“Sook, you can’t go stag to your own dinner party.”
“Yes Had, I can,” I huffed in annoyance. “It’s not that kind of party. It’s just a bunch of business associates. It’s a work party.”
“Work shmerk,” she huffed back and waved her hand in the air.
Because my cousin just didn’t care.
I snickered over my 90’s rap flashback, but seeing her clicking away on my laptop, I asked, “What are you doing? That’s got all of my work shit on it. Leave it alone.”
“Work shmerk,” she repeated and then smiled, saying, “I’m finding you a date.”
“Bitch, you better get your ass off of e-harmony or whatever the hell you’re on or else I’m gonna tell Remy that you’ve got a profile on A-Cheatin-Bitch dot com.”
I’d set that shit up myself and make her profile pic the one from her unfortunate decision to cut her own hair to try and give herself a ‘Rachael’ hair style.
She’d gone a little overboard and ended up looking more like Ross.
She ignored my very real threat and continued to click away before asking, “What about Calvin Norris?”
“Calvin Norris?” I asked, feeling my eyebrows hit my hair line. “What about him?”
He was on e-harmony?
“Is he married? Single? Does he have dreamy eyes or hellacious halitosis? What’s his deal?”
“I don’t know,” I exclaimed and went back to getting my things packed up for the day. “Picture the American submarine captain from The Hunt for Red October and then stick him in an old pickup, wearing dirty jeans and red plaid flannel. Alcide used to call him to do odds and ends side work every now and again. Why?”
“Never mind,” she replied with her face screwed up like she’d sucked on a lemon. Clicking away again, she asked, “What about Mike Spencer?”
My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and I stopped what I was doing as I softly replied, “He was the funeral director we…”
…used when Alcide died.
It had been a little over six years earlier that my husband and childhood sweetheart had been killed by a drunk driver. I was over it as much as anyone could be over it, but it still smarted every now and again.
“Oh Sook, I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Shaking off my melancholy, I shook my head and got back to packing up, asking, “”What are you looking at anyway?”
“I’m going through your contacts looking for a date for you,” she replied, no longer contrite and sounding more determined than ever. “You don’t like any of the guys I’ve introduced you to, so I’m resorting to looking for guys you already know.”
“What do you expect Hadley?” I laughed. “The last guy you brought by looked like he would have a curfew and homework to get done before he took me out to see the latest Disney flick. He couldn’t have been much older than Sam.”
Sam was an unexpected take home party favor from our senior prom twenty years earlier. When I found out I was pregnant, Alcide and I had gotten married the summer after we’d graduated high school. He’d gone right to work, working for his father’s construction business and when his father died (his mother had passed away when we were still in school), he’d inherited the business. We had two more sons, Jason and Trey (more like Thing 2 and Thing 1), but they were only toddlers when Alcide died and I took over the family business. They barely remembered him, but Sam idolized his father.
It was sweet.
“Andre just looked young for his age,” she grumbled.
“Yeah,” I laughed. “That’s what I planned on telling the cops and anyone else who assumed I was his mother if he tried to kiss me.”
I didn’t look my age of thirty-eight, but at times I certainly felt like I was sixty-eight. At a minimum, I was too old to go trolling for a guy I’d have to put into the cougar calculator to see if he at least met the lower age threshold.
And convince the bartender he really was old enough to order his apple martini.
“Just forget it, Had. You’re not gonna find me any dates in there, so help me get my shit together so we can blow this popsicle stand.”
She ignored me – like usual – so I ignored her until she exclaimed excitedly, “Wait! What about this guy?”
She spun my laptop around so I could see she’d pulled up the LinkedIn website and staring back at me from the screen was a face I’d forgotten even existed.
“That’s Eric Northman,” I offered, like she couldn’t read his name next to his profile picture.
Eric was friends with Alcide. Work friends really since Eric was an architect and Alcide was a contractor, they’d met on a jobsite and had gotten along well enough they’d meet up for the occasional beer after work in the years that followed.
