I heard the soft click of the office door shutting and it took everything I had to remain silent, not knowing if I’d be angry or apologetic if I called Sookie back into the room. Ever since I’d first laid eyes on her, the emotions she brought out in me were like nothing I’d ever felt before and the intensity of them, both good and bad, scared me. I’d lied to her earlier that morning when she’d asked why I’d sought her out in the middle of the night. She had been talking in her sleep, but I wasn’t able to hear that from my room. It wasn’t until I’d crept up to her doorway, unable to sleep and drawn to her by some unseen force, that I was able to hear her voice. I stood silently at her door watching her toss and turn in her sleep for a while and I’d almost turned back towards my room, feeling like a giant pussy for missing her, when I barely knew her, and she was only twenty-five feet away, until I heard her whimper out, “Eric…” in her slumber.
She missed me too.
I quickly pulled on my shorts, which I’d seen lying in the basket next to her door, so I wouldn’t seem like a complete pervert and questioned myself as I neared her bed wondering if climbing into the bed with her was the right thing to do. There was no question it was where I wanted to be, but when she flipped over on the bed, landing onto a patch of moonlight, and I saw she was wearing my shirt, I crawled in beside her without a second thought.
She’d wanted to be close to me too.
From the moment she woke she had me completely enthralled, just as she had the day before. I soaked up every word from her lips, every tell from her body and wanted more. I thought by studying her I would be able to figure out what it was that held me so captivated, if only so I could process it and move on. I didn’t like feeling so needy for her, or for anyone, and hoped if I could decipher the clues, solve the riddle, I’d be able to go back to my old life; the one I could remember.
I still wanted to fuck her though.
I’d been thankful she’d been facing away from me the first time she’d bent over to pick up my crutches, both for the view and because she hadn’t been able to see my mouth gaping open at the sight of her naked ass and the hint of what else lay between her legs.
Sookie was a natural blond.
I’d suspected as much and the table hid my other physical reaction to seeing her, but my brain temporarily stopped trying to solve the Sookie puzzle and focused instead on how I could get my hands, and every other part of me, on her naked body. Like a misbehaving schoolboy, I knocked my crutches over time and again just to get a peek at the place I most wanted to be, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. She wouldn’t be easy and I’d have to play my cards just right if I wanted her to give into the physical attraction we obviously had for one another.
Besides, it was so much easier to try and solve my physical need for her than my emotional one.
But, the more I watched her moving throughout the kitchen making breakfast, the more my lust subsided giving way to something else. I still desired her sexually, but there was also that same nagging sensation that I couldn’t identify, couldn’t give a name to, that left me stumped. It was even more prevalent when I tried to soothe away those awful fucking tears she kept hitting me with and I surprised even myself when I admitted to the part I played in her earlier unknown peep show, preferring to deal with her possible anger than her hurt; the hurt I’d inadvertently caused with my words. In my moment of panic I realized I’d do or say anything just to make her feel better and it only left me more confused as to how she was able to manipulate me in that way. No one else had ever affected me like she did and I wasn’t even sure if it was something I had consciously allowed her to do; I seemed to be powerless to resist her, with or without my memories of her.
‘Stubborn’ might be spelled S-O-O-K-I-E, but the same could be said for ‘conundrum’.
I could still feel the smile on my lips as I left the kitchen after having experienced the most normal, by society’s standards, morning of my life. No matter how much my brain hesitated over the label, my wife had just made me breakfast and now I was going to do a bit of work in my office. I sat down at my desk and started going through the stack of mail, while two week’s worth of emails loaded onto my laptop, when one envelope in particular caught my eye. It was from my bank and only stuck out because I received all of my statements online and when I felt it, the weight and lack of give of the contents within had me opening it to see there was a credit card inside in the name of Sookie Northman.
I’d heard the words married and wife in the explanations given to me by both Sookie and Pam; I’d even seen the humiliating video graphic evidence of it, but actually seeing her name followed by mine made it real for the very first time and an odd mixture of terror and pride swept through me. Even as the doubt started creeping into me, I knew it wasn’t something she could’ve ordered on her own, but I logged onto my account anyway to see what else I would find. Thousands of dollars had been spent in the missing weeks of my life that I had no clue about, but with the exception of a ten thousand dollar donation to some dog rescue organization here in L.A. and another hefty sum to my preferred auto dealer (did I get a new car?), the expense that stuck out the most had been a single check. When I clicked on the check in question I saw who I’d written it out to and knew of no Calvin Norris, so when I clicked back over to my email, his name stuck out amongst the numerous new emails waiting for my attention. It was confirmation that he’d received payment on an Adele Stackhouse’s renovations in Bon Temps.
