“Sookie!” I leapt to my feet and leaned over to hug her. God, i felt relieved. But she shied away from me. My heart clenched and I almost gasped in defeat.
“Eric,” her voice sounded dead. “Where am I? Well-that might be a stupid question. Why am I here?” She looked so forlorn. I hated seeing her so lost.
“Do you remember coming over to the house to talk to me?”
“Yes. You weren’t there. Just like always. So I let myself in to wait. I…I think i went through the kitchen into the living room, Then…then I don’t remember,” she squinted in confusion.
“I got back with the pizza and found you unconscious,” I felt like a broken record having to repeat myself yet again. “I called an ambulance. And here we are-three days later. What happened, Sook? Why couldn’t you just talk to me?”
She scoffed. “All you care about is your bar and fucking any goddamned barfly who looks your way. You didn’t even notice that I moved out for Christ sakes! Why the hell would I try to talk to you when it was so obvious that I was absolute last person YOU wanted to talk to?!”
My eyes were swimming with unshed tears as I stared at the broken shell of the woman I love. I grabbed her hand and brought it to my lips.
“Baby, I am so sorry I came across that way. You could not be more wrong. Please Sook-please let me help you. I want to be here for you, WITH you. We all do-Pam, Jason, Lafayette…even Preston. Who I feel the need to tell you is a douche and I despise. But I will do anything for you-even tolerate him. Please baby, just…let us in, let us help.” The tears began falling as I spoke, but I made no move to brush them away. They expressed the emotion I felt, even if I wasn’t doing a great job at it.
She shifted uncomfortably on the bed and her gown slipped down to reveal her bruised and bony shoulder. More tears fought their way out at the sight.
“Eric,” she sighed. “I…I cant do this. Just…please, leave me alone.”
“Sookie,” I whispered, “God, baby, please! Please!” My voice was nearing hysterical as she gave my hand a slight squeeze. I shuddered when I realized all the strength she had went into that action.
“Just for now Eric, Please? I just-I need some time,” her beautiful azure eyes pleaded for me to understand.
I laid a gentle kiss on the back of her hand and nodded silently. I paused at the door to glance over my shoulder. Time. I could give her that.
3 Days Ago
My eyes shot over to Preston. I stared at him shock and hatred.
“You? She talked to you?” I spat out with little control of my inflection.
I gotta admit-that hurt a bit.
“Well, ever since she moved in with us, I’ve been with her the most. Lafayette’s been picking up the slack at Sidekicks. Sookie said he was the only one she trusted to take over ‘her kitchen’.”
I could almost hear her say that in her “angry kitten” voice.
“Around Thanksgiving, she finally started talking to me. A little. You gotta understand, when she first moved in, we were getting maybe five whole sentences out of her a day. She’d literally sit in her room and stare out the window. But one day she just…she walked in and started talking. But she made sure to wait until Laf was at the cafe,” he paused and shot an apologetic look our way. “I don’t think she wanted to trouble you since you and Eric are friends.”
Lafayette looked devastated. I rubbed his shoulder and he shot a hand out to grip Pam.
“She could have talked to me. I would have listened!” Lafayette pleaded.
“We know Laf. She wouldn’t talk to any of us. Remember, all she’d talk to me about was the cafe. She kept insisting on going over and over and over the paperwork. The invoices, the schedule, anything to keep her occupied so that I couldn’t talk to her about anything real,” Pam’s voice was filled with pain. I don’t remember her ever showing so much emotion.
“Anyways, apparently she went to the bar sometime at the end of April or the beginning of May. Actually I think it was Cinco de Mayo,” Preston shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. You’d been busy what with the opening and then the plumbing fiasco. She got it. But she hadn’t seen you in over a month and she wanted to surprise you at the bar. So, she got all prettied up and drove over to see you,” he shuddered slightly, “She admitted she was more than a little horny. So, she shows up and asks whatever tramp you had on the door if you were busy. The girl gave her the high eyebrow and said that you were more than busy with the new girl, Faith. She told Sookie that if she was another of your groupies to just get in line cause you’d be busy for awhile. Sookie didn’t believe her.”
Well, that made me all warm and fuzzy.
“She went in and saw Sam at the bar. He ran away like the scared little puppy he is. Then she started to worry. Then she saw you, coming out of the back with that skinny little ho bag. And she said Faith looked—a little worse for wear. So, she left. She said she waited up for you that night to confront you. But you never came home. So she opened the cafe the next morning, with no sleep. And after that, you only saw her in passing.”
I’m sure I looked retarded.
“What?!? I have no fucking clue what you’re talking about!”
“Shit. I remember that night! I was there!”
