Chapter 9: So Close Together

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“You should know that your fish fry suggestion is making Butterball very happy. This kid is a fried food addict,” I tell Bill as we go find a seat while we wait for our food. I’ve got beer battered cod coming to me. I can’t feel it yet but I’m positive that Butterball is doing flips of anticipation in there.

“Ah, but does it make you happy?” he asks.

“I’d be happier with less fried food, but as long as Butterball is happy, I’m happy,” I answer.

“I guess that works,” he chuckles. “So, have you and Russell made any headway on someone to replace Jennifer?”

“It’s slow going,” I sigh as we settle into our seats. Both of us ordered iced tea, heavy on the lemon, but Bill immediately reaches for the sugar. “We had to fire Franklin. Our lawyer suggested we do it as a sign of good faith considering the shit that he was up to. We’d like Jennifer to come back to a less hostile environment, but the feeling we’re getting from her attorney is that she’s not interested in coming back.”

“As selfish as it sounds, that’s good for me,” he winks. “I’d like it if you stayed as long as possible.”

“Me too. I like it here,” I admit. It’s so much quieter and the air is fresher. “But I’ll have to go back. I don’t think the baby’s father would react very well if I moved so far away.”

I know Eric would pitch a fit the likes of which I’ve never seen before if I told him I wanted to move across the country to Seattle. I can just imagine how many shades of red he’d turn in less than fifteen seconds. He’d also probably try to murder Bill with his bare hands. His middle of the night confession a few days ago pissed me off. It feels like a manipulation and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. He didn’t get his way so he’s playing the love card. It’s not fair to me and I’m sick of it.

“Does it really matter?” Bill asks. “You two aren’t together are you?”

“No, we’re not, but he wants to be in the baby’s life. He flipped out when I told him I was coming out here. He doesn’t want to miss any of it.”

Bill makes a face I can’t really decipher as he sits back in his chair, but doesn’t say anything.

“I told him about you,” I say before sipping my tea. Needs more lemon.

“Oh yeah?”

“He didn’t like that either,” I chuckle, even though it’s not funny. It’s pathetic, but not funny.

“Sounds… Are you sure you want to go home to raise a child with someone that doesn’t like anything you do?”

“Believe me, I have my moments of doubt, but it’s not just him. There’s my family to consider, and his. His mom has always been good to me and she’s excited about being a grandma. My own mom died a little over three years ago and I know my dad’s happy about being a grandpa, even if he can’t share it with mom like he thought he would. I don’t want to deprive them of being active participants in their grandchild’s life,” I explain. I don’t really want to limit the baby to just me. I’m selfish sometimes, but I’m not so selfish that I’m willing to tell everyone else to fuck off so I can move to Seattle.

“Hmm,” he hums. “I guess there is that. My family is in Louisiana. We aren’t close so I guess I don’t think about it when I’m talking to other people. It’s nice that you’re close with your dad.”

“I think so,” I smile. “We fight sometimes but that’s normal. He is generally really laid back and sometimes it comes off as him being cold or unaffected. That was hard to deal with after Mom died since I was definitely an out loud mess.”

“That can be hard to deal with,” he agrees. “I’m more subdued when it comes to grief or feelings.”

“I’m not and pregnancy isn’t helping,” I laugh. “I clicked on some link on my Facebook feed the other day and I ended up sobbing for forty-five minutes over baby elephants.”

Bill laughs with me. “That’s really sad,” he teases.

“Well I started thinking about Dumbo,” I explain. Ugh, just talking about it makes my lip quiver. Stupid hormones.

“I’ve never seen Dumbo,” he admits.

“You what? Oh you poor thing,” I say seriously. “Long story short, Dumbo gets made fun of for having big ears, and his mother doesn’t stand for it. She ends up attacking some little jerks who bully her adorable little baby and the circus decides to lock her up and ultimately sell her off.”

“Sounds sad,” he shrugs. “I’ve never been a fan of animated films. Even as a child I preferred playing with my building blocks over television. Now if I watch anything it’s usually something educational or a documentary.”

“I’m trying to prepare myself for all the Disney and Jim Henson I’ll be visually ingesting for the next five or so years,” I chuckle.

“You don’t have to,” he says. “My parents gave me books instead of TV and I appreciate that now.”

