Breaking down the Walls
Summary: Eric Northman was plagued by illness as a child and as such, his life is sheltered to the point where he only, truly, trusts one person. When he takes an interest in disgraced former child star Sookie Stackhouse as she attempts to resurrect her career, will it encourage both of them to break down the walls they created to protect themselves? All human.
Disclaimer: Charlaine Harris owns all, it's her lawnmower – I'll bring it back once the grass is cut.
A/N: Thank you to AlisonbyNumbers/NorthmanMaille, SapfireRose and DazedRose for convincing me to write this fic and very, very special thanks to Elbly for convincing me not only to write it but to keep going with it when I wasn't sure if it was worth it. First posted on Live Journal 6th September 2010. This is pretty angsty in the beginning - but like any journey you have to get past the bad stuff to really enjoy the happiness that follows. WARNING: This chapter may have trigger content for date rape.
"Hey! Northman! Er-sick"
The jocks of Southside High, Elmira, New York broke out in laughter at the new moniker for him this week, sometimes they would come up with two a week but that extended their brain capabilities beyond normal ranges. Eric turned towards the group of bullies led by Victor Madden, Quarterback, and saw the ball being thrown at him. Eric knew it would hit him in the face but the sudden movement he made to catch it made his head spin and his stomach turn. He was on the ground throwing his breakfast up onto the path in front of the school, when he was kicked in the back, making his face land in the puddle of vomit.
"Eww ... is your Momma so poor you have to throw up your breakfast so you can have lunch Er-sick?"
Eric looked up to where the female voice was coming from, desperately trying to prevent the tears falling from his eyes, his vision was blurred not only from the salty liquid pooling in them but from the dizziness. He thought it was Sandy Sechrest, head cheerleader, the girl every guy whacks off thinking about. She spoke again and confirmed his thoughts.
"Gross! Honestly Northman, you should just kill yourself now and save yourself a life of disappointment!"
She tottered off in her heels followed by her group of giggling clones while Eric tried to get his bearings and stand on his own two feet again. He felt two gentle arms help him as he fought the continued spinning in his brain; it was his favourite teacher, Mr. De Castro.
"Now, now Eric, let's call your Mom to come and get you. This is the third time you've been sick this semester, have the doctor's found anything?"
"Uh ... I had the flu a couple of weeks ago but I haven't really gotten over it yet, I don't know what happened, I turned to catch a ball and just got really dizzy then I had to throw up."
"Okay Eric ... sshh ... let's go to the teacher's lounge and I'll call Pam ... I mean, your Mom."
Felipe De Castro worried more for Eric the more he saw of him, he'd thought, at first, that it was neglect but after spending some ... time with Eric's Mom, Pam, he saw that Eric was just a sickly child. Unknown to De Castro, Eric hadn't always been like that, Eric was a perfectly healthy boy until he reached puberty and caught chicken pox, then the bullying started when he returned to school with some of the pink marks still showing, then the anxiety attacks appeared ... well it was safe to say that Eric Northman was easy pickings for any virus doing the rounds.
Eric wiped his face with the wet paper towels that Mr. De Castro brought him and listened to the teacher flirt with his Mom over the phone. He felt immensely guilty that his Mom would have to miss work to come and pick him up; they were poor enough as it was with all of the Doctors bills she had to pay. Pam ran into the lounge 20 minutes after Mr. De Castro hung up and went straight to Eric.
"Oh baby boy! What happened honey?"
"I got dizzy and sick."
"Okay, let's get you home and I'll call Doctor Ludwig." Pam helped him up from the plastic covered sofa and turned to Mr. De Castro. "Thanks for calling me Felipe, I'll ... uh ... see you another time yeah?"
Eric knew that in a few nights time, when he was feeling better, he'd hear Mr. De Castro's voice upstairs from his basement room before the springs in his Momma's bed were pushed into overdrive. Eric was silent all the way home in Pam's beaten up Corolla, he didn't speak again until after his Mom had settled him on the couch with a bowl of chicken soup and Doctor Ludwig came into the small house.
"So, Eric, what's this I hear about a dizzy spell followed by nausea and vomiting?"
