This story is my entry for the I Write the Songs contest hosted by Northwoman. It`s based on Beatles`song Norwegian Wood and if you look closely you may be able to spot the lyrics as part of the story.
I want to thank Ooshka for betaing this story and for adding some Britishisms. You should go read her story Hole in the River which was a promotion story for the I Write the Songs contest. The story is just amazing!
Charlaine Harris wrote the Southern Vampire Mysteries and owns the characters in this story. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song Norwegian Wood. I`m not sure who owns the rights now – I just know that I don`t.
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My heart skipped a beat. Yes, I know it`s impossible but that was what happened when I saw Sookie again. I wasn`t sure if the beat was skipped due to anger or maybe it was something I didn`t want to name. Couldn`t name. Emotions were never my strongest suit.
After four years, there she was, filling prescriptions at Merlotte`s Chemist as if nothing had happened and time had stood still since we`d last met. Time hadn`t stood still, of course. For one thing, she hadn`t been wearing a white coat the last time I`d seen her. She hadn`t been wearing anything at all.
I`d once had her. Or should I say, she`d once had me.
Only once. But that one time with Sookie had changed everything.
I stared at her, willing her to look up. But when she did, I looked away. So very mature. Especially considering I`d come to her work place just to see her again – for the first time in four years.
I stared at the shelves but realised too late that I was browsing the constipation remedies when I became aware that she was standing right behind me.
“Eric? What are you doing here?”
I recognised her voice but took my time turning around. Did I mention how mature I was?
“Oh. Hello, Sookie,” I said in the most indifferent voice I could muster. “I didn`t know you were working here,” I blatantly lied.
“Yes, you did,” she said and she gave me one of those huge smiles that were supposed to make you feel comfortable but were really just her way of hiding how uncomfortable she was. With me.
I smiled back, willing her to give me a more real smile. “All right. I did.”
“Why are you here?”
“Nice to see you too,” I said and tried to hide my hurt by acting mock-hurt. How could she be so casual? I`d expected anger or joy. Anything, really. And now I was getting the smile she used for strangers and a “Why are you here?”
“Oh, sorry. It`s nice to see you, Eric. I haven`t heard from you in ages.” She paused, waiting for me to say something. When I didn`t, she continued. “There are such things as phones and e-mails, you know. Facebook. Twitter. You could have stayed in touch.”
“I could have.” No, I couldn`t. I could envision the notice from Facebook: Eric Northman, the man who slept with you and then called you a bitch, asked to be your friend. Confirm?
“But you didn`t.”
The conversation was becoming awkward and I had no idea how I could change it. I felt like a hamster in one of those little wheels and I didn`t know how to make it stop.
“And yet, here you are.” The false smile was back on Sookie`s face. Then it died a little. “Has something happened? Your parents? Pam?” I noticed how Pam`s name was mentioned in a whisper.
“No, my parents are alive and well and Pam is …” I had no idea what my sister was. We hadn`t been close in, well, that would be four years.
“Pam was fine a few weeks ago at least. I saw her when she visited your parents,” Sookie said.
“Pam spoke to you?” My voice was raised enough for a few people to turn their heads.
“We`ve stayed in touch.”
So Pam and Sookie were friends? I shouldn`t have been surprised, of course, but it still hurt.
“So you`re still into girls?” It ran out of my mouth before I could stop myself. At least I hadn`t called her a lezzer. Or a rug muncher.
She stared at me. “And you`re still a prick.”
If my heart had skipped a beat earlier, it died now. A little bit, at least. Maybe Sookie could give me a prescription for that before I passed out on the floor?
Sookie turned her head and looked at the counter she was supposed to be standing behind working, and I knew I had limited time. After all, I did want to see Sookie. Talk to her.
“Pam and I haven`t been close since …” I said and Sookie turned her head back to me again.
I sighed. “Can we talk about it later?” I asked. “When do you get off work?”
She checked her watch. “Half-eight.”
I checked my watch too and saw that it was only half an hour away. “I`ll wait for you outside.”
She nodded and left me to go back and give people their pills and ointments. I walked outside and noticed how it had gotten dark while I was inside Merlotte`s Chemist.
Why had I come? Had I developed a taste for masochism and wanted to try the most painful experience I could think of?
Yes, Sookie had had me once. And I was still hers.
Unfortunately she could never be mine.
Standing outside I watched an old couple walking by hand in hand. It seemed too ironic and I wondered if I`d suddenly ended up in a Hugh Grant-movie. Should I be moping along the High Street, pining for what I could never get? I shook my head. Even though I hadn`t met anyone like Sookie in the four years since she`d left town, it didn`t mean I never would. I was young. Just turned 21.
“Do you want to go to my flat?”
