A/N: So, I somehow managed to churn this chapter out in a little over two hours. I do NOT know how! lol! It is unbeta’d because I want to go to bed, and I wanted to post before I did, so, enjoy?
It was after nine by the time I got Gran settled and into bed with one of her many books, she had spent the day in the Garden with me, and the other half of it apologising to Eric, saying that she had no idea what she’d done, but she was ever so sorry she’d done it. We were all a little stressed, to say the least. So when I found Eric sitting out on the porch swing, looking deep in thought, it wasn’t a surprise.
“Hey, you,” I said, handing him a cup of tea as I took my seat with mine, beside him.
“Hey… you alright?” He said quietly, leaning back in the seat to look at me.
“Yeah, I’m fine, how about you? I’m not the one that had the near death experience today.” I tried to laugh, but really the more I thought about it, the more anxious it made me, it wasn’t funny at all.
“I’m good, no holes that aren’t meant to be there,” he smiled, rubbing my leg in reassurance.
He sighed, “But, Sookie what happened today can’t happen again. If you hadn’t walked in when you did? I mean…”
“I know, trust me I know.”
“Do you know? How did she get her hands on the gun, I thought you said you’d hidden it.”
“I did, I didn’t know she had a second gun! I’ve searched the house though, there isn’t a third that I’m aware of, if there is she’s better at hide and seek than anyone I know.”
“Eric I know, okay, it was bad, really bad. But what do you want me to do here?”
“What you know you have to do…”
I shook my head, setting down my tea, “I can’t do that to her, I can’t just leave her to rot with strangers, Eric. I can’t I owe her more respect than that.”
“I’m not saying go to that extreme. I’m saying, get her some help…get YOU some help. Get her a proper diagnosis for one, some medication to help. A caregiver to give you a break as well. You can’t keep this up for the rest of her life, Sweetheart. It’ll end up killing you, eventually.”
I swallowed my anger, because in reality it wasn’t anything I hadn’t thought about a thousand times in the past month. I knew it was what I had to do for her, but it didn’t mean that either of us would like it. I didn’t want her to hate me for it, and I didn’t want her to shun me, like she had the rest of the family.
“And what about work? I mean, as much as I wish it weren’t so, we have jobs to go back to… what … I mean I know I wanted to bring this up eventually, but screw it, we’re on the topic, I may as well bring it up now. Are you planning to go back to Europe at all? I mean, what happens to living there? I have a job there; I have to go back eventually… I want to do that with you.”
I groaned. I really hated that we had to have this conversation.
“I don’t know! I don’t know, okay?”
He looked like I’d just slapped him, I hated that look.
“I see…” He folded his arms, sitting back on the swing, rocking us a bit with his feet.
“Look, Eric, I get it okay, believe me. I’m so glad you came here, I am, and I know it can’t be forever. Your life is-“
“Your life is there too! Or at least I thought it was…”
“It was. But you think I can just up sticks and leave now? I can’t… I won’t. Things changed when I saw the state she was in, the state my family was in, one that you just said you were a part of! My priorities shifted. And I don’t have a job holding me there anymore; the internship is over… they’ll probably hire someone else…”
“So that’s it? I get no say in this?”
“Of course you do –“
“But your mind is already made up! You’re not coming home, I have to go back in a few weeks, and you’re not coming… that’s what it comes down to. How are we meant to stay together when we’re thousands of miles apart?”
I raked my hands through my hair, tying it up in the band I had on my arm.
“I don’t know. Okay? My bottom line, Eric, is that I want us to work more than anything….but this happened and I can’t undo it. I thought you understood that?”
“I do, it doesn’t mean I like it,” he sighed.
“Yeah, well, you think I like having the only woman that’s ever cared for me, lose herself daily to a disease that is probably, slowly killing her? You think I like that? Or that I like finding her outside at six am, in her nightgown soaking wet and afraid like a little kid? Or that I like having to bath her and sometimes feed her? No, I don’t like that either. But life doesn’t go to plan; it’s sort of the deal. We get one shot and it fucks us up until we die, that’s the deal. And this is fucked up and we deal with it the best we can. I’m sorry if this isn’t the ideal situation for you, but guess what? That’s how love works, you do things and go through things for the people you love because they need you, and if you can’t go through this with me, then I think you need to rethink what loving me means, Eric. Because I won’t choose, I can’t. And if you make me to… you might not like the outcome.” I said, holding in my stressed out tears as I walked inside the house, closing the door and making my way upstairs after checking in on Gran again.I hated the whole situation, I hated how it was happening and how powerless I felt about the whole thing, I hated Eric’s insecurities, ones I knew he had a right to have given our history… but I just wished he had more confidence in himself, and in us, to know that we’d work it out somehow if we both just tried hard enough. If anything the past had taught me, it was being true to myself no matter what, and I couldn’t take that back – take back all I’d been through and just throw away those hard earned lessons now. I had to do what was right, which usually meant it was hard, and sucked out loud. I didn’t cry that night, as much as I wanted to, I felt cried out. Instead using the last of my new phone’s free internet to look up elderly care in the area. I really needed to get broadband too, life without technology kinda sucked in the sticks. I wanted Eric to come up, and I waited and waited as long as I could until I must have fallen asleep because when I woke up in the morning, his side of the bed was untouched.
