Chapter 5 – Wish You Were Here
“I’m fuller than a tick on a dog.”
“Uncle Jas you’re funny!”
“Ya know your Mama used to talk like at all the time. She went and got all refined while she been up North.”
“Jason, nobody understood me, I had no choice.”
“Well, I got to go lay down for a spell.”
“I’ll help her with the dishes”
“Sookie, I’ll help you too.”
Sookie had hosted Thanksgiving for her family, Jason, Russell and family, Sam’s parents (Bernie and Don), Sam’s Aunt and Uncle (Caroline and John) and Bill. It was the usual guest list. Her helpers cleared the table quickly and loaded the dishwasher. Sookie was washing the remaining few pots and pans. Sam’s Mom had moved onto prepping for dessert while Sookie washed. “Sookie, it was another incredible Thanksgiving. Thank you for your hard work.”
“My pleasure Mom.”
“I do have a question though. Is everything alright between you and Bill?”
“Well, I’d prefer to not get into the details, but at this point, I’d really like to sell InnKeeper and Bill is resisting. We’ve had a few heated discussions about it.”
“Oh, that’s horrible. I hope you can put that aside for your relationship.”
“I’m sorry, what do you mean?”
“Your relationship, you and Bill as a couple. Surely you won’t let the business issues interfere.”
“Mom, we don’t have a relationship.”
“Caroline told me the two of you are dating.”
“Mom, that’s just not true. Perhaps we can discuss this another time? Let’s just enjoy the holiday?”
“Sure dear, we can discuss it later.”
“Can somebody get the phone, please? I left it in the family room and my hands are in the dishwater.”
“Sook, it’s for ya, says the name is Eric. Ya know an Eric?”
“I’ll be right out, let the girls say Hi.”
Sookie dried off and made her way to the family room. Eleanor had the phone and she was talking about the turkey dinner. Her face was bright and smiling.
Sookie looked over at Bill and he was seething.
“Here Mama, he’s cooking. I think he has questions.”
Sookie took the phone and started walking out before she said “Hi. I hear you’re cooking?”
“I am. Your house smelled so wonderful, I just didn’t want to go out to a restaurant.”
“That’s great, is Pam helping?”
“Only by force.”
“So, do you need help, that’s what Eleanor said.”
“No, that was my excuse to call.” He added sheepishly, “That’s ok, right?”
“It’s more than OK. We already finished dinner, I moved to the sun porch so I could talk to you without someone seeing it or listening.”
“Bill.” It came out as a statement and not a question from Eric.
“My mother-in-law expressed concern about Bill and me. When I told her we were having a business disagreement, she continued on about not having it affect our relationship.”
“I know, right? Apparently, he told his parents, Sam’s Aunt and Uncle, that we’re a couple.”
“Fuck Sookie, he makes me nervous.”
“I think he’s harmless. He just seems obsessed, but when he realizes there’s nothing goin’ on, he’ll take the hint. I’m goin’ to invite him over tomorrow while Jason is here to talk about what he told his parents. I want to be clear.”
“You will clue in Jason so he knows to listen?”
“Yes, pain. So, tell me. What are you cooking?”
Eric went on to tell her his small menu since it was just the two of them. He invited his manager, Victor but he declined apparently having found some ‘tart’ to hang out with for the holiday. “His words, Sookie, not mine.” They chatted so long that Maura came looking for Sookie.
Sookie excused herself to have a quick side conversation with Maura.
“Mama, I didn’t get to say Hi and now everyone wants pie.”
“Ok honey; let me say goodbye and I’ll bring the phone to you in a moment.”
“Did you hear that Eric? I think my time is up, the natives made room for pie.”
“OK, call me after you meet with Bill tomorrow?”
“Ok, here is Maura she wanted to say Hi.”
Sookie handed the phone over and started to serve dessert. She had a new smile on her face that wasn’t missed by anyone in the room, especially Bill.
While everyone was departing, Sookie pulled Bill aside to ask him to stop by on Friday. He smiled and said he would be over at about 11AM. Sookie, the girls and Jason lounged on the couch watching movies for the rest of the evening; all too full of turkey and pie to do much else.
