I stared back at Pam’s hand, seething inside over the thought of Bill fucking Compton anywhere near Sookie and it was the last fucking thing I needed to see or hear. I’d been walking on eggshells all day long; first over giving Sookie her Christmas gift, which thank fuck she seemed to really like, and then over my father’s pending arrival. It was going to be hard enough trying to act normal with him there, in front of Gran and Jason, and I’d come to realize in the last twenty-four hours, I really did hope we could eventually work something out and have a quasi-normal father/son relationship, but I knew that wouldn’t happen if I was too busy being pissed off about whatever was on that video.
When I’d first asked Andy Bellefleur to look into our Vegas wedding, it was because I couldn’t fathom why I would possibly want to tie myself to someone I didn’t even know, either then or when I’d woken up, but I didn’t give a fuck anymore because I could no longer fathom my life without Sookie in it. Was I curious? Hell yeah, but knowing whatever I would be watching somehow involved Bill Compton made my blood boil, no matter how little of a time I’d have to see him, and it would ruin what would’ve been the best Christmas I’d ever had if I watched it now.
But I HAD to know one thing first or else it would eat away at me.
“Did he touch her at all?” I asked through clenched teeth. It was an admittedly irrational response. I didn’t know her then or even remember anything about that night, but I’d seen for myself how drunk we both were on the paparazzi videos and the thought of Sookie even giving him the time of day, much less flirting or, God forbid, anything else with him, made me want to rip him limb from limb and then vomit, even though I was no saint back then and couldn’t throw stones.
Fucking glass houses.
There was no mistaking my anger and Pam wisely chose not to tease me at all, answering quickly, “Just minor touching; her elbow, forearm and hand when he tried to get her attention. That’s all.”
It took several deep breaths before the red haze disappeared from my vision and I turned to Sookie, saying, “I don’t want to watch it.” Seeing her eyebrow rise up questioningly, I added, “At least not right now. You can, if you want, but just knowing he’s in it, seeing him will piss me off and I’ll end up brooding for the rest of the night. I don’t want to spoil our first Christmas together.”
For all I knew, he was the one that introduced us, but I didn’t give a flying fuck, remembering his last day on the set when I beat his ass after he asked me to pass Sookie along to him like she was a box of fucking cookies.
Her box and cookies were all fucking mine!
I also knew Sookie well enough to know that she’d be bothered watching it now too, but I would leave it up to her to decide and thanked fucking Christ when she agreed it could wait. Instead Pam gave us a brief synopsis explaining that the cameras in the bar area of the casino normally did sweeping pans across the room, unless their security department saw fit to move them manually, but all we would see was a compilation of the brief footage consisting of Sookie at the bar with Amelia; Sookie at the bar without Amelia and Compton next to her; me at the bar with both of them and then just me and Sookie together for a little while before we eventually disappeared too. Knowing at least that much helped to calm me down even more and as soon as we walked out of the office, Sookie giggled and even I was able to manage a chuckle when she said, “You all look like twins.”
Jason and Bubba were standing there side by side, facing the door we’d just walked out of, with identical excited looks on their faces seeing us, only Bubba came skittering up to me while Jason went straight for Pam, saying, “Well, hey there pretty lady.”
Sookie had shooed Jason away as soon as Pam had first walked through the front door, so this was really her first interaction with him and if I didn’t think it might possibly spoil my dinner, I would’ve popped a bag of popcorn to go along with the show I knew we were in for. It was, at the very least, a good way to distract myself from thinking about Compton and my father’s not-so-distant arrival.
Pam actually acted like a normal human being for once and pulled some manners out of her ass I had no idea she had, I assumed since Gran was standing there, and nodded towards him with a clipped, “Hello,” before turning to Gran with an actual smile (a warm one!) saying, “Mrs. Stackhouse. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Sookie talks about you all the time.”
Not one to be ignored, Jason threw his arm around Pam’s shoulders and the warmth dropped from her face as her back stiffened while he said, “Well I’m Jason, Sookie’s brother, but don’ mind nuthin’ she might a tol’ you ’bout me. ‘Less o’ course it had to do with what a great single guy I am.” He ended his verbal dating resume with a wink and a smile that had Pam’s left eye twitching only Jason seemed to misread it as a good sign because his grin only got wider.
Seeing what was about to go down, Sookie intervened with, “Jason! Pam’s not interested in…” but I broke in, not quite ready to give up on my new favorite reality show, and finished for her, “standing around all day. Why don’t we get you a beer and give the ladies a chance to sit down.”
