The Iron Horse is relatively quiet but it’s only Tuesday night. I’ve never had a problem with alcohol but I order a cherry 7Up anyway when I sit down at the bar. Eric’s wearing a black T-shirt and dark jeans that hug his booty. He looks yummy.
“I got my Halloween costume today,” I tell Eric as he drops extra cherries in my soda for me.
“Oh yeah? What are you going to be?”
“Penny Lane,” I answer. “I found the perfect outfit for it at the thrift shop across from Lala’s. I even found the right blue sunglasses.”
“Are you going to model the outfit for me?” he asks as he slides my 7Up toward me.
“Nope,” I smirk.
“You’re no fun,” he winks. “I have no fuckin’ clue what I’m going to be.”
“I’m sure our paths will cross on Halloween night. I’ll give you a hint though so you can brace yourself. My top is thin and white and I definitely can’t wear a bra under it,” I tell him.
“You know what that does to me,” Eric groans as he leans on the bar in front of me.
“Hence the heads up,” I wink.
“You do know how hard it’s going to be for me to keep my hands to myself, right?”
“We’re just friends. Just friends don’t get booby privileges.” I sip my drink slowly.
“Can I get booby privileges for one night?” Eric asks with a sweet smile.
“Nope. You have your highlight reel.”
“Eh, it’s starting to get old,” he chuckles. “I need new material.”
He pouts a little but doesn’t push anymore.
“There are probably videos of me out there. I consented to some stupid shit after Bill,” I tell him.
“If I see you naked again I want it firsthand. I definitely don’t want to see you naked with some other asshole.”
“I’m just warning you,” I shrug.
“Enough about you being naked. I don’t need to get a hard-on at work,” he snorts. A new customer walks in and sits at the other end of the bar so Eric excuses himself to go serve her.
When he drifts toward me again I say, “I guess it’s good that I nixed the Dolly Parton idea.”
“I don’t know what’s worse. Letting the girls go or pushing them up,” he says with a sexy smirk.
“I’ll consider taking pictures of both options and you can let me know,” I laugh.
“How about you let me take the pictures after I help you get dressed?” he flirts.
“You’re trouble.” I shake my head. “Jessica picked out the bridesmaids dresses for the wedding. I’ll be wearing this bright, cobalt blue color.” I get out my phone to show him a picture of me in the dress from when I tried it on over the weekend. It’s a strapless dress I’ll be wearing with cowboy boots.
“Aww, you look beautiful, pretty– Sookie,” he says as he looks at the picture. He looks at it a little longer than he should before handing my phone back to me.
“I’ll have to decide if I’m a plus one or not.” I tuck my phone away. “The wedding is the Friday before Memorial Day so I have time to decide.”
“Still looking for someone to replace me on your friend roster?” he jokes.
“Why would you need replacing? Leavin’ the country again?” I joke back.
“Not anytime soon.”
“Then your position is safe.”
“Good,” he smiles.
“It’s the plus one slot that’s up for grabs.”
“Not interested in taking me?”
“You hate monkey suits and weddings,” I remind him.
“It would be worth it to see you all dolled up. Plus, I don’t hate them so much now,” he shrugs.
“I could just text you a picture. It’d save you some trouble,” I point out.
“Embarrassed to be seen with me?”
“Am I that obvious?” I smile and reach over to pinch his cheek. “It’s a face only a mother could love.”
“Then I’m fucked,” he sighs.
“Or you need to find you a cougar,” I chuckle.
“Not that interested in cougars,” he smirks without taking his eyes off of me.
“You never did care for older women.”
“Nope. Or girls that are a lot younger. I’m happy with dating girls my own age.”
The song changes on the jukebox to a LeeAnn Rimes song I used to love. I haven’t heard it in years.
“Wanna dance?” He’s not busy so why not?
“Sure.” He comes around the bar and offers me his hand.
