I feel like complete shit. I forgot how much hangovers suck. I manage a small smile when I see the water and pills on the nightstand. Eric must have put them there for me. It takes a minute before I can extract myself from his hold. My head is pounding and my hearing and vision seem to be extra sensitive, but I don’t remember throwing up so at least I didn’t get that drunk.
I take the medicine and then roll over away from the windows to hide my face from daylight. Eric shifts and puts his arm around me. I’m not ready to be awake yet. I drape an arm over his stomach and go back to sleep.
When I wake up again it’s because my amazing boyfriend has coffee for me.
“You’re my favorite person in the whole wide world,” I tell him when I open my eyes.
A big smile lights up his face, all of his teeth are showing and it’s a little scary. “Good morning,” he has more to say, I can tell, but he stays quiet.
“How long have you been up?” I sip the coffee and it tastes like heaven.
“About an hour,” he says, the smile hasn’t left his face. “Get dressed, Ryan’s here. Don’t worry though, he’s my calm one.”
“Wanna tell me why you look like you slept with a hanger in your mouth?”
“Oh, just a really hot sex tape, which is a little shaky in spots and you told me you love me.”
I nearly choke on my coffee.
“I did?” I think about it and remember mumbling something right before I passed out. That must have been it.
“Mmhmm, now get up, he’s been waiting to meet you,” he says and playfully smacks my hip.
Okay, he’s never this chipper first thing in the morning. Not even when he woke up to find two girls going at it was he this happy. All the same, I get up and put on some pajamas. I duck into the bathroom to do my regular morning routine, and then I take my coffee with me to go find Eric and Ryan. I find them in the living room.
“Hi,” I wave to Ryan. “I’m Sookie.”
“Hi,” he smiles and surprises me when he wraps me in a tight hug. “I’m Ryan, so glad to finally meet you.”
“Likewise. Sorry I’m not fully awake yet,” I apologize. Plus I’m still a little hungover.
“No worries,” he says and then he just looks me up and down, taking everything about me in. It’s not in a creepy way though so I’m only slightly uncomfortable. “She’s really pretty, Dad,” he directs at Eric without taking his eyes off of me. “I approve.”
“Thanks son,” Eric chuckles.
I’m not really sure what to say, but I’m glad I put on pajamas and not one of Eric’s shirts. I take a seat on the couch with my legs folded under me.
“Sookie, I made breakfast if you’re hungry,” Eric tells me. “Something tells me you could probably use the grease.”
“Yes, definitely,” I smile and stand up again. “Thank you, Eric.”
I scurry to the kitchen and take a plate to grab some food. For the moment I can blame my awkwardness on it being first thing in the morning, but honestly I’m not sure I’m really ready to meet all of the kids. It’s overwhelming and it’s a big deal. Once I have a full plate I sit down at the table to eat.
Eric and Ryan join me and I don’t know what to say or how to act. I decide to just stay quiet until Ryan pipes up.
“Sookie, tell me about yourself. I know my dad really likes you and I know all about the Levi thing. I want to know you though. I need to form an opinion of you.”
What Eric meant to say is this is his oddity. He’s a handsome boy, but very in your face.
“Well, I uh… I’m originally from Louisiana. My parents were both dead before I turned fourteen. I moved to Nevada when I was twenty-one to stay with my cousin and a few years ago I moved to South Lake Tahoe. I’m studying to be a family counselor and I have just one semester to go before I graduate,” I tell him. That was safe enough.
“I like your accent,” he compliments and I give him a close-lipped smile since I have food in my mouth. “I’ve always hated living in Utah, and if I remember correctly I wanted my parents to disappear when I was fourteen. I lucked out and they’re still around, which makes me very sad for you. I’m very sorry to hear you were orphaned. Why South Lake Tahoe, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“It’s beautiful there. I like hiking, horseback riding and fishing, and I can do all three out there. Plus it’s rather secluded and the house I grew up in was on a big lot in rural Louisiana, so minus a few things it reminds me of home.”
“Music, what music do you like?”
“Depends on my mood. I like a little bit of everything. But the number one preset in the car is for the Classic Rewind station on XM radio. Bob Seger is my favorite singer, before you ask.”
I glance over at Eric, who looks surprised. He shouldn’t since there are tons of little things he doesn’t know about me. Like how I might just be the only person in the world that listens to The Cure to get in a better mood, or how every time I hear the song “Somewhere Out There” I burst into tears because it makes me think of my parents. I know we can learn these things about each other, but it seems strange to not know them but still love him.
