Chapter 13: The Gift

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For the last three days I’ve been having the weirdest dreams. My pregnancy books warned me about them, but I usually don’t remember my dreams so I disregarded the warnings. These dreams, however, are fucking vivid as hell. It’s like being on a really bad acid trip.

Today I dreamt that the baby was born a centaur and Eric didn’t seem to notice. He suggested we name the baby Nestor and tried to feed it grass.

Fucking. Weird.

I’m sitting at the island in the kitchen with a mug of breakfast tea when Lafayette walks into the apartment. It’s nice to be home. I’ve missed my own bed and my roommate. The look on his face tells me he has news to share.

“Morning, sunshine,” I smile.

“Mornin’. It good to see yo’ smilin’ face ‘round here,” he says as he comes into the kitchen and opens the fridge to grab the milk.

“Yours too. I missed it here. Russell’s a decent roommate, but you have more sass. Plus your nephew missed you.”

I’m convinced Butterball is a he, but I’ll find out the week after next if he cooperates with us.

“Hmm, you mean my niece,” he says. “That’s what I’m feelin’.”

“Opinion seems to be divided. Apparently I’m carrying like it’s a boy but my nose is swelling like it’s a girl,” I chuckle. “Russell suggested it’s a drag queen.”

“I’d take that. I could show him all my makeup tips.” He chugs the milk from the gallon before putting it back. “You holdin’ on to yo’ panties?”

“Uh, sure. You’re not pregnant too, are you?” I’m only half joking.

“Not yet,” he winks. “I am uh… movin’.”

“You are? With the Latin Lover?” I hope he is. I love Jesus. He’s been really good for Lafayette in the last year they’ve been together. I’ve never seen Lafayette so happy, that’s for damn sure.

“Yeah, he axed me three days ago. I finally said yes last night.”

“You don’t want to be around for colic, teething and tantrums?” I joke. I don’t even want to be around for that.

“Nope,” he says seriously. “I’m sho’ she gon’ be adorable, but Lala don’t wanna be around fo’ that shit.”

“When it starts can I just drop him at Eric’s and go on a cruise?”

“I’ll go wich you. Bahamas here we come,” he snorts.

“Well I’m excited for you. When do I lose you?” I’ll miss him but it’s probably for the best that he’s leaving. I don’t think a screaming baby fits into his lifestyle. It barely fits into mine.

“Not ‘till the end of August. You gots time wit me,” he smiles.

“Good. I’m going to miss you,” I frown. I’m happy for him, of course, but Laff moving out just confirms that everything is about to change in massive ways.

“I’s gon’ miss you too,” he says, coming over to give me a hug. “I still come ‘round though.”

“You better. I’m going to need someone to get your niece out of the nun costume and chastity belt her father will dress her in,” I say.

“Imma have to come by every time he bring her home,” he chuckles.

“Probably. Just think of all the fun we’ll have telling him that I’m letting you help her pick out her prom dress.” Eric will undoubtedly have an aneurysm.

“Oh, Lord, that boy gon’ flip his shit. Hyperventilatin’ ‘n shit.”

“Yep,” I grin.

“You’s evil,” Lafayette snorts.

“Nah. That’s the fun part about Eric having a daughter.” I take a drink of my tea. “Are you still down to make those penis shaped sugar cookies for Maria? You know you’re invited to the Passion Party if you want to listen to vagina talk.”

“I make the cookies. I ain’t so sure ‘bout the Passion Party,” he chuckles.

“Well you think about it and let me know,” I giggle. “I didn’t know if you’d want to go strip club hopping with the boys.”

“If only to watch them assholes get wood over the fake titties.”

I cackle at that. Eric can claim they do nothing for him, but Lafayette is right.

“Hey, before I forget, there was a certificate for a mani/pedi in the mail for me when I got back. Any idea where it came from?” It wasn’t postmarked so it had to have been slipped into the mailbox or hand delivered.

“Hmm, mmhmm,” he hums and goes back to the fridge.

“And?”

“Baby daddy.”

What?

“Why would he do that?” I ask.

“He said you said you wasn’t feelin’ good,” he shrugs. “I axed the same thang.”