I take his hand and let him lead me to the dance floor. We’ve danced to this song before, albeit reluctantly on his part. Eric went to school dances with me because he was hoping to get lucky afterward and not because he cared about dancing or school spirit. It’s a shame too since his mom did a good job teaching him to dance.
He smells good too, which I shouldn’t be noticing. Sixteen years ago he smelled like Irish Spring, motor oil and smoke. He smells much cleaner now, even with the hint of beer. I can smell citrus on him from cutting drink garnishes.
“You know I almost broke up with you for cracking my LeeAnn Rimes CD in half,” I tell him as we sway. The jerk thought he was hilarious for doing that.
“Oh, I know. That’s why all that groveling took place,” he smiles, moving his hands down to wrap around my waist. “And look at me now, dancing with you to the song and not even trying to cop a feel.”
“Yet,” I snicker.
“As tempting as you are, I promise to be a good boy,” he says sincerely.
It’s really annoying to not know if I want him to keep that promise.
“You were a good groveler,” I say. He did more than his share in the two years we dated.
“I was also really good at pissing you off,” he winks. “I was a dumb kid then.”
“You were a master at pissing me off,” I laugh. I was good at pushing his buttons too. Like the time I scratched the shit out of Aerosmith’s first album on vinyl.
“It was just foreplay, pretty girl,” he smirks.
“Or a guarantee you’d be having an orgy with Rosie and her slutty sisters.”
“Usually foreplay,” he chuckles. “It would just smoke a joint and pass the fuck out if you were mad at me.”
I laugh and ask, “Remember that time your parents came home early from that party and we were both stoned?”
“Yeah,” he laughs with me, “I thought you were going to piss your pants. You were so fuckin’ paranoid. Mom told me later that she was having fun fucking with you in the kitchen that night.”
“She was! She kept telling me birds were going to attack me. Then I’d turn around and it felt like something was pecking the back of my head,” I explain.
“Remember those metal tongs she used for everything? She was poking you with them,” he snorts. “She absolutely adored you, Sookie.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye. Karin was always nice to me.”
“She thought you walked on fuckin’ water,” he smiles. “She’s in the Bon Temps cemetery towards the back by your Gran’s old house if you ever want to go visit her.”
“I might. I’m not sure why she thought I was so great, but I’m glad she approved.”
He reaches up to tuck my hair behind my ear and says quietly, “She loved you because I did. You made me so fuckin’ happy and that’s all that mattered to her.”
“That’s as good a reason as any.” I smile back at him. The song changes to a faster one by Miranda Lambert that’s not suited for slow dances.
“Wanna go back to the bar?”
“I think I might dance for a while, if that’s alright with you.”
“Have fun.” He kisses my cheek before turning to head back to the bar.
I try not to look his way because it’ll just distract us both. Sometimes I think I’m fighting the inevitable. Others I know I’m doing the right thing. Even if I occasionally feel like I crave him, it doesn’t mean I have to give in. Then again I’m pretty sure it was Oscar Wilde who said something about the only way to cure temptation is to indulge in it a little. I’ve thought a lot about whether I can realistically keep Eric in the friend zone. It’s been fun hanging out and having long conversations, but I don’t think that’s all it is.
The idea of him dating someone else tears at my gut. Yet the idea of falling into him scares me shitless. Not because it might blow up in my face, but because it might be exactly what I need.
I shouldn’t watch her dance; I miss it though. The more time I spend with her getting to know her again the more I miss being with her. Yes, we had some dark times, but we also had some amazing times. One of my favorite memories is getting high by the lake and sitting back to watch her dance to whatever we had on the radio.
I want to tell her she’s fighting the inevitable by telling me she’s no good for me or she isn’t sure she wants to date. I get where she’s coming from but she fully admits I was the healthiest relationship she’s ever been in. Lord knows if she decided to date some other prick and keep me on the sidelines I’d lose my shit. She has to know that too. However, losing my shit isn’t hitting or raping her like her fuckin’ exes. I’m surprised she ever gave that dickwad Bill a chance. I never liked him. I didn’t like the way he looked at Sookie when we were in school. That’s neither here nor there though.
