By the end of our first week in Barcelona, I knew enough that if I followed the street from our rented apartment and went left for several blocks, I would reach the beach. Every day I would wake up with one single purpose: reach the beach. It was too cold to actually enjoy the beach as one ought to, but it was beautiful and relaxing to hear the sound of the Mediterranean lapping on the sands of Barcelona. One day it threatened rain, and rain is depressing, so I went right instead of left. After several blocks and a few turns following some older ladies who looked like they were on a mission, I found an open air market that I hadn’t known about. I’d eaten from a nearby restaurant and a small market near our apartment, but finding the open air market known as Las Ramblas was serendipitous.
That same day I availed myself of a sturdy shopping bag and got my food from that market, to cook it in the apartment. The apartment came completely furnished and stocked with everything we needed, minus perishables like food and personal items such as toiletries. Everything else was provided. Pam had shown me where to procure the rest from nearby stores. I’d even learned what the green neon cross meant above any given store: those were pharmacies. At the castle in Segovia, everything had been provided for us. In Barcelona we were much freer to see to our needs.
That meant I started picking up some Spanish and lots of Catalan. The people of Barcelona prided themselves on their language, which was very close to Spanish, but not the same. They spoke Spanish too, thankfully, because I had picked up enough during my stay in Segovia to get by in Barcelona… that is until the end of our first week, when I could already tell the difference between both languages.
During that first week Pam and I had taken it easy, sort of gathering our wits and breathing. Not that it was easy at all. My mind wouldn’t let me abandon Eric. He was foremost in my thoughts, and I wasted time during the day waiting for his nightly phone call. I refused to cry from missing him. He could still feel me as much as I still felt him, even given the distance. He had given me so much of his blood that the distance between us didn’t matter at all. I still knew exactly when he woke up. I still felt his longing and his love the minute I knew he was about to call. He felt mine too. That’s why I didn’t want to give in to my misery. He would feel it.
So far he’d told me repeatedly not to venture outside of Europe, to follow Pam and keep safe. He was gathering allies and forming plans, but he wouldn’t discuss details. I was itching to join the fight, and every time he talked or hinted at what he was trying to accomplish, I felt the need to be with him and help. He wouldn’t let me and expressly prohibited both Pam and I from making any sort of plan that included returning to the United States.
That Saturday, at the end of our first week in Barcelona, Pam and I sat at the dining room table with my cell phone on speaker so we could both talk to Eric. Once again he expressed how much he missed us both and did what he’d done every day during that week: asked what we’d done (me during the day, Pam during the night before), saying he wished he’d been with us.
“We visited Parc Guell last night,” Pam informed him. She was a Gaudi enthusiast, and we had managed to visit almost everything he’d designed around Barcelona, except for the Sagrada Familia Basilica. We opted to visit that on Sunday night because Pam wanted it that way. I had the idea that maybe she wanted to pray there on a Sunday, that her prayers would reach God’s ears better if she said them from that cathedral on that day. I hadn’t known her to be religious, but she was one to surprise me often and much.
“Did you enjoy it?” Eric asked. I could almost hear the smile in his voice. He was trying to sound happy for us. Something told me we, and our phone call, were the only pleasant things about his nights… and it had only been a week. I closed my eyes and let Pam answer.
“It was beautiful. We took many photos. People thought Sookie was my lover. That was quite a treat for me,” she laughed and I heard Eric chuckle.
I smiled indulgently at her. All in all she had become a very good friend. We both understood what Eric’s absence was doing to us, and we both seemed to cling to each other for comfort. The visit to the park had indeed been very pleasant. We spoke of many things as we walked. Pam was very open and liked to tell me past reminiscences, and would ask me questions about what we’d gone through before I used the cluviel dor, or would ask me about my childhood and my disability – or my gift, as she liked to correct me. She liked detail, and she listened intently.
Eventually we hung up after Pam’s valiant effort of trying to extract information from Eric and getting absolutely nothing. We’d been taking turns asking him – sometimes flat out, sometimes subtly – and the little bit that we knew wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy our curiosity or to calm us.
“Do you think we should go?” I asked Pam, getting that itchy feeling again.
She studied her hands for a moment, thinking my question through. “We won’t stay here as long as he wants us to stay here, but we definitely need to give him some more time. Right now Eric is sure of our safety and can focus on what he needs to do without having to worry about us.”
Pam was right, of course. There was nothing else I could give him right now except peace of mind. I twirled my engagement ring on my finger, feeling lonely without him. The nights, in particular, were torture. It was already ten in the evening, but the rest of the night seemed to stretch before us.
“I need to feed,” Pam announced in a dejected sort of way. She’d only fed twice this past week. The problem was she couldn’t take me with her to a vampire bar, or even to a regular bar that catered to vampires. She felt like leaving me alone was a great chore for me, like I couldn’t entertain myself for the rest of the night just by staying put inside the apartment. Thanks to modern technology, I would be just fine. I could read a book on my brand new Kindle, or surf the net, or watch TV. Besides, I didn’t want to go to a vampire bar to watch my friend hook up with someone.
