“What if she hates me?” I asked Eric. We were at the cabin and his sister was driving up with his nephew. I was pacing the living room with Finn and Sawyer on their beds watching me. When I brought home my white Pit bull puppy we learned that she was a girl, and I decided Sparky was not a girl’s name.
“She won’t.” That didn’t help.
“You don’t know that,” I sighed. Eric and I went to the cabin the night before to air it out and put fresh bedding on all the beds. It was a nice place. Perfect for a small family vacation, or as Jake suggested, a mancave.
I heard tires on the driveway out front and froze.
“I do. You feed me and make me eat veggies,” he said. “She’s a mom so she appreciates that you take care of me.”
“Okay.” I did make him eat a chef salad for lunch the day before. He coupled it with a McGangbang, though.
I heard the car doors open and then slam shut. He told me a little bit about her, but not much. Eric stood up when it sounded like a herd of elephants powered up the steps right before there was a knock on the door. I assumed it was his nephew.
The door flew open before either one of us could answer it. A boy already taller than me with dark hair and Eric’s eyes strolled in like he owned the place. He stopped when he saw me and moments later he had Sawyer and Finn sniffing him out.
“Who’s the hot girl, Uncle Eric?”
“This, you little turd, is my girlfriend Sookie. Sookie, this is my nephew Alex,” Eric introduced us.
“Hello, Alex,” I smiled. For once I was wearing a long gray and white maxi skirt and white t-shirt with cap sleeves. I had on light makeup, and a pair of light colored gladiator sandals. I had to look presentable for Eric’s sister.
“Hi,” Alex waved. He knelt down to play with the dogs. “When did you get dogs, Uncle Eric?”
“Last week. The brown one’s name is Sawyer. The white one’s name is Finn,” Eric explained.
“Does the white one bite?” Alex asked nervously.
“No, she’s a sweetheart,” I told him. “She may lick you to death before she tries to bite you.” Finn was seriously the sweetest girl. She was truly a nanny dog. The guy at the rescue told me she came from a family that was moving to another country and couldn’t take her with them. They had two kids and they said she was very patient with them. She was a Pit bull, but she knew when to rough house and when to tone it down. It helped that she had Eric to wrestle with her when she got rambunctious.
Alex reached over to scrub Finn between her ears and she flopped over at his feet for a belly rub. Her body was moving back and forth from wagging her tail so hard. She was my happy girl. I adored her, and Eric even more for making it happen for me.
“How was the ride?” Eric asked.
“Good, except Mom made me listen to that stupid chick music she likes so much,” Alex answered.
“My sister is very into anyone who ever played Lilith Fair,” Eric supplied.
“I see.” Speaking of his sister. A statuesque blonde walked into the room a moment later. She looked like a feminine version of Eric. Her hair was long, but pulled back in a low ponytail. Her sunglasses were pushed up on her head and her eyes went straight to me. “Hello,” I smiled nervously.
“Sook, this is Pam. Pam, this is my girlfriend Sookie,” Eric said.
“Nice to meet you, Sookie. Eric tells me you got him to eat broccoli last week,” she said with a small smirk.
“I did,” I laughed. “It was slathered in cheese sauce, but he ate a ton of it.”
“Delicious is delicious,” Eric shrugged.
“Mom, we need a dog,” Alex said as he played tug of war with Finn.
“Are you going to pick up dog turds?” she asked.
“Fertilizer is good for lawns,” Alex replied, making Eric laugh.
“No,” she said firmly.
“You’re no fun.”
“I’ve been called worse,” she shrugged. “Eric, show me around.”
“You got it, Fuzz,” he smirked, earning him a middle finger from Pam. “Mom used to call her that because of her hair.”
“I see,” I chuckled. “Pam, would you like something to drink? Alex, you?”
“Oooh, Eric, she has manners,” Pam grinned.
“Got Mountain Dew?” Alex asked hopefully.
“Nope.” That had way too much sugar, and caffeine for my taste. “You’re stuck with apple juice, orange juice, water, milk, chocolate milk and Coke zero.”
Alex was definitely disappointed.
“Coke Zero,” he sighed.
“He doesn’t get Mountain Dew at home either,” Pam said. “I’ll take some water please.”
