Chapter 8: Speechless

It Can’t Be

Chapter 8

Speechless

**

Sookie slid into the seat next to me with a grin, sneaking a kiss to my neck while she pretended to wrestle her arms free of her jacket.

I whispered, “You seem very proud of yourself.”

She wiggled her eyebrows. “I am.”

“For being an hour late and leaving me hanging with an extra coffee that was too sweet for Cookie Monster to choke down?”

She puckered her chin in a sympathetic pout. “Awwww. I’m sorry. I bet I can cheer you up.”

I raised an eyebrow at her and hummed. “Here? Now?” I shrugged and moved my books. “OK, but use your jacket so no one sees.”

She laughed before she could get her hands over her mouth to stop herself. Everyone in the lecture hall turned around to gawk and the professor shot a dirty look in our direction. “Miss Stackhouse, I apologize for interrupting, but…”

She elbowed me, but lifted her chin to show the sarcastic jerk that she wasn’t as embarrassed as he wanted her to be. “No worries. All is forgiven.” Smart ass.

After the gawkers stopped laughing at her facetious joke (instead of his sarcasm like the prof wanted) class continued. I leaned over once I thought it was safe. “Well?”

She quirked her eyebrow and grinned. “A wishing well?”

“Sookie?”

She growled, “Eric.”

“You’re punishing me for making you laugh, aren’t you?”

She settled back in her seat and flipped open her notebook. “Shhhh. I’m. Trying. To. Learn.”

**

As soon as class was over, she tried to run past me. I saw it coming… that mischievous twinkle in her eye gave her away.

I dropped my books and grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into my lap. I didn’t care who was left in the gallery to witness it. I used one arm to hold her to me and the other to relentlessly tickle her thigh. With all of her flailing around, she almost broke my nose and she barely managed to shout ‘uncle’ between squeals.

“You’re going to tell me?”

She nodded, still too breathless to say much. So I pulled her knees around so she could face me and I waited for her to catch her breath. “Your roommate creeps me out.”

“Me too.” He smelled like dog biscuits fresh from the shower and he stared at the wall with his mouth open.

“And my roommate makes you sneeze.”

“Patchouli and incense… and why hasn’t she figured out how to not burn her popcorn?”

She nodded. “I know, right? Anyway… my mom called me this morning. Not only did she mention that she lost her job, but she told me Calvin said ‘hi’.”

“How did she lose a job filling cigarette machines?”

“She didn’t lose it even though she was skimming cartons and selling them. She quit when they wanted to start paying her over the table.”

“So ‘Calvin says hi’ was code for she talked to him about you waiting tables for the summer.”

She clapped her hands. “Yay. You win this round of Greedy, Lazy Bitches. So guess what your prize is.”

“Ummmm. A pack of Lucky Strikes and a short stack of pancakes?”

She giggled. “No. You win a sleepover for two with your girlfriend.”

“Is Arlene leaving with the carnival and taking her zen with her?”

“Nope. I’m going to have a housewarming sleep over in my shitty little apartment.”

“Your what?”

She nodded. “Mom calling was strike three. I’m not going home for the summer and working my ass off so that she won’t lose her food stamps. I’ll stay here and work my ass off and knock some credits out.”

“You’re serious? You got an apartment?”

She nodded and she was getting more excited as I was catching up. “I went to financial aid first and they said that everything was clear once I got the counselor to sign off on my course load. I jumped through the hoops like a good little poodle. Financial aid to counseling back to financial aid then to register then I called about an apartment. I went and looked at it. It’s a dump on the first floor and there’s tap dancers or ogres in the unit over it… but $300 a month gives us somewhere private to be without having to bribe or threaten a weird roommate and I wouldn’t be that far away when you can get away and come visit me over the break. I think I’m going to take it.”

“What would $600 a month get?”

“A slightly bigger dump and no money for laundry.”

“What if you had a roommate?”

She tilted her head to the side. “I know you’re not talking about moving in together.”

“Why not?”

