Chapter 17: Nature/Nurture
Previously: 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.
[10 minutes earlier]
Michelle Stackhouse had set out to be a much better mother than her own had been to her.
Bonnie Turner had been a cruel woman—but not without reason. Brought up by extremely strict and harsh parents, Bonnie had rebelled and fallen in love with a man who had drifted through Bon Temps the summer that she’d turned seventeen. Michelle had been given the surname of her mother’s parents—Turner—because Bonnie hadn’t even known the last name of the drifter to whom she gave her virginity, her reputation, and most of her dignity.
All that Michelle knew about the drifter—her father—was his first name: Tom.
When she was eight, she’d learned—the hard way—not to ask anything else about him. Her mother had taken a switch to Michelle for asking about him when a teacher had assigned her class to construct a family tree.
Michelle had grown up under the iron and unloving fist of her mother, who’d been pretty much disowned by her own parents. However, unlike her mother, Michelle had never rebelled. No—she’d tried to be perfect in order to escape her mother’s wrath.
Not that her strategy had been very effective.
Michelle had attended church every Sunday of her life—without fail. As a child, she’d listened to the minister as if her very life depended on it, and she’d prayed that she could avoid displeasing her mother. She’d also prayed that she could find a man who would help her to escape from her life with her mother.
She’d thought that she’d found that man in Corbett Stackhouse. The Stackhouses—Earl and Adele—had been pretty well-off, at least by Bon Temps standards. Earl had done something in the oil industry; Michelle had never been exactly sure what that was, however. It had something to do with minerals, but she’d never listened much beyond “oil industry.” Those two words had sounded important and “rich” to Michelle, so she’d happily accepted when Corbett asked her to be his date for the Homecoming dance. And she’d done her best to “hook” him and to “keep” him after that.
Michelle had imagined him going into the oil business too, but Corbett had wanted to be a farmer. She’d managed to talk him out of that ridiculous notion, and he’d even gone to college for a while, though he didn’t really want to. But Michelle had continued to push Corbett. She’d married him and had borne his son. She’d even made sure that they’d gotten a home they could call their own—from his stingy parents.
Jason had been a godsend to Michelle—her beautiful blond prince of a son. Even her own mother’s frozen heart had melted when Bonnie saw Jason for the first time. And Corbett had been proud of the child—a boy to carry on his name. And—for a while—things had gone along as Michelle planned. Corbett had finally agreed to get a business degree. And he’d found a good-paying job with a roofing company that would keep them living comfortably until he could start his career.
But then Michelle had gotten pregnant again—this time by accident. She and Corbett had wanted to wait until he finished his schooling before having another child. But that plan had gone up in smoke. Michelle had thought about getting an abortion. However, after driving to a clinic in Shreveport one Monday morning, she’d parked and had spent hours weeping in her car. She’d never gone in. She’d told Corbett that she was pregnant that night, and he’d been ecstatic.
Despite the change of plans, however, Michelle had managed to reconcile herself to the fact that there was a second child coming. And she’d even talked herself into being excited about her and Corbett’s “blessing”—or, at least, she’d tried.
Yes. She had wanted to love the daughter that she’d given birth to just as much as her son.
However, something had snagged inside of her the moment she saw Corbett looking at their newborn daughter with intense adoration. Michelle had known in that moment that the love her husband had for their daughter was more profound than the love he had for her. Corbett had certainly loved Jason, but his son’s birth had brought on increased love for Michelle as well. However, with Susanna, things were different. As Corbett had cooed at the swaddled baby girl, calling her his princess, Michelle had recognized that she’d lost a part of her husband forever.
Michelle had felt betrayed by Corbett and by her own body, which had—after all—nurtured the girl for nine months.
Michelle couldn’t help but to wonder if that was the feeling her own mother had experienced after giving birth to her. Of course, Michelle’s father had abandoned her mother before she was born. However, Michelle understood well that Bonne blamed her pregnancy—and Michelle herself—for her lover bolting. As a consequence, Michelle had always felt her mother’s resentment.
Yes—as if it were an unstoppable tidal wave—Michelle had felt immediate bitterness toward her own daughter, who had stolen away a piece of her husband’s love. And—after that first moment of realization—Michelle had been determined not to let Susanna take anything more from her. But Michelle had failed in that goal. It had been Corbett’s exhaustion and stress that had led to his fatal heart attack, and Susanna’s medical bills for her fucking earaches had been the cause of his tension, as well as his need to work so much!
