I’m not really sure how I feel about Eric being in my apartment. The hangover is a bitch and I’m grateful to him for stopping Preston from taking me home last night. As good looking and charming as Preston was, I’m in no condition to be getting involved with anyone. It dawns on me that even though Debbie is a crazy bitch, she’s still more desirable than I am.
If Eric’s smart he’ll get the hell away from me. I obviously have nothing good to offer anyone I get romantically involved with. Other than being abusive in some sort of way, the thing all my exes have in common is me. While it’s true I didn’t ask for the things that happened to me, I do have some responsibility there.
The sad thing is, I don’t really know any other way. Eric is the best of the bunch and I can say with absolute certainty now that I am damaged goods. He used to get furious with me for saying that about myself but I know it’s true. I’ve always known. If he thinks he’s going to be some white knight that saves me from myself and my horrible past, he’s sorely mistaken.
“You don’t have to stay,” I tell him since it’s nicer than telling him to get out.
“Are you telling me to leave?” he asks, arching an eyebrow.
“No,” I reply.
“Sounds to me like you are. Lucky for you I’ve never been good at listening to you,” he smiles.
“I remember.” I reach for the pepper and shake some onto my fries.
“So, what happened to the last bad life choice?” he asks after a moment of silence.
“You mean what caused the drinking? My ex left me for the crazy bitch he was seeing before me. I sure can pick ’em.” I drag a few fries through the puddle of ketchup in front of me and stuff them in my mouth.
“That blows,” he sighs. “If we’re talking about sucky life shit, my son lives full time in London.”
“That does suck,” I agree. I pick up the takeout container and coffee to go to the dining room. The window is floor to ceiling with a nice view of downtown. It’s a nice apartment, really. Much nicer than a cake decorator should be able to afford, anyway.
“That’s alright, according to you he’s ugly like me, so…” Eric follows me into the dining room. I can hear the smile in his voice.
“He’ll get used to it.” I sit down and take a bite of my sandwich. Part of me is curious about the last fifteen years of his life but I’m more concerned about sucking him down with me.
I remember everything I said last night. It’s obviously time to call Dr. Fant. I haven’t seen her in almost two years. I started seeing her after Bill. The shots of Crown were just the beginning of the way I dealt with that. I was really self-destructive for almost two years before Jason gave me the option of getting help or he was going to lock me up for the prescription drugs I had in my possession without a prescription.
“I did,” he shrugs and takes a seat across from me. “What else is new with you? What did you do after I moved to Europe?”
“I went to LSU for a while. Then Gran got sick so I moved back to take care of her. She died seven months later. I ended up moving to Mississippi with Bill Compton–” Eric’s glare cuts me off. He hated Bill. It turns out to be for good reason. “He’s the one I filed charges against.”
“Good. Something tells me they didn’t fuckin’ stick,” he grumbles. “Mom passing is what got me back to Louisiana.”
“What happened to her?” I didn’t know his mom died and it actually makes me sad. She treated me like a daughter.
“Breast cancer,” he informs me. “She battled with it for close to two years. She used to tell my wife she needed to be more like you,” he chuckles. “The final straw was when Mom called her Sookie a month or so before she passed. We were doomed from the beginning though.”
“I’m sorry,” I say sincerely. “If I had known she was sick I would have… I could have called at least.”
“It’s okay. I should’ve tried to find you. I was having a really hard time though.”
“When was this?” I ask.
“Eight years ago.”
“You wouldn’t have found me easily. I was… I was lost for a few years,” I say quietly.
“Well you’re found now,” he smiles softly at me.
“You think so, huh?”
“I’m looking at you, aren’t I?”
“A lot of people looked at me while I was lost,” I shrug. Looking at me proves nothing. It’s like being alone in a crowded room.
“A lot of people looked through you. I’ve always looked at you. You know that.”
“Oh, so you’re going to fix me like before, right?” I knew it.
“Did I say anything about fixing? I’m just trying to get to know the person you are now.”
“I don’t know if I want you to. I have a lot of toxic waste floating around in my head. It’s stuff I don’t even like talking about with my shrink. I really don’t know if I can talk to you about it,” I tell him. It’s hard to be someone’s friend when I can’t tell anyone anything significant about myself.
He sighs and stands up. “Fine, Sookie, it was good seeing you again…” He doesn’t move anywhere.
