“No more ice-cream, ever,” I said flopping down on the couch beside her.
Ice-cream and Wii, a bad combination of gross feelings.
“Ugh,” she said cuddling in beside me, “no more.”
It was just after six, we still needed to food shop. Thankfully the store opened late on a Thursday.
“We can’t just lay here, Em.”
“Sure we can. See? Laying down is good,” she wrapped my arms around her hugging her as we laid on the couch watching the middle of a non-Disney experience for once.
“We need to go get food…”
“We have food,” she whined.”I thought you wanted fruit smoothies for breakfast now? Well, we need fresh fruit for that…come on.”
She groaned when I got off the couch, yanking her with me.
“Shoes,” I ordered as she stomped into her room. I found my own shoes, and fixed my hair in the mirror as best I could, not that it really mattered since I was just yanking a beanie over it anyway, but still, I gave myself points for effort.
Emily walked out in her pink shoes, and her pink Hello Kitty bag she’d just insisted on getting for her birthday the year before, to her credit she still loved it.
She was too big now to go in the seat cart, she was too tall for one thing – in that way she was definitely taking after me and our day, our mom was a little on the short side, but she always said it balanced out the possible gigantism her kids might inherit, we always laughed about it. Emily was happy to help with the shopping though, extreme amounts of fruit were bought, the salary I was on now meant that we could actually fresh food shop a lot better than before, my fruit and health nut of sibling was more than happy with that improvement. The thing about having a kid, even if she wasn’t my ‘kid’ she was my sister, most people didn’t know that at first glance. I inherited her, if you will, when I was twenty eight, a guy in his mid, to late twenties, I had no idea what was happening to me, but she was there, and I knew I had to take care of her no matter what. She wasn’t going to end up in any other home but mine. So I did what I had to, to make sure she knew she was safe and loved, even if it was just the two of us. It included abandoning my career path, I wanted to study math more, I wanted to create, I wanted to teach ultimately. But more study equalled more money, and my programmes were full time as it was, that wasn’t’ good for taking care of a then three year old kid, so I quit and took whatever jobs I could find. Including being Sookie Stackhouses’ bitchboy. Only this bitch got paid well, and it meant better things for her, and even for me, if I was being honest.
“Prunes? Do I live with a ninety two year old? Emily, we don’t need prunes.”
She sighed and went to put them back as I stocked up on much needed cereal, half the cart was fruit of some description, the other half was meat. Meat that I was planning on actually cooking, with actual vegetables too, and stock cube things… which I was exactly sure what they were for, but I could Google that later.
“Orange juice…” I pointed and she got it, “what else, Em?”
She stood on her tiptoes to look into the cart.
“I thought you were all about the healthy?”
“Sugar is… like… necessary.”
“Is that right?”
“Yep,” she nodded confidently, as if she knew all. It was so adorable, she looked like Mom when she did things like that.
“Okay, we’ll get a few things, but we can’t eat them tonight.”
She nodded again.
After another selection of juice for her, and some beers for me, we made our way home. I had three messages from Sookie on my home phone.
“Shit I forgot the cell!” I said running into the bathroom where I’d left it by the sink. Yep, four messages. Meetings moved up, why wasn’t I answering my phone, was I dead? All along those lines. A designer had moved up their meeting the next morning, coming into the offices at nine instead of twelve, and because he was a huge name, she accommodated. Which meant I had to accommodate.
“Bed early tonight, Em.”
She groaned from the kitchen, “I don’t even have school tomorrow!”
“Yes but I have work…” as I scrolled through the messages, it seems I had a lot of work. Awesome.
I knew Ames and Trey agreed watch her for me, which I was eternally grateful, and paid her in big ass sample bottles of new designer perfume, and some kind of fancy handbags that Lafayette told me to take to my ‘lady friend’, and since I lacked the feminine sexy times friends, Ames was the only one I could think of. She was obsessed with free shit, and free designer shit pretty much equalled astronomical excitement. It was cute.
I knocked on their door, just as I was about to leave for work, with Emily ready and waiting with me. Only Trey answered the door.
“Hey, Eric, Hey Ems, slight problem guys.”
“Why what’s up?”
“Taylor was up all night, vomiting, and had a real high temperature, so Ames took her to the ER about ten minutes ago, I have to leave for work, we’re both excused and with Taylor being sick, I guess here really isn’t the right place for Emily right now… I’m really sorry man, Ames is freaking out but insisted on going to the doctor and they sent them to the hospital then…”
I nodded, I felt bad for the kid, but I was so completely fucked.
“I get it man, no worries, it’ll be fine, I’ll work something out. Give Ames and Tay my best, yeah?”
