As she lay back, she allowed her kiss with Eric to replay again and again in her mind before she went to sleep. She decided to worry about the fact that she likely didn’t have a job anymore on Monday morning—or when the police came.
Whatever happened first.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
When Sookie woke up the following morning, she was happy to find herself still in her own bed, rather than in a jail cell—or a padded cell for that matter. She grabbed her bathroom bag, her towel, and her robe, and then she went across the hall to her bathroom; it was also the guest bathroom, which was why she kept her personal items out of it.
She quickly went to the bathroom, showered, combed and dried her hair, brushed her teeth, and put her hair into a ponytail. She managed to avoid her eyes in the mirror the whole time.
Her bathroom requirements met, Sookie cleaned up after herself and returned her things to her room, making sure to hang up her wet towel on the hook on her closet door. Then, she dressed in her usual Sunday clothing for winter: blue jeans, a long-sleeve T-shirt, thick socks, and a sweater. She had quickly learned—especially given the thinness of her coat—that layers were a must in New York during the winter.
She sighed. Part of her wanted to cancel her usual “date” of going to the MET, but she had been looking forward to visiting Gallery 111 since she’d picked that number out of her jar the day before. The gallery housed some Egyptian art from 1800 to 1500 B.C., and she’d promised a report on the gallery to Gran too, so she put on her tennis shoes and grabbed her coat.
Amelia was—again—nowhere to be found, so Sookie left a quick note in the kitchen and then headed back toward the subway. Truth be told, the note was as much for the police—if they came looking for her—as it was for her housemate, given the fact that Amelia usually didn’t come home on Sundays until almost midnight.
Sookie got off at her stop at a little after 9:00 and walked the few blocks to the MET. The coffee shop across the street provided her breakfast, which consisted of a blackberry scone and a small latte. Though the morning air was cool, the sun was out and warm, so she sat on the steps outside the museum. As she ate her treat, she watched the tourist families milling around as they waited for the museum to open.
As usual, the tourists were all anxious to get into the MET, which opened at 9:30 on Sundays. The family closest to her consisted of four members: parents and two little girls skipping around on the steps excitedly. Sookie smiled and closed her eyes. She swore for the millionth time that if she was ever to have a child, she would love him or her unconditionally. She was frightened of passing down her hearing problem, which had been connected to genetics, but she was determined to protect her child if she ever had one. Meanwhile, she just enjoyed the sounds of the kids playing and climbing up and down the steps as their parents watched over them.
She closed her eyes and let herself indulge in her usual fantasy. In it, she was sitting exactly where she was now, but she was not alone. A family surrounded her. However, this time—instead of a faceless, amorphous man—she saw Eric in her daydream. He was holding a blond-haired, blue-eyed infant who looked just like him. Two other similar-looking children milled around them—all smiling at her. She smiled back at them and felt her throat tighten at their beauty. She looked down at the hand of the fantasy her and saw that it was enclosed in Eric’s larger hand. She could feel the warmth of it, though that feeling was probably from the coffee she was holding. Regardless, she let herself imagine that it was from his encompassing touch.
She even let herself like it. Of course, she didn’t let herself hope it. The daydream lasted only for a few moments before memories of her mother telling her that she would never find anyone stupid enough to want her entered into her mind. Sookie’s eyes popped open and focused on the cup of coffee that was truly warming her hand. She put it down for a moment, just so that she could get the fantasy out of her head. She noticed that the family that she’d been watching was gone now; thus, the museum must have opened.
“All pretend,” she said to herself, mouthing the words, rather than giving them any volume. Her indulgences into fantasy always ended the same way—with her mother’s voice pointing out their impossibility—but Sookie usually didn’t feel loss as they slipped away; however, for the first time, she felt a sense of longing in a part of herself that she didn’t even know existed until she felt the warmth of Eric’s hand the night before. His touch had been a spark, but now she felt the fire dying. Too soon.
“All pretend,” she said to herself once more.
Sookie shook herself out of her thoughts and finished her latte; she indulged in “eating out” only once a week—for her Sunday breakfasts and lunches—so she was determined to enjoy the moment. As soon as she was done, she got up and went into the museum.
