Dating Sookie again is a lot more than I expected. Actually I didn’t know what to expect at all. I’m perfectly fine with the couple long kisses we shared after the date. I hate how she sees herself though. I talked to Nora briefly about a ‘friend’ that I think is going through postpartum. I know Nora is on some drugs to help her out, but I don’t want tell Sookie to go get on anti-depressants.
We’ll figure it out. It’s been a week since our date and we’ve seen each other a few times. I’m trying to get her to open up more, but it’s not working. I told her I’d be over at nine with breakfast. She eats like shit since having Brie. I have two grocery bags full of adult food since Sookie survives off of snacks and microwave dinners. The girl can cook. I get that she has to do a lot for Brie, but she’ll never be any good for the baby if she doesn’t take care of herself.
I show up as planned right at nine in the morning. When I ring the doorbell I can hear Brie squealing. She’s a sweetpea. I absolutely adore her.
Sookie comes to the door a minute later looking frazzled and tired. Brie, however, is all smiles.
“Hi,” Sookie says. “Come in.”
“Hey, thanks.” I reach up to give Brie some tickles, making her laugh. It’s a beautiful laugh, similar to Sookie’s. “You hungry?” I ask Sookie and much to her dismay I kiss her temple.
“I could use a snack,” she says.
“You’re in luck. I come baring gifts. Whole grain cinnamon pancakes and egg white omelets,” I smile. I know she’s worried about her body so when I cook I’ll do healthy stuff. “Although there will be plenty of butter and syrup on the pancakes.”
“Okay,” she nods. Sookie turns and takes the baby to the living room and puts her in her little chair. As soon as she puts Brie down, the smiles disappear and she starts wailing.
“Sook, go shower. I’ll bring her chair in the kitchen with me.” She needs a break.
“No, it’s okay. She’ll just keep crying.” Sookie picks her up again. The crying stops immediately.
That’s not good. I understand being comforted when she’s hurt or tired. She’s going to be spoiled rotten like this. I’m not her dad, or a parent, so I don’t feel right telling Sookie to let her cry.
“Sookie, I can deal with the crying,” I assure her.
“Eric, it’s fine. I’ll wait until she’s sleeping.”
I hold my tongue. This is too new to get involved. I can offer to hold her.
“Can I hold her for a minute?”
“If you want,” she says. “I can start breakfast for you.”
“Or you can take a seat and let me do the multitasking for you right now,” I say as she hands me the baby.
“I can help.”
“If you insist.” I’ll take baby steps here.
I follow Sookie into the kitchen as I play with Brie. She’s laughing so hard little tears are forming when I tickle the back of her chubby little thighs.
Sookie gets out a bowl and starts to crack eggs to separate the whites and yolks. She’s on the third egg when she yells, “Goddamnit!” The bowl goes flying into the sink and shatters, startling Brie and making her cry.
I try to soothe her and rub her back.
“Sook, what happened?” I ask, bouncing the baby a little.
“I got yolk in the whites,” she growls and moves to the sink to clean up her mess. “I can’t get anything right today.”
“It’s okay. You want me to take Brie to the living room so you can get some quiet?” I’m at a loss.
“I’m fine,” she says as she picks up pieces of the broken bowl.
I stay quiet on the matter. I keep cuddling the baby until she calms down too. She rests her head on my shoulder and watches Sookie.
“How about you work on pancakes and Brie and I can do eggs?” I offer quietly.
“I’ll probably burn them,” Sookie grumbles and drops the pieces of porcelain into the trash.
I take a deep breath and do something that honestly scares me a little at the moment. I take Sookie’s hand and tug her until she’s facing me and I wrap my arm tight around her shoulders.
“It’s just a bad day, Sook, it’ll get better,” I promise.
She bursts into tears and hugs me back. Her body shakes and I feel her tears soaking through my shirt. I don’t try to soothe her or shush her. She needs to cry and she needs to be held. I kiss the top of her head and squeeze her a little tighter.
