Chapter Seven: Unloading
“Good evening, Sookie,” I greet the little blonde waitress at the restaurant just as she is clocking out.
“Hey, Eric! You’re right on time!” She grins at me. “I just gotta call Jason real quick and tell him I’m leavin’ work,” she explains before hopping toward the diner’s register and picking up their phone. Sookie speaks with her brother quickly, hangs up, and turns back to me, “Can I get ya somethin’ to eat before we head out?”
I shake my head at her offer, “No, thank you.”
“So,” she pulls her hooded sweatshirt over her head and flips her long blonde hair from beneath the collar, “what are we gonna do till I gotta be back at the condo?”
“Is there anything in particular you would like to do?” I ask Sookie, taking her hand.
“Not that I can think of,” she admits bashfully, and an adorable blush stains her cheeks when she looks at our joined hands. I do not miss one of the waitresses stopping dead in her tracks and staring at us as we walk out the door.
“Have you eaten?” I ask.
She nods, “Yup, brought a sack lunch to school and made another for my dinner here.”
There is a lingering silence as we approach my car, and once we are seated, still without a destination, Sookie carefully looks at me and asks, “Is there somewhere we could go and just talk? I have something on my mind that’s been buggin’ me all day.”
“Certainly,” I agree, pulling into traffic. There is a new Starbucks down the street, and I have discerned that both Stackhouses enjoy their coffee.
Once we arrive, I quickly find Sookie a comfortable place to lounge and buy her a cup of coffee. When we are both seated beside each other, I urge her to speak her mind.
“Well,” she looks terribly uncomfortable, “I guess I should ask you something first… Have you ever had a real big secret that you’ve never told anybody? Not even the people that are supposed to be the ones who love you no matter what?”
I cannot say this has ever been an issue for me. Of course I have my secrets, but they are secrets because the information could be used to harm me physically. Sookie is actually one of those very secrets. My interests in her have had to remain entirely covert while I attempt a rare interest in courting. However, I have a gut feeling that Sookie is more concerned about emotional hurt or abandonment.
“Sookie, whatever your secret is, your brother loves you more than I would have believed possible. There is nothing you could have done or said that would keep him from loving you,” I tell her soothingly.
“I-I just’ve kept this secret so long from him,” she whispers fretfully. “I’m scared he’ll be mad I didn’t tell him sooner.”
I consider her argument a moment before asking, “What has stopped you in the past?”
“Well, when we were younger… I can’t explain it, but there was somethin’ in me that said we weren’t old enough to deal with it, you know? Like we needed to be more mature so it wouldn’t rip us apart. Then, well, Gran died, and we’ve been going years now just strugglin’ to hold our heads above water. You’ve thrown us a life raft now, and the pressures are down, and all of a sudden that voice in my head goin’ “not yet, not yet” has gone quiet.”
“Sookie,” I take her free hand and look her in the eyes, “did someone hurt you?”
She shakes her head frantically at me, “No! No, nothin’ like that.”
I frown, trying to discern what it is she could possibly be hiding. It is difficult to imagine a dark secret she could have from a young age if it did not center around some sort of abuse. A rather uncomfortable possibility strikes me, and I find myself asking, “Are you experiencing romantic feelings for your brother?”
“What? NO!” she shouts in alarm. “NO, no, a thousand times no! Ew, Eric! Gross!” She shoves at my chest in disgust. “How could you think… Ew!”
All I can do is shrug, “I apologize, but it is difficult to imagine that there is some big secret you felt you could not share with your brother now that you are adults. Those were the only taboo situations I could think of. It is not something as mundane as accidentally killing his goldfish, is it?” I try for levity to dispel the lingering awkwardness of my inquiries.
“No, it’s big,” she tells me, oblivious to my lighthearted attempts. “I plan on tellin’ him about it once Christmas break starts and he’s done with finals… I’m just scared.”
“What if you told me your secret, and I would try and react as your brother would?” That seems like a good plan. It cannot be something that would affect me. I can look at it objectively and then consider how a man in her brother’s position would respond. It would also temper my needs to solve a good mystery.
“No,” she refuses, her expression stern.
“No. It’s a real secret. If anyone knows, it can only be Jason,” Her expression is now serious and unmoving.
“I see,” I can always glamour it out of her. That would be breaking Godric’s little rule, but he has lifted his command… I focus my eyes on the girl before me and impose my will over her. “Sookie, tell me your secret.”
