“It takes a lot of balls for that asshole to come over here and talk to us like everything is fine and dandy,” Dawson snarls as he guzzles the last of his beer. He turns around to the bartender and orders a whiskey instead of a beer. While he waits for his drink, he taps his fingers on the bar in agitation and keeps glancing at the door as if he is looking for Compton to magically reappear.
“He’s lucky I didn’t break his fucking nose again,” Alcide says as he slams down his empty beer. Alcide holds up two fingers at the bartender, letting him know to pour two whiskeys instead of one.
I understand why I despise Compton and would love to see him confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his days not able to move at all, but I don’t understand where the unabashed hatred from my two friends comes from. They were never fans of Compton when we were in school; no one had liked the pompous douche. However, this goes far beyond the apathy that almost all the fraternity brothers had towards him.
“What do you two have against Compton? And why did the girls freak out the way they did? What happened in Baton Rouge?”
Tray and Alcide stare at me incredulously for several minutes. I demand in exasperation, “What?” The way they are staring at me makes me feel stupid, as if I should know exactly what happened in the past to make them react this way to Compton.
“You’re shittin’ me right?” Alcide grabs his tumbler of whiskey and takes a large swallow, grimacing slightly as the amber liquid burns his throat. “You’re pulling my leg,” he states adamantly.
“Alcide stop bein’ a dick,” Tray growls. “Listen man,” Tray pauses to take a long swallow of his drink. He smacks his lips together at the end and sighs before continuing his story. I am definitely on edge as I wait for Tray and Alcide to tell me this story. Whatever it is, I know I’m not going to like it. What’s even stranger is that I want to go find Sookie and comfort her. I haven’t seen her in years, but yet the urge to comfort and protect her is still strong.
“Before we graduated,” Alcide picks up the tale when Tray stays silent. “Claudine and Sookie went out for a girls’ night. They were having a good time, drinking and dancing, until Compton showed up,” he finishes with a growl.
“That fucker roofied Sookie and tried to rape her,” Tray growls and clenches his fists. “The only reason he didn’t was because Claudine saw Compton drag Sookie out of the club. Al and I beat the shit out of him,” he says with supreme satisfaction.
My mouth opens and closes several times as I try to process this information. Compton drugged and tried to rape Sookie?!?!? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me before? My head whips around to find her, to make sure she is OK. She’s standing only a few feet away, smiling and laughing with a group of girls. There is a strong instinct inside me that wants to go over to her, check her over for any injuries before taking her out of her so I can keep her safe. “Why the fuck would Compton do that?”
“You know damn well he wanted Sookie even when the two of you were dating. When you two split, he pursued her relentlessly but she never encouraged him. He creeped her out, always treating her like she was a possession; something he owned. Sook never gave him the time of day. That last semester she was student teaching so she didn’t go out a lot, but every time she did, Compton was there, and his behavior towards her was escalating. He was leaving her flowers on her car, sending presents to her at the school; it was really creeping her the fuck out. The girl was scared to death,” Tray says grimly.
“Why didn’t she go to the police? Why isn’t the fucker in jail?”
“The police wouldn’t do anything before she was attacked. And after,” Alcide pauses to finish his drink.
“Afterwards that fucker threatened to press charges against us,” Tray says with disgust. “Sookie had to agree to not press charges against him so he would leave us alone. His father hushed everything up. Sookie’s had a restraining order for years. She better still have it in place,” Tray growls as he looks over to her.
I sit my drink down on the bar. The churning in my stomach makes me feel sick. Dropping down on the empty stool, I feel dizzy and clammy. “She never cheated on me,” I say in a horrified whisper.
“What did you say?” Tray grabs my shoulder as he looks at me worriedly. He signals the bartender for a glass of water. Once he has it, he pushes it in my hands and tells me to drink.
After guzzling the glass, I hold it between my hands, rolling it back and forth as I struggle with my memories. “I thought Sookie cheated on me with Compton that weekend she went home. When we were in Chow and Compton’s apartment, I saw Bill having sex with a blonde. He called her Sookie,” I say as my eyes close in pain.
“Dude it wasn’t her. I was in the room when Sookie came back from Bon Temps. Her brother was the one to drop her off. I got him to autograph a football for me,” Alcide says quietly.
I set the glass on the bar. “Fuck,” I utter emphatically before dropping my head on the bar in defeat. I let that devious mother fucker take away the only person that I truly cared about. No that’s not true. I drove her away, because I was too fucking proud. I was more worried about salvaging my pride and my reputation and not thinking of confronting Sookie. I didn’t want her to see how much she hurt me.
Christ, I’m a fucking idiot!
Some asshole made me doubt what I had with Sookie. If I could let Compton shake my faith in her, then maybe I didn’t deserve being with her. My insecurities would have destroyed us eventually, but that realization is little comfort now as I sit here with this searing, gut-wrenching pain. My head lifts slightly when I hear Sookie’s distinct giggle floating through the air. I can see her reflection in the glass behind the bar. She looks so beautiful, but there is tension around her eyes and mouth, a clear sign that she is not comfortable. I’m an asshole; I could have talked to her back then but I didn’t. Call it cowardice or pride; it doesn’t matter what you call it because I ruined the best thing to ever happen to me.
