The range of emotions I felt learning of Eric’s lies whirled through me like a tornado, ripping away the already shattered pieces of my heart like they’d been held together by nothing stronger than the spray adhesive I’d used earlier that evening on Madden. After everything we’d been through together I couldn’t understand why he would choose to intentionally hurt me the way he had, but the pain I felt initially believing he had no memory of me was nothing compared to the hurt I now felt. I’d heard his apologies and felt the sincerity of his words, but the sting of his betrayal was too fresh; too raw. In my anger, I couldn’t stand looking at him for another moment so I asked him to leave and go back to wherever it was he’d been before me; before us. Even as he walked out of our bedroom my heart was already begging him to stay, wanting him to fight for another chance at us, but when he didn’t turn around or say another word the ache in my chest only grew larger. I wretched my battered body from the bed and found the engagement ring on the closet floor before limping after him, resolving it would be the final time I would ever allow myself to go after Eric Northman. My grief overshadowed the pain I could see etched on his face as I handed it to him and his pleas fell on deaf ears; my heart just couldn’t bear any more sorrow. When I shut the door in his tear stricken face it took every ounce of strength I had left in me to make my way back to bed where I collapsed into a sobbing ball of raw nerves. Eventually, thankfully, I cried myself to sleep.
Ending the call from Eric I turned to Siegbert and saw the relief in his eyes as I pulled off my latex gloves, so I gave him one last swift kick, lamenting over my already ruined Manolo’s, saying, “While it’s been fun Magilla Gorilla it seems I don’t need you after all. Your master is dead.” I turned to face Rasul and indicated with a slight raise of my eyebrow he should lock up the prisoner before I headed upstairs to change out of my blood splattered clothes. I hadn’t planned on joining in with the festivities, or else I would have changed first, but I couldn’t help myself sometimes feeling the need to add my expertise as it were.
I’d gone to check on Eric and Sookie’s progress earlier, figuring I would be treated to the sounds of them fucking like rabbits after their reunion, but when I saw they were gone, along with the van, I’d traced its location with the built-in GPS to Bon Temps and assumed they’d decided to do their fucking at Sookie’s home. When Eric called and relayed to me what happened I felt relieved Madden was finally dead while being pissed off that Sookie was foolish enough to have left the safe house on her own. It definitely fit with Eric’s description of her lacking self preservation instincts, but I knew that trait could also be viewed as a tactical advantage if she were properly trained by the Alliance. Eric may have thought I was only kidding, but I had every intention of finding out Sookie’s opinion on the matter.
Once Rasul joined me upstairs, I grabbed one of our spare cell phones for Eric and we went outside, climbing into my minivan so we could take Madden’s body back with us to later be incinerated. Rasul drove while I called Indira on our way there, telling her to stop her now fruitless pursuit of Madden and then made a few other calls informing my counterparts within the Alliance of his demise as well as Compton’s betrayal. As I ended the last call we were turning onto a rutted gravel driveway and I looked up to see the shuddering form of one of the most prolific and lethal assassins in the modern era. It was only when the chilly night’s air hit my tongue did I realize my mouth was gaping open in shock. I don’t get shocked. I don’t do shocked, so I quickly snapped it shut and got out of the van stomping, as much as my Louboutin’s would allow over the gravel and grass, to where Eric sat on the front porch steps.
“Are you crying again?” I asked incredulously. I could see the black velvet ring box he held in his hand and figured their reunion didn’t go well.
“Fuck you Pam,” he said, wiping the tears from his face.
“What’s wrong now? Does she claim to not remember you?” Men were so fucking stupid sometimes it was no wonder I was a lesbian.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he protested, pulling himself to his feet and heading towards the woods behind the house with Rasul trailing behind him carrying a rolled up body bag in his hand. I’d ruined enough pairs of shoes over the previous twenty four hours, so I opted to wait at the house. Given Eric’s break down, I doubted Sookie would be receptive to my company at the moment so I stayed on the porch and took in my surroundings.
