It’s Been Awhile

Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day
And it’s been a while
Since I could look at myself straight
And it’s been a while since I said I’m sorry
And it’s been a while since I’ve seen the way the candles light your face
And it’s been a while but I can still remember just the way you taste

-Staind

I sat behind the wheel of my old truck, staring at the little house that contained the love of my life. I had pterodactyls in my stomach while I wondered what she would do when she opened her front door to see me standing on the other side of it. Sookie and I weren’t exactly on speaking terms at the moment. I had no one to blame for it but myself.

It was behind the wheel of the same truck that I had seen her for the first time. Back then my father still trusted me enough to let me work for his construction company. I had started out at the bottom, doing menial tasks but had worked my way up a little bit. I spent most of my days doing framing and dry walling. I liked my job. It wasn’t rocket scientist work, but I wasn’t good with books and stuff like that. I was good with my hands.

I was just driving down the street and when I came to a red light she was in the car next to mine. She was dancing in her seat, singing along horribly to some old Alabama song. She was beautiful. Shiny blonde hair that was just to her shoulders back then. The summer sun had left it streaked almost white in some places. She had a rich tan that rivaled my own, suggesting she had been working outdoors for most of the summer. When she caught me staring at her I discovered her big blue eyes, pouty lips and just how quickly she could blush.

What amazed me was that she only let the shock of being watched claim her for a second before she went right back to singing and dancing like nothing had ever happened. The light changed and I sat there for a good five seconds before the honking horns behind me alerted me it was time to move. I did the ballsiest and maybe stupidest thing ever, and followed her. When she pulled into a gas station a couple of miles later, I parked my truck at the pump next to hers.

She didn’t seem to notice me at first, but then she was humming along to a song I couldn’t hear, and tapping her toes like she had too much energy to stand still. Her legs were long and as tan as the rest of her. All I could think was how she looked like summertime in human form. She was a total knockout and I was sure she must have had a boyfriend. A girl like her wouldn’t stay single for very long.

While I was busy trying to come up with some great opening line, it was Sookie who had taken the initiative and told me to man up and ask her out already or quit staring. No girl had ever been that direct with me. The little wink and smile she gave me was encouraging, and so I asked her out. She toyed with me for a minute like she had to think about it, but she said yes.

From that point on, I was hooked. We fell hard and fast for each other, and what might have been one hell of a summer romance took a more serious turn. My father told me I was too young to be thinking the things I was about settling down and asking Sookie to marry me. I was only twenty-years-old. Sookie was just nineteen. But young love isn’t something you can just tell to be quiet. It’s loud and demanding, and being around Sookie was the only thing I wanted.

Of course, as time went by, things started to change. Our interests grew and mine took me down a dangerous path. I’d taught myself how to play guitar as a kid and I had gotten pretty good at it. The first time I had sung for Sookie, she had damn near thrown herself at me afterward. She had a thing for hot guys with guitars. I was a lucky son of a bitch, let me tell you.

But whatever talent I had got me hooked up with a local band that was starting to form. A lot of my time became focused on that, and while Sookie encouraged me to follow my dreams, my father told me I was wasting my time. He was expecting me to take over his company when he was ready to retire, and to be honest, I wanted to do that. But I wanted the band, too. I was young and not really thinking about having a serious career, something my father couldn’t quite understand.

I spent more and more time with the band and Sookie, and less and less time showing up at job sites. My father got sick of my bullshit, and fired me about six months after I got involved with the band. To make matters worse, he packed up a single suitcase of my things, changed the locks on the house and told me I was on my own. Lucky for me, Sookie had already signed a lease for her little house on the other side of town. She agreed to let me move in with her as long as I actively pursued finding another job.

I promised her I would, that I would get my shit together and everything would be okay. At first, living together was fun for us. We argued about little things, like me not putting dirty dishes in the sink, forgetting to hang up wet towels, or not mowing the lawn on Saturday morning. They were the usual arguments most couples had when they were first getting into the swing of things. We fought, fucked and had a great time hanging out with our friends. Life was good.

