Leap of Faith
Chapter 2: The Cavalry Arrives
The dam that held my tears back broke as Eric’s head whipped around towards me.
“Shit,” he said, “Gran?”
Tears fell as I nodded, and I wrapped my arms around my waist to hug myself. Wiping my face, I said, “Thanks for the announcement Tara. And thanks for bringing my dress back.”
She hung the garment bag on the porch rail and gave Eric one of those pursed lip looks she was good at, “I think maybe you should go.”
I glanced at Eric, and he looked as devastated as I felt. He’d always loved my gran like his own. “Really, it’s okay Tara,” I said with a sigh, “We’re just talking. I’ll see you tonight at the viewing.”
She mumbled something about only if I was sure and gave Eric another dirty look as she left.
He waited until she got in the car and then turned to me, “Jesus Sookie, what happened?”
“She had a heart attack while she was on vacation with the ladies from the Descendants of the Glorious Dead,” I said, feeling strangely numb. “They were up in Virginia visiting Civil War battlefields and stuff. It was some ghost tour, and it was just too much for her I guess.”
“God. I’m so sorry. I know how much she meant to you.”
“Thanks. I still kind of don’t believe it really. I mean, look around, it’s like she’s still here.”
“Yeah,” he said, taking in the green lawn and flower beds, “She loved fall.”
I wiped my eyes yet again and smiled, “Jason and Hoyt worked on the yard all day yesterday raking and weeding. Gran would want everything to look good for tomorrow.”
It was quiet for a minute. I didn’t want to have a conversation about us, let alone start it. I just didn’t know what to say. So I waited, and finally he spoke, “I thought about you all of the time. I hoped maybe I’d hear from you sometime. Anyway, I was so proud of you when I heard you got your degree.”
He thought about me all the time? He thought I might get in touch with him? Why in the Hell would I do that after the way he left me? And who was telling him about me, updating him on my life? What the Hell?
I scrunched my eyebrows at him and asked, “Who told you I graduated?”
“Pam,” he said simply.
Ah, his sister. Eric and Pam had grown up in Bon Temps living with their Aunt Octavia. His father was a civil engineer that built power plants all over the world and his mother was a socialite that traveled along for the ride. When the kids were old enough for school his Aunt Octavia realized that dragging them all over the planet every few years wasn’t the best idea; so she lobbied her sister to allow them to stay in Bon Temps for a stable upbringing.
Neither parent argued much with her logic; both being preoccupied with their own lives. It was one more indication to Octavia that both Pam and Eric would be much better off with her than their biological parents. Over the years, their mother visited occasionally, but Eric would tell you he hardly knew his dad.
Eric must have thought I graduated from Tulane. Since he didn’t mention my change in schools; I realized he didn’t know the whole story. I had tried to go back, but there were too many memories. We hadn’t lived together officially, but we rarely spent a night apart during our last year in New Orleans, so most of my memories there involved the two of us. The coffee shop we went to every Saturday, the barbeque place he loved, the smell of Café du Monde, the used bookstore we spent hours in.
His presence, or absence actually, was making me crazy and I knew within a week that I couldn’t stay. My advisor, Mrs. Burson, helped me transfer to the University of Georgia at Athens; they had a great Social Work program. So I packed my things and moved. I tended bar for the rest of that first semester before I could start classes and it helped me get used to the new town and make some new friends. My best friend, Amelia, would be here in the morning; she’d been the best thing to happen to me in Eric’s wake.
Damn. There was so much he didn’t know, and so much that I just didn’t have it in me to talk about right now. Pulling the band-aid off my heart would put me in a tailspin, and I was already feeling off balance.
“Well, thanks,” I said, trying to downplay the whole graduation story, “I worked real hard to finish school.”
Should I comment on how he said he thought about me all the time? I had no idea what that meant, and no idea how to respond. This conversation was not going anything like I had ever imagined.
“It’s… nice… to see you too,” I said, trying not to sound like a total fool. “How have you been?” I asked, being polite.
“I’m good,” he said flatly. When our eyes met, he knew that I could tell he really wasn’t okay so he continued, “It’s just been a rough year or so. I’m alright; really.”
We sat quietly for a minute, watching leaves fall and hearing them rustle in the breeze.
Eric put his hand over mine and I practically sighed at the contact. I should not enjoy his touch so much; or his scent, or his mere presence. Sonofabitch. The angel and devil on my shoulders were warring and I couldn’t begin to guess who would win. Aw Hell, I wanted the devil to win, but I couldn’t let the angel give up without a fight.
