I really need to stop being such a pushover. I’m sitting here on a Nina Special. This one is bleach blond, nasally, has more bones poking out than I’ve ever seen on any of them, and I want to stab my eye out with the fork in my hand. It would be a hell of a lot more fun.
The good news is, I’m not so shy. After everything that happened with Sookie a few years ago I decided to put on my big boy panties and stop. I still don’t see what the girls see in me, but I can at least talk to them without three drinks in me. Oddly, it works. This confidence thing is pretty cool. Now if only I could tell Mom to stop setting me up.
“Ginger, would you like anything from the bar?” I ask. I don’t feel like waiting for the server with her.
She asks for an apple martini, so I nod and stand up. I’m walking up to the bar when a gorgeous blond head turns my way.
I haven’t talked to her since that day she walked out of my apartment four years ago. She moved departments so we didn’t have to see each other, which was a good thing. I was resolved with the break up. I knew it was right, but it still stung.
When my feet work again I take a good look at her. She’s a little bit heavier, but the weight looks good. She has a pretty smile on her face and it looks like she’s talking to Thalia.
She doesn’t notice when I approach, if Thalia does she doesn’t let on, and I step in behind her next to the bar.
I lean down so I’m a little closer to her ear and ask, “Excuse me, is this seat taken?”
Sookie turns her head and gasps when she sees me.
“Oh my… hi. Uh, no, it’s not,” she says.
“Hi, Sookie,” I smile.
I got through the breakup easier than I expected. I wasn’t in love with her, and I knew all along it wasn’t going to work.
I look over to the bartender and I have Ginger’s apple martini delivered to the table. I still leave most of Nina’s dates in less than desirable ways.
I take the seat next to Sookie and give Thalia a little wave. She grins and turns away.
“How have you been?” I ask Sookie.
“Okay,” she smiles. “Work is good and I moved into my own house about a year ago. I can’t complain too much.”
“Congratulations on the house. I’m still at my apartment.” I don’t really know what to say to her, but I find that I want to sit here and talk to her as long as possible.
She nods and says, “Yeah, I moved out of there three years ago. I decided I wanted to buy so I moved back in with my parents to save the money. That one bedroom apartment wouldn’t work for me now, that’s for sure.”
“Oh yeah?” I don’t want to flat out ask who she’s seeing. I already checked her ring finger and it’s bare. “Why’s that?”
“Because babies take up a lot of space,” she replies.
I look at her a little longer than I should. My eyes scan her face, down to her neck line and eventually down her whole body. Motherhood looks good on her.
“How old is your baby?” I ask after a few moments of silence.
“She’s five months,” Sookie smiles. “This is my first night out since she was born. Thal dragged me out.”
I look back at Ginger who is on her phone and I turn back to Sookie. I’m tired of playing games and I know Sookie and I worked well together. Maybe I should take this run in as a sign. Maybe we can figure something out if she’s single.
“So, this is extremely forward, but is baby daddy going to have a problem if I ask you for your number?”
“Baby daddy didn’t even ask for my number, so I doubt it,” she says.
This is a good sign. I know she may not be ready to date, but I’d at least like to be her friend again.
“How would you feel if I asked you for your number?” I ask and glance back at Ginger. She’s still not missing me.
“I would warn you that my daughter takes up most of my time,” Sookie says. “I would also tell you the number hasn’t changed.”
I smile and ask, “How would you feel if I said I want to be friends with you again?”
She takes a sip of her drink while she thinks it over and then she says, “I could be okay with that.”
“Good,” I grin. “I have to get back to my date, Mom is still setting me up with deadbeats, but how much longer are you going to be here?”
“Maybe another hour or so.”
“If I’m not back by the time you leave can I call you tomorrow?”
“Sure,” Sookie nods.
I stand up and stop myself from kissing her cheek. When I get back to Ginger she looks up at me with her dopey grin and I just roll my eyes. She’s a sweet girl, but she’s not the one I want to hang out with now that I know Sookie is here.
“Listen, Ginger, this isn’t right. We both know that,” I tell her. We’ve barely talked and truthfully I don’t like looking at her. She’s too skinny and it makes her head look big.
“You’re dumping me in the middle of the date?”
“No, we can finish the date, but you have to know I’m not interested.” I’ve not been subtle about it. I haven’t been rude, but I haven’t given her any indication that we’re going past this date.
