“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”—Winston Churchill
Given the closeness of sunrise, Eric evaluated the living room for safety as soon as he walked into it. There were two large windows in the space; however, both had been skillfully covered with black-out blankets as had many of the other windows downstairs.
“Better safe than sorry!” Amelia said cheerfully, as she finished putting up a second layer of blankets over the main windows in the room.
Eric nodded. “You have my thanks, young witch.”
Amelia beamed. “Don’t mention it.”
After looking to his own safety, Eric took in the rest of the room. A blanket had been put on the floor near the fireplace. It was surrounded by a circle that looked to be made of salt, though Eric smelled other elements in the mixture as well. The fire was burning brightly and more wood had been brought in and stacked near the fireplace. A dozen bottles of water were laid out on one side of the pallet and six opened TrueBloods were laid out on the other.
Octavia gestured toward two folded garments in the middle of the blanket. “You two will need to change into dose after you are in dee circle. All other clothing must be removed.”
Eric nodded and led a pensive Sookie into the circle. Once inside, he immediately began disrobing.
“You are modest, child?” Octavia teased, as Sookie blushed a deep red upon seeing Eric’s bare chest.
“Yes,” Sookie said quickly as she turned around. “Eric?” she asked with uncertainty in her voice.
“Do not worry. I will turn my back to your beauty, Sookie,” Eric chuckled softly.
Octavia cackled. “If I didn’t know you better, Viking, I would say dat you were in love with dis child.”
Both vampire and telepath tensed up at those words.
“But you do know me better, witch,” Eric said firmly.
“Ah—dat I do,” the elder witch said. “I remember knowing you quite well ’bout forty years ago.”
“We did have some good times—you and I,” the vampire said, his voice thick with a lusty memory.
Sookie reddened even more as she slinked out of her T-shirt and quickly removed her bra before picking up and putting on one of the gray cloaks Octavia had left for them. Only then did she remove the jeans and the panties she’d put on after her shower.
“I can take your clothes,” Amelia said cheerily when Sookie was done undressing.
“Don’t step out of dee circle now,” Octavia warned as Sookie handed Amelia her discarded clothing.
“Okay,” Sookie said somewhat timidly.
“You still look just as mouthwatering as dee last time I saw you like dis,” Octavia said, obviously talking to Eric again.
“I am vampire,” he said simply. “This body will be the same until I meet my true death.”
“I have never found your equal,” Octavia remarked with a little rattle in her voice. “Tis a shame dis body of mine had to age.”
“I enjoy lovers of all ages, Octavia dear, and from where I’m standing, you’ve held up very well indeed,” Eric purred from behind Sookie.
Sookie heard something that sounded like clothing being thrown. She shut her eyes and tied the ribbon at the neck of her cloak as tightly as she could without choking herself. The garment had no other ties or buttons or zippers. Sookie knew that for sure because she’d spent at least thirty seconds looking for some.
“Always dee charmer den?” Octavia giggled, still talking to Eric.
“Always the girl I met in that dark alley in New Orleans,” Eric retorted. “As I recall, you looked me right in the eye and asked for my blood.”
“Ah,” Octavia said with another even more girlish giggle. “You charmed me outta my clothes dat night—before I charmed you outta your blood.”
“I do not recall you ever getting my blood, Octavia,” Eric chuckled.
“True,” the elder witch relented. “But you were always good ’bout gettin’ me vampire blood for my spells none-dee-less.”
“Octavia was quite the entrepreneur,” Eric said over his shoulder toward where Sookie stood. “And she didn’t let anything get in her way when it came to finding what she needed for her potions and spells.”
“Oh,” Sookie said, not really knowing what else to say. “Are you decent?” she asked as she closed her eyes and turned slightly toward Eric, even as she pulled the sides of the cloak firmly around her in order to make sure it covered her body fully. She wished that it had more closures than the neck tie, but, thankfully, there was more than enough fabric to maintain her modesty.
“Are you insane, child?” Octavia cackled gleefully. “Ain’t not’in’ decent ’bout dis one!”
Eric was laughing with the witch now. “Ain’t not’in’ decent ’bout you neither,” he said in a spot on imitation of her accent. “And—if I recall—you were quite willing to seduce just about anyone in the Supernatural community to get the ingredients you needed,” Eric remarked. “I was not your only victim, Ms. Fant.” Sookie could easily imagine the smirk on his face.
