Chapter Sixteen: Letters From Me to You
Sookie looked at the last of her fading bruises as she changed clothes after school. Since returning from New Orleans, things had changed dramatically for her. The entire school had seemed to collectively decide to ignore her. Sookie suspected the change in her classmate’s aggression toward her was more than likely linked to her brother’s sprained wrist.
It had only been three days of being bully-free, but Sookie had been grateful for those three days. The worst of her bruises were still brilliantly discolored, but the majority which had been quite light, to begin with, were finally vanishing rather than being recreated.
Now she would be heading to Shreveport to meet with a psychologist for the first time since shortly after her accident. Gran would be coming as well, but she’d said it was only to drop her off.
Sookie didn’t understand why. After all, she’d just driven to and from New Orleans over the weekend, but rather than question it, Sookie merely nodded and changed for her first session. The car ride was quiet which made Sookie more uneasy. Gran usually filled Sookie’s silent life with gossip or commentary on her latest book.
When they arrived at the psychologist’s office without so much as a word, Gran handed Sookie her notebook and smiled.
“Don’t be scared, Sookie,” Gran told her. “Just be honest. It’s just you and her. No one will see or hear a peep about it.”
Taking her book and pen, Sookie nodded slowly before shutting the door and heading to the office. Approaching the brunette receptionist by herself was nerve-wracking. Her fingers fumbled as she opened the notebook to a fresh page, and her ordinarily beautiful penmanship suffered as her hand was unsteady.
“I’m Sookie,” she held the page out for the receptionist to see.
The middle-aged woman glanced up and saw the paper before her. She smiled and nodded. “Hi there, Sookie. I’m Barb, Dr. Broadway’s assistant. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other well. If you feel more comfortable signing, then go ahead and use that. The doctor and I will both understand you,” Barb told her in a reassuring lilt.
Sookie let out a breath she’d been holding as the matronly looking woman seemed to cure a bit of her anxiety. “Thanks,” she gestured in relief. Even though she wasn’t perfect at signing, it was a relief for smaller statements or inquiries. Only having Eric to sign with limited her practice and vocabulary, especially now with him away at school.
“If you want to take a seat right there,” Barb gestured to a small seating area, “Dr. Broadway will be with you in a few moments.”
With less hesitation than when she entered, Sookie took a seat and waited by staring at her notebook. She studied the wiggly lines of I’m Sookie, and began to write it over and over again until the shakiness of her hand vanished. When the swoops of her words smoothed out, and she felt the calm finally extending throughout her body, she felt more prepared for her first session.
“Sookie?” Barb called gently. “Dr. Broadway is ready to see you.”
Sookie smiled politely as she rose from her seat and headed for the office. When she entered, a lovely, young woman rose to meet her. Her hair was a brilliant, natural red, and Sookie wondered momentarily if she was old enough to be a doctor.
“Hello, Sookie,” Dr. Broadway held out her hand to shake Sookie’s. “It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Dr. Amelia Broadway.”
“You too,” Sookie replied when she got her hand back.
“I see Barb informed you that signing is understood here,” Dr. Broadway smiled.
“Yeah,” Sookie nodded.
“Excellent.” Dr. Broadway gestured to the available seats. “Wherever is comfortable for you.”
Sookie chose the sofa, leaning into its arm, and perching her notebook upon it. Dr. Broadway settled in a nearby armchair, and Sookie figured it was because she would be able to read Sookie’s notes easier from that vantage point.
“So how is your day going?” the psychologist asked.
“Good,” Sookie’s hands answered.
Dr. Broadway smiled, “Remember, Sookie, this is a place where nothing you say gets back to anyone. You don’t have to be polite or proper, and you don’t have to grin and bear a thing.”
Sookie looked at her notebook and frowned. The only thing that ruined her day that destroyed everyday…
“I miss my fiancé, Eric.” She held up her notebook and confessed.
