I left my shopping bag on the kitchen counter next to my bouquet of roses before going upstairs to change, hoping my frazzled nerves would calm down. I’d been too caught up with thoughts of Eric’s wooing and thought nothing of swinging by the grocery store to pick up the ingredients to make him white chocolate cherry shortbread cookies figuring he could do with some wooing as well. They were part of the assortment of cookies Gran baked every Christmas and were a hit with everyone that received them, so even though I didn’t eat them I was sure Eric would like them.
The paparazzi must have not known when I’d be leaving the school because they didn’t immediately bombard me when I drove through the gate on my way out and my mind was with Eric so I’d forgotten their existence until they swarmed around me in the parking lot as I left the store. Their shouts and shoving each other, trying to get in front of me, left me a trembling mess by the time I made it into the car and I was thankful Eric’s car was fancy enough to have a push button to start it since I doubted my shaking hands would have been able to negotiate getting a key into the ignition. The drive home wasn’t much better with them flanking me at every opportunity in their own cars and I missed having Eric at my side telling me it would all be okay. How he could remain calm in the middle of a shitstorm was beyond me, but I could’ve used some of his calming influence right about then. By the time I pulled up to the gate, I vowed to never again bitch about his ritzy ass neighborhood thankful to my bones they wouldn’t be able to follow me any longer.
Once I was comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts, I marinated some steaks and stuck them in the refrigerator before getting started on making the cookies. I used to love baking with Gran during the holidays and having everything spread out in front of me made me miss her even more than usual. I’d gotten used to being away from her for long stretches of time, but I knew she was getting on in years and it killed me not being able to see her more often knowing her time on earth wasn’t infinite. Before I could depress myself anymore, my phone rang and I smiled seeing the caller ID.
“Hi Gran! I was just thinking about you.”
“I would’ve thought your mind would’ve been occupied with thoughts of your new husband,” she chuckled.
“I guess we’re both right in a way. I’m making your white chocolate cherry shortbread cookies for him at this very moment, so I’m thinking of you both!” The one humongous lie I had to tell her was enough, so I would do my best to be as honest about everything else and nothing I’d just told her was untrue.
“It must be true love if you’re making him cookies you don’t even like,” she teased. Since I’d opted to not outright lie to her I remained quiet long enough for her to ask, “How was your first day at the school?”
I launched into telling her about my classroom and the teachers I’d met, minus my minor run in with Mr. Brigant, and ended with me finding the flowers from Eric on my desk at the end of the day. Gran was big on little things like that and even though she’d never said it out loud, I knew Quinn’s lack of thoughtful romantic gestures irked her when we were still together. I should’ve known better when I caught him ogling another woman at the gym while we were running side by side on treadmills and he responded to me giving him the stink eye by asking, “Wanna get married?” Romantic, he was not, but I wasn’t very bright when it came to him anyway. It was a lesson learned, but Eric’s sweet gesture had unknowingly wooed not only me, but Gran as well with the flowers.
Gran filled me in on the town gossip, all centered around me and my marriage, but according to her no one had anything but nice things to say about it all. They were all eager to meet him when we visited for Thanksgiving and even though the idea made me nervous, I kind of couldn’t wait to get Eric in front of Gran. After all, I’d already been subjected to Pam, his father, and Cumin the cocksucker, so it was only fair for him to get scrutinized by Gran face to face even though I clearly had the worse end of the deal there.
We stayed on the phone until I was pulling the last of the cookies out of the oven and I called Amelia while they cooled enough for me to dip them into the melted white chocolate. She ooh’d and ahh’d over the wooing Eric had been doing, but when she started giving me the pros and cons for different brands of lube like she was the Roger Ebert of sex products, I made excuses to end the call. It was nearing five o’clock by the time I was done so I cleaned up my mess and emptied the dishwasher from running it the night before and threw some laundry into the washer. I was still confused over how my purse had ended up there the day before, but figured I was so discombobulated over everything I must have taken it in there with the pile of sheets.