My eyes glue themselves to my plate and I say, “I told you I was damaged. Now I’m pretty sure I’m broken. I’m doing you a favor.”
“No, you’re being selfish,” he growls. “Shouldn’t I get the option to decide if you’re too ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’ to be friends with you?”
“Oh I’m sorry. Does it bother you when someone else takes away your power? Welcome to my fucking life!” I yell at him.
“I’m not a fucking control freak, Sookie. You of all people should know that. Don’t put the face of every fucking asshole you dated on me. I’m just trying to be your fucking friend!” Eric yells right back.
“And I’m trying to tell you that I can’t just forget the rest of my life because it’s unfair to you! You don’t know me anymore and I don’t know you. All you had to do last night was pour me a fucking drink and take my money! That’s it!” Of course he had no way of knowing about my history but that’s beside the point. He had no reason to put his hands on me like he did.
“I didn’t tell you to fucking forget. I’m not the— you know what, never-fucking-mind.” Eric goes to the kitchen to grab his keys and phone off of the counter and heads for the front door.
I flinch when the door slams but I’m not going to chase him either. My appetite is gone, though. After an hour of staring out the window and thinking, I decide to get up and call Dr. Fant. I definitely need to get back to therapy.
After the appointment is made for Tuesday evening I call Dad to tell him I’m going back to therapy. Unfortunately I get his voicemail.
“Hi Dad, it’s me. Listen, I ran into Eric last night while I was out. I’m sure Jase’s already told you I was drunk. Not good for my sobriety, I know, but I promise no pills this time. I learned my lesson. Seeing Eric brought up some stuff and I just made an appointment with Dr. Fant. I think seeing her for a while might be good for me. I’m okay right now. You don’t need to come and babysit me. I just wanted you to know what’s going on. Call me later if you want. Love you.” I hang up and set my phone on the table.
I lie down on the couch and close my eyes. I feel bad for snapping at Eric but I know how he is. Already I can see that he hasn’t changed. Rationally I know he’s not like the others. He’s not Bartlett or Bill or Quinn or any of the other guys that used or abused me. He loved me once and he did see me, instead of seeing through me. I loved him for that.
I loved him for a lot of reasons. Eric never made me feel dirty or broken. In his eyes I could be anything. That kind of thing can be uplifting and torturous at the same time. It made me think I could leave the past behind but it also made me feel guilty for carrying it around. I could never find the words to describe it and I’m not sure that I ever can. Eric is… he’s a force of nature when he wants to be. Right now I don’t need that.
Him getting in my face, accusing me of being selfish when he has no idea what all I’ve been through? I don’t need it. He thinks he’s helping but he just makes me feel worse and I don’t need that either. He called me selfish but I didn’t invite him over. I didn’t invite him to stay either. So really, which one of us is selfish?
Yet I’m lying here feeling guilty.
I definitely need therapy.
When I leave Sookie’s I take a look at my phone and see a missed call from EJ. I’m still pissed off at Sookie, but I’m sure if he called there’s a reason so I hit the send button to call him back.
“Hello, Eric,” Callie answers.
“Hey, you called?”
“I did. I wanted to let you know I’ve accepted a marriage proposal,” she informs me.
“Uh… EJ, didn’t tell me you were seeing anyone,” I say. This is the last fuckin’ thing I need to think about in this mood. I don’t care that Callie is getting remarried. I care that my son is around someone that I know nothing about.
“He didn’t know until after he got back. It’s happened rather quickly but Russell is a good man,” she says.
“You’re going to need to tell me more than he’s a good man, Cal. How did you meet and more importantly, how does he treat my son?” I’ll take him full time if I have to. Our situation is a shitty one at best, but at least we can get along for EJ’s sake.
“I met him at the hotel during a Parliament function. He’s an aide,” she explains. “He’s quite wonderful with EJ and has helped him to get a tour of different government buildings. He also owns a family estate in Wales and EJ is taking up riding–”
“Wait, what? Since when has EJ wanted to ride anything but his dirt bike?” What the actual fuck is she doing to my son? “And how much time is he spending with Russell when you’re not around?” It better be none since she barely fuckin’ knows him.
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Eric. I don’t leave him alone with Russell all the time. In fact, it’s only been once that they were alone together and it was while I was in the loo,” she tells me.
