I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, cell phone in hand, making an appointment to have a buyer come to check out the Galaxie that was going to be done by the end of the day. The faster we could get it off the lot, the better. Besides, a friend of my father’s was always in the market for a nice Ford restoration. Eric was sitting across from me a few seats down but I wasn’t paying attention to him. My earplugs were in and I had Merle Haggard playing at a reasonable level.
My buyer agreed to come take a look at the car the next day. I was giving him first dibs. If he wasn’t interested, the car was going on our website. Tray was already planning out what to do with the Coupe, but I had a feeling that was going to be more of a pet project for him. I was waiting on his proposed budget for the repairs before we got started. If we didn’t have a plan going in, he would go nuts and spend every penny I had on every cool gadget he could cram into each build. I wanted the cars to be cool, but I also wanted them to be reasonably priced when it came time to sell.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I didn’t pay it any mind until that movement sat down in the chair next to mine. I didn’t need to look up to know it was Eric that had parked his big butt next to mine.
I turned off my phone, however, because I didn’t need him seeing my business.
“I think we need to talk about this,” he said once I took my earbud out.
“Talk about what?” My mind was still on the Galaxie.
“The kids,” he answered, giving me a strange look.
“What about them?” The less I had to talk to him the better.
“About how we’re going to handle this and what conditions they’ll get,” he said. “I don’t mind helping them out, but I want to make sure Madi gets a high school diploma and gets a job, at least.”
“I’d like to see both of them finish high school, go to college, and be able to lead successful lives. If that means assisting with childcare costs, I’ll do it. I have a guest house they can live in,” I said.
“I can assist with childcare as well,” he nodded. “I don’t know how I feel about my daughter moving into a house of yours,” he sighed. It made the most sense. “I want them to succeed, Sookie. I know there are going to be times when it’s going to be hard on them, and I want you to know they have my support as well.”
“You don’t know how you feel about her moving into a house of mine?” What a dick. “Yeah, you’re probably right to be worried. I’d make her clean my house so she’d have a bed to sleep in. I might even feed her once in a while.”
“Not like that. You’re… you and I have never been able to get along. How would you feel if your son moved into my house? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t feel good about that.”
“If it was the best option, I’d deal with it.” This whole thing wasn’t about me.
“I’ll talk to Madison about it,” he said. “I just think you and I should be on the same page here.”
“I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, Northman.” That was wishful thinking if ever I heard it.
“I know that’s not happening when it comes to business, but my children are a different story. I want what’s best for her and if you can’t come to an agreement, I don’t know what to say.”
“I don’t want to agree on anything. I want to hear what their plans are before I go deciding their lives for them,” I replied.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to hear them out,” he said. “Trying to talk to you was a stupid fucking idea. You’re just going to twist everything I say anyway.” He stood up to move back to the chair he’d been sitting in before.
I didn’t know what his parenting style was and I didn’t really care. Like it or not, our kids were getting an early promotion to adulthood. That meant they were going to have to make some pretty adult decisions pretty fast. If they wanted our help, great. I’d do whatever I could to help. If they wanted to do it alone, that was up to them.
The two of them came out from the exam area a few minutes later. Madi stopped by the reception desk while Josh came over to show me the ultrasound picture. It was definitely a baby, and judging by the size of it, she was close to the end of the first trimester already.
“Eleven weeks,” Josh told me. He still looked a little pale, thinking about the idea of being a father.
“So when’s she due?”
“The end of October,” he said. “The thirtieth.”
“Six months… That’s… yeah.” It wasn’t a lot of time.
“I know,” he sighed.
“Are you going to school this afternoon?”
“Do I have to? I was hoping Madi and I could spend some time together… letting it all sink in.”
“I can’t have you missing too much school over this, Josh. I know it’s a lot to deal with, but you have other responsibilities too. That’s the hard part. The rest of your life doesn’t go away,” I said.
“I know, Mom, I’m just asking for one day.”
“You’re also grounded from the last time you blew off school,” I reminded him.
“Then you have your answer, Joshua.” Grounded was grounded.
He wasn’t happy with my response. He turned to walk over to Madi and Eric. Too bad. There were consequences for his actions. Knocking up his girlfriend wasn’t a get out of jail free card.
I hung back while Josh talked to Eric and Madi. She looked visibly upset when Josh told her I’d put the kibosh on their plans to go sulk together.