Sookie may not be good for me but I’m good for her and we all know that. I’m ‘boring’ compared to her but boring isn’t always bad.
I have to think about EJ too though. Callie I can deal with if Sookie and I start dating again. She’s going to have a fit since she absolutely hates a woman she never met, but she married a man that I still think is too friendly with my son. EJ on the other hand will probably adore her the way Mom did. He doesn’t know anything about her. I don’t know what I would even say. She’s pretty much indescribable. I’ll get to that when the time comes.
Another slower song comes on so I drop the towel in my hand and go back to the floor where Sookie is. I catch her eyes as I walk toward her, giving her that look that used to make her weak in the knees. It was usually coupled with some kisses and a few strategically placed fingers, however. This time she just smiles back at me. When I reach her I take her hand and pull her close. I start to sway to the beat. There are so many things I want to do to her. All things I hope to do one day.
“You look good out here,” I purr as we rock back and forth.
“Thanks,” she replies. “I’m going to need a shower when I get home at this rate.”
I smile and ask, “You need someone to wash your back?” I’m only partly serious.
“I think I can handle it, Chief,” she laughs.
“The offer always stands,” I reply. I pull her arms up around my neck and wrap my arms around her waist to hold her close. I don’t know the song that’s on but it feels familiar for some reason.
“You used to hate this song,” she says as if she’s reading my mind. “You said it was cheesy as fuck.”
I pay better attention to the words for a moment. I laugh and say, “It’s still cheesy as fuck, but I can’t say I hate it still.”
“It used to make me think of us,” Sookie confesses. “It used to make me so mad when you mocked this song. Of course I didn’t tell you why…”
I want to kiss her so bad right now.
“If you would’ve told me I would’ve stopped,” I smile. It’s taking all of my willpower not to dip my head to kiss her. “I just remember you getting huffy, which I always found absolutely adorable.”
“Oh I remember,” she laughs. Her head rests easily on my shoulder after she shifts her hands a bit. “Someday you’ll have a Luke Bryan moment of your own and then you’ll get it.”
I kiss her forehead and whisper, “I feel like I’m having a Luke Bryan moment right now.”
I can feel her smile. “Do you even know what that means?”
“Not exactly but I know what I’m feeling,” I reply. “And I do know who Luke Bryan is.” Apparently his ass is better than mine. I don’t know how I feel about that.
“You mean my future baby daddy?”
“Yeah,” I growl playfully. “I don’t need to hear about how sexy you think he is anymore. I got the memo.”
“I’m not usually a homewrecker, but I’d make an exception for that man. He’s at the top of my List.”
“Don’t you only make Lists if you’re in a relationship?” I ask as I bring my hand up to stroke her hair.
“No, I’m always looking for new List material. Chris Young is on it too. That voice makes my ovaries have seismic activity.”
“I’ll see what I can do about getting more of him added to the music rotation for you.” I’m getting more familiar with the Country singers now that I’m forced to listen to it all night.
“Two of his albums are in the jukebox,” Sookie informs me.
“Then nevermind,” I shrug. Apparently I need to pay better attention to my jukebox. “If I play some Chris Young will it help my chances of getting you to let me help you shower later,” I joke.
Sookie laughs quietly.
“It might. It’ll definitely increase the flood risk in my panties.”
“I don’t mind helping you clean up the mess,” I flirt. I’m serious. It’s been too fuckin’ long since I got laid last. I know it’s not going to happen with Sookie for a while but it’s fun to fuck with her.
She slaps my arm and says, “You keep that tongue right where it is, buster.”
“Then stop tempting me with flash floods,” I laugh.
“Quit offering me backup Baby Daddy,” she counters.
“I’ll stop tempting you,” I smile. Ugh. Now all I can think about is… “Remember that time you were on the phone with Tara and I made you stay on the phone with her talking about stupid shit until you came?” I had my face firmly planted between her thighs in my happy place. I could’ve spent the whole night camped there.
