You saw my pain washed out in the rain
saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault,
no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside
my hope torn apart
But the ghosts that we knew
will flicker from view
We’ll live a long life
So give me hope in the darkness
that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright
So lead me back,
turn south from that place
And close my eyes to my recent disgrace
‘Cause you know my call
And we’ll share my all
And our children come
and they will hear me roar
So give me hope in the darkness
that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright
But hold me still,
bury my heart on the coals
But hold me still,
bury my heart on the coals
And hold me still,
bury my heart next to yours
So give me hope in the darkness
that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold on as long as you like
But the ghosts that we knew
made us black and all blue
But we’ll live a long life
And the ghosts that we knew
will flicker from view
And we’ll live a long life
MUMFORD & SONS
Ghosts That We Knew
Bright sunlight is beating on my swollen gritty eyelids trying to wake me up. I groan and turn over to hide in the warm body draped over mine. I bury my face against a soft, slightly furry chest and breathe in. The scents of salty heat, soap, and man wrap themselves around me.
Eric. My sweet, wonderful, Eric.
His arm tightens, pulling me closer. “Love you,” he mumbles, his fingers massaging my back for just a moment before going still. He snores quietly a second later.
My eyes immediately well up with tears again. He does love me, with such pure and utter devotion it leaves me gutted and full to the point of bursting all at once. I don’t think I’ll ever feel worthy of it.
But I’m okay with that.
I choke back my tears as quietly as I can, I don’t want to hurt him with more. He hates my tears, but crying seems to have become my default setting since we got within twenty miles of this place. Between him being so incredibly sweet and the memories I can’t find any stable footing. I feel like a dingy being tossed around in a hurricane. But even though he’s part of that storm, he’s been my anchor too.
He held me for hours yesterday and last night. Other than fixing us a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper and arranging our nest he had me in his arms. I’d cry some, he would calm me down and we’d talk a bit, then I’d cry some more. Not once did he lose his patience or demand anything of me. He was my shelter, my comfort, my rock.
I scoot back from him just a bit, slowly so I don’t wake him. I need to see his beautiful face. Just looking at him gives me a reprieve from all these swirling emotions. I love him so much my entire being aches with it.
I also ache with guilt.
I shouldn’t have brought him here or come back at all. I could’ve done everything we came to do over the phone. I don’t know what I expected of myself. Everything I said to him that day in our kitchen back in Georgia I meant. I still mean them, but when I walked into this house yesterday it was like ripping a scab off.
It hurt. Shocking and sharp and stinging. I couldn’t keep my reaction to it contained. And I haven’t been able to keep it all from spilling over onto him either.
I’m causing him pain and I hate it.
Despite what I’m putting him through, he’s been so good to me.
Sometime after midnight he curled us up in our makeshift bed and we fell into a fitful sleep. He couldn’t get comfortable in this tiny space and I fought my exhaustion fearing the nightmares that were sure to haunt me all night. I laid for a long time staring at the ceiling after Eric fell asleep, his heart beating steady under my ear, doing its best to keep the ghosts at bay. They still came. In the heavy silence of the house I kept hearing a familiar voice call my name and the patter of little feet running across the floors, sweet laughter echoing all around me.
There was no peace awake or not, and my body finally gave me no choice and pulled me under.
I drifted in and out of sleep, but almost every time I became the least bit conscious Eric was there, glassy eyes staring at me, fingers brushing through my hair, whispering to me that everything was going to be alright, he wouldn’t leave me.
I don’t know if I was waking him with my fretting or if he was too worried to sleep himself.
He already feels like a thief and I’m just making it worse. I’ve got to pull myself together.
I don’t why I thought chasing ghosts was a good idea anyway. Not when I know life with this man in front of me holds everything good I could ever want.
The sooner I get things handled here the sooner we can start that life.
It’s tricky, but I manage to slip out from under him and climb out of our nest. I’m going to fix him breakfast. A big one. I tiptoe down the hall and to the bathroom, do my business then tiptoe to the kitchen.
