Chapter 9 – Next to You
“You’re taking Sookie to the Oscars? Does she have appropriate attire, a hair and makeup appointment? Does she know she needs to wear a dress, not those horrible Carhartts she was wearing in that picture you sent me?
“Pam, I just filled you in on my whole trip, my feelings about Sookie and the only comment you have is about the Oscars and clothing. You don’t care about any of the other things I just shared with you?”
“Well, I’m your stylist and honestly your publicist as well, this is my job. Of course I care; you have some kind of infatuation with this Sookie. You’ll get over it.”
“Pam, I’ll be unpacking in my bedroom. As for your questions about clothing and getting ready for the Oscars, I was hoping you could do some shopping and make appointments? Sookie is coming in on Saturday afternoon before the Oscars. Can you buy several gowns and she can choose when she gets here?”
“Eric, you have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I don’t know her at all. I don’t know how designers fit on her. If you want my help, I’m going to fly out and she can meet me in New York to shop.”
“We will talk about this later,” Eric said, followed by,” I should have stayed in PA” in a mumble.
Pam called to Eric as he walked up the stairs to his room: “Eric, Victor will be here in about an hour.”
“Hi, how was the flight back?”
“The flight was fine. I just unpacked. Pam and I already had a tiff; Victor will be here in an hour. Did any of your weekend guests arrive yet?”
“One couple, they checked in and have already headed to the outlets for shopping. Hang on”
Eric could hear whispering then finally, “OK. Eric, the girls want to talk to you.”
Eric spoke to the girls and caught up on their day. He told them about the lady traveling in first class with a dog in her pouch that was dressed in a tutu, they giggled. Eric coached them to give Sookie the present he left while he could hear her reaction. Sookie opened the gift, it was an iPad. She took the phone from the girls. “Eric! You should not have done this!”
“I did it for a reason; we can do video calls while I’m away. I cannot wait until late February to see your face again.” She melted, clean up on aisle 3 melted and Eric discovered she was actually speechless.
He decided to avoid the iPad and at least get her talking again, “So they are excited about their basketball games tomorrow. Are they going with Russell and Bart?”
“Nope, their first games are not ’til 10:30, so I can make both games
“That’s great Sookie. How was the meeting with Bill today?”
“Amazing, I’m impressed you waited so long to bring this up. I thought that you would have asked that first. It was OK. He is in a much better mood now that you’re gone. He still doesn’t want to sell, or just buy me out, so I’ll keep doing my thing. We have 10 new clients in January alone, and since I support the new customers, that will give me extra work in February. It’ll help me stay busy. So what did you and Pam fight about?
“Sookie,” Eric replied in a warning tone, “we are not done talking about Bill. I think you should take meetings with him outside your house, the coffee shop or diner in town. It’s not safe. You sit in the house that is essentially unlocked all day long.”
“Eric, it’s an Inn, well a B&B but the concept is the same. I’ve had people in and out since I opened almost 2 years ago. Starting next week, contractors will be onsite during the week.”
Practically growling, Eric replied, “I don’t like it, but I guess I can’t change your mind.”
“So, your fight with Pam?”
“I shared much of the details of my trip, yes even about you, with Pam and the only thing she commented on was the Oscars. She wants to fly out to New York and have you meet her there to buy a dress.”
“Her trip will cost more than the dress that I don’t even want you to pay for! What’s the point of that? If she is that concerned, maybe she can coordinate with a professional shopper in New York and I’ll go meet with him or her. Will that satisfy Miss Pam? I sure as hell don’t want to meet her for the first time without you.”
“I think I can work that out, and I’ll have her hire a hair and makeup stylist to meet with you here before we leave for the ceremony. I know you don’t want to meet her, but you should probably talk to her about,…”
BANG BANG BANG, “Eric, don’t you hear me calling for you? Victor is here.”
“In a minute Pam.”
“Speak of the devil and she shall appear. Pam just informed me that Victor has arrived. I need to get to the meeting. Let’s pick a time I can video call you tomorrow, how about your time, 2PM? I set your iPad up already.”
“Yes, that will work. Will you have Pam call me to discuss the dress before then?”
Sookie hung up the phone. She was glad he called, but it hurt a bit too. She was terrified about the Oscars and Pam’s reaction wasn’t helping. Sookie wasn’t Hollywood skinny. In fact, after having Maura and Eleanor she had blown up to be quite large, and while she worked hard to slim down and keep it off, her body wasn’t the same. After breastfeeding and turning 40, her breasts were not so perky, and her hips gave new meaning to the description of hourglass figure. How was she going to carry off an elegant gown? On top of that, she was worried about Bill. She had left some details out for Eric. It would make no sense to upset him from across the country. Bill had walked in assuming that since Eric was gone, she would consider dating him again. He got angry that she said no. He also asked to go to the girls’ basketball game together. Sookie said no, that they should keep things professional only. He came in pleasant enough, but left angry as he often did these days.
Eric state of mind wasn’t much better. Victor was still fuming about the video from Philadelphia, though Eric could not figure out why. Sookie and he were out in the afternoon, holding hands. What was the problem with that? When he thought about it, he realized what the problem was: control. Victor managed only Eric’s career, he had dropped his other clients last year when Eric won the Oscar. Victor tried to control Eric to optimize his earnings which increased Victor’s earnings. No friendship ties here; no loyalty beyond the latest percentage of Eric’s pay. Pam set Victor off further by announcing that Eric was taking Sookie to the Oscars as his date.
Victor’s eyes bulged and he turned red before he started bellowing a string of curses. Finally, he started speaking to Eric. “Are you out of your mind? You are taking that hick girl to the Oscars? Think of your image. Pam, what do we know, can we salvage this?”
“Victor, I know nothing yet. Eric, what are we dealing with?”
“You are dealing with a beautiful woman who is a partner in a lucrative software business and she also owns and operates a successful Bed and Breakfast. She is the widowed mother of two young girls. She has long blond hair, blue eyes and great curves.”
“Curves, Oh My God, Eric, is… is she …fat? How am I supposed to deal with that?”
“PAM, she is not fat. Didn’t you see the video footage from Philly?”
“I did, but she had on a coat and sweater I think, I hope….”
Nearing the limits of his patience, Eric pinched the bridge of his nose and said, “She agreed for you to consult with a personal shopper in New York and she would schedule a meeting. As we already discussed, please have a hair and makeup stylist here the morning of the Oscars. She will NOT meet with YOU in New York alone. She was planning to buy the gown on her own, so if you want any involvement, these are the rules. You may call her to discuss the details.” He handed his phone to Pam.
Pam walked away in a huff and Eric turned to Victor. “Do we have any real business to discuss, or did you just want to complain that I got caught holding hands in Philadelphia and forgot to ask you first?”
“Eric, cut the attitude. I was there after the break-up with Sophie-Anne and you needed me then. I’m also trying to prevent a repeat of that situation now. Don’t forget how bad that time was in your life. You would be nothing if it wasn’t for Pam and me helping you.”
“Yes, Victor, I remember all too well, but Sookie is not another Sophie-Anne.”
“She better not be.” And with that, Victor took his leave.
Eric thought back to his conversation with the girls. They mentioned Sookie had created a countdown calendar until the 28th when he returned to the B&B. He was thinking he needed to have Sookie send him one. Of course, his countdown calendar did not need the little daily toys that were tucked into each day. He was pretty sure he did not need anything called a Squinkie like the girls were getting each morning when they opened the box for that day.
He met up with Pam in the office. It sounded like she was on the phone to one of the major department stores to find a personal shopper. He left her to her hunt and decided to take a nap; it was going to be an exhausting 23 days until he could see Sookie again.