“Sure of course, sorry again Eric.”
I just shook my head there was nothing anyone could do about it. These things happened.
I rang everyone I knew, knowing full well that it would be pointless. Everyone was either working – where I should have been, or out. I was so beyond fucked.
“Okay Emily, here’s the deal, you get to come to work with me today.”
” I DO?”
“Yes, but we cannot let my boss see you, or my ass will be so fired, okay?”
“How are we going to do that?” I was rushing for the subway, she was struggling to keep up, her little legs not able, so, I yanked her up on my shoulders and we ploughed through.
“I don’t know yet, but we’ll do it, you just have to promise me that you’ll stay where I put you, and everything will be fine.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, she’ll see me!”
“She won’t, we just… have to be stealth.”
“What does stealth mean?”
“It uh, it means like unseen and under the radar, we just have to keep you, under Sookie’s radar.”
“Such a bad idea.”
“No, it’s not, it’s genius, it’s either this or I leave you home alone all day and neither of us wants that! So, we’ll just deal with it.”
And deal with it we did, I managed to get into the building, and up the elevator with her without running into anyone, even Sophie wasn’t at her desk, so that was another plus. I checked and Sookie had her back to the door, looking out her window while she talked on the phone. The universe loved me. I got her to the photo room, I knew we’d not be needed in there today so that was the main thing, it was perfect until lunch.
“Okay you can hang out in here while I got set up, and run some errands around the place, you have the snacks and the juice boxes?”
“And the DS?”
“Cool, stay here and please don’t move… I’ll come check on you in a few minutes, okay?”
I kissed her on the head and made my way to start my day.
I was exhausted already and I hadn’t even started.
By the time eleven o clock rolled around, I’d been all around the building running the errands that Sookie requested, and I’d been lucky enough to not have to travel out of the office that day, usually there was no set limit on where I’d be sent, thankfully everything seemed homeward bound that day.
“Eric?” She called.
“Yeah?” I walked into her office to see her debating with herself on two sketches.
“I need a mans opinion here, and Lafayette doesn’t really could since I need a straight man’s opinion.”
“Oh why a straight man?”
“If you were dating a woman, and really wanted to fuck her, which one of these two nighties would you like to be taking off?”
I raised my brows at her.
“What? Oh for heaven sakes, it’s for a lingerie shoot, and I want it to stand out.”
I looked at the two sketches.
“And is the model gonna look like this?”
“If we can get the one they have in mind, then, yes.”
“Hmm, I don’t know I mean it looks a little… flat. Lace on pecs just isn’t all that hot.”
“You’re saying her boobs aren’t big enough?”
I couldn’t help it, my eye line slipped to hers.
And she caught me.
“I… it… no I mean I’m sure she’ll be stunning and stuff, I just think that as a personal preference…”
“You like boobs, I get it.”
“Most straight guys do, we like it all, really, but this would, in my humble opinion look more… appealing at least to me, on a woman with more than a minus A cup.”
“They don’t make minus A.”
“They should, she looks like she’s minus. In fact she kind of looks like… me.”
She narrowed her brows at me.
“You’re visualizing me in that lingerie now aren’t you?” I said laughing and she just glared at me.
“I hate you, and you don’t look good… in my head right now, just so you know.”
“Aw really, damn that sucks because I love nothing more than trying on woman’s lingerie in my spare time.”
She looked appalled and it was hilarious.
“One of those is enough…”
She burst out laughing, “he didn’t tell you? Or in fact show you? His collection of woman’s thongs he likes to wear on occasion? He says they’re freeing and very comfortable.”
It was then my turn to look mortified, “really?”
“No! Not really, God you’re so gullible, Eric!”
She smiled, she actually smiled a real smile. I liked her real smile, it was so much prettier than her ‘forced fake work’ smile. I surprised myself that I could tell the difference now.
I grabbed the samples for archiving off her desk and hightailed it to where Emily was. She was bored, beyond bored so I managed to sneak her up to my desk, thankfully hidden as it was against the wall. She decided to pretend she was camping, and the desk was her tent. That and her DS occupied for a hour, I was shocked.
“Okay, Em. I have to go down stairs and wait for the magazine mock up, so I might be a little while, but I’ll be back okay so I just need you to sit tight a little while longer and then hopefully we can escape for lunch, okay?”
“Sure. I’m on level ten, so I want to get to fourteen soon….”
I had no idea what game she was playing, but she seemed really into it, so I left with confidence she’d stay put. How wrong was I ?
