As we left Eric’s room, I lost all semblance of control over my emotions and was crying so hard, Alcide had to practically carry me to his truck, but I knew I needed to get a hold of myself. I had to be strong; strong for Eric; strong for me; strong for my baby.
I hadn’t left the hospital since I arrived by ambulance, what seemed like a lifetime ago, but I’d called Dr. Ludwig’s office once Eric had been moved to a private room. After I explained our situation, she was nice enough to see me in the hospital when she was there seeing her patients, although the pregnancy still didn’t seem real to me at that point, nor did the June 8th due date she’d calculated based on the start date of my last period. It wasn’t until my queasiness turned into full blown morning sickness (more like all day sickness) and I had an overwhelming craving for cherries, that I was able to wrap my head around the fact there was a little person growing inside of me.
A little person who apparently took after their father and his love of cherries.
Popsicles were the only thing I could manage to keep down and my lips were permanently stained red because of them. Thanks to Eric’s sickness after we’d come back from San Gregorio, and Pam’s distaste for hospitals teeming with ‘vermin’, no one questioned my ‘illness’. Dr. Ludwig warned me that I needed to try and relax for the sake of the baby, but that was easier said than done. I was in a perpetual state of fog and felt like I was drowning in it, not knowing if, or when, Eric would come back to me. I didn’t want to be without him; couldn’t stand not being near him for longer than it took me to throw up, pee, or go get another popsicle from the nurse’s lounge; all three of which seemed to take up a good portion of my day and night. I couldn’t even think on the possibility of trying to have, and then raise, our baby alone.
I just couldn’t.
I also just couldn’t look at the photos Alfred had taken of us when Pam had brought them with her to the hospital one day last week. I didn’t want to see the happiness I knew would be there and knew it would only take one look at them for me to lose what little self-control I had left over my emotions. No one besides Dr.’s Crane and Ludwig knew I was pregnant and I’d wanted to keep it that way. I wanted Eric to be the first person to learn of it. I wanted him to tell me it would be okay and we would figure it out together. We would take care of it together. Even though we hadn’t planned it, we would love it, and each other, together.
Now I wasn’t so sure we’d even stay together, much less when or how I would go about telling him.
I just couldn’t think about that right now and thankfully, Alcide remained silent on the way back to the house. When we had to stop several times behind a school bus, depositing kids at their various bus stops to awaiting parents, I couldn’t help but think of the possibility of that one day being me waiting there for a little Northman. Would it be a boy or a girl? Would it look like Eric, or me, or a blend of the two of us? Would I be doing it alone or would Eric be by my side?
It felt like God was trying to force me to think about everything that would shatter my control; everything I wanted to put off thinking about for another day because it would shatter my heart. My greatest fear had been the thought Eric wouldn’t wake up and I’d be resigned to raising our baby without him; a baby we hadn’t planned, but I’d come to love and cherish just the same, no matter how unprepared we were. Now I was terrified of doing it all alone while Eric went about living his life as though we’d never existed; as though I never existed.
I hadn’t noticed Eric’s confused state when I first walked into his room, too overwhelmed by the happiness I felt seeing his eyes open for the first time since the accident, and I ran to him without thought. He’d come back to me; the children’s fable he’d told me was true. The lilies and whales’ songs brought him back to me.
But they brought back the wrong Eric.
The Eric I knew, the one that loved me, had been erased with a past version of him left in his place. The Asshole Eric I’d met on that fateful morning in Las Vegas was lying in the same spot I’d left My Eric in, but they looked so similar to one another, I couldn’t be mad. Every feature was identical between them with the exception of his eyes. Where I’d once saw the love he had for me, it was no longer there. Anger, confusion, and suspicion had replaced it, but I wasn’t strong enough to deal with that Eric right now, nor did I believe he was ready to deal with me. I was too tired, both physically and emotionally, to put up with whatever asshattery he was going to vent and I kept telling myself that I wasn’t running away from him, because I wouldn’t. I’d promised him I would always stay by his side no matter what life threw at us and I would keep that promise until he forced me away. I was just taking a timeout for now and hopefully, once Pam had the opportunity to explain everything to him, he’d be willing to curb his default douchebag setting the next time we saw each other. I knew him well enough now to know it was his defense mechanism; a wall he’d had to erect after having spent a lifetime of being used and I didn’t hold it against him; wouldn’t hold it against him. I just needed to have faith.