I check out the haul Tara and Lala left for us in the fridge and find bacon, eggs, potatoes, and homemade biscuit dough resting in a covered bowl.
Bless you, Lala!
It only takes a few minutes to get the dough rolled out and the biscuits cut. I start on the potatoes next, then get the coffee going once they’re cooking. I save the bacon and eggs for last.
I haven’t really cooked in this kitchen in over two years unless you count heating up soup or mac-n-cheese in the microwave for the few months I was on my own. It feels familiar of course, but not quite right either. It just solidifies the fact that I don’t belong here anymore. My place is somewhere else now. I miss our house in Savannah, our home.
A huge part of that home wraps his arms around me from behind and presses his lips to my shoulder. “Hi,” he whispers.
I reach up to cup one of his cheeks and turn my head to kiss the other. “Hi, baby.”
“Something besides you smells really good,” he murmurs, his face in my neck, the rest of him still holding me close. He’s such a cuddler.
“Bacon, eggs, home fries, and biscuits. Lala hooked us up. It’s almost ready if you wanna hit the bathroom first.”
He straightens up, but instead of going to the bathroom he turns me to face him. Those ocean eyes of his look down at me filled with love and worry as he brushes my hair back off my face. He wants to ask how I am, but he struggles with it.
“I’m alright, sweetie. Better than yesterday, I promise,” I tell him, rubbing over what I’m certain is his aching chest.
“I’m sure. Go wash up so we can eat, we got a busy day.”
He stares at me a few more seconds then leans down and kisses my forehead. “Be right back,” he says quietly.
I get everything on the table as I finish it up. He comes back in as I’m pouring his coffee. I get another kiss on the head before he sits down. “Thank you, beautiful. This looks and smells delicious.”
“You’re welcome,” I tell him, sitting down beside him and giving him a little smile. “You deserve it for putting up with me yesterday.”
He shakes his head and rubs his big hand up and down my thigh. “I’ll do whatever you need, Bird, no thanks needed.”
“I know that, that’s why you deserve this,” I whisper and lean over to kiss him.
We eat quietly for a while then I decide to let him know what I need to get done. We really haven’t discussed it.
“So…I need to meet with my lawyer and find a realtor today. I guess I need to get a truck rented too. It won’t have to be big, I don’t think I’m taking much.”
“Okay, sounds good. You want to just hire the truck to drive to Savannah or you want to me drive it and you the Vette?”
“Definitely hire them to take it. I don’t want either of us having to drive that much. You seem to keep forgetting you’re still healing, mister,” I scowl at him playfully.
He winks, giving me one of his adorable smirks. “Can’t blame me for tryin.”
“You can stay here if you want, while I’m in town.”
“Nope, I’m coming with you,” he says, then stuffs a big, jelly-oozing biscuit in his mouth.
I had to make a few phone calls first, but we’ve got appointments set up for the day.
We head out about eleven.
“Where’s the car?” I’m half way down the steps before I notice it missing from the driveway.
“I put it in the garage, I hope that’s alright?”
“Oh phew! I almost had a heart attack. I thought someone stole it. And sure, that’s fine.”
“I’ll go get it, you can wait here,” he says, taking off at a jog around the house.
I follow right behind him at a slower pace, the closer I am to him the less the memories invade.
He has the door going up by the time I get there and a look of relief on his face as he looks over his baby. Wonder what that’s about?
I start towards my side, but a flash of sunlight against chrome catches my eye.
The Harley. I forgot all about it.
We took a lot of rides on that thing before Lucas was born. He loved it like Eric loves his Vette. I walk over, scowling at how dusty it is and send up an apology to Trey for not doing better.
“I can clean it up for you when we get back,” Eric says, his voice low and unsure from behind me.
I turn and look up at him, smiling a bit so he knows I’m alright. “It’s a beauty when it’s polished up.”
“You ever ride before?” I ask, an idea beginning to form in my mind.
He nods. “I had a dirt bike in my teens. Dad had a Honda I would take out every once in awhile.”
“You think you might want to take this one with us?”
His eyebrows shoot up in surprise, then quickly gather when he thinks for second. “You want me to have his bike?”
