Hey guys! A big, huge thank you for the reviews last chapter. Both on here and on FF.NET. They were so overwhelmingly positive and lovely I wasn’t too sure what to do with them! But, thank you again it made me smile and type like I don’t know what! So, this chapter is shorter, but it gets to the point I feel we needed to get at. And for now I’m taking a week or so off writing. My poor brain is fried right now! But I hope you love it and hit the little button either way 😀 xox
We sat down in Gran’s office, a place I would spend hours in when I was younger and we’d visit here near Christmas. The stained glass window as well as her hundreds of books on fashion and style always kept me occupied. Instead that night I wasn’t as occupied by the books on fashion as I was my job in fashion hanging in the balance. She smiled. My heart stopped.
“Jason knows why he’s here, I wanted you both to have this moment alone, Sookie I drew up the contact for the change of ownership six months ago. Now all it needs is your signature.”
“What? Six months ago? But the ultimatum… that…”
“That was my hopes for you, yes, but I was not blind nor ignorant to your amazing contributions to the business. The job should have been yours from the get go, but Jason, being older and out of College first, I wanted him to have some discipline, some structure, somewhere to focus his flailing attention.”
“But then you came along and took over without ever really being asked, and I saw you lose a bit of yourself in the process.” She shrugged, “I hated that you were sacrificing massive aspects of your life for the job, as much as I loved what you’ve done, I longed for you to have more balance. That’s why I asked what I asked in the way I asked it. But now I see, my nudging, however blunt and annoying… it paid off. Eric is a wonderful man, a sweetheart, and he looks at you the way…” she sighed, happily. “I like him, and it’s clear so do you.”
“And me.” Jason stated, before sitting back in his seat again.
“I don’t know what to say, everything seemed so…”
“Unfair? Yes, I do regret how I went about this whole thing, I have felt like a bitch, and as Sheila pointed out, I was one. I’m sorry.” She pushed the thick document in my direction, and sure enough there it was in black and white. My promotion, my significant pay rise, my contract for the next five years. I felt my stomach sink. What did I do here? Did I sign it? Did I go with what I knew, what was safe and something I knew like the back of my hand, or did I go with the unknown…the pipe-dream. I inhaled deeply hoping the right decision would just hit me like a cartoon lightning bolt from the sky. Maybe Wile E Coyote would wander by while we were at it…
Before I had the chance to decide one way or another the office door opened. Claudine stormed in, and I looked out the door, Eric and Pam stood, shocked looks on their faces.
“Gran, don’t let her sign that thing!” She demanded going to Gran’s side of the desk.
“Claudine, I understand you’re not happy about this but I am in the middle of a business meeting.”
“A business you’re being tricked into signing over to that grasping little pretender!!!” She exclaimed.
“Are you drunk, Child?” Gran asked, and with that Claudine produced a very familiar document.
“It’s all a ruse, Gran. All of it to get you to sign over your LIFE’S work to this …faker and her fake boyfriend.” She aimed at me, the whore.
“Is she drunk?” Gran asked Jason, putting her glasses on and taking the contract that Claudine handed her. I just stood up, still not saying anything as she read over it.
“Surely this has to be some kind of mistake… I don’t understand… Sookie?” Gran looked to me, hurt pooling in her eyes. I looked out of the office to Pam and Eric.
I just sighed, Pam looked scared for me, Eric looked anxious.
“It’s true.” I said, sitting back down, making Jason furrow his brows at me as Gran passed him the last page of the contract, stating what it stated he would no doubt be shocked.
“It can’t be true, you and he are… real. That shit is real. Sook is this some kind of joke that we don’t get?”
“It’s no joke, Jason. Sookie lied to get her grubby little paws on Gran’s business and her money.”
“Okay you know what, Claudine, shut the fuck up. That is not why I did it. Why would I need to do it for the money? I have plenty of my own, and unlike you I don’t go around stealing things that don’t belong to me.”
“Okay you will just never let that go will you, you are so jealous!”
“I’M THE JEALOUS ONE? Give me a fucking break!” I was going to wig her around this room if she kept that shit up!
“Enough, both of you. Sookie… explain this to me. Now.”
“It’s true. The contract is real. What Eric and I … it’s fake… all for you benefit, all for the benefit of the stupid ultimatum you landed on me.”
Wait, no it wasn’t. Not anymore.
“Well… I mean…” I looked out of the office to see only Pam standing there now.
“It started that way. Now though… now it’s -”
“Don’t lie anymore Sookie, just tell the woman the truth.” Claudine added, smug as you like.
“I’m not lying, bitch. I didn’t do this for the money. I did this because its what you asked of me. I didn’t think I could really…” I looked from Gran to Claudine and to Jason.