Then things started to take off the with the band. I stopped looking for a day job, which Sookie was less than happy about, but was willing to give me a chance to make things work with the band. We were approached to play with a bigger band and do some touring around the state. I jumped all over it, as did the rest of the guys. What I didn’t realize was that there was a lifestyle that came along with that kind of work. I thought it was all playing music and going home at night.

I was wrong.

There were after-show parties to attend, mingling to do and all kinds of promotional things we had to be a part of. That meant there was a lot of partying and drinking, and since I wasn’t dropping a dime on any of it, I was more than willing to hang out and see what happened. At first, it was fun. Sookie would come to the shows; we’d get drunk and end up having amazingly hot sex in the hotel we were staying in. It was adventurous and something very different from the small town life we had grown up in.

But in hanging out with faster, wilder crowds, came faster and wilder activities. What started out as a couple of drinks after the show turned into being offered drugs to keep us awake so we could keep the party going. Out of sheer curiosity on both our parts, Sookie and I had done a hit of Ecstasy once together. The trip had been pretty amazing, at least to my way of thinking, but Sookie hated it. She hated the way it made her feel and she hated the lack of control that came along with being high.

She made me swear we would never do it again, and at the time, I had meant it when I promised her I wouldn’t. But then things between us started to deteriorate, and she made it clear to me that she was thoroughly disappointed over the experimentation with drugs. She was a little resentful toward me and that led to a huge fight right before a big show my band was playing in Los Angeles. Sookie was supposed to come along but thanks to the fight she told me to fuck off and leave her alone.

Sookie didn’t come with, and thanks to my shitastic attitude, the guys were desperate to do anything they could to get me to cheer up. That was how I ended up doing coke for the first time, and it was all a downward spiral from there. It was a vicious cycle. I would tell myself I wasn’t going to do it anymore, but I was white knuckling it. Sookie and I would argue and I’d go right back to the coke for a pick-me-up.

I thought I was hiding it from her, but Sookie wasn’t stupid. My personality had changed completely and I became this angry, resentful asshole. All I cared about was my next fix and the more Sookie nagged me to quit, the less I wanted to. It all came to a head when she narked on me to my father. Dad showed up at the house and let me have it with both barrels, telling me to man up and quit hiding behind the drugs.

We fought, screaming and yelling at each other for what felt like hours before I finally threw him out. Nothing was accomplished there, other than me feeling a stronger urge than ever got get high. I stormed out of the house, feeling betrayed by everyone I loved, and ended up snorting more coke than I ever had in the past. I blacked out and when I came to, I wasn’t alone. I was naked, and curled around some trashy brunette whose name I couldn’t recall.

I had cheated on Sookie and I felt like a total shit for it. Of course, I rationalized that if she hadn’t pushed me into it, I would never have done such a thing. It didn’t occur to me that Sookie wasn’t my problem—coke was. By the time I dragged my sorry as home, Sookie already knew I had cheated. Apparently I had gone to the bar where her brother hung out, and he had seen me with the other woman. Sookie was understandably furious and hurt by what I had done, and she told me to pack my shit and get out of her house.

I had nowhere to go. I went to my buddy Tray’s house, thinking he would have mercy on me and let me stay with him. Tray was the one who introduced me to the party scene to begin with. I thought for sure he would understand where I was coming from, but Tray told me I had to figure things out for myself. According to him, I was in too deep with the drugs and he didn’t want an addict living on his couch. Tray used, but he was able to keep it recreational. He didn’t need it every day to get by.

My playing had become shoddy and I was more interested in the drinks, drugs and parties than I was in making the band better. I was kicked out of my house and then kicked out of my band. My father wouldn’t talk to me. Sookie was ignoring me. I had nothing. I had gone from what felt like king of the world to the lowest level of pond scum in just a matter of twenty-four hours.

My life was shit.

For a while, it felt like coke was my only friend. It never judged me or made me feel like a bad person. It was there for me when I was alone in the world, and it always made me feel better. What I didn’t realize then was that it was the thing that was keeping me from really enjoying my life. I assumed everyone else was out to get me, and ruin my good time. I convinced myself everyone was jealous of me, and just trying to control me. I didn’t see how much they cared.

