“What did your grandmother say?” Sam asked. His hair was looking particularly curly tonight.
“She’s fine with it, actually. She’s more concerned about the commute than where I’ll be working,” I answered.
The girls at Merlotte’s had put together a little farewell party for me, which was awfully nice, considering I was going to leave them short-handed for a few nights before the new waitress was ready to start. Normally we didn’t have farewell parties for anybody, but I had worked there for five years and they felt it was needed. Plus, I suspected Arlene was trying to give me a chance to change my mind. She didn’t have anything against vampires, per se, but… let’s just say: it’s the south, old habits die hard.
Lafayette had made me tell him everything about my first visit to Fangtasia. He ended up hooting with laughter when I described my outfit. “Like a candle in a coal mine,” he’d said.
“More like a sore thumb,” I countered.
“Sort of like him,” Lafayette nodded towards the front door of Merlotte’s.
Lafayette was right. There was no way that the huge blond vampire was ever going to fit in Bon Temps. The guy belonged in Northern Europe, not Northern Louisiana. He searched the room briefly before making a bee line for me.
“Sookie. Did I crash your party?” Eric asked.
“Um…” Yeah, I know. The height of eloquence. I tried again. “It’s just a little get together. The girls wanted to say goodbye. Would you like a True Blood?” So I wasn’t waiting tables tonight, that didn’t mean my manners had gone out the window.
“No, thank you. I already ate,” he said… and I got chills. Did he mean eat eat? Or had he already had a True Blood?
“So, what brings you here?” I pressed. If he didn’t come to Merlotte’s to get a drink, then why did he come?
“I wanted to speak to you, but you didn’t answer your phone,” he explained. Yeah, like that made sense.
“Oh… it’s in my purse in Sam’s office,” I paused, processing. “So you came all the way here from Shreveport instead of waiting for me to check my messages?”
Eric rose to his full height and crossed his arms over his chest. “I deemed it important,” he said, daring me to say something to the contrary.
“Of course.” I made my face look like I meant my statement, but mentally I was rolling my eyes. But this was my new boss. Whatever floated his bubble. “Let me go ask Sam if we can use his office briefly.”
Sam agreed, though he’d looked as confused as me. Eric followed me to the office and I checked my phone. I had twenty missed calls and five messages. Whoa!
“Please tell me this wasn’t you,” I held up my phone to Eric.
“I was concerned. Pam told me your car was not working well and there was some worry about your commute to work.”
I frowned. This was a little creepy. “Eric… Twenty missed phone calls is a little obsessive. I’m alright, as you can see. And my car is okay. My brother checked it out yesterday.”
“When I arrived I saw a puddle of motor oil below it.”
Oh, shit! “What do you mean?” My heart started sinking fast. I knew the thing burned oil, but I didn’t know it was spewing it. I didn’t have money to replace it. And Jason said it was fine!
Eric didn’t answer my question because he saw me panicking. “I have come to tell you that you can avail yourself of one of our company cars until you can replace yours.”
“What do you mean?” I asked again. What was I, suddenly? The CEO of Fangtasia? Was this charity? It better not be charity.
“I mean that everyone at Fangtasia can request the use of one of the company cars when the need arises, and you have a need that has risen.”
I didn’t know what to say. Should I rise up a stink and take care of the car thing myself? And if so, how was I going to take care of it? I simply didn’t have the money. Or should I be gracious and accept the use of the car? Would Eric expect something from me in gratitude? There was no way to find out other than to ask him. I’d seen the other Fangtasia waitresses preening in front of all the vampires, but I just wasn’t that kind of person.
“I take great pride in keeping my people safe, Sookie,” Eric said, apparently getting exasperated with my lack of answer. “I do not feel like coming to get you from the side of the road at two in the morning. I am a busy man.”
“Alright, Eric. Thank you, I’ll use the car until I can replace mine,” I said, blowing out a big puff of air.