“No!” she hisses vehemently, and I am stunned into silence. I can feel my eyes widen at her complete resistance to my glamour. “Don’t push me, Northman!” She is glowering at me from across the table, clutching her coffee hard enough to push the fluids dangerously close to the brim.
Perhaps she is adamant enough that she can resist the magic? “Sookie,” I try an easier route. If I work her through smaller commands, I should be able to pry the answers I want from her, “throw your coffee away.”
“Is it gettin’ late?” She looks at the clock on the wall and frowns when she sees that there is plenty of time for her to finish her coffee before I must return her home. “What? I can’t finish the coffee you got me ’cause I won’t answer your stupid question?” she demands haughtily.
Great. Now she is mad at me, and still not under glamour. Is she immune to it? How?
“No, no, I misread the clock. I apologize. I thought we were running late, and did not wish to upset your brother by not getting you home on time,” I try to recover, but she is glaring at me. Her eyes create a pang of regret in my chest. I tried to steal her secrets, I think with that newly discovered emotion- guilt.
However, despite those regrets, I now know I will have to tell Pam to be extra careful with Jason Stackhouse. If he has the same immunity to glamour, Pam could unwittingly reveal the secret of our vampirism.
“Actually, ya know what? I think I would like to get back early. I have homework,” She rises from the couch and throws her coffee in the trash. I watch while she storms toward the door and does not even wait for me to follow. I deserve that.
When I catch up to her, she has walked past my car and is heading toward the nearest bus stop. “Sookie,” I call after her, chasing her down, “I did not mean to be so persistent. I am sorry. I sometimes become deeply obsessed with mysteries, and I overstepped.”
Her shoulders are stiff as I make my plea. After a moment, she relaxes and lets out a long breath, “It’s okay. I’m sorry I got so defensive, and I guess I was layin’ the suspense on pretty thick. You just make me impatient. You’re very frustrating, ya know?”
I cannot help it when I smirk, “I have definitely been called frustrating before.”
“I just can’t read you, Eric. It scares me. I usually know people pretty well, and you’re a mystery to me, too. I guess we can be frustrated with each other together.” I begin leading her back to my car to drive her home, and we fall back into the same easy conversation we have enjoyed the past few evenings.
When we arrive at my condo, we sit in the car talking about her day. She tells me about the perfect score she received on her history report and I congratulate her on the hard work and effort. Then we are discussing her brother and how she wishes he did not have to work so much where she was only able to spend time with him an hour a night until Sunday when they had more time together.
“What if I had a job at one of my companies for him?” I ask conversationally. “He has a college education. I could probably find something that pays more.”
Sookie shakes her head, “He needs somethin’ flexible for school and football. If his shoulder’s really better, he’ll need a really flexible schedule come August. We have to dip into our savings every autumn to get through football season.”
“I see,” I frown and begin considering other possibilities. If only there were a way to supplement their income without them noticing. However, with how closely they watch their budget, it would be impossible to funnel money into their accounts unaware. Also, considering how easily Jason spotted my attempt to lighten their load by purchasing the duplex, they would be suspicious of any unexpected windfall I could have staged.
“Thanks for the offer, though,” she smiles at me sweetly and I feel a strange warmth in my chest. I suddenly have a very strong, urgent desire to kiss her.
Before I realize what I am doing, I am already leaning in to touch my lips to hers, but I regain my head and aim for her forehead. That was surprisingly close, I think in bafflement. When was the last time I made such an uninformed judgement?
Sookie gives me a disappointed smile now and leans in to kiss my cheek. Her lips burn my skin in a desirable way I cannot recall ever experiencing.
“Good night, Sookie,” I tell her quietly.
“Good night, Eric,” she responds and climbs out of the car.
What are you doing to me, Sookie Stackhouse?
I’m in a daze the remainder of the night. I’m lucky I even remember to call Jason after I’ve locked the door behind me.
The condo’s so foreign and big compared to what we’re used to. Bold contrasts, a little cold, and empty feeling. Nothin’ like a home.
Despite our apartment bein’ literally cold, it never made me feel so alone. It was run down and sad lookin’, but we did our best to bring a sense of comfort about it. Hanging family pictures, coverin’ the crazy uncomfortable couch with afghans Gran had crocheted, and always a candle burnin’ when someone was home and awake to make the place smell like cookies. That was our monthly splurge. A three-dollar candle that smelled like sugar cookies. A three-dollar comfort masking how home sick we are.