“Come on guys,” Alcide says as he slaps me on the back. “Claudine’s gesturing for us to go to the private dining room. I’m fucking starving!” Alcide wonders off after settling his tab with the bartender.
“You alright man?” Tray is leaning against the bar, waiting for the server to come back with his credit card. He also takes care of Sookie and Hadley’s tabs.
“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me about Compton?” I am getting angry with Tray and Alcide; even though I know none of this is their fault. The blame lies on my shoulders for what I did. It may have been Compton’s performance that pushed me to do what I did, but I should have manned up and talked to Sookie. If I could kick my own ass, I would. Physical pain might be a nice relief from this emotional juggernaut I seem to be in.
“Because I didn’t think you’d care,” Tray tells me honestly as he signs the credit card slip. “Any time someone mentioned Sookie you became a total dick. It was hard enough being friends with you after all that shit went down between the two of you. There were more than a few times when I wanted to kick your ass. Had you made a shitty remark about her being attacked, I probably would have killed you,” he says solemnly as he puts the receipt and credit card back in his wallet.
Before I can respond, Sookie is standing beside Tray, nudging him in his side. “How much do I owe you?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he says with a shake of his head and a wink at her.
“Bullshit,” she snorts. “How much?”
“I said don’t worry about it; I got it,” he insists.
She huffs in annoyance but says nothing as she looks at the receipt Tray left for the bartender. Sookie takes Tray’s arm, a brilliant smile on her face, one full of mischievous intent. “Fine. Besides, there’s a better way I can pay you back, but you have to be willing to follow my lead. Think you can handle that?”
Tray gives her a wolfish grin as he tucks her hand in the crook of his arm. “You should know by now little girl that I can keep up with your shenanigans. How else would you explain that time in Nawlins when we . . .” His words are cut off when Sookie puts her hand over his mouth and pinches his side. Both of them start laughing as they walk away. I never knew Tray was this close to Sookie. What I can’t figure out if it’s just friendship or if it is something more? As I watch them walk away, their body language indicates they are extremely comfortable with one another. The question is how comfortable. I wonder if they ever hooked up with each other.
The thought makes me feel like a jealous ass and part of me wants to demand the truth from Tray. The other part is scared to find out.
When I enter the private dining room, I see that everyone is settled at their tables. There are a few seats still available. Claudine’s siblings are gesturing wildly for me to come join them at their table which consists of all Claudine’s family. Claudette and Claude have both propositioned me over the years. Their overly aggressive attempts to fuck me are nauseating. Even now both of them are preening like peacocks trying to get my attention. If Claudette keeps tugging on her dress any harder, she’s going to have a wardrobe malfunction like Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl. As for Claude, I’m not into guys, but even if I was, his licking his lips and doing suggestive moves to seem erotic would turn me off. Looking around, I notice that there is a chair at the table with most of my college friends; it’s a vacant chair next to Sookie.
With a sureness I do not feel, I make my way over to the table with Sookie. With a humble tone and not a trace of my usual cockiness, I tap her on the shoulder. The teasing smile on her lips fades when she sees it’s me. “Would you mind if I sit here?”
“Ummm, go right ahead,” she says clearly confused by something in my tone or my body language. She scoots over as far as possible to let me have space. Unfortunately, this puts her practically in Tray’s lap, a fact that makes Hadley pause mid chew as she stares at Sookie and Tray openly flirting with one another. Sookie whispers something in Tray’s ear, which makes him chuckle, but he responds in no other way.
With a smirk, Sookie sits back in her chair and begins eating the salad that had been placed in front of her by one of the waiters. Conversation flows easily around the table and it reminds me of how we were in college. The only difference is that Sookie is avoiding talking or looking at me. I want to apologize to her, tell her I’m sorry for everything that happened between us, but it isn’t the right time. There will come a time before the wedding when we need to have this conversation, because I owe it to her. As the conversation continues and the servers clear away our salad plates and deliver the entrees, I can’t help but think of how much I have missed having us all together. The pain in my chest throbs strongly as I continue to watch the flirtation between Sookie and Dawson escalate, which makes Hadley get quieter and a little sullen. Everyone was right; Hadley does care for Dawson. So how can Sookie do this to her friend? Hadley barely eats a thing as Sookie feeds Tray pieces of his dinner. Everyone at the table has noticed the act between Sookie and Tray. No one says anything, although Tara keeps shooting looks at Sookie from across the table. Sookie responds by winking at her, but says nothing.
Dinner is cleared with coffee and dessert offered to all of us. Everyone at our table declines dessert except Sookie. In fact, her eyes light up with excitement when a plate containing strawberry shortcake is set in front of her. I remember how much she loved dessert, often moaning in pleasure as she ate one. More often than not, her moaning over dessert led to us getting caught up in each other because the sounds she made would go straight to my cock. I am unashamed to admit that my cock stirs in remembrance of those days gone by. God help me if she actually starts moaning tonight. I feel as miserable as Hadley; it looks like my best friend has the girl I want.
