Runway: Chapter 21
I lay beside Sookie and watched her sleeping in my bed—something I never would have imagined happening just yesterday—hell, just this morning. I laughed at myself. I kept telling her we would take things slow—be more careful this time, and yet here we were.
Obviously things with Sookie were all or nothing. Even when they were nothing, it felt like everything. A day hadn’t gone by that I hadn’t thought of her—obsessed over her, since that fight we’d had over the phone—about money, of all stupid things. But, of course, it really had nothing to do with money, and everything to do with trust.
From the very beginning of our oddly warped relationship, I’d made myself out to be her knight in shining armor. I saved her from the burning building—quite literally. I came with my cavalry of cash to help her get the agency. I thought she needed me so much and that once she saw that, she’d be eternally grateful and we’d find that happily ever after I had in my head.
When she called and told me she had partnered with Quinn, I saw red. All I thought was, she doesn’t need me at all. I’m just some self-important rich asshole that she’s had a few good fucks with.
She’d fallen for me so fast and I’d been convinced it was because I was just so great, but then it suddenly dawned on me, maybe she falls that fast for everyone. Maybe I just overwhelmed her by kissing her in the dark theater and then playing her rescuer in New York. I had gone about winning her so poorly, maybe I hadn’t really won her at all. Maybe the next guy with a trench coat and a fat bank account could just take her away from me.
It scared me. I practically called her a slut and hung up on her. I didn’t really think she was a slut, of course. Far from it. I was afraid that’s what she thought of me, actually. I was afraid I wasn’t as important to her as she’d become to me.
Because I have testicles, I learn much more slowly when it comes to romance. Sometimes, it amazes me how stupid I can be when it comes to women. I was so pissed that I listened to her messages of apology for ten days, smugly thinking that it would take more than that to get me back.
Then, when they stopped, I was even more pissed that she didn’t even want to try any more. Fuck her, I thought. I don’t need it.
I went back to L.A. to look at the Buckingham house, and when I got to Pam’s, she asked if Sookie was going to look at it with us. I was unpacking my bag and putting things into her guest closet and she sat on the sofa watching me. Our appointment to see the house was in half an hour.
“No, Sookie’s not going,” I answered.
“Don’t tell me you fucked it up already, brother.”
She was laughing, but I wasn’t. “Just stay the fuck out of this, okay?”
Pam stopped laughing.
I went on, “I’m done with Sookie. Got it? We’re done. And I don’t need your shit about it.” My voice cracked a little and I left the room and went into the bathroom and closed the door.
When I came back out into the living room, Pam was standing by the door with her purse, ready to go. She just said, “I’m sorry.”
“So am I.” I tried to give her a smile, but probably failed at looking very happy. “Don’t say anything to her about this, okay? I really just want to forget about it.”
That was the last time Sookie’s name was mentioned between us.
I heard on the grapevine that John Quinn had bought out Merlotte’s, and that Sam was opening a theatrical agency. I called the office the next day, and one of the print bookers answered the phone. I just told him that I wouldn’t be accepting any more bookings from Merlotte’s and thanked him for the past bookings. I didn’t give a reason.
My offer on the Buckingham house was accepted and I focused all my energy on the house after that. When we closed, I flew to L.A. and immediately started working on the guest house. I also bought myself a Corvette, happy that I wouldn’t be renting cars in L.A. anymore now that I had my own garage in which to keep one.
I had already talked to Hounds of Hope about the goofy black dog. Fortunately for me, he had been returned to his foster because he kept jumping up on people.
A woman named Marti from Hounds of Hope met me and Pam at the house for a home check. We explained that Pam would be staying at the house when I was in New York. We walked the yard and checked the fences, and I gave her the tour of the mostly empty house. Apparently, we passed inspection because the next day Lafayette, Pam and I went to Petco together to buy his supplies, and just like that, he was mine.
