When I heard her footsteps on the stairs and saw her approaching me slowly, with a cautious look on her face, I just wanted to make it all stop. I wanted to stop doubting her, doubting myself, I wanted to rewind the week and just maybe employ some self control and NOT kiss her.
She looked exhausted and sad, I could relate.
She was quiet, I knew she was waiting on me to make the first move but stubbornness froze me in place.
Her attempt at small talk and lightening the mood was appreciated but all I could think of was Bill and his bitter words that planted the stupid seeds of doubt in my stupid head. I didn’t want to doubt her, I wanted to believe she was honest and good and pure and that she couldn’t lie to me.
I realised I’d always held Sookie to a higher standard that I held myself. Perhaps it was naive but I’d always seen her as just a much better stronger person that I could have ever been. Even from when we were little kids, she was always so much braver than me. So, the pedestal got higher as the years wore on and now she was up so high I couldn’t see the real Sookie because my version of her blocked my view.
But Bill’s words stung, and I was right back to being irrationally angry. When she told me that ‘it wasn’t a big deal’ I don’t really know why, but it felt like she was just trying to explain it away like it was something that happened every day. Of course that convinced my fucked up mind that of course it was just an every day thing for her, since she and Bill were probably at it like rabbits. Irrational? Of course, crazy even? Probably. But between wounded pride, bashed ego and the sheer disgusting image of her and him in my head – well I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.
When I mentioned his name and her eyes welled up, it of course convinced me that I was right in thinking that she and he had had a history.
Her tears felt like a knife to my gut, I didn’t want to be the cause of their appearance, I hated seeing Sookie cry – crying women in general scared me but Sookie’s tears just broke my heart. But still my I let my anger and my hurt take me over long enough to ignore her tears, even though all I wanted was to hold her and shush her and reassure her that everything would be ok. I didn’t because it wasn’t. If she was in fact involved with that bastard as I thought she was, I didn’t know this girl at all anymore and that scared the life out of me. This was my Sookie, mine. Not his. God, the idea of him touching her, of her LETTING him touch her, it caused a pain in my chest to intensify.
Ignoring her pain again and embracing my pigheadedness I couldn’t answer her, I could feel my throat dry and the tears fill my eyes. I wouldn’t cry. I was man and I didn’t just cry like a baby at the drop of a hat. No matter how badly I may have wanted to. So I walked away from her as she sat dejected sobbing on the basement steps. Never in my life have I felt more of a cold hearted bastard than I did at that moment. I hated her. I hated him. Well, no that’s a lie, I could never hate her I could never even remotely dislike her, no matter how hard I tried. Why? Because she was my Sookie no matter what she had or hadn’t done, no matter who she got involved with I’d always love her because of who she was to me and the history we shared. I knew that. But in that moment so filled with anger I forgot all those things, all those amazing things and focused on my own inner angst.
I went to the kitchen, and as I expected it was full of the other Sisters, making and doing and baking and cooking. They stopped their chatter as I entered. I tired to be as inconspicuous as possible but at six five, that’s kind of hard.
Sister Agnes was seated next to the pot of coffee, she smiled at me nervously, she remarked on the weather and told me how extraordinary it was that I had gotten so tall. I smiled graciously before accepting her large mug of steaming black heaven before swiftly making my exit.
Of course Niall seemed to have a sixth sense on my moods at this point, instantly picking up on my buzzing wreck of a psyche. I didn’t answer him, instead comforting myself with the fact that books could always be relied upon to bring me back whatever focus I had lost allowing me to concentrate and turn off my brain and just absorb the material like a sponge. For almost three hours there was silence as I read my philosophy texts and took my notes. When Niall dismissed me I went to my room, not in the mood for dinner, not in the mood to explain myself, and by sheer mental and physical exhaustion I was out almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. Stupid coffee not working the way it’s supposed to.
He was an asshole, he was a tool, he was just something that I didn’t want to think about any more.
He was an idiot, a insensitive ignoramus who wouldn’t know the truth if it bit him in his perfect ass.
No, I was done. If that’s what he thought of me, as one of them, then that’s what he could keep on thinking because I was in no mood to talk to him, or look at him. Ever again.