“I know you’d take care of it.”
“Well yeah, but…”
“I understand if you’d rather not have the reminder. I’m sure I can sell it easy. I won’t be upset if you don’t want it. Just think about it?”
“If you want to keep it, we’ll keep it.”
I shake my head. “No, that’s not it. I want someone to enjoy it like he did. So don’t think about what me or Trey would want, just what you do,” I tell him with a pat to his chest then go get myself folded into the Vette.
I watch him stand there and stare at it for a bit, but he finally joins me in the car.
He leans over and gives me a kiss. “I’ll think about.”
“Thank you, and I meant it, baby. Don’t feel obligated to take it, okay?”
We make it to town and go to Mr. Sid Matt’s first. He’s standing out on the curb waiting for us when we get there, a gentle smile on his face, his hands resting on his big belly. I’m out of the car the second Eric puts it in park.
I’ve never hugged the man before, but when he holds his arms open for me I go straight into them. He smells like old books and tobacco, and gives me one of the best hugs I’ve ever had. It’s like Gran, Mr. Hayward, and Miss Connie hugging me all at once. Like a hug only a grandparent can give, full of nothing but love.
I finally pull back before I start tearing up.
He squeezes my arms and smiles at me knowingly. “My dear, you look just wonderful. Does this old man good to see it too.”
“Thank you. I am doing wonderful. Thanks to this guy over here,” I tell him, nodding my head back at Eric who’s standing quietly behind me. I step to the side, grabbing his arm to pull him forward. “Mr. Sid Matt, this is my Eric.”
Eric holds his hand out to him. “Eric Northman. It’s nice to meet you, sir.”
“You too, young man. I’ve heard quite a bit about you.”
“Oh?” Eric asks, his smile nervous. “I hope it was all good.”
Mr. Sid nods and winks at me, “Every bit. Why don’t we get outta this heat? We can catch up inside.”
We follow him in and go on through to his office.
“Ya’ll have a seat, make yourselves comfortable. Can I get ya’ll some water, coffee?” he asks us.
We both politely decline, sitting down in the chairs across from his desk. Eric reaches over, taking my hand and lacing our fingers together.
Mr. Sid gets his rotund self in his chair with some grunts and groans, then leans back with a sigh, his fingers laced over stomach. “I have an idie what this visit is for, but I’ll let you start,” he says, smiling gently at me.
I glance at Eric, he’s got an encouraging smile for me too. Guess I’ve got the floor.
“There’s a few things I need your help with. First the house. We’re meetin with Portia in a couple hours to put it on the market. I’m not sure how long it’ll take to sell, but once it does I’d like you to handle the closing for me.”
His smile wilts a little, like a flower gone a day or two without water, still there, but not as bright as before. I wilt inside with guilt and sadness. I’m going to miss him.
“I can do that for you. I must say we sure will miss seeing you, but I think you’re in good hands now.”
I try to support the truth of his words with my smile. “I am, Mr. Sid. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. You don’t have to worry about me anymore.”
Eric’s fingers tighten around my hand. I squeeze his back.
Then Mr. Sid pins him with serious eyes. “You gonna keep her happy? I promised her Gran, Miss Connie, and Mr. Hayward I’d watch over her for em. I had you checked out, you know?”
“Mr. Sid!” I squeal.
He just holds his hand up and waves it at me. “I’m your lawyer, Sookie, and I made a promise to three of the best folks I’ve ever known to take care of you. I failed you more times than I care to think about. I didn’t mean to do it again.”
Oh, I am pissed.
“And what about my opinion of him? It doesn’t count?” I snap.
He looks shocked at my angry tone and tries to back pedal. “Of course it does, dear. It counts the most, but I had to be sure. You weren’t in a good place. I couldn’t let anyone take advantage of you. You’re a very rich woman, Sookie. One with a giving heart and who was about as vulnerable as a person can get. I would be a very poor lawyer and friend if I didn’t watch out for you.”
