said. “Do you even know what’s up here?”
“Family debris,” I said, looking in with some dismay. I’d just never worked up the heart to tackle it since Gran died.
“I’ll help you,” Claude declared. “That will be my payment to you for my room.”
I opened my mouth to point out that Amelia had given me cash, but then I reflected, again, that he was family. “That would be great,” I said. “Though I don’t know if I’m up to it yet.” My wrists had been aching this morning, though they were definitely better than they’d been. “And there are some other jobs around the house that are beyond me, if you wouldn’t mind giving a hand.”
He bowed. “I would be delighted,” he said.
This was a different side of Claude from the one I’d come to know and disparage.
Grief and loneliness seemed to have woken something in the beautiful fairy; he appeared to have come to the realization that he had to show a little kindness to other people if he wanted to receive kindness in return. Claude seemed to understand that he needed others, especially now that his sisters were gone.
I was a little more at ease with our arrangement by the time I left for work. I’d listened to Claude moving around upstairs for a while, and then he’d come down with an armful of hair-care products to arrange in the bathroom. I’d already put out clean towels for him. He seemed satisfied with the bathroom, which was very old-fashioned. But then Claude had been alive in a time before indoor plumbing, so maybe he saw it from a different perspective. Truthfully, hearing someone else in the house had relaxed something deep inside me, a tension I hadn’t even known I felt.
“Hey, Sam,” I said. He was behind the bar when I came out of the back room, where I’d left my purse and put on an apron. Merlotte’s wasn’t very busy. Holly, as always, was talking to her Hoyt, who was dawdling over his supper. With her Merlotte’s T-shirt, Holly was wearing pink and green plaid shorts instead of the regulation black.
“Looking good, Holly,” I called, and she gave me a radiant smile. While Hoyt beamed, Holly held out her hand to show off a brand-new ring.
I let out a shriek and hugged her. “Oh, this is so great!” I said. “Holly, it’s so pretty! So, have you picked a date yet?”
“It’ll be in the fall, probably,” Holly said. “Hoyt has to work long hours through the spring and summer. That’s his busy time, so we figured maybe October or November.”
“Sookie,” Hoyt said, his voice dropping and his face growing solemn. “Now that Jason and I have mended our fences, I’m going to ask him to be my best man.”
I glanced very quickly over to Holly, who’d never been a big Jason fan. She was still smiling, and if I could detect the reservations she had, Hoyt couldn’t.
I said, “He’ll be thrilled.”
I had to hustle off to make the rounds of my tables, but I smiled while I worked. I wondered if they’d have the ceremony after dark. Then Eric could go with me. That would be great! That would transform me from “poor Sookie who hasn’t even ever been engaged” to “Sookie who brought the gorgeous guy to the wedding.” Then I thought of a contingency plan. If the wedding was a daytime wedding, I could get
to go with me! He looked exactly like a romance cover model. He’d
a romance cover model. (Ever read
The Lady and the Stableboy
Lord Darlington’s Naughty Marriage
I was unhappily aware that I was thinking about the wedding strictly in terms of my own feelings. but there’s nothing more forlorn than being an old maid at a wedding. I realize that it’s silly to feel like you’re on the shelf at twenty-seven. But I had missed some prime time, and I was increasingly conscious of that fact. So many of my high school friends had gotten married (some more than once), and some of them were pregnant—like Tara, who was coming through the door in an oversized T-shirt.