I’ve been both nervous and excited about today. I get to see my mom, but I have to face the shitty childhood.
I’m pacing Quinn’s office alone, waiting for him to come back with them. This is going to be a really fucking bad day without Sookie.
When the door opens Mom gasps. I’m sure I look like a completely different person now.
“Mom,” I smile and push past Quinn to hug her. Fuck the no touching rule. They can search me when they go if needed.
“Eric… you look… ” she trails off as she hugs me back just as tight. I hear sniffles a moment later.
“Shhh,” I try to quiet her as I rub her back. Dad is standing quietly behind her.
“You look so good, sweetheart,” Mom says. She reluctantly let’s go of me to take a seat.
I nod at my dad and take a seat in the chair left of Mom. I have a feeling Dad isn’t going to offer much today. I’m pretty sure I know why Quinn wanted them here today but I take Mom’s hand and wait quietly for him.
Quinn takes his usual seat and Dad reluctantly sits next to Mom.
“The reason I had Eric ask you to come in is because he’s been doing good work here in therapy. Through the course of our conversations he’s uncovered a few things that need to be confronted. It’s important that everyone remember this is for the purposes of healing and not to place blame. The best way to help Eric is to be completely honest and upfront about your feelings, even if it might hurt him,” Quinn says.
I look over at my parents. Mom seems anxious and dad just looks… I guess like he always does.
“Umm, should I start?” I ask Quinn. I don’t know how to tell my dad the time on the road fucked me up and that I feel like I was never a priority in their life. Up until recently Mom just shook her head the way Dad still does when I walked into a room.
When Quinn nods I take a deep breath and say, “This might sound selfish… I guess, I uh… I feel like I’m a burden to you guys. Even as a kid you two would fight over who had to take me. Neither of you ever asked to have me with them and I was passed back and forth so much I felt like I had whiplash sometimes.”
There, that’s a good place to start.
“Maybe it was the wrong choice, but we didn’t want you to be raised by nannies and strangers,” Mom says. “There were times when I knew my schedule would be too hectic to be able to spend time with you. I’m sure being on a bus for weeks at a time wasn’t the best solution either, but we liked the idea of you being able to experience different places and see the world outside of Los Angeles or Manhattan. The drinking and the drugs probably made us more… withdrawn than I should have been, but I have always loved you, Eric. I always wanted you.”
“Do you have any idea what goes on a tour bus?” I ask her. Fuck, I’m surprised they’re still together after the shit dad did in the 80’s and early 90’s. “Why didn’t you just leave me with Grandma and Grandpa since you two were so busy?”
“Because you were and are our responsibility, not theirs,” Mom answers. “And yes, I know what goes on. Your father was always honest with me.”
I look past Mom at Dad and say, “Did he tell you Uncle Pete made a groupie molest me? A few, actually, over the years. Looking back now, I might even call those last two rape.”
Mom goes completely white and a few seconds later her hand covers her mouth when she gags. Quinn quickly passes her a trashcan.
“I didn’t know about that,” Dad admits quietly as he rubs Mom’s back, trying to soothe her. “I had a drug problem, Eric, but if I knew that was going on you better believe I’d be in prison for murder right now. Why didn’t you tel–”
“Do you think you could’ve processed that kind of information when you had a needle sticking out of your arm?” I ask, cocking an eyebrow.
He doesn’t answer. Or apologize. Mom lifts her head and immediately looks at me.
“I didn’t know, Eric,” she says. Her head turns toward Dad. “How could you let this happen, James? How?!”
I move quick to wrap my arms around her from behind just in case her hands want to start flying. It’s been known to happen.
“I didn’t know. If I knew, I would’ve stopped it,” Dad says. “Eric should’ve said som–”
“I was a kid!” I yell, finally getting angry. “I was just hitting fucking puberty. My dad was a fucking drug addict and I literally had no one in my life I could turn to! Fuck. I didn’t ask for this shit. I never wanted the fucking fame you two forced that shit on me because you didn’t have the fucking time to be parents. You let the fucking drugs and dirty fucking groupies raise me.” I let go of Mom and move away. “Sometimes I feel like I would’ve been better off with nannies.”
