Once Gawain heard Sookie was grieving a miscarriage, practically alone, the questions stopped. He’d been assuming Sookie had a more clandestine secret in spite of my assurances because he could only sense that we were hiding something…
I snorted and told him he might as well have told everyone he was telepathic all along given how inept he is in comparison to Sookie and the children… Not only did he not argue, but he explained he’d rarely ever found a reason to be grateful for the phenomenon of not dying. The fact that he was trapped indoors, even though he was alive, was too annoying for the few times it had been an advantage to make up for it. Allowing that to be public knowledge would have set him up to be hired to execute Vampires during the day… it was the Vampire equivalent of shooting someone in the back. Not his style. I’d just assumed that he’d kept his daytime condition to himself because of the jealousy it would invoke.
Sookie sleepily offered that the ability had been a godsend to a version of Her who’d been brought over while She was raising a small child. A basement was transformed into a lightproof apartment so that She could tend to the boy.
I decided if I had any time alone I’d be scouring the journal for mentions of sleep-talking. Other than the groggy tenor of her little confessions, she was completely lucid.
Other than how horrified Gawain was by how wrong he’d been about Sookie’s ‘big secret’, the remainder of the flight was uneventful until after the pilot announced the final approach…
I had to make an extra effort to wake Sookie from what seemed to be a coma, but at least I could wake her… The girls were sleeping so soundly, Edward made a show of checking their pulses in spite of their snoring.
Sookie stretched with a sleepy grin on her face. “Oh, that was bad. Sooooo bad… You’ll never be rid of us now. You have no idea how hard it is for a telepath to sleep like a rock.”
“We’ll discuss how bizarre it is that you’re all so comfortable napping among Vampires later… Do you know how to wake them?“
“They’re in your mind. You have to do it.”
“All of them? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”
She hummed and shook her head. “Not with you…”
The pilot interrupted us by using the intercom to call for Sookie.
She patted my knee as she stood to walk towards the cockpit, leaving me to wake the girls as though I knew how.
Floundering… with witnesses no less. Lovely.
While the pilot complained about the condition of the airfield, I stared at Lindy because she was the closest. Edward had already tried nudging her, pinching her nose shut, lifting and dropping her arm, patting her cheek, and huffing air into her face.
Without a better idea, I took her from her seat, holding her under her arms while Richard laughed that she looked like a ragdoll. She was dangling from my hands, completely limp with no visible signs of life.
I had no fucking clue how it worked, maybe it was just because I’d taken away the sweater she’d been warming herself with, but after a moment she opened her eyes to grin at me.
She looked like Sookie when she was waking as well… She favored Allecks until she showed any form of expression, and then she looked like her mother in miniature.
“Did you have a nice nap?”
She giggled and pulled her arms up to hug my neck. She cooed, “The best. Can we move downstairs?” So bizarre.
“No. Your snoring will keep me awake.”
She giggled, “Liar… Are we landing soon?”
“Your mother is arguing with the pilot now about where we’ll land.”
She sighed and finally lifted her face from my shoulder. “K- Someone’s gonna need to glamour him. He’s being a troll about using Concolor Drive as a tarmac.”
“She wants him to land on a public street?”
Lindy giggled, “There’s nothing public about Hotshot… Put me down. I need the potty.”
I set her on the floor and watched her run to the tiny bathroom.
I managed to ask “How secluded is Hotshot?” just before she closed the door.
“Nothing but Panthers. There aren’t other houses for miles. It’s more like a commune. They work and go to school with outsiders, but they live as a pack.”
“Only a few second-borns.”
Richard snorted, “I’ve only heard of those packs. New York, Boston, Philadelphia… all integrated and assimilated packs. This will be new.”
Lindy answered as she washed her hands. “That’s how the Shreveport pack is, but when Mommy says she was raised in a pack, she means it. She’s the Packmaster’s daughter, but since she isn’t a Were, the guys in the pack respected her instead of just looking at her as a bitch for breeding. Her cousins call her a Princess, but Grandaddy calls her his ‘little alpha bitch’.”
