I have no idea what to wear. I should have gone shopping for something new. It’s too late now though. Eric will be here in less than fifteen minutes. I’m standing in the closet when my phone goes off. By the Hawaii Five-0 ringtone I know it’s Jason.
“Hey,” I answer.
“Hey, sis, whatchu up to?”
“Trying to figure out what to wear. I have a date in fifteen minutes and I don’t want to hear any of your shit about it either.” I’m not in the mood.
“So you’re datin’ now?” I can tell he wants to give me the third degree, but for once he’s holding his tongue. “Who is the lucky fucker?”
“Eric, Eric?” He finally says after a good twenty seconds.
“When did this happen?”
“He asked me out last night.” I grab a black dress but quickly discard it. “Should I accentuate the boobs or the butt?”
“Boobs, but Eric would be happy with a potato sack. When did you start talkin’ to him again?”
“Like a month ago. We ran into each other at a coffee shop. How about that red dress you called a washcloth?”
“Not if you plan on leavin’ the house. I guess you’re doin’ okay with this?”
“So far. I need to figure out what to wear.”
“What about the black one with the white top Jess helped you pick out? He ain’t tried nothin’ funny has he?”
“Not yet and we slow danced last night.” I find the black dress with the tag still on it. It’s a retro style dress with a black A-line skirt and an off white sleeveless top. “I think this dress’ll work.”
“I know you don’t want me in your personal business, but don’t move too fast please.”
“Don’t worry, Jase, I know my limits.” I pull the dress off the hanger and slip it on. I’m going to need help getting the zipper the rest of the way up. I can only get it halfway.
“Alright,” he sighs. “If he tries anything funny remind him I carry a gun and you know how to defend yourself.”
“I’ll be fine, Jason. Eric has never been the type to ignore me if I say no,” I assure him while I look for shoes.
“As much as we hated him, you’re right. I hope it works this time,” he says sincerely.
“He’s not a bad guy, Jase. Give him a chance, will ya?” I find a pair of red T strap pumps that’ll look fantastic.
The doorbell rings because apparently grown up Eric is early. Ugh.
“I think that’s him. I gotta run. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? Oh and don’t tell Dad!”
“I won’t. Good luck, sis.”
“Thanks. Love you,” I say and hang up. The doorbell rings again and I haul ass for the security panel. “Hello?”
“I’m here,” Eric says.
“Come on up.” I push the entry button and go to the front door to leave it open for him while I finish getting ready. I pick out pearl earrings that were Gran’s and a necklace Eric gave me for our first anniversary when I was seventeen. It’s a silver necklace with a heart pendant and a little diamond hanging from the upper apex of the heart.
“Sookie?” Eric calls out when he gets upstairs.
“Be right out!” I yell. I grab a jacket, my purse and phone and then hustle to the living room. “Hi,” I smile. He looks good in his dress pants and button down shirt.
“Hi,” he smiles. “You look gorgeous.”
“Thanks. Would you mind finishing zipping me up? I can’t reach.” I turn so he can get the zipper up.
He gently zips my dress up the rest of the way. He settles his hands on my shoulders for a moment before letting go.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes, I’m ready. Are you?” I smile back at him.
“I’m always ready,” he winks.
I intentionally rub my ass against him and innocently say, “Doesn’t feel ready to me.”
“You’re trouble,” he growls and I feel his teeth graze the shell of my ear.
“It used to be one of your favorite things about me.” I pull away from him to put my jacket on.
“Still is.” He holds out his hand, waiting for me to take it.
I take his hand and walk to the door with him. I lock the door behind us and we walk to the elevator together. Our very first date runs through my mind and it makes me smile. I wore a short denim skirt and a spaghetti strap top that made Dad want to put me in a convent. Eric was wearing jeans two sizes too big with his Scooby Doo boxers sticking out the back and a Joe Camel T-shirt with a rip in the left side. His long hair was snarly and he was three days behind in shaving.
