Sookie had been my best friend since we were in Girl Scouts together in the second grade. Her life was everything that mine wasn’t. My mom died when I was just a baby and I was raised by my dad. Well, to be more accurate, I was raised by an army of nannies and various other servants paid by my dad. I thought our butler Clancy was my dad until I was about five. Sookie and her brother were raised by their grandmother after her parents died in a car accident when she was seven, shortly before I met her. We were both lonely and gravitated toward each other naturally.
When we got to high school, our friendship was just as solid. We were both cheerleaders during the fall and winter and were on the softball team in the spring. At the end of our senior year, things changed. I would be heading off to college in Washington, D.C.; she would be staying behind in Louisiana and working at Merlotte’s, a local diner. Her family didn’t have the money to send her to college. We spent as much of that summer together as possible, and she rode with my dad to take me to the airport before I left. We both cried our eyes out and were determined to faithfully stay in touch.
I was happy for Amelia. Really, I was, but I was green with envy also. I wanted the chance to get out and explore what there was outside Renard Parish. But it didn’t look like it was in the cards for me.
The week after Mia left for Georgetown, I started working full time for Sam Merlotte at his family’s diner. He was a good boss, and a sweet guy. I also adored the cook, a flamboyant gay guy named Lafayette and a substitute cook/bartender Terry. The other waitresses, Holly, Arlene, and Tara also became fast friends, but none of them were like Amelia. I wrote her faithfully every week and we talked every Sunday night.
They were really my only family. Jason had gotten the bright idea that he could earn his fortune in Vegas playing poker, since he cleaned his friends out on a weekly basis. He sold our parents’ old house and left town with barely a goodbye to either Gran or myself. Shortly after that, Gran passed away in her sleep, worn out beyond her years, having to become a parent to her grandchildren when her own son and daughter-in-law died. I took comfort in my work family; it was all I had.
I was working a Saturday night about two months later ─ that was always a rough shift. First the weekend dinner crowd came in to eat, then the group that just wanted to party and let loose before the weekend was over. One table caught my attention, simply because it was different. A single guy ─ not a bad looking one at that ─ he didn’t look like he was waiting on anyone to join him. He was just there, in the middle of the noisy chaos, reading a newspaper; sipping a beer he must have gotten from the bar while waiting for a table to become available. That table just happened to be in my section.
I pulled out my ticket book and introduced myself. He smiled up at me making me melt just a little. He wasn’t classically handsome, but there was something appealing about his dark brown hair and milk chocolate brown eyes. He had a nice smile when he ordered a basket of chili fries. He told me his name was Bill Compton and he’d just moved to town. He was living about a quarter mile away from where I still lived, in Gran’s house. She left me almost everything (of which there was very little) in her will.
When he was ready to leave I gave him his check and he asked for my phone number. I couldn’t help but blush a little as I wrote my number down on his receipt. I had zero experience with guys. I had no idea what I was doing or what red flags I should’ve been on the lookout for.
He called me the next afternoon and took me on our first date that same evening. It was a simple dinner-and-movie date, but he was so attentive and flattering. When he took me home that night, I rushed to the phone to tell Amelia about him during our weekly phone call.
Things moved rather quickly with him. If I wasn’t at work, I was either at his house, or he was at mine. I can look back and see that he wanted to dominate my life, isolate me more than I already was. I just thought the attention was nice, if a little overwhelming. I lost my virginity to him about two months after our first date and, Jesus, it hurt like a bitch. Bill told me that was normal, but the more we did it, the more I’d enjoy it. I had nothing else to compare it to, so I took him at his word. Amelia had plenty to say on the matter, and every bit of it sounded disapproving.
“Did he at least get you all worked up? You know, foreplay?” she asked when I told her how much it hurt.
“Umm, not really. I don’t know.”
“Did he finger you? Go down on you… anything at all?” she probed.
“Well…” I hesitated, knowing how clueless I sounded. “No, we just kind of undressed and did it.”
“Sook, run like the fucking wind! Did he know you were a virgin?”
“I told him before we started. He told me it would hurt; that I just had to get used to it.”
“Hon, a proper lover would have gotten you so wet that you would have barely noticed. Shit, Sook, if he cares that little about your satisfaction, you need to get out now.”
“Mia, you know I love you, but I’m actually really happy with him. This is just one little… speed bump. It’ll get better. But everything else is so good!”
“I really hope I don’t have to say the most god-awful four words in the English language.”
I had to chuckle. “And what words are those?”
“I told you so.”
We were dating about seven months when Bill proposed. He had a beautiful, if small, diamond ring that he presented to me in Merlotte’s while I was on my break. It wasn’t the romantic setting that every girl dreams of, but it was what I had and I was grateful. Plus, Amelia was going to be home at the end of the month. I missed her so much! I couldn’t wait for her to meet Bill!
