“Thanks. I’m Amelia by the way, what’s your name?”
“Sookie, Sookie Stackhouse, its nice to meet you Amelia.”
“Sookie? Interesting name, how come I haven’t seen you around here before?” she’d taken the spare seat next to me at this point sliding her books and writing paper to scribble on using my pencil.
“I just started…”
“Well, you haven’t missed much we’ve only been here two weeks but most of the first week was kind of just getting to know each other, but I can fill you in on that if you’d like?”
I didn’t answer, I was too scared the teacher would catch us and yell. So I just nodded.
She pointed to the first row where two blonde girls sat prim and proper smiling and writing “Those two, steer clear, they appear nice and everything but they lie about well…everything. I had a class
with them last semester, but that’s before I changed my mind and decided that maybe teaching was the way to go.”
She sounded so casual about the whole thing, like her choices in the world were endless on what she could do.
She pointed out red head in the row in front of us and whispered “That’s Jessica Hamby, she’s a nice girl, she’s a little odd though I think she has some serious daddy issues, apparently she just came home one night and poof her dad – her only family- had left her. She’s been living off a trust fund that she’s bleeding dry at this point.”
“Oh, that’s sad.” I remarked.
“Well.” she sighed nonchalantly “She’s a little sad. Plus she over shares, she told me all this within the first five minutes of meeting her.”
Over-sharing, hmm. Something she and this Jessica had in common.
She pointed out a few other people before finally settling back into her side of the seat properly and actually listening. When the bell went the hustle began as we all filed out of the double doors.
“Hey Sookie?” I heard from behind me, and I knew it was Amelia.
So I waited until she caught up with me “Hey, so I was wondering, Jessica and I we were going to go get some food you wanna come?”
Food? That meant talking and details and me. No. Just. No.
“Oh um, I’d love to but I can’t I have to be getting back home I have a ton of stuff to do and well it…it won’t do itself you know?”
It wasn’t a total lie but it might have had a little white tinge to it.
She seemed a little disappointed at my rejection but it had been a natural reaction for me at the time.
“I’m sorry, but um…maybe another time?”
With that she perked up “Ok sure! How about Friday?”
Friday as in, two days from now Friday? Ugh. I knew this whole socialising thing was a bad idea.
She beamed “Great, there’s this little place not too far from here they do the best burgers in six parishes. And they have these really great milkshakes and it’s just super cosy you’ll love it!”
I was dreading it but I returned her smile if not her enthusiasm.
As I attempted over the next two days to calm my fears of new people and of having to explain my life to these girls I received another letter from Eric. Pre-opened of course, just like all the others. Sister Geraldine could never let one pass under the radar without having a good nosy first. I was surprised mainly because it was the first letter I’d gotten from him in almost three months. Much of the same talk on his work and the things he’d been getting up to. By this stage I’d counted, he’d been gone a little over two years. I wondered what he looked like now, had he changed from that awkwardly getting taller gangly boy with floppy blonde hair that I once knew so well? I imagined so. I looked in the mirror to reflect on my own changes in that time. Outwardly things had changed. I’d gotten a little taller, not by much but it was an improvement, my breasts had gone up a cup my hair longer, my eyes shone a little duller by the day.
Inwardly, I wasn’t really sure all that much had changed. I was still here in spirit, I was still scared of everything I didn’t know and a few things I did. I still feared the crack of the whip like nothing else in the world. I knew that the least thing would still set off Sister Geraldine and God help those on her war path. I still had no idea what was going on, at nineteen I used to think I’d understand life more as I got older but I was still waiting for that to happen.
“Sook- Sister Stackhouse could you assist me in the kitchen please.” I heard the holler, using my sisterly name meant one thing. Old Geraldine was present.
I straightened my veil checking the length of my habit, and arranging my beads in the proper manner on my belt and ran until I reached the frame of the kitchen door before slowing to a gentler pace.
As I suspected she was seated at one of the tables with her nose in the air.