“Long distance relationships are complicated,” Dr. Broadway nodded. “But with the circumstances you’ve grown under, I can tell you’re tough enough to handle it.”
“He’s tough, too. He and his siblings moved all over the world while he was growing up,” Sookie told her.
“I bet he fell pretty hard for you,” Dr. Broadway teased.
“Why do you say that?”
The older woman shrugged before saying, “When I first saw you, I envisioned homemade apple pies and sweet smiles. What man wouldn’t melt for that?”
Sookie blushed before she confessed, “Eric tries to encourage me to look beyond just being a housewife. When I visited over the weekend, he asked if I might want to go to school to become a pastry chef.”
“Would you?” the doctor asked.
Sookie shook her head before looking back to her notebook, “I love to bake, but I can’t envision it as a career right now. I sort of thought I’d get out of high school as fast as I could, move to Shreveport or somewhere, get a job in a factory or warehouse where I wouldn’t have to talk, and just-” Sookie stared at the sentence, searching her mind for the verb that eluded her. When no word came, she held the incomplete statement up for the doctor to read.
“That’s called existing, Sookie,” Dr. Broadway provided. “You seem fixated on getting out of Bon Temps, though. Why is that?”
“I’d come to visit home,” she assured quickly and showed it to the doctor. However, the rest of her statement came soon after. “Everyone in town talks about me when I come into the stores. The waitresses and stuff talk about me when Eric takes me out in town. Gran stopped even offering to bring me shopping with her after awhile.”
“You want the anonymity of city living?” the doctor asked. Sookie nodded slowly. “Has that want changed at all since getting engaged?” Sookie took another moment before giving a tentative bob of her head. “What do you want now?”
“Babies,” Sookie answered bashfully.
Dr. Broadway smiled, “How many?”
“At least five,” Sookie covered her face with her hands after she replied.
“What about motherhood is most exciting to you?”
Sookie’s shy smile faltered, and Amelia was surprised.
“They will know I love them even if I can’t speak,” Sookie finally gestured out her feelings. “They’ll always know without words.” Sookie took up her pen again and continued, “My mom and dad told us they loved us all the time, but I always felt it even when they weren’t saying it. That’s why I… Eric hasn’t had to hear it once. He knows.”
“But you want him and your babies to hear it, too,” Amelia finished gently. Sookie nodded and pushed a tear that trickled down her cheek. As she snuffled back the building congestion in her nose, she saw the doctor nudge a box of tissues at her, but Sookie stubbornly refused to use one. “What happens when you try to tell Eric your feelings?”
Sookie frowned dully as she answered, “My throat closes, and no breath comes in or out until I stop trying. Then I stop trying, and I can breathe again.”
“I see,” Amelia watched Sookie in a manner of consideration rather than observation. Sookie felt like she was being listened too and not studied. It felt much less clinical and scary than when she was a child. In a way, she felt like she was sitting around with Godric. She imagined his curious questions and rapt attention. “Was it always like that when you tried to speak after the accident, or did it feel a little different when you first woke up?”
Thinking back, Sookie tried to remember if her inability to speak had always felt like choking on her own tongue. No,Sookie thought, I couldn’t even move my lips right when I woke up…She remembered the words around her, absorbing them, understanding them, but had none of her own. It had been like someone removed the path from her brain to her mouth. In fact, as Sookie recalled, she hadn’t even been able to write at first. That had come back about two weeks after waking up. When Sookie tried to explain this to Amelia, the doctor nodded as if she understood something Sookie had spent her entire life trying to fathom.
“Then the thing keeping you from speaking has changed since the beginning, hasn’t it?” the doctor asked, and Sookie could only hesitantly agree. Has the nature of it changed?
They communicated back and forth about the differences between how she couldn’t speak when she first awoke from her coma, and how it felt when she tried to talk now. By the middle of the session, Dr. Broadway seemed far more encouraged about the situation than Sookie felt.
“We’re going to work through this together, Sookie,” Amelia told her. “We’ll celebrate every little victory together.”