“Do you want to sit?” I ask after about ten minutes. She’s not crying as hard, but I can feel some tears still trickling. “I don’t mind staying right here if you need to.”
Sookie sniffles and pulls back. She’s a mess.
“I’m sorry. I’m just going to go splash some water on my face and I’ll be fine,” she says.
“Okay, me and the kid will hold down the fort,” I tell her.
I don’t know how many times this has happened, and it scares me.
“Thanks,” Sookie says and staggers toward the stairs.
I keep my distance, but I follow long enough to make sure she gets upstairs okay and then Brie and I go back to the kitchen. I put her on my hip, the song Redneck Woman rolls through my head, and I start mixing pancake batter. Before I start on the egg whites I decide to check on Sookie. She should be down by now.
I head up the stairs and I don’t hear anything. I don’t know which room is hers, so I go through. I smile when I walk into the nursery. It’s disgustingly pink, but it fits the pretty little girl who’s eyes are starting to drift shut every few seconds. I leave the nursery and the next room I find is Sookie’s. I know this because she’s passed out in the middle of the bed.
I walk into the room and pull her blanket over her. I close the door on the way out. Brie and I head back downstairs so I can put the pancake batter away for later. On the way out I check for some bottles in the fridge and find two ready to go. I warm up the milk, take Brie into the living room and sit on the couch with my feet kicked up. She takes the bottle faster than I can track when I get it close and I lock eyes with Sookie’s daughter as she eats.
“We’re going to make sure Mommy’s okay, pretty girl,” I promise her.
It takes her a few minutes to fall asleep and the bottle falls easily from her lips. I set it down, shift a little on the couch and the last thing I remember is Brie’s little hands tugging on my shirt in her sleep before I pass out too.
I startle awake when I feel Brie being lifted off my chest.
“What…oh.” I see Sookie has her and the baby is now sleepily snuggling into Sookie’s chest.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to pass out like that,” Sookie apologizes and kisses Brie’s head.
“It’s fine. You obviously needed to sleep,” I say as I sit up.
“Yeah, the last few nights have been rough. I haven’t slept much,” she explains and puts Brie in the swing.
“Has she been keeping you up, or are you just having trouble?” I ask. I know the baby is teething, so it’s likely she kept Sookie awake.
“It’s the teething,” Sookie sighs and gets the swing going. “Plus I think she’s hitting a growth spurt. She’s eating constantly.”
“I gave her a bottle before we fell asleep,” I tell her, but the bottle is missing so I assume she knows.
“I figured. Breakfast is ready even though it’s lunchtime now,” she says. “I even had time to shower.”
“Thanks.” I push myself up from the couch and stretch big. Her couch isn’t really made for people my size. “And there’s never a bad time for breakfast.”
“True,” she smiles and turns for the kitchen. Her mood is much better than it was before she got some sleep.
“Aww, you even warmed the syrup,” I grin when we walk into the kitchen and I see the syrup bottle in a pot of water.
“I remembered you like it that way.” Sookie hands me a plate and takes a platter of pancakes out of the oven.
“Thank you.” I take a seat and Sookie brings the pancakes to the table. She takes the syrup from the pot and brings me the butter. “Thanks…” I say and catch her hand. I flip it over to kiss her palm before I let her go.
“How long did I sleep?”
“Ummm, I’m not sure since I was asleep first. I came down at one and it’s almost two now.”
“Shit, I feel like I slept half the day away. You feel asleep about nine-thirty and I was out within an hour.”
“It’s okay,” Sookie shrugs and pours herself a glass of milk before coming to the table.
I groan when I take my first bite. These are my favorite pancakes.
“They’re so fluffy,” I say with my mouth full.
“You did good with the batter.”
“Miss Brie helped. If she sticks with me I’ll have her cooking all your meals by the time she’s five,” I grin.
“Oh yeah?” Sookie laughs.
