SOOKIE POV, CONTINUED
Four hours later, I was tired, and I’d had to visit the bathroom eight times.
At least the facilities were kept very clean, and I didn’t have to be the cleaner as I did at Merlotte’s most nights that I worked.
Apparently, Arlene had an “allergy” to toilet bowl cleaner.
From the thoughts of the patrons I’d been listening to in Fangtasia, I knew that Eric had sat on the dais with Olivia for about half an hour after I’d arrived before escorting her from the club through the rear exit.
At least that had been before my first bathroom visit.
Other thoughts had told me that he’d whisked her away in his corvette after giving her a “thorough” kiss in the parking lot.
Most of the fangbangers speculated that Olivia and Eric were off somewhere “fucking.” I tried not to speculate. After all, I had no right to be jealous of anything they might have been doing, though my green foe had poked his way into my brain several times that night.
After they’d left, Pam told me that Eric had “stepped out” of the bar for a while, but would return near closing time in order to give me the five minutes I’d requested.
And as for myself? I’d kept busy between my bathroom breaks by pushing my telepathy as far as I could in order to hear more and more people. For the last several months, I’d been trying to craft my shields so that they’d be suppler—letting me hear only certain people at a time. It was a tough process, and I already knew I’d have a headache resembling a hangover symptom the next morning, but I was determined to become stronger—if only to be able to pass along my knowledge to my child.
If she, too, was a telepath.
I’d been concentrating so hard on the people left in the bar that I hadn’t noticed the void coming.
“Did you discover anything of importance?” Eric asked as he glided into the booth gracefully. My breath caught as I took my first sustained look at him for months.
He was so much more beautiful than I’d recalled.
But somehow I held my composure and slid him my notepad.
“No immediate threats, but a few Fellowship spies. And one spy from Arkansas. I have written down their assignments as well as where you can find them,” I relayed.
He looked at the piece of paper. “This is quite detailed.”
“I—uh—pushed in,” I said, not knowing how else to describe what I’d done.
“You have been practicing,” Eric said with a little smile.
I nodded. “As much as I can.”
“It has been a while. You look,” he paused, “fatigued.”
“Just a full day,” I said, shrugging off his comment and trying not to imagine just how bad I must have looked to his eyes—especially in comparison to the beauty he’d spent much of his night with. “You look well,” I said, shifting the topic away from me.
“I look the same as always.”
“Of course,” I responded, my heart sinking a little more with each moment. Eric’s tone wasn’t cold, but it certainly wasn’t warm either—not that I should have expected a warm welcome from him.
“How is Bill doing?” he asked. There was a bite in his question.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“I figured you would,” he returned significantly.
“I can’t feel his emotions right now,” I whispered. “Sophie has him working in China right now.”
His eyebrow rose. “I’d heard that you’d become friendly with the queen. And I’d heard that she was sending Bill to all corners of the globe—for the database.”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s a good thing, I think. For the database.”
He inhaled. “His blood still dominates your scent,” he informed.
“It still has a purpose,” I responded.
Looking into his eyes, I could tell that many thoughts were pummeling through the vampire’s mind.
“So you spoke with the queen?” he finally asked.
“Yes—I cashed in my favor, and she told me about Bill.”
We were quiet for a moment as he seemed to be studying the notes I’d written for him again. Suddenly, I worried that I’d doodled “Sookie loves Eric” on them and I anxiously glanced down at the yellow pad.
“I didn’t know why Compton came to my area,” he said, catching my eye.
“I know you didn’t.”
“I’m sorry he couldn’t be stopped from . . . .”
He stopped midsentence.
“Sophie wanted to kill him for what he did,” I volunteered, hoping to avoid an awkward silence.
However, his response created even more awkwardness in the air between us.
He chuckled ruefully. “But you protested.”
In the past I would have yelled at Eric for his callousness, but that was the past. Now I only nodded. “Yeah. Uh—you know me—a bleeding heart.” Eric had no idea that I needed for Bill to stay alive so that the scent of my unborn child could stay covered up.
