Hadley’s house was a pigpen. That wasn’t the Hadley I knew. She wasn’t a clean freak or anything, but she never would have let Hunter leave his dirty laundry on the bedroom floor or empty Lunchables containers lying around in the living room. The stink in the house told me their cat’s litter box hadn’t been scooped for a few days. It was disgusting.
Hadley herself looked like hell. Her hair was ratty, her makeup was smeared from the day before…
“I hate to sound like a Miranda Lambert song, but it’s time to hide your crazy,” I told my cousin, who was dressed in raggedy sweats and a T-shirt with holes in it.
“I’m hidin’ just fine,” she said. “I’m not leaving the house.”
“Aren’t you the one who asked me over for dinner?”
“I did?” Was she drunk? “Shit, I don’t remember… I may have had too much wine last night.”
I sighed and said, “You need a shower. You smell almost as bad as Jinx’s litter box.”
“Shit, I was supposed to clean that too.” Hadley flopped back on the couch. “Why didn’t you tell me separating was so damn hard?”
“I didn’t think y’all would ever go through it. Where’s Hunter?” I hadn’t seen him anywhere.
“Remy took him when he left. I’m going to get him back on Wednesday,” she frowned. “I ate his Lunchables for dinner last night so they wouldn’t go bad.”
I reached down and pulled Hadley up.
“Come on. Get in the shower.”
“Fine,” she huffed. “Only because my smell is making me sick.”
Imagine how I feel…
I let her go on upstairs to her bedroom to get cleaned up. The litter box was her job, but I threw out the trash and got the dishes loaded in the dishwasher for her. I opened up the curtains, fed her little shithead cat I couldn’t stand, and straightened up the living room. Her wedding DVD was paused on the TV. That couldn’t have been good for her to watch. Probably on repeat, no less.
“So, why’d he move out?” I asked when Hadley came back looking a little more human.
“I fucked up,” she pouted. “I tried to hide something from him. I should have known it was going to come back to bite me in the ass.”
“What did you try to hide?”
“Remember when we were having issues last year?” she asked and I nodded. “Well, one of those nights I went out with Jennifer and well… one thing led to another and I ended up fooling around with some guy named Christian. Remy and I ran into Christian about a month ago and I couldn’t hide what I did. We’ve been trying to make it better since then but Remy is having a hard time forgiving me.”
Wow. I never would have expected that from Hadley.
“Did you sleep with the guy?”
“No, but clothes did start to come off… I blew him…”
“Well shit,” I sighed.
“Yeah, that sums it up.”
“And Remy took Hunter? Does he think he’s going to move to Louisiana with him?”
“No, it’s only because it’s summer and I’m a fucking mess right now,” she sighed.
“If he’s moved back to Louisiana do you think you’ll work it out?” That was a pretty big step.
“I hope so. I hope he’ll be back before Thanksgiving. It’s only supposed to be temporary. I think we need the time apart. Obviously it’s been kinda bad for a while,” she said.
I wasn’t going to say so out loud, but if Remy moved all the way back to Red Ditch, I didn’t think the odds were too good that they would be getting back together. Of course I wanted them to. Hunter would be devastated to lose the full-time parents he had grown up with.
“I don’t want to sound mean, Had, but what were you thinkin’?” She couldn’t have been thinking about what her actions would do to her family. I could admit, I was a little more pissed off than I probably would have been if Ben hadn’t cheated on me repeatedly. He didn’t just cheat on me; he cheated on our son.
“I wasn’t thinking, Sookie. I was drunk and upset. I just wanted to feel something that wasn’t anger at the time. I fucked up and I told Remy I fucked up. It was one time.”
So she was thinking; she just wasn’t thinking about anyone but herself. I shook my head. There was no hiding my disappointment in her.
“Once is one time too many,” I said. I didn’t care if it made her mad.
“Clearly,” she snapped. “I’ve gotten enough of this from Remy, Sookie. I’ve heard all of this.”
I was sure she had.
