I’m used to being up with the sun these days. Artis and I go for a run in the morning. Then I come home, make a smoothie, and take a shower. She retires to the balcony to bathe in the sun while I check my emails and make phone calls to clients. Work gets done over the next few hours. At lunch time I usually sit out on the balcony and meditate for a bit to help keep me centered and focused. It’s not unusual for Artis to end up with half of my sandwich. We go for a potty break walk that lasts about a half hour. Then we return to my condo to work for a few more hours. I don’t accept business calls or answer business emails after four o’clock, Hawaiian time. Very rarely am I willing to make exceptions.
Boundaries are important.
Working from home makes it very easy to say that I’m just going to take one more call or answer one more message. If I want to continue to work on whatever project I’m working on past that point, that’s on me. But I will not negotiate rates for new work or have any customer contact until the next business day. I get back to people in a timely manner during my business hours. I don’t believe in being accessible twenty-four hours a day. That’s not the way I operate. If that’s what a client needs, then they need to go to someone else.
Since I’m up with the sun, I get out of bed and quietly close the door behind me. Björn isn’t in the bedroom, so I’m not worried about trapping him inside. I find the dog I don’t know as well lying on Bear’s bed. I know it’s Bear’s bed because his name is embroidered on it. My heart hurts for that dog. I walk over to him and crouch down to give him some pets. One eye opens and he looks up at me all sad and confused.
“I know, Björn, I know. I’m not even going to tell you that it gets better. It sucks. Someday you’ll be together again. That I can promise you. All goodest boys go to heaven.” I lean down and kiss the top of his head. “You want to go outside?”
He closes his open eye. I take that as a no. After a few more pats, I get up and walk away from the dog. I wash my hands. I rinse Eric’s mug from last night’s tea and put it in the dishwasher. After inspecting the pantry, I locate a container of flour, some baking powder, and a healthy amount of butter is tucked into the freezer. I help myself to two sticks of it so I can make biscuits. Eric doesn’t have buttermilk, but I’m not surprised by that. I haven’t made biscuits in more than a decade, but I know the recipe as sure as I know my own birthday. Gran taught me how to make them a long, long time ago.
It doesn’t take long to get them rolled out. A drinking glass works just fine for cutting them since I’m not about to go rifling through drawers and cabinets in search of a cookie cutter. Anytime I ever made cookies for Eric in the past it was always Snickerdoodles or basic chocolate chip cookies. Sugar cookies were never his jam. The biscuits get laid out on a cookie sheet. The dough rests for just a while in the fridge while the oven heats. Coffee gets made. Not much has changed in regards to the kitchen layout. Eric hasn’t reorganized things or moved them around much.
He does have different dishes and silverware since the last time we shared a meal. I don’t know if he just got tired of looking at the old stuff or if he had one of his outbursts and broke all the plates in a fit of rage. Either one is possible. There’s no point in asking. I can tell that he’s different.
There used to be this energy rolling off him, like he was just looking for a reason to snap sometimes. That explosive chemistry we once had is gone, but I’m not upset about that. While there were certainly good times that stemmed from that chemistry, it also led both of us to self-destructive behavior. We hurt each other a lot. I made mistakes and so did he. We’ve grown, though, which is more than a lot of people can say. We’re trying to be better people. I can’t be mad about that.
Once the oven is ready, I slide the tray of biscuits in. Around that time, Björn lets me know he’s ready to go outside. I pour myself a cup of coffee and then go out with him. We never let Bear out there alone and I assume it’s the same with Björn. He likes the company and I like to make sure that he’s not getting into something he shouldn’t. Mostly, I don’t want him to run off. I don’t know if he’s capable of jumping the fence. If he is capable of it and he ends up getting hit by a car on my watch, I would never forgive myself. It would be bad enough on any given day for that to happen, but considering Bear’s only been gone about twelve hours…
When we come back in, I pick up the coffee mug I had made for Eric. That picture of Bear made me smile. That big boopable nose was always cold and wet, and bumping one of us first thing in the morning to let us know it was potty time. I cannot tell you how many times Eric got cockblocked in the morning because Bear had to piss.
While I’m rinsing the soapy water from the cup, Eric comes into the kitchen with a sleepy smile on his face. I’m sure he knows what’s baking without even looking in the oven.
“Morning, Sunshine.” I grab the dish towel to dry his mug so he can fill it with coffee.