I promised Marti that I wouldn’t return him no matter how many times he jumped up on people. I’d loved him even before I got him—kind of like Sookie.
Pam and I had been working on the guest house for her, but I went back to New York for a couple of bookings right before Christmas and stayed through the holiday. On Christmas Day, Clancy, Felicia and I volunteered at a homeless shelter like we had on previous holidays, and then I spent the next day at their place for a drop-in party. I had just told them that things hadn’t worked out with the woman I’d met, and they were kind enough to not ask questions.
On my way home from Clancy and Felicia’s, I stopped in Bloomingdale’s to pick up something for Pam. We’d promised each other no presents this year since we figured the house and the dog were enough to celebrate, but I didn’t want to go to L.A. empty-handed. It just felt wrong.
I found an Italian hand-painted scarf that looked like her and as I headed to a register to pay for it, I saw a bunch of mannequin legs with different colors of hose on them and one was wearing fishnets. I probably stood and stared at the legs too long and looked like a pervert, but I was stuck.
I’d thought about the fact that I owed Sookie at least one pair of fishnets and possibly a hundred pairs if I were a man of my word, but it was always too painful to go out and actually buy them. Before I could talk myself out of it, I bought the tights and had the saleswoman put them and their receipt in a separate bag.
I figured I could just give them to Pam and have her pass them along to Sookie. When I got to my apartment, I put her little night gown in the bag as well and put it in my suitcase.
There was a mix-up on Pam’s moving date, and the movers came a day before we’d planned—or I guess, before I’d planned. I hated not being there to help her, but at least I caught an earlier flight so I could help her unpack.
I took a cab to the house, and my stomach did a little flip when I saw Sookie’s car parked across the street. I thought, well, it’s time to face the music. She was either here to see me for some reason–and I must admit, that’s what I secretly hoped, or she was here with Pam, which was more likely. Either way, I knew I’d eventually have to deal with it since she was Pam’s best friend and it was unlikely we could avoid each other forever.
I went into the house and Lafayette gave me his usual sweet greeting. There seemed to be no one else at home, so I took my suitcase upstairs and put it in the closet. Then I went down and saw the doggy door closed and figured Pam had stopped the dog up while the movers were there.
There was no sign of a truck, so I let the dog out. Then I walked to the garage and went up the steps. The door wasn’t completely closed, so I pushed it open and Lafayette ran past me into the room. Sookie was standing in front of the window and turned to face me looking even more beautiful than I’d remembered. I was at a complete loss for words, and apparently so was she because we just stood there and stared at each other until Pam came in and broke the tension.
I asked Sookie if she’d like to see the house and was relieved when she said yes. Pam was kind enough to disappear, and I took Sookie on the grand tour. I was very nervous and talked too much, and she hardly said a word.
I was uncomfortable in the bedroom with her, wishing things between us were different and I could just make love to her like nothing had happened. But then I remembered to give her the fishnets—evidence that a lot had happened in the past few months and they were a painful reminder that I had no right to even touch her, much less make love to her.
I sensed that she was as uncomfortable as I was, and so I offered her something to drink to get us out of the bedroom.
We sat in the kitchen and I rambled on like an idiot about the house, avoiding what we really needed to discuss. I finally apologized for what I’d said to her—something I should have done months ago and would have if I hadn’t had such a bruised ego. She said she forgave me and seemed sincere.
Then we got onto the subject of Merlotte’s and I was shocked to learn that not only was she no longer a partner there, but she’d actually quit.
And when I realized that she’d cut me out of the purchase of the agency because she thought I needed the money for the Virginia Road house, suddenly, I felt so frustrated.
We’d gone through all the pain of the past months over a stupid misunderstanding. I shouldn’t have lost my temper when she’d called that day. If only I’d given her a chance to explain herself. I was too busy feeling sexually inadequate and calling her a whore. What an idiot. And what a price I’d paid for being such an idiot.