“And this,” he took my phone from my hand in a blur of motion. I’d never seen anyone move so fast. “Stays here,” in another quick motion he turned me around and stuck the phone in one of the back pockets of my jeans, patting my butt for good measure.
I was… what was that Word of the Day? Flabbergasted! Had he just touched my butt? Did he just move that fast? I didn’t know whether to be mad, mortified, or awed. I could feel my cheeks starting to burn.
“Hand,” he ordered, and I stretched out my hand, still in a daze. He deposited a key attached to a Fangtasia keychain. The key was huge, and had little buttons on it that would open the doors or the trunk of the car. “Pam insisted you use this particular car. She said it was the most reliable of the fleet. Make sure you thank her tomorrow.”
Did he really just remind me of my manners? “Of course I will thank her. And thank you too for coming. Is the car outside?”
“Yes. I will show you.” Eric took my hand and I had no choice but to follow him out Merlotte’s back door. Apparently the hand holding thing was his standard m.o. I should just get used to it.
Parked next to my poor car was a Toyota Prius. I almost laughed imagining the huge guy next to me folding himself to fit inside the smallish car. However, I held the laughter in. It really was thoughtful of them to lend me a car, particularly one that would use so little gasoline.
“I will have your car towed to your house. You should donate it to charity and get the tax deduction,” Eric chimed. He sounded almost giddy. “And I will see you tomorrow first thing. Pam sent a uniform to your house this evening.”
“She doesn’t know my size,” I protested and bit my tongue. It really did not become me to burst out saying the first thing that popped into my brain.
“Pam is a good guesser. Good night,” said Eric, before he kissed my cheek and took to the sky.
He literally took to the sky.
He flew. Like up in the air! He could fly!!!
“Sookie?” Sam had come to check on me.
“He can fly, Sam! He just…” I made a motion with my hands, indicating some sort of zooming motion.
I nodded. Words failed.
“Yeah, he’s a bit of a show off.”
“I would show off too if I could fly,” I mumbled. Why couldn’t barmaids fly? Why was it reserved for large vampires?
“Why did he come?” asked Sam, trying not to sound curious and failing completely. What was the word? Nonchalant. Yeah, he wasn’t it.
“When I was filling out paperwork with Pam, I must have said something about my car and the commute, and Pam told Eric to let me use one of the company cars. So here it is,” I pointed to the Prius, “and a good thing too. My car sprung a leak.”
Sam went to look at the underside of my car and made a little “hmph” type of noise. “Did you see your car smoking when you got here?”
“No. I would have told you or called Jason. He said he’d checked everything.”
“I’m sure he did. But it’s an old car. It was bound to give you serious trouble sooner or later.”
I shrugged. I knew some about cars, but not enough. Eric said he was having it towed, so I’d have Jason look at it again. End of story.
At the end of the party I went home a little tired. Gran was waiting up and looked a little excited. She greeted me and practically shoved me to the kitchen.
“I made you a tea to help you sleep,” she said. It was her famous chamomile with a touch of brown sugar.
“Thanks Gran. Why are you so jumpy?”
“I just had the most wonderful conversation with our new neighbor. He works for Eric and was delivering your new uniforms, and I invited him in and got to talking. He lives in old Mr. Compton’s house. He’s actually old Mr. Compton’s great-great grandpa!” Gran was practically hopping.
It didn’t take me much to add things up. “You invited a vampire into the house when you were here by yourself?”
“Little lady, I am an adult! He was a perfectly polite gentleman, and he’s our neighbor. He knew this house, even! His name is Mr. Bill Compton, and he was around when our ancestors built both these houses,” she was referring to ours and old Mr. Compton’s place, which was next to us and separated by a cemetery.
She began telling me about everything he had said, about the War (that would be the Civil War), and that Mr. Compton was going to talk at a meeting of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead. She had set it all up. I couldn’t believe her boldness.
“Gran, next time wait ‘til I’m here when you invite a vampire in the house.”
