FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2004 (day)
“You’ll wear a hole in the floor if you don’t stop,” Tara warned as Sookie paced from one end of the kitchen to the other.
In contrast to her friend’s frenetic movement, Tara sat stilly at the old kitchen table, a glass of sweat tea and a piece of banana nut bread in front of her.
“Such an odd turn of phrase; I have never seen a hole worn in a floor from walking. I doubt a human would even be capable,” Willow mused in her other-worldly way as she walked by on her way to the back door. The raven-haired beauty’s startling blue eyes never failed to arrest Sookie’s attention.
The young werehawk and Onawa had been invited to come and go from the house as needed—to see to their bathroom needs.
Not surprisingly, Maria-Star had had “concerns” about the guards not “socializing” while on duty.
Sookie had laid down what she called a “New Stackhouse Law”: peeing was NOT “socializing!”
That new “law” determined, Sookie had also invited the males on her daytime security team and Maria-Star to use the indoor facilities as well. To the telepath’s shock, Maria-Star had taken her up on the offer, but none of the men had—even though Mustapha and Warren had seemed to genuinely appreciate getting it.
Sookie smirked as she considered the seemingly universal truth that women—whether humans, shifters, or even hard-ass Weres (she wasn’t sure about fairies yet)—preferred to pee somewhere with toilet paper (or a bidet—which was a contraption she’d learned about from her Word-of-the-Day Calendar the previous year). For men, a tree, a rock, or just dirt worked well enough as a toilet. Indeed, Sookie sometimes envied men for the ease of their bathroom habits.
“Later!” Willow said in her breezy way as she basically skipped out of the door. Certainly, Onawa and the young werehawk were the most “sociable” of the guards; however, neither lingered in the house beyond seeing to their bathroom needs. The young women were to remain Sookie’s “Merlotte’s guards,” but seemed happy that her days (and nights) working there would be coming to an end on Saturday. The telepath smiled to herself as she recalled Jason and Hoyt giving mental high-fives to each other the night before when Onawa and Willow had stayed around Merlotte’s after Thalia’s arrival—to “socialize.”
Of course, Thalia still had reservations about Sookie becoming friendly with any of her guards, but the telepath had held her ground.
Sookie knew from her daytime guards’ minds that the vampiress had basically laid down her own version of the agreement that she and Sookie had made the previous Wednesday night—”Thalia’s Law.” Happily, that version was just close enough to what Sookie had actually wanted to be acceptable to the telepath.
And—just as Sookie had hoped—all of her guards had reacted according to their own personalities.
Maria-Star was still all-business and merely reinforced Thalia’s orders that the guards had better not socialize while on duty.
Mustapha, Sookie had learned, was quiet—shy even. She felt certain, however, that—in time—they would become “friendly” enough.
Warren, on the other hand, was quite outgoing—when he wasn’t perched up in a sniper’s nest, that is. The only human on her security team, Warren seemed to store up all of his energy and words for when he was “released” from his quiet perch where he was so still that even his thoughts were hard to pick up on!
After Mustapha and Warren had arrived, Tray hadn’t been around again until that morning—when he’d relieved Maria-Star, who had a pack function. Not surprisingly, because of his previous familiarity with the Stackhouses, he was much more casual with her than the Long Tooth pack members that rotated in and out as Maria-Star decided that they were needed.
And then there were Onawa and Willow—both of whom Sookie liked quite a bit, despite their short acquaintance. If nothing else, telepathy gave Sookie the ability to form opinions about people relatively quickly. Both the shifter and the werehawk were serious about their duty and happy to be employed in work they enjoyed. There was also a genuineness about both of them. Yes—Sookie could see her friendship with both growing over time.
As long as it didn’t “grow” during their work time.
With the “ban on all socializing” lifted, Sookie was baking some banana nut bread—Gran’s famous recipe—to give to those who were protecting her—for “after” their shifts, of course. Sookie felt that small gestures of appreciation would suit both her and her Gran’s memory.
While not pissing off the vampiress in charge.
Tara rose to physically drag Sookie to the chair she’d been “using”—though not for very long durations.
