Their conversation done, Claude and Sookie walked over to where Hadley, Martha, and Niall were speaking about Martha’s new job helping with the food preparations in the community where Niall made his permanent residence. Martha had been a private chef in the human realm—and a good one at that; it had been an ideal job for a telepath. More importantly, she’d loved doing it before she’d gotten married, and her skills were already being much utilized and appreciated by the fairies.
Claude began to set out the food that Martha had brought with her for their dinner.
Hadley sighed. “You know I love your food, Marty, but all I seem to want to eat are natas.”
Sookie saw Claude’s face break out into a grin. Since he’d found out that Hadley loved the little plumb-like fruit, he had made sure that she had a full bowl in her tent every day—from his own orchard, no less.
Sookie winked knowingly at Claude and almost burst out laughing when he blushed. Having gotten to know Claude much better now, Sookie had realized that he would be good for Hadley—that he was already good for her—whether their relationship turned romantic or not. She’d also determined that it was up to Hadley to decide whether she could put aside the fact that she and Claude were related—albeit a bit distantly.
Claude had gone to great lengths to make sure that she and Hadley were comfortable. He had furnished both of their tents to make them as cozy as possible; he’d even had a privacy spell placed around each dwelling.
Sookie had been fascinated to find out that there were two kinds of magic in Faerie—the kind that fairies had innately and the kind that a skilled ‘witch’, or what the fairies called a kuruni, could perform. Sookie smiled to herself. Jesus had been amused when Eric had told him that the witches in Faerie had adapted most of their spells from those of the human realm.
Claude and Niall now shared a tent-like dwelling as well, as both had decided to stay in the ‘in-between’ place until Sookie and Hadley were ready to leave it.
Sookie smirked a little. By far, the best thing that Claude had arranged for them to have was what she liked to call the magic toilet. The pool was great for bathing, but she’d been tired of dealing with her ‘human needs’ by squatting behind a bush. And she had no idea what the fairies did.
Certainly, Sookie had been camping enough to be able to manage just fine, but when Hadley had mentioned something six days ago, Claude had gotten right on it, and now they had a toilet-like mechanism that seemed to magically clean itself. It had been placed in another little tent near to the ones they slept in, and Sookie was quite grateful for it. In fact, she was sort of hoping to take it home with her.
Once done setting up all of their food, Claude picked a perfectly ripe and un-bruised nata from the basket and handed it to Hadley.
She gave him a grateful smile. “Yummy,” Hadley said, rubbing her stomach. There wasn’t anything close to a noticeable bump yet since she was only a week along, but Hadley’s hands were often nestled over her growing girl. “I think she’s already making me crave these things.”
Claude chuckled and sat down next to Hadley when she patted him out a spot. Sookie had been happy to see that the two were becoming friends. And Claude had almost gotten to the point where he could speak to her coherently. Sookie gave him another knowing smile and got another slight blush in return. Truth be told, she enjoyed teasing him a little, and she was glad that he was beginning to confide in her about his feelings. In turn, she was feeling more and more comfortable confiding in him as well. She gave him a little wink and earned a roll of his eyes.
“Stop that!” Niall said into her head.
Sookie looked at him innocently. “Stop what?”
“Do not teach Claude to roll his eyes as you do. One such person in my life is quite enough!”
Sookie shrugged and then smirked. “Too late.” She saw that Claude was smirking too and figured that Niall was giving him a similar ‘lecture.’
Claude gave her a knowing look and then turned his attention back to Hadley.
Hadley seemed—at least for the moment—to be unaware of Claude’s amorous affection for her, which Sookie thought was a good thing. It seemed that Claude was able to shield his feelings and his thoughts from others, so that meant that Hadley couldn’t pick up his romantic interest by using her fledgling empathic ability.