The Christmas tree lying underneath the front window with broken ornaments dangling from its branches left me perplexed, at first, and seeing the scattered trash bags littering her front yard had me thinking Sookie was a slob until I kicked one, accidentally ripping it open with the heel of my shoe, and saw it was filled with what I assumed was Eric’s clothes. It answered the questions Eric had refused to and I wondered how long it would be before he would be fit for duty. Even with Madden dead, de Castro was still a matter of concern for the Alliance and I wanted him back within our ranks as soon as possible.
When they made their way back with Madden’s dead body slung over Rasul’s shoulder I watched Rasul put the body in the back of the van while Eric somberly picked up the trash bags from the yard and threw them on top before climbing inside himself.
“So that’s it?” I asked. “You’re just going to leave?”
“It’s what she wants,” he dully replied.
I highly doubted that, but if it would get him back on the job that much sooner, I was willing to let it go at the moment knowing I could always recruit Sookie later on.
“Well then quit acting like a big pussy already because I didn’t bring either a handkerchief or a bullshit flag with me; both of which would be appropriate right now. In case you hadn’t noticed, de Castro is still out there and I need you back on your A-game. I swear…my dick is bigger than yours right now.”
I tossed the cell phone I’d brought for him into his lap and got one foot inside the van when he said, “I’m done. I’m not coming back to the Alliance.”
“What?” I gritted my teeth to keep from making the shocked face again. I’d known he wasn’t happy prior to his whole amnesia thing, but none of us were the type to ever really be happy. Amused maybe, content even, but not happy. I’d thought he would want to throw himself back into his work as a way to block out whatever ailed him, but it seemed I was wrong. He’d changed while he’d been away and, in my opinion, it wasn’t for the better.
Eric stared back at the farmhouse with the same longing on his face that I got seeing the new Chanel line every year during Fashion Week. His voice was hoarse as he said, “It’s not who I am anymore.”
“Fuck this bullshit,” I snapped, pulling my foot out of the van. I looked to Rasul saying, “Take him back to the safe house. If he tries to leave, shoot him,” and slammed the van door. I knew Eric could take out Rasul before he could even form the thought to try and defend himself, but I also knew Eric wouldn’t harm a fellow agent unless he was forced to. I hoped for Rasul’s sake he wasn’t so far gone down the rabbit hole that he felt cornered and lashed out after they left.
I turned back towards the farmhouse and heard the engine come to life behind me with Eric yelling out the open window, “Pam! What are you doing?”
“My job!” I yelled back as Rasul tore down the driveway before Eric could say another word. My phone was ringing a minute later and once I saw the caller ID flash Eric’s new number across the screen, I shut it off. I knew he would keep calling otherwise and I didn’t need any distractions while I did what I was paid to do and fixed the mess he’d made for himself.
My head was pounding when I woke up the next morning and the smell of fresh coffee in the air didn’t register as odd right away. That is, until I opened my eyes and saw Pam sitting in a chair at the side of my bed with a mug in her hand.
“It’s about time,” she huffed. I watched her eyes travel around my still wrecked bedroom as she said, “I love what you’ve done with the place. Not so much ‘shabby chic’, more ‘trailer trash’. Is that the style you were going for?”
“What are you doing here?” I’d never felt so defeated in my life and all I wanted to do was stay in bed for the next few years to wallow in my sorrow. Was that asking too much?
“What happened with Madden last night? Rasul informed he had third degree burns covering two thirds of his body and it smells like you held a bayou barbeque in your living room.”
“That’s classified.” Take that Ms. Snarky Smug Face.
She smiled saying, “Touché.”
I didn’t want her admiration, so I asked again, “What are you doing here?”
“Dear Abby says females need other females to bond with and spill their guts out over relationship issues, especially when one is in despair. So here I am. Spill.”
“Huh?” Was she serious? “Do you even know what despair feels like?” My instincts said ‘No’.
She looked offended and I almost felt bad until she opened her mouth and began to speak.
“Of course I do! I’ll give you an example.” Pam’s eyes looked up to the ceiling in thought before she said, “Here’s one; there was a formal event I had to attend at the White House last year. It was all a bunch of schmoozing the new administration and the visiting Japanese monarchy, so I searched high and low for the perfect dress and ended up having to call in a favor from one of my favorite designers, Vera Wang. She came up with a stunning creation in blue silk with cream colored flowers and green leaves that was to die for. We emailed the finer details back and forth before I flew to New York for the final fittings and I felt like a million bucks when I strode through the doors the night of the event. So imagine how I felt when Compton walked in with his date wearing my dress! That ass had seen the designs and emails on my desk and even asked me about them like he was interested. I should’ve put two and two together then and just had him shot out back,” she huffed all red-faced.
