Story Description: Sookie has tragically lost every man she has ever given her heart to; Eric doesn’t know how to give his heart to anyone. Can she teach him how to love, even as he helps her to overcome her losses? [SVM; Eric/Sookie; all human]
LONGER SUMMARY/STORY NOTE: In this all human story, Eric is a Marine, who grew up under the thumb of his oppressive father, Appius. Though stilted emotionally, he strikes an unlikely connection with Bill Compton, a fellow Marine. When Bill falls in battle, Eric must decide whether or not to carry out Bill’s last wish for him—to look after his young son, as well as his wife, Sookie.
This piece deals with overcoming both the long-term effects of childhood mental abuse (a topic close to my own heart) and moving forward through grief and loss. I first began writing it in 2014(ish). However, not long after I began, the talented inlovewitheric began posting Semper Fi, in which Eric is a Marine. Though my story had begun quite differently from hers, I still worried that it might be seen as “too close” in some ways, so I decided to put it on the backburner and wait to see how Semper Fi turned out. By the time inlovewitheric was done with Semper Fi and I knew that my story was definitely different (beyond the fact that our Erics are both Marines) I had already turned to other stories. Recently, I found the beginning of this story and began reading it. It “reclaimed” me, and I continued the draft. I am aware that many of you seek out the TB/SVM universe because you love the supernatural/vampire genre. I hope that you will give this “all-human” tome a try, however. I think you will recognize many aspects of Eric’s & Sookie’s characteristics from the novels/show. And—please—if you haven’t already done so, check out inlovewitheric’s Semper Fi, which is complete and available on her WordPress site.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No profit has been made from this work. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters in this story and some events have been inspired by True Blood and the Southern Vampire Mysteries book series.
Many thanks: To Kleannhouse for the wonderful Beta work!
WARNING: This is a trigger warning for this chapter. It depicts a child being mentally abused by a parent. Also, it depicts a child losing her parents.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
[NOTE: In this story, Sookie, Bill, and Eric are all roughly the same age. This prologue occurs when Eric is ten, and Sookie & Bill are nine years old.]
Prologue: Rocks and Shoals
SATURDAY, December 2, 1989
ORANGE COUNTY CALIFORNIA
“Eric!” my father yelled loudly. “Get your ass in here! Right! Now!”
I knew better than to run into my father’s study. If I ran in the house, I would get the belt, and my father wasn’t careful with that object. I often got more marks on my back and legs than on my bottom. Of course, if I didn’t appear in the study immediately, then I might get the belt anyway.
So there was really no winning.
I hurried as fast as I could without running. My father—as I knew he would be—was waiting in the study’s doorway—just to make sure I wasn’t running.
He always seemed to be watching me—even when he was halfway around the globe on one of his many business trips.
“Don’t make me wait all day, boy!” he yelled out.
I continued to hurry—without running—until I was in front of him standing at attention.
“Yes, Father?” I asked.
He took hold of my arm roughly and yanked me into his office, slamming the door shut behind him. Just before the door closed, however, I saw a quick view of my mother. Her beautiful face was neutral, though not cold; still, I knew she wasn’t going to help me in regards to whatever I’d done wrong.
She never did.
“Sit!” my father ordered loudly.
Immediately, I did as he asked. I tried to be completely still, to sit up straight, to keep my eyes forward, to barely breathe.
To barely be human. To be a robot, like the one in a movie I saw once.
I knew that any reaction on my part would only cause my father’s anger to grow.
He sat as well—behind his desk in his large leather chair. The usual chair that faced his desk—where clients or business associates normally sat—was also leather and comfortable. For the occasions when I was in trouble, however, he changed that comfortable chair out with a metal folding chair.
I knew that he did this so that I would feel uncomfortable—so that I’d be more likely to squirm or to move in my seat. His plan to make me fidget had worked before when he would just stare me down for what seemed to be hours. I also knew that—if I squirmed—I’d get the belt.
I just hoped it wouldn’t be too long before he spoke to me. In the meantime, I could do nothing but try to look at him with a neutral expression.