I nodded and went into the kitchen to get Pam some water and the Coke Zero for Alex. As soon as I left the room Finn jumped up to follow me, making Alex and Sawyer follow along too.
“Want it in a glass or is the can good enough?” I asked Alex. Eric and Pam were on the tour already.
“The can’s fine.”
I cracked it open and handed it to him. It was strange seeing such a giant child. I immediately started to wonder if Eric and I had kids if they would be bigger than me. Most likely.
“Do you want to see the house too?” I asked him.
“Sure,” he shrugged. “Do you live with Eric?”
“No, we haven’t gotten that far yet,” I answered. Although we might as well have been. Since we brought home the dogs we’ve spent every night together. He was going to have to give me a key when he went to Texas since my apartment really wasn’t big enough for two dogs. I motioned for Alex to follow me. The place wasn’t that big there was a small hallway. Eric and Pam were probably at the first bathroom.
“Are you going to marry him?”
“I don’t know. I like him a lot, but I’m not sure yet,” I said. I wasn’t put off by the idea. We already had dogs together, that was a big step.
“You know you’re the only girlfriend my mom met on purpose?”
I did not know that. It made feel pretty good, if I was being honest.
“Nope, Eric didn’t tell me that,” I replied. “All he’s told me is that she would like me.”
Alex didn’t reply, he just looked around. We caught up to Pam and Eric. I handed her her water right before Eric pulled me over into a small side hug.
“Thanks,” Pam said. “I’ll have to get your number so I can call you randomly with embarrassing Eric stories.”
“I would appreciate that,” I laughed.
“Uh oh. Mom wants to tell you stories,” Alex said with a roll of his eyes.
“Hush it, or I’ll be telling stories about you and the Victoria Secret catalog,” Pam replied, flicking his ear.
“Mom!” Alex glared at her. “Not cool!”
“Oh, it’s not?” she smirked. “What’s not cool is when I go to check out my catalog and the page I dog eared is stuck to the op–”
“Shut up!” Alex yelled at her.
“You tell me to shut up one more time, little boy, and those will be your last words,” Pam warned. She looked serious.
“Then cut it out,” he retorted. “I don’t tell embarrassing stories about you but maybe I should next time your ‘friend’ Miriam comes over.”
“I don’t think anyone needs to hear any stories about anyone,” I said, trying to defuse the situation. “Alex, how long are you going to be hanging out with Uncle Eric?”
“Just tomorrow,” he answered after an awkward minute of silence.
“Are you excited about the game?” I didn’t know the first thing about sports.
Alex shrugged. He was clearly still annoyed by the things Pam said.
“Hey, how about I show you the canal, Alex? Jake and I are thinking about getting a boat,” Eric said. His nephew was more than willing to follow him out of the house. The dogs went with them.
“That wasn’t awkward at all,” I chuckled as soon as they were gone.
“He’s getting to that age where everything is a damn argument,” she sighed. “Sorry about that.”
“No worries. Boys will be boys, right? I’m going to check on dinner,” I told her. “I have a pot roast in the crock pot. Your brother requested mashed potatoes and cauliflower.”
“He used to love vegetables. I’m not sure when that changed.” Pam followed me to the kitchen. “So… how did you end up at the shop?”
“My old car needed to be serviced and the shop owner thought I was there to interview for the dispatcher job. I needed a job, so I took it,” I explained. “I was a waitress before. The bar I worked at went under.”
Pam nodded and took a seat on one of the stools at the breakfast bar. She sipped her water and looked around for a minute.
“This place needs work,” she said. “It’ll be a good investment, though. There’s a great market for a place like this if Eric fixes it up right.”
“Apparently his friend Jake wants to make it a mancave. I think Eric’s going to hold onto it for a while before he sells it, though. My woman brain immediately went to family vacation home,” I told her.
Her eyebrow quirked. “Are you pregnant?”
“No. I’m thinking future,” I smiled. “I like Eric a lot, I’m not ready for kids yet, though and I know he isn’t either. The dogs are good enough for now.” The fact that we’d only been dating just over a month said a lot about how we were starting to feel about each other.
