After dinner, Eric and I cleaned up the kitchen the same as we always did. It was so easy to slip back into our regular routine and forget about everything else. Once we were done, we headed into the living room. I looked at the bare tree and decided it was time to decorate. Maybe that would help me put the weekend behind us. I knew we couldn’t fix it all with something so simple as a pretty tree, but if getting back to our lives would make things better, then I was all for it.
I went down to the basement to retrieve one of the boxes of decorations that Eric had brought over from my house, and carried it upstairs. I set it down on the couch and carefully removed the lid. Most of the ornaments inside were handmade by one person or another. Gran had been big on that sort of thing. It made the ornaments unique, which I liked. There were lots of them that had been hand painted, many of them by me when I was still a little girl. Gran had a flair for painting, and she loved to lend her talent to ornament making.
“Where did you get these?” Eric asked as I unwrapped the ornaments.
“We made them.”
“Gran, Mom, Jason, Grandad even made a few of them. I think Hadley painted this when she was eleven.” I handed Eric a snowman ornament with a hot pink scarf wrapped around its neck.
“Wow.” He looked impressed.
“You never did anything like this when you were a kid?”
“Uh, no, not really. We had one of those fake white trees.” He cringed at the memory, and I cringed right along with him.
“Well, I can promise you that we will never have a white tree. It’s not natural.” I assured him, and I noticed the way his face lit up at the suggestion that this wouldn’t be our last Christmas together.
“They’re also ugly as sin.”
“Agreed.” I nodded as I continued to unpack ornaments. “Will you start with the lights? Those long arms of yours will come in handy for it.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He got up off the couch and went downstairs to get the box of lights. “Do you want white lights or colors?”
“Surprise me.” I said without looking over my shoulder at him. “Although I will say the white lights have a remote on them that allow the lights to chase or blink if you want them to.”
“White it is, then.” Eric opened the box and started digging.
In no time, he had the tree wrapped in lights. It would have taken me much longer, and far more frustration to do the job myself. Stringing the lights was always my least favorite part of decorating the tree. It was rather meticulous work, and my lack of wing span only made the job harder. For Eric, it was a piece of cake, and it was done beautifully.
“What about tinsel or garland?”
“I don’t bother with tinsel. It makes too much mess, and it’s going to be enough work to clean up after the pine needles as they drop.” I scrunched up my nose, wondering if the needles would be a problem for Jeter. I hadn’t thought of that when I bought the tree. “The needles aren’t going to be a problem for Jeter, are they?”
“Nah, I don’t think so, but I’ll check it out online later just to be safe.” Eric promised me.
Together we hung the ornaments on the tree, with me stopping every now and then to explain where an ornament came from, or who had made it. There were a few commercially made ones, but most of them were handcrafted. By the time we were done, the tree was fairly full, and I figured I was going to have to weed through what was there when we took it all down, and decide what I wanted to keep. What I didn’t, I would pack away to someday give to my own children.
I bit my lip at the worry Eric and I wouldn’t be able to make this work. I’d started to get it in my head that when I had babies, they would be his. My heart sank a bit at the idea that might not happen anymore. I pushed those thoughts away. Doubt wasn’t going to make any of this easier. I’d promised I was going to be here with him, and I’d meant all of me. So far he was living up to his end of the bargain. He hadn’t run away from the conversation I’d started in the kitchen before dinner. He’d been open and honest with me. He’d explained his feelings for Pam.
There was a part of me that questioned whether or not Eric was being entirely truthful when he said he wasn’t the slightest bit attracted to Pam. She was a beautiful woman. In some ways, I’d think he was crazy not to be attracted to her. It was entirely possible to be attracted to someone without acting on said attraction. I mean, take Johan, for instance. The man is a living, breathing replica of my boyfriend. So, yes, I think he’s a gorgeous man. Do I want to sleep with him? No. Even though Johan wears and Eric mask for life, he’s not Eric.
But then my mind circled back to the idea that maybe I didn’t know Eric as well as I thought. I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself I was going to find out. Yes, Eric had done something completely out of character. He’d made a huge mistake. Was it an even bigger one to try and move on too quickly, or was it better to just put it behind us as a lesson learned? I didn’t know the answer to that question. All I had was what my gut told me, and my gut said to give him another chance.
Of course, my gut had said the same thing about Quinn in the past. Look where that got me.
“Sookie, are you okay?” Eric asked, yanking me back into the present.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. I just zoned out there for a minute.” I smiled at him.
“I noticed. What’s going on in there?” He tapped my head gently with this finger.