Of course that was near impossible and ever again lasted almost two weeks. If he walked into a room, I excused myself, I faked sick when he would hear confession, I was sure confessing my desire to strangle him to him probably wasn’t a good idea. I couldn’t sleep for thinking about him and if I wasn’t thinking about him and how angry he made me my stupid head was filling itself with extremely wicked dreams that, frankly I shouldn’t be having involving someone I was so mad at! Thankfully, teaching kept me busy during the day and improved my mood ten fold.
My classroom was my haven, it was the one thing I was proud of. I had taken the dank dreary grey walls and covered them in kids art works. Rainbows and sunshine and frogs and princesses all adored my walls.
It was prohibited of course. The only thing that was meant to sit on the walls of the classroom was the crucifix of our Lord, in a reminder to everyday be thankful that he suffered and died for us.
Well, my kids were 5 to 11 they didn’t need a daily reminder of death. At least not from me. So we coloured, we sang, we learned nursery rhymes. I taught them how to write, how to read, the joys of math, and how to express themselves by choosing their colour and each day painting one thing in that colour that they loved.
My classroom was my own and it was left alone, but there was the bimonthly checks done by Sister Geraldine, and for that the colour would be covered. I’d devised a neat trick to do so speedily. Draped maps of Europe, the world, and America came in handy for covering the art work. The paints got stored under the back cabinets, and the kids were well enough warned when asked all we did was read, write and pray.
It wasn’t that I encouraged them to lie per se, we did all those things too, just needed to leave out all our actual fun activities. The kids knew this and they knew just like I had know at their age, what kind of a person Geraldine was. It was a good arrangement.
More than anything I wanted these kids to have what I never had. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to teach in the first place. I wanted them to have fun, to have a few hours in the day where they could just be themselves and not fear me like I had fear all my teachers. The art supplies, the candy pops that I also used as my ‘gold stars’ in the spelling and math department all came from my own money. Nuns didn’t get paid, but a section of the parish and church collection was allocated to the school and each teacher got assigned an amount per semester. I used my money extremely wisely.
I had my kids all gathered around on the blankets I’d taken from the donations that I used for reading time. They were all seated quietly for a changed ready for the next instalment of Charlotte’s web when a knock came to my door.
I noticed one or two of the kids with wide eyes of fear when he walked into the classroom. No doubt he had heard of the incident of Bill whipping one of the older boys in his classroom – he slashed him so hard he lost the tip of his finger, the news spread among the kids like wildfire as it always did. Their fear and intimidation tactics never failed.
“Father Compton what brings you here?””Sister Geraldine has asked me to take her place with the checks to be done twice a month, you’re the last class on my list.””Oh, well, of course. As you can see everything is in order.” He looked around. Geraldine would glance inspect for dust, and leave with her head in the air. Bill on the other hand took his sweet time.
“And everything is in working order I trust? No one stepping out of line?””Father, they’re little kids.” I whispered “I don’t believe in having them fear me if that’s what you mean, but no, they’re good kids.”
“What are you doing that I interrupted?”
“Reading. It’s story time.” I remarked and he actually smiled. Telling me he always enjoyed a good story. Urging me to continue and pay no remark to his presence, he sat down.
The idea of reading aloud to my kids was one thing, reading aloud with him present was entirely another. With a nervous breath I continued. We’d made it through a chapter and a half before the kids started asking questions again. It was the usual. ‘how could Charlotte talk if she was a spider’ ‘how’d they do this’ ‘how’d they do that’. Of course I indulged them with a smile and a laugh whenever the ridiculous questions came up, and shocking horror of all horrors I found Bill laughing in amusement too. Did he not realise that he repulsed me? Had my fear of him not been evident?
It was odd to say the least. But a welcome distraction from his usual sour expressions.
Of course, the one moment of comedy would have to be witnessed, as Eric strode through my door.
Speaking of sour expressions, he eyeballed me, then Bill, then focused in on me.
There was a sarcastic laugh under his breath as he set a stack of papers on my desk.
He looked again from Bill and back to me.
He cleared his throat quietly before speaking, finally.
“Niall left these for you.” and with that he walked out shutting my classroom door behind him.
His first words to me in more than a week and it’s about school papers. Nice. I followed him out the
door, finding him stomping down the hallway like it was on fire.
“Eric! Would you stop?”
He did. And I finally caught up with him.
“Look…” I saw how hurt he looked then, “What’s wrong? What did I do now?”
He just rolled his eyes and laughed sarcastically.
