Hi guys! Thank you all so much for all the lovely comments and reviews last chapter, it really keeps the engine chugging, so you’re awesome for that. I come with an extra long chapter, with extra goodness. And maybe something a little …unexpected. Any questions, comments, concerns are welcome as always! xox
In my weeks in the sweltering Paris heat I’d learned many a thing. I had grasped a few choice phrases to get me around the city, to shop for the necessary items for the house, and even at times, for myself. Lafayette had been a huge help with it all though, and without him the days I had off would not have been half as much fun as they ended up being.
With him I had rediscovered my love for baking, since being Pamela’s Lady’s Maid was not a very time consuming job. She spent most of her days in just her robes for starters. It left me with chunks of free time, and since Lafayette was really the only other person I knew in the whole city, it made sense for me to stick close by him. We would spend hours in Pam’s vast kitchen, just cooking and baking, each of us trying to outdo the other. We had to be creative though; rations were still placed on a lot of key items, so I decided to improvise with my baking recipes. I ended up creating lots of goodies that ended up sugar free, and just as tasty, if not more so. And, judging by the fact that Lafayette all but inhaled a batch of my sugar free chocolate cookies, I’d say they turned out great. “
“C’est fabuleux Mon Cher!”
“Really?” I beamed, I was whipping up a batch of applesauce ones next, using up the leftover sauce from one of his creations for dinner that evening.
“Oui! Mmm.” He said devouring another one, “I can’t believe there isn’t sugar in these or hardly any salt! I urge you to serve these as part of desert tonight, I think they would go down a treat!”
“Oh, no I couldn’t. I’m just practicing for right now…” I shook my head, rolling up the sleeves of my dress to stir the thick mixture some more.
“Well, I think they would be a hit. This crowd that Pam rolls with, they like new things, they crave it, and the war has given them little to be excited about. This is a new form of…almost fat free cooking. Those women would love that!”
“But they aren’t fat free…”
“No, but they’re sugarless which is just about the same thing. You think of anything else, you let me know!” With that he disappeared upstairs and I was left to my own devices for a half an hour or so. I liked having time to myself, usually, but lately it just gave me too much time to think. Since writing to Eric two weeks before, I had heard nothing from him. Not that I was surprised in the least though, the way I had left things I wouldn’t have blamed him one little bit if he choose to ignore me in favour of his teenage bride to be.
I sighed at the thought; I both pitied her and envied her all at once. She was a girl and he wanted a woman, that much was obvious, but she was also a young girl that could give him all the things I couldn’t and I knew I had no business pining for something that I could never have, not properly anyway. And if I couldn’t have something honestly then I didn’t deserve it at all. I remembered my mother used to say that about things back home. If we couldn’t earn them honestly, then we didn’t need them.
“You look deep in thought.” Pam said from the doorway.
“Oh…I was kind of. Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon to you too. Could I get a cup of coffee? Is there any left from the ration?”
“There should be, Lafayette has been saving it.”
“It’s why I love him.” She smiled taking a seat at the table next to me. “He’s been telling me about your cooking. And, I think he’s right, I think you need to showcase your talents tonight, Sookie.”
“Mmhmm. The party I’m throwing, there’s some very important people are coming, some high ranking army men too, and their ladies of course.”
“Of course,” I smiled.
“It’s a small gathering, but I think it’s necessary, all my friends have been hankering for one of my parties since we got back in town, there are restrictions of course, but it should be a good time. There will be music too.”
I nodded, I had no doubt that it would be an eventful night, I just wasn’t so confident in my food being the centre of it all.
“In all seriousness, why let them go to waste?”
I mulled it over, since being here I had reignited my love for food, and I hoped that some of the things I was taught as a girl had stayed with me. What would be the harm in just seeing if other people liked them? All things were in place, the ‘small get together’ was planned, and for Pam a small gathering meant no less than ten people. By eight dinner was served to them and they were more than in a merry mood by the time my deserts rolled around. Lafayette gave me a wink as he passed me in the hallway, where I had stood, curious to see how things were received. I heard lots of ‘mmm’s’ and ‘ahh’s’, although given it was a Pam party that could have meant any manner of things. I made my exit to my room, where I read for an hour at most, when Pam came into the room, with a smile on her face.
