Once the plane had landed Claudine gave me a hug and told me that she would be heading home from there since she lived in Shreveport herself so I thanked her for staying with me. She gave me her phone number and address telling me to call her if I needed anything and I was about to cry again seeing the compassionate look on her face, but once the door opened I couldn’t get off of the plane fast enough. I was thrown for a loop when I saw and heard the loud crowd that had gathered on the tarmac, I was quickly overwhelmed by the cheering and blinded by the camera flashes. I felt someone wrap their arms around me, but I couldn’t tell who just yet because my vision hadn’t returned until he whispered in my ear, “Can you at least smile for the cameras and act like you’re happy to be home?”
My body automatically stiffened in his embrace and when I could finally see again I pulled myself away looking around for my parents. My father quickly strode over to me and picked me up in a bear hug while crying, “Baby girl, I’m so happy you’re home.”
My tears soon followed along with his as I hugged him back saying, “Me too Daddy.” He set me back on my feet and I turned to see there was a podium set up for the news cameras that seemed to be everywhere. It hadn’t occurred to me that our rescue would make the news, but I guessed it made sense.
People were shouting out questions left and right, but I just buried my face into my father’s shoulder until I heard Bill starting to speak to the crowd. I turned my head enough to see what in the hell he was doing and noticed a huge fake smile on his face with my mother standing next to him practically beaming. He held his hands up in the air in a gesture meant to quiet the crowd and said, “As you can see I am truly ecstatic to have my loving wife back after all of this time and while I’m sure you’re all anxious to talk to her I ask that you give her some time to adjust to being home. I can assure you that we will speak to you all very soon, but right now we just need some time to ourselves and I thank you for understanding.”
The crowd started hurling more questions at him but he walked over and wrapped his arm my shoulders. I clutched at my father tighter when Bill leaned down and whispered, but I couldn’t miss the menacing tone in his voice, “What’s your problem? Can’t you smile? Everyone is watching.”
I was about to unleash years’ worth of frustration on him when my father leaned over towards Bill and said with a lot of menace of his own, “I’m telling you right now Bill. If you don’t back the fuck off and give Sookie some space I’m going to embarrass you in front of everyone. If you think I’m bluffing…try me.”
I looked back and forth between Bill and my father and wondered what in the hell happened while I was gone?
Bill released his arm from my shoulders and gave the crowd a big smile before gesturing for us to follow him. I clung to my father as we started walking towards a waiting limousine and looked over at my mother to see the familiar look of disappointment on her face as she looked back at me. I really shouldn’t have expected her to act any differently, but the tears formed in my eyes anyway.
It took all of my willpower to not turn around and look at Eric one last time, but hearing the crowd yelling questions out to him kept me facing forward. I knew if I did turn around the look on my face would’ve given away my broken heart to any of the cameras trained on us and I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing how much he had destroyed me while watching the news later on. If he even cared, that is.
We climbed inside the limo one by one with Bill and my mother taking the seats facing forward while my father and I took the seats facing them. I couldn’t help noticing the way my mother and Bill were glaring at me and turned to see my father glaring right back at them while protectively wrapping his arm around me and pulling me closer to his body. It was the first time I felt relaxed since before the rescue and I pressed against his side even harder. His scent was familiar and comforting to me, but it didn’t take away my need to find out what was going on. I was obviously missing something between them all.
I was kind of surprised at how I was feeling seeing Bill again. I knew I had changed in the time I’d been gone and I’d felt it when it happened, but knowing I still felt just as strong seeing him now as I did then made me sit up a little taller. He no longer had the power over me that he once did. That power was mine again.
I fixed my own glare on him and asked rather tersely, “What’s going on?” I gestured my hands at Bill and my mother indicating something was up, I just didn’t know what.
He seemed taken aback at my attitude and said, “Nothing! Mother Stackhouse has been very supportive of me since you’ve been apparently working on your tan for the last six months.” He made it a point to look me up and down with a tone in his voice that made it sound like I’d been on a vacation and not stranded on a deserted island. It had actually felt like I was on vacation up until the night we were rescued, but he didn’t need to know that.
