I stood there in shock unable to believe that Sookie was really gone. I knew I would have heard any commotion or scuffle if she had been taken by force. I had, after all, heard her crying and while it took every ounce of willpower I had not to go to her at the time, I wanted to kick myself now knowing she had left of her own free will. Realizing what an asshole I’d been, I couldn’t really blame her. I could only imagine the pain she must be feeling thinking I didn’t remember her and without wasting another moment I ran into the garage and hopped into the van without hesitation, taking off to try and find her.
The sun had set and the roads were dark causing me to go slowly up and down the neighborhood streets, afraid I might miss seeing her in the shadows. I came upon a small park and ended up wasting another half hour running around on foot looking for her while yelling out her name.
Frustrated and afraid, my next stop was the various bus stops in downtown Shreveport, but again nothing. It was like Sookie had vanished into thin air and it wasn’t until I drove by the warehouse we’d come to the night before that saw her car was gone. I knew it wasn’t at the safe house when I’d left earlier so I knew she must have taken it, but the question was…where?
I’d left the safe house almost two hours earlier so Sookie had a potential four hour head start. Fear for her wellbeing gripped my chest and I only had myself to blame. It was a long shot, but Madden was still on the loose and I hadn’t stopped to tell Pam where I was going when I’d left, nor did I have a cell phone to use. I sat there running through everything I knew about Sookie trying to think of where, or to whom, she would run to.
In the time that I’d come to know her, I had been the one she would always turn to whenever she was upset, even from the very beginning. But now, now that she was upset over me I had no idea of who she would look to for comfort. I knew she had Tara and her brother Jason, but in reality they weren’t very close because Sookie and I had pretty much just stuck together over the last several months. It hit me then harder than ever that it had truly been the happiest time in my life and it was all because of her. I’d fucked up everything and I had to find her knowing I had to make it right again. I was a fool thinking I could go on without her, even if I still believed it was the best thing for her. No matter how selfish it was, I needed her in my life because, for me, I knew I’d never find peace or feel a sense of coming home again without her; wherever she was would be home to me.
I smacked my palm against my forehead in the next moment realizing that the only thing that might bring her any kind of comfort would be going home to the farmhouse. Hoping I was right, I headed north on the interstate towards Bon Temps praying like hell that she’d be there.
The highway was a blur as I sped along trying like hell to make the van fly by pressing the gas pedal into the floorboard as far as it would go. I knew the Agency vehicles, like the one I was in now, had weapons concealed in the door panels and I popped the hidden latch pulling out a 9mm Beretta and an extra clip of ammo as I took the exit for Bon Temps.
Turning onto the gravel driveway, I felt relieved for the briefest second when I noticed Sookie’s car parked around back until I saw the front door was wide open. It was close to 11 o’clock on a chilly December night so there was no good reason for the door to be open and that’s when my heart sunk seeing the various trash bags strewn around the front yard and the Christmas tree lying on the front porch. I guessed her earlier denial over my memory loss had turned to anger at my cold demeanor, so I knew I had my work cut out for me.
I tucked the gun into the back of my waistband as I walked up the front steps and stepping around the glass shards of the broken ornaments, I was about to call out Sookie’s name when I smelled the distinct smell of burnt sulfur.
What was she burning?
The house was completely silent and a quick glance at the fireplace showed nothing, but as my eyes swept back across the room I noticed one of Sookie’s softball bats near the couch and blood smeared along the floor.
“SOOKIE!” I yelled running down the hallway. I had just stepped into the bedroom when I heard a gunshot coming from the woods behind the house.
I was out of the front door and running through the backyard heading for the tree line in the next instant with the Beretta trained down at my side. The sounds of leaves crunching and branches breaking under heavy footsteps could be heard ahead of me and I realized it was in the same vicinity of where the bunker was hidden. Moving as quickly and silently as possible my footsteps stilled as I heard, “YOU FUCKING BITCH!”
Madden. I was sure it was his voice, maybe fifty yards ahead.
My feet carried me closer and my heart plummeted in my chest with what I heard next.
“You might as well just kill me now.”
Sookie. She didn’t sound scared…she sounded broken.
“Oh I will, but for now I need you alive to get Northman,” he seethed. Again, she was in danger because of me.
