I woke up in my own bed, dressed in a dark teal nightgown that I had no recollection of putting on. The goddamn sun was too bright for someone who drank as much tequila as I did the night before. My head started pounding and my mouth felt as dry as the Sahara… while it was roasting decaying elephant ass.
With a groan I rolled out of bed and shuffled over to the window to close the curtains. I continued on to the bathroom in the dark and inadvertently kicked the bedpost.
“Motherfucker!” I cussed and my body spazzed out. One hand tried to grab my foot while the other went for my head. My balance had kept on going to the bathroom and the next thing I knew, I was face planting on the hardwood.
Karma hated me.
I was still lying on the floor when Amelia came charging in. She was wide awake and not hungover at all. Bitch.
“I hate you,” I told her.
“Why? What did I do? Why are you on the floor?”
“Tequila.” That explained everything.
“Oooooh,” she said. “It’ll pass. I have fried food in the kitchen when you’re alive again.”
“I think I broke my toe,” I pouted.
“I think Tray has something we can wrap your foot with,” she replied with zero sympathy. “I also have some good pain killers.”
That was no surprise.
I sat up and rubbed my face where I fell. I was probably going to have a bruise on my jaw. Dammit.
I got up slowly and trudged to the bathroom. When I came back out with an emptier bladder and mintier breath, Amelia had a pill in one hand and a bottle of water in the other.
“Thanks.” I took both from her and swallowed the pill.
“No problem. So is tequila off the list of alcohol you enjoy?” she asked. “Do you remember walking around in your bra and panties last night?”
“I what?!” Ouch.
Inside voice, dummy.
“Yep. You and I got into a water fight in the backyard. When Eric told us to dry off for dinner you took your dress off right there next to the grill and sauntered into the house,” she giggled.
“And none of you stopped me?” Assholes.
“Well, seeing as the rest of us were drunk too we didn’t think it was a bad idea,” she shrugged. “Don’t worry, nothing showed that you wouldn’t see if your were in a bikini.”
“You’re a terrible wingman,” I informed her. She always had been. Amelia would see something that caught her eye and away she wandered to get it.
“Hey, I didn’t let you go home with a stranger, unless you wanted too. I offered you to Eric for the night, but he politely said no.”
“But you offered me to him? Yeah, worst wingman ever.”
“He’s harmless. I wouldn’t have offered you to anyone else. He likes you, by the way.”
“Of course he does. I pranced around in my underwear,” I said.
“I think he liked you before that.”
My memory of the night before wasn’t a total loss. I remembered having a nice conversation in the kitchen. Something about Bond girls and mango feet?
“We talked in the kitchen but I’m not sure what we talked about,” I confirmed.
“I don’t know either. Tray and I were out back. Whatever it was had you smiling,” she told me.
“Maybe I was just happy to stop you pervs from procreating on the patio,” I countered.
“Hey, we had our clothes on,” she argued.
“Oh I know how you are.” She got bounced from a club when we were in college for having sex with some dude on the balcony.
“He’s my husband, I’m allowed,” she said. “And you guys were inside flirting.”
“Eric might have been flirting but I wasn’t. Also, being married doesn’t mean you get to pork in public,” I laughed.
“My backyard isn’t public,” she reminded me. “We were just making out.”
She was arguing semantics. Her “backyard” faced a public beach. Rollerbladers, dog walkers and joggers were always walking by the place.
“Yeah yeah. Anyway… Got plans for the day?” My toe was still sore and I could feel my face swelling.
“Nothing major, just a pedicure and maybe swinging by to see Tray for lunch.”
I nodded and said, “I’m going to get cleaned up and then I’ll come down to eat.”
“Okay.” Amelia turned to leave my room.
I headed on to the bathroom to shower up. My memory of the night before was fuzzy at best and I wasn’t sure I liked that. Even when we were in college I wasn’t really the type to go out partying too often. It just wasn’t all that much fun to me to be screaming my head off in a club or at some silly frat party when I could be having a nice one on one conversation with somebody.
After my long shower I went back to my room to get dressed. I found a pair of shorts and a layered tank top to wear. My tan was darkening up a little already after only being in California for a few days. It was a sunny day outside but according to Amelia, most days were pretty much the same. There was the occasional rainy day but they were few and far between. I left my hair down and slipped on a pair of pale blue flip flops before I grabbed my purse and headed downstairs.
I found Amelia in the kitchen, sitting at the breakfast bar and reading something while she worked on what was probably her fourth cup of coffee. She was even more addicted than I was.
