Waving at my family like we would be gone for a year instead of less than an hour, I yelled out of the taxi window, “We’ll text you when we’re on our way back!”
But my cheerleader pep and matching smile were just as fake as my mom’s high school ID that named me, so it vanished as soon as our cab disappeared into the traffic going down the strip, with me turning to Eric to ask, “Are we making a mistake?”
“What?” he asked in return, looking like I’d kicked him in his pom-poms. Then sounding pep-less himself, he added, “You’re having second thoughts?”
It only took a second for me to playback the last ten seconds of conversation – and another second for me to realize he wasn’t yet fluent in Batshit Crazy Sookie – so I translated it for him.
With a smack to his arm and a whisper shrieked, “Not about us! I meant are we making a mistake by leaving my family in the hotel lobby, waiting on your family to arrive.”
It felt like a mistake.
A huge one.
Blinded by visions of beavers named Bob being introduced and magic brownies being pulled out of orifices the TSA had failed to check on Aunt Lin, I hadn’t realized I was nearly hyperventilating until Eric’s face filled the space in front of my eyes, with him softly saying, “Breathe Sookie. Just breathe.”
I could do that.
I could even sing it, knowing that Faith Hill song by heart, but I saw no reason to scare Eric away with my caterwauling now.
We’d flown all the way to Vegas.
With. My. Family.
We were getting hitched.
Batshit Crazy Sookie said so.
And while I couldn’t remember it, I was pretty sure breathing was one of the first things I’d done when I was born, so it should’ve been a breeze.
But at the moment, it felt like a tornado.
Subconsciously, I matched my breathing pattern to Eric’s and when he was satisfied I wasn’t about to die from a pillow-less pillow game, he smiled with what was probably meant to reassure me when he said, “My family has already met Jay and they love him.”
And then he rolled his eyes, muttering, “And apparently placed bets on how much I love him.”
“I’ll have to ask your mom if she thought you’d never be the bottom too,” I giggled.
That little fantasy was all Jason’s.
Then admitting to a sad yet factual truth, I added, “But you’ve met my family. Jason is the most normal one of the bunch. What if…”
Cutting me off right there – because really, I could go on forever about the crazy quirkiness of my kin – he kissed the argument right out of me, until I forgot where we were or what we were there to do.
He was really good at doing that. Like his lips and tongue were laced with a magic amnesia spell.
A spell the cab driver broke by saying, “We’re here.”
With his magical lips and tongue removed from my own, the spell had been lifted and then it all came flooding back to me.
We were at The Clark County Clerk’s Office.
To get our marriage license.
So we could get married.
But that happy and factual truth was the only thing that wasn’t freaking me the hell out. Maybe it was because everything about Eric had just felt right from the start. Like I’d known him my whole life, but didn’t know it until he was right in front of my eyes.
Legally impaired eyes at the time, but that didn’t make me blind.
And because we weren’t the only nuts in this city – regardless of whatever familial ties we had – the process was made even easier thanks to an online pre-application we’d filled out before we left Louisiana and an express window to pick it up at.
It was almost a letdown when the guy didn’t ask if we wanted fries to go along with it.
I was hungry.
But seeing the piece of paper with both of our names on it made the hunger pains disappear.
We were really doing this.
And seeing whatever was on my face made Eric hesitantly ask, “Second thoughts?”
“Yeah,” I admitted with a sigh.
But before he could have his own turn at playing the pillow-less pillow game, I turned to him with a smile and added, “I should have moved back home sooner.”
If I had then we would’ve met years earlier. But then again, who knows if we would’ve worked then like we do now.
We were here now. That was all that mattered.
“So where are you two getting hitched?” the guy behind the window asked with a smile.
“Graceland,” I grinned in return and snickered, “My family has a history with Elvis.”
And thanks to Gran, I now knew the few misdemeanors in Aunt Lin’s criminal history were – in part – because of him.
“Popular venue,” he smiled with a nod. “I hope you booked that online too.”
My eyes darted to Eric’s and seeing his bug-eyed expression said it all.
And the clerk must have been telepathic because he said aloud what we were both thinking.
Then clicking the mouse of his computer, he turned the screen towards us and said, “Looks like they’re booked through Sunday, but if Monday works for you, I can reserve you a spot.”
He had their website bookmarked?
Proving he wasn’t telepathic, he added, “The license is good for ten days, so that’s not an issue.”
No, but the fact this was a spur of the moment thing and we both had to be back at work on Monday was an issue.
But it was more the thought of being trapped with both of our families and one dead beaver that had me saying, “No. Monday doesn’t work.” Then turning to face Eric, I added, “We work on Monday.”
Yes, we could both call out married, but that wasn’t the point.
And seeing the panic on my face, Eric didn’t waste any time on arguing any point by looking back at the clerk and asking, “Where else is there?”
