From what I remember of that day, I had just walked to Geraldine’s office and it was there I saw a teary-eyed Selah. She looked at me with such sorrow in her eyes before she expressed it with a sob. I could barely make out her words.
“What are you sorry for?” I asked her then, not completely knowing what was going on.
Geraldine soon cured my curiosity though, when she revealed what Selah had told her—that Eric and I had been having ‘a sordid affair,’ and Selah had seen us both flaunting it in public. She said it wasn’t acceptable behavior and that I’d be sorely punished for it. That’s when I spoke up.
“I don’t care, you can’t punish me. I’m leaving. We’re leaving. Eric and I. We’re done here.”
“You think it’s that easy?” she said in that smug tone of hers.
Selah was told to leave, and she did so obediently.
“You think it’s so easy, you can just whore around whenever it suits you, taint the good name of this convent with your carrying on, and just up and leave? I think not, Sookie. You’ve taken vows. While they might not mean much to you, they certainly hold weight here with us, the Bishop and of course, the pope. You cannot just simply walk away because you’re bored.”
“I have rights. I can leave! I was told so when I first decided on this! You don’t have any hold over me should I decide I want to leave.”
“That’s what you think.”
From there she convinced me that Eric was in fact, using me—how she managed to do this, I still don’t know. She told me that once we were in the outside world, he’d soon grow tired of me and I’d have nowhere left to go; that if I were to burn my bridges here, I’d end up destitute and alone; that I should have known this was how my life was meant to go; and that here was were I belonged.
“I want to talk to Eric!” I demanded an hour later when she finally returned to her office. She left me sitting there waiting for her while she retrieved papers for me to sign.
“Oh, didn’t you hear? He’s gone dear. Left. Just like I said he would.”
“No! No, you’re lying. That’s not possible, he’d never leave. Not without me.”
“Don’t believe me? Go talk to Niall if you must. Surely you’d believe him?” she answered me, possibly even more smug than before. But still I held my ground and I marched to Niall’s office.
“Where is he?” I asked, not bothering to knock.
Niall looked at me then. For the first time in all my life, I saw such huge disappointment on his face when he looked at me.
“Niall? Where is he?”
“He’s gone, Sookie,” was all he said, his tone cold and clipped.
“And is he coming back? He is coming back, right?”
“No. He’s gone and that’s the end of that. If you choose to stay, it’s your decision. I can’t help you.”
“He’d never leave, not without talking to me first, not without telling me.” I was panicking, completely and absolutely panicking.
Manners and decorum long forgotten, I grabbed Niall’s phone that sat on his desk and dialed Amelia’s number from memory.
She answered with a chipper ‘hello’ but it soon turned to dread once I began to speak. She told me that Eric hadn’t come to her apartment, and that she hadn’t seen him since he and I left that morning. My stomach sank. Maybe they were right, maybe he did have second thoughts, maybe all of this was just too much for him to take and leaving without me was his best option? I was confused and sick. My stomach was doing turns over and over again as I tried my best to calm myself and think like a rational person.
I went to the priests’ cells where I found Eric’s bedroom door open. There was no note, no message and no sign that he’d ever lived in that room. All of his things were gone, and so was he. I knew then what it really was to feel alone. Something that I’d only thought I’d felt before, but now was different. Now felt different because somehow, I knew he wasn’t coming back.
Once out the door of the convent for good, I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to return. I knew she was in Geraldine’s office but trying to get to her before I was so lovingly escorted out of the building by Niall, wasn’t something that he would allow to happen. He was so angry with me, it was as if he had blinders on. His disappointment in me was something I wasn’t sure my heart could take. Call me old-fashioned but he was my father figure in many ways and you want to make your parents proud of you, not angry and sad. And yet that is what I managed to do. He apologized but informed me that it was policy, since I was no longer a member of the priesthood, I had no rights being inside the building at all. I handed over my keys and my collar to him before he hugged me one last time. He apologized to me for his failure, which of course only served to upset us both more than before. He hadn’t failed with me; if anything he’d succeeded. I only hoped in time he would see that. I’d gone back to Amelia’s as we had planned. Amelia was shocked to me again so soon, and alone. She’d told me in a frantic panic that Sookie had called but that since she hadn’t seen me, she had no idea where I was. My heart sank. I knew she’d think that I’d left her there alone, but I only hoped that she would know and believe that I was unlike all the others that had loved her in her life—I wasn’t simply going to walk away from her. I never would. I called Pam and after much name calling and cursing to whoever was actually listening to her, she told me to get my ass to New York and that she’d find someone to ‘sort us out’ once I got there. When I told her no, that I wouldn’t leave Louisiana without Sookie, she did the horrible thing of pointing out that maybe, just maybe Sookie was the one with the doubts and that’s why she wasn’t were she said she’d be.