If I showed fear—the fear I felt acutely—I knew I’d suffer some horrible punishment. The last time I’d shown what he termed “weakness,” he had flushed the only pet I’d ever been allowed—a beta fish given to me by Nanny Octavia—down the toilet.
I still had some things that could be taken away, so I tried to keep my face a blank—just like I’d been practicing in the mirror.
My father—Appius Livius Ocella-Northman—was built as imposing as his name sounded. At about 6’1″, he was broad-shouldered and muscular. His hair was dark and a little wavy, styled in what he called a “proper Roman cut.” His energy was always intimidating—at least to me. I knew that others thought that he was “charming”—unless they crossed him.
My whole life seemed to “cross” him.
“Ocella” was the family name of my paternal grandmother, but my father had not chosen to include that important name as a part of my own last name. That name was something he said had to be earned. His mother, whose maiden name was Lodovica Ocella, was from a very important family in Italy—at least, according to my father. I’d met her only once—when she was dying of cancer. My father had taken me to Rome, where she lived. She’d taken one look at me and decided that she was not impressed.
I’d not seen her again during that short trip, with my father ordering me to stay inside of a dimly-lit room in the large, old estate we stayed in. I did as I was ordered. After that trip, my father criticized me even more harshly than before.
Worse than that, my trips to his study had become even more frequent and intense following the death of Lodovica Ocella. It all boiled down to what both of my parents called their “expectations” for me—and how I never seemed to reach them.
From the way my father was staring me down, I knew that I’d somehow failed to meet them yet again. And—even if I had done nothing wrong—he would have something to criticize me about. Sometimes it was simply the way that I looked that bothered him, and he’d never held back his opinion that I was “weak- looking.”
That was probably because I did not look much like my father. We had the same eyes, but I’d inherited my mother’s slender build and featuring. Freyda Northman, my mother, had been a fashion model when my father met and became enamored with her. She was also incredibly smart and ambitious—with long-term goals in mind. After marrying my father, she’d finished the law degree she’d been working on part-time. And then she’d joined his law firm.
I knew that my father had seen her as the perfect kind of woman to be the hostess of functions he organized. She was a prize—a trophy, who had been sought out by many, but won by only one. I also knew that she was a good spokesperson for the firm’s international interests. She’d been especially essential in helping to secure “certain interests” following the firm’s losses in the Savings and Loans scandals.
I knew all of this only because I had been told to “be seen and not heard” so often that people tended to forget I was in the room. Plus, the maid, the cook, and the gardener on our estate were prone to gossip. Indeed, I had picked up on the fact that my father had recently barely escaped prosecution for some kind of scheme he’d been in on. I also figured that would mean that he wanted to take out his anger on someone.
I was clearly that someone.
“I heard from your swimming coach that you have not met the last two goal times that were set for you,” he said after being silent for almost ten minutes.
I was proud of myself for not moving in my chair for that long.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” he asked.
“I have been trying, Sir,” I responded, trying not to let my fear show.
He banged his fist down on the desk. I couldn’t help but to flinch.
“Trying? Trying! I can’t imagine that you’ve been trying, boy,” he said coldly, “given the fact that you are not succeeding.”
“I will swim faster, Sir,” I promised.
“Yes. You will,” my father emphasized. “To make sure that happens, your time at practice will be increasing by two hours per day, and you will be swimming seven days per week now—not just five. Moreover, you will no longer be allowed superfluous associations and activities.”
I looked at my father in question, not understanding his meaning. My vocabulary was large for a ten-year-old due to the fact that my father insisted upon my earning the best grades possible. He also spoke with me—as did my mother—as if I were an adult. Both of them always had. But there were still things I did not know. And my father seemed to recognize my deficiency immediately.
He scowled. “What I am talking about are those friends your mother insisted that would be good for you!” he spat out. “Those goddamned monthly sleepovers! That goddamned soccer team she said would make you well-rounded.” He sneered. “Those are over!”
I tried to hide my disappointment. Even though my “friends” had been chosen for me by my parents, I enjoyed interacting with them. And I’d especially been enjoying soccer, for it had introduced me to many kids that were not a part of my parents’ orbit.
