Well this is it folks! The last full chapter of Southern Belles! Ah! It’s a long one, so snuggle up and get comfortable! I want to thank everyone who tweeted me, came to the blog, commented, reviewed, messaged me in some way about this story! It was an amazing amount of encouragement and as I writer you’re my only audience so your feedback means the world to me! I’m glad you gave this story a shot, and I hope you all enjoy where it has ended up!

Much love!

LC

xox

SPOV:

When it happened, and I still can’t believe it did, but when it did I was stunned by how I reacted. I always expected that you’d react out of despair, or fear, or …who knows what, and lose your mind in a dramatic style – discovering the only real mother in your life was no longer there. But, I didn’t react like that at all; in fact everything was just as it had been for days.

Calm and silent.

I’d given the house a good clean that morning, with Gran pointing out the cobwebs I’d missed, and what special polish that she liked to use on the handmade furniture, versus the newer woods. We’d had a nice lunch, and added some ice-cream to one of her left over pies. Then we’d boxed up some of my old clothes and a few things I knew Eric wasn’t so fond of anymore that he’d left with us, for the church fundraiser, they had a ‘vintage’ section, and I guessed a dress from 2003 could probably meet that criteria. The funny thing was, I expected that if she was going to leave us, she’d leave us when she was ‘gone’ already, but it didn’t happen like that at all, such a normal, mundane day and she was, thankfully, totally lucid for the first time that week almost. I’d told her I was scooting quickly to Maxine’s with the boxes, and she nodded, smiling from her rocking chair by the TV, some hoarding show was on that she just loved, she told me to be careful with the heavy boxes and that she’d like a cup of tea when I got back. I nodded, grabbed the boxes and loaded up the car. The trip to Maxine’s was literally a minute away, I left the boxes by the door where I’d told her I would, and I got back into the car and went home. I walked in, and didn’t even notice, not really. I just figured she was still enthralled in her show, so I filled the teapot and looked for something to give her with her tea, when I went back into the living room to ask her, that’s when I noticed her head was slumped forward a little, and she didn’t answer me when I called. I wanted to know if she wanted lemon or honey in her tea, that’s when the sinking feeling started in my stomach and it didn’t end until Daddy and Jason showed up, along with the ambulance, twenty five minutes later.

Before they arrived I just…sat there, with her. Holding her still warm hand and slowly come to the terms that she was growing colder, that she wasn’t just sleeping, and that she wouldn’t wake up and ask me to turn the channel with the ‘clicker’ anymore. Slowly realizing that she’d never hug me again, or kiss me, or tell me she was happy, or proud, or sad. That she’d never breathe in the first day of summer in her garden, or enjoy the last day of her roses in full bloom. I sat and I watched the one person I knew that I could turn to, in my whole life, fade to nothing as the last of her colour drained from her sweet face. By the time everyone arrived, and she was officially pronounced dead, I think it’s safe to say I was wreck. The tea had long since boiled over, the TV turned off, everything else we’d planned now forgotten as I watched them zip her up in that cold black bag and take her away, alone. I remembered calling Eric, telling him what had happened as calm as I could, which wasn’t very calm at all truth being told. And then I just remember sobbing into my father’s chest, for what seemed like hours, and then there was nothing until I woke up in my bed hours later, alone. There was chatter downstairs and for a second it sounded almost like it was Gran chatting away, but then realization hit me yet again, it couldn’t be her, I knew that. I checked my phone and I had a voicemail and six text messages. I ignored them all in order to call Eric. I needed him there more than ever.

“Sook…I text and I left a voicemail earlier, I figured…I hoped you were asleep, you okay?”

“I’m…yeah. Did you book a flight?”

He sighed, “I’m at the airport, I’ve been here for a few hours, but apparently nothing is flying out because of the fucking snow!” he sounded angry and frustrated, all those things that you felt when you were stuck somewhere and wanted to be somewhere else.

“Oh…”

“I’m trying to get some info out of them, but you know how it is.”

I sighed to myself; if nothing was flying out that meant he couldn’t be here as soon as was possible, it just wouldn’t be soon at all.

“I am trying though, and I was thinking if nothing moves I might get a car and just drive, I could do –“

“No, don’t do that.” If the snow was so bad for the planes to be taking off, what could the roads be like? “I just want you safe okay, so just…don’t do that.”

