We were still doing CPR when the paramedics arrived. Eric woke up briefly once they took over and used the defibrillators to shock his heart into pumping again. I stood off to the side with Jessica, both of us bloodied and crying. I can’t imagine who would do this to Eric. Violent things happen all the time, but Eric’s already seen his share of violence.
When the paramedics get Eric stable they load him onto a gurney and start to wheel him out of the diner. I grab his hand and walk with them.
“I’m right here, Eric. You’re going to be okay,” I tell him. The Berts open the doors so we can get out of the diner.
“Ma’am, you can’t come with us,” one of the medics says as they open get Eric into the ambulance.
“I’m his girlfriend. He doesn’t have any family. Please, you have to let me,” I beg.
The paramedics defer to the cops who have arrived, and one of them nods. I get into the ambulance without waiting for the medics to say it’s okay. There’s no way I’m leaving Eric alone until I know he’s safely in a hospital. I sit in the chair by his head and lean over him. There’s an oxygen mask on his face and his eyelids flutter open and shut.
I lean down close to his ear and say, “I’m here, baby. I’m not going anywhere. Just hang in there, okay? You’re going to be fine.”
He tries to talk but I can’t hear what he’s saying. The paramedic gets into the ambulance, along with a man in a suit that I assume is a detective. The medic is doing what needs to be done to keep Eric stable while the detective starts asking me questions.
“Can you tell me what happened, Miss…”
“Stackhouse, Sookie Stackhouse. I was sitting at the counter in the diner. Eric was supposed to be out back taking out the trash. I looked up and he was staggering toward me with the knife in his stomach,” I told him. “I don’t know how it got there. I can only assume he was attacked outside the diner.”
Eric squeezes my hand and his lips start moving again.
“Babe, I can’t hear you.” I move the oxygen mask away from his mouth and lean down to listen.
“Bill,” he whispers. “Bill attacked me.”
I don’t need to ask if he’s sure. I can only gasp and kiss him. That sick son of a bitch went after my boyfriend in retribution for the beatdown he got from Eric. This is all my fault.
“I’m so sorry, baby. This is all my fault,” I tell him.
Eric shakes his head but then his pulse starts to get out of control. The medic puts Eric’s mask back on and I explain to the detective what happened just over three weeks before. I tell him from the beginning, about the fourth of July party where I met Bill, and how he had tried to pick me up then but it didn’t happen. I tell him about the diner and then about being attacked in the alley and how Eric was the one to stop Bill and Andre from raping me.
“Is there a report on file for the assault?” the detective asks.
“No, I didn’t file one,” I admit. “I didn’t want to go through the process of a trial and having the police blame me for the attack.”
The detective stops taking notes and looks at me. “Why would we blame you for the attack?”
“Because it happens all the time,” I say angrily. “It’s always about what we’re wearing, who we’re with, why we weren’t smart enough, fast enough, strong enough or sober enough to fight someone off when I should be able to go for a walk anytime I damn well please no matter what I’m wearing or how drunk I am without worrying I’m going to get raped for it just because I’m a woman. Every girl I’ve ever known that has been sexually assaulted has had to prove her innocence when her attacker claimed that if she wasn’t such a slut hewouldn’t have been so tempted.
“I didn’t want a bunch of strangers poking around in my past to look for a reason to take his word over mine. I was the one he followed from the diner. I was the one dragged into an alley. I was the one who was beaten into complicity and threatened when I tried to fight back. If I had gone to the police all of that would have been overlooked and instead I would have had to justify my choices when I did nothing wrong.” My rant is epic and I almost feel badly for the detective that has to hear it. Almost.
Until now I didn’t realize I feel so strongly about victim’s rights, but I do. Maybe thisis what I need to find a career in. It doesn’t really surprise me when the detective doesn’t have a response to my rant.
“I would strongly advise that you file a report,” he finally says after a minute. “It isn’t too late to do so, and you have a witness.”
“Let’s just focus on Eric right now, okay?” I’m not worried about me; I’m worried about the man I love having an eight inch blade in his belly.
The ambulance arrives at the hospital a short time later, and I can only go so far with Eric before the emergency room staff cuts me off. I stand there covered in blood and don’t know what to do with myself. I give a description of Bill to the detective. Unfortunately I don’t know his last name or where he lives. He doesn’t have any distinguishing marks and his name is extremely common.
Nearly an hour passes before a doctor comes out from the trauma room where Eric is being treated and says, “Sookie Stackhouse.”
I jump up out of my chair and the doctor comes closer to me.
“I’m Sookie,” I offer my hand.
“I’m Dr. Crane,” he shakes my hand. “I’ve been treating Eric. He’s authorized me to share his medical statuses with you.”
“Okay,” I nod. “How is he?”
“He’s stable right now. He’s been taken up for surgery. In addition to damage to his intestines there’s a lot of internal bleeding we’re concerned about. I noticed a lot of scarring on his chest already…”
“He was attacked as a child. His parents were murdered,” I explain.
Dr. Crane goes on to tell me that the surgery is risky, but Eric is in good hands. He isn’t sure how long it’s going to take because they won’t know how bad the damage is until they get Eric on the operating table. A nurse comes to escort me up to the surgical floor and from there I’m offered a pair of scrubs. The police want to bag my uniform as evidence just in case there’s some of Bill’s blood on it.
“I may have a sample of it,” I tell Detective Bellefleur. “After the attack I bagged up my clothes to throw them away but I haven’t thrown them out yet. They’re in my closet at home.”
“We’ll send an officer to get them,” Detective Bellefleur says, and actually looks excited, like maybe there’s a lead.
I hope there is.
