“Come to bed,” I murmured when I heard Sookie moving around the room. She had a lot going on in her pretty head, that much was obvious.
“I can’t sleep. I’m just going to go home,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
I opened my eyes, rolling onto my back. “Sookie, come lay down. You look like you can barely keep your eyes open. When you wake up I’ll take you home.”
“Eric, I can’t get my brain quiet enough to sleep, okay? Believe me; if I could I’d be passed out already.” She pulled off my shirt and dropped it on the floor before reaching for her dress.
“Give it five minutes,” I suggested. “If you can’t go to sleep I’ll get up and take you home so you don’t have to get a cab.”
Crazy girl put her dress on and then said, “Fine. Five minutes but it’s not going to work.”
“It would be a lot more comfortable with my shirt on,” I reminded her. I lifted the blanket and motioned for her to lie down next to me.
“This is fine.” Sookie sighed heavily and climbed up into the bed next to me.
“Stubborn,” I chuckled. I pulled her a little closer so I could snuggle into her like promised.
“I appreciate what you’re trying to do but I’m telling you this isn’t going to work,” she insisted because she was a stubborn ass.
“Shh,” I hushed her quietly. I shifted to roll Sookie into my arms and started to rub her back slowly. Within seconds I felt her body begin to relax.
“You’re stubborn too,” she whispered.
“I am,” I agreed. There was no point in denying it.
Sookie went silent after that. In under a minute her breathing had evened out. Something told me she needed the rest. If her brother took her daughter for the night, she needed a wakeup call. I had no clue what she had going on in her brain; I assumed it had to do with Alcide and what he did with Maria. There was probably a lot more to it, but I wasn’t going to try to guess.
Molly jumped up on the bed and for once I didn’t tell her to get down. She curled up on the other side of Sookie so we had her sandwiched in pretty well. I was still half asleep so my brain was stuck somewhere between the warm girl curled into my arms and passing the fuck out. I chose to pass the fuck out.
When I woke up Sookie was still firmly in my arms. I had epic morning wood, and it didn’t help that Sookie was gently rubbing against me in her sleep. A lesser man would take advantage of her, but that wasn’t like me and I had a feeling she wasn’t ready for sex again. Lord knows I wanted it, bad.
I gently extracted myself from Sookie. When I got up I went to take a piss, making sure to close the door so I didn’t bother her. It was weird respecting someone else’s need to sleep. In the short time that had passed since Maria died I’d already gotten used to being alone. Maybe that was a sign.
I left the bathroom, noting that Sookie was still fast asleep. My brain was still working on sleep mode so I didn’t think twice about the fact that she’d kicked some of the covers off and I had a perfect view of her ass. I shook my head and patted my leg for Molly to follow me downstairs. Once we got there I let Molly out back to potty and started to make coffee. I knew Sookie hadn’t been eating so I started breakfast as well. Who could go wrong with bacon omelettes?
I think the smell of the bacon, or coffee, got to her. I had my back to the kitchen entrance when I heard little feet padding on the floor.
“Coffee is ready if you want some,” I said without turning around. I was grating cheese.
“Thanks,” she whispered in a froggy voice.
“I’m making bacon and cheese omelettes if you’re hungry,” I added.
“I could eat,” she agreed rather than fighting with me over it. Good.
“How’d you sleep?” It was past noon.
“Okay.” She didn’t look so dead on her feet, so that was an improvement. “Can I ask you something?”
“Anything,” I answered.
“How do you make all this look so easy?” she asked.
Lots of kinky sex…
“I honestly take it one day at a time. It’s probably a little different for me since Maria and I didn’t have children,” I replied. That was really the only answer I had. I’d been working on letting the anger go. “I’m trying to forgive her a little each day. Or find something that makes me smile. Today it’s that you actually look somewhat rested compared to the last two times I saw you.”
“I feel like I’m not just angry for me; there’s Willa, too. She’s not old enough to understand what her dad was doing behind her back. I’m angry for her and I don’t know how to not be angry.”
I set down the cheese and turned to lean against the counter, crossing my arms over my chest as I thought. “I don’t know how to tell you to not be angry. Is there anything that makes you happy right now?” I asked.
“It used to be Willa,” she said and promptly burst into tears. Like shaking, sobbing tears.
