Johan had impeccable timing. He called to say he was on his way back to the house, and Eric wasn’t too happy about it. Honestly, neither was I. I had something else I needed to say, and I didn’t want to say it with his parents around. I excused myself and headed to the bedroom to finish getting dressed. No way was I going to meet Eric’s parents in nothing more than one of their son’s t-shirts. I grabbed my carry-on bag and took it with me to the bathroom to unpack the rest of my things.
I put my soaps in the shower, and set my makeup bag on the counter where I usually kept it. I reached further into the bag, and grabbed a piece of plastic that turned out to be my birth control pills. I stare at the little white compact, and sighed heavily before dropping them on the counter. I set my bag down and sat on the edge of the counter that surrounded the sink.
The Day Before…
“Okay, so, what does it say?” Tara asked with expectant eyes from the other side of the Wal-Mart bathroom.
I was afraid to look at the test. How strange was it that just a few days before, I had been afraid I was pregnant, and now I was afraid I wasn’t? I knew the timing was all wrong for Eric and me to have a baby, but somehow, I knew deep down that if I was pregnant, we’d make it work. We hadn’t really gotten into the subject of kids yet, although we had both said we wanted them in the future. I just didn’t think that future was now.
“Sook?” Tara called out gently.
“Oh, yeah, sorry.” I shook myself.
“Do you want me to look for you?”
“No!” I said quickly, shaking my head. “I just got lost in my thoughts.”
“It’s okay if you’re freaking out. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to have the baby.”
“I’m more worried about how Eric’s going to react. I mean, I think he’ll be okay with it. It’s just that there’s so much going and we have so many things to work out. It’s a little overwhelming that all of this is happening at once.”
“I know.” Tara stepped a little closer. “You know, no matter how this goes, you’re not going to have to go through things alone, right? I mean, if things with Eric don’t go the way you want, you won’t be alone.”
I offered her a weak smile, and then turned to the piece of plastic waiting to be overturned on the edge of the sink. I took a deep breath and picked it up. I looked down at the little test window. I exhaled slowly, and then dissolved into sobs.
Eric stood in the doorway wearing a pair of flannel pajama pants and a white t-shirt. “Are you okay?”
I looked up with tears in my eyes. I’d had the last twenty four hours or so to think about how I was going to say what I needed to say, but I wasn’t really any closer to figuring anything out. I was tempted to just blurt it out so I’d be done with it, but I didn’t want to do it that way. I wanted to have a conversation about the whole thing, and since his family was on their way back to the house, it just wasn’t the time.
“You might want to tell your face that.” Eric arched an eyebrow at me.
I laughed quietly, and patted the space on the tub next to me after I slid over. Eric came and sat down beside me, his hand swallowing my own. I rested my head on his shoulder, and rubbed slow circles on the back of his hand.
“What’s going on, Sookie?” Eric kissed the top of my head.
“I do have something important I need to talk to you about, but I don’t want to do it with your parents here.” I said quietly.
“You’re not going to tell me you’re dying or something, are you?”
“No.” A lump rose in my throat. “No, I’m okay.”
Eric tilted my chin up so we were looking into each other’s eyes. “You know, I’d be much more inclined to believe you if you weren’t crying right now.”
I took a trembling deep breath and blew it out slowly. “Really, Eric, I’m okay. I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
Eric looked at me like he wasn’t buying a word I was saying. “We’ll talk after they go to bed.”
I nodded, and returned the kiss he offered me. Eric left me alone in the bathroom so I could finish getting myself together. My eyes were just a little bit red, and I hoped I could fool his parents into thinking I’d just stubbed a toe so they wouldn’t ask all sorts of questions. I was just pulling on a pair of flannel pajama pants similar to Eric’s when I heard the front door open. Mrs. Northman’s familiar voice was chattering away, with Mr. Northman grumbling as well.
“Did you have fun today?” Eric asked.
“I had a lovely time. Your father mostly complained he was missing some game.” Stella explained.
