Chapter 15: Settle For a Slow Down
I hear my daughter crying over the baby monitor and reach out to stop Sookie from getting her.
“I got her,” I whisper. Jillian Adele Northman is eight days old but has the lungs of a seven-year-old. She’s not shy about letting everyone know when she’s unhappy.
“You sure?” Sookie rolls over and starts to get up but I stop her.
“Positive.” I lean over to kiss her. “We’ll be fine.”
Jillian’s cries get louder so I get up to fetch her from her crib. She’s got her teeny fists balled up and waving angrily in the air.
“Shhhh… Jillybean, Daddy’s got you,” I say as I lift her out of her bed. The back of her outfit is soaked. “Houston, we have a problem.”
Sookie comes walking in a couple seconds later. “Is she okay?”
“Looks like someone had an explosion.” I turn Jillian’s backside to Sookie so she can see. I didn’t know something so tiny could make so much poop.
“Oh boy,” she giggles. “I’ll get the water warmed up so we can hose her down.”
“Oh she’ll love that,” I snicker. Our baby seems to be allergic to cold. She screeches like she’s being tortured anytime she’s remotely cold. Poor kid. Lucky for her we live in the south. She’d be in deep shit if we lived in Minnesota.
Jillian was born on January fourth at 3:26 in the afternoon. Thanks to her mother’s generous feedings, she weighed in at just under nine pounds and she’s twenty-two inches long. She’s got long limbs, Sookie’s nose and a thick mop of fluffy blonde fuzz on her head. I get to work undressing her, which is easier said than done since her little muscles seem to be locked up in her fury. Once I get the soiled outfit off of her, I carry her across the hall to the bathroom. Sookie removes her diaper, which pisses her off even more. My baby’s face is practically purple from crying so hard. It kills me a little but I know she’ll be fine.
“Oh, I know, Daddy’s a big ol’ meanie,” Sookie coos as she takes her from me to rinse her back.
Yep, that’s me. Mean guy who doesn’t want my daughter covered in shit. I can live with that.
Besides, Jillian will chill out when she’s dressed in clean clothes and getting herself some comfort nursing. I help Sookie clean our screaming newborn and then grab her baby towel so we can dry her off and get her dressed.
“All that screaming for a little warm water,” I say while I dry my daughter. She’s definitely giving me Sookie’s ‘fuck you’ look right now.
“She’ll love you again after she’s clean and dry. Give her a bottle and she’ll forget I exist,” Sookie chuckles.
“Eh, she likes the boob more than the bottle,” I shrug.
“It’s fresh; wouldn’t you?”
“Plus you’re warm and Jillybean here likes being a little burrito,” I chuckle. We take her to her room and Sookie strips the bed while I get Jillian dressed. I put her in a warm little sleeper thing and find one of those little hats to put on her before I wrap her up in one of her blankets. I swear we got a thousand blankets at Sookie’s baby shower.
Jillian stops crying when I lift her up and rest her tiny body on my chest. Poor kid attempts to nurse and is pissed when she gets nothing.
“You shouldn’t have put her up to your nipple,” she snorts. “I’ll be ready in a minute or there’s a bottle in the fridge.”
“How about you take the baby and I’ll finish changing the bed?” I suggest and hand over our pissed off baby.
“Come on, Jillybean,” Sookie coos again as she takes a seat in the rocker. She moves her top out of the way and guides our daughter to her midnight snack.
“Are you excited to see Caroline?” I ask randomly. She’s coming to see the baby next week. Sookie and Caroline have become friends. I think it’s like having the mom Sookie lost as a child and Caroline doesn’t seem to mind that Sookie has unofficially adopted her.
“I am,” she grins. “I love showing her off and Caroline has been ready to meet her since before I was showing.”
“She hasn’t said so but I think she sees Jillian as her first grandkid.”
“Was it the matching crib and changing table set up at the baby shower that gave that away?” Sookie winks. “She requests text updates once every other day. It’s cute to see her so excited.”
