I Write the Songs: Contest Entry
Title: Just a Dream
Characters: Sookie Stackhouse, Eric Northman, Pam Ravenscroft (mentions of Jason Stackhouse, Alcide Hereveaux, and Preston Pardloe)
Disclaimer: I have no claim whatsoever to the characters belonging to Charlaine Harris or the song by the amazing, awesome Nelly
Pen Name: Ali989969
Beta Name: RealJena
Virgin Writer?: Yeah… not so much
Teaser: Eric Northman loves his club Venom and his fiancée Sookie no longer wants to share his affection. How does he deal when she leaves for not being put first? AH/OOC/EPOV. Rated M for lemons and my gratuitous love for the “F” word in all its many forms.
“Baby… wake up…” the sweet voice calls me from the foot of the bed. I don’t have any idea of what time it is, but I know my body isn’t ready to move just yet.
“Uh-uh… don’ wanna,” I grumble like a toddler, pulling a pillow over my eyes to block the sun coming in from the just-opened blinds and her tinkling giggle is only barely heard.
Red flashes through my closed eyelids when the evil harpy pulls the pillow away. “Errriccc… it’s time to get up,” she says in a sing-song voice that makes me want to kiss her and muzzle her at the same time.
“Hon, I didn’t get home until three. Why are you waking me up so fucking early,” I grumble, knowing she won’t leave me alone.
“Well, seeing as how it’s almost two in the afternoon, I figure you should be plenty rested. I’ve already finished the errands that you promised to help me with today.” Her voice isn’t soft or teasing anymore. It’s tense and weary. “Since you don’t have to go in until later, I thought maybe you’d want to spend some time with me alone and conscious since I barely see you anymore. That damn club gets more of you than I do. I understood when you were starting it up. I understood when you were building a reputation and barely scraping by. I stood by you when things were tight. Now that you’re established and solid, you still might as well live behind the fucking bar because the only time you’re home is when you need a place to crash. Do you even remember the last time we had sex, Eric?”
I wipe my hand over my face and try to wake up. “Uh…” I wince and want another pillow to pull over my face, only this time to try to smother myself for failing my fiancé like this. “Honestly Sookie, I can’t really remember.”
“Exactly!” she exclaims, pacing back and forth. “Do you know how it feels to know that an inanimate business is getting the affection that I used to get, no matter how busy or stressed you were? You always used to make time for me. You haven’t slept next to me in weeks.”
Instantly I’m confused and look around. Why the fuck am I in the guest room?
I guess I spoke aloud. “Because every damn night you get in just before the sun rises and you apparently don’t have the energy to climb the fourteen stairs it takes to get to our bedroom. Every damn night I go to bed alone and wake up alone. Every fucking morning I roll over frantically to turn off my alarm before it wakes you up only to remember that you don’t share a bed with me and haven’t in weeks. Every fucking evening I have to deal with calls from both of our mothers asking if we’ve set a date yet so they can start planning. We’ve been engaged for two fucking years and haven’t even talked about a date! Eric, I don’t know how much longer I can do this…” she trails off and her voice chokes up.
Remorse. Guilt. There is no excuse for my actions. I look down at the comforter still covering me and shake my head. “I’m so sorry, baby. Why haven’t you mentioned anything?”
She looks out the window and tries to discreetly wipe her cheeks. “When could I? I leave for work before you wake up, I come home after you’ve left, I’m in bed before you get home and if I try to surprise you at the club, I get blown off. Nothing is like it used to be and… I just can’t. When I said yes, I thought by now we’d be married… maybe planning a family… it’s just starting to feel like I’ve been waiting for nothing. There are things I want from life… things I wanted from you… things that I don’t know if I’m going to get if I stay here.”
How could I have neglected her like this and not even realize it? “Sookie, honey, come here.” I grab her fingers as she paces past me and pull her to the bed. “Honey, you have to talk to me. Don’t let things like this build up. You are everything to me… nothing else matters if you aren’t by my side.” I’m quiet for a moment and mentally go over the staff schedule for the week. “Let me prove it. Go pack a bag and let me take you on a little road trip. We can head to the beach, soak up some sun, and reconnect in a romantic B&B. We can get everything out, maybe set a date so you can start planning our wedding… because I can lose everything else and still be on top of the world as long as you’re with me.”
