JUNE 3, 2005
“Here you are Mrs. Fortenberry?” I smiled as I set down my Gran’s friend’s order.
Of course, that smile was forced—as were most of my smiles nowadays.
As Maxine sneered at me, I read from her mind that she’d sat in my section only to get a better look at my midsection, which had, thankfully, begun to “show.” Considering that I was trying to make people believe that I was a month further along in my pregnancy than I actually was, my increasing waistline and bust-size were welcome. As always, Mrs. Fortenberry’s judgment of my “loose moral character” flowed as if through a sieve in her brain—a sieve that filtered out anything good related to me. Her more innocuous thoughts denounced me as a slut. The truly hurtful ones related to being glad that Gran hadn’t lived long enough to see what I’d turned into.
Sadly, a part of me agreed with her.
For about five seconds back in March—right after Quinn had left my home—I’d hoped to keep my “maybe” pregnancy to myself—at least for a while. But Quinn had informed the people of Bon Temps about my “whorish ways” before I’d actually known if I was carrying a child or not. On the very day that I’d lied to him about my mythical anonymous one-night stand, he’d stopped at Merlotte’s on his way out of town.
Apparently, he’d said some disparaging things about me in front of Sam, who decided to defend me by getting into a fight with Quinn. By the time the altercation was over, several tables had been smashed, and Quinn had yelled out a variety of “facts” about my character.
I honestly hadn’t been surprised to learn that the rumor mill had been stirred up by Quinn. But a part of me had been startled by just how far he’d been willing to smother my reputation into the mud.
I closed my eyes for a moment. That day last March, Quinn had followed through with his errand of getting me a pregnancy test. Luckily, I’d been able to use a blue highlighter to create a plus sign that Quinn accepted with only a glance in its direction.
Clear, blue, and easy—indeed.
Not surprisingly, Quinn didn’t want to stick around after the stick had proclaimed me to be pregnant with a child that couldn’t mathematically be his—thanks to a blue highlighter.
After the positive result, Quinn’s mind had been full of a torrent of slurs about me. And he had decided right then and there to paint me in the worst light possible for de Castro and throughout the Supe community. He figured that if he portrayed me as a slut who moved from one man to the next, then de Castro would understand why he couldn’t fulfill his mission. After all, how could poor Quinn be expected to knock up a woman who had already been knocked up with an anonymous man’s baby?
Poor Quinn, indeed!
Clearly, I’d used the victimized weretiger for his body and then had immediately moved on to the very next “dick” that I came across.
After I’d given him chlamydia, of course.
I shuddered when I thought about getting the results of the STD test Dr. Ludwig had performed on me. Luckily the disease Quinn had given me was treatable and likely wouldn’t be passed along to my child. I took a deep breath and said a prayer, knowing that things could have been so much worse.
Not surprisingly, Quinn had shouted from the Supernatural rooftops that I was the one who had passed the venereal disease along to him. Luckily, that particular rumor hadn’t reached human ears.
But that didn’t mean that the residents of Bon Temps didn’t have plenty of bad things to believe about me.
It was funny—and not in a good way—how everyone in the town I’d spent my whole life in had so quickly bought Quinn’s rant about me. Hell! Even my own brother, who had slept with more women than I cared to imagine, had come to Merlotte’s during my very next shift after Quinn’s exit from my life in order to confront me. He’d slapped me as hard as I’d ever been slapped.
It was funnier still—and still not in a good way—when Jason had called me a “slut” and told me that Gran would have been ashamed of me.
I figured it was better to know who had my back and who was ready to stab it.
As it turned out, it was really difficult for me to find people in the first category.
It also turned out that I didn’t even need a real pregnancy test. After Quinn had gone, Bill “visited” my home almost every night—despite what he referred to as the “disparaging remarks about my reputation.” A few days into April—right around the time I was hoping that my period would begin—Bill took a deep whiff of me and made a horrifying discovery.
“So it’s true!” he’d said. “Quinn was telling the truth about you!”
Sure—why not. I had been ready to admit anything at that point—as long as no one knew my child’s real paternity.
Of course, it was also true that Bill hadn’t mentioned the whole bonding thing—though I could certainly still feel his emotions. He was disgusted by my loose morals.
He felt as if I’d been ruined somehow.
But he still seemed to haunt me, and I felt his desire to possess me.
I also felt some true affection from him.
However, since Bill refused to be upfront about the bond, I didn’t let on that it had “taken” effect. And I’d chosen not to accept his “social calls” anymore. Pregnancy was a funny thing—”convenient” in unexpected ways. And I quickly learned that it could be used as an excuse to get out of almost anything. Pretending that my morning sickness came on at night had been enough to discourage Bill’s visits.