Gawain, Edward, Richard and I all chuckled… I probably could have benefited from that information before she stabbed me, but the more important issue at the moment was that the pilot was learning how assertive Sookie was… just as I had. The hard way.
She growled, “Don’t be such a damn pussy. You were in the RAF. If you don’t trust the asphalt then get the fuck out of my way. I’ll land the plane.”
Just to be sure, since she was afraid to fly… she could have taken lessons, perhaps as an attempt to cure her phobia… “Lindy, your mother can’t pilot a plane, can she?”
As she opened the bathroom door, she scoffed, “Yeah right,” sarcastically.
Gawain laughed as he stood up and went to assist Sookie. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was backpedaling… apologetically helpful.
I shook my head and reached for Jenny… Her eyes opened almost as soon as I lifted her from her seat and she wrapped her arms around my neck like Lindy had. The difference was in the way she clung to me as though she was frightened of something.
Lindy focused on the debate happening in the cockpit for a few moments before thinking to explain that Jenny was slow to wake up.
Having Jenny attached to my side made me wonder how I was going to wake Misty… Improvising, I pushed the leg-rest of her chair down with my foot so she’d be more upright… As I squatted down in front of her, I tugged her hand and watched her slump over to fold herself in half. It was amusing enough for Lindy to giggle and explain that Misty was the lightest sleeper of the three of them.
The lightest sleeper?
I lifted her chin, wondering if my blood had anything to do with her state, waiting for her to take control of any part of her body.
The fourth time I said her name, her eyes sprang open. She spent a moment looking at me before scanning her surroundings and back to me.
She smirked and put her hand on my shoulder to coo, “You won’t pay any mind to the pile of sleeping kids on your bedroom floor.”
She was glamouring me. Of course I laughed… along with everyone else who heard her.
She giggled and patted my shoulder as she stood up. “Best freakin’ nap ever. When do we land?”
“As soon as Gawain glamours the pilot to land in Hotshot.”
She turned for the restroom and offered, “Sweet… I’m starving.”
While I returned to my seat it occurred to me that the girls even woke differently from one another…
Lindy was cheerful and grateful for a pleasant nap, asking to move closer to my resting place.
Once Misty’s eyes were open she returned to business as usual, informing me she’d be moving closer to me as though it were manifest (only encouraging Vampire comparisons).
Jenny, still clinging to my neck and sharing my chair with me, was fragile and in need of special consideration.
Gawain stayed in the cockpit with the pilot as we landed, laughing that the lights on the landing strip consisted of the headlights of several well spaced pickup trucks.
Since Jenny was still clinging to me, Sookie held my jacket to help me put it on and apologized for not thinking to warn me to wake them sooner. Jenny usually needed half an hour to ‘come back to herself’.
The plane had barely come to a stop before Misty released the latch and the door was opened.
Misty and Lindy practically flew out of the plane, shrieking their greeting to ‘Grandaddy’.
The Were jokingly ordered them to stop growing between visits and asked if ‘that Shifter’ had stopped crying yet. Miles had officially become an international joke.
Sookie patted my hip on her way by, apologizing for ‘bailing out on’ me.
Richard bent over to watch Sookie greet her stepfather and snorted, “If she greets her step-father like that, I hope her father wears a helmet.”
I explained, “She was closer to Calvin as a child. She said it had something to do with her mother’s alcoholism…”
Edward offered, “Same boat and all that.”
I nodded. “Her father dropped everything to fly to Bern and help Allecks tend to Sookie while she was injured. He was there for nearly a year. She said it wasn’t until then that she appreciated him.”
I shook my head. “Not at all. Her theory is that she confused her father’s ‘weekend quests for fun’ as one-upmanship. It wasn’t until she was older and using her telepathy again that she realized he was making the best of the time he had with his children.”
Gawain shook his head. “Again? She stopped using her telepathy?”
