Corbett is damn near beside himself when Sookie and I trade in her Honda for the Ford Flex. I know she thinks that refrigerator thing is ridiculous, but not when we’re traveling with four small children, three of them being boys. I swear, every time I turn around Jake is asking for a snack. Growing like a weed doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s not even March and he’s already gone up two sizes in clothing and up in a shoe size.
Sookie’s gone up a few sizes as well, but we don’t speak of it. Well, I don’t, but Jo told Sookie this morning that her tummy looks like a hot air balloon. It didn’t go over very well, so now I’m trying to coax my wife out of the bathroom.
“Toots, come on… You’re beautiful,” I tell her.
“I look like a moose,” she whines.
“You do not look like a moose,” I insist. “You look like a good mom, growing two strong, healthy babies.”
“Or maybe I’ve just upsized to whale,” she grumbles. “I don’t care what you think I look like I know how I feel, and that’s like the Goodyear blimp.”
“Baby, open the door,” I plead.
She doesn’t open it, but I hear the lock click. I open the door and step inside. I know deep down that nothing I say is truly going to erase the negativity in her mind, but I can try.
“She’s just a kid, Toots. You don’t look like a hot air balloon or a blimp. I think you’re the most beautiful girl in the world,” I tell her and I mean that.
Her eyes meet mine in the mirror and I can see she’s fighting tears. Her bottom lip is wibbly and she says, “Kids tell the truth, Eric. You’re just biased.”
“You’re right, I am,” I admit. “But when I look at you I see these amazing eyes that light up every time our babies move. I see a smile that makes my heart race. I see arms that give the best hugs. I see hands that fit perfectly in mine. I see this magical bump,” I put my hands on her middle, “That gets bigger each day because you are performing a miracle right this second. And it may not be as sleek or aerodynamic as you’re used to, but that’s a good thing because our boys need room to grow. They need you, Toots. They need every part of you and I do too, no matter what size it is.”
“Why did I have to marry such a smooth talker? I just want to be pouty, but then you say all this sweet stuff…” She wipes her eyes and then rests her hands on mine. “I just wish I didn’t get this big, and I’m still growing.”
“And when those boys come out it will all be worth it.” I kiss her shoulder.
“They better appreciate this.” She leans back against my chest and asks, “Where is Jo now?”
“Playing in her cubby.”
“How long has she been in there?”
“Since I came in here to talk you down,” I smile at her reflection.
“Did she look content when you left her?”
“She was happily playing treasure hunt with her dolls.”
“Hmm…” Her eyes flick between mine and the bathroom door, silently asking if we have time.
“Feeling frisky, Mrs. Northman?” I nibble on her neck.
“I just want to feel desired,” she softly moans as she rolls her head to the side to give me better access.
“You are.” I whisper and kiss her neck. “All the time.”
“Lock the door,” she whispers back.
I pull away from her to close and lock the bathroom door. We really don’t have much time before Jo comes looking for us, but we’re good at quickies. Maybe too good. There is something to be said for them, though. They relieve the itch and definitely mellow us both out. If this will put a smile back on my wife’s face, I’m all for it.
By the time I’m back to her she’s pulling the skirt of her dress up and pushing her panties down.
“Get your pants down now, Northman,” she commands.
“Yes, ma’am.” I unzip and unbutton my jeans and push them down just enough. Taking our clothes off isn’t part of the quickie plan. When I get close enough Sookie reaches into my boxer briefs and begins to stroke my cock.
“Babe, I need you to get hard quickly,” she says as she pulls my head down to kiss me as she strokes.
I kiss her back but I can’t exactly control it. I can tell she’s frustrated when it doesn’t happen as fast as she wants it to. She pulls away from the kiss and holds onto the counter so she can bend over. Her lips wrap around my head and she immediately moans when she has me in her mouth. Her eyes close and she takes my entire cock into her mouth while I’m still soft enough to do it.
She pulls back long enough to say, “I think I need to do this more often,” and then takes me right back into her mouth.
I groan and it feels fucking good. It’s been a while since she gave me head, but with everything she’s been dealing with I’m not complaining. Her head keeps bobbing and her soft moans feel amazing, but it’s like nothing is happening.
