Josie was practically jumping up and down when I opened the dress bag containing her Halloween costume. She wanted to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I was able to find a pattern for the yellow ball gown she wears at the end of the movie but I had to make some adjustments for Josie’s height.
“Tada!” I said, revealing a burlap sack as a joke. It was Eric’s idea.
“That’s not Belle’s dress,” she told me, her smile falling.
“It’s not?” I smiled and nodded to Eric behind her, who was holding the hanger with the real dress on it. It was a pretty good replica if I did say so myself.
She turned around to look at her dad. Josie let out a little gasp, covering her mouth. It took her a second to get her bearings before she bolted across the room.
“Sookie!” she squealed. She grabbed the dress from Eric to inspect it. “Can I put it on now?”
“Yes. I want to make sure it fits you, but you can’t wear it all day,” I said. After Halloween she might never take it off.
She bounced out of the room with a huge grin on her face to go put it on.
“I don’t think she’s going to accept it if I do get a girlfriend,” he chuckled. “No one will ever measure up to her precious Sookie.”
“Awww I don’t think that’s true at all. She’s just excited about the dress.” Truthfully, it made me happy to see her so happy. Josie was a good kid. She had the right balance of sass, silliness and sweetness to her and it made her irresistible. I genuinely liked talking to her and she didn’t mind it when I came over to the house when she was there.
“Yes, she’s excited about the dress, but she loves you. She told me so,” he informed me.
That brought tears to my eyes.
It could have been because of the dress and the apron or because I taught her how to make her own friendship bracelets or because we both sang loudly and off-key to annoy her dad, but… Well come to think of it, I’d seen a lot of her in the last two months. She and Eric came over after I closed on my house to help me get settled. Eric did most of the heavy lifting while Josie wore herself out running up and down the stairs to check out the view from the rooftop. She was jazzed that she could see her house from mine.
“I love her too,” I told Eric. “That’s not weird or creepy, is it?”
“Not at all,” he replied. “If you met her once and said that, then yes it would be. You’ve been around enough to fall in love with my princess.”
“Good,” I smiled. “She’s a good kid.”
“Thanks. I like to think I played a small role in that,” he chuckled.
“I’m pretty sure it was more than a small role.” I wiped a tear off my cheek. I wasn’t at all surprised when Jo called out for help with the zipper in the back.
“Mop up that mess on your face before you get there. She might think I’m abusing you,” Eric snorted as I started toward her room.
“Afraid your fourth grader will kick your butt?” I teased before turning for Josie’s room.
“Sookie!” she called again.
“Coming!” I walked up the stairs and down the hall to Jo’s room. “You look beautiful,” I told Josie as I walked in. That shade of yellow looked gorgeous against her mocha skin.
“Thank you soooooo much. Can you zip me?”
“Of course.” I moved all her thick hair out of the way and carefully pulled up the zipper.
“It’s perfect,” she said, looking down at the dress.
“Can you breathe okay?”
“Yep. Can I go look in the mirror?”
Josie bounced over to the mirror in her room. She twisted from side to side studying it.
“Will you teach me to sew like this?” she asked while running her hands down the skirt.
“If you want.” It made me happy she wanted to learn.
“I do. I’m gonna go show Daddy,” she said excitedly.
I followed her down the stairs and it was Eric’s turn to get a little choked up. Jo didn’t even have the hair, makeup and shoes on yet. Boy was he in trouble.
“You look beautiful, princess,” Eric smiled, clearing his throat.
“Are you going to dance with me like the Beast did at the ball?” Josie asked her dad.
“You don’t have to ask me twice,” he winked. He looked at and added, “Really, Sookie, I can’t thank you enough.”
“You’re welcome,” I said sincerely.
“I owe you,” he told me as he picked up Josie to twirl her around the living room.
“Make me a batch of that Parmesan cream sauce that makes my knees weak and we’re even,” I told him.
“You got it.”
My phone rang in my purse. I moved to grab it and when I saw Alcide’s name on the screen I took the phone outside to answer it.
“Hello?” I closed the door behind me.
“Hello, how are you, sweetie?”
“I am excellent. How are you?”
Things with Alcide were going okay but I noticed lately things seemed to be tapering off. We’d started with a bang – literally – but the substance wasn’t quite there. The sex was still good but the more I thought about it, the more I noticed Alcide was more like Bill than not. I was never going to be a wild child but I figured out I liked motorcycle rides and I wanted another tattoo, but I’d been putting it off because of Alcide. He was conservative in all the wrong ways and it was starting to take its toll on us. Plus he was crazy busy with his work, trying to grow his business. I couldn’t fault him for it, but it made for lots of lonely nights, too.
Or they would be if I didn’t fill them with Eric and Jo.
“Excellent, huh? I’m doing good. I have Wednesday night off and I wanted to see if you’re going to be available.”
“I’m sure I can make room for you. What’d you have in mind?” I took a seat on one of the patio chairs.
“I’ll probably be pretty tired, maybe just hang out at the house. Maybe order some pizza or something,” he suggested.
“Sounds good. I can RedBox some scary movies if you’re game?”
“Sure. What are you up to now? I have a little time I can swing by to see you for a few minutes.”
“I’m at Eric’s. I had to deliver the dress I made for Josie, but I can meet you over at the house,” I offered. It took less than a minute to drive home.
“With Eric and Josie again?” he sighed.