“If I had known, I would have gotten you out of there,” Mom says. She’s staring daggers at Dad but she turns to look at me and her expression softens. “I am so sorry that happened to you, Eric. I know that doesn’t make up for any of it, but I…” She trails off and covers her face as she cries.
Dad stays quiet, watching Mom cry as he rubs her back. I shake my head and get up to pace around the room. I want to go for a long run. Which is a whole lot fucking better than wanting to do a fucking line. More than anything, though, I want Sookie. I want her soft hands running through my hair and her sweet scent.
“I know you’re sorry, Mom,” I sigh. “I really wish you guys made better choices but you didn’t and now you have a fuckup for a son.”
“You’re not a fuckup,” Mom sniffles and jerks away from Dad to catch me. Her thin arms wrap around me tightly. “If I didn’t love you and believe you had better things waiting for you in life I wouldn’t have made you come here.”
I hug her back. I need it more than anything right now. I’m pissed off at her, but I know she didn’t mean for my childhood to go the way it did.
“Am I a bad son if I say I don’t want this new project to work out?” I ask quietly. I don’t want to leave her, but the more I think about it, the more I know Los Angeles is not where I want to be. Even if Sookie wasn’t in the picture I’d leave. I’m tired of plastic people.
“You’re not a bad son,” she assures me.
I nod and look over at Dad who is still silently stewing. I know we have a long way to go and deep down I know he wants to apologize, but he’s never been good with emotions.
“I think I’ve had enough for today,” I tell Quinn.
“Wait,” Mom says. She looks me in my eyes and adds, “I want you to know how proud of you I am. It takes a lot of strength to go through this process and stick to the program. I am so, so proud of you, honey.”
“Thanks,” I whisper as I hug her. “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, Eric. I’m so excited for you and the future ahead of you,” she whispers back.
I smile and brush her hair out of her eyes. “Who knows, I might even make you a grandmother one day,” I chuckle just to give her something to smile about.
More tears leak from her eyes and she says, “I’d like that very much.”
“I know,” I say. I look up at Dad and I’m not really able to read his expression but I can tell by how he’s standing that he’s pissed. Hopefully his anger is directed at the right person. “Can I walk them out?” I ask Quinn.
“Of course you can,” Quinn nods. “It was a pleasure to meet you folks.”
“Likewise. Thank you for helping my son,” Mom replies.
I follow my parents out to their can. I can feel Talbot watching me like a fucking hawk.
“I’ll see you in a few weeks,” I say as I hug Mom one more time.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she says. “I’ll be here to pick you up. Just let me know what time.”
“Alright.” I move over to my dad and reluctantly hug him. I’m still pretty pissed off at his nonchalance, but whatever. We have plenty of time to deal with that.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, shocking the shit out of me.
“Thank you,” I reply.
He gives me one last squeeze and lets me go to get into the driver side. I watch as they drive away, Mom waving the whole time. Today has been one hell of a day.
“Hey, beautiful,” I smile when Sookie answers her phone.
“Hello, handsome,” she replies. “How was therapy with your parents?”
“A hot fucking mess,” I sigh. “They know what happened now. Mom threw up.”
“Oh boy,” she whispers. “I’m sorry, Eric. It’s good that you were able to tell them what happened but I’m sorry you had to, you know? What did your dad say?”
“Not a lot. He said he was unaware, and then tried to defend himself. I yelled and that pretty much shut him down the rest of the session. He did apologize when I walked them out.”
“That’s the least he should do,” Sookie says.
“Yeah, he’s pretty pissed. Something tells me if the band gets back together Uncle Pete won’t be included,” I tell her. “How are you?”
“I’m a little sore but my tattoo looks fabulous,” she says happily. “It’s on my left side. I didn’t get your name, though.”
“Damn,” I chuckle. “I can’t wait to see it anyway. I warned Mom that I might give her grandkids one day. I needed her to smile and I knew that would do it.”
“Did it work?”
“Yeah, she said she would like that.”
“Good, I’m happy to hear that,” she says. “I booked my flight to Georgia. I leave in two days. Then I’m flying up to Portland to meet with a realtor. I should be back in a week.”
