Chapter 5: Fix You
I tell my family that I slipped on some black ice on the walk home and the fall is why I’m all bruised up. If they don’t believe me they don’t press for further details. I spend most of the day in bed with my phone turned off and zero appetite. I’m supposed to work tonight night but there’s no way.
Around noon I call Stan to tell him I’m not feeling well. Since I don’t call in sick too often he doesn’t give me any shit for it.
“Get better soon, Sookie,” he says and then hangs up.
Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be recovering from this for a while, and certainly not by Monday when I’m due back at work.
Just the thought of leaving my house is reason enough for me to panic. I feel safe here.
Eric’s coat is draped over the bench of my vanity. I know I need to get it back to him but just getting out of bed to go to the bathroom is daunting to me. Besides, I don’t know where he lives or how he would feel about me just showing up there.
I wonder how he knows where I live, but then I remember my driver’s license is in my purse. He very easily could have just checked it for my address. Yet I get the feeling that’s not what happened. Sure it’s possible he was headed in the same direction as me and heard me fighting with Bill, but as far as I knew Eric left the diner a little after midnight.
Unless he likes taking leisurely strolls at two in the morning, and with Eric who knows, there’s something off about the way he just swooped in like some superhero. Not that I’m not thankful for him coming to my rescue because God knows what Bill and Andre would have done to me if he hadn’t come along.
Eventually I take some aspirin in the hopes of stopping the polka band that’s playing in my head. I force myself to eat some chicken soup and when Jessica calls to check on me I tell her that I’ve got the flu that’s been going around.
“That blows. Want me to bring you some of those trashy romance novels you love so much?” she offers like the great friend she is.
“No, that’s okay. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few days. I’m just going to take a bunch of NyQuil and sleep this off.”
I feel like a turd for lying to her. If there’s anyone I should be able to talk to about this, it’s my best friend. But for some reason I can’t bring myself to tell her about the attack. It isn’t that I think she’ll judge me for it, but I don’t want her to feel guilty. Watching out for me isn’t her job.
“Okay, but if you need anything give me a call,” she says.
“Will do. I’ll see you in a couple of days.”
We say our goodbyes and I hang up.
Four days later I still haven’t gone back to work. My bruises are healing and I’m not feeling quite so freaked out, but I know I’m not ready to go back to work either. I borrow my dad’s car and drive to the nearest Target. It’s one of the two story stores, and I drive around until I can get a parking space close to the entrance.
Since I’m not working I figure I might as well get some of my Christmas shopping done, and they’ve got a crock pot on sale that I know Pam has been eyeballing. On the first level I browse around men’s clothing and pick up a couple of t-shirts for Jason. I find the tackle box Dad said he wants and I get myself a giant peppermint mocha from the Starbucks that’s built-in.
Once I have everything I need from the first level I take my cart to the escalator. No way in hell am I getting in an elevator with anyone. My trust in the human race is shot at the moment. I’ve been living in my brother’s old sweats and Dad’s old flannel shirts for days. I’ve left my hair down to hide the fading bruises on my neck and I don’t know if I’ll want to wear makeup ever again.
Looking good is nowhere on my list of priorities. In fact I hope I’m sending a signal that tells the rest of the world to fuck off and leave me be. I don’t want to flirt and I don’t want to be approached by anyone who isn’t wearing a badge. Really I just want to be alone but I know I can’t stay a shut-in forever. I’m going to have to go back to work and I know I can’t get on just day shifts. The money isn’t as good and up until a few days ago I liked working nights.
If I stay scared it’s like Bill wins and I’m not going to let that fucker call the shots for the rest of my life. While I ride the escalator up to the second floor I look over the side to the floor below. I’ve been wearing Eric’s coat, and I’m not sure why but I feel safe when I have it on.
It’s draped over my arm and when I get to the top of the escalator there’s a crowd of people waiting to go down. While I wait for my cart to catch up with me a hand brushes mine. I turn to see Eric going down the steps and my mouth opens to say something, but just like on the porch the morning after the attack, all words abandon me.
Thank you would be the obvious choice, but that doesn’t seem like nearly enough.
Eric watches me the whole way down and I debate over whether or not I should go down to talk to him. As far as I know he’s made no attempts to contact me since Saturday morning. He hasn’t asked for his coat back and he didn’t pull me off to the side just now like he could have.
But he has seen that I have his coat and that I’m carrying it with me. I have no choice but to take my cart and get out of the way. Eric disappears into the crowd and I feel awful for not being strong enough to go after him.
