I should have known my darling children would call their great-grandfather. Fintan arrived at the house at high noon, while I was having lunch outside on the deck under a big umbrella. I was alone, waiting for my nurse to arrive in about an hour. Idony had left to go to work and Rowyn to go to school. There were many things I could still do myself, so being alone wasn’t a hardship. However, changing the site of the IV was not one of those things I could do. Every three days the nurse would move the IV. My arms were starting to look like pincushions, and we were only two weeks into this.
Fintan took a seat across from me, eyeing me carefully. He looked exactly the same as when I’d met him. I take that back. He had developed a few tiny wrinkles around his eyes, but I could only see them when he smiled. He wasn’t smiling right at that moment. His blue gray eyes were filled with worry.
“Granddaughter,” he said by way of greeting, and got comfortable on the chair. “Idony called me this morning to give me some bad news. I would have expected to hear them from you directly.”
I sighed. I wasn’t in the mood to explain myself, but I knew I had to. “Eric isn’t doing too well and having the scent of fairy around won’t help him.”
“From what I hear it is not him who is ill. It is you. Care to tell me about it?” Fintan asked and leaned forward in his chair, putting his arms on the table and fixing me with a look. Right then I could see how much he resembled my father. Of the vague recollections that had become clearer with time, I could definitely see it.
I took a bite of my sandwich. At least I was able to eat. If I had chosen chemo, well, God only knew if I would have been able to do even this much. “I have cancer,” I said to my grandfather. Even admitting it out loud was painful.
“Like your aunt,” he said. My pain was echoed in his face. Sometimes I forgot that he had lost the mother of his children and his children as well. But at other times, like now, I could see the ghosts of the people that he had loved throughout his long life… they were there with him, in his eyes.
“Yes, like Aunt Linda.”
“Is that why you will not get the treatment, because of what you saw her go through?”
I nodded, remembering my dear aunt. She had wasted away and in the end it had been for nothing. The only thing that chemo had done for her was prolong the pain. Even after all these years there was no cure for cancer, only treatment.
“Why won’t you let your mate help you? Idy says he is willing but you will not accept his help,” Fintan tried to reason. If I was being honest with myself, I’d avoided him so I didn’t have to talk about it. But he had asked, so I had to answer.
“In the beginning Eric gave me blood. The cyst would stop growing and the doctors would remove it. A day or two without his blood, and a new cyst would develop, and I had to go again and get it removed. We did this for months, me in constant pain or anesthesia from the surgeries, Eric unable to replenish because I’d lost blood during the surgeries and couldn’t give him any. He started to lose strength, and the synthetic blood is not good enough for him. We even tried with bagged blood, but for some reason it wasn’t enough. He refuses to drink directly from a donor, won’t even consider it. It was killing me to see him wasting away. I couldn’t do that to him.
“I can’t bear to see him so weak,” I continued. “To hurt him in that way hurts more than what’s ravaging my body now. Even today, he fell asleep well before the dawn and we couldn’t wake him up so that he could seek shelter away from the nurse. He has regained some of his strength, but not all. He gave me blood for months, and finally I had to stop. I love him so much…” my voice faltered as I wiped my face with a napkin. Fintan remained silent, letting me talk and get it all out.
“Idy and Rowyn don’t understand, they think I’m being selfish for not taking their father’s blood to get better. It isn’t that at all. He would let himself be drained to heal me. He would die and I would die with him. Accepting my fate is the only way one of us can stay alive and be with the kids. My time on this Earth is up. It’s still Eric’s time to remain. The Ancient Pythoness said he would never be alone again. I’m counting on that. I’m hoping that he will get over my death and realize that his children need him to continue, that his legacy is alive and well and needs his protection.
“He will not listen to that,” I paused to blow my nose. “He feels like he will die when I die, which is insane.”
“Is it, dear granddaughter?” Fintan asked. His face still looked as young as ever, but his eyes were old. “Is it insane to love another so much that their death would rip your soul apart? What if the reverse were true? What if Eric was the one dying of cancer and you were the vampire who could save him?”
“But I’m not…”
“Put yourself in his shoes. You love him enough for that,” he said, implying that I didn’t love him enough.
“He’s my everything,” I said very low. The lump in my throat didn’t let me speak any louder.
“Would you consider letting him turn you?” Fintan asked, eyeing me curiously. It was as if he didn’t want to know the answer, but had felt duty-bound to ask.
