“The defendant is sentenced to 90 days community service and probation. Next case!”
And with the thump of the gavel on the highly polished maple bench, Eric’s summer seemed to poof away before his very eyes.
“Probation?!? How could they do this to me? What the fuck, Dad?!?” His usually deep, gruff voice squeaked out in a pathetic whine. His father roughly grabbed his shoulder and began steering him out of the courtroom.
“That’s a light sentence. If I were you, I’d keep my mouth shut at least until we get out of here.” The threatening words did nothing to alleviate the feelings of dread and suffocation closing in on Eric.
“But-it’s not…” Another yank on his already sore shoulder just elicited a grunt, followed by heavy silence accompanied by a frosty glare aimed at his father.
Fisting his briefcase in one hand and leaving the other on his son’s bruised shoulder, Andre steered Eric over to the court’s financial management office. Once called, the two men approached the window slowly.
“Northman. Case was just sentenced by Judge Robinson.”
The nondescript lady sitting behind a prominently displayed nameplate bearing the name “Linda” promptly began mashing keys on her keyboard one key at a time, trying to pull up the file.
Eric let out a huff and exasperatedly dropped his head to the small counter in front of the window.
Linda’s eyes blinked like a confused owl as she looked between the two men, confused by the agreement in stereo.
“Mr. Andre Northman,” he nodded, motioning for Linda to continue. “Here is the paperwork for his probation. He needs to call Mr. Preston Pardloe and set up his intake appointment. That needs to be done in the next 3 business days. Here is the tally of the court costs, as well as the damages being claimed by the state.”
Andre’s eyes gazed over the papers she’d handed him, flipping quickly and skimming to the very end. A sharp intake of breath was the only indication that he’d finished as he quickly shoved the packet into his son’s chest.
“My son will be taking care of those charges now,” The beginnings of protest died on Eric’s lips as he saw the vicious glare being cast his way.
Reluctantly he drew out his Amex card, not even bothering to look at the total on the paper. Linda gulped slightly as she ran the card through the reader and ripped off the receipt for him to sign.
Glancing quickly over the small slip of paper, Eric gasped and did a double take as his fingers abruptly dropped the pen he’d been handed.
“Are you fucking kidding me?! $12,567.89?? How the fuck did they come up with that number?”
“Well sir, the totals are tallied right on the invoice there-“
“No. You don’t understand. This is ridiculous! I am Eric Northman and-“
“Sign the slip Eric,” Andre’s eerily calm voice broke through his tirade, making him sputter in indignation.
“Just sign the damn receipt. We need to get back to the house.”
A pause between each word just emphasized the very real possibility of his father losing his cool, so Eric decided to err on the side of self preservation. Reluctantly he scribbled his nearly illegible signature on the paper and flung it back to Linda.
“Alright sirs. You’re all set. Have a great day!” The beaming thousand watt smile was lost on them as they turned to walk, or limp in Eric’s case, to Andre’s BMW.
As Andre started the car with a gentle purr, Eric propped his leg up on the dashboard.
“Put your leg down. How many times do we have to tell you that? I don’t even see how that could be remotely comfortable for you,” Andre’s voice lilted tiredly as he navigated though the guard post outside court house.
“What the hell was that, Dad? Seriously, you’re one of the top lawyers in Louisiana and you let that mockery of a sentence get passed? What the fuck?!?”
“Okay, first of all, I am your father and you will not be disrespectful. Secondly, drunk driving is a serious offence anywhere, but especially so in Louisiana. Thirdly, even if I could have gotten you a better sentence, which I couldn’t have since you decided to plow into the side of Baton Rouge’s district attorneys house and blow a .48 on the god damned breathalyzer, I wouldn’t have. Because frankly Eric, I am so tired of waiting for an officer to show up on our doorstep with terrible news. I am tired of going to bed at night, wondering if this is the night that you do one stupid thing too many and never come home to us again. So, this is all for you. Not to mention, that even all that having been said, you still got a pathetically light sentence due to the fact that Judge Robinson is a friend of mine,” Andre turned sharply into their driveway and left the car idling as he turned to face his son. “Eric, I love you. You are one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. But, I’m nearly at the end of my rope. If this doesn’t work, then I have no idea what to do with you.”
Eric regarded his father warily. “Seriously? That’s what you’re sticking with? That it’s for my own good? Whatever.”
Lazily pulling the door open and tumbling out of the leather seats, Eric began shuffling towards the front door of the house his parents shared. Andre shook his head slightly and followed through the door that Eric had ungraciously left wide open.
Sophie Anne rushed to envelop her son in a huge hug, which he begrudgingly allowed. He didn’t move to reciprocate however.
“So, what happened? Obviously something fairly miraculous since you’re here, but…” she trailed off, searching his eyes for a hint.
“Well, your husband decided to let me get sentenced to probation and community service. All summer! I still can’t believe-” Eric was suddenly and quite effectively silenced by a ringing slap to his cheek.
Astonished, he stared wide eyed at his tiny, delicate mother. Never had she struck him and he was struck dumb for a moment.
Andre simply leaned against the wall of the foyer where their progress had been halted by Sophie Anne, clearly taking in the sight of his wife and son arguing.
