Beyond Dead Boys
This is Eric’s version of my story, Dead Boys. AH, AU, OOC. Rated: M – Drama/Romance – Chapters: 1 – Words: 8,584 – Published: 12-2-09
Charlaine Harris owns all this
A/N: Please read Dead Boys before starting this story. Thanks to my lovely beta, Thyra10, whose stories are wonderful. I must confess that I fiddled with this one after she declared it done, and didn’t have the heart to make her read it again, so any remaining mistakes are mine and not hers.
This story contains a human version of what happened to Sookie in the trunk in Charlaine Harris’s books. This in no way romanticizes rape, but takes a different look at the original scenario and (hopefully) has a more rewarding outcome. If you find reading about rape disturbing, please go no further.
I had found myself fairly bored with my life until the day Sookie Stackhouse walked into my bar. I had no idea really that there was anything wrong with my life. Being bored felt normal to me. But when I saw her walk in with Bill Compton in her flowered cotton dress, wide-eyed and gorgeous, she caught my attention. Little did I know then that she’d also capture my heart and bring it to life in a way I hadn’t imagined.
I wondered how an asshole like Compton could have such a breath of fresh air on his arm, and then in the next instant wondered if she might be like him and like all the other music people I’d tried to extricate from my life. Maybe the perfect face and hair and body in the sweet dress were just a cover for yet another vacuous groupie-type. I cynically thought that maybe she looked like that as some kind of sexual role-playing for Compton. I’m the innocent virgin and you’re the big bad rock star—ravage me. Already I was back to bored and scanned the bar for something or someone more interesting to watch.
I noted that things at the bar were running smoothly, people were dancing, nothing seemed to need my attention. Compton and his fake virgin found a table and ordered drinks. I checked my usual selection of women out. They all seemed to sort of hover around my booth. Fortunately tonight none of them had actually sat down to bother me. They all looked the same in their tight black clothes, cleavage and garter belts showing, leaving nothing to the imagination. Boring. So I went back to the virgin and she was checking me out like they all do. Her eyes went from my chest down to what was hidden from her view by the table. Then they came back up to meet mine and she looked away and blushed. She actually blushed. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen a woman do that and it touched me. Could it be that the reason she looked so sweet and innocent was because she actually was? My interest was definitely piqued and so I walked over to her table.
Compton introduced us and she shook my hand, saying something about the bar and how great it looked and then she welcomed me home. In that sweet southern accent—not the twangy kind, but the softer one—the one that made me want to move back to the south after seeing the rest of the country. She really did seem to be the real deal. She was obviously too old and too beautiful to be an actual virgin, but in that white dress with the red flowers sitting there among the leather and lace crowd, she looked like a candle in a coal mine. She was fucking perfect.
I sat at my booth all night watching Sookie dance with Bill, trying to deflect the usual attention from the usual women. I wanted to dance with her myself and wondered how I could politely get her away from Compton when I saw her head to the restroom and took my chance. I waited until she was on her way back to their table. She glanced over at my now empty booth and looked around the room. I hoped that she was looking for me when she ran into me and I asked her to dance before she had a chance to think about it. One of the advantages of being the tallest guy in the room as well as the owner of the place is that it’s fairly easy to catch the eye of the DJ and let him know that you want a slow song played next. I wanted an excuse to touch her.
She felt soft and warm and womanly in my arms. I studied her face and every feature was perfect. Her lips were positively kissable. I moved a little closer, but not too close. I didn’t want her to know how hard I was—that would just be rude. She surprised me by pulling my head closer and I took that as a green light to kiss a secret spot behind her ear. She smelled like sunshine and flowers and innocence. It was probably wrong, but I stole a tiny taste with my tongue and yes, she was heavenly. The song ended and a faster one had started, but we stayed in our embrace. I could have stayed there all night but we were interrupted by an irritated Compton. I thanked Sookie for the dance and watched as Compton led her away, clearly pissed at me. That’s fine. It wasn’t the first time I’d pissed him off. And I had a feeling he’d be pissed at me some more if things went as I was hoping they would. I wanted to see more of Sookie Stackhouse.
As much as I really hated spending time with the former members of Dead Boys and their entourage, I knew that that’s just what I’d have to do if I wanted to learn more about Sookie. I had put her name on our permanent guest list that first night she came into the bar, but waiting and hoping she’d just show up wasn’t my style. She really didn’t seem the type to hang out at bars anyway. Of course, she didn’t seem the type to hang out with Dead Boys either, but she clearly was seeing Compton, so what did I know.
