“Are you sure you want to do this? We don’t need to talk to her.” Sookie is clasping my hand tightly as we sit in the silent vehicle. We have sat in here for the last fifteen minutes, watching the time creep by slowly as we wait for it to be eleven in the morning.
Today is our last day in New Orleans, though our family returned to Bon Temps yesterday. Our time here has been unforgettable. Thanks to Mormor and Adele, we have thousands of pictures to remember the occasion. My favorite picture though is one that I snapped of Sookie and Allie walking in the sunlight together. All you see are their silhouettes but it looks like they are glowing. It’s fitting; they are my angels after all.
As for the nights, Sookie and I have tried to make up for lost time. It’s a wonder she can walk at all. I feel bad for all the little bruises on her body, but she waved away my concern. She said they aren’t hurting her, though the hickeys on her neck and chest have been difficult to cover up. The morning after our first night together, Allie had asked her mother what happened to her neck because there was a large purplish-blue mark there. Sookie had given me the evil eye while I snickered, and told Allie that I had given it to her when I’d given her a kiss. Allie had been afraid to kiss me after that, thinking I would bruise her too. Sookie had calmly explained that Allie wouldn’t get bruises like that until she was much older and they would be from the man she loved.
Mor, Mormor, and Adele all thought it was funny when I started growling and forbade it. Over my dead body is some prick going to leave his mark on my baby girl!
“I don’t have a choice Sookie. The studio is adamant that we finish this picture,” I say with a sigh. The executive producer of the movie had called two days ago to discuss the plans for finishing the movie. He understood that I wanted nothing more to do with the movie given the altercation between Freyda and me. However, the studio has threatened to sue all of us for breach of contract if we do not return to set by a certain date. They said that I have been medically cleared by the doctor to resume working and Freyda will be completing her stay in a substance abuse treatment facility soon. They want all of us back on set no later than January 15.
I’d had my first conversation with Pam shortly after my call with the executive producer. I could barely suppress my fury; I wanted to reach through the phone and strangle her. Fortunately, I could say my anger was over the situation so she wouldn’t think anything was suspicious. She said we would sue the studio, that they were the ones in breach of contract. However, I’d already had a lawyer look over the details of my contract for the film. Desmond Cataliades is one of the top lawyers in the entertainment industry; he along with his two nieces Diantha and Gladiola represent the crème de la crème when it comes to actors and actresses. Pam had always shied away from using them, claiming they would charge exorbitant fees to represent me and my interests. She had steered me towards using Johan Glassport, saying he was just as competent as Cataliades and wouldn’t charge nearly as much.
He may not have charged as much as Cataliades, but he was a shifty son of a bitch that helped Pam swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars from me. After explaining the sensitive nature of the situation to my new attorney, he and his niece Diantha had flown to New Orleans to meet with me in secret. They had been able to pull the contracts for everything that was of public record and I had my assistant in Los Angeles, Bobby Burnham, send me the copies of the contracts I had in my safe as well as financial records from my accountant. Bobby is a sycophant, but he is loyal to me. He enjoys the prestige he gets from telling people he is my assistant. I know he is loyal to me and not Pam because she abhors the little toad and is constantly trying to have me fire him.
Once they had reviewed everything, Mr. Cataliades informed me that Pam and Glassport were siphoning money from me. Her percentage as my manager was far higher than the standard in Hollywood and it looked like Glassport was billing me for hours worked and expenses when I wasn’t even using him.
If it weren’t for Sookie, I would have been on the first thing smoking to get my ass to New York so I could kick the shit out of Pam! My new legal counsel took copies of everything so that they could begin working on a lawsuit. I planned on suing Pam and Glassport to recover some of if not all the money they’d taken. Not to mention any legal charges they faced for their embezzlement.
Mr. Cataliades had also arranged for me to visit Freyda at her rehabilitation facility. According to the studio executive, she had put out feelers to see if I would be receptive to a meeting. Even her counselor at the treatment facility had called, saying the conversation would be monitored and that I would be completely safe. I know steps eight and nine of the twelve step program deal with admitting their wrongs and then trying to make amends.
Even if Freyda is truly remorseful, there is no way to make amends for this. She stole my future wife and daughter away from me. Freyda may not have been the mastermind behind the plot to separate me from Sookie, but it was her charade that led to everything that’s happened in the last seven years.
“Do you want me to come inside with you?” Sookie continues to rub her thumb back and forth across my skin, trying to soothe me. I appreciate her efforts, but there is nothing, not even a mind-blowing orgasm, that is going to make me feel better about having to face Freyda again.
