Thank you for all the lovely reviews. I know I never got to answer all of you because Fanfic was being such a mess, but I want you to know I appreciate them!
What I also appreciate is how Rascalthemutant keeps saving my butt by reading these chapters before I post them for you. Thank you so much, Rascal!
I also want to thank Peppermintyrose for the insights on a trial system that is so very different from what we have here in Scandinavia.
My apartment suddenly felt very empty. Eric was gone and though he`d only been around a little over a week, I found that I missed him.
I`d wanted to give myself some good memories and was convinced that knowing all along that Eric was going home would make me miss him less.
It had backfired.
My tiny apartment seemed huge without Eric`s 6`4“ to fill it up. And without his laughter, his kisses, his…
He had seemed reluctant to leave – or maybe that had just been me projecting my own feelings into it. Because, truth be told, I hadn`t wanted him to go home. I had wanted him to hold my hand through the trials. I had wanted him to stay and whisper sweet nothings into my ear, though Eric wasn`t the type to whisper sweet nothings at all. I had wanted him to make love to me and to tell me everything would be all right.
Though I knew it wouldn`t be.
I hadn`t told him any of these things because Eric and I were just not meant to be. The age difference, the Atlantic Ocean separating us – and, of course, all the mess Bill had and would put me through.
That didn`t mean that I felt nothing for Eric – because I did. It wasn`t love but that was because I was holding back. I had more than enough scars to voluntarily give my heart away to someone I could never have.
I sat down at my computer and started writing again. I decided to write for an hour and then give myself a break.
It was a knife`s edge. I wanted to write. Craved it now that I knew I could. But I didn`t want to work too hard and end up with a break-down.
So I was very efficient for an hour, then, in the middle of a sentence, I got up and went to bed. I closed my eyes, not because I thought I would be able to sleep, but to relax as much as possible in the hour I was forcing myself to stay there.
Then I got up and went back to writing.
Apart from the regular meals I made sure I had, my whole day was one hour writing and one hour relaxing.
When I went to bed that night I still missed Eric. But I also smiled. I`d written more than a chapter of my next book. If I managed to keep up this speed, the book would be finished before the trial. I knew I would have to go through some pretrial meetings with the prosecutor and I would have to sit through the witness selection but there would still be time to write. I hoped.
The thought of the trial increased that big lump I had in my stomach. I didn`t want to go through with it. Wasn`t sure how I could.
Hadn`t it been enough for Bill to beat me and injure me? Did he have to make me relive everything in a courtroom?
I forced the image of Eric back into my brain. His naked chest. His arms around me. His grunts when he was inside me. The way he felt.
Eric was the reason why I could fall asleep with a smile on my lips. Eric and the fact that I had been able to write again.
I took it easy the next morning. What I really wanted to do was to rush to my computer and start writing, but I forced myself to slow down. I took a shower, got dressed, had breakfast and read the morning paper.
Then I sat down at my computer and turned it on. I wanted to start writing but made myself open my mailbox first. I rarely opened my mailbox because all I had there were fan letters I didn`t have the energy to answer and Alcide nagging me about writing. But this morning it was as if the mailbox shouted at me. “Open me!” it shouted – and I did.
I knew it was the hope that Eric had sent me mail that made me open the mailbox but I didn`t want to acknowledge that hope and therefore only consciously expected the usual mail from people begging me not to let Anita find herself a new man or telling me how I had changed their lives. When would people realize that I was just an ordinary woman and the books were only books?
My heart leaped a little faster when I saw Eric`s name in the inbox. I quickly opened the mail he`d sent and read the message. I smiled and read it again.
Good morning. In a perfect world I would have woken you up with my kisses.
I pressed “Answer” and started writing.
A good morning to you too though I suspect it`s afternoon for you. I missed those kisses when I woke up.
I smiled and pressed “Send”.
I half expected an email in return but I didn`t get one and started writing on my book. I stretched the hour of writing a little. An hour and five minutes. Maybe even an hour and ten minutes. But I took long breaks between my writing sessions.
Those breaks turned out to be a good idea for the creative flow too. It made me consider what I`d just written a little closer and I knew just what to write next each time I sat back down at the computer.
I regularly checked my mail, was a little disappointed each time there was nothing from Eric and therefore my joy was even bigger when I, late in the afternoon, saw his name in the inbox.
Those kisses can be yours any time.
I`m going to bed now and want to wish you a good night. I`ll imagine that you are next to me (or preferably under or over me) in bed and it will seem less empty.
