“Move a little to the left…”
“Spread ’em…I know you can do better than that…”
“No no no…not too far…”
“Yeah…right there. Okay, easy now…nice and slow…”
“That’s the way…oh God…it’s…almost…out.”
No one ever warned you babies could magically shit up their backs or just how difficult it was to get those tiny onesies off without spreading more shit everywhere.
Bubba lifted his head up trying to see his favorite person flailing around on the changing table and I was about to test just how Lassie-like he was by asking him to go and bring Sookie back with him, telling her I’d fallen into a well of shit, when I heard the click of the camera behind me along with Sookie’s snickering from the doorway, but I knew better than to turn away from Lady Shits-A-Lot. Her flying Stackhouse hands would go straight for the shit.
After all, she was related to Jason.
“You know,” she said from behind me. “It would’ve been easier to just cut it off of her, but I did enjoy listening to your porn speak on the baby monitor.”
Now she tells me…not the porn speak part because THAT I knew, but the scissors part.
Lilly was twenty-eight weeks old, four more than when she’d come out of the womb, but because of her being born prematurely she was only about the size of an average three month old baby. I, however, was very proud of all thirteen pounds and twenty-five inches of her, even if she probably just lost a pound in her diaper.
“Help,” I pleaded, maybe to God, but more than likely to Sookie who wasn’t so saintly at the moment.
Her only response was to laugh out, “No way…she got me just the other day and all you did was laugh at me. Payback’s a bitch.”
In fact, I had that picture safely tucked away on my phone to use as my maiden ‘sheet’, but refusing to acknowledge defeat I appealed to the fairness of the situation and whined, “But you had Gran there to help you.”
“Yeah,” she snickered again. “I bet you’re rethinking that whole ‘We’ll be all alone’ plan now.”
While I hadn’t taken shit covered babies into account, it was all good. Lilly had finally gotten released from the hospital at the end of May, close to a week before her actual due date, and we spent the first couple of weeks at home adjusting to life with a newborn as full-time parents. It was terrifying at first knowing we no longer had a staff of nurses and doctors on hand in case we fucked anything up. There were times when we felt overwhelmed because at times Lilly seemed to want to cry for no other reason than the sky was blue or gray or sunny or cloudy and like every other new parent, most of the time we were exhausted.
It was completely, utterly, perfectly normal and I couldn’t be happier.
After a few weeks of getting our bearings, we decided to fly back to Louisiana and spend the rest of the summer at our house in Bon Temps – or as Sookie called it, Northman South. We talked my dad into coming out with us for the first couple of weeks and Sookie and I were able to celebrate our shared birthday as a family with Gran and Jason, but we’d returned to California a few days earlier because I would have to return to the set to go back to working on the movie in a couple of weeks. Greenland was no longer a location option – not because the polar icecaps had melted due to our new SUV, but because the military was set to do training exercises during the dark season, so we were back to going to Sweden after all.
All of us.
But first we would be celebrating our one year anniversary and after seeing the pictures from GQ, I couldn’t think of a better place to stay than the house from the photo shoot. I’d rented it for two weeks as a surprise for Sookie because, even though I couldn’t remember it, she’d told me it was where we’d first declared our love for one another. There were plenty of other places I still wanted to take her, but it seemed like the perfect place to spend our first anniversary. She’d kept her eyes on me when we first walked in the day before, looking for some spark of recognition in mine, but there was nothing more than what I remembered seeing in the photos. Other than the little flashes I’d had months earlier, none of my missing memories had returned, but I was okay with it. I didn’t need them any longer because I no longer had that aching need for answers when the answer had been right there in front of me all along.
Well, technically she was standing behind me and laughing her ass off, watching as I lifted Lady Shits-A-Lot and held her out in front of me like the biohazard she was, carrying her into the bathroom to give her a much needed bath.
Eric Northman led a glamorous life indeed.
I left Eric and his fecalpheliac daughter – we could have played on my name and changed the ‘S’ to a ‘D’ and called her ‘Dookie’ – to manage on their own while I cleaned up the aftermath of Shitgate 2012. I never once questioned his ability to be a good father, but I’d had no idea of just how accurate my feelings were way back when, when I first told him I was pregnant. Even not knowing who I was or what we meant to one another, I never once doubted this side of him would eventually emerge and it was true because as far as he was concerned, the sun rose and set on that baby girl, even if it wasn’t rainbows that came out of her hind end.
However we both blamed her excrement expertise on Jason.
I tossed the ruined onesie into the plastic bag, along with the rest of the trash and was hit with a momentary pang of being wasteful for not even trying to wash it, but considering Lilly had more clothes than Eric and I put together – thanks to Auntie Pam – I got over it fairly quickly. It was still difficult for me at times to not fall back on old habits where money was concerned and no matter how much Eric and I had socked away – no matter how many ridiculous sized paychecks he got in the future, I wasn’t sure if those feelings would ever go away completely.
