The day passed in a semi-haze. I forced myself to pay attention during my AP classes, because they always challenged me, but getting the extra credits out of the way was worth it. Tara cornered me during lunch. “Okay, spill. Now. What the hell was that this morning?”
I grinned at her, then gave her the perfect expression of innocence. “I don’t have any idea what you are talking about.” We grabbed our burgers and juices and headed out to the grassy patch by the Fine Arts building. I could feel my cheeks burning when she turned her dark gaze on me again.
“You know perfectly well what I’m talking about. Mr. Tall, Blond, and Gorgeous walking over to you in the parking lot with that shit-eating grin on his face. What exactly was that about?”
I opened my mouth to respond when I heard a growly voice speak up behind me. “Shit, are you still talking about that?”
My smile faded and I spun to face Alcide. “I don’t think you were a part of this conversation. Don’t talk about things you know nothing about.”
“I only know what you told me, Darlin’. You mean it’s not common knowledge by now?”
I poked his chest. Hard. “Only three people know about that and one of them better keep his fucking mouth shut if he knows what’s good for him,” I growled back at him. I was regretting my decision to talk to Alcide more and more since his shitty attitude Friday night.
He laughed bitterly. “Honey, if you think that douche hasn’t run his mouth to everybody he could find, you don’t have the slightest idea who you’ve been fucking with.”
I asked Tara to wait for me for a minute and I dragged Alcide into a corner between the buildings. “I know you have a problem with Eric for some unknown reason, but it existed long before you ever knew me. He came to me yesterday, apologized for the way he acted Friday, and we decided to give this thing a chance. You don’t have to like it, but you better fucking respect my decision and my privacy. I admit that it was a mistake to go to you with the issues I was having, but that is a mistake I will not ever make again. So butt out and keep your mouth shut.”
He scowled at me and walked away as I turned to go back to Tara. “Sookie, I think you better start at the beginning. I think there’s a big part of the story that I’m missing here.”
I gave her the rundown on everything that had happened since we parted ways Friday after the game. She was surprised that I had gone to Alcide and paused the conversation to assure me that I could go to her anytime, even if I felt that I was using her as a therapist to work out my messed up love life. I went on to tell her about the argument Eric and I got into at Chester’s field party because I had brought Preston with me. She giggled and called me naïve, but let me continue. So I got to the day before, when he apologized, we talked, and decided to give this thing he and I had a chance to see how it worked. She hugged me and wished me luck. We ate the rest of our lunches before heading off to our classes.
I finished the rest of the day and headed off to my car so I could get to work and change before I had to take over tables at four. I found a light pink primrose pinned under my windshield wiper when I got in. I plucked it from it’s place and nestled it into my ponytail. Just knowing that he had left that for me made me smile.
I got to Merlotte’s and changed into my t-shirt and black shorts before tying on my apron. I came out and made some small talk with Arlene about my weekend after my shift on Saturday. I heard the bell over the door and smiled, ready to take my first table of the afternoon.
Heidi, Isabelle, Thalia, and Felicia filled into a booth and gave me sweet smiles. I smiled back, but wasn’t fooled. Heidi, I knew, wanted Eric and I knew there was no love lost between myself and the other girls. They had treated me like I was invisible until I forced them to notice me. “What can I get you guys this afternoon?” I asked.
They looked back and forth between each other. “I think we’ll all take ice water, with lemon,” Heidi responded, keeping the smile on her face.
I said I would be right back and rolled my eyes as soon as my back was turned. Fortunately, Senior had a rule… no food, no seat. They couldn’t take up space with free waters. I filled the plastic tumblers with ice and water and garnished each rim with a slice of lemon. I passed out the cups and placed some wrapped straws on the table. “Ready to order?” I asked and pulled out my ticket book.
Felicia spoke up. “You know, Sookie, the food here is really not healthy. I can’t imagine eating here all the time. I’d weigh a ton.”
I strained to keep the smile on my face at her thinly veiled insult. “Well, it’s a good thing I have this insane metabolism that makes it hard for me to gain weight. I love the food here. Maybe I can recommend the steak quesadilla, or the chili cheese fries, and of course, the burgers are out of this world!” I said with enthusiasm.
They all looked slightly revolted, but I just kept smiling waiting for their order. “I think we’re going to wait a minute before we order anything.”