“What about when I move to New Orleans next year?” Sookie asked.
“Well,” Amelia thought for a moment, “I have a colleague down there. Actually, she was more of a mentor than a colleague. Her name is Dr. Octavia Fant, and we both have similar ideas when it comes to our approach to helping others. If you like, I can help you schedule an appointment with her while you’re down in New Orleans visiting Eric. You’d have to give me plenty of notice for your trip, though,” Amelia told her.
“I’d really appreciate that,” Sookie agreed. Getting to know her future doctor now felt like it would make the transition much easier later.
“All right, try to plan a trip at least six weeks in advance, okay?” Amelia suggested before refocusing their attention to their actual meeting. “So, how do you feel so far about your first session?”
Sookie considered the question before confessing, “A bit overwhelmed and confused. What does it mean if the cause of my muteness has changed?”
Amelia smiled. “It means that we might have a real chance at bringing your voice back if we work together. You’re not fighting this alone, Sookie. You have your Gran, your brother, Eric, and Pam! Everyone’s rooting for you, Sookie. Think of me as your coach, and your family and friends like your fans and teammates. You’re the star of the game, and we all want to see you win. But we need to win as a team. That means you can’t shoulder everything yourself. Lean on your team. Ask your coach for advice.”
“I’ve always felt alone in this,” Sookie admitted. “I don’t know that I know how to work as a team.”
“Well, unless you were planning on making and raising those five babies you want on your own, you’ll have to at least learn how to work with one teammate,” Amelia pointed out with a smirk, and Sookie blushed. “Do you think keeping Eric in the loop on your sessions might help you bridge the gap in the experience?”
“Eric told me he wanted me to share if I was willing to,” Sookie wrote slowly as the gravity of his request hit her. “I just don’t want to distract him from his studies.”
“The two of you are planning to get married at the start of the summer, right?” Amelia asked. When Sookie nodded, Dr. Broadway gestured as though she felt that alone should answer Sookie’s doubts. “When you’re married, there won’t be escaping to your own house and hiding. He’ll be there when you’re overwhelmed and crying. He’ll be there when you’re sick or just PMSing. When you start having kids, he’ll be there through the bloating and vomiting and all that fun stuff. If he wants to be around for all that, don’t you think he wants to be a part of this?”
“When you put it like that, writing about my sessions to him seems almost romantic,” Sookie smiled amusedly.
“I think it’s obvious that he cares for you and loves you very much,” Amelia assured, and Sookie felt a weight lift from her chest.
Her own family had been very positive about her engagement to Eric, but Eric’s brother and sister seemed hesitant. Sookie wouldn’t go so far as to say they were disapproving, but she definitely felt far less enthusiasm from them.
“Are you okay, Sookie?” Amelia asked as she saw the young woman’s eyes grow distant and sad. When Sookie expressed how Godric and especially Pam had reacted to the engagement, Amelia nodded in understanding. “Well, it’s certainly a difficult family dynamic. Since I don’t know any of them, I can only give general theories about their lack of enthusiasm, but it feels like the issue definitely isn’t you.”
“I know,” Sookie gestured half-heartedly.
As the session wrapped up, Sookie thanked her new doctor and headed for the waiting room. She thought she should be crying, or feeling something profound. Instead, she felt simpler. Dr. Broadway had demystified her condition. She made it feel like she could fight. Though they hadn’t really talked about a plan of attack, Sookie guessed that Amelia wanted to get to know their opponent a little better. Though it had been described to her like a football game, Sookie saw it as a boxing match in her head. I guess that makes Eric Adrian…Sookie smirked. I wonder if I’ll sound like Rocky when I start talking; like I have a bunch of marbles in my mouth?
Sookie paused on her way out the door. For the first time in eight years, she had thought of the word ‘when’ instead of ‘if.’
While tears trickled down her face, all she could do was let out short huffs of laughter like sobs as she left the office and stepped out to the street.
