SUNDAY (The day of Sookie and Eric’s first date)
Sookie woke up feeling better than she’d felt in a long time. The pressure of dealing with the Bill situation was now behind her—as was the vampire himself. Thanks to Eric, she would never have to see him again, a prospect that made her feel something she wouldn’t have expected a month before: relieved.
But removing Bill from her life wasn’t the only thing making her feel so good.
She no longer had to worry about going to Merlotte’s, where she still worried that Sam might revert to his asshole self. For the sake of their now tenuous friendship, Sookie felt that it was better to establish some distance between them—for a while.
Anyway, she had a new job to look forward to!
She had school to look forward to as well!
Her friendship with Tara was stronger than ever—as was her relationship with her brother. And she really did feel that she had some other good friendships on her horizons—with Onawa and Willow, maybe even Warren and Mustapha, and Christa Larrabee.
She was finally giving therapy a try, and she’d found her first session with Aphra to be amazingly comforting—and helpful. She’d felt lighter afterwards—and not just because of what they’d talked about during that session. No—she’d felt hopeful about all the things that she would be talking over with her therapist in the future. The telepath now recognized that she’d needed one of those since she was a little girl—if not to get over the grief of her parents’ deaths or the molestation by her uncle, then to deal with the isolation she’d always felt because of her telepathy.
Yes! Things were looking up! She smiled to herself as she contemplated Christmas. Perhaps, she’d plan a little party.
That thought lit her up even more.
Of course—even with all that was going well and all the positives on the horizon—the best thing in her life was Eric.
She stretched her arms high above her, both to warm up her muscles after a night of sleep and in elation over the night to come. However, she didn’t let her feeling of joy stop her from dropping her shields and pushing outward with her telepathy. She spent several minutes with her eyes closed—practicing. She jumped from one head to another, working especially hard to hear specific thoughts from the two-natured guards patrolling around her home. There were five that morning: Maria-Star, Onawa, Willow, and two from Long Tooth. Mustapha and Warren had the day off.
By far, Willow was the hardest of her guards for Sookie to “read”—even when she wasn’t shifted. However, the telepath was able to get the gist of her mood as she chatted with Onawa about Hoyt. Apparently, Willow was smitten.
Satisfied by her “practice,” Sookie texted Tara to confirm that she’d be at Tara’s Togs at 1:30 p.m. to shop for her date outfit that night. Then she texted Maria-Star to let her know the plan so that her guards could do their “guard-stuff” in preparation. She would have told the Were in person—since Maria-Star was on her property. But the head of her day guards was busy speaking with the two Weres from Long Tooth about the patrol patterns she wanted them to make, and Sookie didn’t want to bother her by yelling for her to come up to the house.
The texts sent, Sookie went about her morning routine and then fixed herself a bowl of oatmeal before sitting down with several pieces of paper and a pen.
On the first sheet, she made a menu and a grocery list for a big Christmas meal—just like Gran used to do. She knew that—at the very least—Jason would be happy to participate in a Christmas feast. However, she also figured Tara would come. In addition, she decided that she would invite Warren, Mustapha, Onawa, and Willow to attend the dinner—as long as they weren’t on duty. She’d include Maria-Star in the invitation, of course, but knew that the Were wouldn’t come. She chuckled. She’d also invite Thalia—just to see the vampiress’s expression when she received the offer. Of course, she’d invite Bubba, whom she figured would come, and Padma, whom she figured would not since she’d met her only once so far—and that was literally for only thirty seconds. She would also invite Pam.
And, of course, Eric.
Sookie smiled to herself as she thought of her home full at Christmas. Only a week and a half before, she’d figured that the holiday would be one she’d spend alone. Indeed, she’d been planning to make herself a simple chicken breast for her holiday meal—since a whole turkey seemed to be too excessive for just herself. She’d thought that a day-long marathon of Christmas movies would be “just fine” with her.
But—in truth—she’d been dreading the loneliness that the holiday had been sure to bring.
“Not anymore,” she smiled as she pushed her grocery list aside.
Her next order of business was creating a list of clothing she wanted to get for her new job. She’d already decided that she would be wearing “office clothes” whenever possible, and she figured Tara would have some good ideas about the basics she would need. Ever practical, Sookie wasn’t going to break the bank on clothing, so she was counting on Tara to help her find things that could be versatile—things on sale. Sookie also figured she’d need a few “Fangtasia outfits.” Oh—she wasn’t about to dress like a fangbanger, but—then again—a sundress wasn’t a good alternative if she wanted to be able to monitor the crowds there inconspicuously. She figured that—if there was a happy medium between the black studded collar look and the Sunday church look, Tara would be the one to help her find it.
