I bring Eric home from the hospital on new year’s eve. Before picking him up from the hospital I went shopping for groceries and brought Sunday back. I cleaned his apartment from top to bottom the night before and set up a TV tray beside his bed to keep his medications on. It’s slow going up the stairs and I’ve got a bag in his place with enough clothes for a week.
“Ah,” Eric winces when we’re three quarters of the way upstairs.
“Slow down, tiger. It’s not a race.”
“I know, I’m just not good at depending on someone else.”
Truer words have never been spoken. I stay at his side all the way up the stairs and open the door for him. Sunday comes charging forward but doesn’t jump on Eric. He tries to bend to pet his dog but that doesn’t really work out too well.
“Son of a bitch,” he curses, which isn’t like Eric.
“Okay, come on, let’s get you into bed,” I say, and shoo Sunday back. I know he’s as excited as I am to have Eric back, but he doesn’t understand his buddy isn’t at full play status.
Sitting up and getting in or out of bed is difficult for Eric, but I manage to get him sitting. I kneel down and untie his shoes for him. He unzips his coat and after I pull his shoes off, I help him with his coat. It takes a minute to get him situated in bed, but once he is I go about unpacking his stuff.
“How are you feeling? Do you need anything?” I ask.
“Yes, I do. I need you to stop whatever it is you’re doing and get in bed with me,” he says.
I smile and drop the dirty flannel pants that are dangerously close to walking themselves to the hamper. There’s plenty of room for me next to him and I’m careful of his stitches. They’re gnarly looking and won’t be coming out for another couple of days. I lay my head on Eric’s chest and he kisses the top of my head.
“Thank you, Sookie, for everything.”
“You’re welcome. I’m just happy you’re home and on the mend.”
“Me too, but I don’t just mean for your help this past week. You’ve changed my life for the better and I don’t ever want to go back to living without you.”
My heart swells at his words. I lift my head and tell him, “I feel the same way.”
“I had a lot of time to think while I was in the hospital and I made some pretty important decisions.”
“What kind of decisions did you make?”
“I thought a lot about my parents and what they would say about the way I’ve been living. My mother was such a social, live out loud kind of person. She was funny, friendly and opinionated. My father was a little more stoic, but he was passionate in his beliefs and stood up for the things he believed in, even when it got him killed. They were a great balance for each other and I like to think I inherited bits of both of them.”
“I would say you have your mother’s charm and your father’s tenacity.”
“I’ve been so closed off to everyone and pretty much everything until recently and I feel like I’ve missed out on so many things out of fear or anger, and the only person I’m hurting by doing that is me. I feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life and for what? I’ve been hiding out all these years, keeping to myself because it’s safe. I know you think I’m brave for making it on my own, but I’m not,” he says and I want to argue, but he’s not done yet. “You’re the brave one, Sookie. You put yourself out there and you don’t give up. You take risks and you’re not afraid of getting hurt. That’s being brave.”
“Well there’s a fine line between brave and foolish.”
Lord knows I’ve ridden that line many times and the jury’s still out on which side I’ve fallen on.
“You took a chance on me,” Eric points out.
“True, but you took a chance, too. You had no guarantee I was going to give you a chance.”
“It was a gut instinct. You’re not the kind of girl to turn someone away for no good reason.”
That was true, which was how is ended up on so many awful first dates.
“So does this mean you decided you want to take more chances with other girls?” I ask with my heart beating in my ears.
“No, it doesn’t. I’m still pretty crazy about you, Stackhouse.”
“But I do want to go back to school,” he says, and I lift my head up off his chest to look at him. “I want to finish high school, go to college… See if I can’t find a way to use the tragedy in my past as a way to make something good in my future. I’m not sure what I want to do, but I know I don’t want to stay at the diner, and I don’t want to stay in the shadows of life.”
“That’s great, Eric,” I grin. “I’ve been thinking about going back to school too. I found this course catalogue a while ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.”
“Then maybe we can do this together,” he suggests, and I like the sound of it.
“I think we can.”
“And I want to go back to Saratoga Springs. I think it’s time to deal with that once and for all. The house probably needs work and I’m not sure if I could ever live there again but I’m sure something good can be done with it, even if I just sell it.”
“You don’t have to figure that out today.”
“I went you to come with me.”
“Yes, I do. I want you to see where I come from and I think maybe if you come with me you can help me figure out the next step.”
“I can do that,” I smile and lean forward to kiss him.