“Sookie,” he said, shaking his head, “Running into you today, it couldn’t have happened at a better time for me. I just… I really needed something good to happen in my life right now. Listen, I probably have no right to ask this of you, but I’d like to spend some time with you while we’re both here.”
He looked around, rubbing the back of my hand with his thumb. Did he expect a response from me? My head was spinning. I really should pull my hand away, but the connection with him felt so good. I wanted to spend time with him. I wanted to tell him that he could move in to Gran’s and stay the weekend with me. And I wanted to run as far away from him as possible.
“Please, Sookie, it’s just a little of your time.”
Our eyes met, and my head moved by its own accord, nodding agreement. Damn, tailspin here I come.
There was a racket on Hummingbird Land and I was saved from having to actually give a spoken answer.
Jason was pulling back in the driveway in his oversized truck, dirt flying everywhere. He jumped out and ran towards the porch, much faster than was necessary. I should have known Tara wouldn’t just leave me there with Eric. She had called the cavalry.
“Um, hey ya’ll. Did I leave my cell phone here?” Jason asked.
Eric was looking at my brother like he’d lost his mind.
“No Jay, it’s clipped to your belt,” I answered with a laugh. Bless their hearts; they were just trying to protect me.
“Oh, yeah, there it is. Dang. I’d lose my dick if it wasn’t attached.”
Several nasty comments came to mind about where he would possibly lose his dick, but I bit my tongue. Eric glanced between the two of us, and I knew he had figured out what was going on. Part of me wanted to tell my brother to just leave, but I did appreciate what he was trying to do.
There was more noise at the end of the driveway. Hummingbird Lane had seen more traffic today than there had been in years. I wondered if Tara had sent someone else over to save me. Jason had a better view and smiled when he saw who was coming.
“Looks like the cousins are here,” he said, “Tell them I’ll see ’em tonight; will ya Sook?”
My cousins Claude and Claudine were arriving in a red convertible BMW. They were from Florida and staying with me at Gran’s for the services.
Jason ran back to his truck and hollered, “Later Eric!” as he made his getaway.
My cousins were twins. They were beautiful, smart, rich, and Claudine had never liked Eric. Claude differed to his sister in terms of relationships, he was a hopeless bachelor and didn’t think he should give anyone advice. Claudine always tried to stir things up with Eric. She told Gran that he was too old for me when we first started dating, and when he left for the Marines, it sealed the deal as far as she was concerned. Breaking my heart had been an unforgivable sin in Claudine’s eyes.
Eric muttered under his breath when he realized which cousins Jason had meant.
“They’re here for the weekend,” I said, matter of fact.
“I should probably go.”
“You won’t be quick enough. She’ll get in a few jabs.”
He stood and stepped down to the next stair, releasing my hand. He smiled at me and said, “Like I said, I’d like to see you and to talk some more while you’re here.”
I nodded again, there wasn’t anything else I could do, and waited for Claudine’s inevitable attack on Eric’s character. She was the only person that continued to talk about him in front of me over the years – but she never said anything nice and she never used his actual name.
When they got within earshot, Claudine started her assault, “Oh, look! It’s a rare Jack-ass-osaurus, Claude. I thought they were extinct.”
Claude sighed, “They really aren’t all that rare, sis. But most of them know not to come around this area. So many rednecks with guns in their trucks, you know?”
“Ya’ll, leave him alone,” I said. “It’s gonna be hard enough this weekend.”
Eric didn’t let them rile him. “I was just leaving,” he said politely. “Sookie, I’ll see you later?”
Fighting against seeing him this weekend was futile.
“Yeah. The viewing is tonight at six. Service is tomorrow at eleven,” I said. He didn’t need any other details about the funeral. There was only one funeral home in Bon Temps, and he knew Gran would be buried out back, in the cemetery between our property and the Compton’s.
He walked out to his car slowly and part of me wanted to run after him. I didn’t know what to say to him, or where things would go now between us, but watching him walk away was made my chest ache.
Claude was getting their bags when his sister started interrogating me about Eric. We had barely made it into the parlor when she said, “Sookie, exactly what was he-who-will-not-be-named doing here?”
I couldn’t believe she was comparing him to Voldemort. “Claudine, please,” I said. “Just leave it alone. I can’t deal with you’re nastiness right now.”