“Kinda like having a mom.” I sent a letter and a picture to my own mother, but I haven’t heard anything from her. I’m not expecting to either.
“Yeah,” she says with a sweet smile. “I try not to look at it like that, but she’s the only person I can ask all those mom questions to, ya know? She’s the only person besides you that I want to call when something new or exciting happens.”
I’m sure Sookie never imagined that would be the case when Caroline answered the phone that first time.
After I get the sheets changed on Jillian’s mattress I go back to the bedroom to give Sookie some quiet time. She looked comfortable in the glider anyway. We picked out a big armchair that’s comfortable for dozing in if Jillian is being extra fussy. I’m not sure how much time passes before Sookie gets back into bed beside me and makes herself the little spoon in front of me.
“She asleep?” I whisper.
“Didn’t even fuss when I pulled her away,” she whispers back.
“That’s good. We’ll have a few hours before she’s up again.” I would hug her closer but she’s still sore.
“I can’t wait for her to start sleeping through the night. It’s nice spending the time with her for a little while, but I just want eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
“In a few months maybe,” I yawn and Sookie whimpers.
“I can make you wake up with her on your days off,” she says after a moment.
“I can do that.” I kiss her shoulder. “You deserve to sleep in.”
Right now it’s easy. There’s two of us here taking care of Jillybean so we can take turns but in a couple of weeks I’m flying to Flagstaff for a five day convention. Sookie will be here by herself with the baby. The downside to staying home is that her already limited social circle is essentially gone now. I’m curious to see how she handles being on her own for days at a time.
“Thanks. I knew accidentally getting knocked up by you was a good idea,” she chuckles.
“Well I’m glad you married me on purpose.” We went to Las Vegas and got married on her birthday.
“I’m glad I did too. It’s still early in the marriage, but you seem cool,” she teases.
“Thanks. I think I’ll keep you around too.”
“I come with the package. If you wanna keep that little stinker in the other room, I come with as a chaperone,” Sookie reminds me. “I think you’re going to have to, even if you decide you hate me in a couple years. Try to kill me, though if I become too much.”
“Nah. Orgasms always straighten you out when you get bitchy.”
“Is that right?” she says, turning to look at me.
“Yup. I’d prove it to you if you were medically allowed,” I smirk.
“And if my body didn’t still feel like I just finished eight rounds with Tyson,” she snorts. “I would offer to give you a little something special, but I’m still not sure if I’m offended by that last comment.”
“That’s okay, I’m too tired anyway.” I rub her lower back in the spot that used to bug her while she was pregnant. Jillybean was kicking her sciatica nerve.
“Maybe tomorrow when Jilly has her nap,” Sookie offers.
“We’ll see,” I yawn. I’ve missed our regular sex life but I’m not going to be a dick about it. “Get some sleep, babe. Jillian will be awake again before you know it.”
“Mmm, okay. I love you,” she whispers as she threads her fingers through mine.
“I love you too, toots.” I kiss her shoulder one more time.
Growing up I didn’t think I would ever want to get married and raise kids. Given the circumstances of my childhood, I don’t think anyone could blame me. I know Sookie never saw herself as being a mom. Yet here we are and this is the happiest either of us has ever been, even though we’re sleep deprived and getting up in the middle of the night to clean up shit. I wouldn’t trade a second of this for the life I had before Sookie came into it.
“How was the drive?” I ask Caroline as she walks into the house. Our friendship came about under the strangest circumstances, but she’s one of the only people I talk to these days. I know Eric worries that I’m so anti-social, but I’ve been looking into some new mom classes where I could hopefully meet people. I’ve also started talking to Danielle from my old job again. It’s hard with a brand new baby though.
“It was good. How are you feeling?” Caroline gives me a gentle hug.
“A lot better.” Jillian is about two weeks old now so my body is finally starting to get back to normal. “She’s on the couch napping if you want to grab her,” I offer. “It’s probably time for her to wake up for feeding anyway.”