We went to the diner in Hot Shot for dinner and then to the movie under the stars in Ruston. Twister was the movie. We sat on a blanket together but barely touched. When it was over Eric drove to the swimming creek and we ended up talking while he smoked a joint. I didn’t mind it. Actually, I was curious. I took my first hit that night. With the exception of the Xanax, weed was the only other drug I ever messed with and it wasn’t a regular thing.
At the end of the night Eric didn’t hesitate to kiss me when he walked me to my door. The kissing was good and from that point on we were pretty much inseparable. Dad was hardly thrilled. In a small town everyone has a reputation for something. I was known for being impulsive and strong willed while Eric was known for being an irresponsible stoner. Even so, he was a good influence on me. Not even Dad could deny that Eric made me happy. I’m sure Dad knew that I was smoking pot from time to time but he never said anything about it.
We get on the elevator and ride down to the garage. Eric guides me to his SUV and helps me into the passenger’s seat before getting behind the wheel.
“Do you mind being in the car a while?” Eric asks as he starts his SUV.
“No, not really. Where are we going?”
“Dinner and then out to the lake,” he answers. “I figure we’ll be in the car about an hour between the restaurant and the lake. I’ll let you pick the music too.”
“To the lake huh? I should have worn pants,” I chuckle. I reach over and turn on the radio. I spin the tuner to some random station and we end up with hard rock.
“Nah, I have an extra blanket if you get cold,” he tells me as he reaches over to rest his hand on my thigh. “Is this okay?”
“It’s fine. Jason told me to remind you that he carries a gun and I know how to defend myself,” I laugh.
“Have I ever done anything that made you want to defend yourself against me?” he asks, arching an eyebrow.
“No, and I told Jason that so you can relax.” I pat his hand and smile when an old Metallica ballad starts to play. “You used to say this was going to be our wedding song.”
“It still would be,” he smiles as he flips his hand to thread his fingers through mine.
“Metallica? Seriously?” Not happening. It’s a pretty song but no.
“Come on, my first wife vetoed it,” he pouts.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa you tried to use the song with your first wife?”
“No,” he laughs, “I’m teasing, Sookie. Cal and I eloped we didn’t have a real ceremony or a reception. We got married and then went to Paris for a week.”
I give him side eyes.
“It’s still a no. Not that I even know if I want to marry you anymore. You might have terrible new habits I can’t abide.”
“Worse than the habits I had before?” he asks.
“It’s possible. Hopefully you’ve outgrown the notion that dutch ovening is funny,” I glare at him. He used to trap me at least once a week. Ass.
“Hmm, I haven’t done it in so long I don’t remember. I’ll have to test it out,” he grins.
“You better save it for when your son is in town.”
“Are you interested in meeting him?” Eric inquires.
“I’d like to. Even if we don’t work out as a couple I’d like to meet him sometime. He sounds like a good kid. Plus I have funny stories to tell him about tackling his dad and plucking his eyebrows,” I giggle.
“You’re evil for that, by the way,” he chuckles. “I’d like that too. He is a really good kid. He has manners, unlike I did. He obviously does kid things, but for the most part he doesn’t do too much to stress me out… other than have girlfriends.”
“I’m sure I can lull him into submission with s’mores cookies–”
“Nope. You give him sugar and he’s yours for the following three days,” Eric says seriously. “He had a fuckin’ Snickers bar last time he was here and the next thing I know we’re in the ER because his hyper little brain thought it was a good idea to climb the fence to get up on the roof. He then tried to jump the small distance to the pool and he tripped and fell off the fuckin’ roof. I try not to give him treats. They make him do stupid shit and not listen to me.”
“Says the guy who used to get stoned after school every day,” I laugh.
“I never fell off of the roof,” he shrugs.
“No, you just drove into ponds.”
“And we all lived through that. My kid isn’t supposed to make the same kinds of mistakes I did,” he chuckles.
“Ha! Says who?” He’s funny. “Do you want more kids or is EJ enough for you? He sounds like a handful.”
