3 Years Later:
I shuffled the paperwork into a nice neat pile on my desk and sighed. It was another quarter taken care of, and the charity was finally finding its feet. I looked around my showroom with a smile, we'd made it. After Eric and I got engaged, we started looking for a place together after Christmas, a Christmas that had consisted of a pregnancy scare and a new pet – Bubba the stray cat that just decided we were cool enough to hang with, so we kept him. That Christmas, the first one without my Grandmother was a tough one in so many ways, but in others a great one as it was still filled with people who I loved, and who loved me back just as much as well as a serious amount of food and drink consumed to deal with all of those things! The pregnancy scare brought up a lot of conversations for Eric and me but the bottom line consisted of us not being ready, at least not right then, but it made us aware that it was something we wanted, some day, just when we were a little more settled in our lives together. A house hunt that took us almost six weeks, we saw more duds than we could count and were just beginning to lose hope when we found the one, eventually in Soho. A loft conversion with two bedrooms, lots of exposed red brick, lots of storage and a great living space, with a sweet view in an area populated by enough hipsters to sink the titanic. It was rough to start and it had a few things that needed done and fixed, but we got an amazing letting deal from a friend of a friend of Eric's who had packed up his things and moved to Thailand to teach English to kids and had no desire to return to the city. He needed a quick sale and as such it drained our finances considerably to do so, but we knew it would be worth it in the end like most great things, and it was.
Then there was Lafayette's wedding, with Eric as one of the best men, was one of the best nights either of us remembered having in the city, and one of the best Valentine's to boot! He'd gone all out, as was his style, and Elton John would have envied his floral display. Watching he and Jesus tie the knot, only reinforced how good it felt to be engaged to Eric, to have that to look forward to in our future, and how completely different it was from the last time.
By mid-April I was having itchy feet at the idea of being a 'kept woman', even though I'd decorated the place to perfection and created a pretty amazing little home for us I needed something more. And although he and I joked about it, I knew Eric was dying for me to find my feet in the city again too. He once said that the house was beautiful but if I kept up going how I was, it was only going to turn into a very beautiful cage – and he didn't want that for me. But, it like everything else took some serious adjusting, I couldn't go the internship route, and I wasn't confident in my work at the time for me to even glance at the bigger publications. So I found something small, it was a government-funded children's charity based out of Tribeca with all donated art being sold to go towards the causes. This was to be the first nudge towards my biggest pipe dream to date, I wanted to start-up a charity to honour my Gran, and when I'd got a friend to draw up a business plan, I realized that charity really did begin at home. The costs were high, as were anything else in the city, I knew that, but I also knew that it was what I needed to do. Of course, Eric often questioned if I myself was high when we'd discuss it, but he was supportive and it helped in buckets to urge me on. Weirdly the day I got rejected from my fourth bank for a business loan, was the day my Gran's lawyer called. The will had been read and I was asked to come in, to talk. I was a wreck, and it had brought up all my grief again, but Eric and I went, out of curiosity more than anything.
And that's when it happened.
The boom, the bomb, the shock.
It turns out Adele Stackhouse, proud owner of that creaky little farm-house in the middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, had died a very wealthy woman. So much so that she left me almost a million dollars, as well as the house and property.
"I don't understand…" I said, as I looked at Eric and then to Alan, the lawyer. "She never mentioned any investments."
"No, these are old investments she's had since the fifties, when she first got married, she cashed out at the right time, Ms Stackhouse, just before the recession hit by the looks of things too. That's when the Will was made. There's a letter here for you too, if you'd like."
If I'd like, of course I'd like!
It was when I opened it that everything sort of pieced together. Her letter was so touching, and written, as I noted by the date when I was still married to Alcide. She spoke of how she knew that one day I'd find my way, and that if this money helped me do that, then it was all she wanted. She said she knew my heart was huge and that I'd find a way to put it to good use, and all she asked was that I remember her and our times together when I did it. And that right then is when it happened, my A-ha moment, as Oprah would say. I knew what I wanted to do, with my modest talent, and my not so modest cheque. I knew I had the basic resources to start the ball rolling and I would use my contacts in the art world and Eric's if I had to, to do it!
And that was just two years ago, thinking back it seemed like forever ago in some respects, and a heartbeat ago in others. Time really does fly when you're having fun, and also stressed out to the max.
