MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2011
APPROXIMATELY THREE MONTHS LATER
New lilies and daisies were always left on Gran’s grave on Sunday nights.
Pink lilies—Gran’s favorites.
White daisies—my favorites.
I sometimes wondered how Eric knew they were my favorites. Maybe Gran had mentioned it in one of her letters.
Regardless of how he knew, I would always find them next to Gran’s lilies on Monday mornings when I went to visit Gran’s grave.
I’d come to count on those flowers; they were the only connection I still had to Eric. More importantly, they were the only way I knew for sure that he was safe!
Thus, when I saw only last week’s wilted lilies on Gran’s grave, I worried.
Was Eric okay? Had he been silvered or staked?
I took several deep breaths to calm myself.
It was more likely that Eric was just out of town. Or maybe he’d had a meeting or something and couldn’t make his usual delivery.
Or—maybe Eric didn’t bring the flowers at all. I could imagine Bobby being tasked with the job. Maybe it was Bobby who’d forgotten. Of course, I liked to imagine Eric bringing the flowers himself—laying them on Gran’s grave and sparing her a thought.
Sparing me a thought, too.
Suddenly, I regretted the fact that I didn’t camp out on Gran’s grave on Sunday nights—that I didn’t even allow myself to drop my shields to listen for a vampire (or an unpleasant human delivery boy) on those nights.
I hadn’t wanted to risk Eric not coming because I was there—because I was interfering with his private moments with Gran.
Eric had made clear over the years that contact with Gran was okay, but contact with me was not. And I’d respected his choice—no matter what his reasoning was. But—now—I was just worried. Now, I just prayed that he was safe.
FLASHBACK, JUNE 21, 2004
APPROXIMATELY A WEEK AFTER SOOKIE’S “REBIRTH” IN THE MERLOTTE’S WALK-IN
“What did you do?” Gran asked me almost accusingly, as soon as I’d walked in the door following my afternoon shift at Merlotte’s.
“Do?” I asked, worried that I’d forgotten something—that someone had already died because of me.
“To Eric,” she frowned.
It had been a week since Eric had spent the night speaking with me—listening to everything I had to say about Life 1. He’d left with a list of things based on what I could remember. I will admit that I’d hoped that he would return the next night—to see me.
To ask questions.
But he hadn’t.
The next night, I’d hoped for the same.
But he didn’t come then either.
All the nights since then, I’d spent half-awake and wishing for him. But he still didn’t come.
I’d begun to realize that he wasn’t going to come. But—somehow—I’d kept myself from falling apart.
After all, things could be worse. So much worse.
“I—uh—I don’t know what I did to Eric,” I lied.
Even though I knew very well what I’d done—and not done—to him during Life 1.
“Why is he tellin’ me that you and he just aren’t compatible?” she asked. “I saw you together. He liked you! You liked him! And your chemistry was undeniable!”
“He said we aren’t compatible?” I asked in a whisper. A whimper.
“Right here!” she said, holding up a letter. I could recognize the handwriting from across the room.
I tried to hide the fact that my heart was breaking.
“Now—he didn’t say anything bad about you,” Gran assured. “In fact, he said that he liked you—a lot—but that his life was too dangerous and you were too innocent.” Her eyebrows furrowed. “I’m confused, Sookie. I really thought you were finally . . . .”
Her voice trailed off, but the disappointment in her thoughts didn’t.
For a moment, I contemplated telling Gran that I was a lesbian. Or that wanted to become a nun. But—in the end—I opted to tell her a truth from Life 1.
“I didn’t appreciate him enough,” I whispered. “I didn’t understand him.”
She shook her head and clucked. “You two hardly know each other. I’m sure any misunderstandings aren’t anything you can’t fix together,” she smiled gently. “After all, he sent a letter to your Gran, basically offerin’ to be my pen pal. So how bad could it all be?” she smiled. “Just call him and talk to him. I’m sure you two will work things out quick enough. My eyes might be old, but even they couldn’t miss that there’s something really special between you and that vampire.”
“Oh, Gran,” I started, “I just don’t know.”
“Just try,” she practically begged. “I want more than anything for you to be happy, honey. And I have such a good feeling about Eric and you. Just try.”
I promised Gran that I would call Eric that very night after she went to bed. But I didn’t. Eric had clearly made the decision to not be around me.
