The winner of the poll is done! Some WAH for everyone! Hope you enjoy it, and if you do, hit the little button of love! 😀
I was lost in thought, as well as into my seventh batch of cookies. I had four cooling and two packaged up, I even found some stray ribbon and made the brown paper packaging a little bit fancier. I had received orders at Pam’s party, and they’d even called the next day to confirm that they wanted the ‘treats’ delivered if I could as soon as possible. And so that is how I spent my morning, having woken up before Pam, I decided not to dwell or panic, but instead to focus my thoughts on something I knew like the back of my hand, and that was baking. By the time Lafayette arrived at ten, I was almost done, and he looked confused.
“I still work here, don’t I?” he asked shrugging off his jacket and putting his head scarf in place.
“You do, I was just finishing up my little project.”
His eyes widened, “did you make any more?”
“Yes, there’s about twenty cooling in the larder, and there’s fresh milk, so… you know.” I hinted heavily, of course there were extra, I wasn’t a cruel woman.
He grinned big and happy as he headed towards the Promised Land.
“How did the party go? Anything exciting happen?” He asked a mouthful of banana cookie in the way of his words. Just as he said it, Pam walked in, still in her dressing gown.
“Is there coffee?”
“Some… woman what happened to you?” He asked her.
“Coffee.” Was all she said, and I continued to busy myself cleaning up.
She and I exchanged glances, and on that alone, Lafayette was able to sense something was amiss.
“Ladies, how was the party then? Good night?” He asked, his eyes flitting from me, to Pam.
“It was… eventful enough I suppose,” Pam smirked, sipping from her cup.
“Yes, very eventful.” I concurred making him take a step back.
“You know, I don’t even think I want to know.” He commented making Pam giggle.
“Oh you’d want to know, but you aren’t going to. What’s for breakfast, chef?”
“Ah! We have a speciality this morning Môn maîtresse, salmon, which I shall be making with these, and pancakes if you please.” He held up a small platter of fresh fish.
“Excellent. In the mean time I have some mail to reply to, Sookie I’ll be heading out at noon, I’ll need you shortly before that?”
I nodded, “Of course, have you settled on which outfit? I still prefer the green…”
“It’s for a hospital visit, I know you think I need to be sombre –“
“Those men are dying, Pam.”
“Exactly, why not give them a little thrill on the way out.” She reasoned sauntering out the kitchen door and up the stairs. I just shook my head.
I had dressed Pam that mid morning in one her brand new bespoke dresses that she decided was ‘depressing’ enough for visiting an ill man, but decided she didn’t want to kill the mood altogether and added a modest feather headdress, if there was such a thing, to ‘spice it up’ a little. It had taken us an hour to get her prepared, but when was ready she was as always, a picture. Her style here was so much simpler in its construction; than it had been in Scotland or in London even. I encouraged it, selfishly as the soft fabrics and drop waist gowns required very little from me as a Ladies Maid. She was on her way to visit an old friend just outside the city, Alcide; her driver was doing the honours of getting her there and back before dinner that night. Her friend, Serge was recovering in hospital having been discharged from his duty at the front lines of the War. He had lost some toes, and took some hits to the shoulder, but all reports looked promising and Pam wanted to celebrate that small victory. As it was needless to say Pam valued her friends, and Serge was in for a treat of an array of alcohol and food that she had Lafayette acquire as a gift that she planned on sneaking to him without getting caught, she was taking a chance but she wanted to cheer him up, so I couldn’t fault her though process.
She and I didn’t discuss what had happened between us, and for that I was almost thankful. What more was there to say? It was a one time event for me and I knew we both knew that. Since before Pam; I had never even entertained the idea of finding a woman anything more than merely pretty. I loved Pam dearly, and I knew she was fond of me, but beyond our friendship I knew we had nothing else to offer each other, and I was glad there were no awkward expectations now, instead we just fell back into routine, and that is exactly how I liked it.
