**EDIT** AGAIN, TO BE CLEAR, THIS CHAPTER WAS ADJUSTED FOR NOTHING MORE THAN TIMELINE ERROR CORRECTION. WE ARE GOING INTO SPRING BREAK, NOT THE END OF THE SEMESTER.
CHAPTER TWENTY: WHAT DID I MISS?
Alcide’s girlfriend has practically kept me exiled from my dorm room. She’s there every day, and I’m losing my mind!
If you’re wondering why I’m ranting about her all the sudden, it’s because she had the nerve to suggest that you let Compton get away because– get this– you’re in love with him!
Now, every time I see her face, I just want to scream at her, and I can’t concentrate to save my life. I have no idea how I’m going to study for midterms with her annoying voice talking endlessly to Alcide. I guess I’ll have to make a home in the library.
I’m not sure which is more frustrating; being away from you or listening to idiots talk about our relationship like they know a damned thing?
I hope you’re healing and that Pam is taking good care of you. I love you so much and can’t wait the two weeks before I can do my last test and jump on a plane back to you for a whole week!
I love you,
Signing his name, Eric folded the letter, stuffed it in an envelope and licked it shut. He searched his desk for a minute before finding that he was out of stamps.
With a sigh, Eric took the envelope, addressed it and headed out to the post office for what he hoped to be the last book he’d buy for quite some time. Of course, there would be bills to pay next year, but his postage financing would drop significantly for the next few months.
“Hey, Eric,” Alcide greeted tiredly as he passed his roommate in the hall.
“Hey,” Eric returned as he watched Alcide slump into their room. With everything that had been happening with him and Sookie, it was only in that moment that Eric realized that Alcide had looked exhausted the past week. Deciding to wait to mail his letter, Eric returned to his room and gave a quick knock in the doorframe. “Is everything all right?”
Alcide glanced back at the knock. “Yeah, why?”
“You look run down,” Eric commented.
His roommate shrugged, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“Midterms are in two weeks,” Eric reminded him. “Is it that or something else?”
“Something else,” Alcide sighed in frustration.
“Don’t you think you’d be able to concentrate better if you talked it out?” Eric suggested. “I know we aren’t much of friends, but-”
“Debbie went out without me last night,” Alcide blurted out suddenly.
“And?” Eric entered further into the room.
“And it’s been happening a lot more often the past month,” Alcide whispered. “She’s missed a lot of her morning classes this semester, and she just barely kept from flunking out through the first semester.”
“She hasn’t talked to you about any of it?” Eric came and sat on his desk chair.
Alcide shook his head, “This past week has been pretty nuts because it’s the most time she’s spent with me in the evenings since we got to school. Even when she’s physically here, though, she doesn’t seem to be with me. You know?”
Eric nodded slowly, “You have no idea what’s been bothering her?”
Alcide stared at his hands dully. “We went to a lot of parties when we first started school,” Eric remembered often falling asleep in an empty room the first semester. It had been awesome. “But I noticed my grades dropping and cut out with all the parties. Debbie didn’t. She was hungover a lot, and… I’ve been scared to ask her, but I think she might be doing drugs.”
Eric bowed his head gloomily. The past year he had been so absorbed in missing Sookie and all of their problems that he had been almost entirely ignorant of the predicaments going on around him. The fact that his own roommate had been living with these concerns was troubling in itself, but to know that Eric hadn’t even been aware of those issues was shameful.
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice,” Eric apologized. He realized then that Debbie had actually said rather nice things at times. Maybe drugs were the problem. Perhaps his dislike for her had been amplified by Debbie’s college experimentations and not her usual personality.
“It’s okay… I mean, you and I aren’t exactly friends. We’re just a couple guys that don’t really pay each other much mind,” Alcide mumbled.
“That’s not really it,” Eric told him. “I think you and I could’ve been friends if I hadn’t been so wrapped up in missing Sookie. You and I actually get along pretty well.”
Alcide smiled briefly, “Yeah, and you always shared your care packages with me.”
“I could never finish all of those things she sent me by myself,” Eric grinned back. The two were silent for a long moment before Eric finally uttered, “Next year, we won’t be roommates, but if you want to still hang out…?”
“Really?” Alcide raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“Yeah, and Sookie and I won’t be leaving for England until mid-June, so if you want to meet up in Shreveport, I’d like that too.”
“Cool, man,” Alcide nodded slowly. “I’d like that.”
“If you need to talk about Debbie, I’m all ears. You listened to me whine about Sookie all year, so it’s the least I can do,” Eric offered.
“Okay, okay,” Alcide laughed, “you can pull back on the apologetic actions, man. I get it, you’re sorry.”
“I’m also serious,” Eric assured before he stood up. “I’ll leave you alone now, but if you need to talk- let me know.”
“Will do,” Alcide waved as Eric finally left the room, and the blond man made his way outside.
Finally on his way to the Post Office again, Eric felt better about his relationship with his roommate. In all honesty, Eric liked Alcide and thought that he was a rather decent guy. Discovering what Alcide had been going through during the school year only made Eric like him more.
School’s been a nightmare. Before you panic– no. No one’s picking on me. Actually, everyone’s been uncomfortably kind to me. People who haven’t talked to me in years are suddenly asking about our wedding. Classmates who were pushing me into lockers are offering to carry my books to my next class. I’d like it better if they’d just ignore me instead of trying to take pity on me.
Although, Tara Thornton started talking to me again. She used to be my best friend until the car accident. Tara apologized to me my first day back to school and said she knew it was wrong to avoid me but was scared she’d be bullied even worse if she stayed my friend. A couple of days later, Tara dropped by the house, and I told her I forgive her. You should have seen her face! Gran and Pam helped me explain that talking is still challenging, and nearly impossible if people are staring at me. They told her it would be better if she didn’t let the rest of the school know, and as far as I can tell, no one’s said a word about it.