“Don’t bother. If I’m not interesting to you then just go.” She folds her willowy arms over her chest and looks away from me.
If she thinks that’s going to make me feel bad, I have news for her. I’ve been on too many of these to care.
“Dinner is still on me, and for what it’s worth it’s my mom’s fault. She knows me better than this,” I tell her.
Ginger snorts and says, “Now I know why you need your mom to get you dates.”
“Actually I don’t. I do it to humor her, but you can think what you want.”
I get up from the table to find our server. I let her know to send my check to me at the bar. I’m paying for anything we’ve spent, but anything else is on her. I look over at Ginger and she’s getting up too. I don’t pick up these dates and right now I’m very glad I don’t.
I make my way back to the girls at the bar and sit next to Sookie again, but I don’t talk to her right away. I don’t want to butt into their conversation. When there’s a lull in the chatter I look over and both girls are looking at me.
“Oh, hi,” I smile.
“My date didn’t work out,” I tell her. “What are you girls drinking?”
“I’m back on water. Alcohol and breastfeeding don’t mix,” Sookie says.
I call the bartender over and order a water on the rocks, earning a strange look from her. I order my own water and a beer for Thalia.
“Sorry, am I crashing your party?” I ask. “I can just call tomorrow if you like.”
“I think that might be a good idea,” Sookie answers and gets elbowed by Thalia.
“Okay,” I agree. I don’t get up though; I turn to face the bar.
I can hear Thalia whisper-arguing with Sookie, but I can’t hear what they’re saying. I don’t want to make things anymore awkward for Sookie so I pay for Thalia’s beer and my check with Ginger.
Before I go I stop and rub my hand over Sookie’s shoulder to get her attention.
“My number hasn’t changed either,” I tell her and I hope the look I give her shows how much I’d really like to get to know her again.
“Oh she’ll call,” Thalia says and Sookie shoots her a dirty look.
“It was nice seeing you again,” Sookie says politely to me.
“It was really nice,” I smile.
I lean in to kiss her cheek. I kiss Thalia’s too so Sookie doesn’t think it’s a come on. I walk out of the restaurant and go to my car. I drive home in a much better mood than when I showed up.
I don’t want to be pushy so I decide to give it some time. I know if she has new baby and she doesn’t have a lot of time. My sister, who swore to never have children, has a one-year-old. She’s also a single mother so I know more about Sookie’s situation more than she knows.
I’m kicking back on the couch. I should be doing work, but I need a break. My house phone rings, which is weird, but I get up to answer it. I never bothered with caller ID, so I have no clue who is calling.
“Hello?” I answer on the third ring.
“Hi, is Eric there?” It’s Sookie.
“Sookie?” I smile into the phone. I was planning to call her tomorrow.
“Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t recognize your voice,” she chuckles.
“It’s the phone. It’s old, it makes everything sound different. How are you?” I ask. I’m sure I came off creepy the other night, but I was actually in shock.
“Exhausted, but I’m used to it. How are you?”
“Good, taking a break so you called at the perfect time,” I say, “How are you? How’s motherhood?”
“It’s… challenging but amazing. I didn’t know I could love someone so much,” she says.
“You sound happy. Nora had a baby last year, I get the challenging thing. I’ve babysat more than once for her.”
“Brie is just starting to get the hang of rolling so my life is about to get more complicated,” she laughs.
“Just a little more active,” I smile into the phone. “What else is new?”
“Not a whole lot. Thal doesn’t know about it, but I’ve been kinda seeing my neighbor.”
“Oh yeah? What does kinda mean?” As in does it mean I can try to woo you back?
“It means he caught my horny, pregnant ass watching him get out of the shower,” she admits. “We haven’t gone on an official date but we’ve been seeing each other.”
“I’m sad I missed that faze,” I admit. I’m not going to beat around the bush so I ask, “Is it serious enough that you wouldn’t be willing to go out on a date with me?”
“Oh… uh… I… I don’t know…”
“It’s just a date, Sookie. I’ve always liked you… If this thing is serious with the neighbor I’ll leave you alone, but if not… I would like to take you out on a date… please.”
“It’s not serious,” she admits. “But like I told you, my daughter takes up a lot of my time.”
“If your daughter was a non-issue in this would you go? I’m not asking for sex, I’m asking to get to know you again.” Unless she wants sex. I’ll give her that if she asks.
“She’s not a non-issue. She’s a very big issue for such a teeny thing.”
