Leap of Faith
Chapter 28: A New Life
I’d helped Eric find a cook by introducing him to Stan. It was slightly unethical of me to connect the two of them, but it was in sort of a gray area, since Stan wasn’t really a client of mine, and things seemed to be working out quite well.
Eric had asked Stan, and his other cook Rasul to help develop the menu since they would be making the food, and they had basically sworn their fealty to him, amazed that anyone would put so much faith in them.
Time was flying by. We had less than a week before the bar opened, and I had hit the wall. I was exhausted all the time. If I wasn’t busy with something, I was asleep. Things had been busy at work and I’d been going to the bar to help Eric put the finishing touches on things in the evenings. We were both burning the candle at both ends.
It was midweek, and Amelia and I were on the phone after work, finalizing plans for the weekend. She and Tray were driving out for the opening. They were an actual couple as of late, and I couldn’t wait to see them.
“Sookie, you sound rough. Are you eating?”
“Here and there. I’ve been eating a lot of bananas. They’re the only thing that sounds good.”
“You don’t usually like bananas.”
“I know. Weird right? I’m just tired and my stomach is off. I think it’s the heat.”
“Sookie, it’s April, it’s not that hot.”
“I’m probably just worn down.” I sighed.
“I guess. The flu has been going around. Have you been sick?”
“No. I mean my stomach just doesn’t feel right, but I haven’t thrown up. It could be the flu, but I’ve been feeling better by the time I get to work.”
“Well, that’s good at least. Have you had a fever?”
I cocked my head, thinking, and it was all coming together. Quietly, I said, “No, no fevers.”
I didn’t respond, taking another minute to think it through. My eyes got wide and I moved my hand to cover my mouth. It didn’t matter that no one was there to see me. I shook my head in disbelief. How had I missed it?
“I don’t have the flu.”
I started to talk, feeling my lips twitch as if to tell her, but the words wouldn’t form. It was too soon. It was sudden. It wasn’t supposed to be this easy. “Meel. I’m pregnant.”
“Hells bells! Are you serious? When was your last period?”
“The beginning of last month. I didn’t have one this month. How did I not notice that?”
“Well, you’ve been busy getting the bar ready and working. Plus, I can only imagine that you two have been fucking like rabbits, so you probably didn’t miss it.” She paused, and then continued quietly. “This is a good thing, right? I mean, you weren’t trying to prevent it.”
“No, we weren’t. But, I didn’t expect. I mean, Amelia, what if I’m not a good mom?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” She cackled. “You’re already a mom to everyone you know! Me, Jace, Eric, you take care of all of us. You babysat Beatrice right after she was born, and you told me how amazing it was.”
“But she isn’t mine. I only watched her for a few hours. That’s not long enough to screw her up!”
“Oh, Sookie. It’s totally normal to feel freaked out right now. This is, well, it’s big. What are you going to tell Eric?”
“I don’t know. I mean. Should I tell him now? It’s early. What if something happens?”
All I could think of was Jessica losing the baby. How long were you supposed to wait before you told people? Three months I thought. I couldn’t be more than eight weeks along. This was huge. It was life changing. How the hell had I thought I was ready for this?
“Sookie.” Amelia’s voice was sharp through the phone. “Stop. You’re freaking out and second guessing everything. The first thing you need to do is go to the drug store and buy a home pregnancy test.”
“Right. You’re absolutely right.” I exhaled. It was not a good sign that Amelia was the voice of reason. I really needed to calm down.
“Go take the test, and if it’s positive, you need to tell Eric. You can wait and tell everyone else later. Although, I think maybe you should talk to Pam since she’s been through this before.”
“Okay. I’m going to the store and then I’ll pee on the stick.”
“Yay for peeing on sticks! Sookie, this is exciting. It’s going to be okay. Keep me posted!”
“I know. You’re right. I’m going to the store. Alright bye.”
Eric had told me he would be home late, and I didn’t want to wait for him, so I grabbed my wallet and headed for the store.
I came home and locked myself in the bathroom. I don’t know why I locked the door, but I did. I felt like the information would be sealed in the room with me or something crazy. I opened the box and read the instructions; it seemed simple enough. I held the stick in my urine stream, which was the manufacture’s polite phrase for “pee on the stick,” then put the little cap back on and waited.
I looked at the little window, and there was sort of a second line there. It wasn’t nearly as dark as the line you were supposed to compare it to. I read the instructions again. It didn’t say anything about if it was only a faint line, it only said two lines means yes. Did my faint line mean the same as a dark line? Fuck. It was a three pack of tests, so I did it again.