“Oooh yes. Sarah sent me something to give you for Jillian.” She produces a little gift bag with pink tutus on it.
I reach in and pull out a tiny pink ball of fabric. When I open it up I smile. It’s a light pink onesie with ‘Southern Belle’ scrawled across the front in swirly cursive writing. I go back in for the second thing I touched and smile when I produce a soft, plushy turtle.
“Aww,” I coo. “She didn’t have to.” Jill’s room is decorated in a turtle theme. When we were looking at paint colors after we found out we were having a girl I saw a turtle border that I absolutely fell in love with. If I thought Bill Compton spoiled me with clothes and accessories, I was wrong if I compare him to the way Eric spoils me. Not so much with monetary gifts, but with little things like getting up from a dead sleep when I was eight months along to go to the twenty-four hour Walmart to get me a package of Oreo cookies. He didn’t complain once.
“I think she’s happy it takes the pressure off of her to get knocked up,” she explains. “But I hope the current boyfriend is temporary. He’s a putz, bless his heart.”
“I’m just glad Eric ended up being a keeper. I would’ve been screwed if he turned into a dick all of a sudden.” I know it could still happen, but I really doubt it. Everything just happened so fast with us it’s weird to think I found The One at a damn department store.
“Well of course he could flip on you,” Caroline agrees as she slips off her coat and shoes. “But you two talk about everything right? Remember I told you to find the one that loves your ugly parts too?”
I sigh as I nod and say, “He knows about all of the ugly. Everything from what happened after my Gran died to…” I trail off. I’ve been avoiding telling her Eric knows about our plot, but it’s time to confess. “I talked to him about what I did to Bill,” I admit.
Caroline doesn’t seem surprised.
“I figured as much,” Caroline says. “As long as you trust him, that’s good enough for me.”
“I do. More than anything. He helped me through all of those nights I couldn’t sleep because I felt so terrible about what I did,” I tell her.
“You know I felt terrible for the children in the beginning but the truth is, I don’t miss him. The man I was in love with died after his first heart attack. I tried to love him after but… I don’t think I did.”
“He wasn’t worth loving,” I shrug. “He said some really nasty things that made my decision so much easier. He tried to get me to have a threesome with him even after he figured out I was pregnant, knowing it was another man’s baby.”
“And you didn’t just push him out the window?”
“I’d already given him the pill,” I chuckle. We never really talked about what happened that night. She knows I went to the hospital and that Ginger was the one there with him, but that’s about it. “He didn’t even hesitate to take it either. Cocky fucker.”
I piss Jilly off when I pick her up. She gets a little fussy, but calms right down when I hand her to Caroline and she nuzzles into her boobs.
“Aren’t you the cutest little thing?” Caroline coos. “I almost wanted to try for a fourth. Lee was starting school and I missed having a little buddy in the house with me all day. I’m glad we didn’t do it though.”
“I’ve already talked to my doctor about an IUD. Eric and I don’t want to have anymore just yet.” I don’t know if I’ll ever want more past her, but we’ll talk about it when the time comes. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
“Just water is fine, thanks. I don’t know how you ever put this little angel down.” Caroline follows me into kitchen. “The permits finally came through on the house, by the way. We’ll be breaking ground on the first day of spring.”
I smile as I reach up to grab a glass from the cupboard. Eric and I did a lot of discussing and decided for the time being we’re going to stay here in Jackson, but sometime within the next five years we’re going to move back to Bon Temps. I want Jillian to go to school there. The town is still small and fairly clean. I love the atmosphere of Bon Temps. Plus, I’ll be close to Caroline and I’ve kinda come to look at her like a mother of sorts. She’s always there for me when I need to ask something about cooking or if certain things, like hemorrhoids, were normal during pregnancy. I would feel better getting active in the community, or maybe even getting a job at the local library. They always seem to be hiring.
“That’s so exciting.” Eric and I have been trying to figure out what we want in a dream home for the last five months and Caroline is doing all the footwork. We’re waiting till it’s built before we transfer the property into my name.
