I wanted to go to Lorena’s funeral. Even though I knew what happened to her wasn’t my fault, I felt like I owed her an apology of sorts. I felt guilty even though there wasn’t anything I could have done to change the outcome. I was shocked, to say the least, when Detective Twinings told me what had happened. I’d thought nothing of Bill being out sick. I figured it was just some bug going around. Finding out he was planning his wife and child’s funeral was a real shock to the system.
The whole situation was beyond tragic. In spite of all he’d done to potentially make my life hell, there was a part of me that felt badly for Bill as well. Honestly if it weren’t for the loss of his child, I probably wouldn’t have felt so badly for him. Lorena’s death was just another reminder of how lucky I was to have Eric.
Eric was great to me about the whole thing. I knew it bothered him that I was feeling any sort of pity or sympathy for Bill. Eric told me more than once not to waste my time worrying. He’d put himself in the mess he was in and there was no one to blame for what happened besides Bill and Lorena. I knew Eric was right but I still felt badly.
In attempts to make up for my less than good mood, I opted to do the bulk of our Christmas shopping. We would be shipping gifts down to Louisiana since I wasn’t going home for the holiday. The idea of not seeing my family for Christmas made me sad. It’s not that I needed to wake up in my childhood bed on Christmas morning, necessarily, but it would just be nice to see them all again.
Eric was already home from practice by the time I staggered inside with a bunch of bags in my hands. “There’s more in the car.” I informed him when I dropped the load on the floor.
“Is there anything left in the mall?” Eric stared at the bags.
“Laugh it up, but I’m not done yet. This is just for my parents, Jason, Crystal and my gift for Pam.” I turned to go back out to the car.
“You got Pam a gift? You know she loves you already, don’t you?”
“Yes, and I would very much like to keep it that way, which is why I made a stop in the Coach section at Marshall Fields. Now will you please help me with the rest of the stuff in my trunk?” I batted my eyelashes at him.
“Yes, yes, I’ll be right out.” Eric promised.
Ten minutes later we had all of the bags in the house and I was starting to sort through my purchases to get things organized. In addition to the gifts I’d bought there was wrapping paper, bows, gift boxes, ribbons and gift tags. Eric stood there looking stunned, as if the concept of gift wrapping was foreign to him. Although, to be fair to Eric, I was pretty sure it wasn’t just him- gift wrapping isn’t really something most guys bother to fool around with. My own brother was infamous for bribing Mom or me into doing it for him, and when that didn’t work, there was always a gift bag. By that, of course, I mean a plastic grocery bag bound for recycling.
Eric worked on dinner while I got started on wrapping the gifts. I was planning to take the ones that needed to be mailed to the post office over the weekend but I didn’t want to spend the day doing nothing but gift related work. Besides, Eric and I had a Christmas party to attend at the bar since we were going out of town the following weekend, and Pam had insisted we come.
“I was thinking we could go get a tree on Sunday.” Eric stood in the archway between the kitchen and the living room with a dish towel over his shoulder.
“Good idea. Do you have any decorations? If you don’t, I’ve got a ton of them in my garage that we can use.”
“I’ve got a couple but I didn’t bother with a tree last year since I was in Sweden during the holidays.” Eric confessed.
“Let me guess… if I wasn’t living here, you wouldn’t have a tree this year either.” I arched an eyebrow at him.
“Maybe a small one.” Eric shrugged.
“Men.” I rolled my eyes. “So then suggesting we decorate the outside of the house is probably a waste of time, huh?”
“No, it isn’t. If you want to, we can do it.” Eric was completely indifferent to the notion but I appreciated he was willing to go along with me on it.
“I don’t have to worry about you playing with a staple gun, do I? I mean, I’m not going to drive up to find you hanging off the side of the house or something, am I?” I was attacked with images of Clark Griswold and I had to stifle a laugh.
“First of all, I don’t own a staple gun. Second of all, I am much more coordinated than Clark Griswold, thankyouverymuch.” Eric turned to go back to the kitchen to check on dinner. I loved that he got me without even trying.
After dinner I helped Eric with the dishes and got a few more gifts wrapped up before we called it a night. Eric told me about how practice went. He’d been surprised to see a player named Quentin show up.
“I know Quentin. I had him when he was a freshman. He’s a good kid.” I told Eric.
“Well, he’s a pain in the ass for a coach.”
“Nah, you just have to find the right motivation.” I rubbed up against him.
“That simple, huh?” Eric looked amused.
“Definitely.” I climbed on top of him. “For instance, I bet with the right motivation, I bet I could get you up on a ladder to put lights on the roof if I wanted to.”