I might not have meant to let it slip out while I was drunk, but I realize that I do love him. I’m not sure when it happened, but it’s there. We need to talk about it, but not now. Not in front of Ryan.
“While we’re discussing it, what kind of movies do you like?” he follows up.
“Pretty much anything associated with John Hughes or Cameron Crowe,” I smile.
“What are your thoughts on dating someone with so many kids, kids that are very close with him and with each other? I’m sure you’ve talked to Dad about it, but as one of those children I want to know directly from you.”
I feel way put on the spot and my under-caffeinated brain feels like it’s flopping in my skull while I try to find the right words.
“Well, I don’t mind that Eric has kids. I knew that going in and I know he loves all of you very much. I think it’s great that you’re all close. I don’t have much of a relationship with my own family, so I’m afraid I’m not very good at that kind of thing, but I’m not against it either.” I hope that answer is good enough for him for now.
He goes silent for a moment as he keeps a curious eye on me, and I’m just waiting for the next question the interrogation. I think even Eric is getting nervous at his silence, but he finally finishes with, “I like you. I think Dad made a good choice and I appreciate you answering all of my questions fully.”
“No sweat,” I say, and then gulp down my coffee.
Ryan gets up from the table, Eric follows, and I watch as he takes his keys from his pocket. I assume he’s leaving, and he confirms that when he waves and says, “I hope to see you soon, Sookie.”
“Nice meeting you, Ryan,” I wave back.
When Eric returns he sits on his chair next to me again and starts laughing.
“I’m so sorry about him. I’ve never known what to do with him, but it is who he is so I let him be.”
“He should be a detective or an FBI agent.”
“He’s not sure what he wants to do, but I’ll make that suggestion,” Eric nods. “He was waiting on the couch when I got up. Apparently he’s been dying to meet you since Chris told him about his encounter with you.”
“Wonderful,” I sigh, and rub my temples.
“Hey,” Eric reaches over to rub my back, “It’ll die down soon, I promise.”
“It’s not just that.” I get up and take my plate to the sink.
“What is it then?” he asks and I can tell how concerned he is.
“I need you to slow down a little. I want to meet your kids but not when I’m barely awake and hungover. Everything feels like it’s happening so fast and you’re not even divorced yet,” I explain.
“I wasn’t going to kick him out, Sookie. I get what you’re saying, but with such a big family it’s hard to keep them away,” he says, he’s a little annoyed.
“Did I say you should have kicked him out? No. But you could have told him that I was sleeping and he could meet me another time,” I point out.
“To me, that would’ve been kicking him out.”
I shake my head. “You’re crazy.”
He gives me an annoyed look as he gets up and goes into the living room. He flops on the couch and snatches up the remote to turn the TV on. He’s pouting like a child. Fuck that noise.
I go back to the bedroom and get dressed. After combing out my hair I weave it into a loose braid and then put on my sandals. He can pout by himself. I’m not in the mood to deal with that shit. I grab my sunglasses and purse. I’ll sit in the old movie theater down the street all day if I have to.
When I walk out of the bedroom I announce, “I’m leaving. Call me when you’re done being a big baby.”
“Have fun,” he replies without looking at me.
“Yeah thanks. I’m so glad I stayed,” I mutter and then walk out, slamming the door behind me. My head doesn’t like me for doing that, but if he can act like a brat then so can I.
Maybe his wife let him get away with this crap, but I’m not going to. I leave his building and start walking aimlessly. God knows if he’ll even call me.
She needs to learn really quickly that when it comes her or my kids, her wishes will never come first. I understand that she’s not ready to meet them all, but when my son is waiting on the couch for us to get up so he can meet her I’m not going to kick him out, which is exactly what she told me I should’ve done. Would she have told him to come back another time if she’d gotten up first? Because she’s a guest in their house, and she can take her bitchy ass home if that’s the case.
I’m glad she took off when she did. The tension if she’d stayed would’ve gotten too thick and I’ve had over twenty years of tension with someone. This thing with Sookie is supposed to be good and happy. Instead when she made her snarky ass comment on the way out I wanted to tell her not to worry about coming back.
