Chapter 1: The Boy is Mine
He doesn’t quite look the same as he did when I married him twenty-five years ago, but that’s to be expected. I sure don’t look the same as I did back then. There’s a little pooch to my tummy that won’t go away after having carried three children. My hair is a little grayer and I refuse to try and hide it with highlights. I figure I’ve earned getting older. My joints scream at me on damper days. Getting up off the floor isn’t what it used to be. I have fine lines, wrinkles and saggy bits that slowly replaced my much tighter, more elastic skin.
Bill’s not without his own changes. He’s got wrinkles and fine lines of his own to contend with. There’s gray in his beard now when he lets it grow out a little in the wintertime. Right now I see it more around his temples. While I wouldn’t say he ever had a particularly fantastic behind, he now has that unfortunate older man pancake behind. Our sex life isn’t what it used to be, but a heart attack will do that to a man. Bill had one six years ago before he was even forty.
Frankly, when I think about it, it’s somewhat amazing we made it to twenty-five years. Not just because of the heart attack that could have killed him, but because there’s a part of me that sometimes wonders if I should have divorced him long ago. Tonight, over dinner with our three children, it all felt like a lie. Sarah’s living on her own in Baton Rouge, Tommy’s in his second year at Ole Miss and Lee’s a senior in high school. Once our children are entirely out of the house I don’t know what we’ll have to keep us together.
Because it’s family tradition, we met the kids for supper at Raimondi’s. Sarah’s spending the night at her boyfriend’s house over in Shreveport before she drives back to Baton Rouge tomorrow. Tommy’s got plans with some friends to raise some hell somewhere here in town, probably at Merlotte’s. Lee’s got homework to do but right now he’s in the backseat, listening to his iPod and staring out the window while Bill drives us home.
My husband is holding my hand but there’s no emotion behind it like there once was. Fifteen years ago he held my hand because he liked to touch me. Now it’s just a hollow gesture, designed to give the appearance of us being a solid unit. Our children aren’t stupid. Lee, in particular, has been witness to several of our arguments and has caught his dad coming in late or in the middle of the night. It’s an awkward position for a boy to be in.
“Hey dad?” Lee speaks from the back of the BMW Bill bought just eight months ago without discussing it with me. It’s a little sporty for someone his age but then again, I’m sure he bought it to impress someone in particular. That someone isn’t me.
“Can you help me with some math homework when we get home?” Lee’s strong suit has never been math but Bill is quite good at it, and patient about helping him with it.
“Sure, what are you working on now?”
“If I knew I wouldn’t need help,” Lee replies.
“Right, smart alec,” Bill chuckles.
Thankfully we’re almost home. I must be a glutton for punishment because I turn to Bill and ask, “What’s the best thing about being married for this long?”
“Hmm, I’d have to say knowing I have my best friend by my side,” he says as he lifts my hand to kiss the back.
I bite the inside of my cheeks and smile. I wish I could believe that. I wish I could believe it in the teeniest, tiniest way.
I want to ask if that means he won’t be rushing out the second he thinks I’m asleep. Bill thinks I don’t know about the girls on the side but he’s not as sneaky as he used to be. In his old age he’s becoming more arrogant and less careful. I know the signs. There’s someone else. She’s not the first and I’m sure she won’t be the last.
The first was a real estate agent by the name of Selah Pumphrey who was helping him find new office space for the company he has been building for the last twenty years. I can admit that at the time my focus was less on keeping my husband sexually gratified and more on making sure our children and home were taken care of. Our sex life slipped on my list of priorities. He was busy with work and I was busy with everything else. Running Sarah to dance lessons, Tommy to football practice and Lee to piano. There were bake sales to prepare for, rummage sales to organize, Sunday school lessons to prepare, choir practices to attend, errands to run, laundry to fold, dishes to wash, dust to chase away, birthday parties to attend… It was a busy, busy time in my life.
So yes, I can admit that I let my marriage slip. I had only so many hours in a day and so many responsibilities pulling me in so many different directions. I can admit that I neglected my husband. The neglect, however, was mutual. Rather than discussing it with me, he sought comfort in the arms of another woman.
She was just the first. I discovered he was also with a nurse that works at the immediate care center in Clarice. That was after Selah cut him off when she learned that he wouldn’t, in fact, be leaving his family for her. Apparently he had promised he would do so on more than one occasion. Sometimes I wish that he had. I didn’t find out about the other women until his heart attack.