I left Eric’s shirt on, and pulled my hair back into a ponytail before slipping out of the bedroom. Johan was just coming out of the hall bathroom, and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hey!” I turned to give him a hug.
“Welcome back, lillasyster.”
“What’d you just call me?” I laughed quietly.
“Little sister. I figure I might want to get used to it.” Johan winked at me.
“Oh really? Do you know something I don’t know?” My mind started leaping way ahead.
“Nothing I didn’t know when I first met you in October.”
I sighed and watched Johan walk into the living room. I took a few deep breaths and tried to remember the phrases Eric had taught me in Swedish. My biggest fear was that I’d say the wrong thing and make a complete ass of myself. When I was sure I’d picked the right one, I slipped into the living room.
Mr. Northman spotted me first and said, “Son, I do believe we’ve got a battle buddy on deck.”
Stella’s head whipped around faster than I ever would have thought humanly possible. I rose my hand slowly and offered a small wave. “Hi.”
“Well, look at you.” Stella beamed at me, and I was surprised she didn’t already have me wrapped in the world’s biggest bear hug. From the look on Eric’s face, he was equally shocked.
“Mom, Dad, this is Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie, these are my parents, Tom and Stella Northman.” Eric gestured between us.
“Trevligt att träffas.” I smiled at them a little bigger when Eric gave me a small nod of approval.
“You speak Swedish?” Stella was floored.
“Eric is teaching me here and there.” My eyes shifted to Eric’s. As I walked toward Eric to tuck myself into his side, I started to wonder if maybe Johan had slipped something in Stella’s drink at dinner. She was far more calm than I had anticipated she would be.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, too, honey.” Stella stepped forward and held her arms out to me.
Without hesitation I went into them, and hugged her back. When she released me in a reasonable amount of time I turned to Tom and extended my hand to him. “Nice to meet you, sir.”
“Sir? Oh, no. Those two knuckleheads call me sir. You can call me Dad.” Tom winked at me.
“I told you she was going to be the new favorite.” Johan said from behind me.
“So, Sookie, come sit with us. Tell us about your trip.” Stella led me to the couch with Tom taking a seat in one of the chairs on the other side of the room.
Stella was very well behaved, and by the time she excused herself for the night, I was sure Eric and Johan had been exaggerating about how intense their mother could be. Tom followed suit shortly after, leaving me alone with the twins. We went down to the basement so we wouldn’t keep Tom and Stella up with our chatter. We ended up popping in a DVD, and having a good laugh over Bad Santa before Johan headed home for the night.
I snuggled against Eric, not quite ready to haul my lazy bones off the couch just yet. “Your Mom’s not so bad, you know?”
“That’s because there were witnesses. Just wait until she gets you alone.” Eric warned.
“If I can handle you, Johan and Pam, I’m sure I can handle your Mom.” I scratched lightly at his stomach. We were quiet for a few minutes before Eric broke the silence.
“So, do you want to tell me what had you so upset earlier?” He asked softly.
I took a deep breath, figuring this topic was bound to come up again sooner rather than later. It was frustrating not to know where to start. I’d never been in this position before. I wanted to trust my gut when it told me everything was going to be okay, but there was a sliver of doubt in the back of mind that told me maybe it was too much.
“Sookie, whatever it is, we’ll deal with it together.” He kissed the top of my head.
I pulled away from him and shifted so I was sitting on my knees facing him. “Okay, well, here’s the the thing.” I started, but then stopped. I felt panic welling up in me, and then a wave of nausea hit me. “Oh hell.” I muttered and then bolted from the couch to the bathroom.
Eric was right behind me, already wetting down a washcloth while I threw up. I hadn’t gotten sick like that since my first day in Louisiana. I rode the waves of the churning nausea for as long as they lasted. By the time I was done, I was sure my stomach was empty. Eric wiped my face with the cool rag before leaning over to flush the toilet for me.
“Were you sick the whole time you were in Louisiana?” He asked nervously.
“No, just the first day. I’ve been fine since then.”
“Maybe you’re allergic to something in the house?” He suggested.