“I feel fine.” I don’t know what he’s up to, but he’s up to something.

“I don’t know. He just said at ya’lls baby doctor appointment you said you was feelin’ like shit, basically.”

“Well no, not like shit. I think I should return it to him.”

“No, you should take yo ass to get the manicure,” he tells me.

“I don’t need a manicure.” Except I do. Badly.

Lafayette looks down at my hands. “That’s some bullshit if I ever heard it,” he says seriously. “Take the damn gift. Stop bein’ a stubborn ass.”

“But that’s my signature,” I snicker.

“Maybe you’s need to try print, not cursive,” he shrugs.

I roll my eyes. “Or I could return to sender.”

“Sook, he don’t mean nothin’ by it. He just tryin’ to do somethin’ nice. Go get the damn manicure. Yo’ nails looks like shit.”

I narrow my eyes at him, even if he is right. I’m going to have to go for the bridal shower anyway. Maria’s sister chose a Hawaiian theme, which reminds me…

“I have to get Hawaiian shit for the shower,” I pout. “Do they make Hawaiian maternity clothes?”

“I’s sure they do.”

“Good, because I need something to wear to Maria’s shower. I fucking hate weddings. If I ever get married it’s going to be a fuckin’ quickie wedding no one knows about until it’s already done.” Except my dad, of course.

“We can go shoppin’ this weekend if you want.”

“I’m going to look online. Hawaiians wear muumuus, right?” That would be perfect for me.

“You don’t need no damn muumuu,” he snorts.

“Easy for you to say. Your ass isn’t doubling in size as we speak.”

“You’s insane, chica. Yo’ ass ain’t that big, and it ain’t gon’ be.”

Uh huh. I’d beg to differ, but he’ll just call me crazy.

“Well, I guess I’m going to get my talons filed before I accidentally claw my baby or something,” I snort.

“Good. Yo’ cuticles looks like they ‘bout to overrun yo whole damn fingers,” he tells me.

“They’re not that bad!” I scoff.

“Yes. They is.”

“Pfffft.” He’s off his nut.

All the same, I get up off the stool and go back to my bedroom to get my phone. I’m sure Eric’s either at work or sleeping right now, but I text him anyway.

Me: I don’t know why you got me the gift, but thank you.

Eric: You’re welcome.

I feel like I should say something else but I don’t know what. So rather than saying something stupid, I don’t bother with him. I do, however, text Maria.

Me: Eric is leaving anonymous presents for me. What do you think that’s about?

I doubt the gift certificate is the only thing coming my way.

Maria: Hmm… I don’t know. Has he ever done anything like that before?

Me: Only if he was in the doghouse.

I grab a pair of capri leggings and a loose top to wear. It’s a warm day.

Maria: Maybe he’s just trying to be nice? You are housing his giant offspring.

Me: Maybe, but usually his kindness isn’t selfless.

Maria: I say let it slide until something else happens. He’s been hanging out with that chick, maybe she’s making him nicer?

Holly. The friend.

I don’t know what to make of all that. Eric doesn’t really do female friends because he ends up fucking them. I’m guessing he’s slept with Holly too, probably more than once. I wouldn’t say that I’m jealous of her because I’m certain I could have him back if I wanted him, but I wonder if she knows that.

After I get dressed I grab the certificate and my wallet. I’ll take the train instead of driving. It’s a nice enough day. Lafayette is in the shower when I leave. I plug in my earbuds and listen to music as I stroll down the sidewalk at a leisurely pace. I’m not really paying attention, nor do I hear it when someone comes charging up the stairs behind me on my way up to the L platform. The douchebag knocks me against the railing pretty hard and I hit it belly first.

“I’m pregnant, dicknose!” I yell after the guy. He doesn’t stop or apologize. Jackhole.

Me: Some hipster asscactus just shoved me into a railing belly first. If I end up at the ER, you know why.

Eric is probably already trying to figure out how to get the Secret Service and the CIA to track that little shit down, but if I didn’t tell him he’d be a million times worse later on.

Eric: What? Are you okay? Do you feel anything weird. What the fuck did he look like?