I curl up with my homework in front of the gas fire place. If I stay by the fire, it doesn’t seem so big and empty. If I wrap Gran’s afghan around me, it doesn’t seem so lonesome.
“Did ya finish your homework?” a voice whispers in my ear and I grumble, swattin’ at the interruption to my dreams. “Sooks, did ya finish your homework?”
“Uh huh,” I mumble and feel my body leave the ground. Instinctively I curl into Jason’s chest as he carries me to bed. “Don’t go,” I whisper when I’m in bed and I feel his weight lift from the mattress.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, sitting back down and makin’ me roll to his side.
“It’s lonely here,” I tell him tiredly and wrap my arms around his middle to keep him close.
“Ya want me to sleep in here for now?” he asks, stroking my hair softly and pushin’ it away from my face.
“Uh huh,” I tell him with a sleepy grunt. The bed rises again and I hear my brother kick off his shoes and empty his pockets onto the nightstand. Then Jason’s crawling under the covers with me and holds me against his chest.
“You’re gettin’ too old for this, Sooks,” he teases me and I turn over to push my face into his chest. He smells like stale coffee and donuts.
“Don’t care,” I speak into his chest and he chuckles. “Night, Jason.”
When I wake up again, Jason’s sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbin’ his eyes. I sit up on my knees and thump him on the back, “Mornin’.”
“Mornin’,” he replies with a yawn.
“Make sure to take some naps between your exams, okay?” I tell him.
“Uh huh,” He stands up and stretches. “You only got the two finals left today, right?” he asks with another yawn.
“Yeah. You just got the three today and then one tomorrow?”
“Yup,” He starts walkin’ toward the door.
“What time’s your final tomorrow?” I ask. Today’s my last day of school, and then my Christmas break begins.
“Hmm, one? Yeah, Wednesday is at one,” he confirms.
“Okay, well, since it’s my day off at the diner, ya wanna hang out?”
“Yeah, till I gotta go to the stadium,” he tells me. “I’ll sleep in tomorrow since I got Northman’s SUV and don’t have to find a ride.”
I beam at him as he leaves to grab a quick shower, and I quickly dress and go about makin’ us some breakfast before we each go to school. When Jason arrives in the kitchen, he stands next to me over a skillet of eggs. Before his hand can even move to steal a link of sausage, I elbow him in the ribs, “It’s just off the skillet. You’ll burn your tongue.”
Jason gives me a bemused grin, “It’s like ya can read my mind sometimes.”
Try all the time if I wanted, I think wryly. I told myself I’d tell Jason the truth about my telepathy by the end of the week, but I’m really nervous still. Now I’m intentionally doing little things to make him suspicious. Maybe I can make a show of it? Get him really thinkin’ it’s possible until he eventually cracks and flat out asks me himself?
“Sookie, you seen-”
“Next to my bed,” I call, already knowing he’s lookin’ for his shoes. That wasn’t telepathy, just a sister who knows her brother can never find his shoes.
It’s a miracle he ain’t barefoot at school half the time.
Jason gives me a ride to school before takin’ off toward Endene University. He kisses my cheek goodbye, and I roll my eyes at the girls who don’t know me or Jason and think he’s my boyfriend.
Finals are easy enough. I speed through my last test of the semester and hand it in to the teacher who gives me a suspicious glare. My math teacher doesn’t like me. He thinks I cheat and to his credit, I easily could, but I don’t. Jason proved you don’t need to be a telepath to make good grades in school, and I’ve always looked up to my big brother. Once he knows about my telepathy, I have a sinking suspicion he’ll ask if I’ve ever cheated in class. I want to be able to tell him honestly that I never have.
When I get home, Jason is asleep on the couch, a football game playin’ on the TV. It’s real nice, him havin’ a car. He doesn’t have to wait for someone to give him a ride from school, and he’s been gettin’ a lot more sleep. That and all the food Eric’s been planting in our home has really brought the color back to Jason’s face. He’s even bulking back up! That’s a relief to me.
Our first day in the condo, Jason was excited to find there was a gym available to tenants. This was exciting for him, not just cause he likes to work out, but because there was a scale. First thing he did was throw me over his shoulder, carry me to the gym, and weigh me. When he saw that I now weighed 112, he picked me up again and hugged me. I was momentarily terrified. I’d put on ten pounds in five days!