“She thought I was having a stroke while we were talking,” Sookie recalls.
“With some of the sounds you made I would’ve thought so too,” I chuckle.
I get another smack on the arm for that.
“What? It was sexy to me,” I shrug again.
“Yeah, I remember what happened after we hung up.”
There was a reason I would always make sure she came before sex. My stamina was shit back then.
“It was a glorious two minutes,” I grin and hug her a little tighter.
“An impressive two minutes,” Sookie snorts.
“Thankfully, I haven’t been a minuteman in years,” I chuckle.
“I’ll have to take your word for it.”
“Can I ask you something?” I question, turning the conversation a little more serious.
“Would it bother you if I started dating someone?” I remember the look on her face when I told her about Freyda.
There’s a delay before she says, “Yes, but that’s my problem. If you met someone you want to date, you should do it. I’m not your girlfriend.”
“Can I ask you a follow-up question?”
“What if I asked you on a date? Not teasing you about fucking, not hanging out in the bar, but an actual date. One where I’m nervous at the end of the night about a second date or a goodnight kiss,” I finish quietly.
Sookie lifts her head and looks up at my face.
“You weren’t even nervous when we were sixteen,” she says with a smile.
“You weren’t so mean,” I joke. “I’m serious though. I met a girl I’d like to ask on a date and so I’m asking. Sookie, will you go to dinner with me tomorrow night?”
Her eyes search mine and she’s clearly nervous, but her head goes up and down slowly.
“Thank you,” I whisper with a small smile.
Sookie’s head returns to my shoulder to finish our dance.
I need this to be a new start for us. I don’t want to live our relationship ship in the past. We’ve both grown up and getting to know each other again has been a good thing. Sookie has baggage she’s bringing into this that I’m well aware of, but I have my own baggage. She knows about my son. She knows about the ex, but don’t know if she realizes yet that even though I don’t have EJ full time he’s still very much a part of my day to day life. Callie and I talk fairly regularly, usually about the boy, but I don’t want Sookie to bring in any resentment or jealousy over her. She has no reason to, but you never know. I just got jealous over a fuckin’ Country singer.
“I’m going back to my office,” I tell her once the song is over. I don’t want to let her go.
“Okay. I think I’ll get going then.”
“You sure? You’re welcome to join me,” I tell her, mainly because I like having her around.
“Yeah, I’m sure. I have a date to find an outfit for and an early yoga class,” she says.
“Okay. I’ll walk you out.” I take her hand as I follow her back to the bar to grab her purse.
Sookie picks up her bag and her jacket. She loops her arm through mine when I offer it to her.
“So I’ll see you tomorrow night?” she asks.
“Yep. Is seven okay?” We’re dead on Wednesdays so I can leave Felicia in charge of the bar.
“Seven is perfect.”
I smile as we reach her car. Before I let her arm go I turn to hug her tight.
“Thank you for agreeing,” I whisper as I kiss her temple.
“Thanks for asking.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I don’t want to let her go. The time we’ve spent together recently just reminds me of what used to be and makes me think of what we can be.
“I’ll be waiting,” she replies. Sookie pushes up just a little bit and kisses the corner of my mouth.
I take a step back once she drops down again. If I don’t I’m going to want to keep that tiny kiss going. She doesn’t need me to be that guy right now. I watch as she gets in her car. She gives me a little wave before she puts it in reverse to back out of the spot. I smile and go back into the bar to start the nightly paperwork. If someone had told me owning a business was so much fuckin’ paperwork I would’ve happily stayed as a GM. It’s good for me though. Plus, I wouldn’t have run into Sookie.
It’s still going to be a long road but I have a feeling this time it’s going to lead to a better place. Every bump we hit along the way will only serve to bring us closer together and make use better friends. The last time we dated we fell fast and hard. I’m sure I’ll fall just as hard but I’m going to try to take it a little slower this time.