“You should be grateful that your Dad even took the time to bother coming with you. You are twenty-fucking-four years old and you need to start behaving like a responsible adult!”
With a sharp intake of breath that might have been a sob, Sophie Anne spun around, stinging Eric with the end of her perfectly trimmed red hair.
Eric stared after her, wide eyed and catching flies.
Andre pushed off the wall and began following his wife down the hallway. Pausing for a moment, he turned and held his hand out while Eric stared blankly at him.
“Give me your wallet.”
Eric complied with no protest, slapping the leather roughly into his father’s hand. Andre quickly extracted the numerous credit cards and the debit card nestled inside.
“You will be staying with us for the foreseeable future. So, you will not be needing these. I’m going to go console your mother, since I’m fairly certain you’ve managed to induce an anxiety attack. Once we discuss the rules, we will come and talk to you about how the rest of your summer is going to go.”
Eric followed his father with his eyes, before he abruptly turned to wander into the kitchen. Listlessly he began shuffling through the refrigerator and the pantry, pulling out items before putting them back in their proper place.
He really didn’t get what the big deal was. So he’d had a few to drink. He knew he shouldn’t have been driving, but everyone else was a hell of a lot more smashed than he was. He was being responsible. Yeah, that was it. He was just being the responsible one. And now, he had no car due to the fact that it had been totaled in the accident, with no apparent hope of getting a new one anytime soon. His license after all, was suspended.
He had a nearly dislocated shoulder from the seat belt locking into place and throwing him forcefully back into the seat. His knees were swollen and bruised from their abrupt introduction to the underside of the dashboard. And his face, which had earned him the ‘Sexiest Tiger in Class’ designation every one of his 4 years at LSU was now hideously disfigured with a gash above his eyebrow, which throbbed painfully with every facial movement he made.
And now, he’d have to miss out on an entire summer. Quinn was flying everyone out to Vegas in June, but he’d have to miss that. Alcide was borrowing his father’s yacht for 3 weeks in July, but he’d have to miss that, too. Every single social event that he and his friends had been planning since January-he’d have to fucking miss. All because some stupid, too big for their britches ‘po po’ saw him as a spoiled little rich boy and decided to jerk him around.
That’s all it was. A witch hunt. After all-he was being responsible. And that pathetic excuse for a cop Andy Bellefleur-well, he’d always had it out for Eric. But sadly, it looked like there was fuck all he could do about it since apparently no one cared enough about him to help.
Huffing out another sigh, he threw himself painfully on the plush sofa situated in front of the TV in the living room. His parents couldn’t even get a decent TV. They could afford more than a measly 52 inch. But no. They were under the impression that books were far more important, taking up nearly all the available wall space with shelf upon shelf of books.
Picking up the remote, he flipped aimlessly through the channels before finally settling on Spike TV to watch ‘1000 Ways to Die’. He snickered at the outlandish stories and retarded ways some pathetically moronic peons met their untimely demise. Although, thinning that particular herd might not be the worst thing.
The sun had drifted beyond the horizon, painting the sky with shades of orange and pink, when Eric was startled out of his fitful sleep by the shrill burst of a whistle. Good lord, he’d forgotten that his dad knew how to do that. He sat up sleepily, rubbing his eyes roughly, wincing when his hand grazed the cut above his eye.
He glanced up to where his parents were seated on the love seat across from his couch, nearly clinging to each other for support.
“We’ve come to a decision.”
The ominous note in his mother’s voice did nothing to ease his anxiety. The lazy smile that graced his face told a different story however.
“Alright, Mom. What’s the damage? Sweet talk my probation officer, maybe help out around the house for a few weeks, then I’m back at LSU, right?”
His cocky smile turned Andre’s blood up to a raging boil. “This is not a joke, Eric! You could have died. You could have killed someone. And this is just the last straw in a neverending string of bad decisions on your part. Hell, you haven’t even finished a bachelors degree yet. You’re twenty four. All you care about is partying with those-those…fucktards you call friends!”
Eric choked on the saliva gathering in his mouth hearing his father-his studious, rigid, uptight father-say the word fucktard. How the hell did he even KNOW that word?
“As of right now, you’re staying here with us. Your father already has your credit and debit cards. You will be getting a small weekly allowance from us for any expenses you might have. You will call Mr. Pardloe first thing in the morning. I already know of a place for you to do your community service. And I swear on all that is holy-if you blow this, there will be no going back for you. I’ve called in a lot of favors to make this happen,” Sophie Anne paused to take a deep breath while Eric sat slack jawed, staring at her. “I’m telling you Eric-you will shape up and start behaving like the responsible adult that you can be, or that’s the end of it. You’ll be on your own.”
The tears welled in her eyes as she said it, but he knew she meant every last word.
“How-uh-how will I be getting around? My car was totaled.
“I will be driving you. My schedule is fairly flexible nowadays,”his mother explained matter-of-factly.
Eric cringed. Having to have his ‘mommy’ drive him around was humiliating enough. Couple that with the fact that she drove some ancient Volvo station wagon…the horror!
He slapped a smile on his face. “Alright. That sounds…great. Where is this place I’m supposed to be doing my community service?”
His parents looked at each other and smiled briefly. His father turned back to face him and Eric was unsettled by the slightly sadistic air of that smile. “You’ll see.”