I tore my eyes away from the couple and looked at her, surprised that half an hour had gone by so quickly. Or maybe she`d left early?
“Sure. Do you live nearby?”
We crossed the High Street and then a few narrower streets without talking and I enjoyed walking next to Sookie. It was almost like the old days – except that I never did walk next to her back then. Not alone, at least. It had always been Sookie, Pam and me.
It was ironic how I was the one who was in love with Sookie but my sister Pam was the one who could have had her. At least for more than one night.
I was two years younger than my sister. Two years younger than Sookie. But they`d still let me tag along. Not many sisters would but Pam and I hadn`t been like normal siblings. We`d actually enjoyed each other`s company. And Sookie hadn`t minded.
I`d been too young to drink, of course, but my 6`3 height and broad shoulders – and the fact that I was with two attractive and skimpily dressed girls – had made it easier to gain entry when they went clubbing.
I`d been in love with Sookie since Pam first brought her home when I was 11. And that last summer before Pam and Sookie started university, going out nearly every night, dancing with Sookie, getting drunk with her, hadn`t helped my hormone-induced desire to have her all to myself.
I looked down at her hand swinging next to her body, wishing I could grab it. Hold it. It had been a wish I`d had even back then. But just as my 15 year old self and even my 17 year old self hadn’t taken hold of it, I didn`t now.
“This is it,” she said and unlocked an anonymous door in an anonymous building.
I stepped inside and saw that it was basically just a room with a small kitchenette. The cupboard doors, the coffee table and the bed were all in oak which made the room seem a little bigger. More modern. But it also seemed like a strange choice.
“Isn`t it good?” she asked. “Norwegian wood.”
“I thought IKEA was Swedish.”
My comment made her laugh which had been my intention. Sookie had invited me to her place and I knew it wasn`t for sex. So we might as well laugh together. It beat crying. Or shouting.
I noticed she had a fireplace which made her tiny flat seem even odder. And she had enough logs stacked up to heat a drafty castle for a month.
I was still standing in her doorway, not really sure what to do, when she waved at the room and the furniture.
“Come in and stay. You can sit anywhere.”
I looked around and I noticed there wasn`t a chair. As I didn`t want to sit on her bed – no, I wanted to sit on her bed too much – I sat on the rug.
She opened one of her kitchen cupboards and found a bottle of wine and two glasses. She unscrewed the wine and came over and sat on the rug next to me. Without asking if I wanted any she poured me a glass and then one for herself.
We sat there drinking her wine for a little while. I was biding my time, wanting something, but not really sure what it was.
Some women get nervous when you don`t talk to them, or ask them questions. Or they will pester you with endless chattering. Sookie was not like that.
She did break the silence after a while, though.
“Why did you come?” she asked.
I knew she didn`t mean back to town.
“I`ve been thinking about you. About what happened.”
She looked at me. I half expected that huge nervous smile of hers but was relieved when it didn`t make its appearance.
“You can`t change the past, you know,” she said.
“I know. I just wanted to know if I …” I sighed. “She`s my sister. You never got together and I feel bad if it was because of … me.”
Sookie shook her head. “You can`t change the past,” she repeated. “And Pam is fine. I hear she has a new girlfriend.”
I glanced at Sookie. “She has?”
“And you`re …?” I wasn`t really sure how to ask.
For some silly reason it made me happy that she hadn`t found someone even if it could never be her and me. I wanted Sookie happy, of course, but not if it meant having a girlfriend move into this oak-filled tribute to IKEA.
“No. I meant, you`re fine with Pam having found someone else?”
Sookie looked at me. “Of course I`m fine with Pam finding someone. Pam was my best friend.” She paused. “She is my best friend.”
I decided the topic was still too awkward so I changed it. “Tell me about university. You studied pharmacy?”
“How did you guess?” she teased. She was still wearing her t-shirt with a Merlotte`s Chemist logo stamped on her chest, and we both looked at it for a moment.
“And now you`re back here for good?”
“I`m not sure, but when Sam`s dad asked me to work for him after I got my degree, it seemed as good a place as any to start out. It`s not as if one has a lot of choices with the economy being the way it is.”
I nodded. Sam had been one of Sookie and Pam`s friends. One of the guys I`d hated because he`d been Sookie`s age and not two years her junior.
“You`ve been at university for two years now?” she asked.
“Do you like it?”
I could have said more, could have told her about my courses, my friends and the stress around exams. I could even have told her some funny stories, the stories I entertained Mum and Dad with every time I was home for the summer.
But I didn`t.
University had kept us apart for this long. Sookie`s university, at first, since she`d chosen a university up North. And then my choice to attend a university down South.
“Are you home for the summer?” she took another sip of her wine.
