“I want to be that girl again, the one in the white dress. I want my life back.”
Sitting in an office building just a few blocks away from Wall Street, while I waited for the meeting with possible investors for New Blood to start, my mind automatically strayed to thoughts of how useful it would be to have a telepath at my side.
And then I silently cursed myself for thinking it at all, especially when it was Pam who was sitting at my side instead and didn’t need telepathy to know the tenor of my thoughts.
I knew because her nail tapping on the desk had come to a screeching halt, with her eyes darting suspiciously in my direction.
The whispered words of, “Fuck off…” hung in the air between us, however only a vampire would have been able to hear them.
But it didn’t matter which one of us said it.
We were both thinking it.
My child wasn’t as forgiving of the telepath as I was, but then my child wasn’t a very forgiving creature. It was a character trait I usually admired in Pam. We could, however, only agree to disagree on the topic of her.
I’d avoided thinking about her as often as possible. When I’d risen from my daytime rest a few weeks earlier and discovered her disappearance through my blood, I’d momentarily panicked, thinking the Fae had returned and taken her back to their world yet again.
I’d known better than to think she would’ve gone voluntarily.
But it had only taken moments for me to realize she wasn’t completely gone.
Not like before.
Our blood tie was stretched to its limits, but it hadn’t disappeared entirely.
She was there. My blood in her body informed me she still lived, similar to what I’d felt when I’d retreated back to my homeland following Nora’s death. So I’d known Sookie was still alive and that she was still on this plane of existence.
She was just gone from the state.
And the country.
All it took was a simple phone call to find out she’d used the sizable amount of money she’d inherited from Compton’s estate and applied for a passport the very same day, boarding a flight to Dublin that very afternoon.
No warning. No goodbye. No nothing.
I shouldn’t have been so surprised, considering ‘no’ was one of her favorite words when dealing with me.
But I didn’t begrudge her, her departure and in some small way, I’d expected it to a degree. Sookie was Usain Bolt when it came to dealing with her emotions. But with all that she’d been through over the last few weeks, it would seem sprinting hadn’t been good enough for her, so it wasn’t all that surprising she’d run across continents and an entire ocean to get away from it all.
To get away from me, perhaps.
I still thought Bill’s reasons for refusing to be cured of Hep-V were more for his own self-loathing than any worry he had over Sookie’s future. He’d never fully embraced his vampirism – with the exception of his stint as being Billith, The Vampire God – so I was only surprised it had taken him that long to truly want to end his pitiful excuse of a life. But either due to his sickness or his own idiocy, in no way did I believe it was Sookie’s fairy nature that had drawn us to her.
If he truly believed that, then it only confirmed the fact he’d never deserved her love at all.
Even if I hadn’t already begun to feel things for her well before then, my time in her care without my memories would have been more than enough for me to know there was more to Sookie Stackhouse than her beauty, blood, or gift.
It hadn’t been her fairy nature, but her caring nature and fiery spirit that had drawn me in.
Her mere presence made me more vulnerable than any stake hovering over my heart.
After he’d listed all the ways in which he’d personally seen to her misery – the lies, threats, and physical attacks, one that resulted in her near rape – just by being in her life, I couldn’t agree more that he shouldn’t be a part of hers in any way.
But then I’d thought the same thing the moment I saw her with him in my bar that first night.
His fever induced dreams of her cradling a black void of nothing disturbed me, but only in that a biological child was something I would never be able to give her.
Was motherhood yet another unfulfilled dream of hers?
And yet in spite of finding no common ground on his reasons behind why she would be better off without having any vampires in her life, in a small way, I had to agree with him.
But only because she’d all but said the words to me herself months earlier.
She’d told me she wanted to be that girl again.
The one in the white dress.
The small town girl whose biggest worry was finding the time to tan in between her shifts at the shifter’s bar.
She wanted her life back.
She hadn’t said the words, but there were plenty more to read between the lines.
Her life back then hadn’t included ones with no heartbeat.
There hadn’t been much I could refuse her in the past. I certainly couldn’t refuse her wanting that, even if to me, she would always be that girl.
Perhaps a wiser version of her, but to me she was still that girl nonetheless.
And only for her would I let her go, even if the thought of returning to my own world – a world that didn’t include a mouthy part-fae telepath that smelled like sunshine in a pretty blond bottle – didn’t appeal to me at all.
But I also knew all too well she’d seen nothing but heartache and pain since her immersion into the supernatural world. Not much better than Bill, I’d been a party to it in one way or another over the years as well, although I’d never intentionally set out to cause her harm.
Even chaining her up in my basement and serving her up to Russell, like a summer’s picnic, had been to save her as well as to save us all. I would have met the true death before I would have allowed him to take her life or liberty and I’d been prepared to die alongside him that morning.
But even after all I’d done to her – both with her consent and without – she had still rushed out to save me. She’d given me her blood to heal.
To me it was just another sign she was still that girl on the inside.
Although perhaps to her, it was just another sign that girl was nowhere to be found.
But one could say that because of her heritage, it had always been inevitable.
Upon taking her first breath in her world, it had only been a matter of time before she would learn the truth.
That her world was much larger than she knew.
She’d been a part of the supernatural world from her conception. A fact she’d been forced to learn of the hard way. But none of her kin on either side of her DNA saw her true value.