“No, I don’t think that’s it.” I reached for his hand, and was just about to tell him what was wrong when another round of gags and heaves started.
By the time my body was done leading a revolt against me, I was exhausted. I tried to stand up so we could go upstairs, but I ended up slumping back against the wall. Eric scooped me up like it was no big deal, and carefully made his way upstairs with me in his arms.
“Bed or bathroom?” He asked when we got to the bedroom.
“Bathroom. I need to brush my teeth.” I yawned against his chest before he set me down.
“I’ll be right back. I’m just going to let Jeter out one more time and lock up the house.” Eric kissed my forehead.
I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth before climbing into bed. I fully intended to stay up so we could talk, but my body had other ideas. I think I was in bed for less than a minute when my eyes closed, and I fell into a deep sleep.
Another intense wave of nausea woke me in the morning, and I locked myself in the bathroom with the shower running to muffle the sound of me gagging and heaving. This was getting ridiculous. I was left pale, crying and almost too tired to drag my ass back to bed. Eric was wide awake when I opened the bathroom door.
“I’m sorry I woke you up.” My face sagged with disappointment.
“You didn’t. Mom’s up and making us breakfast. She came to ask where I keep the electric skillet.” Eric sighed, and ran his hands back and forth over his face. “Still feeling sick?”
I nodded and climbed back into bed with him. I snuggled against him, inhaling deep breaths through my nose and exhaling through my mouth in hopes of keeping my stomach settled at least for a few minutes. Eric’s fingers trailed lightly up and down my arm, lulling me back into sleep. When I woke up a while later, Eric was gone. I got out of bed and went in search of everyone else. The house was freakishly quiet.
I found Stella on the sofa watching The View, and nodding along with whatever it was Barbara Walters was rambling on about. Her attention snapped to me when she noticed I was in the room, and she put the television on mute. Her face lit up with a smile, and she patted the sofa cushions next to her.
“Good morning, dear. How are you feeling?” Stella reached up to tuck some of my hair behind my ear the way my own mother would.
“Hungry, mostly.” I admitted just as my stomach rumbled to second that motion.
“Oh, well, then it’s a good thing there’s a plate warming for you in the oven.” Stella grabbed my hand and pulled me off the couch.
I took a seat at the table at Stella’s insistence. She offered me coffee, but I figured I was going to have to give that up for a while. Or at least switch to decaf. She brought me a glass of milk instead, along with a plate full of food. I wondered who she thought she was feeding, since there was easily enough there to feed both of her sons.
“Wow, that’s a big breakfast.” I smiled up at her.
“Most important meal of the day.” She nodded before taking a seat across from me with a mug in her hands.
“So, where did the boys scamper off to?”
“I think they were going to do some last minute shopping, but they didn’t really say. All I know is that Johan showed up for breakfast, and they were gone before the dishes were washed.”
“Typical men.” I snorted before cutting into the fluffiest pancake I’d ever seen, and that was including the amazing pancakes Eric made. “Actually, Eric’s pretty tidy.”
“So is Tom. Eric takes after his father who spent the better part of his life in the military. Some habits just won’t be broken.” Stella said with a smile.
“What was that like, being a military wife? Eric told me you moved around a bit when he was younger. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. Just moving from Addison to here was a pain, and that’s maybe ten miles away.”
“It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Tom loved his job, and being married to him has allowed me to do more traveling than I ever thought I would as a little girl.”
“What part of Sweden did you grow up in?” The only Swedish city I knew of off the the top of my head was Stockholm.
“I guess you’d call it a suburb of Stockholm. I met Tom while I was visiting in Germany.”
“Yes, Eric told me.”
“It’s funny… I didn’t even want to go on that trip. I faked being sick in attempts to get out of it, and I ended up meeting my husband. Strange how that happens, isn’t it?”
I thought back to the night I met Eric, and I couldn’t help but smile. “I know what you mean. I met Eric because my friend dragged me to the bar. I didn’t want to go, but she insisted.”
