Chapter 07: Welcome to My World
Tara smiled softly at her friend. “Listen—I know how much you were into Bill. What you felt for him was a lot more than what I felt for Franklin Mott.” She got up to grab the coffee pot to refill their mugs. Her task done, she sat back down. “I’ll get over Franklin—probably in just a few days if I’m being honest. Once I get over my hurt feelings, I’ll miss the fun things we did and the good times we had doing those things, but,” she chuckled at herself, “you know me, Sook. I’ll bounce back. Right now, though, I’m worried about you. I mean—you were just with Bill a few weeks ago, and now you have moon eyes for Eric. Don’t you think you’re moving too fast, Sook?”
Sookie took a deep breath. “To tell you the truth, Tara, I’m worried about that same thing. Bill was sort of checking out emotionally for the last stretch of our time together, so I guess that I was sort of checking out emotionally too. And I’ve already dealt with the pain over his being unfaithful and leaving me behind without a word—not to mention that he lied or at least misled me about why he was leavin’ town in the first place! And there might be other things too—about why he was interested in me to start with.”
“What do you mean?” Tara asked, her brow knitting.
Sookie sighed. “Honestly, there are things I can’t tell you because it involves vampire politics, but I will tell you that Bill might have been sent here by his—uh—boss in order to evaluate my telepathy and pursue me romantically. His boss—uh—wanted access to my mind-readin’, and she figured I’d be more cooperative if I was in a relationship with her lackey.” She shook her head somewhat angrily. “I don’t know all the details, but my instincts are tellin’ me that she told Bill to do anything he could to get me to go to New Orleans with him—preferably as his willing companion. Without Eric’s help, I might have never known it was all fake,” she added, brushing away a tear.
“Oh, Sook! I’m so sorry!” Tara exclaimed. “That really sucks!”
Sookie chuckled. “Very punny, Tara.”
The brunette gasped and put her hand over her mouth. “I didn’t mean to make a joke, Sook! I swear!”
Sookie brushed off the apology. “It’s okay, Tara. Really it is. And vampires do suck,” she laughed lightly, “sometimes. Anyway, that’s all I can tell you, and I really don’t want any of this getting out.”
“Say no more,” Tara said, gesturing like she was zipping her mouth shut.
“Thanks,” Sookie said.
“So—uh—you didn’t finishing answering before,” Tara said after taking a drink. “What’s up with you and Eric?”
Sookie smiled, but then looked at her friend as if asking for permission to proceed—and to be excited about her news.
“I really wanna hear; I promise!” Tara assured. “Anyway, it’ll take my mind off things to hear about whatever it is that’s puttin’ that smile on your face.
Sookie smiled a little wider as she thought about her conversation with Jason the night before. He, too, had noticed her smile—her “Eric smile.” Looking back, it was difficult for her to remember the last time she’d truly felt like smiling with Bill.
“Eric and I are gonna be dating. I’m gonna spend time with him—get to know him. And he’s agreed to do that—to go as slow as I need. Meanwhile, he’s gonna help me get a new business up and running.”
“A business!” Tara squealed excitedly. There was nothing she was prouder of than her own business, Tara’s Togs. “What kind ‘a business?”
“A sort of telepath for hire thing—for vampires and maybe even Weres who have to deal with humans. Eric thinks that—if I work for important vampires—they’ll have my back if—actually when—some stronger vampire tries to kidnap me.”
“Eric thinks that could happen?” Tara asked, clearly fearful for her friend.
“It might,” Sookie admitted with a sigh.
Tara took a deep breath. “And Eric’s on it? With the protection thing? I mean—I saw the hunk ‘a burnin’ guard you have outside. But—uh—if you and Eric don’t work out—with the datin’ thing—will the guards stay?”
“Yes,” Sookie responded with a reassuring smile. “He made sure I knew that last night.”
She shook her head. “Wow! It’s scary to think you need guards. Is there a particular person you’re bein’ guarded from right now?”