My new car was a prime example.
That tank was completely ridiculous. Any anonymity was lost the moment we drove through the gates because no one other than The Terminator would be driving around in something like that on the city streets.
Only Eric wasn’t a reprogrammed cyborg sent to protect me, nor was my name Sarah Connor.
The name The Black Pearl had changed into the full-sized version to go along with its size, The Curse of the Black Pearl, and the only reason I didn’t demand my beloved piece of tough shit Hyundai back was because Eric had gotten it repaired with an all new interior and suggested we give it to Tara as a high school graduation gift. She and I had kept in touch during all of those weeks we spent at the hospital, but it was Jesus Velasquez who’d told me Tara had gotten a partial scholarship to UCLA. They had not only a stellar academic program, but their School of Theater, Film, and Television was great too. Between her grades and performances in both the Drama Club and Choir she was a shoo-in, but the scholarship only covered tuition and books. With the way the transit system worked, she’d be stuck on a bus at all hours of the day and night getting to and from the campus, but thanks to Eric she didn’t have to worry about that anymore. He’d gotten wind of how she’d led the band of my parking lot protectors from the paparazzi hounds and decided not only would she get my car, but he was paying for her room and board so she could move out of Compton and live on campus too.
So I kept my mouth shut and rode around in The Curse of the Black Pearl while trying to make the best of it by pretending we were outrunning cyborgs sent back from the future by Skynet.
While I waited for Eric to finish cleaning up Lilly, I sat down and opened my laptop to reread what I’d been working on when I first got distracted hearing his porny dialogue over the baby monitor. It was an edited version of the journal I’d kept in the days and weeks following Lilly’s birth. There was so much getting thrown at us at the time, I’d written it all down every night when we returned to the hotel knowing time would slowly eat away at my memories of it all and I didn’t want to forget any of it. It was kind of therapeutic for me at the time because it had been a way for me to keep her with us at night when we’d have to leave her at the hospital until we could return the following day, but I never thought of doing anything with it until his mother made her bitch-move.
As I’d suspected when I’d followed him back to L.A., Eric had taken the weight of the blame upon himself over her betrayal and no amount of me telling him it wasn’t his fault did any good. He felt responsible. He felt like he’d failed in protecting us and while I too had felt violated seeing Lilly’s picture splashed across the tabloids, it was in no way his fault, but there was nothing we could do to change it. The only thing we could try and do was change was the public’s perception. Instead of having them only see the frail child of a superstar, I wanted to show them the love of a father and the determination of his baby girl to survive something that no amount of fame or money could help her overcome.
Using the pictures we’d taken each week following her birth of Eric’s hand alongside her body, I used my journal entries to tell our story. Our fear that she might not make it – Eric’s fear I wouldn’t survive her birth – and how scared he was at the thought of having to face the possibility of raising her all alone. I documented our joy as she reached every milestone and our heartache with every setback we faced.
The day after our adventure in Crack Town USA, Lilly had been tested and diagnosed with having Stage II Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP for short. Because she’d been born prematurely, her eyes didn’t have the chance to develop as they normally would have in the womb and instead the blood vessels in the back of her eyes were ‘moderately abnormal’. She wasn’t blind and it wasn’t severe enough they felt she needed to have any invasive treatment, but it was something we needed to be cognizant of – from the types of toys we used to visually stimulate her with to keeping in mind her sensitivity to lights and glares. Of course that was all Pam needed to hear before we were drowning in a sea of baby sunglasses, at least now she had a good excuse. Lilly might need further treatment or eyeglasses in the future, but all in all, we knew we couldn’t complain given the other horrors she could have faced and were grateful we’d gotten out of it relatively unscathed.
I didn’t, however, mention Bill Compton, Debbie Pelt, or Crystal Meth in the article because it wasn’t a story about them. It was meant to be a story of triumph over tragedy that covered Lilly’s birth all the way up until the day we were finally able to bring her home, culminating in her final shot in the incubator that morning. Only instead of just Eric’s hand alongside her body, it was both of ours.
Eric had spent nearly his entire lifetime walking around needing to keep his head down, his eyes shielded by sunglasses and, other than our drunken wedding night, he moved through life out in the open operating under the mantra of, “Don’t say a word. Don’t show them any reaction. Just keep moving.” It was exactly how he’d acted in trying to get us out of the casino that day and it was how we went through life as a couple in the days and weeks afterward. It was all the public ever got to see, so I wanted to tell the human side of the story the public didn’t get to see. Beyond the glitz and glamour of Eric’s fame and fortune, he wasn’t just a rich celebrity or an actor or even just my hero husband.
