12 – Other Times
Chapter 12 – Other Times
New Years Eve Day, 1989
Sunday morning dawned bright and glorious. The windows were awash with brilliant sunlight and with closed eyes, Eric was thankful that he still woke up in his and Jackie's bedroom. As long as he treated his past like a memory loss or amnesia, life was going to be good. A soft pair of thighs were tucked behind his and those fat vanilla candles were the new scent of home.
Eric was finally home.
A tiny pair of fingers pried open his right eye. "Hi daddy!" was the greeting.
Eric reached over and lifted Ben onto the bed. "Hi yourself, you munchkin. What are you doing up so early?" he said softly.
Ben looked at his sleeping mother and whispered, "I missed you. Can we watch cartoons?"
Eric smiled and set the boy on the floor. "Let's go see if we can find a good Scooby Doo or…."
"…Thomas the Tank Engine!" Ben murmured excitedly.
"Oh-kay…don't know that one, but let's go see what's on."
Eric took the small hand that tugged his larger one and the pair ventured to the living room. Ben found the remote control and turned on the television and smiled at his dad. This must have been a proud moment for the boy so Eric nodded and smiled while the preschooler climbed onto the sofa to sit next to his dad.
Scooby Doo was just as predictable and silly as when he was younger and it was great to watch the cartoon through a child's eye. During the commercial, Eric quickly made some coffee and a cup of orange juice and hurried back for the remainder of the show. It was not much longer that Harry started calling for "Da" and Jackie hollered, "I got this." Eric sat back and enjoyed the cartoon while Ben edged closer to his side.
"Eric, watch this." Jackie said softly from the hallway door. Eric looked up to see a pajama clad Harry standing and lightly holding Jackie's hands. "Go Harry. Walk to daddy."
It was a precarious stumble, almost fall, recover of balance but little Harry Forman took six unguided steps and walked to his father. His wobbly little legs wanted to collapse, but Eric grabbed him up and gave him a whisker belly. "I'm so proud of you!" Eric exclaimed.
Jackie was smiling and Ben was clapping. "Yay! No more strollers!"
Jackie tousled the little brown head, "Don't say that yet honey, he's still got to practice before we can toss that stroller."
Eric was still in disbelief that his little boy was walking his first steps alone and they were to him! That smiling drooling face with three pearl white teeth was shining for Eric Forman. This was a moment he would never experience again in his life.
Jackie grinned and gave Ben a hug and kissed Harry's face. "We'll have to have him do that again so we can tape it."
"Yeah! Like me! I'm the big brother!"
"Yes you are honey. Come help mom in the kitchen okay?"
He caught Jackie's eye before she left the living room and - damn, she was beautiful. . She winked and took Ben into the kitchen while Eric just marveled about his new life. This marriage of theirs sustained him with an a certainty that made him feel like he could do anything - be anything and it was just so new and fresh that he could only marvel at it.
These were feelings he wanted his kids to grow up with – a stable home and loving parents.
Much of the morning was spent tidying the house, preparing appetizers for the evening festivities (…you really want to eat what my mom is making? Seriously?...) and entertaining the kids. The latter chore fell to Eric with no complaints.
The children and their father were busy making snow angels while Jackie made barbecued meatballs in the crock pot. While the male Forman's were chasing each other around the front yard and laughing, Jackie smiled and sliced the crust off the finger sandwiches. By the time her happy but exhausted family tumbled into the kitchen she declared. "Change your clothes boys….you're taking me to lunch."
The small cafe was in no way comparable to anything in Chicago, but it was kid friendly and Eric could appreciate that. While Harry slathered over a chicken nugget, Ben was busy coloring a paper place mat with his green crayon.
Eric was drinking some coffee and through the steam of his mug he was just taken aback at how lovely Jackie was on an ordinary day. This was no dress up event – it was simply a family having lunch and she was stunning.
"Eric! You're staring!"
He blinked. "I'm sorry. I just forget how pretty you are." He replied honestly.
Jackie's cheeks turned pink. "Well….thank you but don't stare – that creeps me out."
He grinned, "Duly noted. So….what are we going as tonight?"
Jackie smiled, "Cleopatra and Marc Anthony."
Eric frowned, "That's just a guy in sandals and a dress."
