I’d been stressed as shit since finding out I was going to be a grandfather. Madi was growing fast, which I suspected had a lot to do with how thin she was and the fact that she was a Northman. She was going to have a big baby. At fifteen weeks she looked like she was closer to twenty, not that I knew the difference. Aude grew like crazy with the girls since it was twins.
I’d gotten to know Josh a little better and I was starting to realize what a good kid he was. I understood why they did it. It was the age. Dad made a good point when he told me I wasn’t much different. Except I was. I wasn’t in love and I didn’t care about any of the girls I was with. Josh had a good head on his shoulders and had plans to take care of my grandbaby. I respected that a great deal. It meant his mother did something right.
I’d also learned a little about his dad, and the fact that he was MIA most of the time. I knew Josh wanted nothing to do with him. That also said a lot about his mother. I wasn’t saying I was starting to like her, but I also respected her a lot more than I had in the past.
It was a Friday night, Madi and Gracie went to a movie, and none of my friends were interested in doing much. I could have stayed home with Thor, but I chose to go check out Soup’s On instead. Sookie had offered a free meal to the girls and me, not that I was going to take her up on it. I just wanted to check it out to see what all the fuss was about.
When I showed up it was pretty packed. Being alone I was hopefully going to be seated pretty quickly. Looking around I noticed the food on the tables and the fact that there were beers and wine. Good. I was glad they served alcohol. I wasn’t a huge drinker when I was alone, but I did like a good beer every now and then.
The hostess smiled at me when it was my turn to step up to the podium.
“One please,” I answered when she asked how many.
“I can seat you in the bar now, if that’s okay, otherwise it’ll be about forty minutes for a table,” she said.
Damn. That was a pretty long wait. Good for Sookie.
“I’ll take a seat at the bar,” I said.
“Follow me.” The girl grabbed a menu, and led me off to the left where the bar was.
I followed behind her, twisting and turning to get around people. The place was packed and a guy my size didn’t move through crowds easily. When we got to the bar there were a handful of empty seats. I took the one next to the end.
“Thank you,” I nodded to the hostess when she handed me my menu.
She walked away with a small smile. I turned toward the bar to take a look. I was surprised at how fast I received my glass of water. I also ordered a Blue Moon while I was at it.
I was again surprised when I was looking through the menu and a warm body sidled up next to me at the bar. A warm body that smelled really nice.
“Oh, hello,” I said to Sookie when I looked over to see it was her.
“Hello,” she replied. “I’m surprised you decided to set foot in here. It doesn’t look like you burst into flames.”
“No, I am intact,” I smiled. “I thought I’d check it out. The girls say good things about it, I figured why not? It’s nice. It also smells amazing in here.” I was starving too.
“The food is excellent, if I do say so myself.”
“Got a favorite dish?” My beer was set down in front of me with an orange slice floating on the top.
“The chicken fingers and fries are my personal favorite. I’ve been thinking about having a charity chicken finger eating contest.”
“If they’re that good I would happily enter,” I chuckled. “I’m sure you can imagine I eat a lot.”
“Are you more of a red meat eater? If you are, I’d recommend the shepherd’s pie.”
“I’m an any meat eater. I think I will try that when the bartender gets back.” He was busy at the other end of the bar. “How are you doing? With all this baby stuff, I mean.” I never thought I’d be asking Sookie Stackhouse how she was doing.
“My cousin, who is five years older than me, brought me a world’s greatest grandma sweatshirt,” she said.
“Sooo… about as good as me,” I laughed. “I’m still getting used to the idea. I’ve gotten to know Josh a little more. He’s a good kid.”
“He’s a great kid,” Sookie corrected. “He’s been on the honor roll for as long as he’s been in school, and he had a plan for after high school that I hope he can still somehow follow.”
“Madi and Gracie have both been on honor roll too,” I informed her. “I’m glad he has a plan. I hope we’re able to give them enough help that they can still meet their goals, without outright taking care of the baby. I’m getting too old for that.” I was still in great physical shape, but my age was starting to wear on me.
“If they want a baby, it’s their job to take care of it. Josh got carted around with me until he started school,” Sookie told me. “God knows his father was useless. At least Josh learned from Ben’s mistakes.”
“Ben sounds like a real fuckin’ prince from what I’ve heard about him. Sorry he was a shit dad,” I said sincerely. “Aude stayed at home with the girls until she passed. Her mom helped me with them for a few months until I got my shit together. It was… a rough time for me.” Not that she cared.