"I turned quick to catch something and my head just spun, then I was on my knees throwing up. What is it this time?"
"Hmm ... you've just had flu right?" Eric and Pam both nodded. "I'll do some simple tests and we'll see what we see."
After a series of turns, Eric fell over and threw up again, his balance was shot and it felt like he was looking at the world through a fishbowl. Dr. Ludwig tested his hearing and checked his eyes before clearing her throat.
"Well, it seems you have a case of viral Labyrinthitis young man. I'll prescribe some Vestibular Suppressants for the dizziness and some Anti-emetics for the nausea, you should see an improvement in two to three weeks, if you still feel dizzy after that don't hesitate to call me okay?"
Pam and Eric both nodded and settled down to watch TV, Pam always took the chance to watch her favourite soap opera when she had to stay home with Eric. 'Rich Men's Families' were introducing a new family – the Falmers, Eric's eyes bugged out of his head when he saw the eldest daughter. She was blonde with an amazing figure, sparkling blue eyes and a bright cheery smile; the actress must have been a little younger than the 16 year old Eric that was glued to the screen every time she appeared. That night, Sandy Sechrest was bombed out of the spank bank for Sookie Stackhouse.
Sookie sighed as she looked in the mirror of her room in Santa Monica, she didn't want to go to a party and she especially didn't want to go with creepy Quinn. Just because he was her boyfriend on 'Rich Men's Families' all of the PR people from the studio in Burbank wanted the public to think he was her boyfriend in the real world too, it looked good for the show. If he was a decent guy she wouldn't bristle so much at the idea, but he wasn't, he drank and Sookie had the terrible feeling that he took drugs too. He also, very badly, wanted Sookie in his bed.
I'm supposed to be the American sweetheart all the Mom's and Dad's love. How am I supposed to continue that image if I hang out with an asshole like John Quinn?
Sookie wasn't a fan of having her personal life run by her public relations company but she'd been warned by the other young actors and actresses on the show that that was just how it worked. She also knew that since John Quinn was a bigger name than her, she would have to wait until he got sick of her before the charade would end. If Sookie broke up with 'Miss Cosmo's teen choice award winner' John Quinn, it had been made clear that she would never work as an actress again. Ever the professional, Sookie plastered a smile onto her face and went into the living room to wait for her 'date'.
Two hours later, Sookie's face hurt from faking her smile so much. Her hands hurt from slapping Quinn's 'inquisitive fingers' and her eyes had spots floating in front of them from all the paparazzi that Quinn had wanted to pose for. She was tired, bored and had an early start the next day but Quinn was refusing to leave.
"Come on babe! Here, have a drink!"
Sookie took the glass and sniffed it. "Is this alcoholic? You know I'm underage, Quinn, I'm only 15!"
"For fuck sakes Sookie, live a little! Its Hollywood babe, you're a star – so drink up and fucking act like one!"
Tears stung at Sookie's eyes as she sipped at the concoction Quinn had given her, it smelled awful and didn't taste any better but if it made Quinn leave her alone so she could get home quicker she'd do it.
Eric tried to get out of bed, really he did, but it just wasn't happening for him. Pam made her way down to the basement room and sat on his bed, stroking his hair gently.
"Are you having a bad day sweetie?"
"Urgh! Mom, it feels like my body is made of lead." Eric croaked. "I hate this, I should be getting ready to graduate not lying here feeling like I've been drinking heavily for the last year."
"I know, honey, I know. Dr. Ludwig said it would be a good while before you're anywhere near normal. I have to go to work but I've brought down a pitcher of water and a big bowl of fruit salad for you to snack on. I'll be home to make you lunch baby boy."
Eric nodded and Pam kissed him on his brow before leaving for her job in the Topps Superstore, since Eric was at home all day and old enough to look after himself, Pam had climbed through the ranks at the local branch to increase her salary. Rather than working the tills, Pam was now one of the Human Resources Administrators – the pay raise had certainly helped with Dr. Ludwig's bills since Eric had developed Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) after his bout of viral Labyrinthitis.
