When Sophie made her exit from the church I almost ran into the convent in an attempt to see Sookie, to try and explain, to try and maybe salvage this travesty by telling her the whole truth—something I should have done a lot sooner.
Only the other nuns didn’t know where she was. One thought she’d gone to her room complaining of feeling ill, one thought they saw her in the basement, and another didn’t know who I was talking about. I knew I couldn’t very well just waltz into her quarters during the day in front of dozens of Sisters. That would have raised too many questions that I just wasn’t ready to answer. I had agreed to meet Sophie for dinner at eight thirty; it wasn’t something that I particularly wanted to do, but a part of me felt like I owed her. Deep down I knew she wasn’t a bad person; she was just so incredibly mixed up in her own world. It was something that I could relate to in a way. Where she chose to act out her confusion and pain, I somehow, kept mine all bottled up inside.
Or did I? Was I really any different than her? I’d taken the first opportunity I had to leave this place and Sookie behind me, and while I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do, I still did it. I did it because of fear. I was scared of what would happen to me when I had to go out on my own, in that sense I guess I understood Sookie’s choice to join the convent too. It was, in a weird way, her safety net, just like Niall and his work had been mine. But I didn’t do it for my faith like Sookie did. My work led me to Sophie, and while I knew her behavior was questionable, I still partook in it with her. I didn’t refuse her sex. I didn’t refuse her company and yes she used me to get back at her mother, but I knew I was just as guilty of using her. I used her to stifle my loneliness; something I had to question if I was repeating with Sookie?
Sookie was always there, and I guess part of the reason why I came back here at all was because of my fear of losing her completely. Since I had already lost her in a sense to her faith, I didn’t want to have a Sookie shaped hole in my life. Rome had been wonderful and I grew to love it over time, but since she was the presence that was missed most it wasn’t complete without her. I knew in joining the priesthood that certain sacrifices would have to be made, and at the time, I had been fine with that. I assumed I would never have Sookie, not in the way that I wanted her the most. I wanted to love her, to be with her as a partner and one day maybe if she were to feel the same, a husband. But that was never really anything other than a whimsical day dream. You aren’t supposed to fall in love with your best friend, right? Why couldn’t I have separated her in my head, friend Sookie wasn’t meant to become ‘wouldn’t-it-be-great-if-she-were-my-wife-Sookie’. I still thought I’d be fine being around her; that our vows would be the barrier that held us in our place, but I was wrong.
The second I saw her again in that garden I knew that no vow would ever stop the way I felt about her. I’d loved my friend, but I’d fallen in love with the girl who grew into a woman through our letters over the years. I thought, perhaps she would be something less than I imagined, but again, I was wrong. She was every bit as funny and smart as her letters had shown me. She was still that sweet hearted person I’d known most of my life, and it killed me right off the bat that what I was feeling for her was considered wrong.
Why was loving a person so wrong? We sat and we preached faith in God’s love, in the love of Jesus for mankind but for a person to preach these things he had to be devoid of the emotion himself? It just didn’t make any sense. How could we preach to these people about the power of a love for humans when we weren’t allowed to love them ourselves? Platonic love is acceptable of course, but a real love between two people—when they can’t wait to be with each other, if only to see the other one smile…? I knew there was something in that, something that I’d regret if I didn’t in the very least, attempt to explore it with the one person in my life that had ever elicited those types of feelings from deep within me.
While Sophie didn’t have my love, the least she deserved was my understanding. So I resigned myself to not finding Sookie right away like I wanted and got washed up after I’d done my paperwork for a still absent Niall.
I’d arrived early to the restaurant, I sat and people watched for a bit. Little old ladies gossiping at one table, a few couples scattered about at others—one arguing, the other looking blissfully loved up. A group of girls sat at another table, all of them looking my direction; looking away then looking back again. The attention was flattering of course, and a little embarrassing, but doesn’t everyone like to be appreciated?
One of them waved my way while the rest just giggled. I, out of manners, waved back. I shook my head at their silliness but thought it was funny just the same.
When Sophie arrived she was, of course, dressed to kill. Overkill. We made small chit chat about mundane things—the weather, her being back home, how her mother was doing, how the missions were doing, how Niall was—then right back to the weather again just as we finished our meal. She sat silently for a few minutes before she continued.
