SOOKIE POV, continued
I gasped as I finished Eric’s long letter. Truthfully, each and every page had caused me to gasp.
And yell out into the growing night.
I felt tired, but I knew that the thousand-year-old author of the biography—the offer—in my hands had more right to be tired.
Since he was so independent and strong now, Eric as a controlled puppet was difficult for me to imagine.
“Two hundred years,” I sighed, unable to fathom what being virtually enslaved for that long would do to a person. I had the urge to sharpen a stake—just in case Appius ever showed his face near my bonded.
“My bonded,” I said with a shake of my head. “How does he get me better than anyone else ever has?” I asked the quiet car as I thought about Eric’s analysis of my telepathy. He was right. I may not have chosen it, but—as soon as I was able—I had chosen how to deal with it.
I’d built my shields out of self-preservation.
Suddenly, I felt pretty proud about that.
I spoke to the letter as if it were Eric himself. “It’s just like you, you highhanded vampire, to buy every possible kitchen gadget I might need.” But how could I be angry at him for committing Gran’s recipes to memory when he had nothing in his head but a bunch of blank spots.
“Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?” I asked the paper angrily.
Of course, I already knew the answer to that question. If I would have had my eyes open from the start, I would have always known. “Timing,” I muttered. “And naivety,” I added with incredulity in my tone.
Eric Northman, thousand-year-old vampire, didn’t know any more about romantic relationships than I did!
Why wouldn’t he deal with things on his own? What I called highhandedness, he likely called “practical care.” I’d thought that he was trying to take my choices away from me, but—in truth—he was choosing to care for me.
“The driveway. The coat,” I whispered.
I shook my head again. “You even bought a house for me.”
A house he didn’t think I’d ever inhabit.
For a moment, I thought about Pam. From what I knew of Eric and her relationship, he insulated her from the rest of the world as much as he could. Now I knew that it was so that her own choices wouldn’t be limited—any more than they had to be.
But as much as I recognized what I now had to call unselfishness in him, I was still angry at him. After all, he’d made plans and then back-up plans without consulting the one he was planning for!
Was he trying to manipulate me into some kind of supernatural marriage with him using fear tactics?
“No,” I said aloud, answering my own question. “He could have easily just tricked me into bringing him this knife without telling me that we would be pledging. He’s not manipulating me,” I added with a grateful sigh.
I thought again of the Serenity Prayer, and—once more—I recited it.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
I sighed. Eric was right. Undeniably, there were some things I couldn’t change. My life couldn’t go back to how it had been before Hadley spilled the secrets about my telepathy. The cat was out of that bag.
“And Bubba’s eaten it,” I said sourly—to nobody.
As I brought down my forehead to rest it against the steering wheel, I realized that I’d avoided truly accepting the unchangeable all of my life.
I’d never really accepted my telepathy. Instead, I tried to cover it up and pretend it wasn’t there. Every day, I did my best to block it. I’d rarely had a conversation about my handicap. Hell—even the fact that I still thought of it in such negative terms proved that I’d never accepted it.
It was a part of myself that I hated, and I knew that—because of it—I had never been able to love myself.
Or ever really even like myself.
I was too busy hiding myself.
Thus, it had been difficult for me to imagine others accepting me—let alone, loving me. And—if they did—it had always been despite my handicap.
At least, until vampires had entered my life.
“Accept what you can’t change, Sookie,” I ordered myself.
In my mind, I made a list:
Number one: Telepathy.
Number two: My brother being a selfish asshole 85% of the time. Okay 90%.
Number three: My first love being based upon a lie and a string of manipulations.
Number four: Vampires being a permanent fixture in my life.
Number five: Being seen as a commodity by most vampires.
Number six: Being—quite literally—at the mercy of the supernatural world.
And then I thought about the things I could change.
There were several paths before me. I could be stubborn and do nothing, pretending that Eric’s letter didn’t exist. However, I believed Eric when he said that things were coming to a head with Victor. Could I be lucky enough to kill Victor when he inevitably came after me? And—even if I did—would I be any better off? And what about Eric? Could I live with myself if he was killed trying to protect me from Victor?