Sookie drags her fork through the fluffy looking dessert, holding it in the air above the plate as she looks at Tray. “Do you want the first bite? It might be all you get,” she says with a smirk.
Tray nods and Sookie moves the fork to his lips. Tray manages to get some of the whipped cream on his chin and lips, which make Sookie giggle.
“You’ve got some white stuff on your face.” She giggles again.
“So? You know what to do; lick it off,” Tray responds in a daring voice.
Sookie puts the fork down and leans closer to Tray. A loud banging noise stops her progression. Everyone turns to look at Hadley. She’s scooted her chair back angrily and leans against the table, glaring at Sookie and Tray. “For God’s sake you two, get a fucking room! No one wants to see you two practically having sex at the table. Christ Sookie, how much have you had to drink to make you act like this?” Hadley’s outburst causes the room to go silent as they all turn to watch the confrontation at our table.
Sookie narrows her eyes at Hadley. “Watch it Had! I love you, but I won’t hesitate to knock you on your ass if you call me what I think you’re about to call me.”
“Well stop acting like a slut and I won’t call you one,” Hadley retorts as she crosses her arms over her chest.
A muscle in Sookie’s jaw spasms as she rises from her chair. “Green isn’t really your color Hadley. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were jealous.” Hadley gulps at her friend’s harshly spoken words and pales slightly as Sookie advances towards her. All of us in the room watch with interest as Sookie’s hard expression fades to one of exasperation. “Now, go over there and claim your man before someone else does!”
“What?!?!?! I don’t . . . I mean . . . I never . . .” Hadley begins babbling, looking panicked. Tray, who has been as silent a witness as the rest of us, begins beaming when he hears Hadley’s stuttering.
“Shut up Hadley! You and Tray have been in love with each other for years, but you’re both stubborn people too afraid to make a move. You think he deserves someone better than you. He’s too good for you; he shouldn’t have to deal with your Remy bullshit . . . blah, blah, blah. When are you gonna realize he loves you, all of you? And that includes your son,” Sookie finishes softly.
“He does?” Hadley words are whispered and convey her shock. At the nod of Sookie’s head, she begins to cry.
“I do,” Tray confirms from behind Hadley. She whips around to stare at him in astonishment. Rather than say anything, Tray cups her face in his hands and kisses her as if his life depends on it. All of us are cheering and clapping for the two of them.
Sookie returns to her seat next to me. Before she sits down, she curtsies to all of us. “Thank you! My work here is done!”
Tray and Hadley break apart, but he keeps her in his arms. Hadley is blushing clear to the roots of her hair, but she looks at Sookie with a mixture of exasperation and love.
“You bitch,” she says fondly.
Sookie smiles happily as she scoops up a bite of her dessert. “Love you too Hadley!” She swallows the entire contents of what’s on her fork, opening her mouth wide before wrapping those plump pink lips around the fork and sliding it out of her mouth, sucking the contents clean off the pronged utensil. I must make a strangled noise, because Sookie gives me a sidelong glance, daring me to make a perverted comment. Oh how I’d love to tell her that I remember a time when she used to suck something else clean. However, I do not think she will appreciate my humor given the bad blood between us.
Clearing my throat, I look at Sookie fully. “That was a daring move you made there. It could have blown up in your face.” Stick to safe topics. We can’t fight if we’re talking about our friends. We only want what’s best for them.
Sookie still looks at me suspiciously, but she answers me in a perfectly polite tone of voice. “It could have, but it is more than past time for someone to shove the two of them together. We’ve all known for years how Dawson’s felt. And I knew Hadley’s feelings changed for him the day he showed up to put together Jack’s crib, but she’s a stubborn bitch that wouldn’t listen to reason. I’ve tried for years to talk to them, but they were both gun shy. It was time to put up or shut up,” she says with another shrug and a bite of her dessert.
“How far would you have taken the charade?”
She narrows her eyes and drops her fork on the plate with a loud clang. “What the hell are you trying to imply Eric?”
“Nothing, I wasn’t . . .”
“Uh huh,” she says sarcastically. “So much for us trying to be civil. This is going to be so much fun,” she bites out sarcastically and starts to rise from her seat.
No I’m not letting her slip through my fingers this time. I fucked up before and I have to atone for my mistakes. But I don’t want to fight with her anymore. I want Sookie back in my life; even it is just to be my friend.
“Sookie wait!” I too rise from my chair and grab her by her forearm. She turns to look at me with an angry retort on her lips. I’ve got only one chance to fix this and I’d better start talking and fast.
“Please don’t go. This wedding is going to keep putting us in close proximity for the next few months. We can’t keep sniping at each other, because this isn’t about us. Not that Claudine will have any issues reminding us she’s the bride,” I say with a knowing chuckle. Claudine is going to be the poster woman for bridezillas. By the end of this, I bet a picture of Claudine will be the first thing you see when you do a Google search of the word bridezilla. Sookie chuckles with a sense of foreshadowing knowing it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.
“Sookie, do you think we can forget about the past and move forward?”