The human side shunned her unique mind and the fairy side merely wanted her womb. But in reality it was her heart that was the prize.
To win that would bestow the recipient with a priceless treasure, just as unique as the girl herself.
But giving it away to someone like Compton had damaged it, perhaps beyond repair. As long as I’d lived, I knew firsthand it was a fallacy to believe time healed all wounds.
Those wounds only scabbed over to be picked at for an eternity at the leisure of the injured party.
My millennia long vendetta against Russell was proof of that
But Sookie didn’t have a thousand years to stew. Time itself was something she only had a limited amount of. She might live longer than the average human thanks to her heritage, but she was mostly human nonetheless. Without the benefits of consuming vampire blood to prolong her existence even more – and with her outright refusal to even entertain the idea of becoming a vampire herself – her life would come to an end eventually.
And because time was something I had an unlimited amount of, I knew I would be picking at the scab she’d left on my soul for a very long time.
But being a danger magnet was also something that came to her as naturally as her golden hair, so after that first phone call to learn of her location, I’d made a few more. Called in a few favors to ensure her marathon – however long – would be free of any danger.
Looking out for her welfare was the least I could do, when she had done the same for me while I’d been under the witch’s spell. But more than that it was what she had done for Godric in his final moments that meant I would always be in her debt.
She had stayed with him when I couldn’t, making the scab of his death not nearly as big as it would have been.
Since her departure from my life and the country, I’d only kept up with her movements through the reports made by her invisible shadows, who guarded her every move. Always staying in the periphery of her movements – to remain out of both her mental and visual radar – their instructions were to only contact me in the event she was in danger or if her travels took her beyond their boundaries, so I could then make new arrangements for her security.
I didn’t want to know any more than that. If she’d wanted me to know what she’d been up to, then she could tell me herself.
But considering she hadn’t even told me she was leaving, I didn’t believe that would be the case.
She wanted to be that girl again and if I was honest with myself, I’d never really known that girl at all.
So that girl wouldn’t have kept me in the loop of her life.
Sookie – no matter what color dress she wore – wanted her freedom and now she had it. I simply did what I could to ensure she would remain free.
For now, I only knew that she was still somewhere in Europe, possibly still in Ireland. Her current guard detail would follow her unseen throughout the numerous sovereign states, so I wouldn’t need to obtain the services of a new guard detail until she moved beyond the boundaries of the continent.
But it was during that countless meeting with new investors – where both Makers and Children could fuck off because I couldn’t help but think of how having a certain telepath at my side would benefit me in more ways than her gift could account for – that I received what would be the first of many emails.
I know it’s been a while, but…how have you been? I don’t know if you’re aware – or if you even care, really – but I’ve been away on a vacation. I still am. I went to Ireland first and now I’m in England.
Or is it Great Britain?
I don’t know what the difference is.
I guess you can take the bumpkin out of the country, but not the country out of the bumpkin.
Anyway, I hope you’re doing well.
I knew Pam had felt the shock that jolted through my body and being literally at my side – and innately nosey – she too had read the email on my phone, while I’d been too busy staring at it in disbelief.
So with my mind in a turmoil, there had been nothing to stop her from reaching over and deleting the email, before pulling my thoughts back to the room by saying, “Eric, do you have any questions you’d like to ask?”
Oh, I had plenty.
However none of them had to do with the meeting taking place around me.
But later on, as I sat in Pam’s closet breaking the heels off of all of her shoes as punishment for her earlier actions, I realized she’d been right to delete it.
The single line, questioning whether or not I would even care about her whereabouts, told me that Sookie was still the same Sookie I had known.
She hadn’t yet found her way back to being the girl in the white dress.
So I resolved to not reply to her email, feeling it would only prolong her journey to find herself.
Although my altruism ended there because my revelation didn’t stop me from completing my mission in Pam’s closet.
It was in the days that followed, well after the time when I’d felt the last of our blood tie disappear, that I could finally admit – to myself, at least – I missed it.
I missed her.
I’d been counting down the hours, knowing it was only a matter of time before I would no longer feel her at all, and had been trying to convince myself that her protection detail would be enough. Truthfully, I had barely been able to feel her at all since she’d left and even if she had found herself in danger, I knew I was too far away to be able to help her.
But the compulsion to help her hadn’t disappeared with the blood tie.
However, while I’d missed the presence of her in my blood more than I thought I would, I also knew blood had been to blame for much of her heartache.
Mine. Compton’s. Hers.
At least now, she would only have her own to contend with.
I hoped it would be enough to help her find her own way again.
It was a couple of weeks after her first email, when I received the second.
I don’t know if you got my first email, so I don’t know for sure if you’ll get this one. But there are a few things I need to get off my chest, so here goes nothing.
A few days after Bill’s cowardly and selfish suicide a man showed up at my door.
Stopping there for a moment, I reread that line a few times.
I had imagined she would have seen his ‘sacrifice’ as noble. Ending his life so that she could live hers, should have touched the romantic side of her heart, no matter what his true motives were.
Maybe this Sookie wasn’t the same one I was used to dealing with.
I didn’t know how to feel about that yet, so I went back to reading.
I swear, his name has more letters than you have years in age, so I won’t attempt to mangle it now and just call him Mr. C for short.
Mr. C was Bill’s lawyer and stopped by to take care of the last of Bill’s estate.
Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Did I ever tell you about my Uncle Bartlett? He was my Gran’s brother and when I was younger he molested me.
Tearing my eyes away from the small screen in my hand, I needed a moment to calm down because no, she fucking hadn’t ever told me that. So it was no surprise my fangs had snapped down of their own accord, with the phone’s casing squeaking in protest of my grip.
And yet, in spite of my murderous rage, I couldn’t stop the chuckle from leaving my throat when I picked up where I’d left off.
Put your fangs away. I swear, I can hear them snapping down from here.
She’d always known me well.
Well more than any other.
I didn’t know whether I hated her or loved her more because of it.
My point is, when I confided in Bill about my childhood trauma, he went out and killed Bartlett behind my back.
Compton’s turning had a point to it after all.
He’d been a waste of space for most of his undead life, but that one action redeemed him just a little in my eyes.
Just a little.
Quit it with your attaboys. I don’t need to be a telepath to know what you’re thinking right now.
There was a very thin line between love and hate.
Anyway, when Bartlett’s body was found, his lawyer showed up because that sleazy bastard had left all of his money to me. It made me feel dirty all over again and that was exactly how I felt when Mr. C handed me that check from Bill’s estate.
Like he could make up for all that he’d put me through over the last couple of years with his money.
It was the least he could fucking do after all that he’d put her through.
Money he’d apparently had all along, but never once thought to even offer to help me when he was still alive. Not even when I was struggling on a waitress’s salary and a maenad had obliterated my home.
I take it back.
Bill’s death – finally – was admirable to me because without it, I doubted Sookie would have ever reached the point she was at now.
To finally be able to see him, as I had seen him all along.
A complete tool.
Koko the gorilla had taken better care of a kitten than Compton had cared for Sookie.
When I’d purchased Sookie’s home after her disappearance into the Fae realm, as much as I’d worried for her safety and missed her presence, I’d been giddy with the power to finally make her home worthy of her.
Because I’d always been absolutely certain she would return.
Before I’d discovered his true motives for pursuing Sookie, I’d always wondered why Compton had never done anything to turn her hovel into a home. After I’d gotten to know her better, I’d assumed it was her independent streak that had kept him from making any of the necessary repairs.
Many a night I had stewed on my throne at Fangtasia, jealous of the challenge I’d been so sure had likely been taking place at that very moment.
Protestations of not being a kept woman, finger wagging, and chest poking would have surely been involved.
But it wasn’t until her disappearance that I learned just how wrong I’d been.
Because only after she was gone and everyone else had given up hope she would one day return, did I realize he’d never truly cared for her.
At least, not in the way I did.
I’d given it a week. For seven days her family homestead sat on the market, with me waiting to see if he would take the initiative.
To take the reins in restoring her home.
But he’d only taken reign of the state and restored his own home to a glory it had never seen in his human life.
He truly was a royal asshole.
Which brings me to this long overdue sentiment.
Thank you, Eric. Not just for fixing up my house in a way that would have brought my Gran to tears had she seen the end result, but thank you for never giving up hope that I was still alive. Only now that I’m alone, both internally and externally, can I see the truth of your words. Without the influence of anyone else’s blood, thoughts, or words to sway me, I know now what you said was true.
I just don’t know what to say that would accurately describe how much that means to me.
Her heartfelt gratitude left us in that same inarticulate boat.
Everyone else had gone on with their lives, but you kept a piece of me alive here in this world, while I was gone. I really don’t know what I’d ever done to deserve that from you – truly, nothing comes to mind – but thanks to you I still had a home to return to.
Reading those words, what she’d done for Godric flashed through my mind. For that alone, I would have secured her home until her return. But I couldn’t deny to myself it was more than just that.
From the moment she’d sassed me in my bar, I’d been ensnared in her grip.
Slapping me across the face for what I’d done to her V selling friend only made me want her more.
But it was the kiss we’d shared in my office, when I was sure I would meet my true death, avenging the deaths of my human family, that gave me hope. When she’d returned my passion for her just as strongly, I had hope that perhaps my true death wasn’t nigh.
That kiss had given me something to live for. To fight for.
I would fight for it even now, if she hadn’t been the one to already forfeit the game.
However ‘thanks’ falls pathetically short to say in return to how I feel about it all. I’ll never be able to repay you for that kindness and I don’t mean monetarily.
And yet her ‘thanks’ was more than enough.
But I do know some other things I feel with absolute clarity. As I said earlier, I feel that Bill’s death was both selfish and cowardly. Not only was his declaration that it would be the only way I could ever live the life HE dreamed of – to have a marriage and children that only someone born two centuries earlier would think was a necessity in this day and age – his belief that it was the only way I could move on with my life perhaps was true. But only because he took every advantage available to him to get his blood into my body. He glamoured the Rattray’s into beating me to near death the first time and then I’d had it again after the maenad attack. He nearly drained me after I’d saved him from Lorena and then gave me his blood again. He forced more of his blood down my throat when I couldn’t give my consent after you’d gone outside to suntan with Russell and again after I got shot with the witches.
Sitting back, I needed yet another moment to compose myself. I hadn’t realized just how much of his blood Bill had given her. And given her rant about her former lover, now that his blood was likely gone from her system as well, I had to wonder if the majority of her actions – her seemingly choices at the time – had been brought about because of his blood.
