After Amelia explained things to us—both of us—and since I was pretty sure Eric didn’t know about her sleepover plans, I was left with nothing but time. Being alone with Eric away from the stress of the convent, the worry of being caught if we looked at each other a little too long, or if we touched each other in the wrong way and were seen, was gone. We were safe and sound inside Amelia’s very cozy apartment. Of course, I knew what Eric was going to ask me. He’d wanted us to leave since before he and I got together, and now that we were together, it was something he was set on even more than before. I knew his heart wasn’t in his calling anymore; it just wasn’t what he loved.
While I felt somewhat responsible for that, I knew that he was a grown man now and was capable of making life changing decisions all on his own. Just as I was a grown woman, no matter how much I still felt like that scared little girl, I wasn’t her anymore and Eric helped me see that. So I made a decision; one that was perhaps there all along. I knew I loved Eric more than anything and I also knew I didn’t want to lose him. My fear of us falling apart in the real world was very much there in the back of my mind, but I knew that by simply doing nothing and staying, I’d lose him anyway. At least this way I was more than willing to give us a real chance. A chance at a life. One that would involve our own place where we could just be a normal couple, doing normal things and living a normal happy life.
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. And it wasn’t the only thing I’d wanted where Eric was concerned.
He never pushed for sex, even though we were alone and safe in the knowledge that there would be no one walking in on us or listening, if we did. We just hung out and it was all very innocent and relaxing. But it wasn’t all I wanted. I wanted him; I wanted he and I together. Despite my concerns over the pain again, as I led him back to the little bedroom I knew that whatever we did, I wouldn’t care about whatever pain came. It would pass, and for a little while I’d have that amazing feeling of being connected to Eric again. It was unlike any feeling I’d ever remembered. Knowing that he was a part of me, even for a short time, knowing we were both feeling the same things—fear, elation, pleasure, love. It all made it so much better.
I thought then to Selah and how I could so easily have been in her place. How my first time with a man inside me wouldn’t have been filled with careful love and patience and sweetness, but evil and pain. The beatings, I was used to. They were, for any kid in that place, a sad part of life—one that would happen daily depending on how much you managed to piss off the nun in charge. I didn’t want that fear anymore. I had an out and I was going to take it. My soul may have been on the road to damnation but all I’d really done was fall in love with my best friend. Somehow, I hoped that God might forgive me for that. If he didn’t, my soul would deal with it when the time came, but for now I hoped against hope that hell wasn’t in my forever.
We’d made love twice before we both fell into bed—a mass of limbs and heavy breathing. I swore more than once that my heart was going to beat itself right out of my chest it was hammering so hard. My legs felt like jelly and I was sure we both smelled rather questionable. But I resumed my new favorite place in all the world—the nook that allowed me to rest on Eric’s chest. We laid and talked about what our new life would be like; what we’d make it; how we’d always wanted it.
“You’ll love New York. You really will. I mean, it’s a little intimidating at first but you’ll soon find it’s like nowhere else on earth.”
“I’ve never been ‘nowhere else on earth,’ so I wouldn’t know,” I admitted bashfully.
“We can fix that too, Sookie. Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know… Paris? Italy, Sweden maybe? I’d like to see where you were born.”
He grinned wide. Even in the dark I could tell.
“I’d love to show it to you, in winter with all the snow too!”
“I’m a Louisiana girl. I freak at the sight of an inch of snow… Could I deal with a winter wonderland?”
“I’m sure you’d make it melt at the sight of you. I know I do.”
“Yes, that’s also true, but I’m happy, so sue me.”
“I like you happy. And you didn’t even have any coffee.”
“There’s coffee?” he piped up.
“Down boy, it’s sleep time. I like sleep. Sleep is good.”
“Sleep with you is good. You always smell so good. And I like that this means you’re not running off leaving me and the bed all cold.” He spooned me closer, pulling the giant comforter over us again.
“I doubt I’m smelling so good after what we just spent the night doing … but okay.”
“Nonsense, my lady.”
I burst out laughing.
“My Lady? I’m sorry is this 1894?”
“What was 1894?”
“I don’t know… a really long time ago?”