Of course—her outfit for her date that night would be her main shopping goal that day.
Speaking of shopping, Sookie pulled yet another piece of paper from her small stack and started to make a Christmas list. She decided to talk to Maria-Star about making a trip to the mall so that the Were could start doing her security planning for such a complicated setting.
Finally—after getting another cup of coffee and rinsing her empty bowl—the telepath grabbed the phonebook and began making a list of utilities and contractors that she’d start calling the next week.
For one thing, she needed to research in order to find the best Internet connections she could. She knew that Bill had something top-of-the-line, which meant that it was possible to get high-speed Internet even in “the sticks of the sticks,” as Tara had once termed the Stackhouse home’s remote location.
The telepath decided to ask Eric whether he knew anything about getting the Internet and added it to the mental list of topics she was forming for her date that night. Conversation had never been difficult between Eric and her, but—then again—they’d never had an official date before, and the telepath had “overheard” many awkward first dates occurring at Merlotte’s.
She figured it was better to be safe than sorry.
That thought led her to adding “computer stuff” in general to her mental date-topic list. She knew that she’d need a computer for both work and school, and she knew nothing about them.
After writing down the main telephone company for the region, as well as the companies she knew provided the Internet, as well as their telephone numbers, Sookie put aside her paper and got up to get a little notebook out of the old buffet. In the yellowed-with-age notebook was the “Stackhouse budget” as well as the revised budget Sookie had needed to make for herself after Gran died.
She traced her fingers over the bottom words on that revised list. She’d called it her “in case you have extra tips, save for…” list. On it, she had a new car—or, at least, a better used car. Oh—she’d not been planning to get a new car right away, but she was realistic enough to know that even her brother’s best attempts to “MacGyver” the vehicle wouldn’t work forever.
With her new salary, a more reliable car was now something she’d be able to easily afford. However, the little second-hand (or third or fourth-hand) Ford Fiesta-type vehicle she’d once envisioned was now replaced in her mind by something a little better—and new! She wondered if an SUV might be more practical as well now—since guards were to be a permanent fixture in her existence. She figured she’d broach that particular topic with Maria-Star and Thalia. After all, there would be no use getting a new car if it wasn’t practical for her new life.
The telepath closed her eyes for a moment. So much was changing, and deciding between types of cars to get was only a little part of that. But—still—it was a thing she’d never imagined herself having to do.
Also, on her “wish list” had been a new roof. The one currently on the house had needed patches three of the last five years. However, Sookie hoped that it might last for a while longer—at least until she could consider a few other repairs and upgrades to her home. For instance, several electrical outlets upstairs no longer worked. Also, some of the plumbing was not that great (though a part of the house’s system had been updated about a decade before when a pipe in the master bathroom had burst).
“Everything other than that part probably needs updated,” she muttered to herself. Replumbed?” she asked, wondering if that was even a word.
She shrugged and glanced back at the refrigerator, which always sounded like it was laboring with breath. Indeed, most of the appliances in the house were older than she was! Once upon a time, she’d had nightmares about the hot water heater or the washing machine cratering. Now, she’d be able to get everything serviced or replaced.
It was a load off of her mind, but there would be a lot to do to get things up to snuff!
Another thing she definitely wanted to do was to make at least one bedroom fully light-tight.
“Just in case,” she smiled to herself as she thought about Eric, perhaps, staying over some night.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Stackhouse,” she muttered, even as a blush overtook her face.
Just then, Sookie “heard” a Were brain approaching on Hummingbird Road. A few seconds later, she “heard” her guards shifting their focus in the direction of that brain.
The telepath honed in on her visitor and immediately smiled upon recognizing Christa.
She also smiled because she seemed to have not only noticed the new person in the vicinity before her guards, but also recognized who that visitor was before they did. There had been a time when—even with her shields down—Sookie didn’t allow her telepathy free reign. She’d chained it and then tried to ignore that it was there. However, now that she’d let her “gift” off of its chain, it was proving that it could grow.
She couldn’t help but to wonder what would have happened if there had been someone in her life who had told her that—while telepathy might not be something everyone had—it was her “normal,” so she shouldn’t shun it. Oh—Sookie understood that Gran had been trying to protect her when she encouraged her to hide the fact that she could read people’s thoughts. But that protection had come at the price of Sookie never encouraging her telepathy’s development. Thus, it had been very much like a limb that had never been exercised, dragging at her—dragging her down—sometimes painfully so.