“I want to be there for you. For Adele.”

“I want you here too, and you will be…it will open up, have faith.”

“I’ll try. How are you holding up?”

“Okay, I guess. I mean I think I cried myself to sleep earlier, and I just woke up and needed to hear your voice.”

“I’m so sorry, Honey.” He said his voice deep with both tiredness, and regret.

“I know, I guess I just need to get things organized, the wake and everything… she had a plan for what she wanted…somewhere.” My brain took a second to catch up with me, it seemed. I still felt very, numb to it all.

“Yeah, keeping busy might help, I know how you like to have a plan too, I guess you both had that in common, huh?”

I smiled, “we did…and lots more too.”

“I love you…I’m going to go harass some airline people now, and I’ll let you know what they say.”

“Be nice, it’s not their fault it snowed…” I chided.

“Okay, talk to you soon, Love.”

We said our goodbyes and hung up, and I took a minute to freshen myself up before making my way downstairs. I was shocked to see the house was full of people, and not just that it was full of people but who those people were exactly.

Tara, Sarah, Hadley, and Claudine… I looked to the kitchen and saw Pam. I felt overly emotional at the sight, I felt both thankful, and for a second very scared.

Before I could really speak, Pam rushed over and hugged me. Her perfumed smell and her soft hug was most welcome in that second, then she whispered.

“They come in peace, don’t fret.” Before pulling back.

First up was Tara, and then the rest followed towards me, all with sombre looks on their faces.

“Sookie, we came as soon as we heard, I can’t believe she’s gone.” Tara said and the others nodded.

“No, me either, I mean I knew it had to happen, but you just never think it’s ever actually going to happen,” I said taking a cup of tea from Hadley who hugged me, her face stained with tears.

“We just wanted to come by, and see if you needed any help with…well with anything.” Claudine asked, in her usual no nonsense style. I looked at the four women, my four former friends, and wondered how we’d let it go so long without talking, why we’d all kidded ourselves into believing our own hype so much that it consumed us and destroyed what we had. And then I knew, it was because what we had was like everything else we had – it was all based on the lie. That lie of perfection that we’d all strived so hard to reach ever since we were just little girls wanting to be pretty.

I sighed, I hadn’t the strength to fight them anymore, nor did I want to, and thankfully they seemed to actually come in peace, like Pam said.

“Thank you. That means a lot, and I’m sure it would have meant a lot to Gran as well, she loved you all so much.”

Hadley nodded, taking a tissue from her wrist, “she’d call us her little Southern Belles, remember? When we all did the pageants? She was so sweet…and so kind…” and Hadley was off, blubbering so loudly that my Dad looked up from his seat shocked, kind of like a Meer-kat from its bed.

I felt like telling Sarah that she could just leave, right then and there, but I found I just didn’t have the energy to argue, but I would tell her when I felt more like myself. Instead I went to the kitchen, to hide out with Pam and Jason for a little while, they fed me – almost force fed me, might I add and told me that Gran’s wake would be held the next day for two days, and then she’d be buried next to Granddaddy. I assumed as much, but it was nice to see that someone else knew what was going on for a change. Selah were there, tears in her eyes, and a sombre look on her face. When she told me how she enjoyed working for us, and that Adele was a true lady and how much she’d be missed it hit me again, this was really happening.

I didn’t sleep much that night; instead I cleaned the house with Jason and Pam, and dug out my most respectable black dress and some appropriate shoes. The weather had finally taken a wintery turn, and it was frosty but not yet snowing. I’d heard back from Eric that he’d managed to get a flight out, but they’d had to land in North Carolina, where he was still stuck. I missed him terribly and felt so sorry for him, he loathed airports more than anyone else I knew, and yet he spent half his life in them. During the wake, I’d shaken hands with more people in two days than I had in my whole life, I was sure of that. My Grandmother knew a lot of people and those people had a lot of stories about her, all of them either hilarious or heartfelt and for a time it made me feel that little bit better. But, I was still numb to what was going on around me, I knew I was good as long as I was busy, but it was when things slowed down that my mind started to overwork itself and drive me slightly crazy.

I got back to the house, on the last night of the wake, and thankfully found it emptying, the girls were still there though and they asked to speak with me. I invited them up to my room where they took various seats while I shed my black shift dress and into my sleep shorts and a t-shirt.

