Leaving the group we’d spent so much time with was a sad day, though it did allow the bonus of leaving behind Sophie-Ann, her mother and their truck load of mental issues.
Sure, it was probably the un-Christian thing to do but there was only so much crazy a person could take before they caught the crazy, and six months in their company was more than enough.
Spending the next year and a half in Rome was an experience. Rome, it was unlike anywhere I’d ever seen or even read about. The amount of historic beauty in one place was breathtaking, while the tourist jams seemed to be full of the well to do and wealthy it was the out skirts of the city that held the poorer inhabitants at the time. We were fortunate enough to be staying with an old friend of Niall’s. Spending so much time with these people, these men of faith, enfolding myself in the world of religious politics was in evitable I suppose. It was watching the other’s reaction to the pope giving his mass or the bishops visiting or the other Father’s simply dispatching advise that I felt the surge of hope within me. Perhaps this was the faith that Sookie always talked about?
Only my faith didn’t seem to be in the deity that no one could see, I wanted to put my faith in the men we could see. I wanted to be one of those men that inspired that kind of faith, these people looked to God to help them when in reality it was the men in black shirts and white collars that did the physical helping. I understood the need for faith, I had gotten a better understanding of it seeing the people who need it most within their worlds every day. Those with the least seemed to believe the most. When the possessions seemed few, their faith seemed to be the one thing no one could take from them. I liked that no matter how unrealistic it was to believe in a man in heaven controlling us all like puppets on a string…that it gave them comfort to believe.
I finally realised the pointed wasn’t what you believed in, but just that you believed.
“What do you mean, no?”
“Eric honestly this isn’t something to take lightly. It’s a decision that will effect the rest of your life, I’d like you to think about it some more before you go making any rash-”
“But I have thought about it, Father, the work that we do here…Yes at first I found it a bit strange and tiresome but I do think that I could do this.”
“There is ‘this’ and there is ‘priesthood’ Eric, the two are very different!”
“But I can do this!” I argued.
“You can’t tell me what to do!”
“I’m not telling you what to do, I’m telling you what not to do. Eric this life, it’s not easy and you my boy are far too free spirited to cage yourself in this life! I won’t allow it!”
This shocked me. Since I considered Niall to be one of those free spirited people, I had come to see over the time we’d spent together, not at all what I would have pegged as ‘caged’.
“What do you mean…You love this life.”
“Well, don’t you?”
He sighed as he took the seat next to me. “Eric, times were extremely different in my day. While yes I do enjoy my life now, it hasn’t always been easy. I was put into seminary right after boarding school, there was no choice in the matter for me. My mother and father, well they insisted on it. But honestly had I been given a choice this is not the life I would have chosen, no.”
“But …Well…I mean why didn’t you just leave?”
He scoffed. “And risk the shame and wrath of my family? No boy that would have been suicide! No. I had my faith of course though it hasn’t always been unwavering. Religion is politics just under a thicker cloak boy, and you are too…nice for this life.”
“I am not.”
“Eric, don’t. I know you’re a big guy now and you could lift this old man with one hand I’m sure” he laughed “But as I’ve told you before, you’ve got a good heart. This life would only harden it on you.”
Stubborn as I was I continued to look into it for a number of weeks. All the while with Niall doing he best to talk me out of it.
“Eric.” I heard his voice travel from the study he was working in to the living room where I was reading. I made my way to see him and he asked me to close the door.
“Have you dropped this idea of yours yet?” he said casually, as he sat behind the desk. It reminded me of the last time I sat opposite him in an office. The night he caught Sookie and I making out.
“Not really. But if I don’t do this Niall I -”
“You’re worried what you’ll do once we return home, yes?”
“Well, that cousin of yours that writes you she has been pressing that you come see her hasn’t she?”
It was true. Pam had been insistent that I come visit at the very least. She was persuasive and firm on the subject of doing it “before she withers up and dies waiting”
“Why don’t you go see her for a while, perhaps a fresh take on things might help you see a different path.”
“I may, but I don’t think I’ll stay there. As much as I hate to admit it, I miss Louisiana.”
He smirked slightly then, pushing his little round glasses up on his nose.
“Louisiana, or just a certain person IN Louisiana?”
“Well of course I miss her, it would be a lie to say anything else.”
“Do you love the girl Eric?”
That stunned me. I never expected him to actually ask that out loud. I knew he thought it, ever since Sophie-Ann and her breakdown I’d seen the question almost linger in the air on the subject of Sookie.