I have so many questions I want to ask. In my head the conversation flows so easily. He tells me everything about that night that I can’t remember and he assures me that Bill and Andre will never bother me ever again. There was nothing on the news about their bodies being discovered dead in that alley so I assume Eric didn’t kill them, even if he may have wanted to.
Eric must have sat out in the cold for more than three hours, just watching me to make sure I was still breathing. Every time I think about him my heart aches in a way it never has before, but then no one’s ever saved my life before. I don’t know what to make of these feelings, but I know whenever I regain the ability to speak in front of him he’s going to get an earful from me.
Finally, it’s been a week since the attack and I get up the courage to go back to work. It’s a night shift and I make my brother promise to pick me up at two when I get off.
“Sook, it’s Friday night. I don’t know if I’ll be in any kind of shape to drive by then,” he complains.
“Jase, it’s gonna be in the low twenties outside and I’m just coming off of being sick. Don’t make me call and wake up Daddy and Pam.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll be here at two,” he grumbles.
I don’t have much faith in that promise but it’s all I’ve got. During my time off I bought a new coat. I have Eric’s with me, as well as a pair of sweatpants just in case Jason doesn’t show up. The familiar smells of coffee, grease and smoke hit me the second I walk into the diner. Everything looks exactly the same, but I feel different.
“Sookie!” The Berts call out to me with excitement.
I wave at them but then go to the back room to put up my coat and give Eric his if he’s back there. When I don’t see him right away I worry that he’s not there. It would serve me right if he isn’t. I should have thanked him when I had the chance. Once my coat is up and my apron is on I go back behind the counter and check the coffeemaker first thing.
“So how ya been, Sook?” Bert 2 asks.
“Oh, I’ve been better,” I say and dump out the old coffee grounds.
“Stan said you got that bug that was going around,” Bert 1 says.
“Yeah, I think that’s all it was. Nothing too serious.” I put fresh grounds in the machine and restart the percolator.
“Lucky you didn’t end up in the hospital,” Bert 2 says.
I pour myself a cup of coffee and silently agree. The Berts have no idea how lucky I really am.
“Speaking of hospitals,” Bert 1 starts. “Remember those two guys that were in here messing with the jukebox the other night?”
“Well Tony Dogs had to go to the emergency room on account of his kid having his stomach pumped after drinking too much, and he said he saw those guys in there all busted up. The blond one’s eyes were a mess and it looked like his nose and hand were busted up. Then the dark haired one was worked over even worse. Dogs said it looked like he’d been hit by a freight train,” Bert 1 tells me.
Immediately I know who that freight train is, and when I look to the left I see Eric clearing table twenty-one.
“Will you guys excuse me, please?”
They nod and I go over to Eric. I grab his hand and pull him into the back room.
When we get there I just look up at him for a minute before picking up his right hand. Sure enough it’s still a little bruised and swollen. My breath catches and once again I’m at a loss for words.
I pet the top of his hand and try not to cry.
“Are you okay?” Eric asks me, and my eyes shoot up to his.
The timbre of his voice seeps into me and warms me from my spine on out. I like the sound of his voice.
“Yes,” I squeak out. “I… Thank you.”
I let go of his hand and wrap my arms around him. His heart is thundering under my ear and his arms slowly wrap around me, too. It doesn’t feel weird to hug Eric.
“Tighter,” I say softly, and he firms up his hold on me. “I know it’s not enough for what you did for me. Anything I can do to repay you…”
Eric doesn’t speak, but that’s okay.
After a minute I pull back and ask, “How did you know where I live?”
Beautiful, guilty eyes shift to the floor and he quietly says, “I follow you.”
“You follow me home?” This surprises me.
“I wasn’t finished,” he says.
“I follow you home because it’s not safe and I worry.”
I don’t even know what to say. I’ve never noticed him following me before. I should probably be creeped out, but at the moment I’m too grateful.
“For how long have you been following me?” I ask.
“Just since your car broke down.” Eric’s eyes finally meet mine and I see a fading bruise on his chin. No doubt it’s there because of me. “I’m sorry.”
“Eric, it’s okay.” I take his hand again.
“I wasn’t finished.”
I smile and say, “Finish.”
“I’m sorry I was late,” he says with sincerity and his eyes on mine.
My heart breaks wide open at those five words. This man who owes me absolutely nothing, who risked his life to save mine, is apologizing to me for… I have no words yet again.
So I do the only thing I can think of. I grab his face and kiss him.