“Mornin’,” he replies with a yawn. “I smell coffee and biscuits.”
“Yes you do.” I hand him the dried mug.
“Thanks, Honeybee,” he says as he takes the mug to fill it.
“There’s a blast from the past,” I say with a smile. He started calling me that shortly after we started dating because I was obsessed with the Blake Shelton song at the time. “I’m thinking of making eggs. Scrambled are still on the terrorist watch list?”
“Yes, ma’am. I can make them if you want,” he offers.
“I’ll tolerate a sad, flavorless fried egg.”
“It’s not flavorless with salt and pepper on it,” he says. “They’re delicious.”
“We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that.”
“I’m fine with that. I’ll scramble your eggs if you want me to. I’ll even shred a little cheese in them.”
I gasp and say, “I thought that was sacrilege?”
“It is, but if that’s how you want them, that’s how you’ll get them. No matter how disgusting they are,” he shrugs.
“Tell me how you really feel,” I laugh. I sit at the island with my own coffee. I’ll know by smell when the biscuits are done. He knows that. “I haven’t had biscuits in over a decade. I hope I’m not too rusty.”
“I have a feeling they’ll be amazing,” he says. He grabs a bowl down from the cabinet so he can crack a couple eggs in it.
“We’ll find out soon. I let Björn out too. I went out with him before you got up.”
“Thanks. He’s a little slower to get started than Bear was,” he chuckles.
“I noticed. He was sleeping on Bear’s bed when I got up. Poor guy.”
“I feel bad. He doesn’t know what happened. Suddenly his other half is gone.”
“I think he knows. I’m sure he smelled the cancer before you felt it.”
“You’re probably right. Sometimes I forget how sensitive he is to things.”
“Artis is going to be getting all sorts of extra treats when I get home, that’s for sure. I’ve been thinking about getting her a playmate, but I’m not sure if she would really want one. I think she’s content to be an only child sometimes.”
“You know she’s going to be pissed when you get home and you smell like me.”
“I’m choosing to believe that’s not true.”
“Face the facts, little lady,” he winks and gets to work whisking eggs for me.
“Nope. Not gonna do it.”
“I want a video of her reaction,” he laughs.
“Prepare to have your feelings crushed when she’s happy to see me.”
Eric laughs again. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
“I certainly hope so.”
“Things around here are going to be rough for a while. I think a cute video of Artis might cheer me up.”
“I’ll do what I can.” I don’t ask Eric about getting another dog to take Bear’s place. First of all, there isn’t a dog that could ever take Bear’s place for either of us. Bear is basically our first child. Losing him is heartbreaking. Maybe someday he’ll feel good about bringing another dog home, but for now I’m pretty sure it’ll just be Eric and Björn. “You want to see a picture of Artis with her snout stuck in a pineapple?”
“Yes,” he answers.
I get up from the island and go to the spare room to retrieve my phone. It takes a minute to find the photo in question, but when I do I turn my phone so Eric can see it.
“She helped herself to it from the trash and then got stuck. She walked out to the balcony like it was perfectly normal to have a pineapple hanging off her face.” I had used a corer to remove the good bits. As far as my dog is concerned, there aren’t any bad bits inside the spiney outside.
“Oh my God,” Eric laughs. “She’s a riot.”
“She’s a big goofball sometimes. I love her. She’s got a brown bear costume she loves wearing and it’s the cutest thing on her.” I swipe through my photos to find one. “Yep, here. See?”
“She’s a goddamn national treasure,” Eric laughs.
“You can’t have her. She’s mine.”
“I know, I know,” he says with a little pout. He puts a pan on the stove for my scrambled eggs.
“She goes surfing with me too.” I locate a video of that and trade places with Eric so he can watch the video while I make my eggs.
“You picked a good one,” he says as he watches the video. “Maybe if I ever get out to Hawaii I’ll try my hand at surfing.”
“I think you’d have fun surfing.” I can smell the biscuits so I go to the oven to check them. They’re a beautiful golden color on top. I smile and remove the tray from the oven. “Well, they look good.”
“They smell amazing.” He takes over the egg cooking.
I know he can actually make pretty good scrambled eggs, despite his immense hatred of them. I reclaim my seat at the island. Eric has a separate pan warming to fry his own eggs in. I grab a biscuit from the tray and pull a piece off. It’s buttery and delicious. Gran would be proud. I get up and offer Eric a piece of the biscuit to get his opinion. He opens his mouth and I pop the warm biscuit in.
