Chapter 1: Gone

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December 24, 2006

I rubbed my bruised jaw and caressed her hand. Hell, Jason had every right to punch me. I deserved it and much more. I couldn’t get the image of her sprawled across the living room out of my head.

3 Days Ago

Sookie, are you still at work? I thought youd be home by now. We have our celebration to get to, I made sure to inject a little extra smolder to my words.

Eric, why are you calling me? she sounded tired. Thats odd. Though I guess shes been working longer hours lately. I dont remember seeing her much.

“It’s the 21st. Winter solstice. Longest night of the year and our yearly star gazing adventure. I know you didnt forget. Whats up? Now I was confused. She had started the tradition years ago, when we were kids. As we grew up and grew closer and became a couple, the tradition had only grown more sacred.

Eric, I assume youre in the house. Go into the living room and look around.

I followed her instructions and gave the living room a cursory once over. My eyes slid across the plush grey sofa, the black plush ottoman acting as a coffee table, the IKEA bookshelves and the slate grey fireplace. Then I looked closer. The hideous afghan that Sookie had dragged from her Gran’s house wasn’t draped in its usual place on the back of the couch. The pictures that usually dotted the bookshelves weren’t in their spot. Come to think of it, there weren’t that many books on the shelves either.

Sookie? Wheres all your stuff?

All I heard was a sigh. Do I really need to spell it out for you Eric? I moved out. Actually I moved out at the end of October.

Dumbstruck. Thats the only way to describe how I felt at that particular moment.

Why? I managed to choke that out at least.

Why not? You were so busy that we never saw each other. This isnt a relationship. There isnt even a THIS anymore. Hell, you couldnt even call us roommates. That much is clear from the fact that it took you two months to even realize that Ive been gone. Just-dont call me Eric.

I blinked as the phone disconnected in my ear.

Shes gone. Shes gone? And I didnt notice? That cant be right. She has to be lying. ButSookie doesnt lie. I threw myself onto the sofa and pressed another familiar number.

Hello, Snarky Sidekicks at your service. This is Pam. What do you want?

Pam, wheres Sookie? I cringed when I heard how pathetic and weak my voice sounded.

She sighed. What is with everyone sighing at me today?

You finally noticed?

What?!? Finally noticed? She knew?

You knew? You knew she was gone and you didnt tell me? What the fuck, Pam! my shock was morphing quickly into anger.

Why would I? Shes my best friend and she just wanted to forget. And honestly after what shes been going through, it didnt seem like the time to disregard her wishes. Were all just trying to get her better.

Shock to anger and now rapidly approaching panic.

Better? Whats wrong with her? Pam!

She paused and I swear I heard her teeth gnashing. See. THIS is why Im not telling you anything. You havent even seen her in months. Lafayette and Preston are taking care of her. Hell, even Jason has spent almost every other night with her. And you, the man who supposedly loves her more than life itself, have no idea what the fuck Im talking about. Fuck you Eric!

For the second time in twenty minutes, the sound of a phone disconnecting sounded in my ear. I stared at the phone for a moment before mashing the appropriate buttons to call Lafayette.

Laf! Let me talk to Sookie! I demand before he even had a chance to talk.

Uh-hello? a confused male voice sounded on the other end of the phone. And it definitely wasnt Lafayette.

Who is this?

Uh-who is this? Youre the one who called us.

I pinched the bridge of my nose and clenched my cell phone tightly. Who is this? Im looking for Lafayette because Pam said that Sookie was staying with him.

Oh. There was a moment of silence. You must be Eric.

My name sounded like the filthiest of swears spilling from his lips.

Yes I am. And I have no idea who you are. Let me speak to Lafayette or Sookie, I demand. Please.

At least youre trying to be polite, that is more than I expected. Listen, Sookie doesnt want to talk to you. Were taking care of her, the voice snidely informed me, which only served to make my anger rise again.

Who is we? Why does she need to be taken care of? I tried to keep the growl out of my voice but I dont think I succeeded.

There are many people taking care of her. Please respect her decision and refrain from contacting her, his voice was level and I could hear a note of forced politeness, as if we were discussing the weather. It pissed me off. Then I heard a muted sob.

Shes right there?!? Let me talk to her! Please, God Ill do anything, just let me talk to her, I was fully aware of my sharp descent into abject desperation, but at this point I didnt care. I was so close. My body had unconsciously jolted upright, as if my success depended on my posture. I wish it did, since at the moment it was impeccable.

He sighed. Again, I wondered what all the sighing was about. But then I heard a shuffle.

Eric? Why cant you just leave me alone? Sookie sniffled noisily into the phone.

Sookie, I have no idea what is going on. Please, just come over and talk, baby. Thats all I ask. Please! Ill get some food and we can talk. Please? I begged. Im man enough to admit that I begged.

Eric, I could hear the hesitation in her voice. I had to capitalize.

Sookie, please! I love you! I need to know whats going on.

Fine. Ill be over in an hour. Is that alright? She sounded defeated. I hated it, but I had to figure this out.

Thats perfect. Ill see you then. I love you, baby! I caught another sigh as I started to press the end button.

I was frozen on the couch for a moment or two before I leapt up and raced upstairs. I tore through the bedroom and into the en suite. Rushing through my shower, I made sure to primp a little extra when I was done. I dashed into the huge walk in closet that Sookie had specially designed for all of our things when we moved in. I realized that her half was empty.

How the fuck did I not notice this sooner?

It also didnt escape my notice that my available supply of clean clothes was rapidly dwindling. Did I really never do laundry? Sighing (now I was even doing it!), I pulled on jeans and a worn tee. I rushed down the stairs while ordering a pizza. I grabbed my wallet and keys, slipped my feet into my flip flops and rushed out to the car.

Even with all the drama and uncertainty, I had to smile at the purr my baby let out. I took a moment to appreciate my 69 Camaro. It was fully restored and had a fresh new bright blue paint job with white stripes on the hood. I loved it. I tore down the driveway and sped to the pizza place, conscious of my rapidly dwindling time.

I raced in and out of the tiny pizzeria and jetted back towards home. I grimaced when I noticed Sookies craptastic old yellow Beetle. I was puzzled since I remembered her talking about getting a new car.  I wanted to make it back before her, but apparently she still had her key because she wasnt sitting on the porch. I balanced the pizzas on one hand and shouldered the front door open.

Sookie? I got Westshore spinach pizza for you! Ill never know how she ate that shit. Pepperoni all the way. Weird, she hadnt answered yet.

I made my way into the kitchen and set the pizzas on the counter. Then I rounded the corner into the living room. My heart leapt into my throat at the sight that greeted me. With each new detail I noticed, my heart skipped another beat.

My Sookie sprawled unconscious on the hardwood floor

the red halo of blood circling her head

the odd bend of her legs and arms, as if shed just crumbled

the bones jutting out of her shoulders

the sickly pale color of her skin.

I ran over to her form and fumbled around to find a pulse. Tears blurred my eyes when I couldnt find one. I spastically jabbed at buttons on my phone.

The click of an answer sounded in my ear. “911, what is your emergency?”

ch 1 eric

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