Once Niall was gone, Sookie looked at Hadley, who was looking at the pool with trepidation and still clutching her clothing to her body. “Do you want me to go first, Had? I’ll make sure it’s safe and stuff.”
Her cousin nodded gratefully and then turned her back to the pool, clutching her knees to her chest in comfort. Sookie picked up a thought from her cousin that she was frightened to take off her clothing. She tightened her shields to give Hadley her privacy.
Quickly, Sookie took off the tunic she’d taken from Ivan’s wardrobe. “Good riddance,” she muttered under her breath. She dipped into the water and was immediately amazed by its warmth. When she’d drunk from the pool, it had always seemed cool, but now it felt like the water in the Gulf of Mexico on a summer’s day. Sookie was amazed by the way the water felt against her sore muscles.
As she dunked herself underneath the water, it seemed to warm her inside and out. And she had the feeling that if she just compelled herself to do so, then she could travel to the comfort of her husband’s arms. However, she resisted that temptation. The last thing she wanted was to create a situation that would endanger Eric. No—she was going to do whatever training she needed to do so that she could get back to her husband and fight by his side as they faced their threat together.
More resolved than ever, Sookie spent only a few more minutes rejuvenating herself in the pool before she got out.
Just as Niall had said, she was completely dry and clean when she did. She picked up one of the piles of clothing. She was thankful to see something resembling panties―although there was no bra equivalent. She was even more thankful that the dress she slipped over her head was more like a simple cotton shift rather than the sequin-filled garments she’d seen and worn before in the fairy realm. Those had been pretty but were not very comfortable. Even better, the shift had a kind of built in panel to stabilize ‘the girls.’ “Probably a trick of fairy magic,” Sookie thought to herself.
“Okay, Had,” Sookie said softly. “All done. The water is real nice too, real warm and comfortin’.”
Hadley was drawn out of her thoughts and turned to face Sookie. Thick tears were sliding down her cheeks.
“Oh, Had,” Sookie said, going over to hug her cousin. She rocked Hadley in her arms for a few minutes. “The bath will make you feel better. I know it will. And I’ll be right here if you need me, okay?”
Hadley nodded and looked at Sookie. “Is there somethin’ different for me to wear too?”
“Yeah,” Sookie said. “Somethin’ just like this―undies and a nice dress. It’s soft too. Wanna feel?”
Hadley touched the sleeve of Sookie’s dress and smiled a little. “It is soft.”
Sookie nodded, “Now you just go in when you’re ready, okay? We can sit here as long as you want.”
Hadley nodded again, and they looked at the water for a while. “Do you think Niall will show me Hunter again?”
“I’m sure he will. Do you want me to call him now?”
“No,” Hadley answered after a few moments. “I think I wanna get cleaned up first. It’s just that I don’t wanna be,” she stopped mid-sentence.
“It’s okay, Had. I’ll turn my back, and no one else can see you here—I promise.”
“Sook, would you do your mind thing to make sure?”
“Absolutely.” Sookie stretched her mind out and felt several fairies, but they seemed to be standing guard at the perimeter of what Niall had called the ‘in-between’ place. None of them were within Sookie’s sight. Seven hybrid minds were in the tent-like structure, but none of them were planning to come out of it, and it was several hundred feet away. She would keep an ‘ear’ trained there just in case, however. “All alone,” Sookie assured her cousin.
Hadley nodded and moved tentatively toward the water before she stopped.
“Why don’t you get into the water with the nightgown still on, Had?” Sookie suggested. “Then you can take it off once you’re inside. It’s not like you’re ever gonna put it on again.”
Sookie heard Hadley sigh with relief and then slowly walk into the pool. Once Hadley was in the water, Sookie heard some splashing and then the garment was tossed out of the pool; Sookie marveled at the fact that it was completely dry.
Hadley swam around for about five minutes. Finally she said, “Sookie, this water is real nice―it’s so nice.”
“I’m glad it’s makin’ you feel better, Had,” Sookie said.
Hadley swam up to the bank. “Sook?”