I could see she was uncomfortable and told her that she was welcome at the house anytime and that I hoped we could be friends. As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted them. I didn’t want to be Sookie’s friend. I wanted to ask her out. I wanted her to give me another chance. I’d missed her so much and we’d already wasted so much time apart.
But Sookie said she had to go and so I walked her out and said goodbye. I’d obviously freaked her out a little, and I decided I’d let her go and give her a minute to breathe, but I’d also decided I was definitely going to call her and try again.
I watched her drive away and went inside, wondering how long I should wait before calling her. When I got to the kitchen, I saw the Bloomingdale’s bag and ran out the door, hoping to catch her. I stood on the curb and decided I didn’t want to wait, and that I’d ask her to dinner as soon as she pulled up.
But she didn’t pull up. I stood and waited and was considering walking to the end of the block to see what had happened when I saw her coming towards me.
I gave her the bag and saw that she’d been crying and felt like an ass for upsetting her. Why were we so good at hurting each other? Well, I knew she was good at hurting me because I loved her, and I hoped that was why she’d been crying in her car—because she loved me as well.
I got in and asked her out. I told her that my feelings hadn’t changed and she said neither had hers. I felt like the weight of the last months had been lifted from my chest and saw the relief in her smile as well. We made plans for her to bring food back and eat while we helped Pam, which was great since I hadn’t actually done a thing to help and intended to.
I gave her what I hoped was an appropriate kiss—hopeful, but not overwhelming, and went inside the house, happier than I’d been in a long time.
I fed the dog and made the bed and unpacked my bag before going over to Pam’s. She was back from closing up her apartment and was in the kitchen unpacking some boxes. I handed her the bag with the scarf in it and she peeked in and smiled, pulling it out dramatically.
“I love it, but we said we no presents.”
“It’s not much.”
Then she went to her purse on the counter and pulled out a little blue box, and handed it to me.
I opened it to find a little silver key chain with the letter E on it.
“For your new keys—new car, new house…” she explained.
“You spent too much.”
“So did you.”
“Sookie’s bringing us some dinner.”
Pam looked a little shocked. “Really?”
“Yeah. We had a talk. I should have done it sooner.”
“Well, Merry Christmas, brother.”
Pam gave me a hug and I kissed the top of her head and said, “Merry Christmas.”
When Sookie arrived with the food (and champagne! Someone was feeling celebratory.), the three of us sat and ate as if we’d always spent our evenings together. There was no awkwardness, and even better, no pain. I felt relaxed and happy.
We all pitched in to help Pam get settled, and when I finished setting her computer up, I went into the kitchen and held Sookie and hopefully showed her how happy I was that she was with us.
Pam kicked us out and Sookie and I sat on the terrace and had a cup of tea and talked some more about the house and about us. Sookie told me she loved me and I remembered the night on the phone when I’d wanted her to say it so badly. I was so grateful that we had another chance.
Lafayette killed the romantic mood with his special brand of potpourri, but it was actually fine because we had a good laugh about it.
I took Lafayette out and locked up the house, and went upstairs to get ready for bed. I kept reminding myself that I promised Sookie we’d go slow, but when I saw her naked under my covers, I lost the ability to use logic and showed her just how much I’d missed her.
Afterwards, I was trying to clear the fog from my brain to try and tell her how I felt when I heard that little snore again. This time I was actually still inside her and it made me laugh how she always seemed to just konk out after we had sex. I took it as a compliment.
I got up and went to the bathroom and turned out the light and just lay beside her and watched her sleeping for a very long time. I thought, yes, it had been a rough road to get to this place, but maybe it was a good thing. Maybe it would make us more careful with each other’s hearts. Maybe it would make us appreciate what we have because we knew how easily it could get fucked up.
I made a silent promise to myself and to her that I would never stop trying to make things right between us. I’d never take her for granted. If she let me, I’d show her every day how much I loved her. I wrapped my arms around her and fell asleep hopeful and happy to have Sookie back in my life.