Chapter Seventeen: Golden Winged Ship
Watching you leave about ripped out my heart. I don’t know how much more of this I can stand. I keep telling myself it’s almost over, but it doesn’t take the ache away. Once again, I have no classes with Pam, and so we only see each other at lunch.
I met Dr. Fant, the therapist Dr. Broadway recommended to me for when I move to New Orleans. She was up here visiting Dr. Broadway, and I was invited to come to meet her as well. Dr. Fant seems nice. She’s older, probably in her late fifties? I don’t know for sure, and it seemed rude to ask. Dr. Fant seems encouraged by my voluntary noises and the fact that I can make multiple vowel sounds. I wondered why I couldn’t manage to form any real words even though I could make sounds. Dr. Fant and Dr. Broadway both seem to think it’s because I still have anxiety over speaking, and once I’ve been on my medication a while longer, I could see more promising results. They said it can take a while for the drug to build up in my system and show its real potential. Dr. Broadway reminded me that I need to celebrate and appreciate all the little things as well as the big things. She said being able to make several distinct sounds is a huge deal, but it still seems like my real goal is the moon’s distance away.
Four more months until I have you back and never have to let go again.
Dr. Broadway is right, this is a huge step forward in the right direction. I can’t say how much it meant to hear you being able to participate in the conversations we have. It may seem like nothing to you, but you express so much in the sounds that you make. Approval, hesitation, joy, displeasure, annoyance… Even with the limits you have, you push them and stretch them to fit your needs the best you can. You’re absolutely amazing, and I’m the luckiest bastard in the world to have such an enduring woman in my life.
By the way, I’ve been looking at some apartment complexes down here, and I think we should come to New Orleans on our way back from England. It would be better to try and snag a place up during what’s left of the summer before the college students start coming back. Of course, there’s still the option of the family dorms on campus, but I haven’t heard great things about them. Also, with my monthly stipend, it feels unfair to take a housing possibility away from someone who really needs it.
Do you know if you’d be able to make another trip down here?
I was thinking about coming to New Orleans instead of going to Prom, but that would be the earliest I can make it down. Gran’s car is in the shop after a run in with a deer, so Jason’s the one stuck shuttling everyone everywhere. Godric’s been a big help too. He drove us all to church last week.
With us spending the summer in England for your semester abroad, I guess we could just catch a plane to New Orleans instead of Shreveport. So whenever it is we get in, we can go apartment hunting. I agree that we shouldn’t take up room in family housing if we can afford to live off campus. Also, if I can find a job down there, it will supplement the stipend you get from your mother’s estate. We’ll need to sit down and talk about our monthly budgets very seriously before we start apartment hunting. Maybe we can do that during your Spring Break.
Everything’s pretty much ready to go for the wedding. The fact we’re keeping it so small and casual is is probably why! It helps that we’ve only got my brother, grandmother, aunt and cousin, and your brother and sister attending. Unless you’ve thought of anyone else, you’d like to invite?
I’ve been thinking about inviting our mom’s lawyer. We’ve known him all our lives, and he’s going to have to come down anyway to sign some legal crap. He really is like an uncle to me, Godric and Pam. His name’s Bobby, and I’d really like for you to meet him.
By the way, I’m getting pretty good at guitar! My chord transitioning is getting really smooth now, and Felipe’s been teaching me some easy songs. There’s the unfortunate side effect of people actually finding me and watching me play now that I’m getting good, though. I hate when people are watching me in my ‘learning phase’, they’re always too encouraging or too easily impressed. It gives me a false sense of accomplishment.
Also, yesterday I was officially approved for my summer program! We’ll be in Sussex!
Sussex? I’ll have to make a visit to the library and start reading about the area. Also, don’t forget to find out what we’ll have to do about our lodgings since your wife will be coming abroad with you. If they have their own dormitories for the summer semester, we might be forced to find our own place off campus, and that probably won’t be included in the tuition.
As for Bobby, if you want to invite him, why not just ask? I’m perfectly happy about it!
I can’t wait to hear you play! You’re so mean for not bringing your guitar home for winter break!