“He is, but I have him part time. I haven’t really thought about more kids. I guess if whoever I’m with gets pregnant we’ll deal with it when it happens. I’ve been careful though. When Callie got pregnant she swore she was on birth control, which I believe. I made her get an IUD after he was born and I’ve always used condoms with anyone else I was with after her. I know they’re not 100%, but they seem to have worked so far.”
That answer leads me to believe he doesn’t really want kids. He had his wife get an IUD and if another woman gets pregnant “he’ll deal with it.” That’s not a resounding no, but it’s not a yes either.
We go quiet for a while, just listening to the music playing at a much quieter volume than it would have been sixteen years ago. Our hands are still linked when we pull into the parking lot of a little restaurant a few miles away from the river. Already I can hear the crickets chirping and the stars are beginning to sparkle overhead. It’s a lovely night. Eric opens my car door for me and we walk into the restaurant hand in hand. So far the date is going well.
That all goes to shit when I see Bill Compton sitting in the dining room with a brunette woman. Even worse, he sees me too.
Sookie freezes when we walk into the restaurant. At first I don’t know why, that it until I see Bill fucking Compton sitting there staring at her with a nasty little smirk that I want to wipe off of his face. I don’t hesitate to start moving toward him. I’m stopped with a hard tug on my hand from Sookie.
I whip my head around to look at her and growl, “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill him, Sookie. Let me go.”
“No,” she hisses. “If anyone is going to kill him it’s me and I don’t think he’s worth my soul. He’s taken enough from me already.”
I take a deep breath, slowly counting to ten as I exhale.
“We can go somewhere else,” I say quietly.
“If he’s going to be too much of a distraction for you, that’s fine,” she answers. Sookie’s surprisingly chill about this.
I look into her eyes for a moment before saying, “If he tries to talk to us all bets are off.”
“Fair enough,” she agrees. Sookie reaches into her purse for her phone and starts tapping the screen as a hostess guides us to our table.
When she tries to sit us too close to Compton I veto that shit and she takes us deeper into the restaurant. We’re seated in a booth so I allow Sookie to pick her side before I sit across from her. Thankfully fuckface isn’t in sight when we’re situated in our seats. I was planning to take her to the same lake we went to on our first date nearly twenty years ago for nostalgia’s sake, but now I think we need to go so I can fuckin’ cool off. Fuck.
I order a water and Sookie gets a sweet tea. We’re left with our menus and the list of specials for the night before the hostess walks away.
“Sorry,” I apologize quietly.
“Whatever for?” Sookie looks confused.
“For almost committing murder on our second first date,” I say, finally allowing myself to smile a little.
“You didn’t know he was going to be here and I know that rage doesn’t come from some misguided need to display what a tough guy you are. It means a lot to me that you care, Eric. More than you realize, actually,” she says.
I reach across the table to take her hand. “You’re welcome,” is all I can think to say. “I still want to go out there and slash his fuckin’ tires.”
“I don’t blame you for that.”
I smile and say, “You know we can… decide to go somewhere else for dinner and slash his tires on the way out… Maybe take this,” I pick up the small jar of sugar, “and pour it in his gas tank while we’re at it.”
“It’s a nice fantasy, but that’s all it is,” Sookie says. “Bill will get what he has coming to him but I’m not interested in being the arm of Justice. Karma will catch up to him. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope that karma isn’t a musclebound meathead named Lamar who doesn’t take no for an answer.”
“You’re cute,” I smile. I’m still ready to beat Bill to a bloody pulp, but I don’t want him to ruin our night.
“Thanks. Do you know what you’re going to have? The parmesan crusted chicken sounds good.”
“I think I’m going to have the filet mignon with the Italian butter. I’m starving,” I say. “I got caught up with delivery today and forgot to have lunch.”
“I decorated an eight tier wedding cake. This thing is going to weigh a ton. Transport for it is giving me anxiety attacks,” she chuckles.
“I bet it’s beautiful though.” I’ve seen some of her work. She’s really good.
“Thanks. I can’t draw for shit but put a piping bag in my hand and Van Gogh can blow me,” she smirks.
“I’ve seen stranger things,” I shrug.