“I’m only asking because if you think that working within the church like you’re planning to, as a priest…Well you know loving a woman isn’t permitted, never mind loving a nun, acting on it …Well you must know how sinful that would be! She plans to take her vows Eric. Sookie, she’s a special girl. She has gifts to offer and one of them is her unwavering faith. But I must admit, I never expected her to stay at St Jude’s. She is one of those caged birds Eric, even at almost seventeen that much was obvious. But, she found a path she wants to walk. Walking it won’t be easy though. Walking with you, you are both fond of each other I know that much…and being so close to each other and not being able to act on …certain impulses.”
“Niall come on not the old impulses talk again, I’m not a kid any more!”
“I know that Eric, I’m just making sure you’re fully aware of her situation.”
“You need to know, this means a life of …abstinence. Which means no more dalliances with women! It means giving up certain freedoms, you’re a role model for a community. You’re surrounded by people all kissing you’re arse because they believe you to be a conduit to the Lord…there is endless cups of tea, Eric, it’s not easy.” He laughed.
“Boy, if you want to do this I will help you. I love you like a son Eric, you know that. Had I ever chosen… another life, I’d only hope I’d have been blessed with a son with your heart. You know where I stand on this, but like I said. If it’s what you want. I will help.”
His words affected me then, I knew he and I had a bond, one that can only be build when you spent as much time with one another as we did. We bickered, we argued and we sometimes out right fought each other on our issues. I didn’t really remember my real father, but Niall, I had come to realise had become a surrogate of sorts.
When he said he’d help, he really meant it. Getting me into seminary in Rome wasn’t easy but he did it. And I did it for the year and half we spent there, I studied and I forced myself to adapt to the lifestyle. He committed me to it talking me up to various priests with political clout, the bishop friends he’d made over the years and various other figures within the clergy. He still maintained I wasn’t cut out for this life, but I argued that I had nothing left to lose so vowing to have nothing didn’t really matter much to me at that point. Yes I realise that it was my stubborn streak taking over and dominating that choice but it was a choice I was sure was the right one, one that I could live up to and do well. Women, that sacrifice was a tough one but I’d only ever really attached myself to one woman emotionally and she wasn’t an option for me or so it seemed. That, and the one I attached myself to physically turned out to have a sanity impairment! My cockiness and self assurance within my decision went unquestioned, all until I laid eyes on her again then everything spun out of control, in ways neither of us could have imagined.
“So this Eric guy… What’s his deal?”
“You know…did you and he ever…?” She wriggled her eyebrows at me and I instantly blushed.
“Ohhh Lil Sookie you holding out on me! Spill!”
“No, ok we never…did that. I mean we’d been best friends for years you know? But no we’d never really …I don’t know I mean I liked him and I think he liked me, or my boobs at least.” I laughed remembering him, completely un-subtle he was when staring at times. “But things just changed by the time we were old enough he was gone and, well, I guess now it’s just not even an option.”
“But you’re not a nun yet.” she pointed out.
“No maybe not in writing but I’ve taken the basic vows and I’ve chosen to live this life so breaking that vow even though it’s not the BIG vow – it would still be sin Amelia. Besides, I could never…Sex outside of marriage is just wrong and FAR too risky my God.”
She raised her eyebrows at me, in the few months that I’d gotten to know her I’d learned to read her facial expressions pretty well.
“Don’t you and Tray are a different kettle of fish.”
“You’re getting married right? That’s totally acceptable…I mean don’t tell the nuns I said that, but it is. He loves you, you love him, there’s a ring involved.”
“So I get a ring he gets laid and we all go to heaven?” she giggled.
“What you two giggling about without ME!” Lafayette all but exclaimed as he slid into the booth beside me.
“Nothin!””SEX!” Amelia burst out with. I blushed, and looked around, thankfully no one was looking at us. Lunch rush was over and there wasn’t really anyone lingering around, but us that is.
“Oohh sex huh? With who? No our little Virgin Mary here…”
Yes that’s what he called me. After he finished laughing his sides sore that a ‘girl with that mouth and that rack’ was a nun – well it was apparently hilarious.
“Wuut.” he smiled at me.
“Sookie had a boy…Well ok she didn’t ‘have’ him, but from the sounds of things she damn well should have! He sounded kind of hot. I mean in a lanky blond kid kind of way.”
I continued to blush.
“Who was this?” Lafayette pounced. He was practically clapping to hear more.
“Eric Northman mystery boy.” Amelia smirked before she took a sip of her soda.
