I knew the kind of guy Stan was. Two years with him had taught me a lot about his motives and how he operated. He was going to want Big Red to think he was a big deal. That meant going to fancy restaurants or the higher end bars in town. I heard through the grapevine that Stan was, in fact, going to be teaching at the private school over in Panama City. That meant he was most likely looking for a rental property, at the very least. The look on Mel’s face as I told him all of this information told me he didn’t approve of my following up on Stan. He called it ‘obsessed’ but I didn’t see it that way.
“I feel like I need to get even with him or like I need him to regret leaving me,” I tried to explain. “I don’t expect you to understand it but I’m not breaking any laws. I’m not trying to hurt him.”
“I think you’ve lost your mind. He can’t be that good in bed, Sookie. And I’ve met the man. He’s not very interesting.”
“Okay, first of all, it’s not all about the sex so you can stop thinking with your man bits,” I told him. “And second of all, just because he doesn’t regularly follow TMZ or Perez Hilton or the Hodashians doesn’t mean he’s not interesting.”
“I fell asleep with my eyes open the first time he talked to me for more than two minutes,” Mel argued.
“Well you’re not the one who has to date him so I don’t see your point,” I argued. “This isn’t about you, sweetness.”
“No, but your insanity is making my eye twitch.”
“Then I won’t talk to you about it anymore,” I sighed. “Forget I brought it up.”
“But I’m the voice of reason.”
Say what now?
“This from the man who thinks Justin Bieber is going to fall in love with him?”
“He will as soon as I meet him,” Mel shrugged.
“Now who’s the insane one?” I snorted.
“All I’m saying is Stan left you. He’s clearly moved on. You’re stalking him now, that’s just… it’s crazy, Sookie. He’s moved on. You need to too.”
“I’m not stalking.” I shook my head.
“Whatever. I won’t talk about it anymore.”
“You just don’t like that I’m telling you all the things you know but don’t want to hear.”
“Just like you don’t want to hear that Fifi is not a child,” I reminded him. “She’s a d-o-g and always will be.”
Mel shook his head but didn’t respond.
“Who am I hurting by doing what I’m doing, Mel? Honestly, I don’t see what your problem is. I’m not dragging you into this or sending you to spy on him for me. Whatever. I won’t bring it up anymore.”
“You’re hurting yourself, Sookie. That bothers me.”
“I’m not hurting myself. I’m getting closure. It may not be the way you’d get closure but I don’t know where I’m going to find two Nubian princes to rub me down with oils and tell me how pretty I am.”
“You could go out and find ten men to rub you down,” he told me.
“When I’m ready I’ll do exactly that.”
“Alright,” he sighed.
“Can we please talk about something else now?” I asked him after a few minutes of tense silence. “Like why you’re not texting Claude back, for instance?”
I loved Mel. He was generally a good friend even though we argued like an old married couple. Claude was this sexy beast of a man who was actually interested in him and Mel kept coming up with one reason after another why he couldn’t be with Claude. His right ear was bigger than the left. He flared his nostrils when he smelled things. He had a birthmark on his left elbow in the shape of elbow macaroni.
“He’s annoying,” he shrugged. “And an asshole, and he doesn’t like Fifi.”
“I’m all those things too.” I didn’t much care for Fifi either.
“Yeah, well you’re not trying to fuck me, are you?”
“That’s because I have too much vagina.”
“I don’t like him, Sookie. If you like him, maybe you should try to turn him straight?”
“God, did you double down on your bitch pills today or something?”
He was being more irritable than usual.
“You don’t want to talk about your love life, I don’t want to talk about mine,” he told me.
“Oh so you mean it’s no fun to have someone push you into a relationship with someone you don’t really want to be with? Huh. I wonder where I heard that one before?” I tapped my chin and he gave me the finger.
“I’m trying to keep you away from the asshole to keep you from getting hurt anymore. I’m not trying to push you into a relationship,” he said.
“Yeah, okay,” I snorted. I think he was only half thinking about the things he was saying but that was nothing new. “I think I’m going to head home.”
I ignored that noises Fifi made when I stood up. Her barking was… well, let’s just say I’d heard Ripley fart louder than that little noisemaker barked. I grabbed my purse off the couch and Fifi was nipping at my heels the whole way to the door. I was pretty sure Mel trained her to hate everyone but him.
“Can you come get this giant rat?” I asked. If Fifi ran outside and got her dumb ass hit by a car, Mel was going to lose his damn mind for real.
Mel got up to pick her up. “Don’t you listen to mean ol’ aunt Sookie,” he cooed at her.
I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t let him take you for Botox,” I whispered to Fifi.
