SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2005
APPROXIMATELY NINE MONTHS LATER
I woke up with a jolt, sitting straight up. I saw the gray and beige bedroom I’d tried to die in. Felipe’s pool house!
I blinked. And I blinked again. Only when I calmed myself from whatever nightmare I’d been having did I recognize that I was in my yellow room—that I was home.
I took several more steadying breaths until I “found” Gran’s mind. She was trying to decide between a baked chicken and a roast beef for Sunday supper. I sighed, letting myself think her thoughts with her for a while—until I was sure that she wasn’t dead.
I gripped the cool metal in my hand and then opened my fist to see the question mark pendant in it. I inhaled and exhaled in relief. I was in Life 2.
The same thing happened every morning.
Every time I woke up, I found myside inside of Life 1 for a moment—even though I’d been living in Life 2 for more than a year. I always had to center myself—to focus on Gran’s mind, which was invariably busy by the time I woke up. And then I had to look at the pendant that Life 2 Eric had given to me.
Ironically—surprisingly—I was grateful for the daily memories of my life that had been. Those memories kept me grounded—and grateful.
However, all things considered, Life 2 was very different from Life 1.
For example, I’d just completed my first semester of online classes.
Beginning Accounting: A+
Algebra 101: B
Beginning English Composition: A-
Gran had put my report card up on the refrigerator, as if I were a grade-schooler. But I couldn’t help but to be proud too. After all, those were my best grades ever. In public school, I’d gotten more “pity” C’s than real ones. But in my online classes and with my “virtual classmates,” I was a “valuable contributor”—at least that’s what one of my professors had told me.
I smiled as I slipped out of bed. I’d already started my summer courses. I was taking three—anxious to finish my degree. I’d easily gotten through my four during the spring semester because—let’s face it—I didn’t have much of a life. I’d kept my fulltime hours at Merlotte’s, but I had very little “social life”—unless my chats with Gran counted.
Indeed, I was viewing my life as if I had two full-time jobs. Merlotte’s and school. And—given those commitments, I didn’t have much time to think about Eric at all. In fact, I’d already registered for six classes in the fall, which was the maximum I could take.
Just so that I would continue to not think about him—just as much as I could.
I was determined to graduate as soon as I could—even if my degree didn’t lead to a “real” job. My earnings from my betting were enough to pay for my education—though I was currently taking loans and saving my money. And—for now, at least—I was having fun learning things I’d never been able to learn before.
I had to say that—for a telepath—online classes were amazing!
Every night—I wanted to call Eric. To tell him, “Thank you.” It had been he who had first encouraged me to look into getting an online education. Actually, it hadn’t been Life 2 Eric. It had been Life 1 Eric.
Life 1 Eric was gone.
In coming back, I’d killed him.
Gran still talked to me about Life 2 Eric every once in a while, despite the fact that I’d told her that I was the culprit behind out “breakup.” Looking back, I should have come up with a different reason for going to New Orleans other than working for Eric. That trip had just extended Gran’s hope that Eric and I were having a “secret” fairy tale romance.
To keep Gran from hoping even longer, I’d had to stop wearing the question mark pendant Eric had given to me, though I kept it under my pillow and held it grasped in my palm each night.
I couldn’t help but to wonder if Eric could still feel me from our one blood exchange. It had been more than a year since we’d shared our blood, so I doubted he could feel me.
I, of course, had never felt him—not in Life 2.
The funny thing was that Gran had become pen pals of sorts with Eric. He wrote to her like clockwork—once a week. And his letters always requested that she write back to him. And those letters were always accompanied by pink lilies.
Yes. Eric and Gran had become true friends through the words they’d written to one another, but I could only imagine what they spoke about since I denied myself the comfort of delving into Gran’s mind when it came to them.
I made sure that Gran knew that I didn’t begrudge her the contact she enjoyed with the Viking.
In fact, a part of me was grateful that Eric’s life was still touching mine—even if it was only indirectly.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 2005
I’d just suffered through a double shift—thanks to Arlene’s most recent “boyfriend crisis”—and had come home to hear Gran thinking about Eric’s latest letter.