He just happened to be fucking a plucky, perky nineteen-year-old intern when it happened. They were in his office, fucking on the goddamn sofa that I picked out for him when he had his heart attack. Of course the girl, Jessica, called 9-1-1. That was awkward, I’m sure.
I imagine it went something like, “Yes, I need an ambulance. The man I’m fucking, who is old enough to be my father, just had a massive coronary while I was bouncing on his dick.”
Okay, maybe it didn’t quite go like that, but something like that.
The ‘poor’ girl rode in the ambulance with him and was still in the emergency room when I arrived. I was scared out of my mind and there was some little girl just a few years older than my eldest child, whimpering in the waiting room, wanting to know if her precious William was okay. I about blew chunks all over her knockoff Louboutin pumps. It wasn’t at all the way I wanted to find out that my worst fears weren’t just paranoid whispers in my mind.
For years I had suspected something wasn’t right but I had never accused Bill because I knew how much it would hurt me if I had been wrongfully accused. I had chalked up all the late nights and business trips to his growing business and nothing more. Well, more accurately, I had convinced myself that’s all it was. Just work.
Bill wouldn’t throw away his marriage and his family.
Except he had. He hadn’t given much thought to anyone or anything besides his own needs.
I waited until he was out of the woods to confront him with what I knew. Poor Jessica couldn’t contain herself when she came face to face with Mrs. William Compton. She told me everything. More than I wanted to know.
I told Bill I wanted a divorce. I didn’t think I could ever trust him again. He swore that we would go to counseling, that the heart attack was his second chance. He loved me and he wanted to rededicate himself to me and to our family.
I believed him. I believed him for our children and I believed him because, to be honest, I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to believe that we could get back on track.
So we went to see the counselor. We did the therapy and I learned about Selah and Danielle. I heard things about my husband’s life that I knew nothing about. I hated him for a long time. We separated but lived in the same house for a time. He slept in a different room and we explained to the children that we were having problems, but we were seeing a counselor to make it better. For better or worse, I didn’t give up.
Up until Tommy started attending Ole Miss, he’s been good. Since then things have backslid the way they were before the heart attack. In my gut I know I’m no longer the only woman in his life. I just don’t have any proof of who he’s been seeing or where he’s been spending his time when he’s not at home with me.
We pull up to the house and then into the garage. I let go of Bill’s hand before the car is even stopped. Lee is out the door like his rear end is on fire as the garage door goes down. When I move to get out of the car Bill stops me.
“Sweetheart, I’m going to go out of town this weekend for work,” he tells me. “I’ll be in Jackson from Friday morning until Sunday evening.”
Of course he will.
“Of course you will,” I smile. I don’t even argue with him about it anymore. He’s got a second office in Mississippi now. Convenient.
“You know I would invite you to come with me but Lee, and you would be bored with me working the whole time.”
“It’s fine.” What else am I going to say? I get out of the car and go into the house. I go straight upstairs to our bedroom to let my hair down and wash off my makeup.
Bill follows behind me and changes out of his suit. He leaves his jacket hanging over the back of a chair and puts on a pair of flannel pajamas. He kisses my head before going to find our youngest son to help with the aforementioned math homework. I scrub the makeup off my face and try not to burst into angry tears over the farce our marriage has become.
I don’t know if our children are buying what I’m trying to sell them. They’re at least attempting to let me keep my dignity by not calling me out.
Once I’m settled in bed with my book, a Joyce Carol Oates novel, I try to let my mind go blank while I submerse myself in the world of the Mulvaneys. Bill’s cell phone ringing a short time later destroys what little concentration I have going. I get up to retrieve the phone and either silence it or answer it, depending on who might be calling.
Imagine my surprise when I see it’s Truman Burrell, governor of Louisiana calling. Given my husband’s line of work, I’m not particularly surprised to see he’s getting a call from a politician. I know Bill has done work for the state before. I think nothing of answering the call.
“Good evening, Governor,” I answer politely.
“Governor?” A sweet young woman’s voice answers.
My heart stops. Instinctively I know this is his reason for “working” this weekend.
“Are you looking for my husband?” I ask in as calm a voice as I can muster and close the bedroom door.
“Husband? No, I’m looking for Bill Compton,” she replies.
