I notice as we get out of my car at the nursing home that the only time Sookie and I have been apart over the last week is when one of us is at work. I don’t generally attach to someone this quickly, so it’s a little odd. What’s even stranger is the fact that I don’t care. I like being around her.
When I take her hand I give her a little squeeze. I don’t know how Grams is going to act with us together. Revealing my temper was just the tip of the iceberg. When I told Sookie I had a rebellious side that might’ve been an understatement. Grams has good reason to not trust me with Sookie, but I’ve definitely grown up. I won’t hurt this one. If I ever feel like I’m going to I know how to pull the plug without ignoring her or causing stupid fucking fights to make her leave. I’ll tell her about my past one day, I’ve already shared quite a bit in the short time we’ve been together and I don’t want to overwhelm her. From the reactions I’ve gotten, I feel confident she’s not going to run out on me when I do.
The ladies are setting up as Sookie and I walk in. The first thing I notice is Grams’ pink hair. I smile, it’s cute. The second thing I notice is her arm tucked into a sling. What the fuck?
I release Sookie’s hand with a growl and march over to Grams. The last time I saw her she was getting ready to go out with some fucknut she met on the internet.
“What the hell happened to you?” I growl as I approach. I’ll kill him. I will fucking murder the fucker that hurt my Grams. I’ve been to jail. I can go back.
A sly smile claims her face as she says, “My first sex injury.”
I pull her aside so we’re not overheard and whisper, “Sex injury? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Does it look like I’m kidding? The restraints were tight and–”
“Restraints?” I hiss. “You let some little dickhead you don’t even know tie you up? I can’t fucking believe you, Pamela.”
“You watch your tone with me, sonny boy,” she hisses right back. “I don’t recall needing your permission to do anything. I’m just fine and Rasul feels terrible about what happened. He’s been very sweet and he went to the hospital with me after it happened. I may be getting old, but I’m not getting stupid.”
I can’t believe her. She’s lost her fucking mind. Instead of arguing anymore I shake my head and walk over to Sookie and Adele.
“Hello, Mrs. Stackhouse,” I smile at Adele and kiss her cheek. “Do you mind if I steal Sookie for a moment?”
“Of course not, dear,” Mrs. Stackhouse says politely.
“I’ll be right back, Gran.” Sookie gives her grandmother a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll bring you a refill on your coffee.”
“Thank you, honey,” she replies.
Sookie gets up and follows me. We go out back to avoid anyone eves dropping.
“She’s lost her mind,” I sigh. I just need Sookie to talk me down on this one. I don’t know what that crazy woman’s problem is. “Did you see the sling? Do you know how she got that shit?”
“I did see the sling. No, I don’t know why she needs it. What happened to her?” Sookie asks calmly.
“A sex injury. She let some man she doesn’t even know tie her up. She smiled about it. Smiled. What the fuck do I do with that?” I ask, throwing my hands up.
Sookie gives me a sympathetic smile and reaches up to rub the back of my neck in a soothing way.
“There’s nothing you can do, babe. Pam’s an adult. I know you worry, and I understand why, but she’s going to live her life regardless of what you think,” she says. “Just be thankful that she got medical treatment instead of being left hurt somewhere.”
I sigh and pull Sookie into my arms. “She’s the only family I have,” I whisper. “She can’t be reckless like this. She’s going to give me a heart attack.”
Sookie rubs my back but she doesn’t say anything more. It takes a couple minutes for me to calm down enough to pull back. She’s right. Grams is an adult and it could’ve been way worse.
“Now I know how she felt,” I sigh, threading my fingers through Sookie’s.
“You got a sex injury too?” She loses the fight with her smile, but she tries to keep it in check.
“Once, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Later, though. Now isn’t the time for teenage Eric stories.”
“You know, if I’m being completely honest I should tell you that I admire your grandmother. Maybe what she did was reckless, but at least she’s not sitting around here like some folks just waiting for death to come for her. She knows what she wants and she goes out and gets it, and she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of her. That takes guts, babe,” Sookie says.
I nod. It’s true, but it still terrifies me.
