Chapter 59: I Didn’t Do
“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”—Lucille Ball
As soon as she heard the door to the garage close behind Eric and Sookie, Adele sighed as the weight of her guilt came crashing back onto her.
“What is it?” Elsa asked her friend with concern. “Did something happen when you and Sookie were talking in your room?”
“Wine,” Adele said, instead of answering Elsa’s question. “Do you have any? I’m afraid I couldn’t drink anything stronger after last night, but a nice glass of wine sounds good right about now.”
Elsa chuckled. “Of course I have some.”
Adele sighed. “Then let’s pop open a bottle, go out onto your wonderful deck, and enjoy that lake of yours.”
“And then you’ll tell me what’s gotten your knickers in a twist?” Elsa asked.
Adele nodded and chuckled. “We say panties in a wad in the South.”
Elsa laughed and patted Adele’s arm. “You go freshen up if you need to, and be sure to grab that quilt Eric left for you. I’ll get us that wine and some nice sandwiches to munch on.”
Adele followed the instructions of her hostess, though she was finished freshening up in time to help Elsa put the sandwiches together. The two matriarchs settled outside on the deck and looked at the water. It was a while before either of them spoke.
“Those two kids are gonna get married one day; I just know it!” Adele said with certainty when she finally spoke.
Elsa chuckled. “You know—I think that you might just be right.”
Adele smiled at her new friend. “And then you and I will be family.”
“Grandmothers-in-law,” Elsa said.
“And then great-grandmothers,” Adele winked.
“Oh—babies! That will be nice,” Elsa agreed.
“But I worry,” Adele said, a frown wrinkling her brow.
“I know. There is something that those two haven’t told us.”
Adele sighed. “Yes. And they have both gone through enough already. It’s just not right that they have to keep goin’ through trials and tribulations.”
Elsa sighed. “I would bet everything I have that Eric’s father is behind the worries. That man makes me want to emulate Dexter!”
“Yes—that young man on the Showtime program.”
“Oh?” Adele asked. “I’m afraid I don’t have Showtime.”
“Well—Dexter is a serial killer, but he ‘takes out’ only people who are even worse than himself.”
“Oh dear! That sounds quite violent!”
“Indeed,” Elsa said. “It is a crisis of my moral conscience to be on that young man’s side. However, if he agreed to ‘take out’ Appius Northman for me, I believe that my conscience would remain perfectly clear.” She sighed. “Oh course, I’m only kidding—I’m afraid.”
Adele chuckled. “Of course you are, dear.” She paused. “However, I will admit that I sometimes wish that I could find a way to get rid of Michelle—a way that I could hide from God, of course.”
Elsa patted her friend’s hand, and they were quiet for a few minutes.
“Tell me about your grandson—Sookie’s brother, Jason,” Elsa finally requested.
Adele sighed. “I’d like to think that Jason could be a good man, but Michelle has her hooks so deep into him that I’m afraid he’s lost.” She paused. “Recently, Michelle and Jason have been tryin’ to ingratiate themselves to me. Jason has been comin’ around the old farmhouse, even doin’ a few chores. But I can’t help but to notice that he seems to be almost inventorying everything in my home. I think they’re just waitin’ for me to keel over at this point.”
“Oh Adele!” Elsa cried. “That’s horrible!”
“Sounds like your grandson ought to have his balls put in a sling,” Pam drawled from the doorway. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’ve opened good wine!”
“But you’ve had a hangover all day,” Elsa reminded.
“And wine is medicinal,” Pam emphasized. She looked at the two women. “Now—don’t say anything else until I get back with a glass.” She chuckled. “And another bottle.”
“She’s a bit like you,” Adele whispered of Pam as the younger woman went back inside.
Elsa chuckled. “She is. My daughter, Stella, was fun too, but sweet—much sweeter than I am!”
Elsa nodded. “Yes—like Eric could be if he had an easy life.” She smiled. “Like he is when he’s with Sookie. But . . . .”
“My Stella was odd too. She loved two men—with almost equal devotion. Appius was the one she loved most, but she adored Peder too.”
“And you don’t understand how she could love two men?”
Elsa shook her head. “Perhaps, one day I will—if I ever meet a man who takes my breath away as Johan did. But—until then—I cannot understand that part of my daughter. And, of course, she loved them both at the same time.”
