Chapter 31: Chapter 31
Throbbing, that’s how it felt, like a group of tiny ants burrowed in my brain and started a rock band, that’s also how it felt. I was so hung-over and I hadn’t even opened my eyes. I was also naked, and on the floor, leading to utter confusion.
That’s when it started to come back to me, last night, the insane amounts of alcohol, and the almost sex. Oh right, and the confessions of love from both of us, that made me smile, but smiling hurt my head.
“Morning sunshine.” I heard from above me, and I looked up to see a fully dressed Eric standing with a smile on his face and a mug of coffee in his hand, “please tell me that’s for me.”
“It is, as are the painkillers to your left.”
“You’re amazing.” I said as I rolled myself in the sheet and got up to sit on the tiny couch and swallowed both pills with a mouthful of perfectly made coffee, if I didn’t’ love him before, I did right then.
“Did we -”
“Nope.” He answered picking up his own coffee then and taking a sip, oh right there was no sexing because I was a lush and feel asleep…
“Oh, good it’s not a thing I’d like to forget… Ouch.” I felt my head, mostly to see if it was still attached, it felt like it wasn’t ,”wine is evil,” I said as he sat down next to me, even the sound of him sitting hurt my head. “I’m sorry about last night, I really shouldn’t drink… at least not wine, and at least not like a vineyard full… you Swedes…” I smiled and he just cuddled me to his side, setting his mug down on the coffee table.
“Don’t worry about it, we have plenty of time… for that.” his husky tone shot right through me and I really cursed myself for letting the drink get the better of me.
“Can we book a hotel? Please?”
He smiled, “I’ll do it after breakfast, I’m bound to find us somewhere nice.”
“Doesn’t have to be nice, just has to be… not a floor.” my neck hurt and my ass hurt and none of them from activities that I’d been planning on last night.
“I think I can arrange that.” He all but purred, he was far too chipper for this time of day post that amount of alcohol.
“I’m never drinking again.”
“Sure you will, also, the folks are still in bed so I was hoping to whisk you away for a nice breakfast at this great pancake place that’s been here since I was a kid, they do other foods too, but their pancakes are…” he groaned and I wanted to jump him, hangover be damned.
“Sounds just the ticket, let me shower first though, I smell like a homeless wino.”
“Well you did pass out drunk on the floor…”
“Shush you.” I slapped his knee in passing to take my much needed hot shower.
Less than an half hour later I was feeling refreshed enough to walk with Eric to the little café not far from his father’s place, not missing the happiness that soared through me when he tentatively grasped at my hand, to hold it as we walked. I hadn’t done something so innocent as hand holding in a long while.
“So, I hate to bring it up, but once we get back to LA…” He began and instantly made me tense.
“Noo.” I whined, “let’s just run away and never go back, they won’t miss us.” I said shovelling my food like I hadn’t eaten in days, and really it had butter and carbs, things I wasn’t really ‘allowed’, but I indulged and then some. Sookie Size Four was coming back and they could kiss my actual ass when it came back too, for all I cared.
“You know, if that were possible I think I’d do it, if it was just you and me.” He smiled, and it made me tingle, “But, it doesn’t work like that, sadly.”
“I know. I think we need rules… for them.” and by them, I meant our ‘people’.
“I agree, this… is our thing, not theirs, not the studios and not anyone else that might think they have a right to an opinion on us. I think if we let them in, then it just…”
“Causes more problems. I agree too. So, we’re not one of those couples then?” I grinned causing him to laugh out loud.
“No, we’re not. Does that mean, no red carpets together, no photo ops, no planned paparazzi shots?”
It stung a little that he’d even ask the last question of me, though, taking into account his history, I can’t really fault him for it.
“Well, we have to do press together for Fallen, that’s a given, but everything else? I think we should approach it like we always have, we’re not a tabloid couple, we’re just two people who… happen to love each other and happen to work together.”
His smile got bigger, “That’s how I see it too, I’m glad you agree.”
“I’ve never liked whoring out my personal life, Eric. This is no different, if anything it makes me want to protect it even more.”
He nodded, I was glad we were both on the same page about this.
“Speaking of, I do remember once that this woman I met, who I had a crush on – right from the start might I add. Well, she swore up and down, she didn’t ‘do’ actors. It turns out that girl just didn’t ‘do’ the right ones.” He said, a smug look across his adorable face, three days worth of scruff now fast forming into a beard.
“Hmmm, how silly of her.”
“I know, that’s what I said, but really I wonder what makes that guy so different that she’d not only bend her rules for him, but break them completely by falling in love with him… It’s funny.”
“That woman also recalls that actor telling her that there was an exception to every rule… maybe she just listened to him.”
“That would be a first…”
I kicked him under the table, playfully of course. Making him laugh, “I’m sorry, you’re right, I mean really I don’t know if it’s that, or he’s just this amazing guy that she just can’t get enough of, I think that might be it.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, actor.” I winked.
An hour later we were enjoying the midday sun on our walk back to the house and we stopped just at the front door.
“Do … we tell them?” He asked, “I think we should, put them out of their misery, you know?”
“I think so too, I mean it would only be right.” I said, kissing him but pulling back before we fell into the making out zone that we’d been so fond of lately. We didn’t say anything as we walked into the house, but we didn’t let go of holding hands either, they were all having brunch when we walked into the kitchen, all sets of eyes instantly on us.
I noticed my father smile and nod, then Maria smiled then his dad, and then Sara. My dad was the one to speak up, “Well, it’s about time you two.”
They all spoke up in agreement. I just sighed and Eric laughed, it really was ridiculous how invested they were in this whole thing.
“This is so silly, and for the record yes, Eric and I are … involved, and as such we’d like it very much if you’d all stop matchmaking now.”
“Well you needed it.” His dad said munching on his toast. “Oh, Eric before I forget I need to ask you a favour.”
“Can you drive up to the old farm house for me, and check that I left the keys for the manager in the barn? I’m not sure if I did, and the thing is he doesn’t have access to the house on Tuesday, so he’ll not be able to open up if I left them inside.”
I looked to Eric and he seemed to be sizing his father up, if they were still up to something, wasn’t it a little pointless now?
“Um, yeah, no that’s fine…” He looked at me and then his father continued.
“Of course, take Sookie too, the drive is nice this time of year, and it will … give you both some time alone…” Yep, still trolling. You had to love it really.
I just pretended that it didn’t phase me, and agreed to go, knowing that I’d enjoy seeing more of the area. As well as getting to see where Eric had actually spent time as a kid since it was their old house, it would be fun.
I ran into my dad coming out of the bathroom, he looked pale again and this time I made sure to walk with him into the dining room, where no one was around.
“I feel like I haven’t talked to you alone all weekend, are you feeling okay? You don’t look so good, daddy.” I said sitting with him since Eric had gone to get gas in the car and pick up snacks for the car ride.
“Daughter, I’m fine, it’s just the hangover on top of a hangover, I’m too old for this nonsense.”
I was too old for this nonsense and I was half his age.
“You sure?” he kissed my forehead and assured me he was.
“You need to start taking better care of yourself dad, I want you around for the long haul, so please promise me?”
I glared, “I will! I promise. Once I get home I’ll start a whole new regime, I’ll even let Maria feed me the healthy crap she insists on buying at the market, how’s that?”
“We do it out of love.”
“I know you do, and I love you both for it.”
I raised my brow while he cuddled me, looking at him then, “You love her? Bold statement Earl Stackhouse. Have you told Maria this?”
“Maria and I have come to… an understanding in our relationship, she knows how I feel and I know how she feels… it’s nice.”
“You know what, you aren’t the only one that can meddle in other people’s love lives you know? How’s it going?”
“It’s going well, we are… dating. Courting, and taking it slow. I enjoy her company very much, much more now that we’ve been open about how we feel.”
“Told you so.”
“Yes, Sookie, I know you told me so.” He sounded so much like a ‘father’ when he said those words, condescending with each syllable.
“Psh, I’m awesome, clearly you should just do everything I say.”
“Ha! Didn’t work when you were six, not going to work now. Don’t you have a boyfriend to go be with instead of wasting time with your old man?”
I nudged him then, “It’s never a waste of time, dad.” I said, kissing his cheek and pulled out of his cuddle, “But you’re right I do have to go, see this farm house for some magical lost keys.”
He laughed, “You know he doesn’t give a shit about the keys…”
“Of course, you’re all not very subtle, you know that. But yes, we’re going to go and get out of your hair. It’ll be nice I’m sure.”
He walked me out and I grabbed my large purse where I had spare underwear, my makeup and hotel soap should we end up over staying, with Eric I just never knew, and I always liked to be prepared. The drive took less time than I expected, my camera loved the scenery though, and the small chit chat that Eric and I managed to make as we listened to the radio on the way there. Pulling into the large property, it was clear why his father was involved in horse breeding, the land was vast and green and just so beautiful, the space for them alone was enough to make anyone want to make good use of it. The house itself was as I imagined it, Eric had told me it was in his family for generations, built by his great, great, grandfather, so it would never be sold, even though they no longer lived there, it was kept well because of the business. It was a large white house, three stories at a glance, small windows on top with two larger on the lower levels, a typical farm house in many respects, but this was Eric’s home. I noticed just how affected he was when we entered. Everything inside looked …dated, if I had to guess, his dad left this place around the time Eric did. There were still pictures of Eric, his mother and father, and baby Eric all over the house. It was like stepping back into his childhood in many ways, a thought that was confirmed when we reached his childhood bedroom. Decorated in his favourite football team’s colours, his little bed still sat and his drawings were on his walls.
“This is weird, right? That he kept everything like this?”
“I don’t… think it’s that weird. I mean, it’s clear your dad missed you all those years… he just didn’t know what to do. And maybe this was his way of… I don’t know… having you close?”
“He and my mother were so mismatched, they argued non-stop. And then when she started me in acting classes, and pushing for parts… it just got worse.” He said as he sat down next to me on his tiny bed. “My dad just wanted… a normal life, and for my mom that was never enough. I always wonder how different it would have been if I’d told her I didn’t want to do it back then.”
“You didn’t?” That shocked me a little bit.
“No, honestly, when I was a kid, I wanted to teach. Weird, right? I mean most people dream of being movie stars or rock stars… which I wasn’t immune to at the time. I just… but I grew to love it when I saw how fun it was at the time.” He shrugged, the idea of Eric just being this guy, this teacher guy, shocked me.
“You know, if you had, we’d never have met. That’s one downside, right?” I nudged him and he smiled.
“That would have been a serious downside… don’t get me wrong, I love my job, now… but it was you that made me question my options way back then…”
“When you quit, you were a proper little movie star at eleven, and you quit! I was stunned at that. But like you said, it’s meant to be fun, and when it’s not fun anymore, what’s the point right?”
“Right.” I nodded, I still believed that to be true. “Come on, show me the rest of the house.” I said, grabbing his hand and hopefully grabbing him back from wherever he was going inside his head.
His parents room was ‘new’ and the guest room was expanded, so he had done some upkeep on the house over the years, despite his unchanged décor. He got excited when he found some of his old army men peeking out of a box. It was too adorable, he really was like a big kid.
“Right, I’d better go check for these keys before it gets too late… You coming?” He asked and I followed him, the barn was huge, beyond huge, and had numerous stalls, a few that were occupied and a few that weren’t. “He loans then out, sells them off, breeds them. It’s lucrative.”
“Kind of like, rent-a-horse?”
“Kind of.” He laughed as I continued to pet a very friendly black stud. Keys were found in their place and Eric just rolled his eyes, as if to say the trip was pointless, but I think it had a lot of points in its favour.