I watched her walk off the porch, and into the house, and I could almost see the steam coming from her ears she was so mad at me. Mad at me, mad at everything, the same as myself really. I knew going into the conversation that she’d blow, she hated this decision and I kept forcing it on her, I guess I still needed the reassurance that she was still with me. It was stupid and annoying of me, I knew that too. I knew she loved me, I knew I loved her; we knew we wanted it to work…but it was HOW to make it work that was holding us both back. I meant what I said to her when I arrived, she was my home now, but the sad fact was I needed a job to live, and so did she. I knew she had her nest egg, Sookie wasn’t an extravagant, materialistic person, and neither was I. We were both happy living relatively simple lives, with a few luxury items here and there, I knew she had the majority of her B&B money to keep her afloat, and her savings plan that I’d taught her. I had a back up, a pretty decent one at that, but I needed to work, for my own sanity more than anything, but I also knew that the situation here was going to take a lot more than a few weeks to sort out. Which is why when Sookie left that night, in her rage and hurt, I did something that I knew would be hard, but I did it anyway. I reached for my phone and called my boss.
Lafayette answered on the third ring, still in New York I had no need to worry about too much of a time difference.
“Hey, hey Eric, how goes it?” he answered, upbeat and joyful as always.
“Uh, hey…yeah, you know, not bad… You?”
“Good, so good. God I MISSED New York, I missed it’s smell as disgusting as it is, it’s life, it’s personality… and it missed me, baby, it missed me so much!”
I laughed, “Glad you two are getting along so well, I take it the magazine set up is going well?”
“Well, it’s suits, boring suits with their boring problems, I just want to make things pretty!” he said, he’d clearly had a few too many before I’d called.
“Of course you do!” I teased.
“Are you callin’ me just to make fun of me? I thought you was with your girl, I’m sure there’s some nice…supply closet you two should be fucking in somewhere…”
I was glad he couldn’t see me, for I blushed at the memory. When Sookie and I first became official, working together in such close quarters was…hard. Literally. So, we’d take the few opportunities we had to… make it easier on ourselves, so to speak, and Lafayette walked in on one of the more memorable quickies we’d decided on in the supply closet at work. Sookie had never gotten over it, and still had trouble looking him straight in the eyes afterward.
“No, no supply closets…”
“Alls not well in Wonderland I suspect?”
“Something like that…”
“Yeah, I guessed as much when you stuck me with Queen Sophie-Ann and her heirs and graces. I hate her you know? She tried for your job a few years back, such a fucking snob, thinks that because she’s some far, far out relation of some English Duke, that she had the right to work for me and my clientele.” He mocked.
“She’s good at her job though, I mean she worked exclusively for Burberry for three years.”
“Yes, yes, I know her CV darling, but you know me. The talent is one thing, but the personality is almost as important, and yours I love, hers I loathe.”
“It’s sort of why I’m calling…”
“Oh? All ears…”
“I need to…”I sighed, “I need to extend my leave.”
He was quiet on his end for a few seconds, “It’s that bad?”
“Pretty bad, Sookie’s an emotional wreck and to be honest so am I. I don’t want to fuck it up, I don’t want to lose her, but right now I have to be there for her no matter how hard it is. So I’m gonna need six months, if you can give it to me, if you can’t… and you need to fire me, I understand it… I do.”
He sighed on his end, and I could almost hear him pacing.
“Eric, I just don’t have the leverage with the money guys right now to keep your salary going, not with how tight they’re pulling my strings, the suits are saying I pay out too much as it stands…”
I ran my hand through my hair, “I understand, Man, I do.”
“I hate to tell you that, you know I do…” He got serious; serious for him was a rare emotion.
“Nah, I didn’t expect it really, but it was worth a shot.”
