Have I mentioned that I hate hospitals? I hate the sense of death and decay that clings to the structure. I know that not everyone that enters a hospital will die, but the few experiences I have had with hospitals have all been when family members have passed away. Never before had I experienced an ambulance ride, and I must say it’s an experience I can forego the rest of my life. I am not dying, nor am I bleeding out; there was no need for the ambulance driver to drive like a bat out of hell, but that’s exactly what he did. We sped along the highway, ran red lights at dangerously busy intersections, and at one point, I thought the damn thing was going to tip over because the driver took a turn too quickly. I said a prayer to every god and patron saint I could think of as we drove along, hoping that I didn’t sustain any more injuries because of a car accident.
Once at the hospital I was whisked back to a private area of the emergency room for them to begin assessing my injuries. Sookie is by my side the entire time, except for when I am taken to radiology for X-rays and when I need to use the bathroom. To keep me distracted from the pain, she’s been telling me stories about Allison. I am totally enthralled with every story she tells me; the most mundane of details I find as enchanting as if I were hearing the words of Shakespeare. Everything Sookie tells me makes me that more eager to get to know my daughter. I still have reservations that Allie will resent me, but Sookie’s confidence that our daughter will accept me easily soothes my frazzled nerves.
It’s strange to think that a week ago I was empty, a shell of the man who I am now. I may have said that I was putting Sookie in the past and moving forward with my life, but it was a lie. Nothing and no one has ever been able to ease the despair I’ve felt being without her. A day or so ago, my world was shaken up when I ran into the woman I love and my daughter by mere chance. I had been like the ball in a game of Pong that bounced back and forth between extremes with no control over any of my emotions. Mere hours ago the foundation of my existence was tilted again when I learned about how others conspired to keep Sookie and I apart. Within the span of seconds, my world upended itself again when Sookie and I learned that I was never unfaithful to her. There was finally light after having been in darkness for years; it was like the sun breaking through the clouds after a harsh storm that tried to destroy everything in its path. I feel free, like I can finally be proud of the person I am; there is no longer a sense of shame or guilt hanging over me. I want nothing more than to pick Sookie up, swinging her around in wide circles until we are both laughing and dizzy. Then I would lower her body so that my lips could capture hers in the most perfect of kisses that would signify the beginning of our life together. But that fucking cunt-face bitch had to destroy my vision for how Sookie and I will begin our happily ever after by attacking me. If Freyda were a man, I would have had no qualms about going on the offensive; the idea of my fist pounding repeatedly in her face has been a vivid fantasy of mine for years. However, I was raised with the belief that a man does not ever hit a woman, and I didn’t want Sookie to think I would ever raise my hand against her or Allie. I gotta be honest though, if I ever find myself in this type of situation again, fuck being a gentleman!
“You doin’ OK?” Sookie’s softly spoken question brings my attention back to the here and now. We are waiting for a nurse or doctor to return with my discharge paperwork. We’ve been in the hospital close to four hours and I’m fucking beat, literally and figuratively. The doctor that examined me was a tiny thing; she needed a damn step stool to reach the top of my body while I was sitting up in the hospital bed. I can’t remember the doctor’s name, but she looked like one of the dwarfs in Lord of the Rings. I almost slipped and called her Gimli. She poked and prodded my body without any regard for my injuries and I lost the short leash I had on my temper. I barked at her to get the fuck out, that I wanted a real doctor and not a reject from midget clown school. Sookie’s mouth opened in horror and she hurried to apologize for my words, but the doctor had started laughing. I can’t say that her touch was gentler after that, but her attitude was less abrasive. She literally got the short-end of the stick when it came to bedside manner.
“I want out of here,” I say grumpily. All I want to do is go to sleep with Sookie in my arms and I know that’s not possible with the shape my ribs are in. Hell it’s not comfortable to hold her hand either given the stinging cuts and bruises along my skin. The X-rays revealed that I had two fractured ribs on my right side. I didn’t need a medical opinion to tell me that; and the only thing they did for my cuts was clean the wounds and apply antibiotic cream. The doctor said the best thing for me over the next few days would be rest, which I have no problem agreeing to. My body feels like it went five rounds with UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Jon “Bones” Jones. Once I get out of here, I don’t plan on leaving the comfort of my bed for at least a week.