“Ah,” Octavia responded, “I always did enjoy good variety in my lovers. It is—as dey say—dee spice of life.”
“Does Mr. Fant know?” came Amelia’s surprised voice, now from across the room from where Sookie stood with her back still turned to Eric.
“Of course he does, child!” Octavia laughed. “My mate was the biggest rascal of dem all—before we managed to tame each other.” She sighed contentedly, a sound so joyful that it made Sookie open her eyes. She was met by Octavia looking right at her searchingly—no piercingly.
Immediately, Sookie gasped and felt a hot tear rolling down her cheek. She reached up to push it to the side.
“What ’tis it? Did you tink dat you had found a mate of your own, child?” the elder witch asked Sookie pointedly. Sookie felt as if she were somehow trapped in Octavia’s gaze, and, no matter how much she wanted to—or how apprehensive she suddenly felt—she couldn’t look away from the witch. She also felt compelled to answer Octavia’s question: to give her the whole ugly truth.
“I did. But the love was all a lie,” Sookie responded as another tear slipped down her cheek. She shivered; Octavia seemed to be looking into her very soul and seeing every hurt that had ever been there. No—Octavia wasn’t just seeing all the hurt; she seemed to be prodding it.
“Perhaps love was never meant to find you, child. Not all deserve it,” Octavia observed, somewhat callously. “You are a strange one,” she added, narrowing her eyes. “Eric wouldn’t tell me why you were special enough to spend dis effort on. Why don’t you tell me, child?”
“I’m a telepath,” Sookie responded, feeling an almost uncontrollable need to let slip all of her deepest secrets as she looked at the witch.
“I see,” Octavia returned smoothly. “Dat explains his interest in you den. Your gift is stronger when you touch someone—I’d imagine.”
Sookie nodded as another huge tear fell from her eye. She wasn’t sure why, but her emotions seemed almost uncontainable as she looked at the witch.
“I can’t imagine dee toughts of people are very nice, child—especially not toward one such as yourself.”
“They’re not,” Sookie whispered.
“I suppose many of dose toughts have hurt you.”
“Your mother?” Octavia asked as if she were the mind reader. “You know, a mother is supposed to offer an individual dee most unconditional love he or she will ever find. Tell me—did your mother offer you dis?”
“She hated me after a while,” Sookie confessed quietly. “She started drinking more, and she blamed me for it. She loved Jason and wished that she and Daddy had never had me.”
“Jason is your brother?”
“And what does he tink about you, child?”
“He wishes he could’ve had a normal sister. He thinks Gran’s death was my fault,” she cried.
Sookie felt Eric’s hand take hers, though, unlike earlier, she found no comfort from his touch. She wanted to look up into his blue eyes, but she was afraid she’d see pity there. Or—worse—indifference. It didn’t matter anyway; she couldn’t take her eyes from Octavia’s, which now seemed to be glowing almost black.
“Was Gran’s death your fault, child?” Octavia asked.
“Rene killed her because I was dating a vampire. He came to kill me, but found her at home instead,” Sookie answered. “I should have stopped—should have been unselfish and stopped seein’ Bill after Tina was killed?”
“Who is Tina?”
“She was my cat,” Sookie responded.
Octavia cackled loudly, sounding very much like the witch she was in that moment. “Ah—so your choices have affected creatures of a variety of kinds, I see. And—you are ultimately to blame for dee deaths of your grandmother and your cat? Because of your selfish desire to find love?”
Sookie could only nod.
“What did your gran tink of you, child?”
“She took me and Jason in when our parents died. She took care of us. She was kind to me. She didn’t treat me any different because of my disability. She,” Sookie stammered a little, “loved me.”
“I did not ask what she did or felt, child. I asked what she tought of you!”
Sookie couldn’t stop herself from answering rapidly through fresh tears. “She wished that I could have been normal. She thought she was too old to take on someone who was so peculiar. She worried about what would happen to me after she passed away. She blamed herself for the way I was for some reason. A few times she wished that she didn’t have to see me every day so that she wouldn’t have to feel guilt about me.”
Octavia pushed. “So you felt her guilt as much as her love?”
“Gran loved me,” Sookie insisted. “When I got my shields, she didn’t worry so much.”
“Because you could pretend to be more normal den?” Octavia said derisively.
“Yes.” Sookie nodded. “Gran didn’t like to think about my handicap.”
“So you didn’t speak of it.”
