A World Away: Chapter 8
My shoulder healed with a small scar. I still had a little stiffness when I reported back to duty, but was able to fly without any problems. I was back in time for Operation Market Garden in mid September. It was an Allied assault on Holland, carefully planned and intended to end the war, but it turned into a disaster. I was lucky in that all of my flights were incident-free and that I was able to supply the ground troops with support in spite of the general failure of the operation.
I waited and hoped for a letter from Sookie, but knew that many Americans were having trouble getting their mail in a timely manner. I knew in my heart that she loved me and would wait for me and I decided that I would just go to her the first chance I got even if I hadn’t heard from her. Although we had only spent one night together, I was confident that she loved me as much as I loved her.
At the end of October I finally received a letter from Sookie. It was dated the first week of September. I kept it with me all the time, but I had it memorized within the first day of course.
As the Allied forces moved further east, my hopes of making it back to Cherbourg any time soon faded. However, the war was definitely going well. I had participated in the taking of Aachen which was the first German city to be captured. Rumors were flying that the war would be over by Christmas and I had visions of a French wedding before the end of the year. I wrote to Sookie and while I couldn’t speak of the progress of the war (and she certainly knew this), I did tell her that I loved her and would marry her as soon as possible. I hoped it would be before the end of the year. Not a day went by that I didn’t think of her and I made sure she knew that in my letter.
I waited and hoped for Eric to come. I never told a soul that we were planning to get married because I didn’t want him to have the burden of blame if things didn’t go as I had hoped. As each week passed without word from him, I grew more and more afraid that we would not be able to get married in time.
I knew almost right away that I was pregnant. I could feel it somehow. My body just felt different. Soon the morning sickness started and then the fatigue. I didn’t need to bother counting missed periods because I knew exactly the night I had conceived. There could be no other possibility. A part of me was thrilled because I was having the child of the man I loved. I felt confident that he would be happy about the news. But my hopes that we would be married in Cherbourg were fading. I knew the policy—women were immediately discharged from the Army when they became pregnant. I wondered how much longer I could hide it and wait for Eric to marry me. If he didn’t come in time, I would become an unwed mother alone in a small town in Louisiana and dreaded what that would mean for my child.
By the beginning of December I was having trouble buttoning my fatigues. I knew I didn’t have much longer and so the day I finally got a letter from Eric, I cried from the relief. My relief soon faded to dread however as I read the letter. He still loved me (at least he had when the letter was written at the end of October), but he didn’t think he could come to Cherbourg before Christmas. I certainly couldn’t go to him even if I knew where that was. I gave myself permission to cry and feel sorry for myself for about an hour and then I braced myself for the tough road ahead.
I told my C.O. first and he had the good grace to not ask me who the father was. I really had no idea what I would tell people, but I didn’t want anyone to know about Eric for his own sake. I knew that I would feel enough shame as an unmarried mother and I didn’t want to burden him with the label of a man who hadn’t married the women he’d impregnated. When I told Tara that I was being discharged and why her eyes grew wide and she hugged me. “This happened when you were captured by those Germans.” It was more of a statement than a question. I didn’t answer her, but then I knew that I could use that story if I needed to. Maybe my child would be shunned less and pitied and accepted more if he or she were the child of a rape by the enemy. It was something that I would have to think about.
Within a week I was on a ship headed back to America, my Army career and contribution to the war effort cut short by a choice I’d made on a night in a country farmhouse with a man whose whereabouts were a mystery to me. This isn’t how I had planned for my life to go at all. A part of me was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to continue my service, but I couldn’t bring myself to be sorry that I would have Eric’s child. Before my departure, I wrote him a letter.
I only got your letter today. I am broken-hearted that I can’t wait for you any longer, although I understand why you haven’t been able to come to me. I was hoping to tell you this in person, but I am leaving for the states in a few days. The night we saved each other we also conceived a child. I’ve known it for awhile now and hope that you are happy about the news, but this isn’t how I had planned on telling you of course.
Naturally, the Army has discharged me. I am enclosing my address in Bon Temps where I will be living with my grandmother. I hope you will write as soon as you get this and that your feelings have not changed. Mine certainly have not.
I love you and pray every night for your safe return to me. I’m sad that we can’t be married in France as we had hoped, but will wait for you at home in Louisiana.
Gran was happy to have me home safe and sound. Jason was somewhere in the Pacific—we weren’t exactly sure where. I told her that I was pregnant of course, and that I was keeping the baby but didn’t mention a father. She looked at me expectantly and I just said, “You know I was captured by the Germans in August.”
She just lowered her eyes and changed the subject. That seemed to work just fine and so I decided that that would become my pat answer if anyone asked, but no one ever did. I got a job at the local hospital. There was a shortage of nurses and my training was impressive for such a small town hospital. My ballooning figure was simply ignored, at least to my face. I could only imagine what must have been said behind my back. The hospital administrator, Mr. Cataliades, did call me into his office one day and he asked me to sit down. “It’s none of my business, Sookie, but just to make the patients a little more comfortable, would you mind terribly wearing a wedding band? Just so there aren’t any awkward questions, you understand.” Gran took a simple white gold wedding band out of her jewelry box that night and gave it to me. She told me that my grandfather had given it to her in the 20’s when white gold became so popular, but that she still preferred to wear the gold band that he’d given her on their wedding day and so kept the newer ring in her jewelry box. I thanked her and then no more words were spoken on the subject.
The only person brave enough to ask me about the wedding ring was my friend Sam Merlotte. He owned a local restaurant and bar and had been a close friend since high school. I’d actually dated him once when we were kids, but we were much better at being friends. I just explained to him that it made the patients more comfortable and he seemed fine with that answer. Sam knew the story of my capture and rescue, or at least the version that I told people. I never mentioned anything about rape, of course, but I did tell him about how a pilot from Shreveport that I’d known in college rescued me and that I owed him my life. I left out the part about being in love with him and carrying his child, but I wanted Eric to get the credit for saving me. My C.O. had told me before I left France that Eric had received a Silver Star for the rescue. He certainly deserved it as far as I was concerned.
I made a new friend at the hospital named Amelia Broadway. She was from a wealthy family in New Orleans and had moved to Bon Temps to be closer to her boyfriend, Tray Dawson. Tray was in Europe, and so Amelia stayed with his folks and volunteered at the hospital. She said it made her feel closer to him to be with his family rather than her own.
I debated many times whether or not I should try to find Eric’s sister, Pam, in Shreveport. A part of me wanted to meet her and tell her about her pending niece or nephew, but then I was so torn about telling anyone the truth. I had not heard anything from Eric. Had he gotten my letter and chosen to walk away from me? Was he even still alive? I knew absolutely nothing. Part of me was afraid to contact Pam Northman because she may indeed have the bad news that I feared—that Eric had been killed. And I just didn’t know if I could survive that news. I needed to try and keep my spirits up for the sake of my child who would be here in the spring whether he or she had a father or not.