Chapter 63: Leaving Home
September 29, 2012
“You could stay at Pam’s until it’s over,” Eric said resignedly as Sookie packed an overnight bag.
“You and Pam both said that Sophie-Anne sometimes wants to go down there to ‘rest’ when you have business parties here,” Sookie sighed. “We both know it’s safer if I just go to Amelia’s. And it’s just for one night; it’ll be nice to have a girls’ night. Amelia’s determined to get me drunk on tequila.”
Eric chuckled. “Yes—Pam is disappointed she can’t join you two.” He sighed, as he hugged her from behind. “I know I shouldn’t be so selfish with you, but you’ll also be gone most of the day tomorrow because of the party set-up, and the weekends are usually,” he paused, “just ours.”
“I know,” Sookie said sadly as she leaned against him. “But I’ll meet you Sunday at the MET.”
“Yes,” Eric said. “Sunday.”
They were silent for a few moments. Both of them were a little nervous about being separated the next night. It would be their first night apart since they got together, and it was coming at a bad time too—since Eric had just begun therapy sessions with Claudine. Sookie was extremely proud of him for taking the risk and getting some help, and Eric was proud of himself too; however, he was also feeling especially “exposed” due to the issues he’d been discussing with Claudine. Added to that was Appius’s insistence that he be present during Eric’s meetings with the Chinese delegation from Guangzhou Press. Even though Eric had ultimate control over the foreign accounts, Appius was still managing to make his life difficult.
Sookie sighed and turned in his arms, resting her cheek against his chest. As always, when they stood as they were standing, his neck tilted almost automatically, and he rested his cheek on the top of her head.
“I’m going to miss your body,” she said, hugging him tighter.
He snorted out a chuckle. “Not my mind?”
“Oh!” she cried out before laughing. “That sounded bad—didn’t it?”
“Only if I objected to being just an object to you,” he winked, his eyes twinkling. “However, I have no such objections. I rather like being your boy toy.”
She giggled and smacked his bottom before returning to her packing. After zipping her bag, she looked up at Eric to see him gazing at her with love-filled eyes. He’d still not been able to say the words, “I love you,” to her, but she wasn’t pushing for them. In truth, she didn’t need them. Seeing him looking at her as he was now was more than enough.
“I know what you meant,” he said seriously. “About missing your body.” He reached out and took her hand, looking at their entwined fingers as he did. “I will miss being able to just reach out like this and have you there.”
Before the mood could become too somber and before their thoughts could slip to that inevitable day when they would be separated forever, he smiled mischievously. “And—of course—I will miss being able to do what we did in the kitchen earlier.”
Her face immediately turned red as she recalled how he’d placed her on the kitchen counter and given her an orgasm with his tongue before putting her back onto her feet, spinning her around, entering her from behind, and giving her another one with his cock.
Truth be told, their passion for each other had been growing rather than lessening over the almost four months they’d been together, and very few days had gone by during those months when they hadn’t made love—at least once.
“Bath?” Eric inquired, waggling his eyebrows playfully.
She giggled. “Yes and a movie.”
He chuckled. “So the man cave it is. You got a movie preference?”
“Something funny?” she suggested.
“How about Best in Show?”
“Yeah,” she smiled before her lips turned downward a little.
“What’s up?” he asked.
She sighed. “Are we sure it’s safe for me to leave my clothes and stuff out in the open like this? I mean—what if someone comes back here by mistake and wonders why there are women’s clothes in your closet or why there’s a pink razor in your shower.”
“Perhaps, they’d just think I was exploring my femininity,” Eric smiled.
She giggled and seemed to be assessing him. “Yep. You’d make a pretty woman—tall, blonde, and gorgeous. But—unfortunately—the size of the clothes is all wrong; otherwise, it would probably work.”
He chuckled. “Henry.”
“Huh?” she asked, not following the leap in the conversation. “Henry?” she asked. “I don’t think he’d prefer you looking like a woman. He likes guys,” she reminded with a chuckle.
He laughed heartily. “You’re right, but I was referring to the fact that Henry will make sure no one comes back here during the party. He’s going to be the guard in the foyer, and I’ve also hired Thalia and Blake to help make sure that no one ventures into any part of the house he or she isn’t supposed to go into. They’re even going to keep Pam out so that Appius won’t get suspicious. And—of course—the group from China won’t snoop around. Only Appius, Andre, Sophie-Anne, or Nora might, but Henry is going to make sure that doesn’t happen. Plus, Bobby’s going to be around.”