The upside to being stuck at home all day alone was that, when he felt up to it, Eric could abuse the dial-up connection without interruption. Yesterday he'd started to build his own website, it was mostly a ME diary with some other, personal thoughts thrown in for good measure, hints on what to eat or drink to avoid making the fatigue worsen. He also spent a considerable amount of time searching for pictures and information on Sookie Stackhouse, making his total time in front of the monitor around five hours – far too long for someone with his condition and the main reason he was hardly able to move now.
Eric was awoken by the sound of footsteps upstairs, then he heard his Mom come down to his room with his lunch. She had to help him sit up to eat his sandwich and commented on the untouched fruit and water.
"You did far too much yesterday didn't you? I can guess you were scouting out more stuff on that girl who plays Helena Falmer." Pam looked at her son with reproach and a blush crept across his cheeks. "Just try to be more aware of how long you spend on the computer honey; maybe setting an alarm would be a good idea?"
"Yeah, that would be good. Are you going out with Mr. De Castro tonight?"
"I am; he says he's taking me somewhere swanky for our dating anniversary!"
"Cool, I'm glad you're actually dating now and not just screwing."
Pam kissed her son goodbye and went back to work, Eric finished his sandwich and went back to sleep, such was the routine on most afternoons. Later that day Pam made Eric a small bowl of casserole for dinner and went to get ready for her date with Felipe, while she was putting on her make-up she thought about her relationship with Eric's ex-teacher had progressed over the few years they had known each other. At first she was wary of Mr. De Castro, she knew he was concerned about a pupil and the fact that he suspected her of neglect rubbed her up the wrong way. After spending enough time around him, she had come to appreciate that he cared about Eric's health and he had offered his support ... which then led to the bedroom.
Felipe was the first man Pam had let touch her sexually since Eric's Dad, after Ricky had told her he wasn't ready to be a father and bailed, she made Eric her life. The fact that Felipe seemed to be interested in being part of her son's life as well as hers softened her towards him and now here they were, past the 'friends with benefits' stage and celebrating a year of regular dinners, movie nights and dancing. She heard the doorbell and her smile brightened, Felipe gave her a kiss and a bouquet of red carnations at the door.
"Mi Amante! You look delightful!"
"Thanks Felipe, I'm almost ready. Would you mind going down to Eric's room and getting his dinner dishes while I finish up here?"
"Sure, I wanted to talk to him anyway, see how he's doing you know?"
Pam smiled and nodded but thought there was something odd about the look on Felipe's face. Shrugging it off, she went back to her bedroom to put her jewellery on as Felipe made his way to the basement. Eric was awake and flicking through the channels on his TV when Felipe saw him, he was pale and had dark circles under his eyes.
"Hey Eric! You having a bad day today?"
"Yeah, I spent too long at my computer yesterday. Did my Mom send you down for the dishes?"
"She did but there was something I wanted to talk to you about."
Felipe took a deep breath and sat on Eric's bed patting his knees with his hands. "Eric, I want to ask Pam ... your Mom to marry me and before I do, I want to know that you're okay with that."
Eric wasn't surprised that Felipe was taking that step but he was surprised that the teacher respected him enough to run it by him first. Eric liked Mr. De Castro, even if he wasn't really his teacher anymore, he still thought of him in that way. He treated his Mom well and it was good to have a man around if he ever needed to speak to him about guy stuff. Felipe had managed to be an excellent Father figure for Eric despite the casual air around his relationship with Pam and if Eric could think of one person he'd want his Mom to settle down with it would be Mr. De Castro.
"Wow ... well you make her happy Mr. De Castro and I like you, you don't try to be my friend and you don't try to be my Dad. I'd be totally cool with you and my Mom getting married, I hope she says yes."
Felipe leaned down and hugged Eric before showing him the ring he'd bought to propose to Pam. It was a simple diamond solitaire in white gold, Pam was classy despite her financial status and gaudy jewellery was not her thing. Eric wished Felipe luck then reminded him about his dinner dishes before watching him walk back upstairs. Although Eric was left alone a lot, he didn't mind, it's not like he had the energy for long conversations anyway and being alone meant there was no-one to make fun of him. The best part about not being well enough to leave the house, was not having to spend time with his tormentors at school, he could just imagine the amusing nicknames they were using for him as he holed up in bed with less energy than an average 90 year old.
