Slowing my ‘Late! Late! Late!’ trot to a stroll, Pam looked up from her desk as I headed towards my office door and asked, “Everything okay, boss? You’re…glowing?”
She would be too if she’d spent the night in between a furnace and a portable space heater. Waking up on the couch a half hour after I should’ve been up and feeling like a wet dish rag hadn’t helped, especially since I hadn’t been damp from the good kind of moisture.
Instead of being sexily slicked, I was grossly sweaty, with the front of my body covered in baby drool and a piss spot from Jason’s overfull diaper leaking.
Not that I could tell her any of that.
Not when she could still be hiding her part-time Puppet Master gig pulling my strings.
No matter what Eric thought he knew, I knew Pam.
My assistant could be very Pamachiavellian when she wanted to be.
But being thirteen minutes late to work, I was approximately thirteen percent prepared to deal with her shit. So I patently ignored her – which was better than dropping a trail of Snausages in my wake to get her to trail after me like a puppy dog – and sat down at my desk putting my things away.
“Is there anything you want to tell me?” she asked coyly. “About your night, perhaps?”
Looking up at her after an appropriate amount of I-give-up-I-can’t-ignore-you-forever-because-I-know-you-won’t-shut-up-until-I-acknowledge-you time, I answered truthfully, “No.”
The Hell left unsaid.
“But you’re glowing,” she pointed accusingly and completely ignoring my bitch-face. “If I didn’t know better I would swear you’re wearing that freshly fucked orgasmic glow.”
What she was seeing was pent up sexual frustration.
But I never realized if you kept your orgasm in for too long it would start seeping out of your pores.
Dr. Oz should do a special on it.
Or maybe Oil of Olay could market it.
Oil of Orgasm Delay?
But now that she’d opened a door of her own, I figured I could walk on through it – instead of picking the lock and tiptoeing in like a sneaky bitch like I’d planned – thinking now was as good of a time as any to get started on Operation Pamanipulation Day.
“Why would you even think that?” I asked, casting the bait. And assuming it couldn’t hurt to tease the line and make it shimmy enticingly, I added, “You know I went straight home after work.”
Not because she would’ve followed me there, but because I always went straight home after work.
“And?” she asked rhetorically. “I’m sure you can be fucked at home. In fact, statistics would likely prove that the majority of people fuck in their homes.”
“You don’t fuck in your home,” I reminded her.
Pam was the equivalent of Edward Snowden walking out of the NSA building for the last time.
She couldn’t be found, until she wanted you to find her.
“I have layers,” she huffed. “The top few are easily removed, but the ones underneath are locked up tighter than a pair of Spanx on your last nanny.”
Starting my mental stopwatch, I’d only counted to four when she segued, “Speaking of nannies, how’s it going with my brother?”
Acting like I was only paying half attention to her, I started going through my emails and said, “Fine, I guess. He’s really good with Jason.”
And he was.
On both counts.
Fine and really good with Jason.
If ‘fine’ equated to him being ‘hotter than a Times Square Rolex worn by Satan himself.’
But it only served to remind me of everything that had happened the night before. While taking a few self-defense classes wouldn’t be a bad idea, if Eric thought we would get anything done but each other, with him trying to teach me anything of the sort, then he was wrong.
And I would gladly prove it to him over and over again.
Something about him just clicked with me in a way that I hadn’t ever experienced before. Trying and failing to pin my fallopian feelings on seeing how good he was with Jason, just wasn’t working.
It certainly enhanced my feelings for him – and had the opposite been true, I knew I would’ve been turned off like a Kardashian finding themselves in the middle of the Alaskan Yukon with Bear Grylls – but it was more than that.
Wanting to ride him until we both fell into a sex coma was one thing.
But wanting to ride him off into the sunset was something else altogether.
All I knew for sure at this point was that I wanted a ride.
“So you’re getting along well?” she asked, still digging for dirt.
Dirt that was actually there to be had, but that I wasn’t about to give up.