“Finally, Stackhouse, we’re receiving a new priest, he arrives this evening and I’ll need you to assist in the kitchen I need to make sure the good silver is polished and the finer china is washed and dried properly this time – no stains! And I’ll be needing the good placemats that no one can seem to find and I’ll need this done by six is that clear.”
I still had trouble meeting this woman’s eye. “Yes M’am. Who is the new-”
Before I finished she sighed heavily and rolled her eyes “always with the questions, why can’t you just do as asked and leave it be. Well, if you must know. His name is Father William Compton he hails from here in Louisiana but he’d completed his training in California of all places, he however felt the need to return home after-”
She paused “Well, he just felt the need, so here he will be until Father Brigant decides to return or organise his own replacement.” with that she got up and made her way past me. She stopped at the door and returned. Rising her hand to my face I flinched, a natural reaction you might say, instead of what usually followed her raising her hand to me I got a tug instead of a slap. A piece of my hair had come loose from my veil.
“Now Stackhouse, you know the rules as well as your own name. Don’t make me chop it off – again.”
The first time she decided that my hair was a ‘nuance’ I was eleven. I’d ignored the morning bell for ten minutes more than I should have. This set me back and I didn’t braid my hair back into a bun tight enough. By the time I’d run to class from the dorm my hair had fallen down from it’s pins. I hadn’t noticed in my haste to reach class. At that time Geraldine hadn’t been the appointed teacher for my age group but she was present in the class when I entered.
I loved my hair. It was long and blonde and curled at the ends at the time all by itself. Of course that didn’t last long.
I remember her hard heels stomping on the old wooden floor once more as she stopped in front of my desk.
“Yes M’am?” I answered her in innocence. Without saying another word she yanked me from my seat, by my hair.
I screamed and I heard gasps from the other children, one of which I knew to be Eric on the other side of the room.
“Sookie do you or do you not know the rules, that all girls must…MUST obey and at all times keep their appearance neat and tidy. Cleanliness is next to godliness little girl and that mop of hair stringing around you is nothing if not vile. And if you cannot manage to keep it simple then it must come off!”
I screamed at her then. I begged her to please stop and not do it, to please stop and next time I’d have it put away. I promised, I begged again and again. And yet she still took the classroom scissors. Old almost rusting they were so old paper scissors and with a grab for a handful she lopped off my hair. I watched in agony as my hair fell to the floor and the snipping continued until all I was left with was blunt chunks missing from a style that allowed my hair to sit just at my ears. It wasn’t straight or polished or even neat. It was messy and horrid. I couldn’t see straight for an hour because I cried so hard. I cried so hard I threw up, and that of course only enraged her wrath more so. Six slaps on the hands with the bamboo, 13 hail Mary’s, confession for my insolence, and clean up duty in the kitchen for a week was my punishment.
Washing dishes with sliced up hands and a scouring pad I can tell you, wasn’t easy.
Eric had attempted to comfort me in his own way, he informed me that I didn’t like looking like a girl anyway and this only helped my mission to being a boy. He also kept telling me not to worry because hair grows, and Sister Geraldine couldn’t live forever, at eleven I found his form of comfort worked because I wanted to believe him. Part of me still wants to believe in that form of awkward comfort that
I knew to be lies.
It’s funny how some things change but inside some things are just a scared eleven year old.
Two years had snapped into focus when Niall informed me we would be heading back to the US. We’d toured the safer regions of Vietnam, then we moved out and moved on to various parts of Europe for a time, spending most of the last year in Rome with a Bishop friend of Niall’s. A year an a half before, when the …for the lack of a better term ‘fling’ with Sophie-Ann ended almost as soon as it began, I had been itching to go home, but after that I suppose I began to settle in the life so to speak.