“Oh I plan on reading a lot too, but I’m realistic about the TV thing. It’s not the way it was when we were kids. I definitely can’t just shoo my kid outside to play like my parents did with my brother and me.” Jason and I used to be outside practically from sunrise until the street lights came on during the summer when we were kids. Neighbors looked out for each other’s kids, but not so much anymore. Now people get offended if you tell little Johnny that it’s not appropriate for a seven-year-old to drop the F-Bomb at the park.

“That’s good. Enough about parenting practices; I want to know more about you, Sookie.”

“What would you like to know?”

A food runner brings our dinners out to us and I immediately as for more lemon. I know I’m going to need it.

“Everything,” Bill smiles. “What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?”

“These days it’s sleep,” I admit with a laugh. “Before I started growing a human I didn’t have a whole lot of free time. I worked a lot. On my lazy days I liked staying in my jammies and clearing out whatever was piled up in my DVR.”

“Sounds… Fun?” he laughs. “What would you like to do in your free time, or is that it?”

“Traveling would be nice, but I’m not sure how easy that will be with a baby. I’ve been reading a lot lately too, if I’m not in bed.” I doubt he wants to know I’ve been reading about breast pumps and attachment parenting or vaccine research for the autism debate.

“Reading is good,” he nods. “Anything interesting?”

“Only if you’re interested on the inoculations debate where autism is concerned.” I squeeze lemon onto my fish and then pop a fry in my mouth to keep Butterball happy.

“Not too interested,” he chuckles. “What’s your favorite food? I know the baby seems to enjoy fried things, but what is your go-to meal of choice when you’re not pregnant?”

“My mom used to make the best Swedish meatballs on the planet. Those were my favorite thing. I haven’t found something to take their place yet.”

“I’m sorry about your mom,” he says. “My family isn’t close, but I’d be sad if Mother passed on.”

“It was a difficult time. She had brain cancer so the last week or so it was like she wasn’t really there anymore,” I recall. There were moments of lucidity, but not many.

Bill stays silent, not really sure what else to say. After a moment he clears his throat and says, “That sounds terrible. You are very lucky you’re close with your dad then. It would be very cold in my house if we had to deal with something like that.”

“Everyone deals in their own way. I wouldn’t wish what we went through on my worst enemy, though.”

He nods and goes silent as he finally begins to eat. I follow suit since I’m not a fan of cold fish. The food is fantastic. I can tell it’s fresh fish, as it should be so close to the ocean. It reminds me of this place we used to drive up to Lake County to go to during Lent. We didn’t go every Friday, but we’d go at least twice.

After we finish eating we drop our trash on the way out. Bill picked me up from the house, so we walk through the parking lot to his car. Russell is visiting some friends down in Portland for the weekend, so I have the house to myself. Like a gentleman, Bill offers me his arm as we walk. When we reach the car he leans in to give me a lingering peck that makes my insides flip flop.

“I picked up some pecan pie brownies earlier today. Would you like to come over for dessert?” I offer when he pulls back.

“That would be lovely,” he smiles.

“Good. I even bought decaf coffee for myself,” I reply. I let Bill open the door for me and then close it once I’m tucked into his BMW.

He’s not a bad driver but he’s not the lead foot Eric is. He doesn’t reach for my hand, but I do see him glancing my way as he drives us out to the suburban area where Russell’s house is. I love that I smell pine and cedar just about everywhere I go. I also don’t mind the jazz music playing quietly. Gran was a big fan of jazz, so I grew up listening to it.

I’m humming along with a Les Brown song when Bill pulls into the driveway. He gets out of the car and comes around to open my door for me. I’ll be thankful to take my heels off when I get inside. They’re beautiful and they look good with the lavender pants and white top I have on, but I think my days of wearing four or five inch pumps are over, at least for the next year or so.

Bill follows me up the front steps and I unlock the door to let us inside. After flipping on the lights I kick off my shoes and drop my purse on the entryway table.

“Sorry. Those shoes have been killing my feet for hours,” I chuckle.

“You didn’t have to wear them for me,” he smiles. “They are very nice though. Now, lead me to the brownies. Anything with pecans in it gets my full attention.”

“They looked too yummy to turn down,” I agree and lead him to the kitchen. My bare feet thank me with happy sighs of relief as I walk.