I looked up from my desk, and there she was, this little girl. She wasn’t a baby, but she wasn’t any more than six, she had short dirty blonde hair, lighter by her face than it was elsewhere, bright blue eyes and a very curious look on her face. One I assumed I matched because I had no idea who she was or what she was doing in my office.
“Are you the Boss Lady?” She asked, still hanging onto the door frame, using it as a shield almost.
“I… yes. Who are you?”
“Hi, Emily… Um, sweetheart, what are you doing in here? Did you get lost?”
Had someone brought their kid to a meeting or something? I had no idea what was going on.
“No, not lost, I guess I just got bored and then I had to pee…”
“You want to come in?” I asked, standing up and trying my best to not scare this kid, since that’s what she was expecting.
She walked, carefully and slowly further into the room.
“You want to tell me how you got here, Emily?”
Okay, that didn’t help at all.
“And who brought you?”
She looked towards the door, and then back me, guiltily.
“I… don’t want him to get in trouble. He said he’d get in trouble.”
“He won’t… I promise.”Was I promising? I couldn’t really lie to a kid, could I?
Just at that, Eric’s scared looking face came around the door.
“Emily, Jesus, you scared the crap out of me… I told you not to leave… Oh… God…” He looked from me to the kid.
“I’m really sorry about this Sookie, if she was annoying you I’m -”
“Can I talk to you, alone for a second?”
His eyes widened, but then he hunkered down to the kid…to Emily, and told her something, she left the room right away.
I looked at him, folding my arms, silently demanding an explanation.
“Sookie, it was an emergency, really, her babysitter … well her kid took real sick with some bug and they’re at the hospital and no one else was available at such short notice. Believe me, this was the last resort.”
“Eric, I’m not really interested in your excuses. This is a busy office building, it’s no place for a kid to be running around, really, last minute or not, you should have just told your girlfriend to take off work or something -”
“Well, I assume she has a mother floating around somewhere, why not arrange it -”
“She doesn’t have a mother,” he said, hard, cutting me right off.
“Oh, well I…”
“She doesn’t have a mother, or a father. Not any more.”
Wait, what?I just looked at him, he knew to continue, I hated vague.
“She’s not my kid, Sookie, she’s my kid sister.”
I was silently mortified.
“Yeah. And I’m her guardian, we’re all the family that either of us has, so I make do. I’m really sorry about bringing her here, and if you want to fire me because of that, that’s fine.”
He was standing his ground, no where could I see the timid, dorky, Eric, now he was in full blown protective lion mode.
“But I don’t regret it. I don’t leave her with random strangers, I never have and I never will I -”
“Alright… Alright fine. I get it.”
He just nodded.
“Where has she been all morning?” I glanced at the clock, it was almost one thirty, almost lunch time.
“Mostly she’s been playing her DS under my desk, and when she wasn’t there, we were in the photography office with Lafayette.”
He looked suitable ashamed.
“You kept a child, under your desk?”
“She was fine, she …”
“Okay, you know what that’s just wrong. Look, bring her in here. There’s a large enough table, we’re not using it today, she can stay in here and colour or something…”
He looked shocked, like really shocked.
“Um… oh… Really?”
I just unfolded my arms and went behind my desk.
“Needs must and I refuse to be brought up on child abuse charges by letting a little girl sit under a dusty desk for hours on end, this not the third world, Eric.”
“I really didn’t see this going like this… I have to tell you.”
“Yeah well, I didn’t expect a little girl to come peaking into my office today, but shit happens. Now go get her before she wanders off again.”
He nodded enthusiastically before he smiled, “thank you so much for this, really, it’s very cool of you, Sookie.”
I just rolled my eyes.
“Hurry up before I change my mind and fire your neglecting ass.”
He just smiled and came back a few minutes later with the kid, some paper and a lot of coloured pens.
“She’ll be good, and so quite you won’t even know she’s here…Right?” He said, looking down at her, my guess was he’d given her a warning or two before letting her come back in.
“I promise or we don’t have any candy for a whole week,” she nodded, and I fought my smile, he’d also threatened her.
“Okay, sit over here and if you need me come out and get me, and try not to bother Miss Stackhouse, okay?” he said to her, and she nodded, hopping up on the chair and pulling out her DS, her headphones and leaving the paper and pens for a second.
Eric thanked me again and I went about my business, I had four phone calls to make, two to designers we were working with on the small Couture for next season, and two for the accessories line I was developing. I noticed her noticing me, when I spoke Italian she got even more interested, but she’d look away when I’d look at her, it was a game of sorts for a little while, until I got off the phone.
“What was that you were saying before, I didn’t understand it.”