She wipes her cheeks one final time and leans in to kiss me. It starts soft, tentative… before it grows to something fierce. I pull back and look over her rosy cheeks and brilliant blue eyes, still not fully comprehending that this beautiful creature is still willing to be mine after all I’ve put her through. Running my fingers through her silky blonde waves, I pull her face back to mine and nip at her pouty bottom lip, requesting entrance to her mouth, which she grants without hesitation. She tastes like cinnamon toothpaste and apples.
I pull her sensuous body tighter against mine and relish in the feel of her against me. No one has ever felt so right in my arms, like they were made for me specifically. The satin smoothness of her skin draws my hands to her back when I skim them under her loose tank top. She runs her fingernails lightly over the back of my neck before letting them twine into my hair, moving my head where she wants me to go. I let my lips tease her neck with little nibbles and I’m careful not to leave marks, knowing it’s frowned upon at her job.
Sookie wiggles her shoulders and I take the hint and pull the tank top off, tossing it away. Her beauty stuns me every single time. The lilac color of her bra sets off the golden tones in her skin to perfection. I slip my hands under the strap and quickly unclasp the garment and fling it away as well, wanting nothing to impede the view of my love. Her breasts aren’t small, but not too large for her frame either. I’m able to replace the lace cups with my palms, gently pinching her nipples between my fingers. I feel her moan more than hear it and lightly kiss my way down her neck, over her shoulders, and down her chest until I can replace one of my hands with my lips.
How could I have let this lovely, responsive, undeniably sexy creature go without because of my selfishness, my single-mindedness? I tease her nipples, back and forth between them, with my mouth and my fingers, until they’re hard, tight nubs and she’s panting. Whimpering, her sweet voice goes straight to my cock. “Stop teasing baby. I need you so badly, Eric.”
I’m never going to leave her wanting ever again. I roll her over to her back and pull off her jean shorts and panties that matched the bra. Her thighs glisten with her arousal and my stomach clenches as my dick gets even harder. My boxers are gone in a flash and I lean down to kiss my fiancé again. She scrapes her nails over my ass and lifts her hips. “I want you inside me. Now,” she growls and it’s no small turn-on.
I pull back just enough to lift my weight off her and line myself up. Slowly, wanting to savor each and every sensation of heaven, I sink into her wet heat and have to still myself to regain control. How could I have gone without this for so long? Sookie’s heels dig into the backs of my thighs, bringing me back to myself. I clasp her hands in mine and turn us again so she’s straddling me. “Ride me, sugar. Show me what I’ve been missing.”
Oh. Fuck. Really, how stupid am I? Her hips dip and roll over me and she braces herself by pinning my hands by my head. Every now and then, when I hit her spot, she stiffens and shudders before pausing to kiss me. It’s a cycle that has me clenching my jaw, determined that Sookie has her moment before I even think of having mine.
I take control again, grab her hips and thrust up into her hard. Her breathy scream makes me worry that I hurt her before she insists, “Again!” Her wish is my command. Our bodies work together with a shared goal. Her rocking speeds up as well as her breaths. “Fuckeric…fuckeric… fuckERIC!” Her body stiffens and bows back, only my hands at her waist keep her from collapsing.
Feeling her tight hot walls pulsing around my dick does nothing for the hold I have on my control and I feel myself slipping. I can’t stop and flip us over again so I’m above her. I can’t stop moving, thrusting in and out, feeling her start to come again… “Fuck! Sookie… God, I love you…”
The sun blazes through the open blinds and I grope blindly at my side, wanting to feel the warmth of her body against mine. I feel nothing but an empty mattress covered by cold blankets. The same fucking dream I’ve had every night for a year.
I dream of what I should have done… should have said. Catching the light from the windows, a sparkle draws my eye and I turn my head. The engagement ring she flung at me in fury before storming out of our house, her bags already packed, still sits on my nightstand. “We’ve been engaged for two fucking years and haven’t even talked about a date! Eric, I don’t know how much longer I can do this…” she’d said.
Did I try to console her? Did I realize how selfish I had been? No… my own temper had gotten the better of me. “Sookie, you knew this was my goal when we met. I told you upfront this was my priority. If you choose to walk away because you can’t always come first… well, that’s your decision to make,” I grumbled and went to try to get more sleep before having to go in for another night of work in the bar that had started running my life.
“Eric… you can’t really mean that…” she sobbed and I groaned with irritation. How many times did we have to have this fight?
“Do what you want, Sookie. You always do anyway.” I pulled a pillow back under my head, then hissed, feeling a sharp sting on my cheek. I touched the spot with my fingers and felt the warm slickness of blood. I looked down and see the diamond ring I had searched for for months resting on the pillow in front of me.