“We could be here until Monday if I listed them all,” he chuckled. Then turning a calculating eye our way, he sized us up and said, “I’m guessing since you were game for Elvis to marry you, then you’re not necessarily looking for something traditional. We have those places too, but the nicer ones are impossible to get without a reservation ahead of time.”
Turning back to his computer, he clicked away, while seemingly muttering to himself, “You don’t look the type to want to get married at Denny’s either…”
That was an option?
But before I could admit I could be talked into it – I was hungry and an order of Moons Over My Hammy would really hit the spot – he turned the screen to face us again and asked, “What about this place?”
“Is that…?” Eric started to ask, sounding like it was too good to be true, when the Kreskin impersonator, moonlighting in the county clerk’s office replied, “Yep.”
And then he chuckled, adding, “They call him a Mini-ster.”
Eric’s eyes grew huge – ironic, all things considered – before snapping his head my way and I could finally see it.
The Jason in him.
It suddenly became crystal clear why he and my brother were best friends.
“Sookie?” he asked in a pleading voice, with huge puppy dog eyes.
And that’s when I saw something else.
Future mini-Eric’s all bending me to their will, with nothing more than big blue eyes.
I was so screwed.
But I’d have to screw Eric for them to be made and with thoughts of getting his clothes off and our wedding night debauchery on, I smiled at him and offered, “I meant what I said before. I’m looking forward to the marriage. The ceremony is just a necessary evil, so if this is what you want, I’m fine with it.”
I wasn’t so sure the same could be said about Momma or Gran, but I was a big girl.
And Eric was a big guy.
Big enough for me to hide behind if they came out swinging.
Swinging me around in his arms, he planted a big sloppy kiss on my lips and got an early start on our honeymoon by quoting The Honeymooners when he looked back into my eyes and said, “Baby…you’re the greatest.”
Sookie and I had been ambushed the moment we walked into the lobby, with my mother practically tackling her into a hug, and even though I could tell she was surprised – and thrown a little off-balance – I knew Sookie had been relieved by the gesture.
Truth be told, so was I.
My parents were pretty laidback as a general rule, but they weren’t as laidback as the Stackhouses. They didn’t have any colorful How-I-Met-Your-Mother stories and were more traditional in that regard, but they weren’t judgmental either.
‘To each his own’ had been the way I’d been raised.
But I’d also been raised by a woman who cooed over anything baby-related – children, animals, even some insects were fair game – so I was also relieved to get her away from Sookie before the infant inquisition could start.
Once she said I do, however, Sookie was on her own.
I’d be pointing my finger her way the moment my mother’s interrogating eyes glared my way.
But since she hadn’t yet said ‘I do’ and I was now trapped in a hotel room with my family, while she was trapped with her own down the hall, I had nowhere to hide when my mom gushed, “Eric…she’s so beautiful. I bet your babies will be just as pretty as they would’ve been if you’d had them with Jason.”
“Really?” I asked, turning to her with a raised brow.
I knew babies would be brought up in any discussion she started, but even on my wedding day – night – whatever – she was giving me shit?
“Really,” she grinned and then her eyes darted to the closed bathroom door, where my father was on the other side of it, and leaned in to whisper, “Now, if you really love me, you’ll name your first son either Anthony or Steven and your daughter Scarlett. I have a bet with your father and you know how I hate to lose.”
I could still remember the time she bet my dad, siding against the Giants in the 2007 Super Bowl – because Tom Brady is too good looking to lose – and ended up having to get rid of her favorite – and rattiest – pair of flip flops when the Patriots lost.
Eight years later and she still complained about not finding another pair that were as comfortable as those had been.
Probably because new ones weren’t already falling apart, which she called broken in.
My father called them garbage.
But seeing her eyes automatically drop to her feet, with a small glare coming into her eyes, I rolled my own and tried to head her off at the pass, by smirking with my truthful admission of, “I’m surprised you didn’t call dibs on my namesake. Frank.”
“Don’t be silly,” she smiled, forgetting about foregone footwear and waving a dismissive hand my way. “That’s the name your father picked. He’s betting on the fact you’re a momma’s boy.”
I. Was. Not.
Well…okay. So maybe I was, but I didn’t have an Oedipal Complex or anything. I just loved my mom.
And growing up, I always pointed at her whenever I’d been asked who I wanted to live with when they would fake divorce over control of the TV remote on any given night.
My mother’s taste in television shows and movies was a lot better than my dad’s – ChiPs, notwithstanding – so it hadn’t been a difficult decision to make.
“Why Scarlett?” I asked.
I was sure she had her reasons for picking Anthony and Steven too, but Scarlett was less conventional – in this decade, at least – which was what made me add, “I don’t remember you watching Gone with the Wind, much less being a fan of it.”
That was more my dad’s taste in movies, which was why I always picked my mom in their fake divorce proceedings.