“I’ve thought about it a lot. The moment we knew that we were done having children I started entertaining the idea. But the fact is that the threat of taking a life to feed myself is horrifying and against everything I believe in. I would let Eric turn me if he could guarantee that I wouldn’t kill anybody, but he can’t make that guarantee. He and Pam are older vampires who have their instincts well under control, but new vampires have no such control. Not only is there a threat of my taking a human life, but also of being unfaithful to my husband. I don’t know what to do. I hurt them either way. And now Idy told me she’s expecting,” I choked, unable to speak for several moments. “What kind of grandmother wants to drain her grandchild?”
“You would not be that way, Sookie. Eric is very old indeed. If he were your maker, he would have control over your new instincts.” Fintan paused and rolled his eyes. “I do not wish for you to turn into a vampire. I love my family just the way it is. I love your humanity, the part of myself that I’ve had to suppress for so many years in order to live in Fairy. I have it in all of you, my family. I loved Adele so much that I made her a love token. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was capable of making one, but…”
“What kind of love token?” I interrupted, thinking “how hard could it possibly be?” I was thinking of something he built or crafted with his hands.
“In Fairy, a long time ago, mates gave each other love tokens called cluviel dors. A cluviel dor is an object infused with one mate’s magic for the benefit of the other. You can only make one if you truly love the other person, and it takes some time. I made one for Adele when she first gave birth to my son.” At Fintan’s confession his eyes got a dreamy look. “He was so beautiful, such a healthy boy. I was elated, and the love I felt for Adele could not be contained. I infused a small box with my love and my magic, filled it to the brim and sealed it. Adele could use it for anything, as long as it was to help a loved one.”
I listened to the story fascinated, wondering what Gran had used the love token for. I asked my grandfather but he didn’t know. “She must have used it, I suppose, to take care of Colbert or Linda at some point. It must have happened before Linda became sick with the cancer,” he said, shaking his head with a new sadness. “Both my children were beautiful, and taken before their time. That should not be happening to you.”
I couldn’t agree more, yet here we were. In a few days I had an appointment with a funeral home. I would wrap my affairs and make sure everything was ready for me to depart this world. If my heart would just stop hurting every time I thought about leaving Eric… He needed to stay here. He HAD to stay here, for our children. And that meant that where I was going, he couldn’t follow.
What a way to spend my birthday. I woke up before the crack of dawn, with Mom asking me to see if Dad would wake up and go to the other room. Rowyn woke up too after hearing our voices. The only one who wouldn’t wake up was Dad. He was dead to the world. That’s when I started to understand what Mom had said about taking blood from him, and how it was killing him. As far as I remembered Dad was one of those vampires who could stay awake after sunrise, as long as he was away from the light.
“I think I can carry him,” Rowyn offered. He was as big as Dad, but I still doubted he could carry him to another bedroom.
“No, no, let him rest,” Mom said, getting closer to Dad on the bed now that Rowyn and I had vacated the middle. “I’ll meet the nurse downstairs, don’t worry.”
I watched for a moment while Mom got comfy next to Dad. She was lying on her side facing him. Her face was hidden, but her thoughts were clear enough. She was willing Dad to get better, to stay for our sakes and forget about following her to her grave. She was almost screaming her love for him. Inside was chaos. Outside was composure.
When I saw Evan that morning I couldn’t help but cry in his arms. He was scared too. He had forged a friendship with both my parents and loved them as if they were his own. Leave it up to Evan to fall in love with my whole family as well as me. His heart knew no bounds.
“I’ve been thinking about Mom all night,” he said. “I’m so sorry this is happening.” Evan listened to everything, and to my fear that I would lose both my parents due to this disease that was eating my mom alive.
I left Evan who had worked late and needed to rest, and went to work unable to focus on much. I called my Grandpappy and left a non-specific message that I needed to talk to him urgently. I never knew who I was talking to whenever I called Fairy. Thankfully he called me within ten minutes.
I explained everything as best I could and ended up crying on the phone. Grandpappy got the gist of it, though, and said he would go visit Mom and then stay to celebrate my birthday, since we were all having dinner at my parents’. How were we supposed to celebrate anything was beyond me.
Then the thought that this would probably be my last birthday with my mom, and maybe my dad, made me cry even harder. I had to leave work. I ended up at LSU and met up with my brother, who wasn’t doing all that great either. We decided to go home and spend the rest of the day with Mom. After all, we didn’t have forever anymore.
Grandpappy was sitting on the couch in the formal living room that nobody ever used when we got to the house. He said it was because the nurse was doing something with needles to Mom.
“I can’t look,” he said and smiled sheepishly. As old as he was and he was just a weak man, like all males.