Meanwhile, I chose to inform myself about bonds. A call to Amelia had yielded some information, and she promised to do additional research for me. But vampires were a secretive bunch. I’d thought about calling Eric, but I knew that wouldn’t be fair to him.
He’d moved on. And I didn’t blame him.
I blinked a few times so that the tears threatening to fall from my eyes would be stopped. I bit my bottom lip and hurried to grab a glass of wine for Selah Pumphrey, who had just sat down in my section. She’d been into the bar enough times with Bill during the past months that I knew her drink order without asking.
Of course, I avoiding the mirror behind the bar as I got the drink. I’d stopped looking in mirrors since the morning after Quinn and I’d had our final sexual encounter. That morning, I’d driven to Monroe and purchased the morning-after pill, though I knew that Gran would have disapproved of such a thing.
But I’d taken it, praying that I would stop a life from happening. However, the life had already taken hold within me; obviously, just one time with Quinn had been enough.
I’d contemplated abortion. I’d even gone to a clinic in Shreveport that performed abortions. In fact, I’d gone there twice! The first time, I managed to make it to the lobby before turning around and running back to my car. The second time, I couldn’t even pry myself from the car.
After hours of gripping my steering wheel and weeping in the parking lot of the gray building where the tiny embryo within me could be eliminated, I made the choice to keep my child—and to keep his or her paternity a secret. No matter what I had to do!
The child inside of me was innocent—conceived because I’d been too stupid to think about needing a condom.
Too stupid to use my telepathy to listen into Quinn’s thoughts from the start.
“Have you seen Bill?” Selah asked as I delivered her wine. “I was supposed to meet him here.”
I now cringed at the mention of his name—and at the sight of him.
“No. Sorry. I haven’t seen him in several days,” I reported. “Can I get you something to eat?”
“Is there gumbo tonight?” she asked.
Honestly, Selah had turned out to be really nice to me—after a couple of awkward weeks right after she and Bill had started dating. Her thoughts about me were generally compassionate, though they sometimes skewed toward pity. Still—her musings were better than I got from most people in town.
She certainly wasn’t a back stabber.
“Terry made shrimp gumbo,” I conveyed with a sincere smile. The veteran knew that I’d been craving shrimp during my pregnancy, and in the gumbo, the little shellfishes were thoroughly cooked, so they weren’t dangerous to me or the baby. Terry made a point to cook his gumbo at least once a week—and always when I was working.
“Can I get a bowl of that? And cornbread?” she asked.
“Coming right up,” I said before hurrying toward the kitchen window so that I could put in the order. As I waited for it, I made a quick round of my tables.
“You look tired,” Sam said as I went to the bar to get a second pitcher of beer for a man who seemed hell-bent on conducting a study of my ever-growing boobs.
I shrugged off Sam’s concern with a smile. “Well—I’ve got my little vacation starting tomorrow. I’ll be right as rain when I get back.”
I’d finally lied to Sam about my plans for my days off—since, during the previous weeks, he’d made excuses why he couldn’t give me three days off in a row when I told him that the queen wanted me to work for her. Thus, I’d invented the “vacation” with Claudine at a hotel/spa in Dallas. Claudine had even come into Merlotte’s to “confirm” the lie so that Sam would give me the days.
I sighed. I was tired of lies.
And even more tired of people trying to control my life.
Still looking concerned, Sam put a full pitcher onto my tray. I offered him a little smile. Other than the days off thing, he had been really decent to me when it came to scheduling. He had given me a lot of shifts during the past few months so that I could save money for the inevitable time when I wouldn’t be able to take any.
And I was appreciative for that.
But I wasn’t appreciative of his “disappointment” in me. He’d believed Quinn, and he judged me—even more harshly than the rest of the people in town in some ways—for being impregnated by an “anonymous” man. I suppose the pedestal he’d had me on caused me to topple a long way in his eyes!
Oh—and Sam also believed the rumors about my giving Quinn chlamydia!
And those things had made me disappointed in him!
Initially, I’d contemplated telling him the truth about the baby. But the nature of his thoughts had stopped me.
Yep. I’d finally become a telepath—after simply being one all my life. The Quinn lesson had been too hard of one to ignore, so I was listening to everyone nowadays. And—since Sam’s thoughts hadn’t been supportive from the start—I wasn’t about to confide in him!
It was just that simple.
In fact, I’d told only three people the truth about my child’s true paternity: Dr. Ludwig, Claudine, and Amelia. All of them had been enlisted in what I now knew was my most important job: making sure that John Quinn never found out that he was my child’s father.
Maybe I should have been ashamed of myself for my duplicity. But I wasn’t.
I’d learned that King Felipe de Castro was ambitious, and he clearly wanted me tied to Quinn—and thereby him—for life. And if I had never heard Quinn’s thoughts, I would have fallen nicely into the trap that had been set for me.