I looked at the photos on my desk not only of Eric and I, but of us and our little group of misfit friends, I looked around the studio and it filled me with pride. One of us on vacation in Mexico, and of course one of our wedding. I smiled at the memory as I often did, there was nothing conventional about that wedding a year before, at all. We got our license, and were trying to settle on a date, and guest list, and a location, and we were both just bored to tears at the idea of a white wedding, so we gathered six of our closest friends one foggy Saturday in March, and we decided that by the power vested in Pam by the-people- of- the- internet- would be enough to allow her to proceed over our vows, we'd make it legal the old fashioned way - with all the signatures later, we were all giddy as we all went down to the New York City Library for a makeshift un-booked wedding. Well, it wouldn't have been 'us' if we weren't doing something that would get us caught, now would it? I wore a blush pink sundress, my hair in big wavy curls with a tiny matching 'veil', and Eric wore his best black suit, sans a tie. It was us, and it was comfortable and fun, with a side of danger, so it fitted us perfectly even if we got odd looks and by the time he kissed his bride we were a few seconds from getting kicked out, but it was all worth the adrenaline rush - and we partied for three days just to seal the deal. Lafayette still talks about the effects of that hangover. I shook my head and finished off some of my paper work and there was always paperwork, with a charity like this.
The Adele Stackhouse Art Organization had found a little following in the previous eighteen months. I was using it as a two-part charity, one it gave new artists a place to exhibit their work – once a month there'd be an 'opening' of sorts and a party to go with it, where we'd feature everything from photography, to music in the hopes of getting the artist's name out there, and getting some much-needed donations for the second and most important part of the charity, the workshops for Alzheimer sufferers. We'd host days for various care homes to bring patients over to work on whatever they wanted. Be it pottery, or painting, and most loved the camera too. We ended up with exhibitions of their works too, alongside established artists that we put on show in the studio, so many happy Polaroid photos hung in the east section of those workshops, and then the finished art sat, some of it for sale, some of it for show, and some of it used just to jog a memory or two every now and then. My wage was, for New York, what you'd call modest. But, I was my father's daughter, I had good business sense from my days of running both the B&B and overseeing the bar, I guess I got it from my Gran too. I'd made a few investments of my own, including one in Lafayette's nationwide smash magazine, I thought to myself smugly. That and the rent on the farmhouse and land came in like clockwork every month, so it let me live comfortably enough on my own, even without Eric's considerable income.
So, things were looking up at work and at play for both Eric and I by then.
I checked my phone as I locked up the shop for the night, hoping to get home before the snow turned the city into a total ice-rink. I picked up some dinner, in no mood to cook, and a few other bits and bobs at the late market on our corner in passing and I waddled on home. Walking as much as I could these days and not just for the good of my health either, for the sake of my vanity. Yes, waddling along at five months and sixteen days pregnant meant that my normal shape was now very much out the window. I mourned the loss of my waistline, and was doing as much yoga as was allowed and realistically facing the outcome and lathering myself in anything that lessened the stretch mark nightmare that I was facing. And I was, facing it, I was carrying a Northman baby boy or so they told me at the time, and Eric who weighed in at ten pounds, eleven ounces at birth casually informed me of this AFTER the little stick came up with a positive sign. It wasn't funny; I was having recurring nightmares that my baby's birth would resemble that scene from Alien…to which Eric would almost split his sides laughing at me, jerk.
I got home to find Bubba on his bed, judging me from the hallway, his flea collar still in place, thankfully.
"Hey boy…hey…" I said petting him in passing, where I found Eric in the kitchen.
"Great minds!" I said holding up my version of dinner which was Chinese, and his which was pizza.
He smiled as we kissed hello and he grabbed my bags.
"You told me you'd call and I'd come pick you up!"
"I know, I know, but I needed the exercise…not that it matters since we're about to have a mixed dinner of a zillion calories." I rolled my eyes but secretly was thrilled; food and I had a good time these days, unlike the first month where I was seeing everything in reverse.
Eric patted the bump in passing as he got me glass for my juice, "and how are we today?"
"We're good…kicking around but it'll settle when I do."
We were having a boy, a thing that thrilled Eric to no end, and if I was honest, I was more than thrilled myself. I had to deal with a lot of women in my life, so having a little guy for a change would be good, permitting he didn't actually go all alien on my ass I'd end up on the walls, or so I thought...