Me: He looked like page 6 of Douchey Hipster Weekly. I’m fine. My stomach hurts where I bumped it, but otherwise I’m ok.

When I get up to the platform I locate the fuckwad that ran into me and take a picture of him with his stupid Duck Commander beard and anchor tattoos, and send it to Eric. Ugh, he’s got spacers in his ear too.

Eric: Thanks. I’ll get the fucker and push his dickhead ass into a fucking railing. Let me know if you need anything please.

Me: Roger that, Papa Bear.

I consider tripping the dumb douche but decide not to. Rude as it was, him bumping me was an accident. From behind he had no way of knowing I’m pregnant. When the train comes I make sure I get on a different car. I’m only going three stops, but as soon as I stand up to get off I feel something in my belly that doesn’t feel right.

Motherfucker.

EPOV

I’m fuming after getting that text message from Sookie. I’m going to put his ugly fucking face in Google and find his punk ass for hurting her and my baby.

I’m walking through the bar, checking bottles to see when we need out when my phone buzzes in my pocket. I freeze when I pull it out and I see Sookie’s smiling face.

“Where are you?” I answer. She isn’t calling me much so something has to be wrong.

“I need you to not freak out.”

Too late.

“What’s happening?” I ask as calmly as possible.

“I’m at Rush… in the emergency room.”

I take a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “What are you feeling?” I motion for Felicia to finish what I’m doing as I go to the back for my keys.

“Stomach pains. I’m not bleeding, though,” she tells me.

“That’s good. I’m on my way. Let me know if you get into a room,” I tell her.

“I will. I’m waiting for the obstetrics attending to come down for a consult. I’m on a fetal monitor and Butterball’s ticker is strong and steady,” she says.

“Okay,” I say nervously. “Tell him I love him and I’m on my way.”

I hang up with Sookie as I’m walking out of the bar. I tell Felicia I’ll swing by to close up if I can, but no promises. I’ll call Chow if I need to. On the way to the hospital I’m driving like a goddamn maniac. She says the baby’s heart is strong, that’s a good thing, or so I hope. For once I’m not even thinking about how I feel about Sookie. I’m worried about the baby.

Without thinking I press the call button on my steering wheel and tell the phone chick to call Holly. I wonder if that should be a sign?

The call goes to her voicemail. I don’t leave a message. I can call her later, if needed. I shouldn’t be calling her anyway. All it does is lead her on. Sookie sends me a text letting me know what room she’s in right before I get to the hospital. I park like an asshole, taking up two spots and race into the hospital. When I get to the desk I tell the chick who I’m here to see. Before I can threaten her life for not moving fast enough I’m given a nametag and sent back through the ER doors.

I feel like this place is a fucking maze as I try to navigate to Sookie’s room. The second I find 201 I walk in, right past the curtain. Sookie is lying back with her hand on her belly.

“Are you guys okay?” I ask as I bend to kiss her forehead. I don’t give a flying fuck if she has a problem with it.

“Yeah, I think so. The doc is going to do an ultrasound just to make sure everything is okay in there,” she says.

I rest my hand over hers, looking down at her belly. I’m sure I have an epic scowl on my face, but it’s just worry. I didn’t even know I wanted a baby but now I would lose my shit if anything happened to him or her. I don’t know if it’s the fact that part of me is growing inside of Sookie, or that it’s Sookie that’s pregnant. All I know is losing this baby would kill me.

I take a seat on the edge of the bed. I don’t want to be too far away. I know a chair is only two feet, but that’s two feet too far unless the doctor is in here.

“Do you have a bruise?” I ask her. I’m still going to hunt that fucker down and kill him.

Sookie pulls her gown up to show me a little purple bruise on the right side of her belly. I try to hold back my growl. It doesn’t work out so well.

I kiss my fingertips and then move my hand down to rub the bruise lightly.

“I’m sorry, baby,” I direct at her belly. I still have my hand over her small baby bump when I look up at her and ask, “Why weren’t you driving?”

“It’s a nice day so I wanted to walk and take the train,” she answers.

I lift my hand to rub my eyes and forehead. I don’t want to yell at her, actually I do, but she doesn’t deserve it. It’s my own frustration getting to me.