“The therapist said Freyda only wanted to see me. I don’t know what seeing you would do to her,” I say with a sigh. I don’t give a rat’s ass about Freyda’s emotional state or her well-being; that has nothing to do with why I don’t want Sookie to come with me. I worry about how Sookie will react to Freyda. More importantly, I worry about keeping Sookie from killing Freyda. If Sookie could take down Freyda when she was strung out on drugs, can you imagine what she would do to her now that she’s clean and sober?
“Ok. I’ll be right here waiting for you.” Sookie leans over to brush her lips against mine. “If you need me, call me.”
I nod my head. “I love you.”
She gives me a tender smile before kissing my lips again. “Love you too,” she whispers.
With a loud sigh, I climb out of the SUV and walk towards the entrance of the rehabilitation facility. Since this is technically Freyda’s first offense, she opted to go to rehab and do community service to hopefully avoid jail time. The judge may give leniency when it comes to the drug charges, but I’m still pressing charges for assault. Mr. Cataliades suggested a civil lawsuit if I am unhappy with how the criminal charges are resolved. I don’t want money from Freyda, but I want her to suffer, even if it’s only a hit in her bank account.
Walking through the double doors of the rehabilitation center is like walking into another world. The treatment facility isn’t lacking in amenities, but there is a definite sense of confinement and sickness that permeates the air. Even with the central air system, the air feels stagnant and I struggle to catch my breath.
The reception area is blindingly bright; it’s done in all white with splashes of color here and there as accents. A pixie looking woman sits behind a white desk with a wooden top in a honey oak color. “May I help you?” She looks and sounds eager to please, especially once she recognizes who I am. “Oh Mr. Northman, I’m a huge fan of yours! May I have your autograph?”
“Chelsea,” a sharp voice says from down the hallway. “We do not ask patients or their guests for their autographs. You know the rules.” Walking briskly down the hallway is quite possibly the most intimidating man I’ve ever seen. Clearly he spends a lot of time in the gym given the size of his muscles. His arm looks to be bigger than my thigh! I can’t guess his age since he’s completely bald, no wrinkles, and he’s not wearing a wedding ring. He’s dressed in black running pants and a tee-shirt so tight I think the arms are screaming for mercy because they can’t move around his biceps.
“Yes, Quinn,” Chelsea says meekly before averting her gaze.
“I’m sorry for that,” he says in an apologetic tone as he reaches my side. He extends his hand in greeting. “John Quinn; I’m in charge of this facility.”
“Eric Northman,” I reply shaking his hand quickly, worried he’d crush me if he squeezed too long.
“I know who you are,” he says with a faint smile. “My sister is obsessed with The Vampire Mysteries. Never really saw the appeal myself; I’m more into action movies than supernatural mumbo jumbo.”
Asshole. Two can play this game. “It’s alright; I’ve never really seen the appeal to therapy. I don’t need to pay someone to give me their two cents; I have enough people willing to do that for free.” I shrug my shoulders to emphasize my indifference.
John Quinn’s eyes narrow in my direction. I’m in Hollywood, so I always notice people’s features. I can honestly say I’ve never seen purple eyes before. His displeasure makes his eyes become darker, closer to violet when before they are the color of amethysts. Too bad they are wasted on this guy; I know several actresses that would kill to have his eyes.
“Then why are you here today?” His question is bluntly asked as he crosses his arms over his chest.
“I don’t want to be,” I answer honestly. “The executive producer asked me to come because Freyda and I have to come to some sort of understanding so that we can finish filming the damn movie. If not, the studio is going to sue all of us for breach of contract.”
“Come with me,” Quinn orders abruptly before spinning on his heel to walk back down the hallway from where he came.
Chelsea had slid a visitors badge across the desk and indicated that I should put it on before following Quinn. He’s in an open doorway when I finally catch up to him. It’s a decent sized office, again with the white on white theme. The only color in the room comes from a behemoth painting on the far wall of a Bengal tiger.
“Have a seat,” he says indicating the white leather couch as he closes the door. I lower myself to the seat while waiting for Quinn to join me. He grabs a journal from his desk and sits across from me in an overstuffed leather chair.
“I have mixed feelings about allowing you to meet with Freyda,” he begins. “Given the things she had told me during her therapy sessions, I am reluctant to let the two of you meet because there is no absolution you can give her. Most addicts hurt their friends and family, but usually nothing as truly heinous as what Freyda did to you and,” he looks down at his notes to find the name he is looking for, “Sookie. However, you are her biggest regret and the one she wishes to atone for the most. Tell me, what do you think the outcome of today will be?”