The next two tests were the same as the first. I gave up and went back to the store, guzzling some water on my way so I could pee again when I got home. There had been a more expensive test at the pharmacy, it seemed stupid, but it actually printed the phrases “pregnant” or “not pregnant” in the results window. I had looked at it on my first trip to the store and laughed, thinking what dumb ass needed that? Apparently, I did. And apparently I was.
Eric called and left a voice-mail while I was locked in the bathroom the second time. By the time I cleaned up the papers, boxes and sticks all over the bathroom and listened to his message, I was excited, but still terrified. He was frustrated, the county was doing something with the road in front of the bar and had managed to cut both his power and phone lines. He already had some things in the freezers and was going to have to stay there to make sure they got the power turned back on, or drive to Shreveport for a generator. He told me not to wait up, and he sounded exhausted.
I bit my lip and curled up on the bed with his pillow clutched to my chest. How was I going to tell him? Was he going to be excited? Or was he going to be terrified first like me? I couldn’t stop my thoughts, but somehow I fell asleep and never even felt him climb into bed.
Eric was gone before my alarm went off in the morning. He’d left me a note by the clock telling me that he had deliveries coming in all day at the bar. He left me two bills, asking if I could make sure they got to the post office, and reminded me that he would be late because he was going to Shreveport to pick up some things from a restaurant that had gone out of business. I had offered several times to run to Shreveport for him, but he said he needed to look everything over before he decided if he really wanted to take it.
I sighed, and flopped on my back. So much for telling him last night, or this morning. Now what was I going to do?
The last few days before opening the Dog House were a whirlwind. Sookie was exhausted and I hated having to ask her to help out. She was falling asleep on her feet, yet she drove to Monroe to pick up the menus from the printer and the new curtains that had to be treated with special spray to prevent the spread of fire before we could hang them.
Soph and Thalia flew in to Shreveport and rented a car to drive to Bon Temps. Amelia and Tray were due any minute and I was running late, again. What made me think I wanted to do this? Oh yes, I already had a bar, so this should be easy. Right. I had been waiting on one more waitress to finish filling out her paperwork so I could go home, and her car wouldn’t start. Not a good sign. I drove the poor girl home, thirty minutes in the wrong direction, making polite small talk when all I could think was, I want to go home now.
I dropped her off and chuckled to myself, thinking about how fast your standards could change. Compared to the shit I’d been though in Iraq, this was a fucking cake walk, yet here I was being a whiny baby about it. Shaking my head, I turned the car around and headed home.
There were two rental cars in the driveway when I pulled around to the back of the house. I came in through the kitchen and heard loud voices in the living room laughing and talking. Tray caught my eye and held up six-pack of beer. I loved him. I set down my keys and headed into the living room to say hello.
“Eric!” Soph was on me in a heartbeat, arms around me for a big hug. Thalia joined her and Sookie was making an “awwww” sound from across the room.
When I was finally released, Tray handed me a beer. We spread out across the living room, all of us getting comfortable, talking and laughing. Soph told us Cal wished he could come, but he was at a two week training somewhere. I sure as hell missed Cal, but I thanked God I wasn’t off at some training, pissing in a ditch and eating MRE’s.
Tray and I split the six pack while Sookie and Amelia played bartender making mixed drinks for the girls. Sookie had snack food out for everyone, and I made a sandwich in the kitchen. We enjoyed our-selves, talking and laughing.
I shook my head at Sookie, thinking she must be stressed about the bar. She was in full comfort mode; her flannel pajamas and Tulane t-shirt that she wore when she was sick and the huge 7-11 Slurpee cup that I hadn’t seen since I left Tulane. It was a gigantic New Orleans Saints plastic cup that she used during finals week every semester, saying it was good luck. She had filled it with ice cubes and sweet tea or Diet Coke and pulled all nighters, making homemade cheese dip with Velveeta and salsa in giant batches. I wondered what the hell she had in that giant cup tonight, imagining Amelia could mix a mean drink.
Sookie gave everyone a tour of the updates that had been made to the farmhouse and got everyone set in their rooms for the night. She met me in the bedroom, and I pulled her into my arms for a hug.
“Are you okay, bird?”
“I’m good. Why?”
She didn’t seem good. She seemed tired and anxious, and I hoped she wasn’t keeping something from me. “Sook, everything is all set. You don’t need to be worried about tomorrow. I’m not. I’ve just got a bunch of small things to finish up in the morning, and then we’re good to go. I think I might even be able to come home for a couple of hours before we open.”
