Sookie felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of her when the she hugged Lafayette goodbye at the door at 11:00.
As she cleaned up the circle in the dining room, she thought about how thankful she was for all the people who had truly loved her in her life. The list was not long, but everyone on it was a treasure. She knew what kind of sacrifice Lafayette had made to help her, and she resolved to make him an apple custard pie every week if he wanted one.
After she’d cleaned up the dining room and the kitchen, she went upstairs to shower. She chose a new hand-made soap, which smelled of lavender, that had been placed in the shower. She loved its relaxing scent, and she stayed in the shower longer than she might have normally, enjoying the comfort of the warm water and lavender.
She got out of the shower and got dressed in her bikini and a comfortable dress. She had seen that the weather was turning colder the next day and wanted to take advantage of this one for both herself and Eric.
Now that she knew she had Gran’s stamp of approval, she felt happier than she’d ever felt before, but she still intended to take the rest of the day to make absolutely certain that a new bond was what she wanted. She needed to go over the final two options from her list and to be positive that those were not better choices for her.
As she walked down the stairs, she saw Alcide on the front porch. She sighed, feeling bad that he would be hurt by her choosing Eric. Distracted by this thought, she dropped her book and suntan lotion on the stairs, which caused a loud bang. After she’d picked them up, she noticed that Alcide was looking in at her. He’d obviously heard the noise and could see her.
She waved to let him know everything was okay, and he nodded at her and continued to walk the porch.
Knowing that she’d want privacy later that night, she dialed Jesus’s cell phone.
“Hey Sook,” he said as he answered.
“Hey Jesus. I was wonderin’ when you get off work this afternoon. If you can, I’d like you to come over and do another of those things you did for me yesterday.”
Jesus responded. “Well, I get off at 5 and could be there between 5:30 and 6:00 if you want.”
“That’s perfect. Eric will be up by then,” Sookie smiled. “Thanks.”
She went out to the porch to speak to Alcide, “Have you had lunch? I made my Gran’s vegetable beef soup last night. Would you like a bowl?”
“Sure!” Should I come inside with you?” he asked tentatively.
“No, that’s okay,” Sookie said quickly. “I’ll just warm it for you and bring it out. I’m not quite ready for lunch yet.”
Sookie busied herself inside as she warmed up the soup for Alcide and popped a piece of toast in for herself as a snack.
She took some peach jelly from her cabinet, smiling about Eric’s love of peaches. And then she had an inspiration. She could probably still find peaches at the grocery store this time of year, and even though they wouldn’t exactly be ripe, they’d cook up really nice in a pie. Plus, she needed to get ingredients for Lafayette’s apple custard pie.
She took Alcide’s soup to him and told him she had to run to the store to pick up a few things after he was done. He said he’d be ready in ten minutes and began to down his soup.
Sookie grabbed a pair of Keds and put on a jean jacket over her dress. By the time she had looked over Gran’s recipes for the pies and written down a short list, Alcide had finished the soup. They set off in his truck.
Sookie was sad that conversations between Alcide and her had grown awkward since the blood tie had been broken. She liked the Were and certainly wished him well, but her instincts continuously told her that he was stuck on Debbie. And she was most definitely stuck on Eric. She wondered why Alcide seemed to be pushing so hard for them to be together.
“So, what are you lookin’ to get at the store?” Alcide asked.
“I was wantin’ to make a couple of pies,” Sookie responded.
Alcide’s eyes lit up, thinking that they were most likely for his lunch with Sookie the following day. Sookie felt guilty that she hadn’t told Alcide the truth about her choice not to be with him, so she decided to at least try to lower his expectations of the next day’s lunch. “Yeah, I’ll be makin’ both a peach and an apple custard. That one is for Lafayette mostly. And since Jason and the boys sure can eat a lot, I should pick up some more food for lunch, especially since they’ll probably stay to watch a movie.”
“Oh,” Alcide said disappointedly.
Sookie tried to smile brightly as they pulled into the grocery store parking lot. As they walked the aisles, Alcide wondered what it meant that others were coming over for lunch and then dismissed his anxieties. His brain told her that he was certain she would do the “right” thing by picking him and staying away from the vampires, whom, she learned, he also blamed for Debbie’s addiction.
For her part, Sookie tried keep her shields raised during their trip to the grocery store. She’d been elated when she found supermarket peaches that almost smelled like “real” peaches, but her good mood turned when Alcide had scoffed at her picking up more TruBlood, a whole case this time.
When they finally made it back to her home at 12:20, she was glad to leave Alcide sulking on the front porch. She preheated the oven so that she could prepare the premade piecrusts that she’d bought at the store. She silently promised her Gran that she’d make homemade crusts the next time. Then she prepped the fillings for the pies. After about thirty minutes, the kitchen smelled like fresh apples, peaches, and cinnamon. As she put the pies into the oven, she set the alarm on her cell phone. She grabbed a glass of tea, a leftover apple, and her book and went out back, happy that the sun was bright that day. She set up her lounger and took off her dress and shoes.