Reckoning I could start laying the foundation work – and I took a moment to internally preen over being one of the founding mothers of Pamanipulation Day – I shrugged and offered, “I guess. I mean he’s a little intense.”
“Intense, how?” she asked, clearly not liking the way our conversation was going.
Since I couldn’t tell her about our intense make-out session on the couch, I replied, “I can’t put my finger on it,” because the baby box blocked me before I could get my hand down his pants, “But he definitely has issues.”
All of it made me wet just the same.
“Issues?” she sputtered.
Fucking with Pam was one thing, but I didn’t want to actually make her mad by talking bad about her brother.
So I carefully chose my next words and only offered, “He’s just got this thing with my shoes? And I won’t even go in to what he had me doing at ass o’clock Saturday morning. But like I said, he’s really good with the baby and he’s a stellar little woman around the house despite his gigantorness. He cooks. He cleans. He’s like that chick that replaced Alice on the Brady Bunch when she left because she felt unloved. All of the housekeeping gets done, with none of the warm homey feels. Just a cold brutal efficiency at work. I can overlook everything else.”
All around look.
He had a lot of nice stuff to look at.
While she continued to gape at me like a dying trout, I piled it on by adding, “He sure is obsessed with closets. Are you sure he’s not camping out in one?”
Acting like she wasn’t about to grand mal seizure her way into a bonus day off, I went back to checking my emails and said, “He knows who Pinkie Pie is, Pam. Pinkie. Pie. And he deflected when I asked him about going to Brony conventions.”
Nodding, like the jury had just come back and declared guilty on all charges, I ended with, “You know he’s hiding something if he’s deflecting.”
Giving her a moment to collect herself – it would take a little while to pick up the shattered pieces of whatever plans she’d had – I actually looked at my emails and flipped the bird at the one currently opened on my screen, sighing out, “Fuck my life. The mayor is hosting a campaign party at his house this weekend.”
I hated election season.
But working for the District Attorney’s office meant I would have to go.
Hoping Eric wouldn’t mind watching Jason for a few hours on his day off, seeing the opportunity to fuck with Pam some more, I said, “Maybe it’s fate.”
“What do you mean?” she asked warily hopeful.
“You know,” I added quasi-casually to build her up a little before I knocked her flat on her ass. “Your brother.”
“What do you mean?” she repeated, more hopeful than wary.
Pulling the rug out from under her Manolo Blahniks, I replied, “Well, now that Larry Poppins is living with me, maybe I can start dating again.”
And then twisting the knife in her wounded expression, I quickly added, “I could even sign up on one of those dating websites!”
Grabbing my cell phone, I quickly snapped a few selfies before acting like I was actually interested in how they looked and offhandedly asked, “Which one do you think I should use as my profile pic?”
“Your what?” she squeaked out.
“For Tinder,” I replied, giving her a healthy dose of my duh tone.
“Tinder,” she spat out.
Looking up at her, I narrowed my eyes as if in thought and grudgingly agreed, “You’re right. I can’t be caught trolling on Tinder. Half the assholes in lockup are probably on there too. And wouldn’t that make for awkward hookup conversation…”
Then slamming my hand on my desk, I looked at her with wide eyed eureka glee and said, “I could go on e-Harmony! Or Match dot com. I can’t do Farmers Only dot com because those commercials take me from my happy place. Can’t they hire someone who has any actual sense of what sells? I mean, that Budweiser commercial with the puppy trying to get his owner laid with the farm girl next door makes my want to ride a cowboy more than that other bullshit. Lame…”
“But you said fa…what about my brother?” she pleaded.
“You mean, Sergeant Kilroy Killjoy?” I asked incredulously and twisted my face into a grimace before turning it into a sympathetic pout. “Oh…if you’re worried I’m trying to take advantage of him since he lives with me, don’t. He already said he wouldn’t mind watching Jason if I ever wanted to go out at night.”
Or his actions the night before said something similar, since he went up to get the baby while I splayed out on the couch in a puddle of his making.
“Apparently, I pay him well,” I replied sarcastically.