She’d had considerably less of mine.
But even with the newest maelstrom of emotions her revelations caused within me, she managed to make me chuckle yet again, reading her next line.
Is calling 911 never even an option with vampires?
But not once had I ever consented to having his blood. Not really. Every time I had his blood had always been a life or death situation. Sometimes brought on by his own actions and duplicity, sometimes not. The only time I’d chosen to take the blood of a vampire had been yours and you hadn’t even been in your right mind.
Neither one of us had been in our right mind after our exchange, considering the snowfall in her shower and our bed of furs in the winter wonderland our minds had created. But I recalled with perfect clarity what I had said to her that night.
Everything is possible.
With her at my side, it truly felt that way.
I don’t know if you regret that now, but I don’t.
I couldn’t deny, even with all of my memories intact, I wouldn’t have done the same. The only regret to be found was the tie we had forged was now gone.
What I do regret is how I acted after your memories returned. You told me you still loved me.
Unfortunately for me, that hadn’t changed with either time or distance. I hadn’t been lying to her when I’d told her in the Fellowship church love was a word I didn’t understand, but perhaps I had been lying to myself.
It had taken me losing my memories to find the man beneath the vampire who could understand what love is.
And now that I had the memories of both Eric’s she had known, I knew without a doubt love was what I still felt for her even now.
I told you I still loved Bill.
And those words had stung worse than the silver I’d tricked her into sucking out of my body.
My penance, perhaps, for my deceit.
I’m sorry for that. I don’t know for certain that I ever truly loved Bill and now I’ll never know. Having his blood so soon after we met, I’ll never know if I would have fallen in love with him without that happening. I hate him even more right now for taking that away from me. Not just what should have been the fond – if not bittersweet – memories of a first love, but for taking away my own ability to have the conscious choice of choosing him in the first place.
Her words should have brought me a sense of satisfaction, but they hadn’t. Having been precariously balanced on the razor sharp edge for some time now, I knew just how thin the line was between love and hate.
But Sookie’s anger at her first love had been fleeting in the past.
I had no reason to think now would be any different.
But what’s done is done. And I doubt you really want to hear about my feelings towards Bill.
Both true and untrue, it was yet another thin line to perch myself on.
As for how I feel about you?
If my heart could beat, it would have been pounding away in my chest at the rising anticipation of her next words.
Would she finally choose me?
I think I know the answer to that too. But what I don’t know is if you want to know. For all I know you’ll never even read this email, but on the off chance that you do, I think it would be unfair of me to burden you with whatever it is that I feel about you. It’s been months since I last saw you. You’ve been around for a long time, so I’m sure I’m nothing more than a blip on the timeline of your life. You’ve likely moved on by now – rightly so – so I should probably do the same.
Once again the phone in my hand squeaked in protest of my grip.
I’d bared my soul to her, whether I’d wanted to or not. I’d told her I loved her. Words I hadn’t spoken since I’d last said them to my mother a thousand years earlier. And yet now, after all that I’d done and continued to do for her, whether she knew about my current protection of her or not, she felt the need to hold back.
To have the audacity to believe something as profound as feeling love for the first time in a thousand years could be fleeting to a being just as old.
The line between love and hate was too blurred for me to make a distinction anymore.
But if you should happen to read this email, know this.
My eidetic memory meant I would be unable to forget the words I’d already read – not without the fuckery of a witch’s curse – but I nearly didn’t finish the rest. I didn’t want to read any more of her excuses as to why she continued to deny me even the words of her true feelings.
But a masochist at heart, like the girl who continually crushed mine, I couldn’t stop myself from doing just that.
I am grateful for having met you, Eric. I consider myself lucky to have gotten to know you, both with your memories and without. And thanks to your words about seeing the world one last time before you died, I decided to emulate your sentiment and use the money Bill left me to see the world as you once did.
The first time around.
I’ll always think of you fondly.
She’ll think of me fondly…
Crushing the iPhone in my hand, I knew I wouldn’t think fondly of it.
The Sookie-sized scab freshly picked at, I did all that I could to try and force her from my thoughts in the nights that followed. But no amount of feeding or fucking could get her out of my head.
The pitiful substitutes only served to remind me that none of them could compare to her.
Nor did it help matters that she continued to email me. My new Samsung taunted me at all hours of the night, attempting to coax me with its come hither notifications of yet another new message from her.
I refused to read them at first.
Fuck her and her fondness for me.
But masochists are called that for a reason, which was why I’d never deleted any of them, and only a week’s worth had piled up in my inbox before I finally gave in.
The first email I read was nothing like the other two. In it, she ‘spoke’ to me as she would a friend, telling me about her day and all that she’d seen and done. And in the ones that followed, the same applied.
She teased me about seeing Big Ben at high noon.
She told me of her awe, gazing at the Eiffel Tower at midnight.
With every new email after that, I found myself smiling more and more, with my anticipation rising for what I would read in the next one. Throughout her travels, I began checking off the sights she’d seen for herself and making a mental list of the ones she’d missed that I thought she would like, never knowing if the day would ever actually come where I could be the one to show them to her.
But through her, I was able to see the world again for the first time.
It was both a gift and a curse.