Bill wanted to elope; he had no family that he was close to, and I hadn’t heard from Jason since he left for Nevada. I asked if we could at least hold off until Amelia could be there. He agreed, which surprised the hell out of me. Normally he wanted things his way with no room for negotiation. I thought maybe he knew how much that one favor would mean to me.
Copley, Bill, and I met Amelia at the airport and we squealed like thirteen-year olds at a Justin Bieber concert when we saw each other. Copley was used to it, but Bill just looked embarrassed. We talked non-stop on the way back to Bon Temps from Shreveport. I don’t think Bill had ever seen me so animated and lively… and I don’t think he liked it.
Copley dropped the three of us off at my house. Amelia intended to spend the night; since Bill lived so close he decided he would walk home. He stayed for dinner, but seemed uncomfortable around Amelia. Before he left he reminded me of our appointment the next day. I nodded and kissed him before he left the house.
It was like the slumber parties we had had throughout our childhood. We ate a disgusting amount of ice cream and watched old chick-flicks and gave each other pedicures. I waited until both of us were waving our feet in the air to dry the polish before I spoke up.
“Umm, Mia, Bill and I are getting married at the court house tomorrow and I want you to be there.”
“You WHAT?” she shrieked. “You CANNOT marry that asshole!”
I frowned at her. “You’ve known him all of three hours. Can’t you trust me on this?”
She scowled right back at me. “No, I can’t. He’s not good for you, Sookie. I got his measure from the moment I saw him in the airport. Has anything improved in the sex department?”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Sex is not everything. He has a good job, he’s reliable, and he loves me. And I love him,” I added, almost as an afterthought. “He was the type of man that Gran would have wanted to see me with.”
“I’ll take that to mean no. Hon, there are so many better men than him out there. You just haven’t had a chance to meet them. You’re only eighteen! Why are you rushing this?”
“Amelia,” I said in a softer voice, knowing she only wanted the best for me, “I really do love him. And I asked him to hold off on this until you could be there with me. You’re the closest thing I have to a sister and it would kill me if you weren’t there. Please, stand up with me tomorrow.” I could feel the tears burning in the corner of my eyes.
She leaned in and hugged me, in the way that only she could do. “I’ll be there, sweetie. But only because it’s you.”
The next day, she rode with me to the courthouse, where I met Bill. His secretary Lorena was also there as our other witness and forty-five minutes later, I was Mrs. William Thomas Compton. Amelia drove my car back to my house and I left with Bill.
We had barely entered his house before he was ripping at the pretty white dress I had gotten especially for that day. I managed to salvage it ─ thinking there might be an occasion where I could wear it again ─ before he tossed me onto the bed and began undressing. Sex no longer hurt, but I was still waiting for the fireworks that I heard people mention when they talked about it. It had to be me. Maybe I that wasn’t meant for me. Bill certainly didn’t seem to mind, though.
We spent the night consummating our marriage, and I still didn’t get that explosion I had heard so much about. The next day, we went back to my house to pack up so I could move in with him. Amelia helped us pack before dropping some news.
“Sook, I’m gonna be heading back to D.C. at the end of the week. There are some summer courses that I can take that will let me graduate early. With you married and all, I’m sure you want to spend your time being a newlywed and I don’t want to intrude on that.”
I cried, because it wasn’t enough time with her. But I knew I should be spending time with my new husband. I hugged her tight and told her that we were going to stay on the same schedule, talking every week. I ignored the frown Bill gave at that.
We loaded up Bill’s truck with my boxes and I gave Amelia one more ferocious hug before getting in the passenger door to drive the quarter mile to my new home with my new husband. Deep down, I knew Amelia’s tears were for more than the little time we had.
I made it to the airport at the end of that week to say goodbye to Amelia before she left to go back to Georgetown. Bill stood off to the side silently while we said our tearful goodbyes and once she passed though security, he led me back out to his truck, grumbling the whole time about how much parking was going to cost him.
I was a little sad that Bill thought that a honeymoon was a waste of money when we had a whole house to ourselves, but I didn’t really have a chance in arguing against him when he had made his mind up about something. Since I had taken the week Amelia was in town off, I was looking forward to getting back to work. I was feeling a little cooped up just staying home and running random errands with Bill.
I got back to my job on Monday evening and was congratulated on my newlywed status by my fellow waitresses and I had to put up with some semi-lewd comments by Lafayette. Sam gave me a small smile and wished me well as I tied on my apron to tend to my tables. Finally, around eleven, my tables were empty and my side work was done. I grabbed my purse and stowed my apron in the same drawer of Sam’s desk that held my pocketbook while I was on the floor.
