Chapter 8 – Never Can Say Goodbye
“Sookie?” Eric knocked on her office door and she looked up. “I was just going over the plans with the contractors and your township building inspector. We have a bit of a problem. It is solvable, but we need your input.”
“I’ll be right out.”
Sookie joined the meeting in the dining room. The girls had since left for school and she and Eric were planning a full day of work so they could play hooky on Thursday without guilt. Thursday was Eric’s last day in town, and Sookie had a surprise planned since they were getting a slightly warm and sunny day.
“Sookie, this is Rick from the Township.”
“Hi Rick. Eric, I know Rick, he and his family attend open mic night about once a month.”
Rick interjected, “Yes, and I’d like to keep that event going, but that is our problem. If you turn the lower level of the Barn back into a true barn for animals you cannot use the upper floor for the parties or rather, any food service.”
Seeing Sookie’s concern growing, Eric offered, “Sookie, we have three options to keep open mic night going:
*Close down only for the few weeks we need the animals, and have the barn re-inspected for food service.
*Build a small barn to house the animals for filming, and use only the outdoor pens at your larger barn, or, and this is my favorite;
*Build a new Barn for your events. You can have Sylvia design it as you want it. The good news is building it is likely within the film’s budget. The building would be yours since it’s on your property. We already walked the property, if you go west from your house, you can place the new Barn there, and have a separate entrance from the main road, no need to have Barn guests drive into the B&B parking lot to get to Barn events. This option also gives you the opportunity to make a bigger parking lot for the Barn events.”
Sookie was smiling, “I like the last option, but cost is an issue. You say it is ‘likely’ in the film budget, how do we determine that, and when do we need to decide?”
“You have some very expensive cooking equipment in the Barn that would need to be moved and re-used, but the cost of the construction should be covered, or close. I’d like to have something firm by next week. Doug and Peter (electrician and plumber) suggest calling Jay as your General Contractor and Sylvia as soon as possible to get estimates. Can you do that?”
“Doug, can you call Jay and I will call Sylvia? They are likely on worksites today; let’s see if they can join us for dinner. Can you and Peter stay? I really need to get some of this sorted out before Eric leaves for LA.”
Doug and Peter planned to stay and after making the calls, Jay and Sylvia were confirmed. In fact, Sylvia was already done at her site, and was able to join Sookie within the hour to start some design work. She still had the barn drawings from the changes they made three years ago and that was going to save much time.
Eric offered to cook dinner and monitor homework time with the girls so Sookie could focus on the contractors and designs. While Eric cooked, Sookie and the contractors made some easy decisions on what they wanted to keep from the current Barn layout and what would need to be changed. Sookie would keep the appliances as Eric noted, but she needed more counters and more storage. Nothing fancy – shelves, lots of lots of shelves for the kitchen. The bigger decision was size. Should she make the main room bigger, enhance the stage, or keep everything the same? Eric was ready with dinner and suggested they ponder the questions while they ate. The decision came down to both Sookie’s long term plans for the Barn (expand how many she could serve, increase wedding and other rental options) and budget. Sookie’s final decision was to go as big as possible within the budget. Jay and Sylvia finished their meals and finalized their items for the night, both agreeing to be back on Thursday night with preliminary numbers. Doug and Peter’s numbers would also be ready before they left the sight on Thursday.
The guests left for the night and Sookie got the girls ready for bed. Eric was waiting for her in the family room. She had recorded her guilty pleasure, Glee, and had told Eric to prepare himself to sit and watch with her. Eric did not care, as long as they were on the couch together. He situated himself at the end of the couch with his back in the corner, one leg on the cushions and pulled Sookie in to sit between his legs. They watched the show in silence (except when Sookie had to join in some of the singing). Eric was stroking her arms and tummy, while Sookie absentmindedly made circles on his legs. By the time the show was over, they were both aroused, but Sookie had the control to get up, turn off the TV and suggest they say goodnight. Once back in their separate rooms, they both took cold showers.
Thursday was Eric’s final day at the B&B until March. The contractors had scheduled to return later that night while the girls were at church to provide their preliminary bids for the new Barn. Sookie and Eric had all their other work complete and she told Eric to get ready for her surprise; giving him instructions to dress for comfort and walking on rough terrain. While he dressed, she quickly packed a picnic lunch and dressed herself.
She had already packed the non-food items in the car, and once she added lunch, they were off.
A very short drive later, they were at the local State Park. Sookie explained, “Since we have a warm day, well, warm for January, I thought we could hike one of the trails and enjoy a picnic lunch?”
Eric smiled and helped her with the backpacks, one with the food, one with a picnic blanket and other comforts. They chose a 6 mile trail and started off. They enjoyed being together even when they were not speaking. It was colder on the trail since the canopy of trees blocked the sun, but once they had walked for a while, the activity kept them warm. After completing the hike, they selected a picnic location (in the sun) and spread out the blanket. While they talked about many everyday things, eventually they discussed Eric’s departure on Friday morning. A few days ago, Sookie was looking forward to his departure; the removal of the temptation that is Eric. Now, she was already waiting for March.
They had finished eating and were relaxed on the blanket; both on their sides facing one another. Eric had his hand in the curve of Sookie’s waist. “Sookie, I want to ask you something.”
