Eric’s eyes traveled the length of my body from head to toe before meeting my own again as he smiled and said, “You look beautiful.”
He was looking pretty Hubba Bubba himself.
It made me want to blow him like a giant wad of gum.
He’d shaven the whisker forest from his face, so his chiseled jaw could whittle away at my sanity, and had paired another pair of dark denim jeans with a white button up shirt.
With the top four buttons undone.
Maybe I could just lick his chest for dinner? It certainly looked appetizing.
Only instead of offering me one of his nipples, he handed me a little bouquet of roses.
Did this place have its own florist?
It certainly seemed big enough, but instead of giving him a glimpse of my inner bumpkin, I took them with a smile and said, “Thank you.”
But it was still too soon to repay his kind gesture by offering him flowers of his own – in the form of my wadded up dress – right?
The jury was still out on that one and Eric’s elbow was out too. He crooked it in my direction for me to take before I could take my dress off and led me down the stairs and into the kitchen. With me carrying a bouquet and having my arm looped through his, I could help but snicker, “This feels more like walking down the aisle than what we did on that video at Elvis’ chapel.”
At least I wasn’t dressed like a scarlet hooker.
“Bubba,” Eric offered, while pulling out a chair for me to sit in.
Was that Eric’s pet name for me? Just how much sticking it in had we done together that he was stuck in my southern roots?
Had I somehow herpe’d Eric with a Deliverance Disease?
“The Elvis impersonator’s name was Bubba,” he explained, taking the seat across from me.
We both dodged a bullet there. Just like herpes, him calling me Bubba wouldn’t be sexy at all, but now that he’d opened the can of worms that were my missing memories, a million questions popped into my mind. Unsurprisingly, many of them had to do with what happened in the bed we were no longer sharing.
Why couldn’t THAT be on video?
“Do you remember anything else from that night?” I asked in an attempt to get my brain out of the gutter. I’d been too shocked to ask too many details while I was still in the hospital. Too much had been thrown at me all at once. Married to a movie star. Baby Jesus had rented my womb for the next eight months. I’d lost more than five weeks of my life.
My life up until then hadn’t been so interesting that it would’ve made much of a difference if I’d forgotten any of it.
But now there was a reality fantasy husband and a not-so-make-believe baby and paparaccidents in my past. I’d been on mental overload and took the easy way out by just keeping my head down and not asking for more than I could handle at the time. I had shied away from him most of the time, but it wasn’t because I didn’t feel comfortable around him.
It was because I felt too comfortable around him and that made me uneasy.
I couldn’t deny Quinn hadn’t done a number on me and even now – a year later – I was still bearing the scars. It wasn’t easy for me to trust someone and considering who he was, that by definition – my husband – I should trust, didn’t mean I could flip a switch and fall into the life he’d claimed we’d made together, but I couldn’t remember. It would be too easy for me to be swept up by my fantasy driven reality and I was afraid. As unfair as it was, I couldn’t help but question his true feelings for me. He’d told me the reasons why we had initially agreed to stay together and pretend there was more to our reasoning for getting married than one too many tequila shots. He’d seemed sincere when he fawned all over me at the hospital, telling me he loved me and he would do whatever he had to do so I would love him back. But – to put it bluntly – he had a reputation.
And it wasn’t a good one.
Even if I overlooked it – and I honestly couldn’t hold it against him for taking what women threw at him wherever he went – could I be enough to keep him faithful to me when he could have any woman he wanted? I was okay looking, but I was certainly no prize. Especially not in his world where movie stars and models popped up like weeds.
Really pretty weeds.
And now I was having his baby that I couldn’t remember conceiving and couldn’t even feel yet, so none of it felt real.
Maybe there was still a chance I’d wake up in Vegas next to Amelia?
The odds were about 2 to 1 in my mind.
“I don’t remember anything from that night,” he said, pulling me from my thoughts. “I only know his name because he’d said it on the video.”
Well I only knew Eric from videos too – sadly, not of the homemade porn variety – so I guessed we were even there.
Maybe I would call him Bubba and this whole thing would feel more real.
