After telling Bill, unsurprisingly, that I wanted a divorce and wishing Lorena the best because she would certainly need it, I packed up everything I would need for the next few days and left with my father. I hadn’t planned on addressing the press still waiting outside our front door, but I couldn’t seem to help myself and told them that anyone voting for Bill was a fool. My father let out another deep belly laugh as soon as the words left my mouth and I smiled back at him feeling somewhat hopeful that maybe things were going to be okay. I didn’t have Eric in my life anymore, but I could only deal with one issue at a time and I felt relieved being rid of Bill for good.
Over the next few days I tried to keep a positive outlook on life, but I was just fooling myself. I was miserable without Eric and I had nightmares every time I closed my eyes, picturing him with a different beautiful woman each night. I avoided the news at all costs for that one reason knowing my pain would increase tenfold the moment I saw it with my very own eyes.
I was still having trouble keeping my food down, but it mostly seemed to just hit me only once or twice a day. I tried to keep track of what I ate so I could pinpoint what it was that was making me sick thinking maybe, in addition to my frazzled nerves, my body chemistry had changed while we were on the island and I couldn’t tolerate all of the foods I had eaten before that time. My father tried to insist that I go see a doctor, but I just wanted to stay away from the outside world for a little bit longer. After I promised I would make an appointment if it didn’t stop by the end of the week he finally backed off.
It was all I could do to get him to go back to work, but I couldn’t take him watching me all day long to see if I would get sick again and I knew that was what he was doing. I think a part of him felt relieved when he finally agreed to go back because my crying fits that would start at the drop of a hat had him feeling helpless. I didn’t tell him why I was crying and thankfully he didn’t ask. No matter how much I wanted to believe otherwise, I knew it was because I missed Eric.
The nightmares quickly abated to something even worse. Every time I closed my eyes I would dream of him and our time on the island. I recalled with perfect clarity every touch, every kiss, and every whispered word between us. I almost wished I would have nightmares instead because remembering how happy I had been with him only made the pain of losing him that much worse. Then I would think I hadn’t really lost him because he was never mine to begin with.
I had felt pretty rundown since we’d returned and it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed each morning. I knew I was probably in a full blown depression, but I kept repeating the phrase ‘Positive outlook’ in my mind over and over hoping to somehow convince myself to believe that life would get better.
After my father returned to work I spent one full day alone and wept nonstop until I knew he would be returning home. The next day I racked my brain trying to think of a way to distract myself and ended up calling Claudine under the guise that I wanted to return her sundress and sandals to her. She sounded happy to hear from me and I felt relieved when she agreed to come over for lunch that afternoon.
I didn’t expect it to happen, but as soon as I opened the front door and saw her standing there the tears started flowing again. She quickly wrapped her arms around me and rubbed her hands on my back as I cried all over her shoulder. Once the sobs subsided she pulled back and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”
For whatever reason I felt safe confiding in her even though I hardly knew her at all. There was something about her that made me feel protected, as if she would stand by me whenever I was in need. I nodded and she led me to the couch in the living room where we both sat down. She waited patiently while I gathered the thoughts circling inside of my head. I didn’t know where to begin and said as much.
She gave me a knowing look and asked, “Does it have to do with Mr. Northman?”
The tears silently flowed again while I nodded my head and she smiled softly at me asking, “Have you talked to him since you’ve been back?”
A sob broke through while I shook my head ‘no’ and she pulled me back into her arms while I cried some more. Once I calmed down again she said, “Why don’t you call him?”
“Because he doesn’t want me,” I choked out. “He made me so happy when we were on the island and I fell in love with him, but he doesn’t want me.”
Claudine’s eyebrows furrowed when she asked, “Why do you think that?”
“Because that’s what he told me,” I said as the sobs racked through my body some more.
She tried to calm me down again, but it took a while before my breathing slowed to a normal pace. She studied me for a few minutes and said, “I don’t know what happened, or what was said between the two of you, but I’ll tell you what I do know. When you two first got off of the helicopter he never took his eyes off of you. It was as if he didn’t see anyone else except for you and the longing in his expression tells me that you must mean a great deal to him.”