What can I say about Sophie. She was stunning no doubt, she was also as I was to learn – completely insane. After she and I had sex for the first time, it seemed that that was the only use she had for me and if I’m honest I wasn’t completely opposed to being ‘used’ by her. It was what I could only call a mutually beneficial relationship. I didn’t love her, I liked her well enough when she wasn’t acting like a spoiled child, which wasn’t often as you can imagine. If she didn’t get her way, she pouted she stamped she moaned, then she’d snap into place again apologise and placate my concerns for her moods with sex.
Was it healthy? No. And it certainly wasn’t fair to either of us, my guilt over being with her got the better of me in the end. I’d pray for a sign I’d pray for forgiveness, I’d pray and pray like Sookie said would help. It passed my time but it did little to actually help my situation at hand. I realised I was a man of action and that action was to distance myself from her. It was extremely difficult to do when she slept three tents away.
“Why!” She screeched when I suggested that ‘no let’s talk not grope’.
“Sophie, not to sound too queer on the subject but I’d like to maybe get to know you a little bit.”
“You DO know me silly. You know me better than anyone…” she started to unbutton her blouse.
Must no get distracted. Must. Not. Get. Distracted.
I grabbed her hands to stop her mission. “Sophie I’m going to ask you something and I want you to be honest with me ok?”
She sighed but nodded a yes.
“What are we doing here?”
“Well, we would be on our way to an orgasm if you’d shut-”
“No, Sophie. In general. I have a feeling and I’ve had it since we started this…whatever this is a few months ago…and I hope I’m wrong but…Sophie are you just using me to get back at your mother?”
It was no secret that her mother, desperate to impress any and all around her actively disliked my presence in her daughter’s life. She however was desperate to be in vogue and this year was the thing to ‘do’ was charity work and lo and behold Nicole Leclerq was at top of the bill making sure all her society friends knew where she was and why she was here. Never mind that she rarely lifted a finger, spent most of her time moaning and drinking the supply of coffee. In name she was being a helping saint in the foreign lands of unknown.
Sometimes I hated people.
“Eric, sweetie I like you and I know you like me. Can’t we just…enjoy each other?”
Even though we barely knew each other.
“I need something more.”
I know I can’t believe I said it either. I was basically saying goodbye to that hot body doing things to me that made my toes tingle.
“Like…MORE. Jesus Sophie maybe a conversation or something would be nice!”
“Eric! Don’t use our Lord’s name in vain.”
Yeah sure, she’d fuck my brains out behind a priest’s tent but she wouldn’t say Jesus in vain. Amazingly hypocritical.
And I realised then, that’s exactly what I was. There I was touring and helping missionaries all the while screwing a girl I had no feelings for with the exception of what she could make me feel below my waist. I knew then that this was the reason I hadn’t mentioned her to Sookie at all in all our correspondence. I was just like Sophie, a total hypocrite.
When she moved to kiss my neck again I just shoved her off. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t allow myself to keep losing myself and my thoughts inside of her as comforting as those few hours were.
“Eric don’t play hard to get baby it doesn’t suit you.” she moved again and this time I walked to the side of my tent near the exit that had been zipped up. I unzipped it and looked at her.
“I need you to leave Sophie, and I need us to not do this again.”
“You’re…kidding.” She got off the bed gingerly while red faced and furious “You have GOT to be kidding me!”
I tried to stone my face as best as I could. I had to do this.
“It’s for our own good. We’ve been rising so much by being together like this. I mean Jesu-” I stopped myself from saying it “If you got pregnant what then? We haven’t been thinking right Sophie and if
I got you pregnant your mother would have be strung drawn and quartered!”
She laughed at that “No she wouldn’t, she do what she always does.”
“Eric you think you were the first boy who’s virginity I took? Or made love to? Or fucked senseless? Really? If you think that then you’re an idiot baby.” she looked so calm like she was telling me about the weather. “I lost my virginity when I was twelve, he was our gardener and he was sixteen. I got pregnant at thirteen – mommy dearest couldn’t have the society pages of New Orleans know about how her precious fucked a commoner and was with child…so I was sent away.”