But I would really owe him big time for what I was currently putting his sister through.
There was no way he wasn’t going to pay for it too.
We both looked up seeing Bill standing in the doorway, with Pam nearly falling from her perch on my desk. And whatever expression she wore had him backing up a bit and looking to me for help, saying, “We have that meeting for the Pinto trial.”
“Sure Bill,” I smiled, more from the idea seeing him just gave me than actually seeing him. “Be there in a sec.”
“Pinto,” I snickered when he walked away, shaking my head and murmuring about Bronies again.
Digging out the file I needed for the meeting from my bag, I waited until he was out of hearing range and swallowed hard to stave off my gag reflex, before whispering conspiratorially to Pam, “Maybe I’ll even take Bill up on his offer for dinner the next time he asks.”
I was surprised her head didn’t pop off of her shoulders from the force of her whipping it my way.
The horror on her face was an added bonus.
Winking at her, I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing out loud and waited until I was out of eyesight to text Eric.
Me – Prepare yourself for a call from your sister. I just left her in a state of Pamdemonium in my office.
Captain – Do I want to know?
Me – Let’s just say she wasn’t very helpful in picking out my online dating profile pic. Also, if she asks, act coy about being a Brony.
Captain – I shouldn’t have asked. I knew better and I did it anyway.
Me – It’s like Monday Night Fight Club all over again. Be grateful you’re not here to hear the soundtrack.
Beyoncé was currently on a loop in my brain, singing about girls who’d won the world.
Captain – I am. But here’s a little something else to be grateful for.
For a brief moment I wondered if the picture text that arrived a second later would be of the dick pic variety.
I blamed Pam for putting ideas of his photogenic Johnson in my head.
Instead what I got was a picture of a gummy grinning Jason who wasn’t as gummy as he was the night before.
Me – He has a tooth?
Captain – He won’t be eating corn on the cob anytime soon, but it’s a promising start. He’s been proudly showing it off since breakfast.
Blinking back the tears suddenly filling my eyes, I stood there trying not to cry.
It was stupid.
I was being stupid.
I mean, I knew his teeth would come in eventually – unless I’d somehow managed to really fuck up being his mom – but still.
It felt like I’d missed out on it by not being there when it finally happened, even if it was barely just a nub poking through his gums.
My phone vibrated a second later and seeing the newest picture he’d sent filled my eyes for a different reason.
It was a selfie of the two of them, with their cheeks smooshed together and Eric making the same goofy open mouthed grin as Jason.
How was I supposed to go into a meeting with swimmy heart eyes?
I really was fucked.
Like my mascara.
Hearing Bill calling for me from the conference room brought me out of my thoughts and I quickly swiped underneath me eyes, shooting Eric a quick ‘Got a meeting. Talk to you later,’ before heading into the room.
Swimmy heart eyes or not. This girl could still rule the world.
Reading her last text, I looked at Jason and explained in an over-the-top way, making it sound like she was off to slay dragons and his eyes dance, as I said, “Mommy has a meeting!”
And if I happened to raise my arms up like a T-Rex and make exaggerated chomping noises before playfully chomping at each of his chubby fists, well then that was okay.
I was very much of the ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’ mindset.
I was also of the mindset to ignore any calls or texts from Pam.
Ignoring my sister was in the Top Three of Ways to Fuck with Pam.
Which was why I left my phone on the kitchen table, when I grabbed the baby and headed into the living room. Moving the furniture around the night before, I noticed the rug underneath hadn’t been vacuumed in a while, so I hauled it out of the laundry room before pushing everything up against the walls.
Strapping Jason into the baby carrier on the front of my body so that he was facing forward, I plugged the vacuum into the wall socket and stared down to watch his reaction when I turned it on, not knowing if he would be afraid of the noise.
Other than his arms and legs jerking outward, like he was in a freefall skydive, he seemed okay with it.
Poor little guy was likely immune to horrendous noise thanks to his mom’s shitty taste in music.
Shitty as it was though, she still had it going on.