“At least he’s out of Area 5,” Eric commented.
“Yeah. Did you hear his old house burned down?” I asked.
“Bubba mentioned something. Damned pity,” he smirked.
God—I had missed that smirk.
“I miss you,” I said before I could stop the words from falling from my lips.
He tensed. “Miss me?”
I sighed. “I’m sorry. I got smart a little too late.”
“Smart how?” he asked.
“Sophie told me what blood ties could do—how they could affect emotions. Did you know that Bill did his level best to make me fear you? To make me be suspicious of everything you did?”
“You don’t say?” he joked, though the edge to his tone was anything but light-hearted.
I took a breath. “The thing is: when I stopped being afraid, I wrote down a list of every time you and I had ever seen each other. And there wasn’t a single one of those times when you intentionally hurt or mislead me.”
He blinked noticeably—as if surprised. “That is true.”
“Like I said,” I shrugged. “Smart. Too. Late. So—yeah—I owe you a ‘thank you’—actually a lot of them. So—uh—thank you.”
He seemed as if he wanted to say a thousand things, but he was silent for a while.
So was I.
Finally he shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “The five minutes are over.”
“Rhodes,” I said hurriedly. “Sophie said I should ask you about it.”
“Rhodes?” he asked.
“Because of Hurricane Katrina, Sophie is no longer going to the summit—except for the night of Peter Threadgill’s trial. She told me that you would be leading the Louisiana contingency.”
“Yes,” he said. “She has made me aware.”
“Well—uh—she wanted me to—uh—coordinate with you. About the trip,” I stammered. “I mean—she—uh—said it would be your choice of whether or not to—uh—still take me. She sent me here to ask if you’d—um—made your decision or not. This is my audition,” I said, pointing to the pad of paper before him.
“I know of your qualifications,” he said, a little affronted.
“I know,” I whispered. “But Sophie thought I should listen here, nonetheless—to—uh—re-prove that I could be useful to you.”
Silence arose between us again, this time for even longer than before.
“I have not yet decided whether or not I want you in Rhodes,” he finally said.
“Oh—okay then,” I responded, standing up cumbersomely. I suddenly felt the need to leave quickly—before tears could fall from my eyes.
Rejection was a cold dish. But I was no longer a hypocrite; at least, I hoped I wasn’t. I knew that I deserved to eat that icy—and salt-filled—dish.
And I would. I just preferred to do it in private.
“Just let me know when you decide,” I said, readying my feet to move as fast as they could in the pumps I never should have worn.
Damn my vanity! And damn Walmart for making shoes with very little padding, especially for pregnant feet!
But Eric’s voice stopped me in my tracks.
“Your child is well?” he asked, his eyes focusing on my belly.
“Uh—yeah,” I said, my hands automatically resting over the area he was focused on. “She’s kicking now.”
“Now?” he asked, his eyes flaring with interest.
“Uh—not right at the moment. She’s asleep—I think. What I meant is that I’ve started to feel her kick—uh—periodically,” I finished awkwardly.
“I heard that Octavia Fant’s apprentice is now your roommate,” Eric said.
“Yeah. She and I have become friends during my visits to New Orleans,” I relayed, taking a half-step away from the table. “The apartment building she ran in New Orleans was damaged quite a bit during Hurricane Katrina, and Amelia didn’t want to move in with her dad. She actually drove up before the mandatory evacuations started because she’s scared of storms; now she’s waiting to go back down until the area around her complex has power again,” I rambled. “But that might be a while. Sophie sent one of the Berts to check out her apartments, and it looks like Amelia’s place is actually in pretty good shape, but Hadley’s old apartment will need extensive repair, and its new tenant is somewhere in Houston.” I saw that Eric’s eyes were still focused upon my midsection, but I just kept right on spilling information that he obviously wasn’t interested in. “You know—funnily enough—Amelia was gonna move up here last spring. ‘Cause she—uh—turned her boyfriend, Bob, into a cat, but I thought that would be a really bad idea with Bubba and all. You see—she was gonna bring him. I mean—Bob. Uh—anyway, Amelia was trying to avoid dealing with the consequences of transforming Bob—you know by telling Octavia? Amelia thought that she could—uh—figure it out herself, but I suggested it’d be better if she just went to Octavia right away. And she did, so Bob’s not a cat anymore. Still—part of me misses having a cat. Did you know that I used to have one? Tina was her name,” I shook my head, unable to stop my verbal diarrhea. “She was really sweet—uh—a real friend. Um—do vampires have pets? Uh—I mean pets that aren’t humans? Anyway, Tina was killed by the same person that killed Gran. She was strangled and left on my front porch,” I reported morbidly, even as I had to stop talking in order to catch my breath.