“Sure what’s up?”
“How would you like to fly out to LA and attend the Oscars with me? I was planning to take Pam, she is my ‘backup’ date but I really would rather go with you. I can fly you out early, or the day of, whatever makes the most sense for you. Then we can fly back here together since that’s the last business I have scheduled in LA before returning in March.”
“Eric, I’m shocked. I mean, I don’t dress like that, I don’t know my schedule for that weekend, I don’t know what I would do with the girls….”
She rambled for a few minutes before Eric stopped her (he was noticing a pattern that he should just let her get things out before trying to intervene). “Sookie, what if all those problems were not an issue?” She tried to interject, but he stopped her. “Just answer this; is attending with me something you want to do?’
She took a big breath and blew it out, finally saying, “Yes”.
Eric just grinned and said, “The rest is just details.” And with that, he stood and helped her up. He planted a kiss on her for agreeing to go with him, but it was a short kiss. They needed to get back to meet the girls at the bus and get ready for the contractor meeting that night.
The meeting was a success; the construction of the Barn was within the budget already set for the film as long as Sookie reused the kitchen appliances, cabinets and shelves from the existing building. Work could start in February. Some fine tuning of the plans was still required, but the major issues were decided.
Later, after the girls were in bed and Sookie and Eric were back in the family room, he asked what she was going to do while he was gone.
She coyly answered, “You mean, besides miss you?”
Chucking, Eric replied, “Good answer. I will miss you too.” He punctuated his reply with a kiss to her nose.
“Well, back to your question, February is a busy month at the B&B with both weekends around Valentine’s Day booked to capacity. The second Valentine’s weekend also includes the President’s Day holiday, so I have several 3 night stays as well. I also offer Saturday dinner for both B&B guests and the public for both those weekends. Valentine’s Day is one of the only times during the year that I offer ‘fancy dinners’, mostly for B&B guests, but I do take outside reservations. Last year for Valentine’s Day, I was booked to capacity. Oh, and I meant to thank you again. I’ve hired Holly for occasional work, including those weekends. Jessica prefers InnKeeper software work to the kitchen.” Sookie turned the question to Eric, “and what will you do in February?”
“I have several things booked including; my Rolling Stone photo shoot this weekend; meetings with the studio for the film; and lots of lots of time with my trainer. I’ve been running, but that’s not the same as what he puts me through. The last week before the Oscars I’ll need to attend some rehearsals for the award I’m presenting. I think the worst of February will be dealing with Pam. We usually talk or text almost every day, but I have not been diligent about that this past week and she is going to nag the hell out of me when I get back. Victor is also going to be a pain about the reporter situation in Philly.
Yawning, Sookie sighed, “I know I should go to sleep, but you leave early tomorrow and the sooner I go to sleep, the sooner that happens.”
“So, don’t sleep yet. What do you have on your plate tomorrow?’
“Getting the girls to school, then I have InnKeeper work, and UGH, a meeting with Bill after lunch. My weekend B&B guests arrive late in the afternoon and into the evening.”
“Can you nap after the girls go to school?”
“For a short bit, I guess.”
“Then let’s put on a movie and just stay here for a while. But I pick, after all, you had me watching Glee last night.”
Eric picked a movie and they snuggled in together. ‘Stay here for a while’ became the morning since they just fell asleep on the couch and the girls actually woke them up.
Eric heard the giggle first and opened one eye to see Eleanor loud whispering to Maura, “Did you get it?”
He looked at Maura and she was holding a camera and telling Eleanor that she got the picture.
Eric looked down. Sookie had turned at some point and she had tucked her head onto his shoulder. Kissing her on the top of her head, Eric quietly spoke Sookie’s name to wake her and she finally opened her eyes. Then she was up with a start and looked at the clock on the wall. “ERIC, what time does the car arrive to take you to the airport? It’s already 7AM.”
Groaning, Eric started to rise and then realized something else had already risen. Uh oh, he was wearing track pants; he could not get out from under the blanket until the girls were out of the room. He stared at Sookie and suggested, “Why don’t you take the girls to get breakfast, I will get packed.” To help make the point, he made sure to move and poke her so there would be no mistake that she needed to get the girls out.
Giggling, Sookie took the girls to the kitchen. Eric arrived about 30 minutes later, having had the world’s fastest (cold) shower. Thankfully he had started packing the night before. He sat and ate breakfast with Sookie and the girls, but nobody spoke. They knew the car was on the way.
The car of doom arrived at 8AM, and honked. They all walked out the door with Eric and he hugged the girls and Sookie. Sookie was shocked at her reaction and thought, ‘How can I feel this way already? I don’t want him to go. I have to keep it together; I don’t want anyone to see me cry.’ It was too late.
Pulling back from the hug to look at Sookie, Eric could see the unshed tears forming in her eyes and it killed him. ‘How can I make it until the Oscars without seeing her?’ He wanted to plant a kiss on her lips that would ensure she would remember him, but the girls were standing right there, so he settled for another hug and a kiss to her forehead. He promised to call when he arrived in LA. He felt her fighting the sobs that were just below the surface and he moved to get in the car before anything more happened. Sookie and the girls watched as the car drove away.