She’d come to know the Sunday morning guards—at least the two who were always at the front door—and she handed them a bag of their favorite treats from the coffee shop. As her weekly assignment from Claudine suggested, she spent a few seconds speaking with the two, whose names were John and Milos.
Then she headed for her destination, taking out her small composition book and pen as she went. She knew right where she was going, having been to the MET so many times. However, it had not been long before that the massive museum had overwhelmed her.
Using portions of her first and second paychecks from NP, Sookie had been able to buy a year-long pass to the MET on March 6, 2011. She’d spent her first day roaming around aimlessly, her mind eventually becoming fatigued by all that she was seeing. After that, she developed a plan: one gallery per Sunday. She started with the ten Northman galleries, and then she wrote down all the numbers of the active galleries on slips of paper, which she’d pull out of a jar each Saturday. She also kept her eye open for temporary exhibits she was interested in. She would prioritize those so that she wouldn’t miss them.
Her composition book was for notes regarding the pieces she liked and wanted to remember for some reason or another. Her phone, which also served as her camera, would be pulled out only once during the day. From every gallery—no matter how big or small—she always took only a single picture. She took it of the piece that most struck her—not necessarily her favorite, but the one that stood out to her the most. When Sookie had told Claudine about her project the first week they’d spoken, her therapist had encouraged her to continue doing it and had asked about Sookie’s chosen piece each subsequent Tuesday—except for the week after Christmas, since the MET had been closed that Sunday.
That week, Gallery 111 was on Sookie’s agenda. As usual, she took all morning perusing the gallery, but by lunchtime, she had narrowed down her “favorites” to two items. The first was from the Twelfth Dynasty—a sculpture of a wildcat. She was drawn to the cat for a simple reason: she had always wanted a pet. Jason had had several puppies as he’d grown up, but Sookie was punished if she touched them. She had always wondered, however, what it would be like to give affection to and to receive affection from an animal. Jason had seemed to love his dogs—and they him. Unfortunately, Amelia was allergic to cats, so that eliminated Sookie’s opportunity to have one as long as she lived with Amelia.
Then again, there was another piece in the gallery that was tugging at her too. It was called a “magic wand” and had been made out of a hippopotamus tusk. She liked all the carvings in the object, as well as the meaning behind it.
By 12:25, she was done with her first walk-through of the room, even though she hadn’t yet picked her “favorite” for the day.
Unless it was raining, Sookie always left the MET to get lunch in the park before returning to the same gallery in the afternoon so that she could enjoy the art one last time and then take her picture. However, that Sunday, she broke her routine. She climbed the stairs to the second floor and walked to the south of the building, where she would find the European paintings and the Northman Galleries. She made her way to Gallery 823 and stood in front of Wheat Field with Cypresses. She studied the painting for several minutes, first the gold of the wheat and then the blue of the sky.
She let her mind rove to the blues of Eric’s eyes and then—once again—she let herself relive her kiss with Eric.
It had been the single best moment of her life.
And that thought scared her on so many levels. Sookie’s needs—both physical and emotional—had always been few. She’d grown up in a world where “happiness” wasn’t permitted to her, though she’d had moments that were better than others. For instance, her daddy was always nice to her, but Sookie had known that if she got too close to him or if he spent too much time with her, then her mother would get angry. And that meant she’d be put into the corner when he wasn’t there, so Sookie kept to herself, even around him. Still—his being in the house was like a reprieve for her. She could read without disturbance and even quietly sit in the living room and watch television with the family—the mother, the father, and their son.
Her daddy even tried to include her to a certain extent by making sure that the television was on “closed captions” when he was home. Her mother hated when he did that. But Sookie loved it. That small action proved that he cared for her. And it helped her to become a fast and exact reader too.
Moving to Gran’s house had offered her so many more pleasant experiences. Gran loved to bake, and she taught Sookie all she knew. And the level of freedom Sookie got at Gran’s was incredible! She was able to go into any room she wanted and watch television whenever she liked. She was even able to choose programs to watch, though she always deferred to Gran when she was at home. When she wasn’t, however, Sookie chose what to watch, and she wasn’t punished for having the television on when Gran was gone, which was another big change for her.
