Who knew that digging a hole in the ground, for no reason whatsoever, could be so cathartic. I hadn’t been able to sleep much, so in the early morning I set out to the shed, dug up the pick and the shovel from its confines, and hacked the ground to bits. When I stopped I had a hole about three feet wide and about as deep. I wondered what would fit in it.
I wouldn’t be able to bury my sorrow or my distress. But maybe if I bought a plant in memory of Gran, I would feel better about digging a hole to purge my madness.
“Planning on burying somebody?” I jumped and whirled around, shovel in hand about to strike, when I found Sam standing there. I hadn’t heard him pull up.
“Sam Merlotte! You do not sneak on a girl who’s holding a shovel!” I said, trying to catch my breath. He was laughing, the bastard.
“I came to see how you were doing,” he said between chuckles. Go ahead and keep laughing, go ahead; I was thinking almost murderous thoughts, which was very unlike me.
“I dug a hole,” I said, stating the obvious.
Sam looked in the hole, leaning over just so. If I pushed him… Nah! He wouldn’t fit. A pity.
He then looked around, probably looking for the plant I meant to put in the hole. “Do you have any plans for this hole?”
I ignored him. “What did Eric tell you about me? About the danger I’m in?”
Sam frowned, but not as if he was mad. He looked worried. “The Queen of Louisiana was told what you can do by your cousin, and now the Queen wants you for her retinue. At first Eric was merely concerned with securing you, but when the Rattray’s thoughts made you practically convulse beside him, he changed his mind.”
I studied Sam for a moment. “So Eric’s first thought was to… what?”
“Make sure you could do what your cousin said you did, tell the Queen, and let her come get you.”
“And then what happened?”
“When you left Eric and I spoke a little bit longer. I’m sorry Sookie, I should have told you everything from the beginning, but it wasn’t my place to tell. I’ve known Eric since the vampires came out, and he’s been nothing but honest and hardworking. As far as vampires go, he’s a good one.” Sam took a deep breath. “He can protect you better than I can.”
“That’s it?” I asked.
“I feel like a pawn. The Queen wants me because of my cousin who can’t keep her fucking mouth shut, so Eric comes to get me but sees me having one of my usual freak attacks, so you accept his protection on my behalf. Is that it?” I was not a happy camper. I was a confused camper, and my tent was collapsing.
“Let me ask you something,” Sam stood to his full height, which wasn’t very tall, but it was tall enough. And when he crossed his arms I knew he meant business. “Do you like working at Fangtasia?”
“Yes,” I said, suddenly meek. I saw where he was going with this.
“And do they treat you fairly?”
“And haven’t you developed a friendship with one of the vampires?” He was referring to Pam, I think.
“So what’s the big deal? Your cousin screwed you, that’s a fact. Now you’re safe at no inconvenience to you. You should give us all a chance, get off your high horse, and count your blessings that we were all in a position to save you from your demented cousin.” Sam’s voice had spiked in volume.
“Okay,” I said deflated. He’d put me in my place.
“Now, back to my original question. What are you going to do with this hole?” he said, stabbing a finger in the general direction of the ground.
I smiled a little, feeling sheepish. “Plant a bush, maybe a gardenia. They’re pretty.”
“Come on. I’ll drive you to town,” he said.
A couple of hours later I had a little gardenia bush inside the hole, with proper drainage, fertilized, and the instructions on how to take care of it safely tucked under an empty pot on my porch. It probably wouldn’t bloom for a couple of years, but when it did it would look and smell lovely.
I felt better overall. I felt tired, but in a good way, and was able to take a restful nap before my shift at work.
“Sookie,” Pam said by way of greeting.
“Pam,” I used her same tone. She looked sideways at me and gave me a half smile. I was putting my purse away inside Eric’s office.
“What are you doing on Monday night?” she asked, looking like she didn’t care about the answer.
“I have no plans,” I said, wondering what she was planning.
“Good. I will pick you up. Be ready at seven on the dot.”
“Where are we going Pam?” I asked, as if I were asking a teenager why the car keys were in her hand.
“Uh-huh… To do what?”
“The only thing worth doing in Monroe.”
“Which is?” It was like pulling teeth, I swear.