“It’s a good thing,” he’d insisted. “You’re eatin’ good stuff. Northman didn’t put any crap in the house.”
“But… Ten pounds in five days? That can’t be healthy!”
“Ya know what’s not healthy? Bein’ 5’6” and 102 pounds! You ain’t got a narrow body, Sooks. Ya got birthing hips, and 102 looks anorexic on you!”
“I’ve got what kind of hips!?” I’d stormed over to the mirror by the free weights and pulled the tail of my shirt up. Even with the extra notches in Jason’s belt, his pants were still hangin’ off me like I was a pole. My hip bones were stickin’ out in such sharp reliefs before my ten-pound gain that hardly anything’ would keep them on. With the extra meat, the points of my hipbones were less prominent and my jeans were actually stayin’ well above my pubic bone.
I pat my belly thoughtfully as I walk into the kitchen to grab an apple. Maybe I should weigh myself the day before I tell Jason about the telepathy. If I’ve put any more weight on, it might take his mind off the fact his sister’s a freak.
“Hey,” I hear from the living room and peek beneath the cabinets to see Jason’s head hangin’ off the couch. “How were finals?”
“Good. Go back to sleep,” I tell him softly.
“Naw, I never get to see you on Tuesdays,” he rolls off the couch and comes to the kitchen. He breaks a banana off the bunch and begins peeling it. “I know that calculus final was making ya nervous. How’d it go?”
“Actually, I think it went really well. I’ve been studyin’ for it like crazy, and Coach Murphy was helpin’ me with it on Wednesday,” I tell him.
“Coach is a good guy,” Jason smiles.
“Yeah,” I agree. “How were your finals?”
Jason shrugs. “Fine. Felt easy, but that makes me nervous,” he jokes.
“You fell asleep, didn’t you?” I frown.
“Only a few minutes,” he confesses and I sigh. “What? I still finished with plenty of time.”
“Jason,” I moan, “we can’t do this another year.”
“What would you suggest we do then?” Jason sighs.
“Take Eric up on his offer. It’d be like an interest free student loan!”
“Sookie, it ain’t proper,” he argues softly, but I can feel his resolve being chipped away.
“Y’know what ain’t proper?” I demand. “A man workin’ himself to death ’cause he’s too proud to accept kindness. We’re gonna pay him back, Jason… Jason, don’t ya want one year of college to be all about you? Doin’ schoolwork, going to parties, playing football, and just enjoyin’ it?”
“I don’t give a shit about parties, Sook,” Jason groans and finishes his banana.
“OK, but you do care about school and football. What if that was all ya had to do? Actually get seven hours sleep more than one night a week?”
“Sookie,” Jason puts his hands on my shoulders, “I just can’t… I can’t go up to another man and ask him for money.”
“What if I did?” I ask gently. “What if I went to Eric and told him I really want you to focus on your senior year and finally get to sleep at night?”
Jason’s face contorts with dislike, “I don’t want my sister askin’ a man for money!”
“The ledger is already there, Jason. Eric’s book of numbers is open, just waiting to have something jotted down. I won’t be asking, I’ll be accepting.”
Jason sits at the breakfast bar and puts his face in his hands. “Sookie,” he stops and considers his thoughts another moment, “if you wanna talk to Eric ’bout this… I won’t stop ya.”
I let out a long breath, “Thank you.” I wish he knew that this hurt my pride, too, but I love my brother. I want him to be happy and healthy just like he’s always wanted for me. Pride can take a backseat for once in our lives. I don’t care if I’m called a kept woman or anythin’ else just as unsavory. This is my chance to give him something back for the last three years he’s sacrificed for me.
After Jason and I leave for work, I spend my shift thinking about how best to ask Eric to start penning us into his ledger. By the time my shift is over, I still have no clue what I’m gonna say. He’s standin’ by the counter waitin’ for me after I call Jason, and I shyly let him take my hand and lead me to his car.
“You are very quiet this evening,” Eric comments as we begin driving.
“I got something I wanna ask you again,” I whisper. When in doubt, be direct!
“Is it about last night?” he asks.
“No,” I shake my head. “It’s about the ledger you had on our kitchen counter… Back at the apartment.”
“Yes? What about it?” I swear he looks almost hopeful.