“Are you seriously comparing my heartache to you wearing the same dress as someone else?” I asked in disbelief.
“Sookie,” she said exasperatedly, “I fretted over that dress for months. I fought with Vera on the length and making it sleeveless. Fought with Vera!” Her whole body shuddered before she continued saying, “And Compton stole it like the bastard he was and somehow had a knockoff made, draping it over his self-important mule of a date, Selah something. I’m jealous that you were the one to end him when I’ve dreamt of doing that very same thing ever since that night. So you see? I do know what despair feels like.”
I gave my instincts a pat on the back as I picked up the cup of coffee and took a sip before saying in a monotone voice, “Oh you poor thing. How did you ever recover from such a traumatic experience?”
From the animated look in her eyes, I guessed I didn’t inject enough sarcasm into my voice because she said, “Oh, I knocked that bitch out with a sleeper hold in the ladies room and stuffed her unconscious body inside of a broom closet. Compton looked for her for hours with me telling him she must have heard about his tiny dick and left. So you see my friend? It’s up to us to heal our own hearts. We are in charge of making our own destiny.”
She was unbelievable. “We’re not friends Pam and after that story I doubt you even have a heart.”
“Oh, but I do!” she countered. “It nearly beats out of my chest every spring and fall when I attend Fashion Week in New York City. You shall have to come with me next year and I’ll even let you cop a feel so you can see for yourself that I have a heartbeat.” The predatory gleam in her eye at the thought made me a little uncomfortable and I nervously glanced around the room looking for more makeshift weapons. Pam continued talking completely oblivious of my weaponry search. “Besides, if you come with me I won’t get stuck sitting next to Lollipop Girl like I did last year.”
“Who?” I knew I shouldn’t prolong this bizarre conversation by asking any questions, but I couldn’t seem to help myself.
“I don’t know her real name, but she looks like a lollipop. You know, stick body making her head look like it’s a hundred times bigger than it really is. I think she’s supposed to be an actress or something and has some jewelry line…TackyMint? Something like that, but every time I see her she’s wearing beige. Beige! And these hideous beige ankle boots!” Pam’s nose wrinkled in disgust, but I was done humoring her. I just wanted to climb back underneath my blankets and stay there.
“Why are you here Pam?” I was pretty sure I already asked her that question, more than once, but my frazzled brain wasn’t working very well at the moment.
She eyed me carefully before admitting, “I came here to ask you how you really feel about Eric.”
I lay back down in the bed and pulled the covers over my head mumbling, “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
I didn’t even hear her move before the covers were pulled halfway down my body as she said, “Quit hiding, from me and yourself. Where’s the girl I saw throwing knives, killing everyone in her path to keep her man safe? Just spit it out. How. Do. You. Really. Feel?”
“BETRAYED! HURT! ANGRY! SCARED! ALONE!” My screams turned into sobs as I buried my face into my pillow and Pam remained quiet until I was all cried out.
“But do you still love him?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care enough about me, or us, to even want to try,” I admitted softly.
“What makes you say that?”
“When I asked him to leave last night he didn’t even try to convince me otherwise.” I felt weepy all over again remembering it all.
Pam shook her head seeming annoyed and said, “Sookie, men are stupid when it comes to what women want. It’s why I’m a lesbian. Eric heard you say that you wanted him to leave, so in his mind he was simply doing what you wanted. But, trust me, leaving you was the last thing he wanted to do last night.”
“If he really cared, he would have fought to stay,” I protested.
“You’re not living in some fairytale romance you stupid girl,” she spat out. “Life sucks. Shit doesn’t always go your way. Deal with it. And you’re being a hypocrite if you don’t care enough about him to fight for whatever you two had, so if that’s the path you choose then you owe me roughly one million dollars.”