And I was determined to respect that choice.
As I looked at the wilted lilies on Gran’s grave, I wondered what would have happened if I’d followed Gran’s advice all those years ago and called Eric.
But what could I have said?
I’d already told him everything he needed to know about Life 1, even making sure that he knew I was willing to use Life 2’s cluviel dor for him if he ever needed it.
And I couldn’t just beg him to come back to me. Plus, there was no “back” as far as he was concerned! He’d hardly known me!
Yes—I’d shared my past experiences and my blood with him. And we’d had one amazing kiss, but Life 2’s Eric wasn’t mine.
So, in the end, I’d decided to follow Eric’s lead. I didn’t contact him.
Bending down to touch the old lilies, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the current day marked the seventh anniversary of my last face-to-face encounter with any Eric—or any other vampire for that matter.
Perhaps, seven was enough for Eric. Maybe it was his lucky number? Maybe there were no more flowers because Eric was finally moving on from the odd ripple I must have caused in his life.
“Seven,” I whispered. “Lucky seven.”
Or maybe Eric have decided to stop leaving Gran flowers because of my thievery? Maybe the daisies had never been meant for me.
As soon as I had that thought, Sam called with a “financial emergency,” and—as his accountant—I couldn’t ignore him. I spared a last glance toward the wilted flowers and made the decision to call Fangtasia that night—just to make sure that Eric was okay. Once I knew that he was, I’d try to figure out if my actions had inadvertently caused him to not visit Gran’s grave.
If so, I would find a way to make amends.
In the meantime, I prayed that he was angry at me. That—I could take, just as long as he was safe.
Sam’s big emergency? He’d misfiled an invoice in the “paid” file when he hadn’t actually paid it yet. And that had caused a delay in a liquor shipment. I am proud to say that I had the problem figured out and fixed within an hour. But then I had to rush to my office to begin my appointments for the day.
I tried to keep my thoughts about Eric from thrashing my mind to shreds, but the missing flowers continued to rattle me.
During my lunch hour, I penned a letter to him.
I want to apologize for taking some of the flowers you have offered in Gran’s memory since she died. They helped me to remember her—and you. However, I will no longer be taking them. I hope that you will accept this apology and my vow to leave you in peace if you continue to honor Gran with your remembrances and visits.
Without overthinking things, I placed the letter in the mail when the postman came at 1:00 P.M.
Since I had already committed to watching little Stephanie that night, I left the office a bit early to pick her up. Unfortunately, Sid-Matt wasn’t doing well these days, and Dawn wanted to spend some time alone with him. He’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two months before, so he was tired from his chemotherapy treatments. Sid-Matt was fighting, but there was only so much fight an old body could give—even one who had a lot to live for.
Sid-Matt had lived alone during Life 1. So I could only imagine how difficult fighting cancer would have been for him in that version. Thankfully, he’d never found out. In Life 2—at least—he had a vibrant, loving wife and an amazing little girl. I hoped that he’d beat the odds and stave off the disease—at least for a while. Though in his eighties, he still seemed full of life—just as Gran had in the end.
I put Stephanie into a bath and called Fangtasia the minute it opened.
“Fangtasia—the bar with bite,” Pam intoned, sounding as bored as ever. I couldn’t help but to smile. Whether in Life 1 or Life 2, Pam stayed the same. Plus, I knew that she wouldn’t sound so bored if anything bad had happened to Eric. Hell—she wouldn’t have answered the phone at all if he was unwell!
I sighed with relief.
“Um—will the big, blond vampire be there tonight?” I asked, trying to sound like a fangirl.
Pam scoffed. “No.”
“What?” I asked, suddenly worried again. “Where is he?”
I could almost hear her eyes rolling. “It’s nobody’s damned business what the master does with his fucking time!” she said harshly before hanging up—loudly.
I pulled my phone away from my ear quickly in reaction to the slamming. Nope—Pam didn’t change, but I felt better nonetheless. Eric must have been away on business; that had to be why he hadn’t visited Gran the night before.
Or he was angry at my intrusion.
Either way, my letter would inform him that his gifts to Gran would no longer be bothered.
Feeling better, I went to check on a splashing Stephanie.
TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2:03 A.M.
Dawn came to pick up Stephanie at about 2:00 a.m., but before she collected her slumbering daughter, she spent about an hour crying on my shoulder.