I bit the bullet and drove over to Andre and Sophie-Anne’s house one night when the bar was slow. They seemed surprised to see me but were really pretty cordial and invited me in to what I knew to be a constant party. I nursed my beer and fortunately most of the people there knew better than to offer me anything stronger. I decided that Sophie-Anne would probably be my best bet for getting information. I casually asked her where Compton was living these days and she said Bon Temps. I knew where it was but had never been before.
“So, have you met his girlfriend? They came into the bar the other night.”
“No, not yet. He says she’s always working and can’t make it up here.”
“Oh yeah? Where does she work?”
“A bar called Merlotte’s. Kind of a dive. We went once but it was years ago.”
That was all I needed and so I quickly changed the subject, hoping I wasn’t as obvious as I feared I was. Sophie-Anne seemed fairly buzzed, so maybe she hadn’t noticed that I was just fishing for information on Sookie. I killed another hour or so to make it look good and went back to the bar.
One of the drawbacks of reconnecting with Dead Boys and their sort was that some of them started coming into the bar. It’s not that I minded taking their money, but a couple of times we had to cut some of them off because they were so fucked up and things got a little testy. We handled drunks fairly frequently though, so it was really not that big a deal. And totally worth it to get information on Sookie.
I considered calling Merlotte’s and asking for Sookie, but that felt like cheating. I wanted her to give me her phone number, not get an unsolicited call at the bar where she worked. After what seemed like an eternity of never having to do anything to get a woman, I missed the old-fashioned courtship where you asked for a girl’s number and she said yes, and then you actually earned the right to enjoy her company by calling and asking her out.
Since I’d entered the music business it seemed like everything had gotten so skewed in my life. Everything came too fast and too easy and it ruined the whole getting of things. The money was ridiculous. The women were desperate. The people were fucked up. I thought that leaving Dead Boys would end that and at first I did feel a little better about myself, but soon enough those fucked up people were all replaced by other musicians and other women who were equally fucked up. The parts of the job that made it fun were overshadowed by the parts that ruined it for me. I hated the drugs and the yes-people who all wanted to kiss my ass for a job or a back-stage pass or a chance to suck my dick. I wonder now if I ever met a single person in that time who liked me for myself or who even wanted to bother to know me at all. My sister, Pam, was the only person that I really trusted to be honest with me and tell me when I was acting like a prick, and believe me, she was happy to do just that. When she graduated from high school, she left our aunt’s house in Shreveport and went to Tulane. That was the first money I spent that felt like it meant something. I set up an account for her and finally felt good about what I had accomplished. Then later I decided that I could use the money to really change my own life. Nobody had a gun to my head making me perform on stage every night. I had a choice, and so I finally made a decision to find something more meaningful and I quit the business. I moved back to Shreveport and bought Fantasia and became a different guy—one that I could respect a little more. I was definitely happier if not a little bored. But meeting Sookie made me feel a lot less bored and I wanted more of that feeling.
So, one night I drove down to Merlotte’s, intending to see Sookie and ask her out on a real date. I hadn’t counted on the bar closing so early, but I guess in those little towns things wound down a little earlier than in Shreveport. I was headed back to the interstate but missed my turn on the dark and unfamiliar road. I kept driving, looking for a place where I could turn around, but I was really out in the sticks and the road seemed to go on forever. I noticed a car pulled over and could see a woman in the driver’s seat so I pulled up behind her to see if I could help out. This was certainly no place to break down. There wasn’t a building or even another car in sight.
As I approached the car, I realized that the woman in the car was Sookie and I was both surprised and happy about that. What are the odds? She declined my offer to check under the hood. She had already called for a tow, but I wasn’t about to leave her out there alone and I made a comment that it wouldn’t be safe for a woman to be out there by herself. She looked around nervously and I realized that maybe she was a little uncomfortable being out in the middle of nowhere with me. She didn’t know me, after all. The last time she saw me, I was licking her neck and trying to resist humping her leg. The last thing I wanted to do was scare her, so I offered to wait in my car until the tow truck arrived.