“You know the package I can give you, the one we talked about when I hired you, I can do that, month’s wage a severance…Highest recommendation that the thesaurus can give me…” he chuckled.
I nodded; it was in reality what I expected.
“I wish it was more…”
“Me too, but its fine, it is.”
“How’s Sookie?” He asked.
“Hating me right about now, I’m doing the right thing, right? I’ve never needed anyone before, certainly not a woman, not like I need her. It’ll be worth it, right?”
“She loves you?”
“She shows you she loves you? She don’t just say it sweetly and bat her lashes?”
“Yeah, she does.” I smiled, “I think at first we were both just scared of screwing things up, and tiptoeing around what was real. But, she’s as honest with me as anyone ever can be, and I’m as honest with her. We both have our tempers; she gets madder than any woman I’ve ever seen, quicker than anyone of them too. But she’s got this heart, this unrelenting love in her, Lafayette, it just makes me feel right, you know? Like if she’s there, with me, then it’s really okay. I want her in my life; I wanted us to start building one together…”
“I don’t know how to help her, I just don’t. I’m new to all this and I keep saying the wrong things…”
“You is a man, Sweetie, you’re always gonna say the wrong things if it’s what she doesn’t want to hear.”
I laughed, that much was very true of us.
“Look Eric, all I know is, if you wanna build something you have to start with the foundations. If they’re shaky, nothing’s ever gonna stay built. If you trust her, if you love her, if she loves and trusts you, if you both want what’s best for each other and strive to achieve it most of the time… then you’ve got a good enough foundation. If not, then you need to re-think things, but, if you do? Building a house starts with one brick. Go find the brick.”
I thought a lot about my conversation with both Sookie and Lafayette that night, and I realized that I’d lived a nomadic existence for so long, never really having one solid place to lay my bricks to even consider building, that I just didn’t know how. I’d always moved on from place to place, never really having a need to plant roots anywhere. She changed that though, her and her laugh, and her kisses and her love. I knew my understanding, rational, loving Sookie was underneath the stressed out, fucked up, and angry Sookie that was fuming in her bed right now, I just needed to remember that, and do what I had to do to get her back, to get me back, to get us, back.
I slept on the couch that night, not wanting to wake her, and not really wanting to have another argument, I got woke up early by the sounds of feet pattering through the kitchen. I got up to find Adele standing there in her robe. I prayed that the morning before was fluke, and she didn’t wake up forgetful every day. I wandered in, doing my best not to scare her.
“Hello, Eric,” she said, and I sighed with relief.
“Morning, Adele, sleep well?”
“Just fine, thank you, I’m gatherin’ you didn’t on that couch though. You and Sookie have a spat?”
“Um, yeah, something like that.”
She nodded to herself, before she dragged out some odd looking mixture from the fridge and pulled out her frying pan.
“Well, why don’t you sit your cute little butt down, and tell me about it. Maybe this old woman can help?”
I sat down, and watched her start to cook.
“I don’t know if you can…It’s sorta complicated.”
“Lemme guess, it involves me…and my….” She sighed, rolling her eyes to heaven, “forgetfulness?”
“I…well…” was there any point in lying to her?
“Yes, in all honesty, it is. You know you’re…”
“Sick? I do… when you wake up, being showered clean by your Grandbaby, you know things just ain’t right, Eric.”
“I know what it is, at least what I think it is, and I don’t want to spend my days… however many of them I have left, in some old folks home, surrounded by strangers who smell bad, you know? But I also don’t want Sookie suffering out of some misguided sense of loyalty to me. I’m a grown woman, have been for a lot longer than her, and I know what’s best for me.”
“So then why…”
“It doesn’t mean I’m not a stubborn a double s about it, where do you think SHE gets it from?” She said, a comedic air to her voice, making me laugh. She flipped her pancakes and went for the bacon; things were starting to smell amazing. I began to make the coffee, I needed to feel useful.
“I want you to go to the doctors, Adele, get a proper opinion an all, there may be some medication you can take to keep the forgetfulness to a minimum… I’ve heard they have all kinds of advancements in those areas all the time, you never know.”
She nodded, I could see her thinking it over.
“I just think that maybe Sookie needs more help than she’s letting on, she’s on this one woman mission to fix everything –“
“Making you feel… inadequate?” she cocked a brow at me.
“A little, if I’m honest.”
“Well, at least you can admit it. Most men, they’d be too afraid of lookin’ weak by sayin’ so. You’re not weak though, are you darlin’?”
“She’s my weakness…” I admitted, suddenly feeling very exposed.