Sookie woke to the sounds of her parents arguing and her cell phone going off. As she moved to answer the incessant ringing, she noticed pain, lots of it. Her head was pounding and every muscle in her body screamed at her as she tried to roll over, when she tentatively straightened her legs she felt a stinging sensation she'd never felt before between her thighs.
What the hell happened last night? I remember going to a party a Quinn's friend's house and him plying me with drinks as usual but after that ... oh god no!
Sookie knew what had happened, her drink had been spiked and Quinn had finally gotten what he wanted after her fighting him off for so long. She sobbed loudly and hugged herself beneath the comforter on her bed, the rocking of her body as she realised she'd effectively been raped made the springs of the bed creak, alerting her parents to her non-asleep status. In less than a minute Corbett and Michelle Stackhouse had burst into her room.
"Sookie! How could you?" Michelle sobbed and held a well-used handkerchief to her red nose.
"I'm very disappointed; I thought you were a good girl, Sookie."
Corbett tossed a copy of the LA Herald Express onto the bed. Sookie groggily sat up and tried to focus her eyes on what she was seeing.
Soap Opera Star in Orgy Shocker!
Sookie Stackhouse, Helena Falmer in Rich Men's Families, shows her true colours in these leaked photographs from a private party she attended last night. The pictures clearly show Miss Stackhouse in a sexual situation with two, naked, mystery males.
Miss Stackhouse's PR Company has yet to comment on this shocking evidence that one of America's sweethearts isn't as sweet as we thought. Mr. Quinn's representatives have released a statement denying that their client had any knowledge of the event and have also stated that "John Quinn is saddened that his girlfriend of 2 years has this darkly promiscuous side to her."
Sookie dropped the paper to the floor and stared at her parents in shock, Corbett and Michelle were stone faced in front of their daughter.
"You ... you actually believe this? Momma? Daddy? This isn't what happened!"
"Well." Corbett sighed and sat next to Sookie on the bed. "Tell us what did happen."
"I don't remember. I remember going to the party and not liking the people there, Quinn kept giving me drinks but after the second or third ... I don't remember anything! And now I'm sore all over and my head hurts ... I ... think, no, I know, I was drugged Daddy. H ... he drugged me and took my virginity and now everyone thinks I'm some kind of whore who does two guys at once!"
Corbett turned to Michelle and put his arm around his crying child. "Get a doctor! I want a good one and I want drug tests to prove that this bastard date-raped my little girl!"
Michelle called for a doctor but by the time one came to the house, the PR representatives of Sookie, the network and John Quinn had shown up at the front door, despite Sookie's parents and rep's insistence, the network reps sent the doctor away saying his expertise wouldn't be required. Alcide, Sookie's agent, came into her room and noted her appearance. This was no 'little girl caught doing bad' that sat before him, it was a broken young woman who had been through a traumatic experience.
"Your Dad told me your side Sookie, I'm willing to fight whatever Quinn's reps have put out there but ... I gotta tell ya, it doesn't look good for you. I've been trying to call you all morning about this; the reps from the network are 'unwilling to ruin the good name of one of their biggest draws'."
"So ... they're going with whatever crap Quinn said just so he'll still have a job?" Alcide nodded. "What about me? What about what I've been through? What about my job?"
"We should go downstairs and talk about this with them."
Sookie nodded numbly and asked Alcide to give her half an hour to freshen up, her Mom came in while she was undressing and saw the dried blood at the tops of her thighs and cried with her daughter. Michelle helped her little girl clean up and dress before they went down to face the people who thought a popular young man should get away with a serious crime simply because of who he was.
"Oh you finally decided to grace us with your presence?" Quinn's rep, Debbie Pelt, sneered at Sookie.
Corbett and Alcide were immediately defensive, standing in front of Sookie as if she were about to be physically attacked. Debbie was told to 'back the fuck down' by the network rep Barry Horowitz before he turned his attention to Sookie.