And Claude certainly took great pains not to be pushy in any way. The two of them often talked over the books that he’d brought for her to read. Or in the evenings—which were more like ‘less bright times’ given the fact that the sun was always out—they would play a game that seemed a lot like checkers to Sookie. And Hadley would ask all kinds of questions about how fairies lived. She and Claude spent quite a bit of time thinking about what she might like to do as a profession. Hadley had been a waitress in the human realm, but she didn’t like doing it. Other than that, she’d not kept many jobs for long, and most of her short-term jobs had been in retail.
When Hadley had gotten discouraged about not being able to come up with a job for which she seemed qualified, Claude had jumped in to reassure her, promising that there would be time for her to decide or get training for anything she wanted to do. There was no need to worry about money since the concept was different in Faerie anyway. And Claude had vowed that he’d always look after her—along with Niall, of course.
Most importantly―as far as Sookie was concerned—Hadley seemed to be comfortable with Claude. Sookie felt that was what Hadley needed right then—someone whom she could be at ease with—and she was glad that Claude fit into that role for her. Of course, both Katherine and Martha had become Hadley’s friends in the past week, but Sookie knew that Martha’s visits were emotionally taxing for Hadley, and Katherine liked to talk so much that Hadley could sometimes not even get in a word edgewise. The friendship she had developed with Claude seemed more relaxed than her others.
As for finding friendships of her own there, Sookie knew that she held back—except with Claude, whom she couldn’t help but to like. She enjoyed talking to both Katherine and Martha during their shared meals, but she didn’t want to make close connections with anyone since she would not be able to keep those friendships going once she went home. And, to be honest, Sookie’s priority was on her training, not on creating friendships. She smiled to herself. Claude had slipped through because he was such a big part of that training and because he continued to remind her so much of Jesus—though Claude, perhaps, had a more mischievous sense of humor, especially when he wanted to make Sookie laugh after one of her training letdowns. She was convinced, for example, that his earlier eye roll had been just to get a rise out of Niall.
Sookie had received a visit from Barry the day before. He’d decided to work with Claude actually and had also been there for a ‘job interview’ of sorts. It seemed that Barry had excelled in science in school, and he had an interest in agriculture that he’d not been able to pursue because of his telepathy. When Sookie and Barry had said goodbye, they’d said it like two acquaintances that would likely not see each other again. They had wished each other well, but neither had tried to make plans to keep a friendship going.
Hadley’s situation was opposite; she was trying to make a new home there, so she was embracing her new friendships wholeheartedly.
Sookie’s train of thought was broken as Martha spoke.
“You know,” Martha said picking up a nata, “I bet that I could make a pie with these.”
Hadley practically salivated at that thought. “If you can do that, Marty, you will be my hero,” Hadley sighed.
Claude chuckled. “What is a pie?”
At this question both Hadley and Martha turned surprised looks to Claude. Hadley grinned. “Now you have to do it, Marty. Claude needs a pie!”
Sookie watched and chuckled a little as both Hadley and Martha launched into a description of pies for Claude’s benefit. Looking next to her, Sookie noticed that Niall had a faraway look in his eyes. From his head, she picked up an image of a beautiful woman pulling a pie from an oven. She recognized the kitchen as her own, and she knew that her great-grandfather was thinking about her great-grandmother. Sookie left him to the privacy of his thoughts.
She smiled and sank into her own memory of a particular peach pie she had made with Eric in mind.
She sighed. She so desperately wanted to be with her husband in their kitchen right then. The dreams were wonderful, but she missed being able to be with him all the time. She missed his smell clinging to her body. She missed his emotions flowing through her body.
Sookie tabled any self-pity she may have had, however, when she looked at Martha. Martha was a tiny woman—barely five feet tall. She had a short boyish haircut, and her hair was jet black. Her bright blue eyes stood out against her black hair and her pale skin.
While Niall and Claude had been busy meeting with their lieutenants, Sookie had talked to Martha quite a bit one morning when Katherine and she had come to spend the day with Hadley.
