Have you ever had a song that you can’t get out of your head? A song that takes root inside your brain, inside your soul, and won’t let go?
I’ve had the same song stuck in my head for damn near a year. I heard it for the first time while I drove to work one morning before Christmas. It initially stood out because it was the only non-Christmas song the radio station played. My fiancé had changed the radio station from my usual channel on Sirius XM, Ozzy’s Boneyard, to one of the local radio stations. She said she couldn’t handle that noise so early in the morning.
I rolled my eyes but said nothing. Her idea of good music was whatever played on the pop or country stations. I love her dearly, more than I can ever imagine loving another person, but her taste in music is absolute shit! The only thing worse than her taste in music is her singing.
But I love her enough to overlook both of those things.
That day I dropped my fiancé off at work because her car was in the shop. After a kiss that some may have termed indecent, she’d walked away with a smirk and a wink. Her hips swayed seductively as she walked which caused me to smirk and shake my head as I gunned the car engine before speeding out of the parking lot. I turned my radio back to my station, enjoying a return to good music, but I was haunted by that damn song.
All damn day as I worked, I found myself humming a song I couldn’t remember the lyrics to. By lunch time, I was so annoyed that I called the local radio station to find out the name of the song and artist. I felt like an idiot humming the song to the person on the other end of the phone, but fortunately that woman on the other end must have been a fucking ninja when it came to “Name That Tune”. She knew the song after only a few bars. I thanked her and quickly hung up to search YouTube for the song. The video starred some gangly ginger-haired dude at a ski resort. Not at all what I expected. I ended up looking up the song lyrics because the video distracted me from the meaning of the song.
I’ve been reciting the lyrics everyday up to today. This is the day that the lyrics mean more to me than any other day because they fit my life perfectly.
It’s like that little ginger fuck wrote the song specifically for me and Sookie.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please make some noise for Mr. and Mrs. Eric Northman!”
The emcee for our wedding reception has all our friends and families cheering as the doors open for Sookie and me to make our grand entrance into the ballroom. The applause and cheers only get louder when the crowd sees me kissing my beautiful bride. When I pull away from her tempting lips, a blush covers her cheeks.
“Shall we, Mrs. Northman?” I smirk as I place a kiss on the tip of her nose.
“We shall, Mr. Northman,” Sookie says as she tucks her hand tightly in the crook of my arm.
We walk into our reception, but to be honest, I’m not paying any attention to our surroundings. I don’t give a damn what the room looks like. I’d let Sookie plan everything. It’s not that I am unhappy to be married, far from it! As soon as her grandfather who served as our preacher pronounced us husband and wife, I’d felt a sense of peace, of completeness, settle over me. I finally felt whole and knew that today was only the beginning. If I’d had my way, I would have married Sookie the day after I proposed by going to the courthouse or whisking her away to Las Vegas. But it was Sookie’s dream to get married in the church where her parents and grandparents were married. It was her dream to have her reception at the Compton Plantation, to fulfill her fantasy of being Scarlett O’Hara for just one day.
All I cared about was Sookie becoming my wife, having my name so that the world knows she belongs to me and I belong to her!
The only thing I cared about at the reception was our first dance. In fact, I’d convinced Sookie that I was picking our first dance song and it was going to be a surprise. She’d been less than happy that I wouldn’t tell her the song. It’s not that she was a bridezilla or control freak, but she wanted us to pick the song together. We’d listened to hundreds of love songs, but nothing fit. Most were too corny or too dated.
I’d sworn on my Corvette that our first dance would not be to an 80s power ballad. Sookie had reservations about not knowing our first dance song, but she trusted me to not pick something that would embarrass us in front of everyone.
I wanted our song to be something we could hear forty years from now and still feel the same feelings we feel today.
I knew the song I’d chosen was perfect.
Our stroll through our guests ended with us on the dance floor. The emcee was announcing for everyone to be seated so we can begin our first dance as husband and wife.
“Are you ready, wife?” Not giving Sookie the chance to answer, I pull her in my arms. One hand rests on her lower back, pulling her closer to me while my other hand grasps hers. I want her as close to me as possible.
“Well at least I know it isn’t the chicken dance,” Sookie jokes as she settles in my embrace.
I chuckle as the lights dim. The dj nods his head letting me know he’s ready to start the song. Usually, the title of the song and artist are announced before the first dance begins, but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for my bride. I pull Sookie a fraction closer and begin singing as I start to move.