“Because… well because, aren’t guys supposed to shit their pants over the idea of moving in with a girl.”

I nodded. “Yes. Yes, we are. But I’m not talking about moving in with A girl… I’m talking about moving in with MY girl. I don’t want to go all summer without seeing you. I’d rather see you every day, take summer courses and keep working at the bookstore than go home and fight with whichever parent I stay with and bust my ass for my prick uncle with nothing to show for it. You’ve got the right idea.”

“I don’t know. Are you sure? You’d be stuck with me.”

“I like being stuck with you.”

“I was planning on keeping it a secret. Otherwise…”

“You’ll have to listen to a barrage of shit about how you could be sending money home if you can afford to live off campus?”

“You should be on Jeopardy.”

“Do they make a ‘White Trash’ version?”

She nodded. “For Final Jeopardy, you write the answer on the back of an unpaid phone bill with a pencil sharpened with a steak knife.”

“And the winner takes home a lifetime supply of Duck Tape and Bondo.”

She giggled at me. “You really want to get an apartment with me?”

“Ummmm… lemme weigh my options… ‘Son of bitch! We’re out of beer! Eric, are you 21 yet? Go get something good, none of that light shit’… OR… ‘Son of a bitch! We’re out of rubbers! Sookie, where are my pants…?”

She threw her head back and laughed and once she calmed herself down, she grabbed my hand and started getting up. “Let’s go get us a newspaper then, beer boy.”

That’s just how Sookie was. Even though she changed so much after the rape, what I finally knew was her rape, that’s how I remembered her. Take charge. If she didn’t like something, she changed it if she could.

She didn’t want to deal with her family shit any more than I wanted to deal with mine… It wasn’t like we were running away as much as distancing ourselves. No one wants to be around people they have nothing in common with and we still did obligatory holidays. When we wanted to, we’d borrow or rent a car and visit… Ninja style. We’d blow through town and keep ourselves busy visiting friends or the few relatives worth a conversation. We got busted a couple of times, but since the offended parties didn’t know until we were home again, it made the delete button on our answering machine that much more valuable.

She was the go-getter. She was the planner. She always had a Plan B… sometimes C… Until she was raped, she knew what she wanted. She was willing to do anything to meet her goals.

That sudden lack of confidence should have made me do less watching and worrying and more pushing for her to get help.

**

“What do you mean, ‘make it right’?” I couldn’t bring myself to look at the papers so I just set them on the table. I was worried that she could be giving me custody of Eric like a changing of the guard.

She grinned and eyed the papers like she was desperate for me to look at them. “I’ve kept you guys apart for years… I don’t want to do that anymore. You guys have been having fun. Y’all obviously get along. You deserve the chance to…”

Eric was too anxious to let her explain. He snatched the papers from the table and started looking over them, but judging by the look on his face he wasn’t getting any answers. “What the hell is this?”

“It’s my contract. I talked to Russell to see if he still wanted me to take over his Shreveport office. Those were waiting on my desk when I went in this morning to tie up some loose ends before I left on vacation…”

“We’re moving!?”

Sookie nodded. “You’d have to switch schools…”

“Screw the school. Boring is boring no matter where we live. As long as they have a soccer team, I’m cool. We’re moving.” At least he was sold.

“Sookie, are you sure…?”

“Eric, I told you that I was ‘getting ready’… I’ve had everything lined up for years… Octavia suggested that I take little steps towards resolving the problem so that things wouldn’t seem too big when the time came… I was serious when I said that I was chicken shit. I was scared that you’d both hate me… I’ve wanted to be in Shreveport since I left our apartment.”

“Taking a job at a new office isn’t a ‘little step’ though.”

“I’ve been building up… I started small with things like my will and keeping track of you… and built up…”

Eric interrupted, “Where are we going to live? What school will I go to? Did you get that far yet?” I was too worried that she was doing too much to let myself be happy that they’d be in Shreveport with me… If she had another break, if she ran again because she was overwhelmed, I’d die. I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t.