I shook my head in denial saying, “He’s just a genuinely nice guy and he knew I was upset. He was very sweet when he told me just before we were found that he’d never been in a relationship because no woman ever meant anything to him,” I finished sarcastically. “I guess those six months we spent stranded together didn’t mean anything.”
Claudine opened her mouth to say something, but another wave of nausea swept over me and I got to the bathroom just in time to lose my breakfast. Claudine had followed me and held my hair back as I continued to heave into the toilet. Once I was sure it was over, she handed me a cool washcloth that I used to wipe down my face and neck and then I brushed my teeth before we went back into the living room.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I think something changed in my body chemistry while we were gone and now I can’t handle processed foods or something.”
Claudine’s eyebrow rose up and the nurse in her asked, “How long has this been going on?”
I thought back before replying, “I guess it was the day of the rescue. I’d felt a little queasy that morning, but I didn’t get sick until we were on the ship.”
“And it’s happened every day since then?”
I nodded and her eyes softened as she said, “This is none of my business, but is there any possibility that you could be pregnant?”
I shook my head replying, “No.” When her face took on a look of disbelief I blushed and said, “Not because we didn’t, you know…because we did,” my heart hurt remembering, but I temporarily pushed it aside and said, “but I can’t get pregnant.”
I went on to tell her everything I had learned from my visit with the fertility specialist before the plane crash and once I was done she just looked at me like I took the short bus to school.
“Sookie, you said yourself that the doctor told you your chances of getting pregnant were slim, not impossible.”
NO! I couldn’t be pregnant, could I? I was sure my eyes were as big as saucers while I thought of the possibility that I was pregnant and then I started crying again. Whether or not it was because I wanted to be or terrified that I was pregnant, I didn’t know.
I looked at Claudine completely at a loss and asked, “What do I do?”
She smiled and said, “We find out. Get your shoes on, we’re going to the drugstore.”
I got up without question with my body acting on autopilot and put my shoes on. Claudine suggested that I put my hair up and throw on a baseball cap in case anyone recognized me. There weren’t any more reporters camped out outside the house since I hadn’t come out in days so we hopped into her car and were inside the nearest drugstore five minutes later.
I grabbed a basket and I tossed in two boxes of every pregnancy test they carried because I knew no matter what the result was I’d want to check again and again and again. We went up to the register and when the cashier started ringing up the items she looked at me and happily asked, “Are you trying to get pregnant?”
My nerves were shot and I snipped out, “NO! I just like peeing on stuff!”
I heard Claudine trying to suppress a chuckle behind me, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get back home so I could find out one way or the other whether or not I was pregnant. With that thought, I grabbed a liter bottle of water and put it on the counter alongside the boxes of pregnancy tests and shot the cashier a look that said she’d better keep her comments to herself. It must have worked because she didn’t say another word other than to tell me to have a nice day once we were done.
I chugged the entire bottle of water on the way back to the house and Claudine actually suggested that if I was bound and determined to use all of the tests that I would be better off peeing into a cup and dipping the test end of the sticks into it rather than trying to pee on them all. I was glad at least one of us was sane because I was pretty sure I was on my way to Crazyville.
I grabbed a plastic Solo cup from the pantry and went into the bathroom to get my ‘sample’ while Claudine sat at the kitchen table and started opening all of the packages. I came out a few minutes later with a cup full of pee to find 16 pregnancy tests all lined up on top of some newspaper Claudine had spread out on the table.
We removed the caps and methodically started dipping them into the cup, holding them in for the recommended length of time and then replaced the caps and set them aside only to repeat our actions with the following tests. Once we were done we set the timer and stared down at our handiwork while the clock ticked away. It didn’t take as long as the test said it would before it became overwhelmingly clear what the results were.
There were blue lines and pink lines, two lines, plusses and yes’ in all of the windows saying I was indeed pregnant. The tears started flowing again because I was both elated and heartbroken at the same time.
I had no doubt whatsoever that I would be keeping this baby and I would be the best mother I could possibly be, unlike my own. I hadn’t dared to let myself even fathom the thought that it would ever happen to me because I didn’t dare to hope, but I was so very grateful that I was blessed in spite of that.
Claudine stayed for a little while longer and promised to go with me to see my OB/GYN if I didn’t have anyone else. I knew she was talking about Eric, but I let it pass without comment and just hugged and thanked her again for everything.