My father stood up. “I will also be taking you out of that private school your mother picked. Private tutors were the way I was taught! Indeed, I should have gone with them from the start, not letting your mother convince me otherwise. Clearly, you are distracted, so I will simply take away your distractions,” he pronounced.
I dared not let my eyes track my father as he moved to the side of the room to pour himself a drink.
“You are a disappointment to me, Eric. My mother warned me that you seemed too soft—not worthy of Ocella stock.” He drained his glass and then poured another drink. “But it is not too late to mold you. You know of the plans that have been set into motion for you?”
“Yes, Sir,” I responded.
“Tell me,” he insisted.
“I will be in the Olympics,” I answered. “Then, I will be at the top of my class at Harvard Law School and then become a lawyer at your firm, Sir,” I added.
“Just be in the Olympics?” my father asked with derision.
“No, Sir!” I corrected quickly. “Win gold medals, Sir.”
He took another long drink before speaking again. “Eric, do you know why it is important that you win?”
“And why is that?”
“You won gold medals” I responded, looking behind my father’s desk at a picture of him receiving one of those medals at the Summer Olympics in 1968. He’d been an Italian citizen at the time—and, at eighteen-years-old, the youngest male fencer ever to win at the Olympics.
“And do you know why it was essential?” he asked.
“Because it helped in your career,” I said.
“Not just that, Eric,” my father explained, sounding almost paternal in that moment. “It helped in all aspects of my life. Learning the discipline of sport made me resolute. Understanding how to win—how to beat back an opponent and to conquer him—made me successful in all that I have attempted. And—yes—winning also helped in my career. Having that medal helped me to get into Harvard, as my mother wished. It greased the wheels of my becoming a dual citizen, which my mother knew would be important for me. It helped me to win your mother’s attention. And—recently—it has even kept me and the firm from getting pulled under.”
He walked back around in order to face me. “Eric, Americans—indeed, many people worldwide—revere their sports heroes. You will become one of those heroes. It will help to ensure your success in the future.”
“Yes, Sir,” I said when it seemed that he was looking for me to respond.
“But not if you are soft!” he emphasized, his voice losing the little bit of warmth it had had before. “God knows that I am already disappointed that you don’t have the right body type or skill set to be a fencer as I was—as your grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather were.”
I could not help but to cringe a little. When I was five years old, the same teacher who’d taught my father had been brought to the United States from Italy in order to teach me how to fence, but I’d soon been declared “tutto sbagliato” or “all wrong,” much to the chagrin of my father. The teacher had left, suggesting that my father make me “un pagliaccio,” for I was better suited to be “a clown” than a fencer. After that, words like “disappointment” became staples in my daily life.
“Despite your inability to pursue the sport of your forebears, have I not gone above and beyond to help you progress in your swimming?” he asked.
“You have, Sir,” I responded quickly.
In fact, being a swimmer was not “my” choice, though swimming did seem to come naturally to me. I could still remember being “assessed” for sports aptitude after my disastrous and short-lived attempt at fencing. Basically, a sports talent scout had conducted all sorts of tests with me in order to determine the sport that would best “fit” me. Swimming had been the choice. And—since then—everything that I’d done had seemed to revolve around the sport, with the exception of my studies.
Strangely, I did not hate swimming. In fact, I loved it. Under the water, all the noise of life went away. All the critiques from my father were obscured. And the faster I swam, the freer I felt—and the “better” my life went. Lately, however, nothing I did seemed to help me to move faster.
My father frowned at me, his disappointment clear in his eyes. “You will meet the goals set for you, boy. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Sir,” I said softly.
“I don’t want to have to punish you. And you don’t want that either—do you?” he asked.
“No, Sir,” I responded.
“Good!” he pronounced. “You will see that I am doing you a favor by taking away the distractions from your life. Your new tutors will begin on Monday, and I’d better see you progress through your academic requirements much faster and with greater aptitude than you have been at school,” he added.
“Yes, Sir,” I said.
“Your Saturday and Sunday swimming practices will be from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. As it is after 12:30 now, I suggest that you get yourself prepared and go to the pool.”