“No,” Sookie sobbed. “Hardy ever. Gran didn’t have to blame herself if I acted normal. And it was easier for her to . . . .” Sookie stopped midsentence. She felt Eric squeezing her hand, but again it offered her no comfort.
“Easier for her to love you,” Octavia finished her sentence for her.
“Does anyone else love you?” the witch asked.
“Jason?” Sookie responded, though it sounded more like a question.
“It you have to ask, den he does not love you by choice. Perhaps he feels only obligated to love you,” Octavia said harshly.
“He’s my brother,” Sookie whimpered.
“Yes. The love of obligation,” Octavia concluded.
“Lafayette, Tara, Sam, Arlene,” Sookie said almost desperately. “They’re my friends.”
“Tell me what dey tink of you, child,” Octavia ordered, her eyes almost hypnotic in their power.
“Lafayette thinks I’m gonna get killed by vampires soon, and he’s afraid to be around me much anymore. Sometimes he thinks about leavin’ Bon Temps, and if he does, he’ll never look back. He plans to keep in touch only with Tara, but not with me. But he’ll ask her about me.”
“You are obviously very important to him den,” Octavia said sarcastically. “What about dis Tara?”
“She thinks I’m selfish. She doesn’t understand why I had to ruin the way things were by getting involved with vampires. She blames me for Gran’s death too, but she wishes Jason hadn’t hit me after it.”
Sookie felt Eric’s hand tighten again. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t help either.
“What else does she blame you for?” Octavia asked perceptively.
“And who was dat?”
“She loved him,” Sookie answered.
“Did you kill him?”
“No. I helped him remember what he did when the Maenad had control over him, and then he went crazy. Jason shot Eggs when he thought he was threatening Andy.”
“So your disability was responsible for Egg’s death too!” Octavia attacked.
“Yes,” Sookie said as more tears fell. “But I was tryin’ to help him!”
“What did Tara think about your help?” the witch asked relentlessly.
“Part of her hates me,” Sookie whispered. “Part of her hopes that Eric will just finish me off so that vampires will leave Bon Temps alone. It’s my fault that Franklin Mott came, and he hurt her—raped her.”
“But you said she loved you,” Octavia mocked.
“She—uh—she . . . .” Sookie stopped, defeated. “She used to. Her mom wasn’t a good person. She used to hit Tara, so Gran let her stay with us.”
“And she loved your gran?” Octavia asked.
“Yes. That’s why she was so mad at me when she was murdered. But Tara was my best friend; she’d stick up for me when we were kids. I’m the one to blame for her hurt,” Sookie said sadly. “If she hates me now, it’s my own fault.”
“And Sam—what does he tink of you, child?”
“He’s a shifter; he’s hard to read.”
“Dat was not an answer!” Octavia said scoldingly.
“He wanted me once,” Sookie admitted. “He thought that since I was different, I wouldn’t mind that he was different. He thought he loved me.”
“And now?” the witch asked.
“Now he’s glad nothing ever happened between us. He hates vampires.”
“So he feels dat you tainted yourself by being with one?”
“Yes—a little. He’s ashamed of thinking that way, but he does. He worries about me. He’s a good man. He’s my boss and he . . . .” She stopped.
“He what?” Octavia pushed.
Sookie’s shoulders slumped, but her eyes stayed on Octavia’s. “When I asked for some time off, he was thinkin’ that he would have to replace me soon—since I was likely gonna get myself killed. He was sad about that.”
“Why was the shifter sad?” Octavia asked.
“Because he’s my friend,” Sookie cried.
“Why else?” the witch asked cruelly.
“Because I’m a good waitress,” Sookie said as if the words had been beaten from her.
“And dis Arlene? What does she tink of you?”
“She—uh.” Sookie shook her head and tried to blink herself out of the witch’s hold. “You’re right,” she said dejectedly. “She used to be my friend, but now she blames me for Rene’s death.”
“Dee same Rene dat killed your innocent grandmot’er and your cat?” Octavia laughed cruelly.
“Yeah—he killed others too and tried to kill me as well, but I killed him in self-defense.”
“Ah—so Arlene’s loyalty is to a serial killer and not to a so-called friend.”
