Chapter 19: Every New Beginning

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I’m not looking forward to making the phone call to Bill, but I don’t want to wait until the last minute like he did with me. So I hike up my big girl panties and dial his number. This is the right thing to do. Even without my decision to try to make things work with Eric, my heart obviously wasn’t as in it as I wanted to think it was or I wouldn’t have slept with someone else.

I should probably confess that I fucked Eric but I don’t see why I need to make this more painful for Bill. Yes, I’m sparing myself some added drama too by not saying anything but I really think that this is a case where what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him applies. So I take deep breaths while the phone rings on his end.

“Hello, sweetheart,” Bill answers.

“Hi,” I reply. “How are you?” It’s been a few days since we last checked in. Not that we have to check in constantly, but there’s something off about that for the beginning of a relationship. There’s supposed to be that honeymoon phase and I don’t really have that rush of feelings where I want to be around him all the time. I don’t…. I don’t miss him like I should.

“I’m well. I’ve been busy trying to get everything caught up before I fly out to see you. I’m excited to get to kiss you again,” he says.

Here goes nothing.

“Bill, I… shit, this is hard. I don’t think you should come out for the wedding,” I tell him.

“What? Why?” he asks. “I was planning on a surprise while I was there. Did something happen?”

“You could say that.” I take another breath and before I can continue Bill starts talking again.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come? I was planning to talk to you about moving here after the baby is born. You can leave the child with the father an–”

“What? No, Bill… I can’t leave my daughter,” I cut him off. Is he out of his mind?

“Of course you can. It’s not like you’ve been exactly happy about the baby. I don’t really want children around the house, but I want you here,” he says.

Wow.

I feel like I’ve been having completely different conversations with him than what he’s been absorbing from them.

“Bill, I don’t know how you got your wires all crossed up but my daughter and I are a package deal. Where I go, she goes. That’s never been up for negotiation,” I say as kindly as I can. “It’s taken some time to get my head on straight with all of this because it’s a big adjustment to make, but it never once crossed my mind not to be a mother to my baby.”

“You can still be a mother,” he says. “You can see her for holidays and summer vacation.” He’s not getting it. “I care for you, Sookie, and I want to be with you.”

I sigh heavily and say, “That doesn’t work for me, Bill. I can’t be a mom that phones it in. I don’t know how to explain it to you, but she’s with me all day long. I talk to her and we already have a relationship. I can’t wait to see her face and watch her grow and I can’t do that over a computer. I’m sorry, but that’s just not that kind of mom I want to be.”

Bill is silent for a moment before he finally says, “So this is over between us?”

“I think it has to be, don’t you? I don’t want to give you false hope that I’m going to change my mind. That’s not fair. You’re a good man. You should be with a woman who can appreciate what you have to offer and can match it. Right now I’m just not that woman,” I tell him. “The reason I called is because I’ve decided to try to make things work with Eric.”

“Oh… I see,” he says quietly. “Then I guess this conversation is over.” No fight, just… over.

“I really am sorry, Bill. I know it sounds trite but it’s nothing you did–” The line goes dead. Just like that. Dead. Over.

Okay…

I shake my head and open my messaging app to text Eric.

Me: I told him. He hung up on me.

I hear a knock on the front door and then Maria walks in like she owns the joint, which isn’t unusual.

“What if I end up hating Al in two years? What if this is a big giant mistake?” she asks with wide eyes.

I was wondering when this would happen.

“Then you can come and crash on my couch until you stop hating him and if that doesn’t work, I’ll get the fake IDs ready so we can leave the country together,” I offer. “I’ll even have one dummied up for our little accomplice.”

“I’m serious, Sookie. Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed to marry him? We’ve been just fine for over a decade without being married. What if we sign the paperwork and he suddenly becomes a big asshole, thinking he owns me? I can’t handle that shit, Sookie. I can’t be that kind of wife. Oh God! What if we have a baby and it’s ugly or talks like his sister?”

I try not to laugh but I can’t help it.

“Sweetie, relax. First of all, nothing turns you on more than when Al is an asshole,” I remind her. “Second of all, if he starts thinking he owns you then you just need to remind him that it’s not who wears the pants but who wears the skirt. Your baby won’t be ugly. You’re going to have a boy so he can grow up to marry my daughter and then we can be old grandmas together.”

“What if he’s gay? They can’t get married and we can’t have adorable grandbabies if he likes other boys. We’re going to have to keep trying, and who knows if you and Eric are going to be able to work things out to give you more babies. Shit, Sookie, this is a mess. I should just back out now. I can send out cancellations and let folks know this is never going to work.”

