Present Day – Christmas Day 2006
“You can go see her,” my fathers voice jarred me to consciousness.
So I wasn’t the most alert. Sue me.
“Go back and talk to her. She says she wants to see you,” my dad gave me a glare and motioned to the door. I took note of the tear tracks streaking his face and stood slowly.
“Thanks dad. Are you guys alright in here?” I felt nervous all of a sudden.
My mom gave an exasperated huff and nearly shoved me out the door before she turned to collapse into tears against my dad’s chest.
My feet dragged as I made my way down the hallway. I stood outside her room for a moment, just to collect my thoughts. Then I gave a gentle knock before poking my head inside.
“Come on in,” her voice floated to me even though she was turned towards the window.
I shuffled in and sat gingerly on the chair beside the bed. Did hospitals put in bids for who could make the most absolutely uncomfortable furniture ever?
She sniffled. My heart clenched in my chest. I longed to reach out and hold her. I didn’t want to get slapped though. I felt so unsure of myself and it was a completely foreign feeling.
“So. We’re supposed to talk and figure out what the hell happened.” Her voice drifted to me as almost a whisper.
She snorted. Hmmm…must have said that out loud. I was getting bad about that.
“So-um, do you want to start?”
She finally turned her head my way and my heart stammered somewhere between a clench and a complete skip.
Her gorgeous face was so gaunt and pale. Her cheekbones jutted out under her skin and her eyes were sunken pits. The vibrant blue of those eyes was dimmed to a nasty brackish water color currently rimmed in red thanks to whatever tears she and my dad had been sharing. Her hands, always so fragile and feminine, now resembled an old gnarled woman as they rested on top of her blanket. Skin and bones…literally. I stared at my Sookie, but she wasn’t there to see. What have I done?
“I honestly don’t know where to start. It seems like we’re both a bit on the fucked up side of shit,” she snorted, which made my heart lighten for a moment. “At least you still look like a god damned super model, while I completely went off the fucking deep end.”
My heart sank right back down to about my knees.
“Sookie-I…” She held up her hand.
“Please. Just let me get this out. I love you. After all this shit and all this time, I love you. God I’ve loved you for years, it’s not going to magically go away with a snap of my fingers. But…” I hated that but, “things have not been and are not okay with us. You completely dropped off the face of the earth. It took you 2 fucking months to notice that I moved out.”
She paused and sucked in a rattling breath.
“Jason told me what happened…that night. I knew in my heart that you would never do something like that. But my head got in the way I guess. You know how we’d go at it like rabbits whenever we were within a mile of each other…and then all of a sudden you don’t want or need sex? You don’t even talk to me. I had come to rely on you so much in the last few years..and then you’re just gone. It felt like you’d died. Or like I had…” Her eyes flicked up to mine and she took a deep breath. “If-and this is a big if-if we wanted to try to work on things between us…and this is a huge if since I don’t know what I can really handle and I have no idea what you want…we need to be completely honest. Honest about what happened and about how we feel. And it needs to continue, not just be a one time deal.”
She sagged as she finished, and I reached my hand out tentatively to hold hers. I took it as a good sign when she didn’t fling it back at me.
“Sookie, you-shit…uh…fuck. Okay hold on, let me get my thoughts together,” I struggled for a moment and she let out a soft, tinkling giggle. That giggle was the best sound I’d heard in awhile.
Despite going over and over and over what I’d say to Sookie in my head, having to actually articulate the words out loud-in person-right now was proving to be a rather difficult challenge.
“I love you,” okay, good start. “I have loved you for years and I highly doubt I will ever stop, no matter what happens between us. This whole clusterfuck of a year…I have no idea how it happened. Honestly it was like I was in some kinda waking coma. Like I knew it was December, and I knew that time had progressed…but I hadn’t progressed with it. That doesn’t make sense.”
I shook my head in frustration. God, how to I explain to her how I let this happen?
She looked at me with patience and-was that hope?
“Take your time darlin’. It’s not like I’m going anywhere,” her half hearted attempt at humor made me want to laugh and cry. Simultaneously. I knew with all I had in me that I love this woman, no matter what. I just had to show her.
“I just-when I walked in and saw-when I saw you just…fuck! Sookie!” The tears that had been threatening to fall for the last four days had finally made their bid for freedom and I lost the battle spectacularly. I collapsed forward onto the edge of her bed and sobbed. I clutched her hand like it was my lifeline and I gulped in great heaving breaths, just to try to control myself. My heart nearly broke when she gently attempted to extricate her hand from mine. The sobs just increased in intensity and volume.
“Eric,” her soft voice broke through my grief and I looked up in her pale angelic face. “Come here.”
And with her arms opened to me, I hugged her to my chest and snuggled in beside her-nurses be damned.