I looked at what Amelia had going on the stove but the smell of the grease just made my stomach turn. She wasn’t a bad cook or anything like that. Then again, pretty much anyone was better than I was. My mother knew nothing and she was fantastic about passing that on to me. All my life I had someone to clean up after me or cook my meals. Chores weren’t a thing I had to concern myself with. When I was a kid I was expected to get good grades so I could get into a good college.
Boston University wasn’t my parents’ first choice but I wanted to go somewhere that was away from them but close to Bill. Daddy had wanted me to go to the University of Mississippi while Mom wanted me to go to Louisiana State. Either of them would have been okay distance wise but I wanted the chance to see winter. I got to have snowball fights and freeze my ass off for almost six months out of the year. I liked knowing they couldn’t just pop in at a moment’s notice like they could if I stayed closer to home.
My college education was really just a formality.
I was supposed to get married to a nice boy with as much money as my own family had and produce heirs to keep our respective family dynasties going. In the eyes of several people in my family I was nothing but a breeding mare. There was that quote from Little Women that always popped into my head when my family discussed my education like I wasn’t in the room: “It’s as useful to educate a woman as it is to educate a female cat.”
That’s how I felt, like I was nothing more than a useless female cat.
If that wasn’t motivation enough to never go back…
That said, I didn’t have much of a resumé and I was going to need one of those if I expected to get a job somewhere. The problem was, I didn’t really have any skills. An internship hadn’t been required for my degree so I had no office experience. I had always been pretty good with dates but I wasn’t a very good typist and I had no idea how to make spreadsheets or balance a checkbook.
I was pathetic.
I wasn’t unteachable, however. It was going to take hard work but I could learn. I was unskilled but not stupid.
“Hey Ames, do you know how to make a resumé?” I asked her.
“Yeah, I do alright with them,” she told me.
“Think you could help me with one? I don’t have one but I’ll probably need it if I’m going to get a job out here.” The look on her face was priceless. She knew I’d never held a job.
“Honey, no offense, but what experience would you put on a resumé?”
“I don’t know. My education? Oh! I was the social director for my sorority.”
“That’s something,” she smiled. “What kind of job do you want to look for?”
“Eric laughed at me when I said princess, so I guess that’s an unlikely job, huh?”
“You’re in the wrong country for that,” she chuckled. “Not too many princess positions unless you want to move to Anaheim and be a Disney princess.”
“Nah. I saw on Buzzfeed that working for Disney is like being in a cult,” I said.
“Sorry, no princess positions. Anything else? We should gear your résumé toward the type of job you want. Or you can take Eric up on his job offer.”
“I don’t think waiting tables is my lot in life. I don’t know what I want to do. If my parents wouldn’t have insisted on me majoring in history I would have been a communications major,” I told her.
“I guess we’ll figure something out,” she said. “Have you thought about going back to school until you figure it out?”
“Not really. Then I’d have two degrees and no job experience,” I sighed and leaned on the counter. “Maybe I should have just gotten mar–”
“Don’t you dare go there, Sookie Stackhouse. You have time to figure out what you want to do. Marrying Bill would’ve been your biggest mistake.”
“I know. It’s just overwhelming. I’m so used to someone else deciding everything for me, you know? It’s not easy figuring it all out.”
Trying to do it with a hangover didn’t help.
“You don’t have to figure it out today,” she said. “Take it one day at a time. Today you decided you want to make a résumé. Tomorrow you can hop on the computer to see what kind of stuff is out there.”
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a princess job to open up.” I was serious. I knew I could do that.
“Maybe you should start looking for a sugar daddy, not a job,” she joked.
“Probably.” I honestly had no idea what else I’d be good for.
“You’ll figure it out, Sookie. You’re a smart girl.”
“There’s always porn, right?” I snickered.
“Oh God no,” she laughed. “Please don’t ever go that route. I’d rather wait tables than have sex with someone I’m not attracted to and pretend it gets me hot.”
“Stripping then,” I shrugged. “My name already sounds like a stripper’s name.”
“Do you really want to take your clothes off for strangers?”
“No, but if I had to I’d have to figure something out. I can’t expect you and Tray to support me and I don’t know how much longer my credit cards will be working,” I sighed.
“I can’t imagine you stripping. Like I said, it’s not something you have to figure out today, especially not with a broken toe, a swollen jaw, and a hangover.”
“I’d make a great stripper with all those ailments. At least my boobs are real,” I laughed.
“Very true and you already tried flashing them,” she said.
“I what?” Seriously, no more tequila.
“You passed out on the couch and when we woke you up to take you to your room you tried taking off your bra with my husband in the room,” she explained. “Apparently drunk Sookie doesn’t like clothes.”
