Chapter 10 – Moving On
The week that followed was spent in a bubble. We made love often, we ate together, we checked in at the bar, we went to a therapist. We, we, we. Today there was another joint therapy session and I knew what Dr. Davis was going to say before he even opened his mouth.
“Do you think that it might benefit both of you to spend some time apart?”
Eric reaction was visceral and loud. “We just found each other and you want us to break up?”
I placed a hand on his arm and tried to calm him. “I don’t think that’s what Dr. Davis has in mind. I think he only means for us to go on with our working lives the way we did before.”
Dr. Davis nodded and scribbled in his notepad. “Quite, Sookie. You two are together twenty four hours a day, not really interacting with anyone else except each other.”
He went on to explain that sealing ourselves off wasn’t going to help us get over what happened and that essentially, we were doing the same thing as Pam. Pushing people away. Although he commented that we were doing it in a passive/aggressive way rather than a vocal and obvious way. Eric sat sullenly, picking at his fingernails and grunting whenever a response was required.
“Eric.” Dr. Davis put down his notebook and leaned forward in his chair. “Is there a specific reason you’re reluctant to go back to work and leave Sookie’s side?”
Eric huffed and rolled his eyes. “I’m … concerned that if we go back to work then I’ll go back to my apartment. Then, before we know it, Sookie and I are back to being complete strangers. Our relationship is rooted in unusual circumstances and I don’t want it to end when everything goes back to normal.”
I was flabbergasted. Sure, I had my own fears about that subject but once I had connected to Eric, physically, I knew that things would never go back to the way they were before.
“That won’t happen.” I blurted out.
Dr. Davis nodded. “I can understand your worries, Eric, but Sookie is right. You’re both entangled in each other’s lives, there’s no way you could go back to being strangers. And even though you two bonded over your search for Pam and the incidents that followed – that bond isn’t all you have.”
I could see Eric was still sceptical. I squeezed his hand and smiled at him. “We don’t say the words but we do and feel all the same things as other couples who love each other do. That doesn’t go away just because people spend eight hours apart or don’t sleep next to each other for a few nights.”
Comprehension seeped into his features slowly. I held my breath until he finally nodded and agreed with me. “I’ll miss being with you every day but I guess the anticipation of seeing you after a hard night at the bar sounds pretty good too.”
I smiled even wider and leaned in to kiss Eric’s cheek, but he turned around and caught my lips with his. We stopped before things got out of hand and I turned to see Dr. Davis smiling at us.
“Has there been any news on our joint session with Pam?” Eric placed an arm around my shoulder and pulled me to his side as he waited on an answer to his question.
“I’ve spoken with Dr. Brigant; he says he’ll be in touch when Pam asks for a group appointment.”
That brought us back down to earth with a bump. We hadn’t heard from Pam since she kicked us out of her hospital room. Schumpert had called Eric to inform him that she had discharged herself but by the time he got there to pick her up she was gone. A few days after that, Lorena called me to let me know that she was handling the sale of Pam and Bill’s house on Pam’s behalf. Lorena didn’t know where Pam was living and she seemed just as concerned about that as Eric and I.
Eric decided to stay in his own apartment that night. Just to test the waters. But when 2am came around, I was happy to hear his key in the door and feel him slide into bed with me. Neither of us had been able to sleep. We decided that going back to work was the baby step we needed to kick off with. I called Sam the next day and arranged to go in for half a shift to ease myself back into the swing of things. Eric would be at the bar, dealing with a few things that Clancy couldn’t, by the time I got home.
I drove through the streets of Shreveport with the same feeling of mistrust that I’d had since we’d been kidnapped. I wasn’t scared that it would happen again but the city was full of strangers now. Every car that drew up beside me at a red light made me wonder if they were part of that ugly scene. The man walking down the street with his dog – was he one of the ones who brutalised my best friend? The woman who was going into the thrift store – was she another soul that had been drawn into that world? I judged everyone and hated that my trauma took away the feeling of home that I’d had before.
I stayed in my apartment for thirty minutes before the restlessness overtook me. The place was spotless thanks to Eric’s OCD tendencies, so there was nothing to keep me busy. I bought a bouquet of Dianthums, red ones with white tips on the petals, and made my way to the Garden of Memory in Minden. I checked the listings to find Bill’s place in the garden and weaved through the corridor of plaques and urns.
I was shocked when I saw Pam kneeling with her head against what I guessed to be Bill’s memorial. There was a fresh bouquet of Roses in the holder next to her and I could hear quiet sobs echo against the marble walls. I was about to take a step forward when a hand on my shoulder stopped me.
“I’ve been waiting for you. It is Sookie, isn’t it?”
I nodded at the old man with white hair. “Who are you?”
“I’m Dr. Brigant. I come here with Pam every day. She speaks of you often and her fears of running into you here.”
“Oh. Well, I came to see … pay tribute to Bill. If I’m not welcome then …”
“I didn’t say that. Maybe it’s time for Pam to face her fears. As fears go, you are probably the least threatening. I just wanted you to know, so you could react accordingly.”