Our waitress comes by to greet us and ask if we have any questions about the menu. Sookie shakes her head no and we place our orders.
“We don’t have to go to the lake after dinner,” I tell her. It’s cool out, but I wanted to be alone with her without being in the house.
“If you don’t want to we don’t have to. After seeing Bill I understand if you would rather go home.”
“No, I didn’t want to be in the house. I have the blanket and an extra sweater if it gets too cold. I really just want to be with you without being bothered,” I explain.
“Being in the house would bother you?”
“No, we’ve just spent a lot of time there. This is a date, we’re supposed to be out,” I smile. “And it reminds me of our first date.”
“The house?” Now Sookie looks really confused.
“The time we’ve spent together is mostly at a house. The lake makes me think of our first date… is that dumb?”
“No, it’s not,” she replies. Sookie smiles and asks, “You’re not holding, are you?”
“No,” I chuckle.
“I’m torn about whether or not that’s a good thing.”
“Believe me, after seeing Him, I’m torn too.”
“I probably shouldn’t do that. It was never habitual for me but still…”
“Honestly, with your paranoia it would probably be really fuckin’ bad for you now,” I say. “I haven’t smoked in a decade. I’d lose a lung from coughing too fuckin’ much.”
Sookie laughs and says, “Yeah, I probably would too.”
“Sometimes I wish I still did. I’m fine without the cigarettes, but every now and then I think I could use a joint to unwind.”
“I’ve taken up meditation but it’s not the same.” Sookie thanks the waitress when she comes by with some fresh bread and whipped butter.
“I jog.” I wouldn’t be caught dead exercising fifteen years ago. I wait until Sookie cuts a slice of bread off and smile when she butters it and slips it onto my plate. “Thanks.”
“I stand corrected. I’d lose a lung if I went jogging,” she laughs while slicing herself a piece of bread.
“You think?” I chuckle. “I started exercising when I quit smoking. It took about three months before I could jog a mile nonstop.”
“I know.” Sookie skips the butter and instead goes for the olive oil and herbs.
“When did you start yoga and meditation?” I ask.
“About a year ago. I do Pilate’s sometimes too. I’m not as flexible as I used to be, that’s for damn sure.”
“We’ll see,” I joke… not really.
“Oh I already know my legs behind my head days are over,” she laughs. “I hope you preserved it on the highlight reel.”
“Yes I did,” I reply honestly. That was… “Damn, I’m going to miss that Sookie,” I laugh. “But learning the new you will be just as fun… If you let me, that is.” I don’t want to assume.
“We’ll see,” she smirks.
“Uh huh.” It might not be tonight but it’s happening. Hopefully.
“So… what’s the highlight of the last sixteen years?” Sookie sips her tea.
“The birth of my son,” I answer with a smile. “It was terrifying, but I didn’t know I could love someone so fast and so completely.”
“That’s a good answer.”
“It’s the only answer,” I shrug. “What about you. I’ve heard about all the bad shit. What’s your best memory since I saw you last?”
“That’s tough. I guess it would be the day I left Quinn. I was terrified too, but I knew it was time to get out of there. It sounds depressing but it was a big deal for me. I had been defending him for months and I could finally admit that he was a bad person who didn’t deserve my forgiveness or understanding.”
“That isn’t depressing at all. It’s a great highlight and I’m so proud of you for walking away,” I say sincerely.
“There’s nothing cowardly about running away to save your life, right?” Sookie smiles but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
“Nothing at all,” I reply quietly. “It’s brave to walk away from someone like that.”
“You may have seen Quinn if you follow amateur boxing,” she says.
“Not religiously, but I’ve been known to watch a fight or two.”
“He’s taller than you, bald and has violet eyes,” she tells me.
I playback my mental amateur boxing tapes and it hits who she’s talking about.
“That fucker?” I growl for the second time since we’ve been here. “Ugh. He looks like a fuckin’ douchebag.”
“Well he hits like a heavyweight.”
“But he can’t win a fuckin’ fight,” I grumble. “Did you ever report him?”