Seconds felt like minutes. Minutes felt like hours. Hours felt like days. And we just sat and held each other.
Until some bitchy fucking cunt decided to burst our bubble.
“Sir! That is unacceptable! You need to-” the brassy blonde with the bad boob job was immediately silenced with a swift flick on the arm from my Sookie.
As inappropriate as it was, my cock sprang to attention.
“Get out of my room, bitch. He can be here with me if he damn well wants to be. Seriously, do you have nothing else to do? I’ve waited long enough to talk to my man and I’ll be damned if you’re going to get in the way. Go fuck yourself with a god damned mop handle for all I care, then call Doctor Kaplan and get him in here,” Sookie’s withering glare was still trained on the shell shocked nurse. “Okay bitch, since you obviously have the IQ of a cucumber-well, that may be insulting to cucumbers, but whatever-I’ll talk real slow for you. Get. The. Fuck. Out!”
The nurse scampered like her trashy crotchless panties had been set on fire.
Sookie trained her eyes on the obvious bulge in my jeans and smirked. “Down boy.”
I barked out a laugh and pulled her into my chest. When her shoulder bone jutted into my sternum, however, it knocked me right the fuck out of my good mood.
“Why would you do this to yourself, Sookie? Seriously, THIS…this is just way too fucking incomprehensible to me. Why would you hurt yourself like this?” My voice rose in pitch slightly and she sighed.
“Do you remember when we were in high school and I had those problems? When Gran had me go see that counselor?” I nodded. “That was a PG rated version of this. I never told you because I was afraid of how you’d look at me after. Like I was some broken doll. And then when we finally got together…I didn’t want you to know how broken I was.”
Her head hung in shame and I never wanted to see that again.
“Sookie,” I nudged her chin up with my finger, “there is nothing in this world that could make me love you or want you any less. I promise you. Are you able to talk about it? About all or any of it? Because right now, I just really need to understand. Everything that’s happened in the last year has been because of an inability to communicate. And if we have a snowball’s chance in hell of making things work between us, we need to get that sorted out.”
She gulped in a breath and looked into my eyes. Searching…for what I have no idea. But whatever it was she must have found it because I saw the resolve flicker over her face. It made me feel a smidge better that I could still read her so well.
“Eric? Could you-uh-help me?” She winced slightly. I jumped up from the bed and my hands began fluttering over her ineffectually.
“What?? What’s wrong? What hurts!”
“Calm down. I just want to sit up,” she held out her arms and I tugged her up gently. The creak of her bones grinding together made my teeth set on edge.
She pulled her knees up under her and sat Indian style…or criss cross applesauce, as she liked to say. A smile made its way across my face as I remembered that tidbit.
“Come on up,” she waited patiently while I hopped up and mimicked her position at the foot of the bed. “Okay. I have what my therapist has so eloquently named-control issues.”
I snorted. That was the epitome of an understatement. Lets just say that after attempting to help with the laundry once, I NEVER tried to ‘help’ again.
“Yeah yeah yeah. Anyways, when things in my life go badly I tend to go a little overboard with control. I know you’re thinking of the laundry,” she caught me, “but according to Doc, that’s actually a very minor manifestation of it. Essentially, I do whatever I can to have any modicum of control over my life, even as I feel like its spiraling out of control. So, when our relationship began…well, for lack of a better word disintegrating, my control issues stepped up a notch.”
I nodded, but didn’t like where this was going. I swallowed hard but was determined to hear her out.
“If you had been home much during those few weeks before the ‘incident’ you would have been able to see your reflection in any surface of the house you looked at. But then after…well…it wasn’t enough. I didn’t feel good enough for you. I thought since you weren’t coming home at all anymore that I wasn’t enough. So I stopped eating. I wanted to look like the girls I thought you wanted. I didn’t know what to do-you were literally at the bar all the time. You didn’t take my calls and when I stopped by to see you, you were so busy that you never really SAW me, even when we spoke. Since nothing worked, I needed to forget.” she paused to take a deep breath. I scooped her hand up into mine and gave it a gentle squeeze, trying to give her my strength.
“I started having a beer or two with dinner. Nights were the worst because i still expected you to just walk in the door. Then my tolerance built up. So I’d have three or four. Then beer turned into shots. Four turned into six. Six turned into ten. You get the idea. Then, as I lost more weight, everything started hurting. I won’t go into the medical shit behind it because its pretty obvious, but the doctor I went to was a fucking joke and just prescribed me some oxy. So I took it. And I felt great for awhile. Then I mixed that with the shots and I felt fan-fucking-tastic! But then it didn’t work. So I’d up the dose. I was still getting up and going into work, but I wasn’t talking to anyone. Ask Pam. I barely said five words to her in like 6 months. But then in September, I slipped in the kitchen. I was slicing peppers for breakfast service and the knife slipped. I cut my hand open. Really deep too. But I noticed that I didn’t quite feel the pain. It was a high, but it didn’t really hurt.”
