APRIL 11, 2005 TWO MONTHS LATER
“Take that off,” Claudine ordered, looking at the necklace I was wearing; it held Eric’s wedding ring.
“No!” I insisted.
She shook her head. “It makes noise—when you move. Weres could hear it.”
I looked down at the necklace I’d worn since my husband had left. I wore it around my neck on the simple gold chain Eric had given me on our wedding night.
My Eric was not into “gaudy” things. He’d still had Pam help him find what he’d wanted, but he’d chosen things that would have been deemed “fine” when he was a human.
Thus I’d gotten a relatively simple, though lovely engagement/wedding ring.
And I’d received a beautiful, though certainly not gaudy gold chain on our wedding night.
I nodded at my “fairy godmother” and took off the necklace. I would be back for it.
I hated to take it off. I hardly ever did, but I had my priorities.
One simply didn’t sneak into an ancient vampire’s lair to kill him when wearing clinking jewelry, after all.
And that was just what I was going to do.
FLASHBACK: FEBRUARY 13, 2005
7:00 a.m. on the day after my husband left our home found me scrubbing the oven. It didn’t need the treatment, but I was scrubbing all the same.
Before the scrubbing, I’d been crying. In fact, as soon as Ocella had left, I’d broken down—all the adrenaline that had been keeping me relatively “together” had gone away as soon as my one task for the night had been completed. I’d confronted Ocella. Hopefully, I’d convinced him that I cared for Eric a great deal—and that he cared for me much less.
Octavia’s tonic had worn off sometime during the demented vampire’s visit, so—unsurprisingly—I’d sunk down right onto the floor in the entry way as soon as I’d closed the front door. And I’d wept.
More like convulsed.
It was several hours before I’d dragged myself to the kitchen to get a glass of water to replenish some of the liquid I’d cried out. And it was in there that I’d noticed the oven cleaner I’d bought a few days before, intending to clean the appliance on my next day off.
I had sighed with relief when I realized that that day off had come and that I wasn’t expected at Merlotte’s at 10:30 a.m. It was a small miracle. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to make it anyway.
That oven cleaner had seemed like both a savior and an inspiration.
I’d decided to clean in order to keep the tears at bay, not that it had stopped a few from slipping out now and then. But it was better than curling up and dying in the entryway—right?
With how I felt, I wasn’t sure. Maybe withering away would be better than trying to go on without my husband. “My Eric,” I whispered.
I shook my head. “Clean, Sookie. Just clean,” I ordered myself, trying to channel my inner Gran—the woman with the backbone so strong that even old age couldn’t crack it.
“You will clean,” I added. In fact, I’d already planned a whole cleaning regimen. I was going to eradicate any dust, dirt, or lint that was downstairs. I didn’t think I could face the upstairs yet—and maybe not for a while. Eric’s presence was too “there.”
But that was okay.
“And there’s your car too,” I promised myself. “And no one ever said things can’t be cleaned more than once,” I added, already running down the list of cleaning supplies in the house and hoping they’d last through the day.
I shouldn’t have worried about that though.
I should have known that it wouldn’t take my emotions long to override my desperate scrubbing.
I was feeling the after-effects of a broken bond. And I was mourning the loss of the man I loved—my Eric—even as I was rattled with worry for the Eric who’d been “restored.” Had Octavia succeeded in mitigating the effects of the Hallow’s spell on Eric’s psyche? Would he remember me—eventually?
And—even more importantly—what would Ocella do to him now that he wasn’t the “blank, empty canvas,” that the evil bastard had wanted to find. What had Ocella already done?
I closed my eyes when the tears blurred them, but I kept up my scrubbing till it was fingernails doing the work even more than scrub-brush. It had been very clear to me the night before that Ocella had shown up in Louisiana for one reason and one reason only: in hopes of finding a memoryless, “fresh” vampire that he could break anew.
“Sadistic bastard!” I yelled, opening my eyes and scrubbing even harder.
I noticed that there was a little pre-dawn “grey” coming through the kitchen window, and automatically, I looked at the refrigerator and scanned the chart I’d printed up of sunrise and sunset times. Of course, Eric didn’t need it, but I liked having it for my own reference.
I let out a sob. Normally, Eric would be crawling into bed next to me around this time—often just getting home from one of his jobs. My hands shaking, I dropped the oven cleaner and my diminished scrub brush as I realized that I’d never feel that again—the sensation of the man I loved cuddling his coolness against my warmth.
I half-laughed and half-sobbed out in memory.
It was a “game” between us. Eric would try not to wake me up each morning. Of course, when he failed, it was more than fine. He’d still get kisses and hugs and maybe even a little more as his consolation prize. But there would be no more pre-sunrise, gentle love-making sessions.
I put my hand over my chest. I felt hollow—numb—an effect of losing the bond according to Octavia. Worse than that, however, I had no sense of Eric. I’d grown to love feeling his life. I’d grown to love feeling his emotions and sharing mine with him.
There had been so much love and joy in him as he’d learned about the new world he’d found himself in with the gusto and cleverness—and joy—of the vampire he would have been had Ocella not tried to pull that brightness out of him.
My Eric did all things—little or big—with a kind of thoughtfulness that I’d rarely seen in modern times. Whether he was building a simple fire or fixing all the squeaks in the old stairs or seeding the lawn in the dead of the night, he took pride in his labors. I’d taken so much pride in him.
And I’d been awed when he’d done the same for me.
I lay on the kitchen floor, feet away from where I’d found Gran dead, and I shook with weeping and loss.