“Sookie, we wanted to …clear the air, officially,” Claudine began, and Tara followed up, “with everything that went down between all of us, life is just too short for harbouring grudges, and I need you to know that we don’t hate you. I don’t hate you, and I’m not mad at you any more over what you said and did…and we hope that you can forgive us?”

I stood stunned as I looked at my former friends, and my Pam who seemed to be in on it too, at least she wasn’t offering up any sarcastic quips this time.

“I never hated any of you, I just hated the lies we were kidding ourselves with. Tara with JB… how he behaved with you, I always knew you deserved better, that we all deserved better than what we were settling for –“ I glared at Sarah, “ there was never any hate on my side of things, but I know, with some of you the hate lived, and it still lives.”

Most of them looked confused; Sarah just started to turn red.

“The last thing I want is to cause anyone else any trouble, but Sarah…” They all looked to her, “being so hell-bent to destroy Alcide? Just because he destroyed your lie by accepting his own? How is that fair?”

They all questioned her, and Tara stood up, looking angry, “You’re the reason his mom is in and out of the docs huh? With heart problems?!”

“No!” she stood up too, “He’s the damn reason, being queer is just –“

“So help me God if you finish that sentence –“Pam stepped in, her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face.

“He ruined my marriage! How is that okay?!”

“It’s not.” I added calmly hoping they’d all follow suit, “but you knew what Steve was like when you married him and you married him anyway, sooner than disappoint your parents, we’ve all made that mistake once or twice – maybe not literally doing something so huge just to please them, but most of us either have done, or considered doing something we really didn’t want to, just to keep everyone ELSE happy. I know I did.” I laughed at myself, “I was so fucking stupid, you guys, I knew I loved Eric and I knew I wanted to be with him more than anything, and I still went against my gut because of EVERYONE else but my damn self. I don’t do that shit anymore, you know why? For the reason this conversation is even happening, because life is just too fucking short to run around wasting it on trying to please people who will never be happy!”

They all looked at me stunned, and Pam grinned.

“You’ve changed so much, Sookie.” Claudine added, and I wasn’t sure by her tone if it was a good or bad thing, and before I second-guessed myself I decided that it was a good thing. I hated my life before, and I didn’t now, that was a positive change, no matter what her Ladyship thought.

“You know what, I have. I’ve seen a bit of the world outside of here, outside of old-fashioned ideas on how ‘young ladies’ are meant to be, and I’ve seen how I can stand on my own two feet and speak for what I want out of this one life I’ve got to live. I know there was gossip about me, when I left and why I left, and I was probably called a whore, and a slut, and a home wrecker… and you know what? Maybe I was all of those things, but maybe I wasn’t, but the people gossiping about me will never really know. Just like the people gossiping about Alcide will never really know what went down, just like we’ll never know what it was like to be gay and have to hide it and be ashamed of who we are…”

“I left JB, we’re getting a divorce, he keeps sayin’ he won’t give it to me, but I won’t stop until he does, I want him out of mine and my babies lives, and I only wish I’d listened…before.” Tara said, solemnly but determined.

“I’m proud of you, I am.” I said, patting her hand, “I’m proud of all of us, for becoming who we’re meant to be…even if it’s taking some of us longer than others to realize that being a Mean girl is no way to go through life.” I said, glaring at Sarah. I wanted to hate her for what she did, but I just didn’t want to go there either, it was my past. She’d have to deal with her own karma eventually, I thought.

We all sat and talked for at least another hour, discovering ourselves for who we were now, the women we’d become, not the girls we were. And, in a way, it was really nice to reconnect as grownups, as people with regrets to face and truths to bear, but it also made me realize that I never wanted to go back to the person I was when I was with them, never again.

The next morning, the morning of her funeral I got dressed in black, complete with thick tights to keep the cold from my legs, and I checked my phone again. Still no word from Eric, I’d gotten one text the night before saying that he was on his way, but beyond that, there had been nothing, and when I went to call, his phone was either off – or dead. I had hoped he’d managed to get a flight, but my hopes weren’t that high, considering I’d checked the weather and it was just getting worse instead of better. By the time we all got to the church not far from Gran’s house, I was feeling a little worse for wear, the constant need to throw up with nerves was just getting worse and worse as people either hugged me or shook my hand. I wanted to cry, but I also knew I needed to keep my composure; I couldn’t let Gran down during her big send off. Jason said a few words, as did my Dad, and then it was my turn. The nerve in my stomach got bigger and bigger as I took to the podium, and I said my piece.