“You have to join the party. They think I’m a mean ogre keeping the creator of such sweetness locked down here in her dungeon.”
She rolled her eyes, eyeing the dress she’d given me.
“Put it on and come downstairs.”
“Pam no!” I protested as she threw it at me, it landed in a heap at my feet on the bed. She was persistent if nothing else, that was for sure.
“Sookie, yes, Come on, I’ve been raving about my little piece of Southern Gold all night, they want to meet the woman that’s created such amazing little pieces of baked heaven, and on a sugar ration.” She quirked her brow at me, and threw the dress in my direction.
“Pam this is a very sheer dress. You’ll see my corset.” I said, examining the stunning blue silk and lace dress.
“Well that usually means one thing, darling.”
“No corset.” She said as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
“No…Corset? Pam, I’d be…naked without it.”
“I can get you a slip if you’d like, I like these fashions better, and they’re so much more freeing.”
I was mortified at the thought. She left the room and came back, a silk garment in her hands.
“Come on, we don’t have all night. Come up for a few drinks at the very least.”
With that she took my hand, stood me up and began yanking the buttons on the back of my uniform, and helped me shrug it off my shoulders.
“Your corset is such an old style, how are you able to move around in it?” she queried taking in my undergarments.
“I’m used to it.”
“It might do you some good to get some real air in your lungs.” With that she fingered the ribbons out of my underwear and it freed my corset up so I could take it off. Before spending time with Pam the idea of being naked in front of another person, man or woman filled with terror, but her freeing attitude gave me a sense of freedom in myself. I let both the dress and the undergarment fall at my feet, ignoring the look on Pam’s face as she took me in. I took the white silk slip that she had fetched from the airing cupboard and slid it on. I still felt naked but she was right, at least I could breathe. Then I slipped on the dress which she helped to button and zip up, slower than most. I knew Pam found me attractive, it was hard to ignore when she made it as obvious as she did, and I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. Years before if I thought a woman wanted me in such a way, I was sure I would have felt disgust or panic for even entertaining the mere idea, never mind expanding what it might be like in my thoughts. Now though, I thought of it as a compliment that someone as beautiful as her would think of me in such ways, I didn’t encourage her, but I didn’t stop it either, and if I was being honest, I liked the attentions, I liked them very much.
I finished touching up the curls on my hair and borrowed a little of Pam’s makeup to give me a little more of a polished look before I descended on the party. Since arriving and beginning working ‘with’ Pam, I’d had my eyes opened to so many things. She lived her life the way she wanted, and didn’t give a damn what anyone else in society thought if they found out – which of course they did, but no one talked about it. Pam introduced me to her acquaintances. They weren’t her friends and most of them weren’t even really her ‘speed’ or so she said, far too close minded for her liking, but she indulged them none the less. They seemed rather taken with me, or I should say – with my baked creations. When I told them most were lower in fat than the usual incarnations, the ladies in particular took notice. I had six different houses place an ‘order’ for the next week before I’d even finished my first drink. It was just a tad overwhelming. The parties at Pam’s weren’t like any others I’d ever seen. No longer was there formal attire required – in fact most nights it ended with very little attire at all. Nor were there a seating arrangement or a menu created for a sit down dinner or a formal meal, no, in its place there was drinks – lots of drinks and trays of food left for those to nibble at should they so please. It confused me, but her staff hired for the occasions seemed to know the drill of her desires, as did her guests. It had taken me several weeks, almost heading into my third month with her, to get used to such…freedoms as she called them.
The war had changed a lot of things about the country I now inhabited, or so I was told. The plight of its people and of its men in particular was a sore spot for most, not that I could blame them, death was death and loss was loss, in whatever language you spoke or thought in, the emotions were all the same. There were officers all around the city, threats of attack over and over came through but little action was taken, Allied forces did what they had been doing for so long now – the best they could. The men in the flaming scarlet trousers and caps patrolled the city; those uniforms would be exchanged for blue uniforms at the front where they’d face danger and death on a daily basis. One could only just imagine the fear that ran through them as they did so.