Dr. Broadway brought a speech therapist in on our last session. He won’t be my speech therapist, but all we did was talk about what speech therapy would be like when I finally start. Since I’m still not getting any real words out, Dr. Broadway thinks it’s too premature to begin working with one. I think she doesn’t want me to feel too much pressure about it. I agree, but it was a little disheartening to hear my therapist say I’m not there yet.
I think the thing you should be looking at is that the doctor thinks you’re getting close to a big leap forward. Why else would she start preparing you for the next step if she didn’t sense something on the horizon? Don’t be disheartened, be excited! You’ve come so far, Sookie. I still remember that time at Six Flags, and you made one of your involuntary sounds that we all thought was your first real word. We all thought you’d finally managed to make an affirmative noise, but it was just perfect timing for one of those surprised sounds you used to make. Now you can make sounds that express your intent. I can hear you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I can hear the question in your ‘mmm’s. You’ve done all of this in less than a year, and that’s huge! Don’t doubt or question how far you’ve come. If you do, I’ll be right here to remind you how amazing you are!
I love you,
Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! I wish you were here. Thank you so much for your encouragement in the last letter. I didn’t see any of it like that, and you really helped me understand the truth. I told Dr. Broadway about how the last session really made me feel, and about your interpretation of it. She said you were spot on, and that she’s grateful to you as well. I guess she thought her and I were at a point in our relationship that I’d have a more positive view of her intentions. I feel sorry that she believes I think so little of her. I think very highly of her, and I told her that I apologize for making her think otherwise. I told her it’s me, not her, and she just laughed.
Did I tell you? Pam wants to sew my wedding dress! Since we’re doing such a small, informal ceremony, I wanted a short wedding dress. I want it to feel like a sundress instead of a gown. Pam showed me a sketch of what she had in mind, and I’m really excited about it! Don’t try and sneak a peek at it when you come home for Spring Break, though!
Sookie dropped her most recent letter to Eric in the mailbox before heading up the road. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day, and she couldn’t help but wish she had planned well enough to leave for New Orleans for the weekend. Instead, she planned to call Eric in his dorm tomorrow morning to at least hear his voice.
Walking toward the bus stop, Sookie was amused to pass Rosenfont Hall and not see Pam. Ever since Godric had taken her car away after her third speeding ticket since the fall, the two of them had ridden the bus together. Sookie was used to Pam running late, but she was getting nervous because she could see Bill coming up the road now. Pam never risked leaving Sookie alone with Bill.
“Sookie!” the girl looked back again to see Godric rolling up the road behind her. “Pam’s feeling really under the weather today, so I called her off school. Want me to drop you off?”
Grateful to be given an exemption to dealing with Bill this morning, Sookie came across to seat herself in the passenger side of the Jeep. The journey to school was short, and when they passed her bus still making its rounds on the way there, she knew she’d be extremely early. I wonder if it will be like when Eric and Jason left school, Sookie considered as she looked down at the unblemished flesh of her arm. The idea of earning new injuries after so many months incident-free didn’t appeal to Sookie.
“Have a good day,” Godric told her as he pulled up alongside the school walkway. Sookie gave him a hesitant smile and agreeable ‘mmm’ before heading toward the school doors.
Most of the morning was the same as it had been for the past few months. Everyone just ignored Sookie. Tara asked for the usual pieces of paper and a pen or pencil. Sookie gave the items without further consideration. Other than that brief interaction, everyone seemed content to leave her be for the day. Until lunch.
Scarfing down her food in hopes of retreating to the library like the days before the Northmans, Sookie barely dared to blink or look away from Bill Compton. She couldn’t ignore the shadows under his eyes, or the way his face tensed when one of his friends clapped his shoulder. Sookie could tell that it had been a long night for Bill at the Compton house.
When Bill glanced her way and caught Sookie staring, the young woman quickly grabbed her tray and walked speedily to the garbage can. Glancing back to the jock table several times, Sookie saw a few as well as Bill rise to throw away their own leftovers. Practically throwing the tray to the lunch lady, Sookie scrambled for the door.
