Leap of Faith
Chapter 5: Two Ex’s and a Funeral
I woke in the morning to the smell of coffee, and, bacon? Coffee, Claude could handle, but bacon…Who was in the kitchen? I stretched and heard a crash and then glass breaking. Amelia was here.
I used the restroom, brushing my hair and teeth before heading for the kitchen. I could hear Amelia trying to sweep up whatever she had broken while mumbling under her breath. She was a total klutz, this was nothing unusual.
“Morning Amelia,” I muttered on my way to the coffee pot.
“Sookie!” she said sweetly and blocked my path to give me a hug. “How are you this morning? It’s going to be a long day. Are you ready for this?”
“I’m alright Meelz. I’ll get by. Thanks for coming down.”
“I got Tray to cover for me at the restaurant,” she said. Amelia was part owner in a restaurant in Atlanta. She was trying to buyout her partner Tray Dawson, but they kept falling into bed together and the buyout would be forgotten until she got mad at him again. “What can I do to help today?”
“Your job, Amelia,” I said, waving a piece of bacon, “Is to keep Tara and Claudine away from Eric. I think if they all get into it today, it might be too much for me.”
“Wait, what? Eric? Not your Eric?”
“Yup. One and the same. I ran into him at the Wal-Mart. I know, what the Hell, right? Tara and Claudine have already brutally attacked him twice.”
“Christ on a cracker, Sookie! What is he doing here? And, good Lord, why are you not curled up in the fetal position somewhere?”
“Thanks for the confidence, Meelz. I’m okay,” I said, taking a seat at the table, “I’m fighting a constant battle between wanting to jump his bones and stake him in the heart for what he did to me, but it’s all good.”
“Sookie, seriously, are you okay?”
“I took some Xanax.”
“Well, not just because of him! It’s gonna be hard enough today. Jesus, Amelia,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m just totally confused and I don’t really know what to think.”
“Well, duh! What did he have say?”
I bit my upper lip, then closed one eye and spoke fast, “He said that he tried to call me after he left and that seeing me now was something good.” I opened my eye and she was still looking at me expectantly, so I kept talking. “Then he said that he wanted to spend time with me this weekend.”
There was no way I was telling Amelia or anyone else about him saying that he’d come back for me. My brain was still dealing with that bit of information, and further, the way he said it was so amazingly tender and intimate that I wanted to keep the thread of a promise between just the two of us.
I smiled, “It’s not much, really, I know. He said that he needed something good to happen right now in his life and that seeing me brought everything back. He said that he thought I might have tried to get in touch with him after he left. When I asked him about it, he said he tried to call and that both of our families said I was okay.”
“Holy conspiracy, Batman!”
“I know, right?” I laughed, shaking my head and sipping coffee. Amelia had always been able to help me laugh through the pain. Sometimes I still couldn’t believe she had wanted to be friends with the robotic freak I was when I first moved to Georgia. She claims that she saw my inner diva and has been working all this time to release her.
“He doesn’t know about everything, does he? I mean, how bad things were?”
“I always thought he knew, that Pam had told him or something, but he said he had no idea. I mean, I didn’t tell him too much; I’m not ready for that yet. But Tara and Claudine dropped some hints yesterday; so he knows it wasn’t good.”
“Well, I always thought you should have written him or something anyway. You needed some closure.”
“Whatever!” I laughed, “Oh shit, I just remembered, Tara even said something about Alcide’s proposal last night!”
“That dog!” Amelia laughed, and I knew she was referring to Alcide and not Tara. “Did she tell him what you said?”
“No, she said something about Alcide getting what he deserved, even if I did it by accident.”
“Ha! Christ! Are you going to tell Eric?”
“Not until I have to. I gotta take a shower before Claudine gets up. I’ll see you in a bit.”
“I’ll be here,” she said. Then she hollered after me, “Sookie, you know you just can’t forget everything that happened because he said he tried to call you, right?”
“I know mom.”