“And what are you going to do? You’re not stronger than one, or faster,” she pointed out a little peeved with me.
“No, but I can un-invite like nobody’s business,” I said and smiled, trying to lighten her mood. “I got to tell you something too.”
She looked at me the same way she always looked at me when I’d done something wrong, but didn’t say anything and let me continue.
“My car is broken and my new boss, Pam, had another delivered to me tonight,” I said, but I didn’t really want to go into specifics.
“What do you mean she had one delivered? To keep it?” she asked arching an eyebrow. I was really in trouble now. Any minute now she was going to tell me to give it back.
Um… Whoops! “No, no, to borrow. It’s a company car and it belongs to Fangtasia. They’ll let me use it until I get mine fixed.”
Her eyebrow un-arched and I breathed a sigh of relief. “In that case that was very nice of her.”
Yes, very nice of Pam indeed. Yet there was one thing that nagged me. If everything about accepting the car was so right, why was I keeping the details from Gran?
In my bedroom I found a garment bag, and inside five gauzy black dresses. I really didn’t want to see what size Pam had guessed I was, but when I tried one on it fit perfectly. Next to the garment bag was a large brown shopping bag with two shoe boxes. They were from Naturalizer. I’d seen the store at the mall in Monroe, but when I’d ventured in I quickly realized I couldn’t afford their shoes. Now I was the proud owner of two sets of patent leather red pumps. They looked exactly like the ones the other waitresses had been wearing. There was a note on Fangtasia letterhead inside one of the shoeboxes: We encourage red accessories. Regards, Pam
Wow… They were really working their black and red theme, huh? Okey-dokey.
Fangtasia was hopping. My first day working was a Saturday. There’s nothing like starting a new job on the busiest day. Golly! Oddly enough, I was used to the amount of people. Sometimes Merlotte’s would fill up to the rafters, particularly during World Series, Superbowl, or March Madness. But all these people were here to party hearty. I ended up dropping my mental shields once in a while, just out of curiosity. It was interesting how I could pick out the vampire brains within the crowd. They were round voids within a sea of emotions.
Emotions were really all it amounted to. Very few people were actually thinking clearly by the time midnight came around. That’s when Eric the Great Vampire made his entrance to sit on his throne. Both women and men were having lustful thoughts directed at the stage, but nothing concrete. Alcohol tended to blur thoughts a bit, which was fine with me. Tonight Eric was joined by Indira, an absolutely gorgeous Indian vampire. I’d met her earlier and couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Her skin was dark like caramel, but her eyes were sea blue. I don’t like girls, I like guys for sure, but I can certainly appreciate beauty.
“Should I tell Indira you’re interested?” Pam had caught me staring.
“No, Pam. I don’t swing that way,” I said to her rolling my eyes.
“Pity,” she said with a wicked smile. Most of the time Pam was as serious as a grave (hee, hee!), so when she smiled it was because she was thinking trouble. “Perhaps you were looking at Eric instead. Should I tell him you’re interested?”
“Pam, please. He’s the boss,” I hissed.
“You seem to think that matters somehow. Do not worry, Sookie. I see you’re different than the others, and that’s a good thing. You’re like a breath of fresh air.” Her statement would have carried the right connotation if she hadn’t taken a deep breath of the air around me.
I decided to ignore the gesture and stick with the words. “Thanks, Pam.”
“What I came to say is that you seem to be doing an excellent job so far. ‘Dear Abby’ says we should compliment others when it is merited.” Pam’s face had gone back to stoic as she said this to me. It was as if she’d been put out to give a compliment. And…
“Did you say you read ‘Dear Abby’?” I asked surprised.
“Doesn’t everybody?” she said with a dismissive flick of her hand.
“Yes, of course,” I said. Well, I read “Dear Abby,” but I wasn’t everybody. These vampires were a riot. I wanted to laugh so hard I had to pretend to do something else.
In pretending to do something else, and with my mental shields still scanning the room, I heard a distinct thought of a very official nature. I turned back to Pam immediately, who was still at my side scanning the room but with her eyes.