Pam always picked our dad because he always got the popsicles in their division of assets.
“That dumb twat can keep her drapes dress,” she grimaced. “I meant Scarlett Johannsen. I’m a fan of the Black Widow because she can really kick some ass, so if you want to go with Natasha instead, I’m okay with it. I back-slashed the names on my betting slip, just like I did with Anthony and Steven because I can’t decide if I’m more Team Iron Man or Team Captain America. But I guess I’ll find out when Captain America – Civil War comes out next year.”
Of course she would.
And of course she did.
And that was why I would still pick my mom in a fake divorce, so I smiled with an amused eye roll when I replied, “Well…as long as you’re okay with it.”
And Sookie was worried about how my family would perceive hers.
At least she wouldn’t figure out what she’d married into until it was too late.
In fact, I’d been betting on it.
But having already admitted to myself that I was – in fact – a momma’s boy, I didn’t bother trying to hide it from her, by looking down at her and asking in a more serious tone, “You’re really okay with it all? I mean, I know we’re moving fast, but she…she’s the one.”
I knew it, but I wanted my mom to know it too.
“Doll,” she cooed in a soothing voice, using either the first or second half of one of two nicknames she had for me as a child.
Baby doll and Doll face.
A fact that would hopefully remain hidden from Jason for the rest of my life, knowing my locker would be filled with them if he ever found out.
Both baby dolls and sex dolls, each with gaping holes in their faces.
Albeit, for very different reasons.
Then smiling back at me, she offered sincerely, “All I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy. And if Sookie makes you happy, then I’m happy too.”
It was no different than what she’d always told both Pam and I growing up, but saying something and actually meaning it were two different things.
While there had been discipline and rules we were expected to abide by in our household, our parents hadn’t ever pressured us to be anything other than what we were. They never put any expectations on us to try and compete with their friends’ kids if they were especially smart, athletic, or gifted in any way.
As long as we did as well as we were actually capable of, they were fine with seeing a ‘C’ on our report card.
And I was sure it was being raised in that type of environment that made it why Pam hadn’t balked at telling them straight up she was a lesbian at the age of twelve, while we’d all been sitting around the dinner table one night.
I still smiled whenever I recalled my mother’s first words a split second after hearing her only daughter’s revelation.
Sounding both proud and jealous, she smiled and leaned towards her, placing her hand over Pam’s as she offered conspiratorially, “Oooh…if you end up being with someone your own size, you’ve just doubled your wardrobe.”
Not to be left out, my father nodded knowingly and said, “Do me a favor and find yourself a girlfriend now. Your trips to the mall hurt my wallet.”
And just like that, we all went back to eating our dinner, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
I think it was a big reason why I’d always felt at home around the Stackhouses.
They were a ‘Live and let live’ type of crowd too.
But even as a grown man, I still wanted to hear I had my mother’s approval – even if I still would have went ahead and married Sookie without it – so I baited the hook by saying, “I just don’t want you to be disappointed in me.”
“Honey,” she cooed again and reached up to cup my face in her hands.
But even as a grown man, I still managed to forget my mother played by her own set of rules and my eyes rolled hearing her not take the bait by teasing, “They managed to make penicillin out of mold, so while you’re not as useful to the overall population, I have no complaints with the way you turned out. Besides, how could I be disappointed you managed to find someone to make me grandbabies with?”
“Uh huh,” I smirked. “That was my first thought when I met Sookie. ‘Mom would approve. She’d make a good Baby Momma.’”
Actually, that wasn’t too far from the truth.
Not the actual making babies part, but practicing making them with Sookie.
“Hey,” she warned with a smack to my chest, likely using her maternal telepathy on me. “I want the grandbabies, but I don’t want to hear about what you’re doing to get them here. I’m your mother. Not your buddy.”
That had been another thing we’d been told growing up and went hand in hand with the discipline side of the house.
They weren’t our friends – they were our parents – and gave zero shits on whether or not we actually liked them.
“I’m no Dina Lohan,” was a phrase she would often use on Pam, whenever she got pissed off because she wanted to do something my parents deemed too mature for her age.
But that phrase would likely be too mature – as in too old – for my own future daughter to have any understanding of, so Sookie would have to come up with something equivalent.
More than likely, substituting Kim Kardashian for Dina Lohan.
Already the parent of a baby girl she’d named after the airline we’d used to get to Vegas – or something like that – I was sure that was a train wreck just waiting to happen.
Once we were all dressed – Pam had been off with Sookie, helping to get her and the others ready (and more than likely trying to convince Jason she still wasn’t heterosexually interested in giving it the old college try) – my parents and I headed down to the hotel lobby.
The plan was for all of us to meet up in the lobby and head to the venue together as a group.
The venue we planned on keeping from everyone until we arrived and they saw it for themselves.