As I felt the slight heat from the first ray of the sun come through the window to touch my skin, I heard a “popping” noise.
“Claudine?” I’d gasped. I’d not spoken to her in a long time—not since the night she’d saved me after I’d fallen asleep at the wheel. She’d also managed to enthrall a group of supernaturals—including Eric—that night. And now she was in my kitchen.
“What has happened to you?!” Claudine half-asked and half-demanded, the worry clear in her eyes.
I wasn’t sure how to answer that question so that it could be understood by anyone.
“My husband’s gone,” I finally said.
“Your heart has broken,” she clarified for me. “I’ve felt your pain all night, but I could not come to you during the night because of the vampires.” She seemed to be looking around—maybe judging my ability to clean. Maybe looking for stray vampires in the shadows.
I had raised myself a bit off of the floor upon her dramatic entrance, but now I felt too heavy to stay that way.
“Poor dear,” Claudine sighed as I lay back down. I closed my eyes; I heard another little popping and wondered if she’d gone.
But then I realized that I still sensed her with my “extra” sense. I couldn’t read her thoughts, but that was good. I didn’t think I’d be able to bear any thoughts beyond my own right then.
Another reason to be glad that I had the day off.
“Drink this. You’ll feel better,” Claudine coaxed.
When I peeled my swollen eyes open, I saw that she’d knelt beside me and was holding a cup that certainly hadn’t come out of my kitchen. In it was a clear liquid.
“What is it?” I asked weakly.
“You are hurting. This won’t heal your soul, but it will soothe the physical pain of the broken bond.”
Maybe I was too stupid to ask more questions. Or maybe I just didn’t care in that moment what happened to me. Either way, I drank.
The liquid was sweet and felt tingly on my tongue. Its effects were immediate. My pain was still there, but it felt as if someone were holding a cold compress over my soul.
“Come,” Claudine said, helping me to my feet before helping me to the couch.
APRIL 11, 2005, TEN MINUTES AFTER SUNRISE
I was snapped out of my recollections as Claudine handed me the stake I intended to use on Ocella.
After she’d found me on the kitchen floor two months before, Claudine had sat with me on the couch all day, periodically producing more drinks for me to consume. At first, we’d been silent, but eventually I’d opened my mouth and then spilled everything about my relationships with both Erics. I’d told her about Hallow’s true curse. I’d told her about Ocella. I’d told her about the choice I’d made back in January—my choice to “keep” Eric. I’d told her that I just knew that I was being punished for my selfishness.
I’d wanted—so badly—to keep him after all.
I’d wanted—so badly—to be happy.
But who said I deserved him? Who said that I should be happy?
I’d cried all this out irrationally and messily. I’d needed to.
Of course, after my conversation with Pam in January, I’d pretty much set aside my guilt and had concentrated on building a happy life with—and for Eric.
But that wasn’t the fucking point!
The point was that—on that day—my guilt had been easier for me to focus upon than my lost love!
After I’d spilled my guts, Claudine had spilled some news of her own. It turned out that I was like her—a fairy. However, I was not full-blooded. I’d taken in the news that Gran had been unfaithful to her husband with the shock of someone who’d been clubbed over the head after being hit by a truck.
Claudine had told me that my great-grandfather, who was a fairy prince of some kind, would need to be told some parts of the story I’d told her—which explained her timing for telling me about him. Niall had, apparently, been hoping to hide his connection to me from his enemies for as long as possible. However—in order to keep the queen from coming after me more “directly”—Claudine had figured that Niall would want to “claim” me.
Or—as Claudine had put it—Niall would threaten to unleash hell onto Sophie-Anne if she didn’t leave me alone.
Fan-fucking-tastic! More claiming. But not by the one I’d wanted to re-claim me.
I’d felt like laughing, but I really hadn’t been able to.
Still, I’d been grateful—both to Claudine and the mysterious Niall.
Though tied to Bubba, I’d been happy for the added security that Niall would give me from the Queen of Louisiana. The only issue had been that Niall had enemies—fairy enemies—who might harm me.
They could join the club.
Once again, Claudine brought me back to the present by speaking.
“Ready?” she asked me.
I nodded. We were both dressed in black. We were staying in a house—”arranged for” by Niall—which was about ten miles away from Ocella’s resting place near Vienna, Austria. Sadly, there had been no time for sightseeing—not that I had much inclination.
Luckily, Claudine had been to Niall’s house before and had, therefore, been able to “pop” us there—since I was of her bloodline. Really lucky! I still didn’t have my passport.
The fairy took out a vial and told me to drink its contents. I followed directions. She did the same from a second vial. I knew the liquid was designed to conceal our scents.
The plan we were following had been a “gift”—from my great-grandfather.
I heard a loud “pop” and turned to see Niall standing there.
“All is ready,” he said.
A/N: Well? What do you think? A lot of you wanted for Sookie to stake Ocella. Do you think she’ll succeed? A lot of you also speculated that the fairies would show up. I hope you like how I’ve introduced them.
A note on the flashbacks: Given Eric’s disorientation with “losing time and memories,” I wanted to create the same kind of effect. It was an experiment on my part. I am doing the flashbacks and the time jumps in order to try to recreate the sensation that Eric felt. The disorientation of memories not quite fitting in the right place. The need to do a double-take and go backwards (or forwards) to remember where you’d been before. But still with missing gaps. So if you are feeling a little disoriented at times, that’s kind of what I’m going for. Some of you have already told me that you don’t like it much, but I’m trying something new.