There’s a box on the counter from 143 Sweets. The bakery is down the street from Russell’s office and ohmygod the scentgasms I had while driving by caused me to hang a U-turn to do so investigating. My sense of smell seems a bit keener in the last week or so. As soon as I came upon the case of brownies I knew I’d died and gone to chubby girl heaven.

Rather than busting open the box, I open the pouch of decaf coffee I picked up and start prepping a pot.

“You don’t mind decaf, do you?” It’s almost nine at night. I doubt he needs a fix right now.

“I’ll fight through it,” he chuckles.

“I’m sure there’s plenty of sugar in the brownies to make up for what you’re losing in caffeine. Make yourself comfortable. I was thinking we could get a fire going out back if you’re interested.” There’s a super comfy outdoor sofa out there that I’m planning on taking a nap on tomorrow if I get the chance.

It crosses my mind that Eric would love to snuggle on that couch, but I push that away. I don’t want to think about him right now. I’ll just get pissed off.

“That sounds nice. Would you like me to go get the fire started?” Bill offers.

“That would be great, thanks. I’m out of practice with that,” I confess. I add water to the coffee maker and just as I’m putting the empty pot on the burner I feel Bill’s hands on my hips and his body heat against my back. His lips skim my neck and when I turn my head he kisses me again.

While he’s not the best kisser I’ve ever had, there’s something about him that makes my heart speed up and my insides go wonky. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten this kind of feeling for someone. It’s nice.

“I was thinking we could make our own heat,” he whispers when the kiss breaks. His hands drift up and down my sides, avoiding my stomach.

“That would be nice too,” I reply and kiss him again. I don’t mind that his hands aren’t getting gropey with my belly. Frankly, I’d probably be a little creeped out if he did. It’s not that I expect him to keep his hands off but there’s something odd about the notion of a guy who’s turned on by a pregnant woman if he’s not the father. I know that’s a fetish thing thanks to some unfortunate search terms I put into Google once.

The things I saw cannot be unseen.

Bill turns me around so he can press his body against me, pushing me against the counter. His hands stay near my hips as his tongue probes my mouth in a heated kiss. I can feel him beginning to get hard as he rubs his hips against me.

I moan into the kiss and keep it going until I have to break it off so I can breathe. His mouth moves to my neck instead and somehow we end up at the window seat in the kitchen. I straddle his lap and he groans when I rock my hips over his growing erection. His lips find mine and I feel his fingers releasing the clip in my hair so it falls in loose waves around my shoulders. I can’t remember the last time I made out with someone like this.

Oh right… Baby Daddy. I push that out of my mind too. I want to stay right here with Bill, who is sneaking a hand up my shirt.

He keeps his hands moving slow. He brushes past my belly, moving up higher until he reaches the underside of my breast.

“Is this okay?” he asks, cupping my right breast, rubbing his thumb over my nipple through my bra.

“Yes,” I breathe. My nipples are still ridiculously sensitive, although my tits seem to have stopped growing for the time being. His thumb moving over my nipple makes my hips rock, which makes him happy.

“Should we move this upstairs?” he offers, pressing a sweet kiss to my collarbone.

“What about your pecans?” I remind him. I’m not necessarily opposed to moving upstairs but I’m not in a hurry either.

“I’m sure they’ll be there later,” he smirks.

“They better be.” I kiss him once more and then get up to lead him up to my room.

When we get to the room Bill turns me around to kiss me again. He starts to walk us backwards toward the bed as we make out. His hands slide around to my ass to give me a hard squeeze.

“If I’m being honest, I was hoping the date would end like this,” Bill tells me. “You’re so beautiful, Sookie.”

I smile at his compliment and thank him by taking off my shirt. His eyes go to my extraordinary cleavage and stay there while I get my bra off. I sincerely hope he has a condom with him because I didn’t pack any and I have no idea where Russell might have some stashed around the house.

Bill pulls his wallet out of his back pocket, before taking a condom from one of the folds. He tosses it on the bed and then starts to unbutton his shirt. The whole time he undresses his eyes are on my chest.

“This isn’t too fast, is it?” he asks while he unzips his slacks.

“Not for me,” I answer. A decade ago it might have been but I’m not really interested in wasting time getting to know someone on a romantic level only to find out the chemistry isn’t there.