Eric walked in and answered for her. “Shopping. Pam won’t shop at the mall in Shreveport,” he explained, then smiled softly. “Hi, Sookie.”
Oh, hell! My heart had done a quick flip-flop at that smile. It’d been that kiss. I was a fool to think that Super Sookie would be immune to kisses, having never had any proper ones.
“Hi, Eric. Well, I’m off to work. I’ll go shopping Pam. See y’all later,” I said, and ran away. It was Saturday and it was a busy night. I couldn’t linger in the back.
I didn’t get a chance to think of much because we had an extremely large party visit the bar. It was a bachelorette party. I’d also caught why they were at the bar instead of at a strip club: the bride-to-be didn’t like to see the guys strip, and preferred to walk on the wilder side with the vampires. Eric, the consummate businessman, did not disappoint. He had the girls (Indira, Thalia, Pam, another vampire named Sophia, and the tall one I’d first met Gabby) manning the bar and the door, while he had the males (Chow, Clancy, a Denzel Washington look-alike whose name I had yet to discover, a cute young one named George, and Eric himself) paying attention to the ladies. Plus the vampire patrons joined in the festivities, and who could blame them? They had willing females practically throwing themselves at anything with a fang, man, woman, they could have been a third gender and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
After last call I tried not to look too hard at who was leaving with whom, and finished cleaning up my tables. I got a sense of déjà vu when a pair of glowing hands took the tray I was about to carry away, and set it back on the table.
“You said at another time,” Eric said and took my hand. I had to think about it for a minute when I remembered I’d said I’d dance with him some other time. He led me to the dance floor. WDED was playing softer music now, the kind you could only dance by touching your partner.
Eric twirled me and then brought me close. I put my hand on his upper arm instead of his shoulder (to make it a little bit less intimate), and he was keeping it innocent by placing his spare hand on my back instead of my waist. Well, sort of innocent. If I had to describe the look in his eyes I’d call it smoldering.
We danced to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” and I have to say that I almost melted. Even my common sense had to take a break when that song came on and a beautiful man had me in his arms. I found my breath was coming a little faster, even though I wasn’t exerting myself. He pulled me as close as he could, swaying us to the music, his cool body the perfect antidote to the new heat within my body.
That’s it. It was physical, nothing else, right? My mind was running several miles a minute, my thoughts becoming more chaotic the longer he pierced through me with his glacial blue eyes.
Everything stopped when his lips alighted on mine, soft as feathers, his breath cool and sweet. He kissed my upper lip, then my lower lip. He brushed my lips with his once, twice, until mine parted to allow him in. His soft tongue invaded my mouth, and I sort of remembered what to do from the night before. Our tongues dueled slow and lazy, each moment that passed increased the energy of the kiss until I could barely breathe at all.
He pulled away first, but this time he didn’t look away from me. I was almost panting, trying to catch my breath with my heart racing.
“Go on another date with me,” he said. I knew it wasn’t an order, even though it sounded like one. “Please,” he added belatedly. He remembered I liked good manners.
I nodded and he smiled wide, putting his hands on either side of my face. “Thank you,” he stole a quick kiss. “Go. Pam is waiting and she’s not patient with me lately.”
I giggled a little. Giggled! I couldn’t believe myself. I was still smiling by the time I got to the office, and not even Pam’s posture made me stop; if anything it made me smile wider. She had struck a pose that pretty much said “I’m mad,” with her hands on her hips and tapping a foot on the floor. She was so small that you couldn’t take her seriously (until she beat you up, of course).
“Well?” she asked, throwing her hands up in the air.
“Well what?” I shot back, retrieving my purse.
“Are you going or not? I didn’t hear the answer.” Oh, that’s right. Super vampire hearing. She’d heard the question, but not my nod for an answer.
“Yes, we’re going,” I had to put her out of her misery.
Alright, wicked grin alert. “And that is why we’re going shopping,” she said, crossing her arms.
“No Sookie. Absolutely not, don’t even think about it.”
I felt like I was shopping with Gran. “But Pam…”
“I don’t want to hear it. You’re not wearing pants on a date. What are you thinking woman? I know who brought you up, young lady.” Pam took the clothes from my hands and put them back on the rack. They’d been nice pants, with a zipper on the back. Perfect, really.