I turned and went to wait on some other tables that had come in. After delivering their drinks and putting the orders in, I returned to the girls. “Ready?”
They didn’t even bother to hide their eye rolls. “I guess we’ll split some chips and salsa. That’s about the only thing that you guys have that won’t cause a coronary after the first bite,” Thalia said with a sneer.
“Coming right up,” I said with pep and headed off to the kitchen. The chips and salsa was the cheapest appetizer we had, I filled a basket with tortilla chips and a few bowls of salsa, grabbed some of my other orders from the window, and glided across the floor, dropping everything off at their tables. I ran the circuit again refilling drinks and getting everything for customers that came through the doors. By this point, I had it down to an art.
Those damn… hell, I don’t even know what to call them, tried everything they could to disrupt my flow. From wanting a different kind of salsa (tough, we only had one kind), to wanting lime instead of lemon with their water (filled a little bowl with lemon and lime slices and left a pitcher of ice water on their table), to wanting potato chips instead of tortilla chips (ran into the kitchen and filled another basket of potato chips… and added the additional side to their bill). Nothing they could do could fluster me though. Senior looked out at me more than once with concern, but I just winked at him, letting him know I had everything under control.
Finally, after two hours (and three pitchers of water), they decided to pay up and leave… stiffing me on a tip, which was totally expected. Fortunately, my regulars and the other customers were pleased with my service and more than made up for it. By nine though, I was close to seventy dollars richer and fricking exhausted. I finished up my side work and punched out. When I got home, I got out of my work clothes, tossing them into the hamper to get clean, and changed into my comfy tank-and-boxer pajamas. I grabbed my backpack and started reading some of the chapters for English that I had to have done by the end of the week while I waited for the phone to ring.
I smiled when I pinned the flower on Sookie’s car. It had sucked going the whole day, know how close she was to me, and not seeing her even once. I headed off the the locker room to get changed for practice and when I headed out to the field, I could see that Sookie’s car was already gone from the parking lot. Shaking my head, I focused on what we were going to need to do for the upcoming game.
I considered stopping by the diner on my way home, but the parking lot was filled as I drove by, and I didn’t want to distract her if she was busy. I got home and started working on homework, even though I was so tired, my eyes crossed over the pages I was trying to read. To be on the safe side, I set the alarm on my cell phone for nine twenty-five, so I wouldn’t forget to call Sookie. I didn’t know if I’d be able to stay awake until then.
I came to with the buzzing on table of the alarm going off. I rubbed my eyes, checked the time, and walked into the kitchen to get some water. I went back into my room and called my girl.
“Hey! How was practice today?” greeted me enthusiastically. She was way more awake than I was.
“Good. We have some things we need to work on before Friday, but we should be okay. Are you actually going to watch the game this time?” I teased. If she needed a tutorial on how football worked, I was the perfect teacher.
“I’ll certainly try. I have to be in the gym for at least part of the first half, but I will make a dedicated effort to watch the second half. That okay?” I could hear the smile in her voice.
“It’ll do,” I said in the same tone. “So what song are you guys performing to this week?”
I heard her bed squeak as she changed positions. “I’m not real sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s Rihanna. I’ve been looking, and there are only two songs by her that I’ve found that are suitable.”
“Suitable?” I asked.
“As in, not so suggestive that they wouldn’t allow us to play them. But that doesn’t keep us from playing with the ones that are… less than appropriate during practice.”
“We’re gonna need buckets of ice on hand, aren’t we?” I remembered the dazed looks of my teammates after last week’s performance.
She giggled. “It wouldn’t be a horrible idea. Other than practice, how was your day?”
“Same ole, same ole. Nothing really new. How was work?”
She groaned. “Same ole, same ole. Running food and drinks to tables for minimum wage plus tips, which were pretty good tonight, with a single exception.”
It sounded like she wanted me to ask. “What was the exception?”
“Uugh. I know they’re your friends, and I thought I was okay with Heidi and Felicia, but when they’re around Isabelle and Thalia, the four of them are like some evil four-headed monster from mythology or something. They ran me ragged for two hours and stiffed me.”
Okay, that pissed me off. I braced myself with a deep breath and told her, “Umm, that might be my fault.”