I unzip my pants too and I gasp when Bill pushes me back on the bed so he can take my panties off himself. My legs open for him and he growls his approval. I feel my heartbeat speed up as his pants disappear and he reaches for the condom. I watch as his boxer briefs move down his thighs and ultimately join our clothes on the floor. Bill’s not going to be the biggest I’ve ever had but he’s not a Tiny Tim either. As long as he’s doing, that’s all I care about.

He rips the wrapper open before rolling the condom on. He climbs onto the bed, hovering over me. I feel his fingers probe my core, pushing in a few times to make sure I’m ready. I moan when he starts to pump two fingers in and out. Bill keeps his eyes on my face. His hips start to rock, allowing me to feel his erection rub against my inner thigh.

“Say when,” he purrs while twisting his fingers.

My eyes roll back a little when he brushes my sweet spot. “When,” I breathe a moment later. It’s been a long time since I’ve had sex with anyone but Eric. There was a boyfriend for a little while around the time my mom got sick but he couldn’t handle being shuffled further down my list of priorities, or that it was Eric’s shoulder I cried on when she was diagnosed.

All that flies out of my brain though when Bill pushes into me. My back arches and my legs wrap around him as his lips find mine. His thrusts are quick but at the angle he’s moving it feels amazing.

“This feels so good, Sookie,” he grunts. His eyes are darting between my face my tits bouncing.  “You’re so gorgeous, sweetheart.”

It really, really does.

My feet push against his lower back, allowing him to get a little deeper and it’s driving me crazy. I reach up to keep my head from hitting the headboard that creaks with every thrust of his hips against mine. I don’t know if it’s my growing feelings for him or the baby hormones or if the sex is just that good, but I know it’s not going to take me much longer to cum.

“Ohgodohgodohgod,” I chant as the pressure builds quickly, making my walls flutter around his cock. Shit, I’m going to explode…

“Oh, I’m going to–” He’s cut off when his orgasm hits, making his hips jerk against me as he cums.

I’m right there with him, and Bill groans when my orgasm makes my walls grip him over and over again. Sweet Jesus, that was good.

“Ohmygod,” I pant. My hips roll with an aftershock. His hips thrust lazily and all I want is for him to get another condom so we can do it again.

“I need to go clean up,” he says quietly as he dips to give me a sweet peck.

“I need to stock up on condoms,” I chuckle. I think it might be the baby hormones.

“I’m not as young as I used to be,” he winks. “I’ll be right back.” He rolls off of me and gets up to head toward the bathroom.

I’m sure I can figure out an alternative if he’s not available.

In the meantime I roll onto my side and smile. I feel… happy. I didn’t come out here expecting to meet someone. I really didn’t expect to meet someone who is okay with me having a kid. I’m glad I did though. It shows me that I don’t have Eric as my only option. There are plenty of people who raise children together but aren’t together as a couple. I think Eric and I are destined to be one of those couples.

I love him. I don’t doubt that he loves me. What I doubt is that we can make it work in the long run and I think I finally have lost the will to try. There comes a point when you have to cut your losses and move on. I think I’ve finally reached that point. The timing is shitty, but that’s old hat with us. The timing has never been right. Why should now be any different?

***

“I like Lorena to take Franklin’s place. She already knows everyone and how the day to day operations run. I think she’ll hit the ground running as opposed to a cold hire,” I say to Russell the following Tuesday over dinner. I’ve got a big bowl of chicken fettuccine Alfredo in front of me with a small mountain of fresh parmesan on top of it.

“I’ve been thinking the same thing. I’ve looked back at her performance over the last few years and I agree that promoting Lorena would be a smart move,” he says.

“I think it will make everyone’s life much easier, plus she’ll be able to help the new HR director until he or she has a firm grasp of things. I have some resumes for you to look over when we get home,” I tell him.

“Okay. I’m going to offer Lorena the COO position when I meet with her tomorrow,” he tells me.

“I think that’s an excellent decision.” Yes, it makes our lives easier but that’s merely a bonus.

“I concur,” he chuckles. “Do you have any standouts in your resume pile?”

“I have three that I’m interested in meeting,” I acknowledge. “All three have experience in finance and all three of them have experience at all levels.”

I get a little leery of people who seem to start out at the top.

“Again, this is why I bring you along. I trust your instincts and I hate reading resumes,” he chuckles.

“That’s good job security for me,” I laugh. “I’ll have them for you at home. I booked my flight home for my appointment. I’ll be flying out on Friday and coming back on Tuesday.”