"Pam called today, she said she'll be in the city for work in a couple of weeks, she wants to stay here...I told her it was fine of course." I said poking around the kitchen.
"Sure, it'll be good to see her again, how is she?"
"She's good, she's seeing someone new, so she's in honeymoon mode right now, it's cute."
"That's cool, she deserves to be happy," Eric said.
"She does, speaking of deserving to be happy, I got an email today..." I knew we were over this but I still hesitated when I brought him up, which was almost never, but still. I knew I squirmed when he mentioned running into an ex or two himself.
"Mmm, from Alcide."
"Oh...? He's okay?"
I smiled, "Yeah, he really is. He's working in California still, and get this, he's adopting with his boyfriend, or at least in the process of it. He wanted to tell me the good news, and you too of course."
Eric looked sort of shocked at that news, but then it sunk in for him. "Well, that's awesome, I'm glad he got out of his family's weird grasp, Sook."
I nodded, I was too. After everything came out, and he subsequently came out too, they all but disowned him. It was awful, but not unexpected and so he came back - packed his bags, and moved in with his friend in San Francisco for a while until he found his feet, which he did working for a big construction company that took him on in a heartbeat, thankfully. He said he'd never looked back, and it had been a couple of years since I'd heard from him besides this new update.
"Yeah I'm happy he's got some peace, and that he changed his mind on the kids thing." He thought since he'd come out that it wouldn't be possible, I wondered if his other half had anything to do with that? Either way, good for him. I was glad that we were all past the past so to speak, enough that we could all just be happy for each other. It was a really nice feeling.
Conversation moved on as it often does, and we ended up back at work as we set out our food.
"We got the commission." Eric beamed and I almost fell out of my chair.
"You did? Oh my GOD!"
"I know, it's pretty amazing for Lafayette, I mean it's the First Lady, you know? He's thrilled because he has such a crush on 'Michelle', and he wants me to shoot it."
"I assumed! Aw honey!" I said hopping off my chair for my hug, "that's so many kinds of awesome." I smiled at him, so proud.
"I was wondering one thing though, if you'd want to be the second with me on the shoot?"
My eyes widened. "For real?"
"Of course for real, I need to hire someone and I can't think of anyone better than my former intern." He grinned, and I joined him.
"Well I don't know… I mean what's the hourly rate…" I sassed as I got us our plates.
"Ha. Very funny. You in?"
"Will she mind having Donald Duck waddling around her set?"
"Not at all, it's her and the girls, it's a modern woman piece, and I was hoping you could …contribute. Coming from such a time warped town an all, you and your Belles experience, Laf' suggested it today, he's going to email, it's only about a thousand or two thousand words, and it would be on spec, but, if you're interested in telling?"
I pondered the idea, it could be good, and to be part of such an issue at all was an honour, "I'll let him email what he wants, but I can't see why not. A short article on the changes of this Southern Belle? Hell why not, people read worse over breakfast." I said as we made our way to the couch for movie time that night.
Of course nothing in my life went to plan, my tiny little contribution to one issue turned out to be a bit of a cult hit with the readers, and it turned into a monthly column on all things Sookie in New York, so I juggled it with work and with impending motherhood. I had to laugh at myself sometimes, nothing went to plan, and I mean nothing. Not my life in New Orleans, not my marriage to Alcide, not my career choice in college, and not my 'silly' little one night stand all those years before. Not even my baby could go to 'plan', as four months and six days later we walked back into our place – including one very blue accented nursery, with a healthy, happy, and vocal baby girl.
The look on Eric's face when she was born was one I don't think I'd ever forget. He was thrilled, but shocked, as shocked as we all were expecting our boy and then out came little Karenina. He kept asking if something fell off and if they were sure, I'd been in labour almost two days, neither of us were thinking straight at all. But when she did arrive it felt as right as anything could have felt when she was passed to us and nothing could have prepared us for what we felt for that one little person so suddenly.
No, nothing goes to plan, but sometimes the plan just needs to be thrown out the window and you have to let life take you where it's meant to. What you're born into doesn't always have to define who you become and how you live your life. It's never easy, but then again most things worth having never truly come around in a simple manner, do they? I scrapped my plan set out for me and never looked back, you just never know where you might end up, or with whom!
(For real this time ;) )
A/N: You've all been awesome in your support of this story, you know who you are and I adore you all! xox