“You’re attitude isn’t helping here, look whatever you think I’ve done…Eric I’ve not done anything wrong here ok so stop treating me like I have!””Whatever Sookie, you know what, whoever you wanna cosy up to and flirt with it has nothing to do with me.”
“Flirt? …BILL? You think I’m flirting with Bi-“”What makes you think I care about whatever you’re doing with him. I just came to drop off the papers, nothing else.”
With that he stormed off again, leaving me, again, totally confused. What had crawled up his ass and died seriously?
Bill clearly noticed how flustered Eric’s appearance made me as he pried into what was the matter with me.
I did my best to brush the subject off and thankfully the bell rang in time for the kids to leave to go to the dinner hall for lunch.
As I was setting out the bibles for mass I spotted him again, lurking near the doors before he finally came in and walked behind the alter to the changing room when we came back out with a sack. Ah, he was going to the bank with the donations. He was about to storm past me again but I’d had enough.
“You’re an asshole you know that?” Yes I said asshole in church, I’d pray extra hard tonight.
“I’m the asshole?” he asked incredulously, spinning around to face me. Ok so I’d be praying for him too.
“How dare you, seriously Eric, you know it took me a minute to understand just what you meant when you said that I had turned into ‘one of them’ but seeing your reaction to bill and I today confirmed it.”
He rolled his eyes at me. Jackass.
“Look like I said, I don’t care what you do with …him.”
“You’re a liar, because you obviously care and you’re obviously pissed and OBVIOUSLY know nothing because if you knew then you wouldn’t be feeling any of this!” I realised I was in church, sure it was empty, but it still felt disrespectful to yell. So I took a deep breath and attempted to calm myself.
“Look Sookie if you’re done I have to go, I have to get this to the bank before it closes and it’s all the way across town.”
He was jittery and he honestly looked like he was biting his tongue, literally. “So you won’t listen to me?””What else is there to say? We made a mistake sure, but you seem to be fine with …whatever closeness you have with Compton but not me, and hey, that’s …whatever. So if you’ll excuse me…”
I wanted to scream in frustration. He wasn’t listening to me AT ALL!
I went storming off to the other exit that led to the convent, before I reached the door I heard yelling from outside. The doors were banging with the sound of someone being shoved up against them and then there was more yelling.
When I got to the door everything seemed to slow down and speed up all at once. I saw them, I saw him, I saw the scattering of money on ground, then I saw him fall against the wall then down a few of the stone steps. Why had he fallen?
I didn’t allow myself time to answer my own question before my feet carried me outside.
I knew I was screaming his name but it was as if I couldn’t hear myself, all I saw was the tear in his shirt and the gaping wound, the source of the blood. So much blood.
He was pale and sputtering something about me getting back inside, and to not be an idiot and just go. back. inside. But, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t, not even if I had wanted to.
“Eric what the hell! Oh my God what do I do? Eric talk to me ok?””Pressure.”
“What?” I said thought my stream of tears as his blood covered hand grabbed mine and directed it to his left side. It felt warm and wet and disgusting but my frazzled brain finally caught on as I applied as much pressure as I could to the wound without hurting him.
My hands as well as his now were covered in his blood, and his colour was draining, fast.
“Eric I have to go get help ok? So you just need to stay there and not move and not die oh God please ok? Just promise me?”
He smiled before winking at me and saying “Don’t worry sweetheart the marathon won’t start without me and I can’t run like this!”
Ok, what did that even mean. again, I didn’t have time to worry so I made him apply as much pressure as he could manage before I got up to run inside. I’d gotten to the door when he called me again.
“What? Ok just hold on ok?” I was crying again and my hands were shaking and I wanted to throw up but I know I couldn’t because I needed someone to help me help Eric.
“Don’t leave me…” “Eric I have to …I can’t keep you here like this we need a doctor now!””No, please ok? Please don’t leave me here alone. I’m sorry I left you here alone I really am but I had no choice ok so please….” he was rambling, this had to have been shock. If his colouring told me anything it was that he was in shock.
I ignored his pleading as much as it broke my heart to do so and I ran as fast as my legs could carry me through the church, disregarding my veil along the way, it was too covered in blood at this point anyway. I yelled and screamed until I got someone’s attention. Finally Sister Geraldine stuck her head out of her office with a stern look on her face. No doubt about to lay into me for raising my voice in such a manner.
