1:: Oh, Lord, NO!
“Mama, cahn I pulchase a toy tooo?”
Sookie Stackhouse gazed through the rearview mirror at the enthusiastic face of her son. She did not even have to rely on her telepathic abilities to know what he was thinking. A store full of all kinds of toys was as close to a wonderland as he was going to get. Unable to resist temptation she dipped into his mind and had to suppress her own giggles of the fantasy images he was envisaging, a land of magic and endless possibilities. Walt Disney should perch himself down and start scrabbling. God, maybe this was a bad idea. His little hamsters were running on over time, so much so, that if she did not get to the store in the next ten minutes he may simultaneously combust and she literally could not afford a new car.
“Well, sweetie, you got any money to purchase a toy with?” It will never seize to amaze her, his vastly growing vocabulary.
It made her blue sometimes that he could read already, next thing he is not going to need her for anything. Well, it may be awhile until he can get his own cereal from above the fridge. She sighed, he would find some way to do it, knowing him it would be some elaborate LEGO contraption and hopefully would not involve dismantling the phone in the process this time. It took her two days to put it back together and get it to work the last time, all because he wanted his silent (ok, fine his cheap) fire truck to make noise just like the one he saw on some TV commercial. The little sneak shielded his thoughts and worked assiduously during the night to accomplish his mission. Thank the Lord, there were not any emergencies in those two days or they would have been more than out of luck, by reason of their little farm house being way out in the boonies. The kid was too smart for his own good, because not only was his toy louder than an alarm o’clock, but he accomplish to secure a functioning phone in the process, if only in the aesthetic of a torture device. All Sookie knew for certain, a new strainer and an egg beater had to be obtained. That was the day he was forbidden to disassemble anything without first getting a formal permission to do so and bid farewell to his fire truck.
“I wolked and safed dwo dallas an eaty sevan cends” was Hunter immediate answer.
He held his two chubby little fingers up ardently and all his excitement screeched to a deadly halt once he found himself in the dilemma of how to demonstrate the numerical value of his eighty seven cents by using all of his fingers. There just were not enough of them. He looked down on his feet and quickly assessed that even with their aid it was not enough to get him out of this predicament. He was so deep in thought at resolving this detrimental problem that his little nose was crinkled, his face was flushed and he kept staring at his hands, wiggle his digits, move his hands to the side and tried to lift his feet as much as the car seat would allow, in hopes that somewhere in all of this action lay the answer he so desperately needed. All his attempts were just futile; there just were not enough fingers and toes in his arsenal. Well good, that will keep him occupied for some time. Let there be said that her little decipherer never backed down from a challenge, so when she saw him reaching for his peacefully napping sister’s limbs, Sookie had to intervene quickly.
“Hunter, don’t you go disturbin’ your sister. Even with all Addy’s fingers and toes you still are gonna be short, trust me.” Even her firm tone did nothing, but make him that much more determined to find a resolution. Sookie had to smile at her adorable miniature monster, after all he was her monster and she loved him for his stubbornness. She took mercy on his little brain, since he was unprecedentedly intelligent for a mere two year old, sometimes she just forgot that he was indeed a toddler.
“When you need ta show any number greater than ten, you do so by separating the number into two, so in this case, you would show first the number eight and after that the second number, which is seven, ok sweetie?”
Sookie was not even done with her little speech, when Hunter was already presenting her eight and seven fingers consecutively and proudly announcing their values. All she could do was sigh and shake her head at his happiness, one disaster averted. Now, how do you explain to a child that his worldly treasure would probably not be enough to get him a stick of gum in this day and age?
“I wike gumm.” Hunter announced undeterred.