“You know, I could make so many dirty puns right now about taking you for a roll in the hay, but… I won’t.” He said watching me as he leaned against one of the stall doors. “Is that right?” I asked, leaving one stud for my other stud, and standing on my tiptoes to kiss him.
“Hmmm yeah.” he moaned breaking apart and looking at me in a way that I was sure I’d never tired of.
“How about, we skip the hay, and just roll around in that nice big guest bed instead? Hmm?” I asked, suggestively running my finger tips down his arm. Without a second to catch my breath he grabbed my hand and marched us towards the house, I was struggling to keep up laughing at his determination.
“So… so… Eager.” he said as we continued the hurried pace in the door, up the stairs and into the large guest bedroom before I knew what was happening I was spun around and hit the back of the door with a soft thud, his lips on mine in a blink. Lip smacking kisses, bites, and moans that’s the sounds that filled the room for those first few minutes. His fingers began working at a speed I didn’t know he had, to unbutton my sun dress, my hands working nervously to unbutton his shirt, then his jeans. Both of us wanting to touch and feel and kiss more and more of each other in that moment but not knowing what to do first, we wanted to do it all there and then. By the time we broke apart to actually get into a proper bed for the first time in days, it felt odd, not only because the bed was as old as the hills, but because this was just us… not drunk, not using each other for a distraction, not any of those things that had happened in the past, this was just us, wanting to be with each other. We took things slow at first, careful and gentle as seemed to be our way, of course that pace can’t last forever, not when we were both itching to be touched just right and for so long.
“What is it with us and squeaky beds? Seriously?” He asked, burying his face in my neck again, was he talking? I knew there were words but I was a little too distracted to notice or care what he was talking about, as long as his fingers kept doing what they were doing and his lips kept pace he could ask me anything and I’d be none the wiser.
“Mmhmm.” I said… hoping that would be enough. He stopped and looked at me with a raised brow.
“Uh, why’d you stop?”
“What did I just say?”
I pretended to know what he was talking about, in truth I had no clue.
“Erm, something about a …bed?” I admitted sheepishly. I hoped I was right.
He just laughed at me flipping us over again so this time I was on top, “Close enough, Sook, close enough.”
“I can’t help it, I’m easily distracted and the things you were doing were… distracting.” I kissed him again pulling back so that I could straddle him properly, my hands on his chest.
“Is that right?”
“Yes, it is.”
“What else could I do to …distract you.”
That make me grin like a kid on Christmas.
“Oh, I think you can use your imagination.”
Flipping us back over again, the bed squeaked in unholy protest, but I was assured by the look in his eye that the imagination would be unleashed, and then some.
“Are you ready for this?” I asked, her as she stood up smoothing down her shirt and fixing her skirt. I knew this was a ‘business’ meeting of sorts but Sookie had really gone all out too look the part. She had the whole sexy secretary thing going on for her, and it was very distracting – in the best way possible.
“I am, we have our ground rules and we’re sticking to them right? No matter how they try and spin it?”
I nodded, and took her hand as we entered Pam’s board room to find her sitting at the centre of the table, joined by Amy Sookie’s PR, Claudine my manager and Ames, my PR. Sookie, Pam and Amelia exchanged pleasantries, while Amy stayed quite. She was an odd one that Amy.
“So, Sookie, you’re the one that called this meeting, not that I need to hazard a guess why you did, but for those of us still playing catch up, why are we here?” Pam asked her, business tone fully in place as she flicked her stare from both Sookie, to me and back again.
Sookie just looked at me and then to her before she began.
“As I’m sure you all know, Eric and I are… well.. We’re together, as a couple now. And basically we wanted to set a few ground rules with everyone here before we go any further.” I noticed as she said that Amelia’s scowl instantly turned into a smile, though she did her best to repress it once Amy looked her way.
“Is that right?” Claudine asked, “And, what would these ‘rules’ be.”
Sookie seemed to get pissed at her tone, not that I can say I blamed her, I mean they worked for us, right? Not the other way around.
“Simple really. No interfering. We’re a couple but we’re still separate people when it comes to our jobs, no red carpets, no endorsements, not paparazzi set ups, especially no paparazzi set ups.” she repeated, “We’ve been through a lot this past year and I for one want to make things as simple as possible wherever we can.”
“You know that will be next to impossible, right? The interest in the show is epic at this point, and the two of you are the main draw, one photograph of you hugging at a damn airport circulated the Internet in fifteen minutes. You both were on every gossip blog and had thousands of hits, you’re of interest to the public now, both of you. And, the couple aspect is just going to increase the ‘need to know’.”
“Yes,” I interjected, “but they don’t, need to know. Do they? I told you both when I signed on with you.” I looked from Claudine to Amelia, “That I’d been through enough set up shit to last me a life time, we either do this our way our we’ll find new representation.”
We had no intention on firing them, but I needed a threat since they seemed unwilling to play ball. Pam raised one perfectly waxed eyebrow in my direction, “well, well, looks like all you needed was the loss of a skank to find those long lost balls, huh, Northman.”
“Pam…” Sookie went to stop her, but honestly it wasn’t like she was wrong.
“No, she’s right, and I don’t intend on losing them again, so what do you all say? Are we in agreement here?” The ‘teams’ all looked at each other, as if communicating with each other silently.
Pam sighed, “Fine. It’s not like Sook was ever all that on board for using the pap rats for her own good anyway,” she sighed, “but, if they find you, it’s fair game.”
I nodded, that was acceptable, and Hollywood was a small town, they’d find you if they really wanted to and I was sure we could deal with that.
“And interviewers, if they ask, you answer? Yes?” Claudine asked, jotting something down on her iPad. I looked to Sookie who just shrugged and answered, “There’s no point in lying, I mean people aren’t blind, and if you lie to them they feel cheated and fooled, no one likes to feel like that. We aren’t denying anything here, we just want to protect it as best we know how, that’s all. We’ll do any job to the best of our talents and promote the work,” she emphasised, “all you want, beyond that it’s just us two. That good?” She asked the room, her confidence so much higher than he had been when we first walked into the room.
“Fine. I work for you, I’ll agree.” Pam said with a slight smile. The others agreed on her lead, I’d finally let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
“Good, well, I think that’s all we came for, right?” I asked Sookie and she nodded.
“Fine, pointless meeting is over.” Pam sighed as we all began to make out exit, but she called out with a smile, clearly business mode! Pam was the bitch. “Oh, and you two?”
“Yeah?” Sookie turned, facing both her and a now beaming Amelia.
“I’ll bring the dessert for dinner tonight, and Ames will bring the wine.” She winked causing Sookie to just nod as we made our way outside.
“Well, that was easier than I thought.” She said as we pulled out of the underground parking lot, we’d been back home all of two days, and in those two days we’d struggled to leave my place. The first day was perfection, since all we did was order in take out, ignore our luggage sitting in the hallway, and spend the day in bed – blaming the jet lag of course. We’d managed to drag ourselves away from the bed, only to end up doing it in the shower, and then the kitchen, and having to shower again separately because of our activities that morning. In fact we were so easily distracted that the only way we got to the meeting on time was because Sookie eventually snuck back into her place to get dressed. We hadn’t told Hoyt or Jess that we were back yet, wanting to extend our vacation as long as we possibly could. The rest of the week in Stockholm was among the most relaxing of my life. It was just good, in every sense. We’d made it back from the farmhouse, and checked into a hotel that next day, while Sookie was busy stealing her ‘Swedish soap’ for her hotel soaps collection we were able to just spend time with our families, both together and separately until it was time to fly back to LA. Sookie was worried about her dad, she said repeatedly that something just ‘didn’t feel right’ but Earl was as stubborn as ever in insisting that he was fine, despite how unwell he may have looked. They flew back to Paris the day before us as he had a script he was working on for a big production in Morocco in a few months time, he was stepping back into directing and not just writing and producing, he used these things as a sign for Sookie to realize that if we weren’t well he wouldn’t be doing them. Eventually she relented and accepted that he was maybe just under the weather, it didn’t stop her worrying though.
We got takeout for lunch, Sookie was on a mission as it were, to get her ‘size four ass back’, not that I was complaining in any shape or form, but we got three steps into her house before we started making out again, food long forgotten.
“This couch sucks.” I commented as I shifted again and again since I couldn’t get comfortable, even though she’d lost her jacket and her blouse was undone and that pencil skirt was bunched right up her legs.
“Blame your people, it’s from Ikea.” She giggled and latched on to my neck again, which one of us played a vampire again. I decided to stop complaining and just let her do her thing, the party in my pants was enjoying it immensely. That was until we heard the gasp.
“Oh, my God! Sookie I’m so sor – ” Jessica began, then her eyes widened when she saw it was me as we both looked at her, and Hoyt standing in the doorway, “Eric?” she asked, a confused look on her face, then she got over excited. “Oh my GOD YOU GUYS ARE DOING IT? I MEAN, NOT… ‘doing it’.” she whispered, “but you’re… are you?”
She asked and Sookie just nodded causing Jessica to jump up and down in the spot. “Oh this is such good news you guuuuys!”
“Why is she so excited?” I whispered to Sook, who just shrugged, as she did her best to button up her blouse and get off me. Less fun.
“Yep, well, that’s… the news. Just… yeah.” she said to them both, “But listen, guys, it’s really not that big of a deal, I mean we’re just seeing how it goes, and we’re … dating and it’s new.”
“Really? Even though you’ve already done it -”
“Jess, maybe we should go?” Hoyt spoke up, dragging her by the hand out the double doors to the pool, apologising on the way assuring us that they’ll knock next time.
Sookie just groaned falling into the couch beside me, “The world doesn’t want us getting laid, I swear.”
“Well, we are setting a record for most times in a day…”
“Psh, if they’d actually let us! Ugh, I just have so much unpacking and repacking to do, and I have to go over my scripts that I’ve been neglecting, I start shooting in a week, back to London and then to Spain, and you’re off to Canada… it’s just unfair.”
“It is,” I pulled her to me and we simply cuddled while we talked, “but, we can do it, right? It’s a month, tops, and after that we’ve a whole month off before we start shooting Fallen again, and after that, who knows… all I know is that I want it to work…”
“Me too.” she nodded fingering the buttons on my shirt.
“Well, that’s all we need, if we want it to work we just do everything in our power to make it work, and it will. Distance be damned.”
“You’re right, you are. We’ll make it work, and it’ll be awesome.”
And it would be awesome, in so many ways our relationship was the most amazing time of our lives. It was awesome just like she predicted, for so long, only until it wasn’t anymore.
A/N: Hi! Hopefully this will post without any problems, freaking FF and it’s issues! Just a big huge thank you to my twitter girls who have cheerleaded me through this baby, and for all you guys for reviewing and sending me PMs, and alerts, it’s amazing and I know I say it a lot, but thank you! I can’t believe this is almost at 1,000 reviews… that’s so shocking to me honestly lol! So thannnk you and keep up the good work because I luffs it! xox
Chapter 32: Chapter 32
Two and a half years, it seemed to go by in a blink. A very busy, very hectic blink.
After it went public that Eric and I were a couple, as Pam had predicted, the interest in us as a ‘celebrity couple’ tripled. The interest in the show went worldwide and we were picked up for a third and forth season respectively. There was interview after interview, photo shoots together for the show, photo shoots for our other projects apart, and yet more interviews. Eric and I travelled the world together, sometimes with the rest of the cast for fan events, and sometimes alone. Comic Con was always a favourite amongst our cast, and I had to admit, I did love it. I was able to let my inner geek let loose and was in a judging free environment. It was the last time the cast got to be together after filming. Unless of course we were doing other press together, it was unlikely that we all got to work together again, it was mostly solo, or like I said, just Eric and I.