I quickly closed the distance between us and wrapped her in my arms. I had no words to offer her, just a tight hug. I could listen and sometimes offer advice. I didn’t try to soothe her. She needed to cry. I knew I still had a lot of shit to work through, but I’d been slowly letting it go. Sookie seemed to be holding onto every ounce of hurt, anger, guilt… all of it. I wanted to tell her to let it go but I knew it wouldn’t be that easy for her. So I continued to hold her until her sobs started to slow down. Sookie’s arms wrapped around me, hugging me back just as tight. I was sure she didn’t want to admit it, but we pretty much only had each other in all of this. No one else we knew got it.
“It’s going to be okay one day,” I whispered.
“I just feel so stupid,” she sniffled. “I should have known. If he could do that… Was everything a lie? Did he really love Willa like I thought he did? I don’t even know if he loved me. I don’t know how to get okay with not knowing the answers to those questions and it’s a fucking catch-22. I feel guilty that Willa doesn’t have her dad but then I feel guilty because if she did he might have left her anyway. It sucks.”
“It sucks bad,” I sighed. “I think they loved us. I don’t think they would have stuck with us for so long if they didn’t. I’ve thought that maybe Maria was waiting for him to leave you, you know? We didn’t have anything holding us together, other than what I thought was love. Never getting to know what it was that drew them together is horrible, believe me, I’m well aware. I had no idea she was seeing him and I’m home all the time. I had nothing better to do than to watch her movements. I foolishly trusted her, though, just like I’m sure you trusted Alcide. They hid it from everyone. Maria’s best friend didn’t even know.”
“Every time I look at Willa I see him and I know it’s not fair to her but lately I just… I don’t even want to look at her. I keep telling myself it’s not right to take my feelings out on her and I try really hard not to but sometimes I just… I… never mind,” she shook her head.
“It’s okay, I don’t judge.” She needed to get it out or it was going to eat away at her like it was already doing.
She couldn’t look at me when she said, “I think about leaving and not coming back for her.”
That made my heart sink. I couldn’t imagine how that felt. I only met her for a few seconds and I couldn’t imagine Sookie would walk away from her.
I tilted her head up so she had to look at me. “You know that doesn’t make you a bad mother, right?” I knew she was thinking it.
“Good mothers don’t abandon their children because they’re being selfish,” she replied. A big tear rolled down her right cheek. “It would be selfish if I left her. I’m all she’s got now and I’m thinking of just disappearing because what? Because her dad was a dick? That’s… it’s not acceptable.”
I didn’t think she would go anywhere.
I reached up to wipe her tear with my thumb. “You can’t stop the hurt, Sookie. It’s not fair to you, or Willa what he did.” I had no idea what else to say. It may have been a good idea to let her mom take her for a while so she could get her head on straight. That would only be useful if Sookie really worked on it.
“I tell myself it’s just a phase and it’s going to pass but what if it’s not? What if I always feel that little spear of something nasty when I look at her because of her dad?” Sookie sniffled again and blinked her pretty eyes.
“Do you think you’d be okay if you didn’t see her sassy little butt every day?” I had my money on no. She needed that little girl just as much as Willa needed her.
“Probably not but I don’t think I’m very good for her like this either,” she answered.
“Have you thought about seeing a therapist?” I asked. I wasn’t qualified to do the job. I would talk to her as much as she needed, but she had a bad habit of pushing me away. “You know there’s something wrong, why not try to get the help?”
“Jason suggested that yesterday,” she admitted. Sookie gently removed my hands from her face and then went to get a paper towel from the roll. “I know I probably should and I probably will but I don’t know if I’m ready to deal with it yet. If I deal with it, it means I have to move on and I know I have to eventually; I just don’t know if I’m ready to do it yet.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re already a lot more aware than most people in your situation,” I said. “What about talking to your mom and Willa’s grandfather about it, so they might be able to help out a little more, like when you’re having a bad day?”
“I know they’d do it, I just feel terrible for asking. Willa’s my responsibility. I love that little booger more than anything on this earth. I would literally do anything for that baby. Anything.” I could see it in the way she teared up that she meant it. “I know she needs me. I know she misses her dad. She doesn’t understand why he went away and there’s no good way to explain it to her because she’s so little. You know she doesn’t ask when he’s coming back anymore. The part of me that still loves the man I thought he was… my heart breaks for him because I have to believe if nothing else, he really loved his daughter. I need to hold onto that one thing and it kills me that she seems to forget him a little more each day.”
“I’ve seen her for less than ten minutes and I already know it would be impossible to not love her,” I said as I moved to pull the bacon out of the oven. “Maybe the best thing for her right now is to make sure you have someone to take her when you’re having a bad day. The girl that walked into the bar last night isn’t the Sookie that I’ve been getting to know. On the days that you can, maybe try to do something with her that Alcide used to do? Give her the little reminder that he’s probably watching her from hell, but still insanely proud of her.”
