I was amazed by just how much I could get done from my house when it came to planning a wedding and setting up my daughter’s bedroom. I did more shopping on-line than one person ever should. The hard part was picking a wedding dress without ever leaving the house. The second I saw mine, however, I knew it was the one. I ordered the dress, had it shipped to the house and then had a tailor come to do alterations for me. It was a maternity dress that would allow for my growing bump. Thankfully, my boobs had stopped growing, or there would have been real trouble.
The dress was made of organza and flowed beautifully. It had an empire waistline and a nice v-neck halter top neckline to it. There was intricate beading all through the dress. I was I love with it. I hid the dress next door with Amelia to keep Eric from seeing it. I know it’s an old superstition, but given all the trouble we’d already had, it seemed worth it to abide by this one wives’ tale. We didn’t need any invitations to drama. We’d had more than our share.
Eric and I planned to get married in our backyard since we didn’t want anything too big or fancy, and I couldn’t be on my feet for too long. It was a small affair with just our immediate family and a few of our friends coming over. The guest list would be less than twenty-five people. My family was flying up from Louisiana. Eric’s parents were coming in from California. Johan and Pam were flying in from Sweden. The plan was for Eric’s family to stay at his place, since some of his furniture was still there.
My own family was going to be a bit more scattered. There wasn’t really room in our house for guests. There was baby or wedding stuff everywhere. We were down to one spare bedroom, and the was supposed to be headquarters for us girls (Amelia, Pam and me) to get dressed the day of the wedding. Suits were hanging in there for Eric and Tray. While I was excited to meet my very first nephew, Caleb Corbett Stackhouse, I had enough trouble sleeping without a crying infant in the house.
Jason had teased it would be good practice for when the Bean came, but I failed to see the humor in it. I started wondering if there was a way to have my nephew there without his idiot father. Eric had laughed off my suggestion, only to realize I was only partially joking. There was a hotel not too far away, and we were able to get them discounted rates since there was a group of them. Mom, Dad, Jason, Crystal, Caleb, Gran, Hadley, Remy and Hunter were all flying up for the wedding. Tara wanted to come, but couldn’t get away from work for it since it was the middle of the week.
For once, everything seemed to be falling into place. The only thing that sucked was being stuck in bed all day long. Eric did his best to keep me entertained when he was home and he never lost patience with me for all the bitching and moping I did. I hated being so sedentary. It wasn’t my style. I was used to being on the go all the time. He helped me a great deal with getting the nursery all set up the way I wanted it. He reserved pretty much all commentary on the decorations I chose. I think he was just grateful I hadn’t painted the room pink and gone with a cliché princess theme.
He hadn’t said as much, but if the way he treated me was any indication, he was going to spoil that little girl rotten. She was going to have him wrapped around his little finger in a heartbeat. I have to admit, I was getting to the point where being pregnant was no longer fun. I just wanted it to be over. I still had about a month left to go before I expected anything to happen, but I was packed and ready just in case the Bean had other ideas. After much debate, Eric and I had finally settled on a name for our daughter. I was pre-registered at the hospital so all I had to do was show up when it was time to deliver.
I was going to do my best to go through labor drug-free, but I wasn’t Superwoman. They didn’t hand out prizes for a drug-free labor. Eric backed my decision, stating that since it was my body, it was my choice. I think reading the section of my pregnancy book about episiotomies really helped him understand my point of view.
I mostly felt bloated, swollen and gross. Finding a comfortable way to sit for an extended period of time was next to impossible. Sex was pretty much out of the question, even though my hormones would flair up from time to time. We would just be getting really into it when my sex drive would completely bottom out. I was running hot and cold in so many ways. I don’t know how Eric was putting up with me. I couldn’t stand to be around myself a lot of the time.
The highlight of all the wedding planning was finding a great decoy dress to tease Pam with. She had been so insistent that the bridesmaids dresses not be hideous that I couldn’t resist taunting her with the worst dress I could find. I sent emails out to a bunch of my girlfriends, asking any of them if they had old dresses hanging in their closets they wouldn’t mind parting with. Claudine, the captain of the cheerleading squad at the high school, just happened to have a dress that was absolutely perfect in the most God awful way.