No longer afraid of her mother’s punishments for excelling and because of Gran’s encouragement, Sookie was able to improve her grades from straight C’s to straight B’s during her senior year. Getting out of the habit of underachieving completely had taken her a bit longer to do.
The best thing that happened at school, however, was that the teacher who directed the high school’s newspaper asked Sookie to be the copy editor after the person who had been doing it abruptly quit. That was her first copy editing job. She also excelled on the SAT, which was how she found herself with a full scholarship to the University of Mississippi—since her overall GPA was mediocre at best. Once more encouraged by Gran, she’d left Bon Temps, even though she was sorry to leave Gran.
Getting away from a place where she had been stigmatized helped Sookie to start a better life. As would be expected, she was socially stunted, and she still had the propensity to read lips, instead of to listen to others with her ears, which made her seem a little “off” to those around her. Not really knowing much about how to talk to people or to make friends, Sookie hadn’t fit in with the people in her classes. Still—they didn’t know about her history, so it was better. The best thing was that none of them bullied her. Many of her classmates gossiped about her “strangeness,” and Sookie could tell that none of them really liked her that much, but mostly, they just ignored her.
Working steadily, Sookie finished her bachelor’s degree in four years, and Dr. Dekker helped her to stay to get her master’s degree in English. After that, she was pretty certain that she would have gotten her doctorate degree because she loved being a student, as well as reading and analyzing texts. During her sophomore year at Old Miss, she decided on her career goal: copy editing. It wasn’t a glamorous job—by any means. But it still made Sookie “happy” to know that she was good at something.
It was during her first year of graduate school that she met Bill Compton, and she could point to some of her times in that relationship as being “happy” too. Despite the way their relationship ended, she had enjoyed being part of a couple. She had all of her “firsts” with Bill too. The first time she held hands, it was with him. The first time a guy kissed her, it was him. The first time she had sex, it was with him. The first time a guy told her that he loved her, it was him.
When Bill asked to travel to Bon Temps with her to meet her family, Sookie had been terrified—afraid that her mother would tell Bill something that would make him not want her anymore. Sookie had already told Bill that she could read lips, and he knew that she’d been deaf for much of her life. He even knew that her relationship with her mother was strained. But she’d never spoken about what her childhood was like in any detail. Of course, Bill and Sookie stayed at Gran’s, and the elderly woman had approved of his Southern manners immediately. More surprising was the fact that her mother had approved of him. Bill had insisted that they go out to eat with Michelle once during their visit, and she had treated Sookie “nice” during the meal.
Being with Bill had made Sookie “happy”—maybe not the kind of happy that she’d read about in fairy tales or love stories. But it was a kind of satisfaction. She’d thought that he cared for her, and that was something she’d rarely experienced. So she’d fallen in love with Bill—at least as much as she was able to love.
How could she not?
But everything changed when she learned the truth about why he had pursued her from the start. So every happy memory she had with him had suddenly become something to question and doubt.
She sighed. If she was being honest with herself, there had always been something “off” about Bill. Her instincts had sent warning bells to her from the day she met him. She had spent her life studying people, and Bill seemed “too perfect”—“too careful.” Looking back, she realized that he hardly ever had a conversation with someone beyond the weather, sports, or politics when she was in range to “read” him. And—most significantly—Bill’s lips often curved in unexpected ways when he spoke to her.
When he would tell her that he loved her, she would read hesitation and something akin to guilt in the way his mouth would curve downward a bit. When she would try to initiate any kind of physical affection, his upper lip would rise for just a second, signifying contempt; however, when he initiated their physical interaction, it would not. There was caution in the rate at which his words flowed from his mouth. Sookie had chosen to ignore these things, rejecting the tell-tale signals that her years of reading lips had enabled her to see. She comforted herself with the knowledge that the shape of his mouth never indicated pity or anger, and sometimes there was a softness to his expression that she decided must be love.