Sookie let out an unexpected laugh at the end there.
“That’s not a bad idea,” she sniffled. “God, I’m so sick of myself.”
“You need to remind yourself that it wasn’t your fault that he cheated. I’ve met you, I’ve seen every inch of you, good and bad, and I highly doubt it was anything you did. Forgive yourself, and then work on forgiving him. That’s what I’m doing, at least trying to.”
Sookie nodded and then turned to the sink to wash her hands. As she was drying them a few moments later she asked, “Is there anything I can help with?”
“Hmm, do you want to crack eggs while I crumble the bacon?”
“I can do that. How many eggs do I need to crack? I can’t eat more than two.”
“I usually have a four egg omelette,” I told her. I chuckled and added, “I’m also twice your size.”
I reached up to grab a bowl for Sookie to crack the eggs into before I found my omelette pan. We started working in a comfortable silence. We both had a lot to work through, Sookie seemingly more than me, but I had a feeling it was all going to work out. She knew there was a problem, which was a definite start.
It was obvious by the look on Mom’s face when I arrived to pick up Willa she was equal parts concerned and angry. I knew I didn’t look good. Even with the sleep and the food I’d eaten at Eric’s house, I wasn’t myself. It was fair to say I was depressed but I figured I had a right to be. I didn’t intend to stay the way I was for the long-term. There were issues to address and when I was ready to, I would do it. Maybe it was just because it was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. The whole thing was complicated and all tangled together.
A therapist could help me sort it out when the time came.
“Hi,” I said quietly.
“Hello,” she replied.
“Thank you for watching Willa for me,” I said. “Is she awake or taking a nap?”
“She’s napping. Your brother said you were quite a sight yesterday,” Mom commented.
“Yeah, I was,” I agreed. It was actually pretty miraculous that I wasn’t more hungover. My face hurt where I fell, though. There was a nasty bruise on my jaw but at least it went nicely with the bruises on my tits. “He was right to take Willa with him. I messed up.”
“How long has that been going on?” she asked.
“Which part?” I didn’t lie to my mom. I had always been honest with her, even when it was awkward or I was afraid she’d get mad at me, I always told the truth.
“Since the week he did, really. I had it more under control, just a glass or two of wine helped me sleep at night. Then over the last couple of weeks it’s gotten worse and worse. This morning was the first real meal I’ve eaten in about a week,” I confessed.
“Where were you?”
“And last night. I called the house to check on you and there was no answer.”
“I went to Gilroy’s last night. I needed to get out of the house. It was actually Jason’s idea I go out,” I shrugged. That was true, although going to a bar may not have been quite what he had in mind when he made the suggestion I get out more often. “I ended up at a friend’s house and he made me breakfast.”
Mom nodded. “She’s been down for twenty minutes.”
“He’s not a boyfriend if that’s what you’re thinking,” I told Mom. “He’s… his wife was the woman Al was fooling around with.”
“That’s… so you guys are friends now? That’s not strange?”
“It was a little bit at first but he’s in the same boat as me, minus the kid thing. Plus, his wife killed herself,” I said. “There wasn’t a note but I read the things she wrote to Al. I think she did it to be with him.”
“That’s terrible,” Mom frowned. “How do you feel about that?”
“About the suicide? I don’t know. I loved Alcide but I wouldn’t have killed myself for him,” I replied.
“What suicide?” Dad asked from behind me.
Mom stayed quiet.
“You heard about that woman Maria Northman that wrapped her car around a tree over on Tremont about a month ago?” I asked Dad. I knew he was probably going to find out about Alcide’s affair eventually. There was no time like the present to tell him. “Well it turns out that Alcide was having an affair with her for two years before he died.”
Dad’s eyes shifted from mine to Mom’s.
“You’re shittin’ with me. Shelly, she’s shittin’ with me,” Dad said in disbelief.
“Sadly, she’s not. Sookie found the letters between them when she was cleaning up Alcide’s things,” Mom sighed.
“He was having an affair for two years? You were laying up in the hospital with his baby and he was boning another woman?” Dad was pissed.
“Looks like it. She was a nurse at St. Catherine’s,” I said.
“Sookie is friends with her husband now, she was married too,” Mom supplied.
“Oh isn’t that nice,” Dad said sarcastically. “Does Jackson know?”
“About the affair or that I’m friends with Eric?” I replied.
“No. I haven’t told him.”
“Good, don’t. It’ll kill him.”
“I know, Dad. That’s why I haven’t told him about it,” I sighed.