“Maria, take a breath,” I instruct and even take a deep breath with her. “Aside from the bizarre closeness with Eric, has Alcide ever done anything in the last decade to make you think he likes other boys?”

“I was talking about my son,” she sighs and plops down on the couch. “He’s ruined all the plans of our kids getting married.”

“Sweetie, you don’t know that. Maybe you’ll have a girl and they’ll both be lesbians,” I offer. “I really think you’re panicking over nothing. You love Alcide and that’s the most important thing. He makes you happy and you are going to have a great life with him. Oh, but you’re going to have to adjust your headcount.”

“Shit, what happened? The baby isn’t growing so fast she’ll be here before the wedding, is she?” She’s serious.

I laugh and say, “No, not that I know of anyway. Bill won’t be coming. Neither will Holly.”

Her eyes go wide. “What happened? Spill. Now.”

“We decided to give it another try,” I shrug.

“What changed your mind?”

“I love him. Plus when I called to tell Bill it was over he suggested that I leave Butterball with Eric and move to Seattle to be with him instead.” That was never, not in a billion years, going to happen.

“What is wrong with that man?” she scoffs.

“Bill doesn’t have a close relationship with his family and with the way things were with Eric and me when I met him I’m not terribly surprised that he thought I’d be willing to do that,” I explain. “But I set him straight. He hung up on me as soon as he knew it was really over.”

Kind of a dick move, in my humble opinion.

“Wow, that’s just weird,” she chuckles. “All my Al worries are nothing if you decided to stick with that guy.”

“Exactly,” I chuckle. “Eric’s stuck with me instead. I gave him his keys back to this place.”

“That’s a big step, or not. I’m glad you finally decided something,” she says. “Apparently Alcide told him to walk away from you and stick with Holly. He’s still pissed about the Mongo thing,” she laughs.

“I hope that your adorable future children won’t be as gullible as their father,” I laugh.

I’m not even mad that he told Eric to dump me for good. Honestly, with all the back and forth that he and Maria have had to listen to in the years that Eric and I have been farting around, I wouldn’t blame either of them for being sick of hearing about it. I’m sick of hearing about it.

“I hope not too,” she chuckles. “Are you sure I’m doing the right thing with him? Saying yes was the right thing?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Honestly, can you imagine yourself with anyone else?”

She thinks for a second before shaking her head no. “He’s the only one I’ve ever imagined myself marrying.”

“Then there’s your answer. Trust me, go with your gut.”

“Isn’t that what I told you to do?” she asks, arching an eyebrow.

“Just wait until your hormones are on a rampage and we’ll have this conversation again,” I tell her. “Hormones will trump rationality every time.”

“That doesn’t sound very fun,” she chuckles. “Are the hormones what made you give Eric another chance?”

“I don’t think so. I love him. I loved him before the hormones and I’ll love him after the hormones.”

“Good. You guys are good together. He may drive you crazy but you’re happier with him. I didn’t want to tell you seeing Bill was weird,” she says, scrunching her nose.

“I don’t think it was weird. Lord knows I really needed it when I was in Seattle.” She’ll understand when the second trimester of her first pregnancy hits and all she wants to do is bang Alcide twenty-four hours a day.

“Well, now you can start a new chapter with Eric. I hope you two work this time.”

“Yeah me too because if it doesn’t work this time, I think I have to be done for good. There’s gotta be a limit somewhere, right? I can’t put a kid through the rollercoaster crap.”

“I have confidence in you two,” she says. “You guys love each other, and that’s been obvious since the moment you met.”

“I don’t know about that, but I’m glad we have your vote of confidence.”

“Some days I think you two need all the help you can get,” she laughs.

“Don’t I know it,” I sigh. “Oh hey! Since you’re here I have paint samples painted on the wall in the room that will be the baby’s room. You should go look at the colors and tell me which one you like the most.”

“Okay.” Maria gets up from the couch to walk down the hallway toward the bedrooms. When she comes back she has a smile and says, “The one on the far left is my favorite.”

“Good to know,” I nod. It’s not my favorite but that’s okay.

“I can’t wait to get back from the honeymoon. I want to be able to help you paint and all those fun best friendy things I get to do. I’m already getting mermaid themed ideas for your baby shower.”

“I think we might even have a name for her.” I pick up my phone and open Google to see if I can find out what Lorelei means.

“That’s quick, what is it?”

“Lorelei,” I say as I tap my screen. “My mom wanted to name Jason that if he was a girl. If I had been a boy my name would have been Aaron.”