"Now, Miss Stackhouse, I've been told your side by your parents here and I have to say, it's a little 'out there'. John Quinn is a popular young man, especially with young teenage girls, and being accused of uh ... date rape, well that's not only a career ender – it's a possible prison sentence. Think of all the girls whose idea's of John you'd be ruining with this accusation. Not to mention the bad publicity it would bring the show and the network."
"So ... you want me to keep quiet? Act like nothing happened? Go to work every day and pretend that he didn't drug me and have sex with me when I was unable to say 'no'?"
"Sookie." Barry sighed. "You said yes plenty of other times apparently, and also according to John, you liked it a little rough ..."
"I lost my virginity last night! I woke up with dried blood on my thighs!"
"So you say. As for going to work every day ... well that's not gonna happen sweetie. Those photographs in the Herald Express were pretty damaging to your image ..."
"And where exactly did those photos's come from anyway?" Alcide interjected.
"They were supposed to be for John's personal use but the memory card from his camera got swiped by another party goer." Debbie replied.
Sookie was beyond shocked, it wasn't just a case of John drugging her, having sex with her and then passing her on to his friends – he'd actually, purposefully, recorded the incident?
"Anyway." Barry continued. "Your role in the cast of Rich Men's Families is to be temporarily written out until we can find a replacement actress. The deal is: You go away quietly and we'll do damage limitation with the press or if you decide to go all the way with your accusation, Debbie and I will do our damndest to make sure you never work in show-business again – just like what your accusation would do to John. We could ruin your entire family Miss Stackhouse, all it takes is a few phone calls, I understand your brother Jason is the youngest rookie in the ECHL this season, you wouldn't want anything nasty about him to be spread around and ruin his career would you?"
"I do not need to tell you how fucking wrong that is!" Alcide's anger had bubbled to the surface. "Damage limitation? It doesn't matter what you say to the press, Sookie is ruined. Not just her career but physically, mentally, emotionally, how can you be so ready to just brush her off like a bug?"
"Mr ... Herveaux, is it? In the grand scheme of Rich Men's Families, Miss Stackhouse is a bug. The only reason she's known as well as she is, is due to John Quinn." Barry stood and turned to Sookie, bending a little and bracing his hands on his knees. "Now, sweetheart, are you going to go away quietly? We'll tell all the papers you were doped out of your brain after binging on alcohol and recreational drugs, the whole sordid 'three-in-the-bed' romp was very out of character but John left the party before you ... indulged."
After hours of arguing back and forth between the reps, Barry still wasn't budging and Alcide reluctantly agreed that Sookie wanted to accept the deal, no matter how much he just wanted her to go to a hospital or a police station. Sookie wanted to act, it was her dream and she wanted to keep on living it, whether she had to tell a few lies or hide a few secrets, she wouldn't give up on her dreams of Hollywood and she wouldn't let some corporate douche bags ruin her brother's chance at his dreams back in Syracuse.
"Eric? Honey? Are you decent? We have a surprise for you!" Pam sang downstairs into the basement as Eric pulled on his sweats.
"Yeah Mom, I'm dressed."
He heard Pam clapping and both her and Felipe's voices upstairs before an extraordinary amount of banging and scraping. It was Eric's birthday and whatever his Mom and Felipe had bought him sounded ... big.
"Uh ... do you guys need help?"
"No, no Eric. We're fine, we wouldn't want you to overdo it ... well not ... never mind!"
The last time Eric heard Felipe this excited was on his wedding day, he and Pam had married eight months ago and Felipe was now living in their old house. One of Pam, and Eric's, worries was that he would insist they move into his larger home in a better area but Felipe once again showed his care and understanding of Eric's condition by suggesting he move in with them to prevent unnecessary stress on the, still suffering, young man.
Pam and Felipe eventually made it to the bottom of the stairs with a pile of large boxes tied together with string. Eric looked at the writing on the side of the boxes and laughed.
"Exercise equipment? Don't you think that's a little ... ironic?"
"Not at all Eric." Felipe beamed. "Regular exercise can increase your endorphin levels and help to fight fatigue, that, along with a healthy diet, well, you should be fit as a fiddle in no time!"
"Trying to get rid of the step-son already Felipe?"