Digging for my car keys, I called out a good night to Sam and headed through the parking lot.
I put the keys in the ignition, turned, and… nothing. I tried again. Not even a click or a grind. Shit. I headed back into the kitchen calling for Sam. I knew how to put gas in my car and check the oil. Beyond that, I was lost.
Sam followed me out to my pitiful old car and tried the ignition himself. Apparently the silence told him something that I wasn’t able to pick up on. I tried calling Bill from the bar phone, but didn’t get an answer from the home phone. Sam offered to drive me home and pick me up the next day if necessary. I was grateful and accepted.
I hopped up into Sam’s blue Jeep; we chatted and made small talk for the ten minutes it took to get me home. I leaned over and gave him a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek in thanks. As soon as I opened the door to the house, he waved and pulled away.
Bill looked murderous after I closed the door behind me. “What the fuck was he doing driving you home?” he asked softly, but not his love-me-tender soft voice. This was a soft voice that spoke volumes about rage being held at bay.
“Something is wrong with my car. I tried to call you from the bar, but no one answered, so Sam offered to bring me home.”
“And you were pawing at him in his car, why?” Really, that was what he saw?
“Bill, I just gave him a hug to thank him for bringing me home. Really, it was like I would thank any of my other friends.”
I held my hand up to my cheek, not really believing what the heat spreading across my face was telling me. “No one touches what is mine. And you are mine, Sookie. Don’t ever forget that,” he hissed at me, his fingers digging into my shoulder and he leaned down, getting into my face.
“We’re going to bed now. Come,” he ordered, like I was a dog.
I dug in my heels and crossed my arms over my chest, just staring at him. He was halfway up the stairs before he realized I wasn’t heeling. “Don’t make me come get you, Sookie. It will be quite unpleasant if you make me.” He turned around and sneered; I stood silently and continued staring. Who was this man?
He sighed theatrically and walked slowly down the stairs. “You brought this on yourself, wife of mine,” he growled and slapped my other cheek before throwing me over his shoulder and carrying me to our bedroom.
He was awful that night; I had no intentions of allowing him to have sex with me after how he had just treated me, but he was stronger than I was and didn’t give a damn how I felt about it. He took what he wanted and after he had his climax, he rolled off me and went to sleep. I laid in our bed, staring at the ceiling, crying silently. I didn’t want to wake him up and have to take more from him.
I didn’t sleep at all that night and got out of bed when I determined it was hopeless to continue trying. I headed down to the kitchen to make some coffee and breakfast. Bill woke and joined me about an hour later.
“Everything smells wonderful, Darling. I think we should have breakfast together every morning,” he said while he poured his mug of coffee. Was he really going to act like nothing out of the ordinary happened the previous evening? Maybe that was for the best.
“Bill, my car is still at Merlotte’s. I will need a ride to work. If you’re too busy, I can call Arlene or Tara to see if they can pick me up.” I knew better than to mention Sam’s offer.
“I don’t like you working there now that we’re married. I make more than enough to take care of the household bills. No, I think it would be better for everyone if you quit the job there and took care of the house and me.” He looked at me with a look on his face like he would love nothing more for me to challenge him on that.
I didn’t want to quit my job. Maybe being a waitress wasn’t the most prestigious occupation, but I was good at it and I liked it. I liked having my own income. I didn’t want to be dependent on anyone for anything, especially this new, unknown man that I had married.
“Well, Bill, it wouldn’t be fair to Sam to just quit without notice, even if quitting was something I’d even consider. I like working and don’t want to be a housewife.”
His eyes grew cold again. “Well, I don’t give a damn what is fair to Sam. You are my wife and you will obey me. You can either call and resign or put me in the position where I will have to call in for you because you will be unable to speak. Which do you prefer, Sookie?”
Like he could keep me from speaking. “Like hell, Bill. You can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do. If you won’t drive me to work or let me call anyone for a ride, I’ll walk. You can’t keep me from working.”
A frigid smile came to his lips. He walked around the table to me slowly. “Last chance, Sookie. Call and resign effective immediately. Do it now.”
“Fuck you! No I will not.” I was never good at being ordered around.
I hit the floor before I registered what happened. I tasted pennies and realized that he had punched me in the mouth. Oh, hell no. I picked myself off the floor and stood up straight, wiping the blood from lips with one of the napkins on the table. “Don’t do that again, Bill. If you ever lay one more finger on me, I’m calling Bud and Andy.” My Gran was friends with the sheriff when she was alive and I wouldn’t hesitate to use that connection.
“Darling, think carefully before you make threats towards me,” he growled at me. “Be a good girl and make the call I told you to.”
