Chapter 08: Venom and Antivenom
Thankfully, Niall’s jet had couch seating in one area, so Eric was able to keep Sookie cradled to him throughout the flight. He rocked her and then sang to her in Swedish—a lullaby that his mormor had once told him that his mother used to sing to him.
Eric couldn’t actually remember his mother singing it, nor did he recall the words or tune from his memories. But—after his mormor had told him about it—he’d made a point of memorizing the lullaby nonetheless.
Two hours after takeoff, Sookie’s sobbing for the woman who had literally saved her from a life of hell stopped as she fell asleep in Eric’s embrace
Only then, did Eric let himself crumble a little. He too owed Adele Stackhouse—owed her everything. Without her, the woman in his arms would have likely never escaped her mother’s maliciousness. And—eventually—she would have broken. She would have never come to New York. He would have never seen her—met her. And he—just like her—would have been broken. No—he would have remained broken.
Bobby had been on the phone almost the entire time they’d been flying and had stayed near the front of the aircraft in order to give Eric and Sookie as much privacy as possible, but when he saw that Sookie had fallen asleep, he came back to sit on the couch opposite the couple.
He looked at the sleeping woman in his friend’s embrace and took a deep breath before speaking. “I have a car waiting for us when we land.”
Eric nodded. “I assume you’ve been in contact with the hospital?” he asked quietly.
Bobby nodded. “It doesn’t look good. I managed to talk at length to one of Adele’s doctors by pretending to be you.”
Eric looked at him in question.
“I figured they’d be more likely to discuss things with her granddaughter’s fiancé than with her granddaughter’s fiancé’s friend.”
Eric nodded in acknowledgement. “What did they tell you?”
“Her cardiologist thinks that she’s suffered at least two heart attacks since early this morning—one of them while on the way to the hospital. The first one was massive, and the second likely sealed her fate,” Bobby added gravely. “When they tried surgery, they were only able to patch her up a little bit before they had to get out. She was just too weak.” He shook his head dejectedly. “The doctor told me that they will try taking her back to surgery if she survives the next twenty four hours, but . . . .”
“But they don’t think that’s going to happen,” Eric finished, letting the harsh truth out into the cabin of the plane as he continued to rock the sleeping form of his beloved.
“No,” Bobby said softly, “they don’t. After getting off the phone with the doctor, I contacted the nurse Sookie spoke to—Halleigh Robinson. She was more,” he paused, “forthcoming and direct than the doctor could be. She told me that in her experience, Adele is too far gone to make a recovery. She reiterated that we needed to hurry, but that Adele seems to be tenaciously hanging on for Sookie. I’ve called in a few favors to get us a police escort to the hospital.”
Eric sighed. “We will get there in time. We have to. Please,” he said as if his words were a prayer. “Sookie deserves to say her goodbyes to Gran.”
Bobby nodded and then tensed. “Halleigh told me that Adele requested and then signed a DNR the last time she was conscious.”
“A ‘do not resuscitate order,'” Eric sighed.
“Yes. Halleigh said that Adele seems to have realized and accepted the likelihood that her heart won’t last the night, and she doesn’t want to prolong things with a ventilator,” Bobby said in barely a whisper, even as he kept an eye on Sookie to make sure she was still asleep.
Eric closed his eyes and let out a long breath. “Are her doctors competent? Would others be better able to treat her?” he asked.
“I contacted Niall, and he used his connections to check out her doctors,” Bobby said with a sigh of his own. “Adele’s lead cardiologist is well-respected and actually specializes in geriatric cases. According to Niall, there are more prominent doctors in the country, but not many better.” He paused. “After I contacted him, Niall called Adele’s cardiologist too. He believes that everything humanly possible is being done for Adele, given her condition and age.”
As Eric opened his eyes, a tear fell from one of them. “Will you thank Niall for his help?”
“I will,” Bobby said. “But he was glad to do it.”
Eric nodded in acknowledgment. He’d only met Niall a couple of times and was grateful to Bobby’s great-uncle for using his connections in the medical field to give Sookie and him peace of mind. Eric wanted—no needed—to be able to tell Sookie that Adele’s doctors were among the best and had done everything possible for her grandmother—for Gran.
“There’s more,” Bobby said, shifting in his chair uncomfortably.
“Tell me,” Eric requested.
“Halleigh said that Sookie’s brother overheard Adele asking for her granddaughter, and he and Sookie’s mother have gotten wind that Sookie’s on her way. According to Halleigh, they are trying to get Sookie barred from seeing Adele.”
“They can’t do that,” Eric growled softly.