“Oh really?” Eric watched with hooded eyes as I started to pull my nightgown up a little bit.
“Mmmhmm. You just have to find,” I bent down and kissed his neck. “The right way,” I paused again to kiss the other side. “To give him what he wants.” I took off my nightgown. “So he’s willing,” I put his hands on my breasts. “To give you,” I kissed his mouth gently. “What you want.”
“You know, somehow I don’t think straddling him and letting him feel me up is going to work.” Eric smirked at me. I bit back a smile and climbed off him. “Where are you going?”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong idea.” I turned on my side so I was facing away from him, but I was smiling the whole time.
Eric spooned up behind me, letting me feel just how well my tutorial had been going for him. “I think with the proper teaching, I might be able to make the necessary tweaks.”
I rolled over to face him and slung my leg up over his hip. “You probably shouldn’t do that either.”
“Probably not.” Eric agreed. “But feel free to show me some other things I shouldn’t do.”
Boy, did I. By the time I was done with Eric, I’d shown him a whole host of things that could get him fired and jailed, but he was happy as a clam. Eric was breathing heavy and staring up at the ceiling with a dazed expression on his face while I snuggled next to him. He pulled me closer to him when he felt like I was too far away.
“So did you want colored lights, or just plane white ones on the roof?” He whispered to me and I couldn’t help but laugh.
I woke in the morning before the alarm went off, thanks to a certain someone who had set up camp between my legs. Before I was even awake, my hands were in his hair. I looked down to see him staring up at me and a sleepy smile stretched across my face.
Eric stopped long enough to grin at me and say, “Good morning, love,” then he was right back at it.
“Morning.” It was all I could eek out before a moan escaped right after.
This was my payback for the night before when I refused to let him reciprocate. Eric always felt like there was a debt owed if I insisted on leaving any sort of sexual activity one sided. I loved him for it, even if I hadn’t been looking for payback. His tongue flicked against me in time with the stroke of his fingers that were curled slightly inside me- like he was beckoning my orgasm to him. Just when I got to the edge, he pulled back.
“Eric, don’t stop.” I gasped, my hips arching up off the bed. There were times to tease and times to get on with it and since we had a limited amount of time to work with, it was time to get on with it. “Eric…”
I could feel his warm breath where I wanted his mouth to be but he remained completely still. I groaned my frustration, prepared to finish the job myself, when his head dipped back down. His eyes stayed on mine while his lips closed around my clit. His tongue flicked in that wonderful way and his fingers started pumping in and out of me again. He’d gone from zero to sixty in all of two seconds and he was unrelenting. His name fell from my lips in a chant that got louder and louder the closer I got to my release.
My orgasm hit so hard my voice just up and left me all together. Some sort of choked noise left my throat instead of the scream that had been welling there. I hadn’t even realized my hips had left the bed again until I felt them fall onto the mattress. I lay there shaking and trying to catch my breath. I hadn’t even fully recovered when Eric flipped me over and pulled my hips up so I was on my knees. I moaned when he entered me from behind, his fingers trailing down my spine as he did so.
My heart hammered in my chest and I tried to push myself up but my arms just wouldn’t work at the moment. Eric pounded into me fast and hard, his hand reaching around to rub circles around my clit. It was like lightning bolts struck my arms and I found myself up on all fours, my head turning as much as it could to look at Eric over my shoulder. He leaned forward and kissed me between my shoulder blades. I glanced at the clock knowing we had only a few more minutes before the alarm went off, but what a way to start the day.
As usual, Eric made sure I got off first but quickly followed. We both dropped on the bed with Eric falling right behind me. He continued to kiss my shoulders and the back of my neck, moving my hair this way and that to get to the skin he wanted to taste. I glared at the alarm clock with hatred. It was still dark outside. I really, really despised winter.
“I want white lights, but you don’t have to put them on the roof.” I reached behind me to pat his ass and he laughed against the skin just under my ear.
I was in the middle of grading quizzes during my first free period of the day when Octavia Fant came to my classroom and closed the door behind her. I looked up from the stacks of papers organized in front of me and leaned back in my chair.
“Octavia, how nice to see you.” I smiled at her.
“How are things going?” She asked as she pulled a chair up along side my desk.
“Better. I was concerned the kids were going to have trouble catching up but most of them have been coming in early for help or staying late in the afternoon. It’s a nice thing to see.” I couldn’t help but smile.