He was human too.
Jodie Foster had recently come out publically in the defense of another young actress whose life had been drastically affected by the celebrity culture we lived in. While I may not have agreed with her choices, I wasn’t righteous enough to condemn her for her actions because I’d never walked in her shoes, but I could identify with the other people who’d been affected by them and I did know what it was like to be young and make a mistake. The thought of having to live through Quinn’s betrayals with the world watching was the things nightmares were made of and our wedding night notwithstanding, I couldn’t imagine having my own errors in judgment put on display for the entire world to see and judge. It was exactly how Eric had felt seeing Lilly’s picture sold by the very person he should have been able to trust and Ms. Foster’s words in defense of her one-time co-star struck a chord with me when she said,
“Actors who become celebrities are supposed to be grateful for the public interest. After all, they’re getting paid. Just to set the record straight, a salary for a given on-screen performance does not include the right to invade anyone’s privacy, to destroy someone’s sense of self.”
Amen to that.
Before I’d become Mrs. Eric Northman, I too had been guilty of that myself and now that I could see both sides of the coin, I could see the error of my ways and felt it was my duty to try and right a wrong I myself had once committed.
Eric’s celebrity was the driving force behind his mother’s invasion of our privacy and putting Lilly on display for the world to see, for nothing more than lining her own pockets before she seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. One could only hope, but Pam was still looking for her out of her own need for justice.
So, we decided together that we’d have our say too. When she wasn’t on the search for His Mama Bin Hidin’, Pam put out feelers to more reputable magazines outlining what I had written and in doing so had sparked a bidding war amongst them on who would get to publish our story. But unlike his mother, we weren’t doing it for the money which was already earmarked for different charities – Terry’s service dogs organization, The Wounded Warriors Project, and Lafayette’s soup kitchen among them. We were doing it to serve as a warning for every other person out there who sought fame and fortune thinking it would give them a perfect life. We were doing it for every other parent out there who sat afraid in silent vigil at their child’s bedside hoping and praying for a miracle, so they’d know they weren’t alone.
And I made sure I thanked God each and every day for our little miracle, no matter what came out of her little booty.
Once Lilly was shit free, Sookie fed her and went to put her down for the night, with Bubba dogging her heels and, no doubt, curling up on the bed next to her bassinet so he could keep an eye on his favorite human. I wasn’t jealous of his reaction though and happily played second fiddle. From the moment he first laid eyes on her in the car on the way home from the hospital, it seemed like she was all he wanted to see. Lilly was his only interest and wherever she was is where you would find him. She’d been too young to really notice him at first, but now she looked for him whenever she heard his collar jangle and in her waking hours she was happiest when he would lie down beside her, wherever or whoever had her propped up. He’d proven his worth time and again, so how could I be upset with the added security he provided, knowing he’d rip the throat out of anyone he deemed a threat.
It almost made me wish my mother would turn up for another visit.
That whore was dead to me now. Sookie may have absolved me of my failure in protecting them from her, but I would never forgive myself for allowing her to get close enough to do what she had. There would never be any forgiveness for her from me either and I no longer had fantasies of having any sort of relationship with her. The ones I did have of her all ended with her painful death. I didn’t need her in my life, nor did I want her in my life. I had all the family I needed and she would never get the chance to be a part of it, and while I didn’t actively go looking for her, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t unleash on her with both barrels if our paths ever crossed again.
Or I could just unleash Bubba and let him have at it.
“What’s with the angry face?” Sookie asked as she walked back into the room.
I hadn’t had the time or opportunity to work on my poker face in recent weeks and not wanting to bring up the evil whore and spoil our evening, I put on a leer instead, saying, “Lilly is finally asleep and you return to me fully dressed. I find this unacceptable.”
It wasn’t even a lie.
She eyed me like it was a lie, but didn’t call me out on it and instead sat down on the couch across from me, putting me out of arm’s reach of her, and slid the Scrabble board we’d been playing earlier in between us. I could see the wheels spinning when she smiled coyly and said, “Well then, I propose we up the stakes in our game. I will strip off every article of clothing you manage to spell out on the board, but you have to do the same.”
I could only assume the winner and loser would both get an orgasm out of the deal, so it was a certifiable win/win to me!
Like the horny bastard I was, thoughts of anything other than playing with Naked Sookie disappeared from my mind, as I quickly flipped over the tiles I had looking for ‘bra’ or ‘panties’, but finding nothing more tantalizing than ‘shoe’.
And she wasn’t wearing any of those.