“Thinking about you and me. There’s lots to consider.”
Eric looked a bit deflated and then suggested, “Maybe I should sleep in the other room until things blow over a little more.”
“What?” Where the hell did that come from?
“Well, I’ve been thinking about things. You seemed awfully set on spending some time alone when you came to see me yesterday. I don’t want you to leave, so please don’t think that. It’s just… well, I got to thinking about some of the things Johan said to me earlier today, and I think maybe he’s got a point. It’s not really fair for me to drag you down with-”
“Eric, I’m here by choice.” I cut him off.
“I know, and I love you for it.” He reached for my hand. “I don’t want you to leave because I would miss you, and because with Bill and Sophie-Anne on the loose, who the hell knows what would happen. If Amelia’s right about Sophie-Anne being the one who caused the accident, I don’t like the idea of you being alone in your house. If we weren’t already living together, I would ask you to move in with me, or at least suggest you stay here until the police can sort things out. I want you to be safe, Sookie. You’re what matters to me in all of this. You were right when you said I have some things I need to work out for myself, and I want to do that. I want to figure out why I lost it the way I did, because no matter how many times I go over it in my head, it doesn’t make any sense.
“But I also don’t want to drag you down with me. I want us to work on whatever it is we need to work on to get back to where we were. I want you to trust me like you did three days ago, and I don’t want to see that little shadow of doubt in your eyes ever again. I want you to be as sure of me as I am of you. So if that means we give each other some space to figure things out, then that’s what we’ll do. If I can accomplish that by sleeping in the guest room, then I’ll do it.” Eric squeezed my hand, a sad smile teasing his lips.
“We can talk about you sleeping in the other room tomorrow. Tonight, I need sleep and I know that if you sleep in the other room, I’ll just follow you in there.” I said honestly, slightly embarrassed to make the admission.
“I have a hard time sleeping without you, too.” Eric winked at me, and I didn’t feel quite so bad anymore.
“What are we going to do about California? We can’t exactly travel right now.”
“I was thinking of inviting my parents here.”
“I know you were looking forward to meeting them, and given the turn of events, I’m sure Dad’s been talking Mom out of hopping a flight here. This way we get to kill two birds with one stone, and we never have to leave the house.” Eric shrugged.
“Are you sure now’s a good time for me to do the whole meet the parents thing? There’s enough stress without all of that.”
“My Mom loves you already, Sookie. Dad, well, once he sees that you’re loyal and well-mannered, he’ll probably fall in line with the rest of the Northman males.” Eric said with confidence.
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then that’s his problem.” Eric shrugged.
“Easy for you to say. My family loves you.” I rolled my eyes.
“Do they know about Saturday?”
“No, I haven’t called them yet. I didn’t want to until I had a better grasp of it all myself, because they’re going to ask a lot of questions, and I’m just not ready to deal with them quite yet.”
“They’re expecting us in a few days.” Eric paused, and pressed his lips together for a second before saying, “I think you should still go see them.”
“I do. I saw the look on your face when you were talking about your family while we were decorating the tree, and I don’t want you to miss out on a chance to see them because of me. Besides, if my parents come while you’re gone, it’ll give me a chance to work things out with them over what happened this weekend. By the time you get back, all of that will be settled and you won’t have to worry about all of that weirdness anymore. Besides, I know you still want to see your family. I can see it in your eyes.” Eric reached out to tuck some of my hair behind my ear.
“I do want to see them.”
“Then you should go.” Eric said softly, stroking my cheek with his thumb.
“I’ll think about it.” I didn’t like the idea of leaving him, even if it was just for a few days.
The trip would probably do me some good and give us both a chance to clear our heads a little and put things in perspective. I wasn’t really looking forward to telling my family about what had happened, but I wasn’t going to lie about it either. I decided to put it off until later. I still had time to make up my mind, and at the moment, all I wanted was to be with Eric.
Once we were done decorating the rest of the house, we turned off the lights in the living room and sat together on the couch. We watched the lights on the tree chase one another while Christmas music played softly. We didn’t say much to one another, but I think we were all talked out at that point. It was nice to feel that familiar silence without the awkward need to say something. It was nice to be tucked into Eric’s side and listen to the steady beat of his heart. His fingers stroked my arm lightly, and before I knew it, I was falling asleep.
I stirred slightly at the feeling of Eric’s arms sliding around me to pick me up and carry me to bed. I snuggled against his chest, and didn’t want him to put me down on the cool sheets. He did, of course, and my eyes fluttered open to see him standing over me with a look of longing in his eyes. Before I could tell them not to, my hands reached up and pulled his face to mine. My lips brushed against his as our eyes searched one anothers.