While the doctor and nurses worked to clean me up, the police came to get our statements about the events that took place on the set. One of the officers also took photographs of all my injuries. Sookie asked what we needed to do to press charges against Freyda, but the officers were quick to assure us that the district attorney would be taking care of that given the number of witnesses and that she was suspected of being under the influence of illegal substances. If they bother to search her trailer or hotel room, I’m sure they would find enough pills to start their own chain of Walgreens or CVS.
“I’m sure the doctor will be along soon to discharge you sweetie,” Sookie says soothingly. “Why don’t you lie back and close your eyes? You need to rest.”
I try to shift on the bed to get comfortable; no such fucking luck. “What are you going to do?”
“We don’t have a way of getting out of here,” Sookie reminds me. “I don’t wanna call Alcide to come pick us up because it’s late, and it could take him a while to get here.”
“We can just take a taxi,” I say as my eyes close in exhaustion. All of the adrenaline that has catapulted me through the last forty-eight hours seeps away and I am powerless to keep my eyes open.
“I have an idea,” Sookie says brightly. My one eye pops open to see her smiling excitedly. She leans down to brush a kiss across my forehead. How is it possible she still smells so good after sitting in a hospital room all this time? I feel like the smell of antiseptic and bleach are permanently embedded in my skin.
Sookie leaves me so she can use her cell to make a call. My eyes close as the stillness of the room lulls me to sleep.
“Here you go,” the diminutive doctor barks out as she enters my area suddenly. My eyes snap open and I try to jolt upright, only aggravating my rib injury in the process. I glare at the dwarf-sized doctor as I hiss in pain. Shouldn’t she be in the mines of Moria with the other dwarfs in Lord of the Rings?
Dr. Ludwig, at least that’s what it says on her jacket, hands me my discharge papers and a bag containing several prescription bottles. “There’s an antibiotic in there to fight off infection from setting in. There is also a bottle of pain medication to help with your ribs, though if you can tough it out, that would be preferable. I’ve also included instructions on how to care for your wounds and a schedule for how long you need to wear the bandage around your ribs. We’ll call you with the results of your blood work. You should follow-up with your primary care physician to make sure everything is healing properly,” she says brusquely before turning to leave the room.
“Wait! Results for what blood work?” I’m confused. Why did they do blood work?
Dr. Ludwig turns to look at me impatiently but her tone is somewhat gentle as she explains it to me. “You were attacked by a junkie Mr. Northman. I have no idea what type of drugs your attacker is addicted to, and I’m not willing to take any chances. There is no telling what types of diseases or illnesses she may have unknowingly transferred to you. It’s a precautionary measure, but I wouldn’t be doing my job to the best of my abilities if we didn’t screen your blood. I’d recommend another blood panel in six months to make sure everything stays the same.” She nods her head once before leaving the room.
I am now freaking out thinking Freyda has given me everything from Hepatitis C to HIV. Fuck is it possible to douse my body in a bleach bath followed by a swim in a vat of alcohol? I have this overwhelming need to sanitize every inch of my body.
“Hey there,” Sookie walks back in the room with a bright smile on her face and it makes me feel like absolute shit. Oh my God! What if Freyda does have some type of disease and Sookie somehow gets it because she was trying to take care of my wounds? I will never forgive myself if I’ve somehow caused Sookie to get sick. Allie doesn’t need to lose her mother.
Sookie reaches for my least injured hand, and I shrink back from her touch. The smile disappears from her face as she lowers her hand to her side. “What’s the matter? Are you in more pain? Did the doctor say something else is wrong?” She stands beside the bed, wringing her hands worriedly.
“I didn’t realize they drew blood to make sure Freyda didn’t give me any diseases. She’s a fucking junkie; who knows what the fuck she’s putting in her body?!?! What if she’s given me a disease?” Just when I think Sookie and I might get our happily ever after shit like this creeps up to fuck with us. Did I piss off someone important in another life? Was I such a wretched human being that I keep getting royally fucked over?
