Chapter 37: Moving
“Well,” Eric remarked as he brought the corvette to a stop at the traffic light at 12th Avenue and 42nd Street, “telling Amelia was relatively painless. Your friend seems,” he paused, “accepting—despite the circumstances.”
Sookie nodded. “Yeah. I think she just wants me to be happy.”
Eric and Sookie shared a little smile until the light turned green and the cab driver behind them honked his horn.
“Oops,” Eric chuckled as he tore his gaze from Sookie and put the car into gear.
It was almost 3:30; they’d stayed at Amelia’s brownstone for nearly two hours after Eric got there—just long enough to eat, clean up the kitchen, chat with Amelia a little, and pack some of Sookie’s things. Eric had been surprised that her housemate hadn’t been more critical of his and Sookie’s relationship. Amelia had been—for lack of a better word—”friendly,” and it was clear that she supported Sookie. Eric was glad about that.
He held in a sigh as he focused on the dense traffic in front of him, glad that it was moving pretty quickly. As expected, his meeting with his father, Andre, and the Faemans hadn’t been pleasant. Appius had given him a list of changes—some reasonable and some ridiculous—that he thought should be made to the agreement with Guangzhou Press.
While his contract with Appius gave Eric ultimate control over the international division of NP, he still had to submit reports on all of his activities as well as “consider all revisions” suggested by his father. Eric had learned the hard way what would happen if he didn’t incorporate at least some of Appius’s suggestions into the deals he forged. Several times—when Eric had completely ignored Appius’s proposed revisions—the elder Northman had basically torpedoed Eric’s deals by calling the CEOs of the companies Eric had wanted to work with and hinting that Eric didn’t have his support on the deals. Appius had done similar things with up-and-coming international authors, whom Eric had been working to sign.
Yes—though it was a pain in the ass—it was better to try to appease his father to a certain extent. And a few of Appius’s proposals could be easily incorporated into the contract. Others would take some tweaking, but Eric knew he could have a new draft finished by 6:00, which was the deadline Appius had given him for a revised report on the project. Indeed, Eric had learned to anticipate the kinds of changes his father would advocate; thus, a new draft was already mostly completed.
After that would come the really stressful part. Appius would likely have more “recommendations,” which he’d wait until 7:00 or 7:30 to send. Then Eric would have to scramble to get everything in order before his conference call. He’d hoped that he would be able to spend much of the afternoon and early evening with Sookie, but now that wasn’t going to happen, though he was determined to spend a little bit of time with her before he started working—as long as the traffic continued to cooperate.
“You okay?” Sookie asked.
“Yeah,” Eric responded. Grateful that Sookie had pulled him from his stress-filled thoughts, he glanced over to smile at her.
“You looked a little tense,” she observed perceptively.
“I was just thinking about work tonight—planning the stuff I have to do before my conference call.”
Sookie bit her lip nervously. “You’ll have time—right? I hope that coming to Brooklyn to get me didn’t set back your schedule.”
“No,” Eric quickly assured as he briefly took his hand off of the gear shift to squeeze hers. “If anything, it gave me a much-needed break after my meeting with Appius.”
“Okay,” she said.
A bigger smile formed on his lips.
“What?” she asked.
“I’m just happy that you’re staying with me through next Monday. I figured I’d have a harder time convincing you.”
Her own expression clouded a little.
“What is it?” Eric asked, concern filling his voice. “I didn’t pressure you into staying—did I? Uh—you don’t have to stay that long, Sookie.” His voice quieted as she saw something akin to resignation quickly replace the happiness that had been in his eyes. “You don’t have to stay at all,” he added.
Quickly, she reached out and put her hand over his on the gear shift. “No, Eric! It’s not that! I want to stay with you, and I’m glad to be staying until Monday.”
“Then why did you look sad just now?” he asked.
She sighed. “I know it’s silly, but I was thinking about next Tuesday and wondering about how often we’ll have to be apart.”
He immediately looked relieved. “Um—I was hoping that I could join you during the weeknights next week. Maybe we could switch off between staying at your place and mine—if that’s what you want.”
“Oh!” she said, also looking relieved. “That’d be fine, but you’d really be willing to come all the way to Brooklyn like that?”
“Of course,” Eric responded quickly. He took a deep breath and looked over at her, though he kept one eye on the traffic. “Actually, I have another idea, but I thought it would be too soon to raise it. But I want to raise it, Sookie—at least so that you can begin thinking about it. You don’t have to decide right away.”
“Okay,” she said tentatively, “what’s your idea?”
“I want you to move in with me,” he suggested anxiously.