I talked about how she was with us when we were little, and how at home we felt with her no matter where we were that if she was there, everything was that much better for it. I talked of her devotion to God and her belief in forgiveness, and how she’d raised a good son, and helped to raise good Grandchildren too, and then I talked about her and I and the last few months of her life…how hard they were on everyone, but most of all on her. How she was proud woman and that I hated to see her reduced to the lost one we sometimes dealt with, but that somehow, someway she’d always find her way back to us and that I was proud of her for putting up a fight for her life-like the strong woman I knew she was, right up until the end.

My emotions got the better of me though when just as I was finishing my speech the doors to the church opened, and in walked Eric. My heart soared, he was there, he’d made it…he looked more than a little dishevelled, but, he’d made it. Then my heart dropped because following him, in walked my mother.

What in the hell?

I ignored her in favour of walking into Eric’s arms as we took our seat a second later, he whispered that he’d explain later, and we both sat down while the priest gave his closing words about my Gran, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – as they say – by the time they were done and the music from the choir began. We walked her out and over the short walk to the graveyard, the one that separated her house from the old plantation across the way. Most people thought it creepy, when I was a kid, growing up so close to the dead, but I never found it odd, only peaceful. It was never the dead you had to fear, only the living, my Gran used to say. On the walk over, I linked arms with my tousled looking other half and raised my brow in question.

“Yeah, I couldn’t get a flight; so I got a car from South Carolina and drove…”

“You drove? That’s like …”

“Almost fifteen hours straight…” he yawned and I wanted to stop and hug him, so that’s exactly what I did, allowing the others walking with us to pass us by.

“You did that…for me?” I smiled.

“Of course I did, I didn’t want you going through something this hard, alone. I’m just sorry it couldn’t have been sooner.”

I didn’t give him a shot to say more, before I kissed him like my life depended on it, and in a funny way, in a small way, it did. I loved him more than I thought it was possible to love another person, it still surprised me.

“So does this mean you aren’t mad at me for convincing your mother to go inside?”

“What?”

“She was standing outside the church when I drove up, she looked very contemplative, and sad, and if I’m honest, she looked really lonely. So, we talked…a little and I asked her to come inside and say goodbye.”

I sighed, I guess I really couldn’t fault him for that, had the tables been turned, I’d have done the same.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll deal with her, later. Now let’s go say goodbye to Gran, make sure they do it like she wanted.” I said, leading the way into the graveyard with a heavy heart and a full mind, and still a stomach that just wouldn’t settle.

EPOV:

I was in hell, driver hell, snowy cold driver’s hell. I’d gotten so tired of sleeping at the airport, nothing was opening up, and I was not a patient man having spent the good part of two days in the damn same situation. So, I used my head and ignored my fear of driving on icy roads and rented a car, filled up at McDonald’s on both disgustingly good-bad food, and caffeine, as well as a few Red Bulls for the road. My battery had died somewhere in the ninth hour of driving, and my charger wouldn’t work in the car, so I made do without in the hopes that I’d make it in once piece without wrapping myself around a hedge or a pole, or god forbid another vehicle. By the time I actually reached New Orleans, I was beyond tired, so tired that at six am I managed to pull over on the side of the road and power napped for an hour and a half, leaving me, I had hoped enough time to make it to Adele’s. I still couldn’t believe that after all she’d been through it was a heart attack that ended her, I was having trouble accepting that she wouldn’t be there, at the house, not anymore. When I got there it was already late morning, and since I had no idea what time the funeral was for, I hazarded a guess and winged it to the nearest church, that’s where I saw all the cars, the hearse, and Sookie’s mother, standing outside.

She was smoking and looking rather dejected, and when she saw me coming up the path to the entrance she grimaced.

“I was wondering where you were, her knight in shining …plaid.”

“Can’t you just hold a civil conversation with anyone, just once?” I answered my tired state in no mood for pleasantries.

“I could but where would the fun be in that.” She said stubbing out her cigarette.

“Why aren’t you inside?” I asked.