“Stop!” Eric said loudly from next to Sookie. He’d been forewarned by Octavia about some of what to expect—some of what the witch would be doing. He’d also been told not to tell Sookie about it or to try to stop Octavia, but he’d felt his rage building with every word the witch had spoken, for every single word had hurt Sookie worse and worse. He’d tried to use his blood to comfort Sookie—tried to stimulate endorphins to help her feel better—but his blood had seemed powerless to help her.
Octavia continued to glare at Sookie but spoke to Eric. “Dis child is responsible for dee deaths or dee suffering of so many. Yet she dared to look at me with longing in her eyes when I spoke of my mate. How could she hope to find love after dee misery her handicap has caused everyone around her?”
“Octavia!” Eric bit out warningly.
The witch’s voice bit right back. “Silence, vampire! Dis child needs to hear dee truth.” For a moment, Octavia turned her eyes to Eric. Immediately, the vampire sank to his knees next to Sookie, his hold on her hand dropping as well. “Why would you defend her? Try to help her?” the witch asked Eric harshly.
“She is an asset,” the vampire responded through clenched teeth.
Octavia laughed callously and turned back to Sookie. “Do you know why Eric is participating in today’s spell?”
“To take away some of the pain—when our tie is severed,” Sookie wheezed out.
“Yes,” Octavia confirmed. “But the spell also requires that you have someone with you that cares for you. Otherwise, you will be lost in the spell. How does it make you feel to know dat the only one who would stand with you during dis spell cares for you only as an asset?”
“Eric,” Sookie said shakily, as if begging.
“Do not speak!” Octavia warned, looking at the vampire meaningfully.
Eric felt his anger rising to a boiling point, but he also realized that whatever Octavia was doing was somehow necessary. He gave her a curt nod—despite the fact that his eyes were staring daggers at her.
Sookie’s eyes fell right back into Octavia’s hypnotic gaze as soon as the witch looked at her again.
“How does it feel—to know dat you are not loved or wanted?” the witch asked angrily.
“It hurts,” Sookie whimpered.
“But you deserve to feel pain—don’t you?”
“‘Tis not a surprise that your friends and family—except for dee ones who are already dead ’cause of you—have all deserted you. You did not deserve dem.”
“I know,” Sookie sobbed.
“And yet you hoped for love—for a soul mate,” Octavia said sarcastically. “How could love for one such as yourself be anything other dan a lie?”
“It couldn’t,” Sookie whimpered.
“You do not warrant love,” the witch spit out. “Why would you tink dat anyone could love you?”
“I hoped,” Sookie squeaked out. “Finally, I wasn’t able to hear someone’s thoughts, so I hoped that he loved me. He seemed to.”
“Ah—dee girl with dee telepathy finally finds hope for love,” the witch said acerbically. “It must have seemed like dee stuff of fairy tales.”
“It did,” Sookie admitted gloomily.
“Tell me, child,” Octavia said with a malicious grin. “Did you ever go out on a date?”
“Bill took me on one. He asked me to marry him.”
“Bill is dee name of dee vampire you loved?”
“What about humans? Did you ever have dates with any of dem?”
Sookie nodded again, even as she shivered.
“What did dey tink of you?”
“They thought about having sex with me. They thought they were doing me a favor by taking out ‘crazy Sookie.’ They hoped that whatever ‘disease’ I had wouldn’t rub off on them.”
Octavia laughed as if she were hearing a funny story. “I imagine you heard dee toughts of dose boys very well if dey tried to hold your hand or kiss you.”
“Yes,” Sookie admitted.
“And what did dey tink den?”
“They thought about what they wished was different about me. Or they wondered whether I’d be willing to give them a blow job or a hand job, even if I didn’t put out. Or they thought about girls they’d rather be with.”
“How many dates did you have with humans, Sookie?”
“Three,” she answered. “Then Sam took me out once—the night Gran died.”
“So you were off having fun even as your gran was being murdered?” Octavia shook her head disapprovingly.
“Yet you thought dis Bill could love you?”
“Yes. But he seduced me so that he could take me to the queen,” Sookie said sadly.
Octavia laughed. “He took your virginity?”
Sookie nodded. “Yes.”
“And your blood?”
“He used you and lied to you.”
“Was it a happy relationship?” the witch asked with a mixture of curiosity and sarcasm in her voice.
“We fought a lot,” Sookie answered. “But I thought so—maybe because of his blood.”
“And you fell in love with him quickly?”
“After you’d had his blood?”
“Why did he give you—an unwort’y one—his blood, child? Dee blood is a gift.”