“I told you I was making her Halloween costume. I had to make sure it fits. It does, by the way, and she loves it.” And me, but I left that out.
“Great.” He wasn’t excited. “It’s okay. Stay there, I’ll just see you Wednesday.”
“Okay. I’ll see you Wednesday then.” I didn’t understand the jealousy over the time I spent with Eric. It’s not like we were fucking around after Jo went to bed. He was still my boss and I was seeing someone else. Plus Eric had been on a few dates himself in the last few months. Whatever may have been there between us was gone.
“Uh huh. Have fun.”
I wanted to ask what his problem was, but he hung up before I could. That ruined my good mood.
I sighed and got up to go back inside. Jo was trying to come up with excuses why she had to keep her dress on. It didn’t look like any of them were working.
“Josephine Claire, I said no,” Eric said firmly as I walked in. Josie turned to storm up to her room.
“Uh oh,” I said under my breath.
“Felicia said she’s been a little extra stubborn lately,” Eric sighed.
“I’m sure it’s a side effect of being your kid.”
“Or hers,” he chuckled. “Everything alright with you?”
“Alcide’s not happy I’m here.”
“That’s his problem,” Eric shrugged. “Is everything going okay with you two?”
“I don’t know. I kinda think this is on its last life, you know?” I tucked my phone away.
“That sucks,” he said sympathetically.
“Eh, if it’s over I think it means there’s something better out there for me,” I told him.
“That’s probably true. I held on to Felicia for far too many years. If Alcide thinks you need to be sitting at home waiting for him to call, then you’re absolutely right. There’s definitely something better out there for you.”
“I think he’s worried there’s more going on here than there is,” I explained.
“Trust is important, Sookie. If he doesn’t trust you… I don’t know,” Eric said, shaking his head.
“I know. I don’t know what I’m going to do with him,” I sighed. In my gut I knew what I should do.
“Do you see a future with him?”
“Honestly? No, I don’t.” I knew Alcide wasn’t my forever guy. He was a nice guy but I couldn’t see us moving past the dating stage.
“Then I think you know what needs to be done,” he shrugged. “Why string him along if you know it’s not going to work?”
“It’s more fun to bail in a wedding dress?” I joked as Jo came back to the room.
“Sookie are you going to be here for Halloween with me?” she asked when she came back in her jeans and hoodie.
“I don’t think so, sweetie. My boyfriend and I have a party to go to,” I told her.
“Please?” she pleaded. “You have to be here. I need you to help me with my hair and makeup. Dad can do them. It has to be you.”
“Jo, she has plans. I can do your hair and you don’t need makeup,” Eric told her.
“But I do,” she argued.
“I’ll see if I can come by to help you get ready but I can’t make you any promises,” I said.
“I need you here,” she said again.
“Josie, she said she will try. That’s it. No more begging or else you’re going to you room for the rest of the night.”
“But Daaaaad,” she whined, making Eric cringe. He hated it when she whined like that.
Josie huffed and went to plop on the couch with Dimples.
“I should get going, I think. I’ll let you know about Halloween,” I promised. I needed to go finish my Pocahontas costume.
“Alright. Thanks again, Sookie. Hopefully that one will be less whiny when you see her next,” Eric said, motioning toward a pouty Josie.
“I’m sure she will be. See you later, Jo,” I said.
“Bye,” she replied all pouty from the couch.
She really was more about the sourpuss than she used to be. I wasn’t sure why. Jo was a little young for PMS. It was possible, I supposed. I grabbed my bag and waved goodbye before I walked out of the house. It was irrational but I blamed Alcide for the negative vibes.
Wednesday night I went to Alcide’s house but I didn’t bring movies. I thought about the things Eric said and he was right. I needed to cut Alcide loose.
“Hello?” I called out from the front door.
“In the kitchen!” he called back.
I walked back that way to find Alcide freshly showered.
“Hey,” I smiled.
“Hi,” he smiled back. “I have a Digiorno in the oven. Did you bring movies?”
“Uh, no. We need to talk,” I said.
He arched an eyebrow at me. “What is there to talk about?”
“Us. I’ve been doing some thinking and I realized that even though I like you a lot, I don’t think I see this thing progressing beyond this phase,” I told him.
“So… you’re breaking up with me?” He looked annoyed, but not all that surprised.
“Do you really want to be with me, Alcide? I feel like I’m an afterthought a lot of the time. I realized I want to be a priority and not just an option,” I explained. “I know you’re trying to grow your business and I get it. I’m not angry about it, but I don’t want to always feel like I’m coming in second.”
“I do like being with you, Sookie. I wish I could spend more time with you, I do, but it’s just not possible right now. If this has to be it, I’m not happy about it, but I get it,” he sighed.
“I’m sorry, Alcide. I stayed with one guy already for too long, thinking things might change. I don’t want to make that same mistake twice. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. I learned from the past.” I hoped he understood. The fact that I wasn’t even upset told me I was doing the right thing.
“I appreciate you coming out here to tell me instead of telling me over the phone. I would beg for you to stay, but nothing would change and clearly I’m not making you happy.”
“It’s not even that. I think I need more than happy.” I didn’t see it developing between us.
“Good luck finding it,” he shrugged.
That was heartfelt.
“Thanks.” I didn’t know what else to say. Breaking up with someone was awkward.
What I did know was that I felt lighter when I walked out of the house. I definitely did the right thing.