Sookie considered for a moment, again wondering how much to tell her friend. Again, she decided to be honest about what she said, but to withhold things that could put Tara (or others) in danger. “Someone—more than one person actually—tried to hurt me in the last week. Bill’s maker sent a werewolf to kidnap me. Then I got hurt by a Fellowship nut who was after a vampire. Then Bill’s maker tried to kill me. Then Bill hurt me when he was . . . .” She stopped for a moment to compose herself. “When—uh—well, Alcide’s psycho ex-girlfriend locked me into a trunk where Bill was—uh—sleeping for the day. He’d been hurt by Lorena and woke up hungry. So—uh—yeah. He attacked me and would have likely raped and/or killed and/or turned me if Eric hadn’t come. Eric thinks that—at least—Alcide’s ex, Debbie Pelt, could come after me sooner rather than later, so he talked me into the guards for a year.” She frowned. “After that, we’ll reassess whether I still need the guards. I did argue against them at first, but Eric talked me into them—for at least the time being.”
Tara’s eyes had been widening throughout Sookie’s account. She opened her mouth as if to speak but was clearly having a difficult time knowing exactly what to say.
Sookie sighed. “It is all pretty f’ed up,” she owned.
“And you argued against having guards?” Tara asked incredulously, having found her voice again. “Excuse my French, but that’s the part that seems most fucked up to me, Sook.”
The telepath rolled her eyes, but nodded in agreement all the same. “You and Eric can form a club to complain about my stubbornness. And—for the record—I did give in—and not just because of Eric’ persuasiveness. Tara, when I was locked up in that trunk—waiting for Bill to wake up and knowing that he was gonna hurt me—I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted out of my life.”
“What do you want?” Tara asked curiously.
“To be happy. To be as free as I can be.” She shrugged. “And some things I don’t know yet,” Sookie admitted. “I mean—I envy you in a lot of ways.”
“Well—you have Tara’s Togs, and I know you love it! I know that you want to design clothes too, but your shop is real nice—something of your own that you can be proud of!”
Tara smiled. “I am proud of it. And—thanks to Franklin—taking some design classes is a part of my plan, but so is actually designing things of my own before then—one of a kind pieces—to sell in my place. He helped me figure out how to start my own label and everything!” She sighed. “You know, that’s one of the reasons I’m really gonna miss dating him. He was so good at making business things seem easy. And he was really encouraging; he actually said my sketches were good!” she added with pride.
The telepath felt a stab of guilt for being the one to take that encouraging voice away from her friend—that is, until she remembered what Eric had said about Franklin Mott’s “passing around” tendencies.
“Maybe Eric would have some ideas that could help you,” Sookie offered. “Actually, Pam would be even better to ask!”
“Pam?” Tara asked. “Who’s that?”
“She’s the vampire that sort of co-runs Fangtasia with Eric,” the telepath responded, careful not to give away the fact that Pam was Eric’s child. “She’s a little scary at first, but—as long as she likes you—there’s nothing really to worry about. She has a wicked sense of humor, so I bet you two’d get along. She has to wear black leathery things at Fangtasia, but I get the impression that she’s something of a fashionista. And she’s a knock-out too.” Sookie chuckled. “I bet she’d—at the very least—be interested in one of your one-of-a-kind things, especially if you made it with her in mind. And vampires—a lot of them, at least—have been around long enough to have had a lot of businesses. At least, that’s the impression I get.” Sookie shrugged. “I’ll introduce you to her—if you want. We could go to Fangtasia some night and maybe dance a little so the trip wouldn’t be a waste of time even if she didn’t wanna help you.”
Tara smiled as the wheels in her mind were obviously spinning. “Thanks, Sook! I’d like that—even if it’s just about us girls hanging out. You know—I miss this,” she said, gesturing back and forth between them. “I miss bein’ this close and seein’ each other all the time.” She laughed. “Gran used to say we were joined at the hip. And I really regret that we haven’t hung out as much in the last few years.”