“I… I’ve been out of excuses for a while now. About 4 years ago I bought a house here. It’s close to Eric’s… I found 2 schools that I like. I figured that you guys can go look at them and pick the winner…”

He cut her off again, wearing a huge grin. “I’m not complaining, but… you like Jackson. Why? Are you sure you’re ok with moving and all?”

“I didn’t like Jackson. I liked Jackson enough. I didn’t want you to feel like you had to choose between your Mom and Dad. I don’t want any of us to have a phone based relationship. I’m great with moving here.”

“How close to his house?”

“In his neighborhood. Near the front.”

“NO WAY!”

“When I read that he was working with that developer, I…” Her chin started to pucker again while she fought away tears. “I really want you guys to be together.” What I wouldn’t have given for my own therapist. I was terrified that I wouldn’t just lose her again, I’d lose Eric too. I couldn’t put together anything that would’ve sounded remotely positive. I couldn’t put together anything to let them know I wanted them closer without a ‘but’ being included. I couldn’t even fall back on the standard. My fall back… efficiency. My secretary, because I didn’t give her enough to do apparently, had scoured the internet for all the articles about me or my work she could find. Whatever the fuck a ‘tag cloud’ is, ‘efficient’ earned the largest font, followed closely by ‘deliberate’. Knowing that that their permanent move to Shreveport was the most logical way to solve our dilemmas of distance, wasn’t helping me to not freak right the fuck out that Sookie could be jumping the gun and pushing herself too hard, too far, too fast.

It was like she was reading my mind. She reached into her purse and put her phone in front of me. “I told her what I’m doing and to expect your call.”

“Octavia?”

She nodded towards the front of the restaurant. “Do you still pace?”

**

Do I still pace? The parking lot almost needed new asphalt by the time Sookie’s phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Mr. Northman…” The woman sounded annoyingly amused. “Octavia Fant.”

“Miss Fant. Sookie just informed us of her intention of relocating.”

“And you’re concerned that she’s not ready for such a big change, perhaps even worried that she might become snowed under.”

“In a nutshell. Absolutely.”

“Mr. Northman, I want to start by explaining to you that I am not the counselor who discouraged her from contacting you all this time.”

“You weren’t?” I hadn’t even thought about it really, but as soon as she mentioned it, I realized that whoever had would be near the top of my hit list… just under Barry.

“No. She was seeing a therapist without any experience with PTSD. He was treating Sookie as though she were depressed because of her rape. His reasoning for discouraging the contact, according to his notes, was that Sookie would only become more ‘manic’ if you rejected her. It actually caused paranoia that you might use her emotional state to take Eric from her. She also thought it was possible that you’d shun him to punish her for leaving you.”

“Given the circumstances, we can understand why she’d worry about that. We’ve been doing some homework since we left Jackson… What is your experience with PTSD?”

“I did my internship at a VA hospital. When her previous therapist retired Sookie came to the practice I was with. She saw a colleague of mine first and she referred Sookie to me. In lay terms, she’s been ‘over’ her rape as much as she’ll ever be for about 10 years now.”

“That long?”

“I fully believe that she was depressed initially. She tried to carry on as though the rape didn’t happen just as she did concerning her father’s abuse. The childhood abuse is another contributing factor.” Like I needed more reasons to dance on her father’s grave.

“So… it was the situation that the rape created? Not knowing who Eric’s father was?”

“As you put it, in a nutshell. She explained, years after the fact mind you, that she felt like Eric was holding her hostage until he was born. She didn’t get any joy from feeling him move or hearing his heartbeat on a monitor. She only decided to look at him for the first time because a nurse mentioned how blond he was… Then she wouldn’t let him go so that she could so much as eat. She was fragile when her previous therapist mentioned that she could be setting herself up to be rejected. She’s been frustrated that Eric stopped asking about you when he was about 8 years old because she’s been ready, completely ready to finally introduce the two of you. Her fear of your reaction was why she didn’t initiate the reunion. Her last anchor was Eric’s false apathy.”