“I found a love, for me
Darling just dive right in
And follow my lead.
Well I found a girl beautiful and sweet
I never knew you were the someone waiting for me
‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love …”
Gasps, whispers, and applause are coming from our guests, but I don’t pay any attention to them. My eyes are focused only on my wife as I continue to sing every word of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”. Sookie’s beautiful eyes shimmer with tears as I continue singing.
This is the song that fits us. This is the song I can see singing to my wife for years to come. It, forgive the pun, is perfect.
Sookie and I have known each other since we were children. She’s always been beautiful and sweet, but I never looked at her as anything more than Jason Stackhouse’s kid sister. I was friends with Jason since that day in the first grade when that little fucker hit me in the face while we played dodgeball at recess. It went against the bro code to even think of his sister that way. Sookie was his baby sister, she was treated the same way that all our sisters were treated.
We ignored them. We tormented them. We treated them awful because they were girls with cooties and we were boys. We wanted nothing to do with them.
I can’t remember all the specifics, but I do remember one day Jason and I were playing together at his house. Sookie was there and she was getting on our nerves. I don’t remember what happened, but I will never forget her standing on the porch yelling at the top of her lungs.
“You watch your mouth, Eric Northman! One day, you’re gonna fall in love with me!”
She was standing on the porch steps, her hands balled into fists resting on her hips. Her chubby cheeks were flushed red and there were tears running down her cheeks.
“Fat chance,” had been my elegant response as I yelled back at her while Jason and I peddled our bikes away from the house as fast as we could.
If my eight-year-old self could see me now, he would be so disappointed. At eight, I never wanted to get married. I wanted to be a race car driver like Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As I got older, my ambitions changed. I ended up getting a football scholarship to the University of Alabama as a wide receiver.
I was in my third year, yet I still hadn’t taken English 101. With all my obligations to football, I didn’t take more than twelve credits a semester. It meant I was going to be in school more than four years, but I was OK with that. I was a good football player, but I wasn’t good enough to think I’d make it in the NFL. I took my classes seriously and I wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize my scholarship, not like some of the other guys on the team that viewed their scholarship as a free ride to do anything they wanted.
Classes at Alabama were held in large lecture halls. It was easy to be anonymous in classes that size. I was there to learn, not be distracted, so I made myself as unapproachable as possible. I’d had my fill of girls who wanted to be with me because I was a football player or who thought they’d have an easy life because they expected me to land a huge football contract. Sports broadcasters called me ‘Viking’ because of how I looked and played. The football sluts tended to call me ‘Asshole’ or ‘Motherfucker’. Not my fault they thought sex would guarantee them a diamond ring on their finger.
I’d set up in the back of the lecture hall for English 101. It was summertime, sweltering in the Alabama heat and humidity. I was in basketball shorts, an Alabama football t-shirt, and a hat pulled low to cover as much of my face as possible. I’d scattered my stuff around me hoping to deter anyone from getting too close to me, but this chick clearly didn’t get the memo that I wanted to be left alone. She sat in the seat next to mine and after she’d settled in, she turned to speak to me.
“Hi Eric,” she said shyly.
My annoyance flared, and I was ready to unleash my venom on this chick. “Look…” I began in a hiss, but the words died on my lips as I got my first look at the girl invading my space. “Sookie Stackhouse?” I uttered in disbelief.
Sookie laughed softly while nodding her head. “Didn’t Jason tell you I was enrolled here?”
I shook my head no. “Jason and I don’t talk much during football season. He thinks I’m gonna cheat and steal his playbook,” I ended with a chuckle. In a weird twist of fate, my best friend was recruited to play at Auburn. Our friendship turned more into frenemies since our schools were bitter rivals. Once a year we were guaranteed to play each other. The games were brutal. Jason and I were red-shirt freshmen, so we didn’t play the first year we were on the teams. Last year was the first year we’d faced off against each other and Jason and I stepped up our performances, trying to outperform the other. But the Crimson Tide prevailed. At the end of the game, though, we embraced like brothers. ESPN and the other college broadcasters ate up the rivalry between us trying to amp it up. This year will be our second year as starters, and I knew some of the college broadcasters in the SEC have already been talking about the Alabama vs. Auburn game even though it is weeks away.
