I’d just left Eric and Jason at the table to get us another round of drinks, but turning towards the sound of my name, I thought I was seeing things when my eyes landed on my cousin.
After having already run into Bill, I started to wonder if it was ‘This is your Life’ night at the bar and nobody told me.
While a part of me wondered who Eric might be running into if that was the case, I set the thought aside and attempted to confirm her identity by asking, “Hadley?”
I hadn’t seen her in a few years, but laying eyes on her again brought back a lot of memories.
And one in particular had me correcting myself with, “I mean…Moon Blossom?”
She was Aunt Lin’s daughter after all, so when she’d refused to be acknowledged by anything other than Moon Blossom at the age of sixteen, no one had been surprised.
The only surprise at her name should have been the fact Aunt Lin hadn’t named her ‘Mary Jane’.
Not after the black patent leather shoe, either.
After the requisite hugs were done, she pulled back and smiled at me with, “I go by Bella now.”
That was so…so…normal.
She looked really good – if not a little on the pale side – and she’d let her bottled Rainbow Brite hair go back to its natural chocolate brown shade.
Once she’d nodded her confirmation, I peppered her with the first round of a thousand questions I had for her by asking, “Are you here visiting? Does Aunt Lin know? Have you been to Bon Temps yet? What did you think of Pop’s new hat?”
And without waiting for an answer, I giggled, “Whatever you do, don’t mention ‘Gran’ and ‘beaver’ in the same sentence. I’ll probably need electro-shock therapy to rid myself of that conversation.”
If that didn’t work, hopefully Eric would show some mercy and play the pillow game with me.
Hadley-Moon-Blossom-Bella had been living down in New Orleans for the last couple of years – making me wonder if you could actually make a living having beaded necklaces tossed your way – but I’d never asked.
I didn’t want to know.
“I’m just passing through on my way north,” she smiled. “But I saw on Facebook that you and Jason would be here tonight. I plan on stopping by to see everyone else before I leave.”
And then looking like she was about to burst at the seams, she leaned forward and whisper shrieked, “Sook, I’m gettin’ married!”
“Oh Had…Moon…Bella!” I stuttered and threw my arms around her to try and muffle my own mouth. “I’m so happy for you! Who’s the lucky guy?”
“Here he comes now,” she beamed, looking over my shoulder.
I couldn’t believe it.
Seriously, I couldn’t.
Little H-to-the-M-to-the-B-squared was getting married?
Was it a sign the apocalypse was on the horizon?
But before I could test her Stackhouse trivia knowledge to ensure she wasn’t just a pod person impersonating my cousin, her fiancé made an appearance at her side.
He didn’t look old enough to be in the bar – or drive – or stay out past dark – but seeing his penny-hued hair, I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “Don’t tell me. It’s Edward, right?”
Because who else would Bella marry?
Certainly not Jacob.
Leaning towards him with huge anime eyes, Hadley-Moon-Blossom-Bella whispered knowingly, “I told you she was a mind reader.”
But instead of acknowledging her words – or correcting me for that matter – he simply smiled at her and handed her an apple.
Thinking I was more in the Twilight Zone than in an actual Twilight book, I shook my head and deadpanned, “Does the pack know you’re on your way back to Forks?”
While they both gaped at me and my awareness of vegan vampire/werewolf treaties, I shook my head, realizing I should have known it had been too good to be true.
Little H-to-the-M-to-the-B-squared hadn’t changed much after all.
“Hadley,” I barked, figuring I could easily step into the role of the Alpha werewolf, given there wasn’t one around.
Anywhere. On. The. Planet.
“Who is this guy?” I asked, gesturing towards him like a monkey flinging shit. “Is there an Amber Alert out for him? You know, like the color of his contacts!”
I could only hope she hadn’t committed statutory rape by hoping he was as big of a pantywaist as Mr. Sparkle-Keeps-It-In-His-Pants.
Glaring my way, he didn’t give her the chance to respond by saying, “I am much older than I appear.”
“Don’t make me give you a timeout,” I glared in return. “You hush, while the grownups are talking.”
But looking back at Hadley, I knew I couldn’t count her as one of the adults in spite of her age. So I joined her in regressing right the fuck back to our childhood and did what I did best.
“JASON!” I yelled, making everybody in a ten foot radius of us jump a mile high.
He was the eldest Stackhouse in situ and was already in the ‘I’m-gonna-tell-you-how-to-live-your-life mood.’
So he’d better straighten our cousin the fuck out before I situated my foot in her ass.
I was all for fun and games, but Hadley had been dropped on her head a lot as a child – or so we assumed – however I didn’t think we’d reached the Involuntary Commitment stage with her yet.
“Had!” he bellowed over my shoulder and then coughed out, “I mean…Venus Flytrap?”
Jason never could get it right and before I could remember I was supposed to be mad, I snorted out, “Moon Blossom.”
