I told Gran about Hadley. I felt like she needed to know. Poor Gran started crying, but she was happy. It brought her closure. Now she knew that her other grandchild was alive, and would remain so for a very long time. But really, she just wanted Hadley to be okay, so she accepted the compromise. Plus, even if we couldn’t see her yet, there was hope to see her soon. Gran had buried her two children, her husband, and her parents. She didn’t want to bury her grandchildren too.
Fangtasia was very busy all the days that comprised the weekend, and the vampires turned truly wicked. We had a new bartender named Chow, and he was drawing in the crowds like nobody’s business. He looked fierce, yet beautiful. He was about my height, but built of solid muscle, and every inch of his exposed skin (except his face) was covered in elaborate tattoos of dragons (as far as I could tell). He only wore pants behind the bar. Chow would snarl or show his fangs to select customers, depending on whether they bothered him or pleased him.
Indira joined him behind the bar. She didn’t wear her sari as she usually did because it restricted her movements. She had wrapped the skirt completely around her bottom, and left her heavily embroidered sari blouse on, so she was showing off some serious skin. She liked to make eyes at the male patrons, and they were going absolutely mental over her.
Thalia was playing bouncer up front, always scary, but she was behaving for the most part. She was part of the draw the place had: Come play with fire at Fangtasia; have Thalia scare the wits out of you and/or rip your throat. At least I didn’t have to deal with her.
Eric liked to dress up on the weekends… or maybe not liked, but did it anyway. He was wearing his long blond hair down over his black suit, and he and Pam were enthralling the vermin (Pam’s words, not mine) from the stage. Pam had a blood red dress on in the same style as our Elvira dresses, except she was wearing red stilettos instead of our sensible pumps. Her hair was also down and cascading over her shoulders, all the way down to her waist. The two looked like an ad for some fancy clothing store, until one of them showed fang. They were the most active, with Eric making eyes at the ladies the way only he could, and Pam scaring the men senseless.
“Pity it was so busy,” Eric said handing me another outrageous check.
I arched an eyebrow, a la Gran. “Why do you say that?”
“We didn’t get to dance,” he said smiling.
I smiled too, I had to, but shook my head. Pam had warned me that he wouldn’t do anything so forward as to kiss me, but that he wasn’t going to behave either. Oh, well. I could take a little misbehaving. It might even be fun.
“Maybe some other time,” I teased.
His eyes widened. “Oh! How about now?”
Oh, jeez! For a split second I forgot he was the owner of the bar. “Right now I’m tired and I’m going home,” I said, keeping my smile politely in place.
He pouted. The big blond vampire actually pouted. Unbelievable. “Alright, little Sookie. Good night.”
When I arrived at the house all the motion lights were on. It was three in the morning, so I was a little concerned, until I saw a little bushy thing come trotting up to the driver’s side of the car.
“Sam?” I asked of the dog. He looked just like Lassie, but a boy. Laddie, maybe?
Laddie gave me a tiny bark and wagged his tail. I had no choice. I had to laugh. He even bumped my hand with his nose so I would pet him.
“Alright, I’ll pet your head, but don’t ask me to scratch your belly,” I chuckled. I sat on the porch steps and Sam sat next to me. He was cute as a button. I could see why he picked to be a collie. I’m sure he got petted by everybody.
“Should I call you Sam while you’re like this?” I asked using a quiet voice. Sam yipped. “I was thinking Laddie, since you’re a boy.” Sam wagged his tail. He was probably just trying to be agreeable.
“I think I just needed a few days, you know? To get used to this. I’m sorry I gave you a hard time,” I said, and hugged him. Hugging Laddie didn’t transfer his thoughts like it would have had I hugged Sam. That was a pleasant surprise.
A said good night to Laddie and he waited until I went inside the house and locked the doors. My very own guard collie. Something had gotten lost in translation.
Jason came to the house the next day for lunch. He looked like a broken man when he sat down on the ground next to my chaise lounge. I’d been indulging in my two favorite pastimes: sunbathing and reading. I’d already gone to the bank and cleaned the bathrooms. I was feeling productive.
“What’s wrong?” I asked Jason, setting my book aside.
“Andy had me down at the station again,” he answered dejected (my Word of the Day).
I was confused. “Why? I thought they already had you down there.”
“They found a couple of things, and they needed to ask me about them.”
“What did they find?”
Jason hesitated and blew out a big puff of air at the same time that he said, “Tapes.”
“Tapes?” It took me a moment, but I got there. I sat up and hit him on the shoulder. “Sex tapes?! Jason, you’re so fucking stupid! How could you be so stupid? Are you really related to me? Jesus Christ Shepherd of Judea, give me patience with my brother,” I was looking up at the sky now. I was hoping Jesus would be sort of floating above me, ready to give me what I needed. How blasphemous of me.