“Thanks,” I sigh again. “That’s what I need to be reminded of sometimes.”
“You’re welcome.” Sookie gives me a soft, lingering peck. “Plus I hope when I’m that age I’ve got some hot guy sexing me up,” she giggles.
“Shit, that takes me out of the running,” I pout.
“I said ‘hot’, not younger,” she winks.
“You think I’ll still be hot then?” I ask, turning to lead her back inside.
“It’s possible. Pam doesn’t look her age.”
“She’s convinced a thirty-eight year old she’s twenty-five years younger than she is… My grandmother is Blanche Devereaux… Holy shit.”
Sookie throws her head back and laughs. She clutches my arm tightly and has to stop walking, she’s laughing so hard.
I chuckle with her and glance inside. Grams is giving me a worried look so I give her a wink to let her know I’m okay. When Sookie sobers up enough to stand on her own I tug her in for a tight hug. I kiss her forehead and thank her again.
“Are you playing?” I ask as we walk back inside.
“Sure, why not?” Sookie shrugs. “I’m going to get Gran some coffee. Do you think Pam would like some too?”
“Yeah, she takes it black,” I reply. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” she winks. Sookie kisses my cheek and then heads for the refreshment table.
I walk back over to Grams and take a seat in the empty chair next to her. She’s probably saving it for Miriam.
“Sorry, you just worry me,” I apologize for freaking out.
“I know.” Grams pats my hand.
“I want to meet this guy if you plan on seeing him again.”
“We’ll see,” she says. “You just worry about that girl of yours.”
“I will. She’s good for me,” I say, looking over at her.
Sookie comes over with Grams’ coffee. She sets it down in front of her and hands me a bottle of water. I pat Grams on the arm and get up to get bingo started.
Sookie is off Monday this week so we plan on our second date. I have no idea where to take her. We have all day though, so at the last minute I decide to pull out my old row boat. We have a small lake nearby we can row around. She’s at home for once so when I figure it out I call her.
“Hi, Cuddlebug,” she says cheerfully.
“Hey, Angel,” I smile into the phone. “Wanna go to the lake and have a picnic? I have a little row boat and we can go float around. Let the world disappear for a while.”
“That sounds perfect. What would you like me to bring?”
“Do you want to make some sandwiches?”
“Sure. I’ll make some fresh fruit salad, too.”
“Perfect. I just have to run by Grams’ storage to pick up the boat and I’ll be over.”
“I’ll be here,” she says.
“See you soon, Angel,” I say and hang up.
It’s a small boat that I can lift into the back of my old truck I never use. It was my first vehicle and I haven’t been able to let it go. You never know when you’re going to need a pickup. It takes about thirty minutes to pick up the boat. On the way to Sookie’s I stop at the little florist near her apartment to pick up a dozen pink and white roses. I love the look on her face every time I hand her a new bouquet. She’s so cute it hurts sometimes.
When I get to her place I park as close to her apartment as possible and walk up. I don’t feel right walking in yet so I knock and wait patiently.
Sookie comes to the door dressed in a denim skirt and a loose, navy blue tank top. She’s got her hair pulled back and a big smile on her face.
“Hi,” she says and steps back to let me in. “I’m almost ready to go.”
“No worries.” I hand her the roses and lean in to kiss her cheek.
“Thank you,” she says. “You’re spoiling me with these flowers, mister.”
“But your smile looks so pretty when I give them to you,” I flirt as I close the door behind me.
“It just so happens I have something for you too,” she says. “Do you want it now or do you want to wait?”
“Now of course,” I chuckle.
“Oh good!” she says excitedly and then bounces away to go get whatever it is.
“Can you bounce like that on your way back in?” I call after her.
I hear her laugh and a minute later she grants my wish with a little box in her hands.
“It’s not wrapped but eh,” she shrugs and hands it to me. “I hope you like it.”
“Of course I’ll like it,” I say as I open it. When I look in the box there’s a thin silver chain with some sort of pendant hanging off the end. “It’s beautiful…” It is, I just don’t get it. I’ve never worn a necklace.
“The Latin on it means ‘my life is a prayer’ and the dragons are guardians of protection. They’re supposed to help you find your way,” she explains.