I could feel the angry emotions swirling through my entire body and I yelled out, “I was stranded after a plane crash you asshole! Where do you get off taking that tone with me?” I felt triumphant when his mouth fell open in shock and my mother continued to bore holes into my face with her eyes, obviously disapproving of what I’d just said. That was all I needed to see to unleash part two of ‘Sookie loses her shit.’
I turned to face her and spat out, “And YOU! You’re MY mother, not HIS, so why in hell are you glaring at me?”
The look of shock on her face was priceless, as was the sound of the deep belly laugh I’d heard come out of my father. I don’t think I’d ever heard him laugh as loud or as long as I did right then and it made me feel a little sad that I couldn’t recall him ever really laughing at all. I knew it was because my mother had made him so miserable when I was growing up and that just made me glare at her even more.
She quickly caught herself and spat out, “Suh-keh Compton! You will NOT take that tone of voice with ME young lady!”
I could practically see the rage rolling underneath my skin, but before I could respond my father decided it was time for him to join in the verbal melee. “Her name is SOOKIE, not SUH-KEH you stupid bitch! What in the hell is wrong with you Michelle? We lost our daughter for six months believing that she might be dead.” His voice broke when he said ‘dead’ and it made me hold him even tighter. He continued on where he’d left off with, “But, she wasn’t. Our baby girl survived and still you can’t just be happy that she’s home?”
She turned her evil eyes onto my father biting out, “YOU’RE the one that picked out that STUPID name to begin with so I don’t give a shit how you say it.” She turned back to me saying, “And YOU, you ungrateful little brat, need to step up and act like a loving wife. Bill’s poll numbers were high already with the news of your disappearance, but now that you’re back they’re through the roof. If you don’t start acting like a loving wife that’s grateful to be reunited with her husband you’re going to ruin everything!”
Was she fucking serious? From the look of approval Bill gave looking at her, mixed in with a childish ‘so there’ look just for me, I guessed she was. I turned to look at my father and saw that he’d covered his face with his hand in exasperation so I was left to stew on it all by myself for a moment. Lucky me I thought because the limo pulled up to our house at that very moment.
There was another crowd of reporters and cameramen with their news vans lining our street when we arrived, so Bill directed the driver to pull up as close to the house as possible with the four of us rushing inside as soon as the car came to a stop.
I had a sense of déjà vu walking in the door and everything looked exactly as it did when I left, but I didn’t miss the fact that it didn’t feel like home. The last time I felt at home was on the island. I noticed my parents had wandered off towards the kitchen having their own heated discussion and I wondered when that had all started. Was it with my disappearance, or my reappearance that had them at each other’s throats?
I forced thoughts of Eric from my mind preparing to continue on with our family fight while wondering where I could stay until I could find a place of my own. I didn’t want to stay at my parents’ house with my mother there and I sure as hell didn’t want to stay here. The house we’d once called ‘ours’ was really Bill’s. He’d inherited it from his grandmother when she passed away years earlier. It never really felt like mine anyway since Bill never let me forget that it was just his name on the deed.
Hearing Bill sarcastically say, “Welcome home” pulled me back into the present. I turned to face him and I knew he was still surprised at the backbone I’d grown while I was gone. He stepped closer while looking down at me and said, “You’ve changed. What’s wrong with you? Why are you acting this way? While your situation was regrettable, it helped to put me in the national spotlight. I was on every news program you can think of and it moved our plans beyond the paltry mayoral election. Don’t you realize what all of this means for me?”
Eric was right. He was a douche bag. My heart twinged remembering when he’d said it and I felt the hurt flash across my face for only an instant remembering how things had been between us back then, but I couldn’t think about that right now when said douche bag was right in front of me.
I looked at Bill and stood up straighter telling him, “I really don’t give a shit what this means for you. It was never my plan, it was yours.”
THAT got him all riled up because he started yelling, “You ungrateful BITCH! After EVERYTHING I put up with for you, you have the nerve to say that to ME?”
“WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO PUT UP WITH FOR ME?” I yelled. Bill had never done anything just for me unless he got something out of it too.
