The next morning I woke up to the smells of coffee and bacon. I had to assume Eric had beaten Gran to the kitchen. I got out of bed and pulled in my cardigan before I went down to the kitchen to see what they were doing. Gran might say she wouldn’t take a guest’s help, but Eric could be very convincing when he wanted to be. What I wasn’t expecting was to find them dancing.
I stood there quietly and chuckled. They were cute. What Dad thought of Eric didn’t matter. Gran was obviously falling in love with him.
“Gran, are you trying to steal my man?” I teased.
“I think it’s the other way around,” she giggled like a schoolgirl having her first crush. “He asked me to dance.”
“Oh yeah?” I looked up at Eric.
“She was humming, so I decided to offer,” he shrugged without a hint of apology. “She also let me make the French toast.”
“Maybe I should leave you two alone.”
Eric kissed Gran’s forehead before he let her go so he could take my hand and twirl me around.
“There’s enough to share,” he winked as he started to sway me around the kitchen.
“I don’t share my boys,” I told him.
“You can keep him, honey. He wouldn’t know what to do with me,” Gran offered.
“That’s very generous of you, Gran.”
I didn’t recognize the song on the radio. Gran was even less into rock music than I was. Eric must have changed the station before Gran got up. That was a ballsy move. Gran usually whacked a hand that tried to change the station off of the country/Christian music she preferred.
“So you two already ate breakfast?”
“We decided to let you sleep in,” Gran told me.
“I appreciate that. What do you need me to do?”
“Well Eric is going to help me prep the turkey since my shoulder is a little touchy this morning. You can be in charge of the macaroni and cheese,” she told me.
“Deal,” I grinned.
“There’s a plate for you in the oven,” Eric told me.
“Good.” I kissed his cheek and pulled away so I could get my breakfast.
While I sat at the table with a cup of hot coffee and a plate of delicious French toast, I watched Eric and Gran get to work on the bird. He followed her directions and she even listened to a few tips he gave her on how to keep the bird from drying out. He was respectful and I knew that went a long way with Gran. They were rubbing the bird down with herbed butter when I started washing the sink to get rid of any bacteria from the turkey’s bath. Eric started the stock that would eventually go into the stuffing and Gran’s gravy.
“She makes two kinds of gravy,” I informed Eric. “Giblet gravy and pepper gravy.”
“I’m a sucker for anything peppery,” he smiled. ”I may have to talk you out of a recipe.”
“I’ll leave it in my will,” Gran snickered.
“She won’t tell anyone what’s in that gravy, new guy,” I smirked. “Even your cute tushie isn’t going to get it.”
“I’ll continue to try,” he said with conviction.
“That’s cute.” He was never going to get it.
I heard the front door open and then Aunt Linda’s voice.
“I’m here! Everyone can get happy now!” she called out.
“We’re in the kitchen,” Gran called back.
“Of course you are. I can smell that bird.” Aunt Linda strolled in wearing a long skirt and a loose peasant top. Her chestnut brown hair was pulled back from her face with a few bobby pins. “Ooooh you’re already here, Sookie. And who’s this stud muffin?” Aunt Linda hugged me and kissed my cheek.
“This stud muffin is Sookie’s new beau,” Gran answered. “He’s here to drive your brother crazy. Think it’ll work?”
“Got anything pierced below your neck?” Aunt Linda’s eyes traveled down his body.
“I had to take them out when I was incarcerated,” he chuckled. “I’m Eric.” He held out his hand to Linda.
“Incarcerated?” Aunt Linda shook his hand. “I didn’t think being good looking was a crime.”
“It is in the great state of Louisiana,” he smiled. “Nice to meet you. And I promise, I’ve cleaned up my act.”
“Sweetcheeks, a little dirt never hurt anyone,” she said. “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.”
“Eric here is going to help with the prep,” Gran stated.
“You’re letting a new person help?” Aunt Linda went over to hug Gran. “Did you slip a Xanax in her Earl Grey?”
“Honey, he cooks for a living and if you check the oven there’s some of the best French toast I’ve ever tasted in there,” Gran pointed out. “Anybody that can out do my French toast can cook with me any day of the week.”
“That’s a bold statement.”
“It’s true. He makes great French toast,” I piped up.
“Well then outta my way.” Aunt Linda grabbed an oven mitt and opened the oven door. “Jumping Jehosaphat, that looks delicious.”
“I hope you like it. I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t.” Eric went to the sink to wash his hands.
