Ah, back from Morocco and enjoying all your great reviews. Thank you so much!
I also want to thank Rascalthemutant for betaing this and for finding a suitable show for Sookie to appear on.
“No, Alcide. I can`t see why I should have to stoop to that level.” I was angry now. Angry. I was sad too, of course. What he had suggested was probably necessary but I hated it all the same. Which was why angry won over sad. Which felt good, actually. There had been a little too much sad lately.
“You have to and you know it. Bill sucker punched you with that trial. Now your publisher wants to cancel the next book if you don`t rewrite it. It`s a mess, Sookie. A complete mess. And you`re the only one who can fix it.” Alcide gave me a stern look.
At one point I`d found Alcide attractive. Not attractive in a way that had made me want to cheat on Bill, but I`d noticed Alcide`s dark eyes and curly black hair and I`d smiled back when he`d smiled at me.
That was before he`d introduced me to Debbie. Or before I`d seen sides of him that made me reevaluate him. If there was a thing called inner beauty, there was certainly also inner ugliness. Alcide was as handsome as they come on the outside and it was his luck that looks seemed to be all that counted these days.
But he was right, of course. Which was the reason he was still my agent. He would never be my best friend but he always had my best interests at heart. At least if my best interests were monetary and he could cash in his percentage.
I huffed. “How is it that I`m the bad guy when Bill was one who cheated on me and then beat me up?”
“If you want me to tell you that the world is full of injustice, I`ll be more than happy to do just that. But that doesn`t change the fact that Bill made you look like a bitch and it`s costing you money every day you let it stick to you.” Alcide took my hand, but I pulled it back. “Bill was out to hurt you all along, Sookie, despite his claims to still love you. You just have to face it. Now damage control is needed. And there`s no better place to do that than on The View. You`re lucky I could get you on that show.” Alcide touched my arm in spite of me pulling back my hand just seconds before.
I never liked it when Alcide touched me but he was a touchy-feely kind of guy. Well, not feely, really. Only touchy. And I was pretty sure he only touched people when he felt he could achieve something with his touch. Like convincing them to make a fool of themselves on TV.
I sat down. We were in my apartment and right now I felt invaded. And conquered. Beaten all over again.
I knew Alcide was right and I also knew The View was one of the better shows I could have appeared on. I loved Whoopi Goldberg and the rest of the hosts on that show seemed like women who would give me a fair treatment.
“I`ll do it,” I said in a low voice.
The smile on Alcide`s face made me want to change my mind just to see it fade. But I knew he was right and just looked at him.
“I`ll set it up.” He patted my arm and I pulled it back from him. How many times would I have to pull back until he realized that I did not appreciate him touching me? “It`ll be fine. You`ll see. And then maybe you can go on a vacation when this is over? It would be good for you to get away for a bit.”
I nodded. My book was finished and sent to my editor. I wasn`t sure if my editor would want to print the book but that was out of my hands. Either they said no and I would have to do a rewrite or they said yes and there would be some back and forth but that could be arranged via mail. Then the book would be printed, if my publisher wanted it at all, and I would have to do some publicity tours.
It would be a perfect time to leave – escape the country. After all these weeks with Bill and the trial, I would certainly love to be somewhere else than New York. A place that didn`t remind me of everything that had happened here.
Only thing was – where would I go?
The obvious answer would be to visit Eric but I hadn`t exactly been my most friendly self these last couple of weeks. Some days I hadn`t sent him the two emails. Some days he`d gotten none. And yet, he`d sent me a good morning and a good night each and every day.
His good night mails had always been raunchy – telling me just what he would want to do to me, to my body, if I`d been there. Or he`d been here.
But his good morning mails had been so much more. He`d told me about what he was going to do that day – exams, reading, applying for jobs. And he would tell me about his plans for the future, his thoughts and desires. He`d told me about him – who he was.
His mails had become longer just before the trial and he`d kept it up even if I didn`t have the energy to encourage him. Or even answer him.
Maybe I could visit Eric?
I immediately shoved the idea away. Too complicated. Way too complicated.
But I liked him. I really did. He wasn`t just a young hot lover. He was so much more. I had realized that during the trial when I had been asked to elaborate on my relationship to him. It had made me think about him in a different way.
“I`ll go on a vacation, Alcide. I`ll do the interview, you`ll talk to the publisher and then we`ll take it from there,” I said with a smile.
“You`ll probably just stay here in your apartment and work on your next book,” he said, not entirely unhappy with his suggestion.
I shrugged and soon he was out my door.
A few days later I was having a thick layer of makeup put on face and Alcide was prepping me before the interview. This time it wasn`t Debbie who was applying the makeup but a professional from ABC.
New York was heating up and the air conditioning was at full speed in the little makeup room. I was a little sweaty from the walk from the subway station but the chill in the room gave my body it`s normal temperature again. A shudder ran through my body but I wasn`t sure if it was because of the air conditioning or the fact that I was about to sit in a couch with five women who would ask me questions I would rather not answer.
“You have to be honest. Open your heart in there,” Alcide said for the seventh time.
“I know, Alcide.”
“And no holding back about Bill. Remember what he did you to you.”
I cringed. “I don`t think I`ll forget, Alcide.” My voice had that tinge of anger I often felt towards Alcide. I knew Alcide and I had to go our separate ways soon because I needed an agent I liked. One I could stand being in the same room with.
“Ten minutes!” A young guy popped his head in.
The makeup lady added some finishing touches, pulled off the towel that protected my shirt and gave me an encouraging smile.
“You`ll do great in there,” she said. “They will love you.”
I wasn`t sure if she meant the hosts or the audience, but I smiled in gratitude all the same.
“Thank you, ” I replied.