“I did not know that,” Eric said evenly—likely just indulging me at this point. I took another half-step away from the table.
“Yep. But—can you imagine if she’d still been alive when Bubba came over for the first time?” I cringed at that thought. “I would get another one—you know. Another cat? And I’m sure if I asked Bubba, he wouldn’t drain it. But I’ve decided to go with a puppy instead. A real dog—of course—not a shifter,” I added, even though I realized that I was sounding ridiculous now. “I have—uh—read that puppies who grow up with kids are usually really protective of them. And it couldn’t hurt-right? Uh—Terry Bellefleur—uh do you know him?”
“No,” Eric responded.
“Well—uh—why would you? Anyway, he’s gotta litter of puppies. After Rhodes—if I go, that is—he’s gonna give me one. Um—and—if I don’t go, I’ll just pick up the puppy once he’s weaned. Or she—if it’s a girl. I’m—uh—supposed to go tomorrow morning to pick the one I want, so I don’t know if it’ll be a boy or a girl. But he’s not charging me. Isn’t that nice of him? I mean—I think he could charge hundreds of dollars for one of his pups! Anyway, I’m gonna research it before I pick up the puppy, and I’ll give him the money anyway. I’ll just tell him that it’s to put toward his next litter,” I added—really wishing that my mouth would just close and that my feet would just move.
Eric brought his eyes up to mine again, and we were silent for a moment—me because I’d literally run out of anything to say, beyond telling him about my trip to the hardware store to get paint for the baby’s room.
However, when the silence dragged on, I took another half-step from the table and found myself bringing up that paint. “Well—I’d better go. I—uh—have to paint.”
“Paint?” he asked.
“The baby’s room. I was gonna go with pink, but that just seems too cliché. And I really don’t like pink; don’t tell Pam that though.” Yep, my stream of conscience spiel was clearly back! “And then I thought blue because I like blue, but the hardware store clerk thought I was even weirder than ever because she’d heard the rumor that the baby’s a girl. So I looked at shades of yellow, but my room growing up was yellow, and I wanted something different for her—you know? I’m mean—they say that yellow’s a happy color, but I don’t really think so. I mean—how can a color be happy? So I looked at greens. There was this light green that I almost went with because it had some blue in it, but then I just got blue. I mean—why should I let a clerk’s thoughts change my mind—right? So what if she thinks I’m weirder than ever because I picked a so-called boy’s color? Who says that girls can’t like blue—right? Of course, I’ll repaint if she ends up hating it,” I ended, now out of breath again because the rapidity of my talking.
There was another moment of uncomfortable silence between Eric and me.
And that’s when I realized that the awkwardness was all my fault. Eric had given me my five minutes—more than that even! And he was waiting for me to leave—probably anxious for it. But I hadn’t left yet. In fact, other than the couple of half-steps I’d shuffled, my feet seemed fixed in place.
Oh—I knew the answer. I liked seeing Eric again. I really had missed him. And—if anything—the affection I’d once felt for him had grown as I’d thought about all of our encounters without the taint of Bill’s prejudice.
And I was afraid I’d never see him again.
“You are having a daughter,” he finally said.
“Yeah,” I smiled.
“Will you name her for your grandmother?” he asked.
I couldn’t help but to tense up. “No,” I responded.
“I would have thought you would,” he commented.
I almost launched into the story of why the name of my child wasn’t going to be “Adele,” but I refrained. Just barely.
