The Silent Treatment
Waiting for me…
Her mood was just as acidic as it had been at dawn and it was infuriating as fuck.
Try as I did, it was impossible to ignore.
I was being ‘punished’ from a distance… She’d held her infantile grudge enough that she’d not been downstairs during the day.
Before dying for the day, I found myself hoping that she’d speak with Adele and have some sense talked into her. It was plain to see that those hopes were dashed.
As though her foul mood wasn’t irritating enough, I felt as though I was being watched while I checked my email and messages. Leered at… scrutinized like a fucking zoo exhibit. Two can play at that game.
I’d waited as late as I could, hoping that she’d call a halt to her nonsense if she realized how much she’d pushed me already. It was after 9 before I made my way upstairs having showered and dressed. I started pushing her to calm the fuck down. I was suffering the delusion that she’d settle.
She was sitting at the island with a drink and a book. “It won’t work.” She didn’t look up.
“Then back off.”
“What am I doing?”
“Keeping some sort of watch over my moods and movements.”
She shook her head as though she denied it. “Whatever.”
“Does Adele want to be part of shopping for furniture?” Like I was in the mood to go anywhere with Sookie at the moment.
“I already went.” She was trying to piss me off.
“You already went? You left the house to buy furniture when we were already planning on going tonight?”
“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t need to have my hand held for everything. 3 beds. 3 mattress sets. 3 dressers. 1 ensemble for the sitting area. I did it all without any help.” She took a sip of her drink, still not looking up from her book.
“Did you do it without your guard?”
“Yes.” I was irate in an instant. She chose to be a rebellious brat and ignore any semblance of safety protocol by leaving the house without a fucking guard!
“How could you be so stupid!?”
She snorted. “You’re surprised? Isn’t that what you think of me anyway?”
“Of course not! You’re being completely fucking ridiculous! Going out without your guard in some sort of bizarre attempt to rebuke me only proves that you’re too naïve and reckless to care about your safety!”
“I’m ready to go to work when you are. Bubba’s already in the library with Gran. Bobby was here first thing this morning with the auto-glass company so the Vette’s window is good to go.”
I growled at her, careful to stay where I was. “And gallingly dismissive.”
“Jason and Gran came to a decision about Bartlett. He’s getting cremated since there isn’t much left of him anyway and they’re going to scatter his ashes with his parents.”
“So what, now we aren’t talking about it at all?”
“What is there to talk about?”
“The fact that you’re being a bitch over a misunderstanding.”
She stood from her seat and took her purse. “If you think I’m a bitch now, wait until you see the pink shag carpet I ordered for the safe rooms. I’ll be in the car.”
The horde was larger than the night before and Pam was waiting for us again.
Sookie gave a gratuitously cheerful greeting and excused herself to go to the bar…
Pam closed the door to the office. “Wow.”
“I’m not in the mood.”
“You might not be in the mood to talk about it, but you’re in the mood to kill something.”
“Thank you, mistress of the obvious. Is there anything I need to know about?”
“You were in a better mood when we had to resort to cattle blood… it’s been, what 100 years?”
“130. Nothing business related?”
“The bar is packed with a hearty line outside and the Telepathy Clinic is open for business. I’ve already passed out the forms and explained procedure to the line. What happened?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Eric, if you knew what to do or how to fix whatever is going on you’d have done it by now. I might be able to offer a helpful point of view.”
“How long have you been thinking of that façade to interfering?”
“Hours. It’s good isn’t it?”
“One of your best.”
“She stormed out last night shortly after you left because she didn’t want to stay here… I’d suggested we could stay until dawn and she could go back to the house. She petulantly tried to walk home after saying that my resting here is stupid…”
She gasped. “In those heels!?” And this was my sad state… confiding in the Joan Rivers of vampires…
“We’ll call the fashion police later. Are you going to focus?”
She sat in the chair opposite my desk and folded her arms expectantly. “Of course. My apologies.”
“She collected her things from the laundry room and took up residence in one of the guest rooms. I waited until just before dawn to try to talk to her. She complained that I dismissed her worries and said that she wanted to be left alone.”
“During the day she decided to go out shopping… alone. When I told her that doing so was stupid, she suggested that I already think she is stupid. Then… she refused to talk about the matter.”