Eric smiled, Pam was mortified and Felipe looked ... hurt before realising it was a joke. Even though Felipe and Pam were of an age where a baby was not impossible, it would be a huge upheaval in their lives, not to mention Eric's, Felipe was happy to think of Eric as a son. Despite the unfortunate illnesses that had plagued Eric, he wasn't a bitter man and that made Felipe proud. More boxes were brought down from the main house and Eric helped to set the equipment up, by the end of the evening he had a treadmill, exercise bike and weight bench taking up most of the free space in his room.
Eric was sure that exercise making his ME more tolerable was indeed a worthwhile pursuit, but it would take time away from his computer projects ... at first. The more active he was, the more active he could be! His website had been live for some time now, updates were easy and he had even been asked by some visitors if he would help with the design of their sites, he jumped at the chance! He might not be able to get out of bed some days but there was something he could do to make himself feel useful. It wasn't like he had Sookie Stackhouse to distract him anymore; after the degrading photos of her were splashed all over the net she had been very quiet. Her official website was just a single page with a head shot and some background and previous work information.
When Eric first read about the supposed orgy, he was shocked, stunned, disgusted and a whole lot of other negative emotions but when he saw the photo he could see that something wasn't ... right. Sure it was all over every kind of media that she'd gotten high at an orgy but she didn't look high she looked ... asleep. Recreational drugs made you spaced out and happy – not unconscious, fortunately Eric wasn't the only one to think something was fishy about the whole story, when it broke the forums were full of conspiracy theorists pointing the finger at John Quinn and exposing some very interesting stories from old girlfriends but those sites had been shut down quicker than you could say 'let's not get any legal teams involved'. For all intents and purposes, it was as if Sookie Stackhouse had disappeared from the face of the planet.
Later that evening Felipe came down to say goodnight, Eric had been thinking of his computer work, his lack of a high school diploma and the enquiries about his web design work.
"Felipe, I was wondering, is there a way for me to set up a business here? People have asked me to design websites for them but I'm doing it for free and I was thinking that if I'm getting paid for it, I can contribute to the house and my doctor's bills."
Felipe thought for a moment before answering. "Eric, that's a great idea! I'll look into it for you. Its honest work and it'll be easy for you to limit the amount of work you have but you know that you don't have to worry about helping out with the bills or contributing to the house, we'd prefer you concentrated on getting better."
"Okay, I'll try not to worry about eating you and Mom out of house and home but I'd feel better if I was earning, I'd feel more useful."
Felipe nodded and left Eric in his room. It was great that Eric wanted to be useful and he was getting better little by little but this web design business wouldn't get him out into the fresh air. Eric's inability to leave the house was something Pam and Felipe had discussed a few times but unknown to Pam, Felipe's main worry was that Eric seemed reluctant to leave his room let alone the house; he made a promise to himself, for the good of Pam and Eric, to keep an eye on that behaviour.
The Albany theatre was worn, dusty and depressing – a little like Sookie's resume these days. The director called for the next person to audition and Sookie walked confidently onto the stage. She had read the book and researched the many TV and film adaptations of Tess of the D'Urbervilles to be on the top of her game for this audition. Michelle had helped her choose, compile and practice the dramatic scene she was about to perform. Standing centre stage, she noticed the director's expression as he recognised who she was but put it aside and took a deep breath.
"I'll always be ugly now, because Angel is not ..."
"Okay Miss Stackhouse let's just leave it there. This is a serious production and we have no interest in the titillation value having you on the cast would bring, not to mention how the negative publicity for any antics you get up to will affect us. Thank you for coming but you're not who we're looking for."
Utterly defeated but determined not to let it show, Sookie nodded at the director and walked off stage. She made it as far as the exit before the tears trickled from her eyes uncontrollably, wiping her eyes with the palms of her hands, she didn't think to look where she was going and smacked into something not hard but not soft either. Sookie landed with a bump on the floor and looked up at the obstruction to her fleeing from her humiliation, it was a man with dark hair and kind eyes, he looked very flustered and was waving his arms a little as if he didn't know whether to help her or run away.
"Uh ... I'm so sorry! Do you need me to ..."
"No, I don't need anyone! Excuse me!"