Sookie smiled when she thought of Eric’s reaction to the smell of the sun on her skin the night before; in fact, she smiled when she thought of Eric at all. She spent about twenty minutes thinking and smiling about the previous night. “Thank goodness that you didn’t fuck it up, Northman,” she’d muttered to herself at least half a dozen times. She’d seen no deception, no omissions, and no half-truths in his answers to her questions. And more importantly, they’d shared the domestic activities and spaces of her―hopefully soon to be their―home in comfort. She laughed a bit as she thought about her and Eric’s natural synergy with each other in the kitchen. “What are the odds?” she asked herself.
She had just flipped over to her stomach when Alcide came walking around the back, a grin appearing on his face as he took in her scanty attire. She heard him thinking about her butt in a bit too graphic of a way to suit her.
“Hey Sook,” he said, leering a bit. “I was just doing a quick walk-around and stretching my legs. I smelled you back here, so I thought I’d say hello.”
“Uhh―hello, and thanks for making sure everything’s okay,” replied Sookie. She kept her eyes trained on the book she’d brought out with her but hadn’t yet touched, trying to pretend that she was engrossed in it rather than made uncomfortable by Alcide’s attentions. After tomorrow, Eric had to get someone else, she resolved.
Finally, Alcide drifted back around to the other side of the house. As he went out of sight, Sookie remembered that she’d wanted to systematically go through her other choices in order to make sure that she wanted to bond again with Eric. She closed her book and her eyes for a moment to center her thoughts.
“Okay, Bill and Alcide are definitely already out!” she thought to herself.
One of her other options had been to leave her life behind and run away. She had actually decided that this was her best choice if she discovered that Eric was just as willing to lie to her as Bill had been. Now this option seemed unviable. She didn’t want to run away; truth be told, she wanted to run straight to the cubby and Eric, and now she knew it wasn’t just the blood. She’d spent some time in the shower earlier wondering if her own fairy magic was influencing her to love Eric because of the hollow spot it had left within them both, but she dismissed that. She’d loved him well before that bond was forged, and he’d loved her even before that.
Nope, she wouldn’t be running.
She thought through another of her options. “Should I try to get back my life as it was before vampires came into it and live a ‘normal’ life?” she asked herself. As appealing as this idea may have sounded to her in the past, she wasn’t too keen on it now. First, it was unrealistic, and second, it would leave her without Eric, and she just couldn’t have that. She knew that Eric would continue to protect her if she sought this option, and she appreciated him and loved him even more for that. But she didn’t want to take a step backwards in her life and just ignorantly hope that fairies or vampires, like Bill and Sophie-Anne, didn’t try to entrap her.
She’d thought of one other option too―she could be with Eric without doing a blood bond. She considered this option seriously for a while. After all, she didn’t want vampire blood to manipulate her emotions and do things like numb her to the grief she should have been feeling after Gran’s death.
But then she dismissed her fears in this area too. If Eric and she bonded again, they’d both do it unselfishly, and they loved each other. The safeguards in the bonds ensured that she would be protected, and she trusted Eric with her very existence at this point.
In the end the choice was an easy one: she wanted Eric. Moreover, she wanted the blood bond with him without the taint of Bill’s tie.
After her cell phone alarm signaled the timer for the pies, Sookie put her dress back on and went to the kitchen to pull them out of the oven. While there, she grabbed a glass of water for herself, and her Southern manners told her to take one to Alcide too. That done with a couple of exchanged pleasantries, Sookie returned to the kitchen and warmed up some soup for herself. She took her soup and water outside and continued absorbing the sun, trying not to worry about whether Eric would choose her as well.
At 4:00, all her thinking done and the day beginning to cool down uncomfortably, Sookie went inside. She cleaned up the living room a bit before going to her bedroom to make the bed. She saw Eric’s clothing discarded on the chair and then remembered her red shirt, which had gotten some of Eric’s tears on it, from the day before. She decided to wash those things, along with some other dark clothes she had. Eric would just have to wear the flannel shirt and jeans left from his previous stay until his clothes were dry. She chuckled, remembering their phone conversation of a couple of days before when he had turned down the clothes. She took his keys out of his pockets and laid them on the dresser, enjoying the domestic feel of the task very much.
She took the laundry downstairs and treated the stain before starting the load.
Sookie remembered to call Jason to check in and was glad he was not working the day shift and would be able to make it to lunch the next day, not only because he was great on the grill but also because she appreciated more back-up for the Alcide situation. Jason offered to bring some beer and snacks so that they could all watch a movie or television after lunch. Since Jason had been avoiding Hoyt as well as Merlotte’s―so that he wouldn’t run into Hoyt―he was happy to have plans for his Friday afternoon.
At 4:30, Sookie went to the kitchen to prep the components of the salad she’d decided on for the night. The pies were on the cooling rack next to the oven, and the kitchen was abounding with the smell of the desserts.
After her preparations, Sookie glanced at the wall clock and saw that it was about half an hour before sunset. She put her completed salad into the refrigerator. All she had left to do with it was to put the dressing on, and then her dinner would be ready.
She went to her bedroom and pulled on her comfortable jeans, this time pairing them with a pink T-shirt. She opened the little drawer of the nightstand and took out the pendant; she put it around her neck and tucked it under her shirt. Finally, she put the little silver fragment in her pocket and went to go be with her vampire―her choice―when he woke up for the night.