“I have to watch the oven,” Sookie protested, trying to stand back up and recommence her pacing.
“The timer’s on, Sook, and the oven doesn’t need to be watched to work,” Tara laughed, pushing Sookie back into the chair playfully. “Plus, you promised to listen to me vent about my shit so that we could get your mind off of yours.”
Sookie breathed out a long, shaky breath. “I am nervous about tonight,” she admitted to her friend.
“Tell me something I didn’t know,” Tara intoned.
Indeed, Tara did know. Since that Tuesday morning, the two friends had touched base each day. They’d already had their “breakfast-for-lunch” together and delivered a heaping portion to a grateful Jason. Knowing that Sookie was nervous, her friend had opted to help her bake that afternoon—even if her help was only as a sounding board and taste-tester.
“Okay,” Sookie said with a laugh at herself, “let’s hear about your shit for a while.”
Clearly trying to keep Sookie’s mind off of her impending meeting with Bill, Tara launched into a recap of her abrupt break-up with Franklin Mott, but then quickly followed that up by sharing that she thought Tray was “sex on legs” and then by admitting that her “thing for Jason” was sparking up again because he’d been so loyal and sweet to Sookie lately.
Sookie smiled to herself as she wondered about her best friend and her brother getting together. On one level, the thought of it grossed her out; on the other, the idea of her brother settling down with someone like Tara was quite pleasing. Of course, now Jason was into Onawa, and that would complicate things.
As Sookie contemplated how to caution her friend about getting her hopes up about Jason, the brunette transitioned from talking about her “men issues” to discussing her new part-time employee, Jackie, a Bon Temps native, who’d recently gotten a divorce. The fifty-one-year-old was—according to Tara—enjoying the first “paying” job she’d had in her entire life, thanks to a husband who had taken really good care of her and his mistress. It was finding out about the mistress that had prompted Jackie to call Sid-Matt. And—though the woman got a very nice divorce settlement—Jackie had decided that a new job could help her get started with her “new life.”
“She sounds like a pill!” Sookie commented as Tara told her that Jackie planned to go on what she called a “divorce-moon” (as opposed to a honeymoon) cruise for Valentine’s Day. Apparently, only singles in their 40s to 60s would be on the cruise, and Jackie was excited about “testing the waters.”
“Oh—she is a pill!” Tara agreed. “But I already don’t know what I’d do without her! She’s caught on really fast and helped me cater to her friends—and, therefore, get a more varied clientele. Heck—I wouldn’t have been able to go to Jackson if I didn’t have her!”
“Or be here right now,” Sookie smiled as she squeezed her friend’s hand.
Tara nodded in agreement, remembering well the days (and nights) that she’d had to “man” her store alone because she couldn’t afford a helper. “Oh! I almost forgot! We are startin’ a Christmas sale tomorrow—tryin’ to attract anyone not interested in goin’ to Shreveport for a mall. We’ve been doin’ so well since Thanksgiving that I thought I’d discount a bit more than usual—to try to get rid of some older inventory and drum up a bit of excitement about the store.” The brunette gave the blonde a Cheshire-Cat grin. “I put aside a couple of things you might be interesting in—for your hot date on Sunday.”
Sookie blushed. “You know—Eric and I are just gonna hang out and watch a movie and talk.”
Tara rolled her eyes. “He’s a vampire, Sookie! He’s gonna wanna,” she paused dramatically, “neck too!”
Both women descended into a giggle fit at Tara’s bad joke.
One thing was for certain, though; for a few minutes—as the two tried to one-up each other with bad vampire jokes—the telepath didn’t think about her impending meeting with Bill Compton at all.
“I’m so glad we saw each other at Josephine’s,” Tara finally said after returning from the bathroom; her bladder hadn’t been able to withstand a particularly silly joke from Sookie, and she’d run—seemingly at vampire speed—to the bathroom to avoid making a mess.
“Me too,” Sookie smiled.
“So what did you end up doing after we danced that night?” Tara asked, her expression a little confused.