“It was in Italian, that’s why… It took me a long time to learn it too so don’t worry about not understand it, I sure didn’t when I was your age.”
“Oh… that’s from Italy, right? Where they have the pizza… the tower of pizza! And it leans!”
“Pisa, and yes, that’s where it’s from.”
“Wait, it’s not a tower of pizza?”
“Oh…” She seemed saddened, “Eric said it was a tower of pizza, I really wanted to see that one day.”
I laughed, I wonder what else he told her that wasn’t true.
“You’re really pretty…” she said putting down her colouring pens and giving me her full attention.
I smiled, “well thank you, you’re really pretty too you know?”
“No I’m not…” she looked down.
“Of course you are, all girl are pretty, even if they don’t think they are. And you, are gorgeous.”
I walked over to her, and took the seat next to her.
“You are. Your pretty blonde hair and big brown eyes, and you’ll be tall too, I can tell, we’ve got lots of girls here who model for us who are really, really tall. Almost as tall as Eric,” I whispered.
I smiled, “sure is.”
“I wish my hair was long like yours…”
“You don’t want to grow it?
“”No, I do, I just… Eric doesn’t really know what to do with girls hair, not like Amelia does.
“”Who is -”
“My baby sitter, she’s also my best friends mom, she does Taylor’s hair all curly and sometimes up really high, and other times to the side. My hair is too short for that.”
She seemed sad by that realization, poor thing. Her hair was really short and obviously practical, cut just under her jaw in a little girl bob. It was so cute on her though, and very chic -whether she knew it or not.
“Well, maybe you could ask one of Eric’s friends to do it for you, maybe Amelia or maybe …his girlfriend.”
She looked at me with her nose scrunched and then she giggled, “Eric doesn’t have girl friend.” She sounded out girl, with a really long R, laughing as if what I suggested was ridiculous.
“No… he did once but… she went away, I don’t know where she went and he won’t talk about her…” She shrugged.
“Do you have a husband?”
“Nope, no husband.”
“No, not one of those either.”
“Why? You’re pretty, pretty girls have boys … at least that’s what Taylor says.”
“I work a lot.” It really was my only answer….for everything.
“Eric says that’s why he doesn’t have anyone other than me, too. But he seems okay, sometimes and sometimes not so much.”
“You notice a lot, don’t you?”
“I’m a kid, I notice everything.” She smiled.
She made me smile, she really was cute kid, and smart to boot.
Eric’s head came around the door and he looked at her.
“I’m okay I promise, I’m not bothering her!” She defended and I just got up from my seat.
“Eric, it’s past lunch, I need you to go over to Andre’s and pick up my usual, Emily, are you hungry?”
“How about some soup and some sandwiches, do you like that?”
“Can it be tomato soup?”
“Emily…” Eric interjected but I ignored him.
“Sure… what else? You like chicken? Some cheese …do kids eat salads?”
I directed at Eric and he just laughed.
“This one does, don’t ask me where we found her.”
“Okay, good. Well just get something of everything and if you haven’t eaten, get something too, I’m waiting for a call from Stan this afternoon so I want to be here for it, besides it’s too wet to go out, these shoes are new…” I trailed off and heard Emily giggle. Eric raised his brows at her and she stopped, I guess they had some kind of brother sister code. I remember when Jason and I were close enough to have a ‘code’ now all we had was each other’s area codes.
“Em, you wanna go with me?”
“It’s too wet for her outside…” I said, and they both looked at me, surprised, “and besides I was going to bring her down to wardrobe and show her some of the clothes, if she wanted… and I have to go down and check on things anyway…” I shrugged, playing off that maybe I was having fun hanging out with someone who wasn’t scared of me.
“Can I?” She asked Eric, clearly excited.
“You sure?” He asked me.
“I wouldn’t have offered otherwise, you know that by now. We’re hungry so…”
“Yeah, Eric… We’re hungry!” Emily mocked and he just glared at her before poking her in the arm playfully, “be good while I’m gone…”
“I always am!”
We walked down to the wardrobe section of the floor, and she was in awe. It was actually really cute.
“Oh my GOD!” She exclaimed running to the dresses we had on loan.
“They’re all so pretty! And Princess-y!”
“We have Oscar dresses here too, want to see?”
A few interns saw me, but quickly looked away and rightfully scampered out of the way.
I introduced her to Dior, de la Renta, more Couture than you could shake a stick at, and of course the hair and makeup section, she didn’t understand it of course, but, I swear she squee’d. Her excitement, it made me excited again. It reminded me of my first trips here as a little kid, how I loved this place so much, and thought it was just beyond magical. I could see that she thought the same thing.