“I’m fine. I’m just ready to relax. I’m glad our friends are here, and I’m glad that I’ll get you to myself a bit when the bar is up and running.”
“We’re going to be on opposite schedules for a while Sook, but we’ll make it work.”
“I know. I figure I’ll eat dinner at the bar every night for the first few weeks at least. Good thing I like Stan’s cooking.”
I kissed her slowly, sliding my hands up her back, massaging her shoulders as we finished the kiss. “I love you.”
“I know,” she sighed. “I love you, too.” She leaned against my chest, tightening her grip around my waist.
I pulled her to the bathroom where we brushed our teeth and got ready for bed. I’m pretty sure she skipped a step or two in her routine because she finished before me and went back into the bedroom. I walked through the doorway to join her, ready to tease her that Pam said you didn’t know what tired meant until you had a baby, but she was already asleep, lying on top of the covers like she was waiting for me. I climbed into my side of the bed and curled around her, covering us with the sheet. I ran my hand through her hair and she sighed, snuggling against me.
I woke in the morning and headed to the gym before anyone else got out of bed. I’d been wound pretty tight, and I needed a good workout to take the edge off. I went through the circuit of weight machines pushing myself, the burn making me work harder. On the treadmill I thought about the rest of the day. Everything should have been ready at the bar, but I wanted to go through it all one more time. I showered and drove to the bar to finish up and get together the last little details before the staff arrived later.
Thalia called as I sat down with my coffee in the office. She told me she was sitting on the porch at the house, with her own cup of coffee. She ran down a list of things that I should have ready, like she was quizzing me, and I felt better as I told her “done” in response to each thing she named.
She sighed. “You’re all set. Just come home, you’re so anal it’s disgusting.”
“It’s my Marine training.”
“Well, whatever it is, you sound like you’re all set. What time is your staff coming in?”
We talked about the waitresses and kitchen staff, and I knew I was ready. I did a few more things in my office, organized some supplies and made sure the kitchen was spotless for the big opening.
I drove home to find Sookie in the kitchen fixing a late lunch for our friends. Amelia was making salad while Soph and Thalia told some obnoxious story about a beach party a few years ago when Cal and I both had way too much to drink.
“Hey now,” I said as I came through the door. “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”
“I just so happen to have brought my laptop big boy.”
“Oh hell, I walked into that, didn’t I?” I laughed and she gave me a hug.
“I won’t get out the evidence yet, but you should know better than to make that threat around me.”
“Now, that’s not fair!” Amelia called. “You can’t tease us saying you’ve got those pictures and then deny us!”
“Amelia, give the man a break.” I really liked Tray. He was good people.
“Enough. If anyone is looking at drunken pictures of my husband, it will be me.”
Thalia turned towards Sookie with a confused look on her face. “You’ve already seen them. You know, the pictures of them in their underwear in the bathtub?”
“Oh, yeah!” Sookie laughed and I paled, remembering the night and the pictures that Soph had taken. “Those are good pictures! I’ll show you later, Amelia. I have a file of old Eric pictures that Soph sent me.”
“Jesus.” I muttered.
Sookie put her arms around me, standing on her tip toes to kiss my chin. “Love you, baby.”
“Right.” I tried to grumble, but I smiled and dipped her back for a kiss.
We ate lunch, Sookie had made a chicken and rice casserole, and then we split up, all with different plans for the afternoon. I went up to the office to make a couple of quick phone calls, and I heard Sookie telling Soph and Thalia she would take them on a tour of the property. Based on the rhythmic creaking and moaning coming from the guest room, Amelia and Tray decided to stay back at the house.
A while later I got showered and headed out, everyone saying they would see me soon. I stopped and picked up the balloons I had ordered from the grocery store; they filled the back of the ‘Vette, and I looked like a tool for the short drive to the Dog House.
Stan and Rasul showed up first to get things ready in the kitchen. Then the waitstaff started trickling in. There was one girl, Indira, that I had in mind as a manager. She’d managed a restaurant in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, but it had been destroyed, as was her apartment, and she’d moved back to her parents’ house to start over. She had agreed to be my head waitress for now, and I was thankful, because I had a feeling I’d be all over the place during the grand opening.