Jason shot out of his chair and began wearing a path in the hideous hospital carpet as he paced.
“Then fill me in because I’m confused as fuck.”
Pam looked between us and Lafayette finally went to sit next to Preston, who he grabbed onto like a lifeline. My esteem for the prick shot up a fraction of a notch when he started stroking Lafayette’s hand lovingly.
“I remember that skank he’s talking about. She made bedroom eyes at any-fucking-thing with a dick. The cat fight from that night was the last straw,” Jason paused his pacing and gave me a significant look.
Good thing cause I was about to yak all over his Chucks.
I gulped back the bile. Fuck. I remember that night.
“Someone maybe want to fill in the peanut gallery over here?” Pam’s patience finally ran out.
“That was the night I found out about the missing money. I’d been having problems with some of the waitresses having quickies in the bathroom with the customers on their breaks. I couldn’t figure out exactly who was ‘partaking’ of the clientele, but that night…god that night was epic. That might be what started this whole shit storm,” I hunched over and wrapped my arms around my stomach, trying to take deep breaths to calm down. I rocked myself in the chair for comfort and to help me focus on the events of that fateful night.
“Still confused. Thanks for the amazing explanation bro,” Pam’s snark had returned. Yay.
“That girl-Faith-she was a new hire and apparently only took the job to bag herself a sugar daddy. She about it heard from her friend Heather…who I had to fire her a few days before this fucking epic catastrophe. Anyways, apparently Heather told Faith about her little ‘rendezvous’ in the bathrooms and Faith decided that it sounded like a great way to bag a man. However, she tried to bag a man with a very possessive wife. Jason and I had to break up a cat fight in the middle of the dance floor. I had to drag Faith back to my office to wait for the cops. Jason had to retreat to my office with a bag of frozen peas on his eye,” I snickered involuntarily. Jason landed a light punch on my arm.
“Hey, I found out a few days later that the bitch was pregnant. Pregnant and possessive? That slut waitress never stood a chance! For the record, breaking up a cat fight by stepping in the middle is a stupid idea.”
Lafayette barked out a laugh and Pam raised her immaculately groomed eyebrow.
“You got your ass handed to you by a pregnant girl?” Pam’s snort set off everyone else.
Damn, it felt good to let off a little of the steam.
Once we all quieted, I thought over the next set of events.
“Well, obviously I had to call the cops. It took them forever to get to the bar. I was tied up with paperwork and statements and insurance for the next few days. I remember I slept at the bar for about a week,” I made a face as I tried to remember the exact timeline. “When I was going over the financials for the insurance company is when I found that assload of cash missing. It took our accountant months to figure out where that was hemorrhaging from. Fucking Longshadow!”
I growled angrily. That whole situation took months to fucking clean up. I shook my head. I could see where everything had gone to hell, but it didn’t make me feel any less guilty. Hw the hell could I have gone that long without seeing her? Why didn’t she call me out on it?
“Okay y’all. Since Sook is stable, I have gots to get my fine ass home and in bed. Someone gots to open the cafe in the morning. Will you be in, sweet thang?”
Pam scrunched her nose. “I-I…I don’t know. I guess I could come in later in the morning-“
“Don’t worry about it sweetie. I’ll go in with Laf and hold down the fort,” Preston rose and pulled Pam up into a hug.
“She’ll get better. I know it. She’s a fighter,” Preston whispered in Pam’s ear.
She sniffled and hugged him to her tightly.
I stood and grudgingly held out my hand to him. “Thank you. For taking care of her when I didn’t.”
Surprisingly, he took my hand and shook it. “My pleasure dude. She’s a wonderful girl.”
Lafayette squeezed me to him before grabbing hold of Preston’s hand and retreating from the room.
Jason looked around tiredly. “Are you staying?”
“You couldn’t pay me to be anywhere else.”
“What about the bar?”
“Eh, that’s what I pay people for. I think I deserve a break for now. Especially with everything that’s happened. My bar isn’t worth losing Sookie. Not again,” I choked back another round of tears.
“Alright. I’m gonna go add you to the list of people who can see her and get updates on her and shit. Give me a little bit,” Jason quickly left Pam and I alone to go figure out the logistics of hospital paperwork.
Pam had her arms wrapped tightly around herself and she looked at me with such lost eyes.
“Come here,” I opened my arms for her and she nearly bowled me over in her rush to break down.
“I can’t lose her Eric! She’s been my best friend for so long!”
Her broken sobs were just tearing me up even more. I can’t believe how much I’d fucked up everything and everyone around me.
“We won’t lose her Pam. Even Preston knows-she’s a fighter. We’ll get her back.”
I only wished I believed those words myself.