“I think I’m pregnant. I felt like this with Hunter too―right after it happened.”
Sookie inhaled deeply. “Do you mind if I turn around while you’re still in the water, Had?”
“Okay,” came Hadley’s quiet answer.
Sookie looked at her cousin with sympathy, “You are pregnant, Had. Niall told me that you are when you were asleep earlier.”
Tears fell from Hadley’s eyes to join the water in the pool, and she reached out her hand to Sookie, who moved next to the bank to take it. She wept for several minutes, and Sookie wept with her.
Hadley finally spoke as if in a trance. “Hunter was an accident, you know. I was taking a lot of drugs around the time I found out I was pregnant.” Her voice lowered, “Sook, I’m not even sure who his father really is; I mean, I think he’s Remy’s, but,” she stopped speaking as her sobs came again.
Sookie gasped, but kept hold of her cousin’s hand. Gran had taught her that people could do awful things, but that family had to try to love each other despite those things.
However, the flash of thoughts that Sookie picked up from Hadley in that moment was enough to convince Sookie that she was going to have to actively try to love Hadley through the next several minutes. But she was going to try for Gran and for Hunter. Sookie took a deep breath and waited for Hadley to tell her what she had already heard from her head. She realized that it was important for Hadley to say what she needed to say if she was ever going to start healing.
“I tried to get rid of Hunter after I confirmed that I was pregnant, Sook. I was on my way to an abortion clinic when I got a call from Remy. He didn’t know about Hunter at the time, and both of us had been doin’ some real heavy drugs. Remy had scored some good stuff—cocaine, if I remember right. So I didn’t get my abortion; instead, I went to get high with him. I figured I’d just do it later. I figured it wouldn’t matter.”
Hadley’s cheeks were streaming with tears even as she continued on in an eerily calm voice, as if she were talking about things that had happened to someone else. “Remy had emptied out the bank account his mom set aside for his college, so we pretty much stayed high for a long time after that. Before I even realized it, it was too late to get an abortion—though I went to the clinic and tried to convince them.” She shook her head and cried into the pool like a child. “I could already feel him kicking when I tried the last time.” Her whole body seemed to be shaking as she wept, and she was holding onto Sookie’s hand for dear life.
Sookie closed her eyes tightly and closed her shields even more tightly. She couldn’t listen to and experience her cousin’s memories at the same time. She couldn’t stand to witness Hadley’s memory of trying to get rid of Hunter—that beautiful boy—even as he was kicking inside of her.
Two parts of Sookie waged a war. One part wanted to comfort her cousin, who literally lay broken before her. The other part—the part that yearned to be the mother of Eric’s child—wanted to stretch out to somehow protect Hunter from his mother’s past callousness. Hunter couldn’t help that he’d been an accident. He’d been growing while his mother had been taking drugs. It was a miracle that he had lived and been born healthy. Sookie closed her eyes and felt her maternal instincts growing for that little boy that her husband loved so much.
Hadley’s haunted-sounding voice started speaking again. “I didn’t stop taking drugs either, Sook. I kept right on takin’ them―right on up until he was born. Oh―I backed off of the Meth and the coke when a nurse at the clinic showed me pictures of what could be happenin’ to him. But I kept right on smokin’ weed and drinkin.’ I acted like I was doin’ the baby a favor by stoppin’ the stuff I did stop.”
Hadley looked lost. “I’m a horrible person, Sook. God is punishing me because I am such a horrible person. And I deserve His punishment too.”
Sookie cringed at Hadley’s words and looked at her cousin with sincere concern. “No, Had. I have never thought that God punished like that.” She smiled a bit as she recalled her words to Godric. “God forgives, Had. And I know that you have been tryin’ your best to make things up to Hunter.” Sookie paused. “No—it might feel like you’re bein’ punished for your past mistakes right now, but I don’t believe that. It was Mab and that horrible fairy that did this to you, Had; I don’t believe that God had anything to do with it.”
