Pulling into the mall parking lot, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. All I knew was that Eric wanted me to go out, while he and the boys worked on their treehouse because he swore up and down that he wouldn’t be able to concentrate with me there.
He’d sworn a blue streak filled with all of the dirty things he wanted to do to me, while nibbling up and down my neck.
How in the hell was I supposed to argue with logic like that?
So that was how I’d found myself at the mall – sans boys of any age – not having the first clue of what I was going to do. I almost called Hadley to come shopping with me, but after our morning conversation, I wasn’t sure we wouldn’t come to blows if The Dress came up in conversation.
Besides, I was still cursing her in between bars of my mental singalong to Sweet Caroline thanks to that bitch.
But sitting there, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had any free time all to myself. Even my most mundane errands were always tinged with time constraints.
How much time until I had to be back at work?
How much time until I had to get the boys home before their moods deteriorated?
How much time until I had to get one or both of them to the ER?
Even when I left Sam in charge of them, my time away was usually overshadowed by my guilt at leaving them. Working full-time, I felt mostly selfish spending what little time I did have away from them.
But leaving them with Eric had only made me feel guilty over selfishly wanting him all to myself.
But I could share.
If I really had to.
Deciding I might as well make the most of it, I headed into the mall and passing by the storefront of Victoria’s Secret, gave me an idea.
A lot of them, actually.
And each one was dirtier than the last.
Walking over to one of the displays, I selected a white and gold number that left very little to the imagination, while at the same time provoked a lot of imagining on my part.
Imagining all of the ways Eric could take it off of me.
And just because I could, I selected an equally skimpy blue and black number before taking them both to the fitting room.
I’d only managed to get my shirt over my head when I heard the first giggle and then my pants were in a heap on the floor at my feet when I heard the next one. In between the two, there were other sounds that gave away the fact the people in the fitting room next to me were getting more than just some lingerie on.
I sure hoped the girl’s name wasn’t Victoria because it was no secret what she was doing in there.
I tried to be a good sport and just ignore them, but after a while my frustration over the fact that I was in a fitting room and the guy I wanted to try on for size was clear across town had gotten the better of me.
Pounding on the wall separating me and the filming of their homemade iPorn, I yelled, “Get a room! And I don’t mean a fitting room.”
The giggles and moans immediately ceased and I got a bitchy amount of satisfaction that I was no longer the only one not getting any.
Satisfaction of a different kind, that is.
But I got a whole lot more than I bargained for when I stepped out of the fitting room at the same time they did. Normally I wasn’t one to back down and slipped on my defiance as easily as I did my flip flops.
Or flerp flerps, which is what I called them, but that wasn’t the point.
The point is, coming out of the room and seeing Eric’s daughter and her girlfriend coming out of the other one, I couldn’t seem to do anything more than choke on my own tongue.
Which was fine, since I didn’t know what to say anyway.
But not having any control over it, a part of me realized I’d never make a good lesbian.
“Oh!” Pam gasped and blushed furiously when she saw me, with her eyes darting to her girlfriend and back to me again, adding, “Mrs. Herveaux.”
“Pam,” I managed to say.
But only because using my tongue wasn’t necessary.
And realizing the same was true of her girlfriend’s name, I looked to her and nodded, “Miriam.”
I did a few tongue exercises – with my mouth closed because that would’ve been a whole other level of awkward – while we all stared uncomfortably at one another. But just as I felt like I could actually speak again, we both ended up blurting out the same thing.
“No,” I immediately cut in and added, “I shouldn’t have…you know…”
Stopped you from getting some?
Because I’m frustrated over not getting any from your dad?
After our run in at the pizza place, I already knew that would go over like a fart in church. And Pam was so put together she probably wasn’t even able to fart.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out every now and again, little atomized clouds of Hermès 24 Faubourg perfume shot out of her ass instead.
But if that was the case, at fifteen hundred bucks an ounce, I’d make her eat a big helping of baked beans and burrito us together in a blanket the next time I had anywhere fancy to be.
“Mrs. Herveaux,” she stammered out, now looking down at her feet, which drew my eyes to them as well.
Seeing her cute little toes, I made a mental note to get a pedicure while I was out.
But since she seemed hung up on what to say next, I lifted my eyes back up to the crown of her head – which was all I could really see since she was still staring at her feet – and smiled, hoping it would come through in my voice when I said, “Please, call me Sookie.”
Her father was my boyfriend – as sophomoric as the title felt – so the least I could do was let her use my first name.
Especially since calling me ‘Mrs. Herveaux’ made it sound like I was a cheating tramp.
Since her father was my boyfriend.
“I…we…I…” she sputtered, finally lifting her eyes to mine and then breathed out in a fast paced whisper, “Could you please not tell my father about this?”
