“Don’t listen to Jason. Camo bridesmaid’s dresses aren’t happening. We’re not the Robertsons,” I tell Jessica. We’re going shopping for bridesmaids dresses next weekend and my brother is still an idiot.
It’s a nice fall morning and I’m walking to work. The walking helps keep my head clear. I’ve been seeing Dr. Fant for the last fourteen months and I feel better than I have in a long time. I discontinued therapy way too early before. There were a lot of issues I wasn’t ready to confront yet. It took some time to admit that out loud, but I feel lighter for having done it. I’m actually happy for the first time in my life.
“I don’t know, he’s pretty adamant about it,” she sighs.
“Jess, come on! I know you don’t want tacky ass pink camouflage clashing with your hair,” I point out as I turn the corner to go into this coffee shop I love. They make the most amazing caramel mocha latte I’ve ever had. There has to be crack in it or something. I could drink this stuff all day long.
“Oh, he wants green camo,” she informs me. She seriously looks like she’s thinking about it.
“They’re your wedding pictures,” I shrug.
“We’ll see what happens when we go shopping.”
We walk into the shop and get in line. The place is busy but that’s nothing new. They make phenomenal breakfast sandwiches on homemade flat bread and English muffins. Plus the donuts are 100 times better than Krispy Kremes. My favorite is the caramel Long John. I could eat a dozen of those bitches no problem.
“Will you at least put your strict vegan, gluten free diet aside and eat yummy, fattening donuts with me?” I plead. I’ve lost a few pounds in the last year but a girl’s gotta live it up sometimes.
“All that sugar will make me sick,” she says, scrunching her nose.
“Then why are you here?” I know why. She’s spying for Jason.
“Because we’re friends and hanging out,” she says, giving me a duh face. “Plus, I’m going to pick up a breakfast sandwich for your brother.”
I look at her suspiciously. “All the way in Shreveport?”
“Yep,” she nods.
“For the record I don’t believe you,” I tell her. The Jess I know would tell Jason to fuck off with the camouflage idea. No way would she even consider it.
“That’s fine,” she shrugs.
“Seriously, you’re making me paranoid.”
“Will you calm down? There’s nothing going on, Sookie.”
I shrug since it seems to be my turn. We stand quietly in line while waiting for our turn to order. I look around the little dining room and freeze when I spy a familiar face. Well, it’s mostly just his eyes. The lower half of his face is hidden by a giant coffee cup. I haven’t seen Eric since he brought me breakfast last year.
More than once I’ve wanted to go apologize for the way I acted but I always talked myself out of it. Now, however, we just happen to be in the same place. I probably shouldn’t be staring at… Shit! He’s looking right at me!
“Uh, Jess, I’ll be right back,” I say and walk toward Eric, who is scrambling to get his stuff.
He’s dressed in a pair of jeans and a Pink Floyd T-shirt. He looks good. He glances back one more time as he pulls his keys from his pocket.
“Eric?” He freezes when I say his name.
He turns slowly to look at me but stays quiet. I can’t read his face like I used to be able to.
“Hey… How are you?” I take a small step closer but that’s all.
“Uh… good,” he answers. His eyes dart around the room before reluctantly landing on mine.
“Good,” I smile. I know I look a little different. I changed my hair a few months ago so now I have violet lowlights and about seven inches of it is missing. I’m also wearing glasses now for nearsightedness.
“Good. You look good,” he nods.
“Thanks. So do you.”
I feel awkward but it would be weirder to pretend like we didn’t look right at each other. I decide to just spit out what I’ve had in mind for the last year just on the chance that I may not see him again for a while.
“Listen, I uh… I know it’s way late but I’m sorry for the way I acted the last time I saw you. I was really battling with a lot of things I thought I had already dealt with and you… I used to revel in the distraction you were from the shitstorm raging in my head. You did so many good things and you really were the only one to see me, scabs and all and not run away. Hell, I couldn’t even stand myself for a long time. Life’s pretty miserable when you can’t stand the feeling of being in your own skin, you know? So anyway, I just wanted to apologize for being so rude. You were just trying to offer me an olive branch, not throw me a life raft. I know that now,” I tell him.