“Yes, Sir,” I said, standing up and moving—gratefully—toward the door.
“And, Eric?” he said.
I turned to face him.
“Don’t continue disappointing me, or your life will become much less comfortable. You have yet to deserve your place in this family. It is time you begin earning it.”
“Yes, Sir,” I said before leaving.
I hurried from the study to my bedroom. That room was everything that would be expected for a room in an upper-class family—with fine mahogany furnishings and plush textiles. However, there was very little that was personal. Toys had been thought unnecessary for me since I was seven, and—even before that—I hadn’t been able to “get into anything” like most kids did. I’d seen my “friends'” rooms. They all had fun things, like bunk beds or superhero themes. They had things like board games and Nintendo consoles. When I wasn’t swimming or doing homework, I was allowed only the pastime of reading. The few friends I’d been able to have over had called my room “boring.”
Still, I hoped that my father wouldn’t take my books away from me. Like swimming, they were an escape.
“Eric,” my mother greeted as she entered my room right behind me. At over six feet tall, she stood inches above my father when she had heels on, which she always did as far as I could tell. She was dressed in her “casual” weekend clothing, which consisted of tan slacks, a flowy blouse, and—of course—high heels. Her face had make-up on it. In fact, I’d never seen her without make-up.
“Mother,” I responded.
“You have spoken to your father about the changes to your schedule?”
She sighed. “I did try to talk him out of some of it. But,” she shook her head, “you know that he has a mind of his own. And—with this extended business trip I have coming up in London—there’s really nothing I can do to help you to keep seeing your friends at this time. And—anyway—some of their parents have told me that their children don’t particularly enjoy your company.” She sighed, looking momentarily troubled. “Why can you not be friendlier, Eric? Though I suppose you’ve not had much practice at it,” she added, almost to herself.
“I’ll try to be better, Mother,” I said, surprised to see any concern at all on her face. Usually, she had very little time for me. Nanny Octavia made sure that I was where I needed to be and fed the diet my parents and coach had regimented for me. In fact, Nanny Octavia was the only “friend” I had in the house. She would even let me watch cartoons on the weekend mornings when my parents were not in the house.
My mother sighed deeply, and—for a moment—she looked very unhappy. But then her facial expression became more neutral again.
“Your father is a hard man, but he will help you to meet your potential. You understand—yes?” she asked, her Swedish accent coming out a bit. I knew that she was from that country initially, but I knew very little else about her. I did not even know the names of her parents.
“Yes, Mother,” I responded.
“We must all fulfill our roles, Eric,” she said before leaving my room.
For a moment, I wondered if my mother was happy. I wondered if my father was happy. But then I shook my head. Wondering about things like that—or trying to seek happiness for myself—were not going to help me to swim faster.
I hurriedly changed so that I could get to the indoor pool on our estate as quickly as possible—without running, of course.
My lungs felt like they were burning as I ran. I had been running as fast as I could for what seemed to be a long time.
I ran until I tripped and fell, skinning both of my knees and ruining the little panty hose that Gran had helped me to put on that morning. The ground was still wet from the storm the night before. But I still lay down, not caring if I ruined my dress as well.
I never wanted to wear that dress again anyway.
It was black.
It had been bought two days before—when Aunt Linda had taken me to Wal-Mart to find something to wear to a funeral.
I wasn’t sorry to be ruining it. So I made sure it got good and muddy! And then I made sure my black Mary Jane shoes were caked in mud, too!
“Sookie?” a gentle voice came from behind me.
“Go away, Bill Compton!” I yelled out.
He didn’t say anything else, so I figured he’d done like I asked until a few minutes later when I heard a little noise behind me. I spun around in the mud.
“Why didn’t you go away?” I asked loudly.
“I—uh . . . .” He shifted from one foot to the other. I noticed that he was wearing a dark blue suit, the same one he’d worn to church the Easter before.
“Your pants are too short!” I said accusingly.
“Mary couldn’t let them out anymore,” he said, his face flaming red.
“You look stupid,” I said cruelly.