I purse my lips as I look at it, thinking about the meaning. Wow. I take a deep breath thinking that Sookie has definitely picked up on some things about me that most don’t. I’ve also shared more with her than I have with anyone else. I close the lid and grab the back of Sookie’s head to pull her close for a hard kiss, taking her by surprise.
“Thank you, Angel,” I whisper against her lips. This little girl really is my angel.
“You’re welcome,” she replies.
“Can you put it on for me?” I ask, opening the box again to take it out.
“Of course.” Sookie carefully plucks the chain from the box. She reaches up and fastens the chain around my neck. I notice she’s wearing a similar style necklace. Of course hers has angels on it.
“What does yours mean?” I ask, reaching out to gently run it through my fingers.
“Angels are bearers of good news and symbolize light and joy,” she tells me.
“That sums you up pretty well,” I wink. “What do you need me to grab?”
“Nothing yet. I have to finish packing the basket up.”
“What kind of sandwiches are we eating?” I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise when I tell her I’m already starving. “You got something I can snack on here?”
“I wasn’t sure what you would want so I made you several,” Sookie laughs as she walks toward the kitchen. “You’ve got a turkey club, a ham and cheese and two peanut butter and jellies. One with grape and one with strawberry jelly.”
My stomach does a happy dance. “I’m going to start giving you a hundred bucks every time you go grocery shopping since I’m sure I eat three times more than you.”
She laughs again and plucks one of the sandwiches from the basket to toss to me.
“I swear I’m going to marry you one day,” I groan as I open a turkey sandwich and take my first bite. “You’re a fantastic sandwich maker too.”
“Aww… that’ll make a great story,” she giggles. “He knew I was the one when I made the best sandwich he ever had.”
“I knew when I realized you’d support my eating habits. One chick told me I had an eating disorder.”
“Say what?” she scoffs.
“Yeah. At first she thought I had a tapeworm, then second it was bulimia, then I was doing drugs. She was a hot mess,” I laugh. I was on drugs at one point, but I was sober by the time I was dating her.
“You’re a growing boy. I’ve accepted it.”
“Thank you, I appreciate you more than you know,” I chuckle.
Sookie gives me a wink and then puts the last container into the picnic basket before she closes it up.
“Okay, I think we’re good now,” she says.
I pick up the basket. I take her hand and we head out to the truck, locking the door on the way.
I’m relieved Eric likes the talisman I found for him. I was a little worried he might be offended by it, but he seems to like it. He’s wearing it, at least. I won’t be surprised if it disappears after today but it’s sweet of him to at least try it out. Some guys are weird about jewelry. I won’t take it personally. He just jumped into my mind when I read the description so I had to buy it for him.
The picnic idea is a great one. We find a nice spot beside the lake to eat. I get the food set up while Eric gets his boat in the water. It’s a tiny row boat, but as long as he’s willing to do all the rowing, that’s fine with me. Forgetting the rest of the world for a little bit is just fine with me. When I went into work on Saturday I found out that the three-year-old with bladder cancer had already passed on. It was definitely not the way to start the day, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
I set out the buffet of sandwiches, fruit salad, a quick macaroni salad I learned to make years ago and the little jug of fresh lemonade I made right after he called. I’ve also got some pound cake and a can of whipped cream in the basket for dessert. I can’t have the whipped cream, but Eric can.
He comes over and takes a seat across from me on a little blanket he had in the back of his truck. I’ve never seen the truck before so I ask, “Where’ve you been hiding the big blue monster?”
“I have a garage at the apartment complex. I leave the truck in there and park the Infinity in my covered spot.”
“Ah ha,” I nod. “Well, help yourself. Feel free to peek in the basket if you want to see dessert.”
He’s going to want to take a nap instead of go out on the boat, just watch.
He lifts the lid and groans. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” he says.
“You were at the right place at the right time, I guess.”
“I guess,” Eric agrees. He reaches up to touch his talisman and says, “This means more than you probably think. I spent a lot of years completely lost.”
I smile and say, “Then I’m happy I found it for you. As soon as I read the description I thought of you.”