“What in the hell are you talking about?” I asked, totally ignoring the nagging feeling I had over her using the word ‘hypocrite’.
“Well I transferred a quarter mil into your bank account this morning for helping keep Eric safe, but your new balance falls well below what you’ll need to pay me back.”
“I told you I don’t want that money! And pay you back for what?” I asked, my gloom giving way to anger.
“Then donate it to charity for all I care. And the million dollars is the cost of Eric’s training. You broke my best agent and turned him into a giant pussy. He quit on me last night so now I need a new one.”
He quit? I fought back the urge to defend him and instead just mumbled, “I doubt I broke him.”
Pam stood up in a huff and the anger evident on her face frightened me as she spoke. “Believe what you want. I can see there’s no getting through that thick skull of yours and, frankly, if this is how you choose to act then you’re not worthy of him. I don’t think highly of very many people, but he’s one of the most honorable men I’ve ever known and, while he did make a mistake in lying to you at first, he only did it with the best of intentions wanting to keep you safe. If you ever pull your head out of your ass long enough to realize the big mistake you’re making right now, I left his new number by the phone in your kitchen. But, if you’re not willing to let him back into your life, don’t use it.”
I heard her heels storming down the hallway and the front door slam seconds later, leaving me to chew over her words while I cried myself back to sleep.
I stayed in bed for days on end, only leaving it to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. It took me two days to finish eating the piece of toast and banana I had left sitting on the nightstand next to the bed. I’d noticed on my first venture out of the bedroom that someone had put the Christmas tree back in the living room, but I didn’t have the energy to drag it back out so I ignored it, hoping it would just go away and take my heartache with it.
My mind told me I couldn’t hide in bed forever, but every time I tried to get up and move around the house, everything I saw reminded me of Eric so I gave up and crawled back into my hidey hole made up of Gran’s quilts on the bed. The bed; it held now painful memories of Eric too, but as long as I kept my eyes closed and my head covered I could pretend I was anywhere but there. It was no use though because as soon as I would fall asleep, my dreams would betray my desire to hide by having Eric star in them and I always woke up in tears. It made no difference if it was a good dream or a nightmare, they all hurt just the same.
When a week had passed I decided it was time to pull up my big girl panties and get out of bed once and for all. The fact that the phone hadn’t rung once, nor had I had any visitors after Pam left, brought my loneliness to the forefront so I made a decision to end my pity party and get on with my life. I still believed that if Eric truly wanted to be with me, he would have made contact by now. I only knew one side of him, but how closely that resembled who he really was as a whole, I had no idea. I missed him terribly and more than once I had started dialing his number before hanging up halfway through. I now understood he’d acted impulsively and foolishly out of his need to protect me, but no matter what I’d said that night in anger, it didn’t explain his complete withdrawal from my life unless it was what he really wanted. His absence made me believe that might be the case and I knew I wouldn’t be able to withstand his rejection a second time, so I was afraid to put myself out there by making the first move. However, I did allow a very small part of myself to hope he might call. His silence was deafening.
I showered and did laundry before heading to the grocery store since everything in the refrigerator had expired during my time in bed. Although I had been faced with the Christmas tree taunting me daily from my living room, it hadn’t occurred to me that Christmas was just a couple of days away at that point. It had always been my favorite holiday, but I had no Christmas cheer in me this year. Jason was spending the holidays with his flavor of the month at her parents’ condo in Cancun and while I knew I’d always be welcome at Tara and JB’s, the baby was old enough this year to enjoy opening his presents so I didn’t want to intrude on their family time.
I had no desire to cook a big meal just for myself, so I stocked up on some sliced turkey and ham from the deli counter and figured that would be my Christmas dinner. On my way home I noticed the local nursery was selling grave blankets, so I stopped and bought ones for my parents’ and grandparents’ graves. After putting the groceries away at home, I carried them out to the cemetery next to the house and placed them on top of each of their resting spots, missing them all very much, but especially Gran.
I prayed to her for guidance on what I should do about Eric knowing she would have been the one I would have turned to for advice if she had still been alive. Would it be better to just let him go and try and move on, or should I take a chance with my heart once more and call him. I was no closer to coming to a decision than I had been the morning I’d talked to Pam so I asked for her to give me a sign.
