I stood on the front lawn with my mouth hanging open, shocked not only at my mother’s proposal, but at Sookie’s apparent encouragement. Did my wife really just agree to Mom’s crazy ass plan? I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Sookie’s crazy emergency smile crack her face almost in half. Her southern manners wouldn’t allow for her to tell Mom she was being ludicrous. I looked over at Dad for some sort of inkling as to whether or not Mom was serious. Mostly, my old man looked helpless.
I had no doubt this was all Mom’s idea. Furthermore, I’m sure Dad tried to talk her out of it, but Mom had a way of steamrolling right over anything that got in her path when she wanted something badly enough. Her tenacity was probably one of a very few things I had inherited.
“Mom, Sookie and I need some time to think about it. Why don’t we talk it over after the baby comes?” I suggested after she gave me a look that implied she was waiting for my answer.
She scoffed at the idea and said, “But the whole point is to be settled in before this precious baby girl gets here.”
“Stella, they just got hitched.” Dad attempted to reason with her.
“Hush, Tom.” Mom waved him off, clearly not interested in hearing his opinion. “Eric, this is our grandchild we’re talking about.”
I glanced over at Sookie who looked extremely uncomfortable all of a sudden. “If y’all will excuse me, I need to get back inside. Doctor’s orders.” She was going to play the bed rest card now? I’d get her for it later. Sookie offered weak goodbyes, then left me standing there alone with my parents on the lawn.
“Is she alright?” Mom fretted as Sookie waddled into the house.
“Just tired, Mom. She’s not sleeping well.” I said casually.
Dad chuckled knowingly and said, “Stella, let’s go. We’ve intruded enough.”
Mom looked like she was going to stick around to argue her case, but I cut her off before she could get herself worked into a froth. “We’ll talk about it later, Mom.”
She huffed and said, “Fine. Fine. Go take care of your wife. We’ll see you for dinner in a few days.”
I nodded my agreement and returned the hug I was offered. Dad gave me an apologetic look and clapped me on the back before following Mom over to the Comet. I made sure Mom and Dad were gone before going into the house. Amelia and Tray had made themselves scarce when Mom officially went off the deep end and made her proposal. Even worse, Sookie seemed to have gone insane right along with her. I really hoped I hadn’t imagined seeing that crazy smile on her face, or we were going to have our first fight as a married couple.
While it was great that Sookie got along so well with my parents, I worried that wouldn’t continue if they moved closer to us. I was plagued with images of Mom popping in unannounced whenever she wanted, effectively driving both Sookie and I crazy. I found my wife in bed, wearing nothing by one of my t-shirts and a pair of underwear. I suddenly forgot what I was even pissed off about. Sex claimed my brain, and thinking about that was a hell of a lot better than worrying. Sookie apparently felt the same way. Once we were sated, sweaty and more relaxed, reality began to creep back in.
“I don’t want your parents to move here.” Sookie said in a defiant tone that made me want to pin her underneath me and kiss her until she couldn’t breathe.
“Then why did you…” I trailed off, knowing she knew what I was asking.
“What was I supposed to say, Eric? Was I supposed to look at your Mom and tell her the only way she was moving into that house was over my pregnant, dead body? I like your Mom, but I don’t know if her being so close will be good for our marriage, or her lifespan.” Sookie was pouting. It was adorable.
“I don’t know what to tell her.” I sighed. I didn’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings.
“How about you tell her that if she moves here, it’s going to make your wife less likely to fuck you, thereby decreasing her chances are more grandchildren?” Sookie suggested in a very serious tone, but somehow still managed to make me laugh. An arched eyebrow let me know she wasn’t kidding.
We talked about it for a while. Neither of a us were all together thrilled with Mom’s plan. However, we knew we couldn’t stop them from moving, and at least if they were living in my old house, we would always know exactly where they were. Not to mention, we wouldn’t have to worry about extended overnight visits, and we would have a babysitter whenever we wanted one. We would just need to set some serious ground rules.
Over the next few days we finished up the nursery. Sookie washed all of the laundry that had piled up for the Bean, and she wasn’t even born yet. More than once I saw her getting teary eyed when folded the tiny clothes. I didn’t bother to ask her why she was getting upset because chances were, she didn’t rightfully know. We wrote up thank you notes for the wedding gifts we’d received, and deposited the checks that had been tucked in cards into a special savings account so we could take a proper honeymoon after the Bean was born, and lift got a little more settled.
We met with our parents for dinner the night before the Stackhouses had to fly back to Louisiana. Mom asked if Sookie and I had reached a decision about the house, and I told her we were still discussing it. Mom looked like she was going to whine over it when Michelle got her attention instead. I was getting frustrated with my mother’s unwillingness to just chill the fuck out. I suppose I understood her need to plan things out, but at the same time, Sookie and I had other things to worry about. We had a baby coming in just a few weeks. The arrival of our daughter took bigger precedence to us than whether or not we should let my parents move into my house.