While they were gone I busied myself with some baking, keeping the house clean and neat, and organizing the mail and the telephone messages left for her throughout the day. One was from her mother, a very sharp tongued Texan named Vivian, who told me in no uncertain terms that her daughter was to call or write as soon as she could on some urgent matter that I was not privy to. I had promised to pass one the message, and hung up the telephone more intimidated by a mere voice than I had in a long time. I still wasn’t so used to the sudden noise it would make when someone was on the other side, nor was I particularly sure of what my manner of address should be, but I would worry about that at another time. Recovering from my shock of being berated by Pam’s mother, I took to the kitchen, and finished off three more cakes for my ‘customers’ suddenly beginning to see why she ran from her family; if her mother’s charming personality was anything to go by. The idea of simply baking and receiving such money for it? It was absurd, it was not really a job but somehow Pam’s little speech at the party had put me with the in-crowd, and that crowd had money to burn, even now during such economic hardship, and so a telegram with requests arrived and I was to fulfil more requests as soon as I could, my eyes widened and Lafayette’s mouth dropped when we saw what they were willing to pay for such ‘hand made delicacies’
He and I kept busy that afternoon and he left for his home around four, leaving me on my lonesome, but I took the rare peace and time to indulge in Pam’s library, and relax as my baking cooled. The weather had cooled too, it was almost September now, and I was guessing that Fall would be around the corner in no time if the temperatures continued to drop the way they had. Just before sunset, I had finished closing all the windows, and I’d set the fires in Pam’s room and the living room in an attempt of warming up the now cold house, when a knock came to the door. I knew it was not Pam – why would she knock, it was her house. But as far as I was told we weren’t expecting any visitors that night.
I opened the door, and there he stood. His tall increasingly handsome form clad in what I knew to be his travelling clothes, complete with top hat, and his favourite navy blazer that I knew he preferred over his coat, for comfort whilst on the move.
“Eric!” I said the shock clearly evident in my voice as I am sure it was on my face as he turned to face me.
“Hello, Sookie,” He nodded respectfully, not as surprised, but then again why would he be, he was the one knocking at the door of the house I was living in, clearly he knew I was here.
“I… Uh… Pamela isn’t home.” I began somewhat awkwardly.
He smiled, I had almost forgotten how sweet his smile was and how it lit up his whole face as if from within.
“I see. Well… I know she will not mind –“he gestured inside. Of course! What was I doing this was not my house; he was not to be my guest after all.
“Oh! Yes. I… Yes. Come in, of course.” My voice had suddenly taken on this loud, high pitched resonance, and I had a crazy smile on my face, I was nervous to say the least. He walked into the hallway, putting both his large suitcases down, and shedding his coat and hat, and suddenly there he stood in a charming navy three piece suit, complete with a meticulously tied blue tie. His blue eyes bright and focused on me, he smiled again.
“You’re looking very well, it seems Paris and Pam’s world suits you, you’re glowing.”
I fought the urge to touch my face, I was sure I wasn’t glowing but merely blushing up a storm. Instead I clasped my hands together to stop myself from fidgeting.
“I do like it here, the rules are –“
“There are no rules, not with Pam.” He laughed, cutting the tension a smidge, but not by much. What did I do here? I had no clue, so I nodded in response.
I was breathless, excited, scared and terrified all at once. It felt as if my heart were about to explode.
He looked around the hallway, and gestured to the drawing room, I merely followed, still all but frozen in my moments.
“This… is a delightful house.” He said, just as awkwardly as I felt in the moment.
“Yes. Pam keeps things fairly simple here, I like that.”
“Yes.” He said, looking to his shoes. I began to fidget again.
The seconds ticked by, but they felt like hours as he and I both stood, clearly both of us wholly unsure of what happened next.
“Would you like some tea? Or something eat perhaps? You must be hungry after travelling so far.”
He nodded, swallowed hard and finally answered me.
“Yes, that would lovely thank you…”
“Do… you want to wait here and I can fetch it for –“
“What if we dined in the kitchen? I assumed her staffing is still as sparse as it was? Lafayette has…”
“Gone home for the night.”
“Good… I mean not that that’s good. I look forward to seeing him again, I just… would like to talk with you, and eat.”
Tense, very, very, tense.