I was checking my email on my phone when she appeared beside the car and I let her in. She relaxed and we had a nice talk. She gave me her phone number and I told her that I had come down to see her. She seemed surprised about that and I wondered how many guys drooled over her on a dance floor and then followed her around. Maybe a lot, actually. Surely she realized that I was interested. But maybe she really was that naïve. Logically, it was unlikely that such a girl would be hanging out with Dead Boys, and so I asked her if she went to Andre’s a lot. I was relieved that she had never been there. She didn’t strike me as the druggie-groupie type and I hoped that my assessment was right. If it was, then she really just might be too good to be true.
I gave her a ride to her very charming old house. I was curious about with whom she lived, but thought it might be too nosy to ask at that point. As long as it wasn’t with Compton, I was happy. I walked her to the door and gave her a kiss on the cheek before heading back to Shreveport, my wheels already turning as to what my next move should be. I had her number. I knew where she worked and lived. Should I ask her out? She probably had a lot of guys asking her out, including Compton. I wanted to impress her. I thought to myself: what does she need, and could I be someone who gave her what she needs? The answer was simple. Her immediate need was to get her car fixed or get rides to and from work until it could be fixed. My initial thought was to pay for the repair. Then I considered just buying her a new car, but she would most likely object to both of those. But I could certainly offer to give her rides to wherever she needed to go. I went to bed that night with a plan and new resolve to impress Sookie Stackhouse.
I woke fairly early, excited that I had something to look forward to. I waited until I thought it was a reasonable hour to call a person who worked in a bar and punched in her number. She hadn’t spoken to the mechanic yet and said she’d let me know if she needed a ride later. I paced the floor, tried to watch TV, had something to eat. I couldn’t stand it any longer and so I called her again. Her car wouldn’t be ready until the next day, but motherfucking Compton would give her a ride to and from work. Shit.
I tried to shake it off. Maybe they were more serious than I thought. Fuck. Maybe he did live with her. I really had no idea. I went through my normal routine for the rest of the day and was sitting at my booth that night trying to forget about the perfect girl, but it wasn’t working. I was really dying to find out how seriously Sookie and Compton were involved, but felt like I would come across as a stupid asshole if I asked her for details. I hadn’t been rejected by a female in many years and the prospect was fairly daunting. I decided to take a more cowardly approach and left for Andre’s house. If she were drunk or high enough, Sophie-Anne would spill the story. All I had to do was ask.
The party at Andre’s was going strong when I arrived. Andre was already passed out on the sofa with the pipe he’d been smoking still in his hand. Unfortunately, Sophie-Anne was not quite as drunk as I’d hoped yet, so I reconsidered grilling her about Sookie and Compton. As if on cue, Compton stumbled into the room and plopped down on the floor beside the sofa. He didn’t say much and I watched him carefully. He was clearly too fucked up to drive. I took Sophie-Anne into the kitchen and she agreed to take his keys away. I innocently offered to pick Sookie up at work and Sophie-Anne thought I was such a sweetheart for thinking of it. I watched her fish his keys out of his pocket while he sat with his eyes closed, leaning against the sofa. He didn’t even notice, and I left with a new mission.
I drove Sookie home again and asked when her car would be ready. I decided to ask her to lunch. It was kind of a chicken shit way to ask her out, but it had a decent chance of getting a yes. Even if she and Compton were serious, a lunch date might still be okay. Then we could pick up her car. Not only did she say yes, but she offered to pack the food and make it a picnic. Damn, this girl was just too fucking perfect. I considered her offer to feed me a positive sign, but I didn’t want to push my luck, so I opted for another platonic kiss on the cheek before saying goodnight.
It looked like it would rain (and yahoo weather certainly had predicted it, but I chose to ignore that). I knew we could always eat in a restaurant, but I really loved the idea of the picnic and didn’t want to cancel. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been on a fucking picnic. Rock stars don’t get invited to picnics. The women I knew offered me cocaine and blow jobs. They never fried me chicken. I was in heaven.
It was the first time we had really had a chance to get to know each other a little and the longer we sat on that blanket and talked, the more I liked Sookie Stackhouse, and not just because of her chicken. Or her perfect body. She was bright and funny and…well…just great company. Unfortunately, it did start to rain and so we had to run for the car. When I closed the door and looked over at her, she looked so incredibly beautiful, her hair wet and messy, swallowed up in my jacket. She was laughing and the loud rain on the roof of the car made it seem all that much cozier inside. Suddenly I didn’t give a shit whether she and Compton were serious, engaged, married with ten kids. I had to kiss her, and so I did. I wondered if that was okay with her and I asked with a look rather than a question. Her answer was the hottest, most passionate, tongue-sucking kiss I’d ever had. Virgin, my ass. She was hot. It had been awhile since I’d had any sort of sex. Hell, at that moment, I couldn’t remember whether I’d ever had any sex at all. Or whether there were actually any other females on the planet. All I knew was that the most perfect women was attached to my face in the most glorious way. I wanted to fuck her blind. But then I remembered that I actually cared about this woman and so I stopped myself and slowed way down. I changed my inner channel from caveman mode to courting gentleman and took what I thought should be the next step. I asked her out on a date.