I fell into a more hardcore crowd and was introduced to the Speedball. I didn’t think about the number of people it killed, or the pathetic loss of life due to the power of addiction. I just didn’t want to feel anything anymore. I didn’t want to think about all the things I had lost, or how many people had abandoned me when I needed them. I was drowning in a sea of self-pity, and Speedballing was the only thing that made it all go away for a while.

I dropped a bunch of weight and one day when I was getting out of the shower, I realized how little control I had over my own body anymore. Everything was about getting high, and where my next fix was going to come from. I managed to hold off on getting stoned again, and decided to take a little trip to see Sookie. I hoped that if she saw how gaunt I was, she might take pity on me. Maybe there was a way for us to work things out. I was sure if I had her back in my life, I could kick the drugs.

When I got to her place, though, she wasn’t alone. There was a tall, good looking blond guy helping her bring in groceries. Sookie and I had been apart for almost a year by then. No doubt she had moved on to someone else. I couldn’t blame her, but it hurt all the same. I sat in my truck, watching the two of them laugh as they carried groceries into the house. She followed him to her front door and he paused to kiss her before going outside to close the trunk of the shiny red Corvette sitting in her driveway.

The depression of knowing I had probably lost her for good sent me into another downward spiral. The combination of cocaine, heroin and alcohol proved to be too much for me and I ended up in the hospital. I realized, while I was lying alone in a hospital bed, that I had a decision to make. I could keep on going, letting the drugs make my decisions, or I could take my life back and try to be normal again.

I thought about Sookie, and all of the time she had begged me to stop using. I had insisted I had it under control, that I could kick the habit anytime I wanted, but I had proven that wasn’t true. I had overdosed and nearly died. Obviously I was completely out of control and if I ever wanted a chance to tell her I was sorry for everything I had ever done to hurt her, I was going to have to fight my way back to life.

I got myself into rehab, determined to beat the hold cocaine had on me once and for all. It was hard work. It took a lot of therapy and decision making in order to uncover the issues that had allowed me to fall so far in the first place. I had so many regrets and the guilt was part of what had fed my addiction. I wrote letters to the people I had wronged the most, apologizing for all the things I had done. My therapist had asked me to try and get Sookie to come in so we could all sit down together, but I couldn’t bring myself to call her.

I wanted her to know I was getting clean, but I didn’t want her to see me while I was still so fucked up. I didn’t want her to feel any guilt for where I ended up. I was taking responsibility for my actions, and I didn’t want her thinking she could have saved me if she had stuck around longer. I spent three months in an in-patient rehab facility before being transferred to a halfway house to finish my treatment.

I was released on my twenty-fourth birthday, and with the help of my sponsor, Steve Newlin, I was able to find a place of my own to live and get back on my feet. Over the course of my treatment I had been able to start to repair things with my father. He had offered to let me come back to work for him with the understanding that he would be watching me like a hawk, and random drug testing me. I was willing to accept those terms, and so I started working for Herveaux & Son Construction again.

Being able to do something productive that I was good at made recovery completely worth it. Every day I went to work and I could see the benefit of my efforts. I was building something good instead of hiding from things I didn’t want to face head on. Life without drugs wasn’t easy and there was temptation to go with the guys for a beer on Friday after our shifts were over, but they never pressured me too much when I declined. They all knew I was a recovering addict, and they respected it. They all seemed to want me to succeed, if for no other reason than they all loved my old man.

I had dinner on Sunday with my father, and I would usually have dinner once a week with the Newlins—Steve was married to a sweet girl named Sarah- and I went to meetings as often as I needed to. Things were coming together for me. I was getting back to the kind of person I knew I could be, the kind I had wanted to be when I first met Sookie all those summers ago when I was naïve enough to think nothing bad could ever happen to me.