Since I wasn’t fazed by needles or blood, I went and kept Mom company while the nurse did her thing.
“I wish you would have told me sooner. How did you keep it from Rowyn?” I asked her, not understanding how Rowyn had missed it.
“He’s young and in college. He also has a 4.0 average. He studies a lot and is very active in school…”
“And he went to Italy for the summer,” I said, filling in some gaps. “I still don’t know how you kept it from me.”
“You’re busy too,” she said, looked at me and smiled. She touched my cheek with her free hand, letting me hear her thoughts. She could see Dad in me, how beautiful she found us all and how much she would miss us. She wished she could stay, but the only option she envisioned had her looking like a blood-crazed vampire, willing and able to rip her family to pieces, including her grandchild.
My tears stung my eyes. Everything was coming together, all the pieces of Mom’s puzzle. I understood better why she had chosen to leave us. She refused to keep hurting us in order to remain alive. She had faith that Dad would stay so he could take care of us. I had no such faith. I knew exactly what would happen the moment she left: we would mourn both our parents.
When the nurse left, Mom went to take a nap and I returned to the living room. Evan would be bringing the food for my birthday dinner later, Uncle Jason would bring the drinks and True Blood, and Aunt Michele was making my cake. I was glad that my cousins were off to college in Michigan instead of coming over. I was sure Mom didn’t want to entertain, even though she was going to do it to make me happy.
“Grandpappy says there may be a way to solve this problem,” Rowyn said in a loud whisper. He stood up and motioned for us to go outside. He wanted to make sure our thoughts wouldn’t disturb Mom’s nap.
We sat in the middle of the lawn in our backyard, enjoying the sun and the cool breeze. Grandpappy enjoyed the sun about as much as Mom, it seemed. He was staring up into the sky when he spoke.
“I think we can make a love token for your mother. Between the three of us we just might have enough power to do it,” he said.
Rowyn looked excited. I was lost. “I don’t follow,” I said, sounding uncannily like Dad.
“It’s called a cluviel dor, an object of such immense magic that it can do almost anything for the one you love. It can perform miracles,” Rowyn said, using a lot of superlatives as I’m sure he knew.
“Okaaaay,” I said, not quite following yet, but knowing that neither Rowyn nor I possessed any magic to speak of.
“Don’t knock it down, Idy! It might work,” Rowyn said, literally reading my mind.
“What can the love token do?” I asked Grandpappy. “Can Mom use it on herself?”
He thought about my question, trying to come up with an answer. “Technically we would have to make the token for both of your parents so that they can both work the magic together. It’s a problem because they are blood bonded and mated, but I suppose she could use it on herself… though we know she would not. She would give it to Eric.”
Now he was talking gibberish. “What do you mean they’re blood bonded and mated? I know they’re married…” my voice trailed trying to figure things out.
Grandpappy smiled. Sometimes he could be so flaky, but sometimes he was chock-full of wisdom. “When your parents first met each other, Eric gave Sookie his blood. They exchanged blood three times, and formed a magical bond only existent within the vampire world. It is called a blood bond. Sookie allowed this because – unbeknownst to her – she had chosen Eric as her mate, just like a fairy would.”
“They never said anything,” Rowyn mumbled beside me. He was right. They’d kept that secret.
We only knew my parents were married. Rowyn and I had both been to the wedding as children, when I was eight and Rowyn was barely two. I remembered Mom wearing her pretty white gown with pink flowers that I had helped her pick, and Dad had worn a tuxedo. We had gone to a courthouse all four of us, Aunt Pam, Uncle Jason, and Aunt Michele. Everything seemed really cool to me because it had been so late in the evening and we were dressed in party clothes. What I remember the most was the kiss that my parents shared after saying the words that bound them together. They’d been so happy to get married that they kissed with smiles on their faces. Later we had danced at Dad’s club for so long that Rowyn had fallen asleep in a booth, with Auntie Indira watching him.
I wanted that again, something to celebrate with singing and music, with both my parents dancing in each other’s arms like they had at my wedding six months before. They had looked so in love. They were still in love, after almost twenty-seven years together.
“Grandpappy, do you really think we can make a love token?” I asked, not wanting to get my hopes us but… it was so hard not to get my hopes up. It really was. I wanted something, anything. I would exhaust all possibilities.
He sat up and looked at both my brother and me in turn. “You are about to lose her either way. I believe it is worth a try. The outcome will not be worse than it is now.”
I looked over at Rowyn who looked right back at me. I could read his expression easily. It was the same expression I was wearing. Hope.