“So what do you want to do about dinner?”
“I don’t know. We can order in. I don’t have anything to cook here right now and I’m in no position to be out in public. I’m not even that hungry,” she sighed.
“Pizza?” It was one of her go-to comfort foods.
“Sure. Might as well get backup on top of everything else that’s happening,” she huffed. Hadley was a mess.
I gathered up my hair and wound it up to secure a messy bun on top of my head. Hadley gasped from behind me.
“Sookie! I know you don’t use a curling iron, so explain that mark on the back of your neck, young lady,” she insisted. “Who have you been foolin’ around with?”
“What mark?” I’d kill Eric if he left a hickey on the back of my neck. I went to the nearest bathroom and sure enough… “Son of a bitch,” I muttered when I spotted the greenish-purple mark. He got me good.
“You gonna tell me who gave it to you?” she asked when she followed me to the bathroom.
“You won’t believe it if I do.” I could hardly believe it myself.
“Ericnorthman,” I coughed.
Her eyes went wide. “What were Eric Northman’s lips doing on your neck? You fucked him, didn’t you?”
“Not on purpose.” Not the first time anyway…
“Tell me everything. Now.”
“It’s not that big of a deal. He showed up at my house barking orders at me about paying for the baby’s nursery. I copped an attitude about it. The next thing I knew we were going at it on the couch,” I shrugged.
“Did he mount you and hold you down by your neck like a goddamn lion?” she asked, studying the hickey. “Was it good?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“So it was good. Details, woman.”
“That’s really none of your business,” I laughed.
“Come on, Sook. Is it big? Did have good rhythm? How was the stamina? Deeeeeeetails. I need ‘em.” At least she wasn’t moping on the couch anymore.
“Yes, yes, and above average,” I answered.
“Are you going to do it again? Better question, did he win the fight?”
“If he wants to pay for the nursery, fine,” I shrugged, ignoring the first question.
“So he won,” she snickered. “And your lack of response tells me you’re already planning on doing it again. You little minx.”
“He invited me over tonight, but I just saw him yesterday–”
“What? Why are you even here? Go get some, girl. I’m not going anywhere,” she said seriously.
“You’re more important to me,” I replied.
“Thanks,” she chuckled. “I’m seriously just going to veg out on the couch for the rest of the night. I drank all the wine and I don’t plan on getting anymore. If you want to go bone Eric, feel free. I won’t be upset.”
“I want to be here with you. The last thing I need right now is to get tangled up with him. We shouldn’t have done it in the first place.”
“Uh huh. I think you both needed it. If I were you I’d be there right now.” She turned to go to the living room so she could sit on the couch again.
“No you wouldn’t. You’re married.”
“That’s why I said if I were you. You’re not married.”
“I’m not going, Hadley. Maybe you should go.”
“I’ve already damaged my marriage enough.”
She wasn’t wrong there.
“So what do you want on your pizza?”
“Pepperoni is fine,” she shrugged.
“Do you have tequila? I feel like this is a tequila kind of night.”
“I have a shot, maybe two left,” she sighed.
“Well that’s not going to work,” I frowned. “I’ll make a liquor run. Do you want anything?”
“No. After last night I’m not sure I’m going to drink that much tonight.”
“Do you want anything nonalcoholic? Ice cream or something?” I offered.
“A gallon of rocky road?”
“You got it,” I smiled. “I’ll be back in a bit. I’ll even pick up the pizza.”
I scrolled through my contacts to call the pizza place. On my way out of the house I placed my order for an extra large pizza with extra cheese and pepperoni on it. My first stop was the liquor store a few blocks away from Hadley’s house.
As I was perusing the wine section, a familiar smell filled my nose.
What the fuck was he doing on this side of town?
I looked back and sure enough… He looked like hell. It was obvious he hasn’t shaved in days, and he was definitely underweight.
“Oh, hey, Sook,” he smiled at me.
“Hey.” I wasn’t smiling.
“What are you up to?”