“Perfect, like always,” he praises me.
“Not bad for not having buttermilk.” I go back to the island. “Do you want jam for your biscuits?”
“Yes, please.” He pulls a plate down to prepare for my eggs.
I get strawberry and blackberry jam from the fridge and bring them to the table. Björn has found his way into the kitchen since he smells food cooking. I give him a piece of biscuit that he swallows in short order. Too bad I didn’t get bacon cooking. He’ll be fine.
Eric brings my eggs to the table, along with a fork for me.
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome, m’lady.” He goes back to the stove to work on his own eggs. “Do you need anything else while I’m up?”
“No, I’m good here. Do you have plans for today?” I grab another biscuit to split it open so I can smear jam on it.
“No. I didn’t think I’d be any good today. I’ll probably take Björn for a hike in the woods. A little different from the beach. What about you?”
“I’m going to meet up with my old sponsor. She had a baby eight weeks ago.”
“Congratulations to her,” he smiles. “Well, when you’re done with that you’re welcome to come back. Björn and I are just gonna be a couple of sad sacks.”
“You’re allowed. I’m hoping baby cuddles will make me feel a little better.”
“Good luck. I hope they do too.”
At this point in my life I’m pretty sure the baby thing isn’t happening for me. When I was still thinking selfishly a few years ago I was thinking about getting knocked up on the sly and not telling the father. Back then I was sure that doing the co-parenting thing wouldn’t work for me, and it probably wouldn’t have. It’s amazing how horrific things can turn out when you never give them a chance to be great. Now it’s a matter of finding a good partner that I could see myself raising a child with, and that’s just laughable. Besides, I’m turning forty next year. I’m too old for a baby at this point. Artis and I are doing just fine. I’ll stick to spoiling my friends’ kids and my dog. That’s good enough for me.
Eric brings his eggs to the table a minute later and sits beside me. He grabs a biscuit of his own and I offer him the knife I used in the blackberry jam, knowing that’s where he’s heading. After all the time that’s passed, there are still some things about him that I’m certain of. Blackberry jam on biscuits is one of those things. It’s comforting to still know those little bits and pieces after all this time. There’s got to be something reassuring in that for him as well with the loss of his boy. His heart will heal in time. It’ll hurt like hell for a while but the grief will lessen, as it does for everyone. Or maybe we just learn how to live with it. I’m not sure which it is. Maybe it depends on the situation. I sure as shit don’t have the answers.
Knowing that one piece of important information has made my life so much better, I can’t even tell you. I don’t have the answers and I don’t have to. I just have to do the best I can with what I have. The world’s not such a scary place when you’re not constantly worried you’re going to be a massive disappointment to everyone else. My standards are the only ones that matter to me. I can look myself in the eye and like what I see. I’m happy, goddamnit. Who knew?
The second night Sookie is in town she ends up back at my place. After she visits with Kennedy she and I have a nice dinner together on the back patio before we clean up and go back into the house to watch a movie. The weekend has been so full of emotions I think we’re both just exhausted by the time I stretch out in front of the television.
“Are you still a horror movie fan?” I ask. A lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same as well.
“I still love the old slasher flicks but some of the so-called scary movies these days are either not scary, or they’re gory torture porn.”
“Mmhmm. I’ve been into thrillers lately. I have yet to find a really good one.” Because I can, I tug Sookie to lie down with me.
She comes willingly and makes herself into the perfect little spoon.
“Thrillers are more my speed as well. The last one I watched on Hulu didn’t completely suck.”
“I like that I can see actual movie trailers on Hulu.” I pull the blanket over us. I don’t usually get too cold, but I know she does. I have the remote in one hand and my other hand is slowly rubbing up and down Sookie’s side. She knows I’m a toucher.
“That’s only helpful to me when I can’t remember if I’ve heard anything about the movie in question. Sometimes the trailers are completely misleading.”
“That’s true too. Do we want to try Hulu or Netflix tonight?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll be fine with whatever you pick.”
I click on Hulu to see what’s happening there. Once my profile loads I arrow over to the movies.
“I like most of the Into the Dark movies,” I tell her.
“They’re not bad. Down was my favorite.”