“You used the company card, right? You’re here because of work purposes and I would consider that a company expense.”

“No, but I can turn in the receipt for my expense report,” I say. While I’m home I plan on buying a car. I’ve been faithful to public transit for years, but I can’t haul around a newborn that way through the winter. I might as well get it done now.

Plus I’ll have to drive up north for the wedding. I haven’t told Maria about Bill yet, but we have dinner plans Saturday night. I’ve missed her too.

“Please do,” he nods. “Is this a checkup or are you getting another ultrasound? I love those things.”

“It’s just a checkup. I’m sure Dr. Fant will tell me to lay off the fatty, salty foods but that’s what my little Butterball wants. Oh! I went into Yankee Candle yesterday…” More scentgasms were had.

“What’d you get?” he grins. Russell loves Yankee Candle just as much as I do.

“Oh I have enough wax melts to get through the zombie apocalypse,” I laugh. “I didn’t realize I could crave a smell, but I can’t get enough of the black cherry.”

“That is a good one. I’ll have to get you some presents,” he smiles.

“No, you’ve done enough,” I chuckle. I don’t know how Russell feels about kids exactly, at least in regards to how they fit into his own life. I don’t know if he wants children of his own or if he’d prefer to be a good godfather, uncle or grandfatherly type.

“You don’t get to tell me no, Miss Stackhouse. I get to do anything I want. That’s the beauty of being in charge of things. Plus, that little bugger can use all the spoiling he gets. That’s where all the fun is with new babies. This way I can start the spoiling early.”

“If I really can’t stop you… Nothing with a pulse, though.” A baby is enough to clean up after. I don’t need a puppy or a bird or something else to clean up after too.

“I promise nothing alive. You already have a second heartbeat to take care of.”

“Exactly.” I dig into my pasta and Butterball doesn’t reject it, so it’s a winner. Man, this is good stuff. I have a mouthful of pasta and chicken when my phone buzzes on the table. It’s Bill calling.

“You going to answer that?” Russell asks.

I swallow my food and say, “I’ll call him when we get home. I don’t want to chew in his ear.”

“Just curious. How have things been going with Mr. Compton?”

“Pretty well,” I smile. Despite his claims of not being that young anymore, it was a very good weekend and Bill managed to keep up with me pretty well. I wouldn’t mind paying him a visit tonight if he’s in the mood for it.

“That smile says it’s going very well. Is this just a fling while you’re in town or do you plan on seeing him after we go home?”

“We haven’t really talked about it, but I’d like to keep seeing him. I’m not sure how Eric will deal with that, but I’m sure we can work something out.” Or maybe Bill will come to Chicago.

“I’m sure Eric wouldn’t mind keeping the baby for weekend visits,” he shrugs.

“We’ll see. There’s time to figure it out. I don’t want to start counting my chickens before they hatch.” I take a bite of my breadstick and notice Bill has left me a voicemail. I want to listen to it, but I force myself not to.

“Smart girl.”

“This is complicated enough already.” I don’t want to make it worse if I can help it.

“With the father? You know he’s in love with you, right? It’s been clear as day anytime I’ve seen him with you,” he chuckles.

“He is when it’s convenient for him,” I reply. “Like when I tell him I’m moving on, he suddenly loves me. But when we’re having a child together her just wants to fuck me.” Shit. I shouldn’t have said that. “Sorry. That was inappropriate.”

“I don’t know him very well, but have you thought that that’s how he shows his feelings? He looks at you like you walk on water,” he tells me.

“Yeah, well, he treats me… Not like I walk on water.” I’m not sure how to define it.

“I don’t know enough about your relationship to tell you anything other than what I see. Maybe this baby will turn things around for him. Hell, ignore me. I’m just an old romantic. Bill is a fine man,” he chuckles.

“There’s nothing wrong with being an old romantic. Truthfully, I’d love it if Eric and I could get our shit together. I’ve loved him for a very long time. If this baby was anyone else’s, I’m not sure I would have kept it. But I’m not fool enough or naive enough to think a child is going to fix what’s broken between us. We might be happy together for a little while, but it won’t last. We haven’t changed and we don’t like to compromise. It’s better this way.” That’s what I tell myself, yet by the time I’m done talking I have to go fix my face in the bathroom.

Stupid baby hormones making me horny or weepy. Either way I can’t win.

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