Dawn’s very immediate sorrow reminded me that I had no right to be feeling sorry for myself.
Apparently, Sid-Matt was having a difficult time keeping down food because of his chemotherapy. Still, the couple had celebrated earlier that night when Dawn told Sid-Matt that she was pregnant with their second child. The baby hadn’t been planned and had likely been conceived about two months before Sid-Matt’s diagnosis.
Dawn hadn’t even suspected that she was pregnant—let alone four months pregnant!—until the morning before when she’d noticed that her breasts were sensitive. Given the stress of the previous months, she’d not questioned why her already irregular period hadn’t come in a while.
She’d hidden her concerns from her husband as she’d told him about their unexpected gift from God, but—in the privacy of my living room—she let herself voice her worst fear: that Sid-Matt wouldn’t live long enough to see their second child be born.
I held her close and promised to be there for her and for her children—no matter what happened with Sid-Matt. It was all I could do.
Once Dawn and Steph had left, I straightened up my old room, which I now used for the kids who stayed over at my home. There was a large crib in there (since I had to accommodate my fair share of twins) in addition to my old bed. There was also a huge toy box.
I’d made Jason’s old room into my home office. And Gran’s room was mine now.
At least technically.
In actuality, I didn’t sleep in the room, choosing to sleep on the living room couch instead. The sound of the television soothed me and kept me distracted.
Just like the “first” time Gran had died, I’d felt “obligated” to move into her room—the master bedroom. It’s what had been expected by others, so I had done it.
Just like before, I packed and donated most of Gran’s things a few months after she died. I went through her jewelry for a second time, though—this time—there were various people whom I gave pieces to: Michele; Isabella, Jason and Michele’s only daughter (so far); Stephanie; and Sam and Maudette’s daughter, who’d been named for Gran.
I was glad that Gran’s special things had gone to a lot of special people this time around. I kept only her jewelry box for myself, though my question mark pendant from Eric never saw the inside of it. With Gran gone, there was no longer a need not to wear the necklace. However, I did wear the item under my clothes so that I could—ironically enough—avoid questions.
Indeed, there really had been no true reason to move rooms. Even before I had, I was already sleeping on the couch, so—really—I’d just changed closets and bathrooms.
The bigger bed in Gran’s room had never been used by me.
Life 2 me had never had a roommate. Or a boyfriend. Or a lover.
Even though I’d had them all. And I missed them all.
Part of me was tempted to call Amelia. Or even Octavia. But they didn’t know me in Life 2.
A small part of me even missed Bill—though I now recognized that the Bill I knew wasn’t authentic in any way that mattered.
And, of course, all of me longed for Eric.
I sat down heavily onto the couch and scrolled through my TiVo choices. I smiled at the Lifetime movies still in the queue. They’d been selected by Gran before her death. She was a sucker for them, and—as soon as I had money—I’d made sure that she had that “nifty TiVo contraption she’d seen Oprah giving away on her show.”
I only wished that I could have given more to her for longer.
I didn’t really like the Lifetime movies; they were too sentimental for my tastes. But I couldn’t make myself erase them either.
Pushing that thought to the side, I selected an old movie—The Philadelphia Story. I’d seen it before and had enjoyed how Gran had cackled throughout the movie when I’d watched it with her. She’d had a crush on Cary Grant, which had remained undiminished when rumors emerged that he was gay. Her proclamation had been: “Well—why not? I prefer men too, and Cary had impeccable taste! That’s clear enough!”
I chuckled to myself and sighed at the sight of Jimmy Stewart. He’d always been my preference—at least physically. Still—I couldn’t blame Katherine Hepburn for picking Cary Grant in the end. And I certainly couldn’t blame her for being confused throughout the movie. There had been a time when several men vied for my attentions at the same time, too—after all.
And I’d been as confused as hell!
Though I laughed along at the funnier moments, I let the movie lull me. And after it was done, I turned to ESPN, one of the few channels that I knew wouldn’t show infomercials during the night. For some reason, those things were like “anti-sleeping pills” to me.
Though I always kept track of the big sporting events, I wasn’t a sports fanatic by any means, but that was sort of the point. At night, the same Sports Center would air again and again once it was late enough, so I could become accustomed to the stories—which consisted of mostly scores and highlights from games. By the second or third showing, the show was enough to keep me from slipping into my own thoughts but not enough distraction to keep me from sleeping.
