One Year Later…
The courtroom is packed. After a three week long trial the jury only needed three hours to deliberate before coming back with a verdict. I’ve been watching the jury closely. Four months ago Bill was found guilty of all charges in relation to the assault on me. He’ll be doing at least fifteen years for it.
For the attempted murder charge alone he could get thirty years. At that rate he would basically be getting a life sentence. He deserves it. Getting Bill Compton off the streets for the rest of his natural life is a good thing.
There were no character witnesses to testify on his behalf, which didn’t help his cause. Nor did the hateful stares he kept sending toward Eric and me. According to the prosecutor, Russell Edgington, the jury doesn’t like Bill and that goes a long way. It probably shouldn’t, but we’re humans and it’s hard to be lenient on people we don’t like when they do us wrong. I’m sure there are parents, husbands, wives, brothers or sisters on the jury who can easily put themselves in Eric’s shoes, and when they do it’s hard to be sympathetic to a guy who tried to kill the man that stopped him from committing a rape.
The jury files in and Eric holds my hand. I look over at him expecting to see that he’s nervous, but he’s not. He looks confident and I hope that everything Russell said is spot on.
Judge Flood takes a seat behind the bench and we all sit down.
“All rise, the Honorable James Flood presiding,” the bailiff says as we all stand up.
The trial has gotten national attention, but mostly because Eric and I are now a couple. We’ve had reporters camped out in front of our condo since before the trial started.
Judge Flood takes a seat behind the bench and we all sit down. He calls the court to order and reminds the audience in the galley to keep it quiet or he’ll clear the room. I, for one, can’t wait for this media circus to be over. Eric and I have been contacted by every major news agency for interviews. We’ve been approached by Dateline, 20/20 and 48 Hours, and we’ve declined all of their offers. Everything the public needs to know about what happened to us is a matter of public record.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I understand you’ve reached a verdict?” Judge Flood says.
The jury foreman stands up and says, “We have, Your Honor.”
“The bailiff will collect the verdict,” the judge says and the bailiff snaps to.
The bailiff takes a slip of paper from the foreman and hands it off to Judge Flood. I squeeze Eric’s hand and refuse to look in Bill’s direction, even though I know he’s watching me. I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of looking his way. In fact, I’ve done my best to avoid looking at Bill for most of the trial.
Judge Flood looks at the slip of paper and then hands it back to the bailiff, who brings it back to the foreman. “In the matter of the state of Illinois versus William Compton, what say you?”
The foreman reads the paper aloud.
“We the jury find William Compton guilty of attempted murder,” he says and there is an immediate reaction from the audience.
Judge Flood quiets the courtroom as Eric squeezes my hand and Russell Edgington smiles at us from his seat a few feet away. The foreman goes on to read the rest of the verdict. Bill is guilty on all charges and as soon as the judge adjourns the proceedings, there’s going to be pandemonium in the courtroom.
“Sentencing is set for six weeks from today at nine AM. The defendent is remanded to the Cook County correctional system pending sentencing. The bailiff will escort the defendant to lockup. These proceedings are closed and court is adjourned,” Judge Flood bangs his gavel and everyone rises as the judge leaves the courtroom.
Immediately reporters are swamping the attorneys looking for a sound bite for the evening news. Eric and I try to fade into the crowd, hoping not to be spotted by the reporters or chased out to our car. We get all the way to the courthouse steps before we’re accosted by a swarm of reporters, all desperate to get their microphones in our faces.
“How do you feel about the verdict?”
“Do you believe justice has been done?”
“Do you believe in the death penalty?”
“Are there any plans to write a book about your experiences?”
“Are you really in love, or is that just a prosecutorial mislead to get the jury on your side?”
“Will you be getting married?”
Eric and I ignore all of their questions and the reporters aren’t able to follow us to the parking garage. When we get to the car he pulls me into a hug and says, “It’s over, Sookie.”
“I know,” I smile and tilt my face up to kiss him.
His fingers tangle in my hair and the kiss gets a little deeper than I thought it would, but I’m not pulling away. Not until Eric’s cell phone starts to buzz in his pocket.
“Is that a cell phone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?” I smile against his lips.
“Oh I’m happy to see you, but I’m saving that for when we get home,” he winks and gets his phone. “It’s Jessica.”
I take the phone from him and answer the call. “Hey Jess, did you hear?”
“The verdict. Guilty of all charges.”
“That’s great, Sook, but that’s not why I’m calling. I’m in labor,” she says and I grin so big my face might just split in two.
“Sweetie, that’s great! Where are you? I can come see you if you want,” I offer.
“I’m at Northwestern, but Hoyt and I just want it to be the two of us. He’ll call as soon as she’s here,” Jess promises.