We’d already decided there’d be no wine or alcohol whatsoever served once my father arrived, not that I drank much of anything anymore anyway, so I merely accompanied Jason to the couch with his beer while they went into the kitchen. Our asses were barely seated before he looked at me asking, “She single?”
“Yes,” I replied, trying not to smile too much.
His eyes narrowed back at me, asking, “She lookin’ to get hitched?”
“No. Pam doesn’t do monogamy,” I chuckled.
That was the under-fucking-statement of the year; one I could actually throw stones at.
His eyes crinkled in confusion as he asked, “What do them ‘lil folded up pieces a paper like birds and shit got to do with anything?”
Sookie wouldn’t let me buy him a helmet as a joke for Christmas, but now I really wished I had. Maybe I could go on Amazon and have it shipped to him.
“No Jason, I just meant that Pam doesn’t do relationships. She prefers to play the field,” I answered still chuckling. It felt nice being the smart one in the pair considering how fucking smart Sookie was, but seeing that I’d still managed to thoroughly confuse him, despite explaining, and not wanting him to get his hopes up, I finally said, “Sorry Jase. Pam plays for the other team.”
Not catching my drift, he asked, “What? Like the Cowboys?” His face brightened considerably and his voice got louder when he added, “She a cheerleader?”
I’d been petting Bubba who was lying across my lap and my eyes drifted down to him seeing even he seemed to get what I was saying, but I looked back at Jason, answering, “No Jason. You have the wrong equipment for Pam to be interested in having sex with you.”
If he didn’t know what monogamy was, I was afraid ‘lesbian’ would be out of his reach too, but knowing Sookie, or God forbid Gran, could walk in at any minute I didn’t want to come out and say Pam would much rather be in between Sookie’s legs than his.
Nor did I want the mental image. That was MY spot.
I was almost certain the beer in his hand was his first one of the day and was beginning to question whether or not it might be too late for that helmet after all when his brow furrowed in concentration and he reached into his pocket pulling out a condom. I hoped it was a case of eternal optimism since I couldn’t figure out why else he’d be carrying one with him on today of all days, but he looked down at it before looking back at me, asking, “She allergic to latex?”
My eyes darted to the doorway, with my ears straining to hear if they were anywhere near, as I lowered my voice, explaining point blank, “Pam only likes women; lots and lots of women.” That and my career were the only two things we had in common for a very long time.
Jason, the doofus that he was, just smiled wider, saying, “Hell, we got that in common, so we should be gettin’ on great!”
He really did look like he’d won the lottery and I felt bad having to tell him Pam wanted no part of his Power Balls, but it had to be done so I sucked it up and said, “Jason. Listen to me. Pam only has sex with women. She’ll want nothing to do with you or anything you’re packing.”
If that didn’t do the trick I’d probably have to resort to diagrams and looked around for Sookie’s ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ book, so I could at least point out the pertinent body parts, when it seemed realization suddenly dawned on him. Looking over at me, he asked, “Are you tryin’ to tell me her cooter box ain’t acceptin’ no male packages into her slot?”
Bubba really was a good dog because he didn’t seem bothered at all and only readjusted himself when I roared with laughter and fell over onto the couch, but it was enough to make the girls come into the room and as soon as I saw Pam, I couldn’t help myself and snorted out, “Hey Cooter!”
“What?” she asked with her arched eyebrow warning me I was in danger of being Pam’d, but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to care.
Hopefully Bubba would defend me.
Once I was upright, I looked back at Jason who just smiled back at me mouthing the words, ‘challenge accepted’ and I maybe would have (but probably wouldn’t have) dissuaded him, but I didn’t get the chance since the doorbell rang a second later. I heard Sookie whispering to Pam something about behaving, but I was still chuckling at her new nickname (I would be ordering her new business cards in the morning) as I headed towards the front door. Between petting the dog and laughing with (more like, at) Jason, I really did feel much more relaxed, so when I opened the door I had a genuine smile on my face and said, “Merry Christmas.”
It was odd seeing my father standing there looking nervous, but he seemed to relax a little seeing me smiling at him and said, “Merry Christmas,” in return. Bubba had tagged along with me and was patiently waiting next to me with his tail wagging at our newest visitor. Terry must have put in a lot of work for him to be so well behaved and I wondered briefly if I could drop Jason off with him for a couple of days to see what other kind of magic he could work, but my father’s voice broke me from my thoughts, saying, “You got a dog.”
I’d never been allowed any pets growing up, but he didn’t sound upset about it, not that he had the right to, so I didn’t get upset, answering, “I did. Sookie got him for me for Christmas from the baby. His name is Bubba.”