He stepped back to lean against a wall and gestured for me to continue walking. I didn’t want to surprise her too much, so I cleared my throat and coughed a little to alert her to my presence. While I smiled when she turned around, it was met with cold indifference. Pam sniffed and stood up before turning back to Bill’s plaque. I was upset that she had no greeting for me, friendly or angry, did I mean so little to her that I didn’t even warrant a nod of acknowledgement? I could feel every muscle in my body tense as I walked closer, clutching the flowers to my chest as if they might make things easier. There was a small cone-like holder at each side of the plaque, I placed the Dianthums in the unoccupied holder and stood next to Pam with my hands loosely crossed in front of me.
“Eric came to pick you up at Schumpert but you’d already left.”
“Lorena called me. I thought you might want to sell your old house but it would have been nice of you to let us know you weren’t living there anymore.”
A slight grimace. Not a positive sign but at least it showed she was listening to me.
I sighed and shook my head. “You can hide and run from me, Pam, but Eric is your business partner. Sooner or later he’s going to need you to sign off on something. He needs a way to contact you and moving house and disconnecting your phone numbers is silly when you have Baldur’s Gate to run together.”
I didn’t wait to see if that got a response. I just walked back to my car and drove home.
I was in the middle of making dinner when I got a frantic call from Eric. It seemed my words to Pam had had the wrong effect. He was going to their lawyer; apparently Pam had gone to see him to arrange handing her share of Baldur’s Gate over to Eric and withdrawing from all business dealings with him. I felt sad, I felt awful for Eric but most of all I felt guilty. I had said those things to her to try and spur her into at least calling Eric and making sure he had a way to contact her but all I had done was drive a larger wedge between them.
I kept a plate warm for Eric and paced my living room until he arrived. My own meal languished on the table untouched. I could see Eric was upset when he came in and the way he walked straight to me and folded me in an embrace told me that he probably wouldn’t be eating either.
“She’s locking us out, bit by bit. I thought she might come round. I thought that there was a chance she might need us to help her but …”
“Shh, Pam is a mess right now but this is … it’s kind of my fault.”
Eric pulled back and frowned. I led him to the couch and sat him down before telling him about my visit to the Garden of Memory. I was just getting to my apology and about to beg his forgiveness when he stopped me by placing a hand on my cheek and kissing me softly.
“It’s not your fault, Sookie. The papers were all drawn up, that kind of thing doesn’t happen in a few hours. A couple of days, yes, but not hours. Pam already had this in mind before you mentioned anything.”
Those words should have bothered me more, but they were an instant cure all to my guilt and appetite. I threw my dinner in the microwave to make it an edible temperature if nothing else and we sat at my little table. Just like we had every night for the last week, going back to work made our conversation livelier and more interesting and I was glad we had made that little baby step.
Two weeks later …
Eric came home after another meeting with his lawyer, a smile on his face and a bag in each hand. Finally, the ‘whose place are we sleeping at?’ game was over. Those two bags held the last of his things that he had yet to move into my apartment, as well as the schedules for several larger apartments. The proceeds from the sale of Eric’s apartment would serve as a deposit and the proceeds from selling my apartment could be used for lawyer’s fees.
We celebrated graduating from baby steps to giant leaps by watching ‘As good as it gets’ and eating ice cream from the tub. Later we touched each other in the ways we had learned the other liked to be touched but the dark cloud of worry about Pam loomed over us. The week before I had taken it upon myself to find out the address of her Therapist and sent a letter to him. Asking Dr. Brigant to pass on the message that we hoped she was healing and that if she ever needed us all she had to do was call.
I never heard anything back from that. So I was surprised to hear our intercom buzz at 7.30am the next day and find Pam’s voice on the other side. I let her in the building and ran to tell Eric that she was coming up. He leapt out of bed like it was on fire and threw on whatever clothes he could grab. We were both there to open the door to her. By her reaction at seeing Eric next to me, it was obvious she didn’t know we were together.
“I went to your apartment and the neighbour told me you had moved out but … I didn’t expect to find you here.”
She slowly came in and followed Eric into the living room while I brought up the rear. “Well, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but we belong with each other. There’s no point putting something off when it feels so right.”
My heart swelled at Eric’s words but crumpled when I saw the sadness in Pam’s eyes. It felt wrong to be happy when she had lost so much. While Eric and I sat on the couch, I noticed Pam stayed standing, like she wasn’t going to be staying long. That made me even sadder.
“So, I just came to say goodbye. I’m moving, you don’t need to know where, and starting fresh.”
“I can see the attraction in that.” I looked at Eric and he nodded in agreement. “I’m happy that you know that’s something you have to do to get yourself back. But I’ll … we’ll miss you.”
“We will. I’m happy that you’re moving on, Pam.” Eric stood and hugged her tightly, much to Pam’s surprise.
“Dr. Brigant has been amazing but I’ve gone as far as I can in Shreveport. There are too many reminders here.” It didn’t have to be said that Eric and I were two of those reminders. “And I’m sorry that I never thanked you two for looking for me and finding me.”