“You know, it`s good to see you again.”
I smiled. It was good to see her again too. Good in a stomach-turning, painful way.
“Even if it was awkward after the last time we saw each other,” she continued.
“That must be the understatement of the year.” I meant to be witty but she just nodded.
“Yes, it was kind of a mess, wasn`t it?” she said. “You were always Pam`s cute little brother and then … ”
“Cute?” I interrupted.
“All right. Sexy, then.” She smiled and it wasn`t that special Sookie-smile I`d come to hope she would never use on me again. “And then suddenly everything turned bad.”
“`Bad` is another understatement.”
“I suppose it is. Was Pam very angry at what I did? She never did want to tell me.”
“What you did?” I asked. “It was what I did that caused all the problems.”
Sookie smiled. “I seem to remember we did it together.”
“Yes, but you weren`t the little brother who was trying to steal his big sister`s girlfriend.”
“No, I was the friend who ….” Sookie was quiet for a moment or two, and then she put her wine glass down and looked at me. “Pam and I were friends but I was never her … girlfriend, so to speak. Nor was that ever going to happen. I don`t think Pam ever wanted me … that way. It would have been awkward.”
“Of course she did. Pam said ….” I tried to remember exactly what Pam had told me and I was fairly sure she had mentioned that she was in love with Sookie. That I had been a right bastard for using Sookie like that. Taking advantage of her confusion at that time. That Sookie had only slept with me because she couldn`t accept she was a lesbian. That she`d wanted to be straight because it was easier. That society`s homophobia had made Sookie use me and that Sookie really wanted Pam and not me.
That I had stolen my sister`s girlfriend – potential girlfriend.
That was what Pam had told me. But what I`d heard from Pam`s long and angry rant was something else entirely. I`d heard only that Sookie had used me. That she hadn`t wanted me for me. That she`d wanted to go back to Felicia – or be with Pam. That she hadn`t been in love with me. Not like I`d been with her.
Sookie had once had me but I`d never really had her and it had eaten me up inside.
I emptied my wine glass and noticed how Sookie looked at her watch. I checked mine too and saw that it was two o`clock in the morning. How had that happened?
“It`s time for bed,” she said. “I work in the morning.” She started to laugh. Her laughter was filled with a nervous tension I couldn`t decipher.
I wasn`t sure if she wanted me to leave so I looked at her for a clue. When she didn’t give me one I decided to stay. I didn`t want to go home to my parents` house. Not when I`d just found Sookie again. Not after having talked to her all night. I knew I couldn`t have her in the way I wanted her but I was happy to have her in the way I`d been having her tonight. Happy in a pained way, at least.
“I haven`t found a summer job yet so I don`t,” I said and stood up, ready to crawl off to sleep in the bath. It was really the only alternative. It was the bath or the rug and I was fairly sure Sookie didn`t want me sleeping in the same room as her.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“The bath. I thought I could sleep there.”
“Why do you want to sleep in my bath? That`s completely daft. You won`t fit.”
What could I say apart from the truth? “I don`t want to go home.”
“And my bath is the only alternative?”
“No, but I don`t want to sleep in the streets and your rug smelled funny.”
“Again, are those your only alternatives?”
I looked at her and found her face hard to interpret. Was she inviting me to sleep in her bed or was that my wishful thinking? And was my wishful thinking wishing things a bit too far? Just because Sookie had taken a walk on the straight side when she was a teenager didn`t mean she wanted to do it again. And even if she did, did I want to be the guy she was just test-driving, again, to see if she could be straight? As if she was Jeremy Clarkson, and I was the latest Porsche and she’d hand me back at the end with a report on how well I handled?
I was confusing myself.
“I can`t, Sookie.”
If her face had been hard to interpret because it didn`t show anything before, then it was hard to interpret because it showed too much now. But I was sure I saw disappointment in there somewhere.
“You can`t do that to me, Sookie,” I said and I was angry now. “I can`t be that cock you pull out whenever you`re not sure about your sexual orientation.”
“I`m sure about my sexual orientation, Eric.”
I wanted to smash something to make her spell out what she was saying. Some of that Norwegian wood she seemed to love so much would probably do the trick.
“Why are you inviting me into your bed, then?” I asked.
“A bed can be used for things other than sex, Eric. Even if two people of the opposite sex sleep in it together.”
My face fell and my need to smash things doubled. Why was she teasing me like this? I`d been in love with her for as long as I could remember and she must have known that. And now she wanted to rub herself all over me in her sleep while I was supposed to lie there sporting wood harder than the oak she`d filled her poky little flat with?
I was just about to leave Sookie and her oak-filled flat when she shook her head.