Claudine was kind enough to bring the dress by so I could take pictures of it to email to Pam. Her response was epic. About ten minutes after I sent the email, my phone rang. I was laughing so hard I had to let the call go to voicemail. She didn’t bother leaving a message, since the phone was ringing right away all over again.
“Hey, Pammy, you got my email?” I asked cheerfully.
“You have lost your fucking mind if you think I’m wearing that. It looks like Tinkerbell on acid!” Pam screeched at me from thousands of miles away. “You promised me no hideous monstrosities.”
“I promised you no hunter green with bows.” I reminded her.
“I know this is supposed to be your big day, but nowhere in the deal does it state you get to dress me up like a demented fairy.” Pam hissed at me.
“It’s just for the ceremony, Pam. We’re having a garden wedding.” I have no idea how I managed to get it out without laughing hysterically.
Eric had to leave the room so as not to ruin the whole thing. I could hear him all the way in the garage.
“Is that Eric? Put that fucker on the phone!” Pam shouted.
“Pam, he’s just watching Caddyshack.” I covered quickly.
“I don’t care. Get him on the phone. Clearly you’ve lost your damn mind.” Pam said angrily.
Thankfully, Amelia chose that moment to stop by. The doorbell rang and I said, “Oops, sorry, Pam. I’ve got company. I’ll call you later.” I blew kisses into the phone for added effect, and then hung up on her.
Eric got the door while I was doubled over- as much as I could be with my ginormous belly- laughing so hard I was crying. Eric had a few tears in his own eyes, and Amelia looked at us like we belonged in the looney bin. Once I showed her the pictures of the dress, she completely understood, and laughed along with us.
The real bridesmaids dresses were much better. Since we really were having a garden wedding on the first day of Summer, it seemed appropriate to go with yellow dresses. They were golden yellow, strapless and didn’t quite hit the knee. They were rather casual, which fit right in with the tone of the rest of the wedding. Instead of the usual roses, we would be carrying daffodils and lilies. Eric’s suit was white linen. He wasn’t even going to be wearing a tie. The whole thing was very laid back.
Amelia and Tray were saints for volunteering to do a lot of the picking up and dropping off of our family members so they wouldn’t have to take cabs to and from the airport. Eric was going to be picking up his parents himself since they’d never met Amelia or Tray. The two of them had still be out of town by the time Tom and Stella left. Stella had been a bit disappointed Eric and I weren’t having a fancier wedding, but she didn’t see why it was necessary. We figured the bigger deal we made of it, the higher the chances of something going wrong. We just wanted something simple.
Eric had settled into his place at the bar. He trusted the manager he’d hired to make sure things ran smoothly in his absence. He wouldn’t be able to take time off, exactly, when the baby was born, but he would have more freedom to come and go from the bar as needed. He also finished up the court ordered anger management classes he had to take. His probation was up, and as far as everyone was concerned, the entire incident with Bill was behind us.
A diary Sophie Anne had been keeping revealed the reasons why she’d gotten involved with Bill. It turns out he’d been following me outside of work. He’d even been to my hometown over the previous summer while I was there. I thought back to how he knew of the birthmark on my hip, and I realized he must have seen me sunbathing on my parents’ property. The thought of him standing in the woods doing God knows what while I just laid there all innocent and tuned out to the rest of the world made me sick to my stomach. Sophie Anne had actually been the one to approach Bill when she noticed him sitting outside Eric’s house on more than one occasion.
Eric and I had never noticed Bill was there, but Sophie Anne did. It was their mutual obsession with a person they couldn’t have that brought them together. Bill was unhappy in his marriage and wanted out. Sophie Anne just wanted Eric. We learned that Sophie Anne had slept with Johan on purpose, just to piss Eric off. She considered it a punishment. When he didn’t fly off into the jealous rage she was hoping he would (delusional, much?), the plan to take me out of the equation started to come together.