I smiled. “I’ll be just fine. I don’t feel like partying anyway. You go have fun,” I said and shooed her to her bedroom.
That was another thing I refused to think about: feedings and how Eric was managing. He swore he would feed and not have sex with the donor. I believed him, of course. Bill? I hadn’t believed him for a second. Eric? I believed him in a heartbeat. He’d never lied to me, ever, therefore if he swore he would only feed then he would stick to the blood. I still wished it had been my blood and not someone else’s. What an odd thing to wish!
I got a soda, which was a luxury for me (it’s heavy to carry them the couple of blocks from the market), and curled up on a chair to catch the night news. I’d been trying my best to learn the language that way. I figured the news would be the best because you could pair up the images with the words they were saying. I also had the captions on, and read along as best I could. I was able to catch most of the news. Once in a while, when I gave myself a headache, I switched the captions to English.
Pam emerged from her room looking stunningly beautiful. She didn’t look like a milkmaid, that was for sure. She was a woman on a mission. With a flirty, “don’t wait up!” she left me alone in the apartment as she went to procure her sustenance and probably got lucky.
I watched the news and began to doze off when my phone rang. I picked it up immediately, not even glancing at the caller ID. I was thinking the worst: that Pam needed my help, that she’d been injured and someone was calling me to tell me about it. The last person I expected to hear from was Eric. He usually called only once a night.
“Hello, darling,” he said in his deep voice.
“Hi!” I said, trying to calm down my heart. “Are you okay? What happened? Are you okay? Tell me,” I couldn’t seem to stop babbling.
“I’m fine, Sookie. I have some time to kill and I wanted to hear your voice. Is Pam with you?”
I took a deep breath, willing my heart to stop leaping into my throat. “She went out to feed about an hour ago. I’m in the apartment.”
“Good, good. I have you all to myself,” he paused. “I miss you so much.”
I felt tears sting my eyes at his confession. “I miss you too, and it’s only been a week. What am I supposed to do without you?”
“I know. I’m just trying to make you safe. Everything is coming together; you just have to be patient.”
Patience! Ha! The virtue of the immortals. I had no such virtue. “I try to be, but I’m not very good at it.”
Eric chuckled, a deep throaty sound that made my insides turn to mush. “You’re very good at many other things. I believe all you need is practice. I think it’s time you learned something new, don’t you think?”
His question perplexed me. Somehow I didn’t think he was talking about patience anymore. I stood up and took my phone to my darkened bedroom, closing the door. “Um… sure. I can learn something new,” I said feeling a little nervous and a little giddy.
“Where are you, dear one?” he asked.
“In my bedroom.”
“What does it look like?”
“It has a large bed, large enough for both of us, with soft sheets and a striped duvet. The furniture is…”
“Not that, darling.”
“Oh! It’s dark. The only light is the light that filters in through the curtains from the street.”
“Do you like it?”
“It’s cozy, as bedrooms go. I miss your bedroom and mine, and our house.”
“I am as close as I can get to that. I am in your guest bedroom in your house. Everything smells like you. I don’t mind this tiny bed as much as I thought I would.”
I smiled. At least he had something of mine. “It’s yours, Eric.”
“Like you are mine? I am yours too, Sookie. Never forget that.” He took a deep breath, and I heard the rustling of sheets. “Your pillow still smells like you. It’s almost as good as having you here… the scent,” he took another deep breath. “What are you wearing?”
I looked down at myself shyly, even knowing exactly what I was wearing and being all by myself. “A pair of lounge pants and a T-shirt.”
“I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and I’m taking them off now. Would you take yours off too?”
My eyes closed on their own, imagining Eric on my bed and getting naked. Oh, how I wanted to be next to him! “Taking them off now,” I said and quickly got rid of the garments.
“Are you wearing underwear?” he asked.
“Just the white cotton ones,” I said, unable to lie convincingly and tell him I was wearing anything sexier.
“Take off the bra.” I did as he asked and waited for further instruction. When I closed my eyes I could pretend he was in the same room as me. “Touch your nipples the way I like, with your fingertips.” I did and my breath caught. It was his voice I wanted. “I wish I could run my fingers over your breasts, my Sookie. You are so beautiful.”
I managed to exhale as I touched my own body the way he would have touched me. “I miss your touch. I miss your kisses,” I said in almost a whisper, thankful that his better hearing would allow him to discern (Word of the Day) what I’d just said. “I wish I could touch you too.”
“Where? Tell me where, Sookie.”
“Your chest and your shoulders. I want to kiss your skin.” I didn’t think it was possible, but my own words gave me goose bumps as I imagined peppering his soft skin with my kisses.