After a quick shower, I told Gran that I was gonna take some flowers to Daddy and Momma.
Accepting the fact that she and Eric were writing to one another was one thing. Having to hear about it when my shields were shot to hell was another.
I’d “heard” that he’d told her about an interesting encounter he’d had with Martin Luther in his weekly letter. It was exactly the kind of thing I’d always wished that he’d have told me about. But—then again—when would he have felt “free” enough with me to share himself?
I hurried out of the house and cut some roses before heading toward the cemetery. As always, I kept a tight reign over my distress—a tight reign over all of my feelings. I didn’t want to risk Claudine visiting, after all.
So far, I’d avoided any contact with her, which meant that her life expectancy had increased by a lot.
I sat next to Daddy’s grave and meditated, quickly feeling myself become numb, which was something I’d perfected during my time in Life 2.
All vampire blood seemed to be out of me now; thus, maintaining my shields was up to me and me only. And I’d been much more conscientious about trying to make others forget that I was “different.” I wanted everyone to think of me as “ordinary.”
Because of this, I’d been keeping all of my feelings close to the vest.
Even when it hurt like hell.
Joy was okay to feel—but I allowed the emotion only when I saw or interacted with anyone who was “supposed” to be dead.
Thus, I stayed somewhat disconnected from it—clinical.
Love was okay to feel—but only when I interacted with my family.
Loneliness was okay to feel—but only when I was in my bed at night waiting for sleep to come.
I cannot say how many times I woke up, my fingers searching for Eric—who was always just out of reach.
But I culled my loneliness. Long ago, I’d determined that it would be selfish on my part to ask for personal happiness in my “new” world. Others’ lives versus my own happiness? That equation didn’t need a mathematician to solve.
The answer was as clear as a bell.
I laid two roses on my daddy’s grave. And then two on my mother’s grave. The former was based on affection—the latter on obligation.
My duty to them done, I lay down between their graves, thankful for the silence the cemetery offered.
Aching to touch something alive, I allowed my fingers to delve into the earth—to link with the grass. And then I allowed myself to focus on my victories over the last year.
People I’d helped to keep alive: Maudette, Dawn, Gran, Tina (though she wasn’t a person), Hadley, Lafayette.
And more too!
Just the week before, I’d thwarted Sweetie Des Arts from ever getting started with her spree of hurting the two-natured.
I felt good about myself.
But my loneliness cut me. Perhaps that loneliness was my true Hell—my true penance. Nowadays, I always found myself struggling between selfishness and selflessness. I wanted to contact Eric, but I worried about the consequences—for him, for Gran, for Hunter, for Jason, for Sam.
Thus, most of the time, I just tried not to have a “self” anymore.
Work, spending time with loved ones, trying to protect said loved ones, studying, sleeping.
Those were the activities of my days.
Setting up an account to provide Jason and Gran with money in the event of my death—thanks to the bets I’d made on various sporting events.
Hustling at work so that I could earn as many tips as possible so that I’d have more for future bets.
Studying as hard as I was capable.
Being the best granddaughter I could be.
Being the best sister.
The best friend.
Pretending that I didn’t have a huge hole in my heart named Eric Northman.
Eric—I tried not to think of him that much. But it was difficult.
And—I knew that Eric was fine, of course.
My major source of information about Eric—a source I wish I didn’t have—was Dawn. She would go to Fangtasia at least once a week.
After the first two visits, her memories of Eric had involved him sitting on his throne. But after that, her memories had become harder for me to bear. I will admit that I was heartbroken when I unwittingly—unwillingly—”heard” Dawn thinking about being with Eric: recalling what it had felt like when he bit her, remembering the look in his eyes as she’d given him a blowjob, thinking about what his dick felt like when he was having sex with her from behind. No glamour had been involved in their encounter, so Dawn’s memories had been crisp and clear.
I’d had to escape to the walk-in for a while after hearing them.