“Since Alcide already did that, it’s gonna be hard,” Sookie laughed. Alcide was Jason’s roommate at Auburn. He’d played football for a rival high school in Louisiana, so we had known of him, but didn’t know him well during high school. Alcide played right guard, so he and Jase were tight. We’d all hung out a bunch during our trips home, so I’d gotten to know him some. I was happy that Alcide was an offensive lineman instead of defensive. That dude was ginormous, and I didn’t want to fucking face off against him!
I stared at Sookie in surprise before I reached across the space to wrap her in a hug. “Damn girl, it’s good to see you.” I squeezed her as tightly as possible given the awkward desks we were sitting at. Seeing her floods my mind with so many memories and I’m left feeling a little homesick.
“It’s good to see you too,” she says muffled against the fabric of my t-shirt.
Somewhere during that semester, I went from thinking of Sookie as Jason’s sister, to Sookie, the sweet and beautiful woman I fell in love with.
I don’t know how it happened, but I knew the second I felt my love for Sookie hit me like a ton of bricks.
New Year’s Eve 2011.
The semester was over thankfully. English wasn’t my favorite subject and usually I did enough to skate by with an average grade, but thanks to Sookie, I’d gotten an A in the class. We spent time each week working on our English assignments…well, she spent time making sure I read the assignments and then reviewing my responses to the essay questions. It wasn’t all work though. I got to know Sookie all over again, or maybe it was getting to know her for the first time. Before college, I’m not sure I really knew Sookie, but I knew Jason’s sister. She didn’t have an identify of her own; it related to Jason. I got to know her sweetness and kindness, like when I came down with a nasty cold during our bi-week. She made me chicken noodle soup from scratch and took care of me between her classes, making sure I stayed hydrated, fed, and took my medicine.
I got to know that she had a wicked sense of humor and could give as good as she got when it came to pranks. I was amused that she blushed furiously every time she used a curse word. She became my best friend.
But it was that fateful New Year’s Eve when I realized Sookie was a desirable woman. It was an innocent kiss at midnight, but it tilted my world off its axis. I was never going to be the same again now that I knew she tasted like cherries and vanilla. That she smelled of sunshine and coconut in the middle of the night. I would never be whole again unless I had her voluptuous body pressed against mine as I held her in my arms.
It was the briefest of kisses, but I knew I’d never be the same. Sookie must have known it too since her lips were shaped in an ‘O’ and shock was all over her face. Before it could get awkward and either of us question what had happened, I leaned down to kiss her again. Only this time, I put every ounce of my experience in that kiss. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but if this was my only shot, then I wanted Sookie to experience everything I had to offer. My arms gathered her closer than our previous embrace and it seemed her body melted to fit against mine. My lips coaxed hers apart so that I could learn that taste of her mouth before beginning a slow, erotic dance with her tongue. The sighs and whimpers coming from her throat were the sweetest symphony to my ears. As our lips moved against each other, I lost all sense of time and place. All I knew was Sookie.
“Dude, da fuck you doin’ with my sister?!?!?!?!”
Jason stood next to us with his hands balled into fists resting on his hips. His face was mottled red from his disbelief and outrage. Sookie pulled back from my lips but didn’t move an inch otherwise. I would have let her go if she wanted me to, but I had the sense she wanted to be as close to me as I wanted to be close to her. Neither of us looked at Jason, which angered him more, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away if I wanted to. It seemed as if Sookie and I were having a conversation with our eyes only. Mine were promising her the world, while hers seemed to be promising to be my light shining through the darkness.
“Fuck off, Jason,” Sookie said as a blush spread over her face. She kept staring at me as her tongue snuck out to moisten her lips.
“Sook, what the hell?” Jason demanded an explanation from the two of us. He stared and crossed his arms over his chest which indicated he wasn’t going to let this go until we gave him the answer he wanted. He moved closer as his agitation increased when the seconds ticked by and we didn’t let each other go.
“Sookie and I are dating, Jason,” I answered him in a firm tone but softly stared at the woman in my arms hoping she agreed with my statement. Sookie’s lips spread into a huge grin before she used the hands that were tangled in my hair to pull me down to her for another kiss.
That New Year’s Eve was the best of my life. I meant what I said to Jason. I was dating Sookie… only we didn’t agree to that until breakfast in the morning. Sookie and I spent the night kissing and talking, nothing more physical than groping over our clothes. I took her home from the party and we fell asleep on the couch in her parents’ house.