I decided to go inside the house before I pummeled my brother. He was the only brother that my parents had given me (may they rest in peace), therefore pummeling him would not have been nice, plus I needed someone to hold him down and we lacked the third sibling to do that job.
“We’ll call Sid Matt Lancaster,” Gran said when Jason told her about his day so far. Thankfully he hadn’t said anything about the tapes to her.
Gran called Sid Matt right after lunch, and sent Jason over to him for a consultation. Jason would have to pay for that himself. Served him right for making tapes, if you ask me. Hopefully it wouldn’t turn into anything else and they would find the real culprit.
“Eric!” I said his name out loud. I don’t know why. He knew perfectly well who he was.
“Sookie,” he smiled standing just outside the door to my house. He was dressed very oddly, for him. He was wearing a pair of khaki slacks and a long sleeve button down navy shirt, with a proper pair of shoes. He’d put his hair back at the nape of his neck, and looked the perfect picture of civility.
I, on the other hand, had a dress I’d gotten on sale at Tara’s store. It was navy, with thick straps (to hide my necessary full bra), and had a pretty skirt that went all the way to my knees. And since it was a little bit cool outside, I was wearing a white short sweater over it. All of it was Gran-approved, right down to my sparkly silver high heeled sandals.
“I’m sorry to sound like a bad hostess, but what are you doing here?” I asked Eric, noticing that we matched, sort of. His shirt and my dress were the exact same navy color.
“Pam couldn’t make it to your date, so she sent me. She hates to stand people up. I hope you don’t mind if I tag along,” he explained.
“You do know it wasn’t a date, right?”
“Of course. It was a Girls’ Night Out. I could have pretended to be a girl, I guess, but I’m sure you would have seen right through that,” Eric was smiling wide now. He’d made a funny. “I’ll let you drive if it will make you more comfortable.”
I sighed. I was sure this was Pam’s idea all along, for me to end up on a date with Eric in a situation I considered safe. I’d be mad, but, I’m saddened to say, this same situation had happened to me before. Arlene had stood me up and sent a guy she thought I might like. At least Pam had sent someone I already knew, and I was already used to his behavior.
“Let’s go. I’ve never been in a Corvette,” I said, grabbed my purse and locked the door.
“Do we kiss now or at the end of our date?” he said. Oh, yes! It would be a long night.
“You and I don’t kiss at all,” I said and smiled wide. I might enjoy this after all. He was making faces already.
Eric held the door open for me and scared me when he tucked my skirt inside the car. I thought he was going to do something else, like touch my leg. I was thankful we were in the Corvette: it was standard, so he couldn’t be sneaky and try to hold my hand. He needed both his hands to drive, since we wouldn’t be on any highways anytime soon. He did put the song we had first danced to on his stereo, though. Okay, I give, okay! That was sweet that he remembered. I also knew he was a master charmer.
I gave him directions on how to get to the Knights of Columbus Hall. There weren’t that many Descendants of the Glorious Dead, but everyone wanted to hear Bill’s story, even people who didn’t belong. Pretty much all of Bon Temps showed up.
As we arrived I noticed all the heads turning to look at the red Corvette. I hadn’t counted on that. No matter, that was nothing compared to the looks we got when we went inside the hall. Eric had taken advantage of the fact he’d held my hand to help me out the car, and decided to thread my arm into his. Have you ever tried to break a vampire’s determined hold on your arm? It’s not easy.
Gran approached us inside the hall. She was beaming about several things, not the least of which was the vampire to my right. She could barely contain her excitement waiting the few seconds it took for the introduction.
“Gran this is Eric Northman, the owner of Fangtasia. Eric this is my grandmother Adele Stackhouse,” I said. We in the South are born knowing how to introduce people.
My Gran held out her hand, and Eric took it, turned it, and brought it up to his lips. “My pleasure, Mrs. Stackhouse.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Northman, I assure you. Thank you for coming tonight. Everyone’s been raving about Sookie’s cookies,” she turned to me and leaned in, as if to tell me a secret. “Some people say they rival Mrs. Bellefleur’s chocolate cake. I’m not kidding.”
I rolled my eyes, but smiled. I had baked cookies all day, but I was only following Gran’s recipe. She just wanted to make me look good in front of my date, who didn’t eat, by the way… and she knew that!
Gran fluttered away to whoever was coming in behind us, and Eric guided us to the back of the room. “I hope you don’t mind. I am a little taller than most,” he said as we sat down.
“Nope. Here’s fine,” I answered, scanning the room. I saw several faces and/or backs of heads I recognized. Arlene’s bright red head stood out, but I couldn’t tell if she was here with Rene her current… whatever he was. Sid Matt Lancaster, the lawyer, was here sitting next to our human sheriff, Bud Dearborn. I was sitting next to the vampire sheriff. That was kind of funny to me. Pam had explained the fiefdoms to me the night before. She had called me just to chat, it seemed. We ended up talking for a whole hour. Who knew that I would develop a friendship with a vampire woman?
