As Rasul and I rode the elevator up to the NICU together I was in a bit of a daze, with an odd mixture of the chorus to R. Kelly’s ‘Sex Me’ song playing in the background of my mind intermingled with scenes from The Hunt for Red October because my tube was definitely flooded and ready to fire Captain.
So flooded I was lucky I didn’t sound like a wet sneaker squeaking against a freshly polished floor when I walked.
It was ri-dick-ulous how much I wanted Eric’s, well…dick, but really – who could blame me? I mean, of course I loved him – was in love with him more than ever, but I’d be damned if I didn’t want to just lick, bite, and hump every square inch of him. And I’d done that very thing many many times, but it had been so long – too long – and I was slowly going insane from withdrawal.
And just thinking of the words long and withdrawal had my dirty mind and libido going into overdrive.
You know, because those words brought to mind other ones like thick and thrusting.
And I was sure I could hear my crotch go, ‘Squeak squeak,’ as I stepped off of the elevator despite the fact it had been six weeks since my floor had been polished.
Looking back now, over the last few weeks, I felt like such a dunce for thinking Eric didn’t want me anymore. It was hard to miss his periscope rising up from the sea of blankets searching for nearby targets, but when he systematically ignored my bull’s eye every night and scuttled his ship, I couldn’t help but wonder.
Even Wicked and Immoral felt baffled.
We’d gone from six straight months of constant flirting, groping, leering, and pawing at one another to nothing and while I rationally knew my health and everything else with Lilly factored into that, that didn’t make going cold turkey any easier. It was his modus operandi – be it the morning after our drunken wedding night or his amnesia homecoming – and I’d come to not only expect that from Eric, but I craved it more than I knew and now that I had a little bounce to my step knowing the fucktential of the night was high, I may have left a few ‘breadcrumbs’ in my wake for him to follow my trail.
Breadcrumbs – cum drops – one and the same, but at least I might get a warning on his advance when he stepped on one and the squeak from the sole of his sneakers rang out in the hallway.
Besides his snub of my hub and my own fatigue most nights, the only other thing that had been holding me back from being more aggressive with him in bed had been my own worries over my changed appearance. I’d been no super model to begin with and I was pretty sure Eric had ‘dated’ a few – I refused to confirm this suspicion for my own sanity – so my sagging belly, the Wonder Twins who’d formed into the shape of leaky udders, and C-section scar did nothing for my self-esteem. In fact, the more I thought about it now, the more I thought a little light bondage might be a good idea if my appointment later on went well and the doctor gave me the thumbs up for pants down.
If I tied Eric down and blindfolded him then he would be none the wiser that the amusement park he’d been riding had turned into a funhouse mirror.
There wasn’t much I could do about it now anyways except to hope that he’d still find me just as attractive with my clothes off as when my clothes were on. My hoohah was calling the shots at the moment and promised me she’d blind him with orgasms, so I’d just have to take her at her word, but just in case, I sent a little mental command for Wicked and Immoral to start preparing for battle.
If everything went according to plan, tonight we’d be crossing over enemy lines to seize the Captain.
As soon as we reached the doors of the NICU Rasul went to speak to one of the temporary guards that were keeping an eye on things at the hospital while I forced all sexy thoughts away for the time being and scrubbed up to go see our little girl. Eric was already afflicted with another type of blindness to not see that she looked exactly like him, but it was obvious to more than just me considering it was the first thing any of our friends said when they’d seen her. I didn’t mind one bit and was happy she took after her World’s Sexiest Daddy, but I had a feeling Eric wouldn’t be liking it too much when she was old enough to start dating and I’d have to tie him down for real just so she could leave the house.
Of course that didn’t mean I wouldn’t take advantage of his restrained body.