“My husband,” I sigh. “My name is Caroline Compton. Has been for twenty-five years as of today. What’s yours?”
I’m greeted with silence.
“S-s- Sookie Stackhouse,” she finally says quietly. “You’re… alive?”
“He told you I was dead?” Son of a bitch. I’m not surprised, per se, but this is a new low. Even for my scum sucking, dirtbag of a husband. “Did I at least die quickly or was it a slow, painful death that broke his nonexistent heart? Nevermind, don’t answer that.”
I’m pretty sure I already know the answer.
I’m also pretty sure this is going to be our last anniversary.
“I’m so, so sorry,” I sigh. “I… I don’t… ugh, I’m such an idiot.”
Bill and I aren’t exactly exclusive, and three years ago I wouldn’t have cared that he’s married but now is different. I’m trying to get my life on track. I’m finally in a place where I can look at myself in the mirror and like who I see. Having an affair with an older man is… I didn’t expect much from it but he told me his wife died several years ago. I thought Bill Compton was a single widower.
“No, dear. My husband is a master manipulator and an eerily good liar. How long has it been?” She’s freakishly calm about this.
“Um, about two months,” I answer.
I met Bill a few years ago when I was working as a stripper at Hooligans. I was strung out on coke and banged up from being knocked around by my boyfriend at the time, Mickey, who is now in the pen for drugs and embezzlement. Bill and I reconnected just under two months ago when I ran into him at Hiphugger, the bar I’m working at as a go-go dancer. We got to talking that night and I let him know I’m cleaned up and single, while he proceeded to tell me his wife had died from a brain aneurysm. We ended up falling into bed together around three o’clock that morning and the affair has been going on since.
“Is it serious?” she asks numbly.
“I don’t think it’s that serious, no,” I reply. “It’s been pretty casual… are you sure you want to know this?”
“You’re not the first, dear. This is old hat and I’m pretty sure you aren’t lying to me. Let me guess, you live in Jackson?”
“I do. He was, oh…” I really don’t know what to say to her. “Caroline, I’m really sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. I’m going to delete your call so he doesn’t know we spoke. Goodbye, Sookie,” she says and then hangs up.
I’m not going to be seeing Bill anymore. I can’t be that girl. Like I mentioned, a few years ago it wouldn’t have been a problem. I was young and dumb, well, troubled. I lost my parents when I was young and ended up in foster care. I was molested by the father in one of my foster families when I was eight. That went on for close to four years before I started acting out and I was moved to a different family. I ended up with one shitty, abusive family after another until one of my ‘older brothers’ tried to rape me. I was sixteen and he was eighteen. I packed up with little I had and walked away from the Norris’. I’ve been on my own since.
As for this thing with Bill… If I’d known his wife was alive I would never have gone forward with the affair. He told me Caroline had died two years ago. He’s apparently been raising his youngest son, Lee, on his own since. That got major points with me. I didn’t have a real family and having someone take care of you after losing your mother. Ugh. I’m so mad at Bill. I want to drive to Louisiana and punch him in his stupid limp dick. Well, he’s not always limp. He does have his moments when he’s a fantastic lover, mostly I like talking to him. He’s a very wise man and he’s really easy to talk to. Now that I know all that talk has been lies makes me want to bomb his office when he’s in it next.
Bill Compton isn’t the only man I’m seeing. I don’t think it’s wrong to be with more than one man, because I’m honest about it. Bill and I aren’t — weren’t — serious so my fling with Eric Northman is completely out in the open. Now I know why he didn’t have a problem with it. That makes me wonder how many other women Bill is sleeping with right now.
Speaking of Eric, he’s a sweet man, a lot closer to my age. He’s only four years older than me, not close to twenty. He’s tall and blonde, the complete opposite from Bill… and he’s calling me right now.
“Hello?” I answer. I didn’t expect to hear from him this week. He’s supposed to be on a business conference in Chicago until Monday.
“Hello,” Eric purrs. “Guess who’s back in town early?”
“Hmm, my favorite giant?” I answer. I’m trying not to sound as pissed as I am, but a big bomb was just dropped on me.
“I hope I’m your only giant,” he replies. “Want some company?”
“You are my only giant,” I assure him. The only people I’ve been with in the last year are Eric and Bill and they know about each other. “If you don’t mind that I’m in a bad mood?” Eric is good at relaxing me. Bill is nice to talk to; Eric is a much more physical creature.