My session went well with Dr. Broadway. We’ve started by exploring the possibility that anxiety might be playing a role in my speech problem. She suggested trying some anti-anxiety medications and seeing if it helps me overcome my mental block. The problem is, I don’t want to be on medication my whole life, and I want to try learning other coping methods instead of resorting to drugs. What do you think?
I think what’s important is doing what feels right for you. If you want to try getting through this without medication, then I support that decision. I think you should talk more to the doctor about the situation, though. Drugs aren’t always permanent solutions. A lot of the time their use is as needed. I think a few sessions more could be useful in making your decision, and that you should discuss your goals with the doctor.
Oh, I went to a party at Quinn’s frat last weekend. The idiot went back to some girl’s dorm room, was too tired to make it back to the house and ended up in my bed with me! Scared the hell out of me waking up to someone in my bed! I couldn’t figure out where the hell he came from! I’ll kill Alcide for leaving the door unlocked!
Tell Quinn he’ll get a beating from me if he steals my spot in your bed.
School’s been better. Everyone’s been back to ignoring me for a few weeks now, and it’s lonely, but it’s better than being covered in bruises. I think Jason had something to do with it because when I got home, he had a sprained wrist.
I have a countdown board in my room, tearing off days until graduation.
Dr. Broadway and I talked some more about the medication thing. She elaborated more on her intentions for using drugs. The doc thinks if I can get to the point where I’m relaxed enough to start talking, I can eventually be weaned off the anti-anxiety meds and not use them at all, or only as needed. She makes it sound like a shortcut. I’m not fond of taking the easy route, but when I mentioned that, she said they aren’t always about cutting corners, sometimes they’re for reducing strain. She pointed out that if I’m under constant stress about not being able to speak, that it could be making it all even worse.
I see her point, but I guess I’m just scared.
What are you doing for Halloween?
Sorry, I’m writing you back so late. This week has been nuts. Debbie and Alcide got into a huge fight, and Alcide’s been clinging to me like a lost lamb.
Halloween was fun. I went as a Viking (polaroid enclosed) and drank a couple beers with Quinn and Felipe, the guy who’s been teaching me the guitar. Felipe’s pretty cool. We’ve been hanging out a lot together.
Speaking of counting down days, are you still sure about the specifics of the wedding? Do you still want June in your Gran’s house?
Being scared about Dr. Broadway’s suggestions is okay. The important thing is to keep talking about it. Tell her you’re afraid and why you think you are. Keep working with her! What’s important is doing right by yourself, and if the pills help, then just follow the dosage and ride the ride.
Yes, I’m counting down to the wedding too! Already talked to Gran about it, and I want June 7that her house! In regards to the picture you sent: that is one sexy Viking, and he’s all mine!
I’ve decided to give the Doc’s medication suggestions a try. She said finding my right dosage, and stuff is important. Boy, was she right! I took my first pill, and it killed me for the day. Gran had to call me off school. Dr. Broadway was surprised because she gave me a really low dose, to begin with. I was put on an even smaller amount, and this doesn’t feel like much of anything. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. It’s only been a few days, after all.
You can tell me all about the fight between Alcide and Debbie this week when you come home for Thanksgiving!
Is it Christmas break yet? I’m glad we got to sneak back to my house while everyone was at yours. I really wanted to show you how thankful I am to have you in my life. You really surprised me, too! That ‘mmm’ sound you can make when you feel like it is so expressive! I can hear the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and ‘huh?’ I was most thankful for that. I liked the other sounds I got out of you later, but the ‘mmm’ was the best of our lives so far!
Alcide and Debbie still aren’t talking. I’m a little worried about it, actually. I figured they’d have things patched up when they got back from Thanksgiving, but they seem worse than ever.
I was thinking on my drive home about our wedding. It was good to talk about what we wanted to do while everyone was together visiting, but you and I haven’t discussed our honeymoon at all. We’ll have most of the summer to do something. Any suggestions? I have a couple things on my mind, but what do you think?
