Chapter 16: More Visitors
Bobby groaned. “Fucking Boardwalk? Again? Geez, Northman. Remind me to never play Monopoly with you again.”
“Hey—I like this game,” Eric pronounced as Bobby handed him the remainder of his money and determined that he didn’t have enough properties to mortgage in order to pay the rest of his “rent.”
Sookie giggled. She’d been put out of the game by Eric fifteen minutes before. She kissed Bobby’s cheek and then walked over to Eric to give him a peck on the lips. “My business mogul strikes again.”
Eric chuckled and pulled her onto his lap. “Yep.”
Bobby shook his head and took a drink of his beer. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was about half an hour until midnight. His phone beeped with a text.
“There are two people wanting to visit you, Sookie,” Bobby said after reading the text. “The guard stopped them up by the road.”
Following the Bill situation, Bobby had assigned one of the guards to stay close to the house, while the other was sent back to keep watch at the end of Sookie’s long driveway.
“Who is it?” Sookie asked, praying that it wasn’t her brother and mother.
“The names given were Lafayette Reynolds and Tara Thornton,” Bobby said reading his phone.
“Really? I didn’t think they were coming until Thursday—for the funeral,” Sookie said, sitting up excitedly on Eric’s lap.
Bobby smiled. “I assume that your expression indicates that they’re welcome.”
Sookie nodded enthusiastically as Bobby stood up and called the guard.
Eric smiled at Sookie. She had told him quite a bit about Lafayette. Though Lafayette was a few years older than Sookie, they had become friends during her senior year of high school. And—because of encouragement from Claudine—Sookie had been keeping in more constant contact with her old friend. Eric had heard Sookie’s end of several phone calls to Lafayette during their time living together. Sookie was often left giggling by whatever Lafayette said, and she was always happier after the calls.
Therefore, Eric was already predisposed to like Lafayette.
Tara, however, was different story altogether. Sookie had told Eric about her first “friend” one evening not long after they’d moved in together. To Eric, Tara had behaved selfishly when she and Sookie were children. By contrast, Sookie had stood up for the girl, even though it meant more ridicule for herself. But Tara had never really “owned” her friendship with Sookie—at least, not until Sookie’s hearing problem had been surgically corrected so that Sookie could be a “normal” friend. But—worst of all—Tara had cut ties with Sookie when she tried to warn her about something disturbing she’d “heard” from the lips of the guy Tara had been dating.
However—despite their problematic history—Sookie had wanted to try to reestablish contact with Tara, and she’d exchanged a couple of phone calls with her since the summer. Those calls usually elicited nervousness from Sookie.
And—that—Eric didn’t like.
Nonetheless, Eric knew that Sookie valued her earliest friends, and—to their credit—they’d both contacted her when they’d learned of Gran’s death. And, though Tara now lived in New Orleans and Lafayette lived in Los Angeles, they’d both wanted to be there for Gran’s funeral—and for Sookie.
A loud knock interrupted Eric’s musing as Sookie jumped off of his lap and ran to the door. Bobby and Eric followed her at a distance so that she could greet her friends. Almost as soon as Sookie had opened the door, a stocky and flamboyantly dressed African American man had her wrapped up in his arms.
“Baby girl!” Lafayette cried out as he spun her around. “You is a sight for sore eyes!”
“So are you!” Sookie said with a big smile on her face. “Hey, Tara,” she said to the attractive African American woman who trailed Lafayette into the house.
“Hey, Sook,” Tara responded, somewhat timidly before stepping forward to give her a hug too. As soon as the hug started, Tara began sniffling. “I’m so sorry about Gran. And I’m so sorry about the way I treated you the last time we were together. I’m sorry about a lot of things, Sook,” she said sadly.
“It’s okay,” Sookie said, patting her friend’s back a little awkwardly. “I’m just glad you’re here now.” She broke the hug and smiled at Tara.
“Oh my dear Lord in Heaven, Sook!” Lafayette exclaimed, breaking up the women’s emotional reunion. “Tell me that the blond God in the dining room is a late Christmas present for yours truly!”