“Huh?” I uttered on reflex, not knowing what the issue was, even though I probably wouldn’t have told him much more than the fact I’d run into Pam at the mall.
Since she seemed to have free reign with his credit card, he would know she’d been there anyway.
I certainly wouldn’t have told him about what I’d overheard them doing in the fitting room.
As the parent of a nearly twenty year old myself, I knew there were some things we were better off not knowing.
Or even thinking about.
“My dad,” Pam sighed out, thankfully drawing me away from any thoughts as to what Sam could be up to on any given night. “He…he doesn’t know…you know…about…”
She sort of gestured towards Miriam, but then again, she also could have been gesturing towards the table display of lacy underwear.
Two for seven dollars.
That was a good deal – one I would give my full attention to, just as soon as I could figure out what Pam was getting at.
Besides, I wanted her dad to be the first one to see the panties I bought.
“About…?” I asked, hoping she’d fill in the rest. So when she didn’t, I guessed, “That…you’re at the mall? That…you’re shopping in Victoria’s Secret? Your dad doesn’t know about what?”
Unless she was wearing some sort of invisible live streaming Go-Pro/Google glasses camera I couldn’t see – or she was worried I was wearing the same thing that she couldn’t see – I didn’t think she could be talking about what they’d been up to in the fitting room.
They wore sexy lingerie and drank wine in his candlelit living room.
Eric had to know there was some lickety-slit going on, even if he acted like scary stories were the only tall tales they were telling.
I could relate because – in my mind – all three of my boys would be virgins until they put their firstborn into my arms.
Bundled up in the DNA test results they got back from the lab, if their baby mama made my spidey senses tingle.
Satisfaction wasn’t the only thing I could be bitchy about.
“My dad doesn’t know about us,” she sighed and stared back down at her cute little toes to add, “About me.”
“Huh?” I repeated, back to choking on my own tongue.
Miriam reached over and soothingly rubbed Pam’s back, but all it did was remind me that wasn’t the only part of Pam she rubbed.
And Eric didn’t know?
So I filed my shock away for now – I could always open up Pandora’s box later on when I was alone, wondering how in the hell Eric was clueless about who was opening Pam’s box – and softly said, “Pam…I didn’t realize your father doesn’t know about…this side of you, but I would never say anything to anyone about it. It’s not my secret – much less my business – to tell anyone.”
Her head lifted up, with her eyes searching mine – maybe for the truth or maybe for crow’s feet – but she eventually released the breath she’d been holding and softly whispered, “Thank you. I…I know I haven’t been very friendly towards you and I apologize for that. I just…my mom…I…”
I remained silent and just waited for her to finish her thought because I had a sneaking suspicion hearing Pam talk about how she really felt about anything was a rare occurrence.
This could be my one and only chance to experience it.
Blowing out a deep breath, she finally said, “I don’t think I was really prepared to see my dad looking at anyone other than my mom, the way he looks at you. But it wasn’t fair of me to take it out on either one of you and I do want him to be happy.”
Eyeing me like I’ve eyed some of Sam’s girlfriends in the past, she added almost warningly, “I hope you make him happy.”
“I hope I do too,” I smiled, not taking any offense.
If anything, her protective attitude over her father only raised her up in my estimation.
But knowing Eric and recalling his amusement over Russell Edgington’s interest in him, I didn’t think he would have a problem with Pam’s sexual orientation and said, “You can tell me it’s none of my business, but I can’t help but wonder why you’re afraid of your dad finding out about you. I honestly don’t think he’d have any issue with it and would love you just the same.”
I was sure of it.
I might not have been around the two of them enough to get a read on their relationship, but just seeing how he was around my boys was proof enough.
The man was a saint.
A sexy one.
Weeping panty angels said so.
So when she didn’t seem to know what to say, I added, “I really thought he knew, what with how we found you both in the living room last night, but I kind of get it. Parents have blinders on when it comes to their kids.”
As the mother of Treyson, I knew this for a fact.
She blushed again with my reminder of how we’d found them, but only said, “I just…I’m not ready to have that conversation with him yet.”
“Fair enough,” I nodded and hoping to get her mind off of things, I said, “But there is one thing I must insist on.”
Her fearful eyes turned relieved and she actually smiled at me when I teasingly ordered, “You have to tell me where you get your pedicure done. Those are the cutest damn toes I’ve ever seen.”
Her smile only grew – and in turn, highlighted just how pretty she was – while she acted like she had to think about it for a moment. But it wouldn’t really matter if she didn’t want to tell me.
She could keep her secrets and I would still keep them too.
“Fuuunnel cake,” I growled, catching myself at the last second from saying fuck. And hoping to draw their attention away from my almost slip, I quickly explained, “These are the wrong blueprints. The ones we need are at my house.”
I’d drawn up more than one design, but they were all similar enough to each other that it had been an easy mistake to grab the wrong ones.