Now that she was exercising that limb, it was no longer dead weight.
“Forgive the pun,” she said to nobody—though she chuckled at the thought of Eric laughing at her silly, vampire-related joke.
Sookie quickly put away what she was working on and got up to go to her front door where Maria-Star was currently escorting Christa. She could feel the other two-natured beings on her property moving back to their previous positions since there was no threat.
One thing was for sure: Although Sookie now knew that she could tell when potential threats were in her area before even the Weres patrolling her property, she wouldn’t be able to protect herself from those threats as well as her guards.
In addition to “seeing” Christa’s thoughts about her errand, Sookie had also “monitored” the thoughts of her guards as they’d moved into defense mode. Maria-Star, especially, was a tactical machine. The telepath had no doubt that—had Christa been a threat—that threat wouldn’t have been long for this world.
“Hi, Christa!” Sookie greeted as she opened the door.
“Hi!” Christa returned, even as she balanced a few items in one arm in order to wave a little. “Mr. Northman sent me to give you some stuff. I’m his full-time day-person now!” she informed exuberantly.
Sookie smiled with her, though she’d already known—of course—about Eric’s plans to hire her to replace Bobby. “That’s great!” she enthused. “Come on in. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Oh—no thanks,” Christa said. “I’ve already had three cups of coffee this morning.”
Christa turned to give Maria-Star a respectful nod before bouncing into the foyer. As the two young women moved toward the living room, Sookie “read” that the Were was extremely pleased by her new position. Indeed, the telepath “saw” quick snippets of Christa’s meeting with Eric and felt her elation at receiving the job offer. Then she “felt” Christa’s lust as she flirted with Pam as she filled out the paperwork for her new job.
The telepath decided not to dig any further into that line of thinking and easily shielded Christa, even while keeping an “ear” out for any other guests.
“So—Mr. Northman wanted me to come and see you in order to make some arrangements for tonight. She pulled out the top item in her stack. “Um—he mentioned that y’all are just stayin’ in tonight, but it occurred to him that the dress code might be more formal. He wanted me to ask you in order to make sure.” The Were smiled a little. Sookie tuned back in to the Were’s thoughts just in time hear that Christa thought it was “cute” that the Sheriff was taking his date with Sookie so seriously. The telepath also heard that the Were was quite the romantic and liked to see people paired off and happy. She was hoping to have someone care about her as much as Eric seemed to care about Sookie one day.
Sookie smiled at that thought, but still blushed a little as she responded. “Oh—uh—yeah, I was gonna dress up a little.”
Christa nodded and took down a note. “Well—in that case, Mr. Northman would like to arrange for a dinner for you—so that you won’t have to worry about cooking for yourself.”
The Were dug a fancy-looking menu from her stack.
“Oh! Okay,” Sookie said, thinking about the dinner she’d “planned” for the evening—a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Anything Eric could arrange would be better than that. “It’s sweet of him to think of that.”
“I know—right!?” Christa said excitedly, but then quickly apologized. “Oh—sorry. I need to get used to being more neutral about my duties. But hanging out with you the other day makes this visit seem social.”
“Don’t apologize,” Sookie said with a smile. “I don’t know what Eric’s said, but he and I are seeing each other. And—uh—we’ll also be working together on a business, so I’m sure you and I will see each other a lot. And I’d really like for us to be friends.”
“I’d like that too!” Christa enthused. “And I promise I’m much more formal in my other work for Mr. Northman.”
“I’m sure you are,” Sookie assured as she took the menu. “Les Deux Poissons,” she read.
“Yeah. It means ‘the two fish’ since the owners actually prefer shifting into dolphins when they can. Mr. Northman said that you should select whatever you want.”
“Uh—shifters can do fish?” Sookie asked incredulously.
Christa shook her head. “Actually, shifters are limited to mammals, and dolphins are mammals,” she informed. “I’ve seen them shifted into them, and it’s really amazing! The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Clark, are my best friend’s parents!”
Still absorbing the idea of shifters as dolphins and wondering if Sam had ever transformed into one, Sookie opened the menu and gasped at the selections. “Wow! This looks amazing! And expensive! Where are the prices?”
Christa chuckled. “It is amazing; I know because I get to taste-test a lot of the dishes. And—yeah—it is pretty expensive. The Clarks use only the best ingredients, and their main clientele is Supes. Mr. Northman is an investor; he has meetings there from time to time—whenever he’s visited by important vampires and such.”
