AN: Well folks, here it is, the long anticipated Surfer Eric fic I've been talking about for the past four months. Many thanks to peppermintyrose and worthfighting4 for reminding me that I promised to write this, and oodles and oodles of thanks to pfloogs72 for reading the various forms this story has taken and helping make it readable. And finally, thanks to everyone who is taking the time to read this. I hope you enjoy it!
The characters in this fic are the creation of Charlaine Harris. The rest is how I envision they'd be in the human world.
"Sookie," Bill's voice breaks through the layer of haze surrounding me. "Sookie?"
I look up and blink slowly, like I'm Dora the freaking Explorer waiting for someone to tell me where the red square is. Funny thing about that, I know exactly where it is, but I sure as heck don't want to acknowledge it.
"What?" I ask and shake my head quickly to clear visions of cartoon foxes swiping that dreaded red box and focus on the man sitting across from me.
I've just been proposed to. And not one of those "oh sweet Jesus will you marry mes" that I get at a fairly frequent interval from Terry Bellefleur when I deliver his coffee and sweet rolls either (though I did get that earlier in the day too). A genuine marriage proposal. From the man I have been dating for what seems like forever.
I realize that most girls in my situation would be jumping out of their chair, falling to the ground and thanking God that their boyfriend finally got off his ass and asked them to marry them. But, I guess I'm not most girls.
I look across the table and have to stifle a groan that I can feel bubbling up inside of me. It wouldn't be polite to respond that way, not when said boyfriend has gone through so much trouble.
I can't help myself from taking a step back and assessing the situation. To an outsider this exact moment might look like something in a scene on the Hallmark channel, or hell, maybe a scene from a Taylor Swift video complete with blonde girl in a flouncy dress. I look down at my lap and focus on the napkin that is haphazardly covering the lilac fabric of the dress Bill bought me and insisted I wear tonight.
I hate lilac. But that is beside the point.
I force myself to look up and meet Bill's expectant brown eyes. He looks handsome, albeit slightly uncomfortable in his surroundings, not that I can blame him. It has been a good four minutes since he placed the red velvet box in front of me, and I haven't even opened it yet. I know what's in there.
For all intents and purposes, this should be the happiest moment of my life, but frankly it feels like the most painful.
Yes, I've been dating him for what seems like forever, and yes I had an inkling this was going to happen tonight, but that doesn't mean I'm prepared for it. You may be wondering why am I not jumping over the table and peppering Bill with kisses, shouting 'yes' at the top of my lungs.
I'm not thinking about our future together, or rather, I am. But instead of imagining what I will look like on our wedding day, or what it will be like to live with him property, I am thinking about the fact that I will never experience the rush of the first kiss ever again; that I will never get to fulfill my dream of running off to some exotic location and meeting a handsome stranger; that if I agree to this, I will never again be able to be Sookie and not as part of a couple. No, I do not think that marrying Bill Compton will make life perfect. Instead, I think that marriage to Bill Compton means that I will always be Sookie Stackhouse…er, Compton from Bon Temps, Louisiana, the girl who came back to Bon Temps and donned a giant failure sign, complete with requisite flashing red arrow.
I slump down in my chair. I am sure I look like the world's biggest asshole, but I don't care.
The last place I imagined I would be when I left Bon Temps nine years ago was working at Merlotte's and dating the guy I used to sit next to in Computer Science. Hell, nine years ago I would have laughed at the thought that I'd ever even kiss Bill Compton, much less have him propose to me.
I am so not the type of girl that sits at home and dreams about settling down and starting a family. My life's to-do list is long, but hardly daunting despite the fact that I've wasted the past however many years doing zilch on it. I'm a big fan of dealing with things later, which is probably how I ended up in this exact position.
Leaving a trail of broken hearts around the world (goal number 9) is a bit difficult to accomplish when I've only gone as far as Dallas (travel the world was goal number 1); and Bill is the second man I've even kissed unless you count Hoyt Fortenberry when I was fourteen, but that hardly counts since it was a dare and he passed out when I slipped him the tongue.
Anyway you look at it, I've been a big fat failure at accomplishing anything on my list. Which is exactly why I find myself here, sitting across from a man I have settled for, staring at the ominous red box in front of me. What should be the happiest moment of my life is far from it. Instead of my stomach being aflutter with excitement, I feel like I am going to be sick.
It's not that I'm against marriage. I figure that I will get married eventually, really I do. I've even gone as far as to imagine the moment of my engagement, though those dreams are always more Heidi and Seal in an igloo than dinner and dancing in Shreveport. I mean, sure, that seems to do okay for the average couple, but the last thing I want to feel on the night of my engagement is average. Bill could have taken me to the fair and hidden a ring in cotton candy for all I care. I want something different; something special. At the end of the day, I know that Bill Compton isn't the man that is going to give me special.