“Okay, well we’ll keep the phone nearby. Call me if you get bored or you just want to talk,” I tell her.
“I will,” she says and then curses loudly. “Fuck, contraction. Gotta go.”
Jess hangs up on me and I smile while shaking my head. “Jess is having the baby.”
It’s about time. Jess’ due date passed four days ago, but she’s been ready to bring her baby girl into the world for about three weeks now.
“Awesome! This is turning out to be the best day ever,” Eric grins and takes back the phone.
My father tried to talk us into a victory party at his house, but Eric and I want to celebrate this on our own.
“True story,” I agree and get another toe curling kiss from Eric. He backs me up against the car, and for a few seconds I think he might try to fuck me right there, but then he pulls back.
“Come on, let’s go home.”
We get in the car with Eric behind the wheel. He got his license last fall and is working on his GED classes. He’s set to ‘graduate’ from the program in a couple of weeks, and he’s planning to go to the same school I am. We moved out to the suburbs the previous summer. I started an entry level job working at the same company Pam does. I don’t want to be an accounts payable clerk forever, but the hours and money are stable, plus I have health insurance. Eric found a job working as a warehouse guy for one of the shipping companies near our condo.
Things between us have been great. We’ve had our arguments and when the honeymoon phase ended there was some pretty serious butting of the heads, but nothing we couldn’t work through. We’re happy.
Traffic on the Kennedy is awful. The 90/94 split always messes things up and driving on the express lanes isn’t much better. My fingers are laced with Eric’s while we sit in bumper to bumper traffic while I sing a Train song under my breath along with the radio.
“So Italian or Chinese?” Eric asks.
“Whichever will deliver faster.”
“Chinese it is.”
The place we love always says forty-five minutes to an hour, only to show up twenty minutes later. But they make perfect egg rolls. They’re not too greasy and there’s the perfect veggie to meat ratio. It also helps that Eric and I both like spicy food so we can share things. He taught me how to eat with chopsticks, which was a miracle in and of itself.
“I bet you even know what you want already,” I smile over at him.
“I do.” Eric lifts our hands and kisses mine. “I want you to marry me.”
My eyes widen. I’d ask if he’s serious but his expression tells me he is. We’ve talked about it, but in terms of when we finish school.
“As a heart attack.”
“Are you going to ask me?”
This isn’t how I saw myself being proposed to, but I like that it’s spontaneous. I don’t even care that there isn’t a ring. The important thing is that it’s Eric who’s asking.
To add to the level of spontaneity, Eric pulls over to the shoulder and puts the car in park.
“What are you doing?” I ask as he opens his door and gets out of the car. I watch him walk around to my side and he opens the door.
Eric gets down on one knee on the side of the road and says, “Sookie Stackhouse, you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. everything about the last year and a half, good times or bad, have been the best of my life. You mean the world to me and I love you more than I ever could have imagined. Will you marry me?”
I don’t need to think about it. I’ve known since that first dance in the diner that Eric is the one. I nod my head and say, “Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.”
I get out of the car and Eric lays the mother of all kisses on me right there in front of awful rush hour traffic. It’s amazing we don’t cause any accidents, because I’m sure people are curious about why we’ve stopped on the shoulder of a crowded highway to make out. After ten cars and two semis honk at us, we finally knock it off with the kissing and get back in the car.
“Would it be really weird if I said I want to get married in New York?” Eric asks a few minutes later.
Traffic is finally moving along, although we’re only going about twenty miles an hour.
“Where in New York?” I ask, even though I suspect I know where.
“The house in Saratoga Springs,” he says. Eric doesn’t need to explain it to me. I know it’s so his parents can be there.
“No, I don’t think that’s crazy. In fact, I think it would be really pretty there in the fall,” I smile at him.
We took a trip out there last winter and spent the new year there just after Bill’s first trial concluded. We were there for a week, and in that time I fell in love with the house. It was painful, at first, for Eric to be there. A whole bunch of memories came back to him while we were there, but it turned out to be a good thing. Not all of his memories were bloody or violent, and it turned out that he’d had a very good childhood before his parents were murdered.
“Are you sure?” Eric asks.
“Yes, I’m sure. You should get to have one more happy memory there with your parents, and I’m sure they would love to see you get married,” I tell him. I don’t believe in ghosts the same way Eric does, but that doesn’t mean I can’t indulge him.
If getting married at his childhood home will give him some sort of closure or make him happy, that’s all that matters. Not to mention, it’s a stunning piece of property.
“Thank you.” Eric squeezes my thigh, and I lean over to kiss his cheek.
I rest my head on his shoulder and Eric keeps his hand on my knee as we drive west into the sunset.