“Sorry, sweetheart.” Dad came over and gave me one of his bear hugs. “I’m sorry you’re dealing with all this.”
“Thanks,” I whispered.
“Sookie, would you like some coffee or something?” Mom got up from the table to move toward the coffee pot.
“Just some water,” I replied.
“What happened to your face, kid?” Dad checked out the bruise on my cheek.
“I face planted on the deck yesterday.”
“Ouch. You okay?”
“Depends on how you look at it,” I shrugged. I took a deep breath and then said, “I’ve actually been doing a lot of thinking and I need to ask you both for a really big favor.”
“Anything, sweetie,” Mom answered as she got my water.
“Well, it’s been brought to my attention twice in the last twenty-four hours that I should look into therapy and I don’t disagree with that. I’m having a hard time sorting things out and I know drinking my way through the grieving process isn’t healthy for me. It’s also completely inappropriate to expose Willa to that kind of thing on a constant basis. I’ve been thinking about selling the house but I think that’s more about wanting to escape all the things I’m feeling. I know on a rational level that selling the house isn’t the answer but it sounds like a quick fix. What I think I need right now is to maybe take a step back and maybe go away for a few days. I’m not very good for Willa in the state that I’m in and I love her too much to keep going the way I’ve been with her around. So I’m hoping that you wouldn’t mind taking care of her for a little while so I can get my head on right.”
“How long are we talking?” Mom asked.
“I don’t know. I know you’re not really set up to have a toddler with you full-time and I hate to even ask you–”
“Honey, you know we’ll do what we can to help you,” Dad cut me off. He reached over to take Mom’s hand. “We just need to know that you’ll be back.”
“We love you, Sookie. We love Willa just the same. We want what’s best for both of you and if a little time off to straighten things out is what’s needed, then we’ll make the arrangements to toddler-proof.”
“I just don’t want to put you out. I know you love me and you’re crazy about Willa but I’m asking for a huge favor here. I wouldn’t blame you if you said no or if you thought I was a bad mom for doing this,” I said. I still felt like I was. I should have put myself aside enough to be the mom my kid deserved.
“You’re being a very good mother by doing what’s best for her right now. It’s not selfish, Sookie. You need to get your head on straight so you can take care of your daughter, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re asking us to do. You’re not putting us out. You’re our daughter; it’s our job to take care of you and Willa when you need us to.” Mom let go of Dad’s hand to walk over to give me a hug.
“Sweetheart, the selfish thing would be keeping up the same path you’ve been on. We always told you it was best to ask for help when you felt like you were in over your head. I’m proud of you for knowing you’re in too deep,” Dad told me.
Hearing them say those things made me feel a little better. Being able to take care of Willa on my own without feeling like I was a breath away from losing my mind would be even better.
“I’m just afraid she’s going to think I’ve left her and I don’t want her to think I don’t love her,” I explained.
“Make sure to call her every day to remind her,” Mom said.
“I will,” I nodded. “I don’t really know where I’m going to go. Staying home is a bad idea.”
“I’m sure you can find somewhere. What about your brother?”
“What about him?” I quirked an eyebrow.
“You can stay with him.”
“Veto,” Dad snorted. “You know she’ll just end up being his maid if she goes over there and no one should have to clean up someone else’s used condoms.”
“Dad, that’s gross,” I laughed.
“It’s probably true,” Mom shrugged. “Do you have somewhere you feel comfortable? Somewhere you don’t think you’re going to head the wrong direction in your healing?”
Eric was the first person to pop into my mind but I didn’t need him feeling like he had to take care of me. He had his own demons to tackle.
“I was thinking maybe I needed a change of scenery for a little while. Nothing too crazy or too far away, just… not here,” I replied.
“So not Vegas?” Dad joked.
“No, I don’t think so, Dad,” I laughed.
“I don’t want you to go too far. I want to be able to see you sometimes,” Mom frowned.
“Mom I’m not talking about leaving for eight months while I go find myself,” I assured her.
“Okay,” she sighed.
“Spend time by the ocean, honey,” Dad suggested.
“Astoria isn’t too far and it’s gorgeous,” Mom added.
“I’ll look into it. Maybe I’ll try to go with a girlfriend or something,” I shrugged.
“Either way, we’ll be here when you get back.”
“I really appreciate your doing this,” I said sincerely.
“We know. We just want you to be better,” Mom said with a sad smile.
“Me too,” I replied. I got a hug from both of my parents at the same time. Knowing I had their support made taking the next step a little bit easier for me. I just hoped Willa would understand.