Josh gave Madi a hug and a kiss a few seconds later before he came back to me. He watched as his girlfriend walked away with her father’s arm wrapped around her shoulders. I knew Josh was pissed at me, but too bad. Besides, Eric had his conditions to lay out for his daughter.
Josh and I walked out to the truck. I climbed up behind the wheel of the F-350, and my son climbed up beside me. The fact that he wasn’t talking was a clear sign of his emotional status.
“Do you and Madi want to live together?” I asked him as I pulled out of the parking lot.
“I don’t know, we haven’t had a chance to talk about it. I’m grounded, remember?” he said without looking at me.
“Well I told Eric that I’d be okay with you two moving into the guest house.”
Josh snorted and said, “He’s never going to let her move out while she’s only sixteen, pregnant or not.”
“He might not, but I put it out there. Would you like that to happen?”
“Of course I would but you can’t expect to ground me if I do something you don’t like if for some reason it does happen.”
“I know that. Right now, however, you’re still under my roof.”
“And you can’t be a bitch to Madi’s dad when he comes to visit if he does agree to it.”
“I can be a bitch to anyone I want,” I replied.
“Not when it’s my girlfriend’s dad, not if you expect me to be ha– Wait, you’re hot for him, aren’t you? Ewww,” he cringed.
“What the hell are you talking about? Did you huff paint fumes before we left the house?” No way was I “hot” for Eric Northman.
“No, but you two bicker like kids that have crushes on each other for no good reason,” he told me. “It all makes sense now.”
“We bicker because he’s an arrogant douche who insults my business and employees,” I clarified.
“You do the same thing, Mom. And he’s not that bad. He’s actually really nice.”
“You’re right, Josh. We’re secretly madly in love and you’re having a baby with your future stepsister,” I deadpanned. Honestly…
“That’s gross, but with the way you two act it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
Just then my phone rang. The Bluetooth picked it up, interrupting the radio.
“Whoa, it’s your dad,” I said.
“I don’t have anything to say to him.”
I answered the call anyway. Who knew what Ben wanted. Last time it was money.
“Well, well, it looks like you didn’t die in a gutter after all,” I said when I picked up. “How’s the girlfriend?”
“I see you opened a restaurant,” he said instead of answering my question.
“Doing well?” No mention of our son.
“So far so good. Why are you calling, Ben?” It sure wasn’t to tell me he was sending a check for all the back child support he owed me. Lord knows if he did I’d put it in a trust for the baby.
“Just checking in. It’s been a while.”
“Well I’m doing fine. How about you?”
“Been better. It’s nothing I can’t bounce back from.”
“What happened this time?” I glanced at Josh, who looked even more pissed off than before.
“Girlfriend kicked me out,” he said. “Was going to see if you’d let me stay in your guest house until I’m back on my feet.”
“You’re serious?” Maybe he huffed paint fumes.
“It’s worth a shot. Maybe I caught you on a good day.”
“Well unfortunately for you, the guest house is occupied,” I said, looking over at Josh.
“What? By who?” Not his business.
Josh shook his head.
“It doesn’t matter because it’s not available,” I replied. “I’m sure one of your other girlfriends will take pity on you.”
“She’s trying to move out of her husband’s place. I highly doubt I’ll get an invite to stay,” he snorted.
“That sounds like it’s your problem to fix, Ben. I’m sorry, but no, you can’t stay at my house,” I told him. “You could, however, try calling your son once in a while. Maybe apologize for being such a shitty father.”
“He doesn’t want to hear from me. He made that pretty clear the last time I called.”
I sighed and shook my head. Josh obviously wasn’t going to say anything to contradict him.
“Then I guess there’s nothing else to discuss.”
“Fine, if you’re going to be a bitch about it.” The line went dead.
“At least Mr. Northman isn’t anything like him,” Josh said. “I’m not going to be anything like him either.”
“I know you’re not.” I reached over to pat his arm. “I’m sorry you got stuck with such a jerk for a dad.”
Josh shrugged. “It is what it is.”
“Yeah, but it’s still not fair to you. Sometimes I think I should have been tougher than I was with him.”
“You don’t have a problem being tough on anyone else,” he said. “It doesn’t matter anymore now.”
“Do you wish I would have been tougher on him?” I did what I thought was right at the time.
“I don’t think it would have made a difference. It wasn’t your job to make him want me. That was his choice.”
That was why I never pushed him or made excuses for Ben. I warned him the day would come when Josh would choose for himself.
“You can go to Madison’s if you want.” Ben’s phone call had me feeling guilty.