The kid, just like his sister, would blissfully play with rocks and sticks and be as happy as a puppy with two peters. Never complain or demanded for anything not even the weather. They may be a toddler and an infant, but their family curse of hearing and seeing people’s thoughts let them understand the struggle their Mommy, Gran and even Uncle Jase go through daily to provide for clothes and food. Hunter was aware that the rest of the kids on the playground, whenever mama took them there, thought that their clothes were funny and all the adults looked at them pitifully. He, however, wore them with pride, they were made with nothing short of love and devotion. They were beautiful and snuggly, always colorful and always had some kind of fun detail to make then purdy, as Uncle Jase said. Like his sailor suit had cool anchors embroidered on each side of his collar or Addy’s little fairy princess dress had all these beads to make it sparkly, whenever she squirmed and she constantly did just that. He also knew that some of their outfits made the residents of small town Bon Temps, Louisiana covetous, although they would never acknowledge it verbally.
That said, it was up to Hunter to strike a savvy deal with Auntie Tara to sell some of ‘Mommy’s couture’ in her shop. A genius label for a clothing brand that had Tara laughing wholeheartedly when she first heard him pitch his idea to her. If not for his difficulty to pronounce, but for the pure inventiveness and business shrewdness the toddler was exhibiting. Sookie was beat red once she found out what her son had done behind her back, however she could not pass on the opportunity of extra money. They needed every cent they could get, so Mommy’s couture was pretty much adorned by all local kids now and Tara was coaxing her to quit her waitressing job and devote all her time in sewing, seeing how they were getting more and more interest from boutiques from Shreveport down to NOLA. Everyone knew who produced the garments, but not a single soul praised the talents of one Crazy Sookie, they just pretended to be happily ignorant as per usual. In just a short two months the business was expanding tenfold. If only Sookie could be convinced that keeping their profits to the bare minimum was not doing them any favor. Vendors were making a killing, due to her own philosophy that raising a child was already expensive as it was and no parent should struggle to clothe hers or his little ones. To say Tara was frustrated would be the understatement of the millennium. She was ready to wring her friend’s neck repetitively these days.
Sookie looked at her content boy in the backseat of her barely alive car and asked “How bout this, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll double your money to get a toy if you rake the yard and collect all the leaves tomorrow.”
“Deal” was Hunter’s enthusiastic answer and off his imagination went to all the possibilities the store could present him with.
He already knew it was her plan to buy him and his sister a toy each, but he would work for it. If for nothing else it would make his Mommy very proud of him and he always treasured that feeling. In the meantime Sookie glanced at the clock, which showed that nine o’clock was quickly approaching. Addy would stir any moment now and if she had any requirements, it would be for her diaper to be changed immediately. The little girl had no patience with wet nappies; food could wait, but her damped bottom would not under any circumstances. If anyone could throw a fit with a force of a mammoth it was her daughter. All Sookie could do was pray that the car ride would keep her sleepy for the next ten minutes until they reached the Toys”R”Us outlet.
Sookie’s anxiety was rising and all her thoughts were turning into a murderous intent for one Portia Bellefleur- Sawyer. Who registers for gifts for a BIRTHDAY party, no really? Portia, that was who. What did you expect from a woman, who bestowed her daughter with the most pretentious name ever: Annabelle Rosé Scarlet-Jo Bellefleur- Sawyer? Could not even have the decency to embrace her husband fully by dropping her last name, oh no, let no one forget where she came from.
Sookie needed to get her temper under control swiftly or the contempt rolling off her was going to affect her babies and that was the last thing she wanted. They did not get the chance to go out often, due to still learning to control their telepathy and sure as heck they did not have the money to just go strolling into a fancy toy store.
She would not rob her precious babies of this experience!
“Id bee ok mama, Adie iz dweamin ov du Bawby she lovez” Hunter assured her.
She gave him a death piercing look, he should know better than to read her even if her shields were down, because her emotions were in turmoil. Even at almost twenty five she had less control than both of her kids’ combined, so he had no excuse other than just plain being nosy.
“Sowy Mammy” was all Hunter could provide and squirm into his seat.