“Have you had lunch today?”
“I haven’t had a shower today, never mind lunch,” she laughs.
“Can I bring you lunch? I don’t care if you’re showered or not.”
“Ummm…” Sookie trails off for a minute and then says, “Yeeeeah, why not? A girl’s gotta eat, right?”
“Right,” I smile, “Tell me where you are and I’ll bring you whatever you want.”
Sookie gives me her address and tells me to surprise her.
We hang up and I take a quick shower. I decide to run by a diner on my way to her house. I get her the pancakes I hope she still loves, and an omelet that way she has choices. Once I have our lunch I hop in my car and complete the short trek to Sookie’s. When I walk up to the house I can hear music playing inside. I can’t tell what it is, but it sounds like it’s something for Brie. I ring the doorbell and step back to wait. This isn’t a day that I’ve been dreaming about, but I’ll admit I’m happy I’m here now. Since running into Sookie she’s pretty much been all I’ve thought about.
The doorbell rings and I groan at his quickness. My hair is still wet from my shower and I can hear Brie crying in her swing. I comb through my hair quickly and then haul ass to get my wailing offspring. Her little face is bright red and her arms and legs are flailing.
“I’m here,” I coo at her and stop the swing to pick her up.
It’s so easy to see her father with her mocha skin and curly dark hair. She’s got my eyes, nose and mouth but her father’s dimples. My baby girl is going to be very exotic looking when she gets older. Brie settles on my chest as I walk to the front door.
“Hi,” I say when I open the door.
“Hi,” Eric smile and holds up bags of food. “I don’t know how hungry you are or what you wanted, so I got extra.” His eyes go to Brie and he smiles ever bigger at her. “She’s beautiful, Sookie.”
“Thank you,” I smile back. “Come in.”
I step back to let him in and excuse myself to get a blanket to cover up with while Brie eats. I know he’s seen it all before but still… I get Brie latched on and find Eric in the kitchen.
“Sorry, it’s feeding time. Just call me Bessie,” I joke.
“It’s alright, Bessie, kids gotta eat too. I have pancakes and omelet. I didn’t know what you were in the mood for.”
“Breakfast is always good,” I reply and get silverware from the drawer.
“Sit, I can get it,” he offers. “Just direct me to the plates.”
“Thanks. The plates are in the cupboard above the toaster oven,” I tell him as I sit down at the table.
He finds the plates and I watch as he moves the food from the Styrofoam containers to the plates.
“Just water still, or do you want something else to drink. I got orange juice just in case and some decaf. I don’t know if you’re allowed to have caffeine while you’re breast feeding.”
“Juice is good,” I reply. “I haven’t had coffee in over a year. The things I give up for you, Peanut,” I say to my dozing daughter. She slips into milk comas like there’s Valium in my milk or something.
“That’s… you’re a strong woman,” he tells me. He pours some juice and brings everything over to the table. He sits down across from me and stares at me.
“Thanks,” I smile and pick up my fork to cut into my eggs.
“You’re welcome. Motherhood looks really good on you, Sookie.”
“You keep saying that. I look like a tired, hot mess.” I take a bite. Mmm… hot food.
“Yeah, you look a little tired,” he tells me honestly. “But you look happy. You glow and it’s clear how in love with her you are. You look beautiful.”
“Thank you.” I take another bite. “So what about you?”
“After we split I met a girl,” he smiles. “She lasted about two years. It was a dead end relationship from the beginning. We didn’t want the same things, and I knew that. Calli was a very driven woman and she wasn’t willing to slow down. Priorities shifted and we split. Mom started setting me up on dates again no matter how many times I tell her to stop. That’s really about it. I got a promotion at work. Russell said he wanted to move to Costa Rica with Talbot so I applied for his position. I got it.”
“That’s great, Eric,” I smile. “And I know about Russell. I went down for his commitment ceremony.”
That’s how I got pregnant, in fact. I went on vacation, got a little too drunk and ended up pregnant. Damn busted condom.
“I was invited, but Mom was having surgery at the same time. I’m sad I missed it,” he tells me.
“Oh. I hope your mom is okay,” I say sincerely. I assume she is since she’s back to setting Eric up on dates.
“Yeah, she’s fine. We freaked out when she found a lump, but it was benign. She was having it removed,” he explains.
“I’m happy to hear she’s okay,” I tell him and dig into my potatoes.
