She really didn’t understand. Short of telling me that she was a cannibalistic serial killer who had her eye on my liver-and maybe not even then-I’d still want to explore this budding relationship we had started.
I gently tucked a piece of wayward hair behind her ear, caressing her cheek as I pulled back.
“Okay; let’s do this!” She giggled at my goofy expression. Mission accomplished. “And-for the record-I have some baggage too. Just so you don’t think you’re the only one.”
She smiled at me and sighed before moving off my lap. I didn’t like it.
She must’ve noticed the pout forming on my face because she giggled again. “Chill your tits. I’m just sitting over here because I think we both need our space for this part. Well, at least I do. I won’t be able to get it out if you’re cuddling me.”
I rolled my eyes, but knew she was right. I was too attached to her and hearing what promised to be some unpleasant business…yeah it was probably better that we weren’t quite so attached to each other. I could always cuddle her later though.
Her hands folded into her lap and she sat up straight, leaning back against the arm of the couch, feet curled up under her.
“Okay. So, you saw the bruises. Those are from my mom.”
I may have expected something like that, but still-hearing it said so plainly caused my blood to boil.
“She has…control issues. And anger issues. When I was little she used to hit me and then, when I’d get really hurt, she’d take me to the hospital. She was never diagnosed but it’s pretty classic Munchausen’s by proxy. One time she pushed me down the porch steps, stepped on my leg so it’d break and then held my face in the mud until I passed out. She got all sorts of attention for being the ‘doting, loving mother’ while I was in a cast for 6 months.” She scoffed. “As I got older, she got less and less attention. I got bigger and stronger, obviously, and she couldn’t hurt me as badly. And when I did get hurt, I could hide it much better.”
She paused to take a deep breath. Meanwhile, my fists were clenched, fingernails digging into my palms. How could someone who was meant to love and protect this perfect woman do something so despicable? And when she was a child too-I grit my teeth, trying to contain my rage.
“It’s all I’ve ever known. I know it doesn’t make sense why I didn’t say anything, but Bon Temps is really small. My grandparents were pillars in the community and my mother is the town diva. Everybody is under her thumb. Nobody would have believed me if I’d said anything. And my dad-well, I’m starting to think that he’s just as much an unwilling pawn as I am.” Her brow furrowed. Despite the simmering anger boiling through my veins, I found myself wanting to lick her. My mouth started salivating and I leaned forward unconsciously.
Her voice broke me out of my stupor. “Ya know, you get this look when you want to kiss me. It’s kind of adorable.”
I chuckled as I yanked her towards me, mindful of her ribs. “Well, maybe you should indulge me then. And kissing isn’t quite what I had in mind.”
The question in her eyes disappeared as I ran my tongue wetly up her cheek. She shrieked with laughter and began half heartedly fighting to get away from me as I continued to paw at her and lick all over her face and neck.
“Oh dear Lord! You’d make a good golden retriever!” She giggled as I calmed and laid my head on her chest. She began stroking my hair slowly as she took a deep breath.
“That’s not-that’s not quite all.” I glanced up at her face, seeing the absolute heartbreaking pain in her eyes. I tightened my arms around her waist and kept my head on her chest, needing the calming rhythm of her heart pounding in my ears.
“When I was little, maybe 5 or 6, my Gran caught her brother molesting my cousin.” I tensed, afraid of where this segway was going. “She chased him off with her shotgun and told him never to show his face around her again.”
I relaxed slightly, already in awe of a woman who’d run her own brother off.
“Your Gran sounds like a wonderful lady. Do I get to meet her?”
She sighed softly. “I wish. She had a heart attack and died about a year after that. I loved my Gran so much! She was the only one who ever helped me, just because she loved me.” She paused and I saw tears glisten in her eyes at her remembered relative. “After that, my-mother started…uh, inviting Uncle Bartlett to babysit me.”
My head shot up, knocking into her chin on the way.
“Shit! I’m sorry!” I grabbed her and hauled her onto my lap, nuzzling my nose into her neck as she rubbed her chin.