Awkward silently crept into the room and took a seat on my lap, so I turned my attention to the plate in front of me and only then noticed it was Gran’s signature fried chicken and potato salad. And seeing the dash of red on the potatoes made me remember what he’d said in the hospital, so I figured it was as safe a topic as the weather and dug my fork in while I offered, “I see your dad picked up some Paprika.”
The words had barely left my mouth when the piece of biscuit that had been in Eric’s flew across the table.
And fell down into my dress.
In between my boobs.
In all of the scenarios I had imagined his saliva coating that area on my body, that wasn’t one of them.
“Sorry!” He sounded horrified and reached over the tabletop with his pterodactyl like wingspan, stopping himself just before his pterosaur could enter my Jurassic Park.
He held his hand there in the air like he could Jedi mind trick it out of my cleavage and back into his hand before he gave up and mumble repeated, “Sorry.” Slumping back down in his chair, he looked like a whipped puppy. And since my brain was stuck – just like the piece of biscuit nestled in my boobs – when I didn’t say anything, he let out a huge sigh and admitted, “I was hoping we could have a romantic night and you’d start to like me again. But instead I’m spitting food at you and reaching for your…yeah.”
He mumbled again, something that sounded suspiciously like ‘woo-hole’, and stared at his plate like he wanted to crawl inside of it and hide amongst the batter-fried chicken.
Awkward must have been a big old bitch to have needed both of our laps to settle her ass on. And feeling bad for him, now realizing how hard this must be for him too, I reached over to put my hand on top of his.
And knocked his glass of iced sweet tea into his lap because awkward was a big old bitch to reach around too.
“I’m so sorry,” I shrieked and jumped up from my seat, taking my napkin with me and tried to rub away the stain from his jeans like I was Lady Macbeth.
‘Out, damn’d spot! Out I say!’
But when he grabbed my hands and held them still, his eyes told me I wasn’t Lady Macbeth at all. Too classy, I supposed.
I was Lady Marmalade instead.
And in my missing five weeks my hands must have learned to speak French because, while I was quoting Shakespeare in my head, those two slutty bitches were sign language singing into his rapidly growing microphone, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?”
Maybe they thought themselves the next Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood and were vying for his Am-ERIC-an Idol.
My mouth still spoke English though. It just didn’t consult my brain before saying, “You’d think the cold tea would make it harder for you to do that.”
I could already imagine Simon Cowell’s scowl at my foul verbal vomit.
“You have a way of making everything harder for me,” he verbal vomited in return.
I didn’t know him well enough to know if that was a double entendre, but I did know I didn’t know him well enough to be singing silent karaoke into his microphone. But in for a penny, in for a pound, and I felt myself flame red and raised his verbal vomit with, “As long as I’m here, do you want to take your boob biscuit back?”
It only seemed fair.
And even though the song had been paused, he was still holding Kelly and Carrie on his iPants, so neither one of them could do it, while my brain wandered, wondering if morning sickness included vomiting up words.
Maybe that was why there was a piece of spit covered dough in my cleavage and a possible double entendre in my ears? It would make sense if he had sympathy morning sickness.
But it wasn’t how I imagined we would be trading body spit for the first time.
Well, the first time I could remember.
My name came out of his lips like a warning and a promise all in one. It made another warning come out of my other set of lips further down below and the moisture that came with it was very promising. Eric managed to somehow grow a fourth arm (two were still in holding my hands in his lap and a third had grown from his lap) to pull my head towards his. It wasn’t forceful at all and he’d moved slowly enough I could have pulled away.
If being so close to him didn’t make me stupid.
But my stupidity was like a tightrope suspended in between fantasy and reality. I wobbled back and forth on the taut line for only a second before deciding I wasn’t stupid enough to say no to his innocent enough advance. So when he gently nibbled my bottom lip, I gladly opened up for him to kiss me.
And I immediately knew if he had kissed me at any point prior to our wedding, I would’ve been drunk enough on one to go along with anything he said.