Jackie sipped on her iced tea. "No, it's like Luke Skywalker in sandals." She laughed, " Marc Anthony gets to wear a crown AND a sword."
Ben chirped up. "It aint a light saber, is it dad!"
Eric grinned, "No son, it's not a light saber."
Jackie ruffled Ben's hair, "Nope. Because light sabers don't exist, but swords do and Daddy is going as Marc Anthony." She glared at Eric, "I already got the costumes."
Ben giggled, "Mom's got the mad face on. Kiss her daddy!"
Eric leaned across the table and kissed those ruby lips. "My pleasure!."
"Mommy! Betsy's here!" a child's voice hollered up from the living room. Jackie wiped her hands on a dishcloth. "Okay sweetie. When she knocks on the door, let her in. But ONLY because you know who she is okay?"
"Okay!" Ben said excitedly.
The young teen with bright brown eyes walked into the kitchen. "Hi Aunt Jackie!" She allowed herself to be hugged. "You look so much like your mother! Here, sit. Sit."
With long legs, like a colt, Betsy sat down at the kitchen table and looked at the long list Jackie placed before her. "No candy whatsoever, even if he begs. Bedtime is 9:00 and Harry is cutting a tooth so the Orajel is in the medicine cabinet. Oh, and Laurie and Fez are going to drop Farrah off so you'll get double pay for her."
Betsy smiled and tucked a lock of chestnut colored hair behind her ear. "Farrah is easy. Can I watch cable?"
Jackie nodded, "After the kids go to sleep. I don't want Benjamin walking in on something that I have to explain later okay?"
The younger girl blushed, "Okay.
Getting dressed for the party took much longer than it should have. Marc Anthony thought Cleo was too sexy to leave the bedroom. Shushes and giggles finally gave way to Jackie adjusting her wig while Eric was happily waving his sword. "That was a good idea you had there." He winked.
"You sonovabitch!" was the greeting when the couple walked in the living room. Fez was dressed up as Peter Venkman from the Ghostbusters and Laurie was wearing a lab coat ala Dr. Raymond Stantz. "Yeah, thanks little brother, I get to go as a man while Jackie….wow…Jackie...that dress is great."
"Thanks Laurie, is Farrah here? I have that Polly Pocket's toy she wanted."
Fez stood there with his hands on his hips tapping his shoe. "You just had to go as Luke Skywalker AGAIN!"
Eric chuckled, "No, I'm an Egyptian – see that sandals?"
Fez shook his head sadly, "You are in a dress with a cape AND you have a light saber – same difference."
Eric draped his arm over Fez's shoulders, "Dude, not even close, plus Jackie thinks this makes me sexy so….."
Fez's brows lifted, "Ooohh…that is good! I must borrow that for Laurie. She does not make a good Ghostbuster."
Jackie and Laurie came out of the kitchen and the younger Forman announced, "I called the taxi and they'll be here in about ten minutes."
Eric smiled, "I'm gonna say goodnight to the boys."
Ben was struggling to keep his eyes open. "I'm not tired daddy….I'm just resting my eyes so Harry can see 1990 too."
Eric kissed the soft satiny cheek and smelled Mr. Bubbles. "Love ya kiddo. It's okay to fall asleep. I'll make sure that me and mom come wake you up so you can see the New Year. I promise."
"You never break promises right daddy?"
Eric ruffled the dark brown hair. "That's right Obi-Wan….we don't break promises…ever." He watched Ben yawn twice and then quietly left the room to check on Harry.
The little toddler was busy hugging his teddy bear while his lips were making sucking motions. A little bit of baby drool wetted the sheet beneath his head but he was sleeping and at that moment, Eric felt a bit like his mother…. where's my camera!
Jackie put her hands on his bicep and whispered, "The taxi's here."
Jack and Pam certainly knew how to throw a party! Jackie's appetizers were whisked away to the kitchen while Jack Burkhart was busy introducing his "Kitten" to several members of the city council. Pam was hugging Eric's arm to her breast as she paraded him around her friends from L.O.P.P.
The whole thing felt familiar and freakishly weird at the same time and as soon as he could, Eric sought out his wife and sister. Fez was busying "examining" several buxom women for Ghostbusters' symptoms while Laurie was sampling every alcohol at the open bar.