Jason sat quietly as Sookie explained her reasons for inviting Bill over on Friday. The girls had gone to bed and it was just Sookie the two of them in the family room.
“I dunno Sook; you’ve been alone for a while. Maybe ya should consider Bill. I mean, he is a good guy, he stood by and helped ya with Sam’s death and puttin’ the B&B together.”
“Jason Corbett Stackhouse! First, I don’t have an interest in Bill ‘in that way’. He has been a cousin to me for too long at this point. Secondly, he has worked the InnKeeper business but remember that is his living as much as it in mine. Thirdly, Bill never supported or helped with the B&B. I’m not sure where you heard otherwise.”
“Dang Sook, calm down. I’m just suggestin’ ya think ’bout it.” Sookie went to interrupt, but he put his hand up to stop her. “I’ll keep an ear on ya and if I think he is going to hurt you or do somethin’ dumb, I’ll step in.”
“I appreciate that Jason. As far as giving Bill a chance; we need to agree to disagree on this one.”
Bill showed up at 11AM as planned and Sookie led him to the office. Jessica was off for the holiday and Jason was with the kids in the family room listening as he best could to Bill and Sookie. Sookie started quite bluntly, “Bill, I was surprised by a conversation with Bernie yesterday and I wanted to discuss it with you.”
“Bernie asked me about our relationship. She meant a relationship as in us, as couple. Your mother told her we’re seeing each other.” Sookie looked at Bill, trying to judge his reaction. She read nothing, not shock, surprise, guilt.
“Bill, we don’t have a relationship as a couple. Can you tell me why your mother thinks we do?”
“Sookeh, it’s no secret I want to be with you; you just have not accepted it. In my mind, you are mine. I don’t see what the problem is. I’m trying to be patient and am waiting for you. You do need to realize I’m running out of patience though. You really need to move forward with me as Sam would have wanted. To me, this misunderstanding is really your fault, you are just not accepting what I already know is fact.”
“Bill, I’m going to be clear. You and I will never be together. I don’t see you as a suitor; you are a cousin to me. Please clear up this misunderstanding with your parents or I will. Now, if you will excuse me, Jason and I planned to take the girls out today, and we need to get ready.”
“Sookeh, you are being stupid. Do you want to spend the rest of your life alone? I am your best opportunity. I already know about your history. We have been friends for years. Our becoming a couple is the next best step. I’ll leave for now, and will return tomorrow night. Perhaps we can have dinner out alone and discuss this further.”
‘Stupid, he just called me stupid, now I’m pissed.’ “No, we are not going out. Please don’t come by tomorrow. From now on, you should only come to this house for scheduled InnKeeper business.”
“Sookeh! You are being unreasonable.”
“Leave Bill. We’re done for now.”
“Fine, but this is not over.”
After Bill left, Sookie called to her brother, “I’m going out for a walk, I need to clear my head.”
“Sure, but I heard no yelling, so I guess the talk went a’right?”
“We can discuss it later.”
Sookie grabbed her phone and left the house. She dialed Eric, it was about 9AM his time, so she hoped he was up.
“Did you resolve the issues with Bill?”
“What does that mean?”
Sookie told Eric about the situation with Bill, starting with her brother’s comments from last night and through to the ending of the meeting with Bill. Eric was getting angry and had started pacing in his room. ‘This guy is trouble, and I can’t believe her brother seems to be siding with Bill.’
“Sookie, do you think he’ll honor your request to only come to the B&B for InnKeeper business?”
“Only time will tell. Early December is very busy for me; the B&B is booked the first three weekends. I need to get the rest of my Christmas ‘stuff’ done during the week. He won’t really have time to bother me to be honest. Jessica is done for the semester by Dec 8th, and she’ll be here every weekday to help out, so I won’t be alone. Enough about Bill how was your dinner last night?”
“It was good. Even Pam admitted it was nicer than eating out. She had purchased a new outfit for the occasion so she made me dress in a suit to eat in my own dining room – she didn’t want to dress up alone.”
They continued talking for about another hour and were only stopped when Eleanor found Sookie and complained that she wanted lunch.
She turned to Eleanor, “I’ll be right in.”