I saw him coming toward me, and everything went black. When I came to, I was tied to our bed by my wrists. One of my eyes was swollen nearly shut and it twinged every time I blinked. How the hell had this happened to me? I wasn’t one of those girls.
“See what you made me do, Sookie? Do you think I like having to do this? Life would be so much more pleasant if you would just listen to me. I called Sam and told him that I would be by later to get your car, but that you had decided not to return to the bar, choosing to stay at home and take care of your new husband.” I wanted to swear at him, but found my lips too swollen to make intelligible words.
“I had to talk him out of coming over. He felt sure that this was a decision that he could talk you out of. I assured him that you didn’t want to speak with him and wanted a clean break to start your new life.” The smirk on his lips turned into a frown. “I do have to wonder what you could have done with him to make him so devoted to you.”
He got down in my face again; his eyes so emotionless it made me shiver. “There is nowhere for you to go, my little wife. Make things easier on yourself and simply do as I say. It’s a very easy rule to follow.”
I knew that there was no one I could run to; no where I could go where he wouldn’t follow. I had no one to stand in my corner. I was too ashamed to admit what I’d gotten myself into. Too scared of the inevitable “I told you so” that so many people would say to me. I nodded, tears flowing down my cheeks; I submitted to what my life had turned into.
Bill seemed satisfied with my submission and leaned down to kiss me, making me whimper because of the pain on my swollen lips. He took advantage of my tied up state, forcing himself on me several times before he left for work.
When he came home that evening, he only then seemed to realize he had left me bound to the bed all day. Of course, he turned it around to use against me. “From now on, Sookie, I expect dinner to be prepared and waiting when I get home. I’ll excuse you tonight, but see that it doesn’t happen again.” He untied me and swatted me on the bottom, a little too hard to be playful. It took me a while to get feeling back in my arms and he waited and watched while I got redressed. He nodded his head toward the stairs and I walked slowly, taking my time so I wouldn’t lose my balance, my head hung, and made supper for my husband.
Life became boring and hellish from that point. I never ending cycle of making meals, cleaning, and running the few errands ─like grocery shopping ─ that I was allowed to during the day. I had gotten clever with make-up, covering the never ending bruises that colored different parts of my face. I got used to wearing long sleeves during the warm summer months and sunglasses indoors. There was always some sort of punishment that I had to take if things weren’t done to his exact specifications.
He wanted children.
Like hell I would bring an innocent little baby to grow up warped by having Bill as a father. If it were a girl, she’d grow up thinking this was acceptable to be abused by a man; if it were a boy, he’d grow up thinking this was how men were supposed to act. I knew what Bill wanted, and I never got the chance to object. If I objected, there would be more punishments. We never used any kind of contraception. He didn’t even mind that I just lay under him nightly as he thrust into me, never fighting, never participating, and never getting any kind of satisfaction. I was easier to just lay there and take it than to fight him, allowing him to hurt me even worse, then have him screw me anyway. It never did me any good to argue.
I got up early one morning, doing my duty to have breakfast prepared before he woke up when I felt the first waves of nausea. Oh, God no. I made it to the bathroom before my stomach emptied itself. I started counting back. I knew I wasn’t sick. My contact with the public was negligible and I was late. There was no way that I was going to let Bill know, I couldn’t bring a child into this world that was essentially conceived by rape. I felt horrible, but I knew there was no way I could love this child.
After Bill left for the day, I went to run errands, picking up a pregnancy test while at the drug store. I had to purchase it separately, with cash, since Bill wanted receipts for everything I bought during the day. I got home and unloaded the groceries, sticking the test in my purse for use after everything was put away. I left out the ingredients for dinner, grabbed the test, and headed to the bathroom.
I wasn’t surprised to see a positive result. I sat on the bathroom floor and sobbed. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t take the complete and total domination of not just my life and body, but the unfortunate melding of our DNA. I wouldn’t think of it as a baby. If I did, I couldn’t do what I knew I had to.
I went through the nightly routine with Bill as though I wasn’t devastated by the pregnancy or that I had made up my mind that things were going to change.
I planned to take my life back, and I would start the following day.
I waited for Bill to leave for work and I started rushing around. I had a lot I needed to accomplish and very little time to do it all. Bill let one thing slip; he got me a cell phone to keep track of my whereabouts at all times and I was never allowed to let it go to voice mail. He didn’t think about the fact that it had a camera. He was very careful never to hurt me to the point that I would require hospitalization; every time something else required punishment, I would take pictures of myself in the mirror with a date stamp. I had 4 gigs of pictures of myself bruised and battered. I took the memory card from its hiding place in an old pocketbook in the back of the closet. It was so tiny that Bill wouldn’t have noticed it even if he had thought to look for it.
