SOOKIE POV, CONTINUED
For the cameras I knew were looking, I made a show of taking a blank notebook and my “special” pen to bed with me. Perhaps I was powerless in many ways, but I knew that I never wanted to drink Felipe’s blood again. I could imagine him—already—trying to get a fix on my emotions.
And that thought made me feel violated, as I’d felt around Uncle Bartlett.
I was gratified to know that the only thing Felipe would feel from me before his day rest would be revulsion and resolution.
Perfectly normal feelings, given my situation.
I spent half an hour writing in my “journal” with the pen the demon had left for me.
I found myself wondering about the mechanics of the miraculous pen for a while. But then I realized that it didn’t matter how it worked—just that it did.
I wrote about Sam and my grief. I wrote about Hunter and Remy. I wrote about Jason, Michele, and their beautiful little girl, Marie. I wrote about Claudine. I wrote about Tray. I wrote about Gran. I wrote about everyone I felt guilt for.
I wrote until sunrise.
And then I wrote dishonest words—as if I were trying to reconcile myself to my new life. As if the thought of being with Felipe wasn’t “that bad.”
As if I wasn’t about to take my life.
After I was finished writing, I tucked myself deeply into my comforter and then covered myself completely—knowing that no cameras could see me under the thick blanket. Perhaps the “tenting” move looked juvenile to my watchers, but I refused to wait another moment to take control of my life—my death.
Momentarily, I thought about how ungrateful I was being; after all, Mr. Cataliades had decided to use the cluviel dor for me. I should have just told him to keep it.
I scoffed. I’d add that to the list of my regrets.
Fearing that my makeshift “tent” would become suspicious to my overseers, I quickly maneuvered the pen toward my mouth, uncapped it, and drank.
I felt nothing.
I put the pen back together and then uncovered myself from the comforter. I made a show of writing for a few more minutes before putting my journal and the pen into the nightstand, hoping that Mr. Cataliades was right that the poison wouldn’t be traced.
After that, I went to the bathroom and peed, wishing again that I had more disgusting bodily functions to “share” with the people watching me.
But my body just wasn’t cooperating.
Then I brushed my teeth and returned to bed, still feeling nothing.
I began to wonder if Mr. Cataliades’s miracle elixir/poison was a dud. And then I grew sleepy. Finally.
Was this it?
Was the poison finally working?
I’d always heard that one’s life passed before one’s eyes when one was nearing death. But as I closed my eyes, I saw only the deaths of others: Maudette, Dawn, Gran, René, Lafayette, Lorena, Andre, Tray, Claudine, Queen Sophie-Anne, Sigebert, Appius, Alexei, Victor, Arlene, Copley Carmichael, Claude, Sam, Jason, Michele, little Marie, Remy.
Hunter. For some reason, his death hurt most of all.
Probably because I’d always thought of him as my child—my child that could have been.
Enemies, friends, and family members melded together grotesquely in my mind. The only thing they all had in common was that I felt as if I’d been responsible for every single one of their deaths.
I didn’t fight when sleep took me to death—as if I were a vampire.
I opened my eyes to a pitch-black, cool place that seemed familiar.
The temperature was familiar.
The smell was familiar.
The way my skin felt in the room was familiar.
I reached up, somehow knowing what I’d find.
A piece of string with a fishing weight at the end of it.
When I’d first begun working at Merlotte’s so many years before, I’d hated walking into the walk-in refrigerator/freezer. There wasn’t a light switch on the wall by the entrance, so one had to take a couple of steps into the walk-in in order to reach the string and turn on the light. Most of the time, I could make it to that string before the door closed, but I’d been a second or two too slow enough times to know the darkness of the room.
The intense black.
After a while, I’d craved that darkness at times—escaping to the cooler on occasion in order to try to get away from people’s thoughts. I’d used the dark and the cold to concentrate on something—anything—but the onslaught.
I looked around the walk-in. It looked completely—normal.
Boxes of produce: yellow onions (because they were cheaper than white), iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, okra.
I frowned at the okra. That must have been ordered by mistake. We’d not served fresh fried okra since Lafayette died. No one else could make the breading quite right. Thus, we’d bought frozen okra for years.
Beers—tapped and untapped—took up the largest section of the refrigerator. Next to the beer was a half-empty box of ketchup bottles. In the back—the freezer part of the walk-in—I noticed frozen French fries, but no frozen hamburger patties. I frowned as I saw fresh hamburger meat on the shelf below the ketchup. Again, I was a bit confused since no one but Lafayette had ever insisted upon working with fresh ground beef.
I shook my head, realizing that okra and hamburger meat ought not to be taking up any of my thoughts. What I should have been contemplating was why Heaven looked like the walk-in of Merlotte’s!