I suppose this will sound bad - who can I be more honest with than myself? – but in my engagement fantasies, I always imagine said proposer to be a bit taller, a bit more glamorous, and most importantly, I imagine being completely in love with the man.
I like Bill. I think I even love him, but more and more lately I am realizing that what I feel isn't enough. I love him like a brother, or a beloved cousin. That I sleep with. Okay, scratch that. I don't love him like a relative; I love him like a friend. And no matter how much I love my friends, God knows I don't plan on sleeping with them, or spending every minute of every day with them.
Lately, every time I leave Bill's house, I have a nagging feeling that there is something else out there for me; that there's a plan for me that doesn't involve a farm house in Bon Temps, Louisiana, or a man with sideburns that he thinks make him look unique, but really make him look like a reject from the set of the Blues Brothers.
I've always had reservations about Bill, but clearly haven't had the gumption to do anything about them. No, it has been easier to swallow problems and plaster a smile on my face. Keep on trucking, as Tara always says. Ha. I'm clearly not much of a trucker.
I can't imagine being old and on my death bed, or heck being just five years older than my twenty-seven years, and regretting a decision like this. I need to stand up and dare to do what I want to do, and be more adventurous. And for that reason alone, I know the answer I have to give Bill Compton. How in the heck I am going to do it is still beyond me, but at least I know what I'm going to do.
I hear Bill say my name, and force myself to snap out of my self-imposed psychoanalysis.
"I-" I lift my hand to my chest, as if that can somehow protect me from what I'm about to do. "I don't know what to say."
His eyebrows raise so high that they disappear under his brown bangs and he clears his throat, the only noise I can hear in the crowded restaurant. "I was hoping you'd say yes."
I don't say anything.
"It shouldn't be this difficult Sookie." His nervous laugh makes me uncomfortable; I can sense the anxiety boiling beneath the surface. I can't blame him. I'd be upset too if I asked someone this particular question and they hemmed and hawed at all.
"I know." Crap, I sound rushed, and nervous. Who am I kidding? I am rushed and nervous. "I just… wasn't expecting it."
Liar, liar, pants on fire. I had a sneaking suspicion. Well, more than a sneaking suspicion after Tara saw Bill at the jewelry store in Shreveport last week. That had gone in one ear and out the other. I'm really good at ignoring what I don't want to hear.
He sets his mouth in what I've come to call his "disappointed Bill" frown. I've been on the receiving end of this more and more as of late.
"How can you say that Sookie?" he asks, reaching out and trying to grab my hand. I pull my hand away, not wanting to give him an inch of encouragement for what I am about to do.
"It just seems so rushed," I offer. I close my eyes and remind myself that ripping a Band-Aid off is much better than peeling it back slowly.
"We have known each other since you were fourteen. That is hardly rushed."
"But we have only been dating for-"
"Over two years."
"Has it been that long?" Oh God, I sound like an idiot. I remember exactly how long we've been dating, it's just about as long as I've allowed myself to stay holed up in Louisiana, wasting that four year hospitality degree I'd worked so hard to obtain. Way to go me.
"You know it has." At least he calls me on my bullshit. I can give him that. His eyes close, and I can see him forcing himself to smile as he continues, "Sookie, I love you. I thought you loved me too."
"I do!" I insist. Like a beloved friend. Or a dog. Shit.
"Then I fail to see the problem." His teeth are clenched so tight that I'm afraid they're going to snap like brittle chiclets.
"I...I..." I what, exactly? It's not like I can say what I am really thinking. That I can't imagine being Sookie Compton, mother of 2.5 children, who never got the chance to discover what else is out there? Can't imagine being sixty and attending Civil War reenactments to watch Bill surrender on behalf of the Confederate Army? Can't stomach the thought of having safe, comfortable, clockwork sex for the rest of my life? No. I can't say any of that.
"Sookie?" he asks, pulling me out of my thoughts. My eyes snap up to meet his, and I see the hurt and frustration in their brown depths.
"I can't," I say, feeling like the world's biggest asshole. Well, watch me trump that. "I'm so sorry Bill." I push my chair back, dropping the napkin that is on my lap on the table.
"Sookie," he pleads, "I don't understand."
"I know," I say, desperate to get out of here. "I can't explain. Believe me, if I thought I could, I would. I just can't marry you."