“Fuck you Eric. I deserve better than this. I’ve tried and I’ve waited and you’re never there. Now you don’t have to worry about splitting your time anymore… not that you ever really did anyway. I hope your liquor orders and ledger books keep you warm at night because I’m done.”
The last I saw of her was her blonde ponytail bouncing as she walked out my door…. Twelve months, thirteen days, and two hours ago.
My sister Pam has kept me up to date on her life. Not that they spend time together or even talk, but Pam knows every-fucking-body and can find out anything about anyone. Apparently Sookie started dating a construction worker named Preston about three months ago. Her brother introduced them. That jackass. He never liked me. The feeling was mutual, but still…
I rub my hands over my face again and try to wake up. Tonight is one of the nights I have to go into Venom. After Sookie left, I took a long hard look at my life and realized how obsessive I had become. In an effort to gain more balance, I offered half the club to Pam. She raised the money faster than I expected and took over half my duties as soon as her name was added to the charter. I tried to find Sookie, to let her know I had taken her concerns to heart. Her family was no help and she had started working from home… not that I knew where she was living. She had changed her number and was basically a ghost. It was the only thing Pam hadn’t been able to find out for me. Everything but the memory of her was gone from my life. Even the football jersey of mine that she used as a nightgown for years had stopped smelling like her.
I strip the bed of the soiled sheets, as I have to do every fucking afternoon when I wake up, and start a load of laundry. I bypass the bare kitchen; it hasn’t been used for more than the refrigerator since Sookie walked out. After showering, I put on my normal club/work clothes and drive to “Venom”, now the bane of my existence.
I check in with the bouncers checking IDs at the door and with the bartenders stocking their trays. Wiping my hand over my face, I realize just how much I truly don’t want to be here. I wind my way through the growing crowd and slide into my office, soundproofed from the thudding bass of the dance music. Leaning back in my captain’s chair, I close my eyes, just waiting for the first figurative (possibly literal) fire that I’ll have to put out.
Color me un-fucking-surprised that it comes with Pam’s arrival. Per her usual, she storms into my office to disrupt my peace. “What the fuck are you doing here?” she asks, scowling at me.
“Umm, I work here? I own the fucking place? Take your pick,” I reply drily.
She rolls her eyes and grabs the chair on the other side of the desk. “You were supposed to go to Glamour tonight. They just opened six weeks ago and they’re killing us. Go see what they have that we don’t so we can fucking compete!”
“Pam, do I look like I want to go to someone else’s Goddamn club? Fuck, I don’t even want to be at my own right now. Why don’t you go?”
“Because someone has to stay here and train the new staff. If you’re not going to do anything more productive than sit back here and wallow, one of us has to fucking work. So you have a choice, and you’re lucky I’m even offering you that,” she snarls at me. “Go to Glamour and find out what their draw is or put a smile on that pretty mug of yours and teach the simps waiting in the lobby about taking orders and mixing drinks. Pick.”
“Fine,” I huff, standing. “I guess I’m going to fucking Glamour. Have a lovely fucking night, sister of mine,” I say sarcastically and force myself not to stomp out of the club like a six-year old having a temper tantrum.
When I pull into the filled parking lot a few miles away, I start to see the reason that Pam’s worried. Our parking lot hasn’t been filled like this in months. Making my way to the door, I have a feeling it’s only the early hour that the line to enter is reasonably short. I hand over the outrageous cover charge and am almost blown back through the door by the volume of the music. Glancing around, I step off to the side to look over the lay-out.
The converted warehouse has a unique setup. I see the six-deep bar spanning the length of the far wall of the bottom floor, which is dominated by a dance floor that could hold about four times as many people as mine. When I make my way slowly to the bar, my eye is drawn up… and up… and up. There are four stories of nothing above the dance floor and glass in the ceiling giving a clear shot of the night sky. On each floor along the walls, there are bars and lounges that overlook the dance floor. It’s a clever design that I can’t hope to compete with.
I pay eight dollars to a scantily-dressed bartender for my Jack and Coke and head up to the second floor to look around. The vibe here is more gothy-punk and I have no need to see that much black lipstick and guy-liner… ever. I turn and head to the third floor. I see the concert posters for Garth Brooks and Lynyrd Skynyrd and realize it’s more about country on this level. Not really my thing either. The fourth and final floor doesn’t have a theme, unless classic bar can be counted as a “theme”: red vinyl bar stools, wood paneling on the walls, green upholstered booths, dart boards and pool tables, and neon liquor and beer signs. I can hang out here and people watch for a bit.