“I guess duty calls.”
“Yes, I guess I should feed my children, and Jason.”
“So we’ll talk on Monday about the contracts?”
“Sure, we have a full weekend planned with Jason. I’m taking him the airport early on Monday and should be back by your mid-morning.”
Eric and Sookie said their goodbyes and Sookie went to the kitchen to make lunch. Everyone ate quickly and they headed out to the movies.
Monday came quickly. The girls always loved time with Uncle Jas since he was like a child himself. Except for the disagreement over Bill’s intentions, Sookie enjoyed catching up with Jason. Saying goodbye was a little difficult knowing that it would be Easter before they would be together again. She clung to Jason a while and cried a bit. She loved her life in Pennsylvania, her friends, and her B&B, but she did miss Jason and her old life in Bon Temps.
As planned, Sookie and Eric spoke later that afternoon. They started with a few business related questions and quickly moved to more personal topics.
“As usual, Pam provided me with her Christmas list. She always has it ready on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a digital list and includes URLs or SKU codes so there are no mistakes.”
“Are you kidding me? What a brat. Do you just scrap the list and put coal in her stocking?”
“No, I purchase the list, it’s easier.”
“You created a monster! What’s on the list anyway?”
“Looking for ideas for your list?”
“Uh, no, I’m quite happy with whatever the girls buy for me at the school holiday shop. Bernie and Don usually get me something, but it’s a small something.”
‘hmm’ Eric thought, ‘I haven’t considered that she has nobody shopping for her at Christmas. I know she is being honest, but everyone deserves some spoiling. I may have to do something about this.’
Eric then shared some of the items from the list. Including some jewelry from Christian Dior that sounded gorgeous, but completely impractical to own. Pam had also selected updates to all her electronics and several pairs of shoes. Sookie was dumbfounded. The money for that list was beyond her thinking.
“Eric, stop. That list is beyond my comprehension. My head is swimming.”
“What would be on your list?”
“Lord, I don’t even know. I don’t need any of the stuff like Pam mentioned.”
“Sookie, Pam doesn’t NEED any of those items either. This is about wants.”
“Good point. Let me think. …. For wants: I want Bill to leave me alone and sell InnKeeper; I want to have financial security for my girls; I want a Trader Joe’s closer to my house. I guess Pam and I are very different people.”
“That’s an understatement.”
They talked for a while until Sookie had to cut them off stating that InnKeeper work was calling to her. They agreed to talk again later in the week.
On Wednesday, Sookie received a ping from her phone indicating an incoming text:
E: Hi. In a studio meeting and have some questions. Are you there?
S: Sure, shoot with the questions.
E: Do you miss me?
S: Oh Lord, do you ever behave? Are there any real questions for the studio?
E: I never behave Sookie, and yes, I have a couple of additions needed to the property. Too much typing, can I call?
“Hi, you’re on speaker phone. I have Alcide and several of the set designers”
They reviewed some additions to the property that would be needed for the film while Sookie was on the speaker phone. After the business was over, Eric declared a break and grabbed the phone to talk to Sookie privately. “Are you OK with all those additions? I know you said yes on the phone just now, but I want to be sure.”
“Most of them are fine, and can be removed later if I want. I guess I’m a bit nervous about adding a pond to the backside of the property. That wouldn’t be easily removed and with two young girls, it could be a safety issue. They both know how to swim, but that doesn’t always guarantee safety around water.”
“How about we agree to fence the pond in after the filming is over, or we can commit to filling it in?”
“Either of those would work – can we leave it open in the contract so I can decide after I see the pond?”
“Sure. I have to get back to the meeting.”
“So does this count as the call I was promised on Monday?”
“Maybe. Can you call me tomorrow at your 3:30? The girls will be at church and I can talk without interruption.”
As promised, Eric called on Thursday. “How was your day?”
“Ugh, it got worse after we spoke. I took a walk on the property out where the pond will go and Bill found me. He tried to hold my hand. I know I’m not 8 years old or anything, but I think he has cooties. It was disgusting. Then I told him about the pond and he started screaming at me ‘you’re going to ruin your property for that film?’ stuff like that.”
