Chapter 6: Living of Love
Eric’s lips are much softer than I thought they would be, not that I’ve thought much about his lips. It dawns on me that the scruff that’s usually in his face is missing in action, but it’s nice to feel his skin under mine. He tastes like cinnamon and his hands remain at his sides until I pick them up and put them on my hips.
He’s a surprisingly good kisser, and when I lick the seam of his lips he opens up for me, thereby obliterating the rumor that he doesn’t have a tongue. Mine slips into his mouth and his grasp on my hips tightens a little. I clutch the front of his shirt and don’t break off the kiss until I have to pull away to breathe.
My lips are a little swollen from kissing and the way Eric’s eyes are still closed leave me wondering how he feels about what I just did.
“I’m sorry,” I apologize.
His eyes open and Eric says, “Don’t apologize. I’m glad you did that. I’ve wanted to for…”
My cheeks flush. Eric wanted to kiss me? I had no idea.
He looks like he might do it again but I can’t let him, as much as I might want him to. Instead I lift the hand that he burned the week before and look at his palm. The bandage is gone, as is the injury.
“I brought back your coat,” I tell him and release his hand.
“Sookie!” Stan calls from the kitchen.
I sigh and shout back, “I’ll be right there!”
It feels like there’s so much more that Eric and I need to talk about but now isn’t the right time for that.
“I have more questions but now’s not the time. Could we maybe talk some later?” I ask.
Eric nods and I offer him another smile before pushing up on my toes and kissing the bruise on his chin.
“Thank you,” I whisper one more time and then get out to the kitchen before Stan comes looking for me.
As usual, the Friday night crowd keeps me busy, but I’m acutely aware of just how much time Eric spends watching me. When we hit a lull I sit down at a table with Jessica. She’s reading the latest Cosmo and I’m trying not to stare at Eric while he eats.
“Oh, take the quiz with me!” she says.
“Those quizzes are stupid.”
“So we’ll have a good laugh,” she shrugs.
“Fine,” I sigh.
“What’s up with you? You’ve been weird all night.”
“Nothing, I’m fine.”
“Uh huh.” She doesn’t believe me.
Jessica starts the quiz and I answer absently. I’m still stuck on that kiss in the back room. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything, especially Eric’s tongue, but I did. And I liked it.
I interrupt Jessica by asking, “What do you think of Eric?”
She shoots me a strange look but then shifts her eyes over to him behind the counter.
“I don’t know. He’s… he’s Eric,” she shrugs.
“What’s that mean?”
“I don’t know. Don’t you think it’s strange that he doesn’t talk? I mean, he’s hot and all, but he’s got zero personality.”
“So you’re not at all curious about him?”
“Not really.” Jessica looks at me and her expression immediately changes. “You slut! You’re into him, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say and get up from the table.
Of course Jessica just follows me.
“Are you fucking him?” she whisper shouts and stops me from going into the back room. “Sookie, answer me.”
“No, I’m not fucking him,” I say but feel my cheeks flush at the thought of what that might be like.
Oh my God, I’m imagining sex with Eric.
And it’s good. Very good.
“You sure about that?”
“Yes, I’m sure about that,” I roll my eyes.
“So then what’s the sudden interest in him about?”
“I’m just wondering.”
I look over at Jess again while she looks through the hatch window at him.
“He’s got a great ass,” she says a little too loudly for my liking but if Eric hears her he pays it no mind. I’m not sure I like her talking about his ass, though. “Plus he’s got big hands and feet, so as long as he’s in proportion he could ruin you for all other men if he knows what he’s doing.”
“Oh my god, stop talking!” I laugh and pull her away from the hatch.
“Look, Eric might be fun for a night, but I don’t see him being the one for you,” she says.
I want to ask why but I know what she’s going to say already.
“What about Sam?” she asks.
“Sam as in Hoyt’s friend. You know, the one I mentioned before you got sick?”
“Aw, Jess, no. I’m sorry, but no. I’m sure Sam is great but…”
But I’m interested in the silent busboy.
“I’m just not ready to get back into dating.”
“You can’t let a douchbag like Alcide sideline you, Sookie.”
“It’s not him, I swear. I’m so over him.”
I really am. I haven’t thought about him at all since the attack. I deserve better than what Alcide Herveaux could ever give me. The only person he’s interested in is himself. It took me a while to figure it out, but even if he hadn’t met another woman I would still be his second choice. Fuck that.