Martha, unlike most of the other hybrids Sookie had met, had had a peaceful childhood. Her mother, whose name was Myrna, had been a telepath as well. And what’s more, Myrna had known that she was part fairy—one-quarter fairy, as a matter of fact. Martha’s father also knew of their lineage, so Martha’s telepathy was never looked at as abnormal. They’d lived in a rural area when Martha was a child so that she could grow up without having to be around a lot of people. Martha’s mother had taught her to use something similar to Sookie’s shields to keep out the thoughts of others.
Sadly, Myrna had died in a car accident when Martha was sixteen; however, Martha’s father had continued to nurture and support her. He, too, had been a professional chef, and he used his contacts to arrange for Martha to become a personal chef to a wealthy eccentric man in a small town so that her telepathy would be less of an issue. The man had fallen head over heels in love with Martha within the first month of her working for him; however, it had taken Gabriel—or Gabe as Martha usually called him—four more years to convince her that they should get married. They had had a daughter of their own, named Myrna after Martha’s mother. Gabe had known about Martha’s ability, and given his own preference for isolation, he’d made sure that she was sheltered as well. Their child had not been telepathic, however.
Martha had been going to the store to buy her child a new winter coat when she’d met another telepath—a fairy. He’d communicated with her telepathically, and the feeling of having someone talking to her in that way had made Martha feel wonderful—just as she’d felt when her mother had talked to her telepathically as she’d grown up.
The fairy had befriended Martha, and she’d invited him to her home. He’d met her family, and he’d offered an invitation to Martha to come visit Faerie. He’d told her that it would be a two-day visit to start. He’d told her that she still had living relatives in the fairy world. He’d told her that she could one day include her husband and child in her visits if she wanted to return after the first one. And he’d told her that it was completely up to her if she wanted to come.
Martha and Gabe had talked it over for many months, and eventually Gabe had encouraged Martha to go to meet her family. Martha had discussed it with her father too, and though he had some reservations, he told her that he would support her no matter what.
Finally, Martha had decided to visit Faerie. She’d left the human realm when the year was 1995 in her time, and she’d been at the ‘welcoming party’ for an hour or so when she saw Sookie expose Mab for what she was. She’d, of course, already eaten the light fruit.
When the hybrids had been taken to the palace after Sookie had escaped, they’d been separated by gender as Barry had said, but Martha didn’t pick up that she was in any danger from the fairies’ thoughts. A male fairy had pretended to show Martha to a room where she was going to stay, but instead of leaving her there, he had raped her over the course of several hours. And then—just as she’d almost given up hope—she’d been let go.
Sookie’s heart had broken at Martha’s story; she held Martha’s hand and cried with her.
But Hadley had seemed to go into some kind of different gear. Sookie smiled proudly at her cousin. Hadley had said things to Martha that day which had comforted her in ways that Sookie could not fathom. And Hadley had seemed to know exactly how to nurture her new friend. It had been magic to watch her.
Sookie had also gotten an even more heart-breaking lesson about the way that time could work in the fairy world as well. Those folds in time that Niall had mentioned had become a bit more poignant to Sookie when Martha had seen her own granddaughter in the pool—a granddaughter who now looked middle-aged—burying Martha’s daughter in the family’s plot. When Martha had left the human realm, her daughter had been three years old. In Martha’s timeline, she’d been gone for 80 years by the time she looked in the pool.
Martha had seen all the graves of her family members—her mother, her father, her daughter, and her Gabriel. Hadley had held and rocked a weeping Martha in her arms for hours. Once again, Hadley had somehow known exactly what Martha needed to hear.
And then when Martha had stopped crying, they’d talked about their babies. Martha was going to have a boy, and Hadley and she were already planning play dates. By the time Martha had left, Sookie knew that Hadley had a best friend and vice versa.
Since that day, Martha had come to the pool to see Hadley every day—always with something delicious that she’d cooked—and the two were finding more and more to live for as they clung to each other. Katherine also made daily visits, and Hadley was obviously becoming stronger every day.
Sookie looked around at the place that she was beginning to consider—much to her own chagrin—her temporary home.
At this depressing thought, Sookie sighed heavily and grabbed some food. She was hungry, and soon it would be time to sleep again. She was more anxious than ever to see Eric.