“Uh oh. What’s wrong, Toots?”
“Bill,” I tell him. “I’m pretty sure that’s over. Not that you have a problem with that.”
“Not at all but you sound disappointed. I guess I’ll have to get better at conversation besides all of the filthy things I imagine doing to your perfect little body and all the ways I can make you scream for me,” he says.
“What I’m disappointed in is the why. His wife isn’t as dead as he made it sound. And I love all those filthy things you imagine,” I smile.
“Would you like to experience a few new ones?” Eric asks as there’s a knock on my front door.
“Are you on my front porch?” I ask. This wouldn’t be the first time he’s surprised me.
I walk to my front door and look through the peephole. Eric is on the other side wearing a nice dark gray suit with his phone to his ear. He has a handsome smile on his face and I can see the tips of daisies peeking out from behind his back.
“Eric, I’m going to have to let you go. I have a very sexy man knocking on my door that I need to attend to.” I still have the phone on my ear when I open the door.
“He’s a lucky son of a bitch,” he says with a smile and hangs up his phone. “You look good enough to eat.” Eric produces the daisies and hands them to me.
“Thank you,” I smile and wrap my arms around his neck without taking the flowers. I need the hug more than the flowers, as sweet as the gesture is. Eric lifts me so my feet are dangling as he walks into my house, kicking the door closed behind us.
“You smell good,” he whispers, his lips skimming my neck.
“So do you,” I whisper back. I pull my head back without letting go and give him a lingering peck on the lips.
“Does this mean I get to have you all to myself?” He nips at my bottom lip and then sucks on it for a moment.
“Mmm, you don’t want me. I’m damaged goods,” I tell him, groaning as he suckles my lip. He’s really, really good at making me forget things.
“Maybe I like damaged,” he lays me down on my bed, “It implies room for repairs and improvement. That’s called living, Lover.”
I wrap my legs around his waist, locking my feet over his rump. He has an amazing ass. “I’ve definitely lived,” I say, tilting my head back when his lips travel down the front of my neck.
“Which means you’re not boring,” he says between wet, sweet kisses on my collarbone.
“Eric,” I whisper-moan. I don’t want to stop him but I don’t know if I’m in the mood for sex right now… then again, his erection rubbing against me doesn’t hurt.
“I don’t–” I’m cut short when his teeth scrape my nipple through my thin tank top. I don’t know how this man is so good at making me forget my own name, but you won’t find any complaints out of me.
“You don’t want me to stop?” He finishes for me before pulling the neckline of my tank top down to capture my nipple with his warm lips. His tongue swirls around the stiffening bud over and over again.
I rock my hips against him, earning a groan when my warm center rubs over his cock.
“I don’t know how you do this to me,” I breathe, running my fingers through his hair.
Eric slowly kisses his way back to my lips, pausing at the right spots on my neck near my ears. When his mouth reaches mine he whispers, “I worship you,” before plunging his tongue in my mouth for a deep, passionate kiss.
I moan into the kiss, savoring his warm, wet tongue dancing with mine, swirling and rubbing mine just right. I wrap my arms around his broad shoulders, holding tight as we make out. Eric does worship me. He worships every inch of my body every single time he’s here. I keep reminding him I’m broken. I’ve had a lot of bad shit happen to me over the years, yet he tells me every single time that it makes me interesting. It makes me worth it. I think that’s why I’ve been carrying on the affair with both men. I don’t feel good enough to be loved by one man. I’ve been used and abused as far back as I can remember. Sadly, the friends with benefits relationship I have with Eric is the most stable one I’ve been in… ever.
I pull my head back to breathe and hug him. Surprisingly, he stops his attack for a moment to hug me back.
“I’d ask you to be mine alone, but you’re not that kind of girl,” he says quietly and strokes my hair.
“What kind of girl do you think I am?” I ask quietly. I know he wants me to agree to be his girlfriend, but I’m no good for him.
“The kind that wants to be free to fly and not have her wings clipped to keep her close to the nest,” he replies.
I keep my eyes on his as I tilt my head up to kiss him softly.
“Why do you keep coming back?” I question.
“Do you want the easy answer or the complicated one?”
“Complicated.” We don’t talk enough. If I’m ever going to be good enough for him I need to let myself open up, and listen when he opens up to me.
