For over twenty-four hours, only one thought has preyed on my mind: Sookie and I have a daughter. How could she not tell me? I know our relationship didn’t end well, but did she honestly think it fair to punish me by keeping my daughter from me? Hurt, anger, and bewilderment are the three emotions I keep cycling between.
Alcide was a good sounding board for the rest of the ride and some of our morning at the house, but eventually he needed to sleep as exhaustion claimed him. I too needed sleep as I would be filming again in the evening, but sleep never claimed me. Somehow, I made my way through shooting, but I know it isn’t my finest work. It does help that we were filming fight scenes, so I got to release some aggression. The downside was that Freyda was also required for the scenes. However, I did not have to interact with her. If I had, I would have more than likely done something I would come to regret.
Once I finished filming that night, I returned to the house I shared with Alcide. I showered and dressed for my meeting with Sookie and then I waited. It is barely nine in the morning; I still had six hours to wait until my meeting with Sookie. What the hell am I supposed to do with myself until then? I think about calling Pam to talk everything over, but I am reluctant to do that. Pam is a good friend, but she really isn’t one for warm, fuzzy feelings. I think she would consider it a blessing not to be saddled with a kid. Plus, she would probably only look at it in terms of how it will affect my career. She can be a cold bitch sometimes.
Scrolling through my contacts, I dial the one person I know will give me sound advice. The phone rings three times before someone picks up on the other end.
“This better be a matter of life and death to interrupt my card game,” my Mormor’s aged voice says in a slight growl.
“I’m sorry Mormor, but I need some advice.”
“Eric? Hang on a minute.” The noises in the background are suddenly loud as I hear what sounds like stacks of poker chips being shoved in a bag. Mormor speaks in rapid Swedish as she bids her friends good-bye. Every afternoon between two and five, Mormor and her friends meet at the same café they have gone to for twenty-five years. They have lunch, gossip, play cards, and drink. I can remember more than one occasion where Mor, I, or my siblings would have to escort a tipsy Mormor home.
“Sorry lad; I needed to make sure those vultures didn’t steal any of my chips!” I smile thinking of those sweet little ladies she calls vultures; they’ve been friends for decades and would do anything for each other. But when it comes to their card games, all bets are off so to speak.
“Now, what do you need advice on? It must be bad if you are calling me and not your mother.”
“It’s about Sookie,” I begin only to be cut off.
“Do whatever it takes to get her back,” Mormor declares emphatically. “Stop sitting on your ass and go after her! You love her. You think that kind of love happens more than once in a lifetime? Hell boy, most people never find that type of love!”
“Mormor that’s not what I’m calling about,” I say breaking through her tirade. “I saw Sookie yesterday . . . with her daughter . . . I think it is our daughter,” I say as my voice fills with emotion. The line stays silent so long I’m starting to think we lost our connection. I check to make sure we haven’t dropped the call and see the call timer still ticking.
“Mormor, are you there?” Christ! Did something just happen to my eighty-something grandmother because of what I said?
“Oh what a tangled web we weave,” she says after a few minutes. Mormor was a teacher of literature and language for many years. She often quotes famous literary works just because she can. I sigh deeply because a recitation of Marimon by Sir Walter Scott is really not what I need now.
“You’re like a herring caught in a net Eric,” she continues. “You were trapped and have spent time wriggling around trying to break free. Now you are about to be cooked for dinner!”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Has Mormor gone senile? Maybe dementia is kicking in.
“Eric do you honestly think Sookie kept your daughter from you?”
“The Sookie I knew wouldn’t have, but I don’t know who she is now,” I admit forlornly.
“I think you still know her,” Mormor says reassuringly. “People don’t change that much; it’s our perception of them that changes. When you face her, listen to what she has to say. Don’t let that temper and stubborn streak of yours get in the way. From the sound of it, you both have a lot of explaining to do.”
Striding through the lobby of Le Pavillion with a confidence I am not feeling, I make my way to the front desk. A man in a black suit, white shirt, and gold tie greets me professionally. “Welcome to Le Pavillion sir. How may I be of assistance?”
“I’m here to see Sookie Stackhouse,” I tell the concierge.
The man behind the desk does a quick search of his guest registry. “I’m sorry sir; we do not have anyone staying here by that name,” the concierge says in a haughty, dismissive tone. I want to drag his smarmy ass over the counter and beat his face to a bloody pulp. Did she fucking lie to me?!?!?!
Furious, I storm off. I’m nearly to the entrance of the hotel when I hear my name being called frantically. I turn around to see another hotel employee rushing toward me. The woman looks flustered as she stops in front of me. She brushes the few strands of hair that have fallen loose from her chignon and smiles at me.