“We’re friends, we still write to each other and stuff.” I explained quickly “I miss him though, that place never seemed that bad when he was around. No matter how ‘bad’ it actually was. He’s originally from Sweden you know?”
“Oooh, Mr Viking man! Y’all never bumped uglies then? I bet he was just dying to get his hands on those puppies!”
I smacked him on the arm then, “Lafayette, you stop that right now. That’s nasty talk and you know it!”
“How’s creepy Compton?” he asked then, thankfully changing the subject.
Apparently Lafayette liked to give people nick names.
“Bill is…fine. I mean he’s nice.”
“You said he creeped you out, how is that nice?” Amelia spoke up.
“He’s been ok lately. I mean he’s stopped creeping up on me so much, he knows that scares me. I threatened to put a bell on him though! And, he’s kept Sister Geraldine off my back more than once. Maybe he’s just awkward?”
“Or a weirdo.” she mused.
I hated laundry. The chores rolled on a rota and this week I was on laundry duty. The first time they’d put me in charge of it, I washed the habits and the veils together. Turning the white veils grey. Needless to say this didn’t go over well with Geraldine. That night she’d gotten a chance to test run her new weapon of evil, a skinny rod covered in sharp raised ridges almost like spikes, it passed for a walking aid ordinarily. Of course in this case it helped to halt my walking for two days. After that she made me wash the clothes by hand for a week.
So yes, I hated laundry, that and the room that held the washing machine was spooky. It was in the basement of the convent. The light was dim to say the least with just one tiny window to let any natural light though, it was dusty and smelled of mould and dampness in the walls and there was bits of old plumbing, benches from the church just laying around down there too. It always seemed like the longest time waiting for those spin cycles to finish.
I jumped, not expecting to hear anyone down there and since I didn’t hear him come down the stairs at all, my heart was racing.
“My…God. Father! I told you not to do that!”
“I’m sorry.” he looked on sheepishly.
“It’s ok. Um. Did you need something?”
He walked up to me then, almost touching we were so close. Clearly a personal space didn’t exist in Bill’s world.
“I hadn’t seen you in a few days, I was just wondering how you were. How is school going?”
“It’s fine Father, it-”
“How many times Sookie, please, call me Bill. It makes me feel so…old and stuffy, when you call me Father.”
“Uh, Father, if it’s all the same to you, as a professional courtesy I’d rather use your title. If that’s ok with you.”
“Is there something wrong with my name?” he took a step closer as I took one step back landing me against the machines. I was boxed in between him and the shaking machine.
“No of course not. I just don’t refer to the other priests by their first names…it’s just not how I was raised. So, it’s a tad odd for me to do so with you. Is all.”
He smiled, and it wasn’t a happy smile. It was almost a smile through anger.
“Sookie, Sookie, but we’re different. We’re friends you and I aren’t we?”
“How about this! How about I let you call me whatever you like when other people are around but you call me Bill when we’re alone? How’s that?”
Was he planning on ‘being alone’ with me often? I wondered.
“Um, that’s …Yeah ok?”
“Ok. So now that that’s sorted. I wanted to ask you if you’d accompany me to the pictures this evening.”
“Oh Bill that’s sweet.” It wasn’t sweet it was odd. Priests and nuns did not socialise outside of church functions or Christmas. “But I really shouldn’t, I have a ton of work to do for class and I’m assisting with the little ones tomorrow as well as all the things I have to do between now and then. I just…shouldn’t.”
“Ah Sookie, but we all do things we shouldn’t every now and then don’t we?” he actually winked at me and it caused me to cringe so hard I think I sprained a muscle.
“All the same, Bill, I’d rather not.”
Something that resembled anger flashed in his eyes, but it was gone in as soon as it appeared and he smiled again.
“Ok, well, suit yourself.” with that he sighed, grazed my arm with his finger and turned and left. Needless to say I was left slightly flummoxed by his flip flop behaviour.
His oddness wasn’t confusing but I was trying to just accept him just as he was, odd or not he was my superior – everyone was my superior but him in particular. I didn’t want to have him on my bad side, I had enough of that with Sister Geraldine – though I don’t actually know the cause of her dislike. There wasn’t many people she ever seemed to like come to think of it. But she and Bill got on like a crazy house on fire.
That was worrying.
New York wasn’t anything like I expected. I knew from Pam’s letters that it was a melting pot of what she called ‘metropolitan madness’ but I never expected it to be so…large.