I nodded and led the way down the small set of stairs that led to the kitchen, the light was fading fast, so I used the candles and one of the lights to keep us from ending up in the dark. He leaned against the doorframe, silently just watching me as I heated up the soup and stuck the plate of food Lafayette had left me for dinner in the oven to heat those up too. Chicken and vegetable broth and some dumplings would do just nicely I thought. I brewed a pot of tea just to be safe, and to kill some time so I gather myself together. We sat at the impossibly small kitchen table together, and I noted that besides the meal I shared with Pam and Eric in the pub what seemed so long ago now, this was really the first time we had dined together – alone.
I took a deep breath as his fingers brushed mine when I passed him the cutlery, and just came out with it.
“When you didn’t write back I assumed that you had… taken heed of my words before I left and … well… moved on.”
“No… No. Oh, Sookie of course you must think terrible of me now. I …” he shook his head as if at himself. “No I wanted to write back, truly I did. And I even attempted it a number of times. But there were things that I wanted to say that I could not say on paper. I … for all my knowledge of books and words and for all my love of words, I lacked the know how in saying the right thing on paper. And so when I left for Sweden –“
“You were in Sweden?”
“Yes. I had to go check on the factory… it had only meant to be a small trip. I was to spend a week there and come straight here. But, with things how I found them… Well, I ended up being kept there, much longer than I had anticipated. And the longer I left things without a reply, the worse I felt, and the more I just wanted to get here and see you.”
We both began to eat, the silence now less deafening now than it was before. I tried to process his words, had it all been a simple misunderstanding? Had he really wanted to clear the air with me, but just couldn’t find the words? Ironic, I thought for a man so in love with the written word that he would fail to use it when necessary.
He looked at me, across the tiny space we shared, a cautious look in his eye as he happily tucked into his meal.
“Pam is visiting an old friend, though she should have been back by now.”
“How is she? Well I hope?”
“Very well, yes.”
So well in fact she and I shared a bed not so long ago. Oh, God. Did I tell him that? Surely I would have to. But then again there was a long list of things I had to tell Eric, it was simply a matter of when now, not if.
“How was your trip?”
He sighed, “Why don’t we take our tea to the drawing room? It’s a long story.”
When we got comfortable on Pam’s large opulent sofa, the fire had thankfully picked up and was now roaring providing a welcoming heat.
“I left Scotland with the intent of being gone just a week or so to Sweden and then to come here and … fix things.” He looked at me with a somewhat cheeky grin and it made me wonder just how he planned on ‘fixing’ things. He then went on to tell me of the affects of the war on his business, on his workers and on the moral of the business in general. His factory foreman had done all he could, but the majority of the men under fifty were shipped off or in MIA, and it was up to the women now, as it was just about everywhere, but Eric felt bad having the women do the hard labour, when I pointed out that women were more than capable and that I was glad men were finally seeing that we were built for more than looking pretty and sitting silently. He laughed, but agreed, but he still insisted on fairer hours, and more pay be put in place, much to his foreman’s dismay.
“I like that you are a fair man. So many others in your position would abuse their power, so many do.”
“I have no desire for power, I never have. I want nothing more than a normal, quiet life.” He sighed. “I hope to have it one day, when things are more settled, and if this God forsaken war ever reaches its end.”
“There have been some positive advancements, with the American’s joining in… there’s renewed hope.”
“Hope is wonderful, but the reality of those men, out there on the front line it’s not something you easily forget, even if your physical injuries heal, the experience it… never leaves you.”
“I am sorry…”
“No, no,” he said putting his cup on the table in front of us, “don’t be sorry, just… I wish more people were aware of how difficult it is to just slip back into your old life after going through something like that. Before the war, I was an apathetic, petulant, self- indulgent boy… the things I did. The people I carelessly hurt…”
I wasn’t aware if he knew that I knew his history, at least a little bit of it in his years with Pam.
“People change, sometimes they become worse, and sometimes, like you, they grow up for the better.”
“Sometimes I wonder about that.”
“Well I didn’t know you before, but I know you now – a little at least, and you’re none of those things anymore. Well, you can get a little lazy every now and then.” I quipped sipping my tea, willing myself not to grin.