“The Rattrays beat me almost to death. Bill saved me.”
“Why did dese ‘Rat’ people beat you?”
“They’d been trying to drain Bill the night before they hurt me, and I stopped them.”
Sookie saw Eric stiffen out of the corner of her eye, but she couldn’t look at him.
“How many of dese Rats were there?” Octavia asked with amusement in her voice.
“And how did dey manage to subdue a vampire?”
The witch laughed. “And you saved him?”
“Did Bill offer you his blood dat night, Sookie? Dee first night?” Octavia asked knowingly.
“Yes,” Sookie responded with confusion in her voice. “Bill offered to give me what the Rattrays had taken.”
“Did you take it?”
“And dee next night—when dey attacked you? Tell me ’bout dat night.”
“I was meeting Bill outside of Merlotte’s after work, but he was late, so the Rattrays got me.”
“Was Bill prone to being late?” Octavia asked with a smirk.
“Did he kill dee Rattrays easily?”
“Did he wait to save your life till you had to take his blood or die?”
“What?” Sookie asked with horror in her voice as realization hit her like a ton of bricks.
“Tink, child. Your true love set you up to be beaten and almost killed so dat you would have to take his blood,” Octavia laughed gleefully as if she’d just been told a wonderful joke. Again, Sookie saw Eric stiffen out of the corner of her eye.
“And you never questioned him ’bout anyt’ing dat happened, did you, child?”
“He gave you his blood other times?”
“The Maenad attacked me and almost killed me; I had his blood that night too.”
“How did dee Maenad get to you?”
“Bill and I had had a fight, and I asked him to let me out of the car. I was walking alone in the woods when the Maenad found me.”
Octavia chuckled. “Yet—I bet dat you took his blood gladly and soon forgot all about your little lover’s spat.”
Shame-faced, Sookie nodded.
“Did you have any more of his blood?”
“Yes. One other time.”
“Tell me!” Octavia ordered.
Sookie felt she had to obey. “It was during sex. He was trying to form a bond with me, but I didn’t know that.”
The witch laughed again, even as Sookie fell to her knees from the stress of Octavia’s relentless questioning. Her eyes stayed locked on Octavia’s, however. No matter how much she wanted to look away, she couldn’t.
“I bet dee vampire took a lot of your blood, Sookie. Tell me—did you have sex with Bill often?”
“Yes. While we were together, we had sex almost every night,” Sookie said weakly, unable to hold back the information even though it embarrassed her to speak openly about it.
“And I bet he took your blood every time he had sex with you—didn’t he?” she demanded.
Octavia sneered. “Did you know dat vampires do not generally have relationships with humans, child?”
“I guessed that,” Sookie said.
“On dee rare occasion dat dey do have such relationships, dey afford dee humans a certain amount of respect by not feeding from dem during every sexual encounter. Do you know why?”
“No,” Sookie whimpered, her whole body now shaking.
“‘Tis because dee vampire wants to let dee human know dat he or she cares for dee human beyond just feeding. ‘Tis a sign of affection—or, if not’ing else—at least gratitude and a cursory attention to dee human’s health.”
Sookie couldn’t say anything in that moment. All she could do was look at the person who was tormenting her and feel the truth—and the weight—of her words.
“You still love dis Bill—don’t you? After all dat you have learned?”
“I don’t want to,” Sookie rasped out.
“But you do?”
“I don’t know,” Sookie admitted. “I think so.”
“Is dat because Bill’s so-called love is dee best you could ever expect, child? You must know dat to be true!”
“Yes,” Sookie said, her voice barely audible now. Her tears had stopped falling. Thus, there were no more left to warm her cheeks in the midst of the cold reality Octavia had set before her.
“What about Eric? Why do you have his blood inside of you?”
“The first time—he tricked me into sucking silver out of his chest.”
Octavia laughed heartily. “He too manipulated you to take his blood.”
“Yes,” Sookie whispered.
“Why did he want his blood in you, child?”
“I’m not completely sure. To try to control my telepathy? And because he wanted to drink my blood and to have sex with me.”
“And dee second time?”
“It was last night. He came to the hospital. I was about to die, but he saved me. And then he gave me more blood after that so that I would be well enough to drive us here.”
“Why did you almost die, child?”
“Bill—he almost drained me.”
Octavia cackled. “And how did dat come about?”