“The reason, the real reason I wanted to talk to you in private, Eric was that I just wanted to apologize to you. The way I acted … or reacted, just before you left… I was out of order and my behavior was completely uncalled for. I invaded your privacy and that wasn’t right.”
“You’re right it wasn’t,” I agreed, sipping slowly on my whiskey. “But Sophie, it was a while ago now, and it doesn’t matter. I mean yes, at the time, you hurt me and scared me to be honest. But it’s water under the bridge.”
“So you can forgive me then?” She smiled, and somewhere in that smile I saw a glimpse of the girl she used to be, before she got screwed up by her family and the world.
“I already have.”
“Thank God! Honestly, there is a list of people, it’s sort of this thing my doctor is asking me to try, right some of my wrongs you know?”
“Yeah a shrink. My mom decided after what happened with us that she couldn’t take my moods any more. So she made me see a shrink once we got to England. I think it’s been good for me though. I have what they call an ‘outlet for my rage’ that doesn’t involve sex or setting people’s property on fire.” She laughed. “It’s not easy though, because I mean let’s face it, the sex thing? It was fun…”
I smiled. I tried not to but I couldn’t help myself.
“So how are you dealing with it?”
She huffed in annoyance but smiled. “It’s been good, I’ve made some friends in the group sessions so that’s good, but it’s difficult when they’re cute guys…”
“But it’s helping?”
“I’m not jumping the bones of every guy in a three mile radius anymore so, yes, I guess you could say that it helps. It sucks for me though, I’m so horny.” She whispered the last part causing me to almost spit out my drink. “Honestly Eric, how have you been doing it?” She paused with a knowing smirk. “Was I your last?”
“You were.” I dug into my food trying to avoid the subject.
“Interesting. And you and Sookie?”
“I don’t want to talk about Sookie…”
“Oh come on. I finally get to meet this special girl, though I have to say I was left feeling a little lackluster after seeing Sookie. Her letters … well, they seemed so much more passionate for life than the girl I saw in that church today.”
“Okay, one, I told you I didn’t want to talk about her, and two, those letters were something you had no right reading in the first place.”
“But you said you forgave me.” She pouted.
“I… do forgive you. I just don’t want you thinking that it was okay. You invaded my privacy like you said and not only that but you invaded Sookie’s too and that makes it ten times worse!”
She made an ‘O’ shape with her mouth before she smiled. “This is what the big bad Eric Northman is like when he’s protective over someone, someone he loves. See, I didn’t get to experience you like this, because you never loved me.”
Guilt, over-whelming guilt.
“No it’s fine, my mother always said I wasn’t an easy girl to love and I guess that’s true.”
“You know that’s not what it was, I just…loved someone else first and she…I don’t know, I guess she held my heart.”
I didn’t answer her.
“I still love her, I probably always will. But it… it just is what it is and I deal with it.”
“Even though you two can never be together?”
Well, we could… it would just break every rule in the rule book.
“Wow, well I’ve got to give it to you. I couldn’t do it, or not do it as the case may be.”
I shrugged my non-committal response. Mainly, I wanted to sidestep my feelings for Sookie when it came to Sophie. I wanted to forgive her, but I also wanted to forget her and I couldn’t do that if I gave her ammunition against me. I just didn’t and couldn’t trust her mood swings.
“Sophie, I think it’s great and everything that you’re getting help and calming down, it really is great. But, why are you really here?”
“I told you. I just missed you and well…I wanted to wipe our slate clean, which I think we’ve done right?”
“Right. And now? That’s it?”
She told me that her intentions were nothing but honourable—her mouth said one thing, but her hand on my thigh midway through dinner said something else entirely.
I discreetly removed it once, twice, and on the third time I had to call her out.
“Sophie, what the hell?”
“I’m sorry Eric I… I guess old habits die hard. I was just tripping down memory lane with you and how amazing you were. WE were amazing. You can’t tell me you never think about it.”
I downed the rest of my whiskey, my third since I sat down, in record time.
“Sophie, how exactly did you see this evening going?”
She looked bashful at that, but I knew better than to believe it.
“I miss you, like I said and I just wanted …I just wanted to see if maybe any of the old feelings were still there on your part. Because I sure as hell know that they’re still here on mine. Eric I miss having you next to me, is that a crime?”