“This place in New York, she paid some doctors they did an operation and …I wasn’t a shame on my family any more.” As I tried to comprehend what she was saying to me I sat on the chair nearest my make shift door.
“I…I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry Viking, after the third time you get used to it.”
With that she slipped on her silver heels and sashayed out of my tent.
She got to her tent less than twenty feet away and I heard her scream. There was smashing and banging and more screaming. Niall came running in concern and fear written all over his face. His short white hair in a misdirection, his eyes full of trepidation.
“Eric what did you do. I swear if you got her pregnant I don’t know what I’m to do with you!”
“I didn’t. I …ended it.”
He rolled his eyes and smiled “Halleluiah.” he zipped up my tent and I assumed went to rescue the other tent from Ms Sophie and her tantrum.
After her little ‘mood swing’ as her mother kindly put it, she decided that the best course of action was over reaction. Declarations of love, pining came and went over the days following my ending things with Sophie-Ann. When I wouldn’t respond or when I attempted to bury myself in any and all work that needed to be done, the tantrums would come again.
“Ok fine, you win.” She said as she casually leaned up against the car I’d been packing with supplies.
“What have I won?”
“I’m sorry ok? I know I can be spoiled sometimes and it can’t be easy for you to deal with. But the point is, I’m sorry and I want us to stop this silly game ok?”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes at her.
“Sophie this isn’t some sort of mind game or lie. Look I just don’t think it’s fair, to either of us if we keep doing this.”
“I don’t love you.” I paused then to look at her, I saw her confident demeanour tinge just a little. “I don’t and you don’t love me we both know that, so what’s the point in lying to ourselves?”
With as much pout as ever she folded her arms “It’s because of her isn’t it.”
“The girl, the one you’re always writing too. The one you won’t answer any questions about, the one who’s name you call out in your sleep sometimes.”
Oh, that girl. Like there was any other.
“This has nothing to do with Sookie.” I continued to pack the boxes in the back of the car.
“Sookie. That’s the name…what kind of name is that anyway? What is she some farm girl from Louisiana?”
“No.” Is all I said and that one word seemed to anger her.
“No? So what? I don’t any information on this precious Sookie but she gets all the thoughts inside your head? She gets you’re heart and she’s not even here, is that it Eric?”
“I’m not talking about this with you now please just go…do something else and leave me be.”
“No!” She stomped her foot before marching over to me. “I want to know, what is it about this girl huh? What is it about this little country hick of an orphan that gets your attention thousands of miles
away that I can’t get standing right in front of you.” she grabbed my shirt collar and forced me to look at her anger flared in her eyes that brimmed with tears.
“What is it about her?” she yelled at the top her lungs, inches from my face as she was it still didn’t garner the overreaction that she was possibly looking for. And when I didn’t react again she started pounding on her my chest with her small fists repeating her question over and over again until I finally had to grip her fists and push her back.
It wasn’t about Sookie it was about Sophie and just who she could never be.
“You’re not her.” I answered honestly and quietly as I just walked away.
The crackling of the fire outside the various tents usually stayed thriving and flaming until dawn most nights. That night I was too mentally and physically exhausted to sit out and talk or socialise with
anyone. Preferring to simply retreat to my tent and sleep.
It was sometimes after 1am when I was startled away by the sound of her voice. Sophie was out in the camp talking loudly to someone.
Only when I went I walked to the exit I realised she wasn’t talking, she was reading.
She was reading the letters that Sookie had sent to me.
“Dearest Eric, it’s been a distressing winter for all involved here at home, we got snow can you believe it! Real snow too almost three feet at one point, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that winter when I first got here, do you remember it? Days before Christmas, us and our snow angels…”
She looked up then, stopping her novel of letters she seemed to have spread around her feet.
“This is who she is? Some daft girl rambling on about snow angels. THIS is what you love?”
Those snow angels were made on the first of many nights Sookie and I snuck outside after curfew and closedown. It was her first Christmas there and I wanted her to have something. So, I taught her snow angels. She’d never seen so much snow before, so I regaled her with stories of winter’s that I remembered from home, from Sweden, from when I still had a family.