“S’fine. You have a very hard head.” She chuckled lightly.
I joined her amusement. It was something I’d been told my whole life. And it was part of the reason I had my own baggage to relate to her. My laughter died slowly as I settled back down, holding her to me even tighter. She was the innocent in her situation. But when she heard what I’d done…well, she may not feel as forgiving.
I opened my mouth to say something-something comforting-but she beat me to it.
“I’m sorry if this is upsetting. I can stop, if you want.” Her heartbeat was steady, as if she was already prepared and resigned for the worst.
“It’s up to you. We can stop and just relax if you want. I’m not gonna push you. We’ve got all the time in the world.”
She sighed and straightened up. I frowned again as she pulled herself out of my arms.
“Let’s just finish this and–then we can try to relax. Okay?”
I nodded, steeling my nerves for what else I was about to hear.
“My brother, Jason…he’s a really great guy. But he’s never really understood-well-anything. He always looked up to Uncle Bartlett and he used to resent it when he brought me special presents and got to watch me. He never understood why I got so much attention for getting hurt when I was just so ‘clumsy’. I’m almost afraid of how he’s gonna react if all this comes out.” Her face screwed up into a grimace and she took another deep breath.
“Sookie, it’s not your job to protect everyone around you. You can’t save everyone from the bad stuff. All you can do is do what’s best for you.”
She smiled as I spoke and leaned back into me, nuzzling into my chest.
“Thanks Eric. I don’t think anyone’s actually said that to me. Like-allowed me to just…take care of me.”
I shook my head, trying to shake the unpleasant conversation out. As if I could. Those bits of information were permanently branded on my frontal lobe and sadness welled up inside me, threatening to overflow. Tears stung my eyes as I pressed a soft kiss to her hair.
“I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I’m sorry your life has been shitty. I’m sorry the people who were supposed to do anything-give anything-to protect you were the ones who did the most unspeakable things to hurt you. But you don’t have to worry about that anymore. I’m not going to let them hurt you anymore. Not if I have anything to say about it.”
My arms banded around her tighter and I was afraid of hurting her-but at the same time I couldn’t loosen my grip if I wanted to. I needed her to be as close to me as humanly possible.
“Let’s just relax now. I’m sure we’ll have to deal with a shitstorm of epic proportions in the morning. But for now…I want some peace. I want to lay here with you and just do nothing.” She smiled up at me, her eyes shining beautifully.
“Well then that’s what we’ll do. Wanna watch a movie?” She nodded and I lifted myself off the couch, laying her down in my spot gently. “Alright we’ve got…quite the selection of movies, all for your viewing pleasure, m’lady.”
She giggled as I swept open the TV cabinet. Then her brow furrowed as she caught a glimpse of the interior.
“Uh, Eric? 3 boxed sets does not ‘quite the selection’ make.”
I grinned, probably a bit maniacally, as I picked up the remote and turned the TV on. A few more presses of some buttons had Windows Media Center starting up. Her brow was still furrowed as I began pulling up folders. And her eyes widened comically as I opened the last folder and she caught sight of the folders.
“Oh my GOD! Seriously?!?”
I chuckled as I crossed the room, lifting her gently and settling myself under her once again.
“Damn right, darlin’! I’ve got over 3,000 movies and shows all on that hard drive there.”
I handed her the remote and let her scroll through the offerings, noting what she paused on and what she skipped over. Seems like she wasn’t a huge rom-com fan…nice to know.
“Oh, this! This is definitely it.”
I dragged my eyes away from her, too late to see what she’d chosen, though as the first few notes poured out of the speakers situated around the room, I released the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.
“Nice choice. The Princess Bride-a classic.”
She giggled again at my goofy tone, snuggling further down into me. I grabbed the blanket that I’d casually draped across the back of my sofa, draping it across her and myself.
As we settled down to watch the poignant movie, I contemplated what would happen in the coming days. And I sincerely hoped that whatever happened I’d still have Sookie after it was over.