Despite the briskness of her step, Sookie couldn’t hope to out-lengthen the stride of the taller boys. Even Bill, with his significantly shorter gate, managed to catch up to Sookie before she could reach the library doors.
Facing the wall of muscle, Sookie waited nervously to see how bad her day was about to get.
Bill stepped forward, making Sookie shuffle backward. When there was nowhere left to back-up, Bill’s face leaned toward her, stopping mere inches from her own. Involuntarily, Sookie held her breath.
“It’s not so much fun being a little, mute bitch when Jason or that carpet muncher isn’t here, is it?” Bill asked in such a low growl that Sookie couldn’t tell if his friends could hear him. When Sookie’s only response was to swallow the lump in her throat, Bill seemed moderately pleased. “And as soon as your rich boy is done slumming it and wore out your cock warmers, I’ll be there to throw you back to the bottom of the pile where you belong.”
As Bill’s hand raised from his side, Sookie wasn’t sure what his intentions were. Past experiences warned her a slap was coming, though, and she didn’t wait to read his plan. Instead, as Bill raised his hand toward her face, Sookie swung out her fist and struck him with a glancing blow across the throat.
Bill immediately reeled back, clutching at his trachea and gagging. His friends crowded around him, and Sookie escaped to the library while everyone was distracted. For the remainder of the day, she fretted that she’d be turned into the principal’s office, and kept her head buried in her books. When the final bell rang without any more attacks, and no summons to the office, Sookie stared in disbelief at her luck.
Was he too embarrassed to say a girl had hit him? Sookie wondered as she quickly packed up her things and headed for the bus. When she took her seat, Sookie promptly found Bill a few spots behind her. I’ll work on my homework and take my time packing up, so he gets off before me, she planned quickly as she began taking out books and papers. She pretended to work on her homework all the way to the stop, and just as expected, Bill got off the bus before she finished packing her materials. I’ll go to Pam’s house and hang out till Godric gets home and he’ll take me back to the house, Sookie calculated further as she scrambled off the bus and onto the dirt road that lead home.
Sookie stared as Bill Compton walked ahead of her up the road. He’s not going to do anything about this morning? Sookie wondered in surprise. All the while they walked up the road, Sookie could feel her heart in her throat. Every time she tried to swallow, her heart would race harder, her throat would tighten further. It reminded her of the sensation she experienced when she tried to speak. Am I afraid to talk? Amelia had suggested such a thing before, but it wasn’t until this moment that it finally seemed plausible.
Floored by this realization, Sookie’s focus drifted from Bill just as the last sounds of the bus that had brought them there faded into the distance. In that moment of distraction, Sookie only had a split second to react as Bill dropped his bag to the ground, spun around and lunged at her.
Without prior expectations to the sudden chase, Sookie turned off the road and dashed into the open field, trying to shake her own book bag from her shoulders as she ran. The straps dug into her arms even as she attempted to run and slip them off, but Bill’s clawing hand grabbed the bag, yanked it from her back, and sent Sookie sprawling onto the ground.
“P-p-p-” Sookie’s mouth babbled as adrenaline short-circuited her brain. She tried to scramble up, but Bill kicked her in the ribs so hard that she let out a cry that startled both of them. Her shriek only seemed to give Bill a brief pause, because the next thing she knew, his foot was connecting with her body over and over again. Sookie tucked herself into a tight ball, shielding her head and face, but when she was thoroughly bruised and exhausted, Bill turned her onto her back and straddled her chest. His strong arms yanked her weak ones from her face, and he pinned them over her head with one hand while the other repeatedly struck her.
After her face felt like it had turned into a mound of mush, Bill finally stopped hitting her and let out a long, cleansing breath. He stood, towering over her, and stared down at what he had done. She was almost precisely as Bill had envisioned for the past eleven years. There was only one thing he needed.
Walking around her shaking, beaten body, Bill grabbed Sookie by the arm, held it up and placed his foot on her elbow. The scream that erupted from Sookie’s mouth when he kicked the joint inward curdled the young man’s blood. Had I screamed like that? Bill wondered as he reflected back on the beating he’d received from his father that had lead to Bill’s exceptional hatred for Sookie Stackhouse.