She loved it, she said that it was one of her best memories.
One of her best memories that this brat was tramping all over with her bitter tone and insane eyes.
“Sophie give me the letters. Now. And stop this! Jesus look at yourself!”
“I miss you and I hope you miss me too, this place just isn’t the same without you. Losing my sidekick as it were, it has become so lonely that I sometimes wish we could simply return to a time where snow angels and wishing for a longer recess were the foremost worries on our minds.”
“This simpering drivel is what you look forward too? Honestly Eric…”
She continued to read as Niall exited his tent in his dressing gown wearing a worried expression, her mother rounded her corner attempting to hush her but to no avail.
“I’ve read them all! All her talk of how she misses you and the times you spend together all her talk of her work and her new position. She’s a fucking NUN Eric how twisted are you. You’re in love with a fucking nun. Did you know this father? Wonderful Mr Northman here has been keeping a relationship secret all this time!” she yelled causing the rest of the workers to exit their tents in curiosity.
“Sophie, child please get a hold of yourself!” I heard Niall say in panic.
“Give me the letters Sophie.”
“NO!” she threw the one she’d been reading on the fire. Breaking a peace of my heart in the process.
“Love always, your Sookie. That’s how she ends each letter Father did you know that?”
My face reddened at her outburst. Not because of the words but because of the sentiment behind Sookie’s words. Twisting her goodbye’s into something torrid filled me with rage.
“Love. Loving a fucking nun but FUCKING the whore is that how it was Eric? Is that why you can’t look at me now? Or is it because you got sick of pretending I was your precious Sookie.”
“You could never be her, not even with the worlds’ wildest imagination you could never be her.”
“You bitch. Now give me my letters!”
With the remainder of the letters she had in her hand she turned to the fire and unceremoniously dumped them all on the flames before turning and running to her side of the camp.
The only tangible connection I had left of Sookie had in seconds turned to ash.
With that ash resembled my desire to be in that country, with those people with that woman. I needed to get out.
Father Compton was an interesting sort of fellow. He arrived and was greeted by Sister Geraldine as they talked in her office for more than an hour. He wasn’t an overly tall man, but he wasn’t tiny either. His dark brown hair sat neatly, his face free of any stubble and his grey-blue eyes fixed and curious. He was introduced to the sisters at dinner, charming each of them instantly with his tales of California and spotting movie stars on the sidewalk. All so enamoured by him and his stories they failed to notice that there wasn’t a five minute period in the entire dinner when his eyes didn’t somehow dart back to me.
I felt uneasy under his gaze. I couldn’t pin point the exact reasoning behind my reaction, but as his eyes travelled over my form, I fought the urge to cover myself with my arms, even as I sat fully clothed from head to toe – literally.
“Sister…?” he nodded in my direction.
“Stackhouse, Father.” Geraldine spoke up on my behalf. “Sister Stackhouse is still in the beginning stages of her calling Father. She has yet to take her permanent vows.”
“Interesting.” he answered. “What’s your first name then?” He nodded towards me again.
“Sookie.” I simply said as he smiled.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you Sookie. Maybe being a fellow novice here at St Jude’s you could show me the ropes would that be acceptable to you?”
“I thought Sister G-”
“Sookie don’t be so insolent! She’d be more than acceptable to your request Father.” Sister Geraldine answered again on my behalf, to which I simply nodded.
“Good. Tomorrow then?”
“I have class tomorrow, but I’d be more than happy to do it when I return if that’s alright?”
He frowned but nodded his acceptance. The next day was Friday and I had after all agreed to meeting Amelia after class. It wasn’t that I couldn’t use a friend, it wasn’t that I didn’t think she was a nice girl or that she wouldn’t be fun to hang around with. I wanted all those things to be, I just didn’t want to have to explain my life.
Orphan, nun, completely socially retarded.