Sookie being able to play the pregnancy card was great. No one questioned her when she said she wasn’t feeling well, and after Mom had leaned over to ask for the third time about the house, Sookie announced that she was feeling a bit nauseous, and wanted to lay down. Mom looked properly abashed, and a little like she’d been slapped in the face. I wanted to feel badly for her but she’d brought it on herself.
We hugged Corbett and Michelle goodbye, thanking them for everything they’d done for us. We promised to keep them updated on the pregnancy, and call if Sookie went into labor. They were planning on flying up again after the Bean was born. I found myself wishing they were the set of parents that wanted to move closer. They were much more laid back than my own parents were.
“I’m gonna miss you, Mom.” Sookie got all emotional, crying quietly as she hugged her mother.
I noted the sadness in my own mother’s eyes as she watched Sookie with Michelle. The image of Mom hugging Annika for the last time flashed in my mind. Suddenly, it all made sense for me why Mom wanted to move closer to us. She really did see Sookie like a daughter. She didn’t get to do the wedding and baby thing with Annika. She was using Sookie as a stand-in.
I didn’t know if I should be sympathetic, or nip the behavior in the bud. Sookie already had a mother. I figured it was Sookie’s choice how to deal with it. I would support whatever decision she made. When we got home that night, she put in a movie. We sat on the couch together and I rubbed her feet while she munched on peanut butter and apple slices.
My eyes met hers, and I saw genuine happiness in her eyes. I smiled at her, hoping my own happiness was just as easy to see. Her foot wiggled in my lap, a silent urging to keep rubbing. I laughed quietly, and got back to work. She put another apple slice in her mouth, moaning in delight at the contrasting flavors and smacking her lips together thanks to the peanut butter. It struck me how peaceful we were- how comfortable. It was safe. It was home.
I really wasn’t looking forward to going back to work. I hated the idea of leaving Sookie alone. For the last month of her pregnancy she would be seeing Dr. Ludwig once a week to monitor the baby. We’d made it to thirty-seven weeks, which, according to Dr. Ludwig, meant she could go at any time. The Bean had turned and dropped so her little head was cradled in Sookie’s pelvis, which meant labor could start at any time.
The knowledge that we were just waiting from this point out made it hard to think about much else. I was distracted and fumbling all over myself to make sure Sookie was as comfortable as she could possibly get. I did my best to anticipate her needs, and I think it got to the point where she was thoroughly annoyed with me. Who was I kidding? I was annoying myself.
“Eric, baby, I love you, but if you don’t get the fuck out of this house real soon, you’re not going to make it to the delivery room.” Sookie threatened me one afternoon.
I apologized but didn’t bother to explain my reasons for hovering. She knew I was worried about her. I tried not to think about the statistics I’d stumbled on at one point while researching childbirth on the internet. I wanted to know what to expect, aside from a lot of yelling, screaming and cussing at me for knocking her up in the first place. What I wasn’t prepared for were the statistics of how many things could potentially go wrong during a birth, and even worse, that I could lose her. She could bleed out, and that would be it.
I didn’t want to think that way. We’d already been through so much. I didn’t want to think that whatever high power was out there would take my wife from me, and a mother from her child. I knew I could be a single parent if I had to, but I didn’t want to. I was looking forward to watching Sookie be a mother to our daughter. I wanted to see her rock our daughter to sleep and braid her hair. I wanted to watch Sookie read bedtime stories and take the Bean trick or treating. There were billions of moments I wanted to witness that I could completely lose if just one little thing went wrong.
So I was understandably wound tight, but I didn’t want to add to what was stressing Sookie out. She had enough on her mind. I did as she asked, and took myself back to work. Amelia promised to check in on her and call me if anything was wrong. I didn’t care if Sookie had a leg cramp. I wanted to know everything. Amelia did as I asked, and texted me periodically to keep me posted on how Sookie was doing.
I waited until about the time I knew Sookie would be trying to get some sleep before calling her. She answered the phone in a sleepy voice that let me know I was too late. I silently cursed myself for waking her up. Sleep was a precious commodity at that point, and one Sookie had a hard time getting her hands on.
“Hey sweetie.” She said in such a way I was sure she hadn’t even opened her eyes.
“I’m sorry I woke you up.” I apologized.
“No, it’s okay. I miss you.” She admitted, and I was happy to hear it. “How’s work?”
“Busy. It’s been a busy night. How’re you doing?”
“I’m okay. I think I had a contraction earlier.” She confessed, and I was immediately pissed at Amelia for not telling me about it.