Bobby sighed. “Halleigh said that they told the hospital administrator that Sookie’s the one who broke her grandmother’s heart by leaving town. They fed the administrator some bullshit story that seeing Sookie would just upset Adele more.”
“Did the administrator buy it?”
“Halleigh overheard Michelle and Jason talking to the administrator and stepped in. She argued that Adele had clearly asked for Sookie and had even provided her with a telephone number during her first lucid state after surgery, and—since then—Adele has asked for Sookie whenever she awakens, though Adele’s still very groggy. The administrator wants to speak with Sookie before letting her see Adele, but Halleigh has indicated that she will try to help us no matter what—that she’ll even sneak Sookie in if that’s what it takes.”
Eric sighed deeply. “That’s something, at least. Wait—do we know who Gran’s lawyer is?”
Bobby closed his eyes and went through his memory banks. One of the reasons why he was so good at what he did was his photographic memory. “Sid Matt Lancaster was the name on Adele’s husband’s Will.”
“Get in touch with him,” Eric whispered. “If I know Adele, she’s made Sookie the executrix of her Will. If we can get that information to the hospital administrator, we should have no problems getting Sookie in. I want this cleared up before we get there if possible. And I want Sookie to be able to see Gran without her brother or her sorry excuse for a mother in the room.”
Bobby nodded. “I’ll make it happen, Eric.” He was silent for a moment. “After you get her through this, you and I are going to have to talk about today. It will likely be a game-changer.” He sighed. “I don’t think that Appius could be tracking us here, but if I know him, he won’t rest until he finds out what rattled you. He’ll want to exploit it.”
“I know,” Eric said in a tortured voice. “But I had to get to her as soon as I found out about Gran.”
“I know,” Bobby reassured. “And—for what it’s worth—I think you did the right thing by leaving that meeting. But there may be consequences.”
“I can’t think about that right now.”
“Well—that’s why you have me,” Bobby replied, getting up and moving back to the front of the plane so that he could get to work on controlling the damage that either Michelle Stackhouse or Appius Northman might try to do.
Eric held onto Sookie tightly as he led her down the hall toward the hospital’s ICU. From the helpful nurse to whom Bobby had been speaking, he knew that they would have to check in at a desk in order to progress to Adele’s room; he also knew that there was a waiting room by that desk. And that was where they would likely encounter Michelle and Jason Stackhouse.
Though Eric had tried to prepare Sookie for the fact that her mother would probably be in that waiting room, he still felt her stiffen and then shake when she saw the woman who Eric knew immediately was her mother.
Michelle Stackhouse was the kind of woman who looked older than her real age, which Eric knew to be around fifty. She was also the kind of woman who’d had what the New York elite called “work done by the wrong doctor.” There was nothing that the New York socialites of his grandmother’s age liked to gossip about more than a woman who’d had “one cut too many” or who’d “rolled the dice once too often” or who’d “been cut by a quack.” All of them whispered about how they would use only “Meryl’s doctor” or “Madonna’s doctor” if they ever opted for plastic surgery—which they, of course, never admitted to doing.
Eric shook his head a little. His own grandmother, Grace Northman, had had at least three “corrective procedures” that he knew of, and he wasn’t really “in the know”—so she’d probably had even more than that. However, Eric had to admit that Grace’s own choice of doctor—whether it was Meryl’s or Madonna’s—had been excellent, for she still looked like a “normal” human. The woman now in front of him did not.
Michelle had obviously once been a beautiful woman, though—because of the sneer that seemed permanently etched onto her face—she didn’t hold a candle to her daughter. However, Michelle had had—in Eric’s estimation—about five or six Botox injections too many and all from the wrong doctor. Moreover, the stench of cigarette smoke clung to her so much that he could smell it from across the room.
“Well—look who finally showed up,” a young man, presumably Sookie’s brother, drawled from next to the woman.
“Oh—don’t be so harsh,” Michelle Stackhouse said sarcastically, “Susanna’s a New Yorker now. It’s a miracle she even came at all. We all know that she cares about dear Adele only for her money.”
Hoping that his presence would block Sookie from the venom her mother was spewing, Eric stepped forward so that Sookie was a little behind him. What he really wanted to do was to punch out both Michelle and Jason Stackhouse, but Eric knew that such a thing wouldn’t help Sookie—no matter how good it might feel.
“Who’s this?” Michelle asked, turning her gaze to Eric and leering at him as if he were a piece of meat.
Eric ignored the look and the question and walked Sookie up to the desk. “Sookie Stackhouse is here to see Adele Stackhouse,” he said.