Class came and went and afterward I saw Amelia and the girl she talked about Jessica standing by the exit, waiting for me.
“Hi Sookie!” She greeted me with a warm smiled and a quick hug, neither I was used to in a greeting.
Jessica was tall for a girl, she was thin and had long straight ginger hair that set off her big beautiful blue eyes. She smiled nervously at me as she said “hi.”
Right away Amelia started rambling. “Well we thought we’d go to Merlotte’s. It’s this bar and grill just a little bit down the way” she pointed to the left of the campus “It’s off campus of course but it’s not too far away.”
On entering the eatery I noticed that it had a very southern feel, it wasn’t attempting to be something it wasn’t. Red leather booths on a dark hard wood floor on one side of the building and a bar with some tables on the other. Since we were so clearly underage we’d be seated in the booths as far away from the front of house as possible.
“What can I get you ladies tah-day.” came a very squeaky southern twang that belonged to a very thin fake redhead, her name tag told me it was ‘Arlene’.
“Some menus please.” Jessica piped up causing the fake red head to roll her eyes as she handed us three menus.
“Sookie you should order the Burger-Lafayette. It’s amazing what he can do with beef!” Jessica commented and just as she did a tall black man with more mascara that I’d ever seen outside of the pictures waltzed up to our table.
“Meels, Jessica, girls it’s been too long. And Jessica how’s you know what I can do with …the beef, what have you heard little girl?” With that both Jessica and Amelia burst out laughing.
“Oooh and who is this little cream puddin’?” He said sliding into the booth beside Jessica, staring at me.
“Sookie huh? Well, I’m Lafayette, and I’m your cook for today so what you havin’?”
“Um well…” I looked to Amelia “Burger-Lafayette sounds amazing.”
He swished his hand in the air a little “Little girl you don’t know how amazing!”
“Me too” Jessica and Amelia said in unison causing us all to smile at their goof.
“Now, Sookie how comes I ain’t seen you here before? You knew in town or something?” He asked.
“No, I just…well honestly I don’t get out much.”
He looked me up and down then. I felt like my outfit as well as myself were under a bright light and a magnifying glass.
“Hmm.” he said “You don’t say. Girl, where did you get those…and I use this term loosely ‘clothes’. Amelia you let your girl go out like this?”
“Laff, don’t be rude. Sookie is a new friend and she can dress how she likes…”
“What’s wrong with how I dress?” I defended.
“Nothin'” Lafayette said “But you’s isn’t a sixty year old librarian is you?”
“Sookie don’t you worry, little pinning little primping…you’ve got the goods under there I can tell. Meels and I will work our witch-y magic on you and boom all the boys be falling at your tiny little feet. Huh what you say.”
“Lafayette leave her alone, Sookie is shy ok?”
He pressed his lips together and looked as apologetic as I could see past his eyeliner.
I’d never seen anyone like him in my whole life. It’s not as if I had much experience with men, let alone men of another colour, but he was something entirely different to anyone I’d ever met. He had feminine qualities that shone through but he was build like a man, a man who knew how to take care of himself in any situation I imagined.
“I’m sorry Sookie, it’s just sometimes I come on too strong and come off as rude. For my rambling insensitivities how about I give you three lunch on the house…Just uhh don’t tell Sam.” he smiled.
“Sam?” I asked.
“Merlotte, he owns this joint. Sam, he’s a nice guy you know? Real nice. Too nice some might say. But he gave me this job and it’s not easy being me, but ah am just too fabulous to change so he says. Well what he said was ‘unique’ so I’m just going to take that as a good and keep me my mouth shut you know?”
I didn’t know. It felt like he was speaking in tongues or riddles or something so I just nodded.
“So Sookie, what do you do besides hang around with these two jezebels and want to be a teacher. Are you…courting?”
Was I what?
“Oh girl now, don’t get nervous. You is a pretty little cream pie I am sure, and I am sure you taste as good as you smell. Mmmhmm.” he said with flair
“But I…Well let’s just say I drive on the other side of the road you feel me?”