“LOOK AROUND! DO YOU SEE HIM HERE?” She was quickly becoming hysterical by the sounds of it. “NO! BECAUSE HE’S NOT COMING BACK!” she yelled and I moved faster hearing her sob, “He doesn’t love me anymore.”
I had gotten close enough to where I could see both Madden and Sookie through the trees about twenty yards in front of me and only a few feet from where the bunker was hidden. She’d almost made it.
I kept moving forward and watched the gun in Madden’s right hand begin to rise as he said, “Well, in that case…”
The sound of the gunshot was deafening in the darkness of the woods.
The front left side of Madden’s head blew out in front of him after my bullet entered the rear right side of his skull and Sookie, who had instinctively turned away from his rising gun, narrowly avoided the spray of blood and brains that shot out in its wake. I sprinted the remaining distance and got to Sookie just in time to catch her as her legs gave out from underneath her.
Lowering us to the ground, I studied her face seeing the smears of dried blood and the cuts along the side of her cheek along with a bruise forming on her temple that was starting to swell. It made me want to kill Madden all over again.
Sookie looked up at me as if she couldn’t believe I was really there and simply questioned, “Eric?”
At seeing the undeniable relief etched on my face, her expression brightened and her eyes filled with hope. Tears quickly formed and threatened to spill out of them while she stared back at me asking, “You remember me now?”
The amount of love I felt for her was staggering and I held her tighter, relieved that she was safe and in my arms again. Burying my face in her hair I confessed, “I never forgot you Sookie. How could I?”
Before I could continue apologizing, her whole body stiffened in my embrace and she pulled away to look into my eyes. The warmth that was there only seconds earlier had been replaced by a cold steely gaze that I’d never seen her wear before and the tears that fell from them went hand in hand with the hurt in her voice when she asked, “You lied to me?”
I didn’t know what to say at first, afraid of her reaction to what I’d done. Sookie’s temper was quick to ignite, I knew that firsthand, but with everything that she’d been through over the last twenty four hours I was fearful it would push her over the edge. When I didn’t answer quickly enough she tried to push me away, only causing me to hold onto her tighter because I would never again be ready to let her go. She repeated her question using a much harder tone, “Did you lie to me?”
“Yes.” There was no way to skirt the issue and I wouldn’t do that to her after everything we’d been through together. Sookie deserved hearing the truth and I deserved the consequences of it.
She hesitated for just a moment before successfully pushing my arms off of her and pulling herself away from me while a storm brewed in her eyes. The only sound was the slight breeze blowing the fallen leaves scattered across the ground until Sookie finally closed her eyes and taking a deep breath, she exhaled asking, “Why?”
“Look at what being with me got you,” I replied, pointing at Madden’s corpse just a few feet away.
“But you didn’t know he would come after me when you woke up,” she interrupted. “After everything we’ve been through together, why would you lie to me now? How could you hurt me like that?”
The pain I’d caused her was evident and I reached forward wanting and needing to touch her, knowing the contact would soothe us both, but the sight of her flinching away from me froze my hand only inches from her arm. A new fear started to form in the pit of my gut while a previously unforeseen consequence materialized in my mind; What if she doesn’t forgive me? I didn’t know how I hadn’t thought of it earlier, but it was starting to look like a distinct possibility so I did my best to explain.
“From the very beginning, I’ve brought nothing but death and danger to your doorstep and that was before I knew who I was.” Looking into her eyes so she’d understand the gravity of it all I said solemnly, “Sookie, I’m a killer. And because of that there are people out there that want me dead. My life is dangerous and my profession isn’t one that’s easily walked away from.”
She didn’t seem shocked by what I was telling her and I thought back to Pam’s assessment of Sookie’s strengths earlier that evening. I’d never once doubted her tenacious spirit, but until that moment I don’t think I truly grasped the fortitude of her character. Sookie remained silent so I continued trying to verbally rationalize why I’d chosen to intentionally lie to her. It was becoming more difficult to state my case as the logic I’d used to make that choice was quickly losing ground in my own mind.
“When I remembered everything I made a split second decision. I pretended that I didn’t remember you thinking it was in your best interests for you to move on with your life. I didn’t think you should have to live with the kinds of threats I normally faced on a regular basis. You’ve never had much regard for your own personal safety where I was concerned,” she bristled with my assessment, but I kept talking seemingly persistent in digging myself into fairly deep hole, “and I was worried that you would be hurt because of it. I thought you’d be better off without me.”