But then again I hadn’t had that much experience in large cities. Stockholm was one thing, but I was a little kid and it was home. Then Louisiana was like a different world in comparison. Then, travelling with Niall afforded me a glimpse at parts of the world I’d only dreamed of but even they were nothing like New York.
I met up with Pam two days before I turned twenty one. Seeing her again after all these years was in itself a mind blowing experience. She was nothing like the awkward little girl I’d known years before. She was tall and graceful, porcelain skinned and striking with her blue eyes and almost-but-not-quiet blonde hair. I’d spoken to her on the phone from Rome, the phone I’d thought about using to call Sookie – but then realised the only phone in the convent would be in Sister Geraldine’s office, and the last thing I wanted hearing Sookie for the first time in three years was knowing that old bat was listening in too. So I waited, I’d waited three years what was a couple of more weeks right?
Meeting Pam and seeing her smile wide that matched my own, she hugged me tight while informing me I was one of the few lucky ones who got this treatment because and I quote ‘this bitch is not a hugger’. She was a force of nature, loud but in an intelligent way, soft and quiet when necessary and so pleased to see me she couldn’t stop laughing.
“So what about your dad?”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, he and wife number two got a divorce causing the New York society pages to go nuts for the scandal – I hated her. All the time growing up all she wanted was to dress me up and parade me around her friends. I was really like her doll. She refused to give my father a child and he’d been threatening to divorce her for years. Well, finally he found someone who was willing to give him more children…she’s a year older than me it’s a little sick if you ask me. She’s twenty-two and a secretary for his company, she’s nice enough if a little dim. She sees dollar signs and who can blame her really and as long as he has a pre-nup who cares right?”
I simply nodded. All the while thinking of how we were told over and over that this ‘divorce’ thing between couples was a sin and that you’d burn in hell for it. I don’t think Pam saw it quiet the same way.
I stayed with her in her apartment, she lived alone which I thought strange for a young woman. I mean weren’t they meant to live with their parents till they got married? That’s what the priests said anyway.
On the second day with her she’d made us breakfast and we sat on her balcony over looking Manhattan.
She grilled me on what it was like growing up in that place, on why I never took to a foster family, why I never tried hard to get adopted. Then she asked about Sookie and said that she hadn’t heard from her in writing in quite a while, she had thought that once she turned eighteen that the two of us would have run off somewhere and had annoying little blonde babies or something.
When I told her that Sookie had joined the Convent she was stunned, relaying that she remembered how in the letters she would always rant on how she hated them and hated that place. She was right and it was one of the main reasons why her choice perplexed me so for such long time.
That was until I made the choice for myself, and with Niall pulling all the strings in his bow for me I’d been able to use my training with him to shorten my Seminary experience to the last two years in Rome as long as I agreed to allow Niall to be my tutor of sorts once I got back to the states. It worked out well since he was getting on in years and would need an assistant while I needed to be shown the ropes so to speak. It meant moving back to Louisiana and it meant seeing Sookie again. Niall was weary of this but I explained to him that I’d made my choice and she hers, we were friends and that’s all we were meant to be.
“So! I have something I should tell you. It’s-”
“No wait, I’ve been wanting to do this since you got here.” She disappeared into her bedroom and came back with an envelope.
“What’s this?” I smiled as she handed it to me.
“Well it’s a present. I don’t know consider it a big giant birthday present for all the birthdays we’ve missed?”
I opened it and inside there was a contract, one with her father’s company letterhead and his signature. It was a job offer.
“It’ll include an apartment near here, access to the company car if you need it – but you won’t cabs are just easier and cheaper, it’s salary so it’s great money, believe he I hashed this out for you myself.”
“But Pam…I don’t know anything about working in publishing?”
She rolled her eyes “No one really knows anything starting off Eric, we all have to learn, and you’ll learn under me.”
“Your daddy lets you work?”
She sighed and rolled her eyes again for effect “Yes, daddy learned after many years of trying to squeeze me into a debutant size mould that it just wasn’t going to fly with me. And, when they figured they wouldn’t have any more kids I was shown the ropes since he was convinced he wouldn’t have an ‘heir’ to take it over. He often spoke of how stupid it had been to leave you in Louisiana, but even when I begged him to go get you…he never would.”
“No it wasn’t him, well I mean it was and it wasn’t. It was mostly HER. I was burden enough she wasn’t about to put up with another one, she use to say.” with that admission she softened a little “I’m sorry we left you there Eric. Your letters used to break my heart when we were little, knowing I couldn’t get you out.”