I’m thankful her father didn’t shoot me with one of his guns. I’d thought for sure I was a dead man when my eyes opened after someone nudged my legs and I saw Corbett Stackhouse staring me down. I knew he was fiercely protective of his ‘Sunshine’ as he called Sookie. It turned out that Corbett took it better than Jason. Oh, he gave me the speech about what would happen to me if I hurt his daughter, but he surprised me when he said he had always thought I’d be a good match for Sookie. He said that we complimented each other in the ways that mattered, but we were different enough that one of us wouldn’t disappear in the other.
Jason, on the other hand, acted as if I betrayed him. He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the time we were home from school between semesters. I’d email, call, or text him during the spring semester, but he never responded. It wasn’t until the following summer right around Sookie’s birthday that he spoke to me again. And then he acted like there had never been an issue between us. I wasn’t hurt by Jason’s behavior, though it did annoy me considering he hit on my sister every chance he got. Not that he ever stood a chance with Pam, but that didn’t keep him from trying. Whatever.
The rest of my time at Alabama flew by. Sookie and I had a few of the general requirement classes together, but we weren’t one of those couples that had to be together 24/7. The spring semester of my last year at ‘Bama, Sookie decided to pledge to a sorority. I teased her for pledging, saying she had plenty of friends and didn’t need to pay for more. Her response had been to roll eyes, stick her tongue out at me, and tell me it was better than getting beaten up by my ‘friends’ during practice.
To each their own.
While Sookie was busy with pledging activities that spring, I was busy preparing myself for the NFL Combine. I never thought of pursuing a career in the NFL; I never thought I was good enough to go to the big leagues. But the coaches at Alabama and the NFL scouts saw something different. I knew they appreciated the fact I was tall and fast. I kept hearing comparisons to “Megatron”, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to play in the NFL. I know for many, it’s a dream to play in the NFL; to be quarterback for your favorite team, or to score the winning touchdown, or to win a Super Bowl. As much as I loved football, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make my career doing it.
It was Sookie that convinced me to give it a shot. Her logic was that it wouldn’t hurt anything for me to try out at the Combine. If I did well, then there was a chance a team would draft me. If I shit the bed, then I wouldn’t be drafted, and I would continue with my plans for after college.
I knew Jason and Alcide were also going to be at the NFL Combine. Jason was going to try out as a running back, since the NFL was saturated with quarterbacks. Alcide was going to try out as an offensive lineman. Of the three of us, I figured Alcide had the best chance of being drafted by an NFL team. He had size, skill, and speed which were rare in the bigger guys. I know Jase wanted to be in the NFL, but I figured his size would work against him. I know there have been some shorter running backs, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram, Jr., both played with the New Orleans Saints, but I wasn’t sure Jason had the speed or brawn needed to be lumped in with those players.
The NFL Combine was in Indianapolis the last week of February. The actual drills took place over a span of four days, but there were physicals, tests, meetings, interviews, and other things that took up the rest of the time. Jason, Alcide, and I shared a room. It felt good to be with friends given how intense and nerve-wracking the entire experience was. People watching your every move, critiquing every aspect of your performance, and grading you against all the others in your position. How can any team know based on one day how a man is going to play during an entire NFL season?
Alcide performed on the first day of the Combine with the rest of those trying out for the offensive line positions. He wasn’t in the top ten of any of the trials, but he gave a solid performance. Listening to all the NFL draft analysts at the end of Day 1, they said Alcide would probably go somewhere in the third or fourth rounds. Jason and I were trying out on Saturday with the rest of the running backs and wide outs. It wasn’t until I was in the room with the other wide outs that I realized I was nearly three inches taller than most of them. A handful of guys were the same height as me or taller. The physical drills we had to perform were the 40-yard dash, bench press 225 pounds, the vertical jump, the broad jump, 3-cone drill, two shuttle runs, and then drills specific to our individual position. During my time in Indianapolis, I met with representatives from all thirty-two NFL teams. I didn’t think much of it, but later when talking to Alcide and Jason, they weren’t visited by members of every team. Alcide had about fifteen teams meet with him; Jason had about half that.
While we were in Indianapolis, I refused to watch any of the coverage of the Combine or read about it on the internet after Day 1. Jason seemed dejected after his trials. I think he was finally starting to realize that his dreams of playing in the NFL may not happen. When I left him and Alcide at the airport, it seemed that Jase was finally starting to come out of his funk. Of course, the waiting area full of coeds waiting for their flight to take them away on Spring Break may have helped.