Dealing with Sookie was the thing I put off the longest because it was the hardest thing to fix. She had been good to me. She had loved me. All she wanted was for me to be happy, and I had completely written her off in favor of a drug that didn’t give a single fuck about me. Our relationship was over because of me and me alone. I had no one to blame for any of it but myself.

Steve convinced me it was time to go see Sookie and get the things off my chest that I had been holding on to. I did a little asking around and learned she was still living in the same little house she had been living in back when we were together. When I pulled up in front of it, however, it was different than I remembered. The last time I had been there the house needed a fresh coat of paint and the shutters needed to be rehung. New gravel had been put down in her driveway and flowers had been planted along her walkway. There were flower boxes in the windows and a swing had been hung on the front porch.

The same red Corvette was parked in her driveway beside an SUV that I assumed was Sookie’s. The little yellow car she had once driven had probably finally bit the dust. The front door of the house was wide open, as were the windows, presumably to let a little air inside. I took a couple of deep breaths and told myself it was time to quit running from her. I slid out of the truck, said a quick prayer and then crossed the road to Sookie’s house.

SPOV

“Eric, quick, the baby’s kicking!” I called out from the kitchen where I was washing dishes.

I was five months into my first pregnancy, and the baby kicking was still a phenomenon that required calling Eric in from wherever he was in the house so he could feel it. The pregnancy wasn’t planned, but we were thrilled about it. It felt like the right next step for us. We had talked about marriage, but had decided we would wait until after the baby was born. If it still felt right, we would go for it. The important thing was that we were absolutely crazy about and committed to each other. We didn’t need a piece of paper to know those things.

Thundering footsteps sounded through the house and a giant man puppy came barreling into the kitchen. His massive hands covered the expanse of my ever-growing belly, and he grinned when the Boss kicked his hand. We didn’t know what we were having yet, but we were going to be finding out in three days, assuming the Boss cooperated and flashed its bits at the machine. I was sure it was a boy, while Eric insisted we were having a girl. Truthfully, neither of us cared as long as the baby was healthy and had all the bits it was supposed to for its gender.

“I think that’s a soccer player in there,” I smiled at Eric.

“Unisex sport,” he shrugged, his denial running deep. He really loved to be right. Hell, he was the reason I had taken a pregnancy test in the first place, and he never let me forget it. “I was right about you being pregnant, wasn’t I?”

Ugh. Jerk. Now he thought he knew everything. If he wasn’t so adorable about it, it would be unbearable.

“Yeah, yeah, doesn’t mean you know everything,” I growled at him, and he kissed me in response.

“Also, it’s a good thing I speak pictogram,” Eric beamed with pride.

“The crib is coming together okay?” I lay my hands on top of Eric’s.

“Yes ma’am, and you were right; I like the darker wood better now that I see it in the nursery,” Eric admitted and it was my turn to gloat.

“I told you so!” I couldn’t resist saying it.

“Yeah, yeah, but don’t think this means you get to redecorate the bathroom,” he teased, pecked me again and released my belly.

He was so perfect for me in so many ways. I met Eric at a time when my life was sort of up in the air. After everything I had gone through with my ex-boyfriend Alcide, I needed something to make me happy again. I was ready to put myself back out there, and then as if by magic, Eric came into my life. He was the perfect blend of playful and responsible. He took his work seriously as a deputy for the local sheriff’s office. I had met him when I went into the office to meet my brother for lunch.

Eric was there behind the desk, looking about as sexy as a man can look in a uniform while strapped with a deadly weapon. He was tall, muscular and the very definition of delicious. Jason came out and broke up the flirting, of course, but he had actually suggested I give Eric a shot if he made a move. For my brother to approve of a boyfriend was a pretty big deal since he usually didn’t. He hated Alcide with a passion. He had warned me from the beginning that Alcide was trouble, but I always disregarded it.

I was a little more cautious with Eric, and I had taken things slowly. He knew all about my history with Alcide, and it was through Eric that I had learned that Alcide had overdosed a little over six months ago. I worried about him, of course, but I also knew it wasn’t my place to get involved anymore. I had Eric and a life of my own that I needed to focus on. Try as I might, I knew I couldn’t fix Alcide and what was broken in him. It was up to him to fix himself.