“It is,” she agrees. “I think this little angel will love her fancy treehouse.”
“I think she will too. I think mostly, she’s going to love Aunt Caroline close by to make her those brownie bites you make.” She made them for my baby shower, which was mostly Eric’s co-workers and a few of my old Hiphugger co-workers. I asked for the recipe but they didn’t come out the same when I tried to make them.
“That reminds me, there may be a batch or two of those in my trunk.”
My mouth starts to water.
“We may be coming to visit in a couple weeks,” I chuckle. “I’ll probably need a refill.” My size four ass is up close to a ten now, and I don’t give a single fuck.
“You’re going to learn to make them yourself,” she says. “You know, I’ve been thinking of running a business out of the house selling baked goods. I don’t have much to do now that it’s just me in the house.”
“I think that would be a great idea. You have the perfect kitchen for it,” I agree. “Maybe if it starts to take off and I can cook a little better, when Eric and I move there we can look into opening a little cafe? It would keep us both occupied, and we know we work well as a team.” The thought just occurred to me. If I get better at it, having a small breakfast cafe would be perfect once we’re settled in Bon Temps. Eric could take Jillian to school and I can be there in the afternoon when she’s off. I figure by the time that comes to fruition, Eric will be able to work remotely. Especially if he stays on his current career path.
“It’s something to consider.”
“We have time,” I shrug. “So what is new in your world? Any new suitors?”
“I’m not looking for a suitor. Bill was enough for a lifetime. I’m looking forward to visiting Lee. He’s stationed in New Jersey now.”
“How’s he liking the Air Force?” Maybe Eric is right. I do need to make more friends. I shouldn’t be so excited to listen to Lee’s military stories.
“He loves it,” Caroline smiles.
Caroline and I end up sitting in the kitchen for the next hour catching up. If you would’ve told me a year ago I’d be sitting with my new baby and my literal partner in crime I would’ve laughed in your face.
Meeting both Eric and Bill changed my life in ways I could never even begin to comprehend. They both managed to turn my life upside down, in completely different ways, that are still somewhat the same, if that makes sense. Bill inadvertently introduced me to my surrogate mother, while Eric gave me the most precious gift anyone could’ve given me. My daughter. They gave me a family, something I never even thought to dream to have. I don’t ever in my life remember being this happy. The amount of love that fills my home and my life now is more than any one person could ask for. I wake up each morning and go to bed each night thanking a God I’m just learning to believe in for what he or she has blessed me with.
Jillian is just too precious for words. She’s hefty for a newborn but completely adorable. She’s not even mine and I’m in love with her. I’ve thought about adopting a child in the last few months but at my age I’m not sure that would work out so well. Plus my middle child would probably tank my chances in the interview round. I love Tommy but he’s really starting to work my last nerve.
All of the insurance payouts have come through. Most of the money has been invested accordingly, but not all of it. For the first time in my life, I’m free.
My children are all adults and living independently. I have a degree in journalism but I’m not interested in being the next Diane Sawyer anymore. I’m too old for that. Sookie’s café idea isn’t a bad one, but I don’t know if there’s really a need for one in Bon Temps. We could use a donut shop though…
Jillian starts fussing so I reluctantly hand her over to Sookie.
“You know, I didn’t know I was going to be so bored,” I tell Sookie while she gets Jillian situated.
“Being a widow?” she asks.
“Yeah. I didn’t know Bill occupied so much of my time. It doesn’t help that Lee’s gone too. I know I’m not supposed to have a favorite but Lee’s my baby,” I pout.
“I obviously only have one, but I think it would be hard not to have a favorite, especially with Tommy’s attitude.”
“He’s still disappointed you went and got married on him,” I chuckle.
“How awkward would that have been if I didn’t have Eric and I was whorish enough to take him up on the date?” she snorts.
“I’d have had you arrested,” I reply. I might be serious.
“I would’ve deserved it. I don’t know what surprised me more, being hit on by Bill’s son, or being hit on at a funeral.”