“You’re bringing out the big guns for this,” she joked a little.
Eric sighed. “I’d prefer it if Appius didn’t step foot into our house at all. I don’t want him here.”
Eric looked down for a moment. “To tell you the truth, I think that Isabel’s being here will help. Appius keeps pushing for me to see her more, and her presence will shut him up for a while.”
Sookie tensed up slightly, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. In the four months that she and Eric had been together, he’d been out with Isabel six times. All but two of those “dates” had been to high society or charity functions. One had been to Gracie’s dance recital. The last had been to a romantic restaurant frequented by the A-list of New York and plenty of photographers; the dinner had been something that Bobby had suggested so that Appius would stop hassling Eric about not committing to Isabel. Of course, Eric had been photographed with the beautiful brunette at the society and charity events, and they’d looked as good together as ever in Page 6 of the Post. They’d also been photographed together at the restaurant. The headline had read: “Is there a Northman/Edgington Merger in the Works?”.
Truth be told, the only one of those outings that Sookie had been truly jealous of was Gracie’s recital. Otherwise, Sookie had found that she was not really green-eyed when it came to Isabel. Eric had decided to be completely upfront with Isabel about his and Sookie’s relationship. Not surprisingly, Isabel hadn’t had a problem with continuing to attend social events with Eric. And she’d been more than willing to help keep the charade in place for Appius so that Eric would face fewer questions.
And—when her own father, Russell Edgington, had asked her if she and Eric were moving toward matrimony, Isabel hadn’t even needed to lie when she told him yes. The truth was that they would likely marry right before Eric’s deadline. As comparatively progressive as Russell was, he, too, wanted for his daughter to get married and have children. And Eric and Isabel had a good friendship—one that Sookie recognized could be the base of a good, though perhaps not ideal, marriage.
Oh—Isabel and Sookie hadn’t become bosom buddies or anything. Nor would they ever. However, Sookie had been able to tell immediately upon meeting Isabel that the woman cared for Eric as a friend. And, to Isabel, the presence of Sookie hadn’t changed her and Eric’s friendship. The brunette had been somewhat curious about why it was so important to Sookie and Eric to keep their relationship a secret, but—to her credit—she hadn’t pushed for a detailed explanation.
Instead, she’d confessed that she still wasn’t over Hugo, the man she’d been with in France. And she’d further confessed that she didn’t think she’d ever be truly over him at all. Thus, her arrangement with Eric was beneficial to her too.
“You’re upset,” Eric said a little while later as Sookie leaned her back against his chest in the tub. “Is it because Isabel will be here tomorrow night?”
Sookie sighed. “No. It’s not that. It’s just that I know that the party tomorrow night is going to be difficult for you—because Appius will make it that way. And I wish I could be there for you—to stand by you.”
He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her, resting his hands on her belly. “I know. I feel the same way.”
Neither of them spoke for a while as they enjoyed the closeness of their bodies, and—in truth—there was really nothing much to say. Things were as they were, and they’d both accepted that fact.
Thus far, Appius had no idea that Sookie existed. And the couple was doing their best not to let the threat of Eric’s father interfere with their day-to-day existence. Indeed, they were trying to enjoy each moment of each day in the most ordinary way they could. But—truth be told—both of them were always a little nervous that their bubble would burst.
At Bobby’s suggestion, Pam had helped out a lot by telling Appius—sometimes through Nora—exactly what they wanted for him to hear: that Eric and Isabel seemed to be moving toward an engagement, though there was no real love between them.
Of course, that was exactly what Appius wanted to hear too.
Sookie had thought that Pam was going to throw one of her designer shoes across the room the day Pam had told her about how Appius had reacted to the news that Eric was moving toward attaching himself to someone he didn’t love. According to Pam, her father had looked momentarily gleeful before a practiced—and obviously fake—concerned look clouded his features. Pam had almost given away her ever-solidifying animosity toward her father by slapping him across the face. Luckily, she’d refrained.
At Bobby’s urging, Pam had also begun to see Claudine for therapy. Pam had a lot of guilt over the way Eric had been treated. She felt guilt that she’d “missed” just how bad things were for her older brother. But, mostly, she felt something akin to “survivor’s guilt” because she’d been treated so much better than he had. She also had conflicting feelings toward Appius, and Claudine was helping her to deal with those as well.