But it was worse when—two weeks later—Dawn thought loudly about a repeat performance. More sex. More biting. Eric telling her that her blood was better than most.
Then two weeks later, Dawn had new memories.
Internally, Dawn celebrated that Eric had made her a standing “date” as she told Sam that she’d need Monday nights off from then on.
Mondays—Fangtasia was closed on Mondays. I tried not to analyze what that meant too much.
I tried not to think about how Dawn was reading up on how to make her diet more “vampire friendly.” Apparently, there were things that could be eaten or avoided in order to improve the taste of one’s blood.
I tried not to cry every time Dawn thought about how happy she was to be “seeing” someone who made her feel like a queen.
In short, I tried not to be jealous of Dawn because of her Monday night dates.
After all, it’s not as if I had any claim to Eric in Life 2. And it’s not as if I could compete with someone like Dawn—if that’s what Life 2’s Eric wanted.
Indeed, Dawn and I were polar opposites.
She was tall; I was short.
She was a brunette; I was a blonde.
And then there were the more significant points of difference between Dawn and me.
She wasn’t a time traveler; I was.
She expected no commitment or feelings on Eric’s part; I would.
Oh—and she hadn’t caused a heaping load of trouble in his life either! Of course Life 2’s Eric hadn’t experienced that trouble first hand, but he’d heard all about Life 1 Eric’s troubles—many of them occurring because of me.
Plus—and this was the part it was hard not to be jealous of—Dawn was beautiful in every thought I heard about her, and it was her smile that most stood out in people’s minds; on the contrary, people’s minds still judged me as “odd,” and my boobs seemed to be my most memorable “quality.” Whenever we worked together, Dawn would get better tips—despite the fact that I had my telepathy to help me anticipate customers’ needs.
She was just more likeable.
Hell! Even Gran thought about Dawn’s beautiful smile and friendly personality when Jason casually mentioned that she was “seeing” Eric Northman, the owner of Fangtasia, during Sunday supper a few months before. Gran was still sad that things didn’t work out between Eric and me. But she couldn’t help but to feel happy for Dawn.
She imagined them together. In her mind, they were a “striking couple.”
And they were.
I was happy for them too—at least, I was when I wasn’t focusing on my losses. The unselfish part of me even recognized that someone like Dawn was good for Eric. She was fun, and drama wouldn’t follow her around like an albatross.
Still—it had become very difficult for me to work with Dawn because her thoughts often drifted to Eric nowadays.
A restaurant he took her to.
A dress he bought her.
A diamond bracelet.
The feelings she was developing for him.
She’d been my work partner for the second half of my double shift, which I’d taken so that Holly could go to a PTA meeting.
I was startled as someone knocked on my car window: Gran.
It was then that I realized I must have been sitting in my car for about twenty minutes—and probably worrying Gran the whole time!
Quickly, I opened the door to get out.
“You okay, honey?” Gran asked.
I took her hand. Yep. She’d been worrying about me.
“Something happen at work?” she asked.
“No. I’m so sorry to worry you, Gran,” I said as I held onto her hand while we walked up the porch steps together. “You know how double shifts give me headaches though.”
She sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t work those. I’m gonna call that boss of yours and give him a talkin’ to,” she threatened.
I chuckled. “Don’t do that, Gran. You know Sam tries. And—remember—Holly had the PTA meeting tonight, and Danielle is still down with that summer cold that’s been goin’ around.”
“Sam needs to replace Arlene,” Gran said as she took her favorite seat. I finally let go of her as she did. Gran figured that I had started holding onto her so much because I was worried about her getting old. And I was. But the truth was that I held her hand or hugged her whenever I could because I remembered what my world had been like without her in it.
I frowned. Arlene had been working fewer and fewer days. Her most recent man had moved in and was paying some of her bills for her. The problem was that that man was Whit Spradlin. In Life 1, Whit had turned Arlene into a militant Fellowship of the Sun member, and I could tell that a similar thing was happening in Life 2, too. The main difference was that there wasn’t a vampire living in town to galvanize the vampire haters.