Stella beamed an appreciative smile. “I tell you, life has a way of putting us where we’re supposed to be when we’re supposed to be there, Sookie. Everything happens for a reason, and I tend to think is the tragedies in life that provide the most opportunity.”
“I agree with you there.” I said as I took a bite of the scrambled eggs heaped onto my plate. I hoped she didn’t expect me to eat all of it, because there was no way in the world that was going to happen.
Stella took on a thoughtful expression and asked, “Have you thought about what you’re going to do if things don’t go Eric’s way at his sentencing?”
The question caught me a bit off guard, but I got the sense I was about to get a dose of the Stella Northman I had been so staunchly warned about. I set down my fork and sipped my milk.
“Eric and I haven’t had the chance to talk about that quite yet, but I’m not leaving him, if that’s what you’re worried about. I know that what happened was a bit of a fluke. I trust him, and I know on some level he thought he was protecting me.”
“I love my son dearly, I really do, but I have to confess that until you came along, I worried about him. Eric isn’t well suited for chaos. He prefers order and being in control of things. He’s a strong leader, and I knew how works well alone. I just don’t want to see him end up that way.”
I reached across the table and took Stella’s hand. “You don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Stella’s bottom lip quivered as she exhaled slowly. She muttered something in Swedish that sounded like a prayer. I went back to my breakfast, while she started to chatter on about Christmas dinner. We agreed we’d cook together, and when I was finished eating, she washed up the dishes while I excused myself to shower and get dressed. I came out from the bedroom a short time later to look out the front window. I was happy to see my car out front, since I’d thought for sure Eric would have taken it. The Corvette was parked out front as well, leaving me to wonder what car they’d taken.
My question was answered when I called Jeter upstairs to let him outside before Stella and I left to do our shopping. The keys for the Comet were missing from the hook, and I imagined Johan trying to convince his brother and father to drive with the top down on a balmy forty-four degree day. Johan really was a trip. While I enjoyed having him around, I was glad he would be leaving town after Eric’s sentencing. Originally, Johan had planned to be back in Sweden for the New Year, but after Eric got arrested, his plans changed.
“Are you ready, dear?” Stella asked once Jeter was back in the house.
“I just need to get my boots and coat, and we’re good to go.” I smiled at her.
I had just zippered up my coat when another wave of nausea hit me so hard I had to go to the kitchen to avoid making a great big mess on the living room floor. Fucking perfect.
I was napping when Eric settled onto the bed next to me. I felt his large, warm hands in my hair and my eyes fluttered open. “Mom told me you were sick again.” He bent and kissed my forehead.
“We were on our way out the door, and BAM!, it hit me like a mac truck.” I turned onto my side and draped an arm over his stomach as I nuzzled against him.
“Sookie, what’s going on with you?” Eric sounded almost desperate for an answer, and I really couldn’t blame him.
“Who else is here?” I whispered.
“Johan and Dad took Mom shopping for tomorrow’s dinner, so it’s just us. They only left about a half hour ago, so I’m sure we’ve got some time.” Eric stroked my arm slowly.
I sighed before slowly pushing myself up, and turning so we were face to face. “I’m not dying, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“You told me that already.” He looked confused, but that was about to change.
“While I was in Louisiana, I took a pregnancy test.” I paused, watching as Eric’s eyes widened.
“Yes, I did. With everything being so crazy lately I wasn’t paying attention to my body the way I should have been, and I forgot that with the medication I was taking after the accident it made my birth control pretty much worthless. Since the two of us can’t seem to go more than a few hours without getting each other naked…” I trailed off, realizing I was rambling.
Eric reached up and cupped my cheek with his palm. “Sookie, are you pregnant?”
I nodded slowly as tears started rolling down my cheeks. “Yes, I am. I wanted to call you from that stupid bathroom to tell you, but I didn’t know for sure how I felt about it, and I didn’t want to add another worry to everything else we’re dealing with, but I-”
Eric sat up and kissed me, cutting me off from finishing my thought. His forehead pressed against mine. “You’re sure? You’re absolutely sure you’re pregnant?”