Bon Temps was where Sookie had said she was from.
By my calculations we’d been ‘married’ a little over a week and she already had me spending thousands of dollars on her family, on her by proxy, and it brought back the feelings of stupidity and regret I’d always had in the past whenever I’d sobered up enough to realize I’d been used once again for my money. The money spent was a pittance compared to what I had, but that wasn’t the point.
The point was I once again felt duped; used.
Of course Sookie took that moment to peek her head into my office and the feeling of anger I could understand, but it was the hurt I felt that I couldn’t explain even to myself, so I told her I just wanted to be left alone until Pam arrived and hoped she could tell me what in the hell was going on. Pam was always the first one to sniff out a gold digger, but all of her Sookie-praise had led me to believe otherwise. Maybe Pam hadn’t known about my own personal Louisiana Purchase and once she found out she’d be more inclined to question Sookie’s motives like I found I was now doing.
I quickly scrolled through the rest of my emails and found one from my accountant saying the account I’d requested had been set up at a furniture store in Monroe, Louisiana with Adele Stackhouse’s name as an authorized account user. Reading it only added to the storm of emotions swirling inside of me and caused me to once again run through everything I knew about my wife which wasn’t much at all. It brought back one of my first thoughts over the circumstances surrounding our marriage to begin with and I quickly shot off an email to the private investigator I’d used to try and locate my mother when she’d disappeared from my life the second time. He hadn’t had any luck then, but hopefully he’d find something out about Sookie and what really happened on that fateful night in Vegas, supposedly forgotten by both of us, that changed the only life I could remember.
I was so lost in my thoughts I hadn’t heard anyone enter the room until I felt a sharp smack to the back of my head and leaned forward from the blow as I heard Pam’s voice behind me asking, “What in the fuck did you do?”
“Ow! What the fuck?”
“That was for whatever in the fuck you did that made Sookie call and tell me to get my ass over here because Prick-ric had made an appearance.”
“Prick-ric?” I asked confused.
“Yes,” she smiled. “She’s apparently dubbed your alter ego ‘Prick-ric’ since the accident. You know, Prick Eric. I like it. I think it should be your stage name if you ever hit rock bottom and go into porn. Now, what’s your problem? I’m missing a sale over at Marc Jacob’s on Rodeo Drive thanks to you,” she huffed as she sat down in a chair on the other side of my desk.
I only got angrier over Sookie’s audacity at faulting me for being upset. “What?” I snapped, with my emotions getting the best of me. “Did she call you to fucking tattletale on me for being mean to Poor Innocent Sookie? At least I’m not hiding how I feel when she’s the one that’s up to something!”
Pam’s face told me she hadn’t believed a word I’d said before she even opened her mouth saying, “To repeat something an unwise dipshit said to me just moments ago; what the fuck?”
“This the fuck!” I exclaimed, handing her copies of my bank statements and emails from that Norris guy and my accountant.
I waited silently for the vindication I was sure I’d receive, but she just casually read through them, minus the shock and horror I’d expected to see on her face, and tossed them back onto my desk saying, “So.”
“So?” I asked, surprised. “What do you mean so? You’re always the first one to point out the money grubbers latching onto me and you’re not concerned by this?”
“Why would I be?” she asked, seemingly genuinely confused.
“Because I thought you gave a shit!” I answered, with my anger only growing now that Sookie had seemed to somehow turn Pam against me too.
“I do give a shit you giant pussy and we can giggle over the cute guy in class while braiding each other’s hair later on, but why would I care about you taking care of Sookie’s Gran?”
“Why would I care about Sookie’s Gran to have spent close to twenty thousand dollars on her after being married for ten fucking days? There’s something going on here. She may have somehow fooled me once, but she’s not fucking fooling me twice.” Maybe she was some sort of Voodoo priestess sacrificing chickens and goats in the backyard or some shit.
“No asshole,” Pam chided, “you’re just being a fool now.” She leaned over and snatched my cell phone from the desk asking, “Have you bothered looking at the pictures you have stored on here?” as she tapped away at the touch screen.