“It’s okay you know? Now. It’s ok now. Then, God I just didn’t understand it you know? For a long time I just didn’t get how it was ok to be part of a family one minute and on your own the next. I blamed myself for a while, then I blamed god, then I blamed your dad for being a toolbox and leaving me, then…well you get the idea.”
“How did you get past it?”
“Sookie.” I said without hesitation. “She had just as much right to be angry but she wasn’t. I don’t know, I guess her calm wore off on me or something.”
She silently nodded.
“So how is Sookie?”
“She uh…Well I don’t really know. I mean we write an all, but I haven’t’ seen her in years so I couldn’t really tell you how she is. She has a tendency to gloss over things in writing, you kind of have to lock eyes with her to really get the full story.”
“So about the job…”
“Right, um well Pam it’s amazing and thank you for doing it for me and it seems wonderful…”
“But…well you see I …I joined seminary and I’m becoming a priest.” I said it so fast in the hopes that she might not hear me, for some reason I just knew this wouldn’t go over well with her little atheist self
She blinked once, slowly, her mouth slid open slightly. She blinked again. Then the stunned silence broke with a yell.
“The fucking PRIESTHOOD? Are you brain damaged or something?”
“No, don’t you Pam me. You’ve been here days Eric, DAYS and it’s now you just decide to tell me this? Why? Why would you throw your life into something like that? I thought you hated all those old pricks!”
“Pam, Jesus please!”
“Yes, JESUS INDEED. Oh my God.” she paced her living room then, her sharp heels digging into her plush cream carpets “They’ve brainwashed you haven’t they, they have! They’ve hypnotised you or something Eric this is just so stupid!”
“Because…ERIC.” She ran her hands through her hair “You know this means no getting laid, no getting married, no kids, no Sookie?”
“What makes you think that this has anything to do with-”
“Oh please do not even try to bullshit me, cousin. You two have been the apple of each other’s eye forever and here was I thinking that you’d get it together and court the girl – she seemed like the kind of girl that would like that sort of lame traditionalist bullshit. And I don’t know, get married and pop out some creepy blond kids and buy a house in the suburbs or something…But THIS? This I did not expect.”
Wow, she’d thought about Sookie and I a lot it seemed.
“You deny it then?” She raised her brow at me daring me to lie to her.”No. I loved her once, I think? Pam, what do I know about love? Everyone I’ve ever been close too has just…and I was a kid, and when I left we were both still just kids. Besides she made her choice.”
“Is that why you made yours? So that you’d still be close to her somehow?”
I looked at the ground for fear if I looked her in the eye she’d call me out on all my shit.
“Maybe? Is that so wrong? I miss her ok? And with her being there it just…Look it’s fine. I liked Seminary. The philosophy and teachings it was all really interesting and it’ll be interesting to teach when the time comes.”
“And the whole ‘one God almighty’ religious hypocritical life you’ll be leading that doesn’t bother you?”
“It’s not hypocritical if you believe Pam.”
“And you do?”
“I do.” I sighed as she finally sat next to me.
“Fine. Fine Eric, fine.” She lamented “I don’t understand this AT ALL but…you’re right this is your life, your choice. But when it goes all tits up, you can expect a lengthy ‘I told you so’ you hear me?”
“I hear you.” I smiled slapping on as much sugar to my tone as I concluded “You’re unique brand of support means the world to me cousin.” I kissed her on the forehead and she slapped me, calling me an over-grown man child in the process.
A week with Pam that involved letting her shop for me, get me drunk more than once and having her introduce me to her friends in the hopes of getting me laid and changing my mind about my life choices – was more than enough. She insisted she had a shopping addiction, kind of like how people needed coffee or cigarettes, she insisted she needed to shop. And even though I insisted I didn’t need clothes since I’d be in the appointed ‘uniform’ most of my time anyway didn’t deter her. I arrived with one suitcase, I left with six. Six suitcases, a bank account for what she called ‘just in case’ money and a promise of a weekly phone call to New York, and I was back on my way to Louisiana.
I could do this.
My first week of teaching solo went well, I was more than proud of myself for pulling it off. There wasn’t much to be taught academically speaking at first. I mean I was dealing with thirty, four to nine year olds.