“Really?” His eyes lit up. “I can talk to her about the guest house.”
He pulled his phone out and started tapping away. A few seconds later he said, “She said she’s almost home.”
“Are you on the schedule for work tonight?”
“Yeah, I’m supposed to go in at five.”
“Do you want to pick up more hours in the summer?”
“Yeah. If I can I want to go full-time,” he answered. “I’ll work all the overtime I can get too.”
“If I Sam can’t get you in full-time there, I can use you as a porter at the shop. You’d be running for parts or picking up cars for me,” I said.
“Okay. Madison’s going to talk to her dad about picking up some shifts at S & E. Since she’s going to be showing by then we’re pretty sure no one else will hire her.”
“That’s entirely possible.” She had a tough road ahead of her.
“We want to make as much money as we can while we can.”
“That’s a smart idea,” I agreed. “You could try your hand at doing a flip with me.”
“Nah, I think the cars are pretty to look at but I’m not interested in working on them.”
“You wouldn’t have to. I know a few people who are always on the lookout for certain makes of cars. They’ll do all the work, but if you can source out the car and buy it first, you can sell it for a few hundred dollars more without doing a lick of work,” I told him.
“I’ll think about it.”
“It’s just a way to make some quick cash if you need to,” I said. I knew he wasn’t interested in rebuilding cars or getting into sales like I was, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t give him a hand or some options.
“I know. I’ll think about it,” he repeated.
I dropped it from there. If he didn’t want to do it, he didn’t have to. How Josh chose to build his future was completely up to him. I just hoped he was smarter than I was.
I narrowed my eyes at Hadley when she proudly held out the “world’s best grandma” sweatshirt she had brought with her. I was five years younger than she was. Granted, my son was also almost twelve years older than hers. Hadley had a difficult time maintaining a pregnancy. She got pregnant five times, but miscarried each time. Just when they were about to give up, Hadley discovered she was pregnant again. Right away she went on bed rest and pretty much stayed on it for the duration of the pregnancy.
“You’re an asshole,” I said as she cackled. “Don’t laugh too hard. You could go through the same thing in ten years.”
“At least I’ll look the part,” she smirked.
“I hope by then you have stubborn gray hair and a dried up pussy.” I had no problem putting a hex on her.
“That will never happen. I have the Hale genes,” she snorted.
“Don’t make me go to Louisiana and have a voodoo priestess curse you.”
“You wouldn’t do that. You know I’d go and find an even worse curse to put on you.” She would too. “I haven’t seen the mom, is the baby going to be cute if it looks like her?”
“She’s a pretty girl. I assume she looks like her mother, since she doesn’t really look like Eric.” I grabbed a bottle of good wine out of the cooler under the island in the kitchen. “Josh loves her. I offered to let them live in the guest house.”
“You hoping for a second grandbaby right away?” she asked with an arched eyebrow.
“No, but I want Josh to have to get up in the middle of the night too. I want this baby to have access to both parents, but I don’t want them dumping the baby on me or the grandpa just so Josh and Madi can work to pay the rent,” I explained.
“They’re still going to dump the baby on you. Unless you get them a nanny for after school when they should be working. Provided you and Gramps make them work.”
“Josh is talking about picking up more hours and I guess Madi might be picking up a few shifts working for her dad. I don’t think I’m going to have to make Josh work.” I didn’t know what Madi’s work ethic was, but I knew my son’s.
“I’m sure they’ll be okay. If she’s anything like her father and grandfather, she has a pretty good work ethic,” Hadley said.
“I guess we’ll see.” I got out the corkscrew so I could get the wine open. “Ben called yesterday. He wanted to crash at the guest house. His live-in girlfriend kicked him out.”
“Too bad, so sad,” she snorted. “I don’t know why you don’t just change your number and forget about him. He’s a waste of skin.”
“He’d get my number somehow. He also knows where I live. At least he was smart enough not to suggest we share a room.” I got the wine open and got down two glasses.
“That was probably next on his list of requests.”
“I suggested he call his son, who was right next to me in the truck, and overheard the entire conversation. Of course he says Josh wants nothing to do with him, so oh poor Ben.”
“Why would Josh want anything to do with that deadbeat? I’d say despite his recent fuck up with the baby he’s a smart kid.”
“He says they were being careful. Birth control isn’t foolproof, so it’s possible it was just the luck of the draw not in his favor.” I took a drink of my wine.