I headed to the office of Portia Bellefleur, the best divorce attorney in our area. I told her during our initial appointment that I didn’t have money for any kind of retainer since I had been forbidden to work and I didn’t have full access to Bill’s bank account. She listened patiently and looked at me. For the first time in a very long time, I went out of the house without wearing any kind of make-up so she could see the fading colors of my last punishment. I gave her the memory card, documenting the eleven months I had been battered. Her jaw tightened and she asked if I wanted to press charges. I thought about what I knew of my husband. If I pressed charges, there would be a trial. I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to describe all the ways he abused me in a public forum. It would be just another humiliation that I didn’t think I could handle. I shook my head at pressing
charges, but I wanted something that would require him to stay away from me.
Portia helped me file for a restraining order that would be served to Bill at the same time as the divorce papers. I had already packed up most of the things from the house that I wanted. After signing all the papers that I needed to, I called Shreveport Women’s Services to make an appointment. I was not going to give birth to child that wouldn’t have a loving family to take care of it, and the thought of carrying anything of Bill’s made me more nauseous than the morning sickness ever did.
I got to the house and tossed my purse on the bed, grabbing the last few things that I wanted to keep before I loaded my car. The only place I had to go was my old house. I pulled in and unpacked, sat, and wondered what I was going to do. I was nineteen, pregnant, abused, broke, alone, and getting divorced. I did the only thing I could. I sat on the old, dusty sofa and cried my eyes out. I grabbed a few clothes, swallowed my pride and called Sam, saying I’d come back to work if I could get a loan to float me for a couple of weeks. He met me at a Wendy’s, treated me to dinner, and loaned me one thousand dollars. I could tell he wanted to ask me what happened, memorizing my rainbow-hued face. I shook my head and told him I’d give him all the details when I was able to do so without feeling so much shame. I checked into a hotel, knowing Bill would come looking for me once he was served.
I didn’t think I would survive the punishment for that.
The next day I drove into Shreveport. When I filled out the papers at the clinic, I was asked for an emergency contact. There was no way I was going to list Bill. Thinking long and hard, I put down Amelia’s information. We still kept in touch, though not as faithfully as we had before I married Bill. I knew she was disappointed in me, but she was my best friend and would stand by me no matter what.
I had the pregnancy terminated and since I had no one to give me a ride, they let me recover in an unused exam room until I was able to walk out without assistance. I had a taxi take me back to the hotel, where I slept and took the antibiotics they gave me to prevent any infection.
At the end of the week, I foolishly thought it would be safe for me to go back to Bon Temps. I went to call Sam, and realized my cell phone was gone. Figuring I had left it at the hotel, I thought I’d just call him from the house. All the utilities were kept on while I lived at Bill’s. It was his “gift” to me, allowing me to keep my Gran’s house. It was one of the few gifts I was grateful for.
I entered the house carrying my little suitcase; I went straight to the phone in the kitchen to call Sam and let him know I was back in town and ready to return to work. He said he would come out that night and bring me some new uniforms.
I was excited to be living my life again.
“Hello, sweetheart,” I heard from the dark hallway and froze. Shitshitshitshit.
“Did you forget something in your dash to flee our house?” Bill asked as he walked into the light, carrying my little pink cell phone ─ I hated pink
I would show no fear; I would not give him that satisfaction. “I don’t want anything of yours. I don’t want that. Get out of my house, Bill. You can’t be here.”
He laughed; it was a dark, menacing laugh. “It’s not like I require an invitation to cross the threshold. I think you’ve been keeping secrets, Sookie.”
“I’m calling the police. You’re not supposed to be within a hundred yards of me, my residence, or my place of employment,” I recited. Portia had explained all the particulars of the restraining order to me, in great detail.
“You’ll have to get to the phone first. Tell me why you had a voice mail confirming an appointment at a women’s health center last week. Are you pregnant, Darling?” He was the only person I knew who could make pet names sound like swear words.
“No, I’m not pregnant. The appointment was just confirming it.” I slowly started walking backwards into the kitchen. If I could just call 911, they would be able to trace it, not needing me to say anything. He took a step forward for every step I took back.
“I don’t believe you, Sookie. What did you do?”
I swallowed down my panic, trying to hide how frightened of him I truly was. “I’m not pregnant, Bill. And I don’t want to be your wife. No one who loves me would treat me the way that you have. Please leave.”
“I don’t believe in divorce, Sookie. You vowed until death parts us, and by God, I am going to make sure you keep your promises.” He lunged forward and grabbed my hair before I could react and punched me in the mouth. “That is for the lies that you gave when you signed up for that foolish restraining order. Like a piece of paper could keep me from what is mine.”