“Bubba?” he chuckled.
Before he could make any redneck jokes about Sookie that I would definitely take offense to, I motioned for him to come in and explained how he’d gotten his name. By the time I was done, he shook his head, saying, “I would’ve gone with Elvis, even if he’s not a hound dog.”
I just shrugged in response as we rounded the corner into the kitchen where everyone had congregated. Sookie looked back at me nervously hopeful, but it was Pam who spoke first seeing us and saying, “Dick! Where’s Gingerbread?”
“Pam!” Sookie loudly whispered. “What did we just talk about?”
“What?” she asked amused.
As Gran passed Pam, she said, “Oh, there’s some gingerbread cookies in the cookie jar, but you should wait until after dinner so you don’t spoil your appetite.” I was one of four of the six people in the room who looked like they were trying not to laugh while Gran walked over to my father, giving him a hug and greeted warmly, “Merry Christmas. We’re so glad you could come. Now I thought you said to call you Richard?”
Pam mumbled under her breath, “Dick always comes…” but my father just rolled his eyes in Pam’s direction, answering, “Richard is what I go by. Pamela just likes to joke around.”
Pam’s, “Who’s joking?” utterance also seemed to go by unnoticed, by Gran at least, but she got herself a pinch from Sookie who then took the opportunity to herd everyone into the dining room. I resisted the urge to let my father in on Pam’s new nickname of Cooter, but I could already imagine having a father/son moment over it if things worked out between us.
Dinner started out as a quiet affair, but conversations slowly built up as time went on. Pam’s continual staring daggers at my father kept getting interrupted by Jason’s attempts to flirt with her, which were amusing the hell out of Sookie and me. He passed her every dish on the table (whether she wanted it or not) while flexing his biceps; he leaned in close while sniffing her hair and telling her she smelled ‘purdy’; he snatched the pitcher of sweet tea from the table when Pam had been reaching for it and held it up, asking her, “Coffee, tea, or me?” while waggling his eyebrows at her. Gran’s eyes had shot to him once or twice when she wasn’t busy talking to my father, who also seemed to be amused by what was going on on the other side of the table, but it was mostly just me and Sookie who were trying not to choke on our Christmas ham at the Jason ham.
I had to give Pam credit though. She did her best to try and ignore and then politely discourage Jason without actually Pamming him, so it wasn’t until after dinner and we’d all moved back into the family room that Pam took her best shot at getting him to back down. Gran was busy setting out desserts and coffee in the kitchen, while my father excused himself to use the restroom, when Jason came out and asked her, “How ’bout you an me go fer a drive an look at the stars?”
Seeming to have reached her Jason limit, Pam shook her head ruefully, while trying not to smile hearing Sookie’s giggles, and said exasperatedly, “I work in Hollywood. I see stars all fucking day. I’m a lesbian for Christ’s sakes!”
Jason didn’t miss a beat, asking, “So you’re an actor like Eric here?”
“Jason!” Sookie chimed in, not hiding her amusement. “Pam likes women. She clearly doesn’t like you, so leave her alone already.”
“So,” he replied and then looked back at Pam, who looked even more amused now. Jason’s affable personality was hard to dislike and even she chuckled when he said, “That’s what Eric said, but we got that in common. You like women. I like women. You’re a woman. See? It all works out!”
“YOU’RE A MAN!”
It ended up being a loud declaration since it was said by three different voices simultaneously, but Sookie knew Jason-speak better than any of us and blurted out, “Girl on girl, Jase. I’m sure you’ve got a few of those videos tucked away on your computer alongside Shitter.”
“But there’s always a guy that gets to share,” he retorted as though Sookie needed her own helmet.
“I give up,” she said throwing her hands up in the air. Looking at Pam, she apologized while still laughing and said, “I’m sorry Pam. Jason has a grudge against Bounty paper towels because he believes himself to be the quicker picker upper. Be glad that you are a lesbian because his idea of a fun time is farting in the tub and then biting the bubbles.”
His head quirked up liked he’d actually heard someone fart and asked with a smile, “Shiiit…Eric? You got a hot tub ’round here?” before turning right back to Pam and saying, “Care to take a dip? We can wear our birthday suits if that’s all ya got on ya.”
“Sure, why not?” she replied sarcastically, but she’d unknowingly made a fatal error by smiling back at him because it would only encourage him more.
Her sarcasm was completely lost on him and I didn’t see him giving up anytime soon, when his head turned back towards me and he mouthed, ‘Told ya so.’ I could only grin back at him and ironically had to bite down on his little Pam bubble by telling him, “Sorry Jase, no hot tub here.”