His lips met mine more definitively, and it didn’t take long before he was sinking on top of me. It felt like all of the things we couldn’t or didn’t know how to say where there in those kisses. It was apologies and promises of making things better, of rebuilding what had been broken. It felt like the turning of a page in the story of our life together. Our clothing came off quickly, not that we were wearing much of it. Neither of us had seen much point in getting dressed after our nap earlier.
I pushed away all of my worry and doubt, and concentrated on being in the moment with him. I could worry later. Right then, I needed to feel the connection we’d had from the beginning. It surprised me when Eric rolled us over, and I found myself straddling him. My eyes stayed on his while his hand moved between our bodies. His fingers started doing some familiar exploring when I leaned forward to kiss him. I moaned into his mouth when his thumb found my clit and started rubbing slow circles around it. His other hand massaged my breast before sliding up into my hair to hold me closer to him.
My hips bucked against his hand, and when I was sure I was ready, I reached between us to put him at my entrance. Slowly, I sank down on him, rolling my hips a bit as I did so. Eric sat up so we were eye to eye, and my legs went around his waist. His mouth took over the work his hand was doing on my breast, and my fingers combed through his hair. I rocked against him slowly at first, savoring the feeling of him inside me. It had only been two days since the last time we’d had sex, but it felt so much longer.
My brain started to filter back into the equation again, and I started thinking about how much worse things could have been. I didn’t know if I should feel grateful that Eric had been stopped when he was, or appalled he had gone so far. The sight of my bag still packed in the corner brought tears to my eyes. I felt guilty for even considering leaving him. It had felt like my only option, at the time.
Part of me wondered if maybe it wasn’t still the right thing to do. I’d spent so much time already on a man who wasn’t what I thought he was. I knew Eric wasn’t Quinn, and that he was completely serious about our future together. I wanted to be with Eric. I wanted him so much- maybe too much- and that worried me. I had built my entire life around Quinn, and the future he’d hinted we would have, but never really made plans for. Was I making the same mistakes all over again with Eric?
I unlocked my legs from around his waist and pushed him back onto the bed. I buried my face in his neck so he wouldn’t see the tears that had started falling. His hands buried themselves in my hair as I moved up and down, faster and faster, pushing myself closer and closer to release. I felt Eric swell inside me, a sign he was as close as I was. In true Eric fashion, his hand moved between us to find my clit with his thumb. Always the gentleman to make sure I finished first.
Only when I orgasmed, I sobbed instead of screaming like I normally did. I completely broke down and started crying like my life depended on it. Eric froze immediately, like he was afraid he’d hurt me. He had, only not the way he thought. He lifted my face away from his neck, and looked deep into my eyes.
“Sookie, what’s wrong?” He smoothed my hair away from my face. “Did I hurt you?”
His questions only made me cry harder. I didn’t really know how to explain what was going on in my head at the moment. I was overwhelmed and confused. So rather than say something I would regret, I just wrapped my arms around him, and hoped he would weather the storm with me until it passed.
Sookie’s little breakdown- for lack of a better term- had me worried, to say the least. I had no idea why she was suddenly so upset, but I was willing to bet I was the cause of it. I was terrified I’d hurt her in some way, but when I tried to pull away from her to give her some space, she only clung tighter to me. There were all sorts of mixed signals going on, and the fact that she wasn’t talking didn’t make things any easier.
In the end, I held onto her and stroked her hair until she calmed down enough to talk. She climbed off of me and sat on her knees beside me on the bed. She wiped her face with the palms of her hands, and sniffled like she had the world’s worst head cold. Her body was shaking in a jittery sort of way, and there was a pained expression on her face that just about broke my heart.
“What’s going on in there?” I reached up to touch her head.
Sookie took a few deep breaths before she said, “I think you were right about me going back to Louisiana for a few days. I think maybe a break is a good idea.”
My heart sank. I didn’t want her to leave like this. I’d meant for her to go as a way to help put all of this behind her, not so she could get away from me. Fuck if Johan wasn’t right earlier. I felt anger fill me, but I wasn’t angry at anyone but myself. I wasn’t naïve enough to think just two days was enough time to heal whatever had broken between Sookie and me, but I’d thought we were making progress with our earlier conversation. There had to be a piece of the puzzle I wasn’t seeing quite yet in order for me to understand where she was coming from in all of this.
“Are you leaving because you miss your family, or because you want to get away from me?” I asked her gently.
She looked a bit haunted as she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Honestly, Eric, I don’t know.”