Walking away from Eric hurts me so much more than it should. As soon as I get in the car I tell Pam to go.
“What happened?” Pam asks.
“Please just go before I get out of the car and go back to him,” I plead.
I cover my face with my hands and let myself cry for a minute. Where the hell are all these feelings coming from? Two days ago he was just another client and today I’m sobbing like I got the last space on the last lifeboat on the Titanic and I have to leave the love of my life behind. This isn’t like me. Becoming fond of a client and developing feelings are two different things.
“Did he hurt you?” Pam asks after a few minutes go by.
“No, Pam, nothing like that,” I sniffle and wipe away my stupid ass tears. “He asked me for my real name this morning and I wouldn’t give it to him. He got upset and shutdown on me. While we were in the restaurant I tried to get him to tell me what was wrong, but he snapped at me and treated me like I’m a whore. I don’t let anyone degrade me. He crossed a line on purpose just to hurt me so I got up and walked out on him. While I was on the phone with you he came after me and apologized. He asked me to stay and talk to him and when I told him to fuck off he told me he loves me.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Pam rolls her eyes. “See this is why women live longer. Men are too fucking dumb to know when to shut up.”
There’s a minute of quiet before she continues.
“So what’s with the tears, Sookie?” she asks.
“He’s a good man, Pam. Under other circumstances, I would probably fall in love with him too. I made the mistake of telling him that and I think it made him think that maybe there is something more going on between us.”
“So then you don’t feel the same as he does?”
“I feel something,” I admit. It’s obvious that I do so there’s no point in lying. “But I’m not in love with him.”
We pull into the parking lot of the brothel and Pam drives around to the garage where we keep the small fleet of company cars.
“I want to refund his money for this weekend, Pam. I don’t feel right taking it. I’ll pay you and Jessica out of my own pocket,” I tell her.
Like it or not there’s still the fifty percent I owe the house now. It’s a considerable amount of money, but I have it many, many times over. It won’t be breaking my bank or anything.
“If that’s what you want,” she nods.
We get out of the car and go inside. Jess is waiting with a concerned look on her face. She was just with us this morning so she knows we were fine when she left. It’s crazy how quickly things can turn around. One minute we’re snuggling after having some of the best sex I’ve ever had, and the next he’s pouting like a petulant child.
I follow Pam to the office where she has her assistant, Miriam, count out the ten thousand dollars Eric paid yesterday when he got here. I write him a little note and include it inside the envelope.
I wish things could have turned out differently because there’s a part of me that I’m sure will always wonder what amazing things I’ve given up by letting you go. I wish you the best and I hope that you’ll find happiness in your life because I meant what I said about it being too short to be miserable. You’re a good man. I’m lucky to have known you.
Pam takes the envelope and calls for someone to collect Eric’s things from our room.
“I’ll wait for him,” she says. “Do you want to see him?”
I shake my head. “Yes, I do but that’s why I can’t. It’s man or money, right?”
Pam nods but keeps her opinion to herself. I walk away from the office and Jess follows me down the hall to my room. As soon as the door closes behind us she asks what happened.
“You were right. He loves me,” I tell her. “And I had to break his heart. It’s over.”
∞ ∞ ∞
A week later my head still wasn’t back in the game. My business has been off and my deflated and defeated mood has started to bring everyone down. After a long talk with Pam, I came to a decision. I need a break. I’ve cancelled all of my appointments for the next month. I’m going to spend some quiet time at home trying to figure out what to do.
Yes, I’m hurt but what happened with Eric got me thinking. I’ve always known this wasn’t going to last forever. I have no plans to be selling myself at sixty. I want to get married, have kids and be normal for once in my fucked up life. I bought a house, I’m almost done with college… Maybe it’s time to leave this place behind.
With my suitcase rolling behind me, I stop on my way out to say goodbye to the girls. Jess gives me a hug and I promise to call her in a few days.
“Walk out with me,” I say, and she nods.
We walk to my Jeep and I open the trunk. Jess helps me haul the bag up into it.
“Jesus, Sookie, is there a body in this?”
“Nope, just some stuff I don’t want to leave behind.”
“You’re coming back, right?”
“Yeah, I think so. I guess we’ll see how I feel in a month, right? You better come visit me.”
“Next week, I promise.”
I close the trunk.
“Are you sure walking away was the right thing to do?” Jessica asks.
“No,” I admit. “But staying wouldn’t have been right either. Maybe if he was single it would be different. Even if his marriage is dead, he still has kids he adores. I could never ask him to leave them for me.”
Jessica looks at me with sympathy.
“Don’t,” I say. “I know what you’re thinking.”
“I’m just thinking it’s a shame,” she says. “I saw you together, you know. I can spot the difference between a john that thinks he’s in love and a man in love. I told you he had feelings for you.”