“And by my guessing, you’re hers too…”
“I wonder sometimes…I mean I know there’s a lot of love there…but with everything the way it started –“
“Oh pish-posh, Eric. It don’t matter how the story starts, it matters how it ends. How do you want your story to end?”
I just smiled as she flipped the food onto a large plate, and poured us both some coffee.
“Well, from that look I can only imagine it ends happily.”
“I’d like it to, a long ass time from now though…”
She smiled, “Don’t say ass… but yes. I agree. We get some level of control over how our story ends, so can you see why, why I don’t want mine to end the way my family thinks it should?”
I nodded, she was an amazing woman, and it was such a shame what was happening to her, because when she was fully lucid she was fantastically smart and witty, reminding me a lot of Sookie the more we spoke.
“The house and land are hers, no matter what that mother of hers says, all the contents, there’s a will…”
“No, I’m being straight with you, it is. She’ll know it too, soon, I keep meaning to tell her…” she touched her forehead, “but I don’t want her sticking around here just for me, not if it means losing you, or losing herself in the process. She’s worked hard this past few years to change her life to what she wanted, and I’m not gonna be a hand in undoing all that for her, and neither are you.”
“No, Ma’am. That’s the last thing I want.”
“Good, then we agree. I’ll go, get the help I need, but y’all won’t sign me away to some –“
“And we’ll encourage her to work somewhere, taking her pictures, like she loves. You know she’d send them to me? Every few months I’d get a package of these photo albums she’d done from the work she’d been doing… oh they’re so pretty… I must show you them sometime.”
“I’d like that…”
“Good… now eat up.”
I’d just gotten the fork to my mouth when I heard bare feet on the tile.
“I see you two left alone for more than five minutes and you’re both plotting to take over the world, huh?” she said picking bacon off my plate, kissing me on the cheek before she went over and did the same to Adele.
“No, baby, we were just…discussing something’s that needed to be discussed, is all.”
“Is that right?” she said, slyly looking at me, she knew fine rightly what we were talking about because she’d probably heard the whole damn thing. Sneaky.
“Listen, Eric, about last night…” she said coming over to sit next to me, I noticed Adele pretending that she wasn’t listening. These two were peas in a pod, I could see that much.
“I’m sorry for what I said, I never meant that I’d not pick y-“
“Sook, it’s fine.”
“It’s not, it was bitchy and emotional…”
“And I don’t get bitchy and emotional?” I admitted, “We’re both stubborn as hell, we both think we know what’s right, there’s always gonna be something…”
“So…you’re gonna leave?” she asked, and I didn’t miss the sadness in her tone when she said it.
“No, I’m not. I mean, eventually I’m going to need to get another job, but… I’m not going anywhere…”
She looked confused.
“But you love your job, I love that you love your job… Eric I can’t let you just quit –“
“Too late…” I smiled, and Adele looked at us both, shocked at first, then sad.
“No, Eric, seriously, this isn’t funny you can’t quit your job it’s not fair to you… what I said, I was just over reacting, we can make things work for a little while longer just long distance, if we just try and I’m getting Internet so we can communicate better when we’re apart and –“
“Sookie, it’s too late, I called Lafayette last night, and I quit.”
She put her hand to her mouth.
“No… no, honey no that’s not fair to you…I feel so-“
“Don’t feel so anything, it was my choice.”
“I didn’t leave you with much of one, let’s be honest.”
“I don’t want to communicate with you from thousands of miles away; I’d like to learn to communicate with you, right here. We’re still learning how to be a part of each other’s lives, Sook, it’s not easy for people like us.”
“No, it’s not…but-“
“But, there’s more than enough reason to hold on, and I’m going to. Are you?”
Her eyes welled up, and I took that as a sign I pushed my chair back and got up to her, she wrapped her arms around me and held on tight.
“I’m sorry –“
“I know, me too…”
“How did you persuade her –“ she whispered after kissing me chastely, she was in the room with her Grandmother after all.
“He didn’t need to persuade nothing, he just asked. Politely.” Adele added, proving to us both she’d been listening like a hawk the whole time.
“Asked?” Sookie looked from her to me, baffled, “Well, damn, why didn’t we think of that before?” she said, rolling her eyes, before she smiled at me, squeezing me tighter.
“Is there more pancakes?” She asked smiling for what seemed like the first time in forever. That meant the world to me, and as I could see, it meant the world to Adele too. Maybe there was hope, after all.
P.S: I’ve been invited to the Author’s Spotlight thingy over at @FangreadersChat Room tomorrow, Sat 14th of Jan 9pm GMT (4pm EST)
Stop by, if you can! Happy Friday! x