By the grace of God, or whoever was looking out for me, Lafayette was home that day. He quickly offered me a place to stay; that and a hot shower allowed me to feel more alive than I’d felt in a really long time. I noticed the bruises all over my body. The idea that I was knocked out cold for those eleven days made my skin crawl. Anything could have happened to me, anything could have been done to me in that state. I hoped not, but it sadly wouldn’t have shocked me at this point had anything happened.
It seemed to me that Jesus had somewhat of a crush on Lafayette. He came by almost every day to ‘check up’ on me, but spent the majority of the time flirting with Lafayette. He was a good man and someone that I wouldn’t have objected to for Lafayette. He deserved someone good and with good intentions toward him.
I’d been there two weeks, and we were a week into the 1960s—I hoped the fifties would be long forgotten—when Lafayette was at work and Jesus dropped by again. This time he brought me a dress.
“It’s from this store down the street from my house. If it doesn’t fit you can always return it, but I thought you’d be bored wearing customized things from the closet of Mr. Reynolds.”
“Don’t be mistaken, that man has a closet any woman would kill to have! So much sparkly stuff. But thank you, this is much more my speed.”
It was a simple blue shift dress—one that I’d have to take up at the hem because I was so small—but otherwise it looked like it would fit me to a tee.
“You’ve been looking better everyday. That nasty bruise is clearing right up.”
“Yeah, it has. Laf has some very questionable things in his pantry, some he’s used to heal me. I don’t know if it’s working or not, but I do feel better.”
“I guess you’ve heard, then?”
I had, and I knew he’d want to talk about it. I’d told him my life story; I felt the need to have no secrets from him. He saved me, after all.
“About the convent? Yes, I heard.” I sipped my tea.
“So horrible about that nun.”
Selah… The police had come in and found her body after a church goer had gone across the street to a diner to call them. Turns out Selah, was also pregnant. They released to the papers that her death wasn’t accidental like Father Bill claimed, but that she was in fact pushed by something—or someone—with great strength because of the way she landed. With the police sniffing around, Niall came back and filed charges against Bill, since Selah was obviously pregnant with his child. He’d told the police of the rape allegations from both Selah and the mystery nun that couldn’t be found, but who they urged to come forward.
Like hell I would.
Still, they sought charges against him, and it turns out that while I wasn’t willing to come forward, the dozen or so other nuns he’d done the exact same thing to, did come forward in California. So, he was up on charges here and there. That, and they’d found that he was shaving money off the top of the donations for almost a year. With that bit of information, they got him on an embezzlement charge, too. All in all, Bill Compton was going to have to be careful where he dropped his soap for the rest of his life. The charges would stick and he would go away for a very, very long time. I wondered how he’d like being someone’s toy for a change. I bet he wouldn’t like it one bit.
Geraldine had been suspended by the holy council for her role in the demise of the convent and it’s good name. The orphanage and the church would be under Agnes’ control since she was the second eldest and would do, I was sure, a much better job than her predecessor. Geraldine had also suffered a terrible case of nerve damage in her hand after someone stabbed her with an old rusted letter opener. She lost her hand from the wrist down. Apparently it had taken hours for them to find her in her office and in that time irreparable damage had been done. Bill had also outed his mother in a vain attempt at saving himself. Charges were pressed against her too, for her part in the thievery, as well as her being an accessory to the manslaughter of Selah. She was to be put away for, they said, at least ten years. At her age, it was some small comfort to know she’d be spending her retirement years in a women’s prison, somewhere down south.
“Have you called your brother yet?” he asked, stirring more sugar into his coffee.
“No. I keep meaning to. I guess I’m just working up the courage.”
“You know, he’ll probably be thrilled to hear from you. I mean, what you said about all those times he tried to see you, my guess is he’d be so relieved to know you’re okay.”
“Maybe…” I mused.
It had taken me a full month to recover, physically at least. Emotionally, I had a long road ahead of me. But the longest journeys start with a single step, do they not? That first step was dialing my brother’s phone number.