“Her mother committed her to an asylum. There was a ‘nurse’ there who encouraged her to use her shields… Her gift made her miserable until then. Her shields became effortless with some coaching. Sookie just recently learned that the helpful nurse was a Faerie who’s played different roles in Sookies’ lives.”
“The same version of her in the braid or different variations of her?”
I shrugged and walked towards the door. “It’s not as though there’s been much information provided. Faeries are a pain in the ass. This isn’t news.”
Jenny offered a weak giggle against my neck.
“Welcome back. Edward checked your pulse.”
She breathed, “Selma says I sleep harder than she does.”
Calvin had heard her… He was still holding Sookie from the ground when he grumbled, “Speaking of Selma… That woman is fit to be tied.”
There were already a handful of Weres waiting at the cargo hold of the plane. One of them entered the plane behind us and was ordering the pilot to release the latch.
Sookie whined as she stepped out of the hug. “She called you?”
“She says you’re in over your head. You don’t know what you’re getting into. She wants you to call her to explain yourself…”
Sookie growled, “Yadda yadda yadda. Blah blah blah… Allecks is being a baby about being so far away from the girls. He can’t complain about anything, so he called her to fish for dirt.”
“Nothing to complain about? You took his kids to live five hours away from him.”
“I’ve got a good reason, but the shitty part is that as far as he knows he’s screwing up my working vacation. He doesn’t know I’m planning to make it permanent yet.”
He snorted, “You don’t have to be a mind reader to pick up on shit, girl. You want easy? Next time, marry a tard… In the meantime, you’re lucky as hell he loves the girls enough to cause a ruckus… Now who’re your friends?”
She turned to us and pointed as she made her introductions. “Lord Edward Page of Upper Luxembourg, Lord Richard Page of Lower Luxembourg…”
“Wait. Are they related or is that just creepy as fuck Vampire weirdness?”
She pinched his side until he winced and growled, “You’re worse now than you were when I was in high school. They’re actual brothers. Can I continue?”
“If you stop pinching me.”
“No promises… Lord Gawain Green and…”
“Just Lord Dwayne Green? He doesn’t have Lefty Luxembourg?”
He was fucking with her… And watching her try to ignore it was hilarious.
“His name is GAH-wayne. Not Dwayne, jackass… He doesn’t have Lefty or Righty Luxembourg because he’s the Lord Constable of the Northern Kingdom.”
“Like Wyatt Earp?”
“More like Joseph McCarthy and Wyatt Earp had a baby and it has fangs.”
Gawain and I looked at one another and shrugged. We had no fucking clue who either of those people were… but judging by the look on the Packmaster’s face, neither of them were friendly.
“Alight… What about Jenn’s schlepper? Lord Umptyscrunch of Middle Earth? Am I right?”
Definitely worth a chuckle… even Jenny thought so.
Sookie pinched Calvin’s side again, but didn’t let go while she hissed, “Try King Eric Northman of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Northern Germany, and Denmark… Guys, this is my hilarious stepfather, Packmaster and resident comedian of Hotshot. He gets punchy when he’s tired and judging by the bags under his eyes…”
He grabbed her wrist to pull her hand away and wrapped his arm around her head to cover her mouth. “I’m not tired. I’m just waking up. I racked out after work so I could have a slumber party.”
She mumbled into his hand, “Slumber party?”
“I’m kidnapping my grandbabies. I’ve got them tonight and I’ll take them to Corbett after we make breakfast. Then I’m coming to do some yard work with you… The schedule’s on the fridge at the flophouse for you.”
She complained into his hand, “What… the… fuck… You can’t just…”
When Jenny giggled, I offered, “I see where you get it from.”
She mumbled, “Fork you.”
Calvin crooned, “Awww, don’t be mad… I hear it’s good for women to take an occasional break from their kids.”
She growled and pushed his hand away from her mouth. “You hear that from people with high maintenance kids who need leashes. I don’t need a break.”
“We’ve only got y’all for a few days and we have to share you with book signings and Vampire politics. Deal with it.”