“Thanks… uh… I’m happy for you,” he says with an awkward smile.
“Right. Well, uh, have a good day then.” I don’t know what else to say and he clearly wants to get the fuck away from me as fast as possible.
His shoulders sag, losing some tension. “Sorry, I just… I uh, promised Jason I wouldn’t have any contact with you.”
“You what?! Why would you… Motherfucker. He threatened to taze your ass, didn’t he?” Fucking Jason. “He means well but the road to hell is paved with good intentions and Jason’s tears when I’m done kicking his ass.”
“The tazing isn’t what did it,” he admits, “He said it would be best for you.”
“He was probably right but it wasn’t up to him to get involved.”
“After the way things left off with us, it was hard not to agree,” he admits. “I don’t know what happened before we ran into each other, but your response to me wasn’t favorable.”
“You don’t want to know,” I say with a small smile. “It’s okay, Eric. You and me were another lifetime.”
“We were,” he smiles back. “Just so you know, I was interested in getting to know the new you. Is this Sookie different than the Sookie I ran into at the bar?”
“Truthfully we’re all the same Sookie. Today my outside matches my inside,” I answer.
“That’s really good.” His smile gets a little wider. “Outside Sookie looks healthy.”
“Thanks. I’m trying. Meditation helps,” I reply.
Eric sets his coffee on the table next to us and asks, “So you did some therapy? Are you still going?”
“Yeah, I’m still going. I was going twice a week for a while,” I confess. “I voluntarily checked myself into a clinic for a while.”
“I’m proud of you, Sookie,” he says sincerely. “I’ve worried about you.”
“I’m doing a lot better. I’m taking online courses to finally finish my degree and I’m putting together a plan to start my own business. It’s not what I would have predicted twenty years ago, but I can’t control everything, right?”
“I try to,” he chuckles. “If you need help, you know you’re welcome to ask for advice about the business stuff. The bar is doing amazing.”
“That’s wonderful, Eric. I’m very happy for you,” I say sincerely.
“It was a lot of long days and nights. It was rough when I had my son over the summer, but I managed,” he smiles.
“I’m happy it’s all working out for you.”
“Thanks. Should I let you go?” he asks, glancing back at Jessica.
“Yeah, I should probably get back to Jess. It was good to see you though.”
“You too. Don’t be a stran– It was good seeing you.”
I nod and turn to go back to Jessica. As much as I want to look back to see where he goes, I don’t. I force myself to keep my eyes on Jessica. She hands me a latte with a curious expression on her face.
“I apologized. That’s it,” I assure her. Good lord this coffee is heaven on my tongue.
“Uh huh. Did you see the way he was looking at you?”
“You mean like he was terrified?” I snort. “Yeah, I saw.”
“He was terrified at first. Then he seemed to get that smitten puppy dog look,” she giggles.
“Unless you were giving him that look and he was just reciprocating it,” she snorts.
“Uh, no, I wasn’t. I’m still of the opinion that Eric can and should do better than me,” I tell her.
“Sookie and Eric sittin’ in a tree. K-I–“
“It’s not happening,” I laugh.
“Riiiight. What are you going to give me when I’m right?” she grins.
“Nothing because you’re not right.”
“You’re going to call him,” she predicts.
“No I’m not. I have no reason to,” I shrug. “He knows I’m better and still in recovery. That’s all I wanted to tell him.”
“Okay.” She doesn’t believe me.
“Believe what you want but I’m not going to call him.” I deleted his number for starters. I did it to stop myself from calling or texting during a moment of weakness.
“You know the address to the bar. I know you, Sookie Stackhouse. This isn’t over with him.”