∞ ∞ ∞
I take a look at the clock and see she’s been gone for almost four hours. Now that I’ve calmed down, I don’t like it. I really do worry about her walking around town all alone. Of course I give in and call her. The first time I call she doesn’t answer and I immediately call back. This time she answers.
“Hello?” Sookie says.
“Where are you?” I ask, the annoyance gone from my voice.
“Sitting in a secondhand book store like five miles from your place.”
“Can I come get you?”
“Are you done pouting?”
“Are you done being…” I stop before I say something that’ll only make things worse. “I just wish you would understand where I’m coming from. I know you’re not used to a big family, but I have it, Sookie. This is why I ask if you’re okay with it. I can’t always make them do what I want them to do.”
“And I don’t want to make a bad impression. It’s bad enough that I’m the woman that broke up your marriage but then I dated your son, another one saw me naked and now a third one has seen me hungover. Put yourself in my shoes and then ask yourself why I’m upset,” she says, and toward the end her voice is trembling. Then she sniffles.
“Sookie, I get it, I do,” I tell her softly, “And I hate to tell you, but a million more embarrassing things are going to happen to both of us. The kids don’t blame you for the split, the blame is on Aude and me and they get that. I know it doesn’t make you feel any better, but they don’t judge you. They just want to know the woman their dad loves and they want to love you too.”
“I want them to know me too, but I need you to slow down. It’s overwhelming, Eric. And as much as you think you get it, I don’t think you do,” she says.
“I do, and I feel like I’m being blamed for situations I had no control over. I didn’t invite them over, they both showed up on their own. I can apologize all day, and tell you that I do get it, but it’s like it’s not good enough,” I sigh.
“Then maybe I should just go back to California,” she says. “I’m telling you what I need and you’re not listening. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t respect my wishes.”
Jesus fucking Christ she’s like talking to a brick wall.
“Fine, I’ll tell them not to come to the house until you go,” I agree, even though right now I don’t know if I want to. I know I’ll regret it later though. I hate telling them they aren’t allowed at my house, and I know Aude will try to use this against me, but it’ll make Sookie happy and until she’s ready this is what I have to do.
“That’s not what I was asking you for, but fine. I’ll be back to get my stuff in a few minutes,” she says, and hangs up before I can respond.
Now I have to decide if I want to be a bitch and beg for her to stay or if I should let her go.
I hear her knock on the door a few minutes later and when I open the door I don’t give her a chance to get by me. I pull her into my arms and just hold onto her even when she tries to pull away at first. She sags into my chest fairly quickly. I pick her up, leaving her legs hanging, and carry her to the room. I’m going with the begging if I have to. I love this girl and she’s frustrated because of me and as frustrated as I am, I need to make this right.
By the time I flop on the bed with her still wrapped in my arms she’s crying. I hated hearing her sniffling earlier and it’s even worse with her rubbing her face into my chest.
“I’ve hidden all of your clothes, you can’t go anywhere,” I whisper into the top of her head.
“I don’t want to go,” she says with a sniffle, “But I… this is important to me, Eric, and I don’t want to screw it up. Is it really that big of a deal that I asked for more time? It isn’t like we’ve been seeing each other for years. It’s been four days.”
“I know,” I kiss her hair again. “With our beginning it seems like longer, you know? I think that’s why it hasn’t been that big of a deal for me… I’ll make sure you get as much time as you need, pretty girl.”
“Thank you.” Sookie lifts her head and adds, “I really do love you. I just wanted to say that in case you thought I only said it because I was drunk.”
“You don’t lie even when you’re drunk, Sookie, that and I was already pretty sure you love me four days ago. The look on your face when you saw me at the table said it all. I was just waiting for you to realize it.”
Sookie sucks in a breath and says, “Just about every other relationship I’ve ever been in has been toxic for me. There were always strings in the past when someone said they loved me. Years of being treated badly don’t heal themselves overnight, but I’m trying.”
“That’s all I can ask.” I hug her tighter, running my fingers through her hair. “I just want to love you, Sookie. I want to take care of you — emotionally — and make sure you don’t have a reason to cry anymore. We’re going to disagree, but we can get through it.”
“Just be patient with me, okay? I’m used to doing it all on my own.”
“I’m trying, you know I get excited,” I smile.
“I know. I have to remember that I fell in love with a giant puppy,” Sookie smiles back at me.
“Mmhmm, indeed you did.” I grab Sookie’s face and pull her up for a kiss on the lips.