It wasn’t until I got back to Alabama and saw Sookie that I understood the enormity of my performance at the NFL Combine. She’d recorded the entire day of coverage on the NFL Network. There were over fifty men that were auditioning to be wide receivers in the NFL. I placed in the top ten for all categories of the physical challenges, which was impressive given the skill of the others around me. Sookie was so excited, showing me how all the NFL draft analysts thought I would most likely be taken in the second or third rounds. A few analysts even predicted that I would be taken in the first round.
I was awestruck. Never once did I think I would have a chance to be in the NFL. It wasn’t my goal. My goals were to get my business degree, spend a few years working for a company, and then open a bar. Of course, all my plans involved Sookie.
I knew I wanted to have Sookie as my wife, but I wasn’t planning to propose to her before I left college. I wasn’t going to be that cliché. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how things were going to go between Sookie and I once I left ‘Bama. I knew I loved her and wanted to be with her for the rest of my life, but I wasn’t sure how we would handle the transition for the next two years until she got out of school. As much as I loved the school, I didn’t want to hang around Tuscaloosa for two years while I waited for Sookie to finish her degree. I didn’t want to be that guy; you know the one that lingers around school trying to reclaim “the good ole days”. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go after school, though. Part of me thought I’d go back home, but what job opportunities waited for me in Louisiana? I loved my home state, don’t get me wrong, but it has consistently been one of the most economically depressed states in the country after Hurricane Katrina.
The time between the NFL Combine and the NFL draft seemed to drag by. During those weeks, I sent my resume out to numerous businesses around the country, hoping to get a job or an internship. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I applied for anything I thought I was remotely qualified for. It was a struggle to focus on my classes, knowing I was so close to being finished with school, but I persevered. What annoyed me the most during that time was everyone else’s fixation with me being drafted by the NFL, and that included Sookie.
I was sick of the coaches preparing me for a future in the NFL, a future I wasn’t sure I wanted. I was sick of the envious looks from most of my teammates since many of them knew they weren’t good enough to be drafted. There were thousands of men playing collegiate level football; only a fraction of them were drafted each year. The other students on campus as well as professors were wishing me luck in the upcoming draft. If I was drafted it would be another notch in the ever-expanding belt of the University of Alabama. People I hadn’t talked to for years were coming out of the woodwork trying to get a piece of me before the draft. My parents and siblings were all excited to think of me becoming famous.
As for Sookie, she was so excited upon my return to campus. For that first week, she spent countless hours watching or reading about NFL draft coverage. Even during our time alone together, all she talked about where the NFL teams where she thought I would fit best. Part of me appreciated her enthusiasm…at first. Then, I simply wanted her to stop talking. I can’t say it was the first fight Sookie and I ever had; after all, we are both incredibly stubborn, but it was certainly the most vicious of our relationship. I wasn’t sure our relationship was going to recover from it, but we found a way. In the end, I couldn’t ignore the inevitability any longer; it looked like I was going to be drafted by an NFL team. With Coach Saban’s help, I found an agent to represent me. Godric looked younger than me, but he was incredibly knowledgeable about the process and promised to help protect my interests in the weeks to come. He fielded calls from several teams that were interested in drafting me. Godric never told me who was interested in me, saying he didn’t want me to get my hopes set on one team. I was more grateful to Godric than I could express. He helped keep me sane up until the NFL Draft.
The three days of the NFL Draft came and went. Sookie and I went back to Bon Temps for the weekend. The NFL Network contacted Godric the week before the draft, asking permission to send a camera crew to the house for the draft. I knew that if a camera crew was coming to my parents’ house, then I was 100% being drafted. The first round of the draft took place on Thursday night. My family threw a huge party, inviting all our family and friends. Everyone enjoyed the party, except me. I couldn’t relax; I was on pins and needles waiting for the phone to ring. Something I never thought I wanted suddenly became the one thing I wanted more than anything. My phone didn’t ring Thursday night, which was the first round of the draft. I could tell everyone was disappointed, but they offered me words of encouragement, sure that my name was going to be called the next night.