This earned a loud laugh from all three at my table. I just waned.
“Child no. I’m what the bible bangers call an ‘abomination'”
My eyes widened. Oh my Lord.
“Lafayette are you a… homosexual?” I whispered.
“Yes child I is. And proudly so. Do you have a issue with that?”
Did I? I should have. We were always taught that it was wrong. To lie with that of the same sex was wrong.
But he didn’t feel wrong. He felt alive and funny and brash and beautiful. We were taught that God doesn’t judge, but if I were to think his life was wrong I’d be judging wouldn’t I? He wasn’t wrong he was just different.
“No of course I don’t, no one can help who we love right?”
He smiled then, a big bright smile that reached his eyes.
“Good, glad to hear it. Now if you excuse me I have some cooking to do.” and with that he swished his legs out of the booth and walked purposely from our table.
I exhaled a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.
“So that’s Laff, he’s a little intense but he means well he really does.” Amelia began “And he likes you. He never offers to makeover people he can’t see good in. I mean he tries to be a good Christian and see go in everyone but when his family kicked him out and he had to move here all alone I guess his Christian spirit was tested to it’s limits you know.”
“His family just abandoned him?” I asked.
“Well of course, Sookie he’s …you know… and while I think it’s fine an all his folks just weren’t pleased. Fucking Texans.”
“Amelia!” Jessica scolded.
“I’m sorry but they just kicked him out Jessica I can’t stand that hypocrisy. He’s a son their son, it just ain’t right.”
Oh Jesus, Mary and St Joseph. If I tell them I’m one of those Bible Bashers they’re going to hate me.
Panic set in and I guess it was an easy thing to detect since Jessica looked worried in my direction.
“Something wrong Sookie?”
“What? No! I …No I just.” Just tell them already it’ll be fine.
“I just remembered that I have to do something and I just completely forgot about it so I should really go!”
“But we haven’t’ eaten yet! Amelia chimed in as I grabbed my purse to leave.
“I’m really sorry Amelia. Bye Jessica.”
I bolted. Cowardly? Completely so.
I just froze. I knew I’d have to tell them eventually and it’s not that I was ashamed of my past…Well ok that’s another lie. I was really racking them up today wasn’t I?
Flustered by the time I got back to church I attempted to calm myself down before I went into the back to the back of the church to find Fr Compton. I realised then I was still in my street clothes and didn’t really feel right about addressing him without my ‘uniform’. Call me crazy, but I felt naked without it, I felt almost vulnerable. My navy dress covered me, my stocking covered me, my heels gave me a better posture – if sore feet, and my hair had fallen out of it’s bun on the rush to get inside.
The last thing I really wanted to do was show him ‘the ropes’ as he called it, but I knocked on his office door regardless.
“Ah Sookeh. Come in.” I could almost feel his eyes travel over my body. I wanted to cringe.
“It…it’s Sookie not… you know what never mind. You wanted me to show you around?”
“Yes if that’s ok? Sister Geraldine offered but since you’re a new-”
“I’m not so new, I grew up in the orphanage adjoined to here Father, so my fresh perspective that you might have been hoping for is I’m afraid rather tinged with years of knowing this place almost as much as the rest of the Sister’s.”
“Well that’s interesting, shall we anyway?” I led the way.
Assuming he’d been given the basic tour of the church and it’s office since he’d already began loading boxes in there. I moved on to the convent grounds. Showing him the gardens and the prayer garden as it was called. What it was in reality was a small patch of the garden that wasn’t used for fruit or vegetable growth, but was instead covered with pink roses and bluebells home to one bench and two stone statues. One of the Virgin Mary and one of St Jude. After showing him the ins and outs of the orphanage and introducing him to a few of the older kids we made our way back to the gardens. The heels that I had been wearing now fully killing my feet with every step.