I would see Amelia twice a week when chores, church and school would allow me the time to traipse across town and have lunch with her in Merlotte’s, or at times a few streets further at her town house. I’d gotten to know Jessica well over the time we studied together too, she was a sweet girl a lot quieter than Amelia that’s for sure, but she was a nice person and for that I was glad. I needed them to balance out how life changed at the convent. Father Compton had settled in nicely, a little too nicely with Sister Geraldine, and with the two of them running the show so to speak life was a living hell most of the time.
Rules where on strict orders to be followed now more so than before. Chores cooking cleaning all was increased and the time constraints on which to have it all done were cut down. Now we had to rise at 4am instead of 5am, lights out at 9pm at the very latest. We were to be in our cells by 7 for reflection on the nights that mass wasn’t held at night. Between this, the charity work with the church, the school and helping the older Sisters with the duties that Geraldine had assigned then – unfairly for their age might I add – well I was exhausted.
Father Bill, or Creepy Compton as Lafayette had continued to call him, left me alone for the most part personally. He stopped creeping up on me, he stopped trying to ask me ‘out’ which was great and it helped me relax a little more around him. Though as time went on their was a strain in my working relationship with him. He would find ways of blaming his messes on me or the other sisters, which would of course lead us to being punished. There was a few novice Sister’s like myself. They didn’t like to talk much…Well, actually they didn’t like to talk much to me more to the point. I had no idea why and for the longest time it was like being back on that playground all alone all over again. That was until I over heard them calling me a ‘snitch’ and saying that I was the one that was making up stories about them and reporting them to Geraldine and Bill.
I of course tried to explain that it wasn’t me and that I had no idea where they heard that but that it was lies. They didn’t believe me, so after that I just left them alone and thankfully they avoided me as much as possible too.
Stressful? You bet.
Picking the tomatoes in the garden was always a strenuous task, I don’t know how the older Sister’s did it. Not only did it make my back twinge, but in my small habit and veil it was extremely inaccessible. I heard the footsteps, and I assumed it was either Sister Margaret or Fr Dearborn the new-old Father that was in place of Fr Brigant till his return. It wasn’t until I heard him cough that I turned my head.
Squinting in the sunlight, I saw a tall figure standing by one of the pillars, just casually leaning. Attempting to shield the light out of eyes with one hand and get up from my knees with the other wasn’t easy but I squinted again and this time asked “Can I help you, sir?”
I heard a smirk, an unmistakable smirk “I don’t know, can you?” came the laugh behind it.
I knew right then it was Eric. The excitement that took over just couldn’t have been contained, even if I had wanted to contain it.
He was back. He was here. He was safe.
“Oh my GOD!” I said, getting louder with each word, my basket was abandoned as I made my way towards him as he jogged towards me, both of us with what I’m sure were the goofiest grins two people have ever worn adorned across our faces.
“Stackhouse aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”
“Eric, I …Oh My …I didn’t know you where home! I can’t believe this! Why didn’t you tell me!”
I reached him and didn’t hesitated to fly straight into his open arms for the hug that I’d waited three years for.
He seemed taller, he was stronger, tan and warm. He smelled like soap and something other – almost spicy. “I wanted to surprise you!” he said joyfully, and neither of us moved. Still embraced in our hug at length that even I knew was not socially acceptable given both his and my circumstances.
“God I missed you Stackhouse”
“I missed you too. How is it possible you got even taller? My goodness!” I couldn’t stop smiling, my jaws were beginning to hurt.
Finally separating he still held on to my arms looking me over as I did him. It was almost like we both couldn’t believe we were both in the same space again finally.
“I miss your hair” he blurted out and by the look on his face that wasn’t the first thing he had planned on saying to me. It made me laugh loud only Eric would focus on that detail.
My hair was hidden under my white veil covering, and my habit being black in colour, compared to the Sister’s who completed their vows who wore slightly larger ones in black.
I suddenly felt self conscious, even though my entire body was covered from head to toe, I felt naked under his gaze.
“No…I mean…I.” he stumbled, and it was adorable.
“I miss yours too!” I laughed, his shaggy mess of long blond hair had been cut extremely short, it looked almost military style.
He looked like, and was, a man now. He ran his hand through it with a shy smile “Yeah the heat, it was…necessary to cut it. I probably look even goofier with it short huh?”
“No…I …it’s …you look good.” I blushed and realised that yes he did look good. He looked like a freakin’ moving star standing in the convent court yard smiling at me.
“How long have you been back? Are you staying? Have you had dinner?” I rambled.
With that he laughed out loud at me, “Slow down Sookie. I’ve been here not five minutes, I think I am staying and no I haven’t had dinner…What you got for me?”