“Because when I’m not with you I feel it here.” He pats his chest over his heart. “I miss you.”
“You’re insane,” I smile. “No one has ever missed me.”
“Until now.” He tucks hair behind my ear.
“Kiss me again,” I whisper, my eyes searching his the whole time.
Eric leaves his eyes open as his lips find mine. This kiss stays slow for a few minutes before I eventually close my eyes. I grab his hand and push it between our bodies to help him rub his fingers over my slit through my yoga shorts. I know this is what he wants. I’m not naive enough to think he’s here just for snuggles.
“What are you doing?” His hand stops moving.
“Giving you what you want,” I reply with a little frown.
“What if I just want you to be my little spoon tonight?”
I look at him for a moment, trying to read his expression.
“You mean… clothes on and everything?” I don’t think there’s ever been a time Eric and I spent the night together with our clothes on. He’s usually rushing to put last night’s suit back on as he races out to get to work on time because he wakes me up with his dick or mouth on my pussy.
“Clothes on and everything,” he agrees.
I’m still a little perplexed but I slowly nod my head.
“I’m not going to kill you in your sleep or anything,” he says.
“You know, in a different time I would’ve wished that you would,” I tell him seriously.
Eric frowns at that. He looks genuinely sad to hear me say that and his arms wrap around me tightly to hold me to his chest.
“I’m happy you’re here,” he whispers.
I don’t respond, just settle into his chest. That was one of the things so easy about being with Bill. He saw me at my worst. Eric has only known me post therapy with a little weight and no bruises from being beaten. Bill knows what I’m coming from and I believed was genuinely proud of me and cared for me.
“I’m happy I’m here with you,” I whisper back.
He rubs my back for a few minutes before asking, “Who is Andre?”
“Why?” I freeze.
“You have dreams sometimes and you say that name. You sound terrified,” he explains.
I take a deep breath and whisper, “He was my first foster parent when I was eight after my Gran died.”
Eric’s body tenses up.
“What did he do?” he asks.
“Are you sure you want to know?” I’ve been dealing with this in therapy for the last two years.
“Only if you want to tell me. I can handle it.”
I rest my chin on his chest so I can look at his eyes as I explain, “Andre did things to me no eight-year-old should ever have to go through. He molested me, Eric. He did everything but rape me… from the time I was eight until I was twelve.”
His reaction is difficult to read. He seems angry and disgusted at the same time. What surprises me is the tears in his eyes.
I reach up to wipe the few tears that fall. “I’ve done enough of that,” I tell him quietly.
“My stepfather,” he says hoarsely. “I was eight too.”
I snuggle into his chest a little more and wrap my arms around his shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. I know it’s not my fault but knowing someone else that has been through some of the same shit… it… I don’t know. He’s so… Eric is the kind of guy that you know was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and his parents did everything for him. But he… “I’m so, so sorry, Eric.”
“Me too. We all have baggage, Sookie. Sometimes it’s easier to carry if you have help.”
“I carried mine into a coke problem and one abusive relationship after another,” I admit.
“Yet when I look at you, all I see is a beautiful girl with a story in her eyes and a smile on her face.”
“Sometimes I feel like Andy Dufrense,” I tell him. Eric being so drawn to me makes sense now.
“Because you’re secretly a chess geek?”
“No, I have a secret boat in Mexico and my friend Red is going to be meeting me there once he’s out of the slammer,” I smile at him.
“Already planning my replacement,” he sighs.
“I’m a bird, remember? A caged bird doesn’t sing, Eric,” I remind him. I don’t plan on talking to any other guys. Bill was a fucking mistake that I never should’ve made.
“Do you want me to go?”
“No,” I shake my head. “I like where you are right now.”
“I don’t want to silence your song. I think you’ve had enough people do that to you.”
“For now you’re the only one I want to sing for.”
He cups my face and stretches forward to kiss me. Eric rolls me under him again but doesn’t go any further than kissing me. As we make out I run my fingers through his hair. It’s soft and silky, making me want to nuzzle into it. I don’t. I just kiss him. I’m going to have to remind myself he’s not Bill Liar Compton, who I’m done with, by the way. I don’t know what his wife has planned but something tells me she won’t be leaving him this time either. That’s not my problem anymore. I’m moving on to bigger and better things.