“Buying diamonds, obviously.”
“Diamond wine?” He looked high… and smelled high.
“Yes, diamond wine.” I moved away from him. He was a little too close for my liking.
“So, still not willing to let me move in with you?” He stepped closer again.
“Absolutely not. You burned all your bridges with me a long time ago. Plus I’m pretty sure your son would drown you in the pool in the first ten minutes of you being there.” Josh had no interest in a relationship with his dad. I couldn’t blame him for that.
“Right now that might not be a bad idea,” he said. “How is Josh?” I couldn’t remember the last time he asked me about our son.
“He’s great. He has a job, he’s been doing well in school, and he’s got a girlfriend he’s crazy about,” I told Ben.
“Good. Is she as pretty as you were?”
I rolled my eyes.
“She’s a very pretty girl.”
“Nice,” he grinned. “Tell him I said hi and that he should call me.”
“He won’t call you, Ben. It’s not up to him to call you. It’s up to you to show some interest in him for a change. If you want a relationship with your son, I’d suggest you apologize and mean it,” I told him.
“What do I have to apologize for?” He looked genuinely offended.
“For being a shit father.” Duh.
“How am I a shitty father? It’s him that won’t talk to me,” he argued.
“When is the last time you even tried to spend time with him?”
“I told you to tell him to call me. How can I try to spend time with him if he won’t even answer my calls when I try?”
“And why won’t he answer your calls, Ben?” I sighed. Ben never cared about Josh’s life. He was too busy fucking around with whatever skirt he was chasing to be interested in his son. Now he had the balls to blame Josh for his shortcomings as a father.
“Because you’re raising a little asshole? I don’t fucking know.”
“Fuck you, Ben.” I turned and walked out of the store without buying anything. If I stayed in there I was going to take a swing at him.
It didn’t surprise me that Ben was blaming Josh for his failures, but it did make me angry. How the hell did I ever love him? My questionable judgment where men was concerned was why I stayed out of relationships. It was why I couldn’t go to Eric’s house. As good as the sex was, it wasn’t reason enough for me to go over there.
I was halfway to the Zephyr when Ben grabbed my arm.
“Don’t touch me!” I jerked my arm away from him.
“Don’t fucking walk away from me like that,” he growled.
“I’ll do whatever the fuck I want.”
“Not while we’re having a fucking conversation about our son.”
“Since when do you give a shit about him, Ben? You don’t even know his favorite fucking color. Don’t you dare pretend like you care.”
“I do care. I care about both of you. You’re the one that stole him away from me. If you hadn’t taken him away we’d have a relationship,” he argued.
“Since when have I ever discouraged you from being in his life? When have I ever said you couldn’t see him? Have I ever even given you shit for not paying child support?” He hadn’t paid a dime. I’d raised Josh on my own from the time I left Ben.
“I’m sure you’ve poisoned him against me. It’s what you crazy broads do.”
“You did it all on your own, you irresponsible shithead. He’s old enough to make up his own mind; I just don’t defend you anymore. You don’t deserve it, Ben. You made your bed.” Or dug his grave, same difference.
“Fuck you, Sookie. I should’ve taken your ass to court.” He was definitely very high.
“Oh by all means, take me to court. I’d love to see the judge’s face when you tell him you haven’t made fifteen plus years of child support, but I’m the one who has turned Josh against you. Good luck.”
“It’s not like you’re hurting for money,” he countered.
“That’s not the point! Never mind, Ben. You never got it and you never will. Have a nice life.” I walked away from him a second time, ignoring the fact that he was calling after me.
Arguing with him was like arguing with a brick wall. Ben intentionally refused to see his role in how his relationship with his son had deteriorated to the point that it had. I never stopped him from calling, coming by to see Josh or from going to his school functions. It was Ben’s choice to spend more time with his girlfriends or doing whatever else he did besides spending time with his son. As far as I could tell, he still didn’t know Josh was going to have a kid of his own soon. I could already hear him blaming me for that. Asshole.