The whole thing was rather insane. The fatal flaw in their plan was that Eric wasn’t driving the car that night. The thought was, if we got in an accident, I would blame Eric for any injuries I might have suffered. We would break up, thereby leaving ourselves open for the taking. Bill would swoop in to play the hero for me, and Sophie Anne would nurse Eric back to health. It was a plan of sheer insanity that hadn’t worked out the way they’d hoped. The whole thing was an epic failure, and had completely backfired on them. Still, the ball was already in motion, since they’d framed Lorena for the job.
The diary revealed how Lorena and the baby had died, and it was awful. It was Sophie who had drowned Bill’s son. He was too busy drugging, then hanging his wife, but Sophie had done it on Bill’s order. He’d been convinced that this would spark sympathy in me. He was counting on my appearance at the funerals, where he would somehow seduce me away from Eric. When that failed as well, the last ditch effort was him and Sophie showing up at the bar.
When Eric getting arrested wasn’t enough to break us up, Bill snapped. The last entry in Sophie Anne’s journal was one in which she actually sounded scared. Scared for not only her own life, but for those who stood in Bill’s way. She called him a psycho, which was a big deal coming from someone who wasn’t exactly mentally stable. She speculated on her own death, and wrote about how she was trying to stay away from Bill.
Apparently, she hadn’t been successful. Her body was found eight days after the last entry in the journal. The whole thing was disturbing. I didn’t know what to think. Bill’s family had reached out in the aftermath to apologize to me for all I’d been through on account of him. I had no ill will toward them. They weren’t to blame for the choices Bill made. Being a more prominent family in the south, he’d certainly done his share to embarrass them, which it was assumed that was part of what drove him to do what he did. His family had never approved of his marriage with Lorena. They thought she was trashy, and had leeched onto him in hopes of someday inheriting whatever Bill might receive when his great grandmother passed on.
I was at home alone a week before the wedding. Eric was over at his old house dropping off groceries for his family since they would be arriving the following day. He was airing out the house a little bit and getting it cleaned up since no one had really been in there since April. I was putting together little center pieces for the tables we’d rented for the backyard. Dinner was being catered and delivered, despite Mom’s offer to cook. It was sweet of her to offer, but I wanted her to enjoy herself and not be chained to a stove all day.
The doorbell rang, and I slowly pushed myself off the couch and waddled- yes, waddled- to the front door. I was expecting it to be the flowers I’d ordered. Instead, it was Quinn. I certainly wasn’t expecting him. I hadn’t seen him in months. He’d called after Bill was killed, but I never called him back. I didn’t see much point in talking to him anymore. I was with Eric. I was happy. I didn’t need more drama in my life, and I knew Quinn would bring it.
“What are you doing here?” I tried not to sound too bitchy when I opened the door, but my hormones took offense to Quinn’s uninvited appearance at my house.
“I heard a rumor you’re getting married next week.” Quinn came right out with it, which I appreciated.
“I am. I’m also having a baby next month.”
“I see that.” He looked at me sadly.
“Don’t do that, Quinn. You had your chance. You had years to have what I have with Eric, and you blew it. If you’re here to try and talk me out of marrying him, you’re wasting your time and mine.”
“No, that’s not why I’m here.” He said quickly. “I came here to apologize. I know it’s late, but I want you to know I’m sorry. I should have done things better. I should have treated you better. You deserve that. And I’m sorry I lost you, but I’m happy you found someone who can give you the things you want. You deserve that, too.”
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. “Thank you.”
“All I ever wanted was for you to be happy, Sookie. If you believe nothing else, believe that.”
I nodded, my eyes moving beyond Quinn to the red Corvette turning into the driveway. “You should go. Take care of yourself, Quinn.”
He looked a bit confused until he turned to see Eric getting out of the car rather quickly. “I was just leaving.” Queen said as Eric approached.
“Don’t come back.” Eric said in a very protective sort of way that might have pissed me off under other circumstances.
“I really do wish you the best, Sookie.” Quinn gave me a sad smile before heading toward his truck.
“What did he want?” Eric asked once Quinn was driving away.
“He came to apologize for being such a bastard.” My eyes swung up to Eric’s.
