He kissed me.
What the fuck?!? Okay, so it was only on the forehead and it was only for a second, but still-that’s a hugely intimate act for someone I just met. Granted, he’s my husband, but still.
I sank onto the porch steps to wait for Amelia and shut my eyes, taking deep cleansing breaths. I had to keep it together. I needed to get this whole mess figured out.
My head shot up as I heard the slamming of a car door. Amelia bounded up from the rental car in the driveway, nearly quivering with excitement.
“So…how did it go?” she drew the word out, determined to drive me insane. She had a much better outlook on life than I did.
“It went okay. He freaked out at first, but that’s understandable.” I looked away quickly, knowing the expression on my face would share more than I’d like. I didn’t want her attacking him before we could figure things out.
Her eyes narrowed. “He freaked out how exactly?” Her tone reeked of authoritative expectation and I sighed.
“Amelia! Nothing like that! He was surprised. He called his friend Godric to come over-”
“Wait. Godric!?” her nose crinkled and her eyes widened marginally.
I waited to see if she’d add anything else to her line of thought, narrowing my eyes suspiciously. But no, I supposed I’d have to guess. “Why? Do you remember him?”
“Uh-I don’t think so. Who is he-like, the boyfriend or something?” She stuttered, her eyes on her flip flops as she shifted her weight from foot to foot.
Okay, now she was acting squirrely. Her nervous chuckle and the sweat beading on her upper lip gave her away. My eyes narrowed and I pursed my lips expectantly.
“Amelia Broadway. What the hell are you hiding?”
“Nothing. I swear. I thought I remembered something through the alcohol induced haze, but I don’t,” she sank down next to me on the porch, her face screwed into a remorseful look that somehow didn’t strike me as genuine.
I still didn’t believe her, but I let the topic drop. I knew we were going to have to go inside and find Eric eventually, but I really just wanted to sit here in suspended reality for a little while longer.
“So,” she bumped her shoulder onto mine, making me cringe slightly in pain, “is he cute?”
I flushed red again, shaking my head. “Oh God Ames. You have no idea.” Wow, was that my voice-all wistful and dreamy? Ugh, what a mess.
“Really?! That good, Stackhouse? I might just be jealous,” she smiled tightly before her eyes wandered away again, scanning over his immaculate front lawn.
We sat there in companionable silence for awhile as the slight breeze blew around us, stirring the still green leaves on the trees in the yard.
“This is unnatural. It should not be THIS warm in November. I mean, even Louisiana averages in the 50’s. And the trees should NOT be green.” Amelia waved her hand spastically as she dipped her head down onto her knees. “And why doesn’t he have any palm trees? It’s Florida for Christ’s sake!” The end of her rant came out as nothing more than an angry grumble and I had to stifle a chuckle.
“I don’t like palm trees.”
Needless to say, we both shrieked as Eric’s voice broke into our conversation. Amelia at least managed to keep her seat, but I slipped off the step and sprawled gracelessly onto the front walk, knocking my head on the concrete as I went.
“Shit! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you!” he was rushing forward, kneeling next to me to help me sit up.
“It’s fine. I’m okay. I’m okay-really.” I shook my head to clear it as Eric’s eyes wandered over my body, looking for injuries. His hand on my shoulder-such a small touch-was so familiar and distracting. I was hard enough to concentrate while I was looking at him, let alone with him hand on me. I cast a glance at Amelia to see if she was alright, but found her staring slack jawed at my husband.
Alright, so maybe my voice came out as more of a bark than an admonishment. And maybe I felt a white-hot jealous rage bubble up inside of me instead of the indignation I thought I should be feeling. And maybe I didn’t want to admit either of those things, even to myself.
So I allowed Eric to help me to my feet and if I happened to cling to his arms a little too tightly, it was only because I needed to gain my footing. Obviously.
Until I came to my senses and reeled back away from him, blushing madly. He cocked his head to the side and shot me a crooked grin as he shoved his hands in his pockets. His bare foot kicked adorably at a stray ant in his path and I marveled at how he had no fear of all the creepy crawlies.
“Uh, the coffee’s done, if you want to come inside. Godric should be getting here anytime.” Eric nodded his head toward the still open front door, a shy smile gracing his handsome face.
When we nodded and Amelia stood, he led us back inside the house and into the kitchen, his hand at the small of my back again.
He guided us to the bench seat at the kitchen table where he’d already set mugs of coffee as well as cream and sugar.
“Do you by any chance have some honey?” Amelia’s sugary sweet tone and coy smile made me blanch. Seriously, as if we weren’t infringing on the poor guy enough.
“Uh-no, don’t worry about it,” I stammered. “It’s not a big deal.”
“I have honey. It’s this really delicious local honey. I get it from the University gardens. They have their own bees and they do beekeeping seminars…” his face flared into a blush, making me feel remarkably better about my own propensity for turning red.