Michelle took a deep breath.
If she resented Susanna for taking her husband’s love and attention, then she hated her for making her become more like her own mother. Michelle had wanted to avoid that fate, but her daughter’s mere existence had transformed her into a copy of Bonnie Turner.
“You alright, Momma?” Jason asked, breaking Michelle from her thoughts.
“Just fine,” she said with a smile in her son’s direction. “I’ll just be glad when she’s gone for good.”
“Me too,” Jason said bitterly. “I still can’t believe the old bat left so much to such a freak. I mean—what’s Susanna gonna do with that house? She don’t even live in Louisiana!”
Michelle sighed. “I know. I’m afraid that Adele Stackhouse always had it in for me. She never thought I was good enough for Corbett.”
Jason scoffed. “Well—at least I got our house.”
“I made sure of that,” Michelle said. “When I let your grandmother take in Susanna, I made her agree to give you what was rightfully yours.”
Jason smiled at her. “And that’s what makes you the best mom in the whole world.”
Michelle smiled back at him. “And you’re the best son.”
As Jason turned the truck onto Hummingbird Lane, Michelle crossed her fingers and prayed that Bill Compton had convinced Susanna to dump the handsome blonde that was so clearly out of her league. If Bill managed to get his hooks into Susanna again, Michelle knew that he could be used to control her, and she wanted the farmhouse and—even more so—the property it sat on. Michelle had already done some research and knew that the land could be sold for a pretty penny; it hadn’t been farmed for years, so it would be extremely fertile. And a big sugarcane producer had already started buying up many of the old farms in the area. Thus, Michelle knew that she could get top-dollar for the land.
“What the fuck is this?” Jason complained as he stopped his truck in front of a vehicle that was blocking the driveway which led to the old Stackhouse farm.
A beefy-looking man approached Jason’s window. He didn’t offer his name.
“Can I help you?” he asked gruffly.
Michelle huffed. “My daughter is staying up there,” she motioned in the direction of the house, though the dwelling couldn’t be seen from the road.
“And my sister,” Jason added.
“I’ll call it in,” the man said, backing away from the truck. For at least a minute, there was no movement from the man as he waited for an answer.
“I could just drive around his car,” Jason whispered to his mother. “Hell—this truck could drive over that car if I wanted.”
Michelle sighed. “Susanna’s bigwig boyfriend has probably already paid the police in this town to turn on us, and I don’t wanna rock the boat anymore. I was hoping that Bill Compton would do the trick and help Susanna to see her place.”
The stocky man received a call back and then walked over to Jason’s truck again. “I’ll move the car. Then you can go on up,” he said tersely.
Michelle smiled. “Maybe Bill did succeed, after all,” she whispered once the guard was out of earshot.
Jason drove the short distance to the house and parked his truck with a slam of the brakes, making sure to disturb some of the gravel in the driveway. He smiled in satisfaction.
Michelle’s eyes were on the front porch of the house where two men stood. One looked vaguely familiar to her. He was a black man with a shaved head, though he was wearing some kind of head-scarf. She’d met the other man several nights before—when she’d been denied entry into Adele’s home. Michelle hadn’t taken the time to find out his name, however.
“Geez, I thought that faggot had moved away from here,” Jason muttered under his breath as he turned the engine off.
Michelle followed her son’s eyes back to the black man on the porch. “Who is that?” she asked. “He looks familiar.”
“Lafayette Reynolds,” Jason said with distaste. “He graduated a couple of years before me. He was on the football team and everything. But we found out he was gay a few years after that. I’d heard that he was in California now. It figures that he’d be friends with the freak,” Jason finished with a vindictive chuckle.
“Keep your temper,” Michelle said through clenched teeth as she went to get out of the truck. “Homosexual or not—that Lafayette looks tough. And the other one—well we saw what he could do the other night.”
In fact, when Jason had tried to push past the stranger in order to get into Adele’s house, the man hadn’t budged—not an inch. At that point, Michelle had actually been glad that Sid Matt and Andy had also been there.
Jason sighed but nodded. “I won’t start nothin’, Momma, but I won’t turn down a fight that’s started against me neither.”
Michelle patted her son’s arm and looked up at him proudly. “I know, honey. I just wanna make sure you’re not hurt.”
“I can handle myself,” Jason said cockily.
Michelle smiled at her pride and joy and then opened the truck door.