Sookie was trembling in front of me, but I had no idea if it was from rage, sorrow or the wintry air. In a sad attempt of changing the subject I said, “Why don’t we head back to the house and I’ll call Pam to take care of this.” I pointed at Madden’s body and stood, holding my hand out to Sookie to help her up. She made a point of refusing my help with a cut of her eyes in my direction and used a nearby tree to pull herself up, but when she nearly fell over my hands automatically shot out and held her waist. Sookie was trying not to put any pressure on her left knee making me wonder what all had happened prior to my arrival, but I kept my questions to myself for now and maneuvered my arms to pick her up bridal style when her hands came up as she pushed me away saying, “No! I don’t want your help.”
“Sookie, don’t be stubborn,” I chided. It was a mistake based on the angry stare I earned and I quickly tried to mollify her saying, “It’s my fault that you’re hurt. Please, let me help you.”
She ignored me and found a sturdy branch that she used as a makeshift cane as she started hobbling back towards the farmhouse. My eyes never left her, ready to catch her at the first sign of frailty on her part, but the longer we walked the more it became apparent that she wasn’t as frail, feeble, or fragile as I’d believed. Again, I could hear Pam’s voice in the back of my mind and I followed alongside Sookie wondering where we went from here.
While she had remained silent, I’d noticed her grit her teeth from the pain whenever her injured leg was jostled and I’d had to hold back from just ignoring her wishes and scooping her up into my arms. It seemed to be a trait of mine that she wasn’t finding endearing at the moment.
When we’d finally arrived at the house I watched helplessly as Sookie slowly climbed up each porch step and followed her inside before shutting the door behind us. She remained silent, ignoring me and everything else as she made her way into the bedroom with me forlornly trailing her every step. My continued path was cutoff when she limped into the bathroom, closing the door behind her with the clicking sound of the lock signaling her desire to be left alone.
Once she was no longer in front of me I was able to see the shambles the room had been left in. My first thought was that Madden must have ransacked the room, but when I peered into the closet and saw everything of mine was gone with the exception of a half filled trash bag of shoes I realized just how deep of a hole I was standing in. I didn’t want to entertain the idea that Sookie wouldn’t want me in her life anymore, no matter the evidence that she didn’t want me in her house, so when I heard her turn on the shower I distracted myself by sweeping up the broken glass by the front door.
Once the floor and porch were free of debris I went into the kitchen and called Pam, giving her a brief rundown on what had happened and telling her to pick up Madden’s body. When I heard Sookie getting out of the shower I ended the phone call and grabbed an icepack from the freezer. Taking it into the bedroom, I stood just inside the doorway and waited for Sookie to emerge.
She appeared a few moments later wearing her pajamas with her wet hair framing her face as she shuffled across the floor and pulled herself up onto the bed. Her eyes refused to meet mine and the silence was becoming unbearable, but I didn’t want to push her to talk to me so I simply went into the bathroom and came back with the first aid kit. I was grateful that she allowed me to cover her cuts with antibacterial cream and I gingerly placed the icepack over her knee after propping it up with a pillow underneath, but when I was done we were still left sitting there in silence. Her gaze fell anywhere but on me and I worried that shock was setting in so I broke the silence saying, “Sookie, I’m sorry.”
Her eyes snapped to mine as she replied, “You should be.”
“I am sorry, truly.” I tried to push every ounce of the sincerity I felt through my eyes and into hers. I carefully trailed my fingers over her wounds admitting, “This is all my fault.”
While I obviously agreed with her, I was still somewhat surprised that she was actually allowing me to take the blame. Not because I blamed anyone other than myself, but because Sookie had never held me responsible for the dangers I’d brought into her life previously. I was frightened wondering how her newly formed opinion of me would change our relationship. I didn’t have to wonder for long.
“This,” she gestured to her cuts and injured leg, “is entirely your fault.”
“I know…” I interrupted, but she cut me off raising her hand up to silence me.