Just as I decided to see what was beyond the walk-in door, it opened, revealing a nervous-looking Terry. He’d always hated the walk-in.
“Sookie!” he exclaimed. “Thank God you’re here!”
“Terry?” I asked. Had he died too? Last I knew—he and his wife Jimmie were expecting a new litter of puppies.
“Um—would you mind gettin’ me a bag of fries?” he asked. “Lafayette forgot ’em when he left for the day.”
“Lafayette?” I asked. Well—I guess it made sense that Lala would be in Merlotte’s Heaven. He’d been dead for years, after all.
Terry nodded. “Hey. You okay, Sook?” he asked. “You in here to get away for a spell?”
“Uh—yeah,” I replied.
“Well—uh—I hate to tell you, but it’s gettin’ busy, and Arlene’s startin’ to run around like she’s on fire. And Dawn’s looking for you to pass over her tables since her shift’s ending.”
“Arlene? Dawn?” I muttered. I guess their presence made sense too since both were dead. I found myself wondering how Terry had died. I almost asked him.
“You sure you’re okay?” Terry asked rather knowingly—as if he could recognize it when someone was literally going crazy in front of his eyes. I felt as if I were.
“Yeah,” I whispered.
“The fries?” he asked as I began to approach the door empty-handed.
Quickly, I got him the bag and then emerged from the walk-in tentatively.
“Terry! Hurry up with that order!” I heard Sam’s voice. I went to that voice like a moth to a flame and embraced my dead fiancé.
“What in the world?!” Sam asked legitimately surprised. Hugging him, I could read Sam’s thoughts clearly. He was wondering why I’d be hugging him like this, but he enjoyed the feeling of my hug nonetheless. “Maybe I should ask her out—after all,” he thought. “You okay, cher?” he asked aloud.
I just buried my face into his shirt. Was heaven really Merlotte’s? And—if so—why didn’t Sam know we’d been engaged when he died?
“Sook, I really am needin’ to get out of here. You ready for me to hand over my tables to you?” Dawn’s voice asked impatiently.
I turned toward her.
“Hey Dawn, you got plans for the night?” My brother’s voice ripped me from Sam. I practically ran towards him, my tears flowing. Jason was in Merlotte’s Heaven too!
“What’s all this?” my brother asked with uncustomary concern as he petted my hair.
Clearly, I was dead.
Again, I wondered at the fact that heaven was—Merlotte’s!
“Jason?” I asked, looking up at him.
“Hey—did someone think somethin’ bad at ya?” he asked in a whisper, looking around the restaurant like he was ready to kill whoever had done it. I looked too and noticed that everyone was gawking at the spectacle I was making of myself. “Was it that Maxine Fortenberry?” Jason asked, glaring at her. “I don’t know why Gran stays her friend.”
“She has the best gossip,” I said automatically. It was an old joke between Jason and me.
My brother smiled and thumbed my tears away.
After noticing Maxine, I looked around some more and saw several other people who were supposed to be alive: Andy, Bud, Halleigh, and Tara among them. I frowned. What were they doing in Merlotte’s Heaven?
“You okay, Sook?” Arlene asked with sincere concern as Dawn tapped her foot on the floor.
“Come on, Sook,” Dawn frowned. “I got somewhere I wanna be!”
“Give her a sec!” Arlene scolded. “It’s clear that her brain’s actin’ up,” she added in a hissed whisper.
And just like that, it did “act up,” and I was suddenly bombarded by everyone’s thoughts.
There goes “Crazy Sookie” again!
Too bad that girl’s batty. She’s gotta nice rack!
I bet she’s got more fat on her thighs and ass than I do.
I wonder if she’d let me butt-fuck her. I’d hate to risk having a kid with someone that crazy!
Why can’t those waitresses get a move on? I need another sweet tea!
I hope Sookie’s okay. She looks pale.
The last thought had come from Hoyt Fortenberry, and for some reason his thoughts focused my attention.
Hoyt wasn’t dead too—was he?
Had a nuclear bomb hit Bon Temps?
“You gonna be okay for your shift?” Sam asked me quietly.
For the first time, I looked down. I was in an “old” Merlotte’s uniform. I’d convinced Sam to go with a different design the year before—still sexy enough, but a little more modest because the thin white shirts had been replaced by thicker green cotton. Plus, I didn’t generally wear a waitressing uniform anymore. As co-owner, I decided that a polo shirt would help to distinguish me as a manager. I frowned at my short black shorts. I hadn’t worn them since I’d gotten my scars thanks to Things 1 & 2.
But—then again—I didn’t see any scars.
“Of course she’s up for work!” Dawn said. In the next moment, the brunette had taken my hand and was all but dragging me toward the waitresses’ work station, telling me about her tables, which were now my tables.