I arched my eyebrows at Pam because she’d called me a young lady, and really, she looked to be about twenty years old. “And how old were you when you were turned?”
“You know better than to ask a lady her age,” she said and walked away, towards the dresses.
We were at Nordstrom’s and I was cringing mentally every time I saw a price. But I had set some money aside for this little outing, so I was just going to spend it and darn it all. I deserved something nice after everything I’d been through. Just the night before I’d cried when I was washing a pot. A pot! Because it was Gran’s rice pot, the one with the good lid.
Pam started taking dresses from the racks, looking for the right size and adding it to the pile on her arm. We’d gotten a couple of looks from people who’d guessed Pam was a vampire, and now she was proving it. Any human woman would have flagged under the weight of so many dresses, but she was holding her arm perfectly out and away from herself, holding about two hundred and twelve pounds of fabric. Give or take.
I was exhausted from trying on dresses, when we settled on one of the first ones I’d tried on. It was a sleeveless silk chiffon dress, with a thick band at the waist, thick straps (for bra purposes) and an A-line skirt. In blood red. I’d never owned a completely red dress. I never thought I could pull it off, to which Pam said “any woman can wear red with the right makeup.”
So off we went to the makeup section. She told the lady at the counter exactly what she wanted for me, and the lady was scared to suggest anything else, but happy that Pam was buying so much.
“Pam, we’re about to go over my budget,” I warned her.
“Who says you’re paying?” she asked, handing the lady her credit card.
“Who said you were? Pam I’m not destitute,” I said in a mad hiss so that the lady couldn’t hear us.
“I know that, but it was my idea to come shopping for you. I couldn’t very well have you paying. Come on, shoes,” she said pointing the way.
I didn’t even attempt to look for shoes, because I knew it was a lost cause. She had the saleslady bring me a shoe in my size and have me try them both on and walk around the displays a couple of times. They were red, but unlike the ones I owned these had a strap across the ankle and were peep toe. That would look cute, I thought, until I ventured to look at the price.
“Pam! These cost more than the dress,” I whispered frantically at her.
“Good shoes usually do,” she said dismissively.
“How am I supposed to repay you for this?” I asked, sitting down and removing the pretty pair of ridiculously expensive shoes. Jimmy Choo, of course.
“When is your birthday?” she asked, perfectly aware of when my birthday was because she’d done my new hire paperwork and had needed that information. It’d been in July.
“That’s unfair,” I said.
“Why? I’m giving you a belated present and you’re being a cranky know-it-all. Just because someone gives you something doesn’t mean you need to reciprocate. Can’t you say thank you and wear it well?” Pam was mad. Her fangs were just there. She was showing me tip.
I took a deep breath. “Okay, Pam. I’m sorry. I will enjoy all my belated birthday gifts and early Christmas gifts.” She was about to protest when I raised a finger at her.
“I’m hungry,” she said waiting for the saleslady to complete the transaction. I saw the woman gulp nervously, but I had to admit I wasn’t sure what to do for Pam. I stretched out my hand and offered up my wrist. I’d never seen Pam laugh that hard, or laugh at all for that matter. She quickly retrieved a handkerchief from her purse and dabbed at her eyes.
It’s interesting when pieces of a puzzle start falling into place. Vampires carried handkerchiefs (or at least Pam and Eric did) because they cried tears of blood. I’m sure there were other uses, but I didn’t think too closely about them because I’d understood something else. Pam was an easy crier, which was why she avoided laughing or showing any emotion. The laughing quickly had her in tears and staining her handkerchief red.
“That was the best laugh I’ve had in a while,” she said as we made our way to the parking lot, walking through the men’s section of the store.
“I’m sorry I made you cry,” I said, stopping at a display of polo shirts. Eric sometimes wore them instead of T-shirts. I liked him in polo shirts better.
“My God, Sookie! I just said you gave a great laugh and you are sorry about something. Sometimes I wonder about you.” She looked at the shirt I held up. “He’s an extra large tall, depending on the manufacturer. Sometimes he needs the 2XL.”
I put the shirt down quickly. I don’t know what I’d been thinking. “I’ll keep in mind for Christmas.”
“It’s okay if you like him. He likes you too,” she said in a quiet voice, very unlike her usual monotone.
“That’s what I’m scared of,” I said.