“How could that possibly be your fault,Eric?”
“I kinda told them in very clear and non-complimentary terms why I was with you instead of any of them when they asked this morning. They saw us together and cornered me at my locker.”
“Well, it’s none of their fuckin’ business. Have they ever had a say in who you spent your time with before?” I could hear the venom in her voice and was grateful that it wasn’t directed toward me.
“Never have and never will. Look, you know how I was… before, right?”
“Before we met? Not first hand, but I heard enough stories. And although I’m not jazzed about the past, it can’t be changed and you’ve never lied to me when I’ve asked. So you were with…” she paused, waiting for me to fill in the blank. I stayed quiet and let that speak for itself. “Shit, all of them, right?”
“Yeah. I’m not proud of it, but it’s there. All of this was before I met you, though. I don’t even think you can call what any of us did ‘dating’. As Isabelle reminded me this morning, I told her that I didn’t do relationships.”
She actually laughed at that. “So this was like a big fucking burn. None of them could get you and keep you… and I did. No wonder they looked like I pissed all over their Cheerios when they came in to Merlotte’s after school. I bet that little dig had been eating at them all damn day!”
She actually laughed. She wasn’t pissy. She wasn’t upset over my former… well, no other word for them, fucks. She wasn’t angry that my relationship with her had turned these girls into fucking harpies that no longer ignored her existence. I knew there was a reason I loved this girl… no, wait.
That thought flustered me, so I stuttered to find something to say. “So, um, yeah, how was your day otherwise?”
“Nothing big. Just a day. I need to get to the rest of my homework, though. I’ll see you in the morning?”
I smiled again. “Yeah. I’ll be there… say, around eight? Expect Pam to be pissy for having to get ready and leave earlier than usual though. She drags ass in the morning.”
“Great.” I could almost hear her eyes rolling. “Yeah, eight is fine. Don’t let me forget to get my gear bag for practice out of my trunk before we leave. Why do I see Tuesdays and Thursdays becoming my favorite days of the week?”
“Cuz they’re the only days during the week we’re really going to be able to see each other. Do you want to do anything afterward tomorrow?”
I heard her bed squeak again. “Let’s not make any plans yet. Let’s see what kind of homework is thrown at us first. See if it’s even possible first.”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you in the morning. Oh, by the way,” I paused.
“Yeah?” she asked.
“So what are you wearing?”
“Pajamas. Good night, Eric,” she said, laughing.
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t hit the snooze button on my alarm clock. I hopped out of bed, pulled on my robe and practically skipped down to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and some breakfast, freaking out Mom and Jason, who weren’t used to seeing me so chipper in the morning. My brother looked at me suspiciously. “Why are you so happy this morning?”
I patted his shoulder as I took my seat. “Eric is taking me to school and bringing me home after practice. I’m just glad I get to spend some time with him after hardly getting to see him yesterday.” I sipped my coffee and smiled.
“So I guess the whole ignore-and-try-to-forget-him thing you were gonna try is pretty much shot now, right?” he asked, smirking.
“Yep. That was a stupid plan on my part, so I figured why fight it anymore and see if he and I can actually do this thing.”
“So… are you his girlfriend now?” Damn Jason for asking questions.
“Look, we’re not defining anything for the moment. He doesn’t care. I don’t care. We’re together and anyone who has a problem with it can take it up with either or both of us.” I shrugged and ate some sausage and eggs.
After I ate and cleaned my plate, I ran out to my car and pulled my gear bag out before I forgot it and sat it next to my backpack. I ran back up to my room and got dressed after brushing my teeth and hair. For the first time in a long time, I was ready for school early and I sat on the porch waiting for the red Camero to appear in my driveway. I was apprehensive about Pam’s presence, but something told me I needed to get used to it.
When he pulled in, he put the car in park and hopped out to give me a hug. He threw my practice bag and backpack in the trunk while Pam unwillingly got out of the passenger seat and moved to the back, all the while claiming it was unfair. Eric shut her up with one word. “Bus.” I had no idea what that was about, but it was certainly effective.
If I thought jaws dropped at Eric walking over to my the morning before, it was nothing compared to the reaction we got from the peanut gallery when I stepped out of his car. Eyes were wide, whispers were passing through the parking lot like a wave, and I ignored it all. I just waited at the back of the car for Eric to grab my book-bag out of the trunk. I was leaving my practice stuff there and would meet up with him after classes so I could get it.
