“Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.”—Joseph Campbell
I bounced little Adele on my hip as I looked down at Bill Compton’s grave. The old gravestone now included two dates of death.
Some would call that overkill. But—I’d eventually become relieved that Bill was dead—even if it had to happen twice.
And by my own hand. And his.
Maybe my hard-found relief over his being gone made me a monster.
“Six years,” I sighed to myself. I felt like it had been both a lifetime ago and a blink since Bill had asked me to use my light to end him.
I’d married since then.
And I’d been divorced.
I’d become a mother.
And a single mother.
And then a mother for a second time—when my cousin had committed suicide and abandoned her child with a twenty-dollar bill and my address pinned to his raggedy clothing. Mark hadn’t wanted anything to do with Hunter, but—truth be told—we were already well on our way to a divorce before Hunter came into the picture.
I sighed again. I had met my ex-husband Mark through an online dating website. I figured that eHarmony could help me to get to know people without my telepathy getting in the way. Mark was a decent guy. And, once I met him, I quickly ascertained that his thoughts weren’t too different from his words.
After Bill had died, I’d decided to take his wishes for me to heart. He’d wanted me to have a family—a “normal” life. And wasn’t that what I’d always wanted too?
So I’d strived for just that. I found a boyfriend that eHarmony said I was 92% compatible with. And Mark and I “met” via emails and then Skype. Of course, I had been on the computer that Eric had put in my house during his renovations, and I’d used the Internet connection he’d pre-paid for a decade. I’d felt guilty about that, but I’d been so stubbornly attached to my desire to have a ‘normal’ life back then. And the damned Internet company wouldn’t accept my money!
Damned high-handed vampire! The phone company and cable company had been the same way.
Mark eventually visited from North Carolina, where he owned a feed lot. I’d gone back to being a waitress by the time we’d met, and Arlene eventually made me the night manager at Bellefleur’s since she could afford to pay someone else to do that job and since she’d wanted to spend more time with her vampire boyfriend.
I sometimes wondered how others could have such successful relationships with vampires, while I’d not been able to do the same—unless I counted the few days that Eric didn’t have his memories.
But remembering those horrible—yet happy—days just made me feel bitterness now. But only at myself.
Yes—those days had been horrible. A witch had been trying to force vampires into the sun, and she’d even tried to burn Eric and Bill at a stake! But those days had been strangely happy for me too. Eric had made me happy, but I’d been unable to trust him—unable to trust myself.
Unable to trust the blood in me.
The better part of a decade into their relationships, Hoyt, Arlene, and Lafayette were all happy with their respective vampire partners, and—despite the fact that they’d all shared blood with them—none of them seemed controlled. Hell—Lafayette and James now had a full blood bond, and James planned to turn Lala as soon as Lala announced that he’d reached his peak!
No—having vampire blood hadn’t seemed to have affected the personalities of Hoyt, Arlene, or Lala!
Maybe I was just weak. After all, I’d let Bill’s blood have an influence over me; I’d let it change me. I’d let myself succumb to his manipulations—even after I’d known that he was capable of lying to both me and himself.
“Because of you, I blamed my fairy-nature for my inability to have a ‘normal’ relationship with a vampire,” I said to Bill’s grave.
I felt like spitting on the headstone, but I didn’t.
Yes—eventually my love for Bill had turned to bitterness.
But I continued to reserve the greatest share of my bitterness for myself. I’d been the one to believe Bill—after all. I’d been the one to accept that my relationship with Bill was “best.”
Bill had convinced me that love had to be sacrifice and pain.
But—let’s face it—even before Bill came into my life, I couldn’t imagine that anyone could ever love me.
Because of my telepathy, I’d heard so many rejections from the minds of others. I was too crazy. I was too odd. I was too different. I was too fat. I was too thin. I was too blonde. I was not blonde enough. I was too tall. Too short. Too smart. Too dumb.
From even my earliest recollections, I was a litany of “wrongs” in people’s minds.
I’d thought that I’d been right for Bill. I’d thought that he’d been right for me. I’d thought that fate had given me someone I couldn’t hear in order to reward me for enduring hearing everyone else. But my relationship with Bill was a lie—until he believed it. And then it became “real” for him.