“So… What? Are you saying that now that she finally got it off her chest, she’s cured?”

“No. I’m saying that her PTSD has been exaggerated by the turmoil all along. I’m saying that now that she’s been honest with you and Eric, she’s not carrying around the paralyzing fear and grief she was a week ago. Mr. Northman, I’ve been seeing Sookie for 11 years and when I saw her yesterday, she was excited. I’m not telling you that just because it was nice to see. I’m telling you that she was excited because it was the first time I’d ever seen it. But… and this is a big but… she feels immensely guilty now that you and Eric have met. She feels like she isn’t worthy of your forgiveness or understanding and she may very well never trust it fully.”

“So we’re fucked no matter what we do?”

“No. Family counseling is going to be the best chance for you all to heal.”

“What could go wrong? She’s planning to move to Shreveport.”

“Mr. Northman. She has wanted to make this move for years. She compared it to leaving Bon Temps for college. She feels like she’s getting out of jail. She’ll have her moments of self doubt. She’ll have a few guilt ridden episodes. She has a fresh prescription of Xanex in her purse if she has a panic attack…”

“How likely is it for her to chicken out?”

“It’s not likely at all. She’s done everything she could to feel close to you and feel like Eric’s had little pieces of you. Some people do it to punish themselves. Sookie did it because it made her feel better.”

“When you say ‘close to’ me…”

“She’s told me a few times that she’d never been happier than when she was with you. One of the primary reasons she was so gripped with fear was because she couldn’t face the possibility that you’d hate her. Truly, if he wasn’t retired, I’d have her old therapist’s license. I hate that it took Eric’s desperation to bring her some peace.”

“So you’re confident that she isn’t being overambitious. She’s capable of relocating without stressing herself out to the point of breaking.”

“She feels good. She’s feeling guilty thanks to everyone’s friend, ‘hindsight’, but she’s anxious to move on. She’s been stagnant for a very long time.” Sookie wasn’t the only one.

“Is there anything we should know? She’s staying with us this week. Is there something she’s prone to, reactions we should watch for, topics we should avoid?”

“I think you’ll do just fine. It says a lot that you care enough to ask though.”

“She was a wreck on Saturday.”

“The abruptness of your appearance was a shock. She does much better with things when she can prepare for them.”

“If you’re sure… is this what you wanted to speak about?”

“Actually, I wanted to speak to you to gauge Sookie’s grip on reality. She’s been very upbeat and I wanted to confirm that you’re invested rather than placating.”

“You mean you wanted to make sure she wasn’t imagining things.”

“She did too actually. After a decade of playing mind games on herself, she doesn’t really trust herself anymore.”

“Understandable. What would you like to know?”

“I think I know enough.”

“How’s that? You haven’t asked anything.”

“Mr. Northman, sometimes it’s not what a person says that’s most important, but what they don’t say.”

I cleared my throat, hoping like hell Miss Crane didn’t talk in circles when we met with her. “So… what is it that I didn’t say?”

“Mr. Northman, that was the first time you referred to yourself as a lone entity.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

She laughed quietly. “What that has to do with the situation at hand, is that you seem so selflessly invested in her treatment that I could be imagining things. You enjoy your evening. Call me if anything alarms you.”

63 thoughts on “Chapter 8: Speechless

  1. Another good chapter, and a very long row to hoe for her to get better and trust herself. In some ways it is almost hard to read this Sookie because she is just so very damaged. Eric and Eric Jr are great.

  2. Wow! I really didn’t know what to expect but she’s moving back LA. As long as she (and her therapist) are sure she’s ready I’m happy for them. Now they won’t have to be separated.

    Unfortunately this is a problem that people are incorrectly treated or diagnosed, especially with mental illness. Sometimes, you need to find a therapist that you can benefit from. Not all of them are the same.