“I indulged your whim to continue to working after we were married, even though it made it look like I couldn’t support my own wife. And I would’ve stayed with you anyway even after finding out you weren’t enough of a woman to bear me children.”
Hearing him say it out loud was like a punch to my gut, but I didn’t shrink away to go off and cry. I got MAD and before I knew it was happening I pulled my fist back and clocked him in his eye. Neither one of us was expecting it so we were equally shocked that it happened. He was more ‘angry shocked’ while I was more ‘gleeful shocked’, but we were both shocked nonetheless.
Bill looked as though he wanted to retaliate, but my father walked back into the room before he could and with the looks my father was giving him I had no doubt that whatever he felt from my punch would be nothing compared to what my father would do to him if he raised a hand to me. My mother came running into the room in the next second saying, to me apparently, “What have you done?”
My father piped up, “What she should’ve done YEARS ago. He’s always been a pompous asshole.”
My mother disappeared into the kitchen, quickly returning with an icepack in her hand which Bill would need considering I could already see the swelling forming around his left eye. It looked like it was going to turn into a black eye too. My lips twitched up at the corners just thinking about it.
Before any of us could continue on in our effort at being the most watched family in the history of The Jerry Springer Show there was a knock at the door signaling the arrival of what would turn out to be the secret Springer guest left back in the green room.
Her protruding stomach came through the door before the rest of her body did and it took me a moment before I recognized her as Lorena something-or-other. She was a paralegal at Bill’s law practice and I’d never gotten the warm fuzzies from her so I didn’t really know her at all. There was no missing her baby bump though.
Bill’s pale face turned even paler when she entered the house and he went over to her whisper shouting, ‘What are you DOING here?”
Lorena didn’t answer him and just stood there looking at me while I looked at her and in that moment I knew.
I softly smiled at her and asked, “When are you due?”
She softly smiled back answering, “Today.”
I went over and looped my arm through hers, walking her in to the living room and helped her sit down on the couch. After insisting that she didn’t want a drink or anything else I sat down next her, taking her hand in my own, and simply said, “So tell me.”
She looked over at Bill which made me look as well and I could see the anger and defeat on his face while he looked at the two of us. Neither one of my parents looked shocked so I knew then that this wasn’t news to them. I was the only one left in the dark until now.
I turned to face her again and watched as tears formed in her eyes while she looked at Bill. I could tell just looking at her that she loved him, although I couldn’t fathom why. She took a deep breath and began from the beginning.
They had been secretly seeing each other for years with their affair starting shortly after Bill and I were married. He told her that he loved her and that he was going to leave me for her for years with him always coming up with an excuse on why he couldn’t leave just yet. She hadn’t planned on getting pregnant, but when she did she refused to “do away with it” like Bill had tried to talk her into. She had told him she was pregnant on the Friday before I left on the plane with Eric and as I thought back I remembered thinking Bill had been distracted that whole weekend and wondered why he wasn’t pestering me about my upcoming trip. It all made sense now.
After our plane had disappeared Bill’s political fame rose into the national spotlight and he swore to her that once he was elected and I was declared ‘legally dead’ that he would marry her and adopt his own baby so they could be together. She believed it all to be true because my own mother had supported the farce after learning about the affair and had even referred to Lorena’s baby as her grandchild.
When it came out that I’d been rescued and was returning home Bill tried to back out of his promise to Lorena and knowing she had to look out for her baby now as well she decided to tell me herself and let the chips fall where they may.
I was shocked that I didn’t feel shocked learning all of this, but I looked at my father wondering how he could’ve gone along with it all. He must have read the silent question on my face because he immediately raised his hands up in front of him saying, “I was never on board with any of this. When your mother told me what was going on and her reaction to it all I’d had enough. I moved her out the next day and filed for divorce.”
I’d never felt more relieved than I did hearing his words and I got up and wrapped my arms around him in thanks. He tilted my chin up to look me in the eyes and grimly smiled saying, “These were those changes I was going to talk to you about.”
I looked around at our dysfunctional group and couldn’t deny that things had certainly changed.