The one thing that Pam didn’t feel conflicted about was helping her brother mislead Appius, and—for that—Sookie was glad.
Something had calmed a little inside of Eric when Pam chose his side over Appius’s in the secret war being waged between them. A big part of Eric had truly believed that Pam would pull away from him—if he ever told her the truth about his treatment by their father.
Having suffered from abuse herself, Sookie could understand Eric’s fears when it came to telling people about what had happened to him. After all, it had been ingrained in Eric not speak of his and Appius’s “meetings”—even from the first time they had one when he was only a small child. Appius had told Eric that if he wanted to visit his grandparents at all, he wouldn’t question his father’s judgments. Of course, six-year-old Eric had wanted only to please his father, so he didn’t tell. Thirty-one-year-old Eric was learning that talking about what had happened to him—with those whom he trusted—could be a positive thing.
Sookie turned off her mind a little and refocused on the movie as she played with Eric’s quickly-puckering hands. She chuckled at the antics of the owners of the greyhound in the film, and she felt Eric relax behind her.
Soon, they were both laughing.
“Well—I think it’s bullshit,” Amelia said before she downed a shot of tequila. “Total and complete bullshit!”
Sookie sipped her own shot and was grateful that there had been only a half a bottle of the strong alcohol in the house. Though she liked the taste of the liquor, she had no desire to get drunk, and Amelia seemed like she was in the mood to do just that. Luckily, she didn’t seem to be in the mood to go to the liquor store to get more tequila, so they were sipping on beers between shots.
“Yeah,” Sookie agreed. “It is bullshit. But things are the way they are.”
“But you love him!” Amelia insisted. “And if I know anything about anything, then I know he loves you too.”
“He does, but it’s not that simple, Ames,” Sookie said, taking another sip of her drink before eating a segment of lime. Though the fruit was generally too sour for her to eat raw, it tasted nice with the tequila.
Amelia sighed. “I know there’s more to the story than you’ve told me.”
“There is,” Sookie admitted. “But it’s not my story to tell. It’s Eric’s.”
“Surely his father would get over it if you two just eloped,” Amelia said encouragingly. “Hell—stranger things have happened among the so-called elite of society.”
“That can’t happen,” Sookie said in a quiet and quivering voice. “And I really need for you to not talk about it like it could—okay? I’m happy. Eric’s happy. And we are going to stay happy for as long as we can. And I don’t like dwelling on the fact that it’ll have to end one day, so please, Ames,” she begged, “drop it.”
Amelia sighed, but nodded. For the most part, she liked the changes she’d seen happening in Sookie since she’d been with Eric, so she didn’t want to push her friend. Amelia knew that Sookie was still going to therapy sessions once a week. She’d even joined a support group for the kids of abusive parents, which she also attended once a week. And it was clear that Sookie was now more confident. Amelia was certain that some of that was because of Eric, but she also recognized that Sookie had been on the path toward recovering from her mother’s abuse even before she’d gotten together with Eric. It was just that Eric was helping Sookie to understand that she was loved and wanted. And Amelia worried that Sookie’s recovery would be impaired if—when—their relationship ended.
Beyond all that, it was crystal clear to her that Eric and Sookie were crazy about each other! Several times, she’d been invited to have dinner with them at Eric’s house in the city, and even a blind person could have seen how much they cared for each other and how compatible they were. In Amelia’s mind, they were perfect together—except for their acceptance of the idea that they wouldn’t be able to stay together.
Amelia took another shot.
Sookie smiled. “Now—tell me about Pam.”
Amelia smiled widely. “Well—right now—we’re really just having fun in the sack, but it’s a lot of fun!”
Sookie blushed. “I still can’t believe you two hooked up.”
Amelia giggled. “What’s not to believe? She’s a beautiful woman. I like beautiful women. She was interesting and interested, and so was I.”
“Just last month, you told me that you were going through a guy phase,” Sookie reminded. “And that was while we were putting together dinner. And then right after that same dinner was over, you and Pam were on the terrace making out. Eric—by the way—told me to tell you that he’s still having nightmares from catching you two ‘topless and groping,'” she said, using air quotes to indicate Eric’s exact words.
Amelia chuckled. “Well—that’s what he gets for coming out onto his own terrace.”
“Right,” Sookie said sarcastically, drawing out the word. “So it’s not serious?”