I wish it were Christmas already too! I hope Debbie and Alcide can bring it back together, but the most I can do is keep them in my prayers. It’s not our business to butt in unless they ask, I suppose.
As for our honeymoon, we could go camping if you’d like. We could drive up north, and that would definitely be just us! Maybe we can find a nice hotel for a day or two and do the pampering thing, but I don’t know. That’s what came to mind for me. I guess people usually go somewhere exotic or sophisticated for their honeymoon.
What about England?
Is everything okay? I know school is getting busy right now, but only one sentence in your last letter? And England? Where did that come from all the sudden? Are you alright? I know with everything I’ve had going on, you’ve put so much focus and attention on helping me through therapy and making choices about medications and other stuff. I just hope I haven’t been neglecting you in the process. Please, don’t be so worried about me that you feel you can’t open up and let me shoulder some of your problems, too. Knowing I’m not the only one going through all of this is a relief, not a burden.
Yes, it’s partly that I’m getting ready for finals. I am busy, and my letters will be shorter. It’s also that, the longer I’m here, the more I realize I miss more than just you. I’m used to moving around and having to make new friends. It’s nothing new for me having to adapt to a new place, but I guess it’s finally hitting me that I’m not used to doing any of that alone. I call either Pam or Godric plenty, but I always wish it was more. Realizing that they’re the ones who made me strong or resilient enough to handle change is worrisome. I always thought I was strong. Now I just feel homesick all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m having fun and making plenty of friends, but I guess I was surprised to find out things were only so easy growing up because Pam and Godric were there. Next year will be a lot easier with you here.
As for England, I’ve been looking into taking a summer semester abroad. I know it sounds selfish, but I could get some more credits completed over the summer, and work on finishing my degree a year earlier.
We all miss you too, and there’s nothing weak about that. I’ve never felt stronger than when I became a part of all of your lives. Being away from you hurts, and I know next year, when we’re living together in New Orleans, a part of me will feel lost and a little lonely not having Gran nearby. Regardless, I won’t feel guilty for that longing, and I won’t feel weak for feeling that way.
If you want to go to England and earn some extra credits over the summer, I’m excited to go with you. What’s the rush to finish your degree though?
Oh! By the way, I can make ‘oooo’ and ‘ah’ sounds on purpose. I’m ready for The Fourth of July!
I’m counting down the days until winter break! I miss you so much! All I feel that I do anymore is countdown for one thing or another involving you!
Here’s hoping I get home to you before this letter does! I’m looking forward to a few weeks of being with the family. Not only does this break mean that we finally get to spend some quality time together, but it also means that there are only four more months until we can start bringing our lives together.
Things seem to be leveling back out between Alcide and Debbie. Their relationship is a lot more complicated than I realized, that’s for sure. As long as they leave me out of it, though, that’s their business. Alcide told me he plans to pop the question when they go home for Christmas break. I was a bit surprised, I thought he’d wait until next year, but I guess Debbie is putting pressure on him even though I suggested that she shouldn’t. That’s Debbie, though, she asks your advice and then goes and does exactly what she was going to do before asking.
Quinn is already getting bored with all the partying. He’s gotten stuck with doing all the planning and prep work for the frat parties, and I think it’s a good thing he shaves his head because the way his Brothers throw kinks into his plans would make him rip out his hair. He likes to pretend he’s loose and easy-going, but he’s just as bad as me when it comes to planning.
Let’s talk about England when I come home.
Sookie bounced impatiently on the balls of her feet. The plaguing anticipation that had built during the exchanges of their letters was about to lift at long last. Now she just had to wait a few more minutes for her fiancé to exit his flight’s gate, and then she could wrap herself around him for the next two weeks.
Finally, she saw a gleam of blond hair above all the others who filed through the exit, and her hands raised eagerly to flag Eric down.