“I doubt I’m going to be the one to break the streak.”
I handed Aunt Linda a plate and the spatula. She dished up a few pieces and took them to the table. One bite in and she dropped her fork.
“You’re lucky I’m too old for him, my darling niece,” she said.
“I think he’s lucky too. You might gas him with all the Aquanet you usually use,” I teased.
“Why should all this good body stop at my hair?” she reasoned.
“My poor, delusional child,” Gran snickered.
Eric shook his head as he worked on his prep work. Aunt Linda certainly had her own unique personality. She was at least interesting and not judgmental.
“So, Sweetcheeks, what were you really incarcerated for? Or is this just nonsense to piss off old tight ass?”
“I used to sell pot,” he told her. The fact that Gran didn’t pause what she was doing to listen let me know he’d already told her. “I got caught selling to an undercover. I was in for two years.”
“Were you someone’s wife?”
“Aunt Linda!” I laughed. Then again, I never asked…
Eric laughed and said, “No, I was never anyone’s wife. I kept to myself as much as possible. I was in a medium security facility and the only gay love happening was between consenting guys. My cellmate had been in for fifteen years before I showed up. Between him having my back and my size, I didn’t get fuc– messed with.”
“That’s good to hear,” she said.
I got out a pot to cook the macaroni in and another to make the cheese sauce with.
“Oh, I brought my crockpots too.” Aunt Linda shoved another bite of toast in her mouth. “I also made a shitton of butter horns.”
“Mine!” I called out. “Jason gets nothing because of who he is as a person.”
Aunt Linda laughed and said, “Don’t worry, sweetie, I have a whole container just for you.”
“What would it take to get one of those?” Eric asked.
“Do you even know what a butter horn is?” I asked him.
“Yes, and from your reaction Aunt Linda makes ‘em damn good.”
“Make him work for it, honey,” Aunt Linda advised. “You know, I’ve made them special before.”
“What do you mean by special?” Gran asked.
“With pot butter, mother,” Aunt Linda said like it was no big deal.
“Linda,” she scolded. “Did you give those to people?”
“Only if they ask for them. I may have given one to Corbett once,” Aunt Linda admitted.
“Did he find out?” Eric asked.
“I don’t think he knew what hit him,” she laughed.
“I’m calling him Dad right out the gate,” Eric grinned. “And I’m going to comment on how hot his daughter is every chance I get. Anything I can to do to make him uncomfortable. I just want you to know, Linda. I’ve already given the plan to Gran.”
“Make sure you let him know you plan to live off of Sookie or the government, whichever pays better,” Aunt Linda snickered.
“I’m a line cook, so Sookie’s already made sugar mama status,” he chuckled.
“Not on my daycare salary,” I snickered.
“Not on what teachers make either. It’s disgraceful how underpaid educators are. There are so-called preachers making millions and living in 20,000 square foot mansions, meanwhile the people mostly responsible for educating future generations are barely breaking five digits and spending their own money to make sure their students have what they need. Dis. Grace. Ful.”
“Preach it, Linda Lou,” I said.
“I completely agree,” Eric nodded. “I have the means to take care of Sookie if we get to that step, don’t worry.”
“How long have you been seeing each other?”
“Not long. I wasn’t cheating on Bill,” I told her.
“I would have,” Aunt Linda said, again staring at Eric.
“I met him,” Eric grinned. “He’s… I don’t know what the hell a girl as good as Sookie saw in that toad.”
“Slim pickings around here. Plus he wasn’t always so uptight.”
“Sure he was. You just didn’t see it and your father still had you under his thumb. You’re a grown woman now, living your own life. Papa Bear needs to take a chill pill and trust that you know what you’re doing.”
“Thanks, Aunt Linda.”
She concentrated on her food. Eric helped me with the macaroni and cheese. Eventually I had to go upstairs to shower and get ready for the day. I was relieved that Gran and Aunt Linda liked him. It was nice to have some kind of reinforcement just in case things got out of control with my dad.
Eric and I were sitting on the porch swing when Mom and Dad pulled up in Mom’s Subaru. The little silver car came to a stop next to Eric’s van and Dad got out with a confused look on his face. Mom, on the other hand, didn’t really react. She went to the trunk to get two casserole carrying cases out.
“Sookie, who’s van is this?” Dad asked.
“It’s Eric’s, my new boyfriend,” I answered. The color drained from Dad’s face. “Honey, give him a tour of the inside.”
