A World Away: Chapter 11
I was anxious to get home to feed Pamela after a long day. Amelia left as soon as I arrived to go and visit with the Dawsons. They had received a letter from Tray. I fixed myself a sandwich and some iced tea and ate at the kitchen table holding the baby. It was such a pretty warm night that I decided to sit out on the porch swing with her. I opened the front door and we settled on the swing and Pamela was almost asleep when I noticed a man with a cane walking up the drive. It was already dark and I didn’t recognize him, but I figured I must know him. Why would a stranger be coming up my driveway? I stood to greet him as he approached the porch and climbed the steps into the light.
My hand flew to my mouth and then I reached my arm out to him as I was overcome with sobs. Happy tears streamed down my face as well as his as he embraced me, careful not to crush the baby, and his lips found mine as we both openly wept with joy.
As I climbed the steps to her porch, the vision of her standing there holding the baby—our daughter—overwhelmed me. I carefully folded the two of them in my arms, letting my cane fall loudly to the floor. I kissed her, but we both kept our eyes open, crying unashamedly. We stood there like that, just kissing and holding each other and we would both go from crying to laughing and then back to crying again until I pulled back enough to look at the baby. Sookie said, “This is Pamela.” And I carefully touched her pink little face. I just looked back at Sookie and nodded, too overwhelmed with emotion to speak yet.
Sookie led me to her living room sofa where I sat, resting my cane beside it. She gingerly placed the baby in my arms and went to fix me some iced tea. I took a few sips and then Sookie set the glass down on the coffee table. I reached my arm out as she snuggled up to my body. With Pamela in the crook of my left arm and Sookie against my right side, my arm holding her close, I felt my body relax for the first time in a very long time. I kissed the top of Sookie’s head and she held Pamela’s tiny hand as the three of us just sat together in silence.
This is what I had survived the war for and I hadn’t even known it. In all the scenarios I had envisioned, it had never occurred to me that we could have a child together. Apparently there was even more magic to that night at the farm than we’d ever imagined at the time. I felt such remorse at the thought of Sookie coming home and having the baby alone and in shame. She clearly had not told people about me other than as the man who rescued her from the Germans. The town gossips had assumed that Pamela’s father was one of the faceless Germans who had captured Sookie (and Pamela’s fair skin and blonde hair would confirm such a theory easily). But I knew that Sookie had not been raped by the Germans—not because she told me so but because I knew that she left their captivity still a virgin. I was there.
Sookie began to tell me about her work at the hospital and Pamela’s birth and the unexpected death of her grandmother. She asked if I had gotten her letters, but I told her that I had only received the one (that was still in my pocket). I began to quote it as I had in my mind hundreds of times and Sookie’s eyes filled with tears. “I sent another one in December telling you that I was expecting.”
“I never got that one, my love. I’m so sorry.” I told her about being shot down and my time in the prison camp and then later in the hospital in Cherbourg. I told her that Tara’s vague warning had led me to fear that Sookie had married and then that I had seen her at the hospital with the wedding band on. I had come so close to just going back to Shreveport. Thank god I’d stopped back into Merlotte’s. Sookie said she owed Maxine Fortenberry a pecan pie.
The baby fell asleep while Sookie and I sat and talked for hours, making plans about our future. She showed me letters from Sophie-Anne LeClerq and I asked if I could keep one of them. Sookie’s friend, Amelia, came in the front door and stared at the three of us for a moment before Sookie stood and introduced me. “Amelia, this is Eric Northman, Pamela’s father.” Amelia’s shocked expression turned into a pleased one as she extended her hand.
“Please don’t get up. It’s such a pleasure to meet you.” I had a feeling that I would be getting a lot of these looks here in Bon Temps.