“Good. When’s Claude getting up? God, your cousin is hot.”
The funeral service passed in a blur. I ran out of tears somewhere around the time Claudine read Elizabeth Frye’s poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.” Tara and Lafayette drove me back to the house and we walked to the small cemetery for the internment. I hadn’t thought about it, but no one had been buried here since Eric’s Uncle Bill.
Jason and Hoyt had carefully trimmed the grass that had a tendency to become overgrown and now there were flower arrangements everywhere. The pastor spoke again briefly, we recited the twenty-third psalm, and it was suddenly over. Tara put her arm around me and helped me walk up to lay a rose on the casket. When I turned to go back to my seat I was surprised at the number of people that had come out to pay their respects to Gran. My back had been to everyone in the funeral home, so this was the first I got to see everyone. I had expected her DGD ladies, but I saw most of the teachers from the elementary school where Gran volunteered, the librarian from town, and good gravy, there was her mailman. I could only hope to have such a turn out when I passed on. There was something to be said for living in a small town.
Towards the back I saw Pam standing with, oh my God, Eric, in Marine Dress Blues, all six-foot plus of his blond Nordic glory. How was I supposed to defend myself against that? I made it back to my seat without tripping, but Tara still elbowed me with a dirty look. Seriously, his Dress uniform; she had to understand my reaction, he looked like a God. They say that women can’t resist a man in uniform and, sweet mother of all that’s Holy, I’m in the club.
Afterwards, we walked back to the house to socialize and eat some of the 12,000 casseroles that had appeared over the last few days. Hoyt’s mom and Amelia were setting out the sweet tea and coffee while Jason and Tara and I formed sort of a receiving line at the front door.
Pam and Eric came through in the middle of the crowd. Jason and Tara behaved and accepted their condolences graciously. Eric leaned to put his arms around me but I pushed him back, “I can’t,” I said, tears filling my eyes. “If I let you hug me I’m done for and there are more people to come through.”
He wiped the tears from under my eyes and nodded. “I’ll be here when you need me,” he said and went into the house.
It was overwhelming and I felt kind of numb towards the end. How many times can you say, “Thanks for coming,” before it sounds fake, even if it’s not? My feet hurt and my face was sore from trying to smile at everyone. There were only a few people left, and I was ready to sit down somewhere, when I looked up to see a black Escalade SUV with Georgia plates coming up the drive.
Amelia came out on the porch and she turned to me with a terrified look on her face. “Sookie, I don’t know how he found out,” she said.
“Really?” I said, speaking to the heavens.
“Did I do something to deserve this?” I muttered as I walked out to meet him on the lawn. I didn’t want him here today and I certainly didn’t want him anywhere near Eric.
He stepped out of the vehicle, in a dark suit that made him look amazing. He was the anti-Eric, dark and mysterious to Eric’s smoldering Viking good looks. There was no denying how handsome he looked, even if he was an ass.
“Sookie,” he said, meeting me half way. “I had to come. I know how much Gran meant to you.”
“Alcide, I…Thank you for coming, but I didn’t think you’d ever want to speak to me again, and well, we didn’t leave off on good terms.”
“I know I didn’t treat you the way you deserve. I was a fool. But I’m not here to talk about us; that can wait until we’re home in Atlanta. I just wanted to pay my respects and be here if you needed me.”
“I truly appreciate you driving all the way down here, but after what you did, what I said…There is no ‘us,’ Alcide. There hasn’t been an ‘us’ in over two years.”
“You didn’t mean what you said…” he started; then something over my shoulder caught his eye and I heard a sound that could only be described as a feral growl come from deep inside his chest. This was the second man I’d heard growling in two days; however this time it was almost frightening. “Who the fuck is that?” he said.
I glanced back and saw Eric standing next to Amelia, still in his Dress Blues, casually watching us, leaning his hip against the banister.