As I unwrap my sandwich I add, “Just so we’re clear… I’m interested in anything you want to tell me about yourself but your past is yours. You should tell me things when you’re ready. That wasn’t so you’d bare your soul to me. I just wanted you to know that I think about you.”
“I worry that when you do find out some of the things in my past you’ll leave,” he admits. “Are there any deal breakers?”
“Ever killed someone?” I ask.
“Ever sexually assaulted someone?”
“Ever hit a girlfriend?”
“Once when I was high and she hit me first,” he admits. “I’ve since taken care of the temper and the drug addiction.”
I nod. I’m going to need to process that a little bit. The Eric I know wouldn’t hit a woman; at least I don’t think he would. I feel safe with him, not threatened by him.
“I started sneaking wine from Grams when I was thirteen. By the time I was sixteen I was a full on alcoholic and taking any drug I could find. I don’t even know what I was on or what we were fighting about. I hadn’t eaten or slept in at least a week. I just remember her fist connecting with my jaw and my reflex was to swing back. I would never hit a girl, Sookie. That wasn’t me, that was the drugs,” he finishes quietly, rubbing his fingers over the talisman. “I haven’t had a drink or taken a drug in eleven years, three months, and two days. I won’t even take aspirin.”
“Wow.” That’s a lot of information to take in all at once and I have a feeling that’s only a fraction of what he has to tell me. “What made you get clean?”
“I stole Grams’ wedding ring and pawned it. When she found out she said either go to rehab or jail. She’d sent me to juvie for drugs a couple times. That time I went too far. I knew it. Sometimes I think I did it on purpose, ya know, like I needed someone to force me to clean up because I couldn’t seem to do it on my own.”
Hearing that explains a lot about the negativity he gets from Pam sometimes. I would imagine that’s a difficult thing for her to get past, especially since Eric makes a living serving drinks and feeding other people’s potential addictions.
“It’s interesting that you chose to open a bar,” I tell him.
“Right?” he chuckles. “You know, I’ve never even been tempted to have a drink? I don’t like who I was then. I never want to be that guy again.”
“That’s good. I hope you stick with this Eric. I like him a lot.”
He smiles and says, “He likes you a lot too.”
I give him a smile and open the container of fruit.
“Want some?” I offer.
“Have you met me?” he asks, arching an eyebrow. “I rarely turn down food.”
“Silly me,” I laugh and grab a spoon to put some on a little plastic plate for him. “Macaroni salad too?”
I give him a healthy scoop of that too before handing over the plate with a plastic fork. I add some fruit and salad to my own plate and then pick up half of my sandwich to take a bite.
“So what’s your absolute favorite food you could eat every day of the week if you had to?” I ask him.
“That’s tough,” he says. “I’d have to stick with Pam’s jambalaya. I’ll have to have her make it for you sometime.”
“If it’s better than Gran’s, she’s a truly talented woman,” I laugh.
“We’ll have to make them have a secret cook off one day,” Eric grins.
“Oh Gran would love that! A blind taste test thing like on Throwdown.”
“Yep. We can get a couple of the ladies to judge.”
“I think that would be fun for them. Gran loves to cook but she rarely has a reason to anymore since it’s just her. I try to go over for supper twice a week but it’s still not the same scale she used to cook on.”
“Grams too. Maybe we can go over and have dinner together with them?”
“I’m sure that can be arranged,” I nod.
“Do you want to watch a movie tonight?” he asks. “I figure by the time we’re done with the boat we’ll be tired from the sun and won’t want to go anywhere.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” I agree. “It’s a pretty day, though. I’m glad you suggested this.”
“I figured neither of us gets out in the sun enough. Plus letting the world drop away for a while is never a bad thing. The seats in the boat slide in and out so we can move them and lay down if we need a nap,” he says, finishing his second sandwich.
“Sounds cozy.” I spear a piece of watermelon and pop it in my mouth.
“I have sunscreen in the truck if you don’t have any.”
“I put some on before we left the house. I actually wear it most days whether or I’m going to be in the sun or not,” I confess.
“Huh, that’s weird to me,” he chuckles.