“Can we talk about this alone? She may have stolen this out of my locked cabinet in my office and came in here shouting the odds, but I would like to do this, without her.” I asked my Grandmother. She agreed and ushered Jason and Claudine out.
The room was silent, deadly so, when she closed the door leaving just the two of us.
“You and Eric drew up a legally binding contract to…trick me… into believing…”
“Into believing that I was a normal functioning human being. Yes. That I could multitask and meet your insane expectations while trying to keep the business booming in this fucking economy, yes. To prove to you that I could do my job and live at the same time, when in reality I was dating on and off and never giving a guy more than a week to prove himself to me and failing at every turn in my personal life. So yes, in my sheer and utter insane desperation to hold onto my job, I lied. I dreamt up this crazy idea that Eric went along with because I asked him…and somewhere along the way… everything changed. Everything.”
She sat at the edge of the desk, arms crossed, looking at me with less confusion and more sadness than I’d seen from her in a while.
“What do you mean, everything?”
“Me. I changed. In pretending to do what you asked me to do, and actually doing what you asked me to do but not admitting to ourselves. Eric and I… got close.” I closed my eyes. “We pretend not to notice, but as much as we kept referring to this as a fake relationship, it became very real, very fast, and it’s scary as hell, Gran. A kind of scary that has nothing to do with the job, or the career, scary as in how much I rely on him and how quickly I’ve gotten used to him being around. And just how much it sucks, when he’s not.”
With that she sat in the seat beside me, and she took my hand.
“I’m glad, then. If he’s opened your heart again, madness and bad decision making aside, I am glad that happened.” She motioned to the contract with her signatures on it. “I still need you to sign this, Sookie.”
I looked at the documents in front of me, and made the biggest decision of my life.
I climbed the stairs, weary and tired, and just sad. As much as I tried to shake myself out of it, I couldn’t. I wanted a drink, a real one, and maybe a bubble bath. I checked in on the kids, all three of them tucked up tight in bed, and I went to my room to find Eric. Sure, I found him, I found him packing.
Right, the last thing he heard me say was something pretty shitty where he was concerned.
There was silence for a second before he answered me, his face in full on pout mode.
“In the morning. I don’t want to be here any longer than necessary, I assumed the contracts are signed so our little deal is no longer in affect.”
I sighed, I really didn’t know if I the energy for what was sure to be a hell of a fight.
“Eric… come on you know that’s not how this is. The ‘deal’ hasn’t been the deal for a long time, probably since the beginning.”
He continued to pack.
“Look what do you want me to say here? I made a mistake? Sure, I admit that, I’ve been making a lot of those lately. I just didn’t think us, was one of them.”
That made him stall, but after a second, he continued again. It was like chipping at a brick wall.
“Yeah, well, things change.” He added, bitter as you like. It took me a few minutes of silence before I had the courage to continue talking to him, I sat there, watching him pack, watching him not watch me while doing so either.
“You’re right, things do change. I changed. I’ve changed so much these last few months it’s actually frightening as fuck, if I’m being honest. I changed how I saw my life, what I wanted from it, all of it… and I’m scared. I didn’t sign the contract, Eric. I couldn’t. Because it’s not what I want anymore.”
He stopped what he was doing and fixed his gaze on me, it was intense, it was as if I could feel his rage. I didn’t like that feeling, so I figured why not go balls to the wall and see what happened.
“You know the reason for all these changes?”
He shrugged and it was infuriating.
“Eric I need you to stop acting like Emily right now, I need you to be a man and listen to me.”
“I am a man, I’m the man you stood downstairs and announced to everyone that this man meant nothing to you because everything was fake!”
“Because of you!!” I continued, ignoring his rant and getting back to mind in the hopes of explaining myself. “You and your tall, dishevelled self, with no sense of proper measurements or what an iron was. You with your calm and your smiles and your you. You did this to me, and I’m not really sure what to do with it all. But you, and Emily – sweet, amazing, hilarious Emily, you both took me and shaped me into someone I never knew how to be, someone I never knew I wanted to be until I was there. Feelings changed, my ideals changed. And all I know is they changed when you came along.” I ran my fingers through my hair, panicking.
“I know what I said in there with them, but you have to know why I said it.”
“Because it was just a deal right?” He added, bitterly.
“Did you not hear a word I just said. Jesus Eric that’s not it at ALL. I just… Claudine was going for the jugular, and I wasn’t going to give her the fucking satisfaction of -”
“Winning! Because that’s what this has always been about hasn’t it Sookie, you and her, and you beating her in life because almost ten fucking years ago she participated in breaking your heart!!” He yelled.