He sank his fist into my stomach, causing me to double over breathless. “That is for whatever is damaged inside you that won’t let you carry my baby.” He spun me around and kicked me in the small of my back, sending me sprawling across the floor. “Now we get to the punishment for breaking so many rules, wife of mine.”
He spent so much time hitting, punching, kicking, and raping me that I started praying for death; anything to stop the pain that he was putting me through. Before I lost consciousness, my last thought was that I was grateful I had terminated the pregnancy before he forced me to miscarry.
My sophomore year was almost over and I was hoping things were okay in Louisiana. I still talked to Sookie fairly regularly, but my course load combined with her dickhead of a husband made regular communication more difficult that it should have been.
My phone started ringing around eight that evening; I didn’t recognize the number on the call ID, but something was telling me that I should answer instead of letting it go to voice mail like I normally would. It was Sam Merlotte, which was a surprise. We knew each other, like any two residents of a small town would, but not in a way that would warrant a long distance phone call.
“Amelia, you need to get to Bon Temps as soon as possible,” he said, his voice choked with emotion. I felt the fear rise up in my chest instantly.
“What happened?” I asked, wondering why I already had tears in my eyes from that one sentence.
I heard him sniffle and take a deep breath. “It’s Sookie. I went to take her some new uniforms since she was coming back to work. She didn’t answer the door, but it was unlocked. I walked in, intending to leave the uniforms for her on the counter or something. She was lying on the floor of the living room, unconscious and mostly… um, undressed. She had been beaten to a pulp. There wasn’t a spot I could see that didn’t have some sort of bruise. I called an ambulance. She’s in the ICU in Clarice and they don’t know if she’s going to make it through the night. I know she’s your best friend. She needs you more than ever right now.” I hung up the phone in tears; I knew who put her in that condition. That motherfucker was going to have to go into hiding if he didn’t want his ass torn into pieces. No one treats someone I love like that.
I found a direct flight to Shreveport from Dulles and got to Clarice shortly after six a.m. I dared any nurse or orderly in the ICU from stopping me with a glance. I saw my best friend, bruised and battered. I only recognized her because I had grown up with her. I couldn’t contain the sob that tore from my throat. I walked in the room and held her limp hand in mine, sitting and muttering prayers to a God I wasn’t sure I believed in, hoping against hope that she would pull through.
At some point I must have fallen asleep; I woke up to slight pressure on the hand that was still holding Sookie’s. I looked up at her and the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut was tearing up. I asked her if she could talk; she shrugged and licked her lips, wincing. “I can try,” she whispered in an agonized voice.
She managed to tell me everything. How he abused her, how he ruled her life and “punished” her if the tiniest toenail slipped out of line. How he tried to get her pregnant and unfortunately succeeded, but that he never found out. She filed for divorce and got a restraining order; she moved out, and got an abortion all in the same week. She hid out in a motel in Shreveport until she felt things had cooled down enough to move back into her gran’s house. She explained how she greatly underestimated her soon to be ex.
She took a sip of water and told me everything Bill did to her when he found her. It tore my heart out that she had to hide this from me; that she was too ashamed and scared to get help until it was too late.
“Sookie, you know he can’t get away with this. You need to get the police involved. He needs to pay for what he did to you,” I told her, hugging her gently so I wouldn’t hurt her.
“Mia, I can’t do it. I can sit facing him and tell strangers what he did to me. I can’t handle it. And if he gets off… he would come after me all over again. I don’t know where I can go that can keep him away from me. I can’t afford another motel or rent somewhere. The only place I have is Gran’s and he can come for me there anytime he wants.”
“Come back to D.C. with me. You can live with me, look for work while I’m in school. You can get a thousand miles away from the fucker who tried to kill you.” I pleaded with her, wondering why we hadn’t done that to start.
“I can’t leave here. This is all I know. I don’t want to live on your charity. This is my home and damn if I’m going to let him take that away from me.” I was happy that her voice became stronger. She knew that she didn’t deserve what was done to her; Sookie would not be a victim.
The doctor came in and I stepped out while he checked her injuries. When I had the okay to come back in, he told me that along with numerous bruises, she had three broken ribs, a broken nose, a fractured cheek bone and there was the possibility of blindness in her left eye. Sookie accepted the news with a nod, but I felt my cheeks wet with tears again and wanted more than anything to kill that abusive shithead. A plan started to form. I waited until the doctor left and sat at the foot of Sookie’s bed.
“Hon, what are they giving you for pain?” I asked innocently.