“Moooooooom!” Jo yells from the bedroom.
She groans as her lips slide off of my cock. “I really wish she could be more independent sometimes,” she sighs and I help her straighten up.
“We’ll finish this later,” I promise her. It’ll have to wait until after bedtime since Jo almost never naps anymore.
Sookie fixes her panties and skirt. “Be right there!” she calls back and grabs the mouthwash to rinse her mouth.
At least she’s not crying anymore. Mission accomplished.
The next morning the house is crazy like it usually is during the week. Jo is stalling on getting ready for school, Sookie’s doing her countdown thing before she threatens to kick Joey’s little butt and I’m shaving in the bathroom when my cell rings in the bedroom.
“Sook, will you get that?” I call out.
“Got it!” she calls back as I hear her walk into the room from the hallway.
I rinse my razor as she picks up the call. It’s Mom, but that’s not unusual.
“Tell her I’ll call her back!” I holler. I know Sookie needs to get dressed.
She walks into the bathroom a few seconds later with her hand over her mouth and the phone to her ear still. She has tears beginning to form and I drop my razor.
“What happened?” I ask.
“We need to go,” she tells me as she drops her hand from her mouth. She thrusts the phone at me and as soon as I take it she goes to the closest and starts ripping down clothes for both of us.
“Mom, why is my wife fre–”
“Dad’s gone, honey,” my mom says softly.
“He probably just went for coffee or something,” I say casually. I’m not getting the big deal.
“Eric, your father passed away in his sleep,” she clarifies.
“What?” No way. He’s only fifty-four.
“Please don’t make me say it again.” She’s eerily calm.
“What the hell happened?”
“I’m not a doctor, Eric. I woke up and my husband wasn’t breathing. That’s all I know right now.”
“Where are you?” I don’t know what the hell to think.
“At home. The coroner just took him away.”
“Did you call Pam?” I should be getting dressed but I can’t move.
“I’m calling her next. Can you… can you just get over here,” she pleads. She’s getting ready to break down. Sookie walks into the room and lays some clothes for me on the counter and then disappears again.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be there as soon as I can,” I tell her and we hang up.
I stare at my phone. I want this to be a dream. My Dad is a mostly healthy guy for someone his age. He eats well and he works out. I just stand there trying to figure out what could have happened until Sookie calls my name.
“Baby, get dressed. I already called your job,” she tells me. Any tears she had are gone and she’s in business mode.
“What about Jo?” I grab the jeans she pulled for me and start putting them on. Joey has school today.
“My mom is on her way to get Jo ready. She’ll take her to school. She should be here any minute.”
“I have to tell Jake,” I say aloud when I realize it. How do I explain death to a four-year-old?
“I know. We’ll figure out how to tell the kids later. Right now we need to get to Karin.”
I nod and get my shirt on. My body is going through the motions and I have a million thoughts running through my head but I can’t process any of them. Once I’m dressed I go downstairs to get my keys, but Sookie takes them from me.
“I need those.” I hold out my hand.
“No, I’ll drive,” she tells me, leaving no room for argument. “My mom just pulled up.”
She goes to open the door and I hear her say, “Jo is fighting getting out of bed. She has an hour to get to school. Her clothes are on her dresser and cereal is there.” I feel Sookie’s warm hand on my arm. “Come on, Eric.”
“Hi, Michelle,” I say numbly as Sookie pulls me toward the door.
“Hello, Eric,” she replies, Sookie is pulling me too hard for Michelle to say much more.
When we get into the garage Sookie pauses to turn and hug me. “I love you, Eric,” she reminds me.
“I know. I love you too. Are you sure you can drive? I’ll be fine,” I tell her.
“Just get in the passenger seat,” she says and pulls away so we can get into the car.
I get in the car like she says and within seconds she pulling out of the garage. It’s a cloudy day, which I’ve always thought was more appropriate for the day someone dies or when I have to go to a funeral. Sunny days bother me when I have to go to a funeral.
“What do you think happened?” I ask as she drives.