We were still both worried about her health – she wasn’t out of the woods yet, but I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Lilly showed us every day how strong she was – a true fighter – and I was slowly starting to let myself believe that she’d be okay. I’d been terrified for her at first – like any parent would be – and I still worried now, but it almost felt like I’d be doing her a disservice if I dared to doubt her perseverance in surviving. Despite the horrific circumstances that brought her into the world too early, she was thriving against all odds and I was grateful our luck seemed to have been passed down to her.
My own guilt over it all still ate away at me, but I was getting better. It helped that Bill was dead, so I knew I’d never have to face him again and maybe had I known he’d been stalking me all along – if I’d lived with that fear and knowledge for all of those months – I might have been more traumatized about it all now than I was, but it was a catch-22. Having that knowledge beforehand might have made the difference in that he wouldn’t have been able to kidnap me because I wouldn’t have left Eric’s side – ever, but it would have changed both me and Eric. Neither one of us would be the same people that we were now and while we each still had our moments of paranoia – and not always at the same time or over the same things – I imagined it was to be expected given our circumstances. Sometimes I still woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night having relived it all in a nightmare, but at our core we were still the same people we were the day before Lilly was born and seeing as how she was okay, it was hard not to view it as the lesser of two evils.
The love I had for her was something I couldn’t have imagined possible and having her to focus on instead of the nightmare surrounding her birth was a godsend. I still had my doubts and fears about being a good mother, but they only made me want to strive to be a better person for her. The stupid little things that used to bother me no longer seemed important now that she was my focal point and I couldn’t even find it within myself to feel guilty for not wanting to go back to work. I hadn’t said anything to Eric about it yet, only because I wanted to be sure of my decision, but I honestly couldn’t imagine leaving her in someone else’s care while I went off to work for money we didn’t need, thereby taking a paycheck away from someone else who did. Yes, I loved my students and felt a great sense of accomplishment whenever I knew I’d made a difference in their lives – no matter how large or small, but I loved Lilly more and the difference I wanted to make in her life by being there to experience it with her outweighed everything else. Gran busted her ass in doing all that she could to give us a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, so I knew enough to be grateful that I had a choice in being able to stay home knowing not every mother was as fortunate and walking into the NICU, I decided I would tell Eric my thoughts on the matter when he showed up. I knew all too well what his stance on the matter was and hoped his earlier blow job would help temper any potential need to explode with happiness over my no-more-job news.
But the thought of him having to wear scrubs, instead of cum stained clothes, and playing ‘doctor’ with him definitely had its merits.
Lilly was just as cute as ever when I walked up to her incubator and I would swear my heart grew just a little bit more every time I saw her. I was finally starting to see the difference in her growth over the last six weeks, but not so much from her size as her coloring. Her skin had been so thin that we could see every vein and artery underneath it with her looking like she was in a constant state of being pissed off since her skin was always so red. But now, she was starting pink up with her body finally gaining some fat. She was still incredibly tiny, only weighing just over three pounds, and her head was still disproportionately large for the rest of her, but she was getting there and even though her little blindfold said no peeking, that’s just what I did as soon as I came in every morning and I was happy to see both of her eyes flutter open. Eric would be heartbroken to not get his good morning wink, but he’d get over it just as quickly when he looked into his baby’s blues for the first time.
I longed for the day when we could finally hold her, but she was still too little and wasn’t quite breathing on her own yet, so I leaned down over her and whispered, “Well hello there baby girl.”
She was too young for her eyes to focus on anything, but her head moved fractionally at the sound of my voice and I stared at her for just a few seconds longer before I put her blindfold back in place. I loved Lilly’s nurses and the one on duty walked over to give me a brief rundown on how she’d been doing since I’d last left the night before and once she was done, I sat in a chair beside her. There wasn’t much we could do for her yet – she was still being fed through a tube and diaper changes were a tricky process we weren’t able to do yet with all of the wires attached to her – so mostly we just spent our days watching her while occasionally speaking to the other parents in the NICU. It was easy to lose track of time – especially in the beginning when we didn’t know what was going on or if she’d even pull through, but I hadn’t realized just how much time had gone by until I was surprised by Eric’s dad suddenly appearing at my side. He normally didn’t show up until just before lunch time and he would sit with Lilly while Eric and I grabbed a quick bite to eat. A quick glance at my watch told me he was a little earlier than normal, but almost two hours had passed since we’d arrived at the hospital making me wonder where Eric had gone off to.