Sookie also read from Christa’s thoughts that she used to work at the restaurant, and her efficiency in that job had been why Eric had first hired her for small jobs that Bobby couldn’t do. Christa had been glad for the change because she’d become tired of waitressing.
Sookie almost remarked aloud that Christa and she should form a club of ex-waitresses, but then she realized she’d have to spill the beans about her telepathy if she did. Though she had an inclination to tell the Were about her gift, Sookie held back—just in case Eric had a reason that they should keep the information from his new day-person.
“Everything looks good!” Sookie said after looking over the menu for a few minutes. “Do you have any suggestions?”
“What Mrs. Clark does with a piece of catfish is a work of art,” Christa said without hesitation as she pointed to an option on the menu called “Cajun Catfish.”
“I’ll try it,” Sookie said with a smile.
Christa wrote down the order before suggesting a starter, some sides, a type of wine, and a dessert that would complement the meal. Sookie enthusiastically agreed to them all.
When Sookie went to hand back the menu, Christa stopped her. “Keep it. Mr. Northman said that there might be other occasions when you two will order from there. Oh—and don’t worry about the food staying fresh. The Clarks have a witch on staff—Amelia; she’s like a wizard at stasis spells!”
Sookie shook her head a little at receiving that knowledge. “I still have so much to learn about the Supe world,” she said.
The Were was clearly surprised by Sookie’s words. “Oh—sorry. I didn’t know. Just ask if you have any questions. I assumed since Mr. Northman didn’t give me any restrictions regarding you that you knew everything there was to know about the Supe world.”
“Restrictions?” Sookie asked.
“Yeah. Some people Mr. Northman deals with are humans who know only about vampires. Other humans have some additional knowledge; they might know about Weres, for example. He’s gotta file with all his contacts in it; it includes their level of knowledge.”
“Oh,” Sookie said with understanding. “Well—uh—soon, I’m gonna be fully entering the Supe world, so I’d appreciate all I can learn about it.” She chuckled. “I have to say that the idea of a stasis spell around take-out food is brilliant though!”
Christa agreed with a nod.
“So—what are all these fancy bloods?” Sookie asked as she looked at the menu’s last page. “Do you know if Eric might like one?”
“Oh—he already asked that a couple be included with your order,” Christa indicated. “And Mr. Northman also wanted to ask if it would be okay if I brought in some donor blood to store in your fridge.”
“What’s wrong with TrueBlood?” Sookie asked.
“Do you really wanna know?” Christa asked with a little smirk.
The telepath nodded.
“Real blood is better for healing if a vampire gets hurt, and it’s also more—uh—nutritious; they have to drink about five pints of TrueBlood to get the same value as one of the real stuff. Plus,” she leaned forward as if telling a secret, “TrueBlood tastes absolutely disgusting according to every vampire I know! I heard two young vampires talking at Les Deux Poissons once; they were arguing about whether it tasted more like crappy cough medicine or spoiled milk.” She shuddered. “Either way, it sounds unpleasant. That’s why most vampires drink TrueBlood only when in public or when absolutely necessary. Les Deux Poissons doesn’t even serve it! The synthetics and real/synthetic blends they do serve are a lot better, but quite a bit more expensive.”
“Oh. I didn’t know,” Sookie said, frowning at the idea that she’d served something her vampire guests had needed to choke down, though grateful that she now knew better.
“It’s not well-known. Even most Weres don’t really have all the details. I only do because I used to waitress at Les Deux Poissons.”
“Well—since it’s better—of course, I don’t mind keeping some here,” the telepath said.
“Cool. There’s some in my car now. Mr. Northman told me that you might not want the bags just stacked in your fridge, so I’ve transferred the blood to old TrueBlood bottles.”
“That’s fine,” Sookie smiled at both Christa’s and Eric’s thoughtfulness—though she wouldn’t have minded the bags. “But will the blood stay good—uh—fresh in the old bottles?”
“Sure! Amelia taught me a little spell. It’s not as powerful as a stasis spell, but I can do it myself, and it does the trick to seal the blood into the bottle so it’ll keep for a couple of weeks. So—um—the only other thing I need to do is give you this. It’s from Pam,” Christa said, standing up from her seat and pushing a bulky manila envelope toward Sookie. “I should probably bring the blood in and then get going—since I’ve got some more errands to run. But I’ll be back this evening to drop off the food—if that’s okay.”