“It’s just a habit I picked up when I was still living with Gran. Most days there was yard work that needed to be done so whenever I got out of the shower I just put it on.”
“Thanks,” I chuckle. I take the last bite of my sandwich and concentrate on my fruit. It’s still cold and tastes particularly yummy out here in the heat. “Feel free to get into that cake anytime you want. The whipped cream is all yours.”
“I’m going to wait,” he shrugs.
“Suit yourself.” I pop a green grape in my mouth.
“I’m just ready to get out on the water, and if I eat anymore right now I’m going to pass out.”
“I can take my fruit with me. I like fruit because it’s so portable.”
Eric stands up and reaches out to help me up. He starts packing up the food and folds the blanket, directing me toward the boat.
“Need help in?” he asks.
“I think I can manage.” As I walk I pull my tank top off, leaving me in my bikini top, and I hear Eric groan just behind me.
“You’re going to make this really hard on me, Angel,” he says.
“And this isn’t even the revealing bikini,” I smirk over my shoulder. This one is more retro style with padded cups and the bottoms are like boy shorts. It’s cute without revealing too much. All the same, it’ll probably drive Eric nuts.
His arm snakes around my waist from behind and he nibbles on my ear. “It’s still making me hard,” he whispers, rubbing his hard-on against my ass.
“You stop that,” I slap at his hands and try to get away from him. “Or we won’t make it to the boat.”
“We will,” he promises, pulling me tighter against him so I can’t run.
“That’s not helping,” I giggle.
Eric scoops me up bridal style as he heads toward the boat.
“I don’t know yet.” I’m so tempted to kiss his neck since I’m in the perfect position to do it, but I don’t. That would just encourage him.
“Do you want me to promise to be a good boy again?”
“If you want to. I can’t promise you’ll get the same reward as last time.”
“Hmm, what reward would I get?”
“What would you like?”
“Anything? I don’t have a multiple choice thing here?”
“Anything. I’m asking what you would like.”
“Are we talking sexual or anything at all?” he queries.
“Anything at all.”
“I want a German chocolate cake,” he says.
“Is there something wrong with that? Should I ask for more?”
“No, it’s fine. I’m just surprised that’s it. Like I expected you to add that I be the plate you eat it off of or something,” I joke.
“No, Angel, you standing in a kitchen is sexy enough,” he chuckles. We reach the boat and Eric sets me on my feet.
“Thanks for the ride,” I wink at him and climb into the boat. I wait until Eric is in before I shimmy out of my skirt.
“You know… now that you’re mostly naked I have a better reward idea,” he says as we get farther into the lake.
“You’ll have to save it for next time. The window is closed.”
“Alright, would you like to do something just because I’m an amazing boyfriend?” he asks and I see his eyebrow raise above his sunglasses.
“Perhaps. What did you have in mind?”
“I wouldn’t mind watching you get yourself off… There’s no one out here…”
“I’ll consider it.”
Eric nods, rowing a few more times before he settles the oars down and stretching his legs out.
“It’s nice out here,” I say as I look around. The sky is bright blue and there are only a few clouds here and there.
“Gorgeous,” he agrees. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been out here.”
“Spending too much time at the office?”
“Mmhmm,” he hums. “I spent my Mondays napping.”
“If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?” I ask and lean back on my elbows to tilt my body toward the sun.
“This is exactly where I want to be,” he admits.
“Seriously? Of all the beautiful beaches, mountain tops, deserts, oceans… you’d really prefer to be right here on this middle of nowhere lake?”
“Yep. It’s quiet, I have the person I want to spend time with sitting across from me and my cell phone is in the truck. I’m a simple man, Sookie.”
I smile at him and lean forward, crooking a finger at him to do the same.
“Yes, dear?” he whispers as he leans forward to meet me.
I close the distance to give him a quick peck and then pull back.
“That is all,” I tell him.
He smiles and leans back again. I do the same and I close my eyes, just concentrating on the warmth of the sun. In time we move the seat around on the boat so we can lie down. Eric rows us over to a shaded area where the gentle rocking puts both of us to sleep. It’s easily one of the best dates I’ve ever been on.