“He loves Dixie, the sweet southern belle, not Sookie the hot mess.”
“Maybe you showed him your true colors,” she suggests. “The walls have to come down sometime, Sookie.”
I know she’s right, and I know we don’t get a choice in who we fall in love with. But Eric is all wrong for me.
Jess hugs me one more time, and then goes back inside. I get behind the wheel of my Jeep and for the millionth time, I think about calling Eric. I know I should erase his number, but I can’t bring myself to do it. He returned the envelope to Pam, so he still doesn’t know my name. He hasn’t called or texted me, so I can only assume he doesn’t want to talk to me. It’s probably better for us both if we sever all ties.
Once the car is started I pull away from The Cathouse and wonder if I’ll be able to come back to working here ever again.
I don’t know what to do or where to go when I drive away from the house. I have my clothes, toiletries, briefcase, and my laptop. As it turns out, that’s all I really have. I end up at a hotel a few miles away, closer to the office and check in. I’m still a little numb right now. Aude kicking me out is unexpected, but given the circumstances I can’t blame her. I only wish we split on better terms.
Once I’m in my room I flop back on the bed and try to figure out what to do with myself. I don’t have the kids around, no more Dixie. I could do some work, but I can’t focus. I end up calling my oldest son.
“Hey,” he answers. He seems happy, probably with his current girl which is likely to change next week. I don’t know where he got it from, but he likes his women.
“You busy?” I ask him and I hear him moving some things around in the background.
“Not really, what’s up?”
“Do you want to have a beer with your old man?” I need to start telling the kids and Levi will probably be the most understanding.
“Uh… yeah,” he says a little unsure. “Maybe in an hour? Hey, I thought you were out of town.”
“I got back earlier than expected.” I think he can tell something is off in my voice.
We agree to meet at the hotel bar and we hang up. I take a quick shower to wash the airplane and the emotions off. I don’t know when everything is going to really sink in, but I don’t think I’ll be ready for it when it does.
I’m nursing my first beer when I feel Levi’s hand on my shoulder. I turn around and I’m struck by how much he looks like his mother. I’ve obviously always known this, but not having her around anymore I think I’ll notice a lot more.
“What are we drinking?” he asks when I turn to hug him.
“Anything you want, kid,” I say and motion for the bartender to come over to us. I don’t miss the the wink he gives her.
He orders a Blue Moon and then turns to look at me and says, “Now do you want to tell me what’s going on?”
“I’m that transparent, huh?”
“You’re not much of a drinker. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen you drink. Plus you look like shit,” Levi says, and flashes a charming smile at the bartender when she brings his drink.
“Your mom left me,” I tell him and he pauses while drinking, but he doesn’t look surprised. “I see you aren’t surprised.”
“Why would I be? I’ve been praying for you to get divorced since Alyssa was two.”
“Really?” I quirk an eyebrow at him. “What kid wishes their parents to split?”
“A kid who has friends with parents who are actually happy to be married to each other. I know you and mom only got married because of me. I’m not stupid, Dad.”
“Yeah, that was a mistake… getting married, not you,” I clarify. “You know, I thought I loved her, but I looked at her one day after she had the twins and I felt nothing. I appreciate her and appreciate that she’s taken good care of me over the years, but yeah, it was time.”
“Way past,” he says and takes a big drink of his beer. “So what’s the straw that broke the camel’s back? Did you cuss in front of one of the church elders?”
I chuckle, that would’ve sent her over the edge too, but I stick with the truth. “She found out I’ve been keeping a mistress for the last six months.”
Now Levi looks surprised.
“Every other weekend I’d fly out to see her. Mom found the receipts when she was doing taxes. I fucked up and didn’t use cash,” I explain and he looks dumbfounded.
“Smart, Dad. That’s like paying a hooker with a personal check.”
I cringe a little thinking it technically was a hooker I was seeing. “Is it bad that I’m more upset with my girl breaking it off than I am about your mom leaving?”
“That’s a little fucked up. Did she know that you’re married?”
“She knows,” I nod. “My shittastic marriage to your mother was ultimately the cause of her breaking it off and then I get home and deal with Aude leaving me. I’ve had a rough day.”
“Well Dad, what did you expect to happen? You know how women are. Eventually the girlfriend was going to want wife status, and the wife is going to want to flambé your balls,” Levi shrugs.
“This one was a little different. I offered to leave your mom for her and she flipped her shit and broke it off. I would’ve taken care of her and she said no. I guess I know she’s not a gold digger. Aude may take me for everything though.”
“Yeah well, after as long as you guys have been married, I guess I don’t blame her for that. Besides, if this chick only dates married guys do you really want to get involved with someone like that? How many other married guys do you think she’s seeing when you’re not around? I bet you weren’t the only one.”