“Lorelei is beautiful,” she smiles. “What does it mean?”

It takes a few seconds for it to pop up and when it does I can’t help but laugh.

“Do you believe in signs or fate?” I ask.

“Yes. We’re marrying and having kids with best friends. Of course I do,” she says.

“Well, according to Google, Lorelei is Germanic for ‘temptress; a singing siren that lures men to destruction’. So basically…” I trail off, knowing she’ll pick up what I’m putting down.

“Mermaid,” she grins. “That’s… wow, that’s crazy. Lorelei Navarro is nice.”

I cackle at that and say, “Girl, you need to text that to Eric pronto. He’ll shit a fucking kitten.”

It’s hilarious to me that he pretends not to know where the talk about his mancrush came from.

She picks up her phone to type it out. She sets it on the couch next to her and asks, “Is Dave Navarro on Eric’s List?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. I have no clue who’s on his list these days.”

“You should ask.” She picks up her phone when it buzzes. “He says he loves it, but he’ll probably hyphenate.” She flips the phone around to show me a picture of him flipping her off.

“He’s such a douche,” I laugh.

“He is, but that’s part of his charm.”

I hope Eric knows this Dave Navarro thing isn’t going anywhere. The more he whines about it the more we’re going to tease him so he might as well suck it up and take it like a man.

Me: Baby, be nice. It’s not Maria’s fault you love a man with a douchey hipster haircut even though he’s 50.

Eric: I don’t love him. Hell, I don’t even watch the show for him. You guys are both assholes.

“Ha! He says he doesn’t watch the show for Dave,” I tell Maria.

Me: If you say so, honey 😉

“That’s a damn lie,” she laughs.

Eric: Did Bill take it ok when you told him not to come to the wedding?

“No kidding.”

Me: He hung up on me. What do you think?

Honestly, I’m not even upset about it. The fact that Bill took it so poorly actually makes me relieved that I cut him off when I did. It would have only been worse if I had let things continue on the way they were. Hopefully Holly’s not a hot mess when Eric gives her the good news.

EPOV

When I leave the bar instead of going to Sookie’s I make the trip to Holly’s house. I don’t want to do this over the phone. If she’s fine with being friends, that would be great, as long as Sookie is fine with it. I’m not counting on it though.

This is for the best.

I show up at her house and knock lightly on her front door. She knows I’m coming by. I sent her a text to verify she’d be here.

The door opens and she’s dressed in a skimpy ass tank top and even skimpier shorts.

“Hi,” she smiles.

She’s evil. Pure evil.

“Hey,” I smile back. When I step in I don’t kiss her cheek like I normally do. I’m sure she knows something is up.

“Something wrong?” she asks.

“Uh, things are changing,” I tell her. I really don’t want to do this. She’s such a great girl.

“What does that mean?” Holly gives me a curious look and closes the front door.

“We have to stop seeing each other,” I blurt out.

“What?”

“Sookie and I… we’re uh, going to give it one more try,” I say quietly. “We can see each other, but no more sex.”

“Oh.” Holly blinks a couple of times and then she plasters a smile on her face. “Well, good for you. I’m happy she’s decided to try again.”

“I’m sorry,” I frown. I want to hug her, but I don’t know if she wants a hug from me. Shit. I’m used to girls storming out on me when I break up with them. “It came out of nowhere…”

“Eric, it’s okay. I knew this was probably going to happen.” She doesn’t lose her smile, even when her eyes start welling up. “It’s for the best. Your daughter should have her family.”

“Holly.” Fuck it. I step forward to wrap her in a tight hug. “You know… I wish things were different.” If I’d met Holly at a different time we would be great together.

She hugs me back but I can tell she’s just being polite about it.

“Really, Eric, it’s okay,” she says even though we both know it’s not.

“Don’t lie. I feel like an asshole. Part of me tells me this is a mistake, but the part of my heart that belongs to her… I just wish it was different.”

“Please don’t explain,” she says quietly. “I get it. I’m not her. End of story.”

“I should go,” I whisper.

“Yeah.”

I kiss the side of her head before I let her go.

“I’ll see you around?” I’m not counting on it.

“Come on Eric,” she sighs. “We both know this is it.”

“I don’t like it,” I pout. “I’m going to miss you.”

“Then stay here with me,” she says simply.

I reach up to brush her hair behind her ear. “I wish it was that simple,” I say quietly. I want to hold her and kiss her. Things were starting to get a lot more serious than I thought; given the way I’m feeling right now.

“It is. You made your choice.” Holly pulls back from me. “At least you had the balls to tell me to my face that it’s over.”