“With no symptoms beforehand, I’d say a heart attack or stroke. Karin just said to bring her son to her, so that’s what I’m doing.”
“He was healthy… minus the stomach thing.”
“Do you know if he’s been getting headaches or chest pains?” she asks.
“I don’t think so. He would have said something about chest pains.”
“Then I don’t know, baby. We can ask your mom when we get there,” she says as she reaches to hold my hand.
“I tried to. It just pissed her off. She said she woke up and he was…” I can’t say the word yet.
“She just needs you there,” Sookie says softly. “She’s a lot more composed than I would be in her place.”
I don’t know what else to say. We’re quiet for the rest of the drive. The front door is open a little bit but my sister’s car isn’t in the driveway or in front of the house. I get out of the car and walk up the walkway with Sookie beside me.
“Mom!” I call out when we get inside.
She doesn’t respond, so Sookie tugs my hand toward the kitchen so we can look for her. My parents have been living in this house since before I was born. Not much has changed since I was a kid. I remember Mom redecorating when I was like eight-years-old to get rid of some awful wood paneling and wallpaper that was starting to come unglued in places. There are still marks on the pantry door in the kitchen that track how Pam and I grew. I bet there are toys hidden in the crawl space too. Maybe a pack of cigarettes from when Pam briefly took up smoking when she was thirteen.
“Mom?” She’s sitting at the kitchen table in her bathrobe. Her hair is still wild from sleep and her hands are shaking.
She looks up at me and tears start pouring down her face. I see Sookie begin to move around the kitchen through my peripheral vision.
“Eric,” Mom says in a creaky voice.
I don’t know what to say that isn’t going to piss her off. Mom gets up from the table and her arms fly around my body. I start rocking us from side to side as I hug her back. The last funeral I went to was for her dad when I was seventeen. We knew he was going to die. He was old. Dad… wasn’t old. He wasn’t sick. This doesn’t make any sense.
“Mom, what happened? Was he sick and didn’t want us to know?” I ask.
“No, just the stomach thing. He fell asleep on the couch last night and when I woke up I found him there.”
I look at Sookie and she’s crying again.
“What do you need me to do?” I ask. I need to do something.
“Your sister will be here soon,” Mom tells me instead of giving me something to do. She hasn’t let go of me.
“Do I need to call anyone? What about Molly and Dolly? Maybe Grandma Northman?”
“You can do that,” she agrees. I start to smell coffee, which will probably be much needed today.
“Is there anyone else you want me to call so Pam won’t offend them?” I love my sister but she’s not exactly on a first name basis with tact, and it’s not easy to call people and tell them a loved one is… no longer with us.
“I’ll think of them later. I’m sure there are plenty of people, I just don’t care at the moment.”
I want to take her to the couch to sit down, but I don’t know how she’ll feel about it if that’s where she found him.
“Do you want to go lie down?” I offer. “Sookie, Pam and I can start making the arrangements.”
“I… I don’t know… I don’t know what I want,” she tells me. I’ve never seen look her so… lost.
“Come on, Karin,” Sookie says softly and gently extracts her from my arms. “I made you some coffee. Take a seat; you look a little wobbly on your feet.”
Mom sits down and I grab the cordless phone to start making phone calls. I’m just getting off the phone with my grandma when Pam comes in with a bag of bagels and cream cheese. I’m not sure if anyone is hungry, but I should eat anyway.
“Where’s Mom?” Pam hugs me.
My sister isn’t much of a hugger, so it’s kind of weird. But if ever there was a time for a hug, today would be it.
“She’s in the kitchen with Sookie. I just got off the phone with Grandma. I’m calling the twins next. Try to get Mom to eat, okay?” I let Pam go.
“I will,” she nods and goes on to the kitchen.
Seconds later I hear my mom and sister sobbing. I take a deep breath and dial Aunt Molly’s number.
The medical examiner determines that Dad had a massive heart attack that killed him instantly. Dad always said he wanted to be buried by his own dad, so between Pam, Sookie and I, we make the funeral arrangements. Picking out the clothes that Dad is going to be buried in falls to me because Pam can’t, for the first time in her life, pick out clothes.