“Do your parents know you’re coming?”
“No. I figured it was better to just show up,” Sookie answers. “This way if they slam the door in my face… I don’t want them to know I’m coming and then intentionally avoid me.”
“Smart girl,” I say. “I know you need to do this on your own but I really do wish I could be near you when whatever happens, happens.”
“I know. I appreciate that,” she says.
“Has Luke showed up?” I ask. She told me about the vandalism and it worries me that he’s going to pop in, catching her by surprise one day. I know she’s a big girl that can take care of herself, but the caveman in me wants to be there to protect her.
“No, he hasn’t. The conversation with his daddy when I called to tell them about the way he left me and my house was colorful, to say the least. His mom was on the extension and she said he’s mixed up with Sarah Newlin now,” Sookie tells me.
“Should I know who she is?” I ask.
“You’ve never heard of Reverend Steve Newlin of the Light of Day Ministries? He evangelizes every Sunday morning and probably makes more in a year than an entire school district’s worth of teachers,” Sookie explains. “He’s real popular with the blue hairs below the Mason-Dixon Line.”
“Huh, nope, but that shouldn’t come as a shocker since I usually spent Sunday mornings passed out. But let him live off of her shit. You’re too good for a piece of shit like him anyway. Plus, you have me now. I may have been a drug addict, but I’d never steal your shit, vandalize your shit, or fucking cheat,” I grumble. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy as fuck she’s mine now, but the heartache she went through wasn’t fair.
“Oh I’m not surprised you don’t know who she is. Her husband gives me the creeps and Steve Newlin’s father died mysteriously in a car bombing six years ago,” she says. “But anyway… I know you wouldn’t do the things Luke did.”
“Good, I’m glad you trust me. That’s a pretty big deal,” I say.
“It is a pretty big deal,” she agrees. “My neighbor is a nice guy so if I have any problems with Luke, I can always call him. He said he wants to ‘accidentally’ knock Luke’s teeth out next time he sees him. You’d like Alcide.”
“He sounds like my kinda guy,” I chuckle. “I’m glad you have someone close you can call.”
“Me too,” she says. “It sucks that I can’t send you a picture of my tattoo.”
“We can always try to sweet talk Talbot into letting you in before you go so I can kiss you,” I smile. “I’ll go out to ask him shirtless.”
She laughs and says, “Good luck with that. You might have to do it pantsless.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t be left alone if I did that,” I joke. “Maybe I can go out in my basketball shorts and accidentally drop something.”
“I think it’s sweet you’re plotting how to whore yourself out just to get a little sugar from me,” she says.
“It’s worth it,” I tell her quietly. “I miss you like crazy.”
“I miss you too.”
“You wanna know something?”
“After therapy I didn’t want to get high. I just wanted to run and talk to you.”
“That’s a big step.” I can hear the smile in her voice. “You know I would have been there if I could.”
“I know, baby, but just like you, I have to deal with my parents on my own.”
“We’re quite the pair, huh?” she chuckles.
“It’ll make for good stories for our grandkids.”
“Oh we’re having grandkids, are we?”
“If we’re having kids, I’m sure we’re bound to have grandkids.” Duh.
“My babies are staying babies,” she informs me.
“Then when we get grandparent age we can adopt grandbabies to spoil.”
“That works,” Sookie laughs.
“Mmm, I fucking hate this,” I sigh. I want to be with her so fucking bad.
“Okay, they can be kids, but they’ll stop growing before their teen years.”
“That’s fine with me. Besides, if my kids get any bigger they’ll eat us out of house and home. Imagine my appetite times like three.”
“That’s why we’re having girls with stubble,” she reminds me.
“They’re still going to be beautiful to me.”
“Oh, I read The Notebook last night,” I tell her. “I plan on doing it again tonight.”
“Liked it, huh?”
“Yeah, and it makes me think of you.”
“So you get Noah then?”
“Yeah, I do,” I say. “I feel like you’re the Allie to my Noah.”
“Indeed,” she says. “I’m happy you like it.”
“As much as I don’t want to, I’m going to let you go,” I sigh. “I want to get my run in before dinner.”