“You could’ve just asked me. I told you what he’s done for me. I told you he was a good man. For God’s sake! He risked his own life to save mine when he didn’t even know me! That should’ve been enough for you. I may have been in a bad place, but I wasn’t an idiot. I can’t believe you did that. It’s my life, my choice. I don’t need some man telling me what’s good for me.”
Eric scoots his chair closer to me and wraps his arm around me, pulling me against his side. “Sookie, it’s okay. He was just doing his job. I understand and I don’t mind at all.”
“Well, I do!”
“I apologize, Sookie. For overstepping and upsetting you. But I gave my word when you hired me and I gave it to your family. Your best interest is number one for me. That said, you’re right. He is a good man.”
“He’s the best man!”
They both chuckle at my defensiveness which only ruffles my feathers more. “You two better watch it.” I pull away from Eric and point at Mr. Sid, “I can fire you.” Then I look at my smirking boyfriend. “And I can break up with you.”
His face falls. “You wouldn’t.”
Bless his heart, he honestly looks scared.
I reach over and pop his leg. “You know I won’t.”
He’s like a balloon deflating the relief rushes through him so. Silly man.
With him reassured I turn on Mr. Sid again. “Speaking of this good man. I need you to change my will. I want him to be the sole beneficiary.”
“Sookie,” Eric breathes out beside me.
I look at him, taking in his shocked face. He looks like he’s been trapped on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, bless him. I take his hand in mine, giving it a good squeeze. “It’s what I want, sweetie. I know you don’t need the money, but you’re going to be my husband soon. What’s mine is yours now. If I was a betting woman I would say you have plans to do the same for me?”
“Well, yeah. Of course I do, but..”
“But what? You’re my family now, Eric. I don’t have anyone else to leave it to.”
“Maybe it would be best to hold off until after the wedding, or at least until you’re engaged?” Mr. Sid suggests, staring at my empty ring finger.
“No. There’s no need to wait. We’re here now. I want it done,” I tell him, my tone firm.
“Sir?” Eric pipes in. “I see where you’re looking and know what you’re suggesting. You need to know her ring is waiting at the jeweler’s back home. It would already be on her finger if she didn’t want to be surprised. I have no intentions of leaving her side until I’m forced to by God Himself.”
Sid nods. “Alright then, maybe a pre-nup? You are both wealthy in your own rights.”
“Mr. Sid, I know you are doing your job, but you are really starting to rile me up. Eric is not a thief, and neither am I. We don’t need each other’s money. I do not want any damn pre-nup. Do you, Eric?”
He was shaking his head, before I finished asking. “No, I don’t.”
I look at Mr. Sid again, daring him to piss me off further.
His hands go up in surrender. “Alright, alright. I know when I’ve been beat. I’ll get the paperwork started. I’ll need signatures from both of you. How long are you staying in town?”
“How soon can you have them ready to sign?” I ask.
“Well, I don’t have many cases pending right now, so…two days? I’ll work through the weekend.”
“Thank you. We’ll be back Monday after lunch then?”
“I’ll be here. Was there anything else?
“Yes, when the house sells, I want the money to go to Tara and Lafayette, split fifty-fifty. If there’s any paperwork I need to sign for that, please have it ready too. And I don’t want them to know about till it’s done.”
I can see his question rise up and nearly choke him, but he manages to keep it to himself. I love the man, but he really needs to remember he’s working for me.
We left Mr. Sid’s office after a quick goodbye–I was still about as cranky as a wet hen–then headed over to Miden. After grabbing a quick lunch at Sonic, we found the U-Haul place and got a truck rented. They’re gonna drive it over to the house for us later in afternoon.
Since we still have over an hour before we need to meet Portia we go to Piggly Wiggly to pick up a few things we’ve run out of on our trip.
Eric grabs a buggy from the buggy corral thingy then grabs me, putting me in-between him and back of it. “Put your feet down there and hang on,” he orders.
“Eric,” protest with a laugh.
“Com’ on, don’t be a spoil sport. I wanna take you for a ride. Hop up.”