“He’s going to love it,” Eric said just loud enough for Dad to hear. He leaned over to give me a hard kiss on the lips. When it broke he stood up. He was in a wife beater, with his full sleeves on display. “You must be Dad. I’m Eric.” He grabbed Dad’s hand to shake it before he wrapped his arm around Dad’s shoulder so he could guide him to the van.
“Mr. Stackhouse,” Dad corrected. “I didn’t know Sookie was seeing someone.”
“It’s new,” Eric grinned. “You know how the honeymoon phase goes… She couldn’t get enough of me so she invited me along.”
Dad’s eyes narrowed. I could almost hear his blood pressure rising.
“Come on, let’s go see the van. There’s a tiger skin rug that the ladies die for,” Eric said, wiggling his eyebrows.
“It’s comfortable to lay on!” I called out.
“It’s comfortable for a lot of things, Sugartits,” Eric called back over his shoulder.
“Su– sugartits?!” Dad sputtered.
“Oh yeah. You have the original, I’m sure you’re well aware of how great those tits are.”
“Now just a minute–” Dad was getting fired up. It was almost too easy. I got up from the swing to join them by the van. As soon as I was in grabbing reach, Eric pulled me close and let his hand rest on my right breast as he pointed out the goodies in the back of the van.
“Now this is my favorite little hiding place.” Eric released me long enough to pop up the lid of the table. “Depending on my guest I can hide pot or this handy, dandy little stash.” He lifted the bottle of lube.
“Lubricant?!” Dad glared at me.
“Eric brings out my wild side, Daddy. He learned some things in prison.”
“Prison?!” He was about to explode.
“Oh yeah,” Eric grinned. “Don’t worry, Pop, it wasn’t anything serious. I only had two pounds of pot on my person when I was taken in. The prostitutes in the back seat here stayed pretty quiet too.”
“I let him be the warden,” I whispered.
Dad’s face was practically maroon. He definitely needed to calm down. Thankfully, Mom came out of the house and walked over to us.
“Hi, Mom.” I gave her a quick hug. She was a little thrown off by the giant groping my tit.
“Hi… what’s going on? Gran said I had to come out and meet your new beau…”
“That’s me. I’m Eric.” He let me go so he could hug my mother hello, giving her a sloppy kiss on the cheek. When he pulled back he said, “I can definitely see when my sweet little Sugartits gets her good looks.” His eye scanned up and down Mom’s body as he wrapped his arm around me again.
“Sookie, you can’t be serious about this… hoodlum,” Dad said.
“Why not? He’s clearly an entrepreneur with a great appreciation for thick women,” I replied. “But don’t worry, Dad. Just because he’s a felon it doesn’t mean he doesn’t qualify for welfare between jobs, so he’s not mooching off me.”
“Sookie, what is this?” Mom crossed her arms over her chest, earning an appreciative hum from Eric. She quickly dropped her arms. “Have you lost your ever lovin’ mind?”
“I think I’ve found it. Eric lets me be me, don’t you, sweetheart?” I tilted my head up and he gave me a kiss with way more tongue than was appropriate.
Mom and Dad stood there uncomfortably until Mom cleared her throat.
“Mmm, sorry, I get carried away with this one,” Eric said quietly, looking down into my eyes.
“He’s a great kisser. Mom, try out the rug,” I said.
“She will not!” Dad bellowed. “This is inappropriate, Sookie. You do not belong with a felon who uses drugs and associates with whores.”
“It might be a good backup plan for me if there aren’t any teaching jobs when I graduate. You’d be a great pimp, baby.”
“I treat my girls quite well,” he said. Eric hand slid down to grab my ass. “We’ll see how the next semester goes for you.”
“I’m going in the house,” Dad said.
“And let this… I don’t even know what to call him, continue to molest our little girl?” Mom hissed.
“I can’t make him leave. Obviously my mother has gone around the bend if she let this into her home,” Dad argued.
“I’m actually a human being,” Eric told him. “I am not a this.”
“I’ll be inside.” Dad pulled Mom along behind him.
“Aren’t they a delight?” I asked Eric.
“What bothers me the most is they most likely would have reacted the same way if I was perfectly respectable,” he said as he reached up to rub my shoulders.
“Sadly, you’re probably right. I’m sorry about that. We don’t have to stay. You don’t deserve it.”