“I’ve known his address for more than a year and I never went to the bar to see him. It’s over, Jess. Any second chance I had flew out the window when I lost my marbles last year,” I tell her. “It’s fine. I’m looking forward and not going back.”
“Can I ask you something and you promise to give me an honest answer?” she asks seriously.
“Camo dresses are tacky,” I answer.
“Do you want a second chance with him?” she questions, ignoring my comment.
“I don’t know him well enough to answer that but for the sake of argument say that I did. It doesn’t matter because he made it abundantly clear last year that he just wanted to get caught up. You’ll have to save your matchmaker skills for Dawn.”
“I’m just sayin’ if you want something, go for it,” she shrugs. “I’m not trying to play matchmaker. I’m stating a fact. Your brother wanted me and against all odds, I’m marrying the fool.”
“I’m not interested in a relationship, Jess. Crazy cat lady is my destiny. I’ve accepted it.”
“Don’t just accept that. You deserve to be happy, Sookie. You deserve real love.”
“Who says I won’t be happy?” I counter.
“You don’t even like cats,” she argues.
“So you can’t be the crazy cat lady when cats just piss you off. They don’t bring you any joy. None. You know what does? Eric.”
“Oh he does? I must have blinked and missed that.” I’m not sure why she’s on Team Eric all of a sudden but it’s starting to annoy me. “Look, he’s got a bar and a kid. He’s probably got a girlfriend by now too. I’m not interested in him anyway so I hate to shit on your parade, but that ship has sunk.”
She frowns and says, “You never know if you don’t try. Your face hasn’t lit up like that in years… nevermind.”
“I was surprised to see him. That’s all. It’s over, Jessica. It has been for sixteen years.” I turn toward the door with my coffee in hand.
“Your loss,” she mutters.
“No, it’s not. You’re the only one disappointed here,” I laugh. She’s being ridiculous right now.
“Yeah, yeah,” she pouts before breaking out into a small smile. “You can’t fault me for trying.”
I guess not. It’s nice that she cares but she’s barking up the wrong tree. Whatever Eric and I had is in the past and that’s it. End of story.
Seeing Sookie at the coffee shop was one of the scariest moments in the last year, which includes EJ falling off the roof, which he wasn’t supposed to be on. I’m happy she’s doing well. I didn’t know what to expect when she started walking toward me, but I’m glad I stopped to listen. I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. I’m sure I’d be fine with that knowing she’s in therapy and getting herself back on track.
When I leave the coffee shop I head over to Freyda’s place. I’ve been seeing her for a few weeks. I met her at the doctor’s office of all places. She’s the one that checked me in when I went to get a weird rash on my upper arm checked out. Turns out I break out in rashes when I stress. Lovely.
Anyway, she’s a sweet girl. A little younger than me, twenty-eight to be exact. She’s short with a cute little hourglass figure. Her platinum blonde hair is cut short in a little pixie cut. I like her, but the relationship is still new. Like we haven’t even slept together yet new. I’m sure it’ll happen soon. We’ve kissed a few times, had a heavy make out session once, but it stopped before it went too far.
She’s not a coffee drinker — which is fucking weird — so I have an ice tea for her when I knock on her apartment door. I’m still a little out of it from seeing Sookie, so when she opens the door she gives me a strange look.
“Hi,” I smile as I hand her tea.
“Hi. Are you okay?” Freyda takes the tea from me. “Thanks.”
“Yeah,” I nod, “Just in a weird mood. I ran into an old friend at the coffee shop.” I step inside, closing the door behind me and lean down to kiss her cheek.
“Ah ha. Friend or girlfriend?”
“Old girlfriend,” I admit. “The last time I saw her she wasn’t doing too well though. She’s doing better now. I guess.”
“Oh. Well, good for her,” Freyda smiles. She leads me to the living room and plops down on the couch.
I take a seat next to her, throwing my arm over the back of the couch behind her.