“You’re going to rip someone’s throat out for sport if you two don’t make up.” Agreeing with her was interrupted by a sudden wash of warmth and lightheadedness…
“And now… she’s drinking! No doubt to teach me some sort of ludicrous lesson… I don’t know how much more of that bullshit I can take… She’s going to get herself hurt or killed in her childish little attempt to get me to take her seriously. I don’t think she realizes that her little game is having the opposite effect!”
She stared, unmoving.
“You’re upset that she’s mad at you.”
“Really? You were right, Pam. Your perspective has been boundlessly useful!”
“She was worried that resting here wouldn’t be safe for you and then you were cavalier about the risks?”
“I wouldn’t call it ‘cavalier’. She said that I was lucky that Fangtasia hasn’t been burned down already and told me that she’d be upset if anything happened to me… I suggested that she was trying to put me on a guilt trip. That’s when she took off. The mood had been fine.”
“Did she mention why she worried?”
“She said it was because she’d seen a lot of anti-vampire thoughts, and I understand that… But she waited until just before dawn to point that out.”
“No. You waited until just before dawn to go to her and let her point it out.”
“You’re saying this is my fault!?” I should’ve known…
“I’m saying that you’re an idiot when it comes to women since until Sookie came along your idea of a long term relationship was a second round in here…”
“Why haven’t you moved on yet? I released you years ago.”
“Because I’d have to pay for my own clothes if I didn’t annoy you until you sent me shopping… just apologize to her.”
“What the fuck do I have to apologize for?”
“Being a guy.”
She rolled her eyes again. “I worry about you too.”
“Why would you worry about me? It’s not as though I can’t take care of myself.”
“That doesn’t matter. I worry because I care… Play make-believe for a moment… The knob and his maker aside, you’d still feel better if Sookie were guarded during the day, right?”
“Yes… her ability makes her sought-after for a lot of reasons. She could be taken while I’m dead.”
“You know that there’s a real threat.”
“So do you. What are you getting at?”
“She’s protective over you because she loves you. She knows that we are more fragile than even her during the day.”
“Are you done?”
“You’re being an asshole.” I prefer to be called ‘butthead’.
“I’ve already told you that I recognize her reasons for worrying. Her behavior is what I find intolerable. She’s practically forcing her indignation down my throat and refusing to have a rational conversation about it.”
She stood up and turned to leave. “I didn’t think it was possible, but there is someone as stubborn as you. Go Figure.”
“You turned out to be a shitload of help.”
She snorted. “What the hell do I know? I’m not guilty of pillow talk anymore than you.”
“You read those columns though.” As soon as I spoke, I knew how absurd it sounded.
She huffed and rested her hand on the door knob. “Telling her that she’s behaving childishly won’t help. It seems like the stress is getting to her and that she’s taking it out on you.”
“I can’t make everything stop.”
“Speaking of stating the obvious… Her stress is easier than the alternative.”
“What’s the alternative?”
“PMS… I understand that it’s a new legal defense to murder. I find myself bitter that I missed the excuse.”
“I think you’re grandfathered in. Being a vampire gives you license to be a bitch whenever you wish.”
“Thank God… You know, another point… The two of you spent last night with vampires who are wronged in some degree while they’re dead… it was all fresh for her.”
“I’m aware, but I fucking refuse to do this. It’s not possible to talk to her.”
“Would you have apologized for not taking her concerns seriously if she were being calmer?”
“I don’t know… Go think of a way to interrupt her drinking before it causes a problem.”
Since it took so long for Sookie to join me in the office, I could only assume that Pam had been talking to her.
Sookie sat at her post behind my desk and took the notepad and pen she’d used the night before… without looking at me once.
“I don’t want to do this.”
She sighed, “Neither do I. I just want to get through this.”
“I don’t mean that. I mean this…”
“Oh well.” Excuse me?
“You’re making it impossible for us to talk. Do you want to argue?” If that’s what she wanted, I could give her that in spades.
“I don’t know what I want…”
She stopped talking as Pam entered the office with Sookie’s first client of the evening….
While the process moved more smoothly than the night before… each client had their IDs, agreement and fee at the ready and a few had written notes for Sookie as to specific concerns…
Again, I couldn’t focus…
As Sookie cleared or caught a dozen pets and 3 servants I, as Jason had described it, freaked right the fuck out…
She didn’t know what she wanted.
Over a misunderstanding that started over our ‘Baptist on Sunday’ joke…
She was questioning being with me over that?