“Mr. Northman, my name is Isabel Beaumont,” she says while extending her hand to me. I shake her hand politely as I wait to hear what this woman wants; it’s probably an autograph or picture, usually it’s both.
“If you’ll follow me, I can take you to Ms. Stackhouse’s suite,” she says while gesturing to the elevators.
“But I thought the man said she wasn’t a guest here,” I state in confusion.
Ms. Beaumont smiles politely as she presses the button to call the elevator. “You’ll have to forgive my coworker,” she says apologetically. “He is correct; our guest registry does not include anyone by the name of Stackhouse. Ms. Stackhouse’s reservation is under another name: Mrs. C. Porter.”
“Cole Porter,” I state faintly and Ms. Beaumont smiles again as the elevator doors open. We enter the elevator, and the hotel employee swipes a keycard to reach the top floor of the hotel. After pressing the button for the ninth floor, Ms. Beaumont continues her explanation.
“Ms. Stackhouse informed me earlier that she was expecting you this afternoon. Though she said you were meeting at three,” she says while glancing discreetly at her watch. It is a little before two. Before I can offer an explanation, she blithely carries on. “Ms. Stackhouse did say you might be early and said to show you up no matter when you arrived. I think the poor woman felt bad she forgot to tell you what room to ask for. She called down to the concierge shortly after eleven this morning. I was only too happy to help. My husband and I were lucky enough to have seen her on Broadway. She has an amazing voice!”
“That she does,” I agree completely. Even though the woman has rambled, it has set my frayed nerves somewhat at ease. It’s a small comfort to know Sookie wasn’t avoiding me. I have also used aliases when staying in hotels, and I have often forgotten the name of the reservation.
The elevator doors slide open once we reach our destination. Again, Ms. Beaumont gestures for me to go first. She keeps a hand over the elevator door as she guides me to Sookie’s room. “Ms. Stackhouse is in Suite 930, Mr. Northman. Enjoy the rest of your day.” She smiles politely at me before disappearing behind the gilded elevator doors.
I release a deep breath as I walk down the hallway to Sookie’s room. Gathering my courage, I raise my hand to knock on the door. “Here we go Northman,” I say as I tap my knuckles against the door.
The door swings open immediately and I’m still standing there with my hand in the air. “You still talk to yourself when you are nervous,” Sookie says with a slight smile as she leans against the door. Looking at her makes my heart ache, because what she is wearing reminds me of what she would wear during winters in New York: black leggings, an oversized sweater, and her hair hangs loose over her shoulders. We spent our last winter snuggling underneath a blanket and would watch the snow fall on the city.
“Would you like to come in?” Sookie waits for me to cross the threshold before quietly shutting the door. We stand staring at each other awkwardly.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I finally ask what’s been weighing heavily on my mind and heart for a day.
“Why did you cheat on me?” Sookie counters with the question that has preyed on both of us for the last six years, and I have no better answer today than I did then.
“I honestly don’t remember,” I sigh out and lean my head against the wall. I close my eyes in defeat as I feel the shame once again wash over me.
“Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?!” My eyes snap open at the venom in her voice. Her face is pulled in tight lines but her cheeks burn with fire. “You don’t remember why you broke my fucking heart?!?!?” She stomps down the hallway and I hurry after her. I want to grab her to hold her in place, but I’m afraid of her reaction if I touch her. I can see Sookie is struggling to control her emotions and I so badly want to comfort her but I can’t. I’m the one to hurt her.
“That’s not what I meant! I honestly have no memory of that evening! I remember drinking at the bar. Freyda showed up to ask why I was drowning my sorrows. I told her how you were sick and couldn’t come down. She tried to make a move and I swear to God that I turned her down! The next thing I remember is waking up the next morning.” I spare Sookie the details of where and how I woke up that morning. “You know the rest,” I sigh dejectedly.
“Oh for God’s sake; you couldn’t come up with a better excuse than that? You’ve had six fucking years to think of one!” Sookie’s scathing tone and hostile attitude break the tenuous control I had over my emotions.
“It’s not a fucking excuse; it’s the goddamn truth! Do you think you were the only one heartbroken?!?!?! I loved you!!!! I still love you! Fuck!!!!” I yank my hands through my hair as I try to gain control of my emotions as I pace away from Sookie. This is so not how I wanted this afternoon to go. “I get that I fucked everything up; I know I ruined it. But was that reason enough to keep my daughter from me? Is that your idea of a fitting punishment?” Part of me wants to grab her, shake some fucking sense into her, and make her realize that I’m suffering too. Does she think she was the only one affected by what I did?
“I did try to tell you,” Sookie whispers. When I glance at her face I see her looking at me with a mixture of horror, heartbreak, and anger on her face.