With one final look at his work, Bill nodded to himself and left the girl sobbing and broken in the field. Finally, Bill believed he had put someone beneath him. Finally, the son of the town drunk was no longer the weakest. He finally had power over something… But as his house grew closer and thoughts of the beating he had administered filled his head, Bill didn’t feel so strong.
Get up, Sookie, the girl told herself. Get up. Get up!
But her body was resistant. It hurt everywhere, and the world was shifting strangely as her left eye swelled further shut. The pain in her arm was sending nauseating waves through her body as every heartbeat intensified the sensation. She tried rolling onto her left side to rise, but it had sustained the most damage from the kicks. Sookie didn’t know how long she lay in the field, but the sun was growing more orange. It was getting late.
Your legs are fine, Sookie told herself. Endure it enough to get on your feet, she motivated. Get to Pam. But Pam made her think of Eric. Thoughts of Eric reminded Sookie how much she missed him and wished she could go to him instead of her best friend.
The heartache was motivating, and Sookie rolled onto her stomach with another whimper of pain. From there she was able to push onto her knees and rise. Her right arm hung awkwardly, and the sight made her vomit, but that only made her back and left side explode with more pain. She moaned as the vomiting ended, and finally stood up. She looked away from her damaged arm and hobbled past her book bag. She stumbled toward the road.
I feel away, she thought dazedly as her body and mind separated. Her brain was watching, but her body wasn’t hers anymore. It moved as it needed, it hurt everywhere, but her brain had stopped listening to the pain. Its objective was to get to safety now and acknowledge pain later.
What’s that sound? Sookie wondered. Her head lulled, and her eye that hadn’t swelled shut was filled with light. Headlights.
I know that voice…“J-ay,” her mouth sounded before her brain could protest.
Jason Stackhouse ran to the girl he barely recognized. When he’d turned down the street and seen the shadowed figure swaying to and fro like a zombie, it had sent a shiver down his spine. Now, looking at his battered sister in the full illumination of his truck’s headlights had rage boiling in his stomach.
“Who did this to you?” Jason demanded angrily while his brain scrambled to figure out what the hell to do. “We need to get you home,” he finally decided as he reached out to take Sookie’s hand and guide her to the cab of his truck.
As her broken arm was tugged, whatever fog in her mind that sheltered her from the pain was blown away, and a scream of pain pierced the growing darkness. Jason flinched, his hands wanting to reflexively cover his ears, but instead, he looked at his sister’s arm and realized what had really been done. Her right arm was broken. She couldn’t sign. She couldn’t write. She couldn’t speak.
“C’mon, Sook. We need to get you to the hospital,” Jason choked as he gestured for her to come to the truck. “Get inside,” his voice was a whisper as sobs threatened to overtake him. With gentle, shaking hands, Jason managed to help Sookie get into her seat, and then he ran around to get behind the wheel. He could call the Northmans when he got to the hospital, have Godric pick up Gran and bring her to the ER.
The drive to the hospital was silent, Jason couldn’t even bring himself to put on the radio. He just drove, listening to his sister’s shallow breathing and occasional whimpers of pain.
“It’ll be okay, Sook,” Jason encouraged as he pulled into the hospital parking lot. He came around to help Sookie out of the cab, and they walked together into the brightly lit building.
Bon Temps had a small hospital, and there was usually only a few nurses and single doctor on duty when there wasn’t a big event going on. Tonight was no exception, and the waiting room was blissfully empty. Even as they walked through the door, the nurse at the check-in was already paging a doctor. It was Dawn Green’s father, Elie, that came to greet them.
“What’s going on, Margo?” Dr. Green asked as he came out to the waiting room.
Nurse Margo pointed to Jason and Sookie and Dr. Green came rushing over, “What happened to you, Sookie?”
“Someone beat her bad, Doc,” Jason told him. “She was wandering in the middle of the road when I found her. I think her arm’s broke.”