With the dishes all finished up, I headed back to the bedroom we had picked to be the nursery. The walls were painted a soft shade of orange, and there were owls just about everywhere I looked. I never would have guessed I would end up decorating my baby’s room with owls, but I really liked the way it looked. Plus it was neutral in gender so we wouldn’t have to change it if we had another baby and the gender wasn’t the same as it was the first time around.

“You’re doing a pretty good job in here, mister,” I said from the doorway, smiling at admiringly at Eric. “I might have to put a little something extra in your paycheck this week.”

The first trimester of pregnancy hadn’t been terrible, but it wasn’t kind either. The second, however, had been Eric’s reward for putting up with all of the hormone shifts that wreaked havoc on my moods and emotions. I swear to God there were pornstars who had less sex than I did in the last six weeks. Every time I got near Eric lately, all I wanted was to jump him. It was insane.

The doorbell rang and even though Eric sprang up to answer it for me, I stopped him. “I got it, Eric. You’re busy here.”

He smiled at me and got back to work. I padded my way down the hall toward the living room. The house was perfectly clean. I’d always been a neat person but pregnancy had thrown me into an almost psychotic need to keep things sparkling. My books said I was nesting, but Eric had a different word for it that wasn’t fit to be used around a child’s ears.

I went to the door, which I had left open to air out the chemical smell from the cleaning I had been doing, and briefly glared over my shoulder in Eric’s direction. I swear his brain was in a constant state of thinking he needed to protect me from imaginary threats. I loved him for being to safety conscious, but a breeze was hardly an enemy. Without checking the peephole to see who was on the other side of the door, I pulled it open.

There, standing before me, was Alcide Herveaux. My eyes went wide, my mouth hung open, and I’m pretty sure my heart plummeted into my feet before lodging itself in my throat. The last time I saw Alcide was the morning I threw him out and broke up with him for good. He had looked like hell then and he didn’t look much better. There was slight improvement, but it was going to be a long time before he got back to where he had been when we first met.

Alcide looked me up and down, and of course his eyes were glued to my belly. It was easy to see in the tank top I was wearing to keep cool. My hair had grown out quite a bit and the prenatal vitamins I had been taking had made it thicker and shinier than it had ever been. Those vitamins were good stuff. At the moment my hair was pulled back in a high ponytail and I was wearing a little pair of shorts I usually wore when I was just doing chores around the house. When his eyes shifted to my left hand, I became painfully aware of the engagement ring sitting on my ring finger. It was going to have to come off soon since I was starting to swell up a little.

“You’re pregnant,” Alcide’s eyes went back to my bump.

“Twenty weeks and two days,” I said and let my hand rest on my belly. “What are you doing here, Alcide?”

I wasn’t disappointed he had come, but I wasn’t sure inviting him in was a good idea either. I finally had my life back together and going the way I wanted it to. Letting Alcide back in was a bad, bad idea.

“I needed to see you. I can understand why you would slam the door in my face and why you wouldn’t want to hear anything I have to say, but it’s part of my recovery,” he looked me in the eyes, no attempts to hide from the things he had done, or from taking responsibility.

“Who’s at the door, Sookie?” Eric called from deep inside the house. Shit.

“Uh, it’s Alcide Herveaux,” I called back and there was the immediate drop of tools, followed by heavy footsteps on the hardwood floors.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Eric demanded his angry cop face on display.

“Eric, calm down. Alcide’s just here to talk,” I reached for his hand, hoping it would soothe him a little. I led it to my belly, and I felt him soften for just a moment before he remembered why he was enraged in the first place.

“I don’t want him here,” Eric said to me.

“It’s part of his recovery. He won’t stay long,” I promised.

Eric and I shared a look that told me he was really uncomfortable with having Alcide in our home, a home I had once shared with the man on the porch, but Eric also knew I wasn’t likely to back down from this. If I wanted to, I could get in my car and follow Alcide somewhere to talk it out, and I was sure Eric would prefer to be within earshot in case things got ugly. Not that I had a reason to think Alcide would get violent with me, but he wasn’t the man I had fallen in love with anymore. Anything was possible, as far as I was concerned.