Friday evening, the second round of the draft began. Sookie sat next to me the entire time, our hands tightly entwined as we watched the television waiting to know my future. We were six picks into the second round, when I noticed the camera crew began moving with more purpose. By the eighth pick, the Houston Texans were on the clock with seven minutes to make their pick. My cell phone sat on the coffee table in front of Sookie and me, the ringtone on the loudest setting possible. As the draft clock ticked down to the five-minute mark, my cell began ringing. Everyone at the party cheered as loudly as they could when I answered the phone, knowing that I had been selected by an NFL team. I couldn’t hear the words that were spoken on the other end of the phone, the screams of my family and friends drowning out the speech from the General Manager of the Houston Texans. The camera crew was focused on me as my name was announced on the television as the second-round draft pick for the Houston Texans; I was the fortieth pick overall.
My life was a blur after that phone call. I don’t remember the rest of the party. I barely remember the rest of my time at University of Alabama and the subsequent graduation ceremonies. There were two things I remembered about my graduation. First, I remember that I wore a Houston Texans jersey under my graduation robe with my name and number on it. Second, Sookie suggested we “just be friends” since I would be heading off to NFL training camp in less than two months.
It broke my heart to hear those words come from Sookie’s lips. I didn’t want to give her up, but I understood her reasoning. We were going to be nine hours apart while I was based in Houston and she returned to school in Tuscaloosa. When Sookie was home for the holidays, I would have to be with the team, preparing for whatever game we had that week. Our lives were moving down two different paths. Sookie loved me, but she knew that distance and lack of communication would destroy our relationship. It tore my heart out, but I knew she was right.
My rookie training camp with the Houston Texans was the most grueling of my life. I thought I was in good shape, but clearly, I was wrong. I threw myself into the training activities, adding another fifteen pounds of muscle to my body. I worked hard with the wide receivers’ coaches and the quarterbacks. I made the most of the opportunity I was given, and the coaches rewarded my efforts by giving me a spot on the 53-man roster for the 2012 season.
I was fortunate to be mentored by one of the great wide receivers of the modern era, Andre Johnson. He taught me how to hone my talent and be a better receiver, which in turn helped our team. My rookie season the Texans had a 12-4 record and won the AFC South Division. We won our first playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but got our asses handed to us by the New England Patriots in the Divisional Playoff round.
I hate the fucking Patriots!
Despite the success of the season, I was miserable. I missed Sookie. I wanted her with me. We talked often, but it wasn’t the same. Our conversations weren’t like they were before we broke up; they were impersonal, more about the things going on around us instead of about us. I knew next to nothing about how she was feeling or what she was doing. But I was no better. I was lonely and was filling that loneliness by going out with my teammates to area bars. Women threw themselves at me left and right, and I took advantage of more than a few offers. Unfortunately, none of those women filled the ache in my soul. I was slowly going mad.
The start of my second training camp with the Houston Texans started with high expectations. The coaches and front office were hoping to build on the momentum from us winning the AFC South. The first two games of the season looked to continue the momentum, but then things started to spiral out of control beginning with Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. We finished the 2013 season with a record of 2-14. Our coach was fired during the season because of our record. During my entire football career up to that point, I’d never had to suffer a losing season. It was a humbling, humiliating experience to say the least.
The feeling of unrest and discontent I felt at the end of the 2013 season had me fleeing Houston. I thought about going away to somewhere tropical but didn’t feel like spending New Year’s Eve alone. I cleaned out my locker the day after the last game like many of my teammates since it was the end of the season, loaded up my Corvette, and drove to my parents’ home in Bon Temps. Something was pulling me to spend New Year’s Eve at home.
New Year’s Eve 2013 I woke up in my childhood home with a strong sense of déjà vu. Later that night I was meeting up with Jason and Alcide at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill. Jason wasn’t drafted by any of the NFL teams. He tried to make a few teams as an undrafted free agent, but never made it past the practice squad. He returned to Bon Temps, taking a position on the road crew with his dad. In the fall, he worked as one of the coaches for the Bon Temps High School football team; in the spring, he worked as one of the coaches for the baseball team. Turns out he was a hell of a coach; both the football and baseball teams won the parish championships after he joined as coach, something that hadn’t happened since we had graduated from the school.
Alcide, on the other hand, was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks were in the playoffs that season; the only reason Alcide was able to spend New Year’s Eve with us is because his team had a first-round bye in the playoffs.