“Wonderful,” I sighed and covered my face. My stomach rumbled so I knew I needed to go eat somewhere. “Y’all don’t have Cracker Barrel out here, do you?”
“No, but Eric makes some of the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever tasted at his place,” she smiled. “And he doesn’t charge me to eat there.”
“How’s the chicken fried steak?” If he didn’t make it I was going to pass.
“Cuts like butter,” Amelia answered.
“Feel like going with me or should I go alone?”
“I’ll come with you. He does his coffee in a French press and I love it.”
“I have a taste for donuts, too.” I stood up a little straighter and fussed with my hair.
“They’re not on the menu, but I bet he’d make some for you,” she smiled.
“Uh, that’s okay. I’m sure there’s a bakery around here.”
I could tell Amelia wanted to say something, but she kept whatever it was to herself. My phone started ringing in my bag. I dug through it to find my phone and I frowned when I saw my mother’s face on the screen. More than my father, my mom had been pushy about me settling down and getting married. Daddy still went for the daddy’s girl routine, no matter how much Mom tried to convince him it was malarkey.
“Uh, Ames, I have to take this. I can meet you at the restaurant if you want,” I offered.
“Yeah, okay. I’ll write down the address for you. Just make sure you close the garage door, okay?”
“Of course,” I nodded. I tapped the screen to answer the phone. “Hello?”
“Sookie? It’s your mother,” Mom said.
“Hi. How are you?” I picked up my sunglasses and went to the patio doors.
“Busy. My daughter ran out on her wedding and left me one heck of a mess to clean up,” she said.
“I’m sorry, Mom.” Except I wasn’t… At least not about the running out on the wedding part.
“Which part are you sorry for? Leaving a perfectly good man at the altar? Making over six hundred people come out for your wedding and then disappearing? The caterer’s time that you wasted? What about the florist and the wedding planner? The fact that you left your father and I to clean up your mess? Should I go on?”
“Actually, you can stop any time. At what point was it my decision to turn my wedding into a circus? Oh right! That was you and Lorena! God forbid we didn’t invite the doorman of the senator’s cousin you pumped gas next to fifteen years ago!” I yelled.
“Don’t raise your voice at me, Susannah,” Mom growled.
“I’ll raise my voice wherever the fuck I want!” I yelled back and it felt damn good.
“Watch your mouth, young lady. I didn’t raise a…a… a heathen,” she argued. “I bet this was all that girl’s idea, wasn’t it? That Amelia girl. Get your butt home.”
“I am home, Mama. I drank tequila last night and got silly drunk on it. I even took my dress off in front of a divorced father with tattoos–”
“That’s it, if you don’t come home by tomorrow night you’re cut off. I will not have my daughter stripping in front of a man like that. You’re going to hell if you continue this behavior.”
“Judge not lest ye be judged,” I replied nonchalantly. “I’m not coming back, so do what you have to do. I can make it on my own. Unlike you I’m not going to settle for some loveless marriage just because I like the man’s bank account.”
I really just called my mom a whore. Whoa.
“I give it two weeks before you come to your senses and come home,” Mom replied, ignoring my insult.
Either she didn’t think it was worth dignifying with a response or I was dead on. My honest to goodness opinion was that it was the latter. If I was right well… Hey, I mean it didn’t matter since it was her life, but it was her choice to live the way she did.
“I’m not trading in my happiness because Daddy thinks it’s good for business. This is my life, Mom,” I said.
She laughed bitterly, humorlessly.
“All this righteous indignation,” Mom snickered. “I honestly thought you were smarter than the nonsense you’re spouting.”
“And I didn’t realize how dead your heart really is. I feel sorry for you,” I told her.
My mother was never the warmest or most maternal woman on the planet. There was almost always a nanny around somewhere and as soon as Jason and I could be shipped off to fancy private schools, that’s where we went. My parents wanted the accolades of being good parents but the sad truth was that they had very little to do with raising either of us.
It probably explained why I had been eager to marry Bill in the first place, even when my heart wasn’t completely in it. I wanted a family. Anyone who says you can’t miss what you never had is a liar.
“You’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life and now you’re turning your back on your family. You’re not as bright as I thought you were.”
“My biggest mistake was not doing this years ago. Goodbye, mother.” I hung up and sat down on one of the wicker rattan chairs.
I had less than twenty-four hours to get a job because I was going to be really broke really soon. At least they had no way to get into my personal accounts. I’d been saving portions of my monthly stipend just to be safe. Maybe I had some sort of precognitive thought that this might happen someday and I had been planning for it.
Whether or not that was the case it didn’t matter. It wasn’t going to be easy but I could support myself. I probably should have been doing it all along.
Better a late start than never getting out of the gate, right?