“It’s okay,” Sookie said with a sad smile. “You know that Gran looked at you like family. She was so proud of you, and I’m proud of you too! You just got busy with your business.” She shrugged. “And I could have done a better job hanging out with you, too.”
Tara took Sookie’s hand. “Let’s prioritize each other more again—okay? I miss Gran so much, and wish I’d come to see her more often than I did. I don’t want regrets about my best friend!”
“I don’t either,” Sookie agreed.
Tara frowned. “And I’m sorry I didn’t think about you and work before. I always thought you were pretty happy at Merlotte’s. I really couldn’t have imagined that you’d—uh—envied me at all!”
Sookie shrugged. “I’m not unhappy at Merlotte’s, but the truth is that my job there was all I could find with even a little bit of job security. And I had to work—not unlike everyone else,” she chuckled ruefully. “Lots of people aren’t that satisfied with their jobs—I suppose. And it really used to be fun to work there.”
“Not anymore?” Tara asked, once again fetching the coffee pot and distributing refills.
Sookie sighed. “Sam’s gotten a little weird.”
“Weird how?” Tara asked.
“Well—I used to think he had a little thing for me. Remember?”
“Yeah. I remember dropping a pretty un-subtle hint in his direction once,” Tara said a little guiltily. “I—uh—might have told him you were interested in him one night when I was a little tipsy and you weren’t working.”
“When?” Sookie asked.
“A couple of years ago?” Tara responded, her voice rising as if she were asking a question, as she tried to remember when she and Sam had had their short exchange about Sookie.
“Oh,” Sookie frowned. “See—that’s kind of the thing. He never made a move—even though he had to have known I would have been receptive at one point. Then Bill entered the picture and Sam got all territorial. We even went out once—sort of.”
“Really?” Tara asked excitedly. “You never told me that! Spill!”
“There’s not much to tell. Like I said, it was after I’d met Bill—after I was already interested in Bill—which Sam knew about. But Bill and I’d had a little falling out,” she recalled. “Sam asked to go out after the Descendants of the Glorious Dead meeting—the one where Bill spoke. But nothing much happened with us—besides talking—and it was when we got home that I found Gran dead.”
Tara reached over to squeeze her friend’s hand in comfort.
Sookie squeezed back, a silent expression of gratitude. “Anyway, Bill and I became an official couple not long after that, but Sam never accepted my choice. In fact, it’s clear that Sam doesn’t like me with any vampire. And when I told him that I likely wasn’t gonna be workin’ for him for very much longer, he said some pretty hurtful things, insinuating that I was too dumb to look out for my own good. And—worse—he accused me of basically allowing myself to become a kept woman to Eric because he’s gonna help me get my new business thing up and running!”
“That’s all kinds of wrong on Sam’s part!” Tara exclaimed. “He—of all people—should know how hard you’ve worked to make sure you and Gran stayed afloat—without takin’ a hand-out from anyone, let alone bein’ someone’s bought-and-paid-for mistress! And I’m sure he knows just how fucked up that kind of comment comes across—especially in these parts where it’s been pounded into us that only the worst kinds of women are the ones rich men set up as their on-call booty calls!”
Sookie nodded. “Sam tried to apologize, but he pretty much finished making up my mind for me—when it came to whether I should quit or keep working at Merlotte’s. In fact, my last day’s December 27, two weeks exactly from yesterday—when I talked to Sam on the phone.”
“I probably would have just quit on the spot,” Tara shared. “But you know my temper. I still can’t believe he’d treat you like that.”
“Well—by the time Sam said what he did, I’d already promised Arlene I’d cover for her tonight. And—even though he was cruel yesterday—Sam’s been a good boss for the most part. Plus, I was wantin’ to keep my job at Merlotte’s until I knew the telepath-for-hire thing was gonna work. But now I realize that it’ll be better if I just commit to the new job and cut ties with the past. And have faith that it’ll work out.”
“Do you think workin’ as a telepath will make you happy?” Tara asked, recalling what Sookie had said about what she wanted out of life.