By the time the living room was thoroughly vacuumed and the furniture was back in place, we moved onto vacuuming the foyer.
AFTER I PUT SOMEONE’S SHOES AWAY IN THE CLOSET WHERE THEY BELONGED.
We were mid forward movement – an exaggerated elongation of my body to the point where Jason was parallel to the floor, with my right arm fully outstretched and my hand on the vacuum handle with my left leg pointing straight out behind me for balance.
Not only was it a good workout for my core muscles, but it made him flail his limbs in a full body jazz hands move, while he laughed hysterically.
Grinning down at him, I hadn’t really thought about it until that moment when it hit me. While Sookie had pled her case in our mutual word vomit confessions, that I was good for Jason, the truth was he was just as good for me.
After I’d first gotten out of the military, I spent a lot of time alone. It was a first in my adult life, not being nearly on top of someone else for most of the day, so I had a lot of time to think.
Not all of my thoughts were good ones.
It was hard to not think of all of the people I’d met throughout the years who never got the chance to go home.
But getting the chance to be with him helped, both to not focus on all of the shit I’d seen in my lifetime and it gave me the opportunity to be reminded there was still a lot of good in the world.
Babies were one of them.
I don’t know how long I was lost in thought – or in forward vacuum pose – when I noticed we weren’t alone.
Because it was then that I noticed Pam was staring at us with wide eyes and a gaping mouth through the sidelight window next to the front door.
Standing up straight, I turned the vacuum off and opened the front door, asking, “What are you doing here?”
And suddenly feeling more than a little panicked, I know I sounded it when I followed up with, “Is something wrong?”
Because why else would she be there in the middle of the morning on a work day?
“Yes,” she breathed out in barely a whisper.
I just didn’t know her whispered reply was a precursor to the storm she was about to unleash, until she stormed into the house and started flailing her arms, accusing, “What are you doing?”
And without waiting for an answer – it would’ve been the obvious ‘vacuuming’ one anyway – she added, “This is why Sss…she is going on Find a Fuck dot com!”
“What?” I asked sounding confused.
But I was in no way confused about why she was there. Sookie’s description had certainly been an apt one.
My sister was in a full-fledged state of Pamdemonium.
Gesturing to me in general, she sputtered unintelligible words before putting her hands on her hips and staring me down.
Stony silence and Pam did not make for a good combination.
Nothing good ever came from it.
Seeming to come to some sort of silent decision, she shrewdly gave me the once over, before vaguely pointing at my face and saying, “The scruff you’ve got going on. It works, but don’t let it get it Duck Dynasty or else I’ll be forced to do something to your little rubber ducky you’re going to regret.”
“I’m so glad you approve,” I deadpanned. “And as much as I love compliments turned threats to my manhood as the next guy…why?”
I had a sneaking suspicion I knew why, but I also knew she wasn’t going to say it. However, after hearing about her Find a Fuck dot com concerns, I made a mental note to talk to Sookie about it.
I could make up a phony profile for her to date.
As I’d suspected, she ignored my question and went on to say, “But you do need a haircut, so grab whatever you need to for the little Leak Monster and let’s go.”
“What?” I repeated, this time sounding just as incredulous as I felt.
Undeterred, she glaringly bit out, “I only have three hours before someone will notice I’m gone, so get moving.”
“Three hours?” I asked and then shook my head for even doing so.
Of course my sister would have it down to a science how long she could fuck off from work.
So when I didn’t move – because fucking with Pam was an inherent skill – she pulled her phone out of thin air and warned, “So help me god, Eric. I will call mom right now!”
My arched brow was my only response, causing her to hold her phone in the palm of one hand, with a single finger hovering above the screen, as she cautioned, “Don’t call my bluff. I will do it and you will be sorry.”
I had actually been meaning to get a haircut. Once my terminal leave had kicked in and I no longer had to adhere to the military’s grooming standards, I’d let it grow.
Just because I could.