“Sookie?” I heard from behind, startling me enough to jump forward with a yelp.
I turned to see Octavia standing there holding a Christmas themed cookie tin in her hand and I instantly recalled our last meeting had been when I’d come to see Bill Compton and the death glares she’d been shooting at me for flirting with him. She was Team Eric all the way, but, then again, I couldn’t imagine anyone ever being on Team Bill.
I couldn’t stand the thought of her hating me too, so I said, “Octavia, I’m so sorry for how I acted the last time I stopped by. It wasn’t what it looked like, I swear…”
She raised her hand to silence me and smiled saying, “I know, your Eric already explained.”
My Eric? He wasn’t my Eric any longer, but I still had to ask, “What? When did you see him?” The fact he had stopped by to see Octavia but not me, had me fighting back tears yet again.
“Yesterday afternoon,” she replied. “Apparently Mr. Compton’s nephew had already gotten the ball rolling on getting him moved into that nursing home, but I had no clue until the ambulance showed up yesterday to take him away. None of his things were packed so I made them wait while I threw whatever I could into suitcases when, out of nowhere, Eric appeared at the front door with a court order naming him as Mr. Compton’s guardian, saying his nephew met an untimely end. I didn’t know he had those kinds of strings to pull, but he must because he sent them away and asked me to quit the agency I worked for to work for Mr. Compton privately. He told me he knew I genuinely cared about Mr. Compton’s welfare and trusted I would see to him properly, letting him live out his final days in the comfort of the only home he’s ever known. He even doubled my salary.”
There was no holding back the tears after hearing of what Eric had done and I had no doubt that he had done it for me. He knew how much it had upset me knowing Mr. Compton’s fate because all I could picture was my Gran in the same predicament and it bothered me Mr. Compton’s only family would shuttle him off like that. It gave me hope that maybe the Eric with all of his memories intact wasn’t so different from the Eric I had known.
“What did Eric explain about that night?” I wondered out loud. I couldn’t imagine he would have told her the entire truth.
“Just that you were trying to find out some information from Mr. Compton’s nephew so you could try and stop whatever it was he might be up to. He said you’d met Bill a long time ago and didn’t trust that his intentions towards Mr. Compton would be honorable so you used your feminine wiles to get some answers,” she smiled knowingly. I still felt dirty having shamelessly flirted with him that night.
She placed her hand on my arm and said softly, “He also said that he made a very big mistake that cost him his relationship with you.” The volume of my tears increased significantly and I watched her pull a handkerchief from her pocket, handing it to me while I wondered if I was the only person on the planet that didn’t carry one around. I wiped the tears from my eyes as she said, “He didn’t say what the mistake was, but he seemed genuinely remorseful. I think he misses you terribly and by the looks of it you miss him too.”
I could only nod so she continued, “I don’t know what happened, but if you can find it in your heart to forgive him, I think you should. He’s worth it,” she ended with a wink. Yep, definitely Team Eric. She handed me the tin of Christmas cookies she’d been on her way over to give me and wished me a happy holiday saying she might stop by the next night. I watched her heading back to Mr. Compton’s house, leaving me to my thoughts and it was only when I turned to head home, and the wind blew Gran’s grave blanket askew, did it dawn on me that maybe Octavia’s impromptu visit was the very sign I’d been asking for.
I busied myself the rest of the night by cleaning the house top to bottom, since it had been awhile since I’d had the energy to do much more than brush my teeth, as I thought about nothing but Eric. Before then I’d been trying so desperately to avoid all thoughts of him, but now I wanted to sort through everything I knew about him to determine how I really felt. I played every ‘What if’ scenario I could dream up wondering what would happen if I found the courage to put my heart on the line again. He might still be sad about what happened between us, but that didn’t mean he wanted me back. He hadn’t said those words to either Pam or Octavia so it was all pure speculation as far as I was concerned. I wrestled with my thoughts into the early morning hours until sleep finally took me.