The girls had been perfectly happy to stay in Hotshot with Calvin. The rest of the family had been to Bern to visit, but Calvin wasn’t in a position he could leave for any length of time. They depended on phone calls between the girls’ Easter and Thanksgiving homecomings… He made sure to mention that he missed his grandbabies and had three of his own children leave home. He couldn’t imagine what Allecks was going through because at least Calvin’s children left home when they were adults.
While the rest of us were amused, Sookie felt enough guilt to deem Calvin’s harping a success. By the time our luggage had been moved to Sookie’s car (and the girls’ bags had been carried to a nearby house) Calvin’s nagging had earned a promise from Sookie to ‘cut Allecks some slack’…
Even though I was sure Calvin thought Sookie was relocating on a whim, I couldn’t agree with his perspective. Allecks divorced Sookie because she wasn’t masochistic enough to continue having miscarriages. The prick was lucky she was generous enough to stay on the same continent.
I couldn’t help but reel at seeing Sookie submit to anyone, but watching Calvin control the pack of bystanders made it clear where Sookie learned her dominant behavior. With short, stern orders the pilot went back into the plane and taxied into a field to turn around and the Weres moved their vehicles to serve as running lights.
The only car of the dozen that wasn’t driven away after the plane took off again was the one that Calvin had driven. It was the one Sookie kept to use during her visits to Louisiana.
Edward and Richard calculated how many bodies they could fit into the back of Sookie’s Lincoln Navigator during our drive between Hotshot and Bon Temps. Nearly twenty minutes of estimating the square footage, questions about the seats folding down, guessing that drums could indeed be stood up to make room for more, and an attempt to find a Lincoln dealership in Luxembourg… Richard and Edward had used the subway and taxis while they lived in New York, but they kept a Bronco for extenuating circumstances. Sookie jokingly suggested they look into a minivan as a utility vehicle because they were unassuming and the seats could be easily removed to make room for a large refrigerator.
I had to warn her to stop encouraging them before they began researching opening their own Lincoln franchises in Diekirch.
A quaint little farmhouse with a swing on the front porch was waiting at the end of the long gravel driveway. The lights were on and the there were two cars parked in a large clearing. Sookie explained that the pickup truck was her father’s and the minivan was the one Jason kept for his visits.
I was confused… I might not have remembered much from the text of the journals, but the photos and videos hadn’t been forgotten.
“This is your grandmother’s house.”
She nodded as she steered the car towards a yellow patch in the yard. “Oh yeah… sorry. Aunt Linda and Daddy inherited it from Grampa when he passed. They didn’t want to sell it because every bit of it was built by a Stackhouse, so Aunt Linda sold her place and took it over. She had to take out a mortgage to pay for her medical bills, which actually turned out to be a good thing. Hearing about the lien changed Hadley’s mind about challenging her mother’s will… She didn’t need to know Aunt Linda had enough life insurance to pay it off. Jason and I take turns paying the utilities so Daddy doesn’t have to… And he can’t complain since he’s using us as an excuse to keep it.”
“Conveniently located next to a cemetery.”
She shrugged as she removed her seatbelt. “It wasn’t there when the house was built. The first body buried there is a Stackhouse in an unmarked grave. The old church cemetery was swamped with a cholera epidemic. Every Stackhouse since then has been laid to rest there… And a few Comptons.”
“Not enough of them, I hear.”
She giggled and pushed her door open. “I’m sooooo looking that dickhead up while we’re here.”
As we walked to the rear of the SUV to collect our things, Edward looked as though he was going to ask who Sookie was talking about, but he was interrupted by a maddeningly loud squeal that came from inside the house.
Richard snorted, “Was that a ‘rebel yell’?”
Sookie laughed, “No… That’s a present for Eric. I can get you a rebel yell if you want one though.”
I couldn’t decide which question to ask first… Thankfully, Gawain’s curiosity had returned. “What the fuck is a ‘rebel yell’?”