We might have been impulsive, but we weren’t stupid.
Doing it our way, neither one of our families would have very long to bitch about it – or try to talk us out of it – if they didn’t like our choice of wedding venues.
I knew it wouldn’t be the Redneck Royal Wedding her family had been hoping for, but after hearing Adele’s explanation for why Linda turned out like she did, I also didn’t think she would disapprove.
Even if it wasn’t the King of Rock and Roll who would be marrying us, it was along the same vein.
Even the same decade, if you wanted to get technical about it.
Arriving in the hotel lobby, it was impossible to miss the Stackhouse clan. Even if there weren’t a lot of them, they stood out in any crowd.
Not just for donning their wedding finery either.
Mitchell holding a top hat wearing Bob would get anyone’s attention.
I knew it because a little kid was asking him if it was Punxsutawney Phil’s first time in Las Vegas.
But too busy looking for Sookie, I didn’t notice Jay who seemingly appeared out of nowhere – that clumsy fucker could move like a ninja when he wanted to – and he slapped me on the back, with a huge grin on his face as he said, “I think I’m makin’ headway with your sister.”
“I think I’m ahead of you on that front,” I laughed in return, with my eyes taking them all in again before asking, “She’s here, right?”
I didn’t think Sookie would stand me up on the way to the altar.
But I did think if she had and Jay’s purpose was to let me know about it, he still would’ve led off with how far he wasn’t going to get into my sister’s pants.
I was too nervous over not seeing her that I couldn’t even tease him for being ahead of him on that front too.
“Yeah,” he sighed and then grimaced, “But she’s still playin’ hard to get, so I’m hopin’ that female wedding gene kicks in when she sees you all say your ‘I do’s’ and it loosens her up some later on.”
And at whatever he saw on my face, he added, “I already made Sook promise to toss the bouquet her way.”
“I’m talking about your sister being here,” I growled. “Not mine.”
“Oh,” he said, appearing confused.
It was anyone’s guess as to what he was confused about.
Moves like a ninja.
Mentally as fast as a turtle.
At least where women were concerned, which was probably why he kept deluding himself over his chances at getting anything but slapped by Pam.
I hoped I wouldn’t miss out on seeing it when it happened.
Because past experience told me it would happen.
“Nah, Sook’s not here,” he breathed out, with a shake of his head. But before I could panic, he added, “Her and Daddy already headed out, so you wouldn’t see her all dressed up before the big reveal.”
Simultaneously relieved she hadn’t in fact bolted on me and nervous over what would happen when the wedding venue was revealed to all of them, I couldn’t find the fortitude to tease him over the fact he still called his father ‘Daddy’ either.
So I made a mental note to do it later on.
And seeing the time, I knew it was time to face the music.
Both literally and figuratively, if they wanted to get technical about it.
But we had less than an hour before the ceremony was scheduled to begin and traffic on the strip only increased with the decrease in sunlight. Since it had been a last minute kind of wedding, we lucked out that damn near everything could be provided by the venue.
Pictures, flowers, cake. They could and would take care of it all, once we’d booked the package we’d wanted online, with the help of the helpful guy at the county clerk’s office.
It would still be a traditional ceremony.
It would just be performed in an untraditional way.
With Sookie already inside, waiting on the rest of us to arrive, she’d gotten off easy only having to deal with whatever her father’s reaction might have been when they’d gotten there. But that was okay.
I could take one for the team and deal with everyone else on my own.
It was only fair since she would be taking one for the team when our team of two eventually expanded to a team of three, four, five, and six.
Or maybe seven.
I still really liked the idea of having our own basketball team.
So I stood tall – and tried not to show my amusement over the irony, all things considered – when we arrived and were immediately greeted by our minister, who seemed to take a moment to revel in everyone else’s slack-jawed expressions.
I’d known from their not quite whispered mumblings they’d been thrown off when we’d stepped out of the cars in front of the Monster Mini Golf, but miniature golf wasn’t the only mini on offer here.
A fact they seemed to be slowly realizing hearing MINI-ster Gene Simmons, using all of the dramatic flair someone of his stature and likeness would have, when he smiled salaciously and managed to quote two KISS songs, with his corny greeting of, “All hell’s breakin’ loose, so I hope you’re all ready to rock and roll all night.”
Corny or not, I fucking loved it.
And I fucking loved Sookie for being okay with getting married by a Gene Simmons lookalike little person.
“DUDE!” Jay shouted with joy from somewhere off to the side – and in my peripheral I could see him stick his tongue out as far as it would go, while he played air guitar – only to be swatted at on two sides by Michelle and Adele – soon followed by Mitchell’s confused muttering of, “He sure looks a lot taller on the TV.”
All in all – I would take it as a win.
And that was how our night began, with Sookie and I eventually getting to share our first kiss, before we were then declared husband and wife, by another kind of KISS.