I hear him call my name as I walk away, but refuse to turn around. I can't. If I turn around, I will let him talk me into saying yes, and I can't let him. I need to put insane amounts of distance between us before he can give me those puppy dog eyes and convince me to stay. Those puppy dog eyes and abandonment issues were why I ended up dating him in the first place. They were like my personal form of kryptonite.
I somehow make it to the front door without being stopped, and let out a sigh of relief when the door closes behind me. First step accomplished, now I just need to figure out a way to get home. Maybe driving to Shreveport with Bill wasn't the best idea.
I walk blindly for two blocks, finally ducking into the darkened doorway of a bar I've never heard of. The interior is dark; seclusive; exactly the kind of place that Bill would never think to look for me. I keep my head down as I rush to a darkened corner booth that is empty. More good fortune.
I hear my phone ring, and look down to see Bill's number flash across the screen. I silence the call and set the phone down in front of me. A better person might answer his call, but I am definitely not a better person. I don't want to talk to him now, and I doubt I will change my mind in the near future. The phone lights up a second time, and he leaves a message that I am sure I am not going to listen to any time soon.
The waitress is dressed in black leather, her skin so pale that I wonder if she has ever seen the sun. She snarls as I give her my order, and brings it over to me without a word. My whole body relaxes when I take a sip of the gin and tonic. I can do this. I can figure this out.
I call my brother to ask him for a ride, and believe me, he is none too happy to be interrupted in the middle of a date with the new girl Crystal he's been hanging out with. A few minutes of begging and bargaining, and he agrees to drive to Shreveport. Yes, it's going to cost me gas money and whatever he wanted in a drive thru, but that's a small price to pay to not have to ride home with the man I've rejected.
I slump down further in the booth and close my eyes. God, this has been an awful day. An awful year. Hell, an awful two years. How have I let myself fall so far down after my less than triumphant return to Bon Temps?
Complacency plays a big role in it, I suppose. So has the male population in my life. All my good sense, all my plans seem to fly out the window because of them. I wish I could say that Bill was the first man I changed plans to be with, but I, unfortunately, have a history of making massive life decisions based on the man I am sleeping with.
Relationships are bad news for me. They all start out nice, what with the kissing and romantic gestures, but within no time, it's giving up my adventure so that I can be the little lady. As bad as it is to say, I'm almost glad that Gran isn't around to see me like this. She always wanted the best for me, wanted me to go out and live the life that she never got the chance to have.
I had been well on my way to adventure when I left for college. I was going to set the world on fire, to see what I could make of myself, by myself. I'd done well at school, graduating first in my class with plenty of offers to choose from, from hotels all across the States. I'd never seen Gran look as proud of me as the day she and Jason helped me unpack in my first apartment in Dallas. I wanted to prove to her that I could make it, that I could break the mold of the Stackhouse women before me and forge my own path without a man at my side.
I'd been doing pretty well on my own, but then I met Quinn, and everything came to a halt. I hadn't dated much in high school or college; I was too focused on my success to care much about a boyfriend. Even after moving to Dallas, I had stayed focused on work, making friends and avoiding any serious relationships. Turned out fate had a different idea for me.
The day after my six month anniversary at the hotel, I looked up from the pile of papers at my desk and into the violet eyes of the man who would change everything for me. While I made it a rule not to date customers of the hotel, Quinn had been persistent, and three dates later all the I-am-Woman thoughts I had were quickly replaced by the desire to get into his pants. I hadn't really dated anyone seriously before him, and I quickly learned that my twenty-three year old self was easily persuaded to play the little woman of the manor. Who needed independence when you had a handsome boyfriend who satisfied you in every way possible?
Turns out, I did.
We moved in together after knowing each other for a month, spending every waking - and sleeping - moment together. The first six months had been blissful, but it was in that seventh month that the problems started. Turned out Mr. Smart, Handsome & Successful also had family issues. I'm not talking Carol Sever butting into your conversation issues; no, this was more What Ever Happened to Baby Jane style family issues. And when it became apparent that he would always choose his family over me, I made the decision to leave him.
It hadn't been easy, far from it. We'd been together for over a year. I had no place to live in Dallas, no friends that weren't associated with Quinn. He didn't make it any easier, calling me ten times a day, begging me to come back to him, telling me that he had changed. I wanted to believe him, and had even agreed to meet him for dinner one night, but he had left halfway through the meal because his younger sister Frannie had needed him. I wasn't the type of person that needed lots of attention; I understood that sometimes family did have to come first, but sometimes I needed to come first too. It was the last time I saw him. I had been living at the hotel for a month when I received the call from Jason that Gran had taken a turn for the worse, asking me to come home and help her.