“I’m not exactly welcome, am I? I figured it was safer out her than to risk my daughter’s wrath again.”

“Her bark is pretty fierce, her bite, not so much.” I said leaning against the wall with her. “She’d see the good in you turning up, I’m sure she would.”

“No, I always just make things worse with her; she and I have butted heads for as long as I can remember.”

I could see that.

“I think Sookie just wanted a mother, Michelle, and instead she got a talent manager who never knew how to quit. She just wanted a mom.”

She sighed, “And she got one, it just wasn’t in me that she got it from, it was Adele. Adele was the natural mother, the one that baked the cookies and knit the booties, and got excited about glitter and glue and shit. I was never that woman, Eric, and I know how much that hurts her, and Jason.”

I nodded; my father was like that, never very ‘dad like’ in his nature, so my mother always used to make up for it by spoiling me.

“I get that, I do. It doesn’t mean you can’t try and be a mother to her now.”

“But she’s a grown woman, she doesn’t need me…she’s got you, she’s got her Daddy, and Jason…I’m just …expendable.”

“You’re her mother, you might not have been the best one, or the one she wanted, but you’re the only mother she’s got. If I could have mine back? Even if we didn’t agree, or things were shitty, I’d still want her around. All I’m saying is maybe just try to see her side of things? She blames you for a lot of shady shit, but if you maybe say to her your side of things, she’s a rational person she’ll listen if you’re patient with her.”

She was silent for a few seconds before I opened the door, “it starts with going inside and facing the music, so to speak.” I said, as she hastily walked in behind me. Seeing Sookie stand up there, tall (well, for her) and proud to speak of her Grandmother, it made me proud, she was facing the whole town of people, ones that I was sure were still gossiping behind her back, and not a fuck did she give, because this wasn’t about her, it was about Adele. And I knew Sookie would do everything to the letter to make sure she was sent off the way she had planned. I was apprehensive when I told her that I’d talked to her mother, but I was also sleep deprived and in that state I imagined that she’d be find with it, eventually. Or at least I hoped. And I was right to be, after the funeral and when everyone decided to descend on the house with food, Sookie was the apprehensive one.

“I just don’t want her causing no scene, not today of all days and I just know that if she does, so help me Jesus I will kill her.” She whispered as she set out tea for Mrs Fortenberry and her church friends.

“I just think you should give her a shot, one last shot.”

“Does it come in a semi automatic?” she sassed and I smiled.

“No, not that kind of shot.”

Humph, I guess. I think you need to go eat and sleep, you look like hell, Sweetie.” She kissed me on the cheek, “I’mma go fix you a plate and go on up to my room, I’ll bring it up.”

“You sure? You don’t need a hand down here?” I asked, and to be honest I had been feeling a touch uncomfortable, all the old ladies were starting me out and looking me up and down and whispering, I was starting to get a little scared.

“I’m sure, you need to eat and then, you need to sleep…” she said looking past me, to see her mother taking with Jason. She sighed.

“I’ll take it from here… It’s good. It’ll be…fine.” She didn’t sound sure, but she nodded like she was resigned to do it anyway, and that was just her way. I climbed the creaky stairs and made my way into Sookie’s room, her bed was like the holy grail, and I just flopped right onto it, and I shamelessly admit that it was the last thing I remember doing before I got woken up by someone stroking my hair and snuggling next to me. I prayed it was Sookie and not one of Adele’s bridge playing friends.

I opened my eyes, and it was dark outside, the lamp was on next to me, and something smelled amazing, and thankfully the person stroking my hair was indeed my Sookie.

“Hey,” she smiled when I opened my eyes, “you just slept for like five hours.”

“Oh…shit…” I went to move, but she just snuggled into me closer, “No, stay… I’m just glad you’re here, thank you.” She said into my chest.

“Welcome.” I said, kissing her forehead and lacing my hands with hers, “something smells good…”

“I would say thank you, but I brought you up a tray of food, there’s steak and fries, and some apple pie, juice, and some chicken wings too. Lots of food downstairs, so much I don’t even know where to put most of it.”

I was starving but didn’t want to move from our position, sadly my belly won the fight when it started making inhuman noises, and I got up to dig in.