I’m able to get myself cleaned up and then Jessica is arriving at the hospital with Hoyt in tow. I call my father to tell him what happened, but it turns out there’s a cop there already going through my closet to find the bag with my ruined clothes in it. I have to tell my father what happened, but I don’t want to do it over the phone. Hoyt goes to get us coffee from the Starbucks that’s in the lobby and Jess and I sit down together.
The adrenaline rush has passed and I’m exhausted, but I’m not going to sleep until I know Eric is out of surgery and recovering. I’m not leaving this hospital until someone forces me. If they let me, I’m sleeping in Eric’s room. I can’t leave him. I will not let him think he’s alone or that he’s lost me.
“Sook, you should try to get some rest,” Jessica says after a few minutes of me sitting there next to her all tense and wired up.
“I can’t,” I shake my head. “Not until I know he’s going to be okay.”
She rubs my shoulder and I know without her saying a word that she thinks I’m digging my heels in at the wrong time, but even if I wanted to sleep, I can’t. Physically I’m exhausted but mentally I’m wired. As long as my brain is wide awake I won’t be sleeping.
Hoyt brings us the coffee and the three of us sit there quietly. Christmas Eve is tomorrow. I’ll be spending it here in the hospital, even if it’s just watching Eric sleep. He’s been through so much already in his life. He’s had to overcome so many awful things.
I’m supposed to make his life better, not worse. I start to brace myself for the possibility that Eric may hate me when he gets out of surgery. It’s my fault he was attacked. If he hadn’t rescued me then this wouldn’t have happened to him. I feel like the world’s worst girlfriend and I can’t stop myself from sobbing.
What if he doesn’t make it through surgery? His heart stopped on the diner floor. What if there’s a complication that the surgeon can’t get past? I can’t even let myself think about planning Eric’s funeral. I feel completely alone, even though Jess is right here with me.
She pulls me into a hug and rocks me back and forth while I cry, but it hardly registers. I’m still bawling my eyes out when a larger, stronger hand grips my shoulder and I look up to see my father standing there. He sits down next to me and I shift in his direction.
I feel like a little girl all over again. I remember when my first pet died. I had a canary my dad got me for my fifth birthday that I promptly named Tweety. My idiot brother let Tweety out of his cage and didn’t tell anyone so when I opened the back door to go outside, Tweety flew out. I tried to catch him, but he flew into a window and broke his neck.
I cried myself to sleep for three nights over it. Dad let me cry on his shoulder for hours. Tweety moved with us from Louisiana and I had him for six years. I was devastated by the loss. In comparison, that’s nothing.
Dad strokes my hair and rubs my back until I’ve got no gas left in the tank. I end up falling asleep with my head on his shoulder, and it isn’t until he’s gently shaking me awake that I even realize that I fell asleep. It seemed like the blink of an eye, but it was five hours.
“Sookie, wake up,” Dad says. “The surgeon is here to see you.”
I lift my head and rub my tired, irritated eyes. I’m sure I look a mess. I’m also sure I’m not the first hot mess the surgeon has dealt with.
“Sookie?” she says with a tired smile.
“That’s me,” I stand up. “How’s Eric?”
Dad and Jessica flank me and Jess grabs my hand. There’s nothing on the doctor’s face to suggest she’s about to deliver bad news, but I’m sure she’s perfected her poker face.
“I’m Dr. Garza,” she says and extends her hand to me. I shake it and she continues, “I operated on Eric. There was some pretty extensive internal bleeding and there was also damage to the intestines. We were able to repair that damage.”
I breathe a sigh of relief and my knees sag, so luckily dad catches me and holds me up.
“Eric’s going to need to be here for a few days for observation and recovery, but barring an infection of some kind, he should be just fine,” Dr. Garza tells me.
“Can I see him?” I ask her.
She nods and says, “Just for a few minutes. He’s still under the anesthesia so he won’t be able to respond.”
“That’s okay. I just need to see him.”
I hug dad quickly and then follow Dr. Garza back to the post-op area. She has me scrub up like a surgeon would and a nurse puts a mask and gown on me before letting me into the recovery area. Eric is lying flat in the bed that’s too short for someone his height. There are tubes and wires connected to machines that are tracking his vital signs and breathing for him.
“We’ll take him off the respirator when he wakes up. For now it’s best that we just let him rest,” the nurse explains.
“How long will he be out?” I stare down at his pale face that is now missing its usual scruff.
“Another couple of hours, most likely,” the nurse says.
“And after this where will he go?”
I nod and sniffle.
“From what I hear he’s a fighter. I think he’ll pull through,” she says and pats my shoulder.
“Can I touch him?”
“Sure. Just mind the leads and his airway.”
I step closer to Eric’s bed and kiss his forehead where he’s not all swollen. He’s got cuts and bruises on his face, and there’s a knot on his forehead where he was hit with something. He’s got a few stitches up there to close up the cut. There’s still a little blood in his hair from it. I reach for his hand and gently pet the back of it. His hand moves a little but his eyes aren’t open so I assume it’s just a reflex.
“You’re doing great,” I say quietly and the only thing I feel grateful for, outside of him making it through surgery, is knowing that I told him I loved him before he got hurt. “You’re going to wake up and come back to me because I don’t want to be without you.”
I want to lay my head on his chest and cry some more, but I don’t. I stay until the nurse tells me my time is up. I kiss Eric’s head and linger for a moment, hoping he can somehow sense my presence there.
“I have to go now but I won’t be far away,” I promise him. “As soon as they’ll let me back in I’ll come see you. I love you, sweetie.”
I kiss him one more time and then let the nurse lead me out of the room.