“He is not rational Sookie. Did he have legitimate InnKeeper business for you?”
“Yes, several new customers, I do all the kick-offs you know, just what I needed in an already busy month. Plus, new customers just encourage Bill to keep the business. Enough about me how was the rest of your meeting?”
“Except for the distraction of calling you, it was boring. I like some of the parts of being a producer, but attending long meetings is not one of them. How someone can go on and on about how many rows of corn to plant or the length of the laundry line is beyond me. At least the meetings at your house had you and cookies.”
“Oh, poor baby. I’ll bake you cookies for your meetings and ship them.”
“I pinky swear. I have to run and get the girls. Talk to you next week?”
“I have a full house for the B&B this weekend.”
They continued to talk or text each other frequently. By mid-December, they were in contact at least once a day. The topics rarely included business.
“Tell me about how you met Sam.” Eric was stretched out on his bed, very relaxed, frequently how he was when talking to Sookie. Unless of course, Sookie had a Bill story, then he was pacing.
“I was working in Shreveport but living in Bon Temps. He and Bill had been stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base just before being discharged. We actually met at a club in Shreveport, it was innocent. I was out with Tara for my birthday, and both Bill and Sam approached me to dance, but Sam and I just hit it off. We exchanged numbers and he called. We started dating while he was still in the service. By the time he was discharged, we were exclusive, or whatever you call it.”
“Where was Bill during all your dating?”
“Well, we frequently dated with Bill. He wasn’t seeing anyone, and Sam felt bad leaving him on base when he was off having fun. He and Bill decided to open a bar together in Monroe. His last few months in the service were very busy. When he wasn’t on duty or on a date with me; he and Bill were making arrangements to open the bar. It opened only 2 weeks after their discharge. I spent my time there when I wasn’t at work and shortly after we were engaged. We sold the bar after my Gran passed, rented my home and moved up here. The kids were born in Pennsylvania. They only see Louisiana once a year when we go down for Easter.”
“And Eleanor was only 3 when Sam passed away. I guess that was hard. Do you mind if I ask how he died?”
“It was a car accident. He was alone so they only had skid marks and the car to tell the story. It was a moonless and cloudy night, he swerved, most likely to miss hitting an animal, and hit a tree. The only good part was that he died instantly, he didn’t suffer.”
“Then you opened the B&B?”
“Well, it took a while, I mean, you saw the scrapbook. I used some life insurance money and earnings from InnKeeper to open Bon Temps. The place was a dump, and I was able to balance my InnKeeper responsibilities with doing much of the work on the B&B myself. I rented out our house since the market for selling wasn’t the best. It’s still ours, rather still mine, still rented out.”
They talked a bit more until Eric said he needed to eat. He was in the kitchen after finishing his call. Pam came in. “Do you have something to tell me?”
“What do you mean?”
“You go to your room every day, stay on the phone; and then come out with the silliest grin on your face.”
“I like talking to Sookie.”
“Watch it Pam. Christmas is coming.”
“Seriously, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know. We are friends; I want more. She has a lot going on though. So for now, I just enjoy talking to her. Pam, I need your advice.”
“Oooh, this is gonna be good. What can I help you with?”
“I want to get Sookie something for Christmas. I just don’t know what.”
“That’s easy, jewels.”
“No, she is not like that. Actually, she would probably be mad about that.”
“MAD! What kind of person is she? Is she really a woman? I mean, a real woman would NEVER be mad at jewels.”
“Pam, focus. Not all women are like you.”
They discussed the back and forth. Pam asked what Sookie liked to do and what the house was like. Finally they had a plan. It did involve a call to Jessica on the side to check on something, but he was confident he had nailed it with Pam’s help.
On December 23rd, a delivery arrived for Sookie. It included one smaller two large and boxes. She signed for it and was handed a letter to open first.
I have been pondering what you would want (not need) for Christmas. I cannot make Bill sell his part of InnKeeper, though I would like to try sometime, specifically with my fists. I cannot help you feel secure about your girl’s future. I can assure you that you are wonderful mother, and by being who you are, you have secured their future. I did contact Trader Joe’s but they have no plans to expand into your area anytime soon. I even offered to attend an opening in exchange, but sadly, the Director of Expansions did not think that would yield a long term benefit.