  3. Yay! I’m so glad she is prepared for this huge change and that it’s just the next step in a plan she’s had for a long time. This really is what’s best for them all. And both Erics are going to benefit from having her there. Great job!
    Cheers, Balti K

  4. You are truly spoiling us with new chapters almost everyday. The with drawls are going to be horrible when they slow down, but like every addict I am willing to suffer whatever I have to to get my fix.

  5. Well, Sookie’s baby steps are leading her home to Eric. Yeah. Great chappie once again, such an addicting fic.

  6. I had a feeling that’s what was going to happen! I am so happy that you are bringing to the fore front mental illness issues and how they differ from each other. PTSD is so much different than bipolar or depression and often misdiagnosed. Thanks for spoiling us once again! Thanks for the great chapter! You rock my (our) world!

  7. Another great chapter. It’s cool to get more of a back story on some of what Sookie was going through. I’m also glad she is moving with lil Eric to the same sub division of houses. Now they just need to go see the family counselor…

  8. I’ve allowed myself to get too excited about this, because I want them together so much. As someone else said, it’s going too well so I’m going to try to rein in my enthusiasm a little. I’m addicted though, so that’s going to be difficult.

  9. Great story and another great chapter. It is so sad and devasting what happened to Sookie. That one horrible traumtic event destroyed not just her live but Eric’s. They had so many plans and properly would have had many more children. They did not get to enjoy her pregnancy and preparing for their son.
    When I was in college, I heard that the stat for the number of rape victims is 1 out of 4 girls are raped before age 24. I do not know how accurate it is but this stat is distrubing. My friends and, hell, people I barely know seem to like to tell me their life stories. The women and childern (because some of them were at the time of the attack) that I have meet that were raped, most of them knew their attacker. Just like your Sookie. Someone that was a friend and they never felt like they were in danger. I believe that these crimes should be treated more seriously and the victims should get more help and support.

  10. When I say get more help. I meant offered more help and support. Which Sookie did not get any from the hospital she went to afterwards.

    Cat

  11. Squeeee! I always totally geek out when I see a new chapter on your site. 🙂 It’s seriously like my literary crack. I’m hooked and shamelessly so.

    I’m excited that Sookie & Jr. are moving to Big E’s neighborhood. Anxious to see how they move forward as a family.

  12. I loved the line where octavia tells Eric that she knows he’s invested because he kept referring to “we” except for one occasion.

    You have been cranking these out!! You are awesome!

  13. it’s so interesting to me that your s&s sookie and your icb sookie have completely different reactions to the same event. s&s sookie could barely care less to what has essentially broken icb sookie’s mind. if you’re awesome at nothing else (and we all know it’s not true), it’s at showing both sides of the coin. before this, we’ve seen it in your alternate pov’s but this just takes it to a whole other level!

  14. The ‘university’ Sookie really was a blast. I can totally understand why Eric kept looking for her. That woman must still be inside her somewhere. I hope Eric can pull her out of the shell of a person that she has become.

  15. Wow great chapter, I am so glad that Sookie is taking that step to be closer to Eric. I think they have things that they will have to work through but it is very obvious that they still have very strong feelings for each other. Not one of them stopped loving each other. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

  16. Every step this family makes to get back together is a step in the right direction. They’re so lost without each other. Great chapter 🙂

  17. I am so happy for them taking this step…. in the back of my mind i am worried about barry??? I mean he is still out there somewhere….

    JoxX

  18. I really enjoyed the flashbacks. I hope Sookie can heal enough so that Eric and her can go back to that kind of dynamic.

  19. Pfew! I was expecting the worst, but am very happy with this.Although I am not fully trusting the ‘calm’, they do deserve it. And the talk with Octavia almost made me swoon for Eric, sigh, “I think I know enough” *squee*.

  20. it gets better with every chapter….However my only concern is when Barry shows back up…thanks for the update

  21. Now that they are taking steps toward each other, I’m really looking forward to that young Sookie becoming the dominant persona. Young Eric is going to be so surprised when he sees her the way dad Eric knew her. Wonderful chapter, thank you so much.