“Yep. She’s still just supervising since she can’t hold the whisk yet, but she has great potential.”
“So far she’s the chief executive officer of drooling.”
I laugh and say, “At least she does it right. When do you get to start her on cereal or baby foods?”
“She’s already on cereal, but after her next checkup I’ll probably start her on baby food.”
“I’ll have to make her some of these pancakes when she can have them.”
“It’s gonna be a while on that,” Sookie chuckles.
“I know.” I smile and give her a look telling her I’ll still be here when she can eat them. I’m not going anywhere.
While Eric is cleaning up and I’m feeding Brie her lunch I decide to tell him about the appointment I made with a therapist my OB referred me to.
“So I have an appointment with a therapist,” I tell Eric.
“Really?” he smiles over his shoulder. “That’s good.”
“Yeah, I thought I could handle this myself, but I don’t think I can and I’m not good for Brie if I’m always walking a tight rope,” I say as I spoon more cereal into her mouth. My daughter doesn’t waste food and push it out of her mouth the way some babies do. Unless Mom tries to feed her.
“I’m proud of you for figuring that out. A lot of women just try to deal with it on their own. I saw a therapist after my dad died,” he admits.
“I’m not afraid to go or anything, it’s just not that convenient. I hate pushing Brie off on other people.”
“When is your appointment?”
“Thursday. Mom’s gonna come watch her for me,” I tell him. She’s happy I’m going too.
“Awesome. If you don’t mind me having her I can take her if you ever need me to. She’s a good kid,” Eric says.
“I’ll think about it.”
“I get it if not. I’m not asking to be her regular babysitter; I’m just saying I’m an option if you’re ever in a pinch.”
“Okay,” I nod. Truthfully, I’m not used to people offering to help me and I’m not good at asking for it either.
“Dishes are done.” Eric starts the dishwasher and leans against the counter so he can watch me feed Brie.
“Thanks. Wanna do the laundry next?” I joke and give Brie another spoonful of cereal.
“I can,” he shrugs.
“I was kidding, Eric. You can relax.”
“Sorry. It bugs me that you don’t have any help around here. I’m happy to do what I can for you.”
I pause and turn to look at him.
“I appreciate the offer, but you’re not here to clean up after us. You’re my guest,” I tell him.
He sighs and says, “It’s the butt, I knew it. I have to stop bending over in front of you.”
“I’m serious, Eric.”
“Me too. You don’t think I feel your eyes boring holes into my ass?” he winks.
“I was not staring at your butt,” I insist.
“Okay,” he shrugs.
I roll my eyes and give Brie her last bite of cereal. She celebrates by trying to cram her foot in her mouth, and screeches at me when I stop her from doing it.
“Too bad,” I say to her. I hold her foot until she swallows what’s in her mouth.
Brie gives me one of her annoyed looks but promptly starts gnawing on her toes when I release her foot. I take her bowl to the sink to wash it and I feel Eric move to stand behind me. Physically, our relationship is nothing like it was before. Not that Eric has complained about it. I’m frustrated, though. I want to get back to the way I was so I’m hoping the therapist can help with that.
He doesn’t press his chest into my back, but he’s close enough that I can feel the heat from his body. Eric’s giant hands rest lightly on my shoulders, rubbing up and down a little.
“Thalia’s bachelorette party is on Saturday,” I say to deflect from any moves he might be thinking of making.
He chuckles as his hand move closer to my neck and he starts massaging my spine with his thumbs.
“I bet that’s going to be… interesting,” he says and I can hear the smile in his voice.
“She told me I’m not allowed to wear any stretchy clothes,” I sigh.
“Good. You’re cute in your stretchy clothes, but you need to be an adult that night,” he agrees with Thal. He is still keeping a small distance and his hands are gentle on my neck.