“Okay. I’ll talk to you later. Enjoy your run,” Sookie says.
“Thanks, beautiful, I love you,” I say without thinking.
“You… you what?”
“I said I love you, Sookie.” I said it before she left but I haven’t said it since and I don’t really want to so I don’t make her feel awkward.
“Oh,” she breathes. “You better flirt your ass off so you can get that kiss.”
“I will,” I promise. Talbot actually likes me, and Sookie, so I doubt it’ll be a problem. Plus I’m past my sixty days so they’re a little more lax. “Swing by before you leave town. He’ll let you see me in the lobby.”
“Okay. Go run. I’ll see you in a few days.”
“Alright. Stay safe,” I tell her before I hang up.
When I hang up I head back to my room to change. I go to the gym and hop on the treadmill. It’s been a stressful day, but I feel a fuckton better about things.
When I pull up outside of Eagle Creek on my way to LAX, Eric is waiting outside for me with a big smile on his face. He must have given Talbot a peek at the goodies. I put the car in park and before I have my seatbelt all the way off, Eric’s opening my door for me.
“I miss the fuck out of you,” he says as he bends to kiss my cheek.
“I miss you too and you can do better than that,” I smile and turn toward him.
Eric’s lips hit mine and before I know it his hand is holding the back of my head as his tongue slips into my mouth.
“Mmm,” he moans into the kiss as he pushes my head back slightly.
I pull him closer by his hips and then move my hands up his chest to his neck. The kiss goes on until we have to break for air.
“Much better,” I smile.
“Mmhmm,” he smiles back as he kisses the tip of my nose. “Let me see this tattoo.”
I push him back and get out of the car. I turn a little and lift the loose fitting plaid shirt I’m wearing to reveal a phoenix lifting off from red and purple blossoms. It hurt like a motherfucker when the guy got close to my ribs, but he did a beautiful job.
“What do you think?” I ask.
“It’s gorgeous,” he says as he examines it.
“I love it, so I’m glad you like it,” I smile. It would seriously suck if he hated it.
“I’m just glad you have good taste,” he chuckles.
“Thanks. You know, if I ever did decide to get your initial or something it would go here,” I tap a spot about three inches left of my right hip.
“That would be gorgeous too,” he smiles, rubbing his thumb over that spot.
“Maybe for our tenth wedding anniversary,” I wink.
“Aww, you’d marry me one day?” he grins, pulling me in close again.
“Unless you’d rather live in sin,” I smile back at him.
“Mmm, no, I’d have to make sure the world knows you’re legally my Ice Queen,” he says, kissing my temple.
“Well then we’ll need to tattoo my name on your neck,” I joke.
“I’d tattoo it on the back of my neck,” he chuckles.
“You’re crazy,” I laugh. My arms wrap around him in a tight hug. It feels good just to breathe him in.
“Mmm, maybe a little.”
I don’t want to let him go, but I have to.
“Okay, I have to get going,” I tell him.
“Alright,” Eric whispers and gives me another soft kiss. “Have a safe trip, okay?”
“I will. Call me later.”
“What time are you supposed to land?”
“I’ll be three hours ahead there, so just after six,” I answer. “I’ll turn my phone on as soon as I get off the plane.”
“Okay,” he nods, giving me another peck.
I return his kiss and linger for a moment before I pull back. “I’ll see you in a few weeks,” I smile.
“I can’t wait,” he smiles back.
I get back in the car and pull my seatbelt on. Eric closes the door for me and steps back. I give him a little wave as I drive away. Hopefully this trip to Georgia isn’t a waste.
Everything on the farm looks the same, right down to Dad’s truck parked around the side of the house. It’s almost dark by the time I arrive and the house is all lit up. Chickens are clucking in the distance and crickets are chirping as I walk to the kitchen door.
When I get there my parents are sitting at the table together with slices of homemade pie and cups of coffee. Mom spots me first and stops moving. She was angrier with me than Dad was last time I was here. I’ve always been a daddy’s girl.
“Hi, Mom,” I say quietly and Dad whips around.
“Sookie,” Mom replies just as quietly as Dad gets up from the table.