They were just pulling into the parking spot in front of the monstrosity of a store, when Addy was starting to slowly open her eyes. You would think that a place catering for children would be closed at this time of night on a Saturday no less, but ever since the vampires revealed themselves to the world, every business extended their work hours to midnight. Even businesses, which had no benefit in doing so, case in point. Was a vampire supposed to get himself a bubble wand or may be a squirt gun in a shape of Nimo? At this particular moment however, even less interested in a toy store than a vampire was Addy and if her Mom did not hurry up with the torture contraption deemed as a car seat she was going to pay dearly. Sookie was so focused on soothing her impatient infant that she did not even register what was on the other side of the strip mall. Nor the presence of the massive queue of Goth worship patrons or their thoughts and she was violently jerked back to reality by Hunter’s curious tone when he asked:
“Mommy what’s a dee pee wif bow jop?”
‘SHIELDS UP NOW!’ was all Sookie kept screaming in horror in both of her kids’ minds.
She grabbed Addy, lifted Hunter and started running so fast towards the store that she could easily give Usain Bolt a run for his money. Once inside, she did not even so much spare a glance in the direction of the young employee trying to greet them at the door. She picked out of his head where the bathroom was located and all but took the door off its hinges in her reckoning. Great, now that she had time to catch her breath and somewhat subdue her emotional mayhem of horror and disgust she was faced with the fact that the diaper bag was still in the back seat of the car.
Great, just effin great! Oh, she wanted to scream!
She has heard of the vampire bar Fangtasia from her coworker Dawn’s mind, seen the God’s unspeakable things that happen in there, but nothing could prepare her for the obscene and twisted thoughts that she was currently bombarded with. To think that people were desperately hoping for those acts to be done to them was just beyond words. She thought she has seen all the depraved sex acts there were, but some of the images she was shown surely could not be physically achieved and couple that with the desperation to be willingly drained of one’s own blood was unfathomable at the very least.
‘I want both of y’all to keep your shields UP, no matter what, y’all hear me?’
The mental tone of her voice was so icy it could teach icicles something about cold. Both kids got the message more than loud and clear.
“Hunter, go find wipes and nappies for yer sister”. Well, her audible tone was no improvement.
It made him bolt out of the bathroom, as if a lightning strike set his little bottom on fire. Addy did not even dare to show discomfort in the minute it took him to return with said provisions. All she knew was that she had to be quiet and on best behavior, so she waited motionless, while her mommy paced back and forth in the small space in front of the changing table. Forget food; better safe to starve right now. By the time Sookie had her baby girl nicely clean and dry her mood had greatly improved, though she was still on edge.
Hunter was so scared that he did not dare to even look at any of the toys, he just tried to keep up with her as she advanced towards the register. Sookie just wanted to get away from this God forsaken place as quickly as possible. Thank the heavens above, the young man from the door intercepted them to provide help and get them on their way out faster.
“Can I be of any help ma’am?” The boy no older than seventeen, named Tommy, asked with a genuine smile on his face.
He obviously never outgrew his love for toys and his outfit was just screaming that he was stuck at twelve. He was wearing light tan khaki pants and proudly modelling a batman shirt under his employee vest and nametag. Sookie let some of the tension in her shoulders evaporate, since all she was getting from his thoughts were all the different types and models of toys he was ready to recommend and truly his enthusiasm was infectious. She had no choice, but to smile back at him and politely ask for Portia’s registry. Her upbringing would not allow her anything less anyway.
“Wow, you’re cutting it short ain’t you?” Tommy laughed, when he saw that the register list was to closeout at midnight.
“I know, it’s just with work and the long drive to get here there was never a good time for it” she felt so shamed, truth was, she just disliked Portia that much.
“Well, let see, there’re ten items left on the list. Kinda of expensive if ya ask me, the cheapest one is the Barbie Fashion Editor 1635 – Vintage outfit for $95” as he finished talking he turned the monitor around to prove the validity of his statement. Sookie smiled at his honesty, it was refreshing nowadays. She glanced at the display and good Lord, Portia had no shame, there was not but a single item below $80. She begrudgingly said that it was fine and followed him to retrieve the item. The outfit was definitely stylish and lovely, but who in their right mind priced this two inches of fabric the worth of almost seven of the practical ones she sold. All she could do is shake her head in disbelief and Tommy did not need to be a mind reader to gauge what she was thinking.