“Eric!” Pam called beside Sookie and raised her own hand in a more dignified greeting.
“Hey, Pam,” Eric smiled as he spotted his sister, brother, and fiancée all waiting to greet him. “Godric, I thought you were just going to pick me up after class?”
Before the older brother could reply, Eric had wrapped him up in a hug that he dragged his sister into as well.
“Whoa,” Pam stumbled in her heels as she was unceremoniously pulled from her center. “What’s this about?”
“I’ve missed you,” Eric whispered and opened his eyes to see Sookie smiling at him reassuringly. Her sincere expression made him strong enough to hold the embrace with his siblings a little bit longer.
“We’ve missed you too,” Godric murmured back. The flitter of concern could be distinguished, but no one in the group openly acknowledged it.
Breaking away from the embrace, Eric cleared his throat as if to break the atmosphere and bring a more light-hearted tone instead. “Anything new happening since Thanksgiving?”
Together, everyone headed toward the parking lot since Eric had a tendency to travel with no more than his single carry-on.
“It’s Bon Temps,” Pam replied dryly. “Nothing is happening. Although, I’m happy to report that your little bride remains unblemished.”
Sookie rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help the small smile on her lips when Eric beamed happily. “I’m glad to hear it. Stackhouse has been throwing his weight around?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Pam nodded.
Eric’s arm that was draped over Sookie’s shoulder pulled her a bit tighter against his side. No one mentioned the bullying beyond that brief exchange, but Sookie knew that her future husband was relieved to see that she was still safe.
The car ride back to Rosenfont Hall was filled with laughter and playful jibes. Sookie kept her head leaned happily against Eric’s chest, and she couldn’t wait to tell him about his Christmas present.
When they arrived at the old plantation, Sookie followed Eric into the house and up to his bedroom.
“I’m glad you’re not just going straight home,” Eric commented as he pushed his door open. When Sookie’s grin widened, Eric frowned and looked into his room. There was a bulging duffle bag sitting on the floor next to his bed. “What’s that?”
“Your Christmas present,”Sookie responded.
Dropping his bag on the floor, Eric went to inspect the duffle. He was further confused to find that it contained clothing that was definitely his fiancée’s. “I don’t get it,” he confessed.
“Gran said I could stay here for Christmas vacation,” Sookie explained, making Eric jump to his feet.
“Are you serious?!” he asked excitedly as he lunged and captured Sookie once more in his arms.
“Ah!” Sookie nodded, and Eric hugged her even tighter.
“I love you so much. I love you,” Eric mumbled as he finally heard a conscious sound out of Sookie’s mouth. When his mouth sought hers and their kisses intensified, Sookie was the one who pulled away and urged to be set back on her own feet. “What’s wrong?”
Sookie took a step away and sat on the bed. “Can we talk about England first?”
“It’s pretty simple,” Eric replied as he sat beside her. “I want to take a summer semester, but I still want to give you a honeymoon. We could go a few days earlier than the program starts and have some fun, and then stay together for my semester.”
“But why do you want to take summer courses. You know it won’t get you your inheritance any sooner,” Sookie reminded him.
“No, it won’t,” Eric agreed, “but it will get you pregnant sooner.”
Sookie’s jaw slackened at his point. “Are you serious?”
“Yes,” Eric smiled.
“But you said you were still scared about becoming a father,” Sookie floundered briefly. As ecstatic as she was, she couldn’t help but worry that Eric was rushing himself.
“I don’t think I’ll ever not be scared about becoming my father,” Eric confessed. “I don’t know if that fear will ever leave me, but I do know that I want to start a family with you. I know that you won’t let me do a bad job.”
“I won’t,” Sookie assured him. “I won’t have to stop you from messing up. You’ll be a great dad.”
“I love you, Sookie.” With that, Eric layered himself over his fiancée. “Does that mean we’re going to England?”
“Ah!” She nodded and wrapped her arms around Eric’s neck. It was time to start celebrating winter break!