“Good. I love my brother and he was a great help with Alex, but he’s not ready for kids,” Pam agreed. “He’ll be a good dad someday, though. I don’t think there’s much that’s more important to him than family.”
“I’ve noticed. I think he’s going to make an amazing father. He’s already so good with the dogs. They’re both really well behaved, but they have their moments.” I lifted the lid off the crock pot to poke at the meat. It started to fall apart. Perfect. “And he treats me like a queen.”
“He better. I’d kick his balls in if he didn’t,” she told me.
“It wouldn’t have made it past the first date if he didn’t. I know what I’m worth and I won’t settle for being treated like less,” I said. “It helps that we became friends first.”
“That’s always a good place to start.”
“I think so. What was Eric like as a kid?” I asked. I wanted to hear the stories he wouldn’t tell me.
“Honestly? He was a lot like Alex. He was kind of dorky and there was a lot of residual anger because of the divorce. Then I got knocked up and it meant Eric got lost in the shuffle for a while. He had his rebellious phase and he dropped out of school–”
“He what?” I didn’t know that. He told me he graduated.
“He dropped out of high school. At the time he was just not coping very well with some things, but it only lasted a semester. Eric busted his ass his senior year to make up the second semester of his junior year so he could still graduate on time with his classmates,” Pam told me.
“I’m glad he figured it out,” I said. I looked out the window to see Eric, Alex, and the pups. They were playing fetch. “Whatever happened to him, it made him who he is today. I like that guy.”
“It did,” she agreed. “He got his shit together and I think losing one of his closest friends over in Afghanistan or wherever he was really forced Eric to put things in perspective. It made him think about his own mortality. He was already in college but it made Eric change majors. It was a smart move. He would have been miserable as a math teacher.”
“He would’ve been the math teacher that made all the girls and gay boys go to class,” I laughed.
“Yeah but he wouldn’t be happy. He loves what he does. You know he got a phone call from Tesla?” Pam took another drink of her water.
“Tesla?” The only Tesla I could think of was the rock band.
“Tesla Motors?” Pam looked at me like I should have known what she was talking about.
“Ooooh, yeah. No, he didn’t tell me that,” I replied. “What were they offering him?”
“Right.” I figured that much, I wasn’t sure what the job offer was. I would ask Eric about that later. Pam must’ve thought I was a moron.
“He’d be nuts not to take it, in all honesty.”
“How long ago did they offer it?”
“He told me about it two days ago,” she told me. “I’d miss him like crazy if he took it but it would be a good opportunity for him.”
“Where is it?” I didn’t like that Eric didn’t tell me.
Again she looked at me like I should have known.
I nodded and grabbed a pot to fill with water. I wasn’t sure if Pam should have been telling me about it. Eric should have. I was sure he would eventually. I was going to tell him she told me when I got the chance though. I wasn’t going to act like I didn’t know.
“I’m sure he’ll make the right choice for him,” I said quietly. I started chopping cauliflower to set to the side.
“He usually does. Need some help?”
“Sure, if you like you can peel and cut the potatoes.”
Pam got up and came around to get a paring knife to peel the potatoes with. I stayed quiet; my brain was still on Eric getting offered a job out of state. I didn’t want to be cocky, but I didn’t want him to stay because of me if he wanted the job.
I checked the water after a few minutes to see if it was boiling.
“You can toss the potatoes into the water when they’re cut,” I told her. I added some salt to the water. Seriously, I wanted to go to the bathroom and cry. I was being irrational, but the thought of someone so perfect for me leaving the state for any reason upset me.
Pam carefully added the potatoes to the water but she kept quiet. Eric and Alex came in with the dogs trailing behind them.
“Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes,” I told them. The look on Eric’s face told me he knew something was bothering me.
“Can I help?” Eric was offering to be nice. He probably figured he was in trouble.
“We have it,” I replied without looking up.
“Somebody’s in trouble,” Alex said. “Mom uses that tone when I’m in deep sh– trouble, too.”
“Nobody’s in trouble, Alex,” Pam said as she reached over to grab the cauliflower to add to the water. I turned to wash my hands and stood there looking out the window. I was trying not to pout.
Eric came over and kissed my cheek.
“You okay?” he asked quietly.