“Stackhouse,” he answered. His voice deep, much deeper than the ten-year-old little boy I remembered.
“Hello?” he said again.
“Yeah, who is this?”
“It… it’s Sookie.”
There was silence.
“Sook? Oh my God. Sookie? You’re… Jesus, Sookie. Uh. Hi.”
I laughed, knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling awkward.
“I… how are you, where are you? Are you okay?” he asked all at once.
“I’m fine, sort of. I um, I left the convent, Jason. I didn’t know that you tried to find me or that you came to get me. I swear I didn’t know. Believe me, had I known…”
“Hey, no, that’s… it’s fine. It’s all fine. You’re out now, right? God, I can’t believe I’m talking to you. You sound so grown up.”
Jason and I talked for what seemed like hours and he agreed to call me the next day, and the day after and for as many days as I needed before he’d come see me. He said he’d come now if I wanted, but he wanted to give me the time I needed. I appreciated that.
The next call I made was to New York City.
She answered on the fourth ring, and that’s when I hung up. I’d lost my nerve, my bottle, my courage, whatever it took to dial the number from his letter—I’d lost it. What was I going to say to him? That I loved him, that I needed him? That I missed him? Those things were all true, but I was in no state to see Eric. Not now. Not yet. Not after everything I’d gone through. No, I needed to learn how to live life on my own before I fell into his arms and expected him to be the one to fix everything for me like I had done so many times before.
This time, I was taking charge of my life, and in order to do that I had to be alone.
Jason and I talked on the phone everyday for a month. That’s when he finally told me he couldn’t wait anymore to see me and that he was coming to visit. His visit lasted four days. He and Lafayette became instant friends, and that’s when he said that I should come stay with him for a little while. He loved getting to know me again, and his new farmhouse had more than enough room.
I learned he was as tall as my dad had been, and sounded just like him when he got tired. He’d just gotten married the year before and his wife had just had their first baby—he was three months old and named Corbett after our daddy. He reassured me his wife would have no problems with me staying with them. Crystal, from what I’d heard, was an only child from a family of corn farmers from out west. They’d moved to Bon Temps, she’d met my brother and the rest, as Jason said, was shotgun wedding history.
Crystal was a small woman—skinny too, for someone who had just had a baby—but she was sweet, if a little guarded. I think I might have been too, if my husband’s sister who I’d never met suddenly showed up planning to crash in my spare bedroom for a spell.
I understood her need to get to know me first before she trusted me. It was only natural, I was after all a total stranger they’d taken so willingly into their home.
Corbett was a total sweetheart. I got to know the little man rather well since I became his babysitter once Crystal decided that she was going back to work.
I helped out around the house, and since Jason was now running a rather successful horse farm, I’d help with the business a little during the day—simple things like taking bookings for stud horses coming in, making out invoices, dealing with inquiries. Between that and baby Corbett, I was kept plenty busy. So busy in fact, almost six months had passed before I allowed myself to look in my case—the case where I kept my letters. It was on a quiet Sunday that I finally found the courage to pull out a blank piece of paper and write to Eric.
I knew that I wasn’t ready to hear his voice again, and as much as I missed him, I still wasn’t strong enough to talk to him yet. But I wrote down everything I wanted to say. I told him that I understood why he left, that he hadn’t abandoned me, and that I knew he had tried his very best to get in some kind of contact with me again. I told him that I missed him, and that I loved him, that I would probably always love him—but that I wasn’t ready to see him again—not yet. I needed him to know that he shouldn’t wait for me. I knew how I felt about him but with the way I was feeling about everything else, us being together just wasn’t a good or healthy idea, for either of us. So if he had a life, he should be living it. We’d already wasted so much time already. I didn’t want him wasting his life waiting for me. I told him that we’d see each other again, someday—someday soon—but that until then, his life was for living and I wished he’d do just that. And once I was ready, I’d explain everything as best I could. I told him not to come looking for me, because he might not like what he found, I just wasn’t the old Sookie anymore, In fact I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I hoped that he’d understand that, and let me explain it all one day.