On our walk I found he was thirty five, from a small town in North Louisiana, spent some years in California that he seemed reluctant to talk about. He seemed to speak well of old Geraldine which struck me as odd, since no one spoke well of that woman – ever. He seemed like a nice man, although there was an air of falseness about him that I could spot a mile wide. Having spent most of my life hiding my true emotions from those around me, I suppose it gave me a slight insight into others that did the same.
“Sookie perhaps we should sit.” he gestured and I couldn’t not take the advise. Damn heels.
“So what do you think of it so far?” I asked.
“Miserable.” he laughed “But, there are things that have the potential to be very beautiful here, so that’s something.”
It didn’t go unnoticed that he stared at me when he said that, of course forcing a blush to creep in.
“Sookie, my I ask you something personal?”
“Why did you choose this life? I mean you’re an articulate …clearly beautiful young woman. From I first saw you I’ve been wondering why someone like you would choose this life.”
“So only ugly old people can become servants of God is that it?” I laughed, laughing in the hopes of shaking off the awkward conversation.
“Not at all. All I mean is, I find it hard to believe there isn’t some man out there wishing you were his instead of promised to Our Lord.”
I shook my head no, for in truth I was sure there was no such person. Eric and I had attempted something foolish at one point. But a few stolen kisses and a drunken fumble years before didn’t add up to much. No matter how much I missed him.
He then shifted closer to me, laying his hand on my knee. I almost jumped at the contact.
“Sookie, I want you to know, If you need anything…Anything at all I want you to come to me understand?”
“I don’t care what’s she said, she strikes me as the kind of person who likes to make sure she’s nice to the right people…would I be correct?”
I simply smiled.
“Ah I knew it. Well, regardless. If there is anything you need at all.” He squeezed by knee then moving his hand slightly up my leg.
This didn’t feel right at all.
“You know where I’ll be.” he lingered so close I could almost feel his breath on my face.
No, not right at all.
“Uh. I…Um. I should really be getting changed. We have prayer service soon and then …I should just…” I attempted to move and he moved with me, standing next to be he reached for my hair
caressing it as he pushed it being my shoulders.
“Yes you should change into something more suitable. We can’t have you showing off your beauty like this and making all the other ladies jealous now can we?” It was meant I’m sure as a compliment, instead it made my skin crawl in an unfamiliar way.
“I’m sorry I ran out on you and Jessica the other day. I just…I need to explain something and at the time I wasn’t really ready.” I sighed hoping that she wasn’t completely upset with me.
“Why I’m so …weird around new people I guess.” I exhaled and began “Basically I was raised in the St Jude’s orphanage, you know across town? And well, I’d been there since I was a little kid, and I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to peruse a calling so I joined the convent.”
“You’re…a nun?” She looked shocked. “Wow, well I mean that…I mean that’s cool I guess, if you’re sure that’s what you want.”
Why does everyone say that?
“Oh. Ok. Well I mean doesn’t that mean you should be preaching at me and Lafayette?”
Preaching at her because as she told me, she lives in ‘sin’ with her boyfriend Tray.
I had to laugh. I knew that was a misconception, one that I didn’t plan on living up to.
“No. I mean it’s what we’re taught yes, but we’re also taught that God is a forgiving being and that we’re all made in his image right? So if Lafayette is God’s image, heaven will be a ~fabalush~ place I’m sure!” I laughed out loud then, as did she. Sipping her cola she sat back in the booth. “Well in the spirit of honesty. I’m a Wicca.”
“Witch. I practice white magic.”
My eyes widened.
“It’s not devil worship if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s all good magic. I only cast spells that help not hinder. I believe in good karma too so the last thing I want is anything nasty coming MY way.”
Karma. An interesting concept I had to admit.
“Okay then, any more…shocks?”
“Nope that’s all my shocking details, at least I think!” she smiled. “So explain this nun thing to me.”
And so I did, and in doing so it made me feel a hundred times lighter that I felt when I first walked into Merlotte’s to meet her again. Maybe this whole friend thing wouldn’t be so hard after all.