Sookie parked behind her house in a daze. The usual 45-minute drive from Shreveport to Bon Temps had taken well over an hour…she was honestly surprised that she’d remembered the way home.
Vampires. Was she actually considering working for them? Really? How could she not, though? She desperately needed a job since she’d quit Merlotte’s after slapping Sam across the face in the middle of the lunch-hour rush. She’d been forced to react when he’d decided to watch her tits in lieu of the beer pitcher he’d let seriously overflow. Pouring that same pitcher of beer over his head might have been overkill…well, fun overkill. But..enough was definitely enough.
Unfortunately she still had to take the waitressing apron back, though, but had quietly rejoiced that she’d taken to leaving her purse at home and just carrying her wallet and keys in her pockets of late. Stomping right out of that “establishment” had felt unbelievably good. She sighed.
Sookie pondered and contemplated the pros (money, although she didn’t know how much, freedom to use her talents how she chose, the lovely mental silence from vampires, Eric…) and cons (possibly being bitten, potentially odd hours, no clear idea of what the job entailed, possibly being bitten…Eric…) while she floated through her night-time routines.
Somehow a pint of pistachio ice cream helped her decide.
Following a thoroughly irritating night spent tossing and turning, Sookie woke the next morning filled with nervous energy. After compounding that nervousness with half a pot of coffee, she put said energy to great use by cleaning her already-clean house.
Sometime after 11 o’clock she decided to clean up, put on her big-girl panties, and go to the dreaded Merlotte’s. She needed to return that damn apron, and she wanted to grab some lunch since she was really craving one of Lafayette’s special burgers.
A little while later, Sookie and her ugly yellow car entered the packed lot of the only “restaurant and bar” in Bon Temps. After parking, she checked her look in the little flip-down mirror attached to the sun visor, scooped up some fortitude from the floorboard, and proudly headed to the front doors instead of the employee entrance.
She glanced around once she was inside, and was happy to locate Catfish and Hoyt sitting at a table off to the side near the kitchen. Sam was brooding behind the bar as usual, but she just ignored him. She was very glad to note that their waitress was Darla and not Arlene. The fake red-head was still mad at her for stopping the much-abused free babysitting service a while back. Babysitting Arlene’s kids once in a while or during a true emergency was fine…babysitting all the freakin’ time just so Arlene could go out and “scratch an itch” and trap a husband…wasn’t.
When he saw Sookie approaching Catfish immediately stood and held his arms wide to give her a cheerful, fatherly, hug. He’d been great friends with the young blonde’s dad and still mourned the loss of both him and the highly-esteemed Adele.
“Well you’re a sight for sore eyes,” he exclaimed as he thumped her back enthusiastically.
She heartily returned the hardworking man’s hug, glad for his supportive presence in both her life and in Merlotte’s just then.
“Catfish! How have you been? Still bowling over in Shreveport every Tuesday night?” She gave his broad, and slightly dirty, back another affectionate pat and released him to take a step backward to see him better.
“Oh, you know he is,” interrupted Hoyt with a huge grin. “The man’s never met a bowlin’ pin he didn’t wanna knock over.” He’d never admit it, but he’d always had a bit of a crush on his best friend Jason’s younger sister. Although just about everyone else thought there was something a bit “off” about her, he’d never paid it no mind. She was just Beautiful Sookie who was really nice to him, and nothing else mattered.
“Hush it, Hoyt. Here,” Catfish pulled out a chair, “have a seat. What’ve you been up to these days? I take it you’re no longer workin’ here, eh?”
Sookie grimaced. Naturally her “quitting episode” the other day had made the gossip rounds at twice the speed of light.
“Erm, nope, I sure don’t.” A flash of pure disgust crossed her face.
“Alright, girl, what happened? Did Sam’s crush on you finally get out of hand?” Catfish’s voice became more serious. He was normally a very laid-back individual, but he’d never held with letting a man disrespect a woman in any way.
“Hey, how’d you know about that?” Sookie hadn’t realized that anyone else had noticed it. Maybe that was because she, herself, really hadn’t wanted to think about his Sookie Obsession.
“Who didn’t know would be the easier question. Hell, everybody done had you’n him married off an’ raising a passel a’youngins a couple of years ago.”
Sookie laughed at Catfish’s air quotes around the tangent that her life was “supposed” to have taken, then she shivered. Somehow the thought of sex with Sam just seemed…slippery and disgusting, kind of like the seal sex that had inadvertently, and unfortunately, caught her eye while she was flipping past one of those animal channels on tv one day. She’d resolved to purchase some brain bleach immediately. Sadly, she’d yet to locate any.
All three studiously avoided Sam’s myopic glare as he attempted to stare holes into their heads.
“Nope. Sorry. That is so not going to happen,” her voice trailed off as the waitress Darla approached with an unnecessary menu.
“Oh, hey, Sook. So, um…” The obviously-flustered young waitress wasn’t sure how to handle this situation. She’d never had to serve a former employee before.
Sookie mentally rolled her eyes as she verbally ordered a sweet tea, a burger Layfayette all the way, and 4-minute fries.
“Appetizer? Lemon for your tea?” Darla enquired as she scribbled the order on her pad.