Sookie stood up and attempted to pass the man to get to the door but he stopped her by lightly grasping her shoulder.
"Look I said I was sorry but really, you were the one who bumped into me, from your mood I can tell that your audition went south but don't take it out on me!"
Sookie stared open mouthed at the stranger and was about to give him a piece of her mind when she realised he was right. She hadn't been looking where she was going and walked right into him and as if that wasn't enough, she took out her anger at the directors comments on him.
"You're right, I'm so sorry. I apologise for not watching where I was walking. Good luck with your audition."
The stranger smiled and extended his hand. "Bill Compton, I'm not here for an audition though. I'm friends with the director and just came down to share some news with him."
Sookie placed her hand in his and watched as he brought it to his lips. "Sookie Stackhouse, it was nice to meet you Bill but I have to go."
"Would it be too much for me to ask that I have some way of contacting you? You're a very attractive woman Sookie; I'd love to get to know you better."
Being a wary young woman, after her past, she handed him one of her contact cards. The number on it was for a pre-paid cell phone and not her personal cell or home number, that way if it ever rang she knew it was business. Would Bill be described as business? Either way, she didn't want some stranger she literally just bumped into having her personal numbers, who knows what kind of psycho they could turn out to be.
Besides, maybe if he had the number that phone would actually ring. Her luck would change soon right? It had only been a year since she was vilified over every kind of media you can find in the northern hemisphere, any week now someone else would mess up and everyone would forget what she supposedly did, then her path would be clear. It had to be.
Pam came home to the smell of chocolate cake permeating the house and her son in the kitchen emptying the rich brown sponges onto a cooling rack. Eric smiled at her as she dropped her purse onto one of the dining chairs and closed her eyes to take in more of the scent of his baking pursuits.
"My, oh my, baby boy! If those cakes taste half as good as they smell we're in for a treat tonight!"
"Thanks Mom but they're far from done. We need frosting, could you or Felipe go out to the store and grab some?"
"Eric." Pam sighed and sagged into a chair. "You've been good for the last few weeks don't you think it's time you went outside honey? You were stuck in your room for so long; some fresh air would be good for you."
"Uh ... I dunno if I'm ready for that Mom. What if people see me? What if they make fun of me? What if ..."
"Eric, honey! Oh my god! What's wrong baby?"
Pam ran to Eric's side as he crossed his arms over his chest and sank to his knees in a corner of the kitchen, panting.
"I ... can't breathe Momma!"
"Oh my god!" Pam grabbed her cell phone from her purse and hit number 5 on her speed dial. "I need Dr. Ludwig now!"
The Doctor was in the kitchen with Eric less than an hour later, Eric was sitting at the kitchen table breathing into a paper bag while Dr. Ludwig measured his blood pressure. Pam paced back and forth, chewing on what was left of her nails.
"What is it this time Dr. Ludwig? Is it serious? Does Eric have a respiratory problem? Will he need to go to hospital?"
Eric started panting again and Dr. Ludwig frowned at his reaction. "What Eric is having at this moment is an anxiety attack. Has this happened before?"
Eric removed the bag from his mouth. "I used to have feelings like this before I went to school each day but never as bad, just a nervous stomach. Are you sure it isn't a heart attack?"
"I'm sure Eric. What were you talking about before the panic set in?"
"I was talking to Eric about going out of the house and he just started shaking and ... he was worried about people seeing him and making fun of him." Pam despaired at her sweet boy's situation. "This is that thing ... the opposite of claustrophobia ... uh ... agoraphobia! Isn't it?"
"Well this is just peachy! As if having physical illnesses wasn't enough, now I've got a mental disorder! I'm a goddamn freak!" Eric started to hyperventilate and Dr. Ludwig handed him his paper bag back and started to massage his temples with her fingertips.
Once Eric had calmed down, Dr. Ludwig suggested an Anti-Anxiety medication, which Eric refused to entertain, so she asked Pam to drop into the surgery and pick up some lists and leaflets to help them cope with this new revelation. As she drove away from the Northman – De Castro house, Dr. Ludwig shook her head. She thought it was a damn shame that a young man as handsome as Eric should be cooped up inside, panicking at the thought of going outside. She'd been there through the chicken pox, through the tonsillitis, through the conjunctivitis, through the flu and everything since. Surely Eric's luck was going to change soon? If it didn't he was surely the unluckiest man on the face of the planet.