“Oh, well okay. If it’s not too much trouble.” I swallowed audibly, noting how the flush on his face made him even more attractive.
His smile was boyish and goofy as he tripped clumsily to the cabinet above the stove and retrieved the tiny bear shaped bottle that I’d never be able to reach without a ladder.
“So,” he said, placing the bottle in front of me gently, “you like honey in your coffee?”
“Yeah, it’s a weird quirk. But I actually turned Amelia onto it, so it can’t be that bad. She’s astoundingly picky,” I snickered as she let out a high pitched whine.
“I just have good taste is all,” Amelia muttered as she doctored her coffee and took a sip, shuddering in pleasure. “Oh, this honey is delicious!”
We all sat, sipping our coffee and just glancing at each other, all the while pretending we didn’t notice.
“So Eric,” I could sense trouble when Amelia used THAT tone. “How did you end up in Tampa?”
He snorted into his coffee, sputtering afterwards as I pounded on his back.
“Well, that’s kind of a long story,” Amelia waved him on with her hand. “I came here a few years ago with my friend Pam. She decided to open a bar down here in Ybor, but didn’t want to be alone. So, I moved with her.”
“Oh, do you help her run the bar? You look like a studly, bartender type,” Amelia fluttered her eyelashes at him, making me flush. It was purely embarrassment, not rage-despite the twitch underneath my eye. Eric eyed her uncomfortably.
“Uh, a little. I actually just do her accounting and payroll on the side. That’s not my real job,” he took a long sip of his coffee. “I’m actually-I actually teach. Preschool.”
I choked. And to my supreme and utter horror, I managed to spit my coffee all over the front of him.
“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry!” I jumped up, trying to find a dish towel to wipe him down with. He chuckled as I fluttered helplessly around his kitchen, not finding anything useful.
“It’s fine, it’s fine. Please Sookie, sit, sit. I get that response a lot. I apparently don’t look like a teacher, much less one for little kids.” He cleared his throat, his fingers toying with the edge of his mug. “So, what do you do?”
“Well, I used to work for the family business. They’re in construction. But uh-I don’t anymore,” I looked down at my hands as I sank down beside him again.
“I actually own a boutique clothing store back home,” Amelia supplied, obviously trying to impress.
Eric blinked at her. “Back home? Oh, yeah. I guess you guys wouldn’t be from here. Where are you from?”
“Louisiana. Near Shreveport. That’s in the north of the state, nowhere near New Orleans,” Amelia’s huffy answer made me growl.
“Sorry, we’re just used to having to correct people. Anytime someone hears that we’re from Louisiana, it’s all ‘Oh, Mardi Gras must be so fun.’ and ‘Can you send me some beignets?’. It gets tiring,” she apologized quickly, though remarkably insincerely. I glared at her and rolled my eyes.
Eric opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the slamming of the front door. I shrieked and jumped closer to him while Amelia nearly knocked her coffee all over the front of her.
“Do you have something you’d like to tell me, assmunch?!?” The feminine shriek sounded eerily similar to what I imagined a banshee would and I fought to keep my hands away from my ears. I didn’t know voices could reach that decibel.
Eric’s tan face paled considerably as he gulped in huge breaths of air quickly. He looked terrified, which only served to make me even more anxious than I already was. I was seriously going to have to pop a Xanax or something at the rate I was going.
“We’re-uh, we’re in here Pam,” his voice wavered slightly as he spoke, scooting his chair a hair closer to my own.
Visions of dragons and she-beasts of lore danced through my head while I waited on bated breath for the boogie man (or woman, as the case may be) who inspired so much fear in a man like Eric to walk into the kitchen. And I was sorely disappointed.
The woman who clicked her way madly into the room on her sky high heels was anything but monstrous looking. She was gorgeous!
THIS was Pam? Pam,who was one of Eric’s best friends; Pam, who Eric moved to be with; Pam who looked like she was about ready to claw my eyes out…yeah I was screwed.
And again, not in the good way. Can’t a girl catch a break?
“Pam, it’s not what you think…”
“Oh no, I think it is,” she broke in, snarling. “This fucking hussy just had to get her claws in you! I TOLD you that you shouldn’t have gone to Vegas without me. Look what happens to you when left to your own devices!” Pam’s voice climbed higher and higher until I’m fairly certain dogs would be the only ones who could understand her.
Her pacing across the tile floor was rapidly making me nauseous. It didn’t help matters when Eric ripped himself out of his chair and placed himself in her path, making her bounce off his rock hard chest.
“Shut the fuck up Pam!” Eric’s voice echoed against the tile and everyone froze.
Silence descended like a thick fog. One that none of us seemed to know how to break out of. They stared at each other for a few moments, chests heaving with their heavy breaths, before Eric stalked closer to her placing his face mere inches from hers.
“Do not ever say anything like that about Sookie again, do you hear me?”