His smile is one of those I’d do anything for, and even though I know he’s just trying to take my mind off things, I easily give in. I hop up on the buggy, leaning forward and balancing enough I can rub my ass against him in just the right spot. “How about after this one I let you take me for a different kind of ride?” I ask, looking back over my shoulder at him with my best sexy grin.
He gives me a hungry look then leans over me, pressing his hips tight against my ass. “You can ride me anytime, anyplace,” he growls in my ear right before propelling me, himself, and the buggy across the parking lot like a rocket.
I scream out laughter then fright when he almost crashes us into an old lady shuffling out the sliding doors with her groceries.
We quickly apologize, but can’t hold back our giggles when she mutters something about crazy youngins actin like idiots as she totters off to her car.
Deciding we better behave ourselves we get serious about our shopping. We grab some more groceries since we’ll be here a few more days, and more toilet paper.
Eventually we make it to the personal isle–which is the one we needed most. We’re almost out of shampoo and shave gel.
There’s a couple, around our ages maybe, with a dark headed baby boy bouncing in his Daddy’s arms over on the baby side of the isle.
I steer Eric towards the shampoos just behind them.
“Sookie Stackhouse? Is that you?”
I spin around to see it’s Jason’s best friend from elementary school. Now he’s a dad.
“JB! My goodness, it’s been so long.”
“Yeah it has! How are you? What er you doing back here? I thought you moved off after…”
“I did, I’m just back visiting. I live in Savannah now.” I turn and wave towards Eric, he’s got his sweet, friendly smile in place. “This is my fiancé, Eric. Eric, this is JB du Rone, he was good friends with Jason.”
Eric’s eyebrows rose a fraction at the word fiancé and his smile got a hair brighter. It feels good to see him so happy and felt even better to say it out loud. I know it’s not official, but so what, it’s gonna be.
“Eric Northman. Nice to meet you,” he says reaching over to shake JB’s hand.
“You too. You picked a good one. Sookie comes from good people.”
“Yep, I’m a lucky man.”
“This is my lucky charm, Rebecca,” JB says, scooting over a step to the cute brunette beside him who’s smiling shyly now that she’s quit rolling her eyes at his nickname for her. She has beautiful green eyes to go with her chocolate hair and dusting of freckles. The baby has a mixture of hers and JB’s eyes, a striking pale blue rimmed in green. He has freckles across his plump, creamy cheekbones and tiny nose too.
“Hi, Rebecca. It’s so nice to meet you. You and this little fella are gorgeous by the way,” I tell her, reaching up to tickle his tight tummy. I feel his giggles in my own stomach.
“Aww, thank you. That’s our little Jake. He’ll be a year old in just over a month,” Rebecca says proudly, in that way only new Mamas can.
The baby let’s out another effervescent giggle, his eyes focused behind me. I turn and see Eric making silly faces at him, not caring a bit in the world he’s acting like a nut in front of strangers. Little Jake squeals, deciding he wants to visit this funny new person. He stretches out his chubby little arms towards Eric, grunting like a pig for him to take him.
Eric looks towards JB and Rebecca, his eyebrows raised in question, “Is it okay?”
“Sure!” they chime in unison. JB passes him over. “The kid doesn’t know a stranger.
He’ll just about go to anybody. But for some reason he likes the tall guys best.”
“You can see better from way up here can’t ya, buddy?” Eric smiles at him, goosing him under his arms. Little Jake scrunches up and one of those raspy chuckles from deep in his belly comes out making Eric let out a laugh of his own.
Something warm and intense swells up inside me, from my stomach up into my chest and then it floods my sinuses. My eyes burn, my throat’s tight, I may have even just gasped, but there’s no pain, no sadness, only a stunning realization.
One I hadn’t let see the light of day, one I didn’t dare hope for. One I was too afraid to put words to.
I want a baby. Eric’s baby.
I want to see him holding, smiling at, and playing with a tiny little blue-eyed blonde baby who smiles back at their daddy like he could give them the world.
A baby of our own.
My heart feels like it’s attached to a hundred balloons and they’re lifting it up and out of my ribs and floating away with it.
Eric looks over at me, smiling bigger than I’ve ever seen him, so happy with that baby in his arms. I can’t do anything but smile right back at them.