His other arms wound their way around my body and with their newfound freedom Kelly and Carrie went on tour across Northman Am-Eric-a. Through his golden wheat colored hair. Across the great plains of his back. Over the two Rocky Mountain peaks on his chest and trailed down his Appalachian abs.
My fingertips were like stereotypical Hollywood tourists, snapping pics left and right to commit his great land to memory.
And the rest of me was screaming for an encore when he finally pulled away so we could breathe, but I turned the color of a rocket’s red glare when he hoarsely said, “I made you wet.”
Huh? Did he have some sort of hidden cum-dar? A booty beam capable of detecting hoohah humidity?
It was possible since I could feel his antenna poking my posterior.
And it was only then did I realize I was sitting on the ‘X’ where my tour of the Hollywood stars ended with my ass in his lap.
“Now we’re both sitting in iced tea,” he mumbled against my skin.
“Oh…sea to shining sea.”
“What?” he asked.
My maps were all googled by that point, so all I could do was lamely reply, “Seeorry,” and hope he would buy my pathetic poetic pretext.
“I’m not,” he smirked and seeing it on his face suddenly felt very familiar.
And it made me want to become even more familiar with the rest of him, which was why I sent a silent prayer to God to give me Moses-like powers to part our shining seas. At least enough to remove my ‘O’ from his ‘X’ in our game of Tic-Tac-Ho.
But I hung up on my Dial-A-Prayer when he stared back at me and said, “I missed you Sookie.”
My global caps melted even more seeing the sincerity in his eyes and even though I couldn’t return the sentiment, I could still admit, “I do like you Eric. More than I can make sense of in my head.”
His smile only grew, which only made my seas shine even more, so I could only nod when he pressed his lips back against my own and asked, “Shall I help you focus your thoughts.”
One make-out session, a quick change of clothes, and a reheated dinner later we were sitting on the couch together when I realized I didn’t know much more about him than what I’d read in magazines. Deciding to build on what I did know was true, I asked, “When will you find out if you got the part in the movie?” And remembering being told he’d left his audition because of my accident, I added, “You having to leave didn’t cause you to lose your chance, did it? Will they let you re-audition?”
I’d feel horrible if I cost him the part – the whole reason he’d agreed to stay married to me in the first place – so I wasn’t so sure how to feel when he casually shrugged and said, “They offered it to me, but I declined.”
“What?” I pulled away so I could turn and face him asking, “Why would you do that? I thought that was the whole reason you agreed to stay married to me.”
His eyes softened and he reached over to do a little gentle mapping of his own across my baby-cubator, saying, “It was. But things change. I fell in love with you. Now we’re having a baby together. And I’ve recently been reminded how quickly those things could change too. I don’t want leave you for weeks to go away filming. I don’t want to miss any of the pregnancy. There will always be another movie. There will never be another you or another Emmy.”
“Emmy?” I asked, latching onto the one thing that would keep me from tearing up, hearing his heartfelt reply.
Did I miss him getting nominated for one too?
He grinned almost bashfully and admitted, “It’s what I started calling the baby in my head. Embryo seemed too cold, so I shortened it to Emmy.”
“Emmy is nice,” I grinned and then asked, “But what if it’s a boy? Or are you a secret Twi-hard and will want to name it Emmett?”
“Emmett?” he frowned. “I thought Sparkle’s name was Edward.”
Well, that answered my question.
But thinking of their high school romance brought with it thoughts of school which made me ask, “What about my job?”
It hadn’t seemed so important anymore when I found out I wasn’t the mark in MTV’s new reality series, ‘Punk’d Pregnancies’, but now felt like a good time to ask.
Babies were expensive.
He suddenly looked like I told him we were drunk married in Vegas and he couldn’t remember a damn thing.
Seeming to bite the bullet, he sighed and said, “If you made an issue of it, they would probably let you go back to work. It wouldn’t look good for them for letting you go after everything you’ve been through. The press would probably vilify them, but…”
His words reminded me of the pandemonium when we’d left the hospital. I wasn’t sure I was up to going through that day after day and after everything Eric had said and done since then, I doubted he would kick me to the curb for being unemployed.