“If Whit asks her to marry him, Arlene’s gonna quit,” I said. “Sam’s already mad at her for refusing to work shifts with Dawn,” I added. Internally, I thought about how odd it was that Arlene had remained my friend in Life 2, only because vampires weren’t in my life. But I worried that she might transfer her violent tendencies in Dawn’s direction.
Thus—truth be told—I hoped that Whit did marry her so that she wouldn’t be working at Merlotte’s when the shifters and Weres “came out,” which I figured would still take place the next January.
“What about Maudette?” Gran asked. “When will she be back?”
I smiled. Maudette had been an interesting difference in Life 2. Sam had hired her on at Merlotte’s—part time at first so that she could still work day shifts at the Grabbit Kwik. The interesting thing was that Sam and Maudette had started dating almost immediately after that.
No longer pining for me, thanks to the fact that I told Sam that “we” weren’t ever going to happen, Sam had shifted his attentions elsewhere.
Within a few months, Sam had told Maudette his secret, and she took the news really well. She’d even watched him shift a few times, according to Sam. Not long after that, Sam asked her to marry him, and they were expecting their first child.
“She can’t come back till about a month after the baby’s born,” I told Gran.
Gran frowned. “How is that baby of hers doin’?” she asked with concern.
“Okay. I visited Maudette during my break, though, and she’s about ready to go nuts!”
“Poor thing,” Gran sighed. “I couldn’t imagine havin’ to be on bed rest for so long.”
I nodded in agreement. Maudette’s blood pressure had been elevated since she’d reached her sixth month of pregnancy, and she’d stopped working a few weeks after that.
“Do you think she’d enjoy leaning to knit?” Gran asked offhandedly, even as her own surprisingly nimble fingers picked up her knitting needles and continued her currently project, which was a little baby cap for Sam and Maudette’s little one.
“I’ll ask her,” I smiled, bending down to give Gran a hug and thinking about what a kind human being she was.
But Gran wasn’t thinking about Maudette.
She was thinking about how she’d given up on me having kids. Or finding love for that matter. Eric’s face flew into her mind and landed there as she wished that I’d been able to keep hold of him.
She wondered what I’d done to drive him away.
If she only knew.
Keeping my own sorrows from my face, I pulled back from the hug. “I’m gonna shower and hit the sack,” I said lightly. “Don’t stay up too late,” I added.
Gran hummed out a noncommittal response about not needing as much sleep as a “young person” as I hurried from the room and away from her worries about me.
Her concerns for me had only grown during the previous months—no matter how happy I’d tried to seem.
My shower helped me relax a little, but it was many hours—long after Gran was dreaming—before my own thoughts allowed me to sleep.
MONDAY, JULY 3, 2005
Dawn Green was pleasant company. She had what Pam called a “bubbly personality.”
And she was an excellent source of blood on the nights that Fangtasia wasn’t open.
I’d taken her out to a few vampire-friendly restaurants in our time together. To please her, I’d also given her a few small gifts—clothing and small pieces of jewelry. Impersonal items that Pam had gotten for me.
I’d considered moving her into one of my more “public” homes and making her a “pet” officially, and I knew that Dawn would go for that. It was clear that she’d be open to someone taking care of her needs.
But—truth be told—I had been growing bored with Dawn, despite the fact that her blood was better than average. The sex was also better than average.
And that’s why I’d kept her around for so long as I had.
But the conversation? Not good.
She’d never made me laugh.
Or feel anything—for that matter.
In the past, I’d hire dancers at Fangtasia who would be my “go-to” feeds and fucks when none of the fangbangers appealed to me. Once I tired of them, I’d glamour them to start looking for other work. If they became clingy—as a few did—I would glamour them to quit immediately and to forget all about me.
Dawn was unique in that she was ready, willing, and able to come to me on the nights Fangtasia was closed. If I took her out, the conversation was light. If I didn’t have time for a longer encounter, she seemed fine with a quick fuck and feed before going on her way.