I had just started making our salads to go with dinner when I heard the now familiar, “Knock knock,” followed by high heels click clacking towards the kitchen. I didn’t even look up as I continued chopping the lettuce asking, “The door was unlocked?” I’d come in through the garage so I hadn’t even thought to check, but I would from then on if Eric was so careless.
“I have a key,” Pam replied like I should’ve known. “Aren’t you the happy little homemaker,” she said looking at the cookies on the counter.
“They’re just cookies Pam.” I wasn’t going to give her any ammunition, not fully trusting her yet. Even though we argued a lot, I couldn’t help liking her somewhat, but I would wait and see before letting my guard all the way down with her. “Would you like to stay for dinner?” I wanted to be alone with Eric, but the hostess in me demanded I make the offer.
“What are you making?” she asked, seemingly amused I was making anything at all.
I shrugged my shoulders replying, “Nothing fancy; just steak, baked potatoes, and salad.”
Her face scrunched up in distaste as she said, “I’ll have to pass.”
Since I was happy she wouldn’t be staying, I didn’t call her out on her rude facial expression and turned on the broiler when I saw it was almost six. “Eric should be home soon if that’s why you’re here?” I got the steaks out and put them under the broiler while I put the potatoes in the microwave, but stilled with her next words.
“Actually,” she started, “I wanted to talk to you alone first. Tell me about your ex fiancé.”
My head whipped around from her unexpected query as I asked, “Why? What about him?” as words like dickface and douchetard ran through my head.
Her eyebrow rose up as she replied, “Quid pro quo. You answer me and I’ll answer you. What is he like? Have you spoken to him recently? Do you think he’s the type to make waves in light of your new fame?”
“He’s a lying bastard!” I answered. “I thought we were in a committed relationship and he thought he could stick his dick in every woman he met. There was a missed call on my cell phone the morning after that night, but I didn’t call him back nor have I spoken to him since I threw his ring back in his face and told him to fuck off a year ago. Now what’s this all about?” I could hear Eric coming in through the garage, but Pam started talking before he could make his way into the kitchen.
“Apparently he and Eric got into some sort of fight this morning at the gym. Tray called and gave me a heads up because Eric was too pissed to see straight and Quinn left with a broken nose muttering he was going to sue him.”
Eric had walked in while she’d been talking and we both looked over at him while he stood there, like a deer caught in the headlights, after seeing the pissed off expression on my face. He remained quiet, seemingly at just as much of a loss as I was since I didn’t know who I was more pissed at; Eric for not saying something sooner, or Quinn for finding a way to continue to fuck with my life. He put on an innocent expression saying, “Honey, I’m home.” When my expression didn’t change he asked, “Cookies?” and walked over shoving three of them into his mouth at once, probably hoping it would keep him from having to explain. I just bided my time knowing he’d have to swallow eventually.
“Why did you hit him?” I asked. I was internally giddy he’d clocked him good enough to break his nose, but I still wanted to know his reason for doing so.
Eric reached for another cookie so I smacked his hand away and glared at him until he said, “He pissed me off.”
I turned and opened the oven, flipping the steaks over so they wouldn’t burn, and faced him again asking, “What did he do to piss you off?”
He’d snuck more cookies while my back had been turned and took for-fucking-ever to finish chewing before asking, “Cherry cookies? They’re very good, but you don’t like cherries.” It was going to be a long fucking night.
My only reply was to cross my arms and glare so he finally turned to Pam and said, “Go away. Sookie and I need to talk, but if he sues we’re not settling. I’ll fight that pussy tooth and nail before I give him one red fucking cent.”
I could see Pam in my peripheral darting her eyes back and forth between Eric and me before she shocked me by standing up and saying, “Good,” as she walked out.
As soon as we heard the front door close Eric started pulling up his shirt asking, “Do you want to talk about it in the pool?” but my hands shot out, tugging his shirt back down before I could glaze over seeing his abs as I shouted, “No! I want you to answer my question!”