“Yeah,” I whispered, shaking my head no.
He sighed and turned off the water before pulling me away from the sink.
“We’ll be right back,” he said as he tugged me toward the bedroom.
I stood there with my face in my hands while he closed the door. I didn’t want to start anything, but I had trouble hiding things when I was upset for any reason.
“Pam told me you got a job offer in Chicago,” I said without looking up.
“Shit,” he sighed. I heard the bed creak. “Yeah, I got a call from someone at Tesla.”
“I wish you would’ve told me.”
“I was going to. I wanted to think about it some before we talked about it. I didn’t think my sister would say anything about it,” he replied.
“Yeah, and she probably thinks I’m dumb as a box of rocks because I didn’t know where Tesla Motors was,” I sighed. “Are you thinking about taking it?”
“You’re not dumb. Pam didn’t know where it was either,” he said. “You know, on some level I know I’d be an idiot for not taking it. The money is ridiculous, plus I’d get to drive a company car. There are spoiled teenagers with better cars than me. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to move to Chicago and I like my job here…”
I let out the breath I’d been holding. I finally looked at him and I could see the conflict in his eyes.
“Do you think you would be happy there? I mean, you could probably buy anything you wanted to make you happy if you weren’t. I’m sure Sawyer would like playing in the snow…” What was I doing? I should’ve been trying to get him to stay.
“You don’t really believe I could just buy my way to happy, do you?”
I shook my head no.
Eric reached out to pull me closer to him.
“I could go and I know it would be a good experience. And if Tesla had called three months ago I might have gone, but I have a good list of reasons to stay. You’re at the top of the list,” he told me.
“I’m just a girl, Eric,” I shrugged. “I want you to stay more than anything, but this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“So could you.”
“I could what?”
“Be my once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
“You think?” I pushed him up straight, and lifted my skirt so I could straddle his lap.
“It’s possible,” Eric said.
“I don’t want to be the reason you pass that up,” I told him.
“I said there’s a list, conceited,” he teased, poking my side.
“You’d be the number one thing on my list, forgive me for thinking you’re in the same boat,” I giggled softly.
“I told you that you are,” he said seriously.
“You know if you wanted to take it, I don’t have anything holding me here,” I reminded him just as seriously.
“Do you want me to take it?”
I shook my head and said, “It’s not my choice. I’m not going to weigh in.”
“Don’t do that passive-aggressive thing,” he sighed.
“Do you think you would be happy doing the job they’re asking you to do?” I asked. “Or do you want to spend your days with a bunch of assholes that walk around with no pants and stare at my tits all day? That’s what you have to ask yourself. This is my home, this is where I’m happiest, so no, I don’t want you to go, because I would pack up and follow you there.”
“So it’s okay for you to give up your life for me but it’s not okay if I stay for you?”
“I have less here,” I shrugged.
“I don’t know how you figure that.”
“You have your mom and Pam nearby. I guess I have Jason, but we don’t talk that often. I have my aunt and cousin, but… yeah… I guess we have the same amount to lose,” I sighed again.
“Just tell me what you want, Sookie. If I didn’t want to know I wouldn’t ask,” he requested.
“I want to stay here,” I said. “I want you to stay too. I know it’s selfish…”
“It’s honest.” He kissed my forehead. “I wouldn’t ask you to give up your life here. That would be selfish. But it doesn’t matter. Tesla could be a good thing and I could probably learn a lot but it wouldn’t put me where I see myself in ten years.”
“Where do you see yourself in ten years?” I asked quietly. I settled my hands on his shoulders.
“In ten years I’d like to be married with at least one kid,” Eric answered easily. “Maybe have my house all fixed up or sold so my family can live in something a little bigger. I don’t see myself leaving the south.”
“That sounds like a good place to be,” I replied. I leaned forward to give him a lingering peck. “We should get back out there.”
“Sorry I got pouty on you,” I apologized.
“It’s fine. I’d be worried if you didn’t care.”
I gave him a small smile before I climbed off of his lap. It was the first real emotional thing to hit me with Eric. If I reacted like that so soon in our relationship, it made me nervous for future arguments or life choices. I was falling hard for Eric. It was an absolutely terrifying thing, but I was ready to face it head on.