It felt strange to meet up with the guys at Merlotte’s. I hadn’t been in the bar in over two years, not since the night Jason, Alcide, and I said good-bye before heading off to their respective rookie training camps. When I walked in, it was comforting to notice nothing had changed. Hell, it looked like the patrons hadn’t moved from their seats since the last time I’d seen them. Mrs. Fortenberry was seated at her usual table holding court. Catfish Hunter and his cronies were seated at the bar, relieving the glory days of their youth. Andy Bellefleur and Bud Dearborn were seated in a booth, trying to look like they had official police business, but nothing ever happened in Bon Temps. It was nice to come home and find nothing changed.
Before I could move away from the door, Alcide and Jason came bursting through the door. We were boisterous with our reunion, moving over to the pool tables to catch up. We drank and shot pool, and more of our friends from high showed up. It felt good to be surrounded by friends again, people who knew me for who I was, and not what they thought I could do for him. My coaches and teammates all expected something from me. The women I’d been with in Houston all wanted something from me because I was a professional football player. Here in Bon Temps, no one wanted a damn thing from me.
My eyes kept shifting around the bar as time passed. I thought Sookie would show up to celebrate the New Year. Sookie’s best friends Tara and Jessica were at Merlotte’s, and I knew that when all three were home from school they were nearly inseparable. I was at the point of breaking down to ask one of the girls about Sookie when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and felt my heart stop.
“Hey handsome,” Sookie whispered with a huge smile spreading across her face.
Without uttering a word, I wrapped Sookie in my arms, picking her up to hold her tightly against me. I buried my nose in the long tresses of her hair, comforting myself with the scent that uniquely identified Sookie. I inhaled deeply, and closed my eyes, feeling my body relax completely.
I was home.
“Umm, Eric, can you set me down?” Sookie murmured against my ear causing me to shiver slightly. When I set her back on her feet, Sookie’s cheeks flushed a delicious shade of pink. Without thinking, I leaned down and caught her lips in a searing kiss. One hand settled along the small of her back while the other moved up to fist in the hair at the back of her neck. Sookie responded by gripping my biceps tightly, holding on as our mouths moved with ease against each other.
Catcalls and whistles pulled us apart. Before either of us could say anything, Sam began the countdown to midnight. As the other patrons joined in, I cupped Sookie’s face in my hands. Instead of joining in the countdown, I smiled as I once again held the woman I loved with all my heart in my arms.
“Marry me, Sookie.”
“When I saw you in that dress, looking so beautiful
I don’t deserve this, darling, you look perfect tonight.”
The last of my words faded away as the song moved into the musical interlude before the last stanza.
During the song, tears have steadily slipped down Sookie’s cheeks. I hate the sight of her tears, but I knew beforehand that my singing would make her cry. I had planned this moment in my head for months, but the reality of the evening far surpassed my dreams. Nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful my wife looked in her wedding dress. My love for Sookie prior to tonight seemed smaller compared to the huge swell of emotion I felt inside my chest. I was hard pressed to keep tears from falling from my eyes as I twirled across the dance floor with my wife.
I sung the final lines of the song to Sookie as I moved us into the middle of the dance floor. As the song slowed to its final notes, I twirled the love of my life in a circle. As I uttered the final words of the song, I pressed my lips against Sookie’s as I bent her body backwards. Sookie pressed dozens of tiny kisses against my lips as everyone cheered for us. I pulled my wife upright. Before letting her go, I had only one word to say to her.
Perfect by Ed Sheeran
I found a love for me
Darling just dive right in
And follow my lead
Well I found a girl beautiful and sweet
I never knew you were the someone waiting for me
‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love
Not knowing what it was
I will not give you up this time
But darling, just kiss me slow, you heart is all I own
And in your eyes you’re holding mine
Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favorite song
When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath
But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight
Well I found a woman, stronger than anyone I know
She shares my dreams, I hope that someday I’ll share her home
I found a love to carry more than just my secrets
To carry love, to carry children of our own
We are still kids, but we’re so in love
Fighting against all odds
I know we’ll be alright this time
Darling, just hold my hand
Be my girl, I’ll be your man
I see my future in your eyes
Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favorite song
When I saw you in that dress, looking so beautiful
I don’t deserve this, darling, you look perfect tonight
Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favorite song
I have faith in what I see
Now I know I have met an angel in person
And she looks perfect
I don’t deserve this
You look perfect tonight