For a moment, a bit of hope crept into Hadley’s eyes, even as her tears continued to fall. But she seemed to shake that hope away. From Hadley’s head, Sookie could hear that her cousin did not believe that she deserved to have hope.
Hadley looked down into the water. “I’ll never forget the day I had Hunter. Remy and me had broken up ‘cause he didn’t wanna be saddled with a kid. Me and this guy I was with at the time were smokin’ some pot and drinkin’ some tequila―just like any other day, to tell you the truth. I didn’t even know I was in labor until my water broke, and I was so out of it at the hospital that I wouldn’t even push. They had to take Hunter by C-section. And then I was passed out for more than twenty hours. The staff called the state. Luckily, Remy had cleaned up a little by then and was willin’ to take him, or they would have put Hunter into a,” she stopped for a moment as her sobs came afresh, “state orphanage.”
Sookie just squeezed Hadley’s hand tighter. She wanted to comfort her cousin, but in that moment, she wished that she was with Hunter so that she could wrap him up in her arms and not let him go until she was one-hundred percent certain that he was okay. The thought of that sweet little boy picking up even a hint of Hadley’s current memories made her cringe.
“I only saw him once in the hospital,” Hadley continued in a whisper. “He was beautiful and perfect―despite everything I had done to him. The police were there to question me for child endangerment, so I ran away with that guy I’d been with. I knew that I would be toxic for Hunter, so I went away. I abandoned my own child. I didn’t even know his name before I left him there.”
“You did what you thought was right at the time,” Sookie tried to comfort her cousin, even as tears slipped from her eyes for Hunter.
“I don’t know, Sook. After I left the hospital, I went to get high.” She shook her head. “I was so fucked up that I was happy at first that he wasn’t my problem anymore. I was happy that I could do the hard stuff again. Me and that guy celebrated by doing some meth. And we decided to go to New Orleans so that the police wouldn’t catch up to me. We pretty much stayed high for months after that.” Hadley paused. “Do you remember when I visited Gran back then?”
Sookie nodded glumly.
“That was right after I had Hunter, and we were lookin’ for cash to take to New Orleans. I went to visit for only one reason, Sook.”
“I know,” Sookie said quietly. “I heard from Gran’s thoughts later that you’d stolen what she kept in her little ceramic pot, but Had, she forgave you for that. She knew you weren’t yourself. She always hoped you’d come back home. But then Aunt Linda said you’d died.”
Hadley smiled ruefully, “I should have died a million times, but one day, Bill Compton found me and took me to Sophie-Anne, and she seemed to like me. Me and this new guy had been lookin’ to score some V, and we were sellin’ a little to pay for our own habit, but Bill found out. I don’t know what happened to the guy. I never saw him again, and I can’t even remember his name, but Sophie took a likin’ to me. The next thing I knew, she was takin’ care of me, and I was livin’ in this beautiful house. She made me get off the drugs since she said my blood would taste better if I was clean. After a while, she said she loved me, and I always felt so good when I was with her. It was like I finally felt safe.” Hadley shook her head sadly, “But I wasn’t really safe, Sook. I just thought I was.”
Sookie squeezed Hadley’s hand as she continued, “A few years ago, I asked Sophie to let me have a weekend to visit my mom’s grave and see some family. But instead of doing that, I tracked down Remy and Hunter. Since Bill told me my blood tasted so good, I didn’t want the vampires to know I had a kid. Remy let me see Hunter, and before long I was goin’ to visit about once every two months or so—whenever Sophie would let me. I wanted to make things up to him.”
Sookie nodded. “That’s real good, Hadley.”
Her cousin continued, “Sophie started to get real interested in the ‘family’ I was visitin’, and one time she had me followed. Luckily, I figured it out before I got to Monroe, where Hunter and Remy were living at the time. I drove on to Bon Temps that day, and I went to Gran’s, but no one was home. Sophie loved my blood so much that I didn’t want her to know about Hunter, so I went to the only other family I had so that she wouldn’t find out about him. But then she started to ask more questions about my family in Bon Temps, and that’s when I started to tell her about y’all, and your disability eventually came out. I’m so sorry, Sookie. I didn’t want to endanger you. I just wanted to make sure that Hunter was safe. And I thought that Sophie loved me. I figured that the worst that would happen was that Sophie would bring you to her palace, and it was so nice there.”