Anyway, so Pam, Tara, and Tara’s cousin, Lafayette have all been hanging out with me. Lafayette graduated the year before you and Jason, so you never met him. I’m delighted that Pam and Tara are hanging out. Hopefully, they’ll get each other through their Senior year since I’ll be gone.
I’m sorry Debbie seems to be giving you a hard time, but next year won’t be so bad! We’ll be together, a united front against her comments, and don’t even try believing that she’s right about my feelings for Bill. If you’ve found yourself wondering about my feelings for him, I’ll assure you that I’ve never had a crush on him. As for my calm about his escape? I dunno, I can’t help that he gave the cops the slip, and I’m not going to let it eat me up. Either he’ll slip up and get caught one day, or he’ll get away with it. I’m not going to waste another minute of my life worrying about justice or vengeance. I have too beautiful of a future ahead of me to spend any of it thinking about Bill Compton.
I love you so much,
As much as I hate gossip and talking about other people’s relationships, Alcide shared some news about Debbie. I guess she’s been getting a little too into the college drug culture. She’s also been going out without telling Alcide about it. The guy seemed really worried and lost on what to do. I wish I knew what to say to him.
By the way, that was one long letter you sent me! I was surprised considering you’re still in a cast! Although, it was definitely a pleasant surprise!
Midterms start next week. I should be getting my schedule for it tomorrow. Once I do, I’ll let you know when to expect me home. I’m sorry your classmates are annoying you, but I’m glad that they’re at least treating you like a human at last!
Since it’s my elbow that’s busted, I still have pretty decent mobility in my wrist. The biggest problem is that the cast wraps between my thumb and the rest of my hand! I have to hold the pen out, and it makes my hand get tired faster.
Anyway, I’m sad to hear about Debbie and that Alcide is having a hard time because of it. From the stories you’ve told me, he’s seemed like a really decent guy, and anyone who loves my baking gets automatic high scores from me!
I can’t wait until you’re home! I know it’s only for a week, but I’ll take whatever I can get at this point! That doesn’t mean slack off studying for your tests because you’re distracted about coming home! Remember to let loose some while studying, and get plenty of rest.
I love you so, so much,
Eric smiled as he put the letter down and returned to his notes. He was once again taking refuge in the library, avoiding Debbie at all costs. The last time he’d been caught alone in the dorm room had undoubtedly been eye-opening. With the suspicion that Debbie was now using drugs, Eric was more aware of her.
What Eric didn’t understand was Debbie’s obsession with his and Sookie’s relationship. She would alternate between complimenting their commitment and simultaneously undermine its authenticity. Debbie seemed adamant about proving that one of them was cheating. She would try and verify this each time by making a subtle move on Eric only to be shot down. When her efforts were useless, she departed with a comment about Sookie being less than faithful.
None of that mattered, however, because his midterms started in two days. This meant that in five days, he’d be heading home for a whole week.
“Is this seat taken?”
Eric looked up with exasperation only to choke on his tongue. Before him stood a woman with dark eyes, dark hair, and a lithe figure. She was tall and shapely. Eric wouldn’t have been surprised if she told him she was paying her way through college as a model.
“No,” Eric replied with whispered deference to the library.
“Cool,” the woman sat down with her books and smiled at him. “I’m Claudine.”
“Eric,” he extended his hand. “Got a major?”
Claudine shook her head, “No, just doing my prereqs this year. My great grandpa really wants me to get my degree in business, though. He thinks my cousin’s going to run the family business into the ground.”
“I’m working toward my degree in accounting,” Eric offered.
“Ew, numbers,” Claudine stuck out her tongue playfully.
Quickly, Eric adjusted to the stunning beauty beside him and managed a sincere smile. “I like numbers, but I am planning to minor in business.”
“Really? Do you want to own your own business?” Claudine asked.
“Sort of,” Eric glanced at his letter to Sookie and explained. “My fiancée is a terrific baker. I thought, maybe, we’d open a pastry shop together up in Shreveport.”
“Are you from Shreveport?” Claudine asked curiously.
“I’m from all over,” Eric chuckled softly, “Sookie’s from Bon Temps, though. It’s a little south of-”
“I know Bon Temps!” Claudine crowed happily, only to be viciously shushed by the stressed students. “My family is from Monroe,” she explained softly.
“Really? You have practically no accent,” Eric pointed out.
“My brother and I got shipped off to school in Maine when we were ten years old,” Claudine admitted. “I guess we lost a bit of the Southern twang.”
Eric smiled at her explanation before glancing back at his study materials. “I guess we should get to work now,” he suggested.
“Yeah,” Claudine sighed reluctantly. “Hey, are you good at math?”
“Yes,” Eric snorted. He’d just told her his major.
“Can you help me with this real quick?” She tilted her book toward him.
Eric sighed but nodded in agreement. The more he talked to Claudine, the more it demystified her beauty. She quickly became just another girl Eric went to school with and flushed away her natural charm. Relief flooded Eric as he overcame the attraction of the only girl to give him pause since arriving at school.
And it wasn’t even difficult, Eric laughed to himself. Everyone had tried to make him succumb to this doubt that some beautiful woman could steal his heart from Sookie. Now, Eric felt he had probably met the closest woman to a supermodel he would ever meet, and he felt no shred of consideration to abandoning his love for his fiancée. It was stupid, and Eric had never doubted his feelings, but to finally have confirmation beyond his own beliefs was fortifying.
Next year he wouldn’t have to prove a thing. Eric’s attachment and devotions would be clear to everyone once they finally met his bride. He would love her with all his heart, and no one would ever feel the need to question them again.