“I just need a break from the whole scene,” I tell her.
Jessica looks disappointed but if I’m going to give anyone a chance right now it’s Eric. I don’t think he rescued me just because it would ensure that I’d go on a date with him, but because that’s just the kind of person he is. I do think it helps that it was me in trouble.
“Fine,” she sighs. “But snap out of it soon. Hoyt and I need another couple to double with besides Jason and Dawn.”
“Make more friends. Or better yet, set Sam up with Tara,” I suggest.
Tara is another friend of ours from high school. Her boyfriend, Eggs, was killed eight months ago. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got shot during a gang dispute on the south side of the city. He was working with younger kids to keep them off the streets and away from gangs or drugs. He was a great guy and could have made a difference in God knows how many lives if he hadn’t been murdered.
“I don’t think Tara’s ready for that yet.”
“Run it by her. It can’t hurt. If she says no you’re no worse off than you are now,” I point out.
“True,” she agrees.
The bell jingles over the front door and we look through the hatch window to see Tony Marbles take a seat at the counter next to Bert 2.
“We’ll finish this later,” Jess says and goes off to deal with her customer.
It’s 2:27 AM and I’ve called my failure of a brother twice. No answer. I’m going to kill him.
Having waited long enough, I zip up my coat and walk out of the diner. I’m hyper aware of what’s going on around me. My eyes are wide open and I’m not going to be taken by surprise again. I decide to take a different route home than the last time, mostly because I don’t want to pass by that alleyway. If I do I know I’ll just have a panic attack.
I’m barely past the parking lot when I hear footsteps behind me. I turn around to see Eric there, buttoned into his coat. He stops in his tracks until I wave him forward.
Eric quickly closes the distance between us and we fall into step silently, making our way toward my house. He sticks close to me and walks to my right so that he’s closer to the street. When we get to the corner he puts his hand in front of me like a soccer mom that’s just slammed on her breaks.
His protective instincts are through the roof and it isn’t until we reach my block that he breaks the silence.
“Where are you from?” he asks.
“Louisiana. We moved here when I was nine. Are you from Chicago?” His accent gives away nothing.
“No, I’m not,” he says, but doesn’t volunteer any information about his past.
“How long have you been here?”
“I moved here when I was fifteen. Before that I was in the foster care system,” he says. “My parents died when I was seven.”
I stop walking and look up at him. There’s that distant, absent expression on his face that I’ve come to think of as his default look.
“I’m so sorry, Eric. That’s awful.”
“It was a long time ago,” he says nonchalantly.
“It’s still awful. My mom left when I was two, but that’s nothing in comparison to losing both of your parents forever.”
“I don’t really remember them all that much,” he admits. “I wish I could remember more.”
“Do you have any siblings?”
“I have a brother. One I’m going to kill for not picking me up tonight. Not that I’m not enjoying this walk with you.”
“I wouldn’t blame you if you’re afraid of me.”
“Why would I be afraid of you?”
“I don’t know. I get the feeling most people are.”
“No, I don’t think they’re afraid of you. I think people just aren’t sure of what to do with you. I think your silence throws them off,” I explain. “Can I ask why you like talking to me?”
Eric stops walking so I do too. He looks at me and says, “Because you’re the only person I know who never took the silence personally.”
I look closely at Eric and there’s sadness in his eyes. I can’t stop myself from hugging him, and again he hesitates to hug me back. The little bit I’ve learned about him tells me that he’s probably lived a pretty lonely life, and my heart breaks for him.
When we pull apart I reach for his hand and hold it the rest of the way to my house. We walk up the steps together and I pull my keys from my pocket.
“Do you work tomorrow?” I ask him.
“The night shift.”
“Me too. Then I guess I’ll see you tomorrow night?”
“Yes, you will.”
Eric turns to go but I say, “I’d really like to keep talking to you, Eric. I still have questions, but I’d like for us to be friends.”
“I can do that.”
“Good.” I smile and push up to kiss his cheek, but he turns his head so I get his lips instead.
I don’t know if it was on purpose, and I don’t care. I let myself melt into the kiss and it’s even better than the first one. When we part again he’s smiling at me. I smile back and then go into the house. I race upstairs and look out my bedroom window to see Eric standing on the lawn. It’s only when I wave that he finally turns to go home.