He’ll remember… me… us…
“He’ll remember you Sookie.” Alcide’s voice broke through my inner thoughts and I looked up noticing for the first time we were parked in front of the house. It felt like years since I’d last been there and while I wanted to start crying all over again, I forced a smile onto my face, looked up at Alcide, and nodded once before getting out of his truck and going into the house. Once I assured him I’d be fine on my own, he told me to just let him know if I needed a ride anywhere, now that both of Eric’s cars had been totaled, and he’d take me anywhere I wanted to go, before leaving to head back to the hospital.
I was glad I was alone. I needed to be right now.
I was glad Eric wasn’t alone. He didn’t need to be right now.
I’d forgotten the overnight bag I’d been living out of at the hospital, so instead of throwing any laundry into the washing machine, I just went upstairs and took a shower, hoping to wash away more than just the grime I felt on my skin and I stayed in it until my tears finally ran dry. My eyes were puffy and red when I looked into the mirror, but my heart did feel lighter having finally let go after holding everything in for the last two weeks. I’d even managed to find the bright side while standing underneath the spray; Eric was awake, and relatively healthy, and that was the important thing. It was the only thing I’d been praying for, so I said a quick thank you to God and made a mental note to be more specific with my prayers from then on.
I felt better once I was clean and threw on a pair of pajamas, having no plans to go anywhere for the rest of the night, and went downstairs to find something to keep my mind occupied. It turned out my idea to clean out the refrigerator of the spoiled food was a bad idea because as I emptied the spoiled milk into the sink, the smell had me running to the bathroom to dry heave into the toilet. Afterward, I was so tired I couldn’t think straight and even though it was barely six o’clock, I went upstairs and crawled into bed, falling asleep before my head could even hit the pillow.
The sound of my cell phone ringing woke me up a short time later, but I couldn’t untangle myself from the sheets before it went to voicemail. I’d plugged it into the charger, next to the bed, out of habit when I got home and just as I pulled myself free, it began ringing again. I didn’t know if I hoped it would be Eric calling or not, but I was disappointed just the same seeing Pam’s name flash on my caller id.
“Why didn’t you answer when I called a minute ago? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine Pam. I was sleeping.” Who knew Pam could be so…human? Before the accident, she’d always been nice to me, well, nice for Pam, but we’d really grown close over the last couple of weeks. It was nice having someone there with me, in the hospital, who cared about Eric just as much as I did.
“How’s Eric?” I asked. It was a question we asked each other whenever one of us would walk into his hospital room after having been gone for longer than five minutes.
“He’s Eric. Hardheaded, but I think I’ve smacked some sense into him.”
“What do you mean?” I tried to keep myself from hoping his memories came back to him already.
“He’s not in as much denial about your relationship, but I had to smack him around a bit before he came around to my way of thinking.”
“Uhh… that’s good,” with my reply sounding more like a question.
“Yes, but I’m sure I’ll have to hit him a few more times until he’s back to normal. Five wasn’t enough.”
“Pam!” I chastised. “I was talking about it was good he wasn’t in denial anymore. You hit him five times?” He just came out of a coma for Christ’s sake!
“Just a few smacks to his forehead for being twat.”
You’d think she wasn’t there for the whole brain trauma/coma thing. “Well, don’t hit him anymore. He just came out of a coma,” I paused, and then feeling like a tweenager, I asked, “Did he ask about me?”
“Your name may have come up once or twice,” she played along before adding, “Or maybe you were the bulk of the entire fucking conversation.”