“Yeah but none of my old stuff fits and I don’t want to go buy stuff because it will just encourage me to stay the way I am, and I don’t want that,” I explain. I gained more than fifty pounds while I was pregnant, and only seven of it was baby. I’ve worked out in the spare time I can find, but it’s not enough.
“It could also encourage you to want to do something about the way you are. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with you, but maybe you need to do this.” I feel him shrug and his thumbs move a little bit lower on my spine.
“You say that because you haven’t seen the road map on my tummy now. The folks at Rand McNally would be impressed,” I snort.
Eric doesn’t laugh. His hands stop and they move back up to my shoulders.
“Sookie, I know you don’t have the body you had before you got pregnant. I also know that when I do get to see it I’m not going to look at you with disgust. I’m going to see the body that made that little girl. You’re beautiful, Sookie. I want you to feel that way again, and I hope going out to buy a non-stretchy dress will help.” His hands start their slow spine massage again.
I don’t reply, but I don’t pull away when his hands move down my back. If he keeps this up, I’ll fall asleep on my feet. My head tilts to the side and I feel his lips graze my neck. I moan softly and my hips move on their own. Eric takes this as an invitation to close the small gap between our bodies and he presses his chest to my back so I can feel every inch of his solid body. His lips ghost up to my jaw, to my mouth, and he presses a soft kiss to my lips.
Brie lets out a squeal, completely ruining the moment.
“And you thought she was on your side,” I laugh quietly.
“Oh, she is. She’s just excited that Mommy let me kiss her again,” he smirks. “She couldn’t contain it.”
That’s another way to look at it. Maybe I need to see things his way.
“Thal, I can’t wear this!” I yell from my bathroom. She picked my dress for the party. Before the baby I could pull this off but now it’s too short and I feel like I look huge in it.
The dress is a nudish shade of pink. It’s sleeveless and the barely there skirt is cut on a bias with sparkly things at the hem. It has a V-neck that I can admit makes my boobs look good, but I’m not convinced about the rest. I bend over I’ll flash everyone my goodies.
“You’re going to wear it and you’re going to look amazing!” she yells back. “Wait until I send Eric a picture of you!”
“Oh you don’t have to. He’ll get to see it live,” I mumble. He’s watching Brie for me. It was my idea as a way of showing him I trust him. There is nothing in the world more important to me than my baby so if he can handle her for a few hours, it’ll go a long way with me.
I take the dress off the hanger and pull it on. My best friend opens the bathroom door without knocking.
“You look stunning, Sookie,” she tells me and I can tell she means it.
I look in the full length mirror and shrug.
“Don’t you think I’m a decade too old for something like this?” I ask as I turn from side to side.
“I think you’re the perfect age for that. You’re allowed to be an adult and be flirty sometimes. Just don’t flirt too much, that man you have might not like it,” she smiles.
“I barely flirt with him,” I tell her. I’m not worried about other guys.
I pick up my curling iron and go to work on my hair. I cut it when Little Miss Grabbyhands started yanking on it all the time. This actually suits me better and doesn’t require too much work.
“That’s a shame. You need to. You actually need to walk in, lay down and throw your legs up. Offer him an all you can eat Sookie buffet,” she snorts.
“Yeah, the only way that’s happening is if I get up close and personal with Señor Patrón first.”
“Now I know what I’ll be buying you,” she smirks. “I’ll make sure McCreamy has Brie asleep by the time you get there.”
“I’m not getting drunk so you can have vicarious sex with Eric,” I tell her. “A teething baby and a hangover don’t mix.”
“I’m sure Eric will be happy to keep her after your night of fun,” she grins.
“I bet he would, but no.”
The doorbell rings, signaling Eric’s arrival.
“I’ll get it!” she squeals and runs out of the bathroom.
I grab my phone and text Eric.
Me: Whatever Thal says about tequila and Sookie buffets ignore it.
I get a response as I hear the front door close.
Eric: Nah, I’d rather devour you sober anyway. I don’t want to waste my talents on someone that won’t remember the next day.