I learned early on that different patches on different uniforms meant different things, I wasn’t so sure anyone really knew what exactly they were, but there was a level of respect, or maybe it was fear, whatever it was it was shown anyway. I saw that the Welsh Fusiliers, Americans, Canadians and even the British officers all differentiated by a glance thanks to their patrol uniforms, and accents of course. Since the supply depots were in the north, hospitals in the south, and aerodromes on the west, it was not unusual to see Blues – the men as they were called – coming from the trenches, battered and bruised and all but broken men, shadows of their former selves. It make me think of Eric and how he had one point had been one of those men, battered and broken trying to make his way back to real life, I found myself seeing his face in every man that passed from time to time, and I wished the best for them, just as I wished the best for Eric himself even if he had decided to ignore my letter.
Another interesting thing I noticed, the men that weren’t fighting in the war, for whatever reason – be it injury, age, or they had returned from war, alive but changed. They embraced colour now more than ever in their daily fashions, where us women, we were expected to respect and adhere to a more sombre set of rules – much to Pam’s dismay. She longed for the days of bright fuchsia pinks and ocean blues. She told me that when she got the chance she would travel to India for silks herself if she had to, I didn’t doubt her, her seasickness on the other hand…
I had been mingling at her party for well over an hour, it was almost like an out of body experience. Having been a lowly maid for well over a year now, being back in what I would have deemed my ‘normal’ clothes, conversing with people as an equal, well it was downright strange. Once Pam told her lady friends that I was the one responsible for the ‘treats’ that evening, I was inundated with questions and requests. Pam looked on proudly, winking at me in acknowledgement when two ladies – mistresses of an army general and another mistress of a Lord, requested that I send them some for a pretty price too. I was gobsmacked, I was doing business, at a party, and for snacks that cost next to nothing to make, if you knew where to look and shop that was. I was just enjoying my freedom, as I stepped outside with Lady Celine, she was the wife of another guest there too, a Lord Andrews, he was deep in conversation with the General, and Celine was bored and wanted to smoke, so I accompanied her.
“Do you smoke, Sookie?” She asked, her broken English mixed with her French accent made her words seems so much cuter than most.
“No, but I could use a break anyway, let’s just tell everyone we’re ‘getting some air’.” I said and she nodded with a smile. We were talking no more than five minutes, at least, when I saw him.
My stomach turned, I had no idea he was invited to the party, and for a moment felt shunned by Pam that he had been considered at all after what he tried to do to me. When his eyes fixated on me, he grinned. It was a gross yellow tinted grin, and one that said ‘oh this will be fun’.
“Sookie Stackhouse, my how far you’ve come. Working your way up fast, I see.”
“Excuse me?” Celine said but he ignored her. “Sookie do you know this man?”
“No, I don’t, not really.” I said, my gaze falling to the ground.
“Oh, Sookie and I go way back, so far back in fact that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting someone from her past. Someone very, very, important.”
With that my eyes flashed to him.
He couldn’t have? Could he? How!
“I need to speak with you, Susannah.” He said and my stomach churned. I excused myself from Lady Celine, she looked confused but granted my exit, and Quinn followed me back into the house, I led him to the library, there was no one in there.
“Susannah Compton then is it?” he said once the doors were closed.
There was no point in denying it, he clearly knew.
He shrugged, “I met William in London, as he was staying with a relative of his, Bellefleur?”
I knew of an uncle, and maybe a cousin of his with that name, I had no idea they had relocated to London though.
“There he was, asking for any information anyone had on his missing wife. And wouldn’t you know it, he had this pretty little pocket portrait of a woman that looked an awful lot like you, the whore I couldn’t get my hands on in Scotland. So, I said to myself that is a con that’s gone on far too long.”
“It’s not a con, I’m no longer his wife.”