“My love, my lover,” he tried out, in a teasing tone.
“Eric, you’re a goof.”
He really was a goofball underneath it all.
“You’re a child.”
“No, I’m you’re lover.”
“Sookie! Admit it, I’m your lover. Aren’t I?”
“If I say yes, will you shush?”
“Then, yes you’re my lover. Happy?”
“I think as my lover, you kind of need to show me that you’re my lover.”
“But I’m so tired,” I whined. “You wore me out. That has to count for something?”
“Fine. But expect to be woken up in a rather pleasurable manner tomorrow,” he huffed. Though not really huffing, since he was planning to have sex with me again as soon as either of us woke up.
Of course his threat was empty. Eric seemed to have trouble getting to sleep—his gallon of coffee per day habit I’m sure having nothing to do with it. But once he was asleep, he slept like the dead it seemed. Instead of allowing him to wake me up, I woke him up.
“God, Sookie. I’m not dreaming, am I?” he asked with a deep croak to his voice. Once I’d finally gotten his attention, his hand instantly went to my hair as I sucked him into my mouth again.
“Mmnnmm…” I hummed, realizing it made him thrust towards me involuntarily. That was interesting.
I ran my hands up and down his torso as he did his best to keep his almost girlie whimpers to himself. It was most amusing. Here he was this big guy and he was reduced to a squeak by me and my mouth. It was incredibly empowering.
His breathing started to become more and more shallow as he grappled for control, and just in time too, my jaw was starting to ache. I used my hands like I’d done that one time in the kitchen, and before long I had him begging for release.
He came with a moan I’d never heard before, and right after I told him I wanted breakfast. Of course, I was what he wanted more than food. And it was a good hour later before either of us allowed the other up for air, never mind food.
“Do you think we could persuade Amelia to let us live here? I rather like it here,” he said with a lopsided grin as we stripped the sheets off her poor abused bed. After a much needed breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes, with lots of coffee for the addict in the corner, we decided that we’d better clean up. For just two people, we’d made an awful mess.
“I don’t think she loves us enough to give us her home, but you could try. She seems to love you.”
“She loves you more. I swear before you got here yesterday she was waxing on and on about how much of an awesome ‘spirit’ you had and how I’d better be a nurturer and not someone who was going to—and I quote—smother your need to breathe. I mean, you don’t breathe, you die and I’m pretty sure I don’t want that happening.”
“She’s a Wiccan. I’m not sure she meant literal breathing or just my … spirit.”
“I love this bed; this bed was very good to us,” he said. I really had to look into what exactly it was that made coffee turn him into a observant six-year-old at times.
“It really has,” I agreed with a smiled, throwing the load of washing in her hamper.
“I can’t believe you baked her cookies.”
“What? It’s a thank you. She did an awesome thing this weekend, Eric. She pulled our heads from our asses. That’s no easy feat.”
“Very true. Can I have one?”
“One. The rest are for her.”
He smiled at me before he flew from the room, returning with a hot cookie and a peck on the cheek for me.
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.” I kissed him again, quickly before straightening up the living room and putting away the dishes that Eric had so kindly offered to wash for me.
“ARE YOU TWO NAKED, BECAUSE IF YOU ARE I CAN COME BACK…” I heard from the other side of her front door.
“We’re not naked. Come in.”
She did but with a small smile.
“Darn, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Eric in his Birthday suit.” She giggled. ” Are you very mad at me, Sookie?”
I didn’t say anything, instead I hugged her.
“I love you, you’re like my best friend. And this was just what we needed. So, thank you.”
She cried. As far as I knew Ames never cried. But here and now, she did.
“Oh thank GOD! I was sure you’d want my head on a plate. Though I’m guessing Eric and his ahem, persuasion skills worked rather nicely.”
“Did I hear my name?” We both broke from our third hug to find him standing rather sheepishly with his hands in his pockets leaning against the door frame.
“Well, Viking I guess us lying to her and tricking her into coming here was a good thing. She’s happy!”
She went in for a high-five with Eric and I just laughed.
“So, what happens now?” she asked. Ah, the million dollar question.