“Pam will escort you to your car,” Eric said, and in the next moment the blond vampiress was by my side. “I have somewhere else I need to be,” he added.
Without another word—and before I could even blink or say goodbye—he was out of his seat and out of the club.
Pam took my arm, which I was happy about. Her presence helped me to move, rather than to stay staring at the spot Eric had been in and succumb to my tears.
I noticed that my waitress was wiping down tables close by and impatiently waiting for the few bar stragglers to leave. I could empathize with her. While last call might have come at 2:00 a.m. at Merlotte’s—just as it did at Fangtasia—people would often nurse their final drinks to the bitter end, though Sam always herded them out by 3:00 a.m. I found myself wondering how the lingering “cattle” at Fangtasia were “herded” away—since the vampires literally saw most of them as cattle.
I figured Pam would be especially effective as a “wrangler” for the stragglers.
I stopped in my tracks, bringing Pam to a halt with me, and I dug into my purse, pulling out the only bill in my wallet—the five dollar note I’d planned to offer to my waitress. As Pam looked on, I handed it to the waitress, whose name I’d discovered was Stacy.
“Thanks for bringing me water all night,” I said, even as I attempted to give her a sincere smile.
Stacy looked at Pam cautiously and then took the bill.
“Thank you,” she said, even though she still thought that taking care of me had been a waste of her time. Apparently when Eric and Olivia moved to the booth after spending time on the dais, Stacy was given a bonus of at least a hundred dollars if she took good care of her master’s date.
Before I could think any further about that, however, Pam and I were at my car.
“Thanks, Pam,” I said, turning to smile at her. She looked ready to say something, but she seemed to suddenly decide not to. Instead, she rolled her eyes in the direction of my car and scoffed—as if deciding to judge it instead of me.
For that, I was grateful.
I unlocked my door and was just about to get inside, when Pam seemed to decide to judge me after all.
“Did you ever love him?” she asked in a low voice.
I closed my eyes. “Yes. I do.”
“Do? Even now?”
I opened my eyes and nodded—before chuckling ruefully. “It might have taken me a while to catch up, but—yes—I love him. At first, I thought it was just the version of him that lived with me—the one that didn’t remember who he was. And after he was gone, I grieved for him. And,” I paused, “in my grief, I refused to do what I should have done when it came to Eric.”
“And what was that?”
“Fight for him,” I said simply. “Push my way into Fangtasia the very night he left my house and tell him about what we’d been like when we were together. And then let him choose whether he wanted to try for an us.”
“He was never whole again—after the witch’s curse,” Pam said, her voice sounding hollow.
“Neither was I,” I sighed. “But I also wasn’t smart enough—or maybe confident enough—to think that I could ever be whole.
“What about now?” she asked.
“What about now?” I repeated. “Eric has moved on, and he seems happy. And I’m still fucked up. I won’t mess things up for him.”
“What if a good ‘mess-up’ would do him good?” Pam asked.
I shook my head. “Sophie says the same thing. But that doesn’t change certain realities,” I added, putting my hand over the evidence of my child.
Pam looked at my ballooned belly.
“You should name her Pam,” she offered.
I chuckled. “Hell no.”
“Why can’t you name her after your grandmother?”
Obviously she’d heard me say as much to Eric.
I touched Pam’s hand and got into my car. “It was really nice to see you, Pam.”
“Promise to call me when someone tries to kill you,” she said.
“You’ll be the first on my list,” I chuckled as I turned my key and prayed my engine would start. Asking Pam for a jump would have been humiliating.
Luckily, however, the old yellow car rattled to life.
Pam stepped back and watched me as I left the parking lot.
I held out for five minutes before I had to pull over and cry my eyes out.
Fucking pregnancy hormones.
But eventually the tears stopped, and I finished my trip home.
Amelia was asleep, so I was extra quiet as I changed into some shorts and a T-shirt.
And—for the rest of the night—I painted.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the chapter.
Can you imagine how awkward Sookie must feel? EEK! When that is added to pregnancy hormones? EEK EEK!