I internally shuddered as scenes flashed through my mind of him running like a madman from a horde of paparazzi with his arms full of boxes of condoms.
“What’s wrong?” he asked as soon as he saw my face. “Is something wrong with Lilly?”
“No,” I answered quickly. “I just lost track of time I guess.” He immediately looked relieved, so I asked, “Did you happen to see Eric on your way in?”
I couldn’t imagine what would take him so long and tried not to panic hoping he’d just been delayed by a phone call or fan.
Or a horde of condom picture taking paparazzi, but I hoped they didn’t ask him to model one.
The Captain was mine.
“Nope,” he answered unconcerned and smiling down at Lilly. “Why? Where did he run off to?”
“The gift shop downstairs,” I answered while grabbing my purse. I didn’t want to alarm him even though I was starting to panic and tried to sound indifferent as I said, “I’ll just go find him and we’ll grab something to eat before coming back up.”
“Take your time,” he called back while I tried not to run out of the room, but Rasul noticed the panic on my face as soon as I came out.
My voice didn’t hide my worry either, as I pulled my cell phone from my bag and turned it on, asking, “Have you heard from Eric?”
My stomach dropped seeing I had no new messages while he replied, “No,” and checked his own phone. Both of us now had the locator apps downloaded to our phones so we could be found if necessary and it only took a minute before he said, “His phone is still here in the hospital.”
Neither one of us said a word as we got into the elevator and took it to the ground floor. We swept through the gift shop but there was no condom carrying blond giant to be found and Rasul spoke quickly into his phone before turning to me and saying, “Khan is on his way. He has not been in contact with Mr. Northman either.”
I was wound tighter than a spring – and my libido had nothing to do with it this time – so with Rasul shadowing my every step we headed to the cafeteria hoping Eric had stopped for a cup of coffee and I immediately breathed out a sigh of relief seeing him sitting at a table in the corner. I didn’t pay any attention to who he was sitting with or the expression on his face and instead ran up to the table, snapping at him in my worry, “Where have you been?”
All I could picture was us reliving the nightmare all over again only this time it was Eric who was kidnapped, so I only vaguely heard Rasul on his phone telling, I assumed, Mustapha that he’d located Eric, but I was too exasperated to do much more than glare at Eric.
And tap my foot impatiently while Wicked and Immoral took up their righteous positions on my hips.
“I’m sorry,” he said, reaching for me. He pulled me to his side, saying, “I lost track of the time.”
I was still too wound up from my freak out to appreciate the remorse in his voice until he gestured across the table, saying, “Sookie, this is my…uh…mother. Crystal North…I mean, um…Norris.”
My unease suddenly doubled for a wholly different reason and I felt my eyes bug out while my ass puckered now realizing what – or rather who – had kept him. I consoled myself with the fact she would only be able to see one of those involuntary reactions as I turned to look down at the woman who’d destroyed the man I loved.
She looked weathered with the evidence of the hard life she’d lived etched clearly on her face, but even seeing her frailty – like she’d be carried away on a stiff breeze – all I wanted to do was throw her to the ground and practice a few of the moves Rasul had been teaching me on her. I’d been apprehensive when Eric’s dad had first started coming around again, but I’d never once gotten the feeling that I needed to protect Eric from him, at least not emotionally. I didn’t know if it was because I was a mother now myself and couldn’t imagine ever walking away from Lilly, and while I knew I had no right to judge her – walk a mile in her shoes and all that – I’d be damned if I wasn’t doing just that.
There went my six week streak of trying to be a better person.
“It’s nice to meet you,” she smiled.
I wanted to sneer.
