“Bitch, you got thirty seconds to explain what you’re doing here before I have you thrown out!” Lafayette stands aggressively at the entrance to the box, his hands curling and uncurling into fists. I knew better than anyone what those fists were capable of; I’d seen him use them a time or two while we tended bar together at Merlotte’s. However, the most recent display of his strength was when he’d punched me in the face when I’d shown up at the house looking for Sookie.
“I came to see Sookie’s last performance,” I say quietly.
“You’ve got no business being here Northman,” he says hotly. “Haven’t you done enough to hurt that girl?”
“She doesn’t need to know I’m here. I won’t approach her. I’ll be gone once the final curtain drops,” I vow.
“It doesn’t fucking matter,” he says harshly. “You think all those paparazzi won’t be snapping your picture, telling the world that you were among those that came to see the ‘Darling of Broadway’ in her last performance? Probably some of them will even speculate that there’s a romance blossoming between the two of you,” Lafayette says scathingly. “You don’t think shit like that is gonna hurt her?!?!?!”
“I can’t stay away Lafayette,” I whisper brokenly. “I needed to see her; I -”
“Don’t you dare say you love her! You lost all rights to loving her when you fucked that disease-ridden cunt you called a co-star and the paparazzi spread the story like goddamn wildfire.” Lafayette’s words are a slap in the face and my head jerks to the side as if he had actually hit me. He’s right; I lost Sookie because of a moment’s weakness. I know I’m not the first person in the world to cheat, but I did it on the public stage.
My shoulders slump in defeat and my head bows in shame. “I’ll just wait for Pam to come back and then we’ll go.”
“No, you should stay,” he says firmly. My head snaps up to look at him in wonder. He gestures towards the stage behind me. “Get a good look at Sookie on that stage. I want you to see how successful she has become. Look at how beautiful she is while she puts her heart and soul into every song she sings. And then I want you to realize that the gorgeous creature you see on that stage will never be yours again. I told you once before that you are a damn fool,” he says contemptuously before leaving me alone with my agony.
Six years ago
My two-episode stint on Law & Order: SVU turned my career around. The network executives at NBC really likes what they saw out of me and an executive producer for a new show approached Pam with a role for me in a spin-off show they were developing called FDNY. I was offered the role of Jameson, a cocky, good-looking Irish guy that was the newbie in the firehouse. The character seemed superficial at first but then you realized Jameson was battling personal demons that led him to using alcohol, drugs, and women as coping mechanisms. It was a complex part and I jumped at the chance to take it. The cast was a blend of established actors as well as newcomers like me. The show was to début as part of NBC’s fall lineup.
Working on FDNY meant I had to quit working at Merlotte’s. When I handed in my notice, Sam wasn’t surprised to see me go; in fact, he was rather delighted I would no longer be working there. Asshole still carried a torch for Sookie, even though she and I were dating. My last night of work was a Saturday, I’d be starting work on FDNY the following Wednesday. Sookie, as usual, sang her heart out for the customers and they ate it up. All the employees had pitched in to get me a cake and wish me congratulations after the bar was closed. It was a great surprise, but the best surprise of the night was when Sookie took the stage again to sing only for me. She sang Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine without any accompaniment; it was a true torch song, one lover singing to another. Every ounce of feeling she had for me she put into that song and I couldn’t look away. I was under her spell and I never wanted to be let go. By the time she finished singing for me, I needed her like I needed air to breathe. Sookie must have felt the same way because we hurriedly said good-night to everyone and rushed home. Normally we took the subway home, but that night we took a cab. I’m sure the cab driver got more than he bargained for because Sookie and I were all over each other in the backseat of his vehicle. It’s a wonder we weren’t arrested for indecent exposure or public lewdness. Sookie’s lips had been firmly attached to mine during the ride home, and her hands worked diligently at unbuttoning my shirt. My hands had pulled her across my lap once we were in the backseat, and with the way her skirt fell I was able to thrust my cock against the material of her underwear. Feeling her quiver in my arms and moaning against my lips, I was fighting for control, fighting not to blow my load from dry humping alone.
I don’t know how long it took us to realize the cab had been stopped outside our house. Sookie had been the one to pull away. My hands had been busy during the ride; the zipper of her dress was all the way down and my hands had been firmly attached to her breasts. She’s turned around, giving the cab driver a wink before placing a hundred-dollar bill in the money holder, telling the driver to keep the change. Instantly she was off running up the steps to our home, leaving me to follow after her like the minx she was. I’d caught up with her as she was struggling to unlock the door. My hands slipped inside her open dress to pull her back against me, my fingers ghosting over her erect nipples. She cried out, in frustration or triumph I don’t know, but she pushed the door open so we could stumble inside. I pushed her against the door when we got inside, capturing her lips in a bruising, needy kiss as my hands linked with hers above our heads. Sookie was like a cat in heat rubbing her body against me so she could get some friction, some sense of relief from the inferno building between us.
