Love Still Isn’t Easy: Chapter 7
Bill carried little Eric back to Pam’s and big Eric and I walked behind him in silence the whole way. I watched the boy clinging to Bill’s neck and couldn’t imagine how all this could possibly be explained. When we got back to Pam’s (and I wished I’d had a camera when I saw her face), she got a band-aid for little Eric’s knee and a cookie and Bill took him into her bedroom and put him down for a much-needed nap.
Bill emerged into the living room where Eric, Pam and I were silently nursing our lemonades. I could feel Eric’s stare, but I avoided looking at him.
“I suppose an explanation is in order.” Bill sat down beside me on the sofa but not too close. “I lived with Arlene until recently.”
Eric scooted to the front of his seat. “You’re the father of her baby.” It wasn’t a question.
“No. You are.” Both men glared at each other and the room suddenly seemed to be choked with testosterone.
“Okay. Let’s start over.” Pam jumped in as referee. “Bill, how long have you lived with Arlene?”
“Since before Eric was born.”
“And are you Eric’s father?”
“No. I thought I was until recently, but Eric is obviously.”
“And are you certain that you’re not the father of the baby?”
“Yes.” Bill was gritting his teeth. “Eric is.”
“That’s not possible.” Eric was back to the edge of his seat.
“Well apparently it is. DNA tests don’t lie.”
I got up and went to the kitchen, already bored with the stand-off. I listened to the men bickering some more and then wandered into the bedroom to watch little Eric sleeping. He was such a lovely child and for the first time I really thought about what this must be like for him and it broke my heart. His eyes opened and he smiled up at me and whispered, “You’re pretty,” and then shyly buried his face into the pillow. I replied with a quiet thank you and went to the living room to announce that he was awake.
Eric and Bill were standing and almost shouting by the time I got back and I told them that Eric was awake. “Bill, why don’t you take Eric home. I’ll ride back with Eric—I mean big Eric.” (I felt a little foolish using that term.) “We have some things to discuss.”
“That’s okay. I don’t want to interrupt your day. I’ll take him.” My mouth fell open as Eric’s words twisted like a knife in my stomach. I turned to him and saw the anger in his eyes. Was he angry at me? He walked back into the bedroom and came back with little Eric in tow. Bill knelt and gave the boy a good-bye hug. He looked up at Eric and asked for Arlene’s number. Eric went into the kitchen and returned with a piece of paper. He handed it to Bill gruffly, said polite but terse good-byes to the room and left with little Eric.
I was floored when Bill Compton picked Eric up and consoled him on the boardwalk. He clearly had some explaining to do. When we got back to Pam’s house and Bill told us that he had lived with Arlene, I knew that he was her baby’s father and that he was behind all this. He had done some sort of underhanded DNA switch to accuse me of cheating on Sookie so that he could get back into her good graces. I saw red and wanted to kill the motherfucker but kept my temper in check in front of Sookie and Pam. I was determined to get to the bottom of this.
Sookie suggested that I take her home, but I found myself too angry to comply. Yes, it was obviously Bill’s doing and definitely Arlene’s to tear Sookie and me apart, but Sookie wasn’t exactly innocent in all of this. She told Pam that she was dating Bill. She used that word. I was going through a legal nightmare and she was entertaining a new (old) boyfriend. My patience with her was worn thin and suddenly I didn’t feel like being Sookie’s punching bag anymore. She didn’t have enough faith in me to believe me when I told her that I had not cheated on her and then she began a new romance before the ink was even dry on my new child support checks. I needed her on my team more than ever, and she seemed to be on her own instead.
Bill walked me to my front door and leaned in for our regular and chaste kiss. I let him, but then said a quick good-bye. Earlier in the day, I had planned on taking our romance a step further, but suddenly I didn’t feel like it any more.
I was more than a little upset at Eric’s behavior towards me. He was cold to me and I wasn’t expecting that. Up until now, he had been so sweet to me, always begging me for forgiveness because my wedding day was ruined. And asking me to believe him when he said he hadn’t cheated on me. I had grown so used to having Eric groveling at my feet that I was surprised and hurt when he rejected my idea of driving home together to have a talk. Had Eric run out patience for me? Suddenly the thought of Eric’s cold shoulder had me in a panic. After all, his wedding day was ruined too. And his fiancé lost faith in his fidelity. I had just taken for granted that Eric would always be there begging me to take him back. The possibility that he no longer wanted me felt painful and shocking. What if he was right and Bill had somehow switched the DNA tests and Eric really had been faithful? But was Bill really capable of doing something so deceitful? And why would he do that? I had such a headache and was so confused that I had to lie down to sort through all my thoughts. I just wished I could turn back time and be with Eric like we were before. But I knew that no matter what, things would never be the same for us and I was scared—really scared, for the first time.