation stopped and she was back on her phone again, it would be a half hour before we got back to the offices in the growing blizzard.
“No, I’m sorry, but no what is this? It’s…hideous. Redo it.” She said, handing back the photo prints to one of the newbies as I sat at the immaculate glass table at the back of her office, going over the remainder of my emails for the day.
“Oh… I uh… I…” the newbie was visibly flustered, and Sookie just looked on, her steely gaze unwavering. I almost wanted to smirk, now that I knew what a kitten she was underneath that lion’s roar.
“Get me Lafayette, now.” She said in my direction, and I just shook my head, folding myself out of the chair. Leaving the newbie in the hands of her new boss.
“Has she torn that girl a new va-gine yet?” he remarked dryly without looking up from his prints.
“No, but she’s not happy.”
“She’s not been happy since she got back from the ice-castle of Thanksgivings. And Pam has even been more testy than usual, and then there’s you. All of y’all just walking around like someone died or something.”
We hadn’t told anyone of the plans yet, we couldn’t really until the contracts were processed and it was all official and stuff, but I was dying to tell someone, just so I could justify my even more cagey-than-usual-behaviour.
“Yeah, I don’t know what to tell you.” I dodged, not really ready to speak out of place, even to Lafayette.
He just glared, he wasn’t a stupid man, he knew something was up, most everyone in the office suspected something.
“Fine, fine. Puppy, you go on ahead and dance around me but you won’t be able to forever, you know that right?”
“She needs you in the office, save that poor woman’s va-gine.” I adopted his word and he made a disgusted face.
“I’d rather not, but I’ll goes anyway. Take this to accounting.” He handed me a file, one I had left down hours before and forgot about, realizing now I’d left it with him.
We were all a little stressed, to say the least.
I stood in the middle of my office, ragging on the new girl, bitching at Lafayette and emailing the art department all the while simultaneously raising my blood pressure and my temper, I decided I needed a night off. There was a crisis with the shoot, and it had turned out horrific, and in the photographer’s delusions of grandeur whilst shooting, having the poor model contort herself, causing her to fall – on her face – thus leaving a lot of fucking blood and a broken nose. Oh, and possibly a lawsuit. They had tried to cover it up with artistic shots of lots of her hair in her face and shopping her beyond recognition, and they also thought they’d get away with not telling me.
I wanted to fire her, the new girl who’s name I didn’t know yet, but I found myself unable to. I stood there, soon to be their ex boss, and I would soon be the newbie in the business again, I would soon be the one at the mercy of older, more experienced and superior beings who held my new career in the palm of their hand.
“Okay, fine. Do that. Do your jobs people, so I can do mine, please.” I barked, getting to the right side of my desk. The clock on my laptop flashed four thirty. Another hour and I was out of there for the weekend. A weekend where I had more to do than I had time to do it in.
Maybe I’d just take a nap instead, a nap sounded good.
Instead I dwelled on the previous week, and how everything went down after I cleared the air with my Grandmother.
One Week Earlier.
Breakfast had been, tense, to say the least. As we all sat around the dining table and helped ourselves to the mountain of food put before us. I sat next to Eric, and a sleepy Emily sat next to me. Pam sat next to Emily, and even cut her sausage for her – a gesture most unlike Pam in her usual state, but this Pam was flustered to say the least.
“Sleep well?” Claudine asked me, still unknowing of what exactly went down the night before.
“Like a dream, you?” I grinned an over exaggerated grin.
“Mm, it was very comfortable.”
We were snappy, but constrained. Gran looked on as she tucked into her pancakes.
“Well, I just have to say I’m sure that Gran made all the right choices last night after she had all the information that she wasn’t privy to before, do you agree, Sookie?”
“Oh, I definitely agree.” I looked to Gran who looked to Pam. She hadn’t given me her answer on whether or not she agreed with my suggestion of having Pam take over from me. But I had hoped she would soon, I was on tenterhooks, as was Pam.
Everyone ate on for a few minutes before Gran stood up with her glass of fruit juice in hand.
“I’d like to say something, If I may.”
“Of course, Gran this is your -”
“Claudine, shut up would you?” Gran snapped and I bit back a smirk.
“I want to say that what happened last night was… dramatic to say the least. It was …stressful and eye opening.”
“Well of course it was, what with Sookie lying and -”
“Claudine, can you please?” Gran snapped, before she sighed looking to the heavens. “I just wish your Grandfather was here, he’d know what to say in a situation like this.”
She looked to everyone at the table and then spoke.
“Last night I offered Sookie the position, my position.”
Claudine’s mouth went agape.
“And…” Gran sighed. “She turned me down. She has… her own plans and I can appreciate and support those with my whole heart, because, she has shown me what a hard working, dedicated, wonderful woman she is and what she can do when she puts her mind to it.”