“What did I interrupt by showing up?” I ask, shaking off the weird Sookie mood.
“Just getting caught up on Teen Mom 2.”
This is what prompted the make out session last time. She was watching shitty reality TV that made me want to puke. I barely have time for TV though. If my television is on it’s ESPN or CNN. And I don’t really pay attention to those channels.
“You know this stuff is bad for your health, right?” I tease with a little chuckle.
“Says the guy who watches highlights of highlights,” she snorts.
“That’s all I have time for,” I say in my own defense as I reach over to tickle her side.
“Too bad it’s boring as shit,” she giggles.
“And this is entertaining?” I motion toward the TV before reaching back to tickle her thigh.
“Yes! Besides I never said you had to like it.”
“True,” I smile. “I’ll just sit here and distract you.” I go after her side again, making her squirm. Honestly, after seeing Sookie today it’s more of a distraction for me.
“Eric!” Freyda squeals and slaps my hands away. “Let me finish this.”
“You’re no fun,” I pout as I lean away some. I rest my hands on the couch and drop my head back.
“Just ten more minutes,” she promises. Freyda kisses my neck and then she’s back to her show.
I close my eyes while she watches. The problem is, when I do, all I see are images and memories of Sookie. When I walked away from her the last time I resolved that there was no way we’d ever be more than two people that knew each other once upon a time. Seeing her today stirred up a lot of memories I didn’t get reminded of last time. Her mood was more like Sookie I knew when we were younger. I know we’ve both changed. We’ve grown up. That doesn’t mean anything. I shouldn’t even be thinking about her. She’s the past. I have a cute little girl sitting next to me that has the potential to grow into a lot more than what it is now. That doesn’t stop my mind from wandering back to the tall blonde with entire rooms full of baggage. I need to stop. And I am. Now.
“Is it over yet?” I whisper when I feel like ten minutes should have long passed.
“It’s been two minutes,” she whispers.
“Well, shit.” This is why the sex with Sookie back then seemed so much longer. I have no concept of time. Fuck. I didn’t want to think about Sookie.
“Ugh, I want her hair,” Freyda whines.
I open my eyes to look at the television. “Which one?” I ask. There are two girls on the screen. I like Freyda’s hair as it is.
“The blonde one. I can’t get my hair to look good longer than chin length. It’s too fine to be longer,” she pouts.
The blonde has hair like Sookie’s… annnd I want to kick myself again for relating the conversation to Sookie again. At least I didn’t say it out loud.
“I like your hair,” I shrug. I’m not normally a fan of short hair but the cut looks good on her.
“Thanks,” she smiles.
“You’re welcome,” I smile back. I reach out to cup her face and tilt her head up for a lingering peck.
“Seven minutes,” she whispers before pulling away.
I must be doing something wrong. I have never had a girl stop my kisses. What the fuck is wrong with her? Or me?
I roll my head back, closing my eyes again. This is boring. I know we’re not supposed to have fun every second of the day… I guess my mind is just racing too much… in the wrong direction since the second my eyes close I can see Sookie’s ass as she walked away from me today. The only thing keeping me from getting a hard-on is that sight is quickly replaced with the image of her bare ass last year. As lovely as it was, I was far from turned on with the drunken state she was in.
Ugh. I’m stopping. Now.
“Has it been seven minutes?” I whisper again. My only other option to get Sookie off the brain is to nap, which probably wouldn’t help.
“Five to go.”
“Seriously?” I feel like she’s lying to me about the time. I’m sure she isn’t, but still. It should’ve been seven minutes.
“Yes, seriously, now hush.”
I look at my phone to check the time and then do my best to turn my brain off. It works. For all of thirty seconds when I check my phone again. I think I’m starting to bother her, but I’m being quiet. I turn so I’m leaning against the arm of the couch and check my Facebook. I don’t have a lot of time to do social media, but I try. It’s easier to see what EJ is up to since Callie decided it was a good idea to let him have one. If it was up to me he wouldn’t have social media or his own phone until he was sixteen, but she has him more than I do. Not that my opinion is invalid. We actually argued over the Facebook thing for an hour.