Apparently, both of us were in a bit of a fog, because after she said yes she remembered that she had a boyfriend and then I remembered that Saturday night was Halloween—not that we couldn’t have spent Halloween together at the bar, but fuck, she had a date with Compton. Motherfucker.
Halloween is always a wild night at a bar. We were ready for it though and things were going just fine. I had to give up my booth for the paying customers, but that’s okay. I was glad we were so packed. Everything was going just as expected until I saw Sookie standing there. I went up to speak to her as she turned and ran into me again. I was so surprised and happy to see her until I realized that she looked like she’d been crying. I asked what was wrong, and she did start crying. I got her to my office and held her until she calmed down. Then she sat and told me how she’d seen Compton snorting coke off some coke-whore’s tits (my words, not hers) over at Andre’s. It was then that I realized that she really wasn’t involved in that whole world (as I had hoped was the case). But I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t talked to her about it. I hated that she had been surprised and hurt like that and I wanted to smash Compton’s face in. Even though I felt bad for her, a part of me was hopeful that she wouldn’t want to see Compton any more and would give me a chance.
One of my bouncers interrupted us with the news that we had Dead Boy trouble again. I left Sookie to go take care of it. The cops arrived quickly and Sigebert and Wybert and their equally rowdy girlfriends settled down and agreed to leave. They were in no condition to drive, however, and so the cops were discussing their transportation options with them when I decided to check around the rest of the parking lot. On nights like that one, it wasn’t uncommon to find people puking or passed out, and I thought I’d do a quick check while the police were still there in case they were needed. I walked around the building to the back door, but didn’t see any trouble. I decided to make a quick sweep of the parking lot, and that’s when I hard the screams. I ran towards the sound, panicked that some woman was being attacked and by the time I’d located the van, I heard her say, “It’s me, Sookie,” several times between screams. I opened the back doors and found her curled up on the floor sobbing. Compton looked up at me like what the fuck, and I reached in and grabbed the motherfucker and just started punching. It wasn’t until my hands were cuffed behind me that I even realized that the same cops I had just so rationally chatted with out front now had me in custody for beating the crap out of someone. I looked over at Sookie and she was talking to a woman cop in the van, looking back at me. All I wanted in the world was to get to her and make sure she was okay. And so when I felt the cuffs being removed, that’s what I did. She crawled into my lap and I sat just inside the van holding her to me, trying to comfort her. I had no idea what had happened to her, but clearly it was something awful. But when the woman officer asked her what happened, nothing could have prepared me for the answer that came out her mouth. She had been raped. Holy fuck. In the parking lot of my bar. I thought I might be sick.
Sookie calmly and quietly told the officer what had happened and I was grateful that she couldn’t see my face. I blinked away hot tears and hoped that she didn’t notice the change in my breathing. My feelings vacillated between wanting to kill Compton and wanted to make it all better for Sookie, but I knew that I could do neither. She refused medical treatment against the officer’s advice. She just wanted to go home. So I caught the eye of a couple of my security guys to let them know I was leaving, and when the cops had finished their questions, I took Sookie home.
Sookie tearfully explained what had happened to her to her roommate, Amelia, when she got home. She assured her that she was okay though and finally convinced Amelia to go to bed. I offered to stay with her and sleep on her sofa, but she insisted that she was fine. I wondered if she might prefer to be alone, and so I agreed to leave. We stood at the door holding each other for a long time. She cried a little more and I kissed the top of her head and made her promise to call me if she needed anything.
The following day, I drove down to get Sookie to bring her to Shreveport to get her car. She let me take her to lunch and go for a walk before she drove herself home. She was quiet, but amazingly in a fairly good mood. I probably did a crappy job of pretending that I was fine. We talked a little bit about what had happened, but mostly she wanted to talk about other things which was fine.