“I know right. I coulda gatton three super awesome Star Wars LEGO sets for that money” was Tommy own respond, as he too was shaking his head in disbelief.
Sookie just had to laugh at the incredibility in his voice, plus Hunter eyes lit up at the mention of his favorite play activity. He met her eyes uncertain, if it was ok for him too to get a toy of his own. It was just that he was so looking forward to this experience for the last month, ever since they got the invitation to the birthday party, which should be phenomenal on its own. It was a circus theme after all. Her heart broke seeing the defeat written all over his cute chubby face she never wanted to make him fear her, it was never her intention. God, she wanted to eradicate all the filthy minds outside the store more than anything she has ever longed for.
‘You can get a toy baby, go ahead and ask Tommy to help you find one.’
Hunter turned to his new best friend with the biggest smile his face could hold. It was actually kind of scary, seeing how he somehow managed to display all his teeth without opening his mouth.
“Tomy, I gots dwo dallas an eaty sevan cends timez dwo foh a new toy, can you peaz helb me find one?” his declaration was accompanied with vigorous demonstration of each number by his little fingers being stretched and scrunched so his statement could not be misunderstood.
Tommy laughed and may have just found his new best friend also “Sure thing lil man, that’s just short of $6, but we got this really cool new truck collection if you wanna look at them?”
When Sookie pick out of Tommy head that he was going to help Hunter with a few cents to get one of those toys, as sweet as it was of him, her conscience would not allow it, so she quickly added with a smile.
“How bout we make it even $6?”
“Well, lil man then you’re really in luck. C’mon let me show ya.”
Both boys were wearing identical smiles at this point and it did not surprise Sookie when Hunter gingerly took Tommy’s hand. All three of them avoided skin contact like the black plague, simply it made shielding from the person’s thoughts darn near impossible. Hunter however was on a mission and she had no doubt he was sifting through Tommy’s mental toy catalog. She decided to let them to their own devices, maybe she should ask for his number for babysitting emergencies. It was time to get Addy her own gift. This inquisitive child had never been so quiet and still ever before, patiently waiting her turn.
“OK, my little love bug, for being the best baby ever, what prize should ya get?” at the end of Sookie’s question Addy was laughing and squirming like a worm on hot rock in midday. Her Mommy’s tickles were merciless.
This turned out to be harder than solving the chaos theory. First, the budget was shrinking the selection to a handful of items. Second, the baby would gouge Sookie’s thoughts and forgo anything that did not get the awestruck reaction she craved. One would think Sookie was looking for a present of her own. So, the mind Mexican standoff was rapidly approaching world war proportions. Sookie was ready to buy the darn store itself and Addy was ready to walk away with nothing, if her Ma did not find a toy she liked for herself. Stackhouse’s were never short on stubborn women it seemed. Whoever wrote those books on parenting in the local library obviously never had a mental argument with a six month old, which also had audible capabilities of the terrible twos. A shirking “NO MA!” could clearly be heard on the opposite side of the vast store.
An hour later and Addy was screaming in delight “DA MA!” as she unreservedly pointed to a massive bubble wand the disaster was finally averted. Good, now all Addy had to do was find a vampire to spread the joy to the world with. Sookie did not even realize she had been sweating profusely until she ran the back of her hand over her forehead and sighed in delight. Just wait till she turns two seemed to be her mental mantra on repeat. She mentally called for Hunter and was counting the minutes to get out of this store version of an adult nightmare. It did put a smile of her face when it was obvious that he found a true friend in Tommy.
“Your total is $163.74 after tax ma’am. Hunter ya lucked out, ya got 3 in 1 with your LEGO Highway Cruiser 31014” by the smile in the innocent teenager’s voice it was obvious those two could spend hours playing with the toy together or individually.