So she had loved him back—giving him every single piece of her heart that she had been working to excavate since she’d left her mother’s house. She ignored any reservations she felt and tried to “be” a woman that he would want—to act like the “genteel Southern girl” he seemed to desire for her to be. Even when Lafayette visited her once and told her that he’d seen Bill being “a little too cozy” with another woman, Sookie had let Bill explain that situation away. Of course, when Sookie learned the true, her heart had become buried in rubble again.
So—yes. She’d had a lot of nice moments in her life: with her daddy, with Gran, with Bill, with Lafayette, with Tara, with Amelia, and even alone on her boulder and at the MET.
But her short time with Eric had moved like a rocket to the top of the list. His mouth had lifted and curved and fallen and straightened in ways that completely matched his words. But for the first time that she could remember, her focus was not on his lips. It was on his eyes, which had been powerful enough both to connect her to him and to keep her connected.
His eyes—both before and after their kiss—had been open to her. Honest. She wasn’t sure she had liked everything she had seen in them, but she liked the fact that nothing had been hidden. Nothing was held back. The kiss itself had literally changed her life. One minute she was a girl who didn’t really understand intense passion; the next she wasn’t. One minute she was a girl who had never been kissed by a guy who truly desired her—just her. The next she was such a girl.
Oh—she wasn’t about to believe that Eric Northman had loved her at first sight. After thinking about it on the subway ride to the MET, she was pretty certain about what would have happened between her and Eric. Her fantasies notwithstanding, everything seemed clearer and crueler in the cold light of day.
For whatever reason—maybe novelty—Eric had desired her. He would have had her too. She would not have denied him. She could almost see herself gathering her clothing for a quick exit in the early morning hours in Eric’s bedroom or—more likely—the suite of some hotel. Or the backseat of a limo. Or maybe even just a stairway at the MET. In actuality, she had no idea where men like Eric had sex, but she was quite certain that she would have found out the night before if she hadn’t “overheard” de Castro and Madden speaking.
Sookie could envision herself making her way to the subway station nearest to where she’d ended up with him. She could see herself traveling home on an almost-empty subway due to the late hour. She wondered if Eric would have even remembered the name he’d fought to pull from her the night before. At least, he wasn’t likely to forget it now, she thought, as she left Gallery 823.
Eric Northman stared at Sookie Stackhouse from across the street. He could see only a sliver of her profile, but—even with her golden hair in a ponytail—he felt certain that he would have recognized her anywhere.
He had only one question: Why? Of course, that question applied to about a million different topics in that moment.
Eric had not intended to return to the MET that morning, but at 5:00 a.m., when he finally decided that sleep wasn’t going to come, he got up, showered, dressed for the day, and left his home in the Upper West Side. He’d walked east, slowly strolling the blocks until he entered Central Park at West 90th Street. He walked along the south side of the Jackie O. Reservoir and exited the park at East 84th Street just north of the MET.
He’d walked unhurriedly for hours, and he’d not even registered his destination until he was standing in front of it. He approached the MET entrance and saw that the doors would not open until 9:30. Since it was only 8:30, he decided to grab a coffee and something to eat at a nearby coffee shop.
He had almost been done with his enormous cup of coffee and his newspaper when Sookie walked into the coffee shop, her cheeks reddened from the cold and her pony tail swinging slightly with the sway of her hips.
She had taken his breath away.
Eric had made sure that he was out of sight behind his newspaper as Sookie’s eyes scanned the side of the shop that he was in. He watched her order a coffee and three pastries and then leave the store.
As if compelled to do so, he had followed her. And now he was watching her like some kind of fucking stalker from across the street. He told himself that it was only because he was suspicious of her, but—in truth—he was intrigued by her. Fascinated.
A/N: Thanks for sticking with me! I appreciate all readers and all reviews/comments!
Have a wonderful day!
The title for this chapter is from a song by Sheryl Crow called “On the Outside.” It is sort of “Sookie’s Theme” for this fanfiction. If you don’t know the song and want to listen, check it out by clicking the picture. I put it on YouTube (along with the lyrics), but I didn’t make a “movie” (no time). The song is very haunting, however, and it fits this Sookie (at least for now).
If you can’t access my video, click here.