“Can I come in?” I’m prepared for them to turn me away.
Dad opens the screen door and as soon as I step inside, he hugs me tightly. I hug him back. I have a million things to say but I start with, “I’m so sorry, Daddy.”
“I know, baby,” he whispers.
“I went to rehab. I’ve been clean for sixty-six days,” I say.
“Good, good, come in,” he says as he let’s go. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I missed you too.”
“Where’s that no good boyfriend of yours?” Mom never liked Luke.
“We broke up. Rumor has it he’s moved on to Sarah Newlin,” I tell her.
“That whack job?” Dad asks, lifting his eyebrows.
“It’s what my neighbor told me,” I shrug. “He sent me a Dear John in rehab and it was postmarked from Texas. He was kind enough to trash my house before he left, though.”
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Dad says. “Have a seat.”
“Have you eaten?” Mom asks.
“I had a snack on the plane,” I reply. “I’ll only be in town until tomorrow afternoon and then I’m flying up to Portland, Maine to look at houses.”
“Oh, why Maine?” Dad questions.
“I’ve had enough of California and I wanted to come back east for a while. I’ll be closer to you and Mom without being in your backyard. Plus my new boyfriend has family in Vermont.”
“New boyfriend?” Dad’s eyebrows go up again.
“His name is Eric and yes, we met in rehab. His dad was the drummer in that metal band The Serpents and his mom is Kirsten Northman–”
“Kirsten Northman?” Mom and Dad cut me off at the same time.
“Uh huh.” I look back and forth between them. “Is that a problem?” I know his parents have battled their own additions, so maybe that’s what the looks on their faces are about.
“No, no, it’s just… He’s a celebrity,” Dad finishes in a whisper.
I chuckle and say, “I think he’s more notorious than anything else, but Eric wants to get away from all that too. Maine is quiet and we can settle down.”
“You know we want to meet this boy if you plan on settling down with him,” Mom says from the stove.
“Maybe he can introduce us to his parents,” Dad adds with a little smile.
“Got a little crush on Kirsten, do ya?” I tease.
Dad’s blush is epic.
“He made me go to the theater to see that last movie she was in. I can’t even remember the name of it,” Mom says, glancing back at me.
“I don’t know it either,” I shrug. “She’s going to be a guest star on some TNT crime show, though. I think she starts filming soon.”
“Oooh, Crime Files?” Dad asks with a little excitement in his voice. They’re acting like I never went away. It’s freaking me out a little.
“I think so. I’ll have to ask Eric to be sure. I haven’t met his parents yet.”
“Why didn’t you bring him home with you?” Mom asks.
“Because he’s still at rehab. He won’t be getting out for a few more weeks. We checked in on the same day,” I tell her.
“Was he also on prescription pills or illegal drugs?” Dad asks.
“Eric was on a variety of things. Cocaine was his drug of choice.” I’m pretty sure he did whatever was offered to him, though. He told me that most of the clubs and parties he went to had people snorting lines right out in the open like it was no big deal.
“Well, it’s gotta be hard growing up in the lime light like he did,” Dad comments. “I assume he’s a good kid, better than Luke,” Dad snarls his name.
“He’s a good guy.” I reach over and pat Dad’s hand. “He loves me, Dad.”
“That’s more than we can say for that other little snot you called a boyfriend.”
“I made a big mistake with him,” I acknowledge. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but rehab got me to address a lot of things. I’m taking better care of myself and I’m even going to try skating again.”
“Oh…” Mom says as she brings me a plate of pork chops and potatoes.
“Thanks. You don’t sound excited about the skating, Mom.”
“I have confidence you’ll do fine, I’m just nervous after your injury. Have you made an appointment to have your knee examined?”
“Not yet. I’m not going to try doing triple flips or anything, Mom. I know I’ll have to start slow. I’ve been working out and doing yoga every day. My knees don’t hurt anymore. I think the pain was psychosomatic. I wanted it to be there to justify taking the pills. I let Luke convince me my legs were swelling and my doctor was more than willing to refill my prescriptions, so…” I trail off.