He didn’t say anything for a moment. “Are you cold?” he finally asked, his voice still kind.
Now that he mentioned it, I was cold. I shivered.
“I could lend you my jacket,” he offered.
I looked sharply at him, ready to say something else mean. I wanted to hurt him—to hurt anyone.
But I didn’t.
“I’ll just get it dirty,” I said with a little sob.
He shrugged and lifted his arm. “It won’t matter.” He showed me how the sleeves were a little too short. “Mary couldn’t let the jacket arms out anymore either. Mom and Dad said they’ll have to get me a new suit for Christmas anyway, so it won’t matter if you get this one dirty.”
I began crying loudly, and Bill ran over to me, though he stayed on his feet, looking very uncertain. And then he went pale—as if he realized he’d just made a big mistake.
“I’m sorry about mentioning my parents,” he said really softly. “And I’m real sorry about your mom and dad, Sookie.”
I kept crying, not able to do much else in that moment, except to relive the minutes when Gran had woken me up and asked me to come to the living room. Jason and I had been staying with her and Grandpa since our parents had gone on a cruise for their fifteenth wedding anniversary.
Jason was already downstairs—looking still half asleep—when I got to the living room with Gran. Grandpa came into the room moments later—after I heard him hang up the phone in the kitchen.
His eyes were red—like he’d been rubbing them too hard or cutting onions.
Gran sat between Jason and me and took both of our hands. And then Grandpa told us that Momma and Daddy had drowned when they’d gone on a snorkeling trip. Grandpa didn’t go into detail then, but I later overheard Gran telling Aunt Linda that my daddy, who wasn’t a very good swimmer, had gotten into trouble. And my momma had tried to save him. Their guide had—apparently—been helping another couple at the time of the tragedy. So he hadn’t been able to get to them quickly enough to save them.
I didn’t figure it mattered much how they died. What mattered was that they were gone and never coming back!
“Here,” Bill said as he draped his jacket around my shoulders.
I thought about slinging the jacket into the mud, but I didn’t. I just kept crying.
A while later, I noticed that Bill was holding my hand, looking at me with sadness. I’d not even noticed when he’d sat down.
“Don’t you feel sorry for me, Bill Compton!” I yelled out pridefully as I quickly stood up, my wounded and stiff knees crying out in pain.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. He looked nervous. “Would you let me walk you home, Sookie? It’ll be dark soon, and it’s supposed to rain again.
“So?” I yelled, even as I looked up at the sky and noticed the dark clouds coming in. The funeral had been that morning. Like everyone, I’d gone back to Gran and Grandpa’s house after it was over. But I’d quickly gotten tired of people trying to get me to eat things or asking me if I was okay, so I’d snuck back to the graveyard, which was located right next to my grandparents’ property. I watched from behind a tree as two cemetery workers talked about basketball as they prepared my mother’s coffin to be lowered into the ground. My father’s was already in the ground.
My parents, it had been decided, would share a grave and a headstone. My mom didn’t have any family of her own to disagree with the idea, and Gran and Grandpa thought it would be nice for the couple to be in the same “resting place.”
I knew—from listening to the workers—that they’d been frustrated at having to dig a deeper hole. But—after their sports talk—they took a minute to discuss the single grave idea. They both thought it was a sweet thought.
I didn’t feel capable of having “sweet thoughts” though. I blamed my daddy for not swimming well, but still going snorkeling. I blamed my momma for letting him go and for not being able to save him.
I blamed them both for dying. Still—I watched until Momma was in the ground, and the men started to put dirt in the grave.
That’s when I’d started running.
And that meant I’d been out of the house for hours.
“Gran must be worried,” I said softly, putting on Bill’s jacket properly.
“I reckon she is,” he said, even as he stood up. “But I’m sure she’s not mad at you,” he added quickly.
I noticed that he took hold of my hand again as we walked back to Gran and Grandpa’s house—what was now my house, too.
I’d run a long way, so the walk through the woods took a while—probably twenty minutes. By the end of those minutes, I was limping a little because of my hurt knees.
“How did you find me out there?” I asked, looking over at Bill.