“Same thing,” he shrugged and pulled her into a hug. And then stepping back again, he glanced at Lad Clairol at her side before asking her, “You babysittin’ or something? You know you shouldn’t have him out in a bar, right?”
My unintentional neener-neener was quickly morphed into a tattle tale as I literally pointed fingers and said, “They think he’s a vampire and she wants to be one too, so they’re moving to Washington State to get married and make stupid-named babies.”
“Maybe they can hitch a ride with Bill,” he laughed.
“Sookie!” my cousin gasped, with her eyes darting around. “You can’t talk about it. The Volturi have ears everywhere.”
“The Volturi can suck it!” I snarled, waiting on Jason to catch up.
Like his first car, a beat up Chevy Malibu, it took him a few seconds to get up to speed, but it wasn’t long before he was flying.
And seeing no amusement on my face, his cop-face whipped back towards them, while he put two and two together and likely got H-to-the-M-to-the-B-squared.
Or five to ten in a minimum security prison, with time off for good behavior.
Pointing at the not-a-vampire, he said, “ID. Hand it over.”
“What are you looking for?” Hadley asked.
“I’m lookin’ to see if I need to buy a bus ticket or a bag of lye,” Jason huffed.
“What’s going on?” I asked, having come out of the bathroom to find neither Stackhouse at the table where I’d left one of them and had expected the other one to return to. After her asshole ex had shown up earlier, I’d worried for a second that he’d come back into the bar.
But seeing them with a girl and who I assumed was her younger brother, I made another assumption that maybe they’d known them.
Jason – at the very least – likely in a biblical sense.
It wouldn’t be the first time he’d been confronted by an ex in a bar.
Putting my arm around Sookie, if only to keep her out of any resulting cat fight, I soon found out how wrong I was when she looked up at me with her pissed-off face and spat out, “My cousin here thinks she’s in a vampire Narnia.”
“What?” I repeated, not understanding what she was talking about.
And then I had a better understanding when she only offered, “She’s Aunt Lin’s daughter.”
Her earlier nonsensical explanation suddenly made some sort of sense.
I knew Linda had a daughter, but I’d never met her and thought Jason had told me her name was Petunia or Begonia or something like that. So I only watched silently, while he ripped the wallet out of the kid’s hand and took a quick glance at his ID before saying, “Eugene here is sixteen, Had. Six. Teen.”
Had he been anyone else, I would’ve been impressed they could do the mental math so quickly, but this was Jason.
He’d been serious when he’d said he kept the legal age of consent in his vault.
I was surprised he didn’t walk around with one of those Day-A-Year calendars hanging around his neck, like they had at convenience stores for anyone who wanted to buy tobacco.
Of course his would read: ‘You must have been born before THIS DATE to fuck me.’
“Eugene?” she squawked and ripped the ID from Jason’s hand. Then whipping her head towards Eugene(?), she accused, “You lied to me!”
She was more concerned his name was Eugene, rather than the fact he was sixteen?
“You know we have to use different identities to keep our secret,” he explained in a panic. “Bella, you have to believe me.”
Putting together the bits and pieces I’d been able to gather so far, it all began to make sense.
You’d have to know Linda and way more than you’d ever care to admit about teenage vampire angst for it to make sense.
But knowing Linda and way more than I’d ever care to admit about teenage vampire angst, it did make sense.
And her daughter could be the poster child for why smoking marijuana and reading the Twilight Saga while pregnant wasn’t a good idea.
Taking the ID from Hydrangea’s grasp, I saw he lived down in New Orleans and used my ‘cop voice’ when I looked back at him asking, “Do your parents know where you are, Eugene?”
Sookie squirming at my side made me look down at her and – despite her anger – I could tell she was a little turned on.
She loved it when I used that same tone with her.
In the bedroom.
Hearing the defeated tone, I looked back over at Eugene in time for him to say, “They think I’m on a retreat with my church group.”
“Well then,” Jason smiled evilly his way, “I guess it’s a good thing you’ll be gettin’ a ‘Come-to-Jesus’ when I drive you home.”
Then looking over at Peony, he asked, “You comin’ too, Gladiola? Or do you want Sook to give you a ride home to Aunt Lin’s?”
“Mom’s,” she sighed.
Eugene looked like he was about to protest, when Jason grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar and lifted him off the stool he’d been sitting on, saying, “Not a word, Eugene. Stick a fork in it ‘cause this shitty little fantasy is done.”
Then leading him out of the bar – and by ‘leading’, I mean he was using the kid as a battering ram to shove people out of their way – I could hear him chastising, “Why in the hell would ya wanna be some sparkly fuck?”
“So,” Sookie piped up. “Looks like we’ll be taking you home, Had.”
And seeing her cousin’s eyes come to land on me, she added, “Oh yeah. Hadley, this is my boyfriend Eric.” Then reversing her pointy fingers, like she was on the ground crew trying to land a remote control plane, she said, “Eric, this is my kindhearted but dimwitted cousin, Hadley.”
At least that was better than Hydrangea.