I smiled. “Well, good. We’ve already had our dinner but I’m sure there is left over’s in the fridge, there usually is.
We talked and laughed all the way to the kitchen, when we were interrupted by Sister Geraldine. With one swift disproving look, I felt like I was seven years old again.
“Sister” she addressed me while looking on, extremely displeased with Eric. “You were absent from after dinner prayer, and now…I see why.” she continued to stare at Eric. He just kept on smiling and addressed her with happiness in his tone, “Sister Geraldine, good to see you too. Oh me? I’m fine thanks for asking. Still as pleasant as ever I see.”
My eye widened, as did hers. Never had Eric ever spoken to her like that, even at his most defiant.
“Oh Mr Northman I would say it’s good to have you back, but we both know that would be a lie wouldn’t we. I can see you’re not back five minutes and already you have Sookie behind on her duties.”
“Is that so?”
“It is, don’t think that just because you’re assisting Father Niall that you can get away with distracting my nuns do you understand? We all have a job to do here Northman and I’ll trust you to do yours and allow Sookie to do hers.”
He nodded, with a slight smug look sliding off his face then “Of course.”
She thought twice about whatever it was she was going to say next to him in favour of addressing me. She raised her eyebrows and with her usual clipped tone she said “Oh and Stackhouse, Father Compton requested to see you in his office as soon as possible. Try and not keep him waiting yes?”
With that she swiftly exited as loudly as her heeled shoes would allow on the tiled hallway. When we were sure she was out of hearing range Eric laughed.
“Sookie, I just realised. When I’m done with my training, I’ll be her boss!” he looked positively giddy at the prospect. He grabbed my hand and led me to the small table in the middle of the kitchen. We used it for chopping and peeling, but there were too stools on either side. He sat on one side, I on the other.
He told me of his travels, bits and pieces of where he was and who he met, what he did and how he felt about it. Describing these places that I’d only ever seen on the map, it made me a touch envious of his travels once more. Eric was a man of the world now, quiet literally. That thought was intimidating, as was his new found stature. He shed his black jacket to unveil a crisp white shirt the first three buttons undone and one that only served to highlight his newly deepened tan.
I swallowed my words and looked away.
“So, you must be starving. I think there is pot roast?”
“Sounds great!” he smiled again as I got up to check the oven.
Neither of us said a word as I fixed him a plate of food, heating it for a spell in the oven. I knew he was watching me, not in a creepy way or an intrusive way, but I knew just from the side of my eye that Eric was curious about now, just as much as I was about him. But still, the idea of his eyes on me made me blush for reasons I was unsure of. Between my excitement to have him back I had every emotion floating through me, it was a little over whelming.
“I saw Pam.” he said suddenly.
“Oh that’s great Eric. How is she? I’m sorry I haven’t been writing to her in a long while now. It’s something I must remedy.” I mused.
“She’s great, she’s working now, and for her dad’s company and everything. She sends you her best. And she thinks I’m an idiot.”
“Well, nice to see something’s don’t change! Why on the idiot thing now though?”
“The priest thing.”
“Ah. Well, I can’t say I disagree with her there.” I said finally giving him his plate and sitting opposite him again.
“Why?” he looked hurt but he hid it well.
“Well, Eric you were free, you had options you were half a world away…Whatever made you want to come back here?”
He looked at me then, and seemed to rethink his words he closed his mouth again and focused on his plate.
“I don’t…know. Besides Niall is my tutor, kind of, now. So it makes sense to be where he is and he’s here.” he exhaled loudly then his tense shoulders relaxed as he ate.
“And is that the only reason?” I don’t know why I needed to know that. His reasons were his own business.
Without looking at me he answered. “What other reason would there be?”
Don’t ask me why but that cut through me like a razor blade. It’s not that I was expecting to be thought of so highly that Eric would give up his life and come see me. But fact was, he had given up his life to come back here, I figured I’d be in his decision making somewhere. The fact that I wasn’t hurt me but it was perhaps for the best. It allowed me to believe that he’d chosen this calling for the right reasons, instead of what my gut was telling me were all the wrong ones.
His mood seemed to sombre after that, he got quiet and ate slowly. It felt awkward. Eating with Eric was never awkward. Well, I should say, eating with the old Eric was never awkward. It seemed I’d have to get to know him all over again.
To break the silence I stood up “I should go see what Father Bill wants.”
He looked up at me then “Who?”
“Oh he’s the priest that was brought in to help with the demand here while Father Niall was gone. Bill Compton.”