But that didn’t mean I would give in to her that easily and at my continued frozen stare, she eventually erupted by stomping her feet and threatening, “You will come with me right now or I swear on all that is holy I will bring your freshman year school picture to work and put it on my desk!”
As if that wasn’t enough of a threat, she added, “The eight by ten copy. In. A. Gold. Gilded. Frame.”
Puberty hadn’t been kind to me. Between the acne and growth spurts, I could’ve been easily confused with the cartoon version of a measles afflicted Ichabod Crane until my skin cleared up and I finally started filling out with muscle mass.
Looking back, it was no surprise why Dawn Green had easily given me the heave ho.
But if Sookie was to be believed, it was Dawn’s loss now.
Now that I’d achieved an unfair level of hotness.
But there was no reason for Sookie to see embarrassing pictures of me in my youth.
Not now or ever.
Which was why, about twenty minutes later, we were pulling up in front of the address Pam had punched into the GPS once we were piled into the SUV.
“Best Little Hairhouse?” I dryly asked, reading the words on the storefront window out loud.
“Shut up!” she grumbled. “It’s kitschy and infers illicit and sexually depraved encounters can be found inside. It checks all of my boxes.”
“I don’t want to know anything about your boxes,” I grumbled in return. “Why can’t we just go to a regular barber?”
Looking at me like I’d just asked to see her actual box, she snatched the keys from the ignition and got out, ordering, “Just do as I say and get out of the car. No one has to get hurt here today.”
Rolling my eyes, I got out of the truck and took Jason out of the car seat. But eying the stroller in the back gave me an idea, so I left it there and followed Pam into the salon.
“Lafayette,” she greeted a – let’s say – artfully decorated man standing behind the counter.
After air kisses were given to one another, she gestured towards me and said, “This is my brother. Please help him to not look like that anymore.”
“Honey,” he drawled out with a slight shake of his head. “There is nothin’ wrong with the way your brother looks.”
Smirking, both at his antics and Pam’s horror at hearing something akin to being called wrong – the latter checking one of my boxes – I turned to give her my patented ‘So there!’ expression.
Then sashaying forward – because that was the only word to accurately describe his gait – he immediately began cooing at the baby in my arms and said, “Just look at this handsome lil’ devil. He looks just like his daddy.”
It only took a moment more for me to realize he thought Jason was my son and not that he was talking about who Jason’s father actually was.
I supposed he sort of did look like me, but mostly just because we shared the same blond hair and blue eyes.
As did his mother.
It made me wonder if his father was blond haired and blue eyed too.
Did Sookie have a type?
Other than superhero, that is.
If she did, considering she’d likened me to Captain America, I was fine with it, knowing I checked a couple of those boxes for her.
“Ha!” Pam snorted and then looked at me, asking, “Tell me brother, is there any chance Mr. Leaky Parts is my nephew?”
Not that I would be opposed to Jason being my son, but even if I was prone to having a ton of one night stands – which I wasn’t – I would’ve remembered Sookie.
Not that I could say any of that.
Because we were operating under Fuck with Pam Protocols, which meant adhering to strict radio silence when it came to knowing each other’s names.
But knowing my sister better than the back of my hand, I could see she wasn’t convinced there was absolutely no way I could be Jason’s father.
So she must have fallen and hit her head really hard at some point in the recent past.
“Does that mean I gotta chance with you, Sugar?” Lafayette coyly asked, batting his lashes at me. “Even if you ain’t never tried it, I would gladly let you come on over and give you a taste of the rainbow.”
“Um…” I chuckled, feeling the heat rising up the back of my neck, which I promptly covered with the palm of my hand. “I appreciate the offer?”
He was harmless enough and I wasn’t one of those assholes that got riled up being hit on by another guy.
Even one as artfully decorated and inhibitions liberated as Lafayette.
Nor did I want to piss off the guy who was more than likely about to cut my hair.
Little did I know that getting a simple haircut couldn’t be simply done.