I just didn’t know how to feel about that yet.
So when he didn’t say anything more, I asked, “But?”
“But…” he sighed again. “I would support your decision to go back if that was what you really wanted to do.”
“But…” I repeated and paused while studying his face. “You don’t want me to.”
It wasn’t a question. I knew the inside of his mouth better than I knew the man himself, but there was no mistaking his thoughts on the matter.
His eyes held mine when he admitted, “No. I don’t. But I also know that job was your reason to stay married to me and if that’s going to be the deciding factor to keep you married to me now when you can’t even remember me, then I’ll deal with it.”
He’d already admitted he no longer cared about why we’d stayed married. He’d already admitted he loved me and had gone so far as to give up that role so he could stay with me.
Me and Emmy.
“But what about money?” I asked, thinking about our pricey little pregnancy partnership. It was a subject that caused strife in a lot of relationships, but we needed to address it. I didn’t want him to think I was using him, but my savings would run out eventually.
“You don’t remember,” he began with a soft smile, “but you’ve already made your displeasure known at being thought of as a gold digger. And because you don’t remember, I’ll repeat myself until I’m blue in the face that I know you’re not like that. You don’t give a rat’s ass about – and I quote – my five hundred dollar pots to piss in.”
Sweet baby Jesus! I said that to him?
“But,” he added, breaking into my mental chatter, “We’re married Sookie. Just because you don’t remember it doesn’t make it any less true.” He smiled and admitted, “Something we both discovered that morning in Vegas. And if you’re thinking along the same lines as then, I know you probably feel like you should be pulling your own weight. We’ve had our fair share of arguments over it already, but I hope we don’t have to have them all over again for you to see that you are my wife and I am your husband. There is no mine and yours. It’s ours, just like Emmy. We have more than enough money that we could both live comfortably for the rest of our lives without me ever getting another role, so please don’t let that factor into why you think you should go back to work. I know it took you a long time to get a job teaching, but if I’m being honest, you didn’t seem to like working there very much.”
My mind was back to being on overload to form a more detailed response.
His. Mine. Ours.
It was a lot. In more ways than one.
“Really.” He smiled again and said, “You made mention of wanting to shove silver spoons up pretentious little shit asses on more than one occasion.”
Overload equaled ‘rinse and repeat’ responses.
Since Eric was stuck on repeat mode too, I didn’t say anything else and tried to sort through the tangled thoughts in my head. I’d always worked from the time I was old enough to babysit. The thought of staying home was both foreign and frightening, but the thought of going out and facing the paparazzi circus everyday didn’t sound appealing either.
Especially if I had to deal with pretentious little shits all day.
“What would I do if I didn’t work?” I asked, hoping he wouldn’t suggest I take my shoes off and get back into the kitchen.
“Whatever you want.” Seeing my frown over his ambiguous response, he offered, “Is there anything you wanted to do that you didn’t have the time or money to do before?”
My head was already shaking no because I was never one to sit around and wonder what I’d do if I won the lottery, but the one thing I knew I would’ve done was fix up Gran’s house.
And from what I both saw in pictures and was told, Eric had already taken care of that for me.
Eric pulled me back so I was leaning against his side and kissed the top of my head, saying, “You’re making our baby and once little Emmy is here, I’m sure he or she will keep both of us plenty busy. In the meantime, you can just think of this time as a well-deserved vacation. Work on your tan out in the pool all day or read a ton of books. If you get bored you can come with me to the studio whenever you want and keep me company. Whatever you want to do Sookie, the world is yours.”
Hearing him say the things he did only made it all the more plausible I really was dreaming.
What if I gave in and believed it all, only to wake up to a hungover Amelia?
What if my dream really was true?
With Kelly Clarkson already firmly implanted in my brain – and apparently my left hand – I decided to take a page from her lyric notebook and take a leap of faith, starting by leaning over and kissing Eric.
Because like the lyrics she’d sung…
‘Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this. Some people search forever for that one special kiss.’
And no matter what the logical side of my brain was trying to tell me, maybe I could believe it was happening to me.
My heart told me so.