“Goodness,” Dr. Green tutted sympathetically. “You better go get your grandmother. I’ll start examining your sister.”
“I’ll call my neighbor to bring her,” Jason said. “I don’t wanna leave Sook alone too long.”
“All right, you go do that,” Dr. Green waved dismissively before pulling Sookie away to an examination room.
Jason swallowed hard as he went to the payphone and started making calls.
“Hello?”Pam sounded terrible when she answered the phone. Drowsiness saturated her tone, and congestion distorted it.
“Hey, Pam,” Jason tried to keep his voice even as he spoke to his sister’s best friend. “Is Godric home yet?”
“No, but he should be back in half an hour or so,” Pam replied dully, her voice definitely let on that she was still feeling under the weather.
Jason didn’t want to call back later. “Can you tell him to go pick Gran up and bring her to the ER when he gets home? Sookie’s really hurt, and I don’t wanna leave her.”
“What the fuck!?”Pam yelped. “I’ll go pick her up right now!”
Unfortunately, any protest he could have made was cut off as Pam hung up on him, and she presumably left to pick up the older woman. Oh well, he thought as he hung up the phone, put in another quarter and dialed a number he’d only bothered memorizing for emergencies.
“Herveaux and Northman residence, how may I direct your call?” a stranger’s voice answered the phone, and Jason assumed it was Eric’s roommate.
“Is Eric there?”
“Nope. He went home to be with his girl for Valentine’s Day. Want me to take a message?” the roommate asked.
“No.” Jason hung up.
“Well, you came on a good night,” Dr. Green tried to joke as he flashed a light in the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut. “You’re our only guest, which means radiology should be able to see you in no time. Follow my finger with your eye.” Sookie did as she was told. When he was done with that, he listened to her lungs, and the touch of the stethoscope against her ribs made Sookie flinch and yelp in pain. Dr. Green moved her gown a bit and looked at the bruising pattern blooming across her ribs. “Sorry about that, Sookie. Take a breath,” he listened again, more mindful of his touch. When he determined the girl’s lungs were clear, Dr. Green pulled the stethoscope from his ears and looked at Sookie worriedly. “Sookie, I have to ask, are you hurt anywhere else? Do we need to do a rape kit?” he asked gently.
Relief washed over the doctor’s face when Sookie shook her head negatively, and he patted Sookie’s hand comfortingly.
After the examination, Sookie went to radiology, and it was when she was brought back to the exam room that Nurse Margo popped her head in saying that Mrs. Stackhouse had arrived, and did Sookie want her to come into the exam. Sookie didn’t want that at all. She shook her head ‘no.’ I’m back to yes and no conversations, she realized sadly. I’m less talkative than a Magic Eight Ball.
As Sookie waited patiently for the results of her x-rays, misery began to fully envelop her. It might have been a good idea to let Gran come in to be with her. The old woman’s presence might have absorbed some of the enormity of the day. Her arm was broken. She couldn’t sign, and she could barely scrawl a sentence with her left hand; it was so useless to her.
A song came to mind as she sat by herself, lonely, afraid and heartbroken. ‘Because she was crippled for life and couldn’t speak a sound,’Sookie remembered. It was another Jimi Hendrix song. Something about sand castles or something. A song about life not meeting expectations. Or, maybe it’s about life giving you what you yearn for and then slapping it out of your hand, Sookie thought pitifully. In six weeks or so, the breaks in her body would be healed, but if the tingling in her hand was any indication, other afflictions could be felt for years to come.
Just as she was about to let herself be consumed by anger and self-pity, Sookie remembered something significant that had happened only an hour or so ago.
I said, “J-ay.”
For a brief, beautiful moment, Sookie had actually wanted to say something, and it had started to come out. She had wanted to call to her brother, and his name had actually begun to pour from her lips. It was only the first syllable of his name, but it had been uttered on purpose. That sound had been said with intention. It had been more than just a noise. It had been more than an interpretable answer to a close-ended question. It had been her brother’s name.
And so castles made of sand slips into the sea. Eventually.