I take a seat in one of the bistro chairs overlooking the dance floor. The music isn’t nearly as loud up here. Sighing, I lean back and think. With four stories to work with, Glamour doesn’t have to focus on a single demographic. The setup lets people wander and find somewhere they feel comfortable. Each floor has a bar and all the staff is young and attractive. I drain the dregs of my drink and suck on the ice. There’s no way I can possibly compete with this.
My eyes are drawn four floors down to the center the dance floor. From four stories up, I can’t tell much except there’s a blond wearing skintight, blood red dress that shows nothing and everything at the same time. I keep my eyes on her as I make my way back down the stairs. She dances provocatively with a dark-haired, beefy guy maybe eight inches taller than her, even in her spikey heels. Finally, on the goth floor I’m able to make her out clearly.
Twelve months, thirteen days, and seven hours since I last saw her and she looks even more beautiful now. Sookie’s hair is longer and ripples down her back in wheat colored waves. I can tell by the way the red material clings to her that she’s gained a little weight, but she needed to; I hadn’t realized until she left that stress made her lose her appetite. What strikes me the most, even a story away, is how relaxed and free her face is as she laughs and dances with the dark haired gorilla that can’t keep his fucking hands off her.
“Eric, come dance with me,” she calls from the dance floor of Venom. The sound system had just been installed and I want to play with the controls to check the acoustics. Ladders lean against the wall for the lighting to be installed later.
I roll my shoulders and set the music to her favorite pop station. Making my way down from the DJ booth, I see her eyes closed and hips swaying. I slide up behind her and sway along with her. Her ass grinds into my groin and I tighten my hold on her hips. “Surely you don’t want to christen the new dance floor in front of all these workers,” I growl against her neck and nip her pulse point lightly.
She giggles and reaches back to wrap her arms around my neck. “You never know… Anyway, don’t you have some new office furniture that needs to be broken in first?” she asks and turns with a devilish glint in her gorgeous blue eyes. I grab her hand and dodge boxes of glasses and stacks of random building materials as I drag her into my office.
It was shortly after that when we decided to move in together. We had been dating for almost a year and I hadn’t gotten bored with her at all, which was a first for me. Until Sookie, I hadn’t had a relationship last more than four months before I wanted my space back.
Seeing her with her arms around the neck of the ape on the floor, swaying her hips with him behind her… I want nothing more than to deck him and take my girl off to remind her how good things used to be. I’m actually standing before it hits me… she’s not my girl to claim anymore and I have no one but myself to blame.
She fans her face and gestures to the bar. He escorts her there with his arm wrapped around her waist so as not to lose her in the crowd. On her tiptoes, she tells him what she wants and points to a booth in the corner. He nods and she walks over, the high heels making her ass swing hypnotically.
“Mmm… I like this one a lot,” she says, smacking her lips and picking up the martini glass again. “What is this again?”
She giggles when I slide another glass in front of her. “Mr. Northman, are you trying to get me drunk so you can have your wicked way with me?”
“Why would I? I already get my wicked way with you whenever I want. I didn’t know test-tasting cocktails got you wet, though,” I joke and she actually snorts when she laughs, making her laugh even harder.
She sips from a rocks glass identical to the one I’m carrying around and kisses the baboon that delivered it to her on his hairy cheek. That’s something new; she always used to drink girly cocktails that came in hurricane glasses with umbrellas and fruit garnishes.
My eyes are blurry when she comes into my office, peach daiquiri in hand. “Hope you don’t mind, but I had Rasul make me a drink even though it’s after last call.”
“It’s fine. What’re you doing here?”
She gives me her “I’m trying to be innocent and failing spectacularly” grin. “It’s been awhile since I’ve had any alone time with you, so I thought I’d come to you,”
I rake my hands through my hair and sigh. “Sook, I have to get these books finished. Everything needs to be in to the accountant by the weekend so the annual budget can get done. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
Slowly and slyly, she starts to untie the belt holding her trench coat closed.
The black material slides off her shoulders to puddle at her feet. My eyes travel up from where it lands: black stilettos that show her purple-painted toenails, bare slender legs, shocking violet and emerald lace boyshorts that look like they were custom made with the bar’s colors, bare midriff, tiny lace bra that matches the boyshorts… and nothing else. No makeup, her hair in tousled, careless waves like she’d just woken up… or I’d just spent hours fucking her silly. She cocks her hip and glares at me. “Still don’t have time to take a break for your fiancée?”