I knew he wouldn’t get the irony either, but his Power Balls would have to remain blue.
Jason wasn’t discouraged at all and just tried to get Pam to go into the pool instead and reminding him it was December didn’t discourage him either. The more he flirted with her, the less inclined Pam seemed to be in discouraging him too and instead offered to take him to a club the following night. I couldn’t even blame alcohol being the cause since we hadn’t served any, but at least I had Sookie there to share my ‘What the fuck?’ looks with, so Gran calling us into the kitchen thankfully put an end to it all because I was sure if Pam and Jason somehow ended up hooking up before he went back to Louisiana, it would be one of the seven signs of the apocalypse.
And if I came across four guys on horseback anytime in the near future, I’d be grabbing Sookie and Bubba and making a run for it.
My father was already sitting there with a slice of pie and a cup of coffee in front of him when I walked in, but what I noticed more so was what he was holding in his hand. It was a framed photo from Sookie’s latest ultrasound of the Bean we had given Gran as one of her Christmas presents, but the look on his face as he gazed down at it is what made me stop and stare.
He was smiling.
I wasn’t really sure what the other six signs of the apocalypse were and seriously didn’t know how to react. Everything I thought I knew about the man was being shot out of the water by his every action and reaction since he’d stopped by the day before, so it was hard to reconcile the man who was sitting at my kitchen table with the one who had raised me. We hadn’t spoken about much more than things in general all night long, but that only seemed to be because he and Gran were getting along like a house on fire. Considering the effect she had on Pam, the woman could probably tame a pack of hellhounds to boot, but I’d welcomed it since it had taken the pressure off of me too.
For once we’d been in the same room without any snide comments or downright nasty accusations coming from either one of us for longer than twenty minutes. For once we were both sober. For once we’d both managed to laugh at the same things and it wasn’t in a sarcastic way.
I seriously didn’t know how to react.
Since the women were all standing around the island talking, and Jason didn’t appear to be leaving Pam’s side anytime soon, I grabbed a slice of pie and took a seat next to my father. When his eyes finally came up from the picture, he asked, “So, the baby is due in early June?”
“Yep,” I replied, not sure if he’d learned the due date from the news or from Gran. I was just impressed he knew it at all.
“Do you know what you’re having yet?”
“No,” I answered after swallowing the food in my mouth. Chewing had given me the time to realize he was actually making an effort by asking any questions at all, so I offered, “We could probably find out at the next appointment, but we haven’t decided if we want to know yet. There aren’t a lot of surprises left in the world, you know?”
Or Pam and Jason possibly hooking up.
“I do,” he smiled back at me before putting the frame back down onto the table. We continued to each take small bites of food, I think because each of us were trying to be prepared to be able to answer the other’s questions that weren’t being asked. The darting my eyes were doing from him to the group of others had me wondering if your eye muscles could actually get a Charlie horse before they finally settled on the empty chair across from me.
Hello Awkward, how nice of you to join us.
“So,” I finally blurted out, along with a little chunk of pie, since I couldn’t stand the silence anymore, “I start filming Valhalla in a few weeks.” It was a fall back topic; talk about work.
His brow crinkled, asking, “That’s with Madden and Sophie Anne LeClerq, right?”
“Yeah…” I drawled out hesitantly. He’d been all for me getting that part when he was still my manager, but he also would’ve gotten his own percentage out of it. It made me wonder what he’d been doing to support himself since I’d fired him, but I was almost too afraid to ask.
Maybe that was his end game? He was here acting this way so I’d support him again?
I consciously put my fork down so I would have to consciously pick it back up again if I was going to use it to stab him to death hearing him ask me for another handout. He surprised me altogether when he just shook his head and said, “You be careful with Sophie Anne. She’s bad news and will do anything to get her name in the papers and you’re a hot ticket right now.”
His eyes did their own darting over to where Sookie was standing, but I was barely able to keep my voice down with my irritation rising, saying, “I wouldn’t do anything with anyone for me to have to be careful.” Granted, my past record with women would likely lead anyone to that same conclusion, but I wasn’t the same man anymore.
I wouldn’t cheat on Sookie.
“I’m not saying you would,” he answered, putting his own fork down and holding his hands out in front of him. “All’s I’m saying is I wouldn’t put it past her to leak stories to the press about some made up love connection between you two to drum up publicity for herself. She’s done it in the past, so you might want to warn Sookie about it beforehand.”
“Sookie trusts me.” God knows why, given my history, but she did and I knew it.
He just shrugged his shoulders, replying, “Can’t hurt, but you know her better than me.”