It didn’t feel like enough, but it was all I could offer and if that wasn’t good enough then I just didn’t know what else to do.
Six months. I’d spent six months in a hole of utter misery after I’d arrived in the City with Pam. It was all self-inflicted, of course. That, and with the aid of a few hundred bottles of liquor. Pam had tried more than once to pull me out of my depression. But it just wasn’t happening. I’d let it all wash over me—losing my parents, losing the life I was meant to lead, finding Sookie, losing Sookie, the convent, the priesthood, all I’d witnessed, all I’d said and done. All of it. It came too fast and it was almost as if my brain and heart just couldn’t catch up. I needed to drink to sleep because if I didn’t drink, I didn’t sleep and if I didn’t sleep, I was like a zombie. Honestly, how Pam put up with it for as long as she did, I’ll never know. But she had soon and I quote “reached her limit on my bullshit,” and she was right. I was an utter mess. I looked like shit ran over twice and that in general wasn’t helping my mental state. Pam suggested a shrink friend of hers and I wasn’t up for it at all. But at her insistence, I decided that it might not kill me.
So I went, twice a week. At first, I thought it was kind of useless sitting in a room with a stranger telling them about your life. But soon, and by soon I mean maybe a month or so after I’d started, I realized I was starting to feel lighter, more like myself again. I’d even used the new razor Pam had bought me. She’d smiled wide when I walked out of her bathroom, telling me that it was nice to know I had a face under all that ‘fucking ugly hair.’ Pam, she was nothing if not honest.
When I got a letter in the mail with dainty female handwriting that I’d know anywhere, my heart stopped.
My first thoughts were that she was okay; that she knew where I was and if she knew where I was, she had gotten my letters. I breathed a sigh of relief. But then, I opened the letter and my heart sank to the depths of my feet, maybe even lower. It was beautifully written, but what it was in essence was a beautifully written goodbye. Sure, she’d told me she loved me and missed me, but what it boiled down to was that she didn’t want me. That realization stung more than I’d ever admit. She told me not to come looking for her, and the lack of return address told me she was serious about that request. The other was that one day, she’d explain everything if I’d let her.
If I’d let her? Did she think me that self-involved that I wouldn’t hear her out? No, it was insane. All of this. If she loved me, and I loved her why couldn’t it be simple? Why couldn’t we just get together and make the damn thing work?
The postal mark told me she was still in Louisiana, a town called Bon Temps. I’d never heard of it but maps were my friends. My shrink told me it was a bad idea, and Pam who was like an at home shrink, told me it was a horrible idea. But my stubborn nature won out and before I knew it, I was driving myself back to Louisiana. The drive helped me more than any form of therapy ever could. Being alone with nothing but the open road and a radio was a freeing experience in itself. Motels were questionable, the food was even more so, but eventually I made it. This tiny little backwater town on the outskirts of Louisiana was so small, I assumed the nearest hospital was a good few miles away. I asked around and was told the Stackhouses lived on Hummingbird Lane. I knocked on the door when I first arrived, but there was clearly no one home. There happened to be a graveyard next to her house—which I couldn’t help but find a little bit creepy. But I took a long walk around it until I heard a car in their driveway. It was there I saw her.
A pickup truck pulled up to the house. The guy driving it looked familiar but I was too faraway to really tell. He was a tall guy, that’s for sure, though he wore a cap and wasn’t really facing my direction.
There she was, bright as a button, tan and glowing. She wore her hair in a ponytail and she had on a beautiful yellow sundress. She hopped out of the truck with a great big smile on her face running to hug the guy that had been driving the truck. They hugged for what seemed like forever. He picked her up in excitement and all the while my heart was burning up with jealousy. They walked into her house, him with his arm around her, the other carrying her bags. They were laughing and obviously comfortable with each other. Was this why she wanted me to move on? Had she moved on so easily? It sure looked that way to me.