I was the stupidest motherfucker to walk the earth. “Sookie, I told you I have to get this done. As soon as I’m finished, I’ll meet you at home. I can’t put this off…”
She’s already bending over and putting the coat back on. “No worries, Eric. I understand you perfectly,” she grumbles. I barely realize she’s gone until the condensation from her melting daiquiri drips on the top sheet of papers, blurring the ink.
Sookie snuggles under the arm of the hulking Sasquatch that sits next to her and I can see she’s happy. I can’t remember the last time I’d done something that lit up her gorgeous face like that and as much as I’ve missed seeing her, I can’t watch anymore. Leaving my empty glass on the table, I slip down the stairs and leave.
I don’t drive back to Venom to tell Pam about Glamour. I don’t drive home. I just cruise around the city aimlessly for hours, not knowing where I need to go.
Every night for over a year, I’ve dreamed about what I should have done and said. Every morning I’ve had to face to realization that I drove the love of my life away from me. It makes me sick that I didn’t even realize how much she meant to me until she was gone.
I see the empty, dimly lit parking lot on my right and pull in. Shutting off the car, I get out and start walking.
“Eric, what are we doing out here?” Sookie asks, looking around over the empty park.
This late at night, it’s easy to see the stars in the sky that are usually invisible due to the light pollution. “I wanted to get out of Venom for a little while and I missed you. I thought we could enjoy a beautiful summer night.” I lead her to the grassy field by the duck pond and she gasps.
I help her sit on the blanket I have laid out and open the basket I had sitting there in advance. “I think I have all your favorites here, Miss Stackhouse,” I say grandly, bowing and giving her a little smirk. I sit next to her and pour her a glass of the sweet champagne that she loves, handing it to her before I pour some for myself. She sips it, smiling.
I reach in again and pull out a small covered dish. When I open it, I hear another sharp intake of breath. Chocolate dipped strawberries are her weakness. I pick up the largest one, the moon reflecting off the glossy red fruit, and hold it up to her lips. Her tongue peeks out to lick at the chocolate before taking a bite of the berry. She quickly licks her lips to catch the sticky dripping juice. I take my own taste, kissing her softly and swiping my tongue over hers.
We don’t talk; I just feed her the treats and kiss her between each one, trying to gather my courage to ask her the question I brought her here for. Once the berries are nothing but green stems, I pull out her next surprise. “I know you love Franklin’s tiramisu… I had him make some just for you.”
I sit the covered bowl in front of her and give her a spoon. When the creamy sweet custard hits her tongue, her sigh of pleasure makes me squirm. Each bite makes her moan and make it harder for me not to ravish her there on the blanket. When she finishes the last bite, she gives me a tired grin. “So why are you trying to fatten me up, Mr. Northman? It’s going to take at least four days in the gym to work off this little picnic,” she says teasingly.
“Sookie, you’re absolutely perfect the way you are and I love you.” I reach into my pocket and pull out the ring I’ve been hiding for months. “The past two years with you have been the best times of my life and I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life making you feel the same. I love you so much… will you please marry me?”
She covers her mouth and her eyes sparkle with tears. After a few deep breaths, she holds out her shaking left hand and nods her head emphatically. As I slide the ring onto her finger, she finds her voice. “God, yes Eric. Absolutely. I love you too.”
I pull her to me and kiss her hard, passionately… unable to express with words how happy she’s just made me. I break apart from her, quickly pick up the basket, and shove the blanket inside. “We need to go. I have a new fiancée that needs to come so hard she forgets everything but the name of her future husband. I plan on making her scream that name repeatedly. Now.” I grab her hand and we run to the car. I spend the rest of the night and morning hours making good on my promise.
The stars still reflect off the glassy water the same as they did that night. I sit at the edge of the pond and rest my forehead on my knees. It’s completely silent but for the occasional honks from the ducklings and rustles of the breeze through the trees.
“What are you doing here?” asks a tense voice out of nowhere, making me jump. I spin and see the person I just can’t forget… don’t want to forget. Her arms are folded over her chest and she glares at me with a frown. She’s back in her summer uniform of cutoff shorts and a tank top. They look better on her than the red dress did.
“I could ask you the same, Sookie,” I say and get to my feet. “This is more my neighborhood than yours,” I mention offhandedly.
“True, but it’s only midnight. Shouldn’t you be at your club?” Her voice is tinged with bitterness and I can’t blame her.
“I sold half the club to Pam. I’m only there two, maybe three nights a week now.”