Adele nodded. “I’m with you. I couldn’t have fit another man into my heart. Earl’s presence there was just too big.” She smiled a little. “But now that he’s been gone for a while, it’s as if he’s left a spot that I could fill again.”
“With your, friend, Sid Matt?” Elsa grinned.
Adele giggled a little. “I will admit that Sid Matt Lancaster has been a happy addition to my life.” She frowned a little. “However, he’s been too genteel to make his move, and I’m not gettin’ any younger.”
“Red lipstick and a silk kimono,” Pam said as she rejoined the two older women.
Adele looked at her in question.
“It’s a sure-fire way to get anyone—whether it be a male or a female,” Pam shared.
Adele chuckled. “I’ll remember that.”
Pam winked. “Trust me. Now—please tell me that you’ve hidden your most valuable items from your glass-licking grandson.”
“Glass-licking?” Adele and Elsa asked in unison.
“It has several connotations,” Pam responded with authority. “I learned the term recently—from my sister, Gracie. It can connote someone who spies so closely that he or she could lick the glass of your windows. Or it could connote someone deficit of the adequate brain cells to function on his or her own.”
Adele chuckled. “Well—both of those sum up Jason to a ‘T.'”
“Hey!” Elsa said, looking at Pam. “You never did explain what GILF meant.”
Pam smirked. “It’s an offshoot of MILF.”
“Which is?” Adele asked.
“Mom I’d like to fuck,” Pam said matter-of-factly. “It is most often spoken by young men who wish to have carnal relations with women who are old enough to be their mothers—or just mothers in general.”
“My word!” Elsa exclaimed. “That would make Adele and me,” she paused.
“Grandmothers that those young men would like to,” Adele continued.
“Fuck,” Pam finished.
“Language!” chastised Elsa.
Pam rolled her eyes. “You are the one who asked for an explanation,” she said before taking a sip of her wine. “So,” she said, looking back at Adele, “you have hidden the things you don’t want stolen—right?”
Adele sighed. “Yes. Most of my truly valuable things are now in a safety deposit box that only Sid Matt has a key to.”
“And this is the man you like?” Pam asked.
Adele nodded. “And he’s my lawyer.”
“Good,” Pam smirked. “If you’ve enthralled him, then he’ll be trustworthy enough—even if he has a law degree.”
“What?” Elsa asked.
“It’s Michelle. I’m just suspicious of her,” Adele responded.
“That’s Sookie’s bitch of a mother—correct?” Pam asked with a sneer.
“Indeed,” Elsa responded, though she gave her granddaughter the “stink-eye” because of her cursing.
Adele nodded. “Michelle’s been trying to engage me in conversation at church lately. But I’m no idiot! I know that any overtures of kindness offered by Michelle are based on her desire to get ahold of my money—not that there’s much left anymore. However, there’s plenty of property, including the house that that she-witch lives in.”
“You own the house she lives in?” Pam asked, a wicked smile forming on her lips. “Do I sense an eviction in her future?”
“I wish,” Adele said bitterly. “But I’m afraid that I can’t kick her out.”
Pam looked at her with confusion. “Why not?” she asked a little harshly.
“Now, Pamela,” Elsa scolded, “I’m sure Adele has a good reason.” She turned to her friend. “Why ever not?” she asked, though much less severely than her granddaughter.
Adele took a quick drink of her wine. “That house was actually the biggest point of contention between Michelle and Corbett; thus, it became an issue of conflict between Corbett, Earl, and me too,” she said with regret.
“Corbett was your son’s name? Sookie’s father?” Elsa asked to clarify.
“Yes,” Adele responded. “Earl and I did pretty well for ourselves; he was a geologist—you know. He worked for the oil business in the Gulf, and I was a substitute school teacher for almost twenty-five years. We tried to help out our children financially when they needed it. Of course,” she paused, “we weren’t made of money, but we had enough to send our daughter, Linda, to college, and when she asked us for a loan to help her afford the down payment on her home, we gave it to her.”
Adele sighed deeply. “She paid back every penny of that loan—as soon as she could—despite the fact that she and her husband divorced and she was left to raise my granddaughter, Hadley, pretty much on her own.”
Elsa patted Adele’s arm while Pam poured her more wine.