“I don’t have a fucking clue,” I admit bluntly. “I’m here because I have to be. I’d rather be with my family than sitting in a drug treatment facility listening to someone profess their sorrows, when in all likelihood, she’ll end up back in here again.” I’m not saying that to be a dick, but the odds are stacked against Freyda. Forty to sixty percent of people who seek treatment for addiction end up relapsing. Freyda’s been involved in drugs and alcohol for at least seven years; nearly a quarter of her life. It’s going to be a hard habit to break.
“You are very cold towards Freyda, and you have every right to be,” Quinn begins but I cut him off
“No offense Doc, but I’m not here for your advice or your condemnations. I’m here because of a job; nothing more. Just bring Freyda in here so we can both say what needs to be said and then get on with our lives.” I don’t need some meat head with a superiority complex trying to psycho analyze me. I know what my issues are; I have a lot of anger towards my father, Pam, and Freyda. My anger at my father will never go away, and when I am completely done with Freyda and Pam, I will be free of my anger towards them.
Soon, I promise myself. This will all be over soon.
Quinn glares at me before rising to his feet. He stomps towards his desk, grabbing the phone of it and pressing a few buttons. He waits a minute for someone to pick up, simply telling them we are ready, and then hangs up. He sets the phone back on his desk before stalking around the office. His pacing reminds me of a tiger in a cage; pacing insolently back and forth, waiting for the moment to pounce and inflict maximum damage on who or what is stupid enough to get in its path.
Quinn opens and closes his mouth a few times while we wait, clearly trying to start some form of conversation but then he thinks better of it. I’m not trying to put him or this facility down, but there is nothing that will make me accepting of the situation I find myself in. But I am a professional; if I refuse to play nice and finish the damn movie, a lot of people will be out of money they were counting on as part of their income. I can’t imagine how the delay has affected the crew, but after seeing how economically depressed this area still is after Hurricane Katrina, I feel extremely selfish for wanting to prolong my time off.
A soft tapping at the office door breaks the silence between us. Quinn calls for the person to enter the room. Freyda opens the door, shuffling into the room timidly. She pushes the door closed behind her and stands with her hands in her pockets as she avoids looking at me. This gives me the opportunity to really look at her and it’s a drastic difference from the banshee I remember attacking me on the set. Freyda’s managed to put on some weight since coming to the facility. She looks bigger than I remember seeing her, but she was far too thin before. She looked like she had been one of those starving children in Africa you see on the commercials asking you to donate pennies a day. Now she looks more like she did when we did our first movie together; she looks healthy.
Freyda is dressed in black yoga pants and a baggy heather gray hooded sweatshirt with her hair pulled back in a messy bun. There isn’t a spec of makeup on her face. I’ve never seen her looking so…normal looking before. Without all the makeup covering her face, it’s easy to see all the damage the years of drug abuse have done to her. She looks older than someone in her late twenties should.
“Freyda, thank you for coming,” Quinn tells her in a gentle tone as he steers her to the chair he had previously occupied. She sits down and glances at me for the first time. Her expression is a mixture of fear and dread, and she quickly averts her gaze from me.
Quinn sits on the opposite end of the sofa I am sitting on and looks back and forth between the two of us. I know I was told that I wouldn’t be left alone with her, but I hate the idea of this asshole being the referee between us. He’s protective of her, defensive on her behalf. If this is going to work, we need someone impartial since neither Freyda nor I can be that.
“You look good,” Freyda begins in a quiet, childlike voice. “You look happy.”
“I am,” I admit.
“Are you and Sookie together?”
I stiffen with the question. “I don’t think that’s any of your business given the history between us.”
Freyda gives me a wry smile and chuckles. “No I suppose not.”
“Freyda asked for this meeting today so she-” Quinn begins but Freyda cuts him off.
“No offense Quinn, but we all know why we are here. The studio is forcing Eric and me to finish the movie. We have to come to an understanding about how to do that. He hates my guts and has every reason to. I don’t blame him in the slightest; part of me hates me too for everything I’ve done,” Freyda admits with self-loathing.
“Why did you do it?” That’s the one question I’ve never understood. I know Pam’s motivation but I’ve never understood Freyda’s.
Freyda sighs and twists herself in the chair so that her hands are wrapped around her knees. “You know how it is in this business; its cutthroat. The studios are always looking for the next big thing. When I landed the part of Anna, I was twenty, yet I was already considered washed up in Hollywood. It’s damn near impossible for child actors to transition to adult roles. The few attempts I’d had were flops. Do you know how I got the role of Anna?”