Sookie stopped in the middle of taking off her work uniform and rushed to the ringing phone, almost dropping it in her haste. "Hello?"
"Hey Sook, its Alcide."
"Hey! How is the hardest working agent in America doing today?" She balanced the phone between her ear and shoulder as she removed her 'Hi my name is Adele' badge.
"Not so good Sook, you've had another ... uh ... offer."
"Oh?" Sookie cringed wondering what is was this time. Since she turned 18 the 'offers' to be the star of the show in her own movie's had been plentiful, it was a pity all those movies involved her being naked and having sex in them.
"Yeah, another Vivid production. This one was called 'Stackhouse in Toyland'; you can probably guess what your 'role' entailed."
"Well thanks for letting me know Alcide. I have that audition for the pilot of a new show today."
"Yep, although I have my doubts that a remake of 'Beauty and the Beast' will be successful, it's got a cult following who aren't happy about the plans to bring it back."
"Yeah well, it's not like I've got the star power to pick and choose Alcide."
"I know honey. Bill's screen test for Galaxy Pioneers is today isn't it?"
"Sure is. It's between him and Andy Bellefleur as far as I know."
"Well I wish him all the best and you of course. Some day sweetie, it'll come someday."
"I hope so. Waitressing using my middle name to try and hide is becoming a real bore."
They said their goodbyes and Sookie showered quickly and changed into a pretty dress for her audition. This was the most hope she'd had about an audition since she got the role of 'Red eyed demon' in an awful straight to DVD movie ripping off 'Supernatural'. She sighed and got in her car, stopping halfway to the audition to answer her cell.
"Hey Bill! How did it go honey?"
"Bill? Don't you mean Captain John-Luke Kirkton?"
Sookie did her happy dance in the driver's seat, dropping the phone in the process before hurriedly rooting on the floor so she could squeal her delight at her boyfriends' good fortune.
"I'm glad you're happy sweetheart but I was really calling to wish you luck. This reboot of Beauty and the Beast will be great and with you as Kat in place of Linda Hamilton as Catherine it's will rock the house!"
"Thanks honey! I'll call you when I'm done!"
As Sookie finished her journey, she thought about making a special meal to celebrate Bill's success. They'd been dating since a couple of weeks after 'The Albany Incident' as they lovingly referred to it. Bill had admitted on their first date that it was the photographs that made him ask for her number but Sookie had put him in his place quick sharp, letting him know in no uncertain terms that she was a lady and that those photographs showed a girl drugged out of her mind and taking part in acts that she thought disgusting when in her right mind. At first Bill had seemed disappointed with that but he asked for further dates and never mentioned it again although Sookie had an inkling that he thought about it sometimes.
In the small studio there were many, many young actresses vying for the part of Kat and Sookie had seen a few of them on the same brand of soap opera she once had a part in. Those girls weren't tainted by bad press or shady deals to protect a bigger star and prevent their families being ruined. All of a sudden, Sookie wasn't quite as confident, her mood sank even lower when she heard a familiar voice.
"Sookie? Sookie Stackhouse is that you?"
"Uh ... hi Selah."
Selah Pumphrey had played the character of Tasha DeWitt on Rich Men's Families; Tasha was the twin sister of Nathan DeWitt who had been played by John Quinn.
"Oh my stars! Look at you all grown up! You look ... well. I never thought we'd meet up at an audition like this, all of the stuff Quinn was saying about you, well, I was certain you'd be starring on your back if you know what I mean!"
Sookie ground her teeth when she smiled at her. "Nope, I'll never sink that low. Being plied with drugs and used as a sexual plaything while someone takes photo's kinda skews your opinion on being naked in front of a camera."
"Oh? You really were drugged? I thought ... never mind!" Selah turned towards where a voice was coming from. "Look I gotta go but it was good seeing you!"
Selah walked into the audition room and Sookie left the building. She was still crying when Bill came to see her in her apartment that night and nothing her boyfriend could say would console her.