“I’m a terrible date,” Eric mumbled next to me. I turned to him with a question in my eyes. “Would you like me to get you something to drink or eat?” he asked.
I think I snorted. “It’s alright, Eric. I’m not hungry, but thank you for thinking of me.”
He blinked, as if I’d said something perplexing. “I always think of you. It would amaze you, and probably scare you, to know just how much.”
“Then why are you telling me?”
“Because maybe with repetition you will eventually believe me. You think I lie about this; I can see the skepticism in your eyes,” he pointed at my face and then followed through touching the tip of my nose. I made a playful move to bite his finger and snarled a little. Compared to how he usually sounded, I must have sounded like a kitten. It had the unintended effect of sparking his admiration, and he smiled at me in a very fangy way.
He sobered up when someone took the stage. It was Gran, apologizing for Bill’s lateness due to car trouble. Eric harrumphed quietly at my side but didn’t comment. Gran went ahead and started her little speech anyway. She was introducing Bill, and hopefully he would make it by the time she finished.
Bill made it just in time, jogging up to the stage while getting some encouraging applause from us. Eric leaned in and whispered, “He can fly too,” before the applause died down. I knew immediately what he meant: why was Bill late due to car trouble, if he could just take to the air? I shrugged. Eric would have to tell me later what he thought had kept Bill.
The stories that Bill told were painful to hear. More than one person was sniffling. I knew Gran would have taken out her pretty embroidered handkerchief by now, and I felt guilty sitting so far from her. I should have thought about it better. But I could see she was surrounded by her DoGD friends. Mrs. Fortenberry for sure was next to her, so I stopped worrying so much.
I remained alright until one of the DoGD asked if Bill had known his great-grandpa, and Bill related that story. I tried to hold the tears because I knew I’d forgotten my tissues, when Eric tucked a handkerchief into my hand. I blinked and down came the tears I’d been trying to hold back. I was happy I hadn’t worn a lot of makeup.
When Bill had told all his stories, and before leaving, I asked Eric to please help me pack Gran’s car. I thought Bill was going to do it, but I just didn’t trust Bill alone with her. Eric agreed immediately and helped carry most of the trays to Gran’s car. Vampire strength was awesome!
“We will follow you, Mrs. Stackhouse, and I will help unload your car,” Eric said to Gran. Of course, Gran gushed about Eric’s thoughtfulness, and off we went.
“What do you think was up with Bill?” I asked Eric when we were alone in the car.
“I have no idea. I found it odd, though. I’ll ask him later,” he said, not really caring about it. “He made you cry, though. That cannot be allowed.”
“Eric… it was a touching story. I know Gran’s friend really appreciated it. Did you at least enjoy it?” I asked, truly wondering if he’d had a good time.
“I did. I wasn’t in the States during the Civil War, so I learned a lot. Thank you for coming along, Sookie,” he said, as if this had been his idea. Maybe it had been. I looked at him and he was smiling and biting his lower lip.
Gran backed the car next to the porch, the easiest way to get to the kitchen, and Eric parked in front of her car. With vampire speed he got my car door, Gran’s car door, and her trunk open and waited patiently for someone to open doors for him.
“I got it,” I said, jogging up the porch steps, opening and unlocking doors, turning on lights, with a laden vampire close to my heels.
I walked into the kitchen and was grabbed from behind. Something tightened around my throat before I could scream, and I had a horrible flashback to when Long Shadow had cut off my air. The pressure was gone in a flash, and I crumpled to the floor, trying in vain to get air back in. The air rushed back in with a wheezing sound, and I was able to look around me. Eric was holding Rene in a choke hold, and Gran was trying to make her way around the men to get to me. I struggled up to call the police. I managed to dial the numbers but couldn’t speak. Gran finally got through and began talking to the dispatcher.
I didn’t have enough air, the room started spinning under me, and a dull buzzing sound started pressing on my ears. That’s when everything went black.
“Sookie, can you hear me?” someone was asking frantically. Everything around me was shaking. I’d never been in an earthquake, but this might be one.
“Sookie, can you hear me?” the voice asked again. I opened my eyes to find some young man holding a mask to my face. Oh! I was in an ambulance. Never been in one before. This was interesting. Eric was there too, next to the one guy. I wondered where Gran was. I thought it was the next of kin who sits in the ambulance.
“Do you take any medications, Sookie?” the guy asked me. I shook my head, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk. “Are you in pain?” I nodded at that one. Boy was I in pain! My whole neck was on fire. “Okay I’m going to give you something for pain,” and he wasn’t kidding. He injected something into an IV he’d already started into my hand, and I immediately felt happy. Pain drugs were awesome!