I shake my head no but Freyda wasn’t looking for a response. “I had to fuck the director and the executive producer. You don’t wanna know the shit they did to me, but to be honest I was so fucking high most of the time I didn’t really care what they did. They used me as their fuck toy for months; I was their personal sex slave for all of their depraved cravings. It continued right up until filming began and Pam approached them that it would be good publicity all around if you and I fell in love while filming.”
Bile rises up in my throat and I feel sick imagining what Freyda must have suffered. Rumors have swirled around town for years about the types of parties that were hosted by one executive producer in particular but I never paid attention to it. Hell if I listened to every rumor out there it would tell you that I’m secretly gay and that the women I’m seen with are my beard. I do know the producer, Appius though he prefers to be called Ocella, has always given me the creeps. Whenever he is on set, he stares at me like I am a piece of steak he wants to sink his teeth in. He never comes to the set that often, but if the scene calls for me or any of the other actors to be nude, he will be there.
I thought Ocella preferred men since he is always seen in the company of a much younger man. Alexi is a former actor that at one time must have been very good-looking, but drugs and alcohol have ruined his appearance and left him mentally unbalanced. He worships the ground Ocella walks on and the elder man in return indulges Alexi’s every whim. Whatever happened to Freyda must have involved Alexi; the rumor about him is that he likes to swing both ways and he has a cruel streak. Alexi has graced the cover of more than one gossip rag thanks to his constant public brawls and run ins with the LAPD.
Freyda looks at me with a sad smile on her face. “I don’t expect you to forgive me Eric; if I were you I wouldn’t. The night that everything went down on the set is when I hit rock bottom. For a long time I’ve known that my acting career is over. No one in town wants to work with an unreliable drug addict. I’m not famous; I’m infamous. If it wasn’t for my exploits in front of the paparazzi, no one would give a shit about what happened to me.”
“I don’t know what to say.” I’m flabbergasted. All the ways I envisioned this meeting, this definitely wasn’t it. Unless she’s a better actress than I thought, Freyda seems genuine in her remorse.
The brunette shrugs. “There isn’t really anything for you to say. I am sorry for everything I’ve done to you. Because of me you lost the woman you loved. Seeing the two of you together that night caused something to snap inside me. I’ve hated myself for years because of what I did to the two of you, the things I’ve done to become famous. I used drugs and booze to deaden the pain. When I was high, I didn’t feel anything. Well, I felt that punch from Sookie. I think she’d give Ronda Rousey a run for her money in the ring,” Freyda says with a chuckle.
“So we’ll finish this movie. I will be professional on set and that’s it. I won’t seek you out outside of work. In fact I think this is my last movie for The Vampire Mysteries. I need to take some time away from Hollywood. I need to find me again because I sure as hell don’t like who I’ve become.” Freyda finishes her confession and sits back in her chair with a giant sigh. It’s like she has excised a demon and she feels free.
I sit in silence for several moments processing everything Freyda has said. It’s hard to hold onto my anger in light of her story. I want to be mad at her and perhaps I would be if I still didn’t have Sookie in my life. But now all I feel for her is pity. I may end up forgiving Freyda though I will never forget her role in all of this. She didn’t have to agree to Pam’s plan seven years ago, but she was desperate to keep her career going. I’ve never been one of those actors willing to do anything to get a role. Producers and directors either liked my audition or they didn’t; I wasn’t going to fuck anyone or suck any dicks to get a role. However, I understand the desperation that haunts actors. Everyone wants to distinguish themselves from the rest, stand in the bright lights with the world watching. Freyda’s story isn’t that different from dozens of other actors and actresses that use the paparazzi to propel themselves in the limelight. People like her, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and the Kardashians use the tabloids and gossip websites to keep themselves relevant. Those that do this because they love the actual profession keep their head down and avoid the press. You don’t see the likes of Robert DeNiro, Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, or Meryl Streep having the paps trailing after them documenting their every move. I don’t seek the paparazzi out; if they find me, they photograph me, but I’m very good at avoiding them.
Though all of that will be over when I enact my plan against Pam.
“Freyda why didn’t you ever say anything against anybody? You have to know that if your story got out it would destroy Ocella and the others?”
She hangs her head in shame. “They have video…pictures. I didn’t want those to get out. It would be my word against theirs. Who’s gonna believe a drug addict?”
“Would you be willing to tell your story now? I promise you won’t be alone. It’s time that Pam, Ocella, and the others get what’s coming to them,” I say darkly.