Especially when my mind had been on other things.
“Son of a biscuit,” Jason grumbled, keeping up with the food based cursing metaphors Trey had started earlier that morning, and looked over at said brother, adding, “Looks like we’re goin’ on a road trip.”
It hadn’t occurred to me until he’d said it that I couldn’t leave the two of them home alone, while I ran back to the house to grab the blueprints we needed.
But I was sure if I had and it was filmed Macaulay Culkin style, it sure as hell wouldn’t have a PG rating.
Seeing the sneering asshat peeking through his bushes at us from next door, I knew I’d be helping to hide Bill’s dead body at the very least.
I made a mental note to grab my shovel while we were at my house, just in case we ended up needing it anyway. But my eyes were drawn back to the boys who were checking each other, front and back in turn, making me ask, “What are you doing?”
“Gettin’ the extra off,” Jason replied, with Trey picking up where he left off at by swiping at his brother’s shirt while adding, “We been outside, so if we don’t wipe the extra off ‘fore gettin’ in the car, we gotta do extra chores when we get back and vacuum it up.”
Then shaking his head, he said seriously, “No time for that today. We gotta treehouse to build.”
I couldn’t help chuckling at what they’d obviously learned from their mother.
It only made me think about that four letter word I was trying to not think about where she was concerned because it was too soon to be thinking about that.
Where she was concerned.
Or so I kept telling myself.
But it was the little things like this that just sucked me in more. She wasn’t even around and yet I could feel her presence – hear her voice – in the boys at my side.
I wanted more.
Where she was concerned.
And where the boys were concerned too.
I wouldn’t trade Pam for anything in the world, but I was quickly learning how great it would’ve been to have had sons. Although considering the differences in their mother to Pam’s, I had a feeling Sookie’s boys would’ve kicked my imaginary sons’ asses.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about that – other than guilty – so I forced the thought away and just counted myself lucky to be a part of these boys’ lives.
Especially since I wasn’t so sure they wouldn’t be able to kick my ass, if they put their minds to it.
They were creative. Dangerously so.
Sending Sookie a quick text to let her know we had to run back to my place for a hot minute, I made sure to lock up the house before we all piled into my car and headed out. It didn’t take long to get there, so it was only a few minutes later when we were walking through my front door.
But I was brought up short hearing Trey ask, “You live in a museum?”
“What?” I smiled, feeling my brow hit my hairline, and looked around to see what he was talking about.
And then I saw what he was talking about.
Everything was in its place. Nothing was left out or out of order, with even the throw pillows on the couch looking as though they’d been placed there for the express purpose of being photographed for a magazine.
Sookie’s house wasn’t dirty by any means, but it was more like ordered chaos. Walking into it, there was no doubt the house was occupied, whether or not anyone was at home.
It felt warm and alive.
Taking a good look around my house, it could’ve easily passed for a model home meant for realtors, looking to sell ones just like it on neighboring plots of land. Nothing other than the few framed pictures placed at perfect angles on the mantelpiece would give any indication anyone lived here.
It felt cold and…
I couldn’t bring myself to finish my thought, but I couldn’t deny the fact – like I’d felt Sookie’s presence in her backyard, I only now realized how much I could feel Aude’s in the house. It was exactly how she would’ve wanted it – company ready – even though Pam and I rarely had anyone over.
I didn’t know what to do with the jumble of emotions going through me – other than walking over and knocking a few throw pillows out of place – before looking back at the boys and saying, “Come on. The blueprints are in my office.”
My office at least looked lived in. It wasn’t a mess – per se – but it had always been my space, so while there were stacks of papers and piles of scrolled blueprints, I knew exactly where everything was.
So while I searched through the different blueprints, looking for the one I wanted, the boys wandered around the room, with Jason grabbing my attention by asking, “Why do you have a real save icon?”
“A what?” I asked, turning to look at him and seeing him holding an old floppy disk in his hand.
At his feet was a box of stuff that had been brought over when we’d first moved in that I’d meant to go through before tossing what I didn’t need or want.
But life had gotten in the way – and death – so I never got around to it.
“A save icon,” he repeated, staring at it like it was the eighth wonder of the world, with Trey digging into the box and pulling out another one, so they could both ooh and ah over them.
Now realzing what he meant, I chuckled to myself, “I’m so fucking old.”
“Don’t you mean you’re so funnel caking old?” Jason asked with a sly grin.
“Yes,” I stared back at him. “That’s exactly what I meant.”
Looking over at Trey, so they could have their silent telepathic powwow, Jason turned back to face me with a grin and waved the floppy disk in his hand, bargaining, “Let us have these and it’ll be our little secret.”
“You have yourselves a deal.”
I didn’t really think Sookie would’ve cared – all that much – my filter had been on the fritz in front of the boys, but letting them believe they’d won a small victory worked out in my favor too.