Eric had to explain what had happened to the emergency room doctor, and I was only half listening. The little pink butterflies above my head were holding most of my attention. Something made me pay attention, though.
“Where is her grandmother?” Eric had asked.
Yeah, Eric. You tell ‘em! I want my grandma like now.
“She was taken for scans already. We couldn’t wait in a case like that,” the doctor said. Why did Gran need scans? “You can sit with Miss Stackhouse and I’ll keep you both informed.”
Eric came to my side and dug into my purse. I was wondering what he wanted. Maybe lipstick. Nah! It was my phone. He flipped it open and fidgeted, he kept calling numbers. I wondered why he didn’t use his phone, but it was okay because it was past seven so all my calls were free.
“Your fucking brother isn’t answering any of his numbers,” Eric said. I made a motion with my hand, since I couldn’t talk, and he handed me the phone. I scrolled down to the one that said Mer-lo-ties, or so I thought, and handed it back. It seemed that Eric had left a message to get Jason to come to the hospital if he was seen at Merlotte’s.
Eric paced a little longer, apparently making more phone calls, and I entertained myself with the little people on the ceiling. The funny part was that I knew those little people were a side effect of the pain drugs. But they were nice people, and were keeping me company. When I came down off this high I was going to miss them, I was sure of it.
Eric stopped pacing and sat next to me, grabbing the hand with the IV gingerly and threading his fingers with mine. “I wish I could heal you, Sookie,” he muttered. I squeezed his hand and he looked up. “Give you my blood, like Long Shadow did. But there’s more to it than just giving you blood. You’re hopped up on drugs and are in no position to make decisions this important.” Eric’s voice was grave.
I squeezed his hand again. I was listening to him. I was worried about Gran. Something bad was going on. If he could heal me, I might do it and deal with the consequences later to take matters into my hands now.
He shook his head and looked away, so I squeezed again. He sighed. “Sookie, you don’t want it. I was just thinking out loud. You’d be bound to me by something stronger than love. You’d belong to me and I to you.”
Either his reverse psychology was working on me, or I was really drugged, because I was giving it some serious thought. And this is why: my Gran was somewhere in this hospital going through God-knew-what by herself. Jason was missing. If a decision needed to be made to save her life, it needed to be made by me. I was the closest next of kin. If it could save Gran’s life, I could forfeit mine.
With my free hand I took off my mask, hoping he would understand what I meant by the gesture. He looked up with something like hope in his eyes and I nodded. Eric peeled the tape that held the IV to my hand, and pulled the IV out so delicately that I didn’t even feel it. He took my hand and sucked on the tiny wound, licking it to close it like he’d done to my arm. In a quick motion he bit his own wrist and put it to my mouth. The blood tasted sweet and salty, nothing like mine. It was sluggish, thick, and I had to draw on the wounds hard to get some blood. Swallowing was another ordeal. My throat hurt like a bitch. After the first swallow, it felt better.
I felt better by increments. Eric’s wounds closed on their own. I remained in bed with my eyes closed, with the taste of Eric’s blood still in my mouth. He was caressing my hair and I thought I caught something. A thought? A feeling? It felt like regret, or contrition. Eric was sorry.
“Come, Sookie. We need to find out what happened with your grandmother,” Eric said. Somehow he knew I was ready to get up.
“Tell me what you know,” I said, finding my voice.
“They said something about a stroke, so they took her for scans,” as he spoke, he took the charts at the bottom of my bed and tore them. The doctor walked in on us as we were about to leave the little room in Emergency.
“Did you give her blood?” the doctor was about to sound indignant, but made the mistake of looking into Eric’s eyes. “Mrs. Stackhouse is in the ICU,” the doctor said like a zombie.
Eric grabbed my hand and led the way. He seemed to know exactly where he was going. Did he troll the emergency rooms for fresh victims? What the hell?
“She smells like you,” Eric said answering my mental question. Oh! That’s what he had meant about being bound. He was feeling it too, then.
We arrived at a set of doors and were let in by a nurse at a desk who asked me if I was Sookie Stackhouse.
“Yes!” I said immediately. She quickly showed us to the room where they had Gran. There was a doctor there barking orders, and I felt like sinking. Eric caught me and held me up.
The doctor turned to me. “Miss Stackhouse? Do you know if your grandmother left any orders?”
“No, she didn’t,” I almost choked on my answer.
“It’s your call, then,” the doctor said.
I hadn’t taken Eric’s blood for nothing. “Do everything in your power, please.”
When someone you love is lying helpless like that, your heart breaks. Your world shifts. Your soul trembles. You’d give anything to be in their place. Everything that is humanly possible is not enough. Time stands still and speeds up at random. You start making bargains with God, even if you know full well that His will is the one that matters, not yours.
Adele Stackhouse passed away at 1:29 a.m. that morning.