Automatically, I attempted to put up my shields, even as Dawn thought about how she was going to go—finally—to Fangtasia for the first time that night. She wanted to fuck that tall, blond vampire she’d heard so much about. And she wasn’t about to let me fuck up things for her with my “crazy ways.”
I listened as Dawn told me about the active tables and thrust several tickets in my direction. And then she hurried away.
I found myself walking mechanically to the table where the Rattrays had just sat down. If I had the energy, I would have laughed hysterically. How had they—of all people—made it to Merlotte’s Heaven?
Heaven? Hell? Bon Temps? Were they all synonyms at this point?
As rude as ever—before they were killed, at least—the redneck couple ordered a pitcher of cheap beer. And—after that—I was content to perform my old job, happy to get into the rhythms of waitressing. Honestly, I enjoyed the feeling I was experiencing from being in a moment where the world seemed normal.
Maybe that’s what Heaven really did.
Maybe Heaven took people to a time when they were happy and kept them there.
As I delivered a pitcher to Jason and Hoyt, I decided to embrace whatever was going on—even if it was a poison-induced dream.
The only complaint I had was that my telepathy was still in place; I really wished that it wouldn’t have followed me to the afterlife. But, after a while, I was managing my shields pretty well. And I wasn’t about to complain too much—not when I was getting to interact with Sam and Jason. And even Arlene was acting as she had when we were still friends!
Plus, as a bonus, I actually made decent tips—despite the fact that I was moving rather automatically.
Maybe I was in shock?
Everything felt so “surreal”—for lack of a better word. And, of course, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But it didn’t. So I just kept working.
After Sam realized that I wasn’t going to desperately hug him again, he spoke to and joked around with me. I quickly realized that I preferred this brand of casual friendship to the romantic relationship we’d eventually developed. It felt so much easier, and some of the guilt I’d experienced due to the inequality of our feelings melted away.
I found myself relieved that Sam and I weren’t “together” in Merlotte’s Heaven.
It was nice to be on equal footing with my friend again. Really nice.
I exhaled deeply, trying to relax—trying to “feel” what was going on around me, instead of just move through it.
But I still felt numb—almost as if I were watching myself from above, going through all the “right” motions, but not really experiencing any of them.
Maybe that’s what Heaven—or, at least, Merlotte’s Heaven—felt like?
Maybe the “disconnect” was needed in order to ensure that no one felt pain?
I would have likely gotten lost in my existential musings—if I hadn’t noticed the calendar behind the bar. Sam crossed off the days, so it was easy to tell the date: June 12, 2004.
I frowned. I knew that date well! Too well! It was the day I’d met Bill Compton.
I stared at the calendar. “In two and a half years, I’m going to kill myself,” I thought.
Mr. Cataliades’s words came back to me in a rush.
“I will be instructing Mr. Northman to make a very precise wish regarding your safety and well-being. What the wish will do for you exactly—I can only hope. However, I am confident enough in the vampire’s love to set you free.”
“But I cannot travel back in time,” he’d also said.
“Back in time,” I muttered, feeling a little faint.
“Sookie?” Sam asked, seeing me teetering on suddenly unstable legs.
Sam gripped my arms firmly and stabilized me—just as I heard the bell above the door signaling a new customer. I used my telepathy to probe the newcomer: a void.
“Shit,” I muttered.
“Cher?” Sam said, his voice laced with concern.
“Um—Sam—I’m sorry, but I’m a little dizzy. I was so busy today I forgot to eat,” I told my boss, making sure I kept my back to the door. “Do you mind if I take my break now and—um—eat and rest in your office. I promise I’ll be okay once I’ve had a bite.”
Sam’s face softened even as his nose seemed to activate. He glanced toward the door and looked momentarily worried as he registered that Merlotte’s had just gotten its first vampire customer.
Then he looked back at me. “Sure, cher. I’ll have Terry bring you back some food. A burger Lafayette?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah. Thanks. That’d be perfect.”
I didn’t need to look back toward the entrance to know that Bill Compton was looking at me.
The question was—what was I going to do about it?
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this time leap. I decided to bring Sookie back to the beginning. She kept her memories. But did Eric? And what do you think she’ll do about Bill? And what do you think of her reaction to “Merlotte’s Heaven?” I thought a lot about how Sookie would react. She had been numb—hopeless to the point where she drank that poison. I think that she didn’t wonder that she might have time traveled until she saw the calendar. Given this idea, I decided to portray her as having a pretty “numb,” spectator-like reaction to what was happening. I hope that it came out surreal in a way. Let me know what you think if you have time.
Until the next,
As always, thanks to Kleannhouse and Seph!!!