She shrugged. “I’m not sure. They shoot it into the IV. The doctor said they’re going to be able to move me out of intensive care later today. I’m so scared, Mia. I don’t want to go back there.” She started crying and I joined her. She needed to get it all out.
Once she calmed down, I used the isolation the ICU provided to go over the inkling of an idea that I had. At first, she looked horrified, but by the end, she was smiling and nodding.
This could quite possibly work.
I only stayed at the hospital for two more days after they moved me out of the intensive care unit. Amelia stayed with me the entire time, except when she went to Gran’s house to pack a bag for me and to fill the prescription for painkillers that the doctor recommended. I wasn’t able to have a cast on any of my broken bones; tape around my ribs and a brace on my nose was the only protection those injuries got. Amelia was going to drive her car back to D.C. to take her finals and I would stay with her until her semester ended in a couple of weeks.
It wasn’t going to be an easy trip, about eighteen hours. We stopped around Knoxville and rested for the night. The painkillers that I had been given were potent and I wasn’t really a good travel companion since I was in and out of the drug-induced stupor. While we were in Washington, we started making plans to get Bill out of the picture permanently.
This had to work.
I wrote purposely misleading letters, about how I didn’t think I could handle things alone, how it was a mistake to leave my lone source of stability and that I would be coming back soon. Sam was a willing participant in our little plan; he would intentionally talk about the letters when Bill would hear him.
After Amelia finished her exams, we started the drive back to Louisiana, only this time I was able to share the driving and we didn’t have to stop at the half-way point. For the most part, I was off the medication, but had some set aside for a very important purpose.
While Mia went to her father’s house, I was at Gran’s making a batch of six cranberry-orange muffins. They were Bill’s favorite and could never resist digging into them the minute he smelled them. That was what I was counting on.
Once I had the batter mixed, I crushed six of the Ultram tablets I had leftover and added the powder to the mixture. I popped them in the oven and once they were done, I put them in a basket and left them in Bill’s kitchen while he was at work. I added a note asking him to come by to see me once he got home; I then went to pick up Amelia, since her car couldn’t be in the driveway for our plan to work.
She hid out in what used to be my room while Gran was alive. It was the perfect room, where you could hear everything in the house and not be seen. At seven-thirty, Bill knocked on my front door, holding two muffins and eating a third. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had polished off that same number before walking over to my house.
“So, you couldn’t hack it without me? What makes you think I even want you back?” he sneered when he saw me. Two weeks hadn’t been long enough for the bruises to go away completely.
I had to play the part, though it made me nauseous to even be in the same room as this man. “I went to D.C. with Amelia. I tried to live on my own and I wasn’t able to do it. I wanted to come back home. I made you the muffins as a peace offering, hoping maybe we can work out our differences.”
“You filed for divorce, Sookie. You issued a restraining order against me. I can find another woman out there that won’t give me as much trouble. But, I admit, I’m interested to see what you’re willing to do to convince me to take you back.” He leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on my kitchen table and it took every ounce of willpower not to kick the chair out from under him.
I went through the motions of preparing our dinner, keeping an eye on him while I babbled. I noticed that his eyes started rolling shortly after I left the table. Before I had the ingredients for a casserole put together, he had collapsed on the table, snoring irregularly. I smirked, put the uncooked dish in the refrigerator, and poked him a couple of times to make sure he was out. When I got no reaction, I called to Mia, who joined me in the kitchen.
“So now what do we do with him?” I asked.
She smiled widely. “I might have called Tyrese when were on our way back to help prepare something for us.” Tyrese was her dad’s chauffeur and had been crazy about Amelia since she was fifteen. He would do anything she ever asked of him. “Follow me,” she added.
I grabbed Bill’s arms as she carried his legs and had me follow her into my woods. We had a pond with a dock in the woods, where I had spent many of my happier days as a child. A large, fairly deep hole was dug at the boundary between the clearing and the woods. We dropped Bill in the hole and used the handy shovels already sitting there to fill in the dirt on top of him.
Once that was done, Amelia looked at me steadily. “I think this is the perfect spot for a shed. You know, for swimming supplies and stuff during the summer. This exact spot.” she said, emphasizing her point. I nodded as we headed back to the house to clean up. Once I was clean, I ran over to Bill’s house and removed the basket of muffins and the note. I put them in a bag to be thrown away somewhere far away from my house.
Amelia called Tyrese to pick us up and went over the cover story. We technically wouldn’t be arriving in Louisiana until tonight and would be getting to the house around eleven. He nodded his understanding, making cow eyes at my friend and I had to hide my smile. We hid out in her room, just praying that we had gotten away with it.
The next day, she drove me to my house and helped me unpack everything that I had boxed up when I left Bill. Early in the afternoon, Sheriff Bud Dearborn and Detective Andy Bellefleur knocked on my front door. I greeted them politely and let them in the door.
