I walked into the stupid candle store knowing I’d have to forfeit my mancard if any of my buddies caught me in there but since Mother’s Day was rapidly approaching and I had two mothers in my life I needed to get gifts for, so I figured I’d go with this place. My own mother was a huge fan of the candles here. She was always burning one somewhere in the house and I figured if my mom liked candles, all moms probably did.
Besides, I remembered Aude liked to burn candles when she took baths. I doubted she got the chance to take very many baths these days since Jake seemed to especially need her attention when she was in the bathroom. My mom said I was the same way when I was his age and he just turned two in January. It’s a challenge being a father to a two-year-old, especially when his mother sometimes acts like they’re the same age.
At one time I’d thought I was in love with Aude. Now I know it was just the beer talking. We met when I was nineteen, on spring break our freshman year of college. What was supposed to be a carefree fling turned into something much more serious when she tracked me down two days before the semester was over to tell me that I was going to be a dad. At first I didn’t believe it. Okay, yeah, we’d had a lot of sex over the course of that week but really, what were the odds?
Then she showed me the pregnancy test she’d gotten back from her doctor with her projected due date on it and I knew she was telling the truth. The baby was mine and I was a fucking idiot for not being more careful. We both had our moments of panic about it since neither of us had planned on having a baby but we were both at fault for not taking better precautions than we had. I knew better than to go with the pull and pray method of birth control but in the moment all I could think about was getting laid. Aude hadn’t been able to think about much else either or I doubt she would have let me anywhere near her without a condom.
We tried to make it work for our son’s sake but we didn’t last more than four months after he was born. Aude and I are just two very different people who want different things and are going in different directions. We’ve managed to be pretty civil with each other since we split up. I love Jake and so does she, and we agree that he’s more important than whatever shit there is going on between the two of us. I think being new parents, going to college and all that was just too much stress to put on our relationship. Lately she’s been bitching that I’m not spending enough time with Jake.
I would agree with her but it’s not like I don’t want to. Between work, school and the internship I have there isn’t a whole lot of spare time. I see him when I can and I’m still taking him according to the custody agreement we had mediated when he was a year old. I pay my child support on time and I kick in for extra stuff when I can. I really don’t know what else she wants from me.
Then I found out from my buddy Trey that she’s seeing someone else and it all started to make sense. She wants more time with the new boyfriend.
So here I am, standing in the middle of the store with no idea what to get. The walls are lined with tons of options and I try looking at the labels to find something that looks familiar to me. I could just ask my mom what her favorite smells are but then she’d know what she’s getting for Mother’s Day. She’s been a saint about helping out with Jake since he was born and I owe her something better than candles, but I know these will make her happy.
I move further along the wall and I see one labeled ‘kitchen spice’ that looks a little familiar, so I reach out and grab one of the jars to smell the contents. Yep, Mom likes this one a lot.
“Can I help you find anything?” a sweet voice asks from behind me.
I turn my head and almost do a double take. The girl behind me is beautiful. Her blonde hair is pulled back into a knot and even though she looks a little tired, she’s still smiling. Her eyes are bright blue and sparkling and she’s not wearing a ton of makeup like most of the girls I know.
“Uh, yeah…” I stammer like a complete putz. Since I’ve never talked to a pretty girl before or anything. Jesus. I roll my eyes at myself. “Shopping for Mother’s Day. I think my mom likes something that smells like bananas. Do you have anything like that here?”
Her eyes light up along with a bright smile on her face. “I have just the thing, follow me,” she says and starts walking down the wall of candles. “Smell this,” she says when she pulls a light brown candle down to hand to me.
I inhale the smell of it and groan.
“Can I eat it?” I ask her. I’m only half kidding. It smells that good.
“I don’t think they’re toxic,” she winks. “But I doubt they taste as good as they smell.”
“Damn,” I mutter with a smile. I don’t want this girl to walk away just yet so I ask, “Are there any you recommend?”
“For you, or more for your mother?” she asks.
“My mother. I’m not really into candles,” I tell her, and then immediately kick myself for saying that.
“Oh… well are there any other scents you know she likes?”