“Well, what did you say?” I asked. I’d have been more worried if it wasn’t for the fact we’d grown close over the last two weeks or else I would’ve wondered if she told him I was into bizarre sex acts that involved farm animals. This was Pam. My fears would’ve been warranted.
“That you bark like a dog when you cum.” Huh, I was close. Animals were involved. She went on to tell me how she’d filled in whatever blanks she could for him of what she knew of our time together and what she’d seen herself. While I’d known Eric had wanted me to quit my job, it wasn’t until I spent time with Pam that I learned just how strongly he’d felt about it.
When I’d called Mr. Brigant from the hospital, the day after the accident, his first comment was to sneer, “Mrs. Northman. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call on a Saturday? If you’re calling for time off, you may as well quit.”
“I quit,” I spat back and hung up. If I were at Staples, I would’ve hit the red button to hear ‘That was easy.’ A part of me hadn’t wanted to, a very small part, but I wouldn’t have been able to go to work knowing Eric was lying in the hospital in a coma. I could barely leave him long enough to shower and my decision was only reinforced when Baby Northman decided they didn’t like food and instead preferred a red, cherry flavored, liquid diet.
When I told Pam about my newly unemployed status, she was nothing but supportive and told me Eric had already added me to his health insurance policy, so it was one less worry on my mind, before she stalked off mumbling something about batting practice. You just never knew with Pam.
When we got off the phone, I couldn’t fall back to sleep right away. I’d wanted to call Gran and tell her the good news about Eric finally waking up, but she was away for a few days with her group, The Descendents of the Glorious Dead, traveling around to various Civil War battlefields and didn’t own a cell phone. It was probably for the best anyway, knowing I probably would’ve burst into tears and told her the whole truth about Eric’s and my relationship. Amelia had gone to Europe for a month with her father, and while I could’ve called her, I didn’t want to ruin her vacation with my problems. She’d offered to fly home right after the accident, but I told her to stay and enjoy herself, knowing there really wasn’t anything she could do besides hold my hand.
There was only one hand I wanted to hold right now.
Eric was the only one who could make me feel better and since that wasn’t an option, I got up and dug out one of his t-shirts from his hamper, putting it on in place of my pajamas, before climbing back into bed. If I closed my eyes and tried really hard, I could almost imagine he was there and I eventually fell back to sleep pretending it was him surrounding me instead of the cotton imposter.
The sound of my cell phone ringing had me waking up trapped in another tangle of sheets. It was completely dark out and I had no idea what time it was, but since I’d left the phone next to me after talking to Pam, I didn’t have far to reach.
Without looking at the caller id, I flipped it open and said, “Hello?” my voice a hoarse whisper. I rubbed my eyes and sat up, but when I got no response, I repeated in a clearer voice, “Hello?”
“Eric? Are you okay? Is something wrong?” I asked, while biting back the question I’d really wanted to ask. ‘Do you remember me now?’
The following lull in conversation allowed me to hear his iPod playing the whales’ songs in the background and I lay back down in bed, finding a small measure of comfort hearing them combined with his breathing. If my head were on his chest, so I could hear his heartbeat too, it would’ve been perfect.
“Did I interrupt something? Do you have time to talk?” he asked, with my heart breaking all over again hearing how lost he sounded.
“I was just sleeping, but I’m awake now. What did you want to talk about?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t even look to see what time it was. Pam said you didn’t get much sleep while you were… you know… here. Do you want me to let you go and…”
“No!” I interrupted. I didn’t want him to ever let me go, in every sense of the word. “We can talk now, about whatever you want.” I waited in silence for him to say something else, but when he didn’t, I figured I’d get the ball rolling by asking the question blaring in my head. “Do you remember… anything… yet?” Me?
I heard him inhale deeply before sighing out, “No.”
“But… I did have dreams, you know, while I was… there was a whale in my dreams. I must’ve heard the whales’ songs. Pam said that was your idea?”
My heart clenched, remembering our ‘date’ and the childhood memory he’d shared with me, as I answered, “Well, yeah. I knew you liked them.”
Eric was silent for a long moment before asking, “How did you know?”