So many teachers complained about how apathetic their students were, but there were few teachers who seemed to be willing to put in any extra effort themselves to make sure their students were really learning. Not to mention, they were boring as all get out. It was easy to get a kid’s attention if you weren’t preaching from a textbook and droning on and on without allowing them to interact with you. The kids felt like they had a hand in their own education, like their opinions counted for something.
“That’s good to hear.” Octavia nodded with a smile, though her eyes told me she wasn’t coming to me with the best news.
“What’s going on, Octavia?”
She took a deep breath and crossed her legs, clasping her hands around her knee. Shit. “When I got in this morning I had an email waiting for me from Bill Compton. He’s given his resignation.”
My eyes widened, although I wasn’t really surprised. “That’s too bad.”
I didn’t like the man personally, but he wasn’t a bad teacher. His absence would leave us in a lurch for the remainder of the year. I wondered if he was planning to move back to the south since he no longer had Lorena and Junior around. He’d always made it seem like he’d moved north at Lorena’s behest. If that was the case, there was no reason not to move back to Louisiana anymore.
“Given the tragedy that happened, I think it might be for the best. Parents are questioning his ability to effectively do his job and there have been inquiries into whether or not his wife’s death was, in fact, a suicide.” Octavia informed me.
Now that last bit shocked the hell out of me. Detective Twinings hadn’t mentioned any sort of investigation into Lorena’s death. He hadn’t produced a suicide not for me to read but he had made it clear Lorena’s death had been ruled a suicide. The baby’s death had been declared a homicide. Baby’s don’t just fall into full bathtubs to take a swim. Someone had to put that baby in there. I shivered at the idea that maybe the police had gotten it all wrong. What if it was Bill who had drowned his son and not Lorena?
“Wait, are you telling me Bill is a suspect in his wife’s murder?” I wanted to be clear on what I was being told.
“I can’t say anything official, but there were some detectives asking questions.” Octavia was usually all business but at the moment, she seemed like she was interested in some good ole fashioned gossip. Her and my Gran would get on famously if they ever met.
“Look, Octavia, all I know is what Detective Twinings told me yesterday when he asked me if I could make an identification on Lorena. The idea that her death wasn’t a suicide is news to me.” I said as gently as I could. I really didn’t want to hash out the details of it all with her.
“It’s a shame, isn’t it? That poor child.” Octavia shook her head and clucked her tongue.
“Yes, it is.” I agreed with her because it was the truth.
“With Bill leaving his post, we’re going to have an opening to teach American History next year. I’d like it very much if you would consider taking over that course load.” Ah ha, the real reason for Octavia’s visit.
“Oh, I don’t know.” I pressed my lips into a thin line. “I know it’s a more rigorous workload, so I appreciate your vote of confidence in my ability to do the job but I think I’m happy with the class I’m currently teaching. I like being able to help the fresh blood around here find its way.”
Octavia chuckled at my rationale. “Freshmen are an interesting breed, aren’t they?”
“All teenagers are.”
“I know you’re more interactive with your students, and I appreciate the time and extra effort you put into your classes. I just think you could do just as well with the juniors as you do the freshmen.”
“Can I have some time to think it over?”
“Absolutely. We won’t be interviewing anyone for the position until after the first of the year, so how about you take the break to think about it and you let me know when we get back.” Octavia offered, reaching over to pat my hand.
“That sounds like a plan to me.” I smiled at her and picked up my pen, hoping she’d get the hint that I had work to do and time for chit chat was over.
Eric finally had a night off and we planned to spend it at home doing absolutely nothing. We were both exhausted. His first game was on Friday and he was on edge for it to be over with. I couldn’t wait for it to be over with either. Eric was starting to stress me out. I wanted to help him but there wasn’t much I could do other than be there for him. It was all in his head. Once he saw his team come together for real in a competitive environment, I was sure he’d loosen up a little.
Octavia excused herself and I went back to grading my papers in peace. My classes flew by and I tried not to pay attention to the things the kids were saying about the circumstances that led up to Mr. Compton’s sudden resignation. As teachers go, Bill wasn’t on the more popular end of the scale. The kids- from what I overhead, of course- thought he was patronizing and ‘uppity’ toward them. They didn’t enjoy being treated like they weren’t capable of thinking for themselves. He was a straight from the book sort of teacher who took every single quiz or test from the practice section in the textbook he taught from. Except, of course, for his essay questions. From my understanding those essays were nearly impossible to answer and after having gotten my hands on them one day while in the copy room, I had to agree with my students.
I pushed Bill from my mind and instead focused on my own life. During eighth period study hall I wrote up a list of all the things I had to do in the next couple of days.