“Sure!” Sookie said, even as she wondered what was in the large envelope from Pam. Sookie didn’t know the vampiress all that well, and what she did know didn’t clue her in to the contents of the envelope, though it looked and felt like a stack of papers of some kind. Of course, that didn’t say much. It might be a pile of Pam’s “crime scene photos,” a selection of explicit sex pictures, a collection of jokes, or an assortment of Dear Abby clippings. On the other hand, it might just be a new draft of her contract with Eric that Pam had been asked to hand off to Christa.
Unfortunately, Christa’s thoughts didn’t help; she was already thinking through her remaining errands in her mind.
Despite her curiosity, Sookie finished her duties as hostess, helping Christa with the blood and then filling the Were’s travel coffee mug—just in case she wanted more coffee later. She even gave her a hug goodbye and waited for her to start her engine before scurrying back into the living room to find out what was in the envelope.
Sookie took a deep breath, opened the seal, and took out the contents of the envelope. She let out a sigh of relief when she didn’t see anything “bad.” In fact, a smile quickly spread across her face as she saw several brochures about various LSU programs, a course catalogue, a class schedule, and a new student orientation guide. On the top was a handwritten note from Pam.
Dear Amusing Breather,
My maker is “sweet on you” to the point that my fangs have developed cavities. And—to add to the nuisance of having to deal with him smiling all the damned time—he refuses to be eye candy for the vermin anymore. Thus, I’m having to shop around for more man-meat—though I am ambivalent at best when it comes to men and their “meat.”
See all the trouble you are!?
And—to all I must already do—my maker tasked me with seeing to your expedited acceptance at LSU-Shreveport. Luckily, he informed me about this task with long enough before dawn that I was able to visit my contact in admissions. I still have Abigail’s lovely taste in my mouth, which is some consolation for all my trouble. Anyway—between orgasms—we discussed your situation, and I filled out an online application for you myself. Don’t worry—all your data was entered correctly from my vault and from a helpful file of information I have gathered on you since my master became so interested. You’re welcome! Oh—and since I have a copy of your school transcript in my file—I’ll pass that along to Abigail as well. You’re welcome again.
Oh—and I’d rather you not tell Eric about my little file on you. Between us girls, I was just making sure you weren’t a succubus.
Speaking of which, I’ll have to tell you about our encounter with one of those in 1908. That bitch was crazy! Worse than a Maenad—well, maybe not for you.
Speaking of which, how’s the back? Any scarring? Care to give me a taste of your blood when it’s not laced with Maenad poison?
Also, between us girls?
Anyway, between my perfect memory and Abigail’s ability to access LSU’s admission’s system from her home, we’ve got you sorted out. You’ll get the official admissions letter in the mail. Blah, blah, formality, blah. Meanwhile, Abigail has waved your placement exams for English and math, but she suggests—based on the fact that you’ve been out of school for a while—that you start with the most basic classes in those subjects; I assured her you would. Other than that, feel free to enroll for whatever you wish. I took the liberty of earmarking the section of online classes in the schedule—as well as indicating what my subject preferences would be.
For example, might I suggest the History of Human Sexuality? I could be your study partner.
Oh—and Eric wanted me to assure you that your fast-track into school was not won at the expense of another potential student. To be clear—it was not. It was, in fact, won through my pleasuring of Abigail with my fingers and my tongue with such expert cunnilingus that I should write a textbook. So—you see—I’d be a wonderful tutor for Human Sexuality!
You would certainly receive an A. And many O’s.
Sookie was blushing deep red by the time she finished the vampiress’s note. However, it didn’t surprise her that Pam was a tremendous flirt even through a letter. Part of Sookie wanted to be mad at Pam for gathering a file full of information on her—including her transcript! But—then again—she could understand why Pam would want to protect Eric.
Sookie felt protective of Eric too, after all.
However, the telepath did intend to take a look at Pam’s file on her (just to see what could possibly be in it) and then ask her to stop her data collection. It’s not as if there was a need to keep up the collection now that Eric and she were together.
The telepath glanced at the clock and saw that it was still only 11:04 a.m. There was plenty of time for her to have a quick, small lunch (she didn’t want to ruin her appetite for later), take a shower, and browse through the online classes listing before she went to Tara’s Togs.
And that’s just what she did.
A/N: I don’t have time to write an author’s note today, but I hope that you enjoyed this chapter as Sookie continues to explore and embrace her new life-even as she prepares mentally for her first official date with Eric.