I went over the menu with the waitstaff one more time, reminding them that they had tasted everything at our staff meeting at the beginning of the week. When the doors opened, Sookie and our friends were the first to roll in, then Pam and Andre came in with Beatrice for dinner. Jason and the rest of the Parish crew showed up, then some of our contractors that had helped on the remodel, and a few of our distributors.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Sam Merlotte talking to Sookie. Hoyt’s mom arrived with a group from the library, and Sookie burst into tears when the ladies from Gran’s chapter of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead arrived. The place was filling up, and a large group from the local VFW post came in; to take up the rest of the tables.
Sookie hugged me, whispering how proud of me she was; I couldn’t get my head around how good it felt to have her by my side.
Throughout the night I took a minute to chat with everyone, or at least I thought I did, and suddenly it was time for last call. Everything had gone well, there were only minor issues between the kitchen and the waitstaff, and those were easily worked out.
The place emptied out and it was down to our family and close friends. I thanked everyone for coming and snuck in one last round of drinks for everyone while I got ready to close up. We made sure Jason had someone to drive his drunk ass home, and loaded into our cars to head home. I was exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time.
Sookie climbed into the car, grinning from ear to ear.
I smiled back, and we pulled out of the parking lot heading home. “Did you have a good night, Sookie?”
“I did. How about you? Do you think it went alright?”
“Yeah. I’m pretty excited. Everyone had good things to say. A few people said they came in because of the radio advertisement, so I’m glad I did that.” I sighed. “Overall, it was a good night.”
She held my hand and we drove the rest of the way back to the house. Everyone else was already there, digging into the refrigerator for a late night snack and pouring a round of drinks. Amelia handed Sookie a glass, and Tray gave me a beer. We sat around the table, eating chips and sandwiches, telling bar stories and joking around.
I saw Sookie yawning and caught her eye. I inclined my head towards the bedroom to see if she was ready to call it a night, and she nodded in agreement. I made our excuses, listening to Soph harass me for going to bed before she did, and we left our friends to continue visiting.
We moved into the bedroom, and I closed the door, pulling her into my arms as I pressed her back against it. I leaned down and kissed her softly, holding her face in my hands.
“Thank you, Sookie. For believing in me, for giving me a second chance. For everything.”
“Eric,” she sighed as her eyes filled with tears and she reached between us to put her hands on my chest.
“I never thought it was possible, but I fall more in love with you every day Sookie.”
“I love you so much, and I am so proud of you.”
I swept away her tears with my thumbs, looking into her eyes. My hands slid along her neck and down the sides of her breasts.
She whimpered as my hands continued their descent to her waist band, then she shoved at my chest. “Wait. Hold that thought. I have something for you.”
She walked over to the dresser and picked up a gift bag that I hadn’t seen sitting there.
She looked nervous, but excited as she handed it to me. “It’s a little something for you to read for our next project.” She bit her lip while she waited for me to reach into the bag.
“You already have a new project planned for us?” I teased.
I reached into the bag and my hand found what felt to be, in fact, a book. It was wrapped in tissue paper, so I pulled it out and set the bag aside. I waggled my eyebrows at Sookie, teasing, and pulled the paper off of the book.
I read the title and raised my eyes to look into hers, which were full of tears. I grinned, I couldn’t help myself. “What exactly does this mean?” I whispered.
She seemed relieved at my smile, and beamed back at me. “I just gave you ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting.’ What do you think it means?”
“Sookie,” I laughed. “Is this a future project, or a work in progress?” My heart was beating faster, but I was trying to reign myself in and not get too excited before I knew.
She stepped forward, looping her arms around my neck, and stood on her toes. Her warm breath touched my cheek, torturing me for a millisecond that felt like hours.
“I think we have seven months to read it.”
She settled back to her flat feet and teased me with her eyes.
I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, but it was almost four in the morning and we had guests. At any rate, I threw my head back and laughed as I pulled her into my arms and spun her around in a circle. I was grinning as I set her back on her feet and shook my head. I could feel tears running down my face.
“Fuck, Sookie. A baby?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Are you excited? It’s kind of soon.”
Was I excited? Jesus Christ, I was ecstatic. I nodded, and slowly dropped to my knees in front of her, pressing my cheek to her stomach. “God, bird, I love you. I am beyond fucking excited, but I can’t come up with the word.”
She giggled, putting her hands in my hair. I sat down on the floor and pulled her into my lap. I kissed her softly, stroking her mouth with my tongue, caressing her back with my hands, praying for the god’s to watch over her and our child. Finishing the kiss, I put my lips to her forehead.
“Who would have thought?” She said quietly.
I smoothed her hair, pulling her against my chest and resting my chin on her head the way she fit perfectly.
“I never stopped dreaming, bird.”