Ever since that horrible night when I’d left Shreveport without Eric, I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep. I’d stayed in bed for days, in and out of consciousness, but my sleep was always fitful so I never really felt rested. But when I woke up the next day on Christmas Eve, and saw that it was already after 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I felt rejuvenated. I couldn’t remember waking up at all during the night and it showed on my face. The dark circles underneath my eyes had faded away and although I’d lost a few pounds too many when I’d stopped eating I still looked healthier than I had just a day earlier. All of my injuries were healed so I almost felt like myself again. I say ‘almost’ because I was still missing a very large part of myself; about 6 foot 4 inches of myself.
I showered and changed before heading into the kitchen to make some coffee when I noticed the pitiful looking Christmas tree still sitting in the living room. I hadn’t kept up with watering it so it now looked more like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree with most of the needles scattered underneath it and a few of the branches were broken from when it bore the brunt of my frustration.
I still hadn’t come to any decisions on whether or not I would try and call Eric. I missed him more than I thought possible, but I was terrified even more thinking he might not feel the same. If I called him and found out he wanted nothing to do with me, it would destroy me. I knew I couldn’t allow myself to sit on the fence forever where he was concerned so once I had a fresh cup of coffee I dug out another box of ornaments and decorated the tree while I tried to figure out what to do.
Since the winter solstice had passed only days earlier, the sky was already dark by the time I finished. I didn’t dare put any lights on the tree, afraid it would burst into flames from being so dry, and it looked pretty pitiful given half of the ornaments I would have normally used were long gone, thrown away in the trash after they’d been broken during my rampage. I lit a fire in the fireplace instead and turned on some Christmas music, but it didn’t help me get into the Christmas spirit any. And the only present I had to put under the tree was the one I had put together for Eric.
I went and dug it out from its hiding spot in the linen closet underneath the towels and sat down on the couch flipping through page after page of photos of Eric and me together. On every outing we’d gone to together since arriving in Bon Temps, I made sure to have someone take our picture together. Every special occasion, every backyard barbeque and even some moments of just the two of us all alone at home. Seeing our happier times together made me miss him even more and it dawned on me that up until that night in Shreveport, we’d had nothing but happy times together once we’d gotten to Bon Temps. I longed for that feeling again and knew deep down, he was the only one I would ever feel that way with.
He’d told me more than once that he didn’t care if his memories never returned; he would make new memories with me. The album was full of them, but I wondered how he felt now that he had his other memories to compare them to. Would he fight to get back what we had? I realized Pam had been right in calling me a hypocrite and I decided at that moment that I would fight whatever I had to, to have him back no matter what it might cost me in the end. The question was, would he?
There was only one way to find out.
I picked up the cordless phone and started dialing the number I had long since memorized with my heart thumping wildly in my chest. The phone only rang once before I heard the voice I’d longed to hear for what seemed like forever say, “Sookie?” He sounded unsure, afraid, and hopeful all at the same time. I knew it, because I felt the same exact way.
“I just called to see how you’re doing,” I said, with my fear of rejection keeping my mouth from blurting out the whole truth.
“I’ve been better.” He sounded different somehow, but then, so did I.
I was still feeling like a chicken shit so I made small talk while trying to bolster my courage and said, “I spoke to Octavia yesterday. I appreciate what you did for Mr. Compton. She’s still a fan of yours.” I couldn’t help but smile a little at the truth of that statement. I was caught off guard by his next one.
“Is she the only one?”
His voice was so low, I barely heard him, but I was still afraid to answer him. Once I let my true feelings be known, there would be no taking them back. From him or from me and my heart was still barely being held together as it was. So, once again, I took the chicken shit approach and pretended I didn’t hear him by saying, “I spoke to Pam last week. She told me you quit. Do you have any idea of what you’re going to do with your life now?”
I’d been wondering about that a lot in the time since he’d been gone. Would he go back to New York? Did he really live somewhere else? Another country? I could hear the footsteps climbing up the porch steps and figured Octavia had made good on her promise to stop by, so I slowly walked towards the front door while waiting for Eric’s reply.
“That depends,” he said vaguely.
“On what?” I wondered aloud and upon hearing the faint knock against the front door, I opened it still waiting on his answer. I dropped the phone upon seeing my visitor.
Eric stood there looking like he held the weight of the world on his shoulders as he brought the phone down from his ear and said, “On you.”