I saw her or spoke to her every day for the next few weeks. If she had the lunch shift or a night off, she came up to Shreveport. Some nights, I needed to be at the bar and she just hung out with me. When I could, I took her to dinner or we watched movies at my house. On the nights she worked, I spent most of the day at her house and always had her call me to make sure she got home safely at the end of her shift. I took her to a doctor’s appointment once but didn’t ask any questions. She came to Shreveport once a week to see someone at the Women’s Crisis Center and let me take her to lunch afterwards. The prosecutor in Shreveport let her know that Compton was going into a rehab facility in lieu of doing time in jail. We talked about that some, and she seemed satisfied with it. I kept my opinion to myself because it didn’t matter. As long as Sookie felt okay about it, that was all that mattered.
I had done a lot of reading online about rape victims, but honestly, had no idea how to proceed with our relationship. I knew that I wanted to. The more time I spent with Sookie, the more I was falling in love with her. But all my kisses were planted on her cheek and I only touched her to occasionally hold her hand or give her a platonic hug. I had no idea how much time or space she needed, and so I just waited.
One night we were in my kitchen putting away leftovers after Sookie had fixed us dinner. I was rearranging things in the refrigerator and stepped back to go and get more containers of food when I stepped on Sookie’s foot. I didn’t realize that she was coming up behind me with dishes in both hands. As my heel landed on her instep, my elbow jabbed into what could only be her breast. She let out an “ow,” and I immediately said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” I turned around and instinctively touched my palm to where my elbow had gone, and seeing my hand cupping her breast, I said another, “Oh, I’m sorry,” removing my hand. I looked up to her face and she started laughing and so I did too. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Really. Here, take these.” I put the dishes of food she was holding into the fridge and closed the door, turning back to Sookie. “You know, it’s okay to touch me.”
“Well….I didn’t mean to hurt you, obviously.”
“I know.” She took my hand and placed it back onto her breast and looked into my eyes. “But you can touch me, Eric.” I watched my hand on her breast, her own hand covering mine. I could feel the lace of her bra underneath her t-shirt and let my thumb stroke her for a second. “I want you to.” I looked back to her face and she looked sad. “Unless you don’t want…”
I didn’t give her a chance to finish her sentence. Both of my arms went around her as I pulled her to me and kissed her. I guess this was the invitation I had been waiting for, and I let her feel all the want and need that I’d been holding back for the past weeks. She responded by threading her hands into my hair and pulling me closer. Our tongues found each other and she made a high-pitched little squeak that made my dick even harder. How could she have ever thought that I hadn’t wanted her? She was all I ever wanted, and I tried to show her just that with my lips and tongue and hands. The kiss was long and passionate. When I pulled away, I buried my face into her neck, kissing her there as well. I could hear her heavy breathing in my ear and felt her lips brush just beneath it. Then I stepped back a bit, looking at her to make certain she was okay with the kiss. She had a huge smile on her face, and her fingers touched my lips as her eyes dropped to watch them. I just smiled back as she spoke. “I guess we should finish cleaning up the kitchen.” I nodded, grinning like an idiot.
The next day was Thanksgiving, and we were both looking forward to having the day off and being able to spend it together. Amelia’s father was in town and so he drove both Amelia and Sookie up to Shreveport. All three entered my Aunt Thalia’s carrying pies and I was pleased to see Thalia and Pam welcome them all as if they were family. We had a great day together, and as it came to an end, Copley and Amelia stood to say goodnight. Sookie took my hand and told them that I’d take her home later and then she gave me a tentative glance to see if that was okay, and I jumped in with an “of course” that made her relax and smile.
We said our goodnights and left with bags of tupperware filled with leftovers. My refrigerator had never been so full, and it gave me a great feeling seeing the result of Sookie’s cooking in there as well as food from our Thanksgiving dinner. I had a flash of thought at how nice it would be to have Sookie at my house all the time, but I knew that it was too soon to think about that. I found Sookie sitting on the sofa with that same tentative look on her face that I’d seen at my aunt’s. I wasn’t sure what she wanted. “Are you tired? Want to watch a movie? Should I take you home?”
“No, no, and no.”
“Okay. How do I get a yes?”
“Like this.” And she stood and pulled me into a kiss. I happily complied, taking her firmly into my arms and devouring her beautiful mouth. She kissed down my neck whispering, “And like this.” I felt her hands unbuttoning my shirt and opening it. Her kisses trailed lower as her hands and lips explored my chest. “And like this.” She looked back up into my eyes, her own hooded with lust. “And then you’re supposed to ask if I’d like to stay.”