“We can stay. Gran and Aunt Linda are great. I’d hate for you to miss out on time with them.”
“I think they would understand. Plus if we leave, Dad has to deal with Gran.”
“It’s up to you.” Eric cupped my face as he leaned in to press a sweet kiss to my lips. The kind I was used to.
“We can stick it out for a while. If my dad crosses a line, I will personally go off. I’m done being a doormat and letting him be the main shot caller in my life.”
“Hearing that makes me like you just a little bit more,” he smiled. “I can reel it in, too and go back to being me if you want.”
“Honestly, I don’t know if it would make much of a difference right now. Dad just needs to come to terms with the fact that I can make my own decisions. It’s my life, not his.”
“Let’s go in. There’s a turkey to eat and Gran’s pie,” he said as he hugged me.
“Yeah, you don’t want to miss out on the turkey.” I walked inside with him. Dad and Jason were watching football. Mom was in the kitchen, annoying the piss out of Gran.
Eric squeezed my hand and said, “I’m going to help Gran with the turkey. Something tells me your dad isn’t going to offer to lift a twenty pound bird.”
“Of course not. Real men don’t do women’s work,” I told him.
“Then I guess I’m not a real man,” Eric said just loud enough for Dad to hear. He let go of my hand so he could go into the kitchen to check on the bird.
I went into the living room and turned the TV off, much to my dad and brother’s dismay.
“Damnit, Sookie,” Dad growled.
“You owe Eric an apology,” I told him.
“For being as rude as you were.”
“He was grabbin’ on my daughter and checking out my wife. I owe him nothing.”
“He was checkin’ out Mom?” Jason didn’t look too happy about that either. “He seemed like a nice guy last night.”
“He’s a hoodlum. He’s covered in tattoos and has your sister talking about being a prostitute. He is not a nice guy.”
“He doesn’t have me talking about anything, but if I decided to do that it would be my choice. I think for myself. Bill came by here yesterday and I reiterated to him that it’s over.”
“I don’t know why you think Bill is such a bad guy. He cares about you, Sookie.”
“Do you listen to me when I talk or is it just static?” I was serious. I’d told him repeatedly why I broke up with Bill.
“I listen, but what you’re saying doesn’t make any damn sense.”
“To you! It doesn’t make sense to you! You aren’t the one dating Bill, so you don’t get a say. Get that through your head!” Okay, so I’d had enough. Judging by how quiet the house got, I’d gotten louder than I thought.
“Dang, Sook,” Jason said. He actually looked kind of proud of me.
“I love you, Dad. I know you want what’s best for me. When it comes to my love life, that’s never going to be your decision. If you can’t back off and let me do things my way, we’re not going to have much of a relationship going forward,” I told him in a more restrained tone.
“I want what’s best for you too and he is not what’s good for you,” he said, pointing toward the kitchen.
“You don’t know that. You don’t really know anything.”
“I’ve seen enough of him to know you’re not going anywhere with him.”
“That’s your opinion, but I think you’re going to be surprised by how wrong you are.”
Dad snorted as he shook his head. It was obvious he didn’t believe me.
“You thought I was going to marry Bill and you were wrong about that.” I turned the TV on. “Don’t be surprised if I end up moving to Sweden to get as far away from you as I can.”
“What the hell is in Sweden?”
Dad rolled his eyes and turned back to face the TV.
“Enjoy your game. I’m glad I came home.” I walked out of the living room and went upstairs. I wasn’t in the mood to make small talk in the kitchen. I was sitting on the old bed, looking out the windows and watching some squirrels play grab ass on the lawn.
There was a knock on the door and I turned to see Mom stick her head in.
“Not you too,” I sighed. “I shouldn’t have bothered coming home.”
Mom came in and closed the door behind her. “You really like that boy, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do. I wouldn’t bring him home to meet my whole family if I didn’t.” I realized that was the truth and not just part of the act Eric and I had planned out.
“Gran told me how helpful he’s been,” she said as she took a seat on the side of my bed. “To hear Gran tell it he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you. I think she has a little crush on him.”
“He’s a very nice guy. When I told him how you and Dad have been behaving since I broke up with Bill we decided to play things up a little bit. He did go to jail for two years for selling pot to an undercover cop, but he’s not a pimp and there weren’t any prostitutes. He’s a cook at one of the most popular diners in New Orleans now. He’s got his life as together as it can be for someone who has a criminal record. Eric learned his lesson and served his time. There’s no reason for either of you to bring it up every ten seconds,” I told her. “And unlike Bill, Eric actually cares what I think. I haven’t known him for long and already he’s shown more interest in knowing who I am than Bill did in the whole three years we were together. That’s the guy you should want for me, regardless of his bank account.”