  22. I agree with Octavia about Sookie’s old therapist … and it really is a good thing he’s retired and not still out there making his patients feel like helpless victims. With every chapter of ‘ICB’, the more amazed I am at how really strong Sookie is. I think she is finally moving from being a victim of childhood of abuse and then being raped to becoming a survivor of.

  23. okay was not thinking it could be a move to Shreveport, but i am happy for them….. I hope it all works out. Octavia is great, i hope we do not loose her in the story once they start family therapy…. i will be waiting ofr th enext chapter

  24. Wow things are moving fast but it’s like the gate was opened and she’s been revving her engine waiting for so long.

  25. I keep feeling a bit nervous that things are going so well. I hope the family therapist turns out to be a good one. Great story!

  26. I love how you built the conversation with Octavia – where at the end she reveals that she’s noticed he said ‘we’ and ‘us’.

    I can’t believe Sookie bought a house in Eric’s subdivision 4 years ago. Wow

  27. wow, the talk between Eric and Octavia was hard to follow! But that’s because I don’t speak therapist!

    great chapter, as always! Is the house she bought in Eric’s neighborhood going to have little reminders of him too?

  28. You have done it yet again! Great story.The manner in which your brain churns out brilliant story lines and realistic dialog ought to be a “Fringe” episode.Luv it!

  29. Have I told you how much I love you lately?????

    You are the best with these stories and the way you keep cranking them out for us!!!
    You not only give us Eric and sookie but work in real problems for us to think about.

    YOU ARE AWESOME!!!

    Cant wait for the next chapter!!!! HURRY PLEASE!!!!

  30. Opps! I was wrong about the paperwork, but certainly not disappointed. Nice chapter…understand Sookie’s problems much better, as does Eric. Thanks for sharing, I’m always amazed at your talents and that you take the time to share with us.

  31. Love the flashbacks, it gives us a peek at who Sookie used to be. Who Eric loved enough to keep searching for. Now we are going to see how much of that Sookie is still there.
    Love the quick updates. Thanks.

  32. i love all your stoys this is just another great one i do hope they make it will she be able to deal with thing if they find out he doesn’t feel the same way anymore as always you rock

  33. Great chapter. I love that Sookie is moving closer to Eric. They have a long row to hoe but it gets me all tingly inside just thinking about it.

  34. This chapter was so gorgeous and sweet, I loved it… and now I’m scared of what’s coming next. I want everything to go well for them, but I have a feeling that Barry is going to show up… or something else horrible is going to happen. Gah! I still want to lick you brain though 🙂 Thank you for a great chapter, waiting anxiously for the next one.

  35. Beautiful!! I cant believe it…her first therapist, there just aren’t any words to convey my thoughts without offending anyone. So I’ll settle for wth was he thinking. Thank goodness for Octavia.

  36. You are such an amazing writer that you pull in your readers I find myself being drawn in to their lives and it’s wonderful I love that Sookie and Eric are getting along I’m sure that they have along road ahead of them but I think that they will make it.

  37. Mental health is definitely not my forte. I am a nurse and hated my mental health rotation. But I have to say that one thing I remember was that that there were so many subtleties within and between diagnoses. Also that it is very easy to misdiagnosed and treat patients. I am so sad this happened to Sookie. She, Eric and their son were robbed of some potentially wonderful years. Let’s hope they will be able to take baby steps to healing. Can’t believe the road will be easy though. Woe to Barry if he crosses Eric’s path though!

  38. Again… awesome!
    Love that he was able to talk to Octavia and understand some of the missing pieces/years in Sookie’s life and mental state.
    Wow – can’t believe they’re moving in the same neighborhood!
    Let’s see how this weekend goes with her staying in the same house!
    Who will say I love you first!?!?

  39. Great chapter… I knew you wouldn’t keep Sookie down for too long… she’s too awesome to be a simpering whoa is me type, but it’s nice to see her with a little weakness… you are definitely not redundant with your stories 😉 Love it…

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