Eric grabs the back of my head to keep me from pulling away too quickly, but I don’t mind. The doctor didn’t say anything about cutting off sexual activity, but given Eric’s condition, I don’t think it’s wise we go there quite yet. Maybe in another couple of weeks.
“So is there anything else I should be aware of? I ask him.
“I want to start looking for a bigger apartment. One that has room for two people to live in.”
“Oh yeah? Got a roommate in mind, or is Sunday getting his own room?”
“I was thinking maybe you’d want to clean up after me full-time,” he says nervously.
“Hmmm… that’s a tempting offer. What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll do all the cooking and all the sex you can handle.”
“I havealways wanted my own personal sex slave…”
“Will you wear a maid’s uniform for me?” he asks with a cheesy smile.
“Only if you’ll cook in the nude.”
“Deal,” he extends a hand.
I shake his hand and say, “It looks like you’ve got yourself a roommate, Mr. Northman.”
Eric pulls me close and kisses me again. Things are moving fast, but it feels like the right choice.
“I hate this,” Eric says when I have to help him out of bed later that night.
“Well just keep this in mind if the mother of your children ever needs a c-section,” I say in a hopeful tone.
Eric’s on a restricted diet for the time being, mostly soft foods and lean meats. That’s a good thing for me because I’m not much of a cook. My repertoire has expanded to include grilled cheese and spaghetti, but beyond that I’m fairly useless in the kitchen. I make up for it in other ways and Eric doesn’t seem to mind being my personal chef.
He gives me a kiss and then shuffles on to the bathroom. While he’s up I tidy the kitchen a little and wash the dishes from the dinner I picked up from the restaurant downstairs. It was my first experience with Cuban food and it was delicious. Fried plantains might just be my new favorite thing.
Sunday needs to go out and there’s no way Eric’s got the strength for that yet. Sunday’s pretty well trained, but he’s heavy and gets a little stubborn when he gets on the scent of something. I’m not convinced Eric would be able to reel Sunday back in, plus make it up and down the stairs. On top of that, it’s icy outside so the last thing I need is for him to slip and fall. He doesn’t need anymore injuries or to pop a stitch or something.
I’m layering on clothes when I hear the water start for a shower. I decide to hold off on taking Sunday out until Eric is safely back in bed. I don’t need him falling in the shower either. While I wait I switch TV channels from the news and put on the Twilight Zonemarathon instead. Sunday lays down on the floor near me and quickly flops over for a belly rub, which he gets.
He’s as spoiled by me as his owner.
When Eric comes out of the bathroom he looks exhausted. The stamina he once had is pretty much depleted for the time being. I just don’t want him to do too much too soon.
“Feel better?” I ask him.
“A little. I feel cleaner but I need to take my pain meds.”
I jump up to get them for him and Eric meets me in the kitchen so he can take them.
“I think I’m going to take Sunday out real quick,” I tell him.
“Okay. I’ll be fine.”
“Do you want help getting back in bed?”
“No, I think I got it.”
“Okay,” I nod and kiss his cheek. “I’ll be back soon.”
I get ready to go while Eric stands in the kitchen drinking his water. For the moment his incision is covered, but that’s only because he was in the shower. He’s supposed to keep them as dry as possible so it’s a good thing he’s got a moveable showerhead. I want to stick around to make sure he gets into bed okay, but I don’t want him thinking I don’t believe he can do it.
“Come on Sunday,” I call out and he comes trotting over so I can leash him. I grab a bag and then we’re off.
All things considered it isn’t miserably cold outside, which suggests we might be getting a fresh batch of snow. I need to go into the diner to pick up our paychecks and Detective Singh wants to sit down with Eric. Police were in and out of his hospital room, but the staff always chased them out after a few minutes so he didn’t get too stressed out.
Sunday leads the way and we walk for about fifteen minutes before returning to the apartment. When we get upstairs Eric is sitting on the edge of his bed, clutching his stomach.
“Eric!” I drop the leash and run to him. “What’s wrong?”
“The police called. Bill Compton was arrested two hours ago,” he says with a small smile on his face.
“That’s great!” I laugh and throw my arms around his neck.
“That’s not the best part,” Eric says.
“What’s the best part?”
“When they searched his car they found the name tag from your uniform. He’s going down, Sookie. For all of it, he’s going down.”
Both of us grin and I lean in to kiss him just as the TV behind us announces the new year has begun.