This was another kind of torture: talking to the one I missed so much about something I couldn’t have. At the time I enjoyed it. I enjoyed doing what he asked me to do to my body. I enjoyed telling him where to touch himself, where I would touch him if I could, what I would do. I relished the sound of his voice as he moaned into the phone and I knew he was picturing me. I took pleasure in my own sweet release as he listened on, his words in my ear driving me to my ecstasy. But in the end I felt empty.
After all the words of love were said, as well as our goodbyes, I was alone. My beloved was alone, and I felt his agony as acutely as I felt mine. How were we supposed to last much longer? I knew he was feeling just as lonely as I was after our talk, and the feeling took a while to dissipate. Then he got busy and I knew he was back to making plans and gathering forces, or whatever he’d had on the agenda for the night.
The next night, Pam and I took a taxi to reach the basilica. It was open at night, just like other churches were now that they were trying to lure in the vampires. Pam was cynical, saying that the churches were simply doing it for money, knowing that most vampires had some readily available to donate. She was the first to make a donation that night, though. I gave some too, even though I wasn’t Catholic. Anything to see the project completed sooner rather than later.
The basilica was breathtaking in its size, but the architecture was iffy to me. After seeing the cathedral in Segovia, and, of course, knowing what Catholic churches looked like in and around my own little town, I wasn’t expecting the Sagrada Familia Basilica to look the way it did. Granted, it wasn’t finished, but the parts that were finished reminded me of frosting that’s melting on a too-hot cake.
I stood staring at a giant organ. The brochure in my hand said it had more than 1,400 pipes, and that it was only one of three that would be installed once the basilica was complete. I remembered Eric saying that they wanted to humble the believers with the size of the church, to represent the size or magnanimity of God. All I knew was that the church I went to in Bon Temps could fit inside the Sagrada Familia Basilica a few hundred times. Easily.
If the people of Bon Temps could only know what I was doing at that very moment… While they slept soundly in their beds I was exploring one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. I was living in Europe and learning so much! Aside from the fact that I was feeling very lonely without my Eric, I was enjoying myself. Sometimes I got hit with nostalgia, as would any normal traveler that misses home. I shook it off, though. I had never experienced so many wonders, so much new culture, so many new things to do and see and marvel at. I felt guilty that Eric was so mired in his plans to make our home safe for Pam and I to return, because I wanted to share all this with him. It was his sacrifice that had allowed for me to be where I was. And that was the main reason why I didn’t let myself become homesick. It simply wouldn’t be fair to Eric or Pam… and certainly not to me.
“Where do you want to go next?” Pam asked, bringing me out of my little reverie. She was staring up at the organ just as I was, marveling, I supposed.
I shrugged. We had touched upon the subject, but only very briefly. Truth was that any place would be new to me, so I hated to make the decision only to find that Pam didn’t like it. What a strange problem to have…
“I know Paris is beautiful now for the holidays,” she suggested.
I thought about it, remembering Nino and the stolen kiss. My mind didn’t remember it quite exactly as it had happened, and I refused to revisit it enough to reinforce the memory. I shook my head.
“Any European city would be beautiful this time of year, I would think. Maybe Paris will be very busy,” I said.
Pam nodded slowly. I saw her in my peripheral vision, both of us still mesmerized by the gilded walls surrounding the organ. “How about Prague? It’s cold but, then again, everything is cold this time of year.”
“It won’t be too cold for you?”
Pam snickered. “No, I’ll be fine. You and I both have our heavy winter gear. We could go to Geneva and from there visit the Alps.”
“Don’t you want to go to London? Celebrate the holidays like you used to?”
“No, not really. It’s not the same and I haven’t really celebrated many holidays since my turning. This would be the first time in a long time when I’ve been able to relax enough to enjoy the season. I’d rather do something new and different. What do you say?” she asked and turned to me.
I turned to look at her. There was something in her eyes, some emotion that I wasn’t used to seeing; not on her, anyway. It was a sort of sadness, even though her mouth was turned up into a smile. I could feel it within me. Whatever I was seeing in her, it was inside me too.
That’s when I understood it better. We both were so worried for Eric, and we both missed him. This time she was separated from him not because she had wanted to be, but because she had to keep herself safe as well as me. She didn’t resent it, she was sad about it, just like I was. I’d known this about Pam: she possessed an innate sense of justice. She had told me before that what had happened to me hadn’t been fair. She felt the same way about keeping me safe as Eric did. She had also expressed her gratitude at my saving Eric’s life by using my love token. She was a killer, and she was pragmatic, but she was also objective and fair. I had yet to tell her about Miriam, but perhaps I should during one of our talks. Maybe she could help Miriam cheat death by turning her into a vampire on the night she would have died. Maybe taking the human life and replacing it with vampire life would satisfy the requirements of death.
At the very least, I owed Pam some happiness… for however long she could have it.
“You pick. We’ll go wherever you want to go,” I said, trying to be fair.
That’s how, a week later, we found ourselves trying to decipher the curious characters that made up the Czech Republic’s language.