I propped her up on one of the under lit tables, and I did her nails in a sweet pale pink.
“You sure Eric won’t mind me doing this?” I asked her.
“Nope, it’s pretty, he can’t argue that it’s not! Besides Taylor and me, we do this all the time but not with fancy stuff…this is so fancy.”
It was Chanel, so it was a little fancy.
“Can I wear makeup?”
That, I figured was a bigger line to cross.
“Maybe not makeup, Sweetie, but we can do some clear mascara and maybe a tiny bit of lip gloss, okay?”
After that, I showed her, her makeover in the mirror, she was beaming.
“Cool! They’re pretty colours…”
“They are.” I agreed putting away the mirror.
“I don’t get it…” She said, admiring her little nails.
“Everyone here is sooo scared of you, but… you’re really nice!”
“Well, thank you.” I said, tucking her hair behind her ear.
I put a lot of nail varnishes into a little bag for her, with some gloss and the clear mascara, she could play dress up with them.
I thought of something else she could use too. I’d been sent a sample of children’s clothes from a designer friend that was branching out, I of course had no use for them, so they sat in the wardrobe unused. Three dresses, that Emily deemed ‘extreme princess’ and some jeans and sweaters later and we’d almost passed an hour down there. We walked back to the office to find our sandwiches sitting unwrapped as well as the rest of the food, the soup would need warmed up that’s for sure. We noticed that Eric wasn’t at his desk though as we passed, so we sat to eat.
“Eric can’t cook,” she said, “he said he’s going to learn, but I don’t think he will, he’s started to Youtube cooking shows, but best he can make is some omelettes and ham.”
“He might learn?”
“Eh…” She shrugged.
We finished eating and she ‘went to visit’ Eric while I made some calls. The rest of the afternoon went quickly, after she passed out on the large recliner in the corner of my office.
“And she didn’t fire you?”
“Nope, oddly she’s been like…hanging out with my kid sister all day.”
Lafayette looked horrified, as I told him what had happened that morning.
“For real? I mean her head didn’t explode or she didn’t turn to salt? She hates kids.”
“She didn’t seem to last time I saw her?”
“That’s crazy… I mean okay she doesn’t ‘hate’ kids, she just doesn’t usually know what to do around them, sticky fingers and Dior don’t mix, you know?”
I nodded, I had no idea but I’d seen the price points of some of the shit she got sent, it was insane, so I could see why she took care of it. I’d kill myself if I ruined a ten thousand dollar suit or something, too.
“I know, it’s weird… I mean I know Emily is cute, let’s face it she is my sister…”
That made him smirk, but he listened to my semi-rant anyway.
“But like she’s been super nice, it’s really freaking me out.”
“You know it’s because of the kid, right? I mean Sookie loves her inner bitch, but she also knows she freaks people out when she’s got her bitch-mode- on all the time, and with little kids, I guess maybe she just sees it as something not to do to kids? I don’t really know…”
I didn’t know either, but with another batch of samples collectioned, I realized we’d made it to five, and I was all ready to bolt, crawl up and die, when I walked in Emily and Sookie were sitting by the large conference table, colouring. They were drawing dresses. Sookie’s was more detailed and elaborate of course, but Emily’s wasn’t half bad either.
“Look Eric! I designed my first dress!”
“You did?” I asked, looking between Emily, and amused looking Sookie.
“Yeah, and Sookie said she’d think about trying to make it, isn’t that cool! I can just draw it and she knows people who can make my drawing REAL!”
“That’s awesome, Em, really but you know Sookie has a lot of designs she needs to look at -”
“But I’ll look at hers too, just in case the other ones suck.”
“Em’, it’s home time.”
She immediately looked dejected, the pout came out.
“We got to go kid, in this rain, we’re going to have make it quick too. Get your coat, and say thank you to Sookie.”
Still she pouted but she held her manners.
“Thank you, Sookie!”
“You’re welcome, don’t forget this,” she said before Sookie handed her a giant bag, filled to the brim.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Oh nothing just a few bits and bobs we were looking at today, she liked them so -”
“Sookie you …can’t do that.”
“Yes I can, I own them…”
“No, I mean it’s too much, really I didn’t expect you to be so cool about this today, but you’ve really gone far beyond -”
“Please don’t kiss my ass, Eric, I have enough people doing that as it is. So, can you just take the bag and make sure she gets use out of some of it at least?”
I just nodded, and thanked her again. I’d gotten myself and Emily as far as the elevator when my phone rang.
It was Sookie.
I looked back at the office and she was standing by the door.
“You guys … need a ride home?” She asked.
Oh, this would be interesting.