“I talked to my mother, for like an hour. I think it’s the longest conversation we’ve had since I was a teenager.” She sighed, sitting up on the bed, her black dress riding up so she’d smooth it down before letting her hair down.

“She told me what you said to her, it was sweet of you to do it, since I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the one to do it…”

I had a mouthful of welcomed food, and I nodded, “so you didn’t kill each other then?”

“No,” she chuckled, “I mean we both talked and I got it all out you know? How she wasn’t the mom that I needed her to be growing up, and that because Gran was, she shouldn’t have harboured resentment towards how close we were with her, but that she could have changed that if she had wanted to…but she didn’t. And then her side of things, I guess now I’m a little older, it makes more sense, you know? Some people are just not designed for parenthood, they’re too selfish, and it’s not like its wrong of that person to be selfish with their own life, but it just sucks for the kids dragged into it. Eventually we agreed that neither of us was exactly perfect or willing to change before, and that maybe we could…I don’t know, start small? We said we’d call, every now and then to catch up with each other. I’m grown now, I don’t have Gran, and I don’t really need a ‘mother’. But, I guess we can at least try to be civil to each other. I’m just tired of the war, you know?”

“I get that, and I knew it was something that ate away at you, it might not be tied off with a pretty bow, but then nothing ever really is.”

She nodded, and then smiled, “you enjoying that huh?”

“You kidding me, I’ve had nothing but airport food, or roadside fast food for three days, this, guhh, this is awesome.”

“It was from Sheila, she was one of Gran’s friends that used to play bridge with her, I think she took a shine to you,” she winked, slipping off her shoes and laying down right this time.

“Oh, really well, tell Sheila I’ll have to thank her, properly for this, do you think her body could take it?”

I got a cushion threw at me for my wit.

“I’m really thankful you made it, you know? I mean I was holding up, but just seeing you come in it made me feel so much more at ease, so thank you for not taking my advice and just hauling ass to get here, it was very sweet and I appreciate it.” She said with a shy smile, and it almost made me blush, I had no idea where that came from, but it was nice to know we still had those new unfamiliar emotions when it came to each other.

“I know you do, which is why even though I was in the lower circles of hell, I’d do it anytime for you, you know that.”

With that she pushed out her bottom lip for a second, a sappy look on her face as she came over and hugged me. I took her hug, and her perfume smell, and I just enjoyed it for what it was, comfort and thanks.

For the next week and a half she and I decided to secure most of Adele’s things, Sookie had decided that since Adele was the main reason she’d come back and stayed as long as she had, that now she was gone there was very little reason for her to be there. I unsurprisingly agreed, selfishly wanting us to be together again without all this hopping on and off planes. So, we took the house apart, separating the good, the bad, and the ready for donation. The reading of her will would be weeks away, but we knew, because Adele had told us time and time again that the house was Sookie and the land too, to do with what she pleased, she also said there was a nice ‘nest egg’ for her grandchildren, but she never elaborated on what that was. For the time being though, Sookie was content to start closing up her life in New Orleans, with the thought of perhaps updating a few things and renting it out to a family that could get some use out of it.

Unsurprisingly work beckoned and I had to fly back to New York again, sad to leave for many reasons, mostly because I knew it would be another fortnight before I got the opportunity to get back, but when I did, it was for our anniversary days before Christmas, and then, Christmas itself. Before the plans had been big family dinners, now I imagined a much lower key gathering, tinged with the sadness of Adele’s absence.

*******

Exasperated, that’s what I’d call my mood during my trip uptown, as I dragged my equipment and walked slower than I had in my life. I just didn’t’ want to be there, I wanted to go home and call Sookie and wallow in my loneliness and miss my first anniversary with her, all because of work. I hated work right now, and this was just another job that was keeping me from a very nice night of sex and food, and sex and cuddling, and more food. Ugh, and by the sounds of the client she was going to be one of ‘those’ rubbing her eternal happiness in my face by making me shoot her for her lucky ass boyfriend.

I sighed as I got to the hotel, got to the floor, found the room and knocked the door. It was open.

I walked in, and the stage was set, and she was good, I’d give her – whoever she was – that. The lights were dimmed, there were candles on just about everything that stood still, and there was music playing softly in the background somewhere. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have said I was the one getting lucky.

Little did I know, but I was!