“I don’t think you do. Because of YOU I was put into the position of being attacked tonight. Because YOU CHOSE to lie to me I was left vulnerable to some crazy killer that I’d never even known existed until last night.”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you Sookie. People like Madden fill my world. I hunt them down and kill them, but that makes me susceptible of becoming preyed upon as well. I heard him in the woods telling you he was only holding you to get to me and that’s exactly why I did what I did back at the safe house. I didn’t want to expose you to the kind of danger being with me would bring you.” I quit talking while having an internal conscience war over whether or not I was doing the right thing by remaining here. I wanted her; needed her; loved her more than I ever thought possible, but could I be selfish enough to try and keep her? Would she even still want to be with me?
“Are you really that dense?” she asked. “How dare you decide what’s best for me? It’s my life and my right to choose. I chose to help rescue you and not call the authorities way back when. I chose to go with you back to the States to try and help find out who you were. I chose to take you home with me, here, and they were the best decisions I have ever made.” Tears started running down her cheeks and I tried to reach out to brush them away, but she knocked my hand to the side and continued on. “MY choices, MY decisions, allowed me to discover what true unconditional love is. Because of my choices I now know the difference between mere lust and undeniable passion; the difference between feeling just relaxed and genuine heartfelt contentment. My choices may have led me to make some sacrifices and put me in a few scary situations, but before tonight I didn’t think I would ever regret my choice to surrender my heart to you.”
Until that moment, the selfish part of me had held out hope that maybe things between Sookie and I would work out okay. Hearing her say she didn’t think she would regret giving me her heart, I wasn’t feeling so hopeful anymore and knowing she held all of the cards, I was completely helpless. The future I’d pictured barely 24 hours earlier was slipping away and I was powerless to stop it.
“But you chose to lie to me,” she continued. “You chose to crush me, utterly devastate me, by making me believe that not only did you not remember me, but left me thinking I’d be alone in the memories of our relationship. Do you have any idea of how desolate you made me feel? You were everything to me, but you chose to push me away leaving me abandoned.”
She broke down into uncontrollable sobs and my arms reached out for her with tears forming in my own eyes. Thankfully, Sookie let me hold her as she cried against my chest and all I could do was whisper ‘I’m sorry; I was wrong’ over and over.
She shifted slightly and yelped in pain when her knee moved which brought an end to her tears as she pushed me away. Angry again, she snapped at me, “And YOUR CHOICE led to all of THIS! If you hadn’t lied to me I wouldn’t be hurt right now. If you hadn’t pushed me away, I wouldn’t have been running for my life. If you had valued me and our relationship at all I wouldn’t have been staring down the barrel of a gun tonight.”
“I did it to PROTECT YOU!” I shouted back. I wouldn’t sit idly by and let her think she didn’t mean the world to me. She was still my everything.
“Well I hope for your sake you never get assigned as a bodyguard because you do a piss poor job as one.”
I was forming my retort when her voice lowered to barely a whisper as she said, “I want you to leave now.”
Leave? I stared back at her and when she didn’t respond I realized I hadn’t said it out loud.
“Yes, leave. Go back to wherever it is you came from.”
My heart sunk and my brain screamed in protest while my body obeyed her command. I thought back to the very beginning when I’d contemplated going on alone to keep her from harm. I didn’t want to be apart from her even then at the start of it all, but now, like then, I knew I’d do it if she asked it of me. I’d do anything she asked. I always would.
My steps were slow moving down the hallway towards the front door. Looking around I remembered every moment we’d spent together within these walls and I didn’t want to believe that there wouldn’t be any more moments between us. Would I never again feel the warmth of her skin pressed against mine? Hear the sounds she would make as we made love? Taste the sweet cherry flavored gloss coating her lips? See the love in her eyes when she looked back at me?
I continued to move forward giving no thought to any of the material things I would be leaving behind. There was only one thing I wanted in this house, but unfortunately she was the one asking me to go. I had just stepped onto the porch when I heard Sookie yell, “Eric! Wait!”
I would wait forever if she asked.
My hopes rose up as I watched her limp down the hallway towards me while I looked for any sign that she forgave me, but once she reached the door my hopes were dashed by the look in her eyes.
Wordlessly, she held out her hand in front of her and when I held out my own, I felt the blood drain out of my face seeing what she’d dropped into it.
Her engagement ring.
Seeing it brought every hope and dream I’d had for us to the forefront of my mind and I cried, unashamed, begging, “Please don’t do this Sookie. I love you.”
Her voice broke with her reciprocal tears when she said, “But I don’t even know who you are,” and she shut the door.
Every hope; every dream; my entire future…gone.