I sigh and put the phone down. I shut the bathroom door and finish my hair. After that I put on makeup for the first time in months. I find a pair of heels in my closet that work with the dress and even I have to admit I don’t look like a completely lost cause once I have my jewelry on.
Once my phone is in my clutch, I leave the bedroom and go downstairs, I can hear my baby laughing and Lord knows what Eric is doing to make her so amused. I find him holding her up so he can blow raspberries on her little Buddha belly.
I clear my throat and Eric turns his head. He pulls Brie down to his chest and his eyes start at my feet before slowly traveling up to my face.
“You look… wow,” he says quietly and he looks down at my thighs again. “Wow.”
“Thanks,” I say softly and come closer to smooch on my daughter. “You be a good girl for Eric, okay?”
“We’ll be fine,” he smiles. “I’m more worried about when you get home and she’s asleep,” he says quietly so Thal doesn’t hear him.
“If Thal has her way I’ll be too drunk to do much of anything,” I warn him.
“Thalia. Do. Not. Get her drunk,” Eric says in a stern voice.
“A little Patrón never hurt anybody,” she shrugs.
“It’ll hurt me, don’t do it,” he says one more time. Eric turns to me and gives me a kiss on the cheek. “Have fun.”
“I will. Call me if you need me. I can be back in–”
“Sookie, we’re fine. She’s going to laugh, maybe cry a little if her teeth bug her and I can’t get to the Orajel on time, and then she’ll pass out in a milk coma. You’ll find us passed out on the couch after watching The Goonies for a second time. Have. Fun. Woman.”
“Yes, sir.” The words slip out without me thinking about it and I see a little flare in his eyes.
Thal grabs my hand and tugs me toward the door.
“We should go now or else McCreamy will be sending me out with Brie so he can have his way with you,” she says as she opens the front door.
“Oh come on, you don’t want to take your goddaughter to see her first male strippers?” I snort and pull the door shut behind us. We’re having dinner first with the rest of the girls and then we’re going to a bar called Temptations for the duration of the evening.
“Will you actually go through with it and let Eric honey your biscuit?” she asks, cocking an eyebrow.
“I doubt it,” I reply and get behind the wheel of my SUV.
“Then he’s staying with the kid and you’re gonna go get lubed up watching naked men. Hopefully by the time they’re done doing their thang you’ll be ready to open season.”
“Male strippers don’t really do anything for me,” I shrug. I don’t really want some strange man’s junk jiggling in my face, thanks.
“How about the thought of McCreamster playing Mr. Mom? That’s pretty fucking hot,” she grins.
“It’s not really hot as much as it’s sweet.”
“Tomato, tomahto. In the long run it makes him extra fuckable.”
“It is better than him being panicked about me having a kid,” I relent as I back out of the driveway.
“He’s not that guy, Sook. You’ve always know that. He was too sweet before, remember?”
“I remember. Now it’s like we switched places in a lot of ways. My therapist says I’m not a lost cause so at least this is just temporary,” I sigh.
“I’m sure having Eric around is doing a lot for you too. I know he helps you with Brie and I know you’ve been eating better. That shit you’ve been shoving into your mouth is bad for your mental health too,” she says.
“Yeah, but it’s easier when I’m by myself trying to do laundry, feed Brie and handle a conference call all at the same time.”
“No more excuses, Sookie. You’re a great mother, and I’m glad you are seeing the therapist now. If you would’ve kept up your lifestyle things could’ve gone bad in the long run.”
“You know what got me to make the call? I flipped out over egg yolk,” I tell her.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
It’s nice to hear her say that. A lot of the time Thal can be more abrasive than supportive. She’s not a bad listener, but what I needed was for someone to just let me fall apart and Eric did that.
“Thanks,” I say.
She reaches over to hold my hand for a moment before she let’s go and says, “Now we can get fucked up!”
I laugh and roll my eyes. If she sends me home drunk, Eric isn’t going to be happy.