“Hmph. I guess I’ll meet him soon enough right?”
“Right. Um, I’ll come back here when he’s done if you aren’t here…Well…”
“No, I’ll wait here for you.” he smiled then. I wanted to hug him again, I wanted to just have him hold me.
Of course that just couldn’t happen.
“Ok, I’ll be as quick as I can.”
Louisiana was as humid as ever. The heat in New York had been different, but this was unmistakably miserable. Niall had been back at work since I’d gone to see Pam. He’d insisted on it, insisting that I keep my family as close as I could. Family, it wasn’t something I ever thought I really had. Pam, for such a long time was just a letter or a pen pal that I received news from every few weeks. In my head she wasn’t family since they’d left me in that place alone and scared. What I realised in seeing her is that she viewed me as her family something she didn’t have even if our geography of a childhood was vastly different the emotions were the same.
I left my luggage in Niall’s office, he seemed to have been out so I left him a note and went on the search for Sookie.
I walked around the inside of the convent keeping my eye out for her, I got a few strange looks from various Sisters I didn’t recognise, and from the few I did I received one or two ‘welcome back’s’ but mostly with the strange looks from old ladies under black habits.
I saw a black habit and a white veil digging around in the garden outside, without her usual give away of blonde hair blowing in the wind it was hard to establish if it was her or not. I decided to try my luck and go out and see.
Walking out on to the courtyard, a cemented part of the garden that was flanked by four pillars it was the walkway into the convent itself, I stood. She was picking the tomatoes and placing them ever so carefully into a large wicker basket. She was beautiful. I’d almost forgotten how beautiful she could be in the sunlight. Despite being covered in those ridiculous clothes, I could tell she’d gotten thinner but she was still Sookie. Her cheeks rose coloured in the heat and her lips a deep pink from nibbling on them as she chose her tomatoes.
God I missed her.
I walked from one pillar to another, and that seemed to give my presence away. She looked up from her patch on the ground squinting in the sunlight, frustrated that she couldn’t see she used her hand as a shield before she called out to me. When I spoke her face broke out in a big genuine smile, something else to add to the list of things I’d missed about her. She came sprinting up to me and I to her. I didn’t care who was watching I didn’t care what they thought. I scooped her up and she wrapped herself around me the tightest hug I’d gotten since I’d left her. Her voice and her laughter only encouraged my own. I didn’t want our embrace to end and it seemed that she thought the same. I wanted to see her, I wanted to see my Sookie. But she was trapped under those hideously heavy clothes and her hair was covered too.
When I blurted out that I missed her hair I wanted to slap myself. Way to make an impression Eric, act like a dunce that’ll make her glad to have you back for sure. She commented on how I looked I was secretly pleased that she seemed to like what she saw. If her blush was any indication she really liked what she saw.
And yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been thinking about that or allowing my vanity to take over. But, my Sookie’s opinion always mattered to me and in this case it was no different.
Seeing old Geraldine again was like a bucket of ice being thrown over me, in just one look that woman could I was convinced turn anything to stone. Her dislike of me was to be expected, but things were different now, or at the very least they would be. When I finished training and took my final vows into the priesthood, I would be her boss.
I had no ideas of grandeur or no plans for domination like Niall pointed out, over and over again, I wasn’t a politically motivated person and in these places apparently you had to be to be on top? It didn’t interest me in the slightest. Getting one over on her however, was ever so appealing.
Talking with Sookie made me realise that she’d grown up so much while I’d been gone. She looked a little different. I couldn’t place what it was at first. I mean her appearance was strikingly different due to her attire alone, but there was something in her eyes that had changed. She seemed sadder somehow, despite how happy her voice told me she was.
Then the tone in our playful catch-up changed. When she asked me why I’d come back? I wanted her to just know on instinct that of course I came back for her, of course I missed her and of course I wanted to be near her. But she seemed to think that that was unthinkable. And it hurt that she would believe so easily that my choices had nothing to do with her just because we had been apart. Foolish of me perhaps, but I had assumed that I meant more to her than that and that she knew how much she meant to me.
I’d never been one to easily vocalise my feelings, she usually strangled them out of me with her fast double speak and her humour, this time she didn’t seem to really want to know the truth making a hasty exit to this Father Compton.
I waited in the kitchen for well over two hours and she never showed up. I had to leave when the other Sisters came in to prepare supper. I was worried about her, this Father Compton surely couldn’t have had that much to talk about that would last over 2 hours, could he?