I take a deep breath, letting it out slowly. I think the little fight with Sookie is affecting me more than I thought it would. I trust Callie. She’s a good mother.
“Sorry for flippin’ my shit,” I sigh. “It’s been a long day already. I just wish you would’ve told me about this Russell guy sooner.”
“Well I might have if I had known he was so serious about me,” she says. “I only met him the week after EJ left.”
“Do you love him?” I ask.
“I loved you, didn’t I?” Not quite the answer I’m looking for.
“Not an answer, Cal. I don’t want you jumping into this with both feet if you aren’t madly in love with this guy. It’s not just you have to worry about,” I remind her. She’s impulsive, which is sometimes a good thing, but not always.
“I tried that once, as you’ll recall. Didn’t quite turn out as brilliantly as I’d hoped. Russell is a kind man who wants to take care of EJ and me. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Frankly, it’s not your business if I love him.”
“Just be careful, please. You know I still worry about you,” I tell her. “If you’re happy and he treats the boy good, I’m happy for you.”
“He treats the boy very well.” She corrects my grammar all the time. “Russell is even planning on watching American football with him this winter.”
That makes me snort for some reason. Some hoity-toity Brit watching American football… Ha!
“Uh, just how well does Russell treat him? There’s no funny busin–”
“If there was would I marry him?!” Callie practically shrieks.
“Right, calm down, woman,” I say as I pull the phone away from my ear. “I want to be sure. I give you a rundown of every woman I’ve dated since we divorced. I’m a concerned parent.”
“Honestly, Eric, I don’t understand what goes on in your head sometimes.” Callie sighs and I hear the whistling of a tea kettle.
“You wouldn’t want to know,” I sigh. “Is EJ around?”
“No, you’ve missed him I’m afraid. He’s got himself a little girlfriend named Nora. They’ve gone to the garden ’round the corner.”
“He’s ten. What is he doing with a girlfriend?” I was the same way. I don’t know what my problem is. Oh, right, I’m a fuckin’ parent now and I don’t want him making the same mistakes I did.
“I suspect eloping and creating our first grandchild,” she deadpans.
“You’re an ass,” I chuckle. “Please tell him to call me when he gets home.”
“I shall. I’ll be hoping for twins. Get one of each in one go,” she teases.
“They’re moving here full time if they have a baby,” I reply. “I’m not missing out on grandkids.”
“America is a fitting punishment for premature procreation,” she chuckles.
“What do you mean? You loved it here.” She hates America. She hates most Americans other than me and sometimes I’m not so sure about that.
“Bollocks,” she replies. “I’ll have EJ ring you when he’s done impregnating the neighbor girl.”
“Thanks.” Time to have the talk with him. I almost had it before I sent him home, but decided it was too early. “And congratulations, Cal, you deserve to be happy.”
“Thank you. I think I will be. You keep out of trouble.”
“Not likely,” I chuckle.
“Don’t I know it. Take care, Eric,” Callie says sincerely.
“You too, sweetie.” We hang up and I turn the radio on in my SUV. Of course I have it on the Classic Rock station even though I’m trying to listen to more Country, given the theme of the bar I own.
My mind drifts back to Sookie momentarily. She’s a lot more fucked up now than she was the last time I saw her and that makes me really sad for her. Contrary to what she believes, I had no intention of trying to help her. This is her deal and walking out the way I did was probably for the best. The last thing I need is someone so self-destructive in my life. I have a new business to focus on and a son I’m trying to raise long distance. I don’t really need another distraction. Sookie would definitely be a distraction. Honestly, she’s unintentionally caused enough havoc in my life. I’m better off walking away before I get attached to her again. It doesn’t take much with her.
I’m at the bar later that night in the office paying bills when Felicia comes in, knocking lightly as she opens the door.
“Boss, there’s a little man out there looking for you,” she tells me.
“Did he say what he wants?” I don’t really have time to talk to customers right now.
“He said something about you doing something to his baby sister? I didn’t know you were into–”
“Send him back,” I say, cutting her off. I know it’s Jason.
“Alright.” Felicia walks out of the office and I lean back in my chair after I save the page in my account program.
Jason walks in a few seconds later. He looks pissed.
“What the twirly fuck did you do to my sister? And don’t think I won’t taze your ass.”