I sighed. Of course this was about sex. With her it always was.
“I can’t believe this!” I threw down the money for dinner plus tip, grabbed my coat and made my way to the exit. All the while she was being her mother’s daughter and trying not to cause a scene. She followed me outside.
“Eric this can’t be that big of a shock to you, you know how I feel about you. How I’ve always felt about you. And okay, so you don’t love me, but I know you want me.” She was doing her best to slide up against me, grabbing the collar of my coat to make me look at her.
“Where you lying? About the therapy?”
“No, I wasn’t and look it has been helping me, but it’s also been teaching me that I should follow my heart. And I know you’re alone and doing this ‘priest’ thing, but let’s be serious here? You aren’t cut out for this life Eric, you like people too much to be a priest, you like WOMEN too much to be a priest. So let’s just sack this nonsense and come home with me, like I know you want to. Deep down inside I know you miss being with me.”
“You’re nuts you know that?”
“Maybe, but it’s still true.”
“NO, it’s not! Sophie, Jesus what don’t you get? I don’t love you, I never have. I’m sorry I was …I’m sorry about what happened between us okay? It wasn’t right for me to be with you because I didn’t love you and you do deserve love. Everyone does.”
“So do you. And I love you Eric, and that could be enough…Couldn’t it?”
I genuinely felt sorry for this girl. Was she so broken that she thought that was an acceptable life?
“No it’s not. Not for me and especially not for you.”
“Because you’re the priest that’s in love with a nun? How is that any less fucked up? I saw her Eric, she loves her Jesus more than she’ll ever love you. He’s the one man that can’t ever fuck her over. Whatever little fantasy you have in your head about you and her, you can just forget it. She isn’t budging sweetie. So your crush, your love, your daydreaming? It’s all for nothing and you know it. And yet you stand here and look at me with pity, when I’m the one who should be pitying you!” she yelled.
I couldn’t respond to her, because her rant had been nothing but truthful. I had pitied her, I had thought those things of Sookie and me, I had… indulged my fantasy just as Sophie was indulging in hers with me.
“Looks like we’re both fucked up then, doesn’t it?”
Silent tears escaped her eyes “Yeah, it looks like it. Eric… I don’t know what to do.”
I signaled for a cab to stop and shockingly one did.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry too. But you need to move on from this, you know? It’s not happening now, or ever, and let’s be honest Sophie, you deserve better.”
She wiped her eyes, “I do, don’t I?” With a sad smile she got into the cab. “I deserve someone to love me, like you love her.”
Not another word was spoken between us as she simply waved once from the back of the car.
After my confrontation with Sophie, I needed a drink—a large one. But the idea of going back into the restaurant didn’t appeal to me. Add to that the fact that I felt a walk would help clear my mood. I somehow ended up on Main Street in an Irish bar packed to the brim with people. Making it to the bar was no easy feat; my height and my intimidating size helped me though, as did it in receiving flirting looks and grazes from ladies passing me by.
I really needed to learn to stop blushing like a school girl at this sort of attention.
When I finally got to the bar I ordered myself a whiskey double—the ice and fire of the drink were a welcome paradox that my throat adored.
A young woman crashed into me, and her boyfriend, or who I assumed was her boyfriend, apologized to me. She was tall and had short brown hair, pretty eyes and an easy friendly smile. Her boyfriend was a little shorter than me; though not unusual, he was like her male equivalent. Friendly smile, scruff and brown eyes and hair. They seemed in a merry mood, and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation as they waited for another round at the bar.
“Do you think she likes him? I think she likes him.”
“Baby, I think it’s too soon. Debbie—”
“Okay A, Debbie was a whore—we both know that—and B , he’s so much better off without her because of A! He deserves a nice girl.”
“And you think she’s the nice girl for him?”
“Look, I’m not thinking wedding bells and babies here, I just want them both to have some fun! She’s had a shit life Trey, and she’s got this crush that she can’t act on for blah blah blah and well… yeah, I’m being a good friend.”
“By trying to hook her up?”
“No, by trying to build her confidence! And look, seems to me like her confidence is building just fine.” She pointed to her left at a small booth.
I saw a shaggy haired guy leaning into some blonde girl, seemingly deep in conversation.