She went from wanting to bond to me… Considering being turned… to questioning ‘us’…
As angry as the concept made me, it still wasn’t enough to keep me from realizing how fucking miserable it left me…
Instead of the nightmare that would be planning for her return to Bon Temps (hiring full time guards and having her shuttled back and forth for her mind reading responsibilities) I was caught up as though a wrench had been tossed into my mental gears…
Far worse than it had been to think of her ‘post-Rene’ return… the idea of having her leave me… LEAVE ME…
Even rising tonight to feel her irrational bitterness festering like a bee hive was more attractive than the possibility of waking to not feel her at all.
She sat 3 feet away from me, ignoring me unless an exchange was required for the purposes of the meetings…
Nearly 2 hours of vampires and pets passed while anxiety had the chance to take root.
As old as I was, I was losing my grip over a girl…
Over a thousand fucking years old and I was nearly deranged over the idea of my girlfriend moving out.
Sookie took a break to use the bathroom and refresh her Lynchburg Lemonade. I had hoped to have the chance to say something to her while we waited for the next client, but she returned having fetched them herself.
She was avoiding me. Avoiding the topic. I tried to convince myself that she was avoiding arguing, given my mood that she was no doubt feeling…
It didn’t work.
When that group of satisfied customers left, I did too.
I found Pam standing at the door. “How could it have gotten worse while she’s been working?”
For the last two hours I’d been contemplating that Sookie might ‘break up’ with me, but I wasn’t about to explain that. “Never mind. You go sit with her. I’ll stay on the floor.”
“Seriously? That bad?”
“Just go. Send a bouncer to check IDs.”
I sat in the chair on the stage area and hated every second of the next hour…
The last time I had sat watch over the pathetic creatures that appear in droves was the night Sookie waltzed into my existence.
I hadn’t thought about it. I hadn’t considered that it had been a while since I’d done it… Most importantly, I hadn’t missed it.
From the second my ass was on the chair, the fangbanging horde started in.
Their immediate notice sent them all into their odd little attempts to get my attention. It didn’t work unless it was accounted for that they made me more sick than usual.
The coy glances, lip licking and ‘erotic’ dancing only pushed my thoughts to the bitchy little telepath in my office all the more.
I caught myself being guilty of the same thing Sookie had been doing earlier… I monitored her.
As clients came and went she felt everything from sympathy to pride in varying degrees, but it was all but a raft floating on the undercurrent of what was (or wasn’t as the case may be) going on between us.
“Hey. You look bored as shit.”
I’d been ignoring the silly little sashayed parades long enough that Jason had managed to stop directly in front of me before I noticed him. “You could say that. Have a seat. What brings you out?” I motioned to one of the waitresses to come take his order.
I watched the bitter glances cast in Jason’s direction because he was invited to join me while he ordered his drink. “I stopped by the house to see Gran, but she shooed me off ‘cause that Bubba guy is over. What’s up with that?”
“She enjoys his company. He told me last night that they’d spent most of the evening talking about ‘home cooking’.” Discussing collards and okra had actually made him impatient about his waiting meal.
He chuckled. “With a vampire? Don’t that beat all!”
“We all miss certain things about our humanity.”
“That makes sense I guess, but it’s still a little funny… Hadley called me… Do you guys stop giving a shit about stuff when y’all turn?”
“We have to detach to an extent. Why?”
“She said that she didn’t care if we fed Bartlett’s ashes to pigs and then burned the shit.” That was a colorful idea.
“She didn’t like him.”
“I don’t get it though… even Gran doesn’t seem to care all that much… I knew Sookie’s always been skitchy about him so I didn’t expect much from her…”
“You don’t understand why you’re the only one that seems to be grieving.”
“Yeah. I know that they had some sort of falling out a long time ago, but he’s dead… for good, not like y’all… I figured she’d be a little upset, but she was fine by the time I got to y’alls place last night.”
“It wasn’t a falling out… You weren’t told anything?”
“Naw… I stopped asking a long time ago. They’d always tell me to mind my own business.”
“Bartlett wasn’t the person you think he was, Jason.”
“What the fuck happened? Why do you know about it and I don’t?”
“I believe that you were too young to understand.”
“Like how it went down was any easier. I figured for a long time that I was gonna get run off when I grew up because Bartlett was the only guy left in the family after Hadley’s dad ran off.”