I did actually talk to Pam, who suggested jewels. Don’t worry; there are no jewels in your boxes. She was actually very helpful, as was Jessica. Now you have a choice, you can open these boxes right away, or wait until Christmas Day. There are wrapped packages inside the shipping boxes, so feel free to open them and place the packages under the tree. The smaller box contains gifts for the girls. I do have a favor to ask, please take pictures of you on Christmas and send them.
I am looking forward to January.
Sookie just stared at the boxes. She wasn’t a materialistic person, but she couldn’t help feeling giddy at the prospect of Christmas presents. Sure, the girls bought her little things and she cherished them. Bernie always picked out some nice clothes and she looked forward to the new outfit each year, but this, this was just exciting! “Dang, I only sent him baked goods and homemade ornaments from the girls” she exclaimed out loud, to nobody.
She opened the shipping boxes and placed everything under the tree, then snapped a picture. The girls ran in and were immediately staring at the gifts. She snapped another picture. They talked and decided to wait until Christmas day to open the gifts. Sookie called Eric to thank him for the gifts and told him the plan.
Christmas morning! The girls had Sookie up by 6AM to open presents. She set up a video camera on a stand so she could capture everything. She had her digital camera in her hands for stills. The smiles on the girl’s faces were contagious. Barbie was the theme, and they loved every gift. Eleanor gave Sookie a heart pendant on a chain that said Mom inside it and explained, “They didn’t have anything at the school store that said Mama.”
“I love it Eleanor. I’m puttin’ it on now.” Eleanor beamed at her Mama’s actions.
Always working together, Maura presented Sookie with a bracelet with the same chain and a heart charm. She also put it on right away.
They played after having breakfast and were still in pajamas at lunch time when Sookie decided it was late enough to call Eric and open his presents. Sookie kept the video camera going while she called Eric. He was up, waiting for the call, but her royal highness wasn’t up yet to celebrate Christmas. The girls chuckled at his term for Pam, since Sookie had put him on speaker phone.
“Sookie, I opened your gifts on Friday as you know, since they said perishable. I already finished all the cookies and am working on the breads. Eleanor and Maura, I love the ornaments. When they arrived I ran out to get a tree, I hadn’t even set up one up! I didn’t think I had anything special enough for a Christmas tree, but your gift changed that. Thank you both. Sookie, have the girls open their gifts.”
Sookie handed the boxes to the girls and they ripped them open.
Inside were charm bracelets and they each had two charms, a basketball for their pee-wee games and a small old fashioned film canister (Eric needed to explain that one). “In addition to the basketball that is special to you both, I added the film canister so it could remind you of me when you see it.”
“Let your Mama open her presents.”
Sookie opened the larger one first, at Eric’s instruction. It was a sousvide! The other box was a professional vacuum sealer. “ERIC! This is fantastic. I could never justify this expense. Oh my God, I cannot wait for the store to open tomorrow so I can get some meat and try it. Oh Eric! This is something I have always wanted. Thank you.”
“Yes, you got me. I mean, I’ll use it for my business but I don’t need it to run the business.”
In the background, Sookie heard Pam, “ERIC! Time for presents.”
“The brat calls, I better run. I can call you later and tell you about how blasé Pam is about all her gifts on her list.”
“Goodbye and thank you again Eric. I really love it.”
“I’m glad, Sookie. I’ll talk to you later.”
Sookie sent the video and pictures over to Eric from Christmas. He watched the video over and over again, wishing he had been there in person. ‘I’m turning into a sap. I cannot get her out of my mind, and soon we’ll be together. I’m screwed.’
Sookie watched all the entertainment shows and checked all the posts for pictures of Eric and Pam out for New Year’s Eve. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to see him with anyone or not. She was hardly being fair; she had said they were friends. Still, she didn’t want to see him ‘with’ anyone else. Everything she checked had him with only Pam. She smiled. This wasn’t going to be good. He would be here in about two weeks and they had done nothing but grow closer with all the calls. ‘I must be strong, I must resist.’ She knew it was a lost cause.