Chapter 12: Bachelorette, Part 1
[13 days later, the day before the wedding]
“Well?” Sookie asked nervously.
“Well—if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you were progressing through a perfectly normal pregnancy,” Dr. Ludwig responded, smiling at the couple in front of her.
“Excellent,” Elsa Larsson said from the other side of the room. “Now, doctor, would you please explain to my grandson that it really is bad luck for a groom to see his bride on the wedding day? Let alone sleep in the same bed as she the night before! He keeps going on about magic and how you told him not to spend any lengthy amount of time away from Sookie.”
Dr. Ludwig winked at Eric and then turned around to face his grandmother. “That is exactly what I told him. It is my professional opinion that these two need to stay in close proximity for the health of Sookie and the baby.”
“But you just said that the pregnancy is going along well now,” Elsa reminded.
“Indeed,” Ludwig said. “But let’s not tempt fate—shall we?” she asked with a challenge in her tone—as if taunting Elsa to argue further.
Elsa sighed loudly and glared at the doctor.
“Mormor, what is all this about?” Eric asked with suspicion in his tone. “I know for a fact that you aren’t one to adhere to silly traditions.”
Elsa sighed. “It is just that I was—enlisted,” Elsa said guiltily, now avoiding eye contact with everyone else in the room.
“Enlisted?” Sookie asked.
Elsa sighed again—this time more loudly. “Yes—they thought it would seem less suspicious if I was the one who insisted that you adhere to that asinine and antiquated tradition. I told them that you’d never buy it, however.”
“Mormor,” Eric chuckled, “who is the ‘they,’ and what do they want to do?”
Elsa decided to give up her information. In truth, if Eric and/or Sookie thought that being together was keeping her great-grandson safe, she was not going to be the one to tempt fate! The doctor was right about that. Even though little Johan was getting closer and closer to a time when he could survive if he were born, it was still way too soon from Elsa’s perspective.
“Pam, Amelia, Thalia, Lafayette, Louise, and Karen,” Mormor said, listing off the conspirators with her fingers.
“What about them?” Sookie asked.
“If this has something to do with the stripper that I met at the Foresters’ house when I was there, you can count me in,” Dr. Ludwig said with a wink at Eric.
“Stripper!” Sookie exclaimed, immediately covering her belly with her hand defensively.
Eric laughed until he saw both Mormor’s and Sookie’s stern faces.
“He is not a stripper; Claude said that he should be called a gentleman entertainer,” Mormor corrected. “And he does not do the full monty. I have already checked,” she said with some disappointment.
At that, Eric and Sookie both looked at each other and snorted out laughs.
“He’s actually a nice young man trying to put himself through college,” Mormor continued. “Anthropology I think.”
There were more chortles from Eric and Sookie.
“I would have thought pre-Med,” Dr. Ludwig smirked, “given the doctor’s uniform.”
“How could they think I would like that?” Sookie asked, her eyes conveying her trepidation at the thought of being the center of attention—with a stripper dancing for her.
“I don’t know,” Eric said, obviously not troubled by the thought. “It might be fun.”
“A ‘hen party’ can be quite the time,” Mormor said. “I had one before I married my Johan—you know. Of course, in my day, it was just a tea with some chit-chat.” She got a devilish look on her face. “Of course, our tea servers were very handsome young gentlemen in bathing costumes, but those were a bit different in my day too.” She winked at Sookie. “Now men wear either those speedo things—which only one man in a thousand should wear in public, by the way—or those very loose shorts, which show absolutely nothing! In my day, young men’s bathing suits were much nicer. Just tight enough to give a nice hint as what was underneath.”
Sookie blushed deeply, mostly because she was suddenly thinking about Eric in his speedo. He was definitely among the one in a thousand.
“Mormor,” Eric chided playfully, shaking his head, “I really don’t need to hear this kind of thing from my grandmother.”
Elsa shrugged. “Then put your hands over your ears, dear.” She looked at Sookie and winked. “So—may I tell the conspirators that you will be there? Or will they have to turn the poor young stripper away. Claude has explained that the young man is one of his best, but I’d hate for him to have driven all this way for nothing.”
Sookie looked at Eric helplessly. “I don’t know about this,” she whispered nervously.
Eric chuckled. “You should go to your party—for a little while.” He lowered his voice so that only she could hear. “And—remember—you are in control. If you really don’t want the dancer to come near you, you need only tell him.”
She smiled and nodded. “Okay. But—uh—what will you be doing?”