SPOV:

I knew he wasn’t going to make it out for our anniversary, I’d known it in my gut days before, because I knew of the meeting and I knew how highly strung Lafayette was about the investor meeting and how he needed Eric and the rest of his team as his Ace in the hole to make that good solid impression, so, I knew. That’s why I’d planned in advance, and maybe been a little sneaky about things along the way. I had a week in the house with Pam and Hadley popping by now and again, and week was more than enough. The house, without Gran in it, just wasn’t the same, it wasn’t home anymore, she was what made it home and without her it was just a house.

Sure, it held some of my best memories, both as a kid, and as a grown up, but I knew it was time to move on. I had a life waiting for me in the most vibrant city in the world, and I wasn’t going to keep it on hold any longer. So, I’d packed up my things, and handed Jason the keys, he said he’d find me a family to rent it and we’d sort out the logistics later, it made me happy that he was willing to help me, and I thanked him and Crystal for everything, kissed my nephew’s goodbye, and hopped my excited ass on a plane to New York.

I felt incredibly naughty, as I texted Eric, woeful text messages as I reached the airport, saying how sad I was that he couldn’t make it, but that we’d more than make up for it when he got back for Christmas. I smiled to myself as I shut my phone off for my flight, the anticipation building in me higher and higher as I waited to get to my destination. I distracted myself with an on flight moisturizing session, so I’d be fresh and rested when I got in at JFK. Hauling ass into the city, three days before Christmas was not ideal, but luckily I had plenty of time, since I’d rang Lafayette the day before, with my sneaky little plan – one he cackled at, but was more than willing to help me set up, so I relaxed a little more when I got the hotel. I’d turned on my phone to another annoyed voicemail, telling me he had to haul ass uptown after the job and the meeting to shoot some uppity woman for her boyfriend, he sounded so sad that it made me feel bad for a hot second for lying to him, but I wanted to see his face when he realized that I was to be the uppity woman and he was the boyfriend getting lucky. I smiled as I took a shower, setting my hair in curlers to add some sex bomb oomph, and used my body lotion that I knew he liked. I’d ordered a ton of food from room service as well as champagne; he wasn’t the only one that could do all out romantic gestures, I thought, as I set the room to rights just as there was a knock on the door. I’d left it open, and I hightailed it to the bathroom of the suite, just as he stomped into the room, announcing his presence to ‘Amanda Lay’ – I tried to stifle my laughter considering that Lafayette had thought that one up, and I indeed had a man ‘da lay.

I checked myself in the mirror again, having curled my hair in big soft waves and just added a little makeup to feel secure in my skin; I was dressed in a simple white spaghetti strap tank, and my white underwear. Eric wasn’t much for showy lingerie; he was more interested in the present than he was the wrapping.

“Ma’am? We can set up wherever you’d feel comfortable, my boss didn’t specify what kind of shots you were aiming for –“he called from the other room as I heard him rustling around with his cameras and tripods.

“Oh, I don’t know, how about the bed, I’ve a feeling we’ll get a lot of good done in there.” I said as I casually leaned up against the wall adjoining the two rooms. He turned as fast as light, a look of shock on his ridiculously attractive face.

“What the –“

Surprise!” I said, smiling.

“Holy shit, Sookie!” He didn’t need to take more than two strides before he had me up against the wall, his hands buried in my hair and his lips on mine, with the desperate urgency of a man in serious need. We must have just stood there, pressed up against each other, it seemed like forever, it seemed like it had been forever since we’d seen each other, and that if we separated the world would just end right below our feet. Before I knew it my head was hitting the pillows on the king size bed, his weight falling on me with a welcomed familiarity.

“I can’t believe you’re actually here, very sneaky!” he said nibbling at my earlobe before going back to my neck, I wasn’t the only one that was sneaky.

“I wanted to surprise you, I take it I did that.”

“So…very…much.” He punctuated each word with a kiss, then a small smile spread.

“Mission accomplished then, Lafayette helped too.”

He laughed at that and shook his head as he sat up; I missed his weight and body heat instantly.

“Where are you going?” I asked, almost pouting as he got up from the bed, and walked out to one of his bags.

“Eric, hello? Overdue sexy times being offered on a freshly showered, waxed…plate here dude.” I said not at all on board with his disappearing act. He came back into the bedroom a minute or so later, with a smug smile on his face.