“I don’t even know why I bother talking to you.”
The feeling was beyond mutual.
I ignored Ben’s ranting as I got in the car. Thankfully there was a grocery store a few blocks away because after that encounter, I definitely needed a drink.
Josh came in through the patio door and flopped on the couch next to me. He was obviously agitated about something.
“Uh oh. What happened?” I asked. I was willing to bet Madi’s hormones were on the warpath.
“I was chewing too loud,” he grumbled.
I reached over to pat his leg.
“Sorry, kiddo,” I said. Pregnancy hormones were assholes.
“Is it going to be like this forever?”
“No. It’s just the hormones. Pregnancy puts a girl all out of whack. In ten minutes she’ll probably call you and apologize for freaking out,” I told him. “I got in a fight with your dad once because he cut my peanut butter and jelly vertically instead of diagonally.”
“Seriously? No offense, Mom, but pregnant women are nuts,” he sighed. “Eric tried to warn me but I didn’t think it was going to be this bad.”
“She’s growing a human. What’s your superpower?” I had to stick up for the girl. Josh didn’t have it easy, but compared to Madi, his problems amounted to a stubbed toe.
“I can do a backflip off the diving board at her dad’s place…”
“That’s not a superpower,” I chuckled. “Trust me, it won’t stay like this. Just try to be patient and not take it personally when she gets nutty about little things.”
“I’m trying,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than I expected it to be. Things were so different before we moved in together.”
“Of course they were. You were always your best selves. She didn’t have to see you scratch your balls in front of the fridge,” I snorted.
“I guess it’s good I still love her, right? When she’s not being hormonal I still like her a lot too.”
“I’m sure the feeling is mutual.”
“Right now I’m wishing we would have waited to move in together, is that bad?”
“No, it’s not, but I wouldn’t tell her that,” I advised.
“I don’t plan on it. I’m just telling you because I need to vent and I know you won’t tell her. Colt would tell her to try to break us up so he could try to get with her. I don’t know how much longer I want to stay friends with him. I don’t like how he talks about Madi and Gracie.”
“He’s that bad, huh?” I knew he was a little turd, but I didn’t think he was a threat. I figured his bark was worse than his bite.
“He stares at the girls’ boobs constantly. When we were all watching a movie that one night he tried making a move on Gracie. She elbowed him in the ribs,” he chuckled. “Now that I’m having a daughter that’s not acceptable to me.”
“Then maybe it’s time to cut Colt loose. It’s good that your priorities are changing, Josh. Your daughter is going to use you as an example for how she should be treated by a man.”
“I was thinking about that. When I went to dinner at the Northman house I paid attention to the way Eric is with the girls. I wouldn’t mind being a dad like him.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t have a very good example of one growing up,” I apologized.
Josh shrugged and said, “I don’t blame you.”
“I know, but I’m still sorry. You deserved a better dad than the one you got.”
We sat there quietly for a few minutes, but it wasn’t long before his phone buzzed in his pocket.
“Madi?” I asked when he checked it.
“Yeah. She apologized. She wants me to come back.”
“Good. If you’re smart you’ll pluck one of the flowers from out front for her.”
“I was planning on it,” he chuckled. “Thanks, Mom.”
Josh got up from the couch and came over to me to kiss my cheek before he went out the front door. I was proud of the kid for not just throwing in the towel. It wasn’t easy to adjust when reality came along to burst the honeymoon bubble around a new relationship.
My phone rang beside me on the sofa. I looked to see that it was Eric calling, but I didn’t answer it. I didn’t hook up with him again after I went to Hadley’s the week before. He may not have been calling to see if I wanted to get together for sex, but I couldn’t think of any other reason for him to call. The sex was great, but I had a hard time reconciling it as a good idea. I loved Josh and Madi was growing on me. The last thing I wanted was to make things any more complicated.
If it was important he’d leave a message. I pulled my blanket up higher and snuggled into my pillow. Casablanca was about to start.