By some miracle, we made it up the stairs to my bedroom, though upon inspection the next morning, there was evidence that our trek upstairs was a bit destructive since pictures were hanging crooked on the stairwell and Sookie’s dress had ended up dangling over the banister. For all our urgency in the cab and up the stairs, we moved as if we were under water once in my room. Our first time together was everything they write about in romance novels: tender, earth-shattering, loving, you name it and the cheesy analogy applies. I didn’t care; I was happy to have Sookie finally in my arms, her head resting over my heart. And her whispered “I love you” was the most life-changing moment of my life. I was young, in love, and I thought my life was perfect.
And for a few weeks it was. Sookie and I spent as much time together as possible. It got harder and harder though given the demands of the shooting schedule and her schedule with school. She was entering her last year at NYU, and it was going to be the hardest yet. She needed to do an internship with an architecture firm and she still worked at Merlotte’s on the weekends. For the first few months, things were going great.
Things began to change as the show gained in popularity. We were on Wednesday nights, with the only established show being Criminal Minds. Wednesday nights had been weak for several years. Law and Order: SVU was going to be on before us and then FDNY would be on at ten. Our ratings in week one weren’t that great, but our ratings grew weeks two and three; by week four, we were dominating our time slot, and Pam said it had all to do with me.
In the episode for week three, there had been a scene in the shower where I was completely nude. It was network TV so nothing in the front was shown, but my backside was on display for the world to see. I’m Swedish; I have no problems with nudity so for me it wasn’t a big deal. But it was a big deal for the people who watched. Our viewership jumped among women in the all-important 18 to 45 age groups. Suddenly, everyone wanted a piece of me: entertainment shows, magazines, paparazzi, and the screaming hoards of female fans that started following me everywhere I went. The show was so successful that we were picked up for a second season, and we were all grateful for it. Pam said the show was my security blanket; it gave me the freedom to pick what projects I would work on. As I told Lafayette, the show gave me “fuck you” money, the ability to do what I wanted when I wanted to. However, I was more excited to see so many scripts coming in for me to read. One script in particular caught my eye: it was the role of Alexander, a thousand-year old vampire. It was a minor role in the first movie of The Vampire Mysteries saga, but the character gained importance as the story continued. The movies were based on the New York Time’s bestselling novels, and the fans are quite rabid when it comes to their ideas of who should be playing the characters. Backlash has been rampant on the internet because fans were unhappy with the casting of the two leads, Freyda de Castro and William Compton. When I was cast as Alexander, the fans were generally accepting of me.
There was just one problem; shooting for the movie began before I would finish shooting on FDNY. When Pam approached the producers, they were willing to adjust my scenes so I could film them in a cluster Monday through Thursday. After finishing on Thursday, I would then fly to Louisiana, where the movie was filming, to do all the necessary preproduction work. Sunday night, I’d fly back to New York to do it all over again. It was a grueling schedule and I was exhausted because this went on for about six weeks and then I flew to Louisiana to actually film the movie.
Professionally, I was flying high; personally, Sookie and I were going through a rough patch. We hadn’t spent any significant time together in weeks. Our relationship was playing out over phone calls and text messages. Even when I was in New York, I was busy on the set of FDNY. When I was home, all I wanted to do was sleep. Sookie was busy with her own life too. She was gearing up for graduation, and things had gotten so busy for her she actually cut back at Merlotte’s, working only two weekends a month. Tension and petty arguments were springing up between us. Sookie had never been comfortable with the amount of attention I started gaining, especially from women. We had been out several times where overzealous women would throw themselves at me, disregarding the fact Sookie was even there. One time I thought she was going to choke a bitch when a woman tried to unbuckle my belt and pants so she could see if I looked as good as I did on TV. It angered Sookie even more that I seemed to get off on all the attention; she said I could prevent them from acting that way if I wanted but my ego wouldn’t allow it.
Looking back at it, she was right. I wanted the attention; I wanted the fame and notoriety. So when the gossip rags were spreading rumors that Freyda and I were having an on-set romance, I laughed it off. Sookie was pissed when she heard the rumors. Freyda de Castro had a reputation for going after all of her leading men, so Sookie was adamant that Freyda really was trying to make a play for me. I assured Sookie that nothing was going on. The pictures they had were taken from the set, scenes where Anna (Freyda’s character) and Alexander had sexual tension. One scene even involved the two of us kissing. If Sookie was so worried, I told her she could come down to the set to see with her own eyes what was going on. Freyda was nothing more than a friend. Sookie agreed to come down for a long weekend when school was on spring break.