“What made you come to that decision,” she asks, and though she’s still frowning, her voice isn’t as hard.
I sigh and look down. “The best thing in my life walking away because I put that fucking club ahead of her.”
She doesn’t say anything right away. I watch her stride the very edge of the pond and trail her fingers through the water, making ripples on the glossy smooth surface. “Why did it take me leaving for you to make a change? We were together for more than four years and… what?”
I groan and sit back down in the grass. “I know I was an asshole. That single fact has kicked me in the ass every single day since you left me. I knew that if I was ever going to get another chance with you, I had to be able to put you first. When Pam bought in, a lot of the responsibilities that I’d refused to delegate were suddenly on her. I wanted to let you know, but I never could. Not even Pam could find you, and you know she knows everything.”
“Jason has a cabin on Miller’s Knob. He’s been letting me stay there while I figure out what I want to do.” She sighs and falls back to sit, wrapping her arms around her legs and looking out at the water. “I saw you leave Glamour tonight.”
“Pam wanted me to check out the competition. Was that Preston?” I ask and her head whips around at me. “Pam told me; she really does know everything.”
She rolls her eyes and turns back around. “She’s not as omniscient as everyone thinks she is. Preston and I only went out a few times. That was Alcide, another of Jason’s friends. He’s bound and determined to have me marry one of his buddies. They’re okay to spend some time with, but I don’t ever see myself settling down with one of those guys. They’re all too much like Jason and as much as I love my brother, I don’t love him. It’s just creepy.”
“You looked pretty cozy…” I trail off. She has no reason to answer to me for anyone she might be seeing.
“It was dancing and drinks. I had a little cabin fever from being cooped up by myself for too long and wanted to get out. He offered.”
I sigh again and go back to resting my forehead on my knees. “Why did you come here tonight, Sookie?” I ask again, suddenly incredibly tired.
“I saw you leave Glamour, like I said. You looked so sad and angry… I didn’t know you had seen me. It had been so long since I’d seen you and it was like a punch to the chest. The night you proposed is one of the happiest memories I have… I guess I came out here to… I don’t know…” I hear her stand and feel her sit next to me. “We were together for four years and I never felt more cherished and loved as I did that night. I think I just wanted to remember what that felt like.”
I look up to meet her eyes. “I really did sell part of the club to Pam for you… us, actually. I swore that when you left that if I ever got a second chance I would make up for all the times I took you for granted; I’d never make you feel like you mean less than everything to me ever again. I’ve dreamed about you every single night for the past fifty-four weeks and how I should have handled the insanity of that last day. I don’t want anyone but you Sookie… will you give me another chance?”
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss you, but I can’t go through it all again. Walking away almost killed me last year, but I had to do it.” She closes her eyes and bows her head. “But the good times were really fucking good,” she says with the first honest smile I’ve seen since she’s shown up. “Eric, I can’t say yes or no… not yet. Give me some time to think about it and I’ll call you. I promise I won’t fall off the face of the Earth again.”
It’s not a yes, but it’s a hell of a lot better than a no. I refuse to push my luck and demand an answer. “That’s all I ask, Sookie. No matter what you decide, I’m glad we were able to talk tonight,” I tell her and stand, helping her to her feet.
“Good night, Eric. It was good getting some of that out. We needed it. I promise I’ll call you soon,” she says and stands on her toes to press a hot kiss to my cheek. Watching her walk away this time isn’t as hard, because there’s at least a small chance that I’ll get to see her coming back.
I linger a little longer and look over the clear sky reflected on the water. I see a shooting star and like a child, I close my eyes and make a wish. I smile at my own silliness and head for my car.
I pull in and follow the same pattern I’ve had a year: keys in the bowl by the door, pocket change in the jar on the dresser, phone plugged into the charger on the nightstand, shoes by the door and clothes in the laundry. I hop in the shower, wash away the stickiness from the humid night, and let the warm water relax my muscles. When I dry off, I pull on some boxers and turn off the lights. In the darkness, I see the message light blinking on my phone… I know it’s probably Pam, but I check it anyway.
I listen to the voice mail from the unknown number and smile incredulously. “Look, I know you’ve probably been living on take out and bar food… how about I come over Sunday night and I can make you some lasagna. It keeps forever and you can have some decent leftovers to munch on. Just let me know sometime before Sunday morning so I can pick up the groceries. It was good seeing you again, Eric. I’ll talk to you soon.”
For the first time in over a year, I fall asleep with a smile on my face, looking forward to the future.