I could tell by her wording that she’d merely been rambling on in way that said she didn’t really believe I’d been reading them. I supposed a lot of the blame would have lied with me for that, considering I hadn’t responded to any of them.
But I’d been afraid to.
I had a feeling she wouldn’t be as forthcoming about what she was thinking at any moment in time, if she’d known for certain I was hanging on every word.
For a telepath, I knew Sookie would be guarded about what she let slip about her own thoughts.
Despite having crushed the phone that her first emails had originated on, the server had been safe from my deadly grip, so I was able to go back and reread her earlier words. And looking at them through objective eyes – while she had thanked me, apologized to me, – her entire email had been tinged with regret. Despite her words to the contrary, I couldn’t help but think some of that regret was directed towards me.
And not in a favorable way.
So after much thought on my part – and many a night rereading those same words over and over again – I decided to leave her be.
After all, the email hadn’t been written in the words that girl in the white dress would have used.
But in the days, weeks, and months that followed, Sookie continued to send me emails. Sometimes she would tell me in detail about how she’d spent her day. Other times she would merely send me a corny joke, provoking the joker in me to come out and play.
But I never gave in.
However I did make the picture she’d sent me of her feeding a baby kangaroo the wallpaper on my phone. Upon rising each night, I found my first thoughts were of her as were my last come each sunrise.
If I hadn’t heard from her yet by the time I rose, I found myself anticipating her next email. If she took longer than I expected, that anticipation would turn to worry until my phone signaled all was well with her newest message.
Through them I felt like I was getting to know the Sookie Stackhouse she’d been before supernaturals had come into her life.
I felt like I was getting glimpses of that girl in the white dress.
But the more signs she gave me that she was indeed letting go of the past hurt and returning to the girl she’d once been, the more certain I was that I should stay away from her. I felt I would have been just as selfish as Compton if I brought the baggage my undead life carried with it back onto her doorstep.
I had to let her go if her dress was to remain more white than red.
But if she chose to continue giving me glimpses into her life, I would gladly be a voyeur.
Thankfully I had my business venture with New Blood to keep me occupied when I wasn’t waiting for a new email from Sookie. But my business partner’s shrewdness wasn’t confined to merely business.
Or perhaps it was.
Pam was as shrewd in a boardroom as she was about being in MY business.
She’d suspected something was amiss whenever I found myself distracted, waiting to hear from Sookie, and quickly learned about our one-sided pen pal relationship.
Quickly because she’d hacked her way into my email account in record time.
But having spent the better part of six months meticulously replacing her shoe collection, she’d known better than to tamper with our correspondence. However that hadn’t stopped her from showing her derision, with every new message I received.
Although she’d held an air of ‘I-told-you-so’ on the night Sookie’s email had declared Örland to be a windy shithole.
She didn’t, however, understand my continued fascination with Sookie. She didn’t understand the depth of my emotions whenever her name was uttered in my presence.
However she fully understood the unspoken meaning behind our return to Shreveport, not long after I’d gotten an email from a certain sunshine smelling blond, informing me she would be doing the same.
But I’d continued to keep my distance. Still protected by me, I never personally took over her guard duties and kept myself out of Bon Temps, no matter how close she was in the physical sense.
Because I knew it would only take one glimpse of her for me to give up my vow to stay away.
And my U-Haul full of a thousand years’ worth of baggage would pull up right behind me.
I’d worried – unnecessarily as it turned out – Sookie’s emails would slowly diminish, if not stop altogether, with her return to Louisiana. After all, she would once again be surrounded by her friends and family – a family that had grown in size thanks to her brother’s marriage and the subsequent birth of his children – and I hadn’t given her any sign that I had traveled the world with her through her messages.
An urge I had nearly given into when I knew we were once again in the same geographical location.
But hearing from her that her brother was expecting his first child, I tamped down on those urges, certain that it would be the catalyst to make Sookie want to realize the same human ideals Compton had put upon her at his death.
Marriage and children weren’t things I could give her.
Not without a ceremonial dagger and a night spent in the earth.
I highly doubted those were included in any of her romantic fantasies.
But she’d surprised me yet again when she’d alluded to not wanting a child of her own, following the birth of her brother’s second child. She hadn’t come out and said the words, but I’d felt the sentiment just the same.
Brought on by my own romantic fantasies, perhaps.
But again her words had been tinged with regret. Regret that she wasn’t ‘normal’.
I just had no way of knowing what kind of ‘normal’ she was yearning for.
So I continued to stay away. I silently and regretfully declined every invitation she extended to me over the years because I was certain it was for the best. And I felt my decision had been for the best when, over time, her emails had finally come to lack the bitterness and resentment she’d held for so long.
Now she was proud of her gift and of using it in her new job with the demon lawyer whose name she still couldn’t say.
She was happy with her life, full of family and friends.
I was certain she was, at last, that girl again.
But that girl had no business around a guy like me and I knew it was only a matter of time before she found that guy who would fill her heart and ultimately her bed.
If she’d had any romantic entanglements in the time since she’d left, she’d kept those details out of her emails.
After my initial anger and hurt subsided over her second email, that had sent me into a feeding and fucking tailwind, I’d found I had no desire for anyone else. I still fed on something other than synthetic blood on occasion, but it only ever served to remind me how bland everyone else was in comparison to her.
Looking forward to and then receiving her emails satisfied the only cravings I had anymore.