“There’s one that smells like lemon and flowers and it’s purple, but I don’t know what it is, exactly,” I confess. “I know more about carburetors than I do candles.”
She smiles at me and cocks her head to the side to get me to follow her.
“I have a feeling you’re talking about the Lemon Lavender. What size?” she asks as we stop in front of a wall of purple.
“Large. It’ll be gone in a few days, I guarantee it,” I chuckle. “Does this place come with a twelve step program?”
“Pamphlets are at the register,” she winks. “Are you sure I can’t interest you in something for yourself? No offense, but if you’re around carburetors all day you can probably use something yummy to smell when you get home.”
“Are you available?” I blurt out.
She blinks once… twice… shit.
“I uh…” she closes her lips tight like she doesn’t know how to respond. “I’m not exactly for sale…” she ends up saying a few seconds later.
“Right. Yeah, forget I said that. I’ll uh… I’ll figure this out. Thanks for your help, though.”
Way to crash and burn, asshole.
“Sorry, it just took me by surprise,” she says softly, resting her hand on my arm. “I’m not used to being hit on… if you were hitting on me…”
“Oh I was,” I assure her and give her a smile. “Your radar is good.”
She blushes and says, “Good to know,” but a shy smile creeps it’s way onto her face.
“I don’t suppose you could point me in the direction of the most assertive smelling candle you have,” I say.
“For the carburetor smell?”
“For my son’s mother,” I admit without a hint of remorse.
I always put it out there right away that I have a son. There’s no point in hiding it and if a girl’s going to run because I have a kid, I would rather she do it before I go and get invested in her.
“Just his mother? Not your wife or girlfriend?” she flirts.
“Just his mother,” I say softly, looking into her eyes. Her blush deepens a little bit and if I was a blusher I’m sure I’d be in the same boat as her.
“How old is he, if you don’t mind me asking?” she questions a bit more confidently. Apparently she’s more comfortable talking about kids than me taking her home to make my house smell better.
“He’s two. He turned two back in January and his favorite word right now is dammit,” I tell her with a chuckle.
“Is that Daddy’s favorite curse word?” she smiles, knowingly.
I decide to get a little cheeky with her to see if I can get her to turn another shade of red.
“Unfortunately I only give that answer on dates, so you’d have to have dinner with me to find out,” I tell her.
“That’s awful forward of you, Mr…”
“Northman. Eric Northman.” I go to extend a hand to her, only to remember they’re full of candles.
Real smooth, slick.
She taps her nametag and says, “Sookie Stackhouse, I’ll shake your hand when you pick me up for dinner.”
I smile and say, “Deal, Miss Stackhouse.”
She points me to the patchouli candle and to me it smells like ass, which makes it perfect for Aude. She follows it up with what some crackhead determined to be a bacon scented candle, but Sookie hits it right on the head when she says it smells like dog treats. I add it to my haul and then go to the register.
At the last minute I ask, “So, Sookie, what’s your favorite candle?”
I might as well have one that she likes lying around on the chance that I get her back to my house. It’s a bold move on my part but since I’m not being shy today there isn’t much point in acting like it now.
I just hope it’s not lilacs because that’s really the one smell that makes me want to puke.
“Apple pumpkin. Those are my favorite pies too,” she throws in with a wink.
I smile at her for a second before I return to the display where I remember seeing the apple pumpkin candles and I grab one of those too. I’m spending a small fortune on candles, but oh well. I take the candle back to the register and Sookie’s eyes are sparkling.
“I’ll take one of these too. You know… to get rid of the carburetor smell.”
“Good call,” she grins with a small blush.
Sookie rings up the candles and I swipe my debit card. I swear I can hear my bank account weeping as I sign the receipt she gives me. Before I give it back, I turn it over and write my phone number on the back for her.
“I’ll be seeing you,” she says as she tucks my number into her bra.
“Do I get your number or am I trusting that you’ll actually call me?”
“Hmm…” she hums like she’s thinking and then grabs my hand and a pen. She writes her number on the palm of my hand with little swirls and a heart for the hyphen.
She’s cute, this girl.
“Then I’ll call you and we’ll set up a date,” I tell her before I grab the bag off the counter.