In that almost three year period, I’d played a serial killer, a orphaned girl who became a nun, only to fall in love with her priest best friend, I played an over-worked single mother, a country living heiress in the seventeenth century, and the loving yet clueless girlfriend in one of the highest grossing comedies of the decade. I gained respect from my peers, the adoration of a unknown public, and a little self belief. It was tiring, but it was also the best time I’d remember having in my life. Eric and I managed to make it work like clockwork. When he’d work, I’d stop, and when I’d work, he’d stop. We had it scheduled so well, of course there was a time or two when it couldn’t be helped, but we did our best. In that time period I’d watched Eric go from a little known actor with his cult following to what can only be described as a phenomenon. The summer before my comedy topped the charts for a month, his apocalyptic thriller threw him into the big leagues. While it might have helped us both having well known, very well respected co-stars, it was Eric that came out of it with the buzz. After that, it was almost as if we were ships passing in the night. One project after another, and once more with feeling, it seemed like it was never ending… though it came with its troubles, ultimately it was what we’d both been striving for. The year we got together, the first award show we attended together was the Emmys, where I ended up walking away with a nomination for Never Look Back and an actual award for Best Miniseries/ Movie, and Eric walked away with best lead actor in a miniseries/ movie. After that, the Golden Globes gave us even more shiny statues for that show too, in actress and the actor categories respectively. It was a big shock to both of us, but we took it in our stride as best we could. It seems that that’s really what started it all because before we knew it, the schedules filled up and suddenly the world not only knew who we were as a couple, but they cared about our bodies of work more. For both of us, that was the main struggle. We were not in any sense a ‘Red Carpet Couple’ – in fact, when we weren’t working we kept ourselves to ourselves mostly.
Hoyt and Jessica got married, insane, I know, but they did. We’d taken two weeks in Hawaii, and somewhere between the cocktails and the heat waves, they decided that they were just going to do it. Eric and I served as witnesses on the beach on our final Saturday evening there, it was unexpected, but beautiful. Of course when the pictures leaked online, the rumours began that it was the wedding between Eric and I. Such a nonsense rumour since he and I weren’t anywhere near that sort of talk never mind were just happy being as we were, though, it was that rumour that we’d end up disputing over and over again for the next year as well as baby rumours and of course the cycle of are they or aren’t they broken up… But, like everything else they threw our way, we dealt with it, talked about it, and moved on with our lives as best we knew how, without letting it effect us too much.
Eric’s father, stepmother and sister came to visit us twice a year, and we went to them as often as we could too. It seemed that Sweden served to recharge Eric’s batteries like no other place on earth, it offered him peace and quiet and it was always called for if one or both of us saw him slipping back into that void again. I understood his struggle, becoming a character so fully and completely that the line started to blur on who you really were any more. It was a hazard of the job, and one that I had feared took the sanity of more than one ‘movie star’ over the years without anyone noticing. My father and Maria had been ‘courting’ strongly, never really commenting on the state of their new found relationship, but after his sickly looking self got back from Sweden, my father really did keep his word. He slowed down writing his screenplays and in the small amount of acting jobs he did take, they were few and very far between. Discreetly, he’d put a ring on it during the first Christmas Eric and I spent in France. No talk of a wedding at first, but the very antique looking engagement ring was a step in the right direction for them, of course adding yet more pressure on Eric and I to make our own plans. Why everyone on the planet felt the need to comment on the state of my left ring finger, I’d never fully understand. I didn’t want a ring, I wasn’t sure I wanted a husband. I loved my boyfriend and he loved me, why wasn’t that enough for everyone else if it was enough for me? It was sheer insanity how many column inches were written about the prospect of a wedding between Eric and I. Really, it’s not like children were starving in the world, or millions of people were dying in unnecessary wars, no, it was of more importance to talk about actors, and their love lives. It was insanity.
Speaking of insanity, we hadn’t exactly seen the last of Sandy or Chad at the premiere, no that would have been too easy. Chad had been mysteriously sent back to Paris, where from all sources, he was struggling to find work, whatever my father had pulled on him – I still didn’t want to know. Sandy on the other hand went MIA before she went OTT. She’d disappeared for a few months after the holy show at the première and her showing up made all the rags, then they spent a week at some resort where they just decided to walk around completely naked. Bat shit or drunk, no one could decide. Word was, after that, her people had checked her into rehab for ‘exhaustion’ which anyone with half a brain knew was total bullshit, mainly because… well… how can one get exhausted doing… nothing? The next time I ran into her was at a party for Chanel, hosted by Anna Wintour in New York, just before New York fashion week kicked off. I was there to promote my gig as their latest actress for their perfume line, and Eric was schmoozing since he was the current cover for Men’s Vogue. Exciting yes, or rather it was… It wasn’t pretty to say the least.
“I’m afraid to eat the food in case Lady Wintour sees me and judges me,” I joked and laughed as I said it, into his ear. “I mean these girls…” I looked around at the models shimmying their way across the floor, I could see bones in places where the Couture didn’t cover.
“You aren’t going to freak out about your weight again, are you? Because the last thing we need is for you acting like Sandy…Jesus Christ Sandy.”
I looked at him then, confused, “Jeeze, Eric, I know who she is we don’t have t-”
He turned me around and I saw what he saw. Jesus Christ was right.
What the hell was she doing there?
Just at that moment, Claudine appeared and ushered Eric off to the press section for his interview, leaving me exposed and alone in the tunnel vision of the scary blonde headed my way. I tried my best to make a b-line for some kind of exit, but people were too busy calling each other ‘darling’ and ‘sweetie’ to notice my panic.
“Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in.” She said, louder than really necessary. And really, cat, dragged, me? Had she looked in the mirror lately?
“Sandy…” I said at a more respectable level.
“Chubbie, oh, I’m sorry, Sookie… That’s a ridiculous name by the way.” she said to me, looking me up and down. I fought the urge to roll my eyes at her crazy, I knew I wasn’t fat, not by a long shot. Maybe by model standards, but thankfully I wasn’t trying to pretend I was anything other than what I was – and that had taken time to understand. I’d cried for a full day when some fashion guru in People had called me Chubbie Stackhouse, when I’d gone back to my original size four instead of the impossible to maintain size zero.
“And you look strung out, nothing new there then.” I sighed, “what do you want?”
“Where’s your boyfriend?” she asked, the venom in her voice bordering on ridiculous. Her hair was thinning out, as was the rest of her – and for her that wasn’t such a good look, she made some of the models look plus size.
“He’s busy, if you want to talk to him yourself you can just wait until he’s done.”
She grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter, and rolled her eyes at me stamping her foot at the same time. People passed us and odd looks were given.
“If you’ll excuse me,” I said, not really wanting to be in her company any longer, that’s when she did it. Accidentally pushing herself into me, only I moved in the wrong direction that she must have been expecting and her glass of alcohol ended up spilling on the person behind me. No big deal, well a slightly iceberg sized deal when that woman just happened to be the most powerful name in fashion, Ms. Wintour herself. Her face resembled said iceberg as Sandy gasped and gaped in her direction, I simply wiped off the splattered wetness that had hit my dress, the majority of it however was over Anna’s fur.
Not the best move Sandy ever made. I turned to her and inhaled a shocked sounding breath.
“Some people just don’t know how to hold their drink.” The look of disgust directed towards my former conversational partner from the Vogue posse, was quite possibly the funniest thing I’d seen in a while, not that I stuck around long enough to notice. I left the area while Sandy was mid-grovel and about to cry. I wouldn’t know until the next day that one of the blogs caught the whole thing on video and it had gone viral. I wasn’t certain, but I was almost sure there would be no Vogue covers in her future, or really many covers of anything else if Ms. W had her way, and she always had her way. Sandy fell off the radar shortly after that, last Pam heard she was shooting lifetime movies in Mexico.
Karma really is a bitch.
After that, things mostly kept on chugging as they always had. Eric and I spent nights in his place, then nights in my place, then a hotel if we had meetings or even on set in our trailers if we had a particularly heavy shooting schedule, which was often. So how did he and I go from being so in sync that it was almost sickening, to practical strangers?
Grief does horrible things to a person.
It was to be our third, and albeit, final Christmas together – Eric and I. We’d done Sweden the year before, so it was our turn to spend it with my dad, Maria and Ames, with Sweden on the cards for New Year’s, our year about timetable working well for us. We’d been there all of three days, making it to Boxing Day when my father sat me down at the kitchen table and told me.
“Cancer?” I said, the lump forming in the back of my throat, “But that’s not… no.. I don’t understand, what do you mean ‘It’s come back?’ ” I asked and he simply sipped his tea.
“You remember when, Sweden, when you and Eric first got together?”
“Then, well, just before, they’d discovered the cells. A short stint of pretty aggressive chemo and I was as good as new, and they thought they’d got it covered, but it turns out that this kind is a whole different kind.”
“And what kind is it?” I ignored the tears, and the fact that my father had kept a pretty large secret from me. I wondered if Maria had known all this time too. I’d feel betrayed later, but right then I was just concerned for my fathers health.
I felt the air suck from my chest as he said it. Calm as a lake in spring, he just, said it. As if he was asking me what time it was. Time stopped, life stopped, it all stopped that second when his life and mine flashed before me in a haze. Mortality, It wasn’t a big deal until it slapped you across the face.
“Tell me everything and I mean, everything, this time, dad,” I demanded.
Hurt, angry, afraid, lost. All of those things and none of those things, I felt the numbness set in as he told me his prognosis.
Words that meant very little to me, CLL, lymph nodes, cells, it all unravelled my seemingly perfect world, right there on the spot. With the deterioration of my father’s health, so too went my relationship with Eric.
“I’m not leaving you!” He yelled at me, in my bedroom of my childhood home, while my father lay sick in the other room. I’d been there for three weeks past our date to return to the US. I’d reneged on two projects that I knew were up and coming, and cancelled three new ones that I knew Pam was waiting for me to sign on for. No one knew why, and I wanted to keep it that way. I was taking care of my family, and Eric, well, he had his jobs to do and who was I to stop him?
“Yes, you are. Don’t be a dick about this, Eric. You’re going to New York and you’re starting the damn movie. It’s Scorsese, Eric. You pass this up, you’re a fool,” I said, stepping out of our bed, naked as I was, the small post-coital conversation had turned into a fully fledged bickering session.
It had Oscar material written all over it, it was his shot. If he did a good job, which I knew he would, he’d jump from heartthrob movie star to respected actor. And I knew, more than anything, more than the money, more than the fame, that’s what Eric had always wanted and I wasn’t about to be part of the reason why he fucked that away.
“It’s eight weeks, at best. And it’s your shot,” I said, softening my tone. I did always get further with Eric when I let him think he was calling the shots. “I want you to go. And, make me proud while you’re at it,” I said kissing him once.
“How can I do that, how can I leave you when you need me more than ever right now.” He was right, I did need him, but as ever I never really wanted him to know just how much I needed him, for the fear of being seen as weak, it was still there.
“Eight weeks. Two months. Sixty something days. I’ll be fine. I have Maria here, we have the nurse calling twice a week, Eric, we’ll be fine.”
“I love you, I just don’t feel right… leaving you,” he said, hugging me, resting his head on my chest as he sat on the edge of the bed, and I stood over him.