But in spite of my complete disappearance – as far as she knew – from her life, she still persisted in keeping me apprised of hers. She continued on, never wavering in writing to me, as if she’d only seen me last week instead of the two hundred and eight weeks it had really been.
Sitting on my throne now, my mind was on her of course. I knew from her latest emails she would be entertaining guests at that very moment.
A Thanksgiving Day feast.
My invitation had been extended and then ignored by me, as per the usual, but for some inexplicable reason, I felt pulled to go to her.
A ridiculous notion, considering I hadn’t felt her in THAT way in years.
But the hole created by the disappearance of our blood tie still existed inside of me and that night it was throbbing almost painfully.
Perhaps it was the knowledge she would be surrounded by her friends and family. A circle I was still a part of and always welcome to join, according to her emails, but one that made me feel like an outsider looking in, nonetheless.
By my own design, but that didn’t make it any less painful.
Pam appeared at my side, breaking me from my thoughts, with her annoyance shining through in her voice as she said, “If she literally wasn’t worth her weight in gold, I would have let that asshole drain her. I’m sick of the cunt’s whining.”
Truthfully I was sick of the whore too. We certainly didn’t need the money – not now with New Blood lining our pockets – but Mrs. Newlin still had a penance to pay.
And a debt to a vampire was always paid in full.
“What are you wearing?” she snarled, sounding even more put off than a moment earlier. “That outfit is what…seven? Eight years old?”
“It’s making a comeback,” I sighed, with a roll of my eyes.
But my child’s eyesight was perfect, as was her ability to read my emotions because she followed up with, “That’s not the only thing, is it?”
Feeling the rise in her emotions left with me two options.
To ignore her or throw her against the farthest wall.
I chose the former, but second guessed my own sanity when she switched to Swedish and snarled, “For fuck’s sake Eric, either let it go or go to her already, but really. The outfit has to go.”
So while I sat there wondering if perhaps she had somehow come under a witch’s spell in the last ten seconds, she shrugged nonchalantly and asked, “What? It’s obvious you’re not over her. You sit here, night after night, staring at your phone like #WhatSookie’sUpTo is trending. I don’t know what’s worse. When you rise to find an email from her or if you’re forced to wait until later on in the night to read about whatever it is she’s been up to that day. If you rise with one, then you sulk the rest of the night, knowing you’ll have to wait for the next night to hear from her again. But if you don’t, then you’re a surly fuck, waiting on pins and needles for your phone to buzz. Either way, it’s as bad for business as you wearing an eight year old outfit. You don’t fuck anyone anymore. You rarely feed on anything other than bottled blood. You’re turning into Compton, without the bangs and sideburns.”
That analogy had my furious eyes darting in her direction, which made her cower as much as Pam could cower – meaning her challenging brow lowered just a fraction – before she went on to explain much more softly, “You know what I mean. You sit here and pine for that girl night after night. You haven’t changed your password, so I’ve read all of her emails too, you know. She doesn’t appear to be an annoying twat anymore. Hell, she hasn’t even accused you of being a lying manipulative asshole in years. If anything, I would say that she’s grown up. That she misses you. And you obviously miss her, so why do you stay away?”
“It’s what’s best for her,” I conceded.
“Mmm…” Pam nodded and then looked out over the crowded dance floor, as she drawled out, “So it’s true then. You are turning into Compton.”
But before I could turn her into Fangtasia’s newest artwork display on the farthest wall, she added, “Wasn’t that his dying declaration? It was what he thought was best for her, never mind what she wanted. Because as much as I questioned her motives at first for keeping in contact with you, even I have to admit that she simply seems to want you.”
Normally, I counted on Pam to keep me levelheaded. Her ability to see all sides of a situation and her keen sense of survival complemented my own, so I valued her opinion on most things.
But even I was surprised by her opinion of Sookie Stackhouse.
I knew through the whispered gossip in the club said telepath wasn’t to be mentioned, alluded to, or even thought of within the confines of the building – per my pissed off progeny’s order, but one that would need the services of said telepath to truly enforce – upon our permanent return to Shreveport.
Pam carried a grudge just as easily as her oversized Hermes bags.
“So what are you saying?” I quietly asked.
With the pull to go north, growing steadily in my chest, I was almost afraid of her answer.
As it stood, the slightest breeze would likely launch me from my chair and into the sky on a direct path towards Bon Temps.
For four long years I’d kept my unspoken vow to both of us that I would stay away.
But now I no longer knew what was for the best anymore.
For either one of us.
Her hand came to sit on my shoulder, where she gave it a slight squeeze, as she said, “What I’m saying is that you’re miserable. And in spite of her insipid jokes and insightful musings on windy shitholes, I suspect she is miserable as well. She wouldn’t have continued to write to you, unless there was a part of her that still wants you to be in her life. It’s a part of her that she hasn’t even denied because despite your four year silence, she continues to invite you to be a part of her life. If you haven’t let go of your feelings for her by now, I doubt you ever will. And surprisingly, she seems to be respecting your wishes to leave things as they are since you haven’t given her any inclination to believe otherwise. I am willing to tolerate her presence again, but the question is, are you?”
She had me at the word ‘miserable’, but I allowed her to believe the rest of her words were just as convincing and stood up, pulling her forward and placing a tender kiss on her forehead.