But, still, he’d kept the truth from me. Only because of Eric had Bill confessed.
Bill’s lies—once his blood had faded from my system—had left a bitter taste in my mouth.
“I gave up my innocence for a pretty little lie,” I whispered, glancing over toward Gran’s grave, which was about thirty feet away. “You would be ashamed of me,” I said in her direction, believing my words to be true.
Seven years before, I had run to Gran’s grave for comfort, only to find myself in a world where the leader wanted to keep me forever. My grandfather had lost his life helping me to return home. Another bitter pill.
Of course, my home had no longer been mine when I’d gotten back. And everyone—save one—had given up on me. Even the one who’d said that he’d loved me—Bill—had moved on.
Why had Eric held out hope?
I’d been too afraid to ask that question more than half a decade before. So I’d made up my own answers.
It was “safer” that way.
I told myself that Eric wanted me only for my body and my blood. I told myself that he wanted merely to “own me” because of some contest he and Bill had been having—a competition where I was a prize to be won.
A contest where my blood and my telepathy—the spoils—would go to the victor.
I’d been afraid that those two things were the only reason that anyone could ever love me. Maybe that was why I’d wanted to find a “normal” man who could find me worthwhile.
I sighed and shifted Adele in my arms. I’d named her for her great-grandmother. Maybe I’d been hoping to atone to Gran—to make up for the guilt I felt concerning her death. But there was no making up for anything now. And that’s why Bill’s grave was now the closest I would get to Gran’s. After all, I deserved to suffer and remember my mistakes. I didn’t think that I deserved the comfort that Gran would, perhaps, give—even from her grave. To be honest, I didn’t even feel worthy enough to put flowers on the grass covering her—though I paid Hunter an allowance for making sure the weeds were off of her grave. He also planted perennials around her headstone. He’d inherited her green thumb—it seemed.
I hadn’t. I seemed to kill whatever I touched.
As Adele stirred in her sleep, I kissed her forehead.
I had loved Bill in such a frenzied way. I had rewarded his letting Malcolm and his nest-mates paw me by kissing him the next night. I’d rewarded his lies about Jessica by taking him back—after the Maenad had almost killed me. I’d rewarded his fucking of Lorena and his almost-draining of me by having sex with him and letting him bite me only a couple of nights later.
I had been attracted to him like a moth to a flame. Bill had been right about that.
But I’d failed to see that he had manipulated me into being that moth—time and again. And not just with his blood. He’d played on my naivety and my inexperience. He’d played on my grief and my loneliness. And, in the end, he’d had me convinced that my “light” was the only thing that had ever drawn vampires to me. After all, what could be special enough about me otherwise?
The litany of my flaws and sins always coming at me in stereo-sound from the humans around me only confirmed that.
Of course it had been my “light” that had drawn vampires like Bill and—especially—Eric to me. What else did I have to offer?
No higher education.
No prospects in life.
How many mistakes had I made?
How many deaths were on my hands?
How many people had I disappointed?
Lafayette had been right. I was the angel of death—the Crypt Keeper from Creepshow.
Not surprisingly, at a certain point, I broke. Witches, fairies, a maenad—not to mention vampires, Weres, and shifters. And a faepire! And a fuckin’ Billith! It all became too much, and I reacted by wanting to return to the beginning—before I’d ever laid eyes on Bill Compton, before I’d learned about Sam being a shifter. Before Gran died. Before I was guilty of her death.
Like Typhoid Mary, I’d done so much harm; intentional or unintentional didn’t matter.
What mattered was guilt. And I had a lot of that.
“When I helped you to die, I nailed my own coffin shut,” I whispered, even as I heard Adele snoring slightly against my shoulder. She was not quite two years old, but she still liked to sleep so that she could touch me. Like me, she was a telepath, and she had a spark. But when she could be touching me—or a vampire—it was as if she could stay at peace. That was because I could shield my thoughts from her—and shield others’ thoughts from her too. And vampires’ thoughts were silent to her—as they were silent to me and Hunter.
I kept up the rocking of my body to keep my child soothed.
“I have come to hate you, Bill Compton. But I wouldn’t change much,” I admitted to the grave that held Bill’s sludgy remains.