The attendant looked up nervously. “Just a moment.” She quickly pushed some buttons and made a call. “It’ll be just another minute,” the attendant said. “Mrs. Stackhouse’s lawyer’s back there, and she gets only one visitor at a time.”
“She’s awake?” Sookie stammered out.
The attendant smiled a little and nodded to the young woman.
Eric led Sookie over to the seats farthest away from Michelle and Jason and sat down with Sookie practically on his lap. He noticed that Sookie was staring at her mother with a lost look in her eyes.
“Sookie,” Eric whispered in her ear so that only she could hear. “Min sol,” he said when she didn’t look at him right away.
Finally she turned to him.
He spoke quietly, probably too quietly for her even to hear, but he knew that she could read his lips. “I am here. Your gran is here. You are here. No one else matters. Those people don’t matter.”
Her lost look fading just a little, Sookie nodded even as the door leading to the ICU opened and Sid Matt Lancaster came out into the waiting room. He was followed by an attractive African American woman in a navy suit; the woman immediately nodded at Sookie and Eric.
“Miss Stackhouse,” she said, extending her hand, “my name is Kenya Jones, and I’m the hospital administrator. It’s my unpleasant duty to inform you that Jason and Michelle Stackhouse tried to have you barred from Adele Stackhouse’s room.”
“What?” Sookie asked, her heart dropping. Eric’s arm around her shoulder was the only thing that kept her steady.
“Don’t worry,” Kenya said quickly. “After personally hearing from your grandmother and her attorney, I have deemed that barring you would be inappropriate. Since she has been awake, your grandmother has been asking for you.” Kenya smiled comfortingly. “And I know that your being here will bring her great comfort. You can stay with her as long as you like,” she added with a little glare in the direction of the other Stackhouses in the waiting room.
“Thanks,” Sookie stammered as she went up to the front desk again in order to get her visitor’s badge.
“I’m going with her,” Eric said forcefully.
“Only one visitor at a time,” the attendant said regretfully. “And only family or—uh—clergy and council.”
“I’m Miss Stackhouse’s fiancée, and I’m going with her,” Eric said, his tone brooking no argument.
“Susanna doesn’t have a fiancé,” Michelle said nastily from across the room.
“And I don’t see no ring,” Jason added, suddenly next to them at the window.
Sid Matt stepped forward a little. His eyes were clearly red and showed his own sadness; however, he spoke firmly. “Adele visited Miss Stackhouse and her fiancée at Thanksgiving. I can vouch for this young man.” He looked at the administrator. “Surely an exception can be made, given the situation.”
Ms. Jones nodded and turned to the attendant. “Issue both of them badges and let them both stay as long as they want.”
“What about Jason?” Michelle piped in. “He’s got a right to say goodbye to his grandmother too.”
“Yeah!” Jason practically yelled. “I got rights here too!”
Ms. Jones stood up a little straighter and addressed the two with an air of authority. “I do not appreciate troublemakers coming into my hospital and trying to air family problems when people are ill. Mrs. Stackhouse has made it very clear whom she wants to see, and I believe Jason Stackhouse has already visited her. If she asks for him again, he may go back after Miss Stackhouse is done.”
With that, Kenya motioned toward a hospital guard who’d just entered the room. She glared back at Jason and Michelle. “And if either of you causes even the tiniest of disturbances from here on out, you will both be escorted from this building.”
“You can’t do that,” Jason insisted unpleasantly.
“I can and I will,” Kenya hissed before turning on her heel and leaving the waiting room.
Thankful that Eric would be going with her, Sookie breathed a sigh of relief and let him lead her through the door as the attendant buzzed them through. They were met by a kind-faced nurse whose nametag read Halleigh. Eric immediately recognized her name; she was the nurse who had been communicating with them.
“Hello, Sookie,” Halleigh said with a caring smile. “I’m just gonna take you and Mr. Northman here to get gowned up so that you can visit with your grandmother—okay?”
Sookie nodded and then she and Eric followed Halleigh into a little room with a large sink. Halleigh instructed them on how to wash their hands and then outfitted them both with a gown and shoe coverings before taking them down the hall to Adele’s room.
A/N: Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments for the last chapter. As I knew would happen, many of you are upset about Gran. I am too. I have fallen in love with writing the Gran character (whom I’ve not gotten to work with much), and I love writing her with Elsa (Mormor). I don’t want to give away what is coming; all I can say is that the story is dictating what happens.
Well—what do you think about your introduction to Michelle and Jason? Who wants to help me build a snake pit and drop them (along with Appius) into it? Of course, the only problem with that would be that the snakes would be “out-venomed.”
Thanks for reading and continuing to support me and this story.
Until next time,