Adele went on. “Corbett and Michelle got engaged right around the time that Earl was transferred to New Orleans. Corbett had always talked about goin’ to college and gettin’ a degree in agriculture. I think he wanted to restore the old farm to its former glory. But, the more serious he got about Michelle, the more his dreams shifted to fit hers. She didn’t wanna be a farmer’s life, and when Earl and I offered to let them live in the farmhouse, Michelle refused.” Adele sighed. “The semester before they got married, Corbett cut back his classes to just night school and got a job at a roofing company. He made a pretty decent wage, and he liked bein’ outdoors a lot, but he and Michelle were very young and just starting out, and Corbett was worried about not bein’ able to meet their financial obligations if he took on a mortgage. But Michelle kept naggin’ him for a house.”
“So you and your husband helped them,” Elsa guessed.
Adele nodded. “Yep. We agreed to help them get their feet on the ground. We invited them down to New Orleans for a long weekend to work out the details of the agreement. Earl and I used pretty much all of the money we’d been savin’ for our retirement years in order to buy them a home. We agreed to give Michelle and Corbett two years to live in the house for free—so that they could save some money. After that, we worked out a repayment plan for them. At first, they’d give us $500 a month. Then, gradually, as they became more established, they’d give us a little more.” She sighed. “Earl and I never thought we’d actually get back all the money we were spending on the house, but we planned to put everything they did give us right back into our retirement savings.” She smiled wistfully. “We had hoped to travel extensively after Earl’s retirement.”
“Lemme guess,” Pam said acerbically, “they never paid you back.”
“No,” Adele said tiredly. “Not a penny. After two years, Earl spoke with Corbett and Michelle about beginning to repay us; however, Michelle begged for more time because they’d just found out that Jason was on the way. After that, it was Sookie who was her excuse. And—not long after she was born—Michelle convinced Corbett that Earl and I were being selfish because we wouldn’t just give them the house outright. She painted a false picture of Earl and me living it up in New Orleans, while they struggled to make ends meet with two young children. Eventually, Corbett bought into her lies—and her bitterness.” She paused. “My Earl was stubborn and wanted Corbett to meet his obligations. You see—Corbett and Earl had shaken hands on the matter.”
Elsa sighed. “And, in our day, a handshake meant more than any signed contract could.”
“Yes,” Adele said, “that’s what my Earl always believed. He figured that a man wasn’t a man if he didn’t honor a handshake—especially with someone who shared his blood.”
“So it caused a rift between your husband and your son,” Elsa said sympathetically.
Adele nodded. “Yes, and—because of that rift—Corbett and Michelle wouldn’t have any contact with Earl and me.” She sighed, “So, of course, we didn’t have contact with the kids either. In fact, I didn’t see the kids for fourteen years; though I tried to reconcile with Corbett enough to arrange for visits. But my letters were always returned unopened, and Michelle would hang up on me when I called.” She shook her head sadly. “Michelle didn’t even call Earl and me when,” she paused again and sniffled, “our son died. And she had his funeral arranged and him buried only two days after his death. It was an old friend of mine in Bon Temps who told me that my child had died; she called Earl and me wondering why we hadn’t been at the funeral.”
“Oh dear,” Elsa said, taking hold of Adele’s hand. “That’s ghastly!”
Adele let out a little sob and pulled out her handkerchief. “The fact that Earl hadn’t reconciled with our son before his death ate at my husband, and I watched him get old overnight.” She closed her eyes as tears began to fall down her cheeks in earnest. “He was dead less than two years after that.”
The three women were silent for a few minutes as Adele composed herself.
“Neither Earl nor myself had the heart to turn our grandkids out of their home, so we let Michelle continue livin’ in the house we bought—even after Corbett died.” She sighed. “Earl and I agreed to wait until Sookie was eighteen, and then we were gonna use the law—if need be—to get Michelle out of the house. And we were gonna try to be in the kids’ lives too. Michelle couldn’t have stopped us once they were eighteen. But Earl died too soon to see that happen,” she added with regret.
Adele took a breath and then went on. “Since Michelle and Corbett never repaid any of the loan for their house, I had to sell Earl and my New Orleans home and move back to the old Stackhouse farm in Bon Temps after my Earl died; otherwise, I wouldn’t have had enough money to live on for long. Earl’s company had a retirement fund, but we drew money out of that when we bought Corbett’s house.” She took another breath. “Earl managed to save quite a bit for us in the years after he bought Corbett’s house, and I worked in the school system long enough to earn a little pension; however, after Earl died, I had to become practical. I added the money from the sale of the New Orleans house into the retirement fund, and I’ve dipped into it only when I’ve had to.”