“About time.” Eric kissed the top of my head, then closed the door behind us.
I was elated to see all four parents getting along so well. After Eric and I had announced our engagement, our mothers insisted on having one another’s phone numbers so they could get to know each other. The two of them got along like gangbusters, even if Mom did say on more than one occasion that Stella could be a bit tiring with all of her planning and enthusiasm. I was learning to take it all in stride. When my hormones started to get the better of me, I would simply fake morning sickness and either hand the phone off to Eric, or hang up, depending on whether or not he was home at the time.
I knew Stella meant well. I did my best to remind myself of that when she got on my nerves. She was only trying to help. Still, even from two thousand miles away, she could be overbearing sometimes. I refused, however, to admit Eric was right. It was for his own safety that he didn’t get the chance to say, “I told you so.” He probably wouldn’t have survived it.
Little Caleb was an absolutely doll. He was almost two months old. He weighed just over fourteen pounds, and had the biggest, most curious blue eyes I’d ever seen. His hair was dark like Crystal’s, and he had Dad’s nose. His little fingers reached out to grasp at anything he could, especially Mom’s earrings. You’d think she’d know better than to bother with hoops large enough for an infant to grab onto. Stella fawned all over the baby with watery eyes that told Eric and I we were going to have a hell of a time getting her back on the plane after the Bean was born.
We didn’t really bother with the traditional rehearsal dinner. Eric and I weren’t separating for the night on the chance I went into early labor. I didn’t want to have to wait for him to drive all the way to Itasca from Franklin Park to come pick me up in the middle of the night. Stella warned us we were jinxing ourselves, but I was willing to take the risk. With all of the things that could potentially go wrong, I would feel safer with Eric right next to me.
The second Pam and Johan arrived at the house, Pam was staring daggers at me. “So help me God, Jiggles, there is no way I’m wearing that Tinkerbell on acid costume you picked out.”
Apparently, Pam hadn’t forgotten about the joke. I grinned right at her and reached into the coat closet where as keeping the dress. “But Pam, it has a corset!” I held the dress out to her.
“Get that thing away from me before your child doesn’t have a mother.”
“Pam!” Johan tugged on her hand.
Watching Pam twist herself up so much over a dress was fun. Enjoying watching Pam twist herself up so much over a dress was mean. Very, very mean. I wasn’t the least bit sorry. Amelia was in on the joke, since she and I were the only ones who knew what the real bridesmaids dresses looked like. Besides, I needed her to help me sell that fugly thing as the real deal. Based on the shade of red Pam was turning, I knew we had her snowed.
She stomped away from me and down the hall. I hugged Johan, who immediately bent down to talk to his niece. He said something in Swedish that made Eric laugh. I elbowed him in the ribs in attempts to get him to tell me what Johan was saying, but Eric wouldn’t give it up. If I didn’t feel like a beached whale, I probably would have attempted to seduce it out of him. Somehow, it was hard to feel sexy with ankles the size of grapefruits and a chin that felt like it was slapping against my freakishly large breasts every time I opened my mouth.
Did I mention I was sick of being pregnant?
I parked myself in a deck chair out back. The men gathered around the grill to drink beer and talk about whatever the hell it is men talk about, while I found myself drowning in an estrogen ocean. Pam was still fuming at the other end of the table. The looks she kept shooting between me and Stella made me wonder if maybe she wasn’t just a little bit jealous of how easily Stella had taken to me. Pam was always saying what a snooty bitch Stella was, but I didn’t get that vibe from her at all. I figured there was just bad blood between them on account of… well, to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what the reason was anymore.
At first I’d thought maybe it was because Stella thought Pam was too flighty and just playing with both of her sons’ emotions. To my knowledge Pam had never been anything but a loyal friend to Eric. What she chose to do with Johan was between two consenting adults. I had to figure her moving to Sweden would mean a long-term commitment was somewhere in the cards for them. Not everyone moved as quickly as Eric and I did. I figured there had to be something more to Stella’s resentment, but it wasn’t my place to ask.
