Chapter Fifteen: Memories
“Your ride’s here,” I mumble at Pam who’s lyin’ in bed next to me. I can hear Eric’s Corvette in front of the apartment.
“Mmm,” she purrs with a cat-like stretch before givin’ my chin a saucy lick, “thanks for dinner.”
“Thanks for dessert,” I turn on my side and kiss her mouth. “Now get outta my bed and dressed before Sooks comes up here.”
Pam laughs, hops outta bed, and starts puttin’ her clothes back on. I pull on my sweat pants and tug a shirt over my head to hide the bite mark she decided to leave this time on my shoulder.
When we get to the living room, Sooks is just comin’ in the front door. Her make-up’s more than a bit mussed, her hair is wild, and she has the goofiest look on her face. Aw, hell.
Pam grins at Sookie as she walks past, bumping my sister with her hip like a girl version of a high-five after scoring. Fuck my life.
Eric’s standin’ in the doorway, and I do my damnedest not to glower at him. When Sookie turns back to the door to kiss him goodnight, I give him the finger while she ain’t lookin’. Eric sees my gesture, winks at me, and then pulls away.
“Good night, Sookie,” he whispers and she blushes. When she turns to close the door, he fuckin’ slaps her ass, and I almost lose my shit.
Once the door closes, my fists are clenched.
“Jason,” Sookie turns and stares me down, “please don’t start.”
I suck a deep breath in to my lungs, put my hands behind my head, and let the air out slowly. “Ya gotta realize how screwed up this is for me,” I plead.
“I understand that,” she nods. “The thing is, Jason, you do gotta get over it. Eighteen or thirty, I was gonna find someone at some point.”
“I know, I know,” I nod. “At least it’s someone I can stand… Well, more than stand. I like Eric. I like Pam. I’m cool with it, I swear, I’m just…”
“Scared?” she hints.
“What if he takes you away from me?” I ask sullenly.
She smiles at me, “I think Eric knows we’re a package deal, Jason.”
“Are we?” I pout.
“Yes, we are,” she nods and hugs me. “Where you go, I go. Where I go, Eric goes. Our family’s just gettin’ bigger, Jason. That’s not scary, right?”
“I guess not,” I admit. “Although you make it sound like you’re gonna marry him.”
“I am,” she announces all nonchalant.
“What?” I swear I’m not tryin’ to shout.
Sookie shrugs, “I’m gonna marry him some day. I’ve made up my mind, so has he, but we’re gonna wait. He thinks until December, but I don’t know if I’ll make it that long.”
“Oh my God, just fuck him for now! Don’t go gettin’ married all the sudden!”
She actually laughs at my outburst, “Jason, sex has nothin’ to do with why I wanna marry him. I love him. We’ve been datin’ almost half a year. Lots of people get married in less time than that.”
“Yeah, well that’s only until death do you part, this is an eternal commitment!” I point out.
“I know,” she nods. “We’re gonna wait, I’m just tellin’ ya now, so we can start gettin’ used to the idea.”
“Ugh! I’m gonna be sick!” I moan.
“And I’m spendin’ my birthday weekend at Eric’s.”
“What!? C’mon, Sooks! We had plans!” I bitch like a little diva.
“For my birthday,” she reminds me. “The weekend after my birthday, I’m spendin’ with Eric.”
I scuff my foot against the floor and pout some more. “Fine.”
“C’mon, Jayce, don’t pout,” she leans in to kiss my cheek, stops, blushes, and starts walkin’ down the hall.
“Aw, really!?” I shout after her. That’s exactly how I wanna figure my sister gave a blowjob and hasn’t brushed her teeth yet.
“Both our clothes stayed on all night, Jason,” she laughs her way to the bathroom, “but I’ve still been kissin’ on Eric all night. You want his spit all over your face?”
Can’t argue that logic none, “I guess I should say ‘thanks,’” I call, goin’ to my room and flopping onto the bed. She’s makin’ some really good points.
Maybe I gotta let some of this stereotypical, big brother shit go. She doesn’t need me looming over her back, vetting her boyfriend, questioning her every move or motivation. Sooks isn’t just a good girl, she’s a smart girl. Nothin’ about this feels wrong, it just feels weird. Mostly ’cause for a long ass time, we were the only two who could make each other happy. Thing is, she’s not the only one happy right now. Used to be the only time I was remotely content was around Sookie. Now, I’m just happy all the time. At school, with the team, with Pam… That’s the way siblings should be. Happy to be around each other, not needing to be around each other to be happy.