“Me too. Who else would find me awkward dates,” he jokes. “You’ll be glad to know I’m not so shy.”
“Ah, so you can find your own awkward dates now,” I laugh.
“I can, but I didn’t want awkward, so it’s a good thing I ran into you,” he flirts.
“I’m not much for dating these days. Peanut here calls all the shots,” I sigh and then wince when she bites me. I’m pulling the plug when she gets teeth.
Eric looks down at the blanket covering my daughter and asks, “So I have to get in good with her to get you to go out on a real date with me? I would be happy to take her along with us.”
“Oh I’m not taking her on a date with me. That’s Mommy time.”
“Do you think you’d be up for some Mommy time next Friday?”
“I might be. I’ll have to check with my parents to see if they can take Brie for me,” I tell him.
“Okay,” he smiles. “If Friday is bad we can try Saturday.”
“I’ll talk to my mom and see what she says.” I have to switch Brie to the other side and her flailing arms end up pulling the blanket down so I flash Eric my boob.
“I swear I didn’t look,” he chuckles and his head whips to the side so he’s looking away.
“Uh huh,” I snort and fix the blanket. My boobs were big before and now they’re ridiculous.
“Maybe I looked a little,” he winks when he looks back at me. “Still very nice.”
“Too bad I wasn’t a passenger on the Titanic. These things could have saved a dozen people,” I roll my eyes and take another bite of my eggs. Why is ham and cheese so goddamn delicious?
“If you feel as though you need to keep somebody afloat we can head to the pool,” he suggests.
“You just can’t help yourself, can you?” I smile and shake my head.
“Apparently not. You bring it out of me,” he smiles back.
“Hmmm…” I hum and concentrate on eating before Brie decides she’s done. If she’s done it means meal time is over for me too.
After we finish eating I excuse myself to take Brie upstairs to change her diaper. She looks up at me with those big blue eyes and smiles.
“What do you think, Peanut?” I ask her. “Should I give him another chance?”
She grunts and kicks her feet.
“Right, gotcha,” I nod.
I get her changed and then go back downstairs. Eric’s in the living room, which is full of baby stuff. I kneel down on the floor and put Brie down on her tummy. Almost immediately she rolls onto her back and reaches for the toys hanging from the mobile.
“Is she crawling yet?” Eric asks as he watches my daughter.
“God no. She’ll get there soon enough.” Brie looks for where Eric’s voice is coming from and grunts again when she finds him.
“Hi, pretty girl,” Eric coos at her and waves his bear paw at her.
She just stares at him in response.
“I scare babies the first few times I meet them. I think my size freaks them out,” he smiles, still in a stare off with Brie.
“Could be.” I reach out and tickle one of her chubby thighs, making her squeal and wiggle.
“Her squeal sounds like yours,” he points out.
“I never paid attention to that,” I say with a smile.
Brie turns back onto her tummy and reaches for one of her teething rings so she can stuff it in her mouth.
“What are you doing for the rest of the day?”
“Pretty much what I’m doing right now,” I admit. “Brie will probably take another nap in an hour or so and I’ll probably do the same. Maybe I’ll throw in a load of laundry.”
“I haven’t taken a nap in years,” he chuckles.
“I require them. I usually sleep with Brie in the afternoon. She’s sleeping longer at night but she still seems to wake up around three for a feeding,” I tell him.
“I’m sorry. It’ll pass soon enough though.”
“It will. It’s getting better.” I stretch out and nibble on Brie’s arm, making her gurgle since she hasn’t quite mastered laughing yet.
Eric scoots down to the floor and sits a foot or so away from us. “Sorry, felt weird sitting up there and looking down at you guys.”
“It’s fine,” I smile at him.
Brie rolls over again so she can scrutinize Eric. Her eyes get intense when she focuses on something.
“Do you think it would scare her if I tried to pick her up?” he asks.
“There’s only one way to find out,” I shrug and tickle her tummy.
Eric reaches over me to tickle her side a little. “This way I can ease her into it,” he grins and moves to her other side.
“She’s a pretty big flirt,” I warn. “I have no idea where she gets it from.”
He looks over at me like I’m insane. He scoots over so he’s sitting at her feet and he takes her hands so he can stand her.
“Sook, you’re a huge flirt. At least you were,” he coos the last part. Brie still doesn’t know what to make of him.
“And now I’m a dairy truck,” I laugh.