We sat there in silence and I only realized it was too quiet when I glanced over to where everyone had been to see they’d left the room. When there was nothing left on our plates but crumbs, I finally bit the bullet and asked, “So, what have you been up to lately?”
If he was only here because he wanted something from me, now would be the time for him to tell me since we were all alone. I felt the disappointment creeping up inside of me seeing him look nervous again and I was already trying to think of a way to explain his sudden departure to Gran, when he surprised me, saying, “Well, I got a part in a production they’re doing in a little community theater out by my way.”
I knew my father had once been a not-so-successful actor before I was born, but the only times he’d ever talked about it was whenever he was reminding me of everything he’d had to give up because of me. There were plenty of times I’d wanted to yell back at him to get his ass to a fucking audition if he wanted stardom so bad, but I didn’t because I knew when he didn’t get the part, I’d be the one he blamed.
I had more than enough weight on my shoulders back then to want to subject myself to any more.
“It’s not much,” he mumbled. “Just a small role, but it’s nice to be doing it again.” When his eyes finally met mine, he shrugged, adding, “It’s where my AA meetings are held. Sort of one stop shopping for me.”
When another long silence followed because my mind was all over the place, I was finally able to say, “Oh, well that’s great.” I must have been a glutton for punishment because I heard myself following up with, “Are you making enough to live on?”
I’d paid him well over the years, too well all things considered, but I had no idea what he’d saved or what my reaction would’ve been had he said no. It turned out I didn’t have to worry about it when he answered, “I made some cuts here and there, but I’ve been getting by okay.” His lips formed into a smirk as he added, “Once I cut Ginger loose, my expenses went down considerably.”
I’d only been wondering if he still had her stashed somewhere because I’d been trying to imagine what would happen if he and I got along well enough for them to come see the baby. He’d probably be called Grandpa to the Bean, but what would that have made Ginger?
Nothing I would’ve wanted the Bean repeating.
Gran wandered back into the kitchen at that point offering to pour us another cup of coffee, but he took one last look at the Bean’s picture and stood up saying, “No thank you Adele. I should get going.”
Sookie had wandered in behind her (and I didn’t care to know where Jason and Pam might be right then), but her look asked how it went, so I tried to convey ‘okay’ by shrugging my shoulders. Her raised eyebrow told me I didn’t do know how to do that anymore than I knew Swahili, but she smiled back at him when he thanked her for dinner and then she surprised me by inviting him back for dinner the following Sunday.
I guess we were both going to give him a shot.
I knew she’d been worried about me, but considering how he’d treated her the last time he’d been there to see me after the accident, I wouldn’t have blamed her for not wanting to be around him. I was still leery of being around him and doubted I would’ve been as forgiving had the shoe been on the other foot, but then I’d already known she was a much better person than me.
It wasn’t until he’d picked up the picture again so he could hand it back to Gran that I left the room on a whim and met up with them again by the front door. The entire day from start to finish had gone better than I’d expected and as he said his goodbyes, I held out towards him the identical framed photo of the Bean that had been sitting on my desk and said, “Merry Christmas.”
I could tell by his expression he hadn’t been expecting it, but then neither had I, and when he didn’t take it from me right away, I thought maybe I’d overestimated his reactions to it all and started to pull it back, but he stopped me by reaching out and taking it from my hand. Looking down at it, he smiled saying, “These have gotten a lot better than from the time before you were born. I could hardly make out anything the one time we got a look at you before you came into the world.”
I was too stunned to say anything from his admission that he’d even gone to a prenatal appointment and Sookie seemed to sense that, so she picked up the reins and said, “They have 3D ultrasounds now and we want to get one of those too, but they recommend waiting until you’re between 24 and 32 weeks along. We’re barely passed the sixteen week mark now, so it’ll be a little while longer.”
His smile seemed to be for both her and the picture in his hand when he responded, “Technology is an amazing thing.”
So was his whole fucking visit. If I’d thought to bring my iPad along I could’ve translated ‘amazing’ into Swahili for him.
By the time we climbed into bed later on that night I was still trying to process my father’s visit. I went back through the entire night looking for indicators that he was running some sort of con, but I couldn’t find a single thing. It was simply amazing.
Or ‘ajabu’ according to my iPad app.
Sookie snuggled up next to me with her head on my chest, asking, “So, did you have a Merry Christmas?”
I really fucking did. Better than I probably deserved, but hands down the best one of my life and I knew none of it would’ve been possible without her, so I nudged her to roll over onto her back and spent the next few hours making sure her Christmas was just as merry as mine.