“Yeah, I did, but I always dropped the charges. He’d apologize and promise to get help or that it wouldn’t happen again. He’d cry and beg me to come home and I was a sucker for it every time. We’d be good for a while until he suddenly flipped out and the cycle would start all over,” she says. “The last time I ended up in the hospital and I knew then that if I didn’t get out he was going to kill me someday.”
Her story makes my stomach turn. I hate that she had to go through that.
“I’m glad you woke up,” I say as I play with her fingers. Once again I want to hold her.
Our food is delivered, breaking off the conversation.
“This looks amazing,” I smile, happy for the break. Talking about her past pisses me off and makes me start to feel guilty for leaving. I know that would upset Sookie so I’ve kept it to myself since the first time we talked about my guilt.
“Yes it does,” Sookie agrees. She leans down to inhale the aromas coming from her plate. “I love garlic in an almost unhealthy way. Lucky for you, I have mints.”
“Mmhmm, I definitely plan on a goodnight kiss,” I wink. I practically start to drool when the butter starts to melt all over my steak. “Are you going to want a bite of this?”
“Maybe a small one. I’ll let you try my chicken.”
“Mmm, okay.” I feel like I could eat a fuckin’ horse right now. I cut into my steak, groaning when the butter melts down the side. I make sure it’s a Sookie size bite and hold my fork over the table for her to try. “If you don’t try it now you’re likely to miss it.”
She smiles and leans over the table to take the bite I’m offering. Sookie moans and smiles once she pulls back, chewing slowly.
Mmm, I miss that sound.
I decide to take my own bite and I’m positive my eyes cross it’s so damn good. I wait until she swallows her first bite of chicken before I ask how it is. The moan tells me it’s good.
“Fan-fucking-tastic.” Sookie cuts a bigger piece for me and offers me her fork. “It’s even better with the potatoes but you’re a weirdo.”
“I am not,” I chuckle. I know plenty of people that don’t like their food to touch. I take the offered bite and I’m this close to stealing her plate. Or ordering a second meal. “I’m a little jealous,” I tell her once I swallow.
“The good news is that two chicken filets is one too many for me so you’ll probably inherit the other.”
“Good God, I love you,” I say without thinking. “You know… ahh… not like that…” I stammer, trying to back pedal. I really didn’t mean it like that. I mean, I love Sookie, but I’m definitely not in love with her…
“It’s cool, Northman. You can stop shitting yourself.”
“Thanks,” I chuckle uncomfortably. I hate making flubs like that, especially when I’m trying to prove to her I’m not the idiot stoner she knew so many years ago.
“Relax. You’re making me paranoid,” she winks and puts the extra chicken filet on one of the bread plates to give it to me.
“I’m good, I’m good,” I assure her. The chicken doesn’t hurt either. “Would you like to try my risotto?” I ask. We got different sides for a reason.
“Sure,” she nods. Sookie leans over the table again and I notice her necklace.
“You still have it,” I whisper without taking my eyes off of the necklace.
“The necklace,” I answer, looking up into her eyes.
“Yeah,” she smiles. “I love this necklace.”
“I haven’t even thought about that in years. Mom went with me to pick that out,” I smile back.
“It’s been through a lot with me.”
“It’s almost like I’ve been there with you this whole time.”
“Almost,” Sookie agrees.
I sit back and we get back to our meals. Each part of dinner seems to be better than the last. Sookie claims it’s all better when mixed together. I’m going to take her word for it. She’s going to laugh when she meets EJ and realizes he eats the same way as me.
The rest of dinner goes smoothly. Even with the near murder at the beginning, and the depressing shit that we discussed, by the time the food is cleared we’re laughing again. That’s the thing with Sookie. We’ve always been able to go from one topic to the next without missing a beat. She says I’m boring, but she’s never had a problem being around me, which I have no complaints about. We’ve never had a problem with compatibility, sexually or in day to day life. It was the different paths we wanted to take after high school that split us up. Was it dumb, probably, but it wasn’t our time. We had to live and learn on our own to really see what we were missing with each other.