“That’s good to know, thank you. I’m working on the lazy thing, even though it’s not really laziness… I just…”
Couldn’t bear to face the world some days? I assumed that’s what it was, but neither of us commented on that.
“Sookie what you said in your letter, did you mean it?”
“Of course I did. I hated the way I left things with you, it haunted me. Knowing that you thought me to be this woman… Eric I have so many things to tell you and I know I risk losing you in doing so.”
“Surely it cannot be all that bad, can it?”
“I think it is.” I stood; I did not really want to see the look on his face as I told him.
“Eric, I lied to you, only at the time I did not really know it was a lie, not completely at least.”
He furrowed his brows at me, I took it as a sign to continue, even though I dreaded the thought.
“I … I’m not a widow and my name isn’t Sookie Stackhouse.” There I had said it, outloud and to the right person. With that though his posture changed, he tensed, and the look on his face became more ridged than before.
“The name change was necessary, when I left Bill …” I took another deep breath trying to organize my thoughts once more. “I was in a miserable marriage, he was… it wasn’t the best of situations. During one final brawl, I got lucky and I smacked him over the head with something heavy, to stop him, to get away, and at the time I thought I had done what I never imagined myself capable of doing. I thought I had killed him.” I finally exhaled, and he was sitting up, his steely gaze not moving from me. “I ran, I stole what money we had, and I ran to save myself. It was cowardly I am sure to some, but it would have been idiotic for me to stay. And so, I changed my name and came to England in the hopes of burying my old life when they buried Bill.”
He said nothing, and so, I simply continued, in the hope that
“My real name is Susannah Stanton, then Compton. Stackhouse was my Grandmother’s maiden name, Sookie was her nickname for me.”
He nodded, looking as if he was taking this all in, slowly.
“So everything you said, about understanding why I was the way I was, what I was feeling… why I was feeling… all that you related to with me and my grief…” his voice was low, sad, and it broke my heart. “It was a lie.”
I swallowed nervously, before I nodded. I could not speak my shame, for I feared the tears in my eyes would break and I would just sob openly.
He stood up and paced by the window, not looking at me. The tension in the room was so thick I was sure I was going to suffocate.
“Eric say something.” I urged.
He shook his head, the view from the window more fascinating than my need for a reaction.
“I knew you were hiding something, but this is just… Everything has been a lie then?”
“No!” I protested. “What you see, what you’ve seen, who I am, is who I have always been, just with a different name and a tremendous amount of guilt. Until London, I thought Bill to be dead, and I hid the fact that I had murdered him from you, though now I question which you find worse, a murderer or a liar.”
I sat, defeated and deflated. I knew he despised liars, and lying women most of all. All the women he knew were lying in some form or another, to get their hands on him and his money. He never admitted the last part of course, but it was obvious to the blind and deaf that that was their reasoning. Perhaps now he thinks it mine too?
He looked at me then, his eyes as full of pain as I’d ever seen them. I hated that I was responsible for putting it there.
“How do I know to believe that? How do I know that you’re not just exactly like the rest of them… how do I know anything when it comes to you anymore?”
“You trust me.”
He scoffed as if that was the most insane idea I had ever had, and just at that Pam came flourishing through the front door, complaining about the state of the city with the raids. When she saw Eric and I standing there she looked stunned, I guessed he hadn’t told her was coming either.
“What’s going on…?”
When neither of us answered her she set down her bags, and began, “Oh, Eric if you’re upset about Sookie and I being intimate please don’t be. It was only one time and it was really a matter of –“
“What?” He asked, anger returning to his hurt face. I sighed, closing my eyes. God damn, Pam.
“We hadn’t exactly covered that part of the confession hour, Pamela.” I said.
“Oh…” she said, stepping back silently. “Sorry.”
He looked to me, his brows furrowed so tightly I was stunned his face didn’t stick that way, and then he looked at Pam.
“For fuck sake!” he yelled to no one in particular before he grabbed his jacket, and made for the door, slamming it behind him for good measure.
For fuck sake, indeed.