Mom sighed heavily and said, “I honestly don’t know if your dad will ever come to terms with you dating a felon that’s covered in tattoos no matter how good he is to you. You know how much he adored Bill. If he truthfully treats you well, I’ll give him a chance.”
“Thank you.” I couldn’t ask for more than that. “I meant what I said to Dad. He can choose to be a stubborn jackass, and I can choose to not subject myself to it. It’s going to be up to him.”
“I’ll work on him,” she promised me. “I only want what’s best for you. I don’t want to lose my little girl because your father can’t come to terms with you not being with Bill or someone just like him.”
“It might not be just me. If Eric’s the one, it could be your grandchildren too,” I pointed out. Jason had been threatening to get a vasectomy since he was seventeen, so I was their best shot at being grandparents.
“Do you think he has potential to be the one?”
“It’s possible. I know the second I laid eyes on him he felt familiar to me. I’ve never had that with anyone else.”
“That’s a good sign. Do you know if he has the same feeling? I know he has Gran and Aunt Linda wrapped around his little finger.”
“I know he has feelings he wasn’t expecting to have when we met. I found him through a Craigslist ad,” I snickered.
“Sookie,” she scolded with a little chuckle. “How long have you two been seeing each other?”
“Since Sunday,” I admitted.
“That’s less than a week,” she pointed out.
“I can count,” I laughed.
“He must have some charm to get all the Stackhouse women on his side.”
“I told you he’s a nice guy.”
“Sookie, he has to be more than nice to get Adele Stackhouse to let him into her kitchen.”
“I think it’s his booty.”
“I’m not gonna lie, it is a nice one,” Mom laughed.
“You have no idea. Plus I woke up to find them dancing in the kitchen this morning. His idea.”
“Sookie, I think you’ve found what the kids are calling, a unicorn.”
“I asked him if he’s part unicorn,” I laughed.
“Well, I’ll go downstairs and try to get to know him better. Your father will come around eventually.” Mom was way more hopeful than I was. She patted my knee and got up to go back downstairs.
The doorbell rang, which was only a little odd since as far as I knew, the gang was all present and accounted for. I got up out of curiosity and groaned when I saw Bill and my dad in the foyer. Bill was holding a bottle of wine and a big bouquet of flowers.
I walked down the stairs and ignored them both on my way to the kitchen. They followed behind me. Eric was helping Gran strain the stock so they could get the stuffing done.
“Mrs. Stackhouse, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving,” Bill said. He extended the wine and flowers to Gran when she turned toward him.
“Thank you, Bill,” she said politely. “You can set them on the table. But you do remember I don’t drink, don’t you?”
“Well I know Michelle likes her wine,” he said with a smarmy smile aimed at my mother. “I’ve seen her put away a bottle all by herself.”
“Mr. Compton, I don’t believe you were invited for dinner,” Gran said a little more firmly. “Insulting a woman’s family is not very Christian, either.”
Bill looked a little taken aback by Gran’s sudden displeasure with him. He’d won Gran over with his Rhett Butler act, but being rude when he was uninvited wasn’t something that would endear him to her.
“You’re absolutely right, Mrs. Stackhouse. I apologize,” he said, although it looked like he was swallowing castor oil as he said it.
“Bill, I’m sure you remember Eric,” I said.
“He’s hard to forget. At least today he’s done us all a favor and put on a shirt.”
“I like the tattoos. He’s like walking art,” Gran smiled, giving Eric a little pat on the arm.
“I wish I could say it’s a pleasure to see you again, Bill, but sadly it’s not,” Eric said.
I looked at Dad, waiting for him to make some asinine comment, but to my surprise he actually looked uncomfortable. The guard had changed. Bill was out, and I had three feisty Stackhouse women who had my back.
Dad could be stubborn, but I realized he would lose the fight. More important, the only opinion that mattered was my own and I had already made my choice. I didn’t need to explain it, apologize for it or justify it to anyone.
“Thanks for stopping by, Bill,” I said politely. I took the wine and put it in the fridge. There was no point in being angry anymore. In deciding that, a weight lifted off my shoulders. Bill couldn’t touch me anymore. Just like that, I’d moved on.