“No, why would I?” I don’t store pictures on my cell phone; I don’t take pictures with my cell phone because you never know where they might end up.
Pam smirked at whatever she’d found and the leer in her eyes made me anxious to see what she was looking at, so I held out my hand, but Pam pulled it back closer to her body as she asked, “Do you know what I found Sookie doing when I walked in a few minutes ago?”
“Going through my wallet?” I asked, before quickly dodging the stapler Pam threw at my head. “What?” I asked, unsure if I was asking to see if I was in trouble for my wallet comment or why she’d thrown the stapler at all. I had a sneaking suspicion they were one and the same.
“She’s out there cleaning the house. I had to walk through a lemon scented cloud just to come in here,” she huffed while trying to brush away the invisible lemon scent from her clothes with her hands.
“So,” I answered. It wasn’t like there’d be much for her to do thanks to the cleaning service I had.
“So, she’s keeping up with her end of the bargain you both struck when she first moved in here. She didn’t like living here for free, so she offered to clean the house and buy the groceries in exchange. She even had to threaten to move out if you didn’t comply. Does that sound like a gold digger? Because I can’t think of one girl you’ve fucked in the past that would be willing to scrub your toilets, no matter how much money or dick you threw at them.”
“So what?” I replied, completely un-swayed. “The cleaning service comes in every week, so there wouldn’t be much scrubbing for her to do. As a matter of fact, since it already looks like I’ve been throwing both money and dick at her it sounds like a pretty sweet fucking deal for her.”
Pam’s eyes rolled back into her head as she mimicked, “As a matter of fact dickwad, you cancelled the cleaning service.” When her eyes met mine again she added, “Another Sookie ultimatum. Since you’re so anxious to catch up on your banking, go ahead and see if you’ve paid them in the last five weeks.”
I clicked back over to my bank statements and even went through the ones I’d printed out thinking I’d somehow missed it, but Pam was right; I hadn’t paid for their weekly service in over five weeks. My eyes were still staring down at the papers on my desk when Pam placed my phone into my line of sight on top of them. On the screen was a picture of Sookie and me with an older woman, standing on the front porch of an older house, with all three of us smiling. I was standing in the middle with my arms around both of them and my hand automatically picked up the phone from the desk, as Pam came around to stand next to me saying, “That is a matter of fact.”
I slowly scrolled through picture after picture, taking them all in for the first time. There were a few posed pictures, like the first one I’d seen, but the majority of them were candid shots of Sookie. She was always busy doing something, but no matter how dirty she was I couldn’t deny she was still simply beautiful. My breath caught in my lungs, as I temporarily stopped breathing, when I came to the last photo.
I could see clearly it was Sookie, asleep and naked, and from the angle of the shot, she’d been asleep and naked on top of, a more than likely naked, me. It wasn’t crude or pornographic, far from actually, with just a hint of the curve of her bare breast and the shape of her perfect ass, edible tan lines and all. ‘Beautiful’ didn’t even come close to describing her and I couldn’t even deny that I had been the one who’d taken the picture thanks to my tattooed hand resting possessively on her back. Any anger I’d felt was gone and replaced with only one emotion.
How on earth had I become so enamored by her that I changed so much in such a short amount of time, if we’d only gotten married thanks to our blood alcohol content? ‘Love’ wasn’t the only word I didn’t understand; ‘trust’ was practically a synonym in that respect. I trusted very few people and, even then, only to a certain extent, but for Sookie to know the things she did about my past and to have so much photographic proof shoved at me, literally by my own hand, it became harder and harder to refute. I couldn’t contradict the unexplainable pull I felt toward her, especially after crawling into her bed the night before based on my need to be close to her, but it was so hard to let go of my doubt. My cynical nature was what kept me safe from harm; I should’ve been cynical upon meeting my mother, but I was too pathetic just wanting her to want me. That mistake nearly got me killed and a trip into rehab.
If I explored whatever it was about Sookie that kept drawing me in, what would it cost me in the end?
Another smack to the back of my head from Pam had me questioning whether or not I’d actually start hitting back when she asked, “So?”
“So,” I growled, “I think you need to quit fucking hitting me unless you’re prepared for me to hit back!”