Good for them, I thought. At least they were a nice normal couple able to flirt and converse in public. Unlike …wait.
Upon closer inspection, the blonde looked awfully familiar. In fact she looked too damn familiar. She looked like Sookie, only not like Sookie. She looked like Sookie if she had been dipped in a tub of glamorous and rolled around in Marilyn Monroe’s makeup. But it was definitely Sookie.
Why was Sookie here? In a bar? With a guy? With a guy who had his hand on her knee and was making her blush so hard I could see it in her cheeks from across the damn room? Who was this woman by my side who was throwing my Sookie at this scruffy looking asshole!Thoughts weren’t forming, or if they were they were slightly delayed, because all I know is I ended up tapping Scruffy Asshole ™ on the shoulder to get their attention.
It was Sookie. Her huge, bright blue eyes looked up at me in shocking surprise.
My God she looked stunning.
She also looked mad as hell.
She marched out of the bar and into the alleyway beside it, finally allowing me a full view of her new look.
The dress hugged her body in ways I hadn’t thought of—it showcased her amazing breasts perfectly and it made her legs seem as if they went on forever. With each step she took, the swish of her dress as it pushed off her hips was sexy as hell. Her heels were high, leaving her standing almost to my shoulder when she smacked and yelled at me. I didn’t care, I was too focused on her lips and how the ruby red of whatever she had on them made them seem so much fuller than usual. The dark liner around her eyes also helped show just how beautiful they were.
Sadly appreciating her beauty was short lived, and images of ways I could take her in that dress due to easy access floated in and out of my head as she continued to yell at me, and I back at her.
The conversation continued as intense as it began. I accused her of things, she accused me of things. I kept getting distracted by how shiny and soft her hair looked and thought more than once about asking for a time out just so I could touch it.
She told me she was jealous, she told me she had thought of being with me, she told me how it hurt her to know I’d been with Sophie. Her anger wasn’t expected and it threw me a little at first. Why was she acting like a jealous girlfriend when she had downplayed her interest in me, at best, most of the time? Maybe that didn’t make sense, maybe I was just drunk. The next thing I knew, I was professing my love to her and yanking her against the wall. Why did that seem to be my go-to reaction when it came to her? Maybe because she was just so damn hard to hold in place for five minutes without running off like I knew she wanted to; like I knew I couldn’t let her. I’d never told anyone I loved them before, besides my parents, and that was just a whole different kind of love.
She was running away from me, from herself, from us physically and in her head. I knew her well and I knew she was mentally berating herself just as much as I was. Only I wasn’t really, not this time. I’d blame the whiskey later, but I was tired of hiding it. My conversations with Sophie about how it was all fantasy had pushed me over the edge. I didn’t want this, her to be a fantasy. I wanted it to be real. I just needed to know if she did too? That was the most important thing to me at that moment.
As we were interrupted ever so gracefully by her friend, the girl at the bar who’s name I’d learned was Amelia, it gave Sookie her out.
Since intense doesn’t quite cover how our conversation and follow up hotter than the fires of hell make-out session went, I was equally glad and saddened to see her leave with her friend, her friend’s boyfriend and Scruffy Asshole™ in toe.
I’d been as honest with her as it was possible to be with another person. I’d laid my feelings out there and got a non response in return. It wasn’t like I expected her to forget my past indiscretions and fall into my arms announcing to the world that she’d love me back forever – what was I saying about fantasy?
But some hint as to where her heart laid would have helped me sleep better that night. As it was, I would have to rely on another round or two of Jack to do that for me.
I sat on her window seat using the warm cloth she gave me to wipe away the remainder of my tear stained makeup. It had started to rain—showers in October were hardly rare but somehow it seemed like the weather was in tune with my feelings right at that moment.
Amelia had been shockingly silent since we’d left the bar. Even in the car there was this over whelming silence, save for poor Alcide making awkward conversation. He was a sweet and understanding man, and I told him as much as he walked me to Ames’ apartment. She and Trey were kissing up a storm in the car before she finally said goodnight, I apologized to Alcide again for being lousy company, he of course understood—or at least said he did. Whoever that Debbie girl was? She was going to have to do some answering, if she ever got to the big man upstairs, about treating such a good guy like crap. It just wasn’t fair!
Amelia still hadn’t said anything almost twenty minutes later, I had to know what she was thinking.