I sigh and turn for the door.

“This is a lot harder than you know. I’m not making this choice lightly, Holly. I care about you a lot more than I ever expected,” I tell her. “I have a chance to make something work with her and to have my family together. I have to at least try.”

“Yeah, I got it.”

I sigh and walk out. There’s nothing more to say. I go out to my truck and sit for a few minutes. I know this is the right thing to do, but now I’m starting to wonder. What if Sookie and I don’t work and I just fucked up a good thing? Fuck… I can’t think like that. This is a good thing. Holly will be sad, but she’ll get over me pretty quickly. We dated for close to three months, that’s about it. I’m a blip for her.

With a heavy heart I start my truck and make the drive to Sookie’s. On the way I stop at the florist and pick up two bouquets of flowers. One of pink lilies for Butterball, and another one of long stem red roses for her mother. It’s cheesy, but I want her to know I love her. And what girl doesn’t like roses?

I finally make it to Sookie’s place and walk in using my old key. It feels good.

“Really? You don’t think it looks tacky?” Sookie asks. Her voice is coming from the room that will be the baby’s.

“You’s doin’ the mermaid thang. Fishnet is appropriate,” Lafayette reasons.

I chuckle as I walk down the hallway to the room.

“Hey, guys,” I say as I walk in.

“Uh oh. Best get mah earplugs ready,” Lafayette says and Sookie slaps his arm.

“Hmm, maybe not just yet,” I chuckle. I walk over to Sookie and kiss her head. “These are for you.” I hand her the roses.

“Awww thank you,” she smiles.

“You gots you a set for bringin’ my black ass lilies.”

“The lilies are for my little Butterball,” I chuckle. I’m going to miss Lafayette when he moves. Mostly. “What are you guys doing in here?”

“Designing,” Sookie answers.

“Ah, that’s beyond me,” I smile. “Where do you want these?” I’m useless when it comes to designing.

“The kitchen. I’ll get them trimmed in a minute,” Sookie answers.

I nod and leave the room to let the girls work. I get to the kitchen to set the flowers down and open the fridge to get a beer out. I’m sad about what happened today. Yes, I’m happy to have Sookie in my life but I’m still going to miss the hell out of Holly. At first our relationship was about sex but that changed pretty quickly. The sex was great. She was fun to talk too. She gave the best advice, too.

I have my hands on the counter with my head dropped forward when I feel a set of small hands on my waist from behind.

“How was the rest of your day after Maria left?” I ask quietly as I pull her hand around the front of my waist to hold it there.

“Pretty good. I sent Al a text to tell him Mongo has a twin brother named Dongo.”

“I told him you were fucking with him and he didn’t believe me,” I chuckle. I love my friend, but he’s gullible.

“He still doesn’t. He demanded their phone number,” she snickers. “So I gave the Empire Carpet number with an area code instead of an 800 and he flipped his shit.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t call me.” I turn in her arms so my butt I’d against the counter. “I broke things off with Holly after I left the bar,” I sigh.

“How’d it go?”

“As good as can be expected, I guess. She tried putting on a happy face and congratulating me. It was clearly fake and you know how I feel about women crying. I feel bad. I was starting to care for her,” I admit. “I’m sure she’s going to be fine.”

“So it wasn’t that casual after all,” Sookie says.

“Not as casual as I wanted it to be. That didn’t really sink in until today.” I kiss Sookie’s forehead.

“Are you sure you made the right choice?”

“Yeah,” I answer. “I’ve been thinking about that since I left. As much as I’ll miss Holly at first, she’s never been my forever. I know that. You, this little girl, you guys are my forever,” I finish with confidence. I reach between us to rub Sookie’s belly. She’s starting to get big.

“As long as you’re sure.” She gives me a quick peck on my lips and then moves over to start trimming the flowers.

“I’m positive,” I say. “What do you have to eat around here? I’m starving.” I take a drink of my beer and move to look in the fridge.

“I made Swedish meatballs last night,” she says. “I tossed leftover egg noodles in there with them. I think I’m going to make a bunch of meals and freeze them before the birth so you won’t order pizza or Chinese every night.”

Smart girl.

“You don’t have to. I’m not perfect but I’m getting better in the kitchen,” I say. “I’m a pro at tacos now.”

“About time,” she snickers. “I should teach you how to make the shells.”

“Flour tortillas are good enough,” I shrug. “I can make the bacon shells too.”

“I mean the stuffed shells, goof.”

“Sorry,” I chuckle. “Yeah, that would be a good idea. I can start coming in here while you make dinner in case I’m ever in charge of cooking once Butterball has teeth.”