“Can you do me a favor and drive from now on?” I ask quietly.

“Oh come on, Eric. It was an accident. I could get in a car accident too. If it’s a nice day there’s no reason why I can’t take the train,” she sighs.

Old Eric would argue. New and improved Eric… Sighs and drops his head back. I didn’t get to see her for over a month. I fuckin’ worry, she’s going to have to learn to live with that. All the same, I don’t start an argument like I want to.

“Fine,” I sigh, “You’re going to have to forgive me for being a worrywart.”

“Or I could tell you to get over it like you did me when there was a bunch of robberies by the bar a few years ago and I was afraid you were going to get shot in the face,” she reminds me.

“What was I supposed to do, Sookie? Close the bar? That’s how I pay bills,” I tell her. “And the way I worry about the baby has nothing on how I worry about anything else. This little guy,” I rub her belly, “Is what I live for now.”

“So does that make me a bad mom because I’m endangering our child by taking the train?”

“No, I just worry, Sookie, that’s all I’m saying. You’re a great mom.” There’s no point in arguing. I’d get kicked out of the hospital for yelling. “I know there’s risks no matter what you do. You could’ve tripped over a rug and I’d be pissed at the rug for jumping out at you. I know I’m probably being irrational but this is all new to me. I know it’s new to you too… Can I just worry about you guys? I’m not trying to fight with you.”

“Can you do it without being a dick?” Sookie asks.

“I wasn’t trying to be a dick, but sure I’ll try.”

She shakes her head and then rests her head against the pillow with her eyes closed while we wait for the doctor. I still don’t know what I did to make her hate me so much. It seems like I can’t do anything right these days. As lame as it sounds I just want to curl into a ball and cry. I just want her to realize I’m trying to do my best to be a good, active father, and I’m getting this shitty treatment, like I’m doing something wrong for worrying about them. I get up from the bed and sit in the chair with my head back. My heart is aching so bad over this, but if I tell her I’m just being a dick. I can’t fucking win.

“Do you need me to get you anything to drink?” I ask quietly as I sit up. If I have to sit in here with all this goddamn tension any longer I’m going to cry or scream.

“No.”

I get up from the chair and step right outside of the room. I don’t want to go far, hell, I want to go back in and hold her, but I’m not allowed to do that so I squat down to wait for the doctor. I don’t stay out too long. Just long enough to cool off. Even just outside the door I feel too far.

Dr. Fant comes into the room a while later, wheeling the ultrasound machine behind her. Sookie and I have been quiet, but some of the tension is finally leaving the room.

“How you feeling, Miss Stackhouse?” Dr. Fant asks her.

“Better than when I first got here,” she answers. “Knowing Butterball still has a heartbeat helps a lot.”

“I’m sure it does. It’s a scary thing getting a bump like that,” she says. “Should we take a look and see if the little bugger is still kicking around?” She doesn’t sound worried so I let a little more of my tension and stress go.

“Sounds good to me,” Sookie says while Dr. Fant squirts some of that gel stuff on her belly.

She fires up the machine and starts to move around. I stand toward Sookie’s head and reach down to take her hand without thinking. It’s natural to touch or hold her.

“Does everything look okay?” I ask after about thirty seconds of silence.

“Well, this here is the little behind,” Dr. Fant says. “Your child is mooning us.”

Sookie laughs and the baby reacts, little limbs going all over the place.

“Like father, like baby,” I grin. “Remember that time I mooned the car next to us during Alcide’s thirtieth birthday?”

“Oh I do. So does the traffic division of the Chicago Police Department thanks to that red light camera,” Sookie laughs.

“I don’t suppose you want to know the baby’s gender,” Dr. Fant says.

“You can already tell?” I ask, giving Sookie’s hand a little squeeze.

“Well I know what I do or don’t see. Twenty weeks is usually the earliest that it’s obvious what the gender is, but you’ve got a little overachiever cooking in here.”

“Sook, do you want to know?” I know I do, but I’ll ask Dr. Fant secretly if she doesn’t.

“Of course I want to know,” Sookie answers. “Don’t you?”