“I’ll quit hitting you when you stop being Prick-ric.” She waited for me to look up at her before continuing, “I know it’s in your nature to not trust anyone; it’s one of your smarter moves, but not where Sookie’s concerned.”
It was like Pam’s body had been taken over by an alien life form because everything coming out of her mouth, aside from the earlier dipshit comments, was foreign. She had always been the one pointing out who was out to use me for whatever they could gain, but here she was pushing and shoving me towards Sookie like she was the second coming of Christ himself. It left me with only one question left to ask. “Why?”
“Have I ever steered you wrong?” she asked with a smile.
“There’s a first time for everything and you didn’t answer my question,” I countered.
“Ugh,” she sighed. “This would be so much easier if I could just smack your brain back into shape!” When she looked as though she might give that another try, I lifted up one of my crutches prepared to beat her to death if she got close enough, but she just shook her head instead saying, “Just trust me when I say she’s not using you and give her a chance Eric. Now, give me your phone so I can forward that naked picture of Sookie to my phone. I want to use it as my wallpaper.”
I snatched it from the desk before Pam could reach it, with a blind possessive fury ripping through me, as I yelled, “No!”
“Touchy touchy,” she smirked. “Careful now or someone might think you actually care.”
So what if I cared; I didn’t care care, so it didn’t count. Right?
“Did you have any other purpose for being here today Pam?” I asked, suddenly feeling drained of any and all energy.
I yawned and rubbed my eyes as she started going over my proposed return to work date, given my doctor cleared me to return, and she suggested telling them the truth of my lost 3 weeks if my memory hadn’t returned by then. It made sense since I didn’t want to end up looking like a fool if someone said or did something that I had no clue about, but should have. After another thirty minutes of me fighting to stay awake, she finally left saying she’d be back later on in the week to check in with me.
The door had barely shut behind her when I immediately grabbed my phone again and started looking through all of the pictures once more. I wanted to remember it all, to know what I’d been thinking when I’d taken the pictures, but especially for the one of Sookie lying on top of me and it was that thought that made me finally stand and slowly seek her out. I’d tucked my phone into my pocket thinking I’d ask Sookie about the pictures when I found her. I was hoping maybe I’d told her what some of my thoughts were when I showed her the photos the first time and while it was still difficult to believe everything I’d been told up until that point, I’d do my best to at least try to believe whatever she had to say.
Pam was right, the entire downstairs smelled like lemons and every surface I walked by gleamed. Even though I knew she’d quit her job to take care of me, I felt a little bad knowing Sookie was doing so much housework and decided to bring up hiring the cleaning service again. When I couldn’t find her downstairs I thought she might have gone upstairs and was halfway up to the second floor, thinking the house was just too big for one person to take care of alone, when it hit me.
I did CARE care.
Fuck; at least Pam wasn’t there to see it.
I’d almost called out Sookie’s name as soon as I hobbled onto the top landing, but I was glad I hadn’t when I poked my head into her open bedroom doorway and found her. She was napping, tangled up in her sheets again, and an unbidden smile formed on my lips as I quietly limped forward to free her. It wasn’t until I got close enough to touch her that I could see the dried tear tracks on her cheeks, thanks to the late afternoon sun streaming through the window, and my stomach dropped knowing I was responsible for them.
Her tears would be the death of me.
Just as I had the night before, I gently pulled the sheet free from her body and curled up behind her on the bed. Just as she had the night before, her body slid across the mattress, somehow detecting my presence even though she was sleeping, and as soon as we touched her fitful movements stilled into peacefulness without waking. My arm snaked around her waist and I gently burrowed my face into her neck, breathing in her calming scent. I’d later repeat my apology when she was awake, but my need to somehow make things right between us, right now whether she could hear me or not, had me pressing my lips against her neck in silent regret before I whispered into her ear, “I’m sorry.”
For snapping at you.
For believing you were using me.
For not remembering you.
When she sighed and her arm moved to lie across my own, her hand gripping my wrist as she pressed her back against my front, and cocooned herself even deeper within my embrace, I’d wondered if maybe she had awoken, but her breathing remained slow and even. I just enjoyed the feel of her body tucked into mine, feeling the cadence of my own heart beating against her back as it joined in with the harmony of her soft inhales and exhales. Separately we were like a skipping record, always repeating the same monotonous rhythm, but together we seemed to have created our own lullaby and I soon drifted off to sleep wondering if we’d meet up in our dreams.