Sookie wasn’t surprised that her friend didn’t remember the staking, though she’d still been in Club Dead when it had happened. Of course, the bar had been full of vampires who likely glamoured all the human witnesses to forget seeing someone get staked by none other than Steve Newlin.
Sookie couldn’t help but to wonder if such a thing ought not to be publicized though—so that humans could begin to understand who were the true villains when it came to vampire-human conflict.
“Sook?” Tara asked when Sookie didn’t answer.
“Oh—uh—sorry. Eric and I ended up going to an important vampire’s mansion for the night,” the telepath responded—not lying, but definitely not telling the entire truth either.
“The king’s?” Tara asked.
Sookie sighed. It seemed that Franklin had told her friend some things about the vampire power structure. The telepath reminded herself that she needed to ask Eric if it would be better if Tara were glamoured to forget all about kings and queens, as well as the existence of Weres.
“Yes,” Sookie responded to Tara’s question. “And that’s where we found Bill.”
Tara nodded in understanding; Sookie had told her what had happened from that point on—though in an abbreviated form.
The brunette frowned. “I’m sorry I brought up Jackson since it brought your mind back to,” she paused, “you know who.”
Sookie chuckled. “You know, Bill’s not Voldemort! You can say his name!”
Again, the friends giggled like schoolgirls and then talked for a while about the Harry Potter books; they’d both read only the first of the series, but were planning to read the others.
In a pause of their light-hearted conversation, Sookie reached over to take her friend’s hand.
Tara looked down at their hands and smiled somewhat sadly. “I remember when it hurt you to do that,” she said quietly. “When the thoughts were too loud for you to touch anyone.”
Sookie sighed and nodded. “I remember too. But I’m glad it’s gotten better, and—unless I’m wrong—by practicing more—instead of shielding—I’m already getting even better.”
Of course, the vampire blood hadn’t hurt either.
“I know we talked about this a little the other day, but I really am sorry we stopped being as close. This,” Tara gestured between herself and her friend, “is too important to lose.”
Sookie sniffled. “I agree.” Her face suddenly broke into a wide smile.
“What?” Tara asked.
Not able to hold in her burst of joy, Sookie chuckled. “I just realized how happy I am!”
Tara looked at her skeptically. “Despite what’s comin’ tonight?”
“Yeah,” the blonde answered sincerely. “A month ago—heck! a week ago—I was so sad. I felt disconnected from everyone—and everything. Jason and I were on rocky ground, Sam was doing his silent judgment thing, and you and I hadn’t seen each other in weeks. Added to that—I had no idea at all where my relationship with Bill was goin’. I just knew that I wasn’t happy with where we were, but,” she sighed, “I was too afraid to fully end things.”
She took a deep breath and continued. “But now I’m really happy! I’ve reconnected with you and Jase. I’ve even settled things with Sam—at least, as much as possible for the time being. I’ve got a new job to look forward to. I’m gonna be goin’ to school. And I’ve got so much hope in my heart about Eric!” She shrugged. “The Bill thing is gonna be hard; I know that. But—ultimately—he’s gonna be a blip in my life. He was my ‘first’ in tons of ways, but I don’t have to let him influence my ‘next!'”
“Hell no, you don’t!” Tara agreed.
A/N: I know that many of you will be disappointed that this chapter is a little shorter than usual and that it’s a transition chapter, but I felt it was needed to show two things: Sookie’s state of mind as she waits to meet and truly end things with Bill, as well another snapshot of Sookie and Tara’s commitment to get back some of the closeness they’d lost over time. In the show, they obviously work together (which I thought was a nice device to bring their friendship closer to the forefront), but in the books, Tara seemed to pop up only randomly. Since this story is all about re-envisioning the books, I wanted to make Tara a much more present part of Sookie’s life. Anyway, next week, you have Eric/Sookie interaction to look forward to—and it’s the in-person kind. I know that it’s crazy that they haven’t shared a scene (in the same physical space) before now, but I argue they both needed this time of “gentle courtship.”
I hope you enjoyed the chapter; be sure to comment if you have the time and/or inclination.