I knew him, of course. I’d known him all my life since his family lived across the cemetery from my grandparents, though William and Sophie-Anne Compton were gone quite a bit since Bill’s grandpa was the governor of Louisiana and Bill’s dad was in the Marines. Bill was usually at home though; we were in the same grade at school.
“I saw you run out of your grandparents’ house,” he said simply. “And you looked sad, so I followed to make sure you were okay.”
I felt my heart leap a little at his words, though I didn’t fully understand why. Truth be told, I wondered how my heart could still be beating at all.
It felt broken.
“Sookie!” Gran yelled out from the porch when Bill and I were finally within sight of the old farmhouse. She rushed down the steps to me, but stopped a few feet away. “Are you alright?” she asked—almost carefully, as if worried about scaring me away.
I felt my head shaking—my whole body shaking. The next thing I knew, I felt weak and pale. And then Bill seemed to be holding me up.
“Adele?” I heard my Grandpa’s voice, but I couldn’t see him. My eyes were now closed, and I couldn’t quite get them to open up again.
“She’s fainted!” Gran yelled out.
“Here, Bill. Let me take her,” I heard Grandpa say, and I felt my body being lifted up. Again, I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t.
“Will she be okay?” Bill asked. He sounded sad—and concerned.
“It’ll take some time,” Gran responded, her own voice thick with emotion. She’d just lost her son and her daughter-in-law; it would take her time, too. I knew that.
“Can I come by tomorrow?” Bill asked.
“Come for lunch,” Gran said.
“Thank you, Mrs. Stackhouse,” Bill responded, even as I felt myself moving.
“She’s stirring a little,” Grandpa whispered.
Maybe I was. But I still didn’t feel that I was moving. And I still couldn’t open my eyes.
“I’ll get the smelling salts,” Gran said.
A few seconds—or maybe minutes—later, I felt myself being laid onto something soft. It was my bed, which had been moved from my old house just the day before. Gran and Grandpa wanted me to feel more comfortable in my new room. Jason’s new room was already designed with a boy in mind—as it had been our father’s room. The room where I usually stayed over at Gran and Grandpa’s house had been Gran’s sewing room, though it had a pull-out couch for me to sleep on.
The second floor of the farmhouse had four bedrooms. Now, Gran’s sewing things were in the smallest of them. Gran and Grandpa had told me the day before that I could pick out my own paint color for the walls in my new room when I was up to it. But I wanted my old room back—the one that Daddy had strung up fairy lights in.
I wanted my parents back.
“Mitch, you okay?” Gran asked with concern. “You didn’t throw your back out again carrying her—did you?” she whispered.
“No, Delly,” he said, using the nickname he used only when he thought the two of them were alone. “I’m just a little tired is all.”
“You missed one of your treatments today,” she sighed.
“The doc says that one day’s difference won’t matter; I did one day before yesterday. And I’ll do one tomorrow. It’s not throwing the round off at all, Delly.”
“I know,” she sighed again. “I just worry—especially now. I don’t know if I could do all this alone.”
“Adele Hale Stackhouse,” he said, his voice warm with affection, “you can do anything you set your beautiful mind on, and you know it. And—as for doing it without me? Well—I’m gonna do all I can to stick around for years to come. You got that, woman?” he added somewhat playfully.
“You’d better, Mitch.”
I could hear them kiss sweetly—quick, as if stealing it. I felt like an intruder to their conversation, but I still couldn’t open my eyes to tell them that I could hear them. My eyelids felt taped up.
“Should I let her sleep, or wake her?” Gran asked.
“Use your smelling salts, Delly,” Grandpa said. “She’s soaked through and will need a bath. Plus, her knees will need to be looked after. I’ll put a new quilt on the bed once you have her in the bathroom.”
“Get that new afghan I made too; it’s a bit drafty in this room.”
A moment later, I felt my eyes pop open as I smelled something strong. As soon as I saw Gran, I felt fresh tears clouding my vision.
“Oh, Sookie. My sweet girl,” Gran sighed, lifting me a little to rock me in her arms. I knew I was messing up her outfit, but it felt so good to be in her embrace that I didn’t move out of it.