The week Sookie was to come down to the set I was like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. The director was kind enough to work the schedule so that I could have off Thursday through Sunday, the length of Sookie’s visit. Everyone on the cast and crew knew about Sookie; I spent all my time talking about her. The girls in make-up and wardrobe thought it was really cute how in love I was with my girlfriend. I had big plans for when Sookie arrived. Because we hadn’t really had time together in the last few months, I wanted to show her how much I loved her. I’d planned a romantic weekend for us at a local bed and breakfast and I was pulling out all the stops: flowers, chocolates, massages, everything to show her I loved her and needed her. At the end of the weekend, I was going to propose. Pam had come with me to pick out the ring from Tiffany & Co. before I left New York. The ring was perfect for Sookie, simple, elegant, but dazzling. I couldn’t wait to see it on her hand, letting the world know she was mine.
It was Wednesday night before Sookie was scheduled to arrive. I’d been working long hours to make up for the time off I needed. I was exhausted, but it was worth it; I was going to be with my Sookie for four days. Filming would be wrapping up sometime in May, right around the time of Sookie’s graduation. I planned to take the rest of the summer off until I had to begin shooting season two of NYFD. My plan was to take Sookie to Sweden as a graduation present so she could meet my parents and then we’d spend time around Europe. Wherever she wanted to go, I was more than willing to take her. Sookie’s never been to Europe, so I wanted to show her everything.
It was nearly midnight when I got back to my trailer after filming my scenes for the day, and the first thing I did was check my cell phone. I had a text message from Sookie asking me to call her when I could. With furrowed brow, I dialed my lover’s number. It took several rings before she picked up, and when she did, my stomach dropped down to my feet.
“Hello.” Instead of the beautiful Southern lilt I’m used to, a bullfrog greeted me.
“Baby, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been feeling tired and run down the last few days, burning the candle at both ends so I could come see you without having to bring any school work with me. I woke up this morning feeling like my stomach was a ship being tossed around on the high seas. I’ve been throwing up all day, and I can’t keep anything down,” Sookie whines pitifully. I feel awful for her because she’s sick and I’m not there to take care of her. But part of me wants to break down and cry because she won’t be coming down here. I miss her so fucking much!
“Baby it sounds like you have the flu. You need to eat some chicken noodle soup, drink lots of fluids, and get some rest. Doctor’s orders,” I say firmly.
“Ooohhh, paging Dr. Northman,” Sookie says trying to be seductive but ends up coughing.
“Lover, go back to bed. I’ll call tomorrow to check on you. Don’t even think about getting on that plane tomorrow to come down here. I want you to stay home and get better. That’s an order!”
“But baby, what about our weekend together?”
“Sookie, you’re sick. You need to take care of yourself or else you’ll just get worse. I’m sorry we won’t get to see each other, but filming will be over next month. I’ll be home in time for your graduation and then I’m all yours for the summer. I have plans for you Miss Stackhouse,” I say with a wiggle of my eyebrows even though she can’t see me.
“Is that so Mr. Northman?” She ends up coughing again, and I sigh with regret. Once she’s back on the phone I tell her I love her and tell her to get better soon. She tells me she loves me and apologizes for ruining our weekend.
“Is this seat taken?” My bleary eyes turn towards the voice beside me. Freyda is standing beside me in jeans and a sweater. I gesticulate wildly for her to have a seat in the bar stool beside me. It’s Thursday night; if things had gone to plan, Sookie and I would have been entwined in the bed of our hotel room, making love all night long. Instead, the love of my life is in New York City with the flu and I’m sitting in the hotel bar getting drunk off my ass. I was here when the bar opened at 3:00 pm; it’s now 10:00 pm and I’m shitfaced.
The bartender comes over and Freyda orders a martini. Once she has her drink, she turns to me with a smile. “I thought you had plans for your days off. What are you doing drinking here?”
“Sookie’s home with the flu,” I mumble against the rim of my glass. The vodka is smooth as it slides down my throat. It’s done wonders to dull the pain I feel at not having Sookie here with me.
“Oh I’m so sorry! I know how much you were looking forward to having her down here.” Freyda places a hand on my forearm and squeezes it comfortingly.