“I’m sure that I can find something to do,” he grinned.
“No female stripper for you?” Sookie asked with a giggle.
“Nope,” Eric grinned, “I don’t think that your honorary big brother would approve of that. He might be even more protective of you than I am.”
Sookie smiled widely. “Nope, Henry would have your hide,” she chuckled as she thought of her reunion with Henry a few days before. He really did feel like a true brother to her.
“Plus,” Eric added, “Claude told me last week that strippers plus baby-mommas always leads to someone getting busted.”
Sookie giggled again.
“Busted?” Elsa asked.
“Arrested,” Eric supplied.
“Oh yes,” his grandmother said primly. “Americans do have such interesting slang. Now dear,” she said in Eric’s direction, “run along so that I can give Sookie her final fitting for her dress before I take her to her party.”
Dr. Ludwig grinned. “I’ll see you there, Sookie. Of course, I’ll only be going in an official capacity to—uh—monitor your health.”
“I’m sure that’s not all you’ll be monitoring,” Eric quipped.
“Make sure that Pamela gives you some of her ones. Why she wishes to have so many for just one male stripper is utterly beyond me,” Elsa muttered. “He’ll never fit them all in his uniform—I’m sure.”
Dr. Ludwig chuckled as she left the room.
Eric bent down and kissed Sookie on the forehead. “I think you’ll have fun, but please don’t have too much fun with the stripper.” He winked.
“And you’re really okay with it—me being around someone who gets mostly naked? And—uh—jiggles around?” she asked in a whisper as a blush spread over her face.
He laughed heartily. “I’m fine as long as you don’t take any of Pam’s ones and you promise to come back if you start to feel tired at all,” he said, kissing her forehead again before bending lower to kiss her lips gently.
“Oh for goodness sakes, you two,” Mormor chided, though she was smiling. “One would think that you were going to be apart for much longer than a couple of hours.” She winked at them. “It’s already 6:30 p.m., and I have strict orders from the doctor to make sure you get to bed by 9:00,” she said to Sookie.
“Okay,” Eric said, smiling at his bride-to-be. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours then.”
Sookie smiled back up at him. “Have fun with the boys.”
Eric left after giving her one more quick kiss.
Sookie sighed as soon as he was out the door.
Elsa looked at her affectionately. “I remember not wanting Johan to be out of my sight too,” she said, with a smile that had just a bit of sadness in it. “He would be so proud that you are going to be naming your child after him.”
Sookie smiled. “Eric loved his morfar very much.”
Elsa nodded and unzipped the garment bag she was holding.
Sookie sighed as she always did when she saw her wedding dress. Not being able to get out of the house to shop, she had intended to wear a simple white maternity maxi-dress that she’d gotten online a couple of months before. However, when Elsa had arrived, she’d had other ideas. In fact, she had come armed with her own wedding dress, which she’d immediately gone about altering to accommodate Sookie’s expanded belly. At first, Sookie was extremely hesitant about Elsa doing anything to alter her own wedding dress, but the older woman had finally convinced Sookie that the dress had been doing no one any good for decades and that Pam didn’t like it enough to want to wear it. So Sookie had finally agreed to let Elsa work her magic on the garment.
With the help of Louise, who also turned out to be a whiz with needle and thread, Elsa had decided that the best strategy would be to shorten the originally floor-length dress. The dress had an empire waistline, and—luckily—the top of the dress had fit Sookie like a glove. So Elsa then cut the dress where the original empire waist had begun and used the fuller portion of the old shirt to create a new bottom to the dress. The lace overlay was also “brought up” from the bottom of the skirt. The only “rough place” in the new garment—at least according to Elsa’s and Louise’s sharp eyes—was where the new skirt hit the old waist line; however, they solved that issue by putting a wide satin ribbon over the connection point.
The elegant garment now fell right above Sookie’s knees, but she was—frankly—grateful for a short dress, given the fact that she now seemed to be hot almost all the time.
Elsa helped Sookie slip her newly completed gown over her head and then stepped back to look at the lovely woman. She sighed. “You look amazing, Sookie.”
Sookie turned around so that she could see herself in the closet mirror. “Oh my goodness,” she gasped as she took herself in. She smiled through her tears. “I never thought I would wear one of these,” she whispered. “I never thought I would find the kind of love that Eric has given to me.”