“Would you like…”
“Yes.” And our mouths hungrily found each other again. Without breaking the kiss, I picked her up and started carrying her upstairs. Halfway up she giggled and said, “Like Scarlet and Rhett.”
“Except with a happier ending, I hope.” I set her down gently on my bed and lay down beside her. We smiled broadly and began the kissing again. Lying down I knew it would be harder to conceal my erection, and just as I had that thought, Sookie draped her leg over my hip and pressed herself against me, moaning into my mouth. I had never spontaneously come in my pants before, but I wondered if this might be a first. She felt so amazing and was so eager to get closer to me. I reached down to her delectable ass and pulled her to me, massaging her hip and thigh. We lay like that together for a long time, kissing and exploring and gently rocking our bodies together. I could have stayed just like that all night long, but Sookie stopped and pulled back at one point. She rolled onto her back and sighed heavily at the ceiling. Then she turned back to me and took my hand in hers. I brought her hand to my lips and kissed her fingers, smiling into her beautiful blue eyes.
“Do you not want to make love to me, Eric?”
“Believe me, there’s nothing in this world that I want more.”
She smiled sweetly. “Really?”
“Of course, honey. You are the most beautiful, desirable woman I’ve ever known. But I want us to take our time. I want you to be certain that this is what you want. I want you in my life, not just in my bed.”
“I want to stay.”
“Okay. I want you to.”
“But won’t that be…you know…frustrating for you? Won’t your testicles turn blue and implode or something?”
“Oh, I think they’ll be just fine.” We both relaxed and laughed a little. “Let me get you something to sleep in and find you a toothbrush, okay?”
I locked the house up and we got ready for bed, climbing in together like it was the most natural thing in the world. Sookie snuggled up to me and put her head on my chest. We held each other and kissed and talked until almost dawn. The last thing I remember was listening to her humming and feeling her fingers stroking my chest.
When I woke up, the house smelled like coffee and biscuits baking and I had the biggest smile on my face. I couldn’t imagine being much happier than I was at that moment. So I went downstairs and told her just that. My reward was a soft kiss and a smile and a whispered, “Me too.”
The next time Sookie came up to Shreveport she brought some clothes and I made room for her things in my dresser and the bathroom cabinet. She started staying over a few nights a week, and we settled into a routine with a pace that she seemed comfortable with, which was just fine with me. I was starting to feel like I was in this for the long haul and felt no need to rush things for Sookie, especially considering what she had been through. There was a lot of kissing and a lot of passion, but everybody kept their clothes on.
Sookie’s car broke down again, and Tray had it for almost a full week. Getting Sookie to and from work in Bon Temps and still being able to spend time at Fantasia was becoming a challenge. She had also started volunteering at the Crisis Center a couple of mornings a week in Shreveport. I called the shop one morning to find out how much longer it would be before the car was ready and when I hung up, Sookie was standing in the kitchen with an odd look on her face. “What is it?”
“You just said, ‘It’s Eric Northman, Sookie’s boyfriend’ when you called the garage.”
“And is that okay?”
She answered with a tight squeeze and a little sigh into my chest. I took that as a yes.
I wanted to buy Sookie a new car, but she wouldn’t hear of it. I seriously considered just doing it anyway and calling it her Christmas present, but apparently I was so transparent that she knew what I was thinking and told me that she wouldn’t accept it. She did however accept the watch that I bought her for Christmas and I continued to argue for the new car idea. I told her that it was just practical for her to have a safe and reliable car especially since we lived so far apart. And what was the point of having money if you couldn’t spend it on the people that you love? That shut her up, and I wasn’t sure if it was because she was mad about the car argument or shocked that I used the l-word. She quickly changed the subject and I wondered if I’d made a mistake.
We had Christmas dinner at my aunt’s house. Pam was home for the holidays, so it was the four of us. Sookie was kind of quiet and I hoped I hadn’t upset her with the car thing and the love thing. I never knew if I was taking things at the right pace with her, and she was too important to me for me to be fucking it up.
When we got home, Sookie went up to bed while I closed up the house and then took a shower. I put on my sleep pants and went into the bedroom. The lights were out, and I wondered whether Sookie might already be asleep. She had seemed to be in such a strange mood all evening, and I wasn’t certain if I should even touch her, but as I climbed into bed, she turned over to face me and I could see that her shoulders were bare. “Do you love me, Eric?” Well, that wasn’t what I expected.