Pam’s wide hazel eyes narrowed as she glared at him before cutting over to me. I tried my hardest to blend into the wooden chair, but my green shirt clashed a bit with the light wood.
“Now, if you’d like to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with us, you can. Godric will be here soon and we can discuss how this happened. But you will not disrespect my wife in my own house.”
My eyes had to be the size of saucers. He just told off one of his best friends for me, a woman he doesn’t really know. Color me confused.
Eric settled heavily back into the seat next to mine, his arm reaching around to rest on the back of my chair, while Pam stared at us open-mouthed for a few more seconds. Rolling her eyes, she sank into the chair furthest away from me. Judging by her designer clothes and Loubouton shoes, she probably thought my Old Navy duds had cooties.
“So,” Pam started placidly, “how exactly did this happen then?”
“Aren’t we supposed to be waiting for Godric? Or does Your Majesty just not give a damn about any of the lowly peasants around here?” Amelia’s bitchy attitude, while definitely not misplaced, was also definitely not helping.
Eric and I started at each other for a beat before I broke eye contact and looked over towards Pam.
“I went to Vegas with Amelia for a bachelorette weekend. We got drunk the first night and pretty much stayed drunk the entire time. I vaguely remember leaving a guy’s room one morning…I’m assuming it was you since there wasn’t any others,” I said to Eric, who looked completely vacant. “Anyways, I ran into a short tattooed guy in the hallway and we chatted for a few minutes. Then I remember Amelia finding me and yanking me back to our room. We left the next day and I didn’t think anything of it.”
Pam snorted inelegantly. “How the fuck do you know she’s telling the truth? She could have fucked any random stranger, then showed up on your doorstep-”
The frosty glare Eric sent her way and his biting tone shut her up quickly. “She has a marriage license with my signature Pam. Any other comments or can we continue?”
“Well, do you remember any of this so-called night of passion then?” Pam snarked at Eric, clearly not believing a word of my story.
He turned to study me closely. He sighed and swept his eyes back around to Pam. “I remember a little. I remember a blonde girl. And we had-a lot of fun.”
He must have noticed me shifting uncomfortably in my seat or ruby red glow on my cheeks.
“Yeah, Sookie said she was sore for days afterward,” Amelia added (not so) helpfully. I dropped my head to the table and groaned while Pam and Eric barked out eerily similar laughs.
“Anyways…we got back to Louisiana and everything went back to normal. Then this guy in a suit shows up in the middle of my wedding and sa-”
“Wait!” Pam jumped up, shooting towards me and glaring menacingly. “It was YOUR bachelorette party?!?”
“Well, yes but-” I tried to explain, my brain not quite thinking quickly enough. How could I convey the mess that was my life?!? Besides, Pam didn’t exactly seem inclined to listen anyway.
“So, what Eric is the other guy? You fucking tramp! You expect him to drop everything for a fucking fatass, hillbilly slut who-”
Pam’s tirade was abruptly ended with Amelia’s fist violently introducing itself to her nose. I shot a glance at Eric who looked to shell shocked to do much more than blink.
“You shut the fuck up right now, bitch. I do not care how perfect and polished you think you are, you will NOT talk about my friend like that! You don’t know the whole story! Sookie was-”
My eyes shot to Amelia as she snapped her mouth shut suddenly. She glanced apologetically at me and I felt warmed by Amelia’s defense of me, even if she nearly said more than she should have. The whole situation sounded bad, even I could admit it. And the blood spurting out of Pam’s nose was making me nauseous again. The instinct to run-to get the fuck out of this clusterfuck-was pounding through me. All of a sudden this seemed like a horrible idea and I wasn’t sure I wanted to handle it now-or ever.
Amelia wrapped her arms around me and it was only then that I noticed the shaking. And the rapidly increasing number of black spots on my vision, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood panic attack.
“Sookie,” Amelia forced my eyes to hers, miming deep breaths, “come on honey, just breathe. Breathe, Sookie, breathe!”
I tried, so help me, I tried. But Amelia’s face was rapidly filling my ever decreasing scope of vision as the panic escalated. In the recesses of my brain I heard Pam and Eric arguing back and forth, trying to talk over one another-probably about what to do with the crazy woman sitting in his kitchen. Eric was also fluttering around me ineffectually while Amelia fended him off and Pam tried to pull him away.
“Back the fuck off, Thor! Your friend is the reason she’s upset!” Amelia’s voice was fading fast and my hand shot out, trying to grasp anything I could. All I managed to do was knock over my coffee, spilling it onto Eric’s pristine white tile floor. Oops.
“Hello?”A disembodied voice from the foyer called out.
My head whipped around as Eric’s panicked voice called for Godric to come to the kitchen.
The words swirled in my head as I began to drift out of consciousness.
I saw Godric’s eyes widen fractionally when he rounded the corner. “Amelia? Sookie?” Yep, I remembered him. And that was officially the limit to what I could handle. “Sookie!”