I drop my glass against the bar and turn to her with a gloomy expression. “Between the show and this film, I haven’t spent any significant time with Sookie in months. The limited time we had together before I left New York felt hurried; we didn’t really have the emotional attachment like we did before. This weekend was going to be our chance to reconnect. I was going to propose.” My lips tremble with the need to cry; instead I slam back the rest of my drink and tap the bar for the bartender to give me another one.
“Hmmm, you poor thing!” Freyda squeezes my forearm again and gives me a sad smile. “I remember what it’s like to be in the business while the person you love isn’t. They don’t really understand the demands on your time that this job requires. Outsiders don’t understand what it’s like to always be in the public eye, to live your life in a fish bowl. They don’t understand how you loathe and love the paparazzi at the same time,” Freyda says with a faraway look on her face. She smiles at me softly before downing her own drink.
I don’t remember the rest of the evening. Freyda and I continued to drink in the hotel bar for hours. At one point, I know she tried to make a move on me and I turned her down. So I have no idea how the fuck I ended up in her hotel room naked as a jaybird. Freyda is asleep next to me, wearing only her bra and she has the worst case of sex hair I’ve ever seen.
What the fuck have I done?!?!?!?!
I bolt out of the bed and nearly collapse from the intense pain starting at the base of my skull and spreading up the back of my head. It feels like the Seven Fucking Dwarfs are mining for diamonds in my head. Of course, the pain in my head is not to be outdone by the nausea. Stumbling, I hurriedly find my clothes, slipping my jeans and t-shirt on. Carrying my shoes, I leave Freyda’s room quietly, closing the door behind me as softly as possible. I breathe a sigh of relief as I get out of the room without waking Freyda and make my way to the elevator without passing another person in the hallway. I press the button for my floor and lean against the wall in defeat. Once on my floor, I walk down the hallway like a man on death row. I enter my room, closing the door wearily. Heaving sobs rack my body as I slide down the door to curl up on the floor. As I cry, I scream at myself for being stupid, for being weak.
Time passes, how much I don’t know. I crawl my way to the bathroom, needing to expel the contents of my stomach, hoping that it will also purge my sins. After I have nothing left to give, I take a shower, which goes a long way to healing the damage to my body but does nothing to heal the damage to my heart. However, I formulate a plan of action. Snapping off the water, I wrap a towel around my waist and call the airlines. There is a flight leaving for New York City in two hours and I plan to be on it.
I don’t even bother with luggage; I get dressed and go. The valet has a cab waiting for me by one of the side exits so I don’t have to deal with the paparazzi. The locals know that the movie has set up camp in this hotel, so there are always people milling around trying to get pictures of us. I get to the airport with enough time to get my ticket, go through security, and board the flight. The flight is three hours long; three hours for me to torture myself with thoughts of Sookie. I have to tell her what I’ve done; I owe it to her to be honest. I know she’s going to be hurt and angry, and she has every right to be. But I will do whatever it takes to fix this, to make her realize how sorry I am, how much I love her. I don’t know why I cheated, I have no excuse.
Five hours after leaving my hotel in New Orleans, I’m in a cab pulling up outside the brownstone where we live. I frown when I see the group of paparazzi on the sidewalk. What the fuck are they doing here? I pay the cab driver and hustle through the crowd, not bothering to say anything to them and not paying any attention to what they are saying to me. My focus is solely on getting through that door and laying my heart bare to Sookie.
Using my key, I unlock the door and slip inside. I close the door with a sigh and lean my head back against the door. Gathering up my courage, I push off the door to walk up the stairs to find Sookie. However, I don’t get very far because Lafayette is standing at the top of the stairs.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” His arms are crossed over his chest, and if looks could kill, I would be a puddle of goo on the floor.
“I need to talk to Sookie,” I say wearily as I begin climbing the stairs.
“She doesn’t need or want to hear a damn thing you’ve got to say! The photographs said it all for you,” he says as he comes down the steps, blocking my path.
I stop with my foot raised, feeling as if my heart stopped beating. What photographs? “Lafayette, you gotta let me talk to Sookie!” Panic rises, threatening to choke me. I can’t breathe.
“No, I don’t,” he says moving to block my path with his legs spread and arms crossed. “You need to get your shit and get out. You’re not welcome here anymore,” he says coldly.
“Lala, please,” I beg. “Let me talk to Sookie. Let me apologize. I need to make this right.”
“Ain’t no way you can make this right asshole! Now either you can leave here on your own two legs, or I can throw your ass out. The choice is yours.” Lafayette’s voice is menacing, as if he wants the chance to hurt me. But nothing he can do to me will hurt nearly as much as knowing that I’ve lost Sookie for good.