“You wouldn’t be you if you did this without feeling guilty. But, it’s the last thing I want. I want you to go there and prove to yourself that you earned this shot, and they’ll all see it. They’ll see in you what I’ve seen for years,” I promised him, and I really meant it. I was however tired, so tired of being tired, and It had only been two weeks of treatment thus far, and my father had exhausted me.
My father was nothing if not a fiercely proud man, and the idea that he was being ‘reduced’ to less than himself, really bothered him, it would be his pride that ultimately put the nail in the coffin as far as managing my stress was concerned. Chemo was a bitch for all concerned.
Eric and I parted ways that week with a promise of dealing with the distance as we had always done. Calls, texts, Skype, and he’d be back as soon as he could since this time it meant I couldn’t visit him. I thought that day that eight weeks would be a flash in the pan, it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Vomiting, tiredness, depression, resignation, chemo, lather, rinse, repeat. Add in the joyfulness that was radiation therapy too, and it was a free for all in the Debbie Downer stakes. We were all coping as well as we could, all of us taking care of my father in shifts, not that it mattered since a decent night’s sleep was not going to happen for any of us once we heard him being sick, and that happened, often. Every time Eric would call, I’d fake my well being, he had a job to do and I didn’t want him distracted, though his constant calls and texts assured me of this anyway. But, I was dealing with it all the best way I knew how. I held it in, and cried when no one was looking.
“I miss you,” he said, low and soft over the phone. I knew he’d just woken up, his voice horse and deeper than usual. I loved that voice.
“I miss you too, believe me.” It had been five weeks, and I’d let myself go considerably in that time. I was a sweaty mess, my hair needed to be trimmed, my eyebrows needed fixing, the luggage underneath my eyes needed zapped. I felt dirty and gross all the time no matter how much I showered I was back to square one again by lunchtime. But none of that shit mattered because I had picked my father up off the bathroom floor for the third night in a row the night before. That was my life, his pride, and really, our pride ended the sessions with his care nurse stupidly, leaving Maria and I doing the work since Amelia had a nine to five with Eric in New York. I was glad Eric couldn’t have seen me in that moment, for I don’t think he’d have liked what he saw, in either my appearance or my eyes. I was worn out.
“You’re keeping something from me,” he said as I skipped how I was feeling to talk about his movie. I just wanted outside my life for a second, but he was intent on dragging it up.
“Sook, I know it’s not, I know that tone. Have you slept at all?”
“Bits and pieces here and there, I’m coping though.”
“Are you eating?”
“Yes. Mom,” I said.
“I just worry about you, that’s all, love,” he said. I loved when I was his love, it made me smile.
What didn’t make me smile was his news.
“Four more weeks?” Sure it was only two more extra, but it had felt he was a world away and had been there for a thousand years already.
“I know, believe me, I’m pissed. But I can’t exactly throw a fit now can I? And since no one knows that Earl is sick -” his wishes, it was private and he was going to beat it, in his eyes there was no use in ‘causing a fuss’. “I can’t tell them exactly why I’m so desperate to get back. I fucking miss you so much.” He sighed, “I want to be there I want to help you.”
“Don’t. Okay? I know what you’re doing. I know you Sookie, inside out… and I just want you to …”
“To… want me there. To need me there,” he said, carefully.
I knew it was his ego, I knew that this was how he got when we’d be apart for a long time, he’d start feeling unnecessary, disconnected. I could relate to it of course, but in that moment I just wasn’t in the mindset to rub his ego for him.
“Jesus, Eric, you know, not everything is about you, or us for that matter. So what if I don’t need you right now? I need to be strong for my father right now, he’s the one that needs me.”
“I know that, I was just -”
“Just what? Just being a whiny little bitch that’s what.” I was fuming, and I know now that it was directed at the wrong person, the wrong situation entirely.
“No, okay? I don’t need you here, wanting my attentions and my reassurance for you and your stupid ego. I have enough to deal with right now, okay? I have so much shit to deal with, you don’t even know the half of it!”
“I don’t know, because you won’t fucking tell me!”
“Because it’s none of your business!” Wrong, Sookie, so very wrong.
“I know you’re tired and stressed out, so I’m going to ignore this conversation …” he said ,and I could almost see his jaw tightening. He was trying to keep his cool, but finding it hard. Not that I blame him, it’s not like I was in any way sane or acting anything like myself.
“No, I don’t want you to ignore this conversation, I want you to listen to me. I don’t want you coming back here, you can stay in New York.”
I was cold and I was mean. It didn’t matter that I’d burst into tears half a second after I hung up the phone. It didn’t matter that I missed him more than I could have ever imagined, and that it all built up and up like I was stuck in the middle of a giant pressure cooker just waiting to explode.
I felt done, I felt weak, I was just broken. Heart broken, mind broken, soul broken.
It was only set to get worse, because three days later I got results that would not only shake me to my core, forcing me to question all the knowledge I had about my own life… but would be the catalyst to me pushing Eric out of my life like I did. Making a snap life changing choice when your life was spinning down the drain? Not the best move I’ve ever made, in fact it was probably one of the worst.
A/N: Big thank you to my Twitter girls for their help and support on this one, I was completely nervous about this turning point and this chapter in general. So as I exhale with it being posted, I hope you liked it & press the lil review button if you’d like 😉
Chapter 33: Chapter 33
“You’re keeping something from me,” I said. I knew she was, I knew by her voice and I knew that she forgot that I knew her better than anyone, and I knew when she was bullshitting.
“Sook, I know it’s not okay, I know that tone. Have you slept at all?” She continued to allude the subject of herself and I was worried about her, and when I was worried about her we tended to argue since she hated it.
“Don’t. Okay? I know what you’re doing. I know you Sookie, inside out… and I just want you to …”
“To… want me there. To need me there,” I knew the second I said it that I shouldn’t have, this wasn’t about me, this was about her. Which she furiously pointed out to me in her rant that I knew was coming and we continued to argue. I’d worked up until five am the night before, I was beat and just wanted to have a nice conversation with my girl. That wasn’t happening. What seemed to be happening was a break up. At least according to Sookie and her temper.
“No, I don’t want you to ignore this conversation, I want you to listen to me. I don’t want you coming back here, you can stay in New York,” she yelled, and then I heard the distinct silence followed by the dial tone. I wasn’t giving up on her that easily though, this was Sookie and Sookie’s tired, worn out temper. If I’d ‘fucked off’ as many times as she’d told me to, we’d never have spent any time as a couple. We fought, and we made up, it’s what we did. We were an extremely passionate couple – much to the chagrin of our circle of friends at times. While PDA was never planned, there were times when it just couldn’t be helped. We were mocked inevitably for it, since we were so fiercely private most of the time. Fighting was almost like foreplay for us at times and this, I assumed, was no different.
How wrong I was.
The weeks dragged on, and I got off set as quickly as I could on my last day of shooting. The shoot had, in all honestly, been awesome. The movie had such depth that it shocked us all, and I loved my character and his story within the larger story. Plus, playing second fiddle to Leo wasn’t a bad way to go. We played brothers at war with the mafia, one from the inside, and one on the outside. I happened to be the good cop. While it had been this amazing experience, I’d gotten used to sharing these amazing experiences with her, and vice versa. I’d called Amelia, and she’d called me, non work related for once. We were both worried about Sookie and Maria, cooped up in that house with no other outside help. It was frustrating being unable to do something to help, being so far away from her when I wanted nothing more than to comfort her, whether or not she knew she needed it.
She wasn’t answering my calls or texts, and she never responded to my Skype invites, she had just shut herself off from me, and that was the most maddening thing. Her yelling at me I could handle, but silence? That killed me. And she knew that, she knew the best way to get to me was to not say anything. She knew my mind would work over time freaking out about it and her. I landed in Paris, still in my characters clothes, still with remnants of the makeup on my face, one tiny hand luggage bag with me with a change of clothes and some deodorant. I’d paid a hefty price for a taxi out to her father’s estate, which I found cloaked in darkness. It was just after 1am, so I wasn’t exactly surprised. I also wasn’t surprised to find the back doors unlocked, they felt safe in the knowledge that the gates were secured and there were cameras and a pass code, which thankfully I knew. I slipped into the house silently, tired and ready for sleep. I just hoped I found Sookie in a forgiving mood. I walked as silently as my frame allowed up to her bedroom where I found her bathed in the soft light of her lamp on the other side of her bed. She wasn’t asleep, but she also didn’t say anything either, nor did I. I just undressed to my boxers, and crawled into bed behind her, wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close. I remembered all to well when she did it for me. Silence, non judgemental comfort, and I hoped to do the same for her if she’d let me. I buried my face in her neck, just taking her in and refreshing my memory of all things Sookie. Her smell, fabric softener, and her favourite perfume, was now replaced with something else. There was still fabric softener scent, but none of her perfume, her touch that was once warm and curvaceous was now cold and stiff. She’d lost weight, dramatically by the feel of turned to me, in my arms still, and that’s when I noticed her eyes. The dark circles, and the redness. She’d been crying a lot and not sleeping much either by the looks of things. The guilt instantly set in, I knew I shouldn’t have left her when I did. I wanted to talk to her, to make sure she was okay, but apparently she had other plans. Silencing me with a kiss, hungry and wanting, she wasn’t doing this by halves it seemed, as she pressed herself up against me with a mission in mind. She tasted like toothpaste, but it wasn’t too strong, and pretty soon she just tasted like Sookie. I knew what she wanted, and by the urgency of her touch, what she needed, and I wasn’t about to deny her it – not when I’d spent weeks wanting the same thing. So, I gently pushed her t-shirt up her chest, and she yanked it over her head as she shimmed out of her underwear right where she laid. She pushed me back, straddling my waist, and running her fingers through my hair as I sat up to kiss her like I’d been wanting to for weeks. I felt her hand grip me and begin gently at first, but like everything, we’d been doing this long enough for her to not only press my buttons, but own them. She had me panting and moaning in minutes. I tried to reciprocate, but it wasn’t happening. Dominant Sookie had come out to play. I knew that was a bad sign. It’s not that Sookie didn’t like to take charge during sex, far from it in fact, but when she was unwilling to let me do things that I knew she loved, there was always something bothering her. A loss of control in her daily life that she somehow regained during sex. I didn’t understand it, but I accepted it. And I let her do what she wanted.
Feeling her hot breath against my ear made my toes curl, as did hers as I entered her. No real foreplay to speak of, and weeks on end without it, left her tight and wet, but not nearly as prepped as I was used to. Though, oddly she didn’t seem to care that it might have hurt her. Where as usually, she was all about the pleasure and none of the pain. Instead, she just raked her fingers up and down my chest, into my neck and into my hair, allowing me to kiss her. My hands supported her position on top by caressing her back and threading into her hair like I knew she loved.
Soft, short, almost inaudible moans escaped her as I bit my lip to keep mine to a minimum too. We weren’t alone, and I had to remember that. I was wound so tight, and I could only imagine what she was feeling as we struggled for the upper hand as we both chased our orgasms. The tighter she got, the faster she went, the harder she panted. I felt it in my toes and up my legs and into my stomach, that little bubble of feeling that I knew I was close.
“Sook…” I moaned, unable to stop myself. She just buried her face in my neck, stifling her own moan as I felt her come, allowing myself the freedom to let go and do the same.
A panting, sweaty, tangled mess, we just fell into our usual post sex positions. Spooning, I was always the big spoon, for obvious reasons. We didn’t speak, and it seemed that she had no intention of speaking until I did.
“Don’t… Let’s just sleep, please? Can we just sleep?” she begged. I could hear the raw emotion in her voice, and I couldn’t deny her, her request. I agreed with a small, ‘okay’ as I kissed her neck, before cuddling into her to attempt to sleep.