“Did you just leave the room to fart again, you know that’s weird right? I mean I’m not overly fond of your farts but –“

“No…I went to get something out of my bag.”

“I have condoms somewhere if that’s the issue…” though I knew it wouldn’t be, we hadn’t used them in a while.

“No, it’s not…I promised myself I’d have something for you the next time I saw you, and that I’d waste no time in doing what I’m going to do now.”

“Oh…kay?” I said, sitting up on the bed, just very confused if I was being honest. Then he did it, he pulled out the little red velvet box, the box Jason and I had searched Gran’s house high and low looking for!

“Eric…”

“I know, okay, this is…crazy and maybe it’s too soon by some standards, but… I can’t not do it… I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, Sook, even before, when we weren’t even a couple. I was thinking about this…with you. And okay, that might be weird and a little creepy, let’s be honest, but it was a big regret of mine so I fixated on it. I don’t want to regret the ‘what if anymore’.” He was speed talking and blushing, so I knew he was nervous, it was so sweet.

“Oh, my God…” I said as the reality of what was happening began to sink it. It’s not that I never assumed that he and I would commit to each other. I just imagined it was a given that I adored him and that this was it for me, I never thought he wanted the traditional commitment thing.

He took a deep breath as he kneels on the bed beside me, his cheeks beginning to tinge pink again, it was adorable.

“Sook, I never thought I’d ever really entertain the idea of this question, ever. It just wasn’t on the cards for me, at least I thought so. I was just going to drift until I died, and I was more than okay with that. But then, I met you, and for some reason the universe, or God or whoever is pulling our strings whispered that you were different. I didn’t know how or why at first, but I knew it that I was attracted to you, and not just for your looks…or those boobs.” He smiled, “But, there was that little spark there, and that little spark just stayed with me, even though I knew you were promising a life with someone else. I should have not cared then, I should have realistically accepted that I’d lost you…and I thought I had, when I watched you walk down that stupidly long aisle to him…” he sighed. “And for a while I did lose hope, but then, as if my some kind of cosmic magic there you were, you walked into my studio, and into my life again, and it was like we got a second first chance. I love you, you know that, and I hope that I show that to you always…”

I nodded; I was too weepy to do much else.

“Sookie, I want in, I want it all, with you. I want the good days, the shitty days, the days where were so mad we could spit,” I smiled as he took Gran’s expression, “ I want the kids, little tiny bits of us in little people that we pray to whoever is listening that we won’t fuck them up too badly as we muddle along….I want it all. And I know that you’ve said that you’ve been there, and you’ve done that, but you’ve not been there and done that with me. I’d like to give it a shot, if you would too?”

I was silent, mostly because I think I was so happy and so full of tears that I feared if I spoke I’d just burst out crying and scare the be-Jesus out of him. I think he took it the wrong way, and panicked a little.

“In case my long winded…long windedness wasn’t so clear, I’m asking you to marry me, Sookie.”

I nodded and laughed, hugging him, almost knocking the ring out of his hand, “I love you so much, Eric. So much.”

“Is that a yes?” his eyes twinkled with hope, or maybe it was the desire to vomit, I wasn’t sure.

“Of course it’s a yes!” I said kissing him deeply to seal the deal.

“You scared the crap outta me just now.” He said with a relieved look on his face, as he laughed with me.

“I didn’t mean to, I just…honestly thought I’d be the one surprising you tonight, not the other way around.” I said as he slipped the missing ring on my finger and I admired it, I’d forgotten just how beautiful it was.

“Well consider us both surprised.” He said kissing me quickly again before he took my hand, and looked the ring before kissing it too.

“We’re engaged…” I said, beaming.

“We are,” he beamed back just as happy on the outside that I was sure he was on the inside.

I made an excited noise, something I was sure only dogs could hear before I pounced on him, straddling him as he lay looking up at me, “this is good…this is right, I know it is.”

“How do you know?” he asked, holding onto my sides to keep me upright.

“Because this is how I imagined you’re meant to feel when the man you loves asks that question, and I’ve never felt like this before.” I needed him to know that, and it was true, when Alcide asked the same question all I felt was duty, or expectation, when Eric asked, it was like a whole new world of possibilities together and I just couldn’t wait to see what they brought this time!

The End.

Epilogue anyone? 😉

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