Plus, I had a special place in my heart for sports. They’d certainly won me a lot of money.
But my reasons for watching Sports Center were mostly practical.
After Gran died, I’d had a hard time sleeping.
In fact, attempting to sleep in a “quiet” room simply wasn’t possible unless I was literally exhausted. Otherwise, my mind would turn on memories—memories of both Life 1 and Life 2.
Or sometimes an amalgamation of the two.
Sometimes I would weep as the horrors of Life 1 charged vividly through my mind: Gran’s blood on the kitchen floor, the feeling of soft flesh being torn away from my body by the Things, Crystal’s body hanging up on a cross, Lafayette dead in the back of Andy’s car, the desperate thoughts of victims in the Pyramid in Rhodes.
Other times it was not horror that made me weep; it was guilt as I faced an undeniable truth about Life 1: it had been my longing to love and to be loved that had sparked unspeakable death and pain.
Yes—it had been my choice to seek love with Bill that had been the catalyst for so much sorrow. This time around, I’d avoided that outcome by never letting Bill into my life.
Would have being with Eric also led to incomprehensible violence and sorrow? What if I had married a human or Were? Was it simply impossible for me to love without causing the annihilation of everything around me?
I didn’t know.
What I did know was the heavy weight of loneliness, but—at least—in Life 2, that loneliness was lessened by friendship and family and work. And that was exponentially better than before—when my loneliness was accompanied by a tsunami of blood.
No doubt, if others knew about my life, they might judge it as “sad” or me as “pathetic.” But I didn’t think so. I still struggled sometimes with not blaming myself for all that had gone wrong in Life 1; I figured I always would a little. I figured that was “normal.” But I was getting better about not doing that either. Yes—I had nightmares, but they didn’t come true. And—yes—I spent my nights alone if I wasn’t babysitting. But there was a lot of love in my life, and my days were filled with work, lunches with friends, and time with the next generation, which was thriving in Bon Temps.
Ironically—or maybe on purpose, depending upon what his wish had been—Eric had given me the life I’d always wanted; the only thing missing from it was him. But that was okay.
I’d learned—in Life 2—how to be independent.
Yes—it was the life I’d always thought I would have before Bill had entered Life 1.
Ideal? Maybe not—especially since I knew how good it might have been if Eric had been free to share it with me. But Life 2 was still good.
Tina walked slowly into the room. I knew that she would die sooner rather than later—as her old body seemed to ache even more than Gran’s had in the end. At eighteen years old, she needed to gather her energy before she jumped up onto the couch with me. And it took her a while to curl into my body and make herself comfortable. I stroked her soft fur, and she purred loudly.
And—it was to that sound and Sports Center—that I fell asleep.
Tina was gone when I was woken up by my phone ringing. Startled, I looked at the clock. 4:45 a.m.
A minute too late to make a wish.
I reached toward the coffee table to pick up my phone, already worrying. Only bad calls happened at 4:45 a.m.
“Hello?” I asked my voice cracking a bit in fear and tiredness.
“You still have the cluviel dor left behind by your grandmother,” a slightly familiar female voice said.
I sat up sharply, suddenly wide awake. “Yes.”
“Now is the time to use it,” the voice said.
“The Ancient Pythoness,” I said as my memory clicked to identify her.
She cackled. “Yes.”
“What wish?” I asked—begged. Was Hunter in danger? Eric?
“You need to wish that the biggest threat to Eric’s safety will be eliminated—right now,” she said before hanging up.
My feet hit the ground, and I was running up the stairs to the attic before I had fully interpreted the Ancient Pythoness’s message. I slid across the floor and ran into the wall, cursing my socks. But I didn’t stop until I’d reached the old desk and opened the secret panel to take out the cluviel dor.
I fell to my knees and gripped the fairy love token between praying hands. “I wish for Eric’s biggest threat to be destroyed,” I said loudly, never meaning anything more and briefly wondering if I’d blow up into a million pieces—if I might be Eric’s biggest threat.
I spoke my wish again and again—even though I’d felt the magic drain from the cluviel dor at my first uttering.
A/N: I don’t have time to do a note today, but I hope you enjoyed the chapter and I hope you will leave a comment if you have time.
Until the next,
As always, thanks to Seph and Kleannhouse.