Summer had come and I for one was more than happy about that. The short days and dreary weather of winter only served to leave my moods the same. But with summer, there were long warm days and sunshine to be soaked up. I loved summer. And since I wasn’t forced to wear a covering from head to toe, I found that I tanned very easily. Having embraced my life in Bon Temps as best I could, I did so with a new wardrobe—one that Crystal was more than happy to help me pick out. I was made to promise—from Jason’s end of things—that I wouldn’t tell Crystal he was footing the bill.
As much as I protested, he insisted, telling me that he had a lot years of spoiling his baby sister to make up for. And, if I had protested, I don’t think he would have listened. So I gave in. I shopped and I loved it. I allowed myself to indulge in stylish things and for the first time since Amelia’s experiment on me, makeup. Not much mind you, but just some that made me feel very ladylike.
I stopped by the store to pick up a few things for dinner—Crystal was off to her mother’s with the baby and Jason was at work. I decided I’d have dinner ready when they both came back. I still loved to cook.
It was there that I ran smack dab into Alcide. The shock of seeing each other again led to much talk and catching up, and when he offered me a ride home, I accepted it gladly. The bags and the heat mixed with walking three miles just wasn’t as appealing as it had been, not when I had all his news to catch up on.
He told me as we pulled into the old driveway that he and his ex had managed to talk things through since the last time I’d seen him, and they’d been dating ever since. He told me that he’d asked her to marry him the night before, and she had, without a doubt this time, told him yes. He was obviously so happy and excited, and that was contagious as I congratulated him with the biggest hug I could muster up. He was a big guy and he hugged like a bear.
We laughed and joked about how she might not be a runaway bride this time as I offered him some sweet tea in the shade of the porch. We sat and laughed and joked about what a mess he’d been before, and that trying to hit on me had been a terrible mistake, no matter how ‘beautiful’ he had thought I was. I blushed, of course. What girl doesn’t when a handsome man tells her she’s beautiful?
I looked out across the graveyard—the sun shining in the sky through the big willow trees that grew there—and for a split second I thought I saw someone, a familiar someone. But when I looked again, it was nothing but branches blowing in the breeze.
“And your beau?” Alcide asked carefully.
“He and I had been through a lot. I’m sure you heard.”
“Trey told me afterwards that you were a nun, and he was a—”
“Yes. All so very clearly wrong.”
“Hey, love is love. So many people told me to move on from Debbie, that she wasn’t good enough for me. But I loved her, and I stuck by her and I was glad I did. The heart, it wants what it wants and it doesn’t really care what your brain has to say.”
“But what if sometimes you know your brain is right? No matter how much your heart wants to go to them, you know it’s for the best that you both be apart—the need to grow up and do it alone and all that.”
“Then that’s your choice, but you know you’ll never fully be yourself as long as he has that piece of your heart. And he always will. I can see it in your face. You still love him, don’t you?”
“I’ll always love him. I just can’t be with him, not yet. I’m not even sure who I am, Alcide, let alone who I am to him.”
He nodded. “I hear you. But if he’s smart, he’ll understand. He’ll know what he’s got and he’ll wait for you.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then he’s an idiot, and I’ll kick his ass if you need me too.”
“Yeah, but then, I’d have to kick your ass,” I sassed, kissing him on the cheek before heading inside for the big cool pitcher of tea.
“Want more?” I asked nodding to his glass.
So she was with this other guy; that much I’d detected from their body language and the fact that he was in her house alone during the day. If she wasn’t seeing him, why were they flirting? Why was she patting his leg and kissing his cheek and letting him follow her into her house—alone. No, there was definitely something going on with them, and in my mind that was why she was keeping her distance from me. Maybe she was right, maybe there was just too much bad history between us. Maybe she just needed someone new. Some big ass tall motherfucker who was obviously in love with her. Someone who could love her without knowing everything she’d been through, knowing all that had happened to her, all she had seen. Maybe?