“Why because you left and changed your name and decided to be a skivvy for a living? Darlin’ it don’t work that way ‘am afraid. The law is the law and you’re his wife, and he wants you back.”
“What if I don’t want to go back?”
“As if you have a choice. He will find you; he deserves to find you…after all you did to ‘im. He could call the police on you, have you arrested for what you did, you know that?”
I was sweating, I could feel the panic setting in, I knew all John Quinn said to be true, Bill would stop at nothing to find me and settle the score. If there was one thing he hated, was someone else getting the better of him, and I had done that in my attempts to escape.
I pushed Quinn and his stupid menacing face aside, and made a dash for the stairs. I got to Pam’s room, and saw the brandy bottles and poured myself a large glass, my hands shaking as I did so. I had finished off my first drink and was halfway through my second when Pam came in, a concerned look on her face.
“I just saw the asshole, he was not invited just so you know, but he’s friends with the men and heard through the grapevine that I was hosting a thing… what did he say to you? Did he touch you?” She got angrier as she spoke, but I assured her he didn’t have time this time to lay a hand on me, not that it mattered now.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“He knows – he knows everything. The reason why I can’t be with Eric, not really, the reason why I can’t be honest, why I’m so scared all the time…and the reason why my name isn’t really Sookie Stackhouse.” I said, all but sobbing as I sat on the edge of her bed. She didn’t say anything, she just watched, her expression blank.
“I’ve lied to everyone, Pam. Everyone, and I never lie. I’m not even very good at it usually…” I confessed. I swallowed my tears and continued, if it was to all break loose, I may as well be the one to break it.
“I tried to kill my husband, I stole from him and I ran. I ran all the way to the docks and booked myself on the first boat to England. I thought I’d done it. I thought I was a murderer, Pam. That’s why I ran. That’s why I lied.”
I told her my woes, of how I married him under the assumption that he was a gentleman and true to his word when he was neither. I told her of the beatings and the deaths of the baby, the pregnancies, and the violence that plagued my married life with him, and I told her of our last fight.
“I wanted to kill him; I had so much rage in my heart, Pam I wanted to kill him with my bare hands!” I paced her room, tears flowing, my eyes stinging red and my lips swollen, but I kept talking because I needed it out there, for my own sanity if nothing else. “So, when he hit me, and he hit me again, I reached for the first thing I could find – which happened to be my Grandmother’s antique marble dogs, that sat atop our fireplace…and I whacked him with it. I hit him so hard he fell to the floor, there was so much blood… my god so much blood…” I cried still, remembering that horrid day, a day I had tried to bury in the back of my mind forever.
“And I ran. I thought he wasn’t breathing, and I was sure in fact that he wasn’t… and I ran. I took the money, I took whatever I could carry to sell…”
I looked to Pam now, who had been silent during my rant, and I expected anger from her, I expected to be fired on the spot for being such a deceptive wretch. Instead none of those things happened, she was crying too.
“Oh my darling…Come here.” She said her arms wide open, offering the hug I desperately needed.
“I don’t know what to do, he knows where I am now, he knows and that just means he can do what he likes at any time. If he reports me to the police…”
“He won’t, we won’t let him.”
I shook my head, I knew very well what Bill Compton was capable of, much more than she did. My worries did not quell. I sat allowing her to hold me, to take me to her and comfort me, it had been a long time since I had allowed anyone to see me weak, and I shocked myself by letting it all go to Pam. She held me for what seemed like a lifetime, just comforting me, assuring me I would be okay. I wanted so badly to believe her, it was when I looked to her for answers that I was shocked by the one she provided.