“So, you ended up with a hack doctor and a man that was using you,” Mom finishes. “For my piece of mind I would at least like you to get it looked at again to make sure Dr. Madden didn’t screw anything up.”
“I will, Mom. I’m going to wait on that until I get settled in Maine, and then I’ll look for a new doctor,” I promise.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” Dad smiles. “We know you weren’t yourself when you were high, and it’s nice to have our little girl back.”
“I thought you were going to slam the door in my face,” I admit. “I didn’t think you’d want anything to do with me anymore.”
“Oh, baby, we’ve always been here. You weren’t ready,” Dad says as he reaches over to hold my hand.
“I wasn’t. I was convinced Dr. Madden had me on the pills for a reason. Ultimately it’s my own fault for blindly trusting him. I can’t blame anyone else but myself for the way I ended up.”
“The point is you’re back,” Mom smiles.
“I’m a work in progress. I found a church by my house has Narcotics Anonymous meetings, so I’ll start going when I get back. Once I find a meeting in Maine I’ll get a sponsor. Having Eric will be good because he understands what I’m going through and we’re good at talking each other down,” I tell them.
“That’s good to hear,” Mom smiles.
“My counselor wasn’t in favor of it, but I think we’ll be okay,” I say.
“Only you know what you think will work best for you and with a clear, sober head I trust your judgment,” Dad tells me.
“Thank you, Daddy,” I smile and get up to hug him again.
When I let him go I move over to Mom and hug her too. “I’m sorry, Mom,” I whisper.
“I know,” she whispers back. “I’m sorry I didn’t try harder.”
“It’s not your fault, Mom. I’m an adult. I’m the only one responsible for me,” I tell her.
“And I’ll always be your mother, so I’ll always want to do better for you.”
“Well I won’t tell you not to worry about me, because I know you will no matter what. I’m doing really well, Mom. I feel better than I have in years.” I pull back and lift my shirt to show her my tattoo. It actually needs some lotion. “It’s a phoenix. It seemed appropriate for me.”
“Sookie,” Dad grumbles, “Why did you mark up your body like that?”
“Dad, this is the least of the bad things I could do to myself,” I chuckle. Dad doesn’t like tattoos. “At least I didn’t get Eric’s name like he suggested.”
“Oh, Lord,” Dad sighs.
“You don’t even want to know where he wan–”
“Too much,” he says, putting a hand up to stop me.
I laugh loudly. It’s fun teasing Dad.
“Things are pretty serious with him. We’ve talked about marriage and kids. We’re not ready for those things yet, but it’s on the table,” I tell them.
“You know I’m going to have the talk with him,” he says, getting up to get another cup of coffee.
“Not if I distract you with his mom,” I snicker.
“True,” he chuckles. “You can marry him if she comes with the package.”
“Good to know, Dad,” I laugh.
“Are you sure you can’t stay longer?” Mom asks.
“I already have my flight booked and an appointment with a realtor in Maine, but I know Eric wants to meet you. I could bring him here. Or you could come for a visit once I’m settled in Maine,” I offer.
“I’m sure we can find the time for that,” Dad agrees. “We want to meet him too.”
“You’ll meet him,” I promise. “We’ll figure something out. If you can come to California you might even get to meet his parents.”
“I’m willing to help you move,” Dad offers quickly.
“Of course you are,” Mom rolls her eyes.
“I’m not going without you, Michelle. We need to meet the future in-laws.”
Who knew my dad had a big crush on Eric’s mom? It’s cute, though. And it’s cute to see my mom get a little jealous about it. They’ve been married twenty-nine years. I don’t think Dad is going anywhere.
“I’ll talk to Eric and see what he thinks,” I say.
“Good. Are you staying here, or do you have a hotel room?” Mom asks.
“I left that open. I can stay somewhere else if you want me to. I won’t be offended if you do.” I really didn’t expect them to talk to me at all.
“Nonsense, Sookie, you always have a room here,” she assures me.
“Okay. Then I’ll go get my bag,” I say and head out to the car.
I get my bag from the trunk of my rental and pause when I see my parents hugging each other in the kitchen. I’m certain Mom is crying. I feel terrible for everything I put them through, but I hope this is a new beginning for us all.