“I believe I owe you a pair of shoes,” I smiled against her skin.
“I believe you owe me a warehouse full of them,” she smiled in return.
It would be worth it.
As was my child.
Leaving through the back door, I was in the sky headed towards Sookie’s house seconds later, when I was overcome with a sense of going home. A feeling I hadn’t felt since I’d shown up on her doorstep the night Bill had chosen not to end my life and we ended up making love for the first time.
The first of many times.
I had no such delusions that I would be getting into her bed tonight or any other night in the near future. Not when she would likely be angry at my four year silence, but one could hope.
And at the moment, I was filled with it.
The brightness of her yard stood out from up above.
A light in the dark, just like a white dress in the middle of a vampire bar.
Seeing it warmed me in ways I had no words for and I easily spotted her blond hair from the sky, before landing in a spot right beside her.
And then I saw it.
It being her belly, which was now swollen by the child growing within it.
My heart had stopped beating a thousand years before, but that didn’t mean its attempts to kill me all over again were any less painful.
Unable to look at her for a second longer, while the admittedly irrational sense of betrayal seeped into every atom of my being, I took in the faces surrounding the table, recognizing all but one.
The one who had won her heart, I assumed.
She had mentioned a man named Tim in passing, but she’d never passed along the fact they were anything more than just friends.
That she had told me about.
But she’d all but said marriage and babies weren’t for her. And while there was no ring on her finger, there was definitely a bun in the oven.
She’d felt it necessary to tell me all about the holiday menu she’d prepared – I knew the price per pound of turkey at the local market for fuck’s sake – but the fact she was having a child wasn’t noteworthy enough to share?
In that moment I felt very much like I had at another time. A moment when my lost memories had been restored and I’d told her I still loved her.
And she’d informed me that she still loved Bill.
It would seem I would never be the one she chose.
All of my fears – all of my reasons for staying away over the years – came flooding back into me at once and when my cold blue eyes met her disbelieving brown ones, all of my doubts came out in an angry snarl of, “I gather congratulations are in order?”
And fuck me and any and every god responsible for making her even more beautiful than I remembered.
Seeing the flash of hurt behind her eyes, I silently berated myself for once again acting like an ass – not unlike when she’d first returned from the Fae realm and I’d taunted her with the knowledge I owned her home, while she’d taunted me with the fact that didn’t mean I owned her, and wearing nothing more than a towel as she did it.
But my own hurt over her omission – as irrational as it was – clouded my mind enough for me to maintain my angry stance. One she matched when she first stood up and gave me a full view of her body, so that I’d known my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me.
However her anger quickly gave way to tears, as she pointed at Compton’s progeny and her human, telling me with a heated voice despite her wobbling lip, “Yes. Congratulations are in order for them, you assuming a-hole! This is their baby. Something you might have known about if you’d bothered to call, come by, or even sent a carrier pigeon my way.”
Stunned, I could say nothing at first, while she sniffled and muttered something that sounded like, “Stupid pregnancy hormones.”
Hope, shame, and elation all waged a war within me.
I was merely forced to wait and see who the victor would be.
But the spectators to our reunion weren’t afflicted with my bewilderment. Something I gathered when her flamboyant former V dealing friend pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket and asked, “Alright bitches, who’s had their money on Thanksgiving this year?”
Sookie’s head whipped his way, along with her incredulous, “What?”
At first her question was answered with nothing more than a few poorly hidden chuckles disguised as coughs into cupped hands and no one would dare to meet her gaze. But it was the one I assumed to be Tim who timidly raised his hand and softly replied, “That would be me.”
It made me wonder if his answer would be the same if the question posed had to do with who now held Sookie’s heart.
Another omission on her part, perhaps.
Everyone else I could only see in my periphery, with my eyes refusing to take themselves away from her. Standing so close to her that I could even pick up the sound of the baby’s heartbeat fluttering away in her womb, but not being able to have any other sense of her was maddening.
A fact that made me mad.
But whether or not she was in the midst of her happily ever after, I didn’t allow myself to believe or even hope we would ever have that kind of connection again.
A friendship? Yes.
A relationship? If I was lucky.
And at the moment I wasn’t feeling lucky.
But I didn’t for one moment think Sookie would ever consent to forming another blood tie.
Not after what the last ones had cost her.
But I would take what I could get.
For now, Sookie only seemed to be getting angrier and her fury appeared to be reaching an all-time high when her eyes watched the money being passed down the table from hand to hand, until the maybe-Tim finally took possession of it.
The look of concentration on her face told me she was likely reading the minds of those available around her, but it was her brother’s next words that seemed to make all of the pieces she’d gathered click together.
Looking up at me, he bemoaned, “You couldn’t a hung back until Christmas to show up? We could a used that money!”
Her suspicions seemingly confirmed, she balled up her fists and then threw them up in the air, as she screeched out, “You all have been placing bets on when Eric would show up?”
“The pot’s been growin’ for four years, Cher,” the shifter chuckled.
The former V dealer added, “Tim has enough there to buy himself a nice used car.”
“Sweet!” her possible lover exclaimed, even as she yelled, “Not sweet!”
But theirs was a possible love match I no longer put as much stock in, when he leaned forward and loudly whispered, “You were right, Laf. He is hot.”