“Claudine, shut the fuck up!” Adele Stackhouse, Ladies and Gentlemen. The kids started to giggle.
“Sorry, children, I didn’t mean to say… that word.”
Emily was still giggling with Lizzie.
“She turned me down and I accepted and in her place Pamela will be taking over when Sookie has decided it is time to go.” She rushed out in one go, to stop Claudine from interrupting again.
“I don’t understand, this is a family business, Adele, and Pamela – no offence – isn’t family.” Ralph spoke up, probably in defence of his wife.
“Yes, I thought so too, I did. And I wanted it to stay that way, but, in doing that I’ve seen it almost tear my family and my relationships with my grandchildren apart. I’m an old woman who isn’t getting any younger, and I want my family in once piece before I go anywhere. I want them happy and fulfilled. Claudine, you’ll be coming in as an assistant. I love you, child but you are not qualified for anything as you stand, not within my business. So, if you want this, you’ll earn it, like the rest of us.”
She pouted. I knew that wouldn’t go down well with little miss ‘I want what I want and I want it now’. Bitch didn’t want to work for anything, a living, a husband, or a child, it seemed.
“Pamela will work as President once Sookie deems fit to leave for pastures new. Congratulations Pamela, and welcome to the family my dear, I know you’ll do well.”
“I… Thank you, Adele.”
Gran shook her head with a slight smile.
“Never worry, I’ve learned to trust Sookie’s instincts. If she sees this potential in you, then I do too, and I will support you as much as I can.”
She was keeping her CEO status, she was welcoming, but until Pam proved herself, she wasn’t going to act like an idiot. We talked the night before of selling the company altogether and I knew in my heart that she was thinking about that.
“I have something else to say.” She began. She already had everyone’s attention.
“I’ve been considering selling the company, I have had numerous offers over the years, but I had been… reluctant to sell because I wanted to pass this down to … my family, but not at the cost OF my family. I just want you all to know that it’s something I am considering once again. Don’t worry Pamela if I do, it will be with the stipulation that all staff on at the point of sale stays put.”
I saw Pam take a deep breath at that revelation.
“But, Sookie has pastures new to explore and as a family we should be as supportive and helpful to her as possible. I’d just like to … wish her luck on her new endeavours and hope to see her more often now that she has personally unchained herself from her desk!”
“Hmm?” I looked up from my screen to find Eric standing with a hot cup of coffee in hand, snapping me out of my daydreaming in the process.
“Life saver that you are!” I said taking the coffee from him, he smiled holding out his hand, he had something hidden in there. Showing me his palm, I saw there was a chocolate bear wrapped in silver foil.
“Sugar. Teddy Bear shaped sugar.” He grinned taking a seat in front of my desk, kicking his feet on my desk. I side eyed him for that.
“Right, expensive desk… Have you much more work to do? Think we could cut out early tonight?”
“I… well if you’re done, you can go. I have a few more things I need to finish up for the weekend.”
“You…spending the night tonight?” He wriggled his brows at me, making me laugh.
“Not tonight.” The last thing I wanted was to go back to my place, but I had a ton and a half of things that needed doing, and I couldn’t do them at Eric’s.
His face fell.
“Oh, no… that’s cool. I was going to cook for all of us… but, another night.”
He tried to shrug it off, like it was nothing, but the truth was, while he and I were spending personal time together – since Thanksgiving I had been more than distracted to say the least.
“Eric I’m sorry, I’m just really tired and I have so much to do tomorrow from my office at home, I just…”
“Can’t get distracted. I get it.”
“You’re not a distraction.” I said, getting out from behind my desk and going to where he sat, I pulled over the chair so I was closer.
“I have this…waiting thing going on. I have pitched my brand to three of the biggest businesses in the world hoping that they’ll want a piece of the potential pie. I’m scared shitless. I’m basing everything on my reputation, my sketches and a few pieces I’ve sent out. I don’t have a collection yet, but, I need backing in order to have it all the way I want it. So, I’m hoping to have impressed these people.”
He blinked, as if he was choosing his words carefully.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t tell anyone.” I reasoned. “I didn’t want to jinx it, but if they agree and we take a meeting to negotiate everything, it’ll mean big things. With their backing there isn’t anything I couldn’t do. I’ve done them a lot of favours over the years, a lot of exposure on their brands, and a lot of ‘support’ in other ways. I just hope it fucking paid off.”
“You like to keep a lot to yourself, huh? This, the plan to leave, all of which weighs on you like a ton of bricks, might I add. You like to keep things inside, and I get that, but I thought we’d reached the kind of place where we could say this stuff, honestly.”