“For some reason I can’t fucking fathom, Sookie wants to see you,” the stranger stated as Michelle and Jason approached the porch. “But if you do anything to upset her, I’m going to . . . .” He paused and looked at Lafayette. “What was that expression you used a few seconds ago?”
“We’s both gonna open up a giant can of whoop-ass on you’s,” Lafayette completed.
Michelle scoffed. “I’m not surprised to find no better manners from Susanna’s friends.” She continued snidely. “I am, however, surprised to see that Susanna has friends at all.”
The brunette man glared at Michelle. “She will talk to you in the living room. And we’ll be right out here,” he said with warning in his tone.
“And we’ll be ready with those cans,” Lafayette added.
Michelle scowled at the two men as she walked into the house as if she owned it. She was disappointed to see that Susanna was standing in the living room with Eric Northman, instead of with Bill Compton.
“Would you like to have a seat, Jason? Michelle?” Susanna asked, motioning toward the couch.
Michelle sneered a little. “So you’re suddenly being polite to me now?”
Susanna sighed. “No. You can stand if you want to.” She suddenly sounded a little weary, and Michelle couldn’t help but to notice Eric Northman’s arm going around Susanna in order to give her a solid “wall” to lean against.
“Where’s Bill?” Michelle asked with a little grin.
“He came by last night,” Northman said stiffly. “He didn’t stay long.”
“Susanna, Bill Compton is the best man you could ever hope for,” Michelle said bitingly. “Surely you can see that this one’s out of your league.”
Susanna ignored her words. “Why are you here?”
“The funeral,” Michelle said. “I need to be seen there, and as executrix, you could give me the money Adele set aside for me whether I go or not.”
“Why do you want to go?” Susanna asked.
“For Jason,” Michelle responded. “To support him in his grief. And because it’s expected of me.”
“Are you grieving for Gran?” Susanna asked in Jason’s direction.
Jason seemed a little taken aback. “Course I am!”
Susanna shook her head a little. “What else do you want?” she asked.
“What’s comin’ to me as Corbett’s wife,” Michelle said. “This house and the land. Just sign it all over to me, Susanna, and then you and I won’t ever have to see each other again.”
“How much did Gran have to pay you in order to ‘convince’ you to let me move in with her when I was sixteen? How much more did she have to give you in order to ‘convince’ you to sign the consent forms for me to get my ear surgery? And how much more did you extort from her so that I could stay here during my senior year of high school?”
“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about,” Michelle said venomously.
Susanna seemed to stand up a little straighter. “Then you are the one who needs to get your hearing checked, Mother.”
“Don’t you get uppity with me, girl!” Michelle ordered as she pointed to Susanna.
“What will you do to me if I do get uppity?” Susanna asked, her expression truly curious. “You can’t hit me anymore. You can’t put me into a corner. You can’t make me feel defective because of a hearing problem I couldn’t control. You can’t leave me alone with a pedophile. You can’t make me feel guilty for daddy dying. And you certainly can’t sleep with another one of my boyfriends—though you’re welcome to go for Bill again.” The girl sighed deeply, and a look of something close to serenity swept over her face. She even smiled a little. “You can’t do anything at all to me anymore,” she added as if coming to a realization.
“Listen, freak . . . .” Jason started.
“No!” Susanna said forcefully. “You two listen! The only reason I invited you in here today was to say goodbye to you,” she said, looking directly at Michelle. “I wanted you to know that if your goal when I was a little girl was to somehow crush me, then you succeeded, Mother. My life was miserable with you—and because of you. I was scared of life and scared of ‘living.’ You did succeed in every single way that you could have to make my every minute a living hell. You allowed Bartlett to molest me. You trained my brother to despise me. And you made me too frightened to enjoy my own father’s love—or anything else.”
“What in the hell are you goin’ on about?” Michelle asked bitingly.
“I wanted you to know that you did succeed in killing Susanna Stackhouse,” Susanna continued quietly. “I was a shell—and a broken one at that. And—if breaking your own child was what you needed to do in order to find your own sense of self-worth in life, then you can leave this place knowing that you did succeed.” Susanna took a deep breath. “I pity you. And I despise you. You’re a pathetic excuse for a mother—and an even worse excuse for a human being.”
“Don’t you talk to me like that! Don’t you talk to me like you’re so goddamned innocent!” Michelle yelled. She felt her fists balling up and wanted nothing more than to hit the bane of her existence.