“Sorry, Lala,” Sookie giggled, “that’s Eric, the guy I told you about. My guy,” she smiled at Eric.
“This is the man you’s shackin’ up with?” he asked. “Missy, you’s didn’t tell me he was the reincarnation of Thor!”
Eric approached the group and held out his hand to Lafayette. The leather and lace clad man placed his hand daintily into Eric’s.
“Nice to finally meet you, Lafayette,” Eric said with a grin on his face. “But try to keep it under wraps that I’m Thor—okay? Secret identity and all.”
Lafayette raked his eyes up and down Eric, who had put on only flannel sleep pants and a gray tank-top after he and Sookie had made love.
“You’s can call me Lala.”
“Thanks Lala. Call me Eric.”
“You’s one lucky son of a bitch to gets Sookie here, but if she ever leaves yo’ pretty ass and you’s needs a little comfortin’, you come and finds me, sweetheart.”
Eric chuckled and winked at Lafayette, who quickly turned his attention to Bobby. “Is this one yours too, hooker?” Lafayette asked even as he appraised Bobby.
“Nope,” Sookie giggled.
“I guess he’ll have to do for my New Year’s kiss then,” Lafayette leered.
Bobby smirked. “The person I kissed last year was wearing a bustier and bright red lipstick too,” he deadpanned.
Lafayette laughed. “Oh we’s gonna get along just fine!”
“Sookie’s different,” a much more serious Lafayette said as he flipped a pancake. Along with Tara, he had spent the night in the guest room after the New Year had been greeted with much liquor, laughter, and tears as stories about Gran had been remembered. Bobby was snoring away on the couch.
“I could tell from the moment she answered the door,” Lafayette went on. “Hell—I could tell when we talked on the phone these last several months.”
“Yes, she is different,” Eric agreed as he took a cup down from the cabinet and poured himself some coffee. He’d left Sookie still asleep when he’d risen early. He’d been surprised to find that Lafayette was not only awake, but also functional. Bobby and Lafayette had found and polished off a bottle of Kentucky bourbon the night before—a big bottle.
Lafayette added two newly-cooked pancakes to a plate that already held quite a few before turning to look at Eric. The only evidence that he had a hangover was the sunglasses he wore.
“Did Sookie ever tell you how she and I met?” Lafayette asked Eric.
Eric shook his head. “No.”
“As you know, Tara’s my cousin, but we weren’t particularly close as kids since I was five years older than her. But once Tara was in junior high and I got my own place, she’d come crash with me when things got particularly bad with her mother. Ya see, Tara’s mom liked to drink—a lot—and when she did, she got meaner than a hornet.”
Eric nodded. “Sookie told me that.”
“My own mom is in the loony bin, though they call it an assisted living facility,” Lafayette shared. “Ya see—she’s bipolar, and she’s never been particularly fond of taking her meds. Sookie saw my mom talkin’ to herself outside of the grocery store one day. Most people didn’t pay her no mind since she was always mumblin’ away when she was off of her meds. But Sookie figured out that she was plannin’ to burn down her house that night. Instead of ignorin’ my mom’s bat-shit craziness—like everyone else did—Sookie told Tara, who called me. When I got to my mom’s house, I found mason jars full of gasoline and kerosene everywhere.” He shook his head. “She’d apparently been plannin’ it for a while. ‘Cause of Sook, my mom’s still alive, and even though she’s in a mental institute, she’s probably happier there than she’s ever been before—since they keep her on the meds fulltime.” Lafayette sighed. “She even has a job through the internet now, and she’s got friends where she lives.”
Eric smiled and spoke with obvious pride. “So Sookie saved your mom’s life.”
Lafayette nodded. “Yeah. That’s how I met her. It always broke my heart to see how closed off Sook was from the world. She hardly smiled and never laughed. Hell—she didn’t really even talk much—not even after she could hear. She would just listen as Tara and me squabbled or went on ’bout somethin’ dumb.” He smiled. “But now she’s,” he paused, “like a flower—a goddamned bloomin’ flower. I ‘spected to come here and find her in pieces because of Gran, but she’s not in pieces. And that’s ’cause of you.”