Maybe she was the one that had changed her mind.
I hoped and prayed that Pam was wrong, but once the seed of doubt was planted, it was there and it grew. By the time ten p.m. rolled around, I’d given up on her showing up. Amelia was kind enough to let me sleep on her couch in the hopes that should Sookie show up, I’d be there for her.
She never did.
I stayed. Don’t ask me why because I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But I stayed. Maybe it was the fear or the doubt; maybe I was just plain insane. I’d never know. But, it was in the second week of my daily punishments at the hands of Geraldine that something went wrong. I was used to the verbal abuse, I was used to not being allowed to speak to the other nuns, I was used to the whispering. It had been a very long three days let me tell you. But during the second week, when I was sick in the bathroom for longer than I should have been, she came looking for me. She didn’t care that I had come down with a bug; she didn’t care that the smell of the washing powder was making me heave; she didn’t care for any of this and told me without a doubt to get back to work. It was laundry day, and it was all on me—loading the washing and drying all of it. I was exhausted and when I refused to continue, telling her that she either let me go back to the bathroom, or I’d be sick all over their nice fresh sheets, she lost her cool and shoved me just a touch too hard at the top of the stairs.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up in a hospital bed surrounded by hospital equipment, and one very sweet looking nurse.
“There you are, Miss. Good to see those eyes of yours.” The nurse smiled at me, as she readjusted my drip.
“You’ve had a rather nasty fall I’m afraid. But not to worry, you’ll be right as rain in no time at all.”
“Right as rain?”
“They’ve given you some sleeping meds to help get you through the worst of the pain. But thankfully your baby is just fine.”
“What did you say?”
She smiled again, clearly assuming it was the medications making me so stupid.
“Your baby, it’s just fine.”
“Yes, dear. Didn’t you know?”
“Well, surprise!” Her bubbly nature was clear to see as she reached for my chart. “Around six weeks I’d say from the looks of things.”
The first time I was with Eric, had I really gotten pregnant that fast?
“It’s not possible. I can’t be pregnant. Not now, not like this.”
Her bubbly persona changed when she saw that this news wasn’t exactly happy news. I missed the sight of Eric and his reassuring smile, more in that moment than I had in any other moment of my life. What the hell was I going to do now? A pregnant nun wasn’t exactly a common occurrence, and as it was I had nowhere to go. And now there was this baby to think about. My baby. I was going to have a baby, Eric’s baby—one he knew nothing about. This was such a disaster on so many levels, I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around it all.
Having been let out of the hospital with nothing more than a sprained wrist, I was told to get back to work as soon as possible by a rather irate Geraldine. She’d had about enough of my ‘causing a scene’ as she’d called my little trip to the hospital, and that I was to double my chores as soon as I got back. I really had expected nothing less from her.
Floors were scrubbed, beds where stripped… the church was cleaned top to toe, daily, alone and in complete silence. I ate alone, I sat alone, I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone, and they in turn weren’t allowed to speak to me. It was all part of the grand punishment that Geraldine had cooked up. I wasn’t leaving because, where would I go? And I sure didn’t want to stay because it was sheer hell. I was trapped between a rock and a hard place, and while she told me daily that my soul was condemned to hell for what I’d done, hell really was looking a lot like a holiday compared to this place.
“We’re leaving, Eric. The car is coming for us and we’re going. You can’t fucking stay here any longer. I won’t let you rot in this shithole!”
It had been a couple of weeks, the longest couple of weeks of my life. I moved into this cheap motel not far from Amelia’s apartment, where I’d check in with her everyday for word of Sookie.
There never was.
Pam had arrived and stayed for a week. She’d finally reached her limit.
“Eric, she’s not coming. You have to face facts. She’s NOT coming. So, please, let’s go home?”
I didn’t accept it. I couldn’t, but I let her call the shots. Two weeks of not shaving or sleeping made me a pushover in that sense.
“I can’t leave without her,” I attempted weakly. I was truly exhausted but the idea of sleep made me mad since I might miss her coming back.
Pam kneeled down between my legs, holding my face as she spoke.