“I’m not sure actually,” Sookie shared honestly. “Truth is—I never allowed myself much time to think about what I would want to do if I could have any job. But I really do like the idea of having a more comfortable life and not having to worry about whether or not I can afford toothpaste and tampons! And I like the idea of helping people. Eric seems to think I can set rules for the types of work I do. So I can help vampires stay safe from groups like the Fellowship of the Sun. Or I can help them know if a human’s trying to cheat them in business. But I can choose not to work with them if they want to use me for things I’m not comfortable doin’. I have a deal with Eric that—if I find a human doin’ something like cheatin’ a vampire—he’ll turn them into the human police. I can make that a part of any contract I make!” she added, already feeling excited about the possibilities. “Best thing is that I wouldn’t have to hide what I am and what I can do—at least not from other Supes.”
“Other? Other! What are you?” Tara asked excitedly.
“Eric thinks I’m part Supernatural, but he’s not sure what kind,” Sookie shared—though she didn’t go into detail about the kinds of creatures she’d been learning about. “And maybe I am. After all, ‘normal’ people aren’t telepaths,” she stated, using the fingers of the hand not holding her coffee cup to make quotes for the word “normal.”
“You have always been special, Sookie,” Tara smiled. “And hey! If you find out you’re something, I hope you’ll tell me—even if you have to get a vampire to glamour me just to be sure I keep it to myself.”
“You wouldn’t be freaked out if you learned I was a leprechaun or something?” Sookie grinned, feeling a weight lift off her shoulders that she didn’t know had been there now that she was talking to her best friend so openly about her “otherness.”
“You’re Sookie. Nothing’s gonna change about that,” Tara shrugged as if she wouldn’t mind if Sookie did, in fact, turn out to be a leprechaun. “There was a time when I was a little freaked out by what you can do,” she said with a look of regret, “but that was usually when I had a silly secret I thought I needed to hide.”
“Like your crush on Jason?” Sookie asked with a giggle.
“Exactly!” Tara blushed a little. “I still can’t help but to like him—you know—a little. I know he’s a total horndog and all, but I really do hope that I’m unattached when he finally decides to give up all the cattin’ around. He’s a decent man when he doesn’t get in his own way.”
“He is,” Sookie agreed with a smile. “You know—just last night, he helped me with the Christmas tree.”
“Oh—you have a tree!” Tara exclaimed.
And just like that, the morning visit turned casual. After moving to the living room and looking at the Christmas tree, the two friends decided to make a quick brunch and continue their visit. By the end of it, they’d made additional plans to get together later that week.
When she was getting ready for her shift that afternoon, Sookie couldn’t help but to feel glad about her reconnection with her friend. Tara hadn’t been the only one who’d pulled away from the friendship. Sookie had been putting so much energy into her relationship with Bill that she’d lost sight of the aspects of her social life that she’d truly treasured. And—even before that—she’d pulled away (both consciously and unconsciously) from Tara, whose life had evolved to what Sookie thought of as “grown up” status. Meanwhile, Sookie had felt stuck; thus, she’d worried that she no longer had much to offer to a ‘grown-up’ friendship.
She didn’t feel that way anymore!
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this! I wanted to take the character of Tara and really try to make her more like how I “thought” she’d be after that moment she and Sookie shared in Club Dead. I always thought it was a bit random for her to just be there. And then CH seemed to drop that story line instead of using it to help link Sookie and Tara (because they were both “with” vampires). And then the transfer of Tara to Mickey was just odd to me. I am making the Tara in this piece be what I consider a more “natural” evolution of the girl that was with Franklin and dancing with Sookie in Club Dead (and without Mickey). I think that, perhaps, CH meant to do something different with Tara, but once Amelia was introduced, Tara just wasn’t needed as much. Anyway, Tara is going to be more books (Tara’s Togs version) than show. I believe that she is NOT Lafayette’s cousin in the books, though I might be wrong, and I don’t think she suffers the kind of childhood abuse, though I’d have to re-read the books closer to know this for sure. Anyway, I like this Tara and hope you do too!