Seeing my state she expressed a touch of concern before I yelled at her to ring an ambulance and that she needed to hurry up because Eric had been stabbed and he’d lost blood and why was she standing there looking at me like I had two heads when she should have been on her damn telephone! I did all this in seconds, though it felt like hours. I ran back through the church again and to the main exit where Eric laid. His eyes were closed and I feared the worst!
“ERIC! GOD, NO. ERIC LOOK AT ME!” I checked his pulse. It was weak but he was still here, I stood over him applying pressure to his wounds as best as I could.
“Sookie, you came back.” he sounded so small, and so surprised.
“Of course I came back you idiot. The ambulance is on it’s way ok? So you just need to hold on a little bit longer…”
“Oh no.” he said attempting to touch my head “I got blood in your hair. Look, there’s blood in your hair.”
“It’s fine, stop worrying about my hair.””But it’s so pretty….you’re so pretty Sook…always was.”
I sighed. I cried. He really wasn’t making any sense. But as long as he held on he could ramble all he wanted.
“I’m sorry Sookie.”
“Shush ok? Just shush and breathe that’s all I need you to do right now.””No…” He struggled “for so many things…” he tailed off before Geraldine and Niall and Bill followed by a gaggle of the other Sisters finally appeared. Again all of this took mere minutes but it felt like forever had passed.
Niall, his face almost as ashen as Eric’s took by my side and took his hand. I heard Geraldine praying out loud in the distance and for a split second I questioned if she was praying for his safety or his demise.
“Eric my boy…What mess have you gone and gotten yourself into now.” He said trying to keep his voice light hearted. I assumed for his own sake as much as all of ours.
“I fell on to their knife, I fell on to their knife three times old man. How’s that for stupid huh?” Eric attempted to smile, witty even with a gaping knife wound.I felt someone at my other side and I knew it was Bill. He was trying to drag me away from Eric.
Well that just wasn’t gonna fly.
“Leave me be!””Sookie this is no place for a girl such as yourself please go in side, we’ll take care of him.”
I shoved him slightly, all the while not moving my hands for Eric’s side.
“I’m taking care of him Bill, not back off or so help me.”Bill looked pissed, but Niall merely backed me up, telling him to ‘back his shit up’ in a tone of voice I’d never heard from Niall in all my life.
Bill, angry but outnumbered did in fact back his shit up just as the ambulance arrived. Finally I took my hands off Eric and he groaned in pain. They lowered him onto a stretcher and then wheeled him into the ambulance.
I went to go with him but Bill yanked me back. Throwing me almost into Geraldine’s arms.
“Sookie no, look at you, you’re a mess you must go inside and get cleaned up at once. Niall can go with Eric.””Are you kidding me? NO! That’s my friend in there and he’s dying or don’t you get that! I’m going with him!”
“Go inside now and stop causing a scene.” he threatened quietly. Unbeknownst to me quite a crowd had gathered as the news of the incident had undoubtedly spread.
One of the sister’s, I couldn’t tell you who gently grabbed my arm and led me inside the church, out the other side and into the convent again. It was only when I saw Agnes running a bath for me that I even noticed that I was inside.
She didn’t say anything, and for that I was grateful. I realised I’d been sobbing tears silently to myself when I glanced a peek at my reflection in the mirror above the sink. I tried to wash the blood from my hands, but it was just caked on real nice.
Agnes asked me for my clothes and where my veil was.
I didn’t know and I really didn’t care. I needed to know if Eric was okay and all they were worried about was my stupid habit and my stupid uncomfortable itchy as hell, veil.
She stopped running the water and told me to undress. I didn’t even have the energy to stand up, but she sensed this and, oddly, helped me as gently as she could.
As I sunk into the hot for one bath, she softly patted me on the head as she wetted my hair, telling me that as soon as Geraldine got word she’d know and come find me.
I took a small comfort in that at least. But it was a small comfort that lasted not long enough, and before long the tears started to flow again. Mixing in with the bath water so I couldn’t find them when they fell, they just reminded me of how stupid I’d been, how angry I’d been with him. How angry he had been with me. And what if, Eric died he died and left this earth being mad at me. I cried harder at the thought and prayed harder than I’d ever prayed for anything or anyone before. If ever there was a time for the big man to open his ears, it was right then.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.