I’d liked Quinn—clearly showing that I was a horrible judge of character. I chuckled ruefully as I went to collect Selah’s food. Eric had been right. I really had needed to rethink all of the judgments that I’d made about people.
And, during the past months, I’d followed his advice.
Almost all of my “friends” had turned their backs on me when I became an unwed pregnant woman. Tara, whom I’d helped out with the Mickey situation only a few months before, wanted to distance herself from me because she was hoping to begin a relationship with JB du Rone, who was very conservative. Arlene had only horrible things to think about me nowadays. And Sam’s thoughts ranged from distaste to desire—the desire to possess me.
And those were my so-called friends.
Yes—Eric had been right. I really had been a simpleton when it came to choosing my relationships.
I took a deep breath as I delivered Selah’s order. “You need anything else right now?”
“No thank you,” she said, giving me a kind smile. “I’m driving, so I shouldn’t have a second glass of wine.” I listened to her thoughts. She was planning to leave me a big tip. Bill usually paid and was a strictly 10% tip man. Selah thought that was a little stingy and preferred 15% as her starting point for good service.
“Then I’ll bring you some water,” I smiled at her. I made sure to give her a slice of lime too—since she preferred that to lemon.
I sighed. Yep. Selah was proof positive that my initial reactions to people weren’t always right, and that’s why I no longer shied away from using my telepathy.
I had realized—finally—that it wasn’t a curse; it was a defense.
Undeniably, if I’d missed Quinn’s thoughts as he’d screwed me on that March morning, I would have remained ignorant about him.
It had only been my exhaustion—my inability to even try with my shields—which had given me insight into his mind. Had I learned of an “accidental” pregnancy with Quinn, I would have told him, and then he would have “done the right thing” by asking me to marry him. With Gran in mind, I would have “done the right thing” by accepting. I would have moved to Nevada. And de Castro would have been able to use me from then on.
And my child—if he or she was a telepath too.
As I completed another round of my tables on autopilot, I once again went over my plan for my time in New Orleans. After all, thinking about that helped me to focus on something other than all the unpleasant thoughts that I was being riddled with.
After three straight double shifts, my shields were non-existent—not that I was using them much anyway. Nowadays, I was too afraid to miss something to put them up most of the time. I was just glad that my baby hadn’t given me any morning sickness for the past week—though I’d quickly learned that pregnant feet were just going to be swollen feet—no matter what I did.
I looked around to see if any of my customers needed a refill, even though I knew that—except in Selah’s case—my attention to them wouldn’t affect the size of my tips, which had become “lesser” since my reputation had been ruined. It seemed that “pregnant crazy Sookie” was worth even less than plain old “crazy Sookie.”
Of course, as per my contract with Sophie-Anne, I had already been given ten thousand dollars for my upcoming job with her. And I would be working for her for three nights, so that meant fifteen thousand more once the job was done. Sadly, my bank account didn’t show the effects of my latest check—or my check from my work for Sophie-Anne the previous March. No. All that money had been immediately “eaten up” by unpaid back taxes and mortgage payments.
I hustled to refill Mrs. Fortenberry’s tea so she wouldn’t stiff me even the measly two quarters she usually left.
I’d known that Gran had taken out a partial mortgage on the farmhouse even before she’d passed away, and I’d managed to keep up the payments on it. However, after I’d deposited my check from my employment at the queen’s ball, I’d been visited by the bank manager. Since he had known and liked Gran, he’d let her get away with paying less than the full payments of the mortgage for years. However, that same deal was no longer being extended to me—especially given my apparent windfall. In fact, the bank manager had given me a deadline of December 1 to make up all of Gran’s owed payments and had ordered that I begin making the full monthly payments as well.
I’d learned from his head that his wife had convinced him that he shouldn’t continue to offer charity to a “sinful fangbanging whore” like me.
Needless to say, the next check I got would be absorbed by the bank too.
And the one after that.
And the one after that.
In truth, I’d thought a lot about just leaving Bon Temps. However—honestly—I didn’t have anywhere else to go. And it wasn’t as if I could sell the farmhouse in order to have start-up money in a new place. Too much was still owed on it. Plus, I was afraid that my baby would be telepathic. And I didn’t want to subject him or her to a larger city—where most of the jobs could be found—at least not until I could teach him or her to shield.
And then there was one more factor keeping me where I was: Eric.
Yes—because of Eric—I’d reexamined every choice I’d ever made and every relationship I’d ever had.
And I was now absolutely sure that I’d fucked up royally when it came to him.
I’d been unfair to him. I’d been hypocritical. I’d been untrusting.
I’d misjudged him.
I’d been a fucking fool.
And I’d been scared—frightened of every feeling he’d awakened inside of me.
So I’d lost him.