She stopped to wipe away some tears that were making their way down my face.
“Don’t cry, love. Its not worth it.”
I shuddered. “That’s like saying YOU’RE not worth it. And you are so very worth it, baby.” I drew her into my arms and squeezed her tight. “Sookie, please-you mean everything to me. Please don’t say that again.”
She pulled away and gazed up at me, her eyes wide. She shot me a smile before she settled back into her former position.
“Well, thank you. But it gets worse.” She cringed. I cringed right along with her. “So now that I had this awesome new way to get high, I just combined all three. Couple that with not eating for days on end and I was a fucking mess. It speaks to my sneakiness that it took Pam quite that long to figure it out. She only knew because she caught me-”
My body jolted upright like I’d been stuck with a cattle prod. “She caught you doing what?” I swallowed hard. Did I really want to know?
Sookie looked pained and I knew she didn’t want to say exactly what Pam had caught her doing.
“She came in early one day. I guess she was going to corner me or something. But she caught me slicing into my wrist. I’d been wearing sweatbands and long sleeves for months to hide the cuts. But she walked in and startled me and I basically sliced a hell of a lot deeper than I meant to,” she held out her left wrist to me. “I still have a pretty gnarly scar.”
I gently cradled her wrist in my huge hand and stared at the angry red line. A tear dropped onto her wrist and neither of us made a move to wipe it away. I kissed her marred skin and looked to her to continue.
“After that, things started moving pretty swiftly. She called Jason and Laf…Jason called Doc and I had to go to the ER for stitches. I’ve been in therapy every day since the end of September. I moved out…I guess that I hoped that you’d notice and come looking for me,” she whimpered before continuing. “When you didn’t, I asked everyone not to say ANYTHING to you.”
I think my heart settled somewhere around the hospital gift shop five floors down.
“Sookie-I am so sorry. So SO sorry. You have no idea,” I bowed my head over her hands. “I do NOT know how I got so busy that I…that I…god!”
A breath whooshed out of me as I wilted into myself.
“I didn’t know how much trouble the bar would be. I didn’t know that droves of women would clamber for my attention. I had to change my number, which is why I never got your calls. I had no idea the depths people will sink to in order to make a buck. I just…I honestly thought I saw you. Maybe I dreamt of you and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t tell the difference. I just…god, I am so sorry!”
I leaned forward and laid my head in her lap as I let a few tears escape. I tried to surreptitiously wipe them away, but I knew she saw. Even if she pretended she didn’t.
“Me too. I don’t honestly know why I took it to this extreme. I’ve been trying to get better…but Doc says its a compulsion. The first thing they wanted was for me to stop with the oxy, the diet pills and the drinking. I’ve pretty much stopped all that. The only thing I take is the occasional Tylenol PM if I can’t sleep. That was another huge deal…I had insomnia so bad that I’d go days without sleeping. It just…everything sucked,” she drew in a shaky breath.
I held her hands in mine and sighed.
“But now, I’m here. My parents are here. Jason, Pam, Lafayette…even that fuckwad Preston. We’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” I brought her hand to my lips. “I’ve been here since you got here and Muses is fine. I don’t need to be there all the time. I want to come and help with Sidekicks. I want you to help with Muses. I want to be partners, like we were before. I want us to go on picnics like we used to and swim in the lake behind Jason’s after a barbecue in July. Those simple things that I took for granted before because I knew you’d be there…well, you weren’t there anymore. And this was a real wake up for me.”
She cringed minutely. “What about the bar?”
I sighed and she finally lifted her eyes to mine.
“Okay listen to me now. And you better sure as fuck hear me,” her eyes were wide and she looked terrified. “There is not a single thing in this world that is more important to me than you. You are everything to me. When I realized that you’d moved out…I felt-I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I hurt all over. I felt like I’d finally fucked up the one perfect thing in my life. I promised myself that I’d do anything…absolutely ANYTHING to get you back. Fuck my bar. Fuck all the staffing shit, the paperwork, the asshole customers….all I care about is you. The bar means nothing to me without you to enjoy it with. Yeah, I wanted it-but I wanted it for us. The world could be coming down around us, and as long as I’m with you…I couldn’t give a shit.”
Her eyes were shimmering with tears as she leaned forward and pressed her lips gently to mine. I felt whole. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I felt like I was complete.
I grabbed her and held the innocent kiss for a few seconds longer. I pulled away and looked into her eyes.
“Baby, I love you so much. We can do this. Let me love you like you deserve.”
“Alright,” she smiled a huge, genuine smile. “Then lets give this a shot. Again.”
The smile she gave me made my heart flutter. Yes, another shot. And this time-I wouldn’t blow it.