“Sookie, I hate to ask, but have you seen Bill lurking around here?” Bud asked, looking like he really didn’t want to bother me. Both of them had come to see me in the hospital, and they knew who put me there, but as I was unwilling to press charges, there hadn’t been anything they could do for me.
“Actually, Sheriff, I have been in Washington, D.C. until late last night with Amelia for the past two weeks.” She waved and nodded to confirm. “I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Mister Compton since I got home.”
“His secretary called us saying that he hadn’t come in and when she went to his house, his car was there, but he wasn’t. Nothing looks out of place, but it’s still pretty darn suspicious,” Andy added.
I stood my ground. “Now, you gentlemen know that I want absolutely nothing to do with Mister Compton and he has a restraining order against him, so he cannot come near me. I am a much happier woman if I don’t have to see him or hear from him. I just want the divorce from him so he can be out of my life forever.” I made very sure to speak of him in the present tense. I didn’t want something like a silly verb to get in the way of my freedom.
They looked around halfheartedly ─ I knew for a fact that they really didn’t like him either ─ and said if they had any news they would let me know. I made a call to Portia to let her know that her brother and the sheriff had been asking me about Bill and it seemed that he had gone missing. I could hear the smile in her voice, saying that she would petition for me to have access to his bank accounts to cover reasonable living expenses while the divorce was pending.
I was so proud of Sookie. She carried herself like a queen and never let anything get her down. She had a new lease on life and it broke my heart a little when I had to head back to school in August. But she was back working for Sam and setting aside money to take care of herself.
Finally, in October, she was granted a default divorce since Bill wasn’t around to sign the papers and she got half the property of the marriage, including the bank account. Bill was reported missing, but no real effort was given into looking for him. The common theory was that he had fled town fearing the charges the Sookie would bring against him.
We did nothing to convince anyone otherwise.
After two years, I moved back to Louisiana permanently, with my degree in Business and planned on joining my dad’s company. I had no problem with nepotism. But Sookie surprised me. Once I got back in town, she led me to a tiny little shop near the center of town. She pulled out a set of keys and took me inside.
“I bought it a couple of months ago. I’ve been renovating it in my spare time. I was thinking I could open a bakery or a little restaurant of my own. I still have all of Gran’s recipes and you know that woman could cook like a house on fire,” she laughed lightly. “I want to do more than be a waitress and I was hoping you’d help me. I don’t have the slightest idea on how to run a business and could really use your assistance. I thought we could be partners. I take care of the cooking and stuff; you would handle the books and things like that.” She looked up at me with hopeful puppy dog eyes and I knew that I couldn’t say no to her. Besides, owning a business like that was more fun than killing time in my dad’s contracting firm.
We went to work immediately and set up shop, opening right before Christmas. She had good traffic from the other businesses, people coming in before work for a quick breakfast or getting lunch. She had a special section of homemade goodies like jams and candies that people could take home or give as gifts.
She was still kind of skittish around men. She didn’t trust them or herself. I was still mad as hell at Bill for breaking her like that. She had only gone on maybe three dates since getting the divorce.
In the spring, a group of high school students came by for lunch after a field trip to the courthouse. Sookie reserved the restaurant so they could have lunch without having to fight the normal crowd. I saw a light in her eyes for the first time in a very long time when she saw one of the teachers that was escorting the group.
“Mr. Northman, we have a seat over here for you!” one of them called toward the door; he was obviously popular with the kids.
Lunches were uncomplicated affairs of burgers or sandwiches on homemade buns or bread with salads or homemade chips. The tall teacher put in the order with Sookie and he was obviously as attracted as she was. I lingered behind the counter while they talked.
“I’m Eric,” he said. He was a tasty specimen. Easily 6’4” if not a little taller with shoulder length blond hair and blue eyes the exact color of the sky on a perfect summer day. A quick glance at his left hand showed no ring. Hot damn, he was fine. But he only had eyes for the cook with smudges of flour on her nose and cheeks.
“I’m Sookie. Let me head back into the kitchen and I’ll get you guys taken care of,” she mumbled, blushing.
When she went into the back to make the food, I grabbed a business card and wrote her number on the back. “She’s shy, so she’ll never do this. Come in whenever you can and let her get to know you. It’ll be worth it,” I said to him, shoving the card into his hand. The smile on his face was indescribable.
Sookie came out of the kitchen carrying two trays of food and asked if I could go back and grab the other two. As she passed out the sandwiches, her eyes kept going over to the table where he was sitting and his eyes met hers just as often. I knew then and there that Bill hadn’t broken her completely; he had just been a placeholder waiting for the right one to come along.