The rest of yesterday went fairly smooth. Portia met us back at the house that afternoon and after showing her through the house, we agreed on a contract. She took pictures inside and out and then walked the property. She seemed to think she could sell it quick.
I nodded and agreed with everything she said, only half listening to her.
I haven’t been able to think of much else but having babies with Eric ever since our shopping trip. It’s actually been a nice distraction from the grief and memories I’ve been battling.
He’s helped me pack all day today. I’ve tried to be quick and efficient, not letting myself get caught up in anymore memories. Thankfully I had already gone through Trey’s things before going to Savannah and I had a few boxes of mama’s, daddy’s and Jason’s things upstairs. Gran’s too. I added some photos and a few dishes of hers and Trey had some things of his mama and daddy’s so those are coming too. I can’t just leave them behind.
By four we had went through almost the whole house. After loading Gran’s sewing machine in the truck he made me take a break, so I showered then started on making us a snack.
He’s still packing though. In the room I can’t go in.
I tried, just like I did dozens of times before. It didn’t work. He couldn’t stand watching me attempt to fight off attack after attack and finally begged me to let him do it.
I’ve never felt so grateful and cowardly all at once.
Claudine always told me not to push before I was ready, but to never stop trying either. I did try so I guess I get points for that at least.
So here I am, trying and failing to fix cheese and crackers while my insides vibrate from the constant push and pull of my emotions. I need to be in there talking to him about this new and sudden baby craze I’ve been struck with.
But I’m too scared.
Of that room and him.
He’s never mentioned kids, not once since I met him.
What if he hates them?
But that smile on his face yesterday was about as far from hate as you could get. He acted as happy as a pig in sunshine holding that little boy. Someone that hates kids would never act like that. Right?
Maybe he’s afraid too? Maybe he thinks I don’t want any, so he’s not going to mention it.
But isn’t that something we should really talk about before getting married?
It’s important. He needs to know how I feel, and I need the same from him. We have to talk about it.
I could go right now.
I can. I have too. For him, for me, and for Lucas. I have to be strong.
It’s time to bite the bullet and be a steel magnolia once more.
I grab the tool bag out from under the sink–the one Trey gave me our first Christmas–and head down the hall. I find him standing at the dresser, his back to me. He’s taking Lucas’ outfits from the drawers and packing them. They look so small in his big hands. Some he holds up and looks at for a moment before carefully folding them and putting them in the container, treating them like precious treasures.
I don’t think there are words to describe the emotions swirling through me at the sight of him in this room. The memories held in here are shrouded with the greatest grief I’ve ever known. Grief I barely survived and know will never really leave me. But I feel a hope so bright I can barely contain it looking at him and imagining him in another nursery, looking at the tiny clothes of another child’s. Our child’s. Our children’s.
Every other tear that slips down my cheek is filled sorrow for what I lost, the rest with the promise of what can be.
My sniffle startles him. He jumps a bit, then spins around. Laying Lucas’ shirt on the dresser he swallows up the ground between us in three steps of his long legs. I’m already sobbing by the time he wraps his arms around me.
The tool bag drops to the floor with loud clangs and a thump when I cling to him. He picks me up until I wrap my legs around his waist then starts out the door.
“No. Please…..I need to…stay,” I beg him.
He holds me tighter, pressing his cheek against my hair. “Okay,” he whispers. Even through my cries I heard his voice crack.
I lose myself for awhile in my grief and turmoil. It’s not until I feel slow steady rocking that I register he’s sat us down in the recliner by the crib. His big hands are rubbing my back, as I work to calm my breathing to some sibilance of normal.
“He loved me to rock him,” I whisper sometime later. “I did, every night. In this chair. For some reason he wouldn’t let Trey.”
“Mom was always better to cuddle with than dad,” he whispers back after I’m silent for awhile. His hands move from my back up into my hair.
I stay laying against his chest, staring at the crib my son slept in.
“I want to take it with us.”
“The chair? There’s plenty of room. I can load it up tonight if you want.”
“We can take the chair, but I meant the crib.”