“Let’s just deal with it in the morning, okay?” Was the last thing she said, as she reached over and turned out her light, leaving us in the pitch darkness.
I really regretted dealing with it the next morning, that’s for sure.
I woke up in bed alone, her side cold, which told me she’d left it a while before me. I showered and changed my clothes, feeling a lot more myself that I had the night before, and as I made my way downstairs. The usual smell of breakfast was replaced with something else. I thought, if sadness could have a smell, that’s what it would be. Instead, I was met with the waft of coffee when I reached the kitchen, where I found Maria sitting at the table, looking as gaunt and as pale as Sookie had looked the night before.
“Eric, darling, it’s so good to see you. I’m glad you’re here. I hope it will be good for Sookie to … get out of her head a little bit this time,” she said as she handed me my coffee. I asked where she was, and was told she’d taken Sammy for a walk.
“How are you?” I asked her, and she just tried to force a smile. It never reached her eyes.
“I am… as well as can be expected I suppose.”
“And Earl? Any improvement?”
She sighed. “They say it’s going well, and that we have reason to be optimistic, but I don’t understand how we can be when he looks how he looks, and spends his days throwing up.”
She’d then told me that he had decided that he was going into the hospital for his chemo that morning alone. They had a car and a driver on retainer so that was one small mercy, but she was sick of his stubbornness when it came to his treatment. She knew he needed the help but he’d rather almost fall down the stairs than to ask for it. Reminded me of someone else I knew.
I’d taken a walk out into the grounds, and I found her almost half a mile away from the house, sitting by a tree with her eyes closed. Sammy saw me as I approached and ran to greet me, his tail wagging and his tongue out. “Hey, boy, how you doin’?” I asked as I pet him behind the ears, and he jumped and turned to get my attention.
“There you are, I was beginning to think I’d have to walk forever to find you,” I said, taking a seat next to her. It had been raining the night before, so the ground was still a little wet. She didn’t seem to care, and nor did I.
“I just needed to get out of that house,” she said, closing her eyes again.
“If you’re tired you should go for a nap, it might give you more energy?” I suggested.
“No, I’m fine. I mean, I’m always tired, but I can’t sleep. Last night was the first time I’d slept for more than an hour at a time, in weeks.”
I put my arm around her and pull her into me, still not saying anything about her father.
“I’m glad I could help, it’s all I want to do you know, I just want to help you.”
She simply sighed and pulled away from me to stand up.
“I don’t need any more help, Eric. I told you that on the damn phone. Why does no one listen to me?” she said to the empty space around her, but of course aiming it at me.
“Jesus would you stop being so God damn stubborn? Maria is suffering the same shit, you’re just like your father, just accept that you need the help and let me take some of the load off.”
Her eyes changed when she looked at me, she was pissed now.
“I am nothing, like my father,” she said, and I saw something break behind her eyes just then. The tears filled quickly but she didn’t let them fall. “I am nothing like him, you think you know me, you think you have me all figured out, silly little Sookie who can’t do anything without her big and powerful boyfriend to come and save the day and be the damn hero, is that it?”
“No, is that it? Is that what you need right now? To be the hero? To be needed? Well I told you before, I don’t need you. And hell, I don’t even want you here.”
“What is wrong with you? Why the hell are you acting this way? I went when I did because YOU made me go, I didn’t WANT to go and leave you here like this. I knew I shouldn’t have, this stress and dealing with it alone, it’s too much -”
“Too much for me, right because I’m such a weak little bitch, is that it?” She shouted at me, and it started to rain, but both of us ignored it in favour of the yelling. Thank god we were in the middle of a field, and they were neighbour-less.
“I never said that, Jesus, stop putting words into my mouth, Sookie.”
She ran her fingers through her hair, I’d noticed it had gotten a little longer in my time away too. A lot had changed it seemed.
“What are you aiming for here?” I asked. “This is just a stupid fight, right? This is just a stupid fight and we’ll make up and that will be that, now stop taking your shit out on me and come here.” I opened my arms, it was our thing. One of us would go off on something and the other would calm the argument. Like the sex, this was a well practiced routine. Only this time she didn’t laugh at me, or come into my arms. She simply stood where she was, as if she was rooted in the spot like the large oak next to her.
“I can’t. I can’t do this … anymore,” she said, folding her arms.
“Us? So this is a thing for you now, you’re mad at me and what? Breaking up with me? For what exactly? For trying to be a good fucking boyfriend? I don’t get what I did wrong here,” I said, frustrated as all fuck, honestly. It was like she was a different person, it wasn’t as if this was my Sookie at all.
“You didn’t do anything… nothing wrong. This has nothing to do with you. It’s …”
“Don’t give me that it’s not you, it’s me shit, really? Sookie? REALLY? That’s what you’re giving ME after all this time? Who are you right now?” I walked over to her and fought the urge I had to shake some sense into her. It was like invasion of the body snatchers, and she had become a stranger almost.
My Sookie would have never pulled this shit on me.
“That’s just it.” She finally looked at me, really looked at me, and I saw the pain in her eyes then, “I don’t know who I am, not anymore.”
I wouldn’t know exactly what she meant by that statement, for a very long time.
His cancer was weighing on me, on all of us. He hated being a burden, even though that was the last thing we saw him as. He had taken care of us for a long time, and now it was our turn to take care of him. It was that simple.
But it was weighing on me in a different sense, too. The type of cancer that he had, and was fighting like a warrior, was genetic. And that scared me. So I did what any self aware woman in her mid-twenties would do, I went and got myself scanned and tested my DNA against my dad’s – just to see if I maybe carried that gene too, or that maybe they’d detect some pre-cancerous cells, or something, I didn’t know what I was looking for… reassurance perhaps? I wasn’t sure. But I went, and I got all the necessary tests done. With taking care of my dad, day and night, and avoiding Eric’s calls after our fight because I was too proud to admit that I was being a twat and own up to my mistakes to just call him beg his forgiveness and tell him that I loved him. No, I left it to fester like an even bigger idiot simply because I just didn’t know what to say. The day before the night he showed up, was the day my life changed forever.
I’d been called into the hospital where I’d taken the necessary tests, and I’d waited over three weeks. I was anxious, no, I was sick to my stomach. So much so that I had to stop the car twice on the way there just to throw up. Maybe I had the cancer too, maybe they found something, maybe it was worse… all these things and more floated through my head as I worried my way into the doctors office on the fifth floor of the building that smelled like bleach. She sat me down and in her French accented broken English, she told me.
“Miss Stackhouse, I can tell you that genetically you are not a carrier for the cancer cells, and that your tests, well, they came back clean.”
That was it, that’s all she had to tell me? Why couldn’t she have done that over the phone, I thought. I exhaled the massive breath I’d been holding, thinking that I was off the hook. I was just about to thank her when she took out another sheet of paper.
“But, Sookie,” she said as I insisted that she call me by my first name. “The reason why you’re not a carrier for the cells… well the DNA doesn’t match up.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Your DNA and the DNA of Mr. Stackhouse… well… it’s unrelated.”
“I’m not following you. I haven’t really been sleeping well so my brain isn’t switched on.” I laughed, and she didn’t.
“Sookie, your DNA isn’t related to Mr. Stackhouse’s DNA. We ran a paternity test just to be one hundred percent, and I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but your father – isn’t your father.”
That sinking feeling, one that was becoming all too familiar to me, crept in again. I questioned her over and over. It made no sense, and it was almost as if she was talking gibberish. Of course my father was my father.
‘Excluded as the biological father’ in the ninety nine percentile told me differently though as I read the results. Our DNA wasn’t related at all, not even a little.
I wasn’t Earl Stackhouse’s daughter. I wasn’t Sookie Stackhouse.
Then, who the hell was I?
That question and those words spun around and around in my head all day, when I got home and made dinner, when I made sure my dad was eating, when I was cleaning up, when I walked Sammy. All of it. I looked at him, at Earl, and wondered if he knew. Did he know all this time that I wasn’t his kid and he was just lying to me? Or maybe he didn’t know at all and if I were to be the one to tell him, it would crush what was left of his soul? I didn’t want to be responsible for that. I knew he was my father, my daddy, and no DNA test could change my life with him, or how much I loved him. It did however, throw my entire existence into question, and that for me, was terrifying. I’d always been so aware of who I was, and to find out it had all been a lie? That was earth shattering to say the least.
I decided that I would sleep on it, because I knew one person in the world that would know one way or the other, and that was my mother. Regina and I never had the easiest of relationships, and when I went to live with my dad when I quit acting and we moved to France, she didn’t put up much of a fuss, nor did I because I’d always been a daddy’s girl… The irony of that now hit me in the face. She and I had never been particularly close, and this revelation now made me wonder why. If she knew, and she had to have known, she just let her kid go off with a guy who wasn’t really her dad. How fucked up was that? Had she cheated on my father and gotten pregnant with me? Who was the guy that was responsible for me being born? Did he love her? Did he know about me? Did I have sisters or brothers? My mind was reeling and my heart was beating out of my chest. I couldn’t sleep. So when he appeared through my bedroom door, Eric, looking worn out but still as fucking handsome as he ever was, if not more so with his little orphan boy hair cut and his studio enhanced tan, I distracted myself in him, as wrong as it was. Being with him made me forget, if even just for a little while, what a fucked up situation I was in. I missed him, so much that it had physically hurt at times, I’d loved him for so long, but I looked at him then in that moment, after the sex, and I felt numb. I felt numb to everything around me suddenly and that was the most terrifying feeling I’d ever experienced in my life thus far. I’d gone from caring so much that I felt like my heart was about to burst, to … feeling nothing, I was on autopilot suddenly, and it was like I wanted to just clear a path. Clear everything out that was in my way. And for some ungodly, unknown reason, one of those things was Eric. So when he found me by that tree the next day, in the drizzling rain that was threatening to thunder all morning, I couldn’t answer his questions, I couldn’t care about his pain, because I didn’t care for my own. I just… didn’t care. My father was the one with cancer, and yet it felt like I was the one dying, so I did the one thing I knew would get Eric to leave. His face, his eyes, his big giant bleeding heart – all it was doing was making me feel worse for what I was or was not feeling. I loved him for it, but I hated him for it in the same breath. So I did it. I lied to him. Flat out, and for the first time since I’d met him, I lied this huge lie that broke him there on the spot.
“That’s just it,” I said, finally looking him in the eye like he deserved. Hell, he deserved so much, so much more than me. “I don’t know who I am, not anymore.”
“Sookie, I don’t know how you’re feeling right now because I’ve never gone through this, but just… trust me,” he said, rubbing my freezing arms with his warm hands, and I wanted nothing more than to just give in and cry, sob desperately into his arms and feel safe again. But something held me back. And that’s when I lied.
“No, you don’t know how this feels, and honestly I hope you never do. But, this isn’t about my dad, or his … this is about us. I can’t do this,” I motioned between us, “anymore, because… I don’t love you. I need someone who can be there for me when I need him, and you’re not that guy. Not anymore.”
“You’re lying,” he said, letting go of my arms and running his fingers through my hair. “You’re a shit liar, for such a good actress, why are you doing this? Pushing me away like this?”
“Again, it’s not about you! Jesus… look Eric, I want you to go. I didn’t want you to come here in the first place, but as usual you weren’t listening to me then, and you aren’t listening to me now. I’m telling you how I feel, and I want you to listen to me. I don’t want to be with you anymore, it’s over. I want you to leave,” I said, slowly and carefully, and I could feel the stupid tears bubbling inside me as I saw the realization settle across his face. He blinked once, and I saw that one lone tear fall as I did my best to hold mine in. No one saw me cry, and I wasn’t about to start now.