“But I would like to have sex with you. Sometime.” She smiled at me and it was one of her genuine smiles. “When we`ve sorted out what actually happened four years ago.”
“I have no idea why you thought I preferred women. Or why you still think so.”
I stared at her and rolled my inner recorder back and replayed what she`d said.
“You were dating Felicia.” I said. I had hated Pam for introducing Sookie to Felicia even if Sookie and Felicia didn`t last long.
Sookie blushed, just a little. “I wasn`t fair to Felicia,” she said. At first I thought she wasn`t going to elaborate but then she took a deep breath. “I wanted to be like Pam.”
“You wanted to be a lesbian?” I asked.
“Silly, isn`t it?”
“No, not really. Just surprising since Pam told me you wanted to be straight. But that you weren`t.”
“I was 18. I saw how Pam`s girlfriends were nice to her and I wanted what she was having.”
“You could have had a boyfriend who was nice to you,” I argued.
She looked at me. “You do remember who my boyfriend was? Before I started dating Felicia, I mean.”
How could I forget? I`d been jealous of him and angry that he had what I so desperately wanted.
“Bill,” I said. “Yes, I suppose he could turn anyone into a lesbian.”
It was meant to be a joke but Sookie just quirked her eyebrow.
“Remind me again why you and Pam aren`t close anymore?”
It was a slap in the face and a slap I deserved. It hadn`t been my seduction of Sookie, or her seduction of me, that had turned my sister against me. It had been how I`d ended up offending Pam and her choices in life.
I`d been angry. I’d been hurt. And I`d wanted Pam to hurt too.
I was standing in the middle of Sookie`s tiny flat, having first been on my way to go and sleep in her bath and then on my way to leave her once and for all. Now I wasn`t really sure where I was going. I glanced at her bed.
“Go and brush your teeth, Eric, and come to bed,” Sookie said in a tired voice. “There`s a fresh toothbrush under the sink. I get them by the bulk from the chemist. It’s one of the perks of the job.”
It was awkward and not sexy at all, Sookie and me getting ready for bed. Too much tension and too little kissing, I suppose. Because even if I wanted Sookie so much, the tension wasn`t sexual. Not entirely, at least.
But I still didn`t leave. I couldn`t imagine going home to my room at my parents` house. Not now.
We crawled under the covers, both of us in our underwear and a t-shirt. I wanted to be a suave lover and take Sookie into my arms while whispering endearments and making her come a hundred times but I was a 21 year old guy, desperately in love with the woman next to me and I didn`t know what to do.
“It`s late. Let`s get some sleep.” Sookie kissed the tip of my nose and I felt … relieved, actually. Tonight wasn`t the night for sex. For one thing, I would come the moment Sookie touched me and that wasn`t the way I wanted to start a new relationship.
Because that was what this was if I had my way. A new start.
I kissed Sookie`s nose too. “Too bad we wasted four years,” I said.
“I think we might have matured and that`s not a bad thing.” She gave me a smile and it was a warm smile. Sexy, I would say. Then she got more serious. “But you have to tell Pam that you`re sorry.”
“I`m not good at saying I`m sorry.” I knew how ridiculous it sounded. Pam was my sister.
I looked at her and remembered the words I`d called her back then. It wasn`t just Pam I`d hurt. “I`m sorry,” I said and it made her smile again.
“Thank you. And I`m happy to see that lightning didn`t strike you dead for actually using the s-word.”
That made me laugh. “No, I`m alive and well.”
“I`m looking forward to you proving that, Eric. But not tonight. It`s almost three and I need to get up at seven.”
I kissed her and this time not on her nose. “I`ll see you tomorrow, then.”
And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown. She`d left a spare key on her coffee table, though, and that made me smile.
I got up and went home, happy that my parents had already left for work. My mum had left a note on the kitchen bench, telling me she hoped I`d enjoyed my night out with my mates but that she would appreciate a text from me next time I wasn`t planning on coming home to sleep. I felt a pang of guilt and wrote my parents a note, saying I probably wasn`t coming home to sleep the next night. What can I say? I`m an optimist.
I took a shower and changed my clothes. Then I went out to do some shopping. I`d never been a very good cook – I was a student, after all – but I figured I could make something in that kitchenette of Sookie`s.
I let myself into Sookie`s flat and started the preparations. I put condoms in her bedside table and opened a bottle of wine. But something was still missing and, when I looked at the fireplace, I knew what it was.
So I lit a fire. Isn’t it good, Norwegian wood?
Then I picked up my phone and called my sister.
Here is a link to all the I Write the Songs stories 2012: http://www.fanfiction.net/community/I_Write_the_Songs_Contest/84413/99/0/1/
And a link to the promo stories: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2491610/I_Write_The_Songs