I feel his lips press against the back of my head. “We’ll take both.”
“Do you want to be a dad someday?”
His hands and the chair stop their movement.
I sit up and easily see the distress in his eyes. He is afraid.
“Please. Talk to me. I need to know.”
“Right now? Are you sure?”
“Okay.” He takes a deep shaky breath and lets it out, sucking on his bottom lip. I reflexively do the same with mine. “Before you, no, I never even thought about it except to make sure it didn’t happen. Now? With you? Yes, I think I’d love to be a dad.”
Despite how upset I was only minutes ago, my heart soars.
He squeezes my hands, his eyes begging me to listen. “But only if you want the same, Bird. I swear to you, I’ll be happy till my dying day, even if it’s never more than just the two of us. Okay?”
I wrap my arms back around his neck and hug him out of joy this time, instead of pain. “I love you so much, Eric.”
“I love you too, beautiful.”
I sit up again and ask, “Was it Jake that changed your mind?”
He smiles a little, but shakes his head. “No. He was great though, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah he was.”
“I honestly couldn’t tell you what changed my mind about it. I guess it just came with loving you. You’ve opened my mind up to actually imagining a future. Before I just lived one day at a time.”
“I’m sorry, I’ve been there. It’s not the best place to be.”
“Yeah, but having been there I can appreciate how wonderful my life is now, you know?”
“I know exactly what you mean. So….you’d be okay with it…if I wanted to have a baby then? Like soon-ish? We’re not getting any younger, you know.”
He cups my face, nearly swallowing it up with his big hands, a smile stretching across his. “I would be more than okay with it, Bird. I would love to make babies with you. And I’m good with soon-ish too,” he says with a wink, then kisses me.
The crib was just as hard to take apart as I remember it being to put together. Neither of us minded though.
The chains on porch swing creak above me, cutting through the quiet afternoon as I slowly rock forward and back. I watch Eric put the last of our bags in the Vette, then he gently closes the hatch. It’s after three, but we’re both ready to head east.
We finished packing the truck a couple of hours ago–the driver will leave out first thing tomorrow with it. He’s under strict orders to be especially careful with the Harley he’ll be pulling, even though it’s strapped down tight and covered tighter. Eric got insurance just to be safe.
Everything is squared away with Portia– she’ll keep me posted on any buyers. I’ve been through every room, one last time, committing them to memory–not that I’ll ever forget an inch of it. So much of my life was spent in this house, lived inside its old walls. But it’s time to start a new life. I have another place to call home now.
Mr. Sid Matt showed up this morning with the papers he needed signed. He apologized again, profusely, and I easily forgave him, giving my own apologies. After some time to think, I know he was just looking out for me, like my family would have. Once the papers were signed he gave me a big hug goodbye. I didn’t keep my tears at bay that time. I swore I saw a few in his eyes as he shook Eric’s hand asking him to take care of me.
I’m not sure he’ll be up to coming to the wedding, but I’ll be sending him an invitation anyway. I don’t like thinking that might’ve been the last time I’ll see him.
We met Tara and Lala at Merlotte’s again last night. They both had work and classes today. I was already wrung out from my mini emotional breakdown a few hours before so it was extra tough telling them bye, but I’ll see them soon. They both promised to be at the wedding with bells on. They’re planning on spending the week before with us.
I have a feeling they’ll both get on with Pam like gangbusters.
So, everything’s done, it’s time to go…except….except I need to say goodbye to a few more people first.
I haven’t been out there in over two years.
Not since their funerals.
The weight of that has been hovering over me like a storm cloud since we got here. I haven’t let myself even look that way, trying to pretend they aren’t there, just through the trees. But they are, and I need to go see them one more time. I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t, but I can’t seem to get my ass off this old swing.
Eric makes his way up the steps and over to me, his pace slow and respectful. I stop swinging, holding it still to let him sit down beside me. We’re both quiet as I curl into his side. He wraps his arm around my back and rests his head against mine, then his long legs begin to pump. The rhythmic creaking starts up again.