“That’s how you really feel…” he nodded, “after everything we’ve been through, that’s it?” He nodded to himself again. “Fine. I’ve never forced you to do anything you didn’t want to do, I’m sure as hell not going to start now, you want me out of your life so badly, I’m gone. I’ll be gone before you get back to the house.” He said, the emotion in his eyes now slowly but surely being replaced by that wall. That wall that I’d taken so much time tearing down, making him trust me, making him love me. I’d just thrown it back up again because I’d been too damn selfish and stupid in trying to do this alone.
He walked away, as the rain got harder, beating down on me, my dog, and my now ex boyfriend. Sammy didn’t get it, of course he didn’t get it, and tried to follow Eric as he walked away.
“No, boy, stay with Sookie. At least she trusts one of us,” he said coldly in my direction, and I knew he knew, that’s what this came down to. Trust, openness, willingness to appear weak and not fear his reactions… I loved him, but it turned out I didn’t trust him. Mainly because I just didn’t know enough to know that at the time, and by the time I figured it out, I thought it would be too late for us. By the time I got back to the house, he’d kept his word and was gone. It didn’t break me then, because I think I was already too far gone to be fully affected, but once it did hit me, it hit me harder than I could have imagined. The worst thing was I wouldn’t see Eric again in person for almost two full years, at least not until the funeral.
A/N: Hi babes. *Hands out tissues* I won’t drag whatever this out toooo long, I promise! Big thank you again to my twitter girls for all their love and help! And to all my readers who take the time to follow the story and tell me their thoughts on it, thankyouthankyouthankyou! 🙂 xox
Chapter 34: Chapter 34
The day Eric left me – or I should phrase that right – the day I made him leave me, was a turning point in my life. For better or for worse, I wasn’t sure, I didn’t care. But I gave in, I just gave in to the numbness and let go. I didn’t confront my mother or father like I wanted to, at least not right away. I figured if it was something that they had held on to for my almost twenty-seven years on the planet, it was something I could hold on to until we got word on whether or not he was going to pull out of his illness. We didn’t get that word, until almost six months later and by then my mother was off to Tibet again. This time she was off for an undisclosed amount of time on yet another spiritual mission. Her and her ways would never change it seemed, but I wanted the conversation that I needed to have with her to be done right, and that wasn’t over some crackled phone reception thousands of miles away. So, I could wait. I would wait.
Though, by the time my father had gotten the all clear, I’d stalled my career completely and cut all my personal ties with Hollywood, though Pam and Jessica I still kept in touch with via email from time to time. I had sublet my house, and I’d found Jess a new job working for a producer friend on her movies. I had nothing holding me to LA anymore, and I certainly didn’t have Eric. With my father in remission, all I wanted to focus on was getting him back to his old self again. We took off to the south of France and just lived on the coast for the last six months of that year. The sun and the sea did wonders for all of us. He was reconnecting with his life, and if I was honest, so was I. I’d been feeling so out of it for a full year at that point, that being able to laugh again, being able to care about… well, anything, again was a good sign. But then, then it all hit me like a giant ton of Eric shaped bricks, just exactly what I’d done.
I didn’t expect him to stay, not when I’d said what I’d said. It was his Achilles heel, and I knew that. All he wanted was to be accepted, and wanted, and loved as much as he accepted, wanted, and loved me. And I’d told him that it wasn’t how I felt. I’d pushed that button like I knew I could and I drove him out of my life. As I picked up the pieces of my life bit by bit I watched from afar as Eric and his life and career sky rocketed even higher than before. I was so full of pride for him, as I watched him over the next two years, covered endlessly in the press as he went from project to project, lighting a fire of talent in his wake, they were taking notice of him now, and for all the right reasons. He’d won countless awards, and garnered the respect of the world’s press. He was a Golden Globe, Emmy, Indie Spirit and Bafta winner, and he was nominated twice in that two year period for an Oscar, missing out to Leo and Johnny respectively. But I knew him, and I knew that really as much as it sounded like an amazing sound bite – to him it was true. Just to be nominated was enough for him, it was the nod from his peers that he was, in fact, good enough. I’d thought back to Fallen, and how he would be so unsure of his character at first, only to fall into it completely. We’d shot four seasons worth of that show, and only promoted three of them, the fourth was still the most watched show that year for HBO despite us not even promoting it like we should have. But, we went out on a high and that’s really all that mattered. And that was to be my last project, at least for a while. I hadn’t quit like I had before, it was just that my life took over a little bit more than it usually did, and I wanted to concentrate on that. I was punished for it, in the press, hounded and ridiculed – of course they didn’t know the reason why I’d left so suddenly. Walking out on big name projects like I did, but I’d hope that if they had known they’d have been a little bit more understanding than what they were. The fans were kind though, well, most of them. Once they found out that Eric and I were no longer together, even though neither of us had said anything, after a while it became painfully obvious. I was hounded a little, and of course blamed for ‘fucking it all up’ as one tweet had told me. It didn’t matter that they weren’t wrong, but it did set the tears off for a while whenever I’d tweet and the questions and insults would start. It took that a while to die down too, once they figured I wasn’t going to comment on it. Before we’d taken off for the south of France, I’d paid my doctor there a visit, with everything that I’d been going through, I’d realized I needed a little help. Her consultation helped some, and the mild anti-depressants helped more, they made the sadness a little less sad and the happy a little more happy. What they didn’t do though was allow me to forget, and soon I was becoming too dependant on them to get through my day. That’s when I scared myself, and I dumped them all down the drain one morning. It almost killed me to do it, but I did it. Waking up the next morning and the morning after that, and a few more after that still, was harder than I’d thought possible, but eventually, I was able to function without them again and it make me thankful that I still had some self belief in there somewhere, I still had the power within me to do the best for me.
The two year break, it was in many ways necessary, as unplanned as it was, it gave me a new perspective on life, on my life and just how precious it was. With my father well, back on his feet again, gaining weight and looking like his old self, we set about remodelling the house and he set about planning his wedding to Maria. Amelia and I were nothing but thrilled for both of them, Ames had been living in Hollywood the entire time for obvious work related reasons, but she’d also found love with a producer of one of Eric’s films, and she’d been smitten ever since. With she and I, whenever we’d talk or spend time together on her vacations back home, Eric was always the giant Swedish elephant in the room, she wanted to tell me about him and I wanted to know but at the same time I really didn’t. All I did know from her was that he’d taken the break up extremely hard, but instead of self destructing this time, he threw himself, quite literally into his work… it had paid off it seems since he was becoming one of the biggest names in the industry. He was up there with Jolie, Depp, and Pitt now, and I couldn’t have been more proud. According to Ames, he’d also tried ‘dating’ – she’d used finger quotes so I knew exactly what that meant, I just sighed and tried not to want to beat myself up about it. She’d also made a passing comment of how he’d tried to ‘fuck you out of his system,’ and apparently it hadn’t worked. I knew she was just being a friend, and interfering, but really as much as I wanted to go to him, to fix all my mistakes…
There was a larger part of me that was just so terrified of his rejection and what it might do to me, that I felt it was just best, if I stayed away. It was just after his last Oscar nom that I’d heard the news from Amelia in an email. All it said was what I’d hear in the news hours later.
My heart stopped. The Internet told me the rest as I resisted the urge to call her and ask for the details, but I knew that if he had in fact quit, she was in the middle of a shit storm. I’d turned on E! and waited, and sure enough there it was, cut with images of him at the Oscars, and the Baftas, and of course being followed by the paparazzi, with the statement flashing up on the screen. No real detail was included, just that he felt that he had achieved all that he had set out to achieve, and that ‘his love for the job just wasn’t what it used to be, that it wasn’t fun anymore.’ That hit me like a shot between the eyes. It was what we always talked about, when I quit, and why I quit. I didn’t love it anymore, it wasn’t fun. And he’d quit now, giving the same reasons. Was it wrong that it lifted my heart a little to know that he maybe still thought of me? Because it did.
The statement went on to say that he was thankful for all the opportunities he had had, but that he wanted to be free to explore other areas and develop other talents. He didn’t want to get sucked into the machine. There were people questioning his sanity, questioning his personal life, and of course it was brought up how changed he had been since his dramatic and sudden break-up from the missing in action Susanna Stackhouse. My heart sank at that. They’d gone on to chronicle his life in the previous two years, most of which he’d either spent on a set, or on a promo tour. Bashed from pillar to post it seemed, and he seemed to look more and more tired in his eyes as the time went on. My heart broke for him. I opened my email then, and wrote a short but hopefully well meaning message.
“I’m sorry the fun ran out, I hope you’re well, and I really do wish you luck in whatever you think to do next. I’m sure whatever it is, you’ll rock at it.
It would be six months before I got a reply.
When I’d made the decision, there was nothing that anyone could do, say, or offer me that was able to change my mind on it. I’d spent two years on full steam ahead, not one vacation, not one break. I’d gone from the worst break-up of my life, to one job, and then the next. And when I wasn’t on set, I was on the promo tours, whoring out the projects and myself for all they were worth. Of course it got me noticed. Claudine was doing her job and then some. She’d gone to bat for me more than once, and was the sole reason I’d gotten the Scorsese gig, and that had been the big, big game changer for me. After that, everything – in my professional life anyway – fell into place. Of course it was all a blur, something that had felt amazing at the time, but really, I was doing it alone. My friends were there, of course, and without them I don’t dare to think what I’d have been like, but she wasn’t. And that, for me, was the biggest problem. She was the one that had forced me to care about my job in a way I’d never done before, she was the one that had made me want to be better, to strive to be more, to be the best that I could make myself be. She… she was it all. And without her, it was still amazing to achieve, but it just meant that little bit less because I didn’t get to share it with her.
Sookie had been a huge part of my life, for a very long time, and for her to suddenly decide that that love that we felt for each other – that it didn’t matter anymore? It crushed me, I’m man enough to admit. It crushed me, and I knew she was lying. To an extent, she had to have been, right? Love just didn’t fucking evaporate over night, not that kind of love and not the kind of love I knew she had once felt for me. Being with her changed my life, and being without her changed it just as much. I hated it. While my family, my father’s family anyway, had gotten back on a certain track of communication – that again, had mostly been down to her – without them during that first bleak period I would have been so lost. She had been the source of so much good in my life, and I hated her instantly for deciding that I wasn’t a source of goodness in hers, that I wasn’t enough for her. I wasn’t the one she would trust and turn to in her time of desperate need. I hated her for it.
I hated her.
I hated her for a long time. Every time I’d think of her, I’d hate her. I cleared out my house, I’d stuck all her shit, and all our shit, all our photos, and mementos, and memories in a big ass box and threw it in with the rest of the shit I’d left in my storage locker in West Hollywood. As if being in that box somehow made it not exist… Then I tried the whole dating thing… another fail. And because of her, casual sex had lost it’s lustre. She was really evil, just pure and utter evil, swirling into my life and fucking it all to hell.