After that there wasn’t much left to say, but I could see that Pam was happy with her decision. Her eyes had the shine back in them and that was a good sign. It was strange, after everything we’d been through, that our parting was so subdued. I hug and a kiss at my front door and well wishes offered and that was that. Pam was off to start her new life. She could be whatever Pam she wanted, the Pam she wanted to be in a town or city she wanted to be Pam in. I just hoped it worked for her.
Sam sent me home early from work, I was too distracted. Saying goodbye forever to your best friend will do that to you. I walked straight to the shower when I got home, hoping that the water would wake me up a little. When I got out and dried myself and dressed in my comfy sweats, I noticed the apartment schedules on the coffee table. I shuffled through them, looking at the pictures. But none of them jumped out and held my attention. I curled up on the couch and hugged one of the throw cushions, Pam and her fresh start plaguing my every thought.
Eric came home for dinner but had to get back to the bar afterward but he’d brought more schedules for me to look at. I smiled and told him I would but I didn’t. As soon as he was gone I went to bed and tried to imagine what Pam’s new life will be like. Would she be in the big city or in a small town? Would she try to buy another bar or would she take a simple admin job like me? Would she make new friends? Of course she would make new friends! Wouldn’t she?
I was still awake when Eric got home after the bar closed. His skin was cool against mine as he slid beneath the covers and pressed against me. I sighed and pulled his arm around me, nuzzling into his bare chest.
“You’ve been crying.”
I nodded. “I’m going to miss her.”
“I know, I will too, but she needs this.” He stroked my hair and kissed the top of my head. “Did you look at the schedules I brought back?”
“No. I wasn’t really in the mood.”
“We’ll talk about it tomorrow. Are you sleepy?”
“Not really, there’s too much going on in my brain.”
“Would you like me to take you mind off things for a little while?”
I nodded and he did. He built me up to giddy heights with his fingers and his tongue. He pounded me harder than he ever had before. He made me lose count of my orgasms after the 3rd one. But most wonderful of all, he tired me out so completely that I couldn’t think anymore.
The next day was Saturday, and I was glad that I wouldn’t need to get up early for work. Between my brain and Eric’s body it had been almost 5am when I got to sleep. We were too late for breakfast, brunch and lunch by the time we got out of bed. I made the coffee while Eric made breakfast; it was domestic and made me feel warm and fuzzy when we sat down to eat in our pyjamas. Once our omelettes were finished, Eric took the plates away for washing and I settled on the couch to drink the rest of my first caffeine injection of the day.
I was lost in my own little world again when I saw something waving in front of me. I blinked and saw the schedules Eric had brought home last night. I sighed and took them from him. Just like the other pile, they were lovely apartments. But something was … not right about them. I put them on the table and smiled at Eric.
“They all start to look the same after a while.”
“Not this one.”
He handed me a schedule that was hidden behind his back. The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t an apartment, it was a small farmhouse. The next thing I noticed was that it wasn’t in Louisiana, it was in Nebraska. There wasn’t a lot of land attached to it, so it wasn’t a whole farm – that would have caused me to think Eric had completely lost his marbles. Looking at the map it was pretty close to Omaha, just outside a little town called Waverly. It really was a lovely house.
“You want to move to Nebraska?”
Eric chewed at his bottom lip and ran his hands through his hair. “I just started thinking about what Pam said. A fresh start, away from all the memories, it sounded good at the time.”
“What about our jobs?”
“I’m tired of Baldur’s Gate. It was something that Pam and I did together and on my own … it just doesn’t fit me anymore. Do you know what I mean?” I nodded and waved for him to carry on. “I figured, you’re a really good receptionist and administrator – you could walk into a job anywhere with an honest reference from Sam. So …”
“What would you do?”
Eric smiled again and produced some more sheets of paper from behind his back. It was a small family bar and grille that was up for auction. I checked the map and it wasn’t far from the farmhouse at all.
“I know it looks a little run down but there’ll be more than enough from the sale of Baldur’s to fix it up. I thought maybe after the hustle and bustle … something quiet would be nice.”
Quiet. That did sound nice. I thought about all of the things I’d be leaving. It didn’t take long. Now that Pam had struck out on her own there wasn’t much left for me in Louisiana. My job, that was about it.
“I wondered if maybe you would even like to help me in the bar. You could do all the paper stuff that I’m no good at and I can stick to heavy lifting and smiling from behind the bar. We could hire waitresses and go to town meetings and be part of a community.”
Part of a community. I’d grown up in a small town, I knew that small communities had their drawbacks but they had a lot of benefits too. They were generally friendlier and less stressful. I had briefly thought about mentioning moving to Bon Temps to Eric but then I realised my brother still lived there, that was reason enough not to go back.
“You’ve put a lot of thought into this, Eric.”
“I have.” He nodded. “Have I wasted my time?”
Eric smiled and pulled me onto his lap. “So would you want to run away to Nebraska with me to live the quiet life?”
“I’d like that a lot.”