“I think it’s a pretty safe bet that’ll happen,” Sookie laughs. “Or maybe I’ll just teach her how to cook…”

“Hey, what are you trying to say?” I laugh, giving her a smack on the butt.

“Nothing.”

I’m not so convinced.

I get the Tupperware out of the fridge with the meatballs and set it on the counter. I find a plate to dish them onto and slide it into the microwave.

“So do we think we’re going with Lorelei?” I ask as I put the timer on for two minutes.

“Well, it turns out the name is Germanic for mermaid, if you can believe that,” Sookie says with a smile.

“So we think it’s a sign?” I wrap my arms around her from behind, settling my hands over the baby. “I think Lorelei is a very fitting name then.” I start to rock us from side to side in a slow dance.

“Me too. I found a Norse name that falls in line with the theme we have going here,” she tells me.

“Hmm, what is it?” I kiss her neck.

“Nix.”

Lorelei Nix. I roll it around my brain for a minute. I like it. I like it a lot.

“Have you asked Butterball how she feels about it?” I ask, rubbing circles around the baby.

“She likes peanut butter, pickle and banana sandwiches on focaccia bread. She doesn’t get a vote.”

“Good point,” I snort. “Well, I like it. I’ll probably still call her Butterball. She’s going to hate it when she starts dating. I’ll be sure to call her that in front of the little dickheads that she likes.”

“If Maria’s first kid is a girl we’re hoping they’re lesbians.” She’s serious.

“Well… That’s… weird,” I chuckle. “I’ll still call her Butterball in front of a girl if she is a lesbian.” I’m going to love her and taunt her regardless. That’s my job as Dad. At least that’s what Corbett told me the last time I talked to him.

“That’s fine. I’m supposed to ask you if Dave’s on your list,” she giggles.

“Fuck her. Dave is not on my list.” They can all kiss my ass when it comes this Dave Navarro shit.

“Fuck who?”

“Fuck Maria for telling you to ask me that. Just for that I should fuck up her pictures by closing my eyes in all of them at the wedding.” I’d do it too.

“Oh cool your balls. The more bent out of shape you get the more fun it is to mess with you.”

“I just think you’re all assholes. I can’t like the damn show for tattoos, which I’m covered in by the way. It has to be for fucking Dave Navarro?” I pull the Swedish meatballs from the microwave and grab a fork. These things are fuckin’ delicious.

“Yup. Deal with it.”

“Jerk. These are good,” I say as I shove a second bite in my mouth.

“There’s a joke in there somewhere about you, Dave and loving balls,” she giggles.

“I’m not having this conversation,” I pout. It’s annoying as fuck that everyone in my group of close friends teases me.

“You’re seriously pouting?”

“It’s annoying,” I shrug.

“It’s a joke. You know it’s not true. I know it’s not true.”

“Okay.” I poke around at my meatballs. Fuck, I’m being a chick right now. I set them down and go back to my beer so I don’t look so girly.

“Geez, I didn’t realize you were so sensitive with the amount of shit you and Al throw at each other.”

“I’m not. I think I’m just having an off day,” I sigh. Sookie doesn’t seem to be broken up over her split with Bill, or maybe she’s had time to digest it, but I was starting to have actual feelings for Holly, so it’s throwing me off.

“Okay.” She picks up the flowers and kisses my head on her way out of the kitchen.

I finish my meatballs. I’m fine; really, everything recently has taken me by surprise. I think all this stuff with the baby, Sookie, Holly, changing my work schedule, possibly moving back in with Sookie, the fact that I’m going to be responsible for someone else’s life… it’s starting to get overwhelming. I’ve tried to take it all in stride but I feel a breakdown coming on.

I get up from the island and go find Sookie in the living room. I lie down on the couch, resting my head on her lap.

“I love you,” I say quietly to Sookie and then kiss her bump.

“I love you too,” she replies. She strokes my cheek softly and then runs her fingers through my hair in a slow, soothing kind of way.

I think this is what I need right now. I miss this. I miss the cuddling and snuggling and the quiet times together.

“Keep doing that,” I whisper. “I’m probably going to fall asleep.” Hopefully when I wake up I’ll feel better.

Her fingers keep moving slowly through my hair while she channel surfs. I feel the subtle movement of our daughter in her bump in front of my face. I did the right thing. This is exactly where I belong. I have my girls and that’s all I really need. I take a deep breath, letting it out slowly. The last thing I remember before falling asleep is a soft kick in the cheek.

NurseryNext