Holy hell! Are we finally gettin’ it all right? Is our codependency finally bein’ resolved?
I think about all the times I just been super excited this week. Sure, I still got some selfish thoughts about Sookie, like wantin’ to be the one she spends her birthday with. But I ain’t coddling her near as much. I still don’t like her out in the city without me, Eric, or Pam, but she ain’t strong like the three of us, definitely not like Pam and Eric. Other than that, though, I think we’re finally gettin’ things right. I realize now that all this bullshit goin’ on in my head about Sookie and Eric ain’t about them. It’s about me still clinging to old habits.
After all, Sooks is more grown-up than any other girl her age. She’s been through a lot more, knows the world more. She knows what she wants and doesn’t want. She proved that by the way she spoke to me just now.
Wow, I think, shaking my head, we’re finally healthy physically and emotionally. I laugh at the idea. Well, I guess it’s just down to seein’ how the dynamics change between me and Sooks, and figuring out what all that means from here on out.
I need to find somethin’ to do, I think miserably. No work, no school, no Sookie for another week. Even though her finals don’t start ’til Wednesday, she’s been studyin’ so freakin’ much, I hardly get to talk to her any. It sucks that my semester ended so much earlier than hers, but I’ve been makin’ do.
Yesterday I went out with the team and we all wandered to one of the parks for a pick-up game of football. There were some high school kids who wanted in, and they were stoked to play with a real college team.
My teammates were blown away by some of my deep passes, not havin’ seen my arm at its best since my Freshman year. The first pass I made was over seventy yards, and Aaron, our wide receiver, ’bout shit himself when the ball practically fell into his waitin’ arms. The game stopped, takin’ the youngins by surprise, as my entire team just froze on the field and practically dog piled me with relief. I think they was all worried I wouldn’t be able to make it through my senior year.
Next thing I know, Aaron’s begging me to attempt an eighty-yard pass. I think I threw just shy of ninety, and the team exploded with shouts and whistles. Damn, that was a good time!
The door opens then, and I look up from the baseball game to see Sookie comin’ in. She sets her book bag down by the couch and kinda drifts right past me. My face scrunches into a frown as she goes straight to her room, shutting the door.
Why didn’t she take her books with her? I wonder in surprise that she didn’t sit right at the coffee table and start studyin’. Even if she didn’t want the noise of the TV, she woulda taken her materials with her.
Gettin’ up from the couch, I go to Sook’s door and give it a soft knock.
“Yeah?” she calls softly.
“Can I come in?” I ask, puttin’ my hand at the doorknob, waitin’ for her to say it’s okay.
“Sure,” she sounds real down.
“What’s wrong?” I ask as I come in. She’s sittin’ on her bed with a folded-up piece of paper. I sit down next to her.
“Someone left this in my locker,” she whispers, handin’ me the paper.
~Go suck your brother’s dick, Orphan!~
“Aw, what bullshit is this all the sudden?” I growl, crumpling up the note and shoving it into my pocket. “Just ignore it, Sookie,” I tell her firmly. “It’s nothin’ but words. Whoever wrote that is a piece of shit, and don’t know what the fuck they’re talkin’ ’bout!”
“I know,” she mumbles gloomily, tilting her head to rest on my shoulder. “It just hurts in ways I didn’t think it could.”
“C’mon,” I pick her up like a baby and carry her to the living room. I plop us on the couch and look for a movie to watch. “You just need to chill a bit, right? Get your mind off it for a little while and then get back to studyin’.”
Sookie nods in a way that makes me feel like I’m bein’ humored. It feels like she’s hurtin’ even worse than she’s lettin’ on, and I just don’t know what the fuck to do! My baby sis ain’t let words hurt her like this before. Hell, I don’t think anything’s pushed her toward this sorta depression since seein’ Gran’s house under renovation. At least then, she’d been reactive. Now she’s all despondent and quiet… I don’t know what the hell to do for her!