While we ate we went over the plans for the following day. The caterers would be coming in the early afternoon to set up for dinner. Amelia had arranged for her friend Tonya to come to the house to do hair and makeup for all of us girls. She would be coming around the same time as the caterers. Amelia and Pam were picking up the flowers rather than waiting on them to be delivered. The men were going to finish setting up the backyard, including an archway Mom had designed for us where Eric and I were going to get married toward the back end of the yard.
If everything went just right, Eric and I would be married by sunset the following night. There were lots of variables to consider in all of our planning, the least predictable of which was the weather. So far the forecast was for sunny skies and temperatures in the low eighties with moderate humidity. Of course, since this was Chicago it was entirely possible clouds could come rolling in at any time and unleash whatever fury they had pent up.
After dinner Tom and Stella headed back to Eric’s house to get some sleep. My parents went back to the hotel with Crystal and Caleb. Jason stuck around along with Amelia, Tray, Pam and Johan to watch The Hangover. The last thing I remembered was rambling about a wolf pack before I passed out. The next thing I knew my arms were wrapped around Eric’s neck and he was carrying me upstairs.
“I can walk.” I muttered.
“Don’t be silly.” He kissed my forehead.
“I’m too heavy.”
“Does it feel like I’m going to drop you?” He arched an eyebrow at me.
Damn, he was stronger than I thought. I’d gained more than thirty pounds with my pregnancy, although I’d been assured by several women that thirty pounds was nothing. Eric did set me down on my feet when we got to the landing. He put his arm around my shoulders and I leaned against him as we walked the last few feet to the bedroom. I peeled off the tiny sundress I was wearing and tossed it into the hamper. I caught my reflection in the mirror, and my hands went to my belly. I looked down to see a tiny hand press up against my skin.
“Eric, look.” I whispered, afraid if I spoke too loud it would go away.
“Wow.” He whispered in return when he saw what I was seeing. “Is that her hand?”
I nodded, wanting to touch it, but not wanting it to disappear like I knew it would if I did. We watched her little hand slide back and forth under my skin. It was moments like those when I remembered to be amazed by what my body was doing instead of complaining about it. Really, I’d lost my patience not just because my body wasn’t my own anymore, but because I was dying to meet the little person I was housing. I was so curious to see what she would inherit from Eric and me, and what would be innately her own. I wondered if she would take steps two at a time the way Eric often did. I wondered if she would be a coffee junkie like I was before I got pregnant. There were so many possibilities and I was more than ready to find out who our daughter was going to be.
The hormones chose that particular moment to take over, and before I knew it I was weeping for no reason. Eric held me tight against him, letting me cry it out. He’d learned it was rarely worth it to ask why I was crying since I usually didn’t have an answer. Thankfully, the crying jag didn’t last as long as some of them had. I got a nightgown out of the dresser while Eric went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and do whatever else he needed to do.
Not long after that, Eric and I were snuggled in bed together as much as we could be. My collection of pillows had only increased over the last couple of weeks. It was almost impossible to find a comfortable position to lay in for too long, but I did the best I could. I told Eric a few weeks before if he wanted to sleep in the other room, I wouldn’t blame him. I was up and down all night long because it seemed like as soon as I got comfortable, I had to pee.
I got settled and Eric slid up behind me. His hand rested on my stomach where the Bean’s feet were. She kicked his hand with one foot and my ribs with the other. Eric kissed the side of my neck and tucked some of my hair back.
“You realize that exactly nine months ago today, the best thing that ever happened to me walked into my life?” Eric smiled against my skin.
It was cheesy as hell, but I felt the same way. It hadn’t even dawned on me that we were getting married on our nine month anniversary. “And in another month, we’ll be parents.” I sighed, reaching to entwine my fingers with his.
“It’s a good thing we don’t scare easily.” He squeezed my hand.
“Are you scared?” I turned my head as much as I could.
Eric pushed himself up on his elbow and looked down at me. “Absolutely not. Do you want to know why?” I nodded and he continued. “I’m not scared because I know that whatever happens, we’re in it together. As long as I have you, that’s all that matters.” He picked up my hand and kissed it.
I kissed his hand in return and then held it to my chest as I drifted off to sleep.