“The last time I saw him was at the funeral,” I added when I finally looked away from the blue eyes I’d been temporarily hypnotized by.
“Is he married?” she asked hopefully.
“Was,” I replied. “His wife died from breast cancer less than a year after Alcide.”
I’d read it in the obit in the paper, but I’d just sent flowers since I didn’t really know the man. He’d seemed nice enough though on the few occasions I’d been around him. He would’ve had to be for Alcide to want to hang out with him outside of work.
I was too busy staring at his deep blue eyes and tracing his strong jaw line with my eyes to have noticed what Hadley was up to until I heard her say, “Hello, Mr. Northman? Please hold for Sookie Herveaux.”
She handed me the phone with a shit eating grin on her face and I wanted to shove it back down her throat so she would choke on it. Instead I covered the receiver and ground out, “The fuck, Had? What am I supposed to say?”
“Invite him to dinner,” she whispered and then shrugged. “Or tell him you need a stiff one and I ain’t talkin’ about a drink.”
I hadn’t been with anyone since Alcide. Alcide had been the only man I’d ever been with in every sense of the word. I’d been too busy trying to keep the business afloat and taking care of our three boys to worry about dating and besides – who would want a widow pushing forty and her three kids?
I stood at my kitchen counter with the Hungry Man box in one hand and my phone at my ear in the other. It had taken me a second to place the name Sookie Herveaux, but nothing about it was common so it hadn’t taken long.
But my curiosity was growing by the second.
“Hello?” I eventually heard once the muffled sounds had died down.
I was sure I’d picked out the word ‘fuck’ though.
“Hello. Sookie?” I asked when I got nothing more than the sound of her rapid breaths.
Had she jogged to the phone?
And recalling her impressive…assets, I almost wished she’d Skyped me instead.
“Um…yes. Uh, how are you Eric?” she asked nervously.
“I’m well,” I replied, still unsure of what she could possibly want. “And you?”
I felt a bit shitty for never calling to check up on her after Alcide had died. We weren’t that close, but we were close enough that I should have. But then I’d been busy dealing with my own nightmare.
With Aude’s cancer.
“That’s good,” she responded, following up with, “And you have a daughter, right? How’s she? Patty?”
“Pam,” I corrected and automatically smiled. “She’s good. She’s taking classes at a design school right here in Shreveport.”
But if I had to pretend to be enthralled by another swath of cloth – the color, the texture, the pattern – I was going to choke myself with it.
“And the boys?” I asked. I knew they had three of them. The last I remembered their oldest was in his early teens, but I knew they still had two little ones when Alcide had died. And just thinking about her having to go through that all alone, I felt even shittier for never calling to see how she was holding up.
“Sam’s good,” she answered and I could hear the smile in her voice, but then she laughed softly and admitted, “The other two are probably setting fire to something as we speak.”
“That’s…ambitious?” I chuckled, not sure of what to say about her little fire starters.
“That’s one way to put it,” she laughed and then said, “Listen, the reason I’m calling – I was wondering if maybe you’d like to come over for dinner tonight? I’m having a little gathering of business associates at the house and well…if you’re not doing anything…I just thought maybe…if you don’t have any other plans…”
Her words trailed off into silence, but I was still trying to put them all together, wondering why she was calling me out of the blue and inviting me to dinner. But when they picked up again and she said, “You know what? I’m sorry. Of course you must be busy and here I am calling you at the last minute. Just forget…”
“No!” I interrupted, a little more forcefully than I’d intended. Eying the frozen dinner slowly thawing in my hand, I added, “I’d love to come.”
Did my dick just twitch?
“Oh,” she gasped softly.
I knew it had because it twitched again hearing her whispered word.
I’d gone out on a few dates in the years after Aude’s death, but no one really captured my interest. God knows my next door neighbor, Mrs. Sophie-Anne Quinn, did her best trying get my attention, but I really didn’t want to have to answer to her – literally – NFL linebacker husband.