He waits, a silence rock, no pushing or prompting, just giving me time work up the courage. We haven’t talked about going and seeing them–I don’t know if he even knows that’s where they are–but he still knows I need time.
Because he knows me. Like no one else ever has.
That knowledge gives me the push I need. He deserves all of me, and I can’t give it to him until I say goodbye to my past.
I stand up and hold my hand out to him. “Take a walk with me?”
He doesn’t hesitate at all, slipping his hand in mine and standing up. I lead him down the steps and across the yard.
I keep focused on the ground under my feet and the way the dry grass crunches beneath our footsteps. Just put one down in front of the other. There’s no need to look where I’m going anyway, I could find them in the dark. It only takes us a few minutes to get there.
The smell hits me first, the air suddenly filled with a heavy mixture of sweet honey and flowers. Then my eyes find them and I stop. Dozen of white lilies, each almost as big around as Eric’s hand, mark the graves of my loved ones. All perfectly placed, on all eight headstones, fresh and bright, like new fallen snow.
“I hope I didn’t overstep,” Eric says, his voice quiet behind me.
I spin around, he’s standing a few feet away, looking worried and unbelievably small. I didn’t even feel him let go of my hand, or realize I had left him behind. “You did this? But how did you know?”
He nods and shrugs, staring at his feet, the fingers of his left hand curled up and picking at his thumb. I never realized it before now, but every time he’s nervous or uncomfortable he does that.
My heart swells and softens all at once. I didn’t think I could love him any more than I already do.
I was wrong.
I hurry back to him and take his fretting fist in my hands. He lets me smooth the tension away with mine.
“Lafayette helped me out. The florist did the rest,” he confesses.
I start to try and tell him how thankful I am, but his nerves get the best of him and he cuts me off.
“I thought about my grandparents. Mom and dad. I haven’t been in years. I should have.” His eyes dart behind me, where my family lays. “And I wanted to do something for them. I need them to know I’m grateful and that I’m going to take care of you…..I couldn’t think of anything else.”
I reach up and stroke his stubbly cheek. “They’re perfect, baby. I love them and I know they do too. Thank you so much,” I whisper. It’s all I can manage without choking on my tears. I wrap him in a tight hug and he gives it right back. I don’t know how long we stand there before he gently pulls away.
“I’ll wait over there,” he whispers, nodding towards the benches under the closest live oak. “Take all the time you need.” He hands me a neatly folded bunch of kleenx he pulled from his pocket then cups my head with his big hands, leaning down and kissing my forehead, lingering long enough my throat tightens. Somehow sensing I’m about to lose it if he stays another second, he walks away, leaving me to say goodbye to my family.
I take the few steps needed then sink to the ground at the feet of my boys, my family on their left, his on their right. It’s hard not to notice the empty space between Trey and Jason.
The space meant for me.
It’s a wonder I’m not already there.
I should be and would be if not for my miracle sitting under the tree not far away.
“I’m so sorry it took me so long to come see you. I got lost for awhile and needed help finding my way back. I’d like to tell you about him….”
The sun is sliding low through the trees when I finally join Eric at his bench. He rises up to his impressive height and pulls me into a long hug.
There’s no more tears to possibly shed, so I just hug him back, soaking him in. I don’t feel the need to cry anymore anyway. The longer I sat there and talked to my family, the more at peace I felt. I knew before I got here I was making the right decision, but I still feel lighter, my spirit more at ease than it’s been since I was just a kid.
I finally pull away, but only far enough so I can stretch up on my toes to give him a kiss. “Thank you. For everything. For bringing me here, for never once losing your patience with me. For the flowers and what they mean. Just everything. God couldn’t have given me anyone better than you.”
He shakes his head, brushing my hair back behind my ear. “I don’t know about that. I just love you, I can’t help but want to do everything I can to ease your pain. But you’re welcome. I wish I could do more though.”
“They say there’s a season for everything and they all serve a purpose. I believe it now, but I think it’s safe to say my season of sadness is over. We’re both due for a nice long stretch of happiness, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I definitely do.”
“There is something else you can do for me though.”
“Take us home.”