That was two less things I would have to throw out later.
I didn’t even have a computer that could read floppy disks anymore.
While I went back to search for my dragon proof design, the boys ran back outside with their save icon prizes to wait for me – and engage in a World War II dogfight from the sounds of it – but as I was locking up the front door on my way out a couple of minutes later, I heard Jason at a distance saying, “Hi! I’m Jason. Who are you?”
I was already making my way towards the sound of his voice, coming from the side of the house, but I didn’t need to see who he was talking to, to know who it was when I heard, “I’m wondering who raised you to think it’s okay for you to run around like rabid little dogs on someone else’s property. Who do you belong to, so I can inform the authorities you’ve been let off your leash?”
“They’re mine,” I growled, as I came into view and saw the boys staring up at Sophie-Anne.
“Eric!” she gasped, straightening up and wiping the bitchiness from her expression. But it still looked sour as she added, “What do you mean they’re yours? You don’t have any…boys.”
“I do now. I picked them up at the farmer’s market,” I glared back at her, with the boys chortling at the in joke.
Eying them like she would finding a pile of dog shit in her yard, she stared mostly at Jason and said accusingly, “These are her…boys.”
Jason favored Sookie more than Trey, who looked more like Alcide, so she didn’t have far of a leap to take in making her guess.
But her entire demeanor was pissing me off, so I didn’t hesitate – or think, really – before answering, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law and right now, they’re with me. So they’re mine and I don’t care for the way you’re speaking to them.”
I’d never hit a woman before, but she was pushing my buttons like the asshat could.
What the fuck was it with dick neighbors?
“Heeyyyy…” Jason breathed out. “I know you…”
I really would hit her if it turned out she’d been stalking them, like the asshat was.
But I didn’t know what he was getting at when he said, “You work in that museum, right?”
Knowing for a fact Sophie-Anne didn’t work – other than working her way towards a divorce, if her husband found out what she was up to when he wasn’t home – my only other frame of reference was what Trey had said when they first walked into my house.
He’d called it a museum.
But just as I was about to correct him and let him know she was in no way a regular fixture at my place, Jason turned to Trey – and I caught the evil vibe between them – while he asked, “What was the name again? The one with all the wax dummies?”
“Madame Douche-Oh’s?” Trey answered, without missing a beat and with his challenging eyes turning towards hers.
A silent, ‘Take that’, if there ever was one.
I shouldn’t have been so surprised.
Their mother coined the word douchebachery for Christ’s sake.
But I probably shouldn’t have guffawed out loud either.
I couldn’t help it though.
So I tried to rein in my laughter and remember I was supposed to be the adult in our group, but I ended up snorting out, “Tussauds.” And it took another couple of coughs before I could choke out, “It’s called Madame Tussauds wax museum and no, I don’t think she works there.”
“Coulda fooled me,” Jason said, with a small shake of his head and jutted his thumb towards her still gawking face, adding, “That much makeup either means wax dummy or dead guy and I don’t see any coffins lying around.”
Then holding up the floppy disk in his hand, he tapped on it with his other one, making me ask, “What are you doing?”
“Saving the look on her face,” he replied with a grin. “Sam ain’t gonna believe we met a real-life zombie.”
At the word ‘zombie’ both boys ran off towards the car, yelling it out loud as though they’d planned it all along and were in danger of getting eaten by the walking dead.
Sophie-Anne still looked shell-shocked – and I had a better appreciation for all of the warnings Sookie had given me when it came to the boys’ personalities – so even though I probably shouldn’t have let them get away with everything they’d just done – Aude would’ve passed out from skyrocketing blood pressure had it been Pam – this time, I thought they were justified.
Sophie-Anne started it.
“I…I…” she stammered out and then sneered accusingly, “I can’t believe you’re dating someone who raised her rugrats to be like that!”
“I know,” I grinned and walked away from her, calling over my shoulder my true feelings on the matter.
“I can’t believe it either, but it’s great!”
Climbing into the car, the boys were already buckled up in the backseat, so I turned to face them and tried to not let my amusement show when I asked, “Madame Douche-Oh’s?”
“I know,” Trey mumbled, sinking into his seat even more before turning his sad eyes up to meet mine and ask, “Are you gonna tell mom?”
Both of them were looking at me like I held their fate in my hands, which I guess I did in a way, and even though I had my doubts Sookie would be upset if she knew what they’d done, I could be wrong.
But I also didn’t think it wasn’t the end-of-the-world bad behavior, considering what started it all, so I gave them the best stern face I could muster – which probably wasn’t all that stern looking – and let them know their world wasn’t going to end when their mother got home by saying, “I think this one time we can keep it between us.”
Then turning around in my seat, so they wouldn’t see the smile I couldn’t fight off anymore, I started the car and added, “It’ll be our little secret.”