“I’m sure it was.” She actually sounded sympathetic. A guy dressed in jeans and a Soup’s On shirt came over and whispered something to Sookie. “No problem. I’ll be right there, Sam. Sorry, Eric, they need help expediting in the kitchen.”
Did she apologize to me?
“No problem…” I didn’t know how to respond to that.
She actually smiled at me before she walked away.
Huh, miracles did happen every day.
As soon as Sookie disappeared the bartender walked up to take my order. I ordered the shepherd’s pie as recommended. When the guy behind the bar said it was a good choice I smiled. If the staff liked it, it was probably good.
As I waited for my order I noticed people were starting to clear out. I showed up toward the end of the dinner rush it seemed. I was just finishing up my beer, getting ready to order a new one when a runner showed up to drop food off in front of me. Food that wasn’t a shepherd’s pie.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Appetizer sampler courtesy of, her words, the Boss Bitch,” she said.
“That sums her up,” I chuckled. “Tell her the douchebag said thanks.” I knew what she called me behind my back. I’d heard her say it a time or two.
“You got it,” she winked, and walked away.
The sampler consisted of chicken fingers, some fried pickles, a handful of onion rings, and some mozzarella sticks that looked like they were homemade. I started with the cheese sticks, because they were only good hot. Once the started to get cold they lost their appeal.
Of course they were some of the best cheese sticks I’d ever eaten in my entire life. That said a lot. Everything else was pretty good too. When I got to the chicken fingers I let out a deep, satisfied groan. I could see why they were her favorite.
I was almost halfway done with my sampler when my main course was delivered. It looked good and cheesy and smelled like heaven. I got a third beer delivered with dinner before I tucked in to the pie. As promised it was amazing, just like the damn chicken fingers. I was definitely going to be entering any eating contest that involved those babies.
By the time I was done with dinner the restaurant started to quiet down. I had to get a box for my leftovers, but I didn’t want to leave before saying thank you for the sampler to Boss Bitch. She came out not too long after I boxed up my food and reclaimed her seat next to me.
“That was amazing,” I told her as I picked up my beer.
“Happy to hear it. Dessert? The brownie sundae is pretty boss,” she told me.
“Only if you’ll share it with me. I’m getting pretty damn full,” I smiled. It may have been a flirty smile…
“I’ll have a bite. How’d you like the chicken fingers?”
“Are they dusted with crack?” I asked seriously.
“I wonder that myself.”
“They’re delicious,” I said. “You still on the clock or can I buy you a drink?”
“I’m never on the clock here,” she chuckled. “I just own the place. I don’t punch a clock.”
“Then what are you drinking?” I inquired. It was the first time we were civil without other people around. It was cause to celebrate.
“I’ll take a Sam Adams Summer Ale,” she said.
When the bartender came back I ordered us a round of beers. At my size it took a lot more than a six pack to get me drunk. Especially with all the food I had in me.
“So, Madi came to me about moving in to your guest house,” I said. Sookie had mentioned it to me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about my sixteen-year-old living on her own, even though it wouldn’t technically be alone.
“Oh yeah? Still think I’d be a terrible choice for her to have around?”
“You’re growing on me,” I winked. “It’s not your parenting I’m worried about, Sookie. It’s the fact that my baby would be leaving my house to live with someone I’ve known, but barely know. She’d be leaving her sister, which will be hard for both of them. I guess… I’m not sure if I’m ready to let her go. I expected at least two more years with her.”
“If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. The kids will figure it out.”
“This isn’t about me anymore, though,” I pointed out. “This is about that little baby she’s growing. It’s about how the kids feel. If I was separated from the girls when they were newborn I would have been miserable. I would hate for Josh to feel that, and to have Madi have to do it all alone without him.”
“You know it’s more than likely they won’t be together in two years anyway,” she said.
“I know.” I was glad her and I were on the same page there. “I will always allow her to come home, but if they are together I will allow her to move into your guest house.” That actually hurt me to say. Willingly letting my girl go was going to be hard on me.
Our drinks came and Sookie held up her beer.
“To our kids being smart enough not to get married,” she said.
“Here, here,” I sighed as I clinked my glass with hers.
She took a drink and then put the glass down again.
“You caught me on a good day. We sold that Corvette today.”
“Got any pictures of the finished product?”
“I do, actually.” Sookie reached into her back pocket to pull out her phone.
She handed it to me to show me the car. “That’s a sexy beast,” I said. It was black with flames shooting along the sides. “Do you ever get in there and do the dirty work?” I asked as I handed her the phone back.