He looks away from my daughter and tells me seriously, “You’re a beautiful dairy truck.”
“Those Nina Specials are screwing with your vision, but thank you.”
“No, you’re beautiful, Sookie. I’ve always thought so. Nina can keep her specials. I would rather look at you fresh out of the shower, no makeup, and a baby on your tit over looking at any one of those girls.”
My smile spreads slowly.
“Thank you,” I whisper.
Brie squeals for no apparent reason, other than Eric has turned his attention to me.
Eric looks back at Brie and says, “See, someone is on Team Eric.” He takes the opportunity to move her so he’s holding her up on his knee. “Baby steps.”
“Literally,” I snicker. “Did you find a new friend, Peanut?”
“Drew’s going to lose it when he smells another baby on me,” Eric laughs. “Nora’s kid is worse than a dog sometimes. It’s like he knows I cheated with another baby.”
“How old is he?”
“Just turned one.” He looks over at me and says, “Nora is doing the single mom thing too. She’s actually taken to motherhood quite well. If you need someone to vent to you’re always welcome to give her a call. She blamed me for our breakup. I don’t think she’s gotten over it, especially when she sees the Nina Specials.”
“That’s sweet but we were only a couple for two weeks. It’s not like we were together for years.” I guess it’s a Northman trait to latch on quickly.
“Oh, I know. I met Callisto about three weeks after we split and Nora hated her. He spent the better part of that relationship comparing her to you any time they were around each other. She liked that you didn’t jump ship when you met her. You were the first one to put up with her interrogations. I haven’t told her I ran into you.”
“That’s probably a good idea. Does she know why we broke up?” I ask only so I don’t say the wrong thing if I do see her again.
“No, I just told her there are things we both wouldn’t budge on.”
I nod and sit up again. Brie is chewing on her hand and still staring at Eric. He looks down at her and gently pulls her hand out of her mouth. She looks at him like he’s insane until he starts playing her and chewing on her hand. He’s seized her hand and she squealing, flashing those dimples and batting his face with her free hand.
“You little flirt,” I laugh.
“Fine, you can have your hand back,” he tells her sticks his bottom lip way out. Of course she reaches out and grabs it. “Noooo,” he chuckles, but allows her to have his lip for a moment. When he pulls back he looks over at me. “She’s got me, Sook. I’m smitten with this girl.”
“Another one bites the dust,” I sigh.
“Must be rough being so dang adorable.”
“She does have quite the fan club,” I agree.
He cocks an eyebrow at me and asks, “How many boyfriends do you have?”
“It’s not me, it’s her,” I laugh. “I don’t have any boyfriends. As a matter of fact, you are my last boyfriend.”
He looks momentarily shocked, but quickly schools his features. “That’s really hard to believe.”
“Oh yeah?” I lift an eyebrow. “My priorities shifted. I went on dates but I didn’t get serious with anyone. I don’t even know her father’s last name, shamefully enough.”
He looks at Brie again and says, “I don’t think that even matters. You have this adorable girl and if you were worried about a father I’m sure you have plenty of choices. I think you two would be just fine, though.”
“Yeah but she’s going to ask someday. Obviously she has different hair and skin, and no one in my family has those things so she can figure out where it comes from. I can’t even tell her what her dad’s last name is. That’s messed up.”
“Yeah…” he sighs. “People mess up all the time, Sookie. We don’t always get the answers we want so we make due with the answers we have. I have no doubt that when that day comes she’s going to be sad, but I don’t think she’ll be missing anything.”
“I hope not.” I reach out and Brie leans my way so I can take her. I lift her off Eric’s lap and kiss her little neck until she gurgles. I can’t wait until she’s really laughing.
“You’re taking my warmth,” he winks. He reaches out and rests his hand on me knee and says, “It’s going to work out no matter what answers you have.”
“I guess I’ll see.” I kiss Brie’s cheek and turn her around to face Eric.
The two of them flirt with each other until Brie starts crabbing, making it obvious it’s nap time. I take her up to her bedroom and then walk Eric to the door.
“Thanks for lunch,” I say as I open the door.
“You’re welcome. Thank you for having me over,” he says. He leans in to kiss my cheek. “I hope to see you Friday.”
“I’ll talk to my mom and let you know,” I promise. One date can’t hurt, right?
“See you later.” Eric walks back to his car and waves at me once he’s in the car.
I wave back and go inside to take my nap.