“I can feel it, Eric.”
“Already?” He looked down at my stomach.
“No, I mean, it’s an instinct. I just know I am. I didn’t even need the test to tell me, but I guess I needed to see it for myself.”
“Wow.” Eric looked stunned, and I couldn’t blame him one bit.
“I’m sorry. I know this is really shitty timing-”
“Don’t apologize, lover.” His thumb stroked my cheek, his eyes locked on mine. “You didn’t exactly get yourself pregnant. I helped.” His smile was smug, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“If we have twins, I’m blaming it on you.” I glared at him.
Eric laughed and pulled me against him as he laid back. “I admit the timing could be better, but I’m not disappointed, Sookie. It was going to happen for us one of these days. I guess the time is now.”
“Are you really okay with this, because I’m way more okay with it than I thought I would be. When it first occurred to me, I freaked out. With everything being the way its been, I was afraid it was going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for us. I know you would be there for the baby regardless of what happens between you and me, but I was afraid this was going to be the thing that broke us. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was going to be more upset if I found out I wasn’t pregnant.” I explained to him.
“Sookie, no matter how prepared we think we are, there’s never a way to really be prepared for a baby. They’re unpredictable, and anything can happen.” He paused for a moment. “Are you sure this is what you want?”
I sat up again and turned to face him. “The only thing I want more is you.”
Eric smiled up at me before pulling me on top of him. “Well would you look at that? We’re right back where we started.”
Telling Eric I was pregnant was a huge weight off my shoulders. His family returned to find us grinning like a couple of idiots, and we just let Johan razz us about what sorts of things we might have been up to while we had the house to ourselves. We decided we wanted to keep the pregnancy on the down-low until we knew what was going to happen with Eric’s sentencing. So if I wanted to talk to anyone about the pregnancy besides Eric, I would have to call Tara. I wasn’t even planning to talk to Amelia about it until after the court stuff was over with.
Stella had complained a few times through dinner about Pam coming over the next day, and I was starting to see what the boys meant about her attitude. I didn’t agree with her assessment, but then I wasn’t a mother. Well, actually, I guess I was. Huh. The thought had forced me to smile down at my plate, and I’d reached for Eric’s hand under the table to give it a squeeze. He turned to face me and give me a quick wink before going back to his meal.
Eric stayed in the kitchen to help Stella clean up, leaving me at the mercy of Johan and Tom in the living room. It was obvious there was some tension between the two of them, but it was easy to understand why. They were just polar opposites in just about every way two people can be opposites. I sat back to enjoy the show, and watch the two of them argue very much the same way I heard Tom argue with Stella when I talked to her on the phone.
“Will you stifle it, Johan?” Tom asked when he’d had enough. Before I could stop myself, I blew a raspberry. Johan burst out laughing next to me, while I turned bright red.
“I’m sorry.” I apologized, but Tom was looking at me with humor in his eyes and smile curling his lips. When he smiled like that it was easy to see what a handsome man he was. “You should smile more.”
“Yes. It looks good on you.” I nodded sincerely.
“Stell! I might have to trade you in!” Tom teased from the living room.
“Keep your hands to yourself, Old Man!” Eric retorted from the kitchen.
“Age before beauty.” Tom winked at me.
It was nice to see Tom’s sense of humor come into play, but the conversation was quickly approaching territory I had no interest in touching on. “No offense, but the only Old Man Northman I want is in the kitchen washing dishes.”
Tom laughed loudly and said, “Good answer, Toots.” He’d taken to calling me that, and coming from anyone else, it probably would have bothered the hell out of me.
Eric and I went to bed early. I was feeling exhausted and I knew the next day was going to be a long one. I was already laying bed waiting for him when he came out of the bathroom. Before stretching out next to me, he paused at my stomach to kiss it. It was cheesy, but probably the sweetest thing I’d ever seen him do. I curled myself against him, reveling in the feeling of everything being back in its right place. His arm closed around me when I slung one of my legs over his, and before I knew it, I was dead to the world.