I reached for her and found nothing whatsoever between her skin and my hands and thought that I had died and gone to heaven. I did show her that I loved her. I put everything I had into pleasing her. We stayed up all night exploring and loving each other. I hoped that it was everything she had hoped for. She certainly seemed happy. But I hadn’t expected how different it felt for me. I had been with many women before, although I hadn’t had sex since before I met Sookie. But I discovered that being with a woman that I actually loved was so completely different than just having sex. It was so much better. I already loved sharing my life with Sookie. Finally sharing our bodies felt like putting the final brilliant brush stroke on a beautiful painting.
The end of January marked three months since Sookie’s rape and so she scheduled her second HIV test. I’d had my own battery of tests at my annual physical in January so that we’d be on the same page at the same time. Sookie had been on the pill for years to help with menstrual cramps, but we had used condoms as a further precaution until we got our respective test results back. We celebrated that night with dinner at our favorite restaurant and a ceremonial tossing out of the remaining condoms in my nightstand drawer. Then we happily made love, gratefully aware that there was nothing between us anymore both literally and figuratively.
I asked Sookie to move in with me on Valentine’s Day, but it didn’t get the response I had hoped for.
“It would be too hard to commute for work every day, Eric.”
“So, don’t work at Merlotte’s. Do something here in Shreveport.”
“All I know how to do is wait tables.”
“We have tables at Fantasia. You’re always helping out there anyway when we get busy. I’ll put you on the payroll. You’ll have benefits. You could work as little or as much as you want.” She had a troubled look on her face, which I hated to see. “I just want you to be happy, Sookie. If you really love it at Merlotte’s, then stay there. It’s fine. I just miss you on the nights you’re not here. I see a future for us together, but I don’t want to pressure you to move too fast, sweetie. Just give it some thought, okay?”
She hugged me, and said she was sorry if she disappointed me, but I assured her that I could be patient and only wanted her happiness.
For the next few weeks, I could tell that something was bothering Sookie. I started to worry that she was having second thoughts about us. I wondered if I had pushed too hard asking her to move in. Maybe it forced her to realize that she didn’t see a future for the two of us, and I wondered whether I’d be able to bear her breaking up with me. She seemed so sad a lot of the time, and as much as I dreaded hearing her tell me she wanted out, I just couldn’t stand waiting for it. So, finally, one night I sat her down on the sofa and asked her what was wrong. She looked away and the tears started. I braced myself for the pain.
“I’ve been thinking about our conversation on Valentine’s Day.” Here it comes.
“Remember when I said that all I knew how to do was wait tables?”
“Well, it just got me thinking. I don’t think I want to spend the rest of my life waiting tables, Eric.”
“That’s what you’ve been upset about? You’re not happy with your job?”
“Well, yeah. But not just my job. With what I do for a living. I can’t see my being happy just doing that for the rest of my life.” I let out a deep breath. “What did you think I was upset about?”
“Oh god no, Eric. You’re the one thing in my life that I don’t ever want to change. Come here.” She pulled me to her and then she climbed into my lap and snuggled into my chest. “I love you, sweetie. I’m happy with you. I’m just not so happy with me.”
“Well, we can fix the job thing. You just need to figure out what else you’d enjoy doing, that’s all.”
“That’s the thing. Work has always just been about making money to survive. I never really thought about liking what I do. I didn’t get to go to college. We didn’t have the money. I have no idea really what I’d like.”
“Would you like to go to college?” She looked up at my face and I could see the wheels turning. “Honey, we have plenty of money. You can go to school if you want.”
“I couldn’t spend your money on college, Eric. It wouldn’t be right.”
“Do you ever think about getting married? I mean, to me?”
She made a tiny “yeah.”
“Well, I want you to think about what kind of life you want, Sookie. You’re not bound by a waitress job or any job, for that matter. I want you to love your life. Find what makes you happy. The sky’s the limit. I want us to be together, but I also want you to feel fulfilled by your life.”
“I guess I never really allowed myself to think like that.”
“Well, I want you to start. Thinking like that, I mean. Okay?”
“Okay.” Then I finally got a big smile and a kiss.
“So, do you want to quit Merlotte’s?”
“Not yet. I need some time.”
“Okay, but at least let’s buy you that new car. If you’re going to continue to drive back and forth.”
“No. My car’s fine.”