Elsa smiled softly. “You’ve made him so happy, Sookie. I have always worried about him so much.” She closed her eyes. “After Stella died, it seemed like something in him closed down. I thought it was because he’d lost his mother, but now I know it was because of Appius.” She sighed. “Eric stayed closed down like that, and no matter what Johan and I tried, we couldn’t open him up. That’s why we moved to the lake—you know. We loved it there, of course. But it seemed to be where Eric was most relaxed too when he was a little boy.” She smiled. “He was always like a little fish. You know—Stella had him in the water when he was two weeks old. And later, Johan got the idea to build the lake house because he could recognize Eric’s talent in that area.”
“He built it for Eric?” Sookie asked.
“Yes. And for himself too,” Elsa smiled. “My Johan liked to design and build things. He was always sketching something.”
“Eric too,” Sookie smiled. “Spending his summers with you and Johan was the best time of Eric’s life.”
Elsa’s smile softened and she took Sookie’s hand. “Until he met you, my dear. The first time I saw you two together, I saw something I had never seen before. The cloud that had always covered Eric had been lifted off of him.”
Sookie sniffled a little and Elsa handed her a Kleenex.
“He lifted the cloud off of me too,” she said.
“Yes,” Elsa responded. “Adele recognized the same thing that I did.”
“I’m so glad you’re here, Elsa. I wish Gran were here too, but having you with me makes me feel like I have a little part of her.”
It was Elsa’s turn to sniffle. “I’m glad to be here for you, my dear. I love you very much, you know. And I hope that you will think of me as a grandmother now.”
Sookie smiled and hugged Elsa tightly. “I already do, Mormor,” she whispered, words which caused Elsa to smile brightly even as she shed a tear.
Sookie was getting more and more nervous as Elsa led her to the Foresters’ house on the southeast corner of the Brigant estate. Though the dwelling had been intended for the staff, it was still a beautiful—and quite large—home. It was built in the same style as the main house and was about a five-minute walk from Niall’s home.
The more Sookie had thought about the idea of a stripper, the less she’d liked it. Part of her thought that the experience might be fun, but another part of her worried that the dancer might try to do “suggestive” things with her as the target. And the thought of someone other than Eric touching her—even if it was just in the spirit of a Bachelorette party—made her cringe. Eric had reminded her that she was in control, but she didn’t want to offend her hosts either.
“Are you okay, dear?” Elsa asked kindly, sensing that something was wrong.
“No,” Sookie said a little shakily. “I don’t really like the idea of a stripper.”
Elsa sighed. “No, I don’t suppose you would. I should have stopped it when I found out about it, but Pamela and Lafayette were quite adamant.”
“I’m grateful to them for wanting to do something for me,” Sookie said a little uncertainly.
Elsa stopped their progress. “If you do not wish to go, then I will tell them all that you were too tired. And if you do go, I will sit by you the whole time and make sure that nothing untoward happens.”
Sookie sniffled. “It’s just that I don’t want to be the center of attention—not like I would be if a stripper was—uh—dancing for me. And I don’t want someone other than Eric to—uh—touch me.”
“Then he won’t lay a hand on you,” Mormor said firmly. “We will talk to Pamela when we get there, and I will suggest that we save the dance act until after you’ve gone to bed.”
“I don’t want to ruin any of their plans,” Sookie said guiltily.
Mormor took Sookie’s hand and squeezed it gently. “You are the one the party is for, dear. Thus, you should not have to be nervous about it at all!”
The two women continued walking to the Foresters’ house, and as they turned the corner that would lead them to the front door, they saw Pam waiting on the porch, a grin that even the Cheshire Cat would envy across her lovely features.
“Elsa already told me what you have in there,” Sookie said a little shyly. She’d certainly learned how to express her opinions and her desires during the previous year and a half, but—except with Eric—she was still a little uncomfortable doing so.
“Mormor,” Pam pouted, “why did you have to ruin the surprise?”
“Ludwig let the stripper out of the bag,” Elsa reported.
Pam sighed. “Oh well. We’ll still have fun, but the initial,” she paused, “reaction will not be as good.”
Sookie bit her lip nervously and spoke seriously. “Pam, I’m glad I won’t be surprised.” She took a deep breath. “I know that you and the others just wanted to throw me a fun party before I got married, and it’s real nice of you, so I don’t want you to think I’m not appreciative. And I’ll try to have fun, but . . . .” She stopped for a moment and took a steadying breath. “But I don’t like the idea of people I don’t know and don’t welcome touching me. If this dancer is going to just be in the background doing his—uh—thing, then that’s okay, but if he’s gonna be touching me or something,” she put her hand protectively over her belly, “I don’t think I want to stay.” Sookie quickly wiped a tear from her eye.