I was just about to send him a reply when it occurred to me what he had done. He had wished me a good morning when it was morning for him and a good night when he was going to bed. I decided to do the same.
I wouldn`t answer him until I was ready for bed and went back to writing my book. I had a smile on my lips.
When I had brushed my teeth and put on my nightgown, I sat down at my computer.
I`ll imagine those kisses and maybe something more.
I did what I had told Eric I would do. I imagined his kisses – and maybe something more. I fell asleep and had very happy dreams. Naughty too.
I went to my computer before I had had my breakfast or gotten dressed. I was 39 but felt like a teenager when I opened my mail and found a new message from Eric. He wished me a good morning – with all the double entendres Eric would use. I did the same back and knew this day would be a good one. How could anything go wrong when Eric had said good morning to me?
Little did I know that the first phone call – the only phone call – that day would be from Mr. Cataliades, the prosecutor in Bill`s case.
It wasn`t that Mr. Cataliades wasn`t nice to me. He was very polite and even sweet and gentle at times. But he had updates on the trial dates and that brought me back to a reality I was more than happy to escape from.
In only two weeks there would be jury selection and the trial would be just a week after that.
“Which means we have to go over your testimony soon,” he concluded his long speech.
I nodded which was silly because Mr. Cataliades couldn`t see that over the phone. So I added a weak “Yes.”
“When would be a good time for you? I realize your health is not the best and I`ll try to accommodate as best I can,” he said in his friendly voice.
How about never?
“Thank you. My health has improved some but I still get fatigued and I also have trouble focusing. But I`m sure we can work something out if I`m allowed to take breaks from time to time.”
“Good. How does next Monday look?” he asked.
I didn`t have to check my calendar to know that next Monday was as empty as all my other days.
“Monday will be fine,” I said.
After we had exchanged our goodbyes and Mr. Cataliades had told me to “hang in there”, which had seemed odd in his mouth, I went back to writing.
I looked at the chapter I had been writing on – a chapter where Anita and Eric find themselves intrigued by each other – and knew I couldn`t write that. Not now. I therefore started a new chapter, a chapter that was further out in the story, and tried to find the words to describe how Stefan hurt and tortured Anita for choosing Eric over him.
That chapter seemed to flow through my fingers and I had written the full chapter in just 45 minutes – a new record for me. I also had tears on my cheeks. Tears I hadn`t noticed I`d been crying.
I was completely exhausted and went to bed. This time I fell asleep and slept for hours. When I got up and practically crawled my way back to my computer, I was happy to see another message from Eric. He wished me a good night and told me exactly what he would have done to me and my body if I`d been in his bed tonight. I smiled and looked forward to replying later that evening.
There was also a message from Pam. Just a short one telling me how much she appreciated meeting me and that she hoped our paths would cross again.
It was strange how those two emails from Scandinavia could wash away the worry the phone call from Mr. Cataliades had filled me with. I wrote a reply to Pam and when I read it before hitting send, I was surprised to see that I`d mentioned the trial.
I`d been very careful at not talking about the trial with Eric. I just didn`t want to soil whatever we had with those parts of my life. But somehow I knew Pam would understand. Or maybe I just needed a stranger to talk to?
I quickly added a sentence about not burdening Eric with this since he had more than enough with his exams and all.
My days consisted of a “good morning” from Eric, writing as much as I could during the day and more and more raunchy “good evenings” from the man I found myself missing. My heart did a little flip-flop whenever Eric mentioned the words “soon”, “future” or “looking forward to”. I`d never given him any promises, for good reason, but I enjoyed how he took it for granted, or pretended to take it for granted, that he and I were not only a thing of the past. Yes, I read his emails very thoroughly for hidden messages.
Monday came and I got dressed for my meeting with Mr. Cataliades. I dreaded this meeting but knew the worst was yet to come. Why couldn`t Bill just have pled guilty and accepted whatever sentence he got? Why did he have to drag me into a courtroom when he knew how much he`d hurt me already?
I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that the man I had shared so many years with, the man I had loved, would do something like that to me. But then he`d already beaten me to within an inch of death and there was no reasonable explanation for that either.
“Come on in, Ms. Stackhouse.” Mr. Cataliades greeted me at the door.
“Thank you.” I smiled at him but it was that fake smile I sometimes used when I really wanted to do anything but smile. Run away, for instance.
“Would you like some coffee or tea?” he asked.
No, I want this over with. “Sure. A cup of coffee would be nice.”