Fifi whimpered like she understood me. The sad thing is, I was only kind of kidding about the Botox. Mel hadn’t said anything about it yet, but I wouldn’t be the least surprised if he thought it was a good idea to do it. I didn’t even know if that was offered to dogs but if it was, someone needed to call Animal Cruelty on anyone who injected their dog with toxic materials.
I left Mel’s house and walked over to my car. Usually I only took the Firebird out for special occasions but I had been driving it more and more lately. I didn’t really want to go home but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. My head was all messed up and I hated not having anyone to turn to that could help me figure it out. I understood what Mel was saying and honestly, that’s probably the same advice I would give if I was in his place but I could admit that I wasn’t being completely rational about the Stan thing.
It wasn’t entirely clear to me why I couldn’t just let it go. I wasn’t the type to hold grudges. Generally speaking, I was a fairly well-adjusted person. There had been too much loss and tragedy in my life to carry around such heavy burdens all the time. Maybe Stan just crossed a line I didn’t know was there. For two years I kept secrets with him. I trusted him. I believed him when he told me that we would have a life together after I finished my studies. I had let myself feel things for him that I probably wouldn’t if he hadn’t made those promises to me.
I had been expecting so much more than a lame phone call to tell me that he’d traded me in for a younger model. I wasn’t some Buick he could just send back to the lot when he decided I wasn’t fast enough anymore. I was a person, goddamnit, and I was mad. Maybe to Mel it was no big loss but he wasn’t me. It was easy to tell someone to just get over it but that was in theory. In reality, feelings didn’t just turn themselves off. I couldn’t make myself feel a certain way just because it was the ‘sane’ way to feel about someone.
Then there was Eric.
There was no denying the sex was phenomenal. Stan or not, I wasn’t convinced getting involved with Eric again was a great idea. He said he wanted to get to know me as a friend but I couldn’t go there with him. It was an all or nothing kind of thing where my emotions were concerned. I had been in love with him once before and so it stood to reason that I probably could be again. I could only be so crazy at one time and apparently I was filling my quota with the Stan stuff.
I pulled into the lot for Henderson Beach and parked my car so I could see the water. I loved the way it changed colors depending on how close to shore it was. It was a little greener closer to the beach and got bluer as it went further out to the horizon. It was fascinating to me that the water was so green there but just a half mile further down it was blue like the Caribbean would be. I got out of the Firebird and walked over to the steps leading down to the sand. I took off my sandals and just as I was picking them up, I got a text message.
Willa: Just had a chat with S. He’ll be attending a Buffett tribute band concert on Thurs at Coco Bar.
I smiled and shook my head. Rational Sookie would delete that text but as it was already established, I wasn’t playing with a full deck where Stan was concerned. So I pulled up Eric’s contact in my phone to text him.
Me: You a Jimmy Buffett fan?
Eric: Depends on the day. I don’t hate him. Why?
Me: There’s a cover band playing at Coco Bar on Thurs. Wanna go?
He wanted to hang out. Seemed like a good time to do it.
Eric: Sure. What time so I know when to head home?
I did a quick Google search on my phone for the bar and found the concert started at eight.
Me: Maybe 7? We can have dinner there first if you want.
Eric: I’ll pick you up?
Me: Or I can come to your place and you can drive. Your choice. I’ll bring the Firebird 😉
Eric: Sign me up. I’ve been dying to get my hands on her for years.
Me: I’m at Henderson right now if you want to eyefuck her.
Eric: Do I have to sit in my truck like a creeper or can I actually hang out with you? Lol
Me: I like option 1. Sounds like a Rob Lowe commercial.
Eric: Hahaha. That’s what I was going for. I can be there in 20.
Me: I’ll be the lonely blonde on the beach.
Eric: I’ll be the tall blonde… that’s all I got.
I laughed at that.
Me: I never loved you for your creativity.
Eric: And you probably won’t start now. 😉
Me: That’s a safe assumption. See you soon.
I took a seat on the sand and watched the waves as they broke and rolled in. I never got tired of watching the ocean. It was soothing to watch. The right side of my face was warmer because of the setting sun. It wouldn’t be too much longer before it was gone, but Eric would probably make it in time to see the sun sink behind the horizon.
I was too far away to see the bridge that led to Fort Walton but I liked knowing it was there. When I closed my eyes it was easy for me to hear Jimmy Buffett playing in my mind. I actually really liked his music a lot. Gran had been a surprisingly big fan of his. She came off like a buttoned up church lady but Gran knew how to let loose. Including getting stoned at Jimmy Buffett concerts. It was impressive, really.
I was drawing hearts in the sand when a shadow covered my feet.
“You found me,” I said without looking up.
“It wasn’t that hard.” Eric took a seat next to me, kicking his legs out in front of him.
“I’m surprised you’re not sprawled out on the Firebird’s hood,” I chuckled and drew a big Tic Tac Toe board in the sand in front of us.