Finally the five minutes is up and I set my phone face down on the table.
“Is it done now?” I ask as I look down my body at her.
“Yes. You’re worse than a four-year-old. Aren’t you like forty?” Freyda teases.
I arch an eyebrow at her. “I’m sorry that in my limited downtime I’d rather not spend it watching reality shows,” I tell her. I don’t think I’m in the mood to be teased about our age difference, which is only six years. It seems like a lot more though.
“Oookay,” she whispers and turns her attention back to the TV.
“Should I go?” I ask.
“If you’re going to keep being an ass, yes,” she replies.
“I’m sorry, I came to see you, not watch TV.” I tuck my phone into my pocket, but don’t get up yet. I don’t want to go, but I also don’t want to hear more whining and bitching on the television.
“Well this is how I like spending my limited downtime,” Freyda says. “Normal people can sit through ten minutes of TV without complaining every other minute.”
I normally can too. I’m just… off at the moment.
“I’m going to go. I think I need to go for a jog or something,” I sigh. “I feel like I have too much energy right now.”
“Are you going to jog by her house?”
“Her who?” I know exactly who Her is. Am I that fucking transparent?
“I’m not an idiot, Eric. You run into some ex-girlfriend and now you can’t sit still? Come on…”
“I’m not going by anyone’s house,” I promise. “I’m going to go home and run on my treadmill. That’s all.”
“Right. Well, have fun with that.” She’s pissed.
I sit up and lean in close to kiss her cheek. “I promise just need to jog and get rid of this energy,” I whisper. It’s a hell of a lot better than going out to have a fuckin’ one night stand which is the other way I’d find to expend energy when I’m single, but I keep that to myself.
“Uh huh,” she nods, her eyes on the TV still.
I cup her face to turn it toward me. Her eyes don’t meet mine. “Hey,” I whisper to try to get her to look at me. When she does I say, “I promise, that’s all it is. There are other ways to work off energy, but we haven’t gone there yet…”
“It’s good that we haven’t. You wouldn’t be fucking me anyway,” she replies.
“Not true,” I sigh. At least I think it’s not true. “Yes, I admit I’m thinking about her, but it’s not like I’m ever going to see her again. We have a lot of history and some of that was brought up today. That’s all. What she and I had is long over. I don’t even know who she is now.”
“You know enough that you can’t sit still when you think about her,” Freyda pulls away again. “That doesn’t sound like it’s over to me.”
I don’t know what else to say. It’s definitely over with Sookie. There’s no going back, besides, it’s not like she’d want me anyway.
“I haven’t thought about being with her in over a decade, Freyda, and I’m not thinking about it now. We were friends once upon a time and… It doesn’t matter what I say, does it?” She’s made up her mind.
“Your words and your actions don’t match. Your inside and outside are at war.”
I don’t see it, but I’m not looking at me.
“Is it that obvious?” I ask.
“To me it is.”
“I’m just going to go home and get my head on straight,” I say quietly.
“Do you want to put a fuckin’ locator on me? I’m going home,” I growl. I’m not a cheater.
I get up from the couch and head for the door. If I say anything else it’ll just make things worse than they are. I know it’s not fair to Freyda that I ran into Sookie today, or that it fucks with my head like it is. I wish like hell I didn’t see her today, but it is what it is. I leave her place and go to my SUV. I’m about halfway home when I realize my house is in a different direction. I don’t even know if she lives there anymore, but I find myself turning onto Sookie’s street.
I need to go home.
Of course I don’t. I park my SUV in an empty space before I get into her building. I take the stairs up to the fifth floor and make my way down to her apartment. I don’t even know if she still lives here, but I’m about to find out when I lift my hand and knock on her front door.