After mentally chastising herself for forgetting the diaper bag and having to fork over the money for the ungodly prices, Sookie handed the cash to settle the bill. Three toys, fancy new wipes and nappies (those were definitely to be used only on outings), two babies and she was more than ready to call it a night. She was fast approaching her car when menacing voices breached through her shields
‘In less than a minute those bloodsuckers would get what’s coming to them’
‘This is better than we planned look at all those fangbangers bout to die for those ungodly monsters’
’60 59 58…’
Before she could register what was going on, where the mental signatures were coming from or what on God’s green earth they were so excited about, Hunter had broken from her grip and was running full force towards the Fangtasia bar screaming his little heart in horror.
“BOMM ewebody WUN. BOOM WUUUUN”
All she could do was drop the offensive bag, run after him and try to out scream him “OH, Lord, NOOO! HUNTER NOOO, get back here. NOOOOO!”
It all happened in a blur at 49 of the ominous countdown. Next thing she knew, a ferocious looking Alice of Wonderland, who somehow skipped the didactic class on proper lady attire and reckoned that Goth paraphernalia was appropriate apparel, was dragging her and Hunter by the throats. She was moving at unhuman speed deep into the forest behind the strip mall. She evidently had more than enough strength and then some leftover to at least do the decent act of lifting them high enough off the ground to spare them the road burns. Hunter’s toddlers’ height was the only cause to preserve his clothing and escape with least amount of fire stings. Sookie was in no way so lucky. The pain was not even registering at this point; rocks, sticks and harsh dirt were ripping and mangling her flesh as if she had lost a fight with a lawnmower. All her concentration was on shielding her baby girl from the havoc of debris flying about and pray her baby boy was still breathing.
The five seconds it took them to put a mile distance from the mass hysteria felt like five centuries and the sting of pain registered with a vengeance of a rabid animal fit to be tie.
That was the least of her problems, the sonic carriage and rough grip on her throat had knocked the wind out of her lungs and she was vast approaching incoherent dizziness threatening to slip into a black abyss. Sookie vaguely remembered to make an attempt to get some air, her gasps were harsh and rigid, she was not sure if she was scratching on the obstruction of her air supply or trying to reach for Hunter. It all must of look like a fish in the desert. The only reason she was clinging to sanity and consciousness was the horrid cries for help from her babies and all the while the grip on her throat was by no means easing, if anything it was now slowly threatening to rapidly squeeze the life out of her.
Somewhere over the rainbow and deathly struggle, ghastly screams and were those animal growls and hisses, at this point Santa Claus can drop by in a Borat G-string and she would readily and politely offer him a Jägermeister, even offer to church him up . She did however between gasps for air manage to see a blur of a fair wall of a man rushing towards them, yep Santa was coming to town. She could clearly hear Mariah’s voice announcing it: He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, he’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, ya hear that evil Alice? In between Mrs. Carey angelic tune was a warning sound.
Whoever this kid Pamela was, Mr. Claus was not happy with her and she better get her poo together or no presents for you Missy. After Sookie was dropped to the ground faster than a spotted ape and overcame the pain in her back, throat, heck her whole body, she managed to croak out:
“So you better watch out, You better not cry and You better not pout”
It was very nice of Hunter to finish for her, whilst she was in the midst of a coughing spell with:
“I’m tewing you whyyyyy”, which was also strangled, seeing how Alice was still dangling him like a wet cat.
It all came in perfect union to an end with “Santa Claus is comi’n, comi’n to town”, even Addy chimed in as much as she could.
Oh oh, Santa was not his jolly self and obviously very rude to cut into their little family chorus. The whole forest shook with his roar, rude indeed.
If only to be outdone by a loud bang and another ripple in the ground. All eyes averted towards where the bar was located and followed by deafening screams and offensive smell of burning flesh. The images of horror, death and pleas for help caused all three telepaths to trash and below their own cries. Hunter was the most thunderous of them all together, he just kept repeating over and over.
“MAKE IT STOOOOOP MAMA! MAKE IIIIIIT STOP!”