“Sookie,” I say tiredly, “please just tell me the goddamn truth. If you had tried to see me at any point during our time apart, I would have welcomed you with open arms. Other than when I’ve seen you on Broadway, I haven’t seen you before yesterday. So when did you try to tell me you were carrying my child?”
She moves to sit down on the sofa and I see tears sliding down her cheeks. I always hated when she cried and the salty drops of water on her face are still just as unacceptable to me today. “Please Eric; let’s start over. I want you to tell me everything that happened with Freyda and then I’ll tell you everything that happened on my end. No yelling, no accusations; we’ll hear each other out as two adults.”
I don’t answer her. Instead I walk down the hallway looking for something. I return a moment later with a box of tissues in my hand and offer them to Sookie; she takes two to wipe at her tears. Setting the box on the middle couch cushion, I sit on the far end of the couch and face the woman I love.
“I was so damn disappointed when you couldn’t come down to see me,” I say as I remember back to that time in our life. “I’d been missing you for weeks. Even when I’d been in New York, we hadn’t spent a lot of time together. Between the show and my desire to do that fucking movie, I let you get pushed to the side,” I say regretfully. “I had planned a romantic weekend for us at a bed and breakfast, just the two of us.” I couldn’t tell her that I was planning to propose; that would only hurt her more.
“But then I got sick,” Sookie says when I stay silent.
I nod my head. “I wanted to block out my loneliness, so I got shit faced in the bar. I’d been there since it opened in the afternoon. But no matter how much I drank, I still missed you so damn much.” I release a sigh. “Everything else happened like I told you. Freyda showed up. She seemed sympathetic about how upset I was that you couldn’t come down; said she understood how hard it can be to love someone outside of the business. At some point, she made a move, but I turned her down. I don’t know how I got upstairs, how I ended up in her room. I woke up the next morning and all I felt was horror. I knew I’d ruined whatever was between us; guilt, shame, revulsion, fear . . . I felt it all. All I wanted to do was get to you,” I say with a sad smile on my face. Sookie is crying silently and biting her lip to keep from crying out. I can’t help it, I hate seeing her tears; I lean towards her and wipe the tears off her face with my thumbs. The jolt of electricity that was between us every time we touched is still there; Sookie gasps in surprise and my eyes darken feeling it.
Sookie pulls back from my touch and I snatch my hands back as if I’d been burned. Taking a deep shuddering breath, she begins her part of the story. “I woke that morning and I felt completely fine. I was going to change my flight so I could come down that day; I wanted to surprise you. I knew you were disappointed I hadn’t come down and I wanted to make it up to you; I missed you too. A courier came to the door with a package for me. Lala and I thought maybe you had sent a gift because you knew I was sick. When I opened the box, it was pictures of you and Freyda. Dozens of pictures from the two of you inside the bar, pictures showing her touching you, getting closer to you, and then there was a picture that looked like she was kissing you. There were pictures of you hanging on to her as you walked to the elevator. And then there were pictures from the next morning showing you leaving her room looking like you’d been thoroughly fucked. The note at the bottom of the box said “It looks like he’s moved on to greener pastures.” There was no signature on the note and there was no return address on the box.”
I cannot believe what Sookie just told me. Who the fuck would do that to her?
“After our break up, I was just going through the motions. I went to school and work because I had to, but I wasn’t paying attention to anything. I wasn’t sleeping. When I ate, the food usually didn’t stay down. This went on for about a month before I finally passed out at school. I was taken to the hospital. Imagine my shock when the doctor’s told me I was fourteen weeks pregnant,” Sookie says with a small smile. “I didn’t know what to do; but I knew I had to tell you,” she says looking me in the eye. “The problem was I didn’t know how to contact you. I didn’t know where you were in Louisiana and you’d changed your cell phone number.”
“Yeah, Pam changed my number because the paparazzi got ahold of it and were harassing me,” I say tiredly. “I don’t know how those fuckers got my number in the first place. But I left you and Jesus messages that my number had changed.”
“Do you honestly think we listened to them? Your voice was the last thing I wanted to hear,” Sookie admits ruefully. “I was so angry with you Eric; I felt so hurt and betrayed. You broke my heart into a million tiny pieces,” she says as tears threaten to fall from her eyes again. She takes another giant breath and pushes through with her story. “But being pregnant changed all that. It’s not that it made everything go away, but I wanted to give you another chance. I wanted to at least try to be a family for our baby. So I did the only thing I could think of to find you? I went to see Pam.”
Sookie ignores my interruption and continues her tale. “I told her I needed to find you that I wanted to try to make things work between us.” Sookie’s face flushes with anger, and her hands are fisted so tightly that her fingernails are digging into her skin. “She told me she couldn’t help me; that you had moved on to greener pastures. I was holding you back in your career and you needed to be with someone who would help you reach the next level in Hollywood, someone like Freyda.”