“I didn’t do anything to your sister. I kept her from going home with a fuckin’ dickwad last night, but I didn’t do anything but make sure she got home safe. Why?”
“She’s callin’ Dad up all upset, talkin’ about goin’ back to therapy because she saw you. Sounds to me like you did more than get her home.”
I sigh and drop my head back.
“I took her breakfast this morning and when I asked if we could be friends she flipped the fuck out on me,” I tell him as I lift my head to look at him again. “I didn’t touch her. I didn’t say anything inappropriate. Have you thought about asking her what happened? Or did you and your dad conjure up some elaborate scenario?”
“I know my sister was fine last night when I saw her and today she sounds like she’s a step away from swallowin’ another– nevermind. That ain’t important. You wouldn’t know about that anyway since you wasn’t here.” Jason shakes his head and rubs his eyes.
“Funny, when I saw her last night she was far from okay. She was barely standing up, ready to go home with some asshole she doesn’t even know, who was clearly trying to take advantage of her. As soon as I got him away from her she kept going on and on about how fuckin’ broken she is. I figured she was just drunk. This morning I took her breakfast when she called me and I brought up getting to know each other again. If that’s so wrong, then fine, I guess I fucked up,” I finish with a growl. “Sookie and I broke up. If she did a downward spiral after I left, that can’t be blamed on me.”
“Fair enough. I’ll make sure she stays outta here,” he says and turns to leave.
“For what it’s worth, I only want what’s best for her. Make sure she gets the help she needs,” I say as he reaches the door.
“She thinks I don’t know, but I know what happened to her when we was kids. Bartlett had dementia before he died and he asked me to tell Sook he was sorry. I asked why and he didn’t exactly confess but I figured it out,” Jason says. “I understand why she’s never said nothin’ about it to me in all these years. She hates feelin’ like a victim more than anything. Sook don’t want anyone feelin’ sorry for her. I don’t pretend to understand what all she’s been through and I don’t blame her for the things she’s done. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same if I was her but I don’t ever want to respond to another 9-1-1 call because she decided to chase a bottle of Xanax with a bottle of cheap vodka.”
“If I triggered some shit, it wasn’t intentional,” I sigh. “Believe me, if I’d known I would have kicked her out the moment I saw her last night.”
“It ain’t your problem anymore,” Jason says quietly and opens the door to leave.
I don’t know what he wants me to say or do. Sookie and I broke up years ago. That doesn’t stop me from saying, “I tried, Jase, she pushed me away. It’s hard trying to help someone that doesn’t want it. She doesn’t want anything to do with me…”
“Nah, it’s not that. You… You remind her of a time when she didn’t feel so broken. She’s been tryin’ to find that since you left and almost died for it. It ain’t your fault, though.”
“It sounds like it is,” I reply quietly.
“It’s that dirty old pervert’s fault. Thanks to him, she never had much of a chance. You got a boy now. Sook was younger than he is now–” Jason stops mid-sentence.
“Does Corbett know?”
“She told him after the overdose.”
I sigh again. “You know, when I saw her last night I thought about what it was like to be with her. If I’m being honest, I miss her, but I know she’s not the eighteen-year-old girl I was with. I just wanted to know who she is now. If… if things worked out I… I don’t know.” I drop my head back. This is a lot of shit to deal with. Sookie has always been a lot to handle but she was worth it. “Sometimes I wish I could turn back time.”
“That ain’t gonna happen. Sook’ll be the first to tell you to stop wastin’ your time tryin’ to imagine what mighta been. As dark as she can get, she’s also the first one to say she coulda had it worse.”
“Is there anything I can do other than stay away from her?” I ask, silently kicking myself since I just resolved to not get involved.
“Just… Just forget you ever knew her,” Jason says seriously.
“That’s impossible,” I reply. “I won’t try to contact her though.”
“Thanks. Good luck with the bar,” he says and then he walks out.
I get up and lock the door behind him. I need a little space for a while. I can hear the music in the bar but it’s not bothering me. As much as I hate that Sookie is having a hard time, Jason is right, she doesn’t need me in her life fucking things up anyway. Sookie doesn’t need a new friend, she needs to focus on her herself. I wish nothing but the best for her and I know what’s best isn’t having a constant reminder of her past being thrown in her face.