“Pam. There’s a cop here. They’re planning a raid,” I said in a hushed whisper. She turned to me and nodded, her face as stoic as ever.
“What are they looking for?” she asked. She was already not looking at me, but seemed to be communicating with Eric across the room. At the very least, they were looking at each other intently.
“The cop saw a vampire and a human head into the bathrooms. As far as I can tell that’s all that they will find,” I answered.
“Stay here. Do not leave this table’s side, do you hear me?” she said, and with that she was gone, a blur of black dress and gold hair. I seemed to me she’d gone to the bathrooms.
Immediately I felt a cold breeze by my side. It was Indira. Actually, it seemed like each server had sprouted her own vampire escort.
“Just a precaution,” she said and smiled at me. I had to smile back. She would win every beauty contest if she ever entered any. Actually, there was talk that Donald Trump was setting up the first ever Miss Vampire Universe.
I’d never seen a raid before, but apparently it was a structured thing. First they asked everybody to show their ID’s upon exiting the building, and in the meantime they would check the back rooms. Then they would ask us a few standard questions. We didn’t need to card at the tables because it was done at the door. Everyone had to swipe their ID into a little machine, and the information on the ID had to match the ID itself, or that person wouldn’t be allowed in. So the cops didn’t find any underage drinking. They didn’t find any illegal blood drinking either, and that, Pam said later, was thanks to me.
We were in Eric’s office where she was writing me a check for my share of tips. That’s how they did it in Fangtasia and I wasn’t going to argue. It’s much better to tuck a check aside than a wad of cash. When I looked at the check, however, I was floored.
“Pam… I think your math skills leave much to be desired. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make three thousand dollars in tips,” I said, handing her the check back, or rather, attempting to.
“You had a little over five hundred in tips, plus half of the fine,” she said, looking at me like I should have known that. Okay, five hundred in tips was outrageous enough.
“The fine we would have incurred if it weren’t for your gift. Now, go home Sookie.”
“I can’t take this money.” I tried to hand her the check again, but she was having none of it.
Pam leveled me with her gaze. “Sookie Stackhouse, you will put that check in your purse right this minute before I do it myself.” My God! She sounded like Gran! I did as she said and she smiled beatifically. “And you better cash it before the week is over. Good night.”
I walked to the Prius in a daze. Next they would name me CEO of Fangtasia. I just knew it. Eric was leaning against the Prius, arms crossed over his chest, looking thoughtfully into the middle distance between himself and another car parked farther away. A red Corvette.
“Eric,” I said silently. He seemed to have been deep in thought. I didn’t want to interrupt, but sometime tonight I wanted to go home, and for that I had to move the car. Can’t do that with a vampire leaning on it.
He blinked, coming back into himself. “Sookie. I wanted to thank you for alerting Pam to the raid. Pam also told me you had done a good job all night.”
“No problem and thank you,” I said, addressing both points.
“Soon I will have to ask you for a favor and you will have to use your gift. I know it is hard on you, and that is why I don’t mind compensating you when you do,” he explained.
“Oh,” was all I could say. People had taken advantage of my “gift” all the time without compensating me, and they went in a roundabout way of asking. Like when Arlene had tried to get me to read her ex’s mind to see if he was going to leave her. She’d simply said “I wonder if he’s leaving,” and that was my cue that I should start listening in on his thoughts. She was cross with me for a week because I had refused. At least Eric was being up front with his request, and even seemed to understand that it was difficult for me. “I’ll help,” I said finally. I was always a sucker for honesty.
“Thanks again, Sookie. Now, come on. Let’s get you home,” he said and pushed away from the car, waiting for me to unlock it so he could open the driver’s side door for me.
The minute I settled in my seat I had a very big vampire head just inches from mine. I was trying to figure out what was wrong when he stole a quick kiss from my lips. He had my door closed faster than I could process the fact that he’d just kissed me.