It was turning out to be a wonderful party. Eric was having a great time and couldn't ever remember dancing this much and falling in love at the same time. Jackie was never far from reach and seemed to know what he was thinking before his spoke. A few minutes before the official countdown, she suggested they go outside and watch the fireworks.
Eric snagged a bottle of wine while Jackie grabbed some coats and they settled on the bench in the backyard. The sky was beautiful and huddled under a pair of coats; it seemed more romantic that it looked. Jackie points towards the North sky. "Eric…look!"
An unusually bright star was shining above him in the cold black sky. Not again! Frantic and afraid to alarm Jackie, he took a deep breath and suggested they go back inside. "No sweetie….let's make a wish."
Eric sighed…. this was his defining night. If anything was going to happen – this was it. He murmured with Jackie, "Star light, star bright…. the first star I see tonight…I wish I may…I wish I might….have this wish I wish tonight."
Eric shivered and whispered to himself, "I want to be loved like this forever. I wish that I can have this true love for real."
Jackie turned back to him with a smiling face and twinkling eyes. "What did you wish for?"
He gave her a hug, "If I tell you it won't come true."
"HAPPY NEW YEAR!" The strains of Auld Lang Syne were being song by a bunch of very drunk and happy party-goers. Eric looked at Jackie and he was here! It was 1990 and he was still here!
Excitedly, Eric peppered her face with kisses and hugged the slim frame until she wiggled out of his arms. "Are you okay? I mean it's just another year."
He cupped her face, "Another year with you and I'll never forget it. Make me a promise?"
"Sure babe, what's got you so worried?" There was concern etched on her pretty face.
"This moment. This time right here. Never ever forget me? You have made me a better man and I could never thank you enough. I love you so much. Never forget us? We are a family and there is nothing better than the way I feel when I'm with us, all of us. Promise me that you'll never forget that. Tuck it away in your heart?"
Jackie placed his palm against her breast so he could feel her beating heart and whispered, "I promise." She smiled up at him. "Kiss me you big lug, it's tradition!"
The children were still sleeping, Betsy was snoozing on the sofa and the Ghostbuster couple was on their way home. Jackie yawned, "I'm not even going to shower, I'm just ready to hit the sheets."
Eric locked the doors and followed his wife into the bedroom. "I think I'll sit up for awhile. I mean this is a new decade and everything is starting new….I just want to think about it for a few minutes."
Jackie smiled, "Well, okay, but don't expect me to keep your side of the bed warm."
He shook his head and smiled. "I fully expect cold sheets." Jackie dropped a kiss on the side of his mouth and cupped his cheek. "You okay?"
"Yeah. I'm good. I'm really good."
The house was quiet and Eric sat in the bedroom chair watching Jackie sleeping peacefully. In the back of his mind, he had determined that if he doesn't go to sleep, then he can stay in this 1990 and live the life he's always wanted (he just didn't know it) and be happy.
There was nothing in Chicago that gave him this piece of contentment with the exception of some things like sitting in his Lexus LS or his framed news articles. He worked hard for those and now they just seemed insignificant. Eric could feel his eyes drooping and he fought against sleep.
He struggled to remember an earlier conversation he had with his father-in-law.
Three men stood around in deep philosophical tête-à-tête when Eric walked up. Jack handed Eric a martini and said, "Do you know what was Socrate's boldest statement?"
Eric shook his head and Jack continued. "The unexamined life is not worth living. Don't you think that son?"
Mr. Lewis, the mayor's son, interjected. "Actually the best statement came from the philosopher, Santayana, who said, "He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it." Both men turned to Eric. "Which do you think it the better statement."
As Eric struggled to stay awake, he kept thinking, Santayana was wrong – you could forget the past but make up a new one as you lived each day.
He whispered, "I love you Jackie, I love you Ben….Harry….I love…." His chin slumped onto his chest and Eric Forman fell asleep and it was still 1990.
Eric woke up slowly and with a gigantic headache. How much did he drink last night? Someone was shaking his shoulder and he tried to brush the hand away. "Gimme a minute."
"No, and you spilled wine all over the carpet…what were you thinking? Did you hit your head?"
Eric blinked. Donna? He felt the carpeted floor beneath him and when he dared to open his eyes, the plate glass window was back and he felt like he was going to die.