I cannot tell my son I was having weekend dates with a whore. “You’re right,” I say, “She made me feel like I was the only one though and she listened to me. Lord knows your mom never listened to me.”
“Mom only listens to the Prophets,” Levi rolls his eyes. “Look, Dad, I get it. I’m not saying I approve, but I get it. But I also get why Mom wants to take you to the cleaners.”
“Truthfully, I do too. I fucked up in a major way. Do you have anything planned for your birthday?” I ask, changing the subject.
“Vegas with the fellas,” he grins. “A long weekend of debauchery and ridiculousness. Ty’s talking about hitting up that place you took Al to for his bachelor party.”
My face goes pale. If my son ends up fucking a prostitute and she ends up being Dixie, I’ll shit a brick and then rip his balls off for touching her. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Nah, I talked to the Godfather,” Alcide’s his godfather, “And he said you guys had a great time.”
Fuuuuuck. I don’t want to tell him, but I don’t want to chance it. “I… shit, I was seeing a girl that works there. I don’t want you fucking a girl I’ve been with.” I close my eyes and wait for his reaction.
“You were fucking a prostitute?” Levi sounds shocked. “That’s… that’s fucked up, Dad.”
“You don’t think I know that? I had my reasons. I don’t want to explain them to you, but it seemed like the safest bet at the time and Lord knows your mother wasn’t doing it for me,” I blurt out the last part, knowing he doesn’t want to hear about my lack of sex with Aude.
“Who was she?” Levi whips out his cell phone.
“Her name is Dixie Darling,” I tell him. Even though I could show him my own pictures. I keep that to myself.
Levi taps the screen of his phone and a minute later he says, “I don’t see her on the website.”
I take his phone from him and do my own search. I’m a little relieved that she’s not there and I tell him, “Looks like Pam took her down. She was there last week.”
“What does she look like?”
“Blond, blue eyes, huge rack,” I wink. “She’s gorgeous and not the fake Barbie type. She’s all woman.”
“At least you have good taste.” Levi takes his phone back and pockets it.
“I know you have common sense, but don’t go running off to tell your brothers. I expect Aude to have more respect for both of us to say anything. I just don’t think they should know why we split,” I say.
“Are you kidding? I don’t want to be the one to tell them. That’s up to you and Mom to figure out,” he says.
“Thanks,” I say and order another beer.
My son and I end up drinking way too much. Thankfully we’re at the hotel bar and we only have to take the elevator to my room and pass out.
∞ ∞ ∞
The next week goes by in a blur. Looking for a new place is more time consuming than I remember. Once Aude calmed some she was a lot more reasonable. She still won’t forgive me, but I don’t expect her too. She does talk to me though which is all I can ask since we still have four kids at home.
The mid-week I start moving into my new apartment. I got a three bedroom, not expecting all of the kids to stay with me at once. I suspect Alyssa will be with me the most. We’ll see how everything turns out though.
I need to talk to Dixie though. I know we left too much unsaid. Instead of calling her, I hop a flight and fly to Carson City to see her and talk to her face to face. I’ve been devastated since we stopped seeing each other. It’s been just over a week and I can only hope she’s willing to see me.
When I walk in Pam is standing near the front as always and she makes her way over to me. “How are you?” she asks. I clearly look like shit.
“Could be better. Is she here?” I ask, Pam knows who I’m asking for.
“Hold on.” Pam walks away and I see her go to Scarlett, who didn’t see me come in, and whispers something while pointing at me.
Scarlett looks sad when she sees me and after a little more whispering, Scarlett comes up to me.
“Hello, Eric,” she says with a small smile.
“Hey,” I return the smile. Mine is probably a bit more sad. “Is she here? Will she talk to me?”
“I’m sorry, but no,” she says. “She left yesterday and I’m not sure if she’s coming back.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. I don’t know why I’m apologizing. “Do you know where she is? I need to see her.”
“I wish I could tell you, but I’m not at liberty to do that.”
“Please,” I beg. “I know if she listens to what I have to say… then maybe we’ll be fine.”
“I’m sorry,” she says sympathetically. “The most I can do is make sure she gets a letter if you want to write one.”
I nod and walk over to the desk to ask Pam for a pen and paper. I look at it for a long rime before I end up writing the truth.
I’m broken without you ~ Eric
I fold the paper and ask Scarlett to please give it to Dixie for me.
“I’ll make sure she gets it,” Scarlett promises. “And Eric, for what it’s worth, I know she misses you, too.”
“Thanks,” I smile and turn to leave.
I drive back to the airport and get a return ticket home. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be here when I bought the flight out so I left it open ended.
With a heavy heart, I board the plane and fly back to my apartment, wishing I had Dixie with me.