Sookie’s feelings again ranged from anger to pity. Hadley had been so screwed up and so naïve—probably glamoured too. But Sookie was glad that Hadley had had enough sense to cover up her child’s existence—even if that had led Sophie straight to Bon Temps and herself. Hunter would have been defenseless; at least, Sookie had been an adult.
Sookie shook her head. “Had, I won’t lie and tell you that I wasn’t upset that you told Sophie-Anne about me. If you hadn’t, though, I don’t know where my life would be right now, and I may never have met Eric. You can’t know what one action can lead to in this life―the good and the bad that may come from it. But I do know that if Bill Compton hadn’t been sent by Sophie-Anne to get me, I may never have been introduced to Eric—the man that I was made for. I also know that you were only tryin’ to protect your son then.”
Hadley looked at Sookie gratefully. “I only visited Hunter once after that. It was during that last visit that I started to suspect that he was like you, and I got real scared after that.” Hadley shook her head in confusion. “I don’t know why I was so scared of Sophie knowin’ about him. After all, I loved her so much. But part of me just knew that I shouldn’t tell her, so I abandoned him again―until I went to get him that day to meet you. And then I just ran away with him.”
“You love him, Hadley. It’s clear that you do, and he knows that. One day he’ll understand why you weren’t with him all the time.”
“Maybe,” Hadley said quietly. “I’ve tried to do my best by him this past year, and I try to think good things around him. I try to focus on the fact that he’s my son and that I love him. It’s been so hard though,” she paused, “since he’s so different—like you are.” Hadley sighed. “And if Sophie was still around, and she called me up and asked me to come back, I just don’t know what I would do.” Hadley shook her head repentantly. “See—I am a horrible person and mother, Sook.”
Sookie looked sadly at Hadley. “Did you ever have any of Sophie-Anne’s blood?”
Hadley nodded her head.
Sookie continued, “Then there was a blood tie between you. After you met her, you can’t know if your actions and thoughts were caused by her or by you. But you can be proud that you never told her about Hunter―that you kept your little boy a secret, Had. I’m proud of you for that. Especially considering that you were blood tied to Sophie and you were probably being glamoured too, you should be proud of yourself for that too.”
Hadley took a deep breath. “So you don’t think that this new baby is God’s punishment?”
“No,” Sookie said forcefully. “A baby is not punishment, Hadley. I think a baby can always be a miracle—no matter how it is made.” Sookie paused, unconscious of the fact that her free hand was now resting on her own belly. “And you do have a choice, Hadley. According to what Niall’s told me, you don’t have to keep your baby.” Sookie closed her eyes as she thought of the little girl that was growing in Hadley’s womb even then. How tiny she must be, Sookie thought. She’d just be a collection of cells, speeding to multiply and develop. In that moment, Sookie knew that she would never be able to stop such a life from happening, but she also believed that Hadley deserved to make her own choices. Again, Sookie felt torn.
Sookie took a deep breath and comforted her cousin. “If you decide not to keep the baby, Niall can try to counteract the light fruit, so you can go home. But you have time to decide, Hadley. You don’t have to decide anything right now.”
“If I keep my baby, I will have to stay here―won’t I?”
Sookie nodded. “Yes, that’s what Niall said. He also told me that reversing the effects of the light fruit is dangerous, but he said that you could stay in the fairy world with him regardless of your choice about the baby if you want. And I’m sure that the part that Niall runs isn’t like the stuff we’ve seen at Mab’s. I trust him, Hadley. I have poked around in his head, and I know that he wants to take care of you.”
Hadley nodded, “I trust him too. It’s just―I don’t wanna abandon Hunter again. Maybe he can come live here too? Maybe he wouldn’t be so weird if he were here?” Hadley mused to herself. “But then again, I don’t want him to have to come here. It’s just so screwed up.” More tears fell from her eyes.