Then, there were the two paths that Eric had offered me.
Pledging. To be honest, a part of me hated the idea. To connect myself to Eric in what would—at least—begin as a marriage of convenience of sorts went against a great many of my romantic notions. However, clearly, Eric saw this option as both convenient and romantic.
“He wants to court me,” I said disbelievingly, given the time that had passed since we’d last seen one another.
I thought about the marriages made during Eric’s human days.
“For duty,” I said aloud, even as I realized that Eric had spent a great deal of his letter alluding to how pledging to me would not just be a duty to him. I realized that—by offering me this choice—he was combining the very best parts of himself: his honor, which had been shaped and honed over the years, and his own desire for independence, which had been fought for with every ounce of his being. And I knew that, by pledging with me, he would be pushing Felipe and Victor. Despite the safety afforded to a pledged couple, my eyes weren’t shut. I figured that some of our enemies would come after us no matter what, but if we pledged, the wisest among them would be deterred.
“And Eric would just kill the dumb ones,” I said, shaking my head.
“This is the best he can offer me,” I gasped with realization. “It’s everything he can give. Everything.”
I adjusted the rearview mirror and looked into it, needing to see what my own eyes showed me—needing to match them with the complicated feelings that I was experiencing. But my eyes looked surprisingly gentle—full of affection for Eric. And I realized that that affection wasn’t just for the memoryless version of him either. It was for every part of him.
“Everything,” I muttered. “Damn him!” I added, speaking to my own eyes. But those eyes told me that I didn’t mean those words. In truth, I wanted to be courted by Eric. I wanted to believe that we could live a life similar to the one we’d enjoyed in my home for that precious week.
I wanted that more than anything.
But I was afraid.
“Afraid that choice will finally kill me on the inside,” I whispered, knowing that if I let myself love Eric as I knew I was capable—as I knew that I already did but was too afraid to acknowledge—I would be demolished if he got tired of me.
“And why wouldn’t he get tired of you?” I looked back at the eyes in the mirror. They were sad now, imagining betrayals the likes of which would harm me irreparably.
I imaged Eric doing some of the things that Bill had done.
Feeding from another when I was in the next room.
Seeking enemies and blood instead of making sure I’d survived a battle.
Becoming cold to me—distant—once we’d been together long enough for his interests to drift elsewhere.
Bidden to go to his maker.
Almost draining me—raping me—as I tried to help him.
Being with me—not because he wanted to be—but because some kind of outside force had commanded him to be.
As I thought of each thing, it was like a knife gutted me again and again. But then I looked down at the dagger. “He’s not Bill,” I told myself firmly. I looked into its mirrored surface. “He gave you this knife to fight with; he didn’t stick it into your back. He’s not Bill,” I repeated.
In the blade, my eyes shined.
It was time to recognize that I’d been using false comparisons between Eric and Bill in order to hide from my feelings for Eric.
“Fallacious comparisons,” I smiled ruefully. “Fallacious” had been my word-of-the-day the last time I’d had time to check the calendar, which had been several days before. “Fallacious” meant “containing a deceptive, misleading, or false notion or belief.”
It was appropriate that the calendar had been stuck on that word for a while since I was stuck there too.
“Time and again, Eric’s actions have shown me that he is nothing like Bill,” I said aloud. “You know Eric’s the better man.”
I chuckled even more ruefully. “And that’s why you’re so scared. What if the better man hurts me too—rejects me too?” I responded to “myself.”
I’d seen—I’d heard—Gran suffer, aggrieved every day of her later life over the loss of her husband. Could I bear to truly love and then lose? And—what about Eric? What if I decided not to become a vampire? Was it fair of me to pledge with him? According to the “rules,” he would never be able to bond or pledge again. He was sacrificing his potential future choices for me.
“His choices,” I said loudly.
I closed my eyes to avoid the mirror.
Instead of pledging, I could break the bond. The damn ingredients were waiting at my house—thanks to Eric! Heck! Octavia and Amelia were likely already mixing them up!
But—if I did break the bond—I knew that I would have to run as Eric had said. There was no way that I wanted to be free-game, and I was certainly no longer naïve enough to think that breaking the bond I had with Eric would make me free.