Besides, desperation was so unattractive on a woman. Not to mention, the slutty look never did anything for me and Sophie-Anne dressed as though every day was meant for clubbing.
Sookie eventually cleared her throat and said, “Great. That’s great.” She quickly spouted off her address and said, “I guess I’ll see you around seven then?”
Was that a squeal I heard in the background?
I didn’t ask and instead said with a smile, “I’m looking forward to it,” because it was true. Pam still lived at home, but she had her own life now that she was about to turn twenty and I really did need to get out more often. If nothing else, I at least had a dinner to look forward to that didn’t involve a microwave or a waiter.
“Me too,” she admitted shyly and ended the call.
I tossed the semi-frozen dinner back into the freezer and went upstairs to wash the day off of me. I was in need of a haircut, but there was no time for it now, so I threw some gel on it once I got out of the shower and combed it back into being tame before getting dressed. Sookie had said it was a dinner party with her business associates, so I tried to not read too much into her invitation. After all, I’d met her husband on a jobsite, so she could’ve just invited me thinking we might know a lot of the same people. Shreveport wasn’t all that big, so it was likely I would know all of them.
Not knowing how formal the dinner was, I threw on my light gray suit and paired it with a light blue shirt – the outfit had a standing Pam seal of approval – and left the top three buttons undone, sticking a folded up tie into my jacket pocket just in case I needed it. I was more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy, but I didn’t mind getting dressed up once in a while.
And if Sookie still looked as beautiful as I remembered, then I wanted…
What did I want?
I couldn’t be sure. I’d only met her a few times in passing, but had never really sat down and had a conversation with her. She was beautiful and she likely still was, but I didn’t know her. Not really. And for all I knew, she had a new man in her life now. It would make sense. Not only was she pretty, but she was smart enough and dedicated enough to have grown Herveaux and Sons into one of the largest construction companies in the city.
Me and my dick needed to stand down before we made a dickhead of ourselves.
I knew the general neighborhood where she lived, so at about a quarter to seven I grabbed a bottle of wine from the cabinet to bring with me and headed out. I found their house with no problems and chuckled to myself as I got out of the car seeing the burnt patch of grass off to one side.
Burnt as in it had caught fire at some point.
Sookie hadn’t been kidding.
There were three other cars in the driveway and I hadn’t noticed there were two passengers in one of them until the doors opened and a man and woman exited the car. Another blond, similar in appearance to how I remembered Sookie looked came over to me and I almost thought maybe they were one and the same. But when she greeted me with an excited smile on her face, saying, “You must be Eric. I’m Hadley, Sookie’s cousin, and this is my husband Remy,” I knew I was wrong.
“Nice to meet you,” I greeted, thankful to see Remy wasn’t wearing a tie either, and together we walked towards the front door.
Being Sookie’s cousin, I guessed Hadley didn’t feel the need to knock and merely opened the front door as she called out, “Sook? We’re here!”
I could hear the sounds of children laughing maniacally and who I assumed was Sookie, snarling, “I mean it! You two settle down or we’re gonna see how many licks it takes for my switch to get to your tootsie roll pop!”
A dog came rushing up to us then – a collie – who proceeded to jump up on me and cover me in fur.
“Dean! Get down!” Hadley admonished, while Remy tried to help extricate him from my body and I looked up hearing, “Oh for Christ’s sake. Sam! Get Dean and stick him out in the backyard!” just as she rounded the corner.
Wearing nothing but a drenched bathrobe, curlers in her hair, and a facial mask on her face.
Even underneath the dried green goo I could see the blush rising up on her skin. Maybe because it had started on her chest and worked its way up from there.
When her eyes met mine, she whispered, “Fuck. Me,” and squeezed her eyes shut, so she probably missed my slight nod of agreement.
Fuck her, I would.
But regardless of how she was dressed – or undressed – I doubted it was that kind of party either.