“Either is no good,” I sigh.
“At least he backed off,” she says as she reaches under the blanket to adjust Jillian on her boob.
“I’d feel better if he found a new girl. Lee’s convinced that Tommy is gay,” I say. He started with that over Thanksgiving. It didn’t go well, which makes me wonder. Compared to a lot of folks my age around Bon Temps I’m pretty liberal and I’m definitely not homophobic. Tommy, on the other hand, may be protesting too much.
“The way he looked at my chest didn’t scream gay to me, unless he wanted to ask my size for his own implants,” Sookie laughs.
“I don’t think he wants a pair of his own,” I reply. “I don’t care if he is. It’s his business.”
“I think he might be a little metro, but not gay,” Sookie says. “However, if he is, maybe he’d be a lot nicer if he came out.”
“It’s not my business. I stay out of it. Tommy’s grown. If he wants to talk, he knows where to find me,” I shrug.
“I would offer to have a talk with him, but that would be beyond weird.”
“Yes, it would,” I agree. “I’m not worried about it either way.”
“That’s ’cause you’re a good mother. Even to your asshole. If I’m raising a little lesbian, I’m going to love her just the same.”
“Of course you are. As long as they’re healthy and not breaking laws, what’s not to love?” I take a drink of my water.
“Exactly. Are you hungry at all? I’m going to make lunch after she eats.”
“Sure. I can keep the little angel entertained for you.”
“Alright. I’m not gettin’ fancy. Some tomato soup and grilled cheese. I made homemade soup a couple days ago and I threw some in the freezer. Eric actually said it was good, and I don’t think he was lying,” Sookie chuckles.
“Does he usually lie?”
“Sometimes when he thinks I’m nervous he’ll try to explain what he thinks I could try next time. He doesn’t flat out lie and say it’s good.”
“That’s good. At least his criticism his constructive,” I say. “Back when we were younger Bill would make this face but tell me whatever I made was good. As time went by he would simply throw away anything he didn’t like and if he didn’t like it, we were having takeout instead.”
“That’s crappy,” she frowns.
“His charm faded over the years,” I sigh.
I started seeing a therapist after the dust settled and Lee was off at boot camp. It came to my attention that I had some issues to work out where Bill is concerned. Not just because I orchestrated a murder, but because of the relationship he and I had. There are a lot of things I would have liked to have said.
“You know, Bill always thought he was so clever. He acted like I was lucky to be with him a lot of the time in the last few years of our marriage. There’s a part of me that regrets not seeing him one more time before he died just so I could tell him that the reason he was leaving the world was because of me. For once I was the one to get the better of him. I wonder if that would have slapped some of the smug out of him,” I confess. Sookie is the only one I can confess this to.
“I’m sure he’s in hell pouting like a big baby over it,” she giggles. “Was the fight the last conversation you had?”
“Yes,” I nod. “He went out knowing I suspected he was a lying, cheating piece of shit. Oops, sorry, angel.”
“I’m not worried about cursing in front of her. She’s going to hear it anyway,” Sookie smiles. “At least you get a little satisfaction. I could tell something was bothering him, but it just made him more cocky and I don’t ever remember him being that much of an asshole to me.”
“I think his success got to him. Pride has always been a big thing for Bill. I’ll give the devil his due because he worked hard to get where he was, but the money and notoriety made him arrogant. Compounding that, he was getting away with the affairs for so long. Sometimes I think the first heart attack was a warning to knock it off and get his head on straight.”
“Clearly he didn’t get the memo,” she sighs.
He didn’t. Unfortunately Bill thought he was invincible. The arrogance blinded him to the possibility of anyone else being smarter than him and it cost him his life.
Of course now I have all these possibilities open to me that I didn’t have as Bill’s wife. In getting out from under his thumb, I finally have the chance to find out who I am. I put myself away to be a wife and a mother. The rest of Caroline Compton fell by the wayside.
I think it’s time I go find her.