Oh, what in the hell is going on now? I wonder as I storm into the Stackhouse’s apartment. Eric has been summoned to New Orleans by Sophie-Anne, and had to take flight immediately at true dark. He is pissed off, and grating on my last nerve all because of Sookie. Apparently, his little girlfriend is very distressed, to the point that Jason called him, and Sophie-Anne has Eric on a damned timer about getting to New Orleans before ten o’clock!
“What the hell is going on?” I snap as I fling open Jason’s apartment door and find the siblings curled on the couch together reading that fucking book about children living on a train, or whatever the hell it’s about.
Jason puts the book down, stands up, and comes over to me before whispering, “Some lil’ fucker left a note in Sook’s locker that pretty much called her a white trash orphan.”
Shit, she is upset about this…what do I do? It is only words, so I am not quite certain why she is so upset. I can tell by the fact she has not greeted me that she is very upset by the situation, but she is not even studying for her finals! She must be extremely upset. By words? Why?
“I see,” I finally reply uncomfortably. “I’ll just go call Eric and explain why Sookie is so upset. You can… Take care of this, right?” I gesture at his distraught sister vaguely.
Jason replies with an equally uncomfortable raising of his shoulders. Neither one of us is particularly well-equipped to deal with this level of depression from Sookie. Normally, she is Jason’s rock, and I can see him floundering without her. I, on the other hand, am emotionally ill-equipped to be of any assistance to her. Sookie does not do retail therapy. Therefore, I am out of ideas to help her.
I step out and call Eric’s cellphone. It goes straight to voicemail, as he is in the air, and not even vampire hearing would allow me to interpret his words over the wind. Once I have updated my Maker on the situation, I re-enter the apartment. Jason and I stand on the outskirts of the living room as Sookie just sits there, staring at the blank television screen. Her shoulders are locked, and I can see a strange array of emotions flickering across her face. I can tell she is trying to work something very intricate in her head, but I am unable to determine what it is.
At some point, Jason and I are standing in the kitchen, and he is staring at his cup of coffee looking utterly lost. Like me, he cannot comprehend why his sister is suffering this level of depression from something so inconsequential as a rude letter.
I have been at the Stackhouses’ for nearly two hours when the apartment phone rings. I answer it as Jason is sitting next to his sister, his arm wrapped over her shoulder.
“This is Pam,” I snap into the phone.
“Put Sookie on the phone,” Eric’s voice commands.
“Fuck you, Northm- ARGH!” A shriek of pain and shredding sound comes over the receiver.
“Eric, are you in Baton Rouge again?” I hiss into the phone.
“You are fucking right I am in fucking Baton Rouge AGAIN!” Eric roars and I hear the distinct sound of a vampire turning into a pile of flesh. “I am done coming back here to this fucking swamp, you ingrates! I would have ended you fucking wastes of immortality-”
I pull the phone away from my ear, pinch the bridge of my nose, and sigh. Eric is extremely pissed off and murdering vampires, demanding to talk to his girlfriend whilst he does so. This could end very poorly.
“Are you done?” I demand once there is an extended length of time that has an absence of dismembering body parts, curses, and screams of agony.
“I am almost certainly finished. There were only five vampires left out in the bayou, correct?” he asks me.
“Six, actually. Why did Sophie-Anne call you to New Orleans first if she was only going to permit your request for a purge?” I ask quietly as to not alert the Stackhouses that Eric is currently destroying an entire coterie of Louisiana vampires.
“My motivations for François’ disciplining was called into question. She believed it to be unprovoked, when I argued further, she summoned me to justify my request with evidence. Once I proved that François has been taking pay-offs from the bayou vampires, she relented and consented to my prescribed discipline. Hold on.”
I listen to a scuffle, several more shouted curses, and then my Maker’s howl. My jaw tenses when I hear another vampire turning into a pile, but I do not feel his true demise.
“And that is six,” Eric tells me merrily.
“What was that?”
“Silver in his glove. A brief burn. Now, put Sookie on. I will walk to François’ from here and handle Sookie.”
“Yes,” I roll my eyes, “good luck with that.” Turning toward the living room, I call to the little blonde, “Sookie, Eric wants to speak with you.”
I hand her the phone when she approaches, and go to sit on the sofa with Jason. When he begins to speak, I hush him. I want to know how Eric plans to defuse Sookie’s depression.
“Hey, Eric,” Sookie murmurs into the phone.