Hadley remained quiet, while I settled our tab and retrieved her duffel bag of belongings before heading out to the car.
But as soon as we got onto the interstate towards Bon Temps, I could tell she was silently fuming before she’d even opened her mouth to say, “Are you sure his name is Eric?”
“Yes,” Sookie replied without returning her hostility and then patted my leg with a smile, adding, “But he also goes by Frank or Ponch.”
“You’re not funny,” I smiled back at her.
My father, at the very least, would agree with me.
My mother on the other hand would be pissing herself from laughing so hard.
“It’s not funny,” Hadley sighed. “What’s mom going to say when she finds out?”
The thought of Linda being upset over anything was hard to imagine.
She was so laidback she should change her name to Chaise Lounge.
But I was sure even she must have had a maternal side that included the legendary ‘Come-to-Jesus’ trait that was in the Stackhouse DNA.
Something Sookie sort of confirmed by answering, “Just tell her you can’t talk about it because the NSA are listening and then offer her a brownie.”
“Why do I always attract the crazies?” she whined. “And why is it so contagious?”
“You’re a romantic at heart,” Sookie offered, turning around to look at her cousin. “And you like to see the good in people. They take advantage of that.”
And then turning back around in her seat, she mumbled, “That’s why you get fucked in the ass.”
But her words must have clicked in her own mind because she spun back around and asked, “You didn’t fuck him, did you?”
Seventeen was the legal age of consent in Louisiana and anal sex counted, so even I breathed out a sigh of relief hearing her say, “No. We were waiting for our wedding night.”
“Thank God for the eighty year old values of not-a-teenage-vampire,” Sookie muttered.
“I know he wasn’t really a vampire,” she huffed. “But the idea of it was romantic and it was fun to play along. But I didn’t know he was that young.”
“Really?” Sookie asked, not sounding like she’d bought it for one second. “And what would’ve happened if you got knocked up and had a baby boy? Were you gonna name him Charlisle?”
Looking into my rearview mirror, I could only shake my head seeing her expression.
Because yes, that’s exactly what she would’ve done.
Something Sookie saw too because she guffawed, “Oh my God! You were!”
But I couldn’t tell if it was pity she felt for her cousin or her mean streak coming out to play when she spent the rest of the drive spouting off the virtues of Hoyt Fortenberry and why she thought they would be perfect together.
After Hadley was back home in Bon Temps – and after I reminded Linda I was still subject to random piss tests and had to pass on her homemade brownies – we were back on the interstate headed home, when Sookie sounded as though she was thinking out loud as she asked, “What if our kids are as dumb as Hadley?”
“I’m armed,” I replied with a smile. “No dick beaters are getting near any daughter of mine. Ever.” And then looking at Sookie, I added, “And you are banned from eating anything Linda makes while you’re pregnant.”
“And I’ll even change the channel if Twilight comes on,” she nodded with a snicker.
But her tone was less amused – more uncertain – when she eventually went on to say, “We talk about it like it’s a fact.”
And at my quizzical expression, she explained, “You know…that we’ll be having kids. We’ll be together for long enough for that to happen.”
“And you don’t think we will be?” I asked, suddenly feeling worried.
The whole point of Jason driving her to the bar that night was so he could talk to her about our relationship. I hadn’t given it too much thought, knowing Sookie was as stubborn as the day was long and he would likely come out the worse for wear by the time he was through.
After all, she was quick to go for his balls.
But what if whatever he’d said to her was making her rethink things?
Remaining silent for long enough to ensure I would need to see a cardiologist at some point in the very near future, she hesitantly replied, “I want us to be.”
Maybe it was hearing the hesitation in her voice that didn’t make me hesitate to pull over onto the shoulder of the road, so I could concentrate on her without any distractions.
We’d known each other for a total of two weeks.
We’d been living together for less than one week.
Even I knew it was sheer insanity.
But I also knew she was the best thing to ever happen to me.
So I didn’t have to think about it when I said, “I love you, Sookie and that is a fact. I know we haven’t known each other for very long, but it doesn’t make it any less true. And I know we joke around a lot and I love that I can do that with you. But I’ve never been joking about any of the things I’ve said about us or our future. You’re it for me. I know it like I know my own name and if I could get you to agree, I’d marry you tomorrow so you would have my name too.”
“Are…are you…proposing?” she asked, with a wide-eyed stare.
I certainly hadn’t planned on it, but I didn’t feel the need to take back anything I’d said either. I’d meant every word, so I agreed, “I guess I am.”
“Wait!” she gasped out in a panicked voice. But before I could panic too, she leaned forward and kissed me, saying, “I love you too.”
Then pulling back slightly, she added, “It’s crazy. We’re crazy.”
“So…” I began, not quite sure what she was saying.
Other than the fact we were crazy.
“So,” she picked up where I’d left off at. And then smiling wider than I’d ever seen, she asked, “Road trip to Vegas tomorrow?”
And that was how Sookie agreed to be my wife.