I had done what I needed to do, taking temporary leave from my job to rush back to Bon Temps. That temporary leave turned more permanent when Gran passed and I wound up naked and in Bill's bed.
I'd broken my promises to myself twice – first with Quinn and now with Bill – but it isn't going to happen again. I can't let it happen again. For once, I need to stand up for myself; to do what I want to do, and not let a man, or anyone really, influence my path.
My eyes feel heavy as I look down into the half empty gin and tonic. I can sit here all night – or at least as long as it takes for Jason to get here – and try and figure out my future, but God knows that nothing I think of tonight is going to be rational. I need to get home, go to bed and think about this tomorrow, when I've had a good night's sleep.
What I need now is something to do, someone to talk to who can take my mind off of Bill Compton. I pick up the phone up and try to figure out who that someone is. I smile as soon as I see her name in my address book. Yes, a call to Amelia is just what I need.
She picks up the phone before the first ring even finishes it, her familiar voice shrieking my name. "Sookie! What on earth are you doing calling me at eleven pm? Is everything okay? Are you hurt?"
I met Amelia at college. She is from New Orleans, and from an incredibly wealthy family. We couldn't be more different, but we somehow managed to hit it off and the rest, as they say, is history. She moved to California after graduation, working at a string of hotels as an excuse to be at the beach. Amelia is constantly trying to get me to move out with her, telling me there was nothing in the world like the Pacific Ocean. Maybe she is right, but I've never taken her up on the offer. No, instead I have decided to be Lauren Conrad personified, only instead of not going to Paris and getting my own reality show, I got to move back to Bon Temps. The irony isn't lost on me.
Turns out Amelia is really good at her job, and the company transferred her to Hawaii to run their hotel on Oahu last year. At twenty six. Talk about good fortune. But none of that has gone to her head. She is still Amelia Carmichael, the girl who listened to me swoon over John Quinn, and told me to throw his ass to the curb once and for all, only to fly out and help me move back to Bon Temps. She is the one person I can count on to be there for me, no matter what happens.
"No, I'm fine. Everything's okay."
"Oh. Good. Wait. Shouldn't you be out with your boyfriend?"
I groan and rest my cheek on my balled fist. "Ex."
"What happened? Hold on." I hear her cover the mouthpiece of her phone with her hand and her muffled voice tell someone that she is on an important business call and that she is not to be bothered. "Okay," she says. I hear the sound of a door shut. "You dumped Bill?"
"How do you know I dumped him?" I ask. I know the answer. Of course I was the one doing the dumping in this relationship. "Maybe he dumped me."
"Whatever," she says with a scoff. "Why in the world would Bill Compton dump you? You're the best thing that's ever happened to him. Well, the only thing that's ever happened to him."
"He's not that bad. He's quite lovely."
"Whatever. Quite lovely doesn't get my libido going. Lovely is the farthest thing from sexy imaginable. It's about time you dumped him."
"Bill can be very sexy," I say defensively. I am not sure why I feel the need to argue with Amelia. I mean, I just dumped the man; not only did I dump him, but I told him I didn't want to marry him. No cash; double whammy.
"You dumped him Sookie," she points out. "He couldn't have been good in the sexy department, or you wouldn't have thrown him over."
"Not true! Just because you place everything on sex, doesn't mean everyone else does. And just because someone is good in bed isn't reason enough to stay with them."
"As evidenced by your dumping of John Quinn. He was a tiger if I remember correctly?"
I groan. "I still can't believe I told you that."
"You're the one who said Bill didn't push all your buttons."
I regret that conversation. Too much gin is a bad thing for me. I look down at the gin in front of me and shrug; it isn't as if the night is going to get much worse anyway. I take a long drink.
"Why did you dump him?" she asks.
"He…um…he asked me to marry him." I say the last six words in such a rush that I can hardly understand myself.
"He what?" she shrieks.
"He asked me to marry him," I repeat, though a bit slower this time, or at least slow enough that I don't sound like a cracked out auctioneer anymore.
"He proposed to you?" I make a noise of assent. "And you not only said no, but you then proceeded to dump him?"
"Maybe," I squeak.
Her laughter fills the receiver. "Look at you, Sookie Stackhouse. I didn't think you had it in you anymore."
"I didn't either."
"When did all this happen?"
I look down at the watch on my wrist – the watch Bill gave me. "Um, about twenty minutes ago."
"Oh no! Where are you now?"
"I have no idea." I grab the drink menu and almost spit out my drink when I see the name. "Some place called Fangtasia. In Shreveport."