“Nope on the lemon. They’ve started making my tongue burn here lately, but I’d love a basket of fried pickles if the cook has the time.”
“Bay-be, I gots the time if you gots the dime, ho-ney.” Layfayette’s sing-song voice suddenly floated from the near-by kitchen.
“Lala!” Sookie grinned at Catfish and Hoyt as she jumped up to go see her flamboyant best friend. After a very brief hug (“Ho-ney, I’s mad at you so you don’t get to be all hugging up on me, ya hear? You gots some ‘splainin’ to do ’bout that scene you pulled without even havin’ me here to witness, missy.”), and a fervent promise to call Lala and “do her ‘splainin'”, Sookie went to the restroom, and returned to her seat just in time for her tea and fried pickles to arrive. She hoped that particular order hadn’t been meant to go to another table.
After draining half her tea and inhaling half the basket of fried pickles, she continued her interrupted discussion with Catfish while Hoyt happily finished off her appetizer while he waited for his second burger.
“I just got sick and tired of Sam putting me down every time I turned around. He tried to make it sound like he was being a friend, that he was looking out for me, but I finally realized that all he wanted was for me to stay stuck here, working my feet off as a waitress, for the rest of my life.”
She took a sip of her tea, then continued, “I finally figured out that all he cared about was what HE wanted, and that he didn’t give one single thought or care about what I wanted. And the sad part is that he isn’t really any different than most other people around here. After Gran died, it was just me, you know? I mean, I knew that if I’d had any problems,” she added hastily when she saw Catfish’s face fall and Hoyt’s hand still, “I could have called you guys, and you’d have helped me right then, but…I need more. I thought about it a long time, and came to the conclusion that I want more out of my life than working myself into the grave serving other people.”
She paused to sneak a pickle from the almost-empty basket, then continued sadly, ” I didn’t mind a bit staying around here to help Gran out. But, now that she’s gone, I don’t have any other reason to keep an exhausting, low-paying job where I’m treated like yesterday’s trash by half the customers, and where I have to be on my guard to keep from being backed up in the office again by the owner who has problems keeping his slippery hands and slimy thoughts to himself. I deserve better than that.”
She looked up into Darla’s startled eyes when the waitress suddenly appeared to refill her tea. Sookie just nodded at the teenager and hoped she’d take the overheard conversation to heart.
“I’m sorry, cher. I knew he had a thing for ya, but I never thought he’d do something about it. I thought he had better sense than that.”
She shrugged. “He should have, but I guess not. That was just the last straw, though. I had already started taking classes to do something different with my life by then, anyway, and I was so sick and tired of hearing him question my plans and tear them apart just to make me doubt myself. ”
Catfish and Hoyt both looked angry at her words, and sad that the time for action on their part had come and gone.
After picking at the chicken fingers in his combo-basket, the younger man asked, “So, what have you decided to do? Have you got another job yet? I’ve got some money saved up to move out of mom’s house if you need it.” He face flushed with the bravery his offer had taken. She was just so beautiful and sweet-looking.
Sookie’s face softened at Hoyt’s heartfelt offer. He really was a dear friend, but she’d always hoped that he’d meet someone who would return his gentle, tender feelings.
“I’m doing fine for now, Hoyt, but I really do appreciate your offer. I think I have a job, too. I’ll find out more about it tonight.”
Further conversation was halted when Darla brought out Sookie’s order and Hoyt’s second burger Layfayette.
Sookie happily ignored Sam’s continuous glare and simply enjoyed her meal since she had no idea when she’d have an opportunity to come back. Conversation amongst the three of them was sporadic between bites of food, and only about lighter subjects. She had a great time teasing Catfish about his bowling and Hoyt about his determination to catch “the big one” from the lake behind Jason’s house.
Finally full, Sookie took one last slurp of her tea, and placed the offensive apron on the table before standing to leave. She happily gave both Catfish and Hoyt a big hug each, and graciously accepted Catfish’s offer to pay for her lunch when her refusals fell on his suddenly-deaf ears.
As she left Merlotte’s, she took in a huge lung-full of fresh, non-“stench of a grease pit about to catch fire” air, and felt at peace with her decisions…all of them.
While her Gran had been alive, she’d been mostly fine living in the dreamworld of politeness, decorum, and finite social rules that had governed a previous generation, but times had changed. It had taken her a while, but she’d eventually caught up with most of those changes, and in due time had become her own woman. She might still be Adele’s granddaughter and Jason’s sister, but she was so much more than that, and was damn glad to prove it, if only to herself.
She could indeed be a polite Southern belle, but she’d learned recently that polite Southern belles could be made of steel, refined by hard times and yet still giving the appearance of pretty decorum.
She shrugged her shoulders as she exited Merlotte’s smelly lot and turned her car toward home. She had an exciting new future waiting on her tonight if she would just be brave enough to accept it.
A/N: Since the co-conspirators of this story have lives and pets and squirrelly little muse-creatures which may or may not interrupt the muses referenced in our name, and since each chapter depends on the chapter written before it,…this is my long-winded way of saying that we have no set posting schedule. We’ll post’em as we write them, and hope you enjoy.