“It’s never that simple.”
“I was 11. I grew up surrounded by girls who told me to butt out.”
“I’ve come to understand what the term ‘funny uncle’ means.”
“Ohmigod… He went after Hadley!?” He looked like he was going to be sick and part of me was proud of his reaction… He hadn’t been unfeeling… just ignorant.
I gave him a nod.
“Oh… mannnnn… did Sookie see it? She was so… she couldn’t have been but 8 or so when…”
“She didn’t just see ‘it’.”
He stared at me for what seemed like forever… “That FUCKER!”
“It wasn’t until your parents died that anyone would listen to Sookie.”
“He did it… it wasn’t just a onetime thing? He didn’t just get aholt of ‘em once? It went on?”
“Until Adele found out and disowned him, yes.”
“That piece of shit! I cried for him… I felt sorry for him! He didn’t have any friends and his own kin didn’t give a shit enough to dig a hole… Sonofabitch!”
He sat back, only breaking his own silence by chewing the ice in his drink while he thought.
“It’s not like I could’ve done anything back then, but… if I had known, I wouldn’t have kept talking to him.”
“You’ve been in touch?”
“Once I moved out he started calling me every few months to check in on things. I knew better than to tell Gran, but… it makes me sick that he would always ask after Sookie and Hadley… I’d have killed him if I knew.” Good little squirrels… even Jason was growing on me… fuck… even Jason was growing on me now that Sookie seems to have decided to walk away.
“That’s probably why they didn’t tell you.” He wouldn’t have been able to get away with it.
“Fuck that. I can think of a hundred ways to kill him. Walking into traffic was too quick… Fucking rapist… He shoulda gotten a buck shot enema.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Shoving the working end of a shotgun up his ass would have been just as quick.”
“So. I’d have mounted his head and hung it next to the deer on my wall… used it to hang my hard hat.” The thought was hilarious.
“Tell me, would you have had the big dark eyes put in like a deer or would you have those creepy doll eyes put in?”
He shuddered, but he laughed. “Shit man, I don’t know… I wonder if Mr. Spencer’d give me the remains so I can run ‘em over a few times before he goes into the furnace.”
“Doubtful. Laws and such.”
“Humph… I do know one thing though.” Beer nuts don’t actually have beer in them?
“I’m joking about how to kill my uncle… I think I’m spending too much time with you vampires.” If he only knew.
“The world could use a little more vampire-thinking. As it is, humans tend to keep people like your uncle like pets. Prisons allow a lot of liberties.”
“What happens when y’all get in trouble?”
“If we aren’t staked, we’re tortured. It tends to deter further bad behavior.”
“Tortured like how?”
“Silver chains, starvation, beatings… then there are the more imaginative methods.” Such as bananas.
“Silver really fuck with y’all like in movies?”
I nodded. “It’s like acid… it burns into our skin.”
“That’s weird. Then again I don’t get the daytime thing either… Since y’all used to be human and all… It makes that whole ‘virus’ thing on the news buyable, ya know. Y’all all having a sudden having reactions to that stuff. Like bad allergies.”
“You could hardly call the wooden stake concern an ‘allergy’ though.”
He scoffed. “I never got how that was a big deal… I mean… that’d kill me too.” My, my… Something he’d eaten had made his squirrels sharper than usual.
“Fair point… but for the record, a bullet would also kill you. Not me.”
“Dayum… A stake’s the only way?”
“That, sunlight and being beheaded.”
“Wow.” He sat quietly for a few more minutes while he sipped from his drink and finally leaned over… “You need to keep an eye on that one. She’s up to something.”
He nodded towards a typically black-clad fangbanger type with eyeliner so heavy that she looked like a raccoon. “Something?”
“She’s looking around like she’s gonna get caught… like a kid sneaking up on a cookie jar.”
“Some of them just look nervous…” I hadn’t meant it… He was right. Her eyes were shifty and she seemed like she was more than just nervous to be around vampires.
I motioned to one of the waitresses and took her order book and pen. “…Interrupt the meeting in my office with apologies. Take Sookie a fresh drink and give her this note. Wait for her answer.”
Jason and I sat watchful and a moment went by after the waitress left with Sookie’s drink before I felt Sookie’s reaction to the woman’s thoughts…
Instant panic… My body tensed with her and waiting for the waitress to come back with Sookie’s answer was excruciating.