“We go back, we … resign, I guess and then we leave. I don’t really know. I’ve never left the priesthood before.” He shrugged coming to my side, but sounding as calm as I’d ever heard him. Like we were just going grocery shopping.
“I guess that’s what we do then. We just go there, tell them and leave, right?”
“It’ll be easier for you, Sookie. You haven’t taken your final vow yet. I, on the other hand, might have it a bit harder.”
“But they’ll let us leave, right?” I asked. Somehow it just seemed easy, maybe too easy.
“I don’t see why they’d keep us there, if we didn’t want to be there, right?”
“And you don’t, right? I mean, you’re still sure.”
“I am if you are?” I smiled.
“Then that’s it then. It’s done. We’re done with them. We’re leaving.”
We were leaving, which didn’t explain how almost a month later, I was still there and Eric was nowhere to be found.
“Okay, so we go in together, tell them both and just … no matter what they say, we leave. Right, Sookie?” I asked her again as we got out of the cab at the front of the church. She was looking up at the tall intimidating building with a tear in her eye.
“I remember when I first came here and that building seemed so big and scary. I hated it then, and that was before I even knew the pain that would happen inside of it.”
“I know, sweetheart. It’s why we have to do this.”
“I want to go in alone. I want to talk to her alone. I’m not that scared little girl anymore, Eric. I’m not. I’m strong and I can do this. And I think you should go talk to Niall about this too—alone.”
“If you’re sure. I have no problems telling him with you there, Sookie.”
I squeezed her hand again for reassurance as we made our way through the back entrance to the convent.
“No, it’s fine. I can do this. Go, talk to Niall. I’ll come get you if I need to. And if I don’t, if she or they just kick us out, then I’ll meet you at Amelia’s?”
“Good, that’s a good plan.”
We walked into the hallway—on one end was Geraldine’s office, and way down and to the left was Niall’s office where I was headed.
I squeezed her hand once more and kissed her again. “Let’s do this.”
The walk down the hallway was one of the longest of my life. And while I knew Niall was feeling better, this would probably come as a stressful shock. I hated the idea of upsetting him any more than I had to.
He was seated behind his desk, his oxygen tank sitting neatly in the corner. He was a stubborn old fool who insisted he didn’t need it when he probably did.
“Eric, back so soon? The young lady on the phone made it sound like an all weekend long affair.”
He had no idea how right the word affair was in this situation.
“Niall, can we talk?”
“Everything… nothing… I don’t know. I don’t know how to even say this in a way that won’t make me sound like an asshole, so I’m just going to say it.”
His knitted eyebrows and concerned look told me I had his full attention. His gaze made me feel uncomfortable sitting across from him, so I stood up.
“You just got here?”
“No, I’m leaving. I’m leaving the priesthood, Niall.”
“May I ask why?”
“I… because I’m in love with Sookie.”
“Oh, Eric. You’ve thought you’ve loved her for years boy, and that’s fine. It’s fine to love someone and still answer your calling. This nonsense about leaving is just—”
“Niall, I’m in love with her and I’m going to marry her.”
“Eric stop talking like this okay, you… it’s impossible.”
“No, it’s not, it’s not! You’re not getting it.”
“Then explain it to me!”
“I love her, and she loves me back. God, Niall we’ve been together for months…”
With that he stood up. “What?”
“We’ve …” God did I tell him everything? The whole truth? I guess at this point I had nothing left to lose. “We’ve been seeing each other, for months. This isn’t some stupid crush, Niall. She’s it for me and I’m it for her and we’re leaving and we’re going to be together.”
“I’m assuming you and she have … oh good Lord. Have you slept with the girl, Eric?”
He closed his eyes quickly, then he rubbed his face with both his hands before letting out one very exasperated sigh.
“You’re a stupid boy, you know that? So stupid! She’s a nun, Eric! You took vows; you’re a priest and that means employing some damn self-control. I knew bringing you back here was a mistake, I just knew it. I mean, I had an inkling that you and she were tipping the line a little more than you should because I knew you loved her, but honestly, Eric… I can’t believe you’d be so stupid as to do this!”
“But we’re leaving, so what does it matter? What’s done is done and we’re out of here. She’s talking to Geraldine as we speak.”