She’d wanted me to know that she loved me, but if she loved me, how could she love this other guy, too? I know they say it’s possible to love two people at the same time, but if one truly has your heart, the other is left with the fake, imitation kind of love. It might look real on the surface and might even feel real, but I believed that once someone had your heart, your whole heart, that no one else was getting close to it. She had mine, I knew that much. Even though it killed me to see her so close with someone who clearly wasn’t me, a bigger part of me was happy to see her smile so easily and brightly again. She deserved more than anything to be happy, and if she was, who was I to show up and make all that happiness go away?
No, I wouldn’t do that to her. Not now, not ever. So if this was how it was meant to be, so be it. I would do as Pam suggested. I’d ‘deal’ with it and I’d ‘move on.’ Sure I didn’t have the first clue how I was going to do that, but I was going to try my best. If she and I were meant to be together, we would be. And from the looks of things that day, I just assumed we weren’t.
I’d hoped I was wrong.
I stood in the bathroom—Corbett was down for his nap, Crystal would be home any minute and I was due at work in an hour. But I stood just looking at myself in the mirror. There were scars—tiny ones, hidden ones—ones only I knew where to look to find them. I was tan, tanner than I’d ever been, and it really made my long blonde hair appear even brighter. That’s when I reached for the scissors and cut. I cropped it off to just below my ears; I’d even given myself some bangs. A few snips of the blade and BAM! I looked like a new woman. I pinned my hair and applied my makeup and realized that I actually felt different too.
Three years had passed since I’d arrived in Bon Temps. It was the mid-sixties and everything all over the world was changing. Music was changing, women’s rights were changing, colored people’s right—thankfully, were changing too. Everyone was all about the love, even in small town Louisiana.
“Wow little sis, you look beautiful!”
“Thank you, Jason.” I fluffed at my hair.
“How very Jackie O of you,” Crystal commented with a smile.
“Maybe…” I smiled.
“Well, I’m off to work. Be back after three.”
Finally putting my teaching skills to good use, I’d found a part-time job about a year before. While I still wasn’t feeling all that up for huge responsibilities at the time, teaching small town kindergarten was just up my alley. It kept my mind busy, and seeing all those sweet little kids, so unaware and amazingly innocent, helped dispel some of the bitterness that I feared for a time might take me over. I’d also found a doctor in Monroe. She was a lovely woman who I saw three times a week or whenever I could, really. But three times a week was our usual appointment. And instead of sitting in a stuffy doctor’s office, we’d meet for coffee or lunch and just talk. I hadn’t made any real friends since moving to Bon Temps. The ones I had become acquaintances with were all just looking for gossip from Jason Stackhouse’s mystery sister. When they found that I wasn’t the gossiping kind—at least not with them—they soon drifted off. So, I missed my friends Lafayette and Amelia; I missed saying hello to Sam at the diner; and I missed Eric more than I thought possible.
But, as it was, I was feeling better everyday. I’d come to terms with the loss of my baby, I’d also come to terms with the fact that I would one day have to tell Eric about the baby, but that day was a ways off for me. I’d gotten in contact with Amelia and we had a phone date every Sunday night. She’d tell me all about New York and how much I’d love it there. She was more than vocal about her wanting me to visit, or even moving there permanently if I felt like I loved it—which again, she assured me I would. She and Trey had gotten married but she said she’d experienced a few ‘changes’ in herself, ones she’d tell me about in person, whatever that meant. I had no idea.
She also told me that Eric’s sister was quite well known in New York Society and that she’d seen them both in the society pages of various publications more than once. Of course, this was always her excuse to ask me if I’d found the balls to call and talk to him yet, and my answer was always the same.
You ever hear of people saying ‘I woke up one morning and I just knew, everything would be different?’ I never believed something like that could be true. But that’s what happened to me. One morning I woke up, I made myself some coffee, and I decided, enough was enough.
I was moving to New York.