Pam immediately looked concerned as she saw genuine fear flash across Sookie’s features. She moved forward to embrace her soon-to-be sister-in-law. “I’m sorry, Sookie, but don’t worry.” She smiled kindly, an unusual expression for her. “We just wanted you to have the ‘bachelorette” experience. But we went for cheesy, not sleazy. I got the dancers the most ridiculous, over-the-top costumes too. And, actually, I figured you wouldn’t enjoy anything too risqué, so the dancers have been told to stay in just one area of the room, so if you don’t want them to touch you, you won’t have to be in that part of the room at all—but I’ll make it very clear to them that they’re not to approach you. And, no matter how much Lafayette begs, I’ve instructed them not to put on those disgusting male G-strings!” she added seriously.
Sookie chuckled a little.
“So they’ll be in these tacky glittery speedos,” Pam clarified.
Sookie laughed a little louder.
“You can consider them background noise. I promise, Sookie,” Pam said. “Plus, they’re Claude’s employees, and Claude’s here, so nothing will happen that would make you uncomfortable. And—if it does—I’ll tell them to stop performing until after you’ve gone.”
Sookie sighed with relief. “Really?”
Pam nodded. “Really. Mostly, we were just going to have a bit of fun with teasing you about them, so there’s no need to worry.”
“And they—uh—won’t touch me?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Pam said quickly.
Sookie smiled. “Thanks Pam. I don’t mean to ruin your plans or anything.”
“You aren’t,” Pam assured. “Now—are you going to tell me why you looked afraid a moment ago?”
Sookie took in a deep breath and looked from Elsa to Pam. She’d told only a couple of people about Uncle Bartlett—mostly because the thought of what had happened to her had once seemed like something she needed to “hide.” But—looking at the loving faces of her soon-to-be family, she realized that she had nothing to hide and even less to be ashamed of.
“When I was little, my mother let an uncle of hers babysit me. He was a pedophile, and though he never raped me, he did touch me,” Sookie explained, standing up as straight as she could.
“Oh my poor child!” Elsa exclaimed, immediately pulling Sookie into a hug.
“Is the bastard still alive?” Pam asked, her tone murderous.
Sookie shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t matter.”
“No—he doesn’t,” Elsa agreed. She looked at Sookie proudly. “You are brave for telling us this, Sookie. Thank you for trusting us.”
“I will get rid of the strippers,” Pam said. “If I’d have known, I’d have never gotten them.”
“No,” Sookie responded, squaring her shoulders, “it’ll be funny to watch Dr. Ludwig and the others ogle them, and—as long as they are aware of the rules—I’ll be fine.”
Pam looked at Sookie through narrowed eyes as if to make sure. “Yes—you will, Sookie. You will definitely be fine.” She stepped forward and pulled Sookie into another hug. “I’m proud you’re going to be my sister, Sook. I couldn’t love you more if you were my flesh and blood.”
Sookie pulled back a little and went to speak, but Pam—never one to be comfortable with extended displays of emotions—waved her off.
“Anyway—there’s a room full of presents and people who want to throw you one last bash before you marry my big brother.”
Sookie smiled. “Sounds good.”
“Pamela, dear,” Elsa said, looking toward the front door with curiosity, “did you say there would be multiple gentleman entertainers. I only met one.”
Pam winked at Sookie. “I got the second one especially for you, Mormor. He’s a fireman.”
Elsa’s eyes lit up as Pam and Sookie giggled.
A/N: Hello all! Thanks for all the wonderful comments about the last chapter!
So in this chapter I was trying to balance the levity with the very real possibility that Sookie would be freaked out by the thought of a stripper (or gentleman entertainer) touching her. And we all know how uncomfortable Sookie would be as the center of attention. At the same time, I wanted to show how this Sookie has learned to deal with situations like this. As Eric reminds her, she’s in control. I think it’s amazing how often we try—even as adults—to please others, even at the expense of our own comfort. By taking a stand and being honest, Sookie—I hope—demonstrates that someone can take control of a potentially uncomfortable situation and “reshape” it to be better—without the people they care about being disappointed.
Anyway, enough rambling.
Next time: While Sookie has several heartfelt conversations at her party, certain individuals will be feeding those one dollar bills to the gentleman entertainers. I wonder who?