Except that she didn’t, and she wasn’t, and I couldn’t hate her forever, because I loved her so fucking much. But that was where it ended, a relationship took two people wanting it to work, for it to actually work. And while I accepted that she had been going through hell with her father, it didn’t excuse her just giving up on me, on us, like that. So yeah, I hated her for a long time, and then, one day… I didn’t. I didn’t hate anything. I didn’t hate my job, I didn’t hate my morning schedule, I didn’t hate the girl lying next to me in bed. I just didn’t. I also realized something that I’d been fighting for a while, I didn’t love my job. The fun was gone, and it was about my ‘image’ and my ‘salary’ and my ‘brand.’ I’d become a number, a very large successful number, but still I was just another cog in a big machine that just wasn’t making me happy any more. And I’d realized that I had spent so much time blaming Sookie, or my self doubt, or my bad breaks, or my good breaks, or this or that, that I had over looked that the job I was doing didn’t make me happy anymore. And that was one thing I did have the power over. I quit. Just like that, I didn’t have any more projects lined up for at least a month, and those weren’t signed or solid at that point, so I went to Claudine, and I quit.
She yelled, she screamed, she offered me her soul…. I like to think she was joking with that, but she loved her job so… maybe not? Either way, I didn’t want it, and I didn’t want my job anymore. I’d done everything I’d set out to do. I’d gone and done a good job, I’d learned a craft and mastered it to the point where I was happy with my talent. I’d earned the respect of the public, and the respect of my peers, what else was there? I’d earned more than enough money to last me a life time.
I was done.
I was done with LA, and I was done with acting. Signing that statement was the most freeing experience I think I’d ever had.
I took off, directly for Sweden, where my dad and I went on a boys adventure. Three weeks around Asia, just us on our own, looking more like tourists than we’d ever looked in our lives, but having a whale of a time. He and I tried everything, deep sea diving, he even got into a cage with sharks, a photo op I’d never forget, that’s for sure. Three weeks, and not once did he mention Sookie, my relationship with her, or how it had been obvious due to the faceless, nameless string of blondes I’d fucked my way though when I had been trying my best to forget her. He had more than a soft spot for Sookie, and I knew it had hurt both him and Sara when I told them we’d broken up, and more so why. Sara had threatened to kick her ass, which I found hilarious, because two seconds later I knew she was on the phone with her consoling her too. It’s just how they were.
Back to Sweden meant back home, not just for my dad, but for me too. And for the next six months he and I worked together, restoring the old farm house. I had needed somewhere to live after all, and really, there was no place like home. We’d built and fitted the new decking by ourselves, we’d replaced the doors on the barn ourselves, and we’d replanted the garden back and front without any help either. I had worried that it was too much for him, but he would just roll his eyes and pat me on my sunburned back, telling me that it was bonding time and he wasn’t about to miss out on that – ever. I believed him, so we carried on. Until we couldn’t any more. He’d stayed with me that night, we were due back in the city then next morning, Sara had a big breakfast planned, and Lena would be at school. She was six now, and getting taller by the day, her English was flawless, even more so than my father’s, much to his chagrin. He was always up before me in the mornings. I was, it seemed, a lazy arse, at least according to him. We’d laughed that there was nothing like good old fashioned manual labour to make a man a man, and make him appreciate his bed. He’d been right on that fact too. But that morning it was different. I’d gotten up at ten, later than I had expected, and there was no sign of him downstairs. It’s when I went to check his room that it became clear why.
They’d told me, he’d died sometime early that morning, a heart attack, in his sleep by the looks of things. He laid there in that bed, eyes closed, and so peaceful, asleep. Only this time, he was asleep forever.
Part of me was glad it had happened the way it did. Had he been driving, or with Lena, or working with the horses… it would have been so much worse. While another part of me realized how much worse it could have been, my father was still dead. A numbness set over me, as I went on autopilot, dealing with everything that came my way. Telling Sara, watching her tell Lena, watching her slowly fall apart. Notifying his friends, the rest of the families, arranging a funeral. It was then that I realized I’d have to speak to Sookie again, and if not her at the very least Earl, or Maria. They had a right to know, as had all his friends. They had the right to say goodbye. It was then that it came to me. The numbness, the pain, and the confusion… perhaps this is what Sookie had felt at that time. And if that was even a little bit of what I was feeling then? She was right, I really wouldn’t have understood it. I may have wanted to, but back then there was no way I could have possibly grasped what it was like to think you’d lose your father… and now that I had lost mine, I had an idea. And my confusion over that time with her, like a cloud, just suddenly lifted. I understood it now.
I opened the email she’d sent me, I’d read it then, but I didn’t respond. At that time there was nothing to say that hadn’t been said already, but now, now I had something to say.
I emailed her telling her that my father had died, no real details just the time and date of his wake and funeral and that I knew he would have liked it if they’d have been there. I got a response six minutes later, a short and sweet – “I’m so sorry, of course we’ll be there. See you soon, Sook x”
I had a lot to prepare myself for in the coming days it seemed. Not only was I saying goodbye to a father I’d spent too long without, but I’d be seeing an old love that I wasn’t sure I was ready to see.
Well, they say you aren’t given more than you can handle, right? I had only hoped that that was true.
Reading his email, his short and clinical sounding email, my heart broke. William had died, he was gone. Although he had died peacefully and in his bed, it still offered little comfort to my father, Maria and myself. He was still gone, no matter how he had went. My heart ached for Sara. She loved him so much, and for little Lena to lose her father so young… Maria was bed bound with the flu and couldn’t travel, so my father and I packed a small bag each and booked our flights to Sweden. It wasn’t something I’d ever thought I’d be doing again, that’s for sure.
We landed the next day, since it was summer, the sun had come out to play. I loved Stockholm in the summer. It instantly brought back all those memories of Eric and I, and as we got closer to their part of town the memories came back in full force. Stupid things like, where he’d kissed me under a certain street lamp, or a restaurant we’d ate in, or a hotel we’d made love in. It was all around me, and I wasn’t totally prepared for it, in all honesty. My dad and I checked into our hotel, and he went to nap, as was his right. I, on the other hand, decided that I’d go to the market stalls and pick up some flowers before I went to the wake to see Sara.
I saw him then, though he didn’t see me. He was exiting a bakery with a woman, both of them loading up the car parked outside it, I assumed with things for the wake, and the people visiting. I also assumed she was a relative I hadn’t met, I assumed that until she closed the car door and stood and kissed him. In that moment it felt like someone was squeezing the air out of my lungs, because he kissed her back. The jealousy and the pain that I felt in that moment, stood there with my roses and tulips and lilies in my hand, I couldn’t describe it. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know that there were other women in his life. It would have been stupid of me to think that I would be the last woman he’d been with. After all, I’d been the one to dump him…another stupid thing on the long list of stupid things… but to see it with my own two eyes was another thing altogether.
I didn’t mention it to my father, I simply went back to the hotel and changed into my black shift dress, fixed my hair down and did my makeup a little to freshen myself up.
Things about the house had changed, paint colours here and there, the sofas in the main living room, but over all the house was still as it had always been. I knew people were looking at my father and I and whispering, I’d heard one girl tell her friend that ‘Hollywood had come out to play.’ Was it wrong of me to want to slap her? Instead, my father struck up a conversation about William with one of their neighbours as I went in search of Sara… and maybe Eric too. I found her in the kitchen and she came to me instantly grasping me into a big, long, strong hug as she sniffled.
“Thank you… so much for coming I know it would have meant a lot to William,” she said, cupping my face, “And it means so much to me, and to Eric that our friends can be here with us.” She said, as she took me to the balcony, closing the doors and giving us some privacy.
“I am so sorry, Sara, it must have been such a shock… William was always so…”
“Full of life?” she finished for me, and I nodded in agreement. “Ironic isn’t it? He had more energy than me most days and yet he’s the one in the coffin in the living room today.” I saw her tears and it broke me, I hated to imagine what she was going through. We talked for a long time, she worked her way through what had happened to him, and how she was feeling -which wasn’t much of anything or too much of something – she couldn’t understand. But that Eric had been there for her and Lena and that before William had never been happier having his son back in his life. She said they owed that to me, but I knew that wasn’t true. It then brought us to the subject of Eric, and she was still as subtly free as ever as she sipped her tea and rolled her eyes at me.
“He’s … well… he was doing well… doing better than when we’d been in LA last year,” she said. “Sookie I don’t know what happened with you two… not really… he never talked about it. But I know he still loves you…”
“No, you listen to me. It took me a long time to find love, Sookie, but I found it, and I lost it two days ago. I lost it forever. You haven’t lost Eric forever, not yet. I want you to know that, because if I had the chance with William again you know I’d take it.” I understood her, I did, but that didn’t make it easy. “You love him too, that much is obvious.”
I didn’t confirm or deny. But she did tell me that he was down in the basement getting changed into his suit since he’d been in town picking up food for the guests. I didn’t tell her I knew that already, I just did as I was told and went down there. Thankfully he was alone, and struggling as usual to tie his tie.
He heard my heels on the stairs but didn’t look up.
“Ava, I’ll be up in a -” He looked up then, and I was standing on the last step of the stairs just looking at him. “Sookie?”
A/N: Posting this real quick before bed, I hate to leave you hanging… though after this you might wish I had? Hmm? Sound off below!
p.s Thank you all for pushing this baby past 1,000 reviews, it’s making me all spazzypanda! 😀 xox
Chapter 35: Chapter 35
I heard the heels on the stairs and instantly assumed that it was Ava. Ava and I had met in Asia, in a bar to be exact, in Japan. My dad and I had been having a few much needed beers and there she was. We were the three tallest people in the building, of course we noticed each other, and it turned out she was from Stockholm too. Striking up a conversation was easy and fun, so we promised to meet up ‘back home’. We’d being doing, what ever it was that we were doing, for about two weeks when my dad died. It was new, and I honestly didn’t know if it was going anywhere, but for the time being, it was what it was. Which wasn’t all that serious.
“Ava, I’ll be up in a -” I looked up, expecting to see the statuesque brunette, instead I saw a very familiar blonde.
She fidgeted with her hands before she spoke, my guess is she wanted it to come out a whole lot braver than it did. She replied with a shaky, “Hello, Eric.”
She looked beautiful, but then, she always did. She walked over to me, and in that second it was as if I’d just seen her yesterday. Somehow just her being there made me want to forget everything that had gone before… but I knew I couldn’t, nor should I.
“Hi. Thank you for coming… I know it would mean a lot to my dad. He …” I coughed, “He really loved you… and his friendship with your dad. I know meant the world to him too.”
She nodded, tears in her pretty blue eyes.
“I know, Eric I am just… so, so sorry I couldn’t believe it when I read that email… I just… it doesn’t make sense out of all of us he’s -”
“I know… But he didn’t suffer, and for that I am thankful. He would have hated wasting away in a hospital bed, and it would have made him feel too much like an old man.” I laughed, thinking of how he had more energy than me, always wanting to explore.
“I feel like I should hug you, but I don’t know if that’s okay or not,” she said, fidgeting again. Yeah, she was definitely nervous. Was it evil of me to not want to make it easy for her? Childish perhaps, but I wasn’t about to brush everything under the carpet just because of the reason she was there.
“I don’t need a hug,” I said, turning back to the mirror to try and do up my tie. I saw the rejection register in her face, though she tried to hide it well.
“Here… let me? You never could master the knot,” she said, stepping in front of me, right up into my personal space. Her Sookie smell surrounded me, making me just want to close my eyes and make the memory last. Instead, I held my breath, willing my body to hate how familiar it felt and how good it felt to be close to her again.
This bitch dumped you, you’re meant to hate her!
So, why couldn’t I?
I failed at life in that moment because God, did she smell good.
“It’s a tricky bugger,” she said as she tried to get it to knot small, and when she finally did, she smiled. “There, all done.” She looked up at me then, and it was as if she just realized how close we were.
“You cut your hair,” I said. Her long flowing hair was now just above her shoulders. It was really different.
“Yeah, one of the many mistakes I made a few years ago…”
“It makes you look older.”