No—it would make me “supper.”
I had no doubt that everything Eric had set up for me would help me to disappear. But leaving would cost me my friends and family. Granted, that list of people was small, but I valued them nonetheless.
But breaking the bond and leaving Bon Temps forever might just be the only way I would ever be “free.”
Not just from vampires.
From “crazy” Sookie too.
Of course, I had other options—some that Eric hadn’t mentioned—probably because they’d be foolhardy. If I broke the bond, I could go to Alcide, using my status as friend of the pack to try to get some protection from the Weres. I bit my lower lip. Maybe between them and the witches in my life, I could remain safe?
I sighed and shook my head, realizing why Eric hadn’t suggested it. Weres tended to put me in just as much danger as vampires ever had. I liked Alcide and had at one time harbored a “what if” or two, but he had taken Debbie Pelt back into his life—after she’d been responsible for putting me in that trunk with Bill. He hadn’t abjured her then; instead, he’d let her believe that I’d had sex with him! He’d fucking fueled her jealousy and craziness, rather than setting her straight. Did I blame Alcide for Debbie’s actions? No. But I did question him for his own. And I didn’t trust him with my safety—not really—which is why I knew I couldn’t completely trust the pack.
And it wouldn’t be fair of me to make Amelia and Octavia into even bigger targets. Plus, they may have been able to ward my home, but they couldn’t ward everywhere in the world that I wanted to go!
I thought about my fairy family. What if I broke the bond with Eric and sought their protection. Niall had once offered to kill Eric for me, and—though I certainly didn’t want that—I knew that Niall wouldn’t offer anything he couldn’t deliver. And, if he could kill Eric, it stood to reason that he could kill Victor and even the new king if need be. But, then again, Niall didn’t seem ready or able to offer me constant protection. And he’d certainly not scheduled weekly or monthly visits to get to know me better.
Moreover, any fairy protection I had would just be an extra draw for vampires. And—as much as I loved Claudine—my personal fairy godmother hadn’t always “popped” up to help me when I was in danger, even when that danger occurred during the daytime. My terror in the trunk as I waited for night to fall and a starving Bill to wake up came to mind as an example.
Even more disturbing was the fact that none of my fairy kin seemed to have any interest in Jason. Therefore, I knew that they didn’t care about family as such. No—Niall cared about me only because I had the fairy spark thingy. And that just didn’t sit right with me.
I shook my head and sighed so loudly that I wondered if the car would shake from it.
Then I found myself shaking from fear and from the magnitude of the choice I was facing.
“The courage to change the things I can,” I whispered.
What could I change?
“The way I view things,” I answered myself aloud.
I could change how I saw my telepathy. Gift—not handicap.
I could change the way I saw Eric. Partner—not adversary.
I could change the way I dealt with the world around me. Thoughtfully and with full knowledge—not haphazardly, even as I tried to keep my hands “clean” of the supernatural.
I could change the way I saw “normal.” Why did it have to be what I’d always idealized—my Gran’s life. Hell! Even she didn’t have a “normal” life. She wasn’t faithful to the man she was married to—the man that I now knew wasn’t my real grandfather. For goodness sakes! Gran had sex with a fairy in order to attain her version of “normal!”
“What is your version, Sookie?” I asked the girl in the mirror. “What do you want your ‘normal’ to be?”
I wanted someone to love; I wanted to be loved in return. I didn’t want to hear his thoughts. I wanted to share my life with someone who didn’t think of me as “broken” or tainted.
Indeed, being with Eric during our week had been the normal I’d wanted.
The normal I needed.
And now Eric was offering me that—because he wanted that “normal” too!
I looked down at the dagger. And then I picked it up.
“God, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” I recited again, before adding an extra prayer that I could accept myself as I was—at long last.
“God, please give me the courage to change the things I can,” I continued, knowing that I still had the opportunity to decide certain things—but only because of a Viking vampire who’d had such a difficult time making his own early decisions.
That thought comforted me in a way—bolstered me. Maybe there was hope for me yet.
“And, God,” I sighed, “please grant me the wisdom to know the difference.”