“Of course you have to be practical,” Elsa concurred. “We all do when something unexpected happens,” she spoke from experience.
Adele smiled a little. “Truth be told, I would have likely moved back to Bon Temps anyway. Earl loved New Orleans, and I liked it too, but I love the old farmhouse even more. I have a lot of nice memories there too. The old front porch is where Earl stole his first kiss from me—even though his mama was right inside.” She chuckled. “That porch was also where I told him that he was gonna be a father.”
Pam sniffled, and the two older ladies looked at the suddenly emotional younger woman.
“What?” Pam asked, pretending that nothing was amiss. She rolled her eyes. “Hallmark moments always make me emotional!” she said to Adele with accusation in her tone.
Adele and Elsa chuckled.
Pam quickly squelched her “softer” emotions. “Well—why didn’t you ever toss Michelle out on her ass?” she asked. “Sookie’s clearly over eighteen now.”
Adele sighed. “When I moved back to Bon Temps, I decided to try to establish relationships with Sookie and Jason right away. The way I saw it—I’d already wasted too much of my life letting Michelle dictate my interactions with those kids! And Earl’s and Corbett’s deaths had taught me just how short life is!”
“Way too short,” agreed Elsa.
Adele nodded and squeezed her friend’s hand. “By chance, I happened upon Sookie in the supermarket the very day I returned to Bon Temps! I thought I recognized her right away, but since I hadn’t seen her in fourteen years, I couldn’t be a hundred percent sure that the skinny, pale girl I was seein’ was my granddaughter.” She smiled sadly. “And—even if she was, I didn’t just wanna run up to her and introduce myself.”
Elsa nodded in agreement. “That would have been awkward—for both of you.”
Adele nodded. “I discreetly asked one of the grocery store attendants if the girl was Sookie Stackhouse, and the worker, who looked to be just a little older than Sookie, confirmed that it was—indeed—my granddaughter. But it was the way that the worker told me that disturbed me.”
“What do you mean?” Pam asked, even as she nibbled on a sandwich.
“Manners, dear,” Elsa scolded before turning back to Adele with curiosity in her eyes.
“Well,” Adele picked up, “the worker called my granddaughter, “C.D. Sookie,” as if that were her given name.”
“C.D. Sookie?” Elsa asked.
“I was confused too, so I asked what ‘C.D. Sookie’ meant,” Adele informed. “It was short for ‘crazy, deaf Sookie.”
Pam frowned. She had learned of Sookie’s deafness during her second private conversation with her new friend. Pam was now ashamed that she’d turned her head when women in her own department had used bullying names for Sookie. It seemed that no matter where Sookie went, she had to suffer verbal abuse from bullies. Determined to make better choices in the future, Pam shook her head with regret. She sighed. At least she’d already started making better choices when it came to the biggest bully she could fathom: her own father.
Adele had carried on with her story. “That was how I learned that my granddaughter was deaf—from the name-calling of a teenager,” she said angrily. “But—to my intense shame—I still didn’t approach Sookie. I didn’t know how,” she added helplessly.
Elsa scooted her chair over so that she could put her arm around her friend to comfort her even more.
Adele gave Elsa a grateful look and continued. “I didn’t know if she used sign language, and—even if she did—I didn’t know any. And handing the girl a note that announced that I was her grandmother hadn’t seemed to be the right move either.”
“Of course not,” Elsa assured.
“So I simply followed Sookie through the store as inconspicuously as I could; I couldn’t help myself. But I didn’t want to scare or upset her, so my plan was to go to Michelle’s house that very evening and discuss my granddaughter with her. However, as I followed Sookie, I couldn’t help but to be disturbed by the look that stayed on her face as she systematically collected the items on her list. She showed no emotion, and she watched everyone around her as if she was afraid that they were gonna hurt her. She looked so scared and so lost that it broke my heart!”
Adele paused and wiped away a tear. “Plus, I heard a lot of gossip as I moved around the supermarket that day, and it was all targeted at Sookie. Many people—like the store worker—insinuated that she was mentally challenged or crazy. Others just shook their heads and said ‘bless her heart’ a lot. And none of them treated Sookie as if she were a ‘wanted’ member of the town.”