“Between me and Pam?” Amelia asked, looking momentarily wistful before reigning in her emotions. “No. I guess not. I mean—when we first got together—we talked about how neither one of us wanted anything serious. So it’s kind of perfect—actually. And we’re definitely not exclusive, so what I told you is true—mostly. I am going through a man phase—except for Pam.”
“Well—as long as you two are on the same page,” Sookie said thoughtfully.
Amelia smiled. “I like this—hanging out with you like this. It’s weird that we didn’t do as much hanging out when you actually lived here as we do now.”
Sookie nodded in agreement. “I like it too. It’s fun.” She took another sip of her tequila and another lime wedge. Amelia was right; they did hang out more now than they had before, but that was partially because of Sookie’s therapy. She’d been working on letting more people into her life—trustworthy people, of course. And she was making progress at being social. At work, she had lunch with Holly pretty much every day now, and—though the others in the office still didn’t chat with her as they did with each other—they didn’t treat her like a social pariah either. And Sookie was thankful with the détente she was experiencing with Arlene and the other “mean girls,” as Pam called them.
And she genuinely enjoyed Holly’s company and friendship. They’d even gotten after-work drinks together a couple of times. And that had been fun. Along with the others in her department, she’d been invited to Sam’s 45th birthday party and had spoken at length with his wife, Luna, as well as with Holly. Again, it had been fun. For the first time in her life, Sookie had felt comfortable at a party—even without Eric by her side.
And then there was Pam, who had become a real friend to Sookie in the months that she and Eric had been together. When Eric had to work late, Pam often came up for a girl’s night, which consisted of Pam devouring anything Sookie had cooked and then complaining about the calories before asking if there was any dessert. Of course, Sookie would feel guilty about Pam gaining weight if she’d gained any. Pam hadn’t, however—unless a single pound counted. Still, she’d hired a personal trainer named Callipso—or, at least that was the name the woman went by. Sookie knew that Pam had a “thing” going on with Callipso, which was one of the reasons why she’d been a little worried until Amelia had said that things were casual between Pam and her.
Of course, Sookie was also worried about Bobby when it came to Pam. Sometimes he got a little “lost puppy” look in his eyes when he looked at her, but lately another of the people that she and Eric had started inviting over—Thalia—had begun to capture Bobby’s interest. And Sookie couldn’t help but to hope that worked out. She couldn’t think of two people who deserved happiness more than Thalia and Bobby.
Amelia poured herself another shot and frowned at the quickly emptying bottle. “You know—I think that Pam might be someone I could have something long-term with. But it just doesn’t seem like the right time for that—for either of us. But who knows what might happen in the future—right? I mean—if she agreed to it—I think I’d even be willing to try something exclusive with her.” She sighed.
“You like her a lot,” Sookie ventured.
“I like her more than anyone I’ve been with for a long time—maybe ever,” Amelia admitted quietly. “I just don’t know if she feels the same. And I honestly don’t know if I want a commitment—ever!” She chuckled. “I know that kind of makes me sound like a bitch, but it’s the truth.” She paused. “Plus, I figure that if I told Pam that I was interested in an exclusive relationship right now, she would run for the hills.” She took a breath. “No. I think that the best plan is to wait until I know more what my own feelings are before I confuse what we have. Meanwhile, we’ll just have fun.”
Sookie nodded even though she didn’t really understand how Amelia could have feelings—even the beginnings of feelings—for one person and then go out with others too. Of course, Sookie understood the concept of “playing the field,” but it wasn’t something she could really “get.” Even with Bill, she’d never even thought about being with someone else while she’d been with him. And with Eric, the impulse of being with him—and only him—was exponentially greater.
Of course, Eric had certainly played the field before; in fact, he’d played the whole stadium, given the number of partners he’d had! However, he’d never had a relationship before, and Sookie knew that he was feeling what she was feeling as far as the desire for monogamy went.
“What is it?” Amelia asked.
“Oh—I was just thinking about Eric and monogamy.”
“What’s funny about that?”
“He told me when we first got together that he’d surprised himself by falling into monogamy so quickly. I’m pretty sure he’s still a little surprised by us; I know I still am.”
Amelia giggled and hiccupped. “Surprised by Monogamy sounds like a crappy band name.”
Sookie joined her in a laugh.
A/N: Many thanks for those of you still reading this story! I’ve been so pleased to see that many new people have followed or favorited this all-human tale in the last few weeks! Please let me know what you think of this chapter if you have time.