“I’ll be in the kitchen;” Eric kissed the top of my head and then added, “cleaning my service revolver.”

I rolled my eyes and shook my head while Eric retreated to the kitchen. I motioned for Alcide to come inside. The house was different since he had been inside it last. Eric and I had done a little renovating after Sam, my former landlord, sold me the house. All of the old carpet had been ripped up in favor of hardwood floors. The wall that had separated the living room and dining room now had pretty French doors so it was easy to see from one space to the other. Alcide couldn’t see the kitchen from the living room, but we had put in new countertops, refinished the cabinets and replaced a bunch of the old appliances that were in there.

“The house looks good,” Alcide said as he looked around.

“Thanks. Can I get you something to drink?” I offered.

“Got a beer?” he asked and my eyes narrowed. “That was a joke, Sookie. I’m off that stuff. For good.”

I brushed off his commentary and offered him a glass of iced tea instead, which he accepted. I excused myself to find Eric in the kitchen, seriously cleaning his gun. Just what the hell did he think he was doing?

“Eric, be serious!” I whisper shouted at him.

“I am serious,” he said without looking up.

I rolled my eyes, poured two glasses of tea and went back to the living room to find Alcide holding a picture frame. It was a picture of Eric and me from Mardi Gras, which, coincidentally, was when I got pregnant, but that’s another story altogether. I set Alcide’s tea down on the end table, and then took a seat myself in the arm chair in the corner of the room.

“I can’t believe you’re having a baby,” Alcide set the picture down and took a seat on the sofa.

“Me either, but I’m thrilled about it. It just started really kicking a few weeks ago,” I rested my hand on its perpetual perch. It was hard to believe that once upon a time I had thought Alcide and I would be the father of my kids. That definitely wasn’t going to happen now.

“You look good, Sookie,” he smiled at me.

“Thank you,” I took a drink of my tea.

An awkward silence fell over us for a few moments, and I was pretty sure Alcide was still taking in all the changes. I wasn’t the same woman he had been in love with either, I suppose. My lifestyle had changed. I was ready to be someone’s mommy. I couldn’t have done that when I was with him, and I’m sure that knowledge wasn’t escaping him.

“So how’ve you been?” I finally asked just to get the ball rolling.

“Well, it’s all a pretty long story, but the ending is a happy one, relatively speaking,” Alcide looked down at his hands, which were resting on his knees.

“I heard about the overdose,” I figured I might as well dive right in on that. “Eric is a deputy at the sheriff’s office. He wasn’t there when it happened, but he knows the guys who were.”

Alcide nodded and said, “That was my wake up call. Pretty pathetic, huh?”

“They say you have to lose everything sometimes in order to get it,” I offered, although I’m not sure that made things better.

“I did. I lost you,” Alcide said with pain in his eyes when he looked at me. “Listen, Sookie, I know I said and did a lot of things that are pretty unforgivable. For my own peace of mind, I wish I could take them all back because you didn’t deserve a single ounce of the pain I caused you. You were good to me. You tried to help me, and I spit on you for it. I was a selfish asshole and I have no reason, whatsoever, to expect that you’ll ever forgive me for it. I came here because I wanted you to know that I’m sorry for all the things I did that hurt you, and I don’t expect you to care but I wanted you to know that I’m okay.”

I thought that over for a minute. I could appreciate his apology. I knew it took courage to admit to his wrongs, and that was part of working his program. Making amends was a big step. I didn’t think Alcide and I would ever be friends again, but it was good to know he was acknowledging the mistakes he had made in the past. I just hoped he learned from it all so he wouldn’t fall into the same traps over and over again.

“Apology accepted,” I said without a second thought, and he seemed surprised. “Alcide, you did say and do a lot of things that hurt me. I hated you for a long time because of the pain you caused me. So much of my future had been wrapped up in plans we had made together, and to watch you slowly piss it all away just about killed me.