I took a deep breath and felt how that fake smile of mine took up half my face. Apparently they were used to fake smiles at ABC because the producer and the assistant gave me equally fake smiles back.
“And we would like to welcome our next guest,” Whoopi Goldberg announced. “She`s the author of an award-winning vampire series but lately it has been the trial of her ex-husband that has been on everyone`s lips. She was beaten up in her home and later she was beaten up in the court room. Sookie Stackhouse.”
Audience clapped like I was actually someone important. I smiled and nodded as if it was perfectly normal to go crazy over someone like me. I sat down in the middle of the couch and looked at the five successful women who were smiling at me. I`d never watched the show until Alcide told me about getting me a spot there and after that I`d only watched it on YouTube. But these women, and Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters especially, filled me with awe.
“So Sookie,” Barbara Walters started. “This has been one tough spring for you?”
I stopped smiling. I was about to talk about serious things. Couldn`t smile like a lunatic then, I told myself, though the smile was more of a nervous habit than an actual smile.
“They have been the worst months of my life. When my ex-husband … Bill …” I looked at the audience. “When he almost killed me back in January, I thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. ”
Joy Behar smiled an understanding smile – a smile I would bet she`d practiced for ours in front of the mirror. It was a nice smile, though. A warm smile.
“You were hospitalized?” she prompted.
“I was. And I still suffer from some of the damages from the assault.”
“Did you feel you were to blame for your ex-husband beating you and hurting you like this?” Whoopi Goldberg asked, knowing what I would answer.
“Of course not. First of all, no one is to blame for their husbands beating them.” That earned me clapping and cheering from an audience that was almost exclusively female. “Second of all, Bill cheated on me. He was working abroad when I came to visit him and found him with his mistress.”
“And they weren`t drinking coffee from what I hear,” Barbara Walters said.
“There were no coffee cups in that bed.” I dropped my smile just as I said that but the audience seemed to find it funny. It`s amazing how one person`s tragedy can be another person`s laughter.
“And yet, during the trial you were portrayed as the adulterer?” Whoopi Goldberg continued.
“I was,” I nodded. “After I`d found Bill in bed with … that woman … I went to a café.” I took a little break. “That was where I met … Eric.”
When I said his name a big lump in my stomach formed. I should have talked to him about this before mentioning him. But I`d never mentioned the trial and I just couldn`t mention this interview out of the blue. So all I could do was to pray that Eric would never see this show. And why would he?
For the first time I found myself happy Eric lived so far away.
“Your lover?” Joy Behar asked.
“Yes, Eric became my lover,” I said.
“The defense attorney made a big deal out of him being so much younger than you?” Whoopi Goldberg stated more than asked. “Because for some reason men are entitled to beat up women who have sex with younger and sexier men.”
I`d always loved Whoopi Goldberg`s sense of humor and she made me smile now too. This time a real smile, not a fake one.
“Eric is 13 years younger than me.” I looked at the audience again. “Most people find it perfectly normal for men to date women who are 13 years younger than they are. But for some reason it was wrong of me to find happiness with a younger man.”
The audience cheered again and I heard a few women shouting “You go, girl”.
“So you`re in love with Eric?” Barbara Walters asked out of the blue.
I found myself blushing. I wasn`t sure how much of the color that would be visible through the thick layers of makeup, but the stupid grin on my face probably told its own story.
“I would rather not comment on that,” I said, suppressing the grin into a smile.
Joy Behar smiled at me. “And now he`s in your books too?”
“I`ve written a new character into my series, yes.” I answered. “But he`s there because my heroine Anita needed a new direction in life. She`s been controlled for far too long by the man she thought she loved. She needs to get back on her own two feet.”
The audience cheered again.
“A bold choice?” Barbara Walters asked. “Your fans seem to like Anita with Stefan?”
“I would say it was a natural choice. Anita is a strong heroine and she needed a new direction in her love-life,” I said with a smile and enjoyed the cheering. I knew the audience would cheer if I`d said my new hero was a blue-cheese, but it still made me smile.
The interview was a success and I could see Alcide`s grin in the darkness behind the cameras. I could also hear the cash register in his head.
When we walked towards the subway station afterwards, Alcide was so nice to me I could almost be fooled into thinking he liked me and not just the money I was making for him.
“I`ll call your publisher first thing in the morning, Sookie,” he said when my subway rolled into the station. “Your book will be out in no time.”
I nodded and thanked him, knowing that I would be checking the contract I had with him – and that I would find myself a new agent as soon as I could. If there was one thing I`d learned this spring, it was to only spend time with people I enjoyed being with and not waste it on people who made me feel bad about myself.
When I came home I sat down at my computer. My book was finished and I didn`t want to work on the next one yet. After all, I wasn`t sure if my publisher would accept the book I`d already submitted.
I went online instead. Suddenly I found myself checking out airline fares to Scandinavia and before I could regret my own actions, I`d bought a ticket. I was going to visit Eric in July.
I took a deep breath. Maybe I should have asked Eric first? Talked it over with him?
I shrugged. You only live once and that measly little life can be ruined ten times over in a blink of the eye. If Eric didn`t want me to visit him, I could always check out some fjords, the midnight sun, some Viking ship museums or the statue of The Little Mermaid. It wasn`t as if Eric was the only site in Scandinavia.
He was the best, though.
I started writing an e-mail to Eric.
I hope you all had a nice Easter. I certainly did. Morocco was amazing!
I also hope you liked this chapter and that I didn`t mutilate The View too much. I`ve only ever watched it on YouTube…
The Home Sweet Home contest is over and the votes are counted. The amazing winners are Miss Construed and Pfloogs. Both are great writers and their stories will make you smile – I promise 🙂
Oh – and several of you have asked me about Dead without a Work Permit. The next chapter is already written and will be posted in the near future.