“You do?” she asked, shock clearly registering in her tone. “Like—officially move in—and not just stay over?”
He nodded and nervously ran his left hand through his hair. “I’m not asking you to give up your room at Amelia’s if you don’t want to,” he said cautiously. “But I don’t want to spend another night without you, and I want to,” he paused, “feel what it’s like to have a home with you—a home where I know we’ll both be every night.” He took a breath. “At my place, we are closer to work. Appius would get suspicious if it got back to him that we arrived at work together every day, but the red line isn’t far from the house, and it’d be a little shorter commute for you. It’s only a five minute walk to the subway station. And—Henry could drop you off and pick you up when it gets colder.” He dragged his hand through his hair again as she sat quietly, a startled expression still on her face. “Just think about it. It doesn’t have to be right away. Truthfully, I’d be happy to move into your room in Brooklyn—if that’s what you want. Or—uh—we can just leave things as they are. I don’t really know how to do this,” he rambled nervously. “And we haven’t been together long, so you probably think I’m crazy.”
He looked away and shifted gears as if angry at himself.
“If you’re crazy, then I am too,” Sookie said, finally finding her voice. “Let’s make this week of me staying with you a kind of dress-rehearsal—okay? If we still feel the same next Monday, I’ll move the rest of my things to your place. My room in Brooklyn is too small for us—especially given the fact that you pretty much hang off the bed.” She only paused to take half a breath; she too was rambling—just as nervously as he’d been doing a minute before. “Amelia told me before we left today that she wasn’t going to rent my room to anyone else—that she’d hold it for me until I needed it again if I moved in with you. She even told me that she didn’t need me to pay rent anymore—that she only took me on as a renter in the first place as a favor to Luna, Sam Merlotte’s wife, when Sam was helping me find a place to stay on short notice. But I wouldn’t feel right not paying her, so I’m going to pay her half rent—to hold the room. She agreed to take that,” Sookie finished as she finally ran out of air.
“Oh—okay,” Eric said, not quite knowing how to feel. On the one hand he was ecstatic that Sookie had already been considering the logistics of moving in with him; on the other hand, he knew that she’d eventually be forced to leave him—to move back into that room Amelia was holding for her. “So you’re really going to live with me?” he asked, wanting to clarify—actually feeling the need to be pinched to ensure that he wasn’t dreaming.
“Well—it is practical for me to live with you,” she said, looking at him with a little smirk.
“Practical,” he said with a gulp, immediately recalling how they’d taken a shower together that morning because of practicality.
“Yes—practical. Your place is closer to Claudine’s office and the MET, as well as work. And,” she answered, her smirk turning into a melancholy smile, “maybe if we glut ourselves on each other by living together, we’ll eventually get tired of one another.”
Eric sighed and shook his head. “Now that—I can’t imagine. But I’d be glad to try if it means being with you all the time.”
They were quiet for a few minutes as Eric weaved expertly through the New York traffic.
“I think I should call Bobby tomorrow,” Eric said.
“Oh?” Sookie asked.
“He’ll have ideas about how we can keep our relationship a secret from my father. Appius’s spies are predictable, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep an eye on them regardless. And occasionally the paparazzi will follow me, though they’ve not done so since last year—when the Freyda de Castro scandal lost steam.”
“So—uh—what could Bobby do about the paparazzi?”
Eric chuckled. “The easier question to answer is what he couldn’t do. He’s got several contacts in the press, and he’ll know how to help keep our picture out of Page Six if we are photographed together enough for someone to notice a pattern.”
Sookie sighed deeply. “Okay. You’re right. We should call him.”
Eric spoke in a somewhat tortured tone, “I wish that we didn’t have to worry about such things. I would be proud to have you on my arm—all the time. Everywhere. I want you to know that. I don’t want to hide. I hate it.”
“I know,” Sookie responded. “And I don’t want you to keep apologizing for this. It is what it is. I don’t want to spend all our time together being sad.” She sat up straighter as her resolve flowed through her. “What I want to do is to live our lives fully and without regret—especially without regret for things that can’t be changed or haven’t even happened yet. I want to enjoy you—and us. And if Bobby can help us do that, then I’m a fan of his already.”
“Bobby will probably seem a little off-putting at first,” Eric cautioned, “but I’m sure he’ll like you.”
“How do you know?” Sookie asked nervously.
“Because,” Eric started, “even though I . . . .” He raked his hand through his hair again. “Even though I haven’t always felt able to reciprocate, Bobby has treated me like a brother for a long time. And,” his voice softened, “he’ll be able to tell how happy you make me.”