In the end, I’d deserved to lose him.
Again, I blinked away my tears by busying myself with my work, even though I was certain that I would never be busy enough to forget the loss of him.
However, I was also certain that Area 5 would be the safest place for me and my child—just as long as Eric was the sheriff of it.
I didn’t want to call upon him. I didn’t want to ask him for help. I didn’t think it was fair to do so. But I knew that—if I ever did call—Eric would help.
I knew that because I’d come to acknowledge a simple truth: he had truly loved me.
And not just “my Eric” either.
And—given that—I knew that Eric wouldn’t abandon me if I called him. He had too much honor for that.
However, despite my epiphany, I didn’t want to have to call Eric. I didn’t want to disrupt his life again. From what I could tell from the society pages, he and Olivia were still going strong.
And I couldn’t—wouldn’t—do anything to fuck up his life more than I already had.
He was better off without me.
A/N: Okie dokie. So—here you have it: Sookie post-Quinn. She’d hit rock bottom that morning she read his thoughts. And—in typical Sookie fashion—she came up with something of an unorthodox solution—the highlighted pregnancy test. From Quinn’s mind, she knew he “wanted” to wash his hands of his assignment regarding her anyway. And that morning was truly the first moment when she used her telepathy for HERSELF—even being deceptive as she did so.
And—yes—she did try the morning after pill, which likely would have “covered” the timing of her previous encounter with Quinn too; however, in this fictional world, I let Quinn’s sperm do its “job” during their first encounter, and I’m figuring that Supe genes change the equation anyway. I think it’s important that Sookie tried to use the pill, however. And—as for my choice not to have her get an abortion? In the end, it was Sookie’s choice. Given what we know about her, I actually see her as being “progressive” enough to be “pro-choice.” Or—at least—I don’t see her as being judgmental against those who choose abortion. But part of being pro-choice is being able to choose for oneself. And I could see Sookie agonizing over this decision. In the end, she chooses to have the baby, even though that choice is the harder one on her in a lot of ways.
Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done in her place.
Some of you wanted for the pregnancy to be faked-something to entrap Quinn or keep him away from Sookie. But-alas-it’s not. I wrestled with this part. To make her pregnant or not to make her pregnant became the question. In the end, I felt that the later part of the story was more interesting if she was pregnant. And I’d never written her pregnant like this before. I wrote her pregnant in an all-human story. And in the INNER-Verse, I am experimenting with fairy magic making a pregnancy possible. But in this story I wondered how the world around Sookie would view her if she got pregnant. And I asked myself a question: Given the fact that the people of Bon Temps already see her as “crazy Sookie”-fangbanger “extraordinaire”-how would they view her if she was suddenly going to be a mother?
I have to say that the town didn’t come through very well, but-then again-I have been to the deep South. Especially in small town, the South is a complicated place, and not all the people can be lumped into one category. Some of the people there are the nicest I’ve ever known. They are welcoming and bend over backwards in the name of hospitality. Some of socially progressive because of an ingrained sense of “rebellion” against the status quo. Some people are extremely accepting of all races, creeds, etc., especially in Louisiana, which includes the Cajun culture too. One of my half-sisters lived there for years, and I always enjoyed my time there. Heck-my dad was from Alabama, so I have family there too, family whom I love and appreciate. But-for some people in the South-once they get their teeth into something they “fear”-which would be Sookie in this case-they keep biting. And that’s just the truth. As unique as Lafayette was (before CH killed him off-growl), a gay black man wouldn’t have been the same kind of anomaly that Sookie was. She was the only one of her kind in a town that probably didn’t appreciate differences (given what we know of it). So-yeah-I see her road as a tough one to travel.
Some reviewers have also mentioned that Sookie should just leave Bon Temps. Honestly, a huge part of me agrees! And we actually see Sookie entertaining the notion here. She’s clearly given it thought, but—right now—the money factor is a huge issue. But—once she gets her house paid off? Who knows?
As for Sam and Jason? I honestly never know what I will do with them in a particular fic! LOL. I am inconsistent with whether they are “good” or “bad” because I am truly ambivalent about them. In the INNER-Verse, for example, it looks like both will turn out “good,” but—in this fic—Jason is definitely turning out “bad” and Sam is well on his way. Sorry about the inconsistency across my stories, but I let the situation dictate how they act. In the books (at least where I picked up in this fic), Jason seemed self-centered, immature, and very close-minded. Ironically, I think that—in the show—becoming friends with Andy was the “making” of Jason in some ways.
Anyway, enough rambling. And I hope I didn’t offend any Southern readers! Being from Oklahoma and being raised by a Southern parent, I have absorbed and appreciate many, many Southern traits. Others? Not so much. But I could say that of anywhere I’ve lived.
Thanks to Seph and Kleannhouse!!!!