“Do you know if it was condoms or if she was on the pill?” Hadley grabbed the bottle so she could pour her own glass.
“I didn’t ask. At this point it doesn’t really matter. The seed’s been planted. She’s eleven weeks along already, so they didn’t waste much time before they started sleeping together. Am I a shitty mom for not knowing he was dating her? I know I’ve been busy lately, but I didn’t think I was so busy that I’d miss something like that.” I took the bottle of wine, and led Hadley outside to the covered patio around the side of the house where the outdoor fireplace was.
“They knew you’d balk at their relationship. Kids are sneaky, Sook. You’re not a shitty mom,” she assured me. “How did your bestie, Grampy Northman, take the news?”
“Better than I expected, but that was probably because I was sitting right there so he couldn’t pull a gun on my son.” I went over to the fireplace to get a fire going.
“As bad as you make him out to be, I don’t think he’d ever pull a gun on a child,” she said.
“I don’t know, he mentioned his shotgun.”
“Idle threats.” She took another sip of her wine.
“So? It’s inappropriate. I would never suggest introducing his daughter to the business end of a gun. That’s not even close to funny.”
“If I remember correctly Uncle Corbett did pull a gun on Ben,” she pointed out.
“And that was fucked up too. What’s your point?”
“It’s a southern dad thing,” she shrugged. “He didn’t do it. Has he been nice to your son?”
“As far as I know he has. He knows if he’s not he’s going to have to deal with me.” Josh was a teddy bear by comparison. I wasn’t going to let Eric push me around and he knew it.
“I personally think you two need to just fuck and get it over with. You two have been at this stupid… whatever it is for too many years.”
“I wouldn’t fuck him with a rented vagina,” I snickered.
“I would,” she said. “You have to admit, he’s damn good looking.”
“That’s not a good enough reason to fuck him. If it was just about looks I’d be fucking Alcide.” Alcide was my brother’s partner at the sheriff’s office. At least he had a nice personality to go with his good looks.
“Alcide looks like a werewolf,” she snorted. “He’s too hairy.”
“You obviously never saw him shirtless. Channing Tatum can suck it.” I took a seat on the couch.
“Does he shave that undergrowth he calls chest hair?”
“I have no idea how he gets rid of it.” Wasn’t really my business. I never thought to ask.
“Either way, he just doesn’t do it for me,” she told me.
“We’re not talking about you, though,” I laughed. “You have a man.”
“I do, and a good one. I also have eyes.”
“Anyway, I don’t have time for a boyfriend or even a fuck buddy. I’m spinster material.” I was okay with it.
“You’re a stronger man than I am. Are you going to start hoarding puppies soon? You’re not the cat type.”
“Nah, I don’t think Opie would like that very much. He likes being top dog.”
“He’s only got a few good years left in him,” she reminded me. “Maybe you can start collecting grandbabies.”
“You shut your whore mouth,” I laughed. One baby was enough for a few years. Ten would be ideal.
“I’m just sayin’. You’re already talking about making them shack up.”
“Could you have imagined lugging Hunter back and forth from your place to Remy’s?” I pointed out. “Or worse, if you ran out of formula in the middle of the night and you had to call him to make a delivery?”
“That’s what’s going to happen when they break up in a year. I hate to be pessimistic, but young relationships rarely last.”
“I know. Believe me, I know. I also know there’s no telling them that right now. They’re in the bubble.”
“Not to mention, you have a protective father to get to allow to let his teenage daughter move out of his house.”
“If he says no, he says no, but the offer is out there.” I couldn’t make Eric agree to it.
“I think it would be better, or easier if you two could get along.”
“It probably would be. If he could not insult me every time I see him, that would help. He likes to make snarky little comments and then act like he’s the victim when I lob it back at him.”
She gave me a look I couldn’t quite make out. “Have you tried talking to him like an adult?”
“I would if he acted like one.”
Hadley shook her head like she knew something I didn’t.
“What?” I took another drink of my wine.
“Nothing.” It was something.
“Bullshit. Out with it.”
“I don’t think it’s all him, Sookie. You’re at fault too in all this,” she said before taking another sip of her wine.
“Maybe I am. The thing is, I don’t have to be his friend. I just have to be civil around him. That’s it.”
Hadley nodded as she grabbed the bottle to pour herself a little more wine. I didn’t really care what anyone else thought. I knew the situation, and I knew it wasn’t likely to change anytime soon. Making nice with Eric was the least of my worries.