“You did? When?” I sputtered in a bit of a panic.
She giggled- although I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was funny- and told me it was normal. “It was just one, babe. There was no reason to sound the alarm. I’m fine. The Bean is sleeping. Everything’s good. Now I’m just waiting for you to come home to me.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, lover.” I wanted to be in bed next to her more than anything. I wanted to pull her close to me and rest my palm on her stomach while she slept. I told myself I’d get it to have it soon enough.
We talked for a little while longer. She told me about the movie she’d watched with Amelia. It sounded boring as hell to me. Some Swedish movie with subtitles about a soccer player and his girlfriend. Although I didn’t mistake the hint of lust that crept into her voice when she described the soccer player. Not that I was jealous, or anything, but I decided I’d have to look it up on-line later. She described a particularly hot scene that took place in the kitchen, and I wondered if maybe that wasn’t an idea I should squirrel away for later when she wasn’t pregnant anymore.
More and more I was thinking about the future. We hadn’t talked about how many kids we wanted to have, but I hoped she would be willing to have at least one more. Having grown up with a twin, I knew how much my life would have sucked without a sibling around. While Sookie and Jason weren’t particularly close, I tended to think she felt the same way. It was a conversation we needed to have, but was probably best left for after the Bean was born. I didn’t want her to think I was pressuring her into being barefoot and pregnant. We had enough on our plate already.
I got home that night to find her curled on her side, sound asleep. I went to the bathroom to take a shower to get the bar stink off of me before getting into bed behind her. Just like I’d wanted to, I spooned up behind her and rested my hand on her stomach. She made a little noise, but didn’t acknowledge my presence. I kissed her neck gently and let sleep pull me under.
“So, I’ve been thinking about your parents moving here.” Sookie told me one morning while we ate breakfast before her doctor’s appointment.
She was three days past her due date. She was sick to death of being pregnant, and anxious as all get out to have her body back to herself. If I thought she was uncomfortable a month ago, it was nothing in comparison to her current state. There was concern that if she didn’t go into labor in the next few days she was going to have to be induced. The Bean, while not very heavy by all estimations, was long. Sookie had taken to calling her Beanstalk instead.
“Oh yeah?” I spooned another bite of cereal into my mouth.
“I thought a lot about what you said with your Mom and Annika.” Sookie paused, her hand absently stroking her belly. “I can’t be Annika for her. I already have a Mom.”
I nodded my agreement. “It’s okay, Sookie. She’ll understand.”
Sookie looked disappointed with herself, which I hated it. It wasn’t up to her to heal a wound that had been festering for so long. Mom should have gone for therapy and dealt with all of it a little better than she did. I wasn’t convinced Dad was okay with the loss either, but I was pretty sure it was a mistake to lock Annika away somewhere deep in their memories. Talking about her was what kept her with us. No amount of pretending she had never existed was going to erase the imprint she left behind.
“I want to help her, though. And even if I can’t be the person she needs me to be, maybe being closer to the baby will help. Maybe she just wants to feel needed again, you know? So I guess if we can do that for her, then we should. Besides, it would be nice to have at least one set of grandparents around. It would be nice to have family close by.” Sookie had clearly given this a lot of thought. “Not to mention, your Dad would be on our side. He’d come collect her if he had to.”
That was true. I was worried Dad didn’t really want to move, though. He didn’t seem too enthused over the idea of leaving California. He’d finally put down some roots, and I think he wasn’t too keen on the idea of ripping everything out and moving half way across the country. Then again, one look at our daughter might completely change his mind.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if she didn’t have him wrapped around his finger immediately. He’d always been a sucker for Annika, no matter how much trouble she got into. And hell, he put up with Mom and all of her antics. The man could be hard as nails, but he was a great big softy for the women in his life. Even Sookie hadn’t been able to escape his charm.
“Let me talk it over with Dad and see how he feels about all of this. If it’s what he wants, too, then I’ll extend the offer to them.” I told her.
“Are you sure? I mean, it’s your house, so-”
“It’s our house, Sookie. No matter who lives there, that house is where we got our start. It’s always going to mean something special to me. And to be honest, I kind of like the idea of not letting it go.” I confessed to her.
Her eyes filled with tears again. Fucking hormones were going to kill us both.
I took our bowls to the sink to rinse them out and put them in the dishwasher while Sookie went in search of the only pair of shoes she could wear that didn’t pinch her feet. She was standing at the front door when I heard her make a noise I’d never heard before. I dropped the bowls into the sink and ran toward the front of the house. She was doubled over, clutching her stomach and doing her breathing exercises.
“Sookie, what’s wrong?” I put my hand on her shoulder.
“Contraction.” She gasped and grabbed for my hand. She squeezed it hard and said, “I think this is it.”