Eric shook his head. “No. It’s mostly because of her—her strength. When we got together, I was the one in pieces; she was already starting to put herself together.”
“Tell me there’s coffee,” Bobby interrupted, as he dragged himself into the kitchen. He was only in boxers and scratched himself all the way to the coffee maker.
“Need help with that?” Lafayette leered as Eric poured Bobby a cup of coffee—mostly because he didn’t want Bobby touching the pot.
Bobby looked down at himself and realized that he was still scratching his balls—through the thin cloth of his boxers. “Oh,” he said, shaking his head a bit. “Sorry. I think I’m still asleep or drunk or both.”
Eric chuckled. “Just put on some clothes before Sookie gets up—okay?”
“From where I’m standin’, he’s still wearin’ one thing too many,” Lafayette said. “And I never did get my New Year’s kiss.”
“Not from lack of trying,” Bobby intoned.
“I had to try,” Lafayette winked. “Lots of supposedly straight boys change their tune once they’ve had an adequate amount of liquor.” He sighed. “It’s a shame you weren’t one of ’em.”
Bobby chuckled and then went to put on some more clothes.
Lafayette’s eyes trailed him. “A damn shame!”
Eric just laughed and then took a sip of coffee. He liked Lafayette very much, but he still wasn’t certain about Tara. As Lafayette and Bobby had been polishing off the bourbon, Sookie and Tara had talked. Eric had given the women some privacy for their conversation, but he couldn’t keep himself from glancing over at Sookie every once in a while. And he couldn’t help but to notice that she was nervous around Tara—just as she was nervous around people that she didn’t really know or trust.
Bobby walked back into the room—pants and shirt on, but not buttoned. He was holding his phone in his hand.
“Jason and Michelle Stackhouse have been detained by the guard at the end of the road. They won’t leave. Do you want me to call Sheriff Bellefleur?”
“No,” Sookie’s voice came from behind Bobby. “I want to talk to them.”
Everyone in the room looked at Sookie in surprise.
“Sookie?” Eric asked.
“I need to talk to them,” she amended her previous statement. “I need to do it for me. Then—if they don’t go away—we can call Andy.”
Eric set his coffee down on the counter and went over to her.
“Yes. But that doesn’t mean that I need to do it alone,” she said, looking up at him.
Eric looked immediately relieved. “No—you don’t.” He glanced at Bobby. “Tell the guard to let them come up.”
Bobby sent a text and then finished buttoning his shirt. “Mind if I stick around too?” he asked.
“And I ain’t goin’ nowhere either, baby doll,” Lafayette piped in.
“Thanks,” Sookie said looking around at the men in the room with tears in her eyes. “Where’s Tara?”
“Still sleepin’,” Lafayette reported. “If I knows her, she won’t be up till at least noon.”
Sookie let out a deep breath as a car was heard pulling up.
“If it becomes too much and you want them gone, all you have to do is tell me,” Eric said.
Sookie gave him a little smile and then looked at Bobby. “Bring them into the living room when they get here?” she asked.
“No problem,” Bobby responded.
“And let’s not offer them drinks,” Sookie said with a hint of a smirk.
A/N: Sorry that I didn’t get you this update sooner, but I got “trapped” writing other things. I hope that you will check them out if you haven’t already. I wrote a one-shot called “Enduring” after the final SVM book came out. At the time, I also began drafting a companion piece, but it fizzled out. Anyway, I got “re-excited” about the story and spent the last week working on the companion piece and a resolution. I turned it all into a three-story series. I hope that you will check it out if you haven’t already. It goes in this order: 1.) “Enduring” 2.) “Uncovering” 3.) “Resolving.”
Okay—now that I’ve made that shameless plug, I have to tell you all how much I appreciate your continued support of Touch the Flame. I really wanted to get you this chapter before I moved back to Uninvited for its week, so my weeks are now off a bit. I’ll resume working on this one next Saturday.
Next up: What I’ve been waiting to do for a long time: put Sookie into a more-less private setting with Michelle. Things need to be said.