“Looking forward to it,” she says and I can feel her eyes on me as I walk out of the store.
Later that day I’m over at Trey’s house to help him with a ‘67 Mustang he’s restoring. Tomorrow I pick up Jake so I’m enjoying my night of freedom with steak, beer and fixing cars. I park my car in the driveway and grab a case of beer from the trunk. The garage door is open and I hear Black Sabbath playing inside. I go straight to the extra fridge he has in there and put the beer in it.
“What’s up?” I ask once I have the beer in the fridge. Trey’s got his head under the hood already. Impatient fucker.
“Nothing,” he grunts.
He’s a real conversationalist.
“No Amelia?” I smirk. I can tolerate his girlfriend at best. She talks too much and always about stupid shit that no one cares about.
“Nope,” he says and reaches back for a crescent wrench.
Not that I care, but I’m betting she’s out shopping. Probably with Trey’s credit cards.
“Want a beer?” I offer. Judging by his hands I’m guessing he’s been working for a while.
“Yeah,” he says and finally comes up for air. He grabs a red rag to wipe the excess grease off of his mitts and asks, “Why are you so smiley?”
I hold up my hand where Sookie wrote her number.
“Met a seriously hot chick today when I was buying Mother’s Day presents,” I tell him. “Blond hair that didn’t come from a bottle, blue eyes, nice rack, doesn’t look like she survives on celery stalks and Slim Fast…”
“And she wrote her number on your hand,” he says. He’s clearly not impressed. “I hope you’ve already put it in your phone. The grease will eat it off and then you’re fucked.”
“Yeah, I did.” I grab two bottles of beer from the fridge and hand him one. “But even if I lost it I know where she works so I could always go back.”
“Stalker much?” he mumbles under his breath.
“If you saw her, you’d understand.” I twist the cap off my bottle and toss it into the trashcan in the corner.
“I’ll take your word for it.” He takes a drink of his beer and then leans against the fender. “You told her about Jake, right? I don’t want another Amanda situation.”
“Yep, she knows about Jake and she didn’t seem to have a problem with it. She was more concerned about whether or not Aude was just his mom or if she was something more,” I explain.
I dated a girl named Amanda not too long after Aude and I split up. That was the one and only mistake I made with not being upfront about having a kid. At the time I was living back at my parents’ house so bringing her home with me wasn’t really an option. We’d been seeing each other for a couple of weeks before my mom insisted I bring Amanda by for dinner. It wasn’t like having a kid had slipped my mind or anything but I was looking for the right time to bring it up.
The ‘right time’ ended up being when she walked into my parents’ house to find it littered with pictures of a chubby cheeked baby boy with my bone structure, long limbs and eyes and a mop of dark hair like his mother’s. It didn’t go over well and Amanda hadn’t signed up to play step-mom, so she disappeared pretty quick after she found out about Jake.
“That’s a good sign,” he says.
“Yeah it is. Plus, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it wasn’t just Jake that ran Amanda off,” I tell him.
“She was a materialistic cunt,” he shrugs. “It’s a good thing she took off.”
“No shit.” I agree and clink my beer bottle to his.
My parents have money, that’s true. My dad is an architect and he’s been very successful at it. Mom has never had to work because of it and they were able to support two kids, put us both through college and they’ve helped out a lot with Jake. But their money isn’t my money, and they’ve raised me and my sister Pam to work hard for the things we want. They support us but they don’t hand us things.
Now Trey’s girlfriend is another story. She’s the perfect example of a daddy’s girl who’s been given everything she could ever possibly want and it pisses me off to think that it’s possible she’s just slumming to get back at her father for some reason. It’s really not fair to Trey but he’s in love with her.
“So do you know where you’re going to take this chick if she answers your call?” he asks.
“I don’t know yet. I was thinking maybe Lochlan’s.”
“That’s a good place. That’s where Amelia and I went on our first date.”
“Then maybe I should find someplace else,” I snicker.
“She’s good to me, fucker,” Trey chuckles.
“Uh huh.” I take a swig from my bottle. “So what are we working on here?”
“Replacing the head gaskets.”
I nod and set my beer aside. I’m just about to get to work when my phone buzzes in my pocket.