I wanted to scoff.
I wanted to punch her in her stupid smiling face.
I wanted Bubba there so he could do his ‘growl test’.
Instead I put on my Crazy Sookie smile and nodded, “Mmhmm,” noncommittally, afraid to open my mouth knowing there was a strong possibility the word ‘mother’ would come out in conjunction with another word that rhymed with ‘trucker’.
After all, the only sound I could make started with an ‘M’.
My eyes shot straight back to Eric hoping to read something from his expression, but he was completely locked down. Seeing that didn’t give me any warm and fuzzy feelings either because his face was always so animated – be it a cocked eyebrow or smirky lips – I could always guess something that was going on in his mind, but I had nothing to go on. The silence was deafening until Eric finally offered, “She…um…just stopped by to see how we’re doing.”
I felt my own eyebrow rise up – filling the void left by Eric’s motionless brows – and repeated, “Mmhmm,” while internally yelling Bullshit! Both Rasul and Mustapha had told us over and over again to never discount what our instincts told us and mine were suspicious as hell, but I was torn. On one hand I was his wife and while neither one of us could remember our initial meeting or subsequent vows of ‘until death do we part’, we’d come to eventually mean it and I certainly wouldn’t be the first wife to dislike her mother-in-law. Her demons were her own and I hadn’t even known Eric when she’d last been in his life, but knowing how her abrupt departure had affected him – knowing she’d left him feeling worthless and used so much so that he’d nearly killed himself trying to drown his sorrow in drugs – I didn’t think I was capable of overlooking it, even if it wasn’t my place to be the one who would need to forgive her. Eric and I hadn’t ever really spoken much about her after he’d first told me everything that had happened– I had to be the one to tell him he’d told me all about her before his car accident since he still couldn’t remember anything, but even before this moment I knew he wasn’t over his abandonment issues because I only had to look at our daughter’s birth certificate to see the scars she’d left on him – Lilly’s name and what it symbolized from his childhood pain said it all.
We would have to talk about her now and all I wanted to do was pull him out of the room so I could know how he was feeling. The last thing he needed was any more stress thanks to her sudden arrival and while I was thankful everything had worked out between him and his dad, my hopes weren’t high for a repeat performance no matter how lucky we seemed to be.
That was just fucking pushing it.
“I was hoping to be able to meet my granddaughter,” she said timidly.
Oh…I don’t fucking think so.
It was bad enough how piss poor she’d treated Eric when she was around, but I’d be damned if I was going to let her stroll into our lives acting like she was family when she was nothing more than a stranger after having done nothing more for him as his mother than to have pushed him out at birth. God knows I wanted for Eric to have some sort of relationship with her – if she had changed for the better – if that was what he wanted, but I sure as hell didn’t trust her and I wouldn’t let her anywhere near our daughter.
I’d demand random piss tests and blood work at a minimum, but not knowing how Eric felt about it all yet, I wasn’t about to say it out loud because we would most definitely have a fight over it if he felt differently and this time there’d be no forgiveness fellatio at the end of it all.
Just call me fucking Wolverine because my mommy claws were out and I would cut a bitch before I let her near my baby.
I saw Eric open his mouth out of the corner of my eye, so I cut him off before he could speak by saying, “Dad is with her right now.” Once I’d stopped thinking of him as just The Asshole, calling him Mr. Northman seemed too formal and Richard didn’t feel right either. Pam still called him Dick, but I honestly thought it was just in fun now since they seemed to have bonded over their car ride down to San Diego on the day of the nightmare. He was the one to hesitantly suggest I call him Dad when I kept stumbling over addressing him and now it just felt right. He’d more than earned my trust and respect over the last few months and I loved him like he was my own father now. It may have been why I disliked her more than maybe I should knowing how badly her disappearing act had affected him too, but I wasn’t sure if Eric’s mother knew my own family history, so just to make sure she wasn’t confused, I clarified, “You know, Richard.”