“Eric,” I start nervously, “I want my brother to be happy. I wanna actually see him more than the skimpy couple hours a week. I wanna be able to spend more time with you. I want Jason to go out with friends and have fun and-and sleep!”
“Shh, Sookie,” I didn’t even realize my voice was rising with my emotions until he hushes me. He pulls up to the curb and parks the car, looking at me. “Are you asking me to help you?”
“Yes,” I whisper, completely embarrassed.
“Does your brother know you are asking me for help?” he presses.
“He knew I was goin’ to, but he’s embarrassed and frustrated, and… I’m makin’ him feel like a failure, but he isn’t!” I’m wiping at tears. “I’ve tried over and over to tell him it ain’t charity because we plan to pay everything back!”
“Sookie,” Eric takes my face in his hands and looks me straight in the eyes, which are probably bloodshot and still filled with tears, “you would not have to pay me a cent back. Being in need is not a sin. You both have worked hard enough these past three years and jumped every hurdle. Let me give you the next eighteen months of freedom. I will give you both a modest allowance for the next eighteen months. Two-thousand dollars a month, free lodging, a car, and a pair of cell phones. All of that will be yours for eighteen months. After that, your allowance will end, you will pay rent again, you will need to buy your own vehicles, and purchase your own cell phone plan. You can squirrel away parts of your allowance for those eighteen months and put it toward a contingency or car. Whatever you like, but I do not expect you to pay me back for any of it.”
I can already feel myself shaking my head in denial. Not denial of his proposition, but denial of any possible good fortune. “I-I don’t feel we deserve that kinda generosity,” I whisper.
“I do,” he tells me firmly. “That is the plan I have for you. On January first, you begin your eighteen months of freedom. That will give you both time to put in your two weeks’ notice. You can tell them that Jason received a job offer that requires he leave his other jobs, and that allows you to stop working.”
“What if people ask about the job?” I press.
Eric shrugs, “He can tell them that he was hired as an athletic consultant for a publishing company… I believe I own one… I will have to double check,” he actually laughs when he realizes he owns so many things, he isn’t sure what they all are anymore. “It is either a publishing or marketing company. If it is publishing, it is magazines.”
“Are you sure you wanna do this for us?” I ask, just to be certain. “You won’t treat us any different?”
“Sookie,” he whispers my name in such a way that I feel my entire body heat up, “I would give you anything you asked for. You are asking me to help your brother, and I am doing just that.” His face is so earnest, and his eyes are burnin’ into mine like I never thought blue eyes could. Intense, bold, raw…
“Kiss me,” I tell him softly and with more passion than I think I’ve known my entire life. The next thing I know, his hand is in my hair, he’s pullin’ my face to his, and his mouth is on mine. His lips stay sealed, but just the feel of them melding against mine sets my blood on fire. Now my hands are in his hair, and I’m kissin’ him back so fiercely that I’m almost crawling into his lap. When my knee slips on the seat, Eric pulls his lips from mine and chuckles. “S-sorry,” I mumble.
“Never apologize for wanting me to kiss you,” Eric sighs and presses his forehead against mine. “In fact, tell me immediately.”
I giggle shyly and settle back into my seat. “So, do you, umm, have a better idea about whether or not you’re good enough for me?” I tentatively ask, staring at my fingernails.
“I have a better idea of how hard I am able to try,” Eric whispers, “and I am floored by how much effort I am wanting to invest.”
I chance a glance at the man in the seat beside me, “So you’ll give me a shot?”
“I believe the one giving a shot is you,” and then he leans in and kisses me again. He still doesn’t try to put his tongue in my mouth, and I’m grateful because I don’t know if I could do that without pulling away and giggling like a crazy person. He’s just so freakin’ beautiful, and he’s kissing me!
When our kiss begins to soften, Eric pulls away an inch then kisses me quickly. Once. Twice. Three times, before settling back once more in his own seat. I start playing with my hair and looking at my knees with this stupid blush covering my cheeks.
“Was that your first kiss, Sookie?” he asks quietly, and I bite the inside of my lip.
“Y-yeah,” I finally confess after a moment of silence.
“I am honored,” he murmurs and I risk another quick glance at him. He’s starin’ at me, lookin’ ridiculously proud of himself.
“It’s not that big a deal,” I mumble.
“It is to me,” He takes my hand and gives it a squeeze.
“Your hands are cold,” I comment and he takes his hand from mine. “Oh, I don’t mind,” I take his hand back and bring it to my lips, kissing the backs of his knuckles.