Mom and Pam are at the church going over the music and the readings for the service. Sookie’s here at my parents’ house with me. We told Jake and Jo last night. I don’t know if they really understood, but they both cried and Jake ended up sleeping with Sookie and me last night.
I pull one of Dad’s suits and a pair of shoes. I’m staring at his shirts when I hear Sookie behind me. I’ve mostly been a zombie since Mom called Monday morning. I know Dad is gone, but it hasn’t really hit me yet and it probably won’t until the wake.
“Can I get you anything?” she asks from behind me, resting her hand in the middle of my back.
“Time machine would be great.”
“You know I would get you one if I knew where to start looking,” she tells me and comes around to hug me.
“I just want this to be over,” I tell her. I’m tired of the phone calls and helping out of town relatives make hotel reservations or with booking flights. I just want life to get back to normal, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
“I know, baby,” she sighs as she holds me tighter.
“How are you? Everyone okay in there?”
“We’re fine. The babies have been more active than normal. I think they know something is wrong. I’m just worried about you though.”
“I’m okay,” I answer but we both know that’s bullshit.
She gives me a look that I can’t really figure out before she reaches up to stroke the side of my face. “You will be,” she whispers, “Just know I’m always here.”
“I know you are.” I turn my head to kiss her wrist. “Maybe you can tell me which shirt. I can’t decide. Mom likes blue but Dad was old school and thought white was the classic way to go. That’s why he has all the crazy ties he’s got.”
“Then he wears white. Karin would want white this time if that’s what he would be happy with.”
Sookie steps back so I can grab a shirt. There’s a whole dresser drawer full of rolled up neckties to choose from and I can tell a story about every single one of them. I grab the one he was wearing the first time he met Sookie. We met him for drinks one night shortly after Sookie started her new job.
“Remember this?” I hold up the tie.
“I do. He made me nervous so I kept my eyes on his tie instead of his face when I looked at him,” she smiles.
“Yeah, he noticed,” I chuckle. Dad kept ducking down to catch her eyes. “He loved you, though. He told me that you’re the best thing that ever could have happened to me.”
“I know. He told me the same thing,” she grins. “I love him too. He gave me you.”
I put the tie back in the drawer and grab one with golf tees on it.
“Pam gave him this for his fiftieth birthday because all old guys take up golf, according to her.”
“Clearly she was wrong since he never golfed.”
“Actually, he did, just not all the time.” I put the tie back and smile when I find his Lakers tie. It doesn’t have the logo, just the colors. “I think this is the one. What do you think?”
“Okay. Then I guess that’s settled. I have to get this over to the funeral home. Do you want me to pick up Jo while I’m out?” I offer.
“Yeah, I’m going to go home and nap while I can. These guys are keeping me up all night.” She takes my hands and rests them on her belly. The twins feel like they’re dancing in there.
“Dad would have started coaching them already,” I smile at her belly. I’m disappointed and angry he won’t get to meet them.
“He could’ve tried, but they’re mine for a couple more months.”
“Oh that wouldn’t stop him from yapping at your stomach every chance he got. He did it to Aude,” I recall.
“He’s probably still talking to them. I’m sure that’s why they’re so jumpy.”
“Then Dad needs to cut it out so you can get some sleep.” I kiss her head. “I’ll meet you at home.”
“Okay. I love you.” She stands on her toes to kiss my lips before turning to leave the room.
“I love you too.” I grab my dad’s clothes and head down to the Jeep.
Sookie backs out of the driveway first and heads for home. I need a nap too, but every time I try to sleep, someone calls or my body just won’t cooperate with me. After I drop off the clothes, I pick up Jo from school and bring her home.
“Mommy’s sleeping so we have to be quiet,” I tell Jo when we get home.
“Can I watch a movie?”
“Sure. Go pick one and I’ll set it up for you.” I kick off my shoes and go to the kitchen to get something to drink.
Jo brings me The Great Muppet Caper and I get it in the DVD player for her. I stretch out on the couch and Jo comes over to lie down with me. She grabs the blanket off the back of the couch and spreads it out over us. In less than ten minutes, I’m out cold.