“I look old?”
“Old-er. And more grown up is what I should have said…”
Ava. Shit, when did she get here?
“Oh. Hi. Hi, Ava.”
Smooth, Northman. Sookie bit her lip. Oh right, they didn’t know each other.
“Sookie, Ava. Ava… this is Sookie.” Ava smiled, extending her hand to Sookie, her broken English was in the tone of surprised. Which I guess she should be since I didn’t really mention my ex would be dropping by.
“Soo-key it’s lovely to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too, Ava.”
She look at me then, “I’ll leave you two… to it,” she said before she made her way to the staircase awkwardly.
“Yeah?” She looked back to me.
“Thank you… for coming.”
She just nodded and made her way upstairs again. Ava just took a seat on the couch.
“So that is the woman you’re in love with,” she said in Swedish. “She’s pretty in person, those movies don’t do her enough justice.”
I stared at the space where she’d stood, as if it had been something in my own mind, seeing her again.
“Yeah,” I said, to either question, to one, or both, who knows.
The funeral was packed. It never really touched me just how many people knew my dad personally, and just how he had effected in one way or another with his friendship… them until they all lined up to offer both Sara and I their condolences. Lena didn’t understand. Hell, I was a lot older than her, and I still didn’t really understand it. One minute he was here, and then he wasn’t and he wouldn’t be, forever. I had a feeling it was going to take me a while to wrap my head around that fact. Sara held up well, until they sent his coffin in for cremation. My dad had his beliefs, but he wanted to be scattered in the sea. His reasoning according to Sara, was that it would give us all ‘a nice day out’ to the sea if we came to visit him. She laughed while I just thought it was nuts. Regardless, I rented a private boat and his family – my one uncle and two aunts, a handful of his closest friends, the guys that he worked with, as well as Sookie and Earl. We all sailed out for about a half hour, found the perfect spot, and splashed his ashes into the water of the Baltic. We had scheduled a dinner afterwards for everyone that had come to send him off, so to speak. I’d noticed that Sookie had stuck to her father like glue the entire time, and when she excused herself to use the bathroom, I took my shot to talk to Earl, alone.
“Son. It’s good to see you again. Liking the longer hair,” he said as he shook my hand for the second time that day, “We haven’t really had a chance to talk with everything…” he noted, “How are you feeling? Or is that a stupid question on a day like today?”
“I’m… okay. I’m dealing. I think…”
“He was good man, and he loved you very much.”
“I know that.” And I did, I finally knew that, and I understood his past and our past, and the problems that we danced around for far too long.
“And, I heard you quit the big sparkly machine that is Hollywood. How’s that going so far?”
“Not going to ask me why?”
“Everyone has their reasons, Eric. I had mine back in the day, and Sookie had hers, now you have yours. They’re your reasons, and your reasons alone. Life isn’t just how they want you to live it.”
I knew that too.
“This is going to sound… dumb. But… I’d like to teach. Weird, right?”
“Not weird at all, I think you’d have a lot to offer, you’ve learned a lot in your short life boy,” he said with a smile. “I say, do what makes you happy. And if teaching people how to do it, instead of doing it, is what will make you happy, then, excuse my French, but fuck what the rest think.” He laughed, and it made me laugh too. In all the time I’d known him he’d always been so softly spoken. I guess near death experiences change a man. Teaching acting… was I really out of my mind leaving an A-list career, for that? I think I might have been, but it was a feeling that gave me that happy excited feeling again. Maybe it would work out, maybe it wouldn’t. But, I wanted to, at the very least, give it a go. I had no idea if there was even a market for such a career, but I was willing to find out.
“You two always were thick as thieves,” I heard from behind me, and there was Sookie, looking freshened up and smiling as she patted her dad on the shoulders.
“We were just catching up. It’s been too long,” her father guilt tripped us both.
“Okay, dad, I’m sure Eric has all these other people to see to before dinner ends.” She was giving me an out, and really I should have taken it as she sat down again. Only I didn’t.
“How are you?” I asked her, aware that her father was watching us intently.
“I’m… good. Better than I have been in a while, I think.”
“Are you working on anything?”
She shook her head and her dad interjected. “No, she’s been refusing to leave me ever since I’ve been sick, despite every move I’ve made to try and get rid of her,” he laughed and she just sighed.
“Dad you weren’t well enough -”
“I know, daughter, and believe me when I tell you how thankful I am for you, you and Maria both. But really, I keep telling you, you’ve put your own life on hold for far too long. I want you out there, living it again.” He looked at me, and then back to her, “Even if you two can’t get past your own issues. I’d like to know you’re both happy.”
Sookie shifted in her seat clearly beyond uncomfortable, as her father made his exit.
“I have to pee,” he said.
“You went like ten minutes ago, dad.”
“Yeah… Well, I’m old, we have temperamental bladders,” he said in his ever present sassy tone as he walked off.
She just sighed, smiling and I spoke then.
“Still trolling as hard as ever, huh?”
“Harder,” she said with a blush. “He just doesn’t get how hard it was for me to leave him, going back to LA…” before she could finish, Ava came over and whispered in my ear that Sara wasn’t doing so well and if I could come see her.
“Um, Sookie, I should go, but I’ll … I’ll talk to you soon?” I said, getting up from the table. Oh, the awkward, she fidgeted again and agreed, before I turned to see to Sara. Before I got to the other side of the room I noticed her discreetly making her exit. Alone.
It was harder than I thought, watching Eric go through the thing that I had dreaded most, and had expected a little less than two years ago. To bury his father, I can’t imagine what he must have been going through mentally. And yet, he stood there tall and confident like the man I knew his father was proud of… as he said goodbye with poise and dignity.
I was proud. I was also dying a little inside, every time that Ava bitch touched him. She was scarily tall. Though I guess for Sweden she was probably a normal sized human, but to my five, six ass she was a giant. She was also a brunette with deep hazel eyes and tan skin. And she wasn’t really a bitch, but she was with Eric, so I guess that automatically made her one in my stupid eyes. Talking with him and my dad, it almost felt like old times. Almost. Then she reappeared and whispered something, probably something sexual and dirty in Swedish to him and off he went. Maybe I assumed that because the only things Eric would whisper to me in Swedish turned out to be dirty… Either way… Did I mention that she was a bitch? A dirty bitch. Who hits on people at a funeral for God sakes?
So with my tail between my legs… or my Dior bag on my shoulder, however you want to see it. I made my excuses to my dad that I was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. He knew I was full of shit, but I sensed that he also knew that I needed to get out of there. So, I did, and I took myself and my throbbing feet in too-high heels for a walk down past the shops and down to the docks where I found that little brown bench I’d sat on countless times before, with Eric. It had become ‘our bench’, the place where he’d told me he loved me, and I him, where we’d sit every summer when we’d visit, just being together and passing the time, admiring the view of the boats, and of each other. It was there that I sat for a long while, watching the ferry cross the water, then come back, then cross again. I’d been there a little under a half an hour when I heard the footsteps approach.
“You just took off,” he said, taking a seat next to me, not looking at me, but at the boats.
“Yeah. I thought I could deal with it, seeing you… with another woman… but I guess I was wrong. If that makes me petty, so be it.” I shrugged.
“It doesn’t make you petty, it makes you human.”
“I guess, it’s not like I had any right to be annoyed I mean…”
“You dumped me,” he said, and I winced. “So no, you don’t get the right to feel like shit because I’ve moved on.”
I wanted to cry, but I wouldn’t. He had every right to be cruel, and be even crueler if the mood took him. The way I treated him back then? He got a free pass.
“And have you? Moved on?”
He looked at me then, then back out to the water. “How is that your business?”
“Jesus, Eric. I get it, okay? You hate me, but really I was just trying to make a damn conversation. You don’t want to talk, then why follow me out here?”
He sighed, and sat back.
“I don’t hate you.” He whispered, “Believe me, I’ve tried. But, I don’t hate you.”
“You should. I was a total bitch.”
“Yeah you were. But… you were also going through hell and maybe before…” he waved his hand at all in front of us, “maybe I didn’t get that before. The fear, the confusion…”
“Still didn’t make it right.”
“No. It didn’t.” He sighed.
“I do want you to be happy, Eric. And if that Ava woman is the one to make you happy in all her brown haired, tallness… then so be it.”
“She seems different… to the others…” I commented, including myself in that statement.
“Yeah,” he sighed, “I’d had nothing but shit luck with the blondes in my life, so I figured I might be safer with a brunette.” He side eyed me, joking.
“Jerk,” I said, kicking him softly and he just laughed.
“I don’t know what Ava and I are. Or if we’d go somewhere or not, but it’s new and a lot of things are new in my life right now, and I’m just… figuring it out.”
I understood that, better than most.
“What about you… is there some ridiculously hot French guy in your life?”
I chuckled, because he really couldn’t have been further from the truth.
“No, there isn’t anyone. And there… hasn’t been anyone.” I blushed.
“In two years? Shut up.” His eyes were wide as he looked at me.
“Nope, no one. I’ve had a lot of other issues to deal with.” I wasn’t sure I wanted him to know the extent of said issues. But if he asked, this time, I’d be honest with him.
“Are you really not working again?” he asked.
“Well, Pam has been hounding me for a couple of weeks on this role she’s heard coming up through the grapevine, and thinks I’d be perfect for it. It’s pretty harrowing. And she thinks I could do it… but I don’t know. I don’t know what I want.” I told him the basic storyline, and his eyes lit up.
“Sook.” My heart flinched. I missed him, I missed that, so much. “I think you’d rock at it. I mean really, think of the many levels you could create with her, it sounds amazing. If you were going to go for something, I think that should be it.”
“Yeah? Well… maybe. That’s if I even get the part.”
“You will.” He sounded and looked so confident in that answer. “The irony of this bench isn’t lost on me, you know?”
“I know. I was just sort of drawn here. I love this spot.”
“It is pretty beautiful,” he admitted, looking around. We both sat then, in silence. Just listening to the sound of the city, all the people, the tourists and our breathing for what seemed like an eternity.
“Will you be okay?” I asked him.
“I think I will… I have to make sure Sara gets through this too, and of course Lena. And I’m living here now so there is that… My life is here now,” he said, looking … almost content. It was a good look on him, and one that I had no notion of messing with. No matter how much I still loved him.
“I meant it you know? I just want you to be happy, and if being here does that, then, great.”
“And what about you? Are you happy?”
“No. I’m miserable, and for a long time I figured it was what I deserved, but I don’t think that anymore. So no, I’m not happy. But… I think I will be. I will be,” I reaffirmed to myself more than anything. I needed to make big changes, and I needed to make them now.
I got up to walk away, this time a little happier than the last time he and I had parted ways.
“Sookie?” he called, and I stalled.
“Can I … have that hug now?”
I walked over to him and he opened his big wide wingspan arms and I hugged him, inhaling his smell just as I felt him do the same. Feeling his arms around me and his body next to me, it was heaven and it was hell all at once. When I pulled back it took him a slip second to open his eyes and when he did, the sadness I saw there, I knew had nothing to do with his father. I knew I’d caused that sadness, and I hated myself for it.
“You take of yourself, okay?” I said, and he nodded.
“I will.” I nodded, and I really meant it.
I would start taking better care of myself, starting with that role that Pam was dangling in front of me. Production started in six months, for a six month shoot. It would be just what I needed.
As for Eric and I? We eluded each other, like the moon and the sun, and it would be Oscar night, two years later, before we saw each other again, and this time it would all be different.
A/N: Shorter, but hopefully a little sweeter? 😀 Sound off below xox