“Sweetie, you’re a mess, a complete mess, and if you tell anyone I said this—I’ll deny it to my grave—but I feel this need to take care of you, and I can’t do that in this town. So, I’m taking you home and I’m getting you back to yourself. You’re no good to Sookie like this, Eric.”
“What if she really doesn’t want me, Pam?
“Then you deal, and you move on.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“No, it’s not. It’s really not.”
I didn’t want to leave, not without her, but Pam was right. What more could I do? I couldn’t get in touch with her no matter how I tried. I’d called the offices and been ignored. The one time the phone was answered, Geraldine told me that Niall’s office wouldn’t be answering because he had taken a leave of absence. She thought that he was aiming for retiring. So Niall was gone, and there she was—in charge at last. Apparently, she felt Sookie didn’t want to talk to me, nor did she want to see me, and that I’d be better off just leaving her be.
I didn’t think she was telling the truth—this was Geraldine after all—but if Sookie had gotten my letters and hadn’t tried to respond, maybe Pam was right. Maybe I was better off leaving her here, if that’s what she wanted? I was just so thoroughly confused and tired that I had no real idea which way was up anymore.
I don’t think I spoke more than two words to Pam on the entire way to New York. Pam got us settled and ordered dinner, which of course, I couldn’t eat. I could however drink.
And drank I did, until I passed out, before waking up and drinking myself back into a coma again. It got so bad that one morning I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I didn’t even recognize who the guy looking back at me was anymore.
After concealing my morning sickness from just about everyone, I got caught by Selah one morning, too ill to even pretend to be cleaning the toilets anymore.
“You’re pregnant aren’t you? I know the signs, Sookie.”
“Why did you tell her about me and Eric?” I asked her, finally getting her alone to be able to do so.
“I had to. Bill found out that I was hiding something from him, and I had to. He said he was going to kill me, Sookie. He’s slightly obsessed with you.”
“Slightly? That’s an understatement. He’s insane and he’s raped you and somehow you still take his side over mine. I never did anything to you.”
“Are you pregnant? If you are you definitely can’t stay here. They’ll take away your baby and you’ll never see it again.”
“I know that.”
“Believe me, Sookie, it’s not something you want to happen. You’ll never forgive yourself.”
“You ever miss your baby?”
“My daughter? Oh, Sookie she was beautiful, and yes. I miss her, everyday.”
“What was her name?”
“They named her Mary, but I wanted to call her Lily.”
“It suited her. What are you going to do?” she asked, procuring the mop from me to take over.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
“I was jealous, you know… of you and Eric. He clearly loved you so much.”
“Then why’d he leave?”
“Are you sure he did?”
“I wanted to believe that maybe he didn’t but the more I think about it, the more scared I get that maybe he just … changed his mind.”
“In a hour? I don’t think that’s true, or possible. He was all heart-eyed around you.”
“Maybe nothing, that boy loves you.”
I had no doubt he loved me, but was it really enough? Maybe love wasn’t all you needed and him knowing what a burden I’d be in the real world was just too much for him to deal with. I wouldn’t have blamed him, really.
I was loading up the laundry for what felt like the nine thousandth day in a row when I heard his heeled shoes on the concrete steps.
“Sookie, may I speak with you?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“This is really all your own fault you know. Why you’re being isolated like this.”
“Yeah, I’m a regular Mary Magdalene.”
“This is no laughing matter, Sookie.”
“Believe me, I’m well aware.”
“Have you told anyone what you saw, with Selah and me?”
“Oh, you mean you raping her? No, I haven’t. Who would believe me anyway?”
“It’s not rape. It really wasn’t.”
“Sure it wasn’t. It’s not rape, she wasn’t crying, she wasn’t being forced over your desk, not at all.” Where my strength and sarcasm came from, I’ve no idea.
“You’re a beautiful girl, Sookie, but that mouth of yours will be the end of you one of these days.”
That’s when I felt the slap and suddenly I was slammed against the wall. His hand was up inside my habit at record speed.
This couldn’t happen, not like this, not now.
I closed my eyes trying to ignore the searing pain in my head from hitting the wall.
“Stop! Bill, please don’t? Don’t do this!”
“Why not? You’re already tainted, Sookie. What does it matter if I have a little fun? You didn’t say no to Eric, did you?”
“I love Eric, I loathe you,” I spat.
“I might be able to change your mind.” I felt him reach for my panties and that’s when I had to scream. I got one good scream out before his hand went to my mouth and I bit him—hard.
“Give me one reason,” he laughed.
“I’m pregnant,” I sobbed.
His hands dropped, as well as his mouth.
“What did you just say?”