“Nastiness? Sookie, I’m trying to look out for you!”
“I know you mean well, but just stop,” I said with a sigh.
Claude had come in with the luggage and sensed that I was at the end of my rope. He pulled me into his arms for a hug. “Claudine, put away your claws,” he teased.
She huffed and headed up the stairs. Claude gave me another squeeze and followed his sister up to the guest rooms; we both knew she expected him to deliver her bags.
The line of mourners had finally gotten small enough that I felt like I could escape for a cup of coffee. The ladies from Gran’s DGD group were all there helping us keep things running smoothly. Gran had taught us all sorts of manners, but Jason and I knew nothing about coordinating a wake and a funeral. Tara had stood by my side most of the night; she had a much more calming effect on me than my brother, but that was no surprise. When she finally decided that I wasn’t going to break into a million pieces, she went outside with Lafayette. They were probably getting high by the dumpster, but I didn’t really care. I was just thankful that she had stayed with me for so long. I was functioning pretty much on autopilot; my brain was struggling to accept that Gran was gone and that Eric was, well, back.
There were only about thirty minutes left in the scheduled visitation time, and I couldn’t find Jason anywhere. I sipped my coffee and glanced out the window. The sight made me smile and took me back to high school in my mind. Jason, Sam, Lafayette, René, Hoyt and Eric were standing by the corvette with the hood up. They were clearly talking about the engine and whatever else men talked about when they covet a friend’s car. It was such a common scene when we were younger, to see them all gathered around someone’s vehicle, to appreciate it or work on it.
Eric laughed at something René said, it was off color and sexist I was sure, and he looked beautiful; like he was the young and carefree Eric I had known. From our conversation earlier I didn’t get the impression he was either of those things these days.
My mind was wandering, going back over the day. Eric thought about me. He thought I might have tried to contact him. He looked GOOD; and he appeared to be having a hard time seeing me again as well. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t the only one that was broken. And I kept coming back to the fact that Eric seemed to think that he and I could still make a “we.”
Part of me, well, most of me, wanted us to have another chance; but a piece of my heart was screaming that I’d never survive again if it didn’t work out.
Raising my eyes from my coffee cup, I saw Eric standing alone by his car, watching me through the window. Looking around, I realized that the mourners had mostly cleared out.
Eric smiled as my eyes again met his through the glass. We’d exchanged that look a million times, and I knew he was waiting for me. Feeling worn out, I let out a deep breath.
My cousins came over and told me they had made plans to meet Jason at Merlotte’s bar. I was expected to make an appearance, but I sent them on ahead, saying that I’d join them later. Claudine flipped Eric the middle finger as she peeled out of the parking lot.
Like a magnet, I was pulled towards Eric in an exhausted haze. I was so tired that I didn’t even think about it and walked straight into his arms. Realizing what I had done, I leaned my forehead on his chest for a second and swore. “Damn it,” I said, “I wasn’t going to do this.”
He rubbed his hands down my arms. “What weren’t you going to do?” he asked.
“This. Fall back into your arms. I can’t think straight,” I said, frustrated.
He put his arms around me and held me close. With his chin resting on my head he said, “Bird, we don’t have to figure it all out tonight. Just let me hold you. You need it right now, and you know it.”
He called me Bird. My heart jumped and my stomach flipped; I hadn’t been called that since he left. He’d nicknamed me his little bird because Gran’s house was on Hummingbird Lane. It hadn’t been a secret, but he’d been the only one to ever call me that. I took a deep breath; he was right about my needing to be held. With the funeral and whatever it was going on between the two of us, I felt like I was lost. His warmth was making me feel better by the second. I just leaned on him and listened to his heartbeat.
What I should be doing right now was stepping away from Eric and going home, alone. The longer I was with him the worse it was going to get. I knew I was going to fall back in love with him – and then what? Go back to Atlanta? My therapist was going to have a freakin’ field day with all of this. Eric’s fingers were playing with my hair, and I stopped thinking.
After a few minutes, I pushed back from his chest and looked into his eyes. This weekend could cost me my sanity and the remnants of my heart, but I knew that I physically could not walk away from him.
“Will you drive me home so I can change?” I asked. “And then, maybe, take me to Merlotte’s if you can put up with everyone’s crap tonight?”
He put his hand up to my cheek, and I leaned into it, closing my eyes for a second.
He kissed my forehead and said, “You know I will, Sookie.”