“Hell yes,” I nod. “I didn’t know if you wanted to be all sadistic and wait.”

“Are you kidding? Your mom is trying to talk me into a ninja turtles nursery if it’s a boy or Minnie Mouse if it’s a girl and I hate both of those ideas, but the turtles are worse,” she tells me.

“You do know not to listen to a damn thing she says, right?” I chuckle.

“We’d be married right now if I did,” she snickers.

One day…

“So what are we having?” I ask to avoid blurting out anything about marriage.

“As far as I can tell,” Dr. Fant freezes the screen, “I’m not seeing something I should. See right here?” She points at the screen between two tiny legs. “I don’t see a penis, so I’m going to say we have a little lady in there.”

“Are you sure?” Sookie asks.

“There’s a possibility I could be wrong, and we can check again in a few weeks but to me it’s pretty clear that’s a girl,” Dr. Fant says.

“Oh, hell,” I chuckle. “I might as well start shotgun shopping now.”

“Especially if she’s tall like you and curvy like mom,” Dr. Fant says with a knowing smile.

She moves the wand on Sookie’s belly and gets a nice profile shot of our daughter. She’s got Sookie’s nose.

I lean down to kiss Sookie’s forehead. “I’m even more scared because I know she’s going to be beautiful like you,” I tell her.

“Not if hipster dickheads keep running me into walls,” Sookie grumbles. She gasps suddenly and clutches at her stomach. “There! Another cramp.”

“Does she look okay? Can you see anything that’s causing that?” I ask the doctor.

Dr. Fant consults the fetal monitor for a moment. “I’m not seeing anything denoting a contraction and I don’t feel the tightening I should in your uterus. Do you feel air moving around?”

“I don’t know, maybe. It’s kind of like… Ohmygod I’m so dumb,” Sookie says and covers her face with her hands.

“What? Am I missing something?” I ask.

Dr. Fant opens her mouth to answer but then I’m pretty sure I hear Sookie cut the cheese.

Oh…

“Uh… well, I told you you’re already a good mother. You acted quickly when something happened and… yeah…” We’re in here for gas… Gas.

“Indigestion is common with expecting mothers and if you’re not used to the discomfort of a gassy tummy, I can understand why you would be concerned, particularly with the bump against the railing,” Dr. Fant says reassuringly. “But your daughter is fine and the gas will subside in no time, most likely. Just go home and rest for the remainder of the day.”

“Okay. Thanks, Dr. Fant,” Sookie says.

“Thank you so much, Dr. Fant,” I say too. She starts cleaning off the wand and I lean down to kiss Sookie’s forehead again. “We’re having a little girl,” I grin.

“Yeah.” She smiles but doesn’t seem too… excited.

I brush her hair back right before Dr. Fant hands her a towel to clean up the goo. I take a step back, worried about why she’s so down. I know we aren’t in the best place, but I doubt that’s it. I think she really wanted a boy. I’m happy regardless. The baby is healthy. She’s going to be a pudgy, beautiful little girl that already owns my heart. I take a seat in the chair while we wait for the discharge paperwork.

As soon as Dr. Fant leaves the room I say, “I’m sorry for the way I reacted when I got here.”

“Eric, it’s fine. I’m used to it,” she sighs. Sookie gets up to get her clothes from the armoire across from the bed.

“I’m trying really hard to be better, Sookie. I don’t like freaking out the way I do. It’s not healthy and I don’t want to have those reactions once our Butterball gets here.”

“For her sake I hope you don’t.” She goes to the bathroom to get dressed.

I drop my head back and close my eyes while I wait. I’m going to have to have her all by myself when it’s my turn with her. That’s a terrifying thought. Fuck, we’re going to have to work out visitation which I think is bullshit. There’s no reason Sookie and I shouldn’t be together other than she suddenly hates me. All I can do is continue to try to be the best father and friend she’ll allow me to be. That’s going to be hard when she’s shutting me down every time I try to talk to her. I have no doubt Lafayette had to talk her into keeping the gift card.

This is going to be a long, hard eighteen years if she doesn’t start to lighten up some. I’ll do my best, but that may not be good enough for her.

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