I swallowed the sob threatening to spill out and once I thought I could speak without giving my emotional state away, I answered, “You took me on a date to go whale watching. We didn’t see any, but you told me about how special they were to you.”
“Oh…” he paused again and then added, “Pam also said you insisted on the lilies in my room. Why lilies?”
I knew it was a difficult memory for Eric, but I wasn’t about to start lying to him now. In for a penny, in for a pound, as Gran liked to say. “Because that was the name of the girl in the book you read as a child. You never told me what kind of flowers you picked from your neighbor’s garden to leave on your windowsill at night, so I thought lilies would be a good choice.”
I could hear the slight intake of his breath on the other end of the line and I remained quiet, when he eventually said, “I never told anyone.”
The dam I had on my tears broke open then, but he couldn’t see them, so I let them flow freely as I whispered, “Until me.”
“Until you,” he eventually repeated. Neither one of us said anything for the longest time until Eric, frustrated, sighed out, “I don’t remember.”
No, he didn’t, but I remembered for us both. I thought it was a good time to share a little bit of the faith I was desperately clutching and said, “No, but you will.” He had to.
“How can you be so sure?” he asked.
I smiled, hoping it would come through in my voice, as I said, “Well, you don’t remember, but I’m a very stubborn southern woman and once I set my mind to something, I won’t give up until I’ve achieved it. Pit bull; that’s me.”
I could hear the smile in his voice, along with what sounded like a bit of relief, when he replied, “So you won’t give up on me?”
“Good,” he responded and for the first time, in a long time, I felt like, just maybe, everything would be okay. My whole body relaxed back into the bed and a smile sat on my face, until I flushed scarlet with his next statement. “I saw on my phone that we like to text each other. A lot,” he purred, in a tone I knew all too well.
It was one thing to send dirty text messages back and forth to your husband/boyfriend, but with Eric’s memories gone, it felt like we were starting back at square one. He wasn’t acting like Asshole Eric, at the moment, but he was a far cry from My Eric and square one didn’t included written confirmation of all of depraved things I’d wanted to do to him. Completely mortified, I gasped saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t erase those!”
“I’m sorry. Was I supposed to? I don’t remember,” he chuckled. Oh, how I missed that laugh, but it didn’t help quell my embarrassment. I was relieved when he’d seemed to change the subject by asking, “So, if I’ve lost the last five weeks, that means it’s now, what… the middle of October? Did we have plans for Halloween or is that one of your favorite holidays or something?”
“Yes, it’s the middle of October, but honestly, I don’t even know what day it is. My mind’s been elsewhere. And no, we didn’t have plans for Halloween. I’m more of a Christmas gal. Why?” I asked. His question seemed to come out of left field.
“In your texts you made mention of my Frankencock. I didn’t want to ‘stand you up’ if we had a date on Halloween, but I’d be more than willing to ‘stand you up’ on our date if that’s what you wanted. We’ll have to get creative with my leg in a cast, but I’m willing to give it a shot.”
“Eric Northman!” I shouted, with my face now buried into the pillow.
“And something about you taking my temperature. Orally. Now that I’m in the hospital, I must be really bad off, so shouldn’t you be here tending to me? Nursing me?”
“Not like that; moan it.”
“You’re in bed, right? I’m in bed too. What’re you wearing?”
“Ugh… you’re impossible. At least we know you your dirty mind is intact.”
“You sent me pictures too. Of your lips. After you kissed me earlier, I already know how soft they are on my mouth, so I can only imagine what they would feel like on my…”
“I’m hanging up now Eric.” I was so not gonna go there. Not yet anyway.
“Spoil sport. Will you come and see me tomorrow?” he asked, his sexified tone changing to uncertainty.
“Yes, if you want me to,” I answered.
Me too. “Then I will.” Another long pause passed between us, but it was so much warmer than the cold distance I’d felt when he’d first called. I finally broke it, softly saying, “Goodnight Eric.”
“Goodnight Sookie. Sweet dreams.”
And they were.