“That’s Eric,” I said cautiously. I had no idea how Alcide was going to react, but I figured that it wouldn’t be good, and I was right.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Merde!” he said, lapsing into Cajun to swear as he turned and stalked towards Eric on the porch. Eric stood tall, yet maintained his calm as Alcide approached.
Alcide stood in front of Eric, then seemed to change his mind and turned back towards me, “This fils de putain, it’s him, no?”
My hand was over my mouth, he’d just called Eric a son of a bitch and I couldn’t speak, so I nodded. I don’t know what I expected, but it was not what happened next.
Alcide quickly walked back to me and started screaming about an inch from my face, “You fucking putain! I thought you made him up to get back at me. Fucking bitch!” My body was preparing for a slap, but he turned on his heel and stomped back to his SUV, spitting up gravel as he flew down the driveway.
I knew that Eric was livid over the way Alcide had spoken to me. The exchange happened so fast, and although he’d jumped the porch steps, he hadn’t been quick enough to reach Alcide for a confrontation before he was gone. It was all just too much for me, this on top of everything else, and I started to sob. My legs would have given out if Eric hadn’t scooped me up. He carried me into the house, past the guests and to my room. Setting us down in the oversized rocker; he rubbed my back and held me until I calmed down.
When I was merely crying as opposed to blubbering, he wiped away my tears. I grabbed a Kleenex from the nightstand and blew my nose with a loud honk. With a shy smile, I thanked him for bringing me somewhere private.
“Sookie,” he said, shaking his head, “I know I said you could tell me when you were ready, but what just happened?”
“That,” I said, “was the Cajun Tara mentioned last night.”
“Okay. Cheating bastard, right? How does he know who I am, and why does he care?”
I put my arms around him; I couldn’t look him in the eyes and say this.
“He knows who you are because I accidently called him Eric when he proposed to me.”
Then he pulled me back so we could see each other, “Sookie…”
My eyes welled up again, but there was a bubble of laughter in the back of my throat. “I didn’t do it on purpose. Really. I didn’t even find out about the extent of his cheating until after we broke up.”
I put my head on his shoulder, still trying to hide. “He put this giant diamond solitaire on top of my Red Velvet Cake and when I saw it…” I paused, thinking, oh shit, am I really going to say this? Then I continued, “Shit. When I saw it, I gasped, and then I said your name.”
“Oh, Sookie, why?”
“Probably because, the night you left…What made that night even worse for me, Eric, I thought you were going to propose.”
He groaned, like he’d been punched.
“Fuck,” he said, squeezing me harder, “Little Bird, I’m so sorry.”
Drawing his attention away from how messed up it all sounded, I tried to be funny, saying, “Yeah, so, I guess I associate you with engagement rings or something, it just came out. I didn’t even realize it until he was breaking dishes screaming at me.”
“Sookie, I had no idea that’s what you were thinking that night.”
Really, how thick could he be? Fat tears started rolling down my face; I had no control over my tear ducts anymore. I lifted my head to look at him and quietly said what that I had been dying to say for seven years. “Eric, what did you expect me to think? You had just graduated and you took me to a fancy restaurant. I was ready for us to take the next step and plan for the future, together. I certainly didn’t expect you to say you were leaving.”
“God. I am so sorry,” he said, closing his eyes for a second and then putting his hands on either side of my face. “I don’t even know how to apologize enough. You have to believe me, I didn’t know.”
This was not going to turn out well; if he was leaving, I needed him to do it now. I grabbed more Kleenex and blew my nose another time.
“Well, now you know. And you know that I am a complete train wreck that never got over you,” I said, squaring my shoulders and preparing for the worst, “I feel like a complete idiot and you probably just want to get as far away from me as possible.”
“What are you talking about? You’re not an idiot. You’re not a train wreck, and I’m not going anywhere. Okay? You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
Biting my upper lip, I looked at him with disbelief. Could I trust him with my heart again?
He smoothed my hair with his hand and slowly leaned forward to kiss me. It was the sweetest, most optimistic, and terrifying gentle kiss that I could have ever imagined.
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
(Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!)