“It’s a nice car, but I’m not in lust with it,” he smiled as he sat up so he could draw an X in the center box.
“Thank God.” I drew an O in the upper left corner.
“Looks like I got here just in time for a sunset.” Eric made an X in the top center square.
“Yes you did,” I agreed. I blocked his win at the bottom center square.
Eric put an X in the left center box, but didn’t say anything. Of course I followed that with an O in the right center box. I was willing to bet it was going to be a draw.
His next X went into the lower right.
“Well, if this isn’t just our relationship in game form,” I sighed as I put an O in the upper right box, ensuring the draw. No winners. It was appropriate, really.
“A relationship shouldn’t have winners and losers. It should be equal. A draw if you will,” Eric commented.
“That’s a good point,” I agreed. It was an unexpectedly astute observation coming from him.
“I make them sometimes,” he said as he looked out over the water.
“I feel bad for people who don’t live close to the ocean.” I leaned back on my elbows to watch the rest of the sunset.
“It is beautiful out here. Every now and then I wonder what it would be like to live more inland,” he admitted. “Then I remember what I would be missing here.”
“I don’t think I could do it. I’m spoiled.”
“I think most of us are.” Eric leaned back on his elbows. “I might need your help dusting off before we go.”
“I’m sure I can help you with that.” The sky was turning almost magenta where the sun was getting close to the horizon. “I think I’m going to go drive for a while after the sun’s gone.”
“Are you just telling me or inviting me?”
“Depends. Do you want to go?”
“I wouldn’t mind. I didn’t have any plans for the night.”
“Even if I made you do the driving?”
“I don’t have a problem with driving if you want to watch the view.”
I sat there trying to think of something to say to him. Nothing – and I mean nothing – was coming to mind. I wasn’t the kind of woman who drew too many blanks but I had nothing. Even worse, the silence wasn’t very comfortable which just made me feel even more awkward sitting there. The sun couldn’t go down fast enough for me.
“Does this feel awkward to you too?” Eric asked after a couple minutes.
“Extremely,” I answered without hesitation.
“I’ll just go home,” he offered. “Are you sure you want me to go out with you tomorrow?”
“I’m a bad liar. I’ve been told it’s one of my best qualities,” I said with a little smile. “I really don’t know what I should do with you. There’s a part of me that says we’re mature adults now and things have changed over the last few years. There’s no reason why we can’t, at the very least, be friends now. Then there’s the knowledge that you fucked me silly just a few days ago and it seems foolish to throw that away because I think we’ve both been around enough by now to know that what we have there doesn’t happen every day. But is it enough to build a relationship on? I don’t know. I guess I’m trying to feel it out.”
“It never hurts to try,” he said. “I know I’m a little biased since I’m the one asking for it, but I really do think we have something.”
“I think it’s easier for you because you see yourself as changed since we were together. I can see it on the surface but it’s the stuff underneath that I can’t see that I’m concerned about.” I hoped that made sense to him.
“I get that, but you won’t really know if I’ve changed underneath if you don’t give it a shot,” he reminded me. “I can tell you all day long that I’ve changed, but until you see it, you’re not going to believe it. That’s why I wanted to get to know you again. I have a feeling we’ve both changed and I’m very interested in getting to know that woman you are now.”
“Then offering to go home is a bad idea, don’t you think?”
“I don’t want to make you uncomfortable and it seems like I am,” he shrugged.
“But if you go how am I supposed to get comfortable with you?” His logic was all flawed.
“Good point,” Eric chuckled. “Let me know when you’re ready and we can go.”
“Three Stooges or the Three Amigos?” I asked instead.
“Three Amigos,” he answered.
Eric smiled before he stood up.
“Can you dust me off?”
I sat up and reached out to brush the sand off his legs and backside. When I got as much sand off of him as I could I stood up too. Apparently Eric wasn’t good at the game I was trying to play with him. I figured it was a no pressure way to get to know each other.
“Want to walk along the beach for a while?”
“Sure,” I agreed. “Vegas or Reno?”
I wasn’t giving up that easy.
“Vegas. Reno is a filthy little city,” he said as he reached for my hand. “Sailboat or speed boat?”
“Sailboat,” I answered.
“It’s more relaxing,” he agreed.
Since we were talking relaxation…
“Massage or nap in a hammock?”
“Nap in a hammock with a pretty girl,” he smiled.
“Does the pretty girl make a difference? I’ve never tried it.” I was only half kidding.
“It does. It’s nice without one, but there’s something more relaxing about doing it with someone else,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about putting up a hammock on my beach.”
“That’s a good idea. All you’ll need is a pretty girl on call to be there for random naps.”
“I’m sure I can find one. Flintstones or Jetsons?”
“Flintstones, of course.” Was that even a contest?