He smiles softly at me before awkwardly reaching around the steering wheel column and starting the car. We drive around Shreveport holding hands and just talking until it’s time for me to go home. He and Jason would have a blast talking. I think Eric is a closet history nut ’cause he tells me all these stories about different eras. There’s so much detail in his knowledge that it’s like he was there experiencing it all first hand. Jason would love that. I wonder who could school whom?
After I walk Sookie to the condo, I make my way to Booker Stadium. Per my promise to Stackhouse, I am now obligated to admit that the dynamics between his sister and I have changed. I could, of course, wait until I see him tomorrow evening, but I am a vampire of my word.
“Let me in to see Stackhouse,” I glamour the guard at the entry booth. His eyes glaze over and he nods. “Turn off the cameras,” I order further and watch as the security professional moves to disable the recorders. I catch a glimpse of Stackhouse on the west end of the stadium before the screens turn black and immediately make my way in that direction. With no cameras to record me, I am moving quickly through the stadium, and soon I am rounding up on the man for whom I am looking. “Stackhouse-”
“HOLY FUCKIN’ SHIT!” Jason yells, turns, and swings all in the same instance. I lean back and effortlessly dodge his punch. “Fuck me! Eric, what the fuck!?” he shouts at me, clutching his heart now that he finds there is no danger.
“My apologies. I did not intend to sneak up on you,” Actually I did. Giving humans a good scare is entertaining. Now that Godric’s orders have been lifted, I am merely trying to enjoy myself a little more.
“How did you get in here?” Jason asks now that he has calmed down.
“I told the guard I had to speak with you, and that it was urgent,” I explain and watch as Jason’s body tenses. “Sookie is perfectly fine. She must have just called you?”
“Yeah, she did,” Jason relaxes. I suppose the word ‘urgent’ immediately sets the boy on edge about his sister. “So what did you need to see me ’bout that couldn’t wait till tomorrow night?”
“I told you if anything changed between Sookie and I, you would be the second to know. Tonight I kissed her, and I told Sookie I would court her,” I admit to Stackhouse, crossing my arms over my chest and giving the truthful impression that I do not need his permission.
Jason shifts his weight uncomfortably, “Er, okay?” He scratches the back of his head with further uncertainty, “I ain’t never done this, so it’s gonna sound awkward. All right?” he looks horribly embarrassed.
“Jason,” I place my hands on his shoulders, “I will not advance our physical relationship beyond kisses until she is eighteen. Perhaps some of the more juvenile levels of groping, but not sex or blatant sexual acts. Our kiss this evening was entirely within the realm of innocent. I will walk her through the steps of relationships, and I will not pressure her to do a damned thing.”
“Uh, okay,” Jason looks at me dazedly. “Um, anything else?”
“Yes,” I nod, laughing internally at our role reversal. Traditionally it would be the father laying down the law to the “boyfriend,” and the brother would merely parrot his father’s threats. However, I can see that Jason is floundering, searching for the script of speaking to the boyfriend about dating his “daughter.” It does not help that I am older, taller, and stronger than him either, I think ruefully. “If I hurt her, I am a dead man.” Or a finally dead man, I add mentally.
Jason nods as dumbly as he has been since this conversation began. “Well, uh, thanks for keeping your promise and lettin’ me know so quickly that things between you two have changed. I’ll give Sooks a good talking to.”
I merely nod in response to that. Jason will regain his authoritativeness when talking to Sookie, and he will feel less helpless in this new situation. “I suppose that while I am here, I should encourage you to put in your two weeks’ notice for the stadium and convenience store. I will support you two until you graduate. Sookie knows the specifics about what that entails. You may discuss it with her in the morning.”
Jason stares at me blankly and I can see a storm of resistance brewing in his eyes. I am certain his brain raged against the word ‘support’. “Northman-”
“Jason, Sookie was in tears over you,” I cut him off. “She feels miserable and guilty that you are killing yourself trying to keep your promise of graduating college, supporting her, and keeping her out of foster care. You have worked far more than enough these past three years to keep her safe. Let me give you the next eighteen months. For her. So she can have her big brother back, and he can help her navigate her first relationship. Go back to being her brother.”
“So, what? That make you our Sugar Daddy?” he grouches at me and I laugh.
“I thought I already assured you that I would not solicit your sister for sex?” I can feel frustration building in me at Stackhouse’s resistance. Though his accusations are amusing, they are just as annoying.