“I’m not judging you Sookie, God knows you have enough of that in your own head, but honey…That was Eric?”
She raised her brows, “By your talk I was expecting this gangly kid, and that my dear, was no gangly kid. You could climb him like a jungle gym sweetie and still have room for more.”
I giggled despite my depressed state.
“He told me he loved me.”
“Well…obviously. Oh wait, was that not obvious to you? Wow! You need to get out more….or on second thought if this is a pattern on your nights on the town, maybe not?” She smirked and I threw her blue couch cushion at her.
“Well it’s true, that man, and he was all man sweetie, had big Sookie shaped hearts in his eyes and other made-for-Sookie-things in his pants!”
“Oh don’t play coy with me, Virgin Mary! You were enjoying being ground into that wall like pepper into a stew.”
My eyes widened “Just how long were you standing there?”
She laughed out loud. “Not long, I promise but I got the gist. Sookie, what the hell are you going to do?”
“I don’t know! Ames, this is bad, really bad. See, I knew he sort of liked me, and then well I thought it was just because I was around and you know it was slim pickin’s an all, but then…Ugh this is so hard!”
“I’ll bet he was.” She giggled again; obviously much drunker than I. Declarations of love seemed to have dried up any alcohol in my system.
She made a straight face, apparently trying to be serious, but failing.
“Ames, I don’t know what to do, tell me what to do!”
“Okay one, do you love him?”
Did I? Was what I felt ‘love’ or something else entirely?
“I don’t know….I’ve never been in love. I’m not sure what I feel!”
“If you did love him, would you allow yourself to act on it?”
“I have already, haven’t I?”
“Well, yes, but more than just making out. Do you want him? Sexually?”
She thought for a second and then answered her own question.
“Stupid question, of course you do.”
I sighed in frustration.
“Ames, this is bad. I mean, look at my life! Look at his life! We can’t do this.”
“Can I be honest?” She looked innocently, as if she’d ever been anything else with me, to the point of being brutally honest. She continued slowly as she handed me another cookie. “I don’t like the nuns, I don’t like organized religion as a rule, you know me. I’m all about the love and not so much about the guilt. So your life, what I know about it…sucks. And Sookie, seeing those scars on your back was just another reminder for me just how different your life is compared to mine. I got to go to the zoo or the beach as a kid; you got whipped for speaking out of turn. How is that right?”
“Of course it’s not right, but what I’m saying is, you chose this life because you knew nothing else and that’s understandable. But this choice is the same thing. You need to ask yourself, do you love Eric for Eric or do you love him because he’s been your friend all your life and the only guy you’ve ever thought of being with?”
“Are you saying I should … see another man?”
“No, I’m saying you have to distinguish. Is it real or is it convenient?”
Like I assumed he thought I was?
“Ames, I’m a nun, he’s a priest—nothing about this is ever going to be convenient. I mean… no. Look, this can’t happen again! Ames I took vows! It might not mean much to Eric but it means everything to me.”
“And you love your vows more than you love Eric?”
“Do I even love Eric?”
“Okay, how I feel about Trey, I’ve not felt for any other person in my life. I love him, I miss him in my heart, in my head and in everywhere in between when he’s not with me. And when he’s with me, I feel …whole. I feel like myself, my whole self because he seems to bring out the best in me. And when we’re together, like together, together,” she wiggled those damn eyebrows at me again, “I feel alive. That, to me, is love. I mean it’s probably different for everyone, but I think anyone that can make you feel alive is worth all the risks in the world. Is Eric worth the risk for you, Sook?”
I’d be risking my life, my station, my home; even thinking what I was thinking about him was considered a sin, never mind actually considering going through with it. But it all boiled down to how he made me feel, and he made me feel all those things that Amelia listed. All those things and more. The good, as cliché as it sounded, really did outweigh the bad. There was tons of bad, tons of horror, pain and sadness, but he was the light.
And I loved him. I loved him more than anything, and that scared me more than anything in my life. More than Geraldine, more than Bill, more than finding Sister Agnes in her underwear one morning last June. The fear almost felt crippling. But he deserved to know, he had the guts to confess to me, and I owed him the same courtesy. What happened then, I guess would be up to us.
I guess this was what they called a new chapter in one’s life, though for me it felt like a whole new book.