“Hey Sookie! What happened to my dip darlin’?”
“Comin’ right up Hoyt!” I yelled, from across a few tables, still wiping the just vacated table in my section.
Though usually slow in the afternoons, Merlotte’s was crowded today. Jason and his whole crew, along with their boss Cat Henessy occupied two tables, shouting, hooting, insulting each other and having a generally good time.
Andy and Bud Dearbon sat talking shop on a side booth, two baskets of pickles and fries between them. The men of law weren’t drinking beer. Yet.
Jane Bodehouse occupied her usual stool at the corner of the bar. Today her son had accompanied her, nursing his one beer he ordered an hour ago. Clearly, he was there just for the sake of his momma and take her home before she made a scene. Good man!
Maxine Fortenberry and her DGD crew walked in just then and started towards the table I was still cleaning, effectively yanking me out of my silent crowd watching. I hustled to greet and fetch them menus. The old ladies and one lone gent in the group were tight with the tips but they’d been gran’s friends and if I wasn’t extra nice, I was sure gran would rise from the grave and make me choose a switch. All ladylike of the choice of course.
Having seated and settled Maxine and party with water, I picked up the bowl of chilli dip from the kitchen window and slid it at my brother’s table. I saw their beer pitcher running low. Another minute and they’d be yelling the bar down for more. So I picked up their almost done pitcher and shook it towards Sam, signaling him to prepare a refill.
“Sookie dear!” Maxine called out, apparently ready with her order.
I nodded and went to them with my order pad and pen ready.
“Alright y’all. What are we having?”
I noted down the orders of sweet tea, fries and pickles, biscuits with gravy and burgers from Maxine’s table. Laf rang the bell and gestured the burgers for one of my other tables were ready. I smiled at Maxine, collected their menus and hurried towards the hatch to collect the next order.
“How ya doin’ hooka?”
“Hangin’ in by my eye teeth Laf. Looks like all of Bon Temps wants your special fries today.”
“They ain’t wanting fries sweet thang! What those pretty folk really wants is an eyefull of this!” Lafayette turned and made a show of slapping his butt.
I had to laugh. All the tension of a busy afternoon suddenly left my shoulders.
“You betcha!” I chortled.
Lafayette batted his false eyelashes.
Right then, Arlene came up, all flustered and breathless. She stuck an order slip for Lafayette and hurried away, without so much as a smile or a fleeting look. Lafayette and I rolled our eyes at each other, shrugged and went back to our own work.
An hour into lunch service, Merlotte’s was officially full to capacity and Sam placed a sign out front for folks to expect to wait to be seated. It was just one of those days when I’d be dead on my feet by the time my shift ended. I pasted my goto crazy smile on my face, girded my lions and kept slinging beers, burgers and fries as fast as my feet could go. At least I was earning a lot of tips.
Andy and Bud vacated their table and moved towards the pool table, just in time for the door chime to ring, alerting the arrival of more people. Going by the status of the tables, these were going to be coming to my section, at the table that had just freed up. So after depositing yet another pitcher of beer at my brother’s table, I hurried over to buss the free table.
For some reason, as I leaned over to wipe the top, the hair at the back of my neck stood up. Despite it being hot as hell, a shiver ran down my spine and I got this odd feeling of being watched. Without taking my eyes off my task, I took a deep calming breath to get rid of the chills and lowered my shields, to see if there was someone around who was watching me.
Fifty loudly chattering minds crashed against my tired brain, giving me an instant migraine. I struggled to concentrate on the here and now but I was exhausted out of my mind and there were simply too many people. I knew I would not be able to find anything helpful with this much noise and started putting back the bricks of my mental wall, piece by small piece, trying real hard to push out all the unwanted minds from my own.
Again, for an unknown reason, my shields refused to cooperate, crumbling to bits as soon as those bits got built. It was as if with each block of resistance I put in, another larger part of my stupid brain wanted me to stop and let go instead. With the multiple loud voices and my fatigue, building my shields just wasn’t working.
I knew I was going to crash and burn!
So before I had an incident, and added to the ever fattening list of rumors about my craziness, I decided to just go out back and clear my head. Marshal my thoughts, as much as I could. Someone else could serve the new customers or they could wait for one freaking minute while their waitress beat some sense into herself.
I turned around to go and my eyes landed on the new customer, walking purposely towards the table I just cleared.
Cheese and Rice!
He was not from around these parts. Oh no sir not at all! I was positive I had never ever laid my eyes on him, or anyone the likes of him as tall and handsome as he was. In fact, scratch handsome… He was absolutely gorgeous. Divine other-worldly gorgeous. I froze. And got stuck on the way the sun played on his rich gold hair and gold hued skin.
He came to stand in front of me. I craned my head way way back to look at his face up close. He was just…
My eyes met his and a jolt ran the length of my body. I just stood there. We just stood there, in the middle of a crowd, and looked at each other.
A finger tapped my chin and then gently nudged it up, to shut my mouth close. Which had apparently been hanging open. Catching flies and what not!
As soon as he touched me, my already decimated shields ceased to exist.
Crash and burn, here I come!
But, magically, miraculously, in place of the chaos of random thoughts, all I got hit with was a complete and utter silence.
A sigh escaped in relief, as I looked into his eyes, deep ocean blue with flecks of green dancing in them, radiant with the play of sun. Something very familiar danced in them. I felt as if I knew those eyes. Intimately. I felt as if I knew the peace I was suddenly feeling.
It made no sense. I had never met this man before.
“Hi.” He said softly, his voice wrapped around my skin like silk.
“Hi” I whispered back, “Have we met before?”
I had thought his eyes shone before. But as soon as I asked him that, they lit up like a Christmas tree with a million lights. The effect was devastating.
“Why do you ask?” a small smile played mischievously on his lips.
“You seem familiar.” I glanced at his lips and then back at his eyes, hoping against hope that my weirdness didn’t send him running in the opposite direction.
“Are you trying to pick me up” He cocked an eyebrow, still smiling like a small kid smugly playing a trick, “Sookie?”
“How do you know my name?”
“It’s on your shirt.” he said, not once looking at my shirt.
“Oh” was my intelligent response.
He extended his hand towards me, “Pleasure to meet you Sookie. My name is Eric. I live in Shreveport.”
I took hold of his hand, a little too greedily and smiled in greeting, a little too much again.
“It’s very nice to meet you Eric, from Shreveport. I am Sookie Stackhouse, from Bon Temps. Please have a seat and I’ll be right back with your menu.”
He looked as reluctant to let go of my hand as I was, but let it go nonetheless and took a seat. I practically skipped over towards the bar where the menus were stashed, feeling his eyes on me the entire way. I was vaguely aware of Sam eyeballing me and the other waitresses practically ready to kill me for getting the beautiful man seated in my section and getting such an introduction. But I paid them no mind, blocked everybody out and went back to the man, to Eric.
“Here ya go.” I gave him the menu. He asked about the specials and I told him we had the chef’s special chilli tonight.
“Then I’ll have the chilli. And I’ll have the fried shrimp with salad on side. Some beer would be nice too.”
“Of course. Anything else?”
“Oh yes. Make sure there are no lemons in my food. I’m extremely allergic!”