“No! It’s because I fucking love you and I wanted you to know it before she did, okay!?” I yelled back and realized I had said it, said what I’d been thinking, and not in the most romantic of ways.
It stunned him into silence.
“I didn’t want to be the first one to say it, I didn’t want to say it this soon because right now I remind myself of one of those stage five clinging messes that I’ve heard so much about and I really don’t want to be THAT girl, but there it is. It’s how I feel and it’s why -”
With that he put his hand over my mouth, stopping my rant in its tracks.
“You… love me?”
I thought about backtracking, but really what was the point? I had thrown away the water wings and dived right into the deep end, why not try and swim?
I nodded, his hand still covering my mouth.
“And… is this a recent development?” He raised a brow, gauging the situation from within I realized.
I nodded again, shrugging and nodding twice. It was, extremely recent.
“And you didn’t sign the contracts for Adele? What the hell?”
I took his hand off my mouth and we just stood there, inches from each other.
“It’s not what I want anymore. I think I shocked the hell out of her when I refused to sign it, but there it is.”
He still looked stunned.
“What is she going to do now? Jason doesn’t want it either by all he’s said. Claudine?”
I shook my head, “No she’s not qualified, she’d run it into the ground in a month. Even Gran knows that. I gave her my three month notice, and I nominated Pam as my successor. It gives me time to tie up loose ends, gives everyone notice to what’s happening and more importantly gives Pam enough time to freak out and come around again.”
He looked like he was taking everything in, as overwhelming as it was for him, it felt tenfold for me.
“You don’t have to say it back.” Back to my bigger reveal in the conversation, I was still cringing. “No, really, in fact don’t say it. Don’t say anything. Can we keep this for way later on, long ways down the line, when we know each other better and we’re more secure and I’m not an overly emotional wreck and I didn’t just blurt out my feelings in an argument and totally ruin what was meant to be a special moment?”
He just smiled.
“Maybe I want to say it back.” His fingers ghosted against my arms, before his arms snaked around my back and he pulled me to his body.
“Don’t.” I pleaded.
“Why?” He chuckled.
“Because if you say it now, everything changes again and I’m just finding my feet after the last emotional upheaval…”
“My Dad always said if you loved someone you should tell them right away, don’t hold it in because you might never get another shot at saying it again if you wait… and I feel it, Sookie, whatever this is between us, it feels like love here.”
“But it’s so stage fiv-”
“You’re not a stage five clinger, I promise. You’re overworked and under insane pressure and stress, and you have a family the majority of which are bat-shit crazy. You’re dating but not really dating but really dating your assistant who has a kid under six that he’s solely responsible for… it’s not easy shit going on here. And you love me, Boss. That‘s a huge thing.”
“It is pretty huge… and you know what’s even weirder?”
“What’s that?” He kissed my temple, bringing me even closer for the cuddle.
“We’ve never actually been on an official date. Ever. We have a lot of lunches, and meals with Emily, and at work, but we’ve never done the cliché date-date.”
“Oh, right. Where we both get dressed up in clothes we’d never usually wear, and pretend to be the best version of ourselves for a few hours while we order wine we don’t understand and you pick at your food in case you think I give a shit about how much you eat, and you judge my shoes.”
With that I burst out laughing, I felt the stress almost fall from my shoulders.
“Well, when you put it like that… Eww.”
“I’d like to date you… Dress up in clothes that I know you like, and shoes I know you’d approve of, order food I know you’d love, with some beers and a frozen margarita, get you drunk and get us lucky.”
He just smirked.
“Sookie, I love you.”
I inhaled sharply before I poked him with my forefinger
“I told you not to -”
“I don’t care if we look like stage ten clingers here. It’s out there in the universe and the chips will fall where they may.”
“I think you mixed up metap-”
“You know what I mean…” he swayed me from side to side, still in mid-cuddle.
“I take it this means you’re not leaving in over-dramatic fashion then?” I teased and he just bit his lip, blushing.
“I was trying to make a point.”
“That I can’t dismiss you like you’re my assistant even though you’re my assistant because of the whole loving you thing? That point?” I teased again, making us both smile.
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Hmm?” He asked cutely tucking some hair behind my ears.
“Take me to bed?”
And with that I was unceremoniously picked up, giggling like I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. He then me carried to our bed where we took advantage of the three little words that we were so scared of, but that meant so much in my level of trust in him, and he in me. The question of ’What now’ hung in the air between us, and in my life in general, but I felt like for the first time since I was twenty years old, I had a real choice. I had time. And I had people in my life willing to stick around while I figured it out.
That was one the best feelings ever.
It felt like possibility.