First there was the apparent need for a conference to take place to decide what kind of hairstyle I should have. A conference I wasn’t a part of, mind you. Just Lafayette and Pam. And when they needed a tiebreaker, Lafayette’s boyfriend Jesus got called over to do the honors.
And because Jesus was apparently Jesus Christ reborn when it came to men’s wear – at least to hear them tell it – I somehow I got roped into getting a new suit, with his shop conveniently located next door to the salon.
Convenient for Pam to get her way.
Even the look on her face when I handed the baby over to her unwilling arms – because ‘I can’t hold him and get a haircut or try on suit after suit at the same time, Pam!’ – didn’t give me as much joy as I thought it would.
I did get some joy though.
That and a suit, which I didn’t really need but agreed it couldn’t hurt to have because disagreeing with Pam when her three hour break was dwindling down to less than thirty minutes would guarantee me nothing but a world of hurt.
Between the heated arguments I was in no way a part of, flying scissors cutting both hair and fabric, and being shoved into suit after suit, I was just grateful to have survived.
Give me a six month tour in Afghanistan any day over doing that again.
Jason had had a good time though. Leery of Pam – because he might’ve been young, but he hadn’t been born yesterday – he thought Lafayette and Jesus were hysterical, if his continuous chortles were anything to go by.
Needless to say, he was out like a light by the time I got him back home, so I put him down in his crib for a nap and decided he had the right idea.
A nap sounded great.
Making sure the baby monitor was turned on, I set it on the coffee table before sprawling out on the couch and had just closed my eyes when they snapped open hearing my phone ring.
Swiping to accept the call without looking to see who it was, I answered out of habit, “Northman.”
“Yes,” said a very familiar and slightly amused voice. “I’m aware of who you are. I was there when you were born.”
“Hi, Mom,” I fondly sighed. “I didn’t see it was you before I picked up the call.”
Making a humming sound of acknowledgment, she sounded very mom-like a second later, when she said, “Your sister just called me.”
“She’s lying!” I replied, also out of habit.
“So you’re not working for her boss friend whose name I’m not supposed to say for some reason?” she asked, with an exasperated, “Pam,” qualifier thrown in a second later.
“Oh,” I chuckled. “Well that’s actually true. Anything else though, don’t believe a word she said.”
But figuring I might be able to kill two birds with one stone – payback to Pam for filling our mother’s head with whatever lies she’d come up with in the half hour since I’d last seen her and having someone – a qualified someone – on hand that could babysit for a few hours – I infused my voice with a touch of concern when I asked, “Did Pam seem…off at all when you spoke to her?”
“In what way?” she asked, sounding just as concerned, although hers was actually genuine whereas mine was pure bullshit.
But Pam wasn’t the only master manipulator around.
“I don’t know,” I sighed, hoping the smile on my face wasn’t coming through loud and clear. “I think she’s been feeling a little down or something. She was so…happy when I surprised her on her doorstep. But then this job opportunity literally came out of nowhere the next morning and I needed to move in here right away, so I think she’s feeling…lonely?”
I also thought I should get an Oscar for my performance.
That and possibly stitches from how hard I was biting the inside of my cheek to keep my shit together.
“Lonely?” she asked, sounding distraught now that I was yanking on her maternal heartstrings, like a runaway marlin.
“I don’t suppose you could maybe surprise her with a visit this weekend, could you?” I asked in a tone that was the verbal equivalent of puppy dog eyes.
It was our mom’s Kryptonite.
And wanting to really set the hook, I added, “She mentioned to me a few times how much she was really looking forward to calling you. I think she would be really happy if you surprised her with a visit.”
So if my cheeks hurt from both grinning and biting back my maniacal laughter, hearing our mom planning her surprise weekend visit, that was fine by me.
Nor was I the least bit bothered over missing out on my chance for a nap when Jason woke up from his, only a few minutes after I’d hung up the phone.
Because not only was Pam in for a surprise visit that she would both love and hate, but I knew once our mom laid eyes on Jason there would be no getting him back from her for a minimum of four hours.
A lot could be done in four hours.
And I planned on filling every one of them with Sookie.