1. Finish Christmas shopping for gifts to send home.
2. Buy dress for Pam’s party.
3. Finish grading essays on Crusades.
copies of “Christmas Around the World” project, assign teams.
5. Pick up Poms gifts from store/wrap gifts for Friday’s game.
6. Check in with Tray/get update on Amelia/talk to Tray about taking Jeter while Eric and I are gone.
7. Hang posters for NYE battle of the bands contest at the bar.
8. Find shoes to match dress for Pam’s party.
9. Email Mrs. Northman for her Butterhorn recipe/bake cookies for neighbors & faculty party.
10. Get x-mas decorations from the house.
11. Get a full night’s sleep.
I laughed when I wrote that last one, knowing it probably wasn’t going to happen until the winter break officially began. I was excited about going to California. I thought back on the conversation I’d had a few days prior with Eric’s Mom. She’d called his cell phone while he was in the shower after getting back from practice.
“Hello?” I said when I answered.
“Is this Sookie?” Mrs. Northman asked.
“Yes, it is.” I couldn’t but smile. Her accent was beyond adorable, although her question left me wondering what other woman might answer Eric’s phone as of late. “Eric’s in the shower at the moment.”
“How is his team? He was nervous the last time we spoke.” Mrs. Northman sounded concerned and I couldn’t blame her for it.
“I think things are going well, but you know Eric… if it’s not perfect, he’s not happy.”
“He gets that from his father.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“You know, when he was a little one, he would spend hours at the beach building sandcastles with those little plastic buckets or old pieces of Tupperware that were too stained or warped to be useful to me. If the sides of the pieces he packed into the plastic weren’t absolutely perfect and smooth, he would smash them and start all over.” Mrs. Northman’s laugh was a sweet, tinkling sound that made me wonder what Annika would be like.
“Eric is definitely a slave to perfection.” I nodded my agreement, although she couldn’t see me.
“I am excited to meet you, Sookie. Eric speaks very highly of you, as does his brother. Johan is even more difficult to impress than Eric.” She told me, which I found surprising considering how easily Johan seemed to get along with everyone.
“I’m happy to hear that, Mrs. Northman. I’m excited to meet you, too.”
“You call me Stella until you call me Mom.” She said in a sweet, yet stern voice.
“Mom, huh?” I couldn’t help but giggle.
“Do you not want to marry my Eric?” Well, that just got interesting, didn’t it. Eric and I had briefly talked about marriage, but nothing had been decided. I had to wonder what he’d been telling his parents.
I heard Mr. Northman yelling in the background for Mrs. Northman to ‘stifle herself’ in a very Archie Bunker-like fashion. I wondered what he would do if I blew a raspberry at him if he said something I didn’t agree with. I made a mental note to try it once just to see his reaction.
Thankfully, Eric came into the kitchen fresh from the shower. His towel was still wrapped around his hips. I winked at him before returning my attention to the phone.
“Stella, your son is out of the shower if you’d like to speak to him.”
“Yes, I believe I would. I’ll see you soon, älskling.” She blew a kiss to me over the phone.
I liked Mrs. Northman, er, Stella. She’d asked Eric for my email address during that conversation after I gave the phone over to him and she’d been sending me silly chain mails ever since. She was delighted to learn I was what she considered a nice blend of old fashioned and modern woman. I was completely capable of taking care of myself but I didn’t mind taking care of Eric. I wondered if she realized he did the same.
Eric and I left the school hand in hand after tenth period. I handed over my car keys to him so he could drive us home. It was silly for us to take separate cars anymore. I was coming in early to get my last minute projects done before the winter break and he was still going for his morning runs. I used to think it was just about exercise for him but I realized that running helped him clear his head. Besides, with all the snow on the ground, riding in the Corvette was like riding a rickety roller coaster. I refused to ride in it after we fishtailed twice on accident.
I was in the process of changing clothes when my cell rang in the other room. Eric answered for me since he knew just about everyone I did at that point. I heard him tell the person on the other end of the line to hold on and then the sounds of his heavy footsteps approaching the bedroom.
“Who is it?” I whispered.
“A nurse named Halleigh calling from the facility Amelia’s at.” Eric said with a big smile on his face.
“Ohmygod!” I launched myself over the bed to get the phone. “This is Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Sookie, hi, my name is Halleigh. Mr. Carmichael asked me to call you.”
“How is Amelia? Is she okay?” My heart was racing.
There was a pause that seemed to go on forever before Halleigh said, “She’s doing better than okay. She’s awake.”