Realization dawned on her immediately with what little color she had draining from her face as she sputtered, “Richard is here?”
“Yes,” Eric and I answered in unison only mine was defiant whereas his was a sigh.
“Oh,” she replied and started gathering her things together. She stood up, adding, “Maybe I can see her on another day then? Before she leaves the hospital? She’ll be here for a while, right?”
I didn’t give Eric the chance to say anything by saying, “Dad is here every day all day long.”
My words may have come out a little on the taunting side, but it seemed he wasn’t just good for cooing over his impossibly small granddaughter while keeping her company – he was also good for deflecting her questionable – albeit biological – grandmother as well because she immediately looked defeated. I felt triumphant.
But the day was already a wash with me trying to be a better person anyway, so it was all good.
My triumph lasted until Eric stood up saying, “He’s not here first thing in the morning. He usually comes by around lunchtime.”
My heart sank seeing his mask of indifference fall off. He wanted her to come back. He wanted her back in his life again.
I wanted her to get hit by a bus as soon as she stepped off of the curb out front.
I supposed the whole week was a wash.
I watched helplessly as she stepped forward and hugged him – watched him not only return her hug, but linger over it for a second too long until he finally let her go.
“You’ll come back?” he asked her, trying and failing to keep the hope out of his voice and making my heart break for him.
“Of course I will,” she smiled back at him before turning to face me. I was sure I exuded ‘Don’t touch me bitch‘ from every pore, so she just smiled awkwardly and said, “It was nice to have met you Sookie.”
“Mmm…” I nodded.
It was the nicest response I could come up with.
I resisted the urge to point at my eyes with my pointer and middle fingers and then turn them on her to let her know I was watching her, but I’d be sure to mention my distrust to Rasul as soon as Eric was out of ear shot. I couldn’t stop him from seeing her if he wanted to – and from all appearances he wanted to, but we’d be having a long discussion later on, on the why’s and hell no’s of her seeing Lilly any time soon. However Eric’s idea of ‘later on’ was right fucking now because as soon as she was out of ear shot he turned to me and said, “What’s your problem?”
Lilly would likely be entering high school by the time I was done listing them all at the moment, so instead I played dumb and asked, “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean,” he said defensively. “You of all people are perpetually gracious no matter who you’re talking to unless they give you a reason to be a bitch otherwise. My mother didn’t do anything to you, so why were you being a bitch?”
Maybe not to ME, but she sure as shit did a number on YOU!
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I asked a little louder than I’d meant to. Considering we were in the corner of the hospital cafeteria and Eric would stick out anywhere regardless of his celebrity, it wasn’t the place to be having that discussion, so rather than give the tabloids a new headline, I turned and walked out with him hot on my heels.
I saw Mustapha had arrived in the meantime and joined us from his station at the door with Rasul and I tried to smile at him, but Eric’s snapping in my ear turned it into a grimace as he repeated, “What is your problem?”
I waited until we were in the elevator with no one but our guards, who already knew we were arguing anyway so there was no point in hiding it, and snapped back, “My problem is that you don’t seem to have a problem with her sudden reappearance! I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her and considering she’s a waif, I could probably chuck her pretty far. Have you forgotten what happened the last time she came into your life? What does she want? Money?”
I was terrified of him being hurt by her again – of feeling used and worthless when he was the greatest person I’d ever known. He deserved better than that and had enough worry in his life as it was. The last thing he needed was anything else piled on top of it and while I was expecting us to argue it all out, I was more than a little surprised and hurt when the elevator reached our floor and he didn’t step out. Instead he stayed inside – thankfully Mustapha did too – and scathingly replied, “If she wants money that I earned, then it’s my decision on whether or not to give it to her. And, no, I haven’t forgotten what happened the last time. In fact, the only things I’ve ever forgotten had to do with you.”
He didn’t even look at me to see the tears start to fall from my eyes and instead he turned to face the back as he let the elevator doors close again.
What in the hell just happened?