“American Civil War. You’ve got the North versus the South. The Northern military is stocked with boys trained to fight. The Southern troops were just rednecks trying to stand up for the only way of life they’ve ever known. Most of them were volunteers. The North would stand on one side of a battlefield in their pretty uniforms in tight formation while the Rebel army stood on the other side in rags, all unorganized like a bar-fight waiting to happen. When they got the order to charge, they’d let out a hellacious battle cry. The Union troops thought the Rebels were completely insane.”
“That noise just now didn’t sound lucid.”
“That was a happy squeeee from an excited teenage girl.”
Edward’s eyes lit up. “Then you misspoke. She’s a present for me.” He hadn’t even seen her yet. She could have been squealing because she was the missing link between pigs and Humans.
Sookie giggled and pulled the back of the car open. “She’s not that kind of present…”
We barely had our bags in hand before the front door of the house was yanked open and hit the wall behind it.
The teenage girl in question ran out of the house with a maniacal smile stretched across her face and rushed directly to Sookie…
She hit Sookie with enough force to nearly knock her over, hugging and laughing that she didn’t think they’d ever meet in person.
One of Sookie’s fans.
The girl was wearing a short skirt (and didn’t have a single porcine thing about her), so Edward was watching her ass, rather than the unhinged greeting like the rest of us.
The mystery guest and Sookie were still clinging to each other when Gawain sniffed audibly and complained, “What the fuck is that smell?”
I sampled the air and offered, “Oranges?”
“That would be me. Sorry, but it’s better than being Vampire bait…”
Gawain and I turned to see who’d managed to sneak up on us. Corbett Stackhouse, only recognizable to me because of the photos in the journal. Average height, well built, attractive, wearing the simple jeans and T-shirt Sookie had mentioned… and offering his hand to me.
“Eric right? Corbett.”
I nodded and shook his hand. “Saving your scent for Selma?”
He chuckled, “She’s the one that suggested oranges. Sook got a gift basket at a hotel. Orange body wash pretty much made her smell Human. Nice trick…” He turned to Gawain. “Gawain right? Good to meet you.”
Gawain raised an eyebrow. “You know who I am?”
Once Gawain released Corbett’s hand, he turned to shake Richard’s… and then had to snap his fingers to get Edward’s attention from Sookie’s fan’s ass.
Corbett addressed each one of us by name.
The fact that he’d known Gawain on sight was the intriguing part… Gawain’s photo wasn’t likely to be found online. Drawings and paintings of him weren’t even accurate, but they were in museums.
When Corbett was finished greeting the Vampires as though it was a nightly situation for him, he whistled and nudged the teenager. “That’s it. Time’s up. Lemme at my baby girl.”
The girl released Sookie and when she stepped back she looked embarrassed, like she’d only then realized Sookie wasn’t alone.
She straightened her skirt nervously and offered, “Ummm, hi… I’m… I’m Ema.” I was almost positive that the girl was nervous because of Edward’s leering.
Edward stepped towards her and took her hand. “That’s Old German for universal, isn’t it?”
Gawain snorted and grumbled in German, “Five hundred years. When is he going to stop using that tactic?”
Richard rolled his eyes. “When it stops working… and why does that accent work? It’s so thick he’s like a parody of himself.”
While Corbett asked Sookie about our flight and if she was tired, Edward introduced us. “The freakishly tall one is Eric. The sullen one is Gawain. And this is my brother Richard.” Insulting his ‘competition’ wasn’t a new tactic either.
She giggled, “I know… I have a brother named Richard. He’s stationed in Tikrit right now.”
“Army?” Nevermind that she knew who we all were, let’s probe for family information as though we care about her life.
Before I could spoil his fun, Sookie chided, “Slow your roll, bogart… I told you she isn’t that kind of present.”
She took Ema’s hand and began walking towards the house, cueing her father to offer our invitations along the way…
As Sookie gave us a tour of the house, she maintained her hold on Ema’s hand while her father stayed in the living room that smelled of the new suede furnishings. Sookie’s bedroom, the bedroom