Eric sighed looking back at me long and hard before he finally said, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“What? Why? How?” My stomach dropped realizing just how similar Eric and Quinn were when it came to their man whoring ways. Jesus fucking Christ, I thought as I turned and got the steaks out of the oven. They were probably fighting over some bimbo at the gym and there I was baking cookies for him actually believing him when he’d said he wouldn’t betray me like that; that he wanted to try being in a relationship. I was so fucking stupid. I slapped a steak onto a plate along with a potato and set it down on the counter with enough force I was surprised the dish hadn’t broken.
When he still hadn’t said another word I said, “Here’s your dinner.” I looked him in the eyes adding, “When I make a deal, I keep it,” and stomped out of the kitchen up to my room hoping I’d turned around in time before he could see the tears forming in my eyes.
I tried to muffle the sounds of my crying in my pillow wishing I could just hop in my car and go somewhere, but knowing what awaited me at the gate made me stay put. How could I have let my guard down so quickly with someone I knew wasn’t the relationship type? How could I fall for all of his cutesy little wooing without question? Why did it already hurt so fucking bad when I barely knew him at all?
Not much time had passed when I heard a knock on my bedroom door followed by it being opened. My back was facing the door and I mentally kicked my own ass for forgetting to lock it and wondered just how much of Eric had already rubbed off on me. I didn’t bother turning around and shoved my tear covered face into the pillow when I heard him say, “I’m sorry.”
Hearing his half-assed apology just pissed me off and I rolled over, rising up onto my knees and not caring he could see my tears, spitting out, “I think I deserve a little better than that.”
Eric’s face had softened at first but became hard again while he gritted his teeth saying, “I already said I was sorry. What more do you want?”
I rolled my eyes replying, “It doesn’t fucking matter. I wouldn’t believe a word that came out of your mouth anyway.”
He rubbed his face with his hands before running them through his hair muttering exasperatedly, “I can’t believe we’re fucking fighting over this.” He glared down at me saying, “You should have said something if you were still so fucking hung up on your ex before spouting off all of that bullshit about wanting to be in a relationship with me last night.”
Huh? “What the fuck are you talking about? You’re the one who agreed to give us a shot and then got into a fight with my asshole ex over some bimbo!”
Eric looked back at me confused asking, “What the fuck are you talking about? I hit him for what he had to say about you. You’re not mad that I hit him because you’re still in love with him?”
I quickly replayed our conversation over again in my mind and realized Eric had never actually said why they fought; I’d just assumed.
Yeah, ass u me, I get it.
I felt so stupid and tried to smile saying, “No, I’m not mad that you hit him; I’m not still in love with him. Our whole relationship was based on a lie anyway, so there’s no one for me to even mourn for.” I had unconsciously moved closer to the side of the bed where he was standing and it was high enough that we were almost eye level when I asked, “Broke his nose, huh? I wish I could’ve seen it.”
Seeing his smile released every bit of tension I’d felt thinking he’d been out trying to hook up with other women and I couldn’t help smiling in return. He reached out, cupping each of my cheeks in his hands and wiping the last of my tears away with his thumbs when I reached up, holding onto each of his hands with my own and turning my head, placing a kiss on each of his palms.
I looked back at Eric saying, “I’m sorry.” He looked shocked at my actions and my words. I couldn’t really blame him, but the apology he was owed and the kisses just felt right, so I did it. There were so many emotions playing behind his eyes; fear, worry, affection, along with some residual anger. I wanted so badly to take it away from him, knowing I was the cause of it all, but would he let me? After what I’d just falsely accused him of, I couldn’t blame him if he said no, but I had to ask anyway.
For him and for me.
Placing my hand on his chest, not realizing it was trembling until it stilled against his body and feeling his heartbeat pounding underneath my palm with our eyes locked onto one another, I whispered, “Kiss me?”