Jason clutches at his hair, takes a deep breath, and looks at me in defeat, “Yeah, I know. I guess I’m smarting a bit at having no fuckin’ clue how to deal with any of this. You ain’t giving us a lot of money, are ya? Nothin’ too crazy?”
“Two thousand a month,” I tell him, ignoring the way his eyes widen and jaw slackens, “and a couple add-ons for convenience. Like I said, Sookie knows the details. You can ask her about it in the morning.”
I am still gloating that the Stackhouses have caved to my offer. No longer will I have to bother sifting through their CPS reports, discerning who is to blame for missed interviews or incomplete forms. Did Stackhouse have to work or attend classes, forcing him to miss the interview? Did the office forget to inform him of an interview? As far as I can tell, their caseworker had filed most of the paperwork needed for them, but Jason’s signature was missing on one of the forms. Honestly the most absurd problems will derail such simple things.
“Yeah, okay. Hey,” he stops me from leaving once more, “when I get my wits back, you and me are gonna have a talk about Sookie. All right? Be ready for it.”
“Yes, Sir,” I taunt him and wave as I turn once more to leave.
Once I finish with Jason Stackhouse I head back to my house in Bon Temps. Its public purpose was to be my escape from the traffic and noise of Shreveport, but with Sookie and Jason staying in my usual accommodations, I have been forced to remain in my secure chamber beneath the farmhouse while its renovations continue.
Pam is waiting for me, pouring over several ledgers until I arrive in my study.
“Oh, you were with the Stackhouse girl,” she remarks, not even glancing up at me.
“Yes. She finally caved and asked for financial assistance,” I admit. “I need you to find a company for which I can “hire” him as a consultant. Do I own a publishing company?”
“Yes,” she sighs, digging through the multiple colored coordinated ledgers until she pulls up a large blue one. “LAP House. I suppose we could list him as a consultant here. Let me check their productivity and see if they can ‘afford him.’” She rolls her eyes and I chuckle as I walk past my desk and begin looking for the Stackhouse Ledger. “How much are you planning on paying him?”
“Two thousand a month,” I tell her, marking the allowance into their ledger. “We also need to lease a vehicle for them and obtain a cell phone plan. Keep it modest, and keep the vehicle in my name on the lease with Jason listed as an insured driver of the vehicle. Sookie does not even have a driver’s permit.”
Pam looks up from the books incredulously, “Anything else? Shall I buy a house for them as well?”
I tilt my head at her attitude, “No, no house. Perhaps you would like to buy a new wardrobe for Sookie?” Pam’s ire relents and she lights up with enthusiasm instead. Nothing brightens Pam’s evening the way spending my money does.
“Really? I always wanted a life size Barbie,” she gives me a salacious grin.
“Please keep her labels in the realm of middle class,” I request. “I want them to live comfortably. Not be overwhelmed by luxury. It would turn them into lost children on the ocean.”
“And here I thought you wanted to shower that girl with jewels and money,” Pam leers, once more with the attitude she is well aware pisses me off.
“Pamela,” I enunciate her full name as a warning, “my interest in Sookie Stackhouse is none of your concern. And while we are on the topic of excessive interest in the Stackhouses, might I remind you that I am not the individual between the two of us who has fucked a Stackhouse.”
Pam makes a purring noise in the back of her throat at my point and it catches me off guard. She does not usually emulate that sound for men. “Yes, thank you for that delightful reminder. He really was something else. Big enough to enjoy and appreciate without the excessive ego,” She looks pointedly at my crotch.
“I guarantee that my ego is well-deserved and is not excessive in the least,” I reply.
Pam pouts, but concedes my point. “So I am being banished to the likes of Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney?” she finally asks.
“That would be a good place for you to start. She goes to a good school, and I do not need her classmates recognizing designer labels and catching her off guard. Do your best to purchase clothes within the class that they are accustomed. You may also purchase a few things for Jason though he would probably resist accepting them. I assume you remember his… Measurements?”
A wicked grin lifts Pam’s lips, and her only reply is to nod, “Should I catch him after work again tonight and soften him to the new arrangement?”
“I doubt anything will be soft about that man with those sort of intentions, Pamela,” I reply.
“Damn right there won’t,” she purrs, rises from my desk, and saunters out of the office.
That poor boy will not know what hit him.