He sighed and sat down. There was a distinct tear in his eye.
“Niall… I’m sorry you’re hurt by this, but it’s for the best.”
“You’re sure of that, are you? You’re both acting like foolish children here. I still can’t wrap my head around this. You’ve lied to me for months.”
“What was I meant to do? Come to you with my feelings for her? Feelings I didn’t even fully understand at first?”
“You weren’t meant to act on them! I knew you felt something for the girl but never did I imagine you … OR SHE for that matter, would be so foolish as to act on them. And inside these walls, as well. There is so much wrong with this that I don’t even know where to begin.”
“You can begin by getting off your high horse.”
“You heard me. There is a hell of a lot worse going on in this place; shit you don’t even know about!”
“Oh, like one of my priests shacking up with a nun?”
“We’re not shacking up!”
“No. You’re just sleeping with her. Dammit, Eric!”
“At least I’m not the one raping her.”
“Bill. Sookie said she and Bill almost came to a rather sick confrontation a few months ago, when I first got back. In fact, one you stopped from happening that day in his office.”
His face went pale, paler than I’ve remembered it.
“No, that’s not possible. He—”
“It is, and he has. Sookie walked in on him and Selah and believe me when I tell you what he was doing was not at all approved by Selah. Not by a long shot.”
Niall looked shell-shocked. “Well, something must be done. I’ll have to inform the Bishop about this, it’s simply unacceptable. Not here, not in my church. As for you. Eric, you broke the rules just as Bill has.”
“But I’d never hurt Sookie.”
“I know that, and I don’t mean to compare you both. I’m sure Sookie feels a great deal for you, but as it stands, rules are there for a reason. Once you break them, that’s it, you’re out.”
“I want to leave. I want to sign whatever it is I have to sign and get Sookie and go.”
“It’s not that easy I’m afraid, boy. There are channels she must go through—you too—forms must be drawn up and signed; you’ll have to meet with the Bishop… I’ll be the one having to explain how this went on under my nose and I didn’t even know about it.” He dropped his head into his hands again.
“What can I do to spare you this, shame?” I asked. The idea of him being mad or disappointed in me broke my heart more than I care to admit. He was like a father to me and it was always his approval I would seek.
“You can leave, now. And don’t come back.”
“I won’t leave without her. I can’t.”
“From the sounds of things Eric, Sookie is a big girl, more than capable of making her own decisions. You want to spare me some dignity as well as yourself, then you go. You get your things and you leave now. Let me handle things my way, for goodness sakes.”
I needed to talk to Sookie. I needed to know that she was alright.
“Not until I talk to Sookie.”
“I’m afraid I can’t allow that, Eric. You have to go now or I’ll be forced to call the Bishop and you’ll be made to stay in this office and face the punishment publicly.”
“I don’t care what I face, I just don’t want your name dragged through the mud for something you had nothing to do with.”
“Then leave, son. Now!”
The finality of his words hit me—hard. This was it, this was over now. My emotions from all of it—the highs and lows with Sookie, to everything in between—hit me at once. My voice betrayed me and broke when I spoke.
“Will I ever see you again, after this, I mean?”
“I … don’t think so, Eric.”
“Why? Because of what people might think? You never gave a shit about what people thought before!”
“And look at where it’s gotten me—my boy, my prodigy, messing around with one of the nuns.”
“It wasn’t messing around. We’re serious about this. Do you… do you think I’d come to you like this if we were just ‘messing around?’ Why can’t you see that what we feel is real?”
“I will, in time. I’m just shocked, Eric. You have to know this was the last thing I expected from either of you. I knew there was love there, but I thought you’d be both smart enough to keep it platonic.”
“I’m sorry if our actions hurt you, that was never our intention.”
“I know that. I know that deep down you’re good kids… I just need some time and I need to deal with this as swiftly as possible, which means you really need to go. Do you have some—”
“I’ll be fine,” I said, doing my best to hold it together. I was hoping that though I knew I’d not get to see Sookie before I left, we’d meet up at Amelia’s as planned.
Had I known then what I know now, I’d never have left that damn convent without her safely by my side.