“Sookie, Pam told me about that idiotic note in your locker,” Eric sighs. “Your brother called me, you are so upset, and you know as well as I do that you are a very strong young woman who does not let words hurt her like this… So, what is the real problem?”
Sookie turns her back to me and faces the phone before whispering, “J-Jason would never use me like that.”
“I know that, Sookie,” Eric assures her. “We all know that. I am certain your classmates know that as well. This person knew that you and your brother are close, that you are all you have left of your family, and they accurately assessed that implying such crude things would upset you. It is a psychological attack; one I am horrified an eighteen-year-old could successfully implement!”
“It just… The… The implication, it just…it’s makin’ me remember things I never thought I could remember more of, and those things are what hurts… Those things, and bein’ forced to even imagine that Jason… It’s like someone threw water on my candle…” Sookie whimpers.
“What things are you remembering, Sookie?” Eric asks curiously.
“Hadley and Bartlett,” Sookie whispers back.
I frown. I do not know those names. I take my hand from Jason’s mouth as I quietly ask, “Who are Hadley and Bartlett?”
Jason’s eyes widen immediately, and it is a dawning of so much pain and anguish that I am stunned as Jason leaps from the sofa and lunges for his sister.
“Eric, call her back later,” Jason snaps into the phone and hangs it up. “Oh, Sooks! Oh, Sooks!” He holds his sister tightly, “Oh, God, I’m so sorry. I din’ even think ’bout back then! Oh, Sooks!”
I am completely confused at this point, standing awkwardly in the living room while a brother comforts his hurt, little sister. Her small arms wrap around his waist, and I hear her sobbing into his chest. While part of me wishes to know what the hell is going on, a foreign voice in my head tells me that I am intruding on something extremely private.
“Oh my God, Sooks, and you could hear it, couldn’t ya? You could fuckin’ hear him!” Jason sobs into her hair now. “All those things you couldn’t tell police or counselors you saw and heard…”
I leave the apartment quietly and go sit in my van to give the siblings the privacy they deserve. There are a few things I can glean from what I overheard. I do not wish to speculate too far. My experience and imagination at the horrible things humans can do to each other can only conjure the worst of the worst. I do not wish to imagine the worst of the worst regarding Sookie. She has had enough terrible past times without my imaginings of new ones.
How did I never think back when Sooks told me about her telepathy, that maybe she had worse scars than we could have imagined from the Hadley/Bartlett controversy?
“Aw, Sooks,” I pick her up off the ground and take her to the couch with me. She’s practically curled in my lap like a kitten as I pet and stroke her hair. “He never touched you, right? That ain’t changed?” I ask desperately.
“N-no, he never did,” she sobs. “But-but, it was like my brain derailed when I read that note. I was so angry someone could even say somethin’ like that about you, even if it was just to get a rise outta me! Then I was angry that someone could joke about stuff like that. Then i-it was all these memories I don’t even remember that I remembered about Hadley and Bartlett. All the ways he hurt her and scared her into not sayin’ anythin’ ’bout how he was hurtin’ her. Jason, he hurt her so bad, and back then, all I saw was the fear. I was just too little to know the pain, y’know? I could see the scary stuff, and knew it was scary. But when I saw the painful stuff, I didn’t have no scale for it, y’know? I couldn’t grasp how much it hurt. A-and now I know how things hurt. Then, that note makes all those memories come back, and all the sudden I’m not just feelin’ scared or upset, I’m feelin’ pain and it hurt so-so b-bad!”
“Shh, shh,” I hush and rock. I pet her hair and kiss her head and just hush her over and over ’cause what fuckin’ words can I possibly have right now?
I just sit there with her, holdin’ her for a good long time until she finally passes out. Maybe I’m bein’ optimistic, but I think a good, hard cry is what she really needed. The whole afternoon’s been like sittin’ with someone who’s had too much to drink, and you know they just need to sick it all up, but they keep fighting it. Today, Sooks just got too much bad stuff put in her head, and she needed to cry it out. Of course, Sooks bein’ the girl she is, had to go and put on the brave face ’til Eric forced a proverbial finger down her throat.
After I’m sure she’s out for the count, I pick Sooks up and take her to her room. It’s a warm night, so I just set her on top the covers and put her on her side with a pillow under her head. I lay down with her for a few minutes, just to make sure the move didn’t disturb her none, and then I finally leave and turn out her light.