She didn’t expect me to be involved in the other six nights of her life, though she seemed quite proud that I’d made an arrangement with her. Any small talk we had was about pop culture: songs and movies. If she spoke of her work, it was in generalities. I knew that she was a waitress, but didn’t want to be one for the rest of her life. I knew that she had a coworker getting an online degree and was wondering if she could do the same. I knew that her boss’s wife was pregnant.
It occurred to me—as soon as Dawn said the name “Sookie” for the first time—that my weekly meal wasn’t one to mention “proper” names at all. In fact, during the many months we’d spent time together, Sookie’s was the first name she’d spoken.
Sam Merlotte had been termed “my boss.”
Sookie had been identified as “another waitress.”
Arlene Fowler was “that bitch at work.”
Bon Temps was “Bumfuck” in Dawn’s vocabulary, so I hadn’t even known the name of her hometown. If I had, I would have never made my arrangement with her.
As it was, Dawn was in the thrall of my glamour for the first time as I questioned her about whether she ever talked about me with Sookie.
She didn’t. Apparently, Dawn felt sorry for Sookie because she’d never had a boyfriend. So Dawn didn’t bring up the subject of guys around Sookie because she didn’t want her to feel bad.
I was pleased by that answer.
Then I asked if Dawn ever “thought” about me at work.
I was not pleased by her response to that question.
Dawn conveyed that—since her job was monotonous—she did spend quite a bit of time daydreaming, and apparently, I was a common source of her day dreams.
I asked how often she worked with Sookie.
At least three times a week.
Regret filled me. Unwittingly, I’d been subjecting the one woman I truly wanted to spend my time with to the thoughts of a woman I’d made an arrangement with only for the sake of my convenience.
It was my own fucking fault too! As soon as I had decided to make Dawn a “regular,” I’d told Pam to investigate her—as I did with all my “regulars.” When Pam had offered me her report, I’d waved her off and just ordered her to summarize.
Her summary had been succinct.
“Redneck waitress from Bumfuck. No Fellowship affiliation. Parents dead. No siblings. Not quite dirt poor, but close. Mud poor. Rents an apartment. No credit cards. Great ass, great tits. Smells decent. Better than your normal regulars.” Pam had even joked that she would have asked me to share Dawn if she wasn’t going through a blond phase.
I closed my eyes and pressed my fingers against my brows, frustrated by the fact that Bon Temps was apparently called “Bumfuck” by every fucking person in the state!
Except for me.
I regretted that I’d not read Pam’s report and vowed to never accept a summarized version again. And then I finished Dawn’s glamouring.
We would not be meeting anymore.
She could tell her friends that we broke up if she wanted.
She would sell the jewelry I bought her.
And, finally, she would not think about me anymore. In fact, she would remember no details about me—not even what I looked like.
Dawn left immediately after she had dressed, and I flew to one of my actual safe houses—the one that I knew Sookie was aware of.
I stared at the painting Sookie had known about for hours—the one I’d painted based on my memories of being at sea as a human.
Generally, I tried not to think about Sookie Stackhouse and the two encounters I’d had with her. Of course, that was difficult since I was often contending with information she’d told me about. I’d made headway with eliminating some of the threats, but not nearly enough to risk Sookie by doing what I wanted to do.
By going to her.
As I stared at the rough waters I’d once painted under the direction of Vincent Van Gogh himself, I allowed myself to feel my longing for a woman that I barely knew in this life, but had been pledged and bonded to in another.
I allowed myself to feel regret that she’d had to endure Dawn’s thoughts. Even if Sookie didn’t want me in her current life, that didn’t mean that she would enjoy seeing the face and body of “her Eric” in the daydreams of a coworker!
“Fuck!” I yelled aloud.
I didn’t like having feelings!
A/N: I know that a lot of you didn’t want me to do the Dawn thing, but it was needed in some ways for the story to advance and for Eric to understand just how much he cared about Sookie’s feelings, despite their brief interactions (from his perspective).
I hope you aren’t too mad at me.
Until the next,