“One sec,” I say in case it’s Aude calling for some reason. I hate having to answer the phone pretty much any time I see her name on the screen but sometimes Jake likes to call me since he’s talking now. I smile when I see it’s definitely a girl, just not the one I’m dangerously close to punching in the face. My smile gives me away and Trey pounces all over it because he’s a fuckface.
“Is that your giiiirlfriend?” he teases.
“If I play my cards right,” I smirk and step out of the garage to answer the phone. Ozzy’s playing a little too loud in there for Sookie to be able to hear me. “Hello?”
“Hi… Eric?” she says nervously.
“This is. How are you?” I reply and move around toward the front porch to get a little further away from the music.
“Good,” she says and I can hear the smile in her voice. “I just got off work and wanted to call before I got home. It’s a madhouse there.”
“Oh yeah? Crazy roommates?” I’ve had a few of those. It’s part of the reason I was perfectly happy to move off campus after Aude got pregnant.
“Yeah, she’s three and I think she has electricity running through her veins,” she giggles.
“Niece?” I ask. “Or does your roommate have a kid? Or both?”
“No, she’s mine,” she admits.
“You have a kid?” I don’t know why I sound so surprised by it, but now that I think about it, it makes sense. I understand now why she looked tired. “You have my eternal sympathies,” I joke.
She giggles and says, “Thank you. She’s the light of my life, but I could use a night away from her. I long for the days when she was barely two like your little guy.”
“Oh you mean when she was repeating everything you say at the worst possible times, taking off her diaper in public and throwing fits in the toy section at WalMart?” Don’t even get me started on what a nightmare bedtime can be. I swear this kid thinks he’s part vampire.
“Yes, those days,” she says and lets out and angelic laugh. “Just yesterday she screamed at the top of her lungs ‘Mommy I have to take a poo’ in the middle of Target. She repeated it until I got her to the bathroom on the other side of the store.”
I laugh because it’s the kind of thing one can only truly appreciate if they’re a parent.
“I’m not looking forward to potty training but the ex hasn’t started him on it yet. He’s a little young, from what the pediatrician says. You’re lucky you’ve got a girl,” I tell her. I can’t wait for Jake to be out of diapers.
Then again, Aude didn’t give up breastfeeding him until last fall. That was fucking awkward.
“Sometimes I think a boy would be better, but I love the little dresses I get to put her in. The dresses don’t make her any less of a terror though.”
“I’ll try putting Jake in a dress and I’ll let you know,” I joke.
“Can you put a bow on his head too? Joey rips off anything I put on her head.”
“If I’m going to traumatize my kid, I’m going all the way,” I laugh. “I’ll even get him tights. And then I’ll take pictures I can put on Facebook to embarrass the shit out of him with when he’s thirteen because if he’s like me at that age, he’ll be a little shithead.”
“I’ll have to friend request you so I can see those,” she says between giggles. “I have a bunch of pictures of my girl with shampoo mohawks.”
“That’s because you’re clearly a good mother.”
“Because she gets a bath?” she laughs. “Or because I take naked pictures of her?”
“Thank you. I’m sure you’re pretty awesome too.”
“I try,” I say, and off to my right I see Trey making kissy faces at me. I give him the finger and continue, “So, Sookie, what night are you free this week?”
“Joey is going to her father’s on Thursday and he’ll have her until Sunday morning. I’m free any of those nights.”
Perfect. I have Jake tomorrow until Wednesday.
“I have to work Thursday night but how about Friday?” I ask.
“Friday works,” she says and I can almost see her blush.
“Great. Should I pick you up or do you want to meet somewhere? I was thinking Lochlan’s, if that’s okay with you.” The restaurant is pretty popular so I’m sure she knows where it is.
“Ummm, I can meet you there,” she says, “What time?”
“Seven works,” she agrees.
“Great. Then I will see your beautiful face on Friday. I’m glad you called,” I tell her.
“See you then, bye Eric.”
“Goodnight, Sookie,” I reply, and then we hang up.
“You guys in love and planning future babies yet?” Trey calls from across the garage.
“Not yet, dillhole,” I smirk and put my phone on top of the fridge in case it rings again. “Let’s get busy.”