Sookie squeezed her hand again, even as part of her wanted to chastise her cousin for thinking of Hunter as weird—for not just loving him as he was. Instead, she reassured Hadley. “You’ll figure things out, Had. And for now, Hunter is fine where he is.”
Hadley looked up at Sookie and smiled ruefully, “I’ve never figured things out, Sook. That’s the problem. I’ve always run away from things or buried them under a sea of drugs. Even Sophie was a kind of drug.” Hadley sighed and looked down. “Lookin’ back, I don’t think she loved me at all―although I would have sworn she did at the time. She would have let Eric kill me.”
Sookie stiffened. “I’m sorry about that, Had. Honestly, I don’t know what Eric would have done if you hadn’t told him what you did when you did. He―even then―was willin’ to do just about anything if he thought it would make me safer. And that includes killin’ when he thinks it’s necessary.” She sighed. “I sometimes don’t like what he does―I’ll be honest―but I’ve accepted him for his whole self now, and he’s promised not to be violent just for the sake of bein’ violent, and I think that’s a pretty big thing for a vampire to promise. And I know that he would do anything needed to protect Hunter as well.”
Hadley sighed in relief at that thought. “It’s nice to know that Hunter’s safe; it’s just odd to think that it’s Eric that’s keeping him that way.” Hadley smiled a bit, “I’m just glad I told him what he wanted to know before he drained me.”
After a moment, Hadley sighed sadly again. “Sophie used to let lots of vamps feed on me, including Bill. She said it was because she liked to show me off, but now I think it was because she liked to show off. And she would,” Hadley cringed a bit, “let them have sex with me too, if they wanted. She even offered me to Eric once.”
Sookie stiffened a bit.
“Don’t worry,” Hadley said quickly. “He turned her down for some reason.” She shrugged her shoulders and went on, “It’s funny. It seemed like havin’ sex with and feedin’ all those vampires was what I wanted too at the time, but now, I feel like it wasn’t―if that makes any sense.”
Sookie nodded, “With a tie, a vampire can influence you to think and to do things that you wouldn’t have done normally. Her blood took the attraction and gratitude you had for her and made it into something that she could use, Hadley. It’s what Bill tried to do to me.”
“How’s Eric any different?” Hadley asked, somewhat bitterly. However, there was also a touch of jealousy in her tone.
Sookie chose to ignore both the bitterness and the jealousy. “He just is,” Sookie smiled. “It’s hard to explain, but because he loved me before he tried to tie himself to me, the tie worked differently with us, and now we have a bond. And we also have a fairy bond. And those can’t be made unless there’s love on both sides.”
“So you’re sure about him then?” Hadley asked.
“Absolutely sure,” Sookie said.
Hadley smiled gratefully and sincerely, “So Hunter is safe with him.”
Sookie nodded, “Niall was right about me callin’ Eric into my dream, Had. And one thing I can tell you for certain is that Eric loves Hunter like crazy and would do anything to protect him and keep him happy.”
Hadley nodded. “I think I’m ready to get out of the pool now. Could you,” she stopped.
“Turn around?” Sookie completed. “Of course, Had.” Sookie dropped her cousin’s hand and turned around after pushing the new clothing closer to the edge of the pool. She moved away as Hadley stepped out and quickly got dressed.
“Okay, Sook,” Hadley said.
Sookie turned. “You look much better.”
“The water,” Hadley paused, “felt good. And it felt good to talk too, Sook. I know that I haven’t always been a good person, but I am tryin’ to be better.”
Sookie smiled sincerely. “I know, Had. I know you are.”
Hadley smiled back a little. “Could you call Niall now? I’d like to see Hunter.”
Sookie nodded and then tried to figure out what to do. Thinking the best approach would be to yell at him in her head, Sookie did just that. She heard him chuckle into her brain. “You needn’t be so loud, Sookie dear,” he spoke into her head.
Sookie rolled her eyes. “How am I supposed to know that?” she sent back.
There was more chuckling―which kind of felt weird in her head, actually―so she shut him out.