“He was being tortured by his maker. I killed her and got him out of there. But he was so weak and sick. I tried to feed him, but then he . . . .” Her voice faltered.
“He almost drained you. And before dat, he let others beat you to within an inch of your life. He allowed you to go alone into dee woods. He never showed respect for you during your intimate times with him. He planned to give you over to Queen Sophie-Anne, who would have surely abused you. I can tell you dat for certain! And yet you still love him?”
“He’s what I deserve,” Sookie said brokenly.
“And you say dat Eric saved your life with his blood.”
“I’m an asset to him,” Sookie said quietly.
“Ah yes. Your handicap is finally useful to someone. Hmmm,” she contemplated. “You would fetch a great price among vampire royalty. Perhaps, Sophie-Anne would have sold you to dee highest bidder. Perhaps dat is Eric’s plan when you outlive your usefulness to him.”
Sookie cringed with fear but tried to deny Octavia’s words nonetheless. “No. He wouldn’t do that,” she insisted.
“Because you are an asset?” the witch smiled unkindly.
“Yes,” Sookie said, even as her body continued to tremble.
“You trust him?”
“You are a fool, child!”
“Maybe,” Sookie gasped.
“Why do you trust him?”
“He saved my life.”
“Bill saved your life too.”
“It’s not the same.”
“I don’t know.”
“Tell me—why do you trust Eric?” Octavia’s voice penetrated to Sookie’s very core.
“He was different with Godric. I could tell that he loved him.”
“So you saw dat Eric is capable of love. And dat is why you trust him?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Do you think he could love you?”
Once more Sookie saw Eric stiffen out of the corner of her eye. “No,” she answered.
“Then why would his feelings for his maker matter?”
“I don’t know,” Sookie stammered. “Eric was kind to me in my dreams,” she whispered.
“In your dreams!” Octavia chortled. “You do not even deserve kindness in dem, child!”
Sookie tried to look at Octavia defiantly. “Eric didn’t have to save my life from the bomb or in the hospital or when I was trapped in the dream Bill sent. He risked himself!”
“Calculated risks to save an asset,” Octavia sneered.
“Yes,” Sookie relented despondently, the little fire she had left seeming to fade away.
“Do you know why I have a mate, child? Do you know why you never will?”
Octavia didn’t give Sookie the opportunity to answer; instead she responded to her own question. “I have a mate because I was found worthy of love.”
“I’m not,” Sookie stated, sinking even lower onto her knees.
“No. You are not worthy,” Octavia confirmed cruelly. “You are free to go if you wish, vampire,” Octavia said harshly, as she looked in Eric’s direction. “You should flee from dis child before ’tis too late for you. Dis one will get you killed! And she is not worth it!”
So—in this chapter, you might be wondering why Octavia is doing what she’s doing. What I can tell you now is that it’s a part of the severing spell. Octavia is wise enough to know that Bill’s blood will try to hide itself in Sookie’s fears and sorrows—her darkest places. The liquid she gave Sookie to drink earlier (in Chapter 19) is helping Octavia to “see/feel” where those places are located as she questions Sookie. Eric was told something about this process, but Sookie’s emotional responses had to be authentic, so she couldn’t be told. As for the thoughts that Octavia elicits from Sookie (Gran’s thoughts, Jason’s thoughts, etc.), I tried to think of the worst thoughts that would slip into their heads (from Sookie’s perspective) b/c that is what Octavia needs to find. If you want to know more about the witches and their spells, click onto Octavia’s Witch Spells 101 class below.
Now—I know that many of you get easily annoyed with Sookie. Sigh. But I can’t help but to feel for her and admire her as a heroine (I still remember how much I enjoyed her in the early books as she seemed to be growing). Please remember where this story picks up. This is a young woman who has been emotionally scarred—not just by Bill, but by the thoughts of those around her, even those she loves the most. Before Bill, she’d never been able to have a “real” relationship. And I just don’t think it would be realistic of her to jump into trusting Eric with both feet, especially since he’s done a lot that is questionable. We have seen in this story that she’s been learning to question things (I think that’s an important and good step), and this chapter shows us the pain of her past. In her most insecure places (and don’t pretend that you don’t have some of those too), she has self-doubts and fears that bring her to her knees. Octavia is compelling her to say her worst thoughts about herself—things that we, ironically, generally just “think.” This is a work-in-progress Sookie, who simply needs the opportunity to come into her own. I hope that you will be patient with her.