Feeling slightly better in a way that had nothing to do with my ego, I was the only one because having had her fill of her friends’ laughter, Sookie stomped her way back towards the house.
My eyes had still been glued to her every move, so I’d known her next words were for me when she turned and huffed, “Are you coming?”
Without waiting for a response she walked inside, but as I approached the home I’d once held the deed to, noticing the absence of the magical barrier to keep me out made me pause.
And be it from my halted steps, or her telepathy had grown to now encompass vampire minds as well, she called out, “I never rescinded your last invitation.”
One of many invitations she’d extended towards me that I hadn’t had the grace to acknowledge.
But I acknowledged that invitation by entering the house I’d restored for her, just as silently as I’d acknowledged the previous ones, and found her in the living room. She sat on one side of the couch, which left the other side free for me. But my own insecurity and apprehension kept me on my feet as I simply stared back at her.
I didn’t know what to say now that I was there, much less where to begin.
No longer upset, Sookie appeared to be amused by my silence and allowed me to gather my thoughts.
Thoughts I failed to filter, when the first one to leave my lips was in the form of, “You never mentioned in any of your correspondence your new friend was gay.”
It was a pitiful way for me to confirm his sexual orientation didn’t include her.
So I could only hope she would have pity on me and verify my presumption.
Shaking her head with a soft smile playing on her lips, she shrugged, “I didn’t mention he has brown hair either, but neither fact has anything to do with why we’re friends.”
My eyes couldn’t stop drinking her in, not knowing how long I would have to be in her presence. I vaguely noticed hers doing the same, but with four years and our blood tie lost, I had no way of knowing how she felt about what she saw standing before her now.
She’d stayed true to her word over the previous four years and had never intimated what her true feelings for me were.
Standing there in her living room, I felt both anchored and adrift.
It was both exhilarating and terrifying.
“Why are you here, Eric?” she finally asked after several minutes of silence.
“You invited me.”
Knowing I’d taken the coward’s way out, I could almost hear Pam’s voice comparing me Compton all over again.
But be it from her lifelong gift of telepathy or just a natural trait to question everything, she didn’t let my simple answer slide and said, “I’ve invited you to a lot of things over the years, but you’ve never come before. Why now?”
The fear in her eyes was just as palpable in the air between us, but it wasn’t the same kind I’d seen in her before. The fear she had now had nothing to do with her physical safety.
I suspected the root of her fear was something we held in common.
“Why now?” I repeated, wondering if I would be able to get any other words out.
But over the last few years Sookie had shared many of her words with me. Thousands of words, all told.
It was only fair that I do the same.
So upon seeing her nod, I admitted, “I miss you.”
Three words to her thousands, but it was a start.
A pitiful one, but a start nonetheless.
“You miss me,” she repeated with a small nod and then an even smaller upturn appeared on her lips, when she admitted, “I miss you too.”
Feeling buoyed by her sentiment, I smiled softly when I questioned, “You’re not going to make this easy on me, are you?”
“When have I ever made things easy for you?”
The playful smile on her face lit up more than just the room, but still I laughed, feeling more and more at ease with every exchange, and truthfully answered, “Never.”
It was one of the things I loved about her.
Now that my feet felt lighter too, no longer weighed down by a sense of impending doom, I wandered towards a corner of the room, where piles of boxes labeled ‘Christmas’ were stacked.
Avoiding the elephant in the room for a while longer, I pointed at a few wrapped gifts and remarked, “I take it you’ve gotten an early start to your holiday shopping this year?”
Shaking her head, she smiled ruefully with, “There you go making an ass of yourself again.”
And at my perplexed expression, she jutted her chin towards the gifts and said, “Read the tags.”
All of them were to me from her.
I felt like that asinine cartoon Grinch Pam made me watch with her every year because surely the pain in my chest was from my heart growing three sizes.
But not knowing what to say that could accurately portray what it all meant to me – her words, her actions, her everything – and unable to give voice just yet to the one gift I truly longed for from her, I fell back to the tried and true by repeating the words I’d said to her on that first night.
The words I’d spoken to a girl in a white dress.
“Well aren’t you sweet.”
Without missing a beat – and even at three times its size, my heart couldn’t beat – she smiled knowingly and I had a feeling everything just might be okay when she replied, “Not especially.”
Her rich brown eyes held the same fiery spirit I’d noticed on that night, so long ago. But now they held other things that hadn’t been there before.
The kind of wisdom that only came from experience, but somehow everything she had experienced since that night hadn’t left her bitter, beaten down, or broken. Like her body had on too many occasions, her spirit appeared to have healed. Her fire was still there, burning brighter than I’d ever seen it before, as was the warmth she couldn’t help but feel for those she loved.
But was I still counted as one of them?
Not quite mired down in the past, my thoughts ran the gamut from that moment on. Everything that had led us to this point in time and having nothing left to lose – because she hadn’t ever really been mine to begin with – I hoped to convey the sincerity of everything I felt for her with my expression and tone, when I said, “You asked, why now.”
Pausing for a moment, I used the time to steel myself for what was to come because afterward, there would be no going back.
I wouldn’t put either one of us through this again.
It would be now or it would be never.
So when she finally nodded, looking into her eyes I could easily register her shock when I admitted, “I am here now because I can’t spend another minute getting over loving you.”