Sookie asked about her evening and the two of them went into the kitchen together for awhile. When they returned, Amelia said good night and walked upstairs. It was getting late and I suddenly felt awkward. I wanted to stay, of course, but didn’t want to assume that Sookie and I would sleep together. This wasn’t some remote French farmhouse sheltering us from the possibility of death just around the corner. This was the small southern town where Sookie lived and there was another Bon Temps resident just upstairs who for all I knew was the biggest gossip in town. I had already pretty much ruined Sookie’s reputation from halfway around the world. I didn’t want to do it further harm now I that I was here. I was trying to decide how to approach the subject just as Pamela saved me by starting to fuss a little. Sookie took her from me and disappeared into a bedroom to change her. I finished my iced tea and found the bathroom. As I emerged from the bathroom I heard Sookie quietly calling my name. I suddenly felt awkward going into her bedroom and so I answered her from the kitchen.
“Could I trouble you to bring me a glass of water?”
“Of course.” I found a glass and filled it. As I entered her room, I wasn’t prepared for the sight waiting for me. She was sitting in a chair by the bed nursing the baby with just the single breast exposed. Pamela’s tiny little hand was gently resting on the ample swell above her and she was making small sweet sounds of satisfaction. I handed Sookie the glass and hoped I wasn’t staring. “I’m sorry. Would you prefer that I wait in the other room?”
“Of course not. I mean, unless this is uncomfortable for you. It just feels so normal to me. I guess I wasn’t thinking how it might feel for you. Does it bother you?” She gestured for me to sit on the bed.
“No. No, it’s…I can’t even think of a word to describe it. Amazing? Overwhelming? Beautiful? I’ve only known that I was a father for a few hours. And yet here you are, willing to share in such a private moment. I don’t even know what to say. I’m grateful. I’m in awe.”
She started to smirk. “We’ll see how much in awe you still are after changing a few diapers, mister.”
I just smiled at her in wonder. She finished feeding the baby and handed her to me with burping instructions while she went into the bathroom. She came back in her nightgown with her hair down and sat beside me on the bed. I stared at her gorgeous hair cascading down her back. “It’s gotten so long.” I wanted to touch it but didn’t want to risk taking a hand off of the baby. I still had so much to learn.
“I’m sorry honey, but I’m pretty much always sleep-deprived these days and I need to work tomorrow.”
“We need to talk about your working. We have so many decisions to make.” And then we both grinned from ear to ear at the thought of making our decisions together from now on. Then she yawned, reminding me that she must be tired after a long day. “But we don’t have to decide tonight, of course. So, where would you like me to sleep? I mean, unless I should go…”
“No, no, no. Don’t be silly. Go? You think I’d let you go? After waiting all this time? You’re not going anywhere, Eric Northman.” Then her voice got smaller. “You can sleep in here with us if you’d like.” She took Pamela from my arms and put her in her bassinet.
“I wouldn’t want to presume. We’re not married yet, and Amelia is just upstairs. To be honest, Sookie, I’m feeling more than a little guilty about where our last night together left you. I mean, of course I should have realized that your getting pregnant was a possibility, but I just wasn’t thinking. That whole night seemed like a dream. But obviously, the result was and still is very real. I can’t tell you how sorry I am that we weren’t married in Cherbourg and that you had to have Pamela without me. I can’t ever fix that. For either of you. But of course, I’m certainly going to try.”
She sat beside me on the bed and squeezed my hand reassuringly. “You have nothing to apologize for, Eric. What happened that night was my decision. And I know you would have married me if you could have. Having Pamela was nobody’s fault and I would never take any of it back if I could. What you don’t know about me is that I’m pretty tough and can take care of myself. I would never let a little thing like town gossip bring me down.”
“Well, you won’t have to be tough any more, my love. And from now on, we’ll take care of each other. But for tonight, I’ll happily take the couch.”
“Oh. You don’t have to. I mean, you can have my old room across the hall. The bed’s already made up. I mean if that’s okay.”
I gave her a soft kiss on the lips and then stood. “You’ll wake me early?”
“Yes. We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Eric. Good night.” And then I found my room across the hall.