Sookie smiled. “Amelia likes you for the same reason,” she remarked. “And she also promised not to say anything about us.”
“She told me that too—that she wouldn’t say anything,” Eric said as he shifted gears. “I’d forgotten before, but I briefly met Amelia once—about ten years ago. Her father’s house in the Hamptons is close to Bobby’s great-uncle’s place, and I spent a week there with Bobby when his own place in New York was being redone. Amelia came by the house to see if Claudine was in town, but she wasn’t. I didn’t put two and two together because Amelia introduced herself as ‘Amy’; plus, she didn’t stay long once she found out Claudine wasn’t there. I’m not even sure if she’s met Bobby.”
“That’s weird,” Sookie observed—since Amelia and Claudine are best friends, and Claudine and Bobby are cousins.”
Eric chuckled. “Claudine tried to set Bobby up on a blind date once; since then, he hasn’t been agreeable to meeting any of Claudine’s friends.”
Sookie smiled at him. “So—I assume the date went badly?”
Eric nodded. “According to Bobby, the woman, who had gone to school with Claudine, tried to psychoanalyze him all night. She eventually proclaimed that he was antisocial and afraid of commitment because he didn’t want to accompany her to her sister’s wedding the next day.”
“No wonder he was afraid to meet any of Claudine’s other friends,” Sookie giggled.
“Yeah. And he’s never been one to go to society parties and whatnot—even though he’s related to the Brigants—so he wouldn’t have had the chance to meet Amelia that way either.” He chuckled. “Bobby is sort of antisocial—at least when it comes to being in large groups.”
“Oh,” she sounded, taking in that information about the person who was probably closest to Eric.
They were silent for a minute.
“You know—it’s funny,” Eric mused. “If I hadn’t been sent to boarding school, I probably would have been friends with Amelia and Claudine growing up—instead of Bobby, though we might have eventually met anyway.”
Sookie nodded. “I was thinking about that too—that you’d have been friends with Amelia since your fathers were close.”
Eric spoke quietly. “It’s weird to think about all the people that might have been my friends if I’d grown up like Pam and Nora. They both have tons of friends—despite the fact that they can be,” he paused, “difficult to take at times.” He sighed. “I’ve tried to make friends since I moved to New York, but doing that is,” he paused again, “difficult for me. I’m not so good at it.”
Sookie gave him a sad smile. “I would like to have more friends too, but making them is hard for me too.”
“We could practice together,” Eric suggested softly, “if you want.”
“Okay. How should we—uh—do that?”
Eric thought for a minute. “We can invite people over to our house. Bobby’s always wanted me to learn how to play poker.”
Sookie smiled at Eric’s use of “our.”
“A poker night? That sounds fun,” she commented. “Whom will we invite?”
“Uh—Amelia and Bobby?”
“And maybe Henry and Blake?” Sookie volunteered.
“Oh—we could invite Ben,” Sookie suggested.
“And some of the other guards from the MET.”
“And maybe some from your building too.”
“Our building,” Eric corrected softly, taking his hand off the gear shift to hold hers for a moment.
She smiled. “Our building,” she repeated.
“And maybe Amelia’s brother, Paul, too—and his wife? But that’s complicated,” Eric said, furrowing his brow.
“How so?” Sookie asked.
“Well—I know Paul a little. But maybe we should invite only people that already know we’re a couple,” he suggested quietly. “And then we’ll work on new friends later.”
She nodded. “You’re probably right.”
As they arrived at Carmichael Plaza, Eric reached under his seat to press the button that would open the gate to the private parking garage for the people who lived in the tower section of the building. Not surprisingly, the security system was very high-tech and the gate openers were keyed to respond only if they were in authorized vehicles and activated by authorized users.
“We’re lucky,” Sookie said as Eric parked the car. “We’re really, really lucky!”
Eric looked at her and smiled. “Yes.”
“We have each other now,” she said.
“And we have more people around us who would be our friends that I’ve ever experienced before,” she added, sounding astounded.
He nodded. “Me too.”
She reached out to take his hand as he turned off the ignition.
“You and I are going to be happy,” she commented with certainty in her voice.
“You’re an incredible woman, Sookie Stackhouse,” Eric said, the emotion thick in his voice as he gazed at her lovingly.
“Thanks,” she said, taking the compliment with a blush—but taking it nonetheless.
Both she and Eric noticed and enjoyed the progress.
A/N: As promised, here’s a second chapter today! It might be a couple of days before I post the next (Thursdays are always hellish). I hope you liked this one.