She kissed me, sweetly at first, like the kisses all the ladies gave and received here on both cheeks as form of ‘hello’, but then she moved in again and this time to my mouth. She planted a soft moist kiss there once before pulling back, looking me in the eye as if for permission to do it again. I didn’t confirm nor did I deny her, so she did it again, only this time it was harder, with more intent than before. Her hands cupped my face, and I felt her tongue press lightly on my lips asking for access there too. I complied, out of curiosity if nothing else, and I had been curious since I had moved here, the going on could have made me nothing else when I thought about it, and it felt nice, it felt…safe almost. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to feel something, anything other than dread and guilt and fear, this provided that. So, when her hands moved from my face, to my breast, I did not protest, nor did I protest when she started to softly undo the lace and ribbon that held the bodice together at the front, her eyes would catch mine, avert to the task at hand, and flit back to my eyes again. She was as unsure as I was it seems, but, I was too curious to stop it. I had dressed, and undressed Pam countless times, I had seen her body and all she had to offer. But this was different, this was more intimate than any of those other times, this meant something more. As I undid the knots I had tied hours before, and helped slid off the stocking I had put in place, I knew there was no going back, not now. Allowing her to undress me was also a new experience, she was gentle and just as curious as I was, at least that’s how it seemed to me. Neither of us spoke a word; we just took things slowly, shedding out clothes before she directed me towards the large bed, where I sat nervously as she yanked off my slip finally, and then my stockings from my legs, that same curious yet seductive look on her face.
“You’ve done this dozens of times, haven’t you?” I asked my breath hitching slightly as her cold hands met my warm thigh.
“Probably more. Does that frighten you?” She asked finally stepping out of her remaining clothing, standing before me as nude as anything, and not a hint of shame about it either. I on the other hand was not as brave as she, nor as experienced in this field as I would have liked to have been, with neither man or woman, and especially not women. Unlike a man she was delicate and soft, her neck long and elegant leading to breasts that were begging to be touched. I was shocked when I realized that I was the one wanting to do the touching.
“A little… I don’t…know.” I answered her, in a daze and still unsure. But she shushed me gently, kissing me sweetly and began to put me at ease.
“It doesn’t hurt, and my way, no one gets pregnant.” She said as she took off her jewels, causing me to burst out laughing, defusing the moment that seconds before had been tense and unsure.
I smiled, as did she.
“Just let me make you feel better, that’s all this is.”
“It doesn’t mean that I don’t still –“
“I know, but that’s not what this is about. Trust me, Sookie. Do you trust me?”
I nodded as she crawled on the bed behind me, gently edging me back towards her, and the mass of pillows at the head of her bed. We laid there, just kissing softly for a time, her hands trailing over my body, and mine cautiously doing the same to her. Then she moved, leaving a trail of wet kisses in her wake, before she focused her attentions between my legs.
“Pam … I…”
“I know…” she said continuing to gently ghost her hands up and down my thighs before she settled between my legs, slowly at first as if she was afraid to hurt me, but when my eyes rolled back in my head, she took that as a all the permission she needed to continue. Continue she did, lavishing me with kisses, on my mouth, down my neck, and particularly my breasts, as her long slender fingers probed my sex, making my toes curl in the process.
“It’s such a shame…” she mumbled.
“What is?” I answered breathlessly, as she worked me over, her speed picking up, and with that my heart rate feeling as if it would implode at any minute.
“How you hide all this away, you’re so beautiful, you deserve to be worshiped.”
I felt the tears sting in my eyes, and she noticed, she slowed herself down to climb on top of me, grinding on me now, sending new and surprising sensations through me. She kissed me then, this time it wasn’t full of lust or curiosity, it was full of love. I knew I didn’t love Pam, not in the way she loved women, but I did love her. Was love simply all that mattered, did it matter what kind it was? I wasn’t so sure of anything anymore. She took my hands and guided me to her body; it was a strange feeling, a woman’s body, so like my own, but not. Her breasts, her neck, her hips, all soft skin supple and inviting, all mine for exploration. And explore I did, until I felt myself lose all control when she spread my legs and made me breathless using just her mouth, it was never something anyone had ever done on my body before. I had only ever been with Bill, and everything with him was as lackluster as expected, but with Pam, well, nothing was expected, and certainly not this.
She giggled as she slid from underneath me, lying then next to me under her blue silk sheets, no sound from either of us but breath and the occasional crackling from the fire.
“Feel better?” She asked with an arched brow and a smile.
I giggled, it seemed to be her sole mission that night, and I had to admit she had succeeded.