“I had to check. I might have had to change my mind about you if you chose wrong.”
“Cartoons are a deal breaker for you?” I couldn’t help laughing at that.
“Your taste in cartoons, maybe,” he chuckled. “It’s important.”
“Addams Family or The Munsters?”
“Addams Family. Although Grandpa Munster was pretty funny.”
“I’m a Munsters girl myself,” I informed him. “Herman’s adorable.”
“Maybe if this thing works out we can be Herman and Lily next Halloween. I have the height.”
“We’ll see,” I smiled. I wasn’t thinking that far ahead.
“Camping or high end hotel?”
“That’s tough because I can appreciate them both. I’m going to say camping,” I answered.
“Ditto. It’s nice to have everything done for you every now and then. There’s just something about camping that’s more comfortable though.”
“I think it’s the sleeping bags and bonfires,” I suggested. “Plus the ‘smores and beer.”
“Exactly,” he smiled. “Dark or light beer?”
“Light. I’m not really a beer connoisseur, but I have yet to try a dark one I like.”
“I prefer the light beers as well.”
“I’ll have you know I make a campfire peach cobbler that’ll blow your balls off,” I told him.
“Why would you want to do that? I thought you liked my balls?” Eric joked.
“Pffffft… No cobbler for you then,” I said.
“I was just curious. I didn’t say I didn’t want it,” he pointed out.
“Nope, too late. Gotta protect your balls,” I said, trying not to laugh.
“I’m just sayin’. If I don’t have balls there goes my shot at babies. But a good peach cobbler…”
“Well I can’t deprive you of babies. I’ll keep the cobbler away,” I patted his hand.
“My future babies thank you,” he said seriously.
“Good to know.”
“Vampire or Werewolf? You know, since they’re all the rage.”
“Buffy,” I answered. “She could kill either and be hilarious at the same time.”
“I don’t feel like that’s a real answer, but I’ll take it.”
“If I had to pick one I guess I’d be a vampire,” I relented.
“Good to know.”
“Muddin’ or fishing?”
“Depends on my mood,” he answered.
“Ever go zip lining at the harborwalk?”
“Not yet. I want to though.”
“Me too. It looks like fun.” I kicked water at him.
“Are you sure you want to start that?” Eric kicked some water back at me.
“A water fight?” he grinned.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said innocently.
“Uh huh, I think you do.”
“Nope, not a clue.”
Eric just shook his head with a little chuckle, but didn’t say anything.
“Biscuits or cornbread?” I asked.
“Depends on what I’m eating them with. Usually biscuits though.”
“Brunette or redhead?”
“Brunette if those were my only choices. I prefer blondes though.”
“Lingerie or fuck me shoes?”
I laughed at that. “One on one or group fun?”
“Depends on all kinds of factors. Usually one on one though. I like to focus on the girl I’m with.”
“Popsicles or ice cream cones?”
“Ice cream cones.”
“Tim or Al?”
“Really? Tim’s so ridiculous. How can you not love him? Although Jill was my favorite so…” I laughed.
“Believe me; I get how funny Tim is. Al was the real backbone to me,” he smiled. “You have a beautiful laugh, Sookie. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.”
“I didn’t think you paid much attention to it before.”
“I did.” He squeezed my hand.
“Gators or dolphins?”
“Stranded on a deserted island or shut into a damp cave?”
“Deserted island. I need fresh air.”
“And light. Light is good,” I chuckled.
“That too,” he agreed.
“My best friend has a teacup chihuahua and he dressed it in leg warmers, a day-glo tank top and a sweatband,” I told him.
“That is highly unfortunate for that poor dog,” he snorted.
“Her name is Fifi LaRou,” I added.
“My assessment still stands.”
“He has wigs he puts on her when she feels sassy.” I wasn’t kidding.
“Remind me to never go near this guy. I don’t think I can handle that.”
“He’s a little absurd, but he’s encouraged me to give you another chance. For the record, I don’t dress up my dog. Ripley don’t play that. Mel tried to put a scarf on her and she bit him.”
“Good for her,” Eric smiled. “And even though he has questionable taste, tell him I said thank you.”
“I’m sure you’ll meet him. You can tell him yourself.”
Eric stopped us from walking and pulled me into his arms with my back to his chest. We were facing the water as he hugged me from behind. He didn’t say anything, just held me as we watched the waves in the moonlight.
It was nice, really. Stan wouldn’t have done something like that. Actually, Stan wasn’t very romantic at all. For all of his flashiness, it wasn’t really like he was trying to woo me. Of course I was too blinded by my own feelings to see that it was really just a man acting like a big shot to impress a woman. It had worked. I had fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.
Was I fool or was Stan just that good?
More important, why couldn’t I just let him go when there was someone else who wanted to take his place?