I would never win a mother of the year award, but I loved Adele very much—though I hadn’t been able to keep her father from leaving me.
Or our daughter.
In the end, my life—my “normal”—had been too abnormal for Mark. Thanksgiving a couple of years ago had sealed the deal. I’d decided that I wanted to bring together all of my friends and family. It had been the first time I’d really let myself invite—to my home—almost everyone that I cared about at the same time, and seeing them all made Mark rethink “us.”
And our unborn child.
Four vampires had been at my get-together.
Two shifters had been there, though Sam and Nicole’s oldest wouldn’t actually shift until his adolescence.
Three fairies had been there: me, Adilyn, and Jason and Brigette’s middle child, who also had a spark.
Two witches had been there: Lafayette and Holly.
I think that I’d recognized the number of successful human/Supe relationships around my table at about the same time that Mark had realized full-blooded humans were in the minority.
And he’d not liked being in the minority.
We found out that Hunter had been “left” to me only a week later.
The year before, we’d married in a small ceremony, and Mark had moved to Bon Temps, letting his brother take over his business in North Carolina. Mark had opened a successful feed lot in the Monroe area.
But—after that fateful Thanksgiving meal and after I’d been called about Hunter—Mark had asked me to move with him back to North Carolina. He’d also asked that I let Hunter be “taken by the state.”
Mark had wanted for our child to be raised away from all the “strangeness” of my “previous” life. I’d reminded him that I was “other.” And that’s when I heard a thought from him that he’d been hiding from even himself: he was with me—in spite of my “otherness” because he didn’t actually acknowledge that otherness. After I’d told him what I was, I’d assured him that I would try to stay out of his thoughts. I’d assured him that I wanted to have a “normal” life. So he had simply refused to think of me as anything but normal.
That was the irony of it all! I had wanted—so badly—to have a man think of me as normal, but once I had that, I realized the “lie” of it all.
Mark had hoped that our child would be like him and not me—not so that her life would be easier, but so that our “normal” wouldn’t be disrupted. And that was when I realized how ridiculous my own dreams of normalcy had been. That was when I realized that Bill Compton’s vision for my life was just that: his.
And it was just as flawed as the vampire who had conjured it up.
That was also when I’d realized that—even by picking Mark—I was still letting myself be tied to Bill.
Manipulated by him.
So I’d decided to be brave. Mark and I had had a heart-to-heart. By the end of it, he was packing. He’d stayed in the area long enough for the birth of his child, but—learning Adele was telepathic—he’d decided that I was the best parent for her and that he wouldn’t really even know what to do with her.
He’d cut his losses.
“That’s the kind of man that following your advice would have had me stuck with,” I sighed.
Oh—I’d tried to love Mark. And for a while, I’d even talked myself into doing just that.
And I didn’t blame Bill. After all, my choices were my own. I had allowed myself to be manipulated. I’d “loved” Bill too much to see the truth: that the kind of love I felt for him had been toxic.
And, because of Bill’s “love,” I’d not been able to trust where I couldn’t “hear.” So—how could I trust someone like Eric?
Of course, maybe I was right not to trust Eric. After all, he’d founded NewBlood, which was a medicine for Hep-V without being a cure. And I knew a little bit about what he and Pam were doing with Sarah Newlin, not that the bitch deserved forgiveness. But selling tastes of her blood five nights a week at $100,000 a pop wasn’t really honorable.
“I guess only the rich deserve good healthcare,” I muttered, even as I thought about how many people still hated Obamacare, despite the fact that—though imperfect—it had proven itself to be a better option than the previous state of affairs—which was jack shit.
“We have Obama care,” I whispered to my little girl.
I patted my daughter’s back. There were two things in my life I would never be bitter about, and one was her. The other was Hunter.
I sighed. As much as I loved my daughter, however, Bill had been wrong. Becoming a mother hadn’t “fulfilled” me. It was more like becoming a mother had made me “see the truth” so that I wouldn’t pass along lies to my children. It might be too late for me to be happy, but I had—at long last—faced the most difficult truths.
It didn’t matter how much Bill had said he loved me. The truth was that he hadn’t. Someone who had loved me wouldn’t have put me through the torture and guilt he’d put me through.