She also wasn’t having any luck in undressing me, so we changed the rules to include things we could do to each other which led to a ‘kiss’ for her and fortunately for me, ‘tit’, which I took quite literally in saying hello to my BFF’s. However, even with all of the ridiculous names she had for The Captain, she couldn’t manage to get the tiles she needed in order for her – and therefore getting any enjoyment out of it for me – to get reacquainted with him and I was about to call an end to the torture by flipping the board over, accidentally on purpose, when her eyes lit up with her next draw of tiles.
With baited breath and a raging hard-on, I watched her lick her lips as she slowly placed the tiles on the board building off the letter ‘C’. I was hoping to see an ‘O’, ‘C’, and ‘K’, but instead my eyes narrowed watching her put down a ‘U’, ‘M’, ‘F’, ‘E’, ‘T’, ‘T’, and ‘I’.
“Cumfetti?” I asked and added, “That’s not a word.”
‘Shut up!’ said The Captain since apparently his brain caught on before mine did.
“That’s your argument?” she giggled. “Are you going to argue with my triple word score too?” she asked as it finally sunk in what she had spelled.
Fuck and No. Well, make that Fuck and Yes. No to the arguing part and Yes to the fucking part.
The board and tiles scattered as I dove across the coffee table and pounced on her on the opposite couch. She laughed out loud, but it didn’t take long for our clothes to go flying too. My newly acquired bat like senses, that apparently came with having a baby, heard Bubba briefly come into the room to check out what the noise was before I heard the jangle of his collar over the baby monitor as he settled back on the bed, but it wasn’t long before all I could hear were Sookie’s moans and pants of, “Yes,” “Oh God,” “More,” and “Harder.”
Even after all of this time, an entire year of having her in every way imaginable – most of which I could remember – I knew I would never get enough. It would never be enough and as I slid into her for the countless time, with every pulse of her heartbeat, every throb of her surrounding me and the rest of me surrounding her, I knew I would never tire of her. She was literally my other half by then and I couldn’t imagine a life without her, nor did I want to, and as we continued to ruin the couch and each other for the rest of the evening, I couldn’t imagine my life could get any better than this.
We hadn’t been in bed for very long when Lilly woke up in the middle of the night, but seeing as how I’d done my best to exhaust her mother, I felt it was only fair for me to get up with her. Sookie mostly breastfed her, but she expressed milk so I could feed her with a bottle too and Lilly didn’t seem to get confused over the change or prefer one over the other and I was glad, wanting to have that bonding time with her as well.
After she was in a fresh diaper and fed, I walked with her out onto the balcony hoping the ocean air would work its magic in getting her to go back to sleep. As I stared out at the crashing waves below us underneath the moonlit sky, I thought back to my idea of living in Louisiana for the majority of year and realized not having the ocean right there would be the only drawback for me. I loved the small town atmosphere of Bon Temps and it probably wouldn’t take much to talk my father into coming with us, so we would be able to live most of our daily lives out of the spotlight and surrounded by our family. The idea appealed to me so much that I almost felt guilty for the good fortune I’d had over the last year. Yes, there were a lot of shitty things that had happened too, but overall I knew I was a lucky bastard. Too lucky, some would say – me included – but that was something I was working on. I no longer felt as undeserving as I once did because Sookie showed me every day that she felt I was worthy.
And I argued that point with myself less and less with each passing day.
Besides, as long as she found me worthy, that was all that really mattered to me and probably for the very first time in my entire life, I truly felt at peace. I no longer felt like I was on edge waiting for the next bad thing to befall us and there was nothing inside nagging at me, be it work or life in general. For the first time I felt like all of the weight I’d carried on my shoulders for as long as I could remember was gone, so I sent out a silent ‘Thank you’ into the universe for giving me not just the gift of bringing my two favorite girls into my life, but with them a very real and tangible peace.
I’d exhausted not just Sookie that night, but myself too and had just settled down onto one of the overstuffed chairs on the balcony, gently patting Lilly’s back hoping to soothe her back into slumber, when I heard it. Somewhere out in the distant darkness I heard the unmistakable sound echoing back to me in the form of a whale’s song.
And like a row of dominoes lined up in my mind, one by one they fell until there were none left standing.
I stirred awake hearing Eric coming into the bedroom and opened my eyes in time to see him placing Lilly back into her bassinet, but he’d worn my ass out so I closed them again, only acknowledging my half-asleep status by whispering out, “Was she up for very long this time?”
I was barely able to stay awake long enough to wait for his reply, only instead of answering me, he crawled on top of me causing my eyes to open again – more fully this time – and seeing the smile on his face had me asking, “What?”
He looked at me with a kind of wonder that I didn’t know what to make of until I gasped out loud, now realizing the cause in hearing his one word reply.