“And take away Tray’s fun? First of all, I’m not that skilled. I could replace a water pump or fix a fan belt or even do a brake job, but I couldn’t take a car apart like he can. My job is to source out materials, negotiate the buys and then find interested buyers willing to pay top dollar,” she said.
“Every now and then I get in and get dirty still,” I told her. “When I was a kid my dad taught me everything there is to know about a car. When I wanted to go into the business myself he let me know that was fine, but I had to figure out how to do it on my own. I started in my home garage when I was eighteen and finally expanded to an actual location right before I turned twenty. Working on the cars is actually soothing to me when I’ve had a shit day. They don’t talk back,” I chuckled. “I’m actually working on a little gift for the kids…”
“A minivan?” She laughed and took another drink. “Josh is selling his truck, by the way. He wants to get a normal car big enough for a family.”
“Madi told me,” I nodded. “They’re going to need two cars if they’re going to work and go to school. I’m building them a ‘68 Charger. I’m going to make sure the rear seatbelts are up to code for a car seat.”
“That’s good. I suspect Madi will end up driving whatever Josh buys.”
“I would feel better about that. Gracie is fine with a powerful car, Madi not so much. I have the guys at the shop working on a Challenger I was going to give to the girls for their seventeenth birthday, but things have obviously changed.” Grace was still getting the car. I was just going to present two cars instead of one.
“Josh has been looking at the new Ford Escapes,” Sookie told me.
“If he wants someone to go with him to check them out, I’d be happy to go,” I offered.
Sookie arched an eyebrow. “You realize I know a thing or two about cars, right?”
“I do. I also think it would be a good time for Josh and me to get to know each other a little better,” I said before taking a drink of my beer.
“Are you going to cosign on his loan?”
I smiled and said, “Maybe we can make it a family affair. We can all go.”
“Annnnnd you’re drunk,” she laughed.
“A slight buzz, maybe. It takes a lot more to get me drunk,” I laughed with her. She had a pretty laugh. Buzzed me decided it would be a good idea to say, “You’re really pretty when you smile.”
“Yep, definitely drunk.”
“Nah, you’re always pretty, Sookie. The smile looks good on you, though.”
“I think the crack on those chicken fingers has you all fucked up,” she said, her laugh turning a little uncomfortable.
“I’m not flirting with you, if that’s what you think. I’m just stating a fact. Say thanks and we can move on,” I chuckled.
“Good job,” I winked. Something told me she didn’t get compliments very often, at least not ones that didn’t include some sort of innuendo.
“So anyway…” She was definitely uncomfortable with the compliment.
I took another drink of my beer before I said, “I do think it would be a good idea to do that car shopping together. We can show the kids we’re growing up some.”
“I don’t think a car dealership is the right place for that.”
That did leave arguments at chance. They would be over stupid, silly things that I was likely to be right about, but Sookie would argue it just to be spiteful.
“Good point,” I said.
“Besides, I can’t go giving away my negotiating tactics to the competition,” she smirked.
“My negotiating tactics are just fine, thank you very much,” I said. I lifted my beer to take another drink. If I kept it up I was going to need a ride home…
“I’ll have to take your word for it.” Sookie got up from her seat and took her beer over to the digital jukebox.
I grabbed my beer so I could follow her. The restaurant had pretty much cleared out. I noticed the staff was cleaning up like they were closed. Sookie fed some cash into the machine, and started looking through her options.
“What’s your favorite band?” I asked as I stepped up next to her.
“Do you mind if I ask how old you are?” I asked as I reached up to point at a Led Zeppelin song.
“Thirty-seven,” she replied.
“You look a hell of a lot younger,” I commented.
“Thanks,” she said absently as she looked at the screen. She punched in the number for a song by The Hollies.
“What’s your favorite band?”
“Toss up between early Metallica and Springsteen, depending on my mood,” I answered. “I do enjoy classic rock.”
“There’s a big gap between Springsteen and Metallica.”
“I’m well aware,” I shrugged. “I used to sing I’m On Fire to the girls when they were babies. It usually made them quit crying. Probably just to shut me up.”
I didn’t know what else to say to her so I excused myself and went back to the bar with my beer. Sookie continued to pick songs on the jukebox for another couple minutes before she came back to me, dancing a little on the way. I was probably drunk, but I liked the way her body moved.
She sat down at the bar and finished off her beer. I finished mine too before I paid my bill. I waited a few songs, talking to Sookie some more, before I left. I wasn’t expecting somewhat of an olive branch from Sookie, but by the time I left it felt like we made pretty decent progress.