I quickly gathered all of the evidence and put it away in my room before my father returned home from work, not wanting to tell him just yet. I knew I would have to eventually, but I just needed to soak up the reality of it all first. I didn’t think he would be surprised to learn that something had happened between Eric and I while we were gone because the one and only time he brought up his name I burst into tears and ran from the room. He didn’t ask again.
Later on that night, as I lie in bed, I tried to figure out what I was going to do about Eric. I had to tell him I was pregnant. It was his child after all, but what else should I say? Do I tell him the truth? That I was in love with him? I’d meant what I said when I told Claudine that he was a genuinely nice guy and I knew he’d probably want to be a part of his child’s life, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be a part of mine. And I worried that he would feel obligated to return any sentiment of affection I declared to him for the mere fact that I was pregnant with his child. Even if he meant it I would always wonder if his feelings were true.
By the time I woke up the next morning I decided that I would tell Eric that I was pregnant and offer him the opportunity to be a part of his child’s life. I would leave the amount of his involvement up to him. I would not, however, tell him that I’d fallen in love with him on the island. If anything, at least now I would always have a part of Eric with me for the rest of my life in the form of our child.
Not realizing how late it already was and knowing my father would’ve already left for work, I got out of bed and took my time in the shower, letting the hot water work all of the tension out of the muscles in my back and neck. I’d already put an end to my pity party because I knew I had someone else that I had to look out for, our baby. I took the time to dry my hair, only now realizing just how long it had gotten, and thought about getting a few inches cut off. I tried to discern if I had that ‘motherly glow’ everyone talks about, but thought I just looked like I had a really good tan. I put on one of my favorite sundresses knowing I wouldn’t be fitting into them soon enough and then sat in the living room trying to figure out how I was going to break the news to Eric.
Should I call him? Hi Eric, it’s Sookie! How are you doing? By the way, I’m pregnant. See ya later!
Probably not. Maybe I could write him a letter.
I just thought you should know that you ripped out my heart and squashed it like a bug that I’m pregnant. Do you want to be a part of the baby’s life? Please check the appropriate box and mail it back to me.
___ YES ___ NO
I giggled thinking I could fold the letter into one of those impossibly small origami birds that would magically sing Surfin’ Bird as soon as you opened it. Again, probably not.
Before I could come up with any more equally stupid ideas to tell Eric I was pregnant, like telling him live on the Maury Povich “Are you the Baby Daddy?” special, the doorbell rang.
I looked through the peephole to make sure it wasn’t a reporter, or worse Bill, and saw it was the FedEx guy. I opened the door and after signing my name he handed me a package addressed to me. I’d gotten several cards and letters from people I’d never met telling me how glad they were we were rescued along with their well wishes, so I figured this was just more of that.
I opened the box to find a beautiful leather book inside. It was a deep brown and the cover was plump with a gold border running along the edge. I opened it and saw the pages inside were all an aged yellow parchment paper like it was something made many years ago. The words all appeared to be handwritten calligraphy and when I read the title on the first page the tears sprung to my eyes.
I turned page after page, dabbing my eyes with handfuls of tissues so they would fall onto the book, and read the fairytale Eric had made up for me while we were on the island. There were hand drawn colored pictures illustrating each page and I was fascinated how much they resembled Eric, the charming Prince, and I. Even Bill the Ogre was a surprisingly good representation.
He’d never really ended the story so as I came to the last part of the story I’d remembered I turned the page anxious to see what he’d done. I could barely see through the tears while I stared at the picture of the Prince down on bended knee holding the Princess’s hand as he declared, “I love you.”
Could it be? Does he REALLY love me? My hands were shaking and my vision was still blurry from the tears, but I managed to turn the page only to discover the last few pages were completely blank with the exception of a folded piece of paper stuck in between the pages that read,
These pages are left blank because I don’t know how our story ends. I know I’ve made a mess of things, but I beg you to please allow me to try and make it up to you. I know now that what I told you before we were rescued sounded as though I didn’t see ‘us’ as being in a relationship and that it was something I didn’t want, but nothing could be further from the truth.
I’m in love with you Sookie Stackhouse and I can’t imagine my future without you in it. I can only hope that you feel the same.
Yours forever and always,
P.S. If you do feel the same, open your front door.