I cried for a while—until I couldn’t make another tear.
“You need to take a bath, dear,” Gran said softly.
I nodded as she led me to the hall bathroom I’d be sharing with Jason. It was the only bathroom on the second floor.
She guided me to sit on the toilet lid as she started the water.
“Gran?” I asked.
“Can a person die when their heart breaks?” I asked.
She turned to me and smiled softly. “Yes, Sweetie. I’ve heard tell of it happening, but I think it’s rare.”
“Am I gonna die? My heart hurts real bad,” I whimpered.
“No, Sweetie. You’re gonna be sad for a long time, but you’ll live on and find happiness again. I promise.”
“Am I cursed?” I asked next.
“Cursed?” she responded.
“Daddy took Mamma on the cruise because she’s been tired and worn down. Maybe if she and Daddy had just one kid, they wouldn’t have needed to go,” I cried out. “She wouldn’t have been so tired.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Gran said, turning off the water and leading me to sit next to her on the tub’s edge so that she could hold me. “Your parents loved you.”
“I was an accident,” I whispered. “I heard them talkin’ about it once.”
“A happy accident,” Gran said, firmly. “They were very happy to learn that you were on the way.”
I shook my head a little, not really convinced by her words. “Is Grandpa gonna die of his cancer?” I asked softly.
Gran sighed deeply. “He might, sweetie. You know that he fought it off once before though. And he’s fightin’ it again—with everything he is.”
“Aunt Linda?” I asked.
“Aunt Linda’s fine,” Gran lied to me.
“I know she has cancer, too,” I whispered.
Gran sighed again. “How?”
I shrugged. “I have good hearing,” I responded.
And I did. Because of it, I always seemed to be hearing snippets of things people had meant to keep private, even though I never intended to hear them.
She chuckled a little. “Yes, you do.”
“Aunt Linda?” I asked in a squeak.
Gran pushed some hair behind my ears affectionately. “I don’t know when or how anyone will die, Sookie. But Linda’s got good doctors, and she’s gonna fight against her cancer, too. I’m sorry I lied to you, Sweetie. But—unless it gets worse—she doesn’t want Hadley to know.”
I nodded in understanding. “I don’t wanna love people if they’re just gonna leave me,” I said, feeling new tears rising where I thought I was all out.
“Sookie, you can’t just turn off your heart.”
“Even when it’s broken?” I asked.
“Especially not then,” Gran said firmly. “There is always more love to be found in the world. And—one day—you’ll fall in love with a man who will be your husband. And then you’ll have kids and fall in love with all of them. And you’ll have friends that you love, too.”
I shook my head. “I don’t wanna lose anyone else, Gran. I’m scared.”
“It’s okay to be scared,” she said. “But the heart is an amazing thing, Sookie. It can overcome fear and loss. And it can always make room for more people.”
“I don’t want more,” I said stubbornly. “I wanna know how to keep the people I love safe so that I don’t lose them.”
“Death is a part of life, Honey. It’s the hardest part. But—if we can get through it—we become stronger. Plus, we never lose the people we love—not really.”
“Because they’re in heaven—watching over us?”
“Yes. And your love for them—your memories with them—will help to repair the heartbreak you’re suffering at their loss. It’s those you love most that want you to be the happiest, Sookie. And they’ll stay in your heart—helping you along. Your parents are there even now.”
“They are?” I asked.
“Yes,” she promised. “They are. And they’ll be with you every step of the way through your life.”
A/N: I hope you are intrigued to find out more about this Eric and Sookie. I know that this is a somber beginning; however, their backgrounds are relevant for what is to come. This story begins with tragedy; I promise it won’t end that way. So-for those of you who hate angst-I’ll guarantee my usual promise: I believe in a Happily Ever After for our couple.
Please leave a comment if you have the time and inclination. I hope you’ll let me know what you think of the beginning!
ONE FINAL NOTE: The wonderful Sephrenia, who does the artwork for my stories is dealing with some health issues. Still, she made the wonderful story banner for The Journey Itself!