Immediately, Eric Northman moved to stand slightly in front of Susanna as if to block her from Michelle. Susanna’s hand was on his arm in the next second, and she was looking up at him and shaking her head. Eric nodded almost imperceptivity and backed off a little, though he turned a steely gaze toward Michelle.
Sensing that Jason would be no match for the taller man and the two outside, the older woman relaxed her hands.
“Goodbye, Michelle,” Susanna said, emphasizing her mother’s name. “After today, I want you to know that I will never think of you as my mother again—because you were never a mother to me.”
“Now you wait a minute, you little bitch!” Jason yelled at Susanna. “I’m not gonna just stand here and let you insult my momma!”
“You will shut your mouth,” Eric said, through clenched teeth. “Or I will break your goddamned jaw so that you can’t open it!”
Jason made a move toward Eric, but Michelle put her hand on his arm. “Jason! Not now,” she said.
Obeying his mother’s words, Jason backed down a little.
“Go ahead and say whatever else you need to say,” Eric said as he glanced down at Susanna.
She smiled up at him and took a deep breath before looking back at Michelle. “You may have stifled the child who I was, but the woman I am now is someone that you will not touch.” She shook her head. “Against all odds, I’m happy. I have love in my life. I have friends and a man by my side that would go to hell and back for me. You are the past I am working to overcome, Michelle Stackhouse. And—I will overcome you.”
Michelle snarled. “Look at you! Such the fucking actress with this woe is me routine! I am the one who had to suffer because of you. I lost my husband because of you!”
Susanna closed her eyes tightly and then opened them slowly. “In Greek mythology, there is a woman named Electra. Clytemnestra, Electra’s mother, killed Agamemnon, Electra’s father.” Susanna shrugged. “It’s a ridiculous story in a lot of ways. Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon because he’d killed Electra’s sister to appease the gods. In my opinion, Electra should have been pissed about that. But instead Electra plots revenge against her mother.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Michelle and Jason asked at the same time.
“Revenge,” Susanna sighed. “You wanted power because you always felt powerless against your own mother. I can see that now. I know that she was a horrible person. I know that she used to hit you like you hit me. I know that you made me your target because you couldn’t take revenge against her.”
Michelle gasped at both the truth of Susanna’s words and the shock of hearing them out loud.
“You shut the fuck up about Grandmamma!” Jason yelled, stepping forward as if he were going to push Susanna.
Eric growled like a feral animal, and before Jason could take another step, Eric pushed him halfway across the room. Hearing the thud of Jason landing on the floor, the brunette stranger and Lafayette rushed into the house.
“Jason!” Michelle yelled as Lafayette helped Jason stand up only to hold him tightly in his grip.
“Let me the fuck go!” Jason yelled.
“You’s needs to calm the fuck down and behave yo’self,” Lafayette warned, “before Mr. Viking badass puts his foot up you’s ass good and proper!”
“Me?” Jason yelled incredulously. “That mother fucker’s the one that started shit!”
Eric shook his head and looked at Jason with loathing.
“The way I saw it, you were getting ready to strike Sookie,” the brunette man said.
As Jason continued to try to struggle away from Lafayette, Susanna took a step toward Michelle. Every other noise in the room stopped as Susanna began to speak again.
“You know, Michelle, I could make you my target—just like Electra did with Clytemnestra. I could hate you all my life—or even seek some kind of revenge—but I’m not going to do that. However, I don’t have to love you either.” She took a deep breath. “In fact, I’m going to do my best not to think about you at all after today. You’re not worth my time. And—if thinking about me happy makes you miserable—then that will be revenge enough for me.”
“You don’t deserve happiness—not after all I’ve been through because of you,” Michelle spit out.
Susanna looked up at Eric. “I don’t have to deserve it to have it.”
“But you do deserve it,” he returned in almost a whisper.
Michelle cringed with jealously as she took in the intimate moment between her daughter and Eric Northman.
“What about the funeral?” Michelle asked acerbically. “Will you block me from going?”
“Gran didn’t want you there, so there’s nothing more to say about that,” Susanna responded.
Michelle’s fists balled up in anger. “You little bitch!”
Susanna sighed loudly. “You and I are out of things to say to one another. I’m going to be selling this house and property, and I’m splitting the profits with Hunter, Hadley’s son.”
“Now just a goddamned minute! Half should be mine!” Jason said gruffly as he finally managed to shake himself from Lafayette’s grip.
Eric once more stepped forward a little, making sure his body was between Jason and Susanna.
Susanna ignored Jason. “I talked to Sid Matt, and he’s setting things in motion as soon as possible.”