We walked slowly toward the building, knowing that as soon as we got there, we would be parting ways for the rest of the day. Once we got to the corridor where he would go one way and I would go the other, he smirked at me, pulled me close, and gave me a kiss that I would be feeling the rest of the day. Holy Moley, could that boy kiss. I’m pretty sure I just walked off with a glazed expression cuz words weren’t gonna cut it right then. I heard him chuckle as he turned to head to his locker.
I made it through the day without any unpleasant encounters with other members of the student body, but I was still worried about how Heidi and Felicia would act during practice. I didn’t think anything too extreme would be able to occur under Halleigh’s watchful eyes, but it didn’t comfort me much. Finally after the final bell, I ran out to Eric’s car so I could get my gear and change before practice started. Before I saw him, I heard the “pop” of the trunk opening. I looked around and saw him dangling the remote for his car from one finger as he walked toward me.
“I hoped we had enough time to see each other before practice. Anyone give you any trouble today?” he asked when he reached his car.
“Not a single one. Not that anyone I deal with on a normal basis cares one way or the other. How about you? Did you get cornered by the fearsome foursome today?”
He laughed. “No, they left me alone today, by which I mean they shot me dirty looks like I was betraying them, but they didn’t actually say anything. Your practice is over at six, right?”
“Yep. I’ll meet you here, right?”
He nodded and gave me a quick kiss before jogging over to the locker rooms as I sprinted to the gym to change. I was immediately surrounded by my three girls in our locker room, wanting details. I just smiled and got into my workout clothes and headed into the gym to warm up.
We jogged a couple of laps around the gym and did some stretches while waiting for the rest of the team to get ready and show up. Now that I was used to it, I found that I loved the physical activity and the feel of my muscles loosening. It was actually relaxing.
Once the whole team was on the floor, Halleigh pulled us into a huddle by her boombox. “Alright, girls, this week is our last home game until Homecoming, so we want to blow the figurative roof off the place. You know I don’t give you the song we’re performing to until the day of for a reason. If the song gets pulled, you’re still prepared. I have some songs cued up that have similar beats, so we’re going to work on this week’s choreography since we’ll have three weeks to work on the Homecoming show. So let’s get started!” She clapped her hands and we got into formation in the middle of the floor.
There was no talking by anyone except Halleigh for a good ninety minutes because we went through the moves until we could do them even without the music. Finally, after declaring that we were prepared, we were excused to shower and get back into our street clothes. I was glad there was time to shower, because I was dripping with sweat by the end of practice.
I knew it was coming. Those girls must think I had the sense of a junebug, because their game was obvious, it was a little sad. “So, did I tell you Eric came over and spent Sunday with me since my parents were out of town?” Heidi mock-whispered to Felicia “He took me home after Chester’s field party and said that he missed me.”
Well, I knew for a fact that Eric hadn’t spent Sunday with her because he was with me, but I thought it would be funny to see what she would do in an attempt to get a rise out of me.
She threw a little glance my way to get my reaction, but I focused myself on re-braiding my hair. “He said this other girl was bugging him to be her boyfriend, but you know how Eric is. He would never settle down with one girl when he can have them all.”
I smiled thinking just how wrong they were. They didn’t know him at all, just the image that he had been cultivating for close to four years. Granted, I hadn’t known him for as long as they had, but I would bet my car that I knew him better. I decided that the best reaction to give them would be to deny them a reaction at all and packed up my bag to meet Eric in the parking lot. As I walked out, I caught sight of their shocked and disappointed faces. I had to hide my smirk.
Eric was freshly showered when he met me at the car and God did he smell good. I leaned into him and tried to discreetly sniff him, but he picked up on it. He bent down and gave me a kiss before opening the passenger door for me. I gave a little wave to Heidi and Felicia as they walked out of the gym. He got in and we drove off.
“You know, I’m not really in the mood to head home yet. While it’s still warm, you want to head out to the cabin?” I asked. I wanted to spend some quality, alone time with Eric.
He smirked and pulled into the next driveway to turn around and head to the lake. I couldn’t get enough of him and I wanted to show him how much.