It was as simple as that.
In truth, Bill had been an egotistical, selfish asshole—with a martyr complex. In the end, he said that he “needed” to die so that he wouldn’t “steal” my light, but he tried to steal my light as he died! He wanted to take what was “different” about me so that what was left behind fit his definition of what I should have been all along. For a while, that’s what I’d thought I wanted too.
As it turned out, it had been Eric who’d been right. I’d never been normal—nor would I ever be.
Even if I would have given up my spark to kill Bill, I would have stayed the same “me.” I still wouldn’t have trusted thoughts that I couldn’t hear. No—I would have killed the “me” my parents had tried to drown. Even the insane Warlow hadn’t been willing to let that person die! But Bill would have taken that last bit—just because he thought if he did, no other vampire would ever want me again.
When he’d said “Sookie is mine,” what he’d obviously meant was that if he couldn’t have me, then no vampire could.
Yes—I had grown bitter with the years.
Bill had claimed that I would be safe and that I could find happiness if I spent my light to kill him.
As if no vampire could have ever loved human Sookie.
Now—when I thought back—I remembered how Eric had once recognized both the human and the fairy “me’s.” And he’d seemed to like both.
But I’d rejected him—out of fear.
More than once.
Maybe my fear was why I felt the most bitter.
“By the time I realized, it was too late,” I said to the grave.
Eric had been willing to sacrifice for me before taking a taste of my blood. He’d been ready to love me. He’d looked me in the eye and had told me that he wanted to be “one” with me. We’d joined in blood, but it hadn’t been my blood that had driven Eric’s actions in that cubby. It had been his love for me. I guess I just couldn’t believe that “real” Eric would feel the same as his memory-deprived counterpart.
A thousand years of life just to end up with a “freak?” No way—I’d thought. No way would the “real” Eric want me—for more than just my freakish “gift” and my freakish blood.
It wasn’t hard at all to convince myself that it had been my blood that had made Eric say he “loved” me after Marnie’s spell was lifted.
After that, I’d been scared. Using my light to break the spell on Eric had seemed to only strengthen my Fae powers, and my light hadn’t hurt him. It had healed him.
I’d been scared of the implications of that.
But that’s not why I’d rejected Eric. In truth, I’d been afraid of being rejected myself. Why wouldn’t I have been? Who had loved me in my life other than Gran? My own parents had tried to kill me. My brother’s first inclination after we’d lost our grandmother had been to hit me—blame me. One of my closest friends had come to resent and hate me. The other thought I was some harbinger of death. My first love had forced his blood into me after letting the Rattrays almost kill me.
I’d looked up “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Wikipedia defined it as a “prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.”
Belief and behavior.
I had always believed that I couldn’t be loved because I was “other.” And how true that ended up being—because I had behaved as if it were true.
Belief and behavior.
I so desperately wanted to be “normal” that I tried to behave that way—even knowing I would fail. And fail I did—over and over again—because the “normal” I was trying to be belonged to someone else: to my parents, to Bill, and even to Gran.
I loved them all. But they didn’t know me—not even Gran. Maybe that was my fault since I always tried to pretend not to be “different” around her—so that she wouldn’t have to worry so much.
Looking back, I realize that all of them would have been happy about my relationship with Mark. He was solid. He worked hard. He loved me—but only half of me. He’d simply denied the other half. It wasn’t as if Gran and my parents didn’t do the same. And Bill had even wanted to take that part from me—to somehow make me “better.”
That, of course, meant that I’d never been “right” to begin with.
“Better.” “Bitter.” Only one letter’s difference.
Only one person had ever looked me in the eyes and loved everything he saw there.
“There are two Sookie Stackhouses,” I said softly.
“There are,” Eric said, even as he landed softly next to me. I’d not see him for six years. He still looked the same.
A/N: Many thanks to Kleannhouse for being my second pair of eyes and for asking me questions that force me to flesh things out. And thanks to Seph for the story’s art.
FYI: kjwrit also has a 3-part piece in the works called Confessions….
It, too, has POVs from Sookie and Eric. It is set in the time in between Bill’s death and Thanksgiving, however. I read it recently and love it! If you like people “fixing” True Blood, check it out.