“Yes. Very much so.”
“Good, job well done then.” She grinned falling back onto her side of the giant bed. We laid in silence for a few seconds, though it seemed like longer, it seemed like an eternity really, the silent air filled with all the things we needed to say.
“You’re fretting, I can tell.” She said, and she was right.
“You know this doesn’t mean –“
“What, that you love me?” She laughed. “Oh, Sookie, darling no I know that, that wasn’t what I was expecting from this at all.”
She smiled, touching my face softly. “Darling, it was sex, plain and simple, and an honest to goodness attempt at loosening you up a little. You were wound so tight tonight I thought you’d go pop at any moment and fly all over the room.”
“I mean I do love you, it’s just a…different kind of love?” I tried to make sense of my feelings now, but sense wasn’t coming.
She nodded, she seemed to understand it better than I did.
“Besides, you love another, and who am I to stand in the way of … insanely complicated possible love.”
“How do you know I love him?” I was curious about this, for I wasn’t even sure it was love, I wasn’t sure of much.
“Because, silly, he’s the one you worry for, the one you care about, the one you think about day and night. And, I’m sure it’s the same for him. You brought him back to life, Sookie, that’s no small feat. Before you, I was sure we’d lost him to his solitude forever.”
“He hasn’t responded to my letter, so all of my worry and thought may have been for nothing.” I said as she swept a small hair from my face.
“Hmm. I can’t be sure; perhaps he’s just…licking his wounds.”
“Or maybe he’s taken my advice and moved on.”
“Likely. When it’s what he was meant to do anyway.” I fretted once more.
“Eric rarely does what he’s meant to do, haven’t you learned that by now? If he doesn’t want to do something, he’ll very rarely be guilted into it.”
She was silent, as was I when I dared to ask.
“Have you ever been in love, Pam?”
She looked to me, the glow from the fire shining upon her striking face.
“Once or twice.”
She smiled, “I was thirteen, and she was my tutor. We were in Texas, now you know I was in trouble…” She shook her head, “she was older and more beautiful… I wanted her, I didn’t know that it was considered wrong to think such things then, but then again I still don’t believe it’s wrong…”
“I fell in love with a woman who played me like a fiddle, I was so very young and naive…She was eighteen and wanted a play thing.” She shrugged. “After that I told myself I would never get hurt again, I met Eric on a trip to Sweden when I was sixteen, and from there we…travelled. My father had died and my mother she remarried, I was free, she didn’t care. She said that it was my reputation that mattered and as long as no one knew me, I could do what I pleased as long as I married a man eventually for my inheritance. As you can see, I’ve been putting that off for as long as possible.” She smiled again.
“Were you and Eric ever a couple?” I had to admit I was curious about that, I always had been.
She shook her head, no.
“Never in the true sense. I mean, I adore him, I do. But he’s too intense for me I’m afraid. And, he has a little too much penis.” I giggled, as did she, before she grew somewhat serious again. “We did share women though, a lot of women, over the years. It was a game to us for a long, long time.”
Suddenly I felt self conscious, was I part of this game?
She saw my discomfort.
“Oh, Sookie no. Trust me, if you were part of any game, you know about it. You’d know because we’d tell you. It was never a cruel game. It was a fun one, until it wasn’t.”
“I fell in love with a girl who was in love with Eric. Eric then wasn’t in love with her, and there was drama and threats of killing herself and it was all just too much, so we both took a step back, he went back to Sweden to run the business and I came to London to step back into real life again.”
“Yes, so all the games in the world can’t last forever, even the best ones.”
As I laid next to Pam that night, with so much swirling around in my head. I had just had sex with a woman, I was still in love with another man while sadly still married to another, none of which the man I loved actually knew about because as far as I knew he was off engaged to his toddler of a prospect. Oh, and my ex husband who I thought I had murdered was out to get me. Needless to say that sleep eluded me that night, and the night after, it would be the night after that, that it would elude me because of visitor, a tall, pensive Swede in demand of answers I just wasn’t sure I could give him right away.