"What the hell kind of place is that?"
I shrug, looking around the room at the other patrons. "I have no clue. It's a bar of some sort. Real dark and kind of goth."
She laughs again. "And you're sitting there by yourself? Doesn't that seem like the kind of place you shouldn't be?"
"Yep. That's exactly why I ducked in here. Bill would never think to look for me here. No one has bothered me yet."
"What are you going to do?" she asks, suddenly serious.
"Wait for Jason to get here, I guess. Try to sneer at the next person who flashes their fangs at me?"
"Fangs?" she asks with a chuckle.
"Yep. Stupid Twilight and everyone's desire to be Edward Cullen."
"Bill was kind of like Edward Cullen." She pauses and I can imagine her brows wrinkling as she contemplates something. "Actually, a lot like Edward Cullen. Pale, moody, possessive."
"And don't forget sparkly!" I add. Yes, this gin and tonic has finally taken root and I am officially tipsy.
"Of course not! How could I forget that? But, no Sookie, I don't mean right now. What are you going to do?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean tomorrow, the next day…what are you going to do? If you stay in Bon Temps, you know that Bill is going to stop by Merlotte's and your house all the time. Kind of the downside to having your boyfriend live across the cemetery from you." She pauses. "Have I ever mentioned how creepy I think that is?"
"Only every time we talk about Bill."
"Good," she says. "Because it is creepy; and it's only going to get worse now that you've broken his heart."
"I didn't break his heart!" I insist.
"Um hmm. Listen Sook, he asked you to marry him and you said no. I'd say that's a definite heart breaking moment."
"Oh, well, I suppose when you put it that way…" Two hearts don't make a string, do they? Funny to think that this moment may get me closer to accomplishing one of my goals.
"So, what are you going to do?"
I slump back in the booth and close my eyes. I haven't thought about having to live so close to Bill, about having to see him every day. In the moment, I knew I had to say no, but I didn't think about what is going to happen the next time I see him.
"Shit," I groan.
"My sentiments exactly."
"I have no idea. I guess I can hide in the house?"
"That might work," she says, the sarcasm dripping from her words. "For two days."
"Oh God, Amelia!" I exclaim, suddenly realizing the severity of the situation. Shit, living next door to your ex isn't exactly my idea of a rocking good time. "I don't know what I'm going to do. You know me. I can't see him. If I do, then he'll look sad, and I'll feel awful, and then I'll probably end up back together with him."
"Why don't you come to Oahu?" she asks, as if it were that simple.
"What?" Maybe I am hearing things. It wouldn't be the first time.
"Come to Oahu," she repeats. "I've got plenty of space at my place, and I can offer you a job where you can actually use your degree."
"I don't think you should offer me a job out of pity."
"Sookie Stackhouse," she chides, "do you think I'd honestly give you a job if I thought you were a screw up? You were the top of our class; I should be working for you, not the other way around. But really, one of the concierges is blowing it big time and I've been trying to figure out what to do about it. It's perfect."
"I can't just pick up and move to Hawaii!"
"Why not? What's holding you back?"
"I don't know," I say petulantly. "Certainly not Bill."
"What then?" she asks. "You're twenty-seven! You need to get out and live a little."
"You're calling moving to Hawaii living a little?"
She lets out a whoosh of air. "Fine, don't move to Hawaii for good. Just come and work out here for a few months. It's got to be cold and icky there anyway. Take a few months vacation, see if you like it. It's Hawaii for Pete's sake! How bad could it be?"
Images of long, sandy white beaches, hours of sun in which to sunbathe and palm trees float before my eyes. I've been meaning to get out and see Amelia; maybe the suggestion isn't as ridiculous as I first thought. Maybe I'd get closer to accomplishing two of my goals.
"I don't know," I say, reluctantly. "I can't make a decision like that right now. I'm too confused as it is, I can't throw that in there too."
"Sleep on it."
"I don't know."
"Just give it a chance. What else are you going to do? Stay in Bon Temps and be a waitress for the rest of your life?"
"True though." She has a point.
"You're meant for bigger things Sookie Stackhouse and you know it. You're not a small town girl. It's time to get out and live a little. You're never going to accomplish anything if you're too afraid to try."
Before I can respond, she gets interrupted on her end. "I've got to go Sook. Promise me you'll think about it and call me tomorrow?"
I mumble my assent and hear the line go dead. Fantastic. Just what I needed, another thing to keep me up at night.
I finish my drink and order another, closing the tab and leaving my grumpy waitress a tip that is far too generous for the service she gave me. It's going to be a long night. I'm going to need all the help I can get.