As if on cue, Sookie’s car broke down again the next day. That night when I came to bed I handed Sookie a stack of papers. It included my bank statements, investment account statements, my last income tax return, the purchasing contracts for my house as well as Fantasia, a statement from my mortgage lender. She read through everything and then when she was through she turned to me and just said, “Wow.”
“Those are my assets and the mortgage is my only debt. As you can see, I made a lot of money in the music business and I’ve made a lot more with my investments since then. I’m not one of those people who feels funny about discussing money. It’ll most likely be yours as well someday anyway since I do hope to eventually be something more significant than just your boyfriend. So, now can I buy you a new car?”
“Um, yeah.” And then she went back to her reading, kind of wide-eyed.
I felt a lot better about Sookie driving between Bon Temps and Shreveport in her new car. The only person who would feel sad about it was Tray, who apparently had started dating Amelia. Sookie and I talked a bit more about living together and she was warming up to the idea of going to school.
For Sookie’s birthday we went to the shelter and picked out a cat named Bob. For my birthday, Sookie and Bob moved in. It was the best birthday I’d ever had. She finally gave her up job at Merlotte’s and I put her on the payroll at Fantasia. She asked to be scheduled two or three nights a week, and then she just helped out as needed on the other nights. I kept telling her that she didn’t have to work, but she seemed to really feel better about making her own money, so I didn’t argue with her. I was just so grateful that she had finally agreed to live in Shreveport.
Sookie stuck her big toe in the college water by taking a history class during the summer session. She seemed to really enjoy it and I encouraged her to enroll full-time in the fall. She was still a little unsure though, so I didn’t push it. We were both busy, but very happy.
Sookie came home from the Crisis Center one afternoon and said she needed to talk to me about something. I sat and held her hand as she told me that Compton had called her and wanted to see her. He assured her that he only wanted an opportunity to apologize, but I didn’t trust him. I kept that to myself. We both sat for a minute in silence as we let the idea sink in and then we both started to speak at the same time.
“You go ahead.” I wanted to hear her thoughts first.
“No, you. What were you going to say?”
“I’d like to be there. What were you going to say?”
“That I’d like you with me.”
Bill knocked on my office door right on time. I let him in, offered him a chair and sat beside Sookie, taking her hand in mine. I never said a word, but listened to what seemed like a sincere apology followed by Sookie’s very generous forgiveness. She was so much kinder than I could ever be, but then it wasn’t up to me to forgive Bill Compton. After he left, I held her and told her she was the bravest person I’d ever known.
By the time the fall semester started, Sookie and I had settled into a very happy routine. She was only enrolled part-time and still working at the bar some nights, but she seemed to be open to the idea of taking more classes and working fewer hours in the spring semester. We also started talking about places we’d like to travel to to see together. We certainly had the money, but not really the free time. My sister had graduated from college and was doing a bit of traveling herself and told me that in the late fall, she wanted to move back to Shreveport and was interested in helping out with the bar. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her business degree, but until she figured it out, I was certainly open to the idea of her helping me. I completely trusted her and knew that having Pam there would be the perfect solution to Sookie’s and my finding some more time for just the two of us.
Amelia called me one day when Sookie was in class and told me that she and Sookie had found a diamond ring that Sookie loved. That certainly got my attention because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about proposing to Sookie. We had discussed marriage in length and knew that it was what we both wanted, but I wanted to present her with a ring and ask more formally as well. Amelia knew that we were discussing marriage, of course, being Sookie’s friend. When Sookie saw a ring at an antique shop in Bon Temps that she loved, she told Amelia that if she could have her druthers that that’s the ring she’d like, not some new one. But of course, she objected to the price and said that she’d never tell me that she wanted a ring that was so expensive. Fortunately, Amelia knew me well enough to know that the price wouldn’t slow me down one little bit, and so she met me at the antique store and I bought a very beautiful ring.
The next morning when Bob climbed into bed with us and started purring and kneading into Sookie’s hair, Sookie reached up to pet him and felt the ribbon around his neck. She sat up, still sleepy and blinking at me with a wide smile when she saw the ring hanging from the ribbon. I asked. She answered. The love-making was particularly sweet.
And so here I am, almost a year after the night that Sookie walked into my bar looking like that candle in a coal mine. Little did I know then that she would become the light in my life. I’ve tasted success and seen more of the world than most people do, but it wasn’t until I came back home and found Sookie that I learned what happiness is. She has shown me the life that I want, and now I look forward to spending the rest of my life making sure that she has everything she could ever want as well.