She wiped away another tear. “I went through the check-out line right after Sookie, and once I got outside, I saw her placing all her bags into a rickety-looking wagon. Several high school aged kids seemed to be taunting her as she did so, but Sookie was ignoring them. However, while she returned her cart to the rack, one of the boys grabbed an orange juice carton from the wagon and opened it.” Adele scoffed. “He was laughing heartlessly between gulps!” Her voice grew suddenly tired. “Well—Sookie looked back toward the store and then at the wagon and then at the kids. Her face was stony, but I could see fear in her eyes even from across the parking lot. But I could also practically hear the wheels turning in her head. Clearly, she needed to replace the item, but she couldn’t leave the wagon where it was without the kids doing more damage.”
Adele took a swig of her wine. “Well—I had seen enough, and I approached the bullies, telling them to get out of the area or I’d call the cops! Sookie hardly looked at me. She just kept on looking toward the store and then at her list nervously. Not yet knowing that she could read lips, I gestured that I would watch her things while she went into the store to get more juice. She nodded to me politely, but declined the offer, saying—in perfect, if somewhat stilted, English—that she didn’t have enough money to get the juice. At that point, I took a chance that she would be able to understand me, and I asked her to wait where she was for a minute. I went inside the store and quickly returned with the brand of juice that Sookie had bought.” She paused. “Her face lit up with relief; however, when I offered to give her a ride home, she looked frightened and declined. I followed her in my car as she walked the mile and a half to her house, pulling the wobbly wagon over the rural roads.”
“And when you confronted Michelle?” Elsa asked. “What happened then?”
Adele sighed. “It didn’t take me long to realize that Michelle was a shitty mother to Sookie, and she barred me from seeing the child. Jason was eighteen then, but he refused to see me too.” She took another drink. “Sookie had no idea who I was or what was going on, but I had the strongest feeling that I needed to get her out of that house—as soon as possible.”
Adele sighed. “So—I asked Michelle for her price. By the end of the week, she had come to me with her demands.” She scoffed. “I could buy my granddaughter, but it would cost me the ownership of the house Michelle was living in and twenty thousand dollars.”
“Bitch,” Pam snarled.
Elsa didn’t chastise her granddaughter for her language this time.
Adele shook her head sadly. “With Michelle, I knew better than to give her exactly what she wanted. That would have only encouraged her to ask for more. However, I did give her just enough to get Sookie.”
“What was that?” Elsa asked.
“I had Sid Matt draw up a contract—in writing this time!” Adele declared. “In exchange for Sookie’s custody until she was eighteen, I agreed not to ‘evict’ Michelle during my lifetime, and I also promised to leave the house to Jason in my Will. And I gave Michelle ten thousand dollars, which was the money I’d been putting aside to do some repairs on the old farmhouse. But it was money well spent to get Sookie away from that she-devil! You should have seen how cowed down Sookie was with her—and how callous Michelle was when she dropped off Sookie and her meager belongings at my house!”
“What a bitch!” Elsa cried.
Pam arched an eyebrow in her grandmother’s direction.
“Well,” Elsa defended, “what would you have me call someone like that?”
Pam grinned. “I can think of a few other terms.”
“So can I,” Adele muttered. She sighed. “So now you see why I’m so suspicious of any seeming kindness from either Jason or Michelle. They want something from me, and I’m afraid that their actions will hurt Sookie.”
All three women nodded and sighed.
“More wine!” Pam exclaimed pouring them all another glass.
“Yes—and something fun to take our minds off of miscreants!” Elsa added.
Adele grinned. “Do you know how to play Shit on Your Neighbor?”
Elsa returned her grin. “Doesn’t everyone?”
“I don’t,” Pam said.
Adele and Elsa’s smiles turned predatory.
“Then we’ll play for cash!” Elsa declared.
A/N: Thanks for all the comments on the last chapter! So appreciated! As you can see, I’m trying to get a lot of work done on this story during my winter break, which ends Jan. 6. Comfortably Numb will be finishing up soon, but remember that there is a sequel. I hope you all are still enjoying the ride! I know I am!
Though I love writing the grandmothers, I think it’s time we got back to Eric and Sookie—so we’ll see them getting to the lake house in the next chapter. And—they’ll be all by their lonesome there. I wonder what they’ll find to do?
I’ll get to work on editing the next chapter soon—right after a trip to Costco. Why the hubby always insists we go on Saturday right around noon is beyond me! Wish me luck.