“This property has belonged to Stackhouses for almost two hundred years,” Michelle said insistently. “You can’t just piss it away!”
Susanna shrugged. “Gran knew I wouldn’t want it, but she gave it to me anyway. I already offered it to Remy and Hadley, but they don’t want to move to Bon Temps, so I’m selling. You’re welcome to put in an offer.”
“You cunt!” Jason exclaimed.
Eric glared at Jason, but Susanna seemed to be holding him back.
Susanna sighed. “There will be an estate sale here on Friday morning—starting at 9:00 a.m. I’m letting Remy and Hadley take any furniture and other stuff they want first, but most everything will be sold. Jason, you’re welcome to come an hour before it starts—at 8:00 a.m.—to buy anything you want, but you’ll be escorted by Andy Bellefleur every minute you’re here.”
“You’d make him pay for what should have been his all along?” Michelle asked incredulously.
“Yes,” Susanna nodded. “And if you show your face here that day, you will be arrested on sight. And—trust me when I tell you that if you come to the church or the graveyard on Thursday, you will not see a penny more of Gran’s money.” She sighed. “After Friday, there will be no reason for either of you to come here—and nothing else here for you to steal.” She paused. “You’ve stolen enough already.”
Michelle scoffed and gestured toward Eric. “If you think you’re gonna live happily ever after with him, you’ve got another thing coming,” she said cruelly. “A man like that would never love a woman like you. He’s just playing you in some way—probably just to piss off his daddy while he takes out the trash.”
“Yeah,” Jason said spitefully.
Susanna was quiet for a moment, and Northman seemed poised to attack again.
Finally, after what seemed like a full minute of silence, Susanna spoke. “Your words don’t hurt me anymore. I’m finally free,” she said, her voice sounding a little awestruck.
Eric looked down at her. Michelle saw many emotions in the man’s eyes, some of which confused her. His eyes held pride for Susanna—and love—but they also held envy. Michelle couldn’t help but to wonder why that was.
Michelle sighed loudly, wondering for what seemed like the millionth time why the Lord had given her a daughter who continued to plague her. She’d talked to her attorney the evening before, and there was no way around Adele’s Will. And—clearly—Susanna wasn’t going to cooperate.
“Goodbye,” Susanna said—without even doing Michelle the courtesy of looking at her.
Michelle went to speak, but the look now coming from Northman’s eyes stopped her. He seemed ready to remove her and Jason forcibly, and given his size, Michelle didn’t doubt that he could—especially since he had two helpers, not to mention the guards outside.
“Remember what I said about him,” Michelle said to Susanna as a parting shot.
“I remember everything you’ve ever said to me,” Susanna responded. “And nothing you have ever told me was true—other than in your own miserable mind.” She shook her head. “You really are a sadistic bitch,” she said evenly.
“Now wait a fuckin’ minute!” Jason exclaimed. “Don’t you go insultin’ Momma like that!”
“Out!” Eric said sternly. “You’re done here—both of you!”
Michelle tugged at Jason’s arm. “Come on, honey. We’re wasting our time here anyway.”
With one more glare at the couple, Michelle and Jason left the house.
They were quiet until they were back in the truck and on the main road.
“Why didn’t you tell her ’bout the man that came to visit us last night?” Jason asked. “That would’ve shown her,” he added maliciously.
“Remember,” Michelle warned, “we’re bein’ paid not to say anything about that. But don’t worry. Susanna won’t get away with what she’s done for long. She thinks that she’s so much better than us just ’cause she’s got a rich man, but she won’t have him for long either. We’ll make sure of that! And after he leaves her, she’ll be left with nothin’.”
“So you’re gonna do what that man was talkin’ about?” Jason asked.
“Oh yes,” Michelle said as a cruel smile curved onto her lips. “After the things that little bitch said to me today, she deserves some comeuppance.”
A/N: After writing from Michelle’s POV, I feel like I need a shower! I do hope that this glimpse gave you some insight, however. By the way—in case you were confused, I had Michelle think of Sookie as “Susanna” (just like Bill did) b/c she really has no idea who “Sookie” is.
Who do you think visited Michelle and Jason? Remember that chapter 1 of Comfortably Numb “begins” on Jan. 12, 2013. And this chapter takes place on Jan. 1, 2013. We are getting close to where we “started.” I wonder what will happen between “now” and then?
I’ll try to get you at least two more chapters this week.
Until next time,