Mr. Cataliades disappeared from his office a few minutes. When he came back, a young clerk was in his tracks, carrying a cup and a notepad. I got the cup, which was hot from the coffee, and the clerk sat down next to Mr. Cataliades` desk and looked at me, his notepad in his lap.
“This is Mr. Maimondes,” he said and nodded at the clerk who had offered me the coffee and his hand at the same time, revealing just how insecure he was. Under normal circumstances I would have found it endearing but now I wanted something else than clumsy.
I guess I wanted a superhero who would fix this mess for me.
“So … ” Mr. Cataliades began. “Today we`ll go through the questions I`m going to ask you and then we`ll run through whatever the defense may throw at you.”
“Okay,” I said though I was far from okay.
Mr. Maimondes leaned forward.
“Why did Mr. Compton hurt you?” he asked.
I snapped my head in his direction. Yes, he was young and probably knew very little of life but that was no excuse. I watched a light blush spread on his neck.
“You would have to ask Mr. Compton that question,” I said in a cold voice.
Mr. Cataliades smiled. “Very good, Ms. Stackhouse. Very good. Mr. Compton did this to you and there is nothing in this world that could excuse his actions.”
“Of course, the defense will try to find excuses,” Mr. Maimondes said.
Mr. Cataliades looked at him. “Yes, they will. And we will be ready and prepared.”
When I came home that afternoon I felt as if I`d been beaten once more. Mr. Cataliades had been his usual nice self but Mr. Maimondes had surprised me by asking questions about Eric. Or rather – he`d asked me if I`d found someone new.
“I don`t have a boyfriend, if that`s what you`re asking,” I had replied but the moment the words left my mouth, they felt wrong. Or at least not entirely correct.
“Did you ever cheat on Mr. Compton while you were married?”
I had to think about that. Technically I had. Bill and I had been married when I`d slept with Eric. But I had known the marriage had been over the moment I saw Bill in that bed with …
“I had sex with someone after I found Bill in bed with his mistress but before I filed for divorce,” I had finally answered.
“That`s a perfect answer, Ms. Stackhouse, but you may find that Bill`s defense attorney will ask you for a yes or no answer.” Mr. Cataliades had sounded encouraging but I heard the little warning too.
“Well, then the answer is yes,” I had said while keeping my head high. I`d never felt like I`d cheated on Bill. Not until now.
I peeled off my clothes while the rest of the interview went through my head. They`d asked me about Eric and I could see in Mr. Cataliades` face that Eric`s age did not work to my advantage. Apparently men are more entitled to beat up their wives if her lover is very young. Or that was the impression I got.
Mr. Maimondes and Mr. Cataliades had discussed whether or not Eric should be invited over to be a witness but they`d agreed that this wouldn`t serve my case. Yes, Eric had seen Bill`s mistress and could testify about that but after I`d explained that Eric was handsome, in addition to being young, they`d shaken their heads and told me to make sure Eric was not in the state, or even in the country, during the trial.
I threw myself on the bed, too tired to even pull the covers over me, and for the first time since Eric had left, I didn`t think about him before I fell asleep.
And it wasn`t until the next morning I remembered that I hadn`t said goodnight to him.
I`m going to think about the taste of your sex just before I fall asleep. Then I`ll dream of all the things I want to do to you.
Can we Skype tomorrow? I want to see you again. And have some fresher memories of you.
You forgot me last night.
These were the two messages waiting for me when I got up the next morning and they left me with mixed feelings. I could hide the current turmoil in my life in an email, but not if Eric and I talked on Skype.
And that second message left me a little deflated. It wasn`t as aggressive as the ones he`d sent me when I was at the hospital but there was certainly an edge to it. An edge I had a hard time dealing with right now.
I collapsed early last night and slept for 14 hours. I`m not sure I can handle Skype right now, but I want you to know that I appreciate your emails morning and night.
There. I leaned back and reread it before I hit “send”. I didn`t want to show too much weakness but Eric knew I was sick and I hoped he could handle this information.
Turned out he couldn`t because just a few minutes later I got a reply.
I can come to you if you need me. 8 hours on the plane and I`ll be there.
It was sweet of him to offer but I didn`t want him to come. He had his exams and I had the trial.
I`ll be fine.
I knew I should have written more but what could I say?
Was I being mean to you now? Nooo. Couldn`t just let Sookie fly home with Eric now that she had the trial and everything, could I?
Tomorrow is the last chance to vote in the Home Sweet Home Contest. Go read all the great stories from so many parts of the world, give them your review love and vote for the two best stories.