“Sweetie, you need to calm down,” Sookie says reassuringly to me as she brushes my hair back from my forehead. “The chances of that happening are very slim,” she says logically. “You’re more likely to have caught a cold from her instead of one of the many life-threatening diseases I see you thinking about.”
“How can you be so sure? How can you be so calm?” Did she take one of my pain pills and I not know it? Maybe she’s delusional from lack of sleep.
“Two reasons. First, I know everyone underwent a physical before y’all started filming. If Freyda had any serious health issues, the producers would have had a helluva time getting insurance on her and everyone else. They wouldn’t risk her making others sick.”
OK, that makes sense. “What’s the second reason?”
“Pardon my language, but Karma fucking owes us one. Ain’t no way in hell that bitch is taking you away from me a second time,” Sookie says with fire in her eyes and determined set to her jaw. From her lips to God’s ears, I hope she’s right.
Even with my discharge papers, it’s not a simple matter of me getting up to walk out of the hospital under my own steam. A nurse is waiting outside of my area with a wheelchair. Once I am gingerly settled in my rolling ride, we take off down the hallway, in the opposite direction from the main entrance.
“Where are we going?” We’ve come to a stop in front of a bank of elevators. The nurse presses the down button and we are waiting for the lift to arrive.
“I’ve arranged for a car to pick us up. However, there are several paparazzi waiting in the lobby and outside the front of the building according to the doctor. Either someone let it slip that you are here, or they followed us from the set,” Sookie admits tiredly. The elevator car arrives and the nurse presses a button to take us to one of the lowest levels in the hotel.
“Dr. Ludwig arranged for our ride to be given access to the employee’s parking area underneath the hospital. Our car should be waiting on the other side of the elevator when we get out,” Sookie explains tiredly. When I glance at her it seems as if the events of the day and night has finally caught up with her.
As promised, there is a nondescript black SUV waiting on the other side of the elevator doors. The nurse keeps me in the elevator while Sookie exits to make certain that no one else is around to see us leaving. Sookie gestures for us to join her and the nurse obligingly wheels me the few feet to my lover’s side. Sookie supports me as I climb into the front passenger seat; she had tried to convince me to lie down in the back seat, but it was too much effort for me to contort my body to fit inside the door and then arrange my body to lie down. Sookie climbs in the back seat and passes me a baseball cap that was back there so I can cover my hair and as much of my face as possible.
I pull the cap over my face so it looks like I am sleeping underneath it. “Where are we going?”
“Back to my hotel,” Sookie offers. “This car and the driver work for Le Pavillion. Bubba here,” Sookie pats the shoulder of the man in the driver seat and he touches two fingers to his forehead in salute, “always drives me when I’m in need of a ride. He’s gotten me out of a pickle more times than I can count,” Sookie says appreciatively.
I don’t move in my seat, but I stare at the driver through my peripherals. He looks like an Elvis impersonator, and I don’t mean Elvis from his younger years. The man’s body is bloated and strains against the buttons of his black suit jacket like ground sausage inside its casing. His hair is dyed an unnatural black, and he has the most ridiculous sideburns I’ve ever seen on the sides of his face. I’m not so sure that I trust this guy to get us out of here without the paparazzi noticing.
“Don’t you worry Mr. Eric,” Bubba says with a thick Southern accent. “I’ve been takin’ care of Miss Sookie for years. I’ll get us back to the hotel faster than a greased pig runnin’ out of a butcher’s shop.” He smiles at me and I swear for a minute I’m looking in the face of the dead King of Rock-n-Roll.
“Of course you will Bubba,” Sookie says with a wide yawn. She covers her mouth and mumbles an apology. “Eric just keep your face covered as much as possible and let Bubba do his job. He’ll get us back to the hotel without the paparazzi knowing about it. I have complete faith in him.”
Bubba smiles again and says, “Thank you, thank you very much.”
As we pull out of the employees’ parking lot and drive away from the hospital, I notice a small gathering of paparazzi hanging around the ER entrance. When it looks like our stealth getaway is a complete success, Bubba next to me starts chuckling with humor. I crack a smile because all I can think is Elvis has left the building!
AN: I couldn’t resist using an Elvis Presley song title for this chapter.