When I get back to the living room, Pam’s back, and she’s sittin’ silent on the couch. I move past her to the kitchen and grab a soda, kinda wishing it was a beer. Comin’ back to the couch, I sit down, take a sip, and sit quietly a minute.
“Bartlett was our Gran’s brother. He raped our cousin Hadley,” That’s all I can really say about that part of the story. I don’t know much ’bout the details. Only what Sookie told me she knew ’bout it. Apparently, there were pictures of it all, but that don’t say nothin’ ’bout what Sooks had seen in the mind of an old pedophile. “I guess it was happenin’ a couple years ’til Sooks found out and called the police. She din’ confront Bartlett or tell any of the family. She just saw somethin’ bad happenin’ to her cousin and called the cops. Hadley’s the same age as me. I had no idea what was happenin’ to her. No fuckin’ clue.
“Me, Sooks and Hatty- oh, Sooks couldn’t say ‘Hadley’… God, I ain’t called her Hatty in a long fuckin’ time… But me, Sooks, and Hadley was all at Bartlett’s one afternoon. Hadley was inside with Bartlett. Me and Sooks was out playin’. All the sudden Sooks looked back at the house and just walked away.
“I figured she just got tired of bein’ outside. Twenty minutes later, there was cop cars comin’ up the drive. No lights or sirens… Just pulled up and Sookie came outside, took one of the officer’s hands and brought them inside. Next thing I know, Bartlett’s comin’ out in handcuffs with one officer. A lady cop comes out with Hatty in her arms, and Sookie’s just standin’ there with the other two. One of the cops told me that Bartlett was hurtin’ Hatty behind everyone’s backs, and that Sookie saw it and was a hero.”
Pam is quiet a moment after I tell her the story. Finally, she asks, “Do you believe that note implying incest unblocked some of her memories from that time?”
I shrug, “I couldn’t tell ya for sure, but that’s how she made it sound.”
“Did Bartlett ever hurt Sookie?” she asks next.
“She says no.”
“Do you believe she is lying?” Pam asks next.
I lean back into the couch, put my head back, and look up at the ceiling, “I don’t think he ever hurt her physically, but I think tonight makes it obvious he hurt her another way.”
I think Pam nods at my assessment. “She was very obviously distressed. She is resting now?”
“Yeah, I put her to bed. I think she just needed a good cry about it, y’know? She said she remembered stuff she didn’t even know she knew. Don’t know how much of that was imagination and how much was actual memory. It doesn’t really matter, I guess, as long as she believes it was real.”
“I did not realize that your family’s bad luck ran so far back,” Pam murmurs. “I have to wonder, Stackhouse, if you aren’t cursed.”
“It sure hasn’t felt like that since meeting you guys,” I laugh slightly. “Go figure. Meet a couple vampires, and your life gets better.”
Pam chuckles, “Yes. Go figure.”
“She’ll be okay, y’know?” I tell Pam after a minute of more silence. “Sook don’t dwell. She’ll be right as rain in the mornin’.”
“Will she?” Pam asks softly.
“Yeah,” I nod with confidence. “You might wanna get goin’ though. You should call Eric and tell him what all happened. I kinda hung up on him as soon as you mentioned Hadley… He’s pro’lly pissed at me now ’cause I said I’d have Sooks call him back.”
“He will understand once I explain what happened after you ended the phone call,” Pam says while standin’ up and headin’ for the door. “I’m…sorry for what happened to your cousin. Sorrier about how that hurts your sister.”
“Thanks,” I mumble. I don’t know what else to say to that.
After Pam leaves, I go back to my sister’s room to check on her. She’s still layin’ on her side like I left her, but her hand is tucked up by her chin, and I walk around the bed to see her face. Sure enough, she’s suckin’ on her thumb like she was five years old again. Mamma ’bout pulled her hair out tryin’ to get Sookie to stop suckin’ her thumb before startin’ school. Managed it, too, but then when Sookie was in second grade and we lost our parents, Sookie started suckin’ her thumb all over again. I got her to stop after a few months. Sometimes, I’d catch her doing it in her sleep, but how do ya stop that?
I lean down, kiss Sookie on the head, and then go to my own room. As I lay there, I kinda give a little prayer that she really is all right in the mornin’. My sister is my rock, and I’m adrift without her.