I thought we had too, after the confessions that weekend, but I guess old habits were extremely hard to break. I was so used to doing things on my own without the need to inform or confide in anyone else, it was going to take some getting used to.
“This isn’t… easy for me. Eric. I just… I’m used to dealing with things, most everything, alone. This…” I gestured between us both. “It’s going to take some getting used to. I’m sorry if that’s not what you -” I was getting agitated with his tone, it was accusatory for no damn reason.
“It’s not anything, it was just an observation, Sookie.” He noticed the tone and wasn’t having any of it, not that I blamed him.
“Fine. Observe elsewhere then, I don’t have time for this!”
He looked taken aback and I regretted my tone immediately, he just scoffed angrily and walked out, slamming the door for effect.
I didn’t hear from him that weekend, not that expected to. I had acted like a bitch and wasn’t really surprised that he was keeping his distance. I managed to spend my Friday night with Pam and her sister Lily, as I waited on the phone calls I needed to receive. We ate, we drank, we talked Pam off the ledge of life as she had yet another doubt-attack over her soon to be new source of employment.
“What if I can’t!”
“You can. You know you can. I know you can, you can-can. Get it?” I joked, causing her to smirk.
“Enough about me, what about you? If this call doesn’t come?”
“You ship me off to the nearest mental institution, that’s what.”
“And Eric? Where do you guys stand in all this?” Lily spoke up, sipping her cocktail. I eyed Pam.
“Oh yeah,” Lily continued, “She told me all about you and your assistant, it’s very kinky, Sookie.”
“Oh, really?” Pam cut in, clearly not believing me.
“We’re not speaking.”
“Seriously? You two were so…lovey dovey at Thanksgiving, it was a tad gross.” Pam continued. “Trouble in paradise now?”
Yeah there was trouble, my inability to accept someone’s help in a time of freak-out worthy crisis.
“I was a total bitch to him today, I’m just so stressed out and so on edge and he’s just Mr Chilled out and ‘everything works itself out‘, and I’m not sure how to mesh with that when I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff and just waiting for the gust of wind to either knock me off, or knock me back on my ass, neither is that appealing.”
“You should give the guy a break, Sook; last week was a lot for everyone to take in, you know? I mean, fuck. I’m still recovering and I know where my future lies, he doesn’t. From all I’ve heard, and I honestly don’t know which is a scarier prospect. Just remember you’re not the only one going through this massive change. If you guys are the real deal, he has to be included too.”
I was stunned, not because of what she said. I knew all of that already even if I ignored it. But what stunned me mostly was because I never saw Pam care about Eric before, not even enough to get his name right half the time.
“I know that, Pam.” I snapped, taking an extra large sip of my drink to wash the guilt down.
“Do you? He left the building today looking like someone killed his puppy. A man that size looking that down? It was a sad sight to see is all I’m saying.”
Of course all of that just continued to add to my guilt and so we spent the rest of the evening getting ourselves very drunk. I then took a cab back to my empty apartment, Tina had a judgmental look on her face as I stumbled in the door with takeout in hand, but she soon realized the potential for free chicken when I shared with her. I woke up the next morning to spilled milk and leftover Chinese food in the microwave, also a splitting headache and a overwhelming sense of regret. It was nothing a shower, and some healthy breakfast foods wouldn’t fix. Well, that and a pot and a half of coffee.
I got the calls at four o’clock that Saturday. Of the three businesses that I had contacted, one emailed, and two called. Each with an offer of acceptance for my new setup, a partnership, a percentage of the profits and holdings, for their support, name and money. I accepted the one with the best offer.
Sookie was now not just my name, but my brand, and it scared the hell out of me. I didn’t have my family business reputation, only my own now to fall back on and I wasn’t sure I could do it at all. But, after many lengthy phone conversations with their people that day, we decided to meet in two weeks for a outline meeting, I needed to wow them with my amazing-ness, I needed samples! I needed a name for my line and most of all I needed a solid demographic to pitch to.
Needless to say, I broke out the good whiskey that night, as I looked at the stack of designs I had left over, the samples I had made, the sketches, all neatly piled on my table. Stacked like a little house of designs. I chuckled to myself, because that was really who I was in the moment, I was a Stackhouse, only with literal stacks in the form of little houses of would-be fashion.
I woke up on the Sunday morning with a name for the affordable brand, and another for the higher end one that I had forming in my mind.
Stackhouse indeed, Empiler, Stack – in French, was born, and with that I took what felt like my first deep breath in weeks. I had backing, I had a name, and if all went well, by the end of the year, I would have a line. My Empiler. What I didn’t have was a boyfriend that was talking to me. I had solved most of my problems, it remained to be seen if I could solve this one.