“Mine too,” I say. “It’s the first one I watched.” As I arrow through the genres I notice my hand has not stopped moving. Sookie has always been incredibly soft. If she has a problem with it she has no issues letting me know.
“The Body is my second favorite.”
“I feel like you’re in my brain,” I chuckle. “That’s my second favorite too.”
“We always had similar taste in movies. Except for your secret obsession with Hallmark Christmas movies.”
“I have no such thing,” I laugh. My hand slips under her tank top and I tickle her side.
“You can save that for someone who hasn’t lived with you. No way does the TV ‘accidentally’ land on that channel as often as it seems to with you around.”
I chuckle at that. I don’t actually remember purposefully going to the channel, but if she says so.
“Yeah, yeah.” I bring my hand up to scratch my chin. In the process I accidentally brush over Sookie’s right breast, making her breath hitch. “Sorry…” I didn’t do it on purpose.
“You can’t say that,” I tell her. “It’s going to make me want to do it again.”
She sits up, making me think I’ve totally blown the good vibe we’ve had between us since she arrived yesterday morning. Sookie turns her body on the couch so she’s angled toward me. Is she fixing to slap me or…
“Do you really want to watch a movie, because I sure don’t,” she says. I slowly shake my head from side to side, unsure of what she’s got in mind for an alternative. Without a word, she takes her shirt off and stands up to leave the living room.
For a second, I’m flabbergasted. It’s a noise from Björn that snaps me out of it. He gives me a ‘go get her, idiot’ look.
I turn off the television and quickly get up to follow her. I haven’t seen the girls in over six years. I miss them. I find Sookie in my bedroom, on my bed. She’s completely naked and looks better than ever. I close the door behind me before dropping my shorts. I’m already shirtless so it’s one swift movement to match Sookie. I’m in shock so I’m still soft, but that’s going to change very quickly.
I climb onto the bed, hovering over this sweet, amazing woman. I dip down and kiss her. It’s different than the kiss after we let Bear go. This one is deep and passionate and definitely makes my dick hard in the process. Little Eric tapping Sookie’s stomach makes her giggle into the kiss. It’s a sound I seriously miss.
I pull back from the kiss to look down into her gorgeous blue eyes.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss kissing you,” I whisper. Even when Sookie isn’t around she’s always in the back of my mind.
“Then don’t stop,” she whispers back.
I kiss her again, this time settling my weight on her. Her strong legs wrap around my hips, holding me tightly. My hips rock so she can feel every hard inch she’s caused rubbing against her. My hands end up in her hair as the kiss gets deeper and more fevered.
Her hands end up between us to stroke me while we kiss all it takes is a subtle shift a few minutes later to slide right into her. Sookie moans and her legs tighten around me, pulling me in deeper.
It hasn’t been too long since I last had sex, it’s just been too long since I had sex with Sookie. I almost forgot how good she feels. Her walls are warm and silky, making me growl quietly with each deep stroke. My hips rock in time with hers, allowing me to get nice and deep. Normally I’m into a lot more foreplay but tonight is different. I need to be as close to Sookie as possible.
The little moans and sighs haven’t changed much. Her fingertips dig into my back as her orgasm builds. Sookie’s lips drift to the side of my neck, allowing her tongue to swirl over my skin. She whispers a few dirty things in my ear before nibbling there. All the while I feel the delicious pulsing of her walls around my dick with each thrust of my hips. She’s never been shy about sex and it’s a relief to see that hasn’t changed.
I know when she cums I’m not going to be far behind her. The chemistry we had in the bedroom has always been great. The chemistry with sober, clear headed Sookie is ever better. The sex isn’t wild and crazy like it was known to be in the past. It’s amazing, though. Amazing and perfect.
In what feels like record time Sookie’s velvety walls start to flutter and massage my shaft. The sounds she makes, the way her body is responding, and the way her nails dig into my back let me know she’s right on edge.
“Cum,” I say in a growly demand.
That’s all she needs. Sookie’s orgasm rips through her, taking mine right along with it.
“Fuck,” I breathe. My hips continue to gently rock against her.
She doesn’t speak, but she does kiss my neck some more. The aftershocks that pulse through her good enough to let me know she’s enjoying herself. Plus she’s not shoving me off her to get away from me.
She knows I’ll easily be able to go another few rounds. This is just the beginning. I don’t know if it’s going to be the beginning of a new us, or the final closure we need. I just know it’s what we both need at the moment. Not the sex. Each other.