“At the same time, I can’t help but be grateful for it. Now I have Eric, and I love him more than I ever could have imagined. We have a baby coming this winter, and I am so excited about it. Everything feels like it’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. I’m sorry you had to go through so much in order to get where you are now. I wouldn’t wish what you’ve been through on anyone.

“Even with all the things you did that hurt me, I have no choice but to forgive you for it. I can’t carry all that around anymore, and I don’t want to. I want you to get healthy and find purpose in your life. I want you to be happy, and find someone new to share your life with because you deserve that. I have seen you at your best, and I’ve seen you at your worst. I know what you’re capable of when you put your mind to it, and honey, you can do great things. This is your second chance in life, Alcide. Don’t blow it.”

He nodded with tears in his eyes. I looked away to give him a chance to wipe them away. It was as close to privacy as he was going to get.

“I also need to thank you,” Alcide turned his face toward mine again. His green eyes were shiny from the tears he’d shed.

“For what?” I swallowed the ball of emotion in my throat.

“For calling Dad when I got in too deep. I didn’t listen, at the time, but when I look back now I know you were doing the right thing for me. Also because after I woke up from that overdose, I thought about you. I thought of all the ways you had tried to help me in the past, and how disappointed in me you would be if you could have seen me in that hospital bed. I had been telling myself for a long time that I never meant to hurt you, but I did. I know now that I did want to hurt you. I wanted you to feel as miserable and shitty as I did. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for that, but it was thoughts of you that made me want to turn it all around. I wanted to be able to come to you, like I am now, and tell you that I was wrong. I wanted you to know that your faith in me wasn’t misplaced, or a waste of your time. I got clean for me, but you were with me the whole time,” Alcide explained, and the sincerity in his voice went straight to those crazy pregnancy hormones.

I broke down and let myself sob for a few minutes. It never occurred to me that I was holding so much back. Eric had seen me do my share of crying over Alcide, and I knew it was because of that that he would never be Alcide’s biggest fan. I couldn’t blame him for that. If Eric had an ex who had hurt him the way Alcide had hurt me, I wouldn’t much care for the woman either. I would do whatever I could to keep her out of Eric’s life.

We talked for a while longer. Alcide told me about the program he had been in, and how difficult rehab had been for him at some points. He suspected treatment had been easier for him than it was for some because he was there by choice. He was ready to be done with the drugs, but that didn’t mean the drugs were ready to be done with him. He got the itch every now and then to use, but when that happened he went to a meeting or called his sponsor like he was supposed to. He was determined to never end up in that bad place again, and I was glad to hear it.

Finally, after a while, I went and got Eric to formally introduce them. Eric was resistant, at first, but then he let the cop in him take over. No doubt he intended to go in there and lay down the law. The two of them shook hands and it was strange to be standing between my past and my future, my baby kicking furiously smack dab in the present.

“You know I came here once before the overdose, hoping we could talk,” Alcide admitted once I was parked in Eric’s lap in the same chair as before. “It was about a year after we split up, and the two of you were bringing in groceries. You looked happier than I had seen you in a long time. I’m glad you found someone who loves you and treats you the way you deserve.”

Eric wisely remained quiet. He was probably thinking that was a big load of bull, but he at least had the smarts not to say so out loud, and I was thankful for it. There wasn’t much to be said after that point, and since Alcide had gotten what he’d come for, it felt like it was time for him to go. It was getting on to dinnertime anyway, and I didn’t feel comfortable asking him to stay.

“Well, I should get started on dinner,” I said after a few moments of silence.

“Oh, yeah, right. Sorry, I didn’t mean to take up your whole day,” Alcide said and stood up.

Eric gave me a boost from behind which had more to do with him wanting to put his hands on my ass in front of Alcide than because I needed help getting up. I wasn’t that pregnant yet. “I’ll walk you outside,” I offered, which I knew Eric wasn’t thrilled about.

“Eric, it was nice to meet you,” Alcide extended his hand.

“Stay out of trouble,” Eric responded and I saw the muscles in his forearm tense and flex as he shook Alcide’s hand.

“That’s the plan,” Alcide gave a faint smile and followed me to the door.

We walked out of the house together, and I smiled to see his old truck parked across the street. There were a lot of good memories associated with that truck. Hell, I had lost my virginity in the bed of it. It was hard to believe that so many things had changed in the last four years of my life. Four years ago I was madly in love with Alcide and anything seemed possible. I wasn’t tethered to anything, and I was happy to follow wherever he led.

Now I was in a very committed relationship with a man I couldn’t have created in my wildest dreams, and I was just a few months away from being a mom. It hadn’t all gone down the way I planned it, but I was insanely happy. Finding out that Alcide was sober was just the cherry on my sundae.

“I can’t believe you still have this old monster,” I ran my hand over the hood of the slightly rusted silver truck.

“You know Bertha is the one girl I can’t ever seem to shake,” Alcide smirked and leaned against the truck.

“She is a good ole girl,” I patted her bumper. “Listen, there’s something else I wanted to say to you and I didn’t want to say it in front of Eric because he tends to gloat when he gets his way, or when he’s right about something.”

Alcide braced himself, I could tell, and nodded for me to continue.

“I’m happy that you’re moving on and getting yourself together. You know that’s all I ever wanted for you,” I said and he nodded again, “but I don’t think us being friends is a good idea. I don’t mean to be harsh to you, or seem like I don’t care, but with the baby coming I just don’t think it’s a good idea. Maybe someday in the future we can give it a try, but for now I think it’s best if this is the last we see of each other for a while.”

Alcide looked disappointed but he didn’t seem surprised. He offered a sad smile and said, “I didn’t come here thinking we would be best friends. Hell, I’m just glad you didn’t slam the door in my face the second you saw me standing there. I’m not sure I could be as generous and patient as you’ve been with me. All I want is for you to be happy too, Sookie. I wish for nothing but good things for you.”

I smiled at him and then offered him a hug, which he eagerly accepted. The baby moved between us, and he pulled back quicker than he probably would have otherwise if the little kicks wouldn’t have interrupted us. A glance over at the house had me shocked Eric wasn’t watching like a hawk to make sure Alcide didn’t try to kidnap me, or run me over with his truck. I did, however, wonder if he had some sort of telepathic link with the Boss to make sure Alcide and I didn’t hug for too long.

“You take care of yourself, Alcide,” I stepped back from the truck.

“Yeah, you do the same,” he smiled at me, frowned a little at my bump, and then walked around to the driver’s side of the truck.

He climbed up into the cab and started Bertha up. She still rattled and belched like she always had. If I closed my eyes I could still feel the vibration of the seat and smell the honeysuckle in the warm summer air as Alcide and I sped around on back roads, looking for a place to park and do the kinds of things teenagers do in the dark. My hands settled on my stomach, bringing me back to the present. The fluttering movements of the baby growing inside me made me smile for a while new set of reasons. There was so much unknown ahead of me, and I was looking forward to it.

With my past finally put to rest, I walked back up to the house to find Eric stretched out on our sofa, flipping through TV channels. I got down on my knees in the limited space between the couch and the coffee table and kissed him right on the mouth. He smiled at me when I pulled back and asked, “What was that for?”

“For being the kind of guy I know I can always count on, even when you drive me nuts,” I smiled at him.

“Everything okay with Alcide?” he asked with concern written all over his face.

“Yeah,” I nodded and rubbed his cheek, “I’m glad he came. We both got to say a lot of things we needed to say. I feel lighter.”

“Good,” Eric lifted my hand from his cheek and kissed my knuckles.

“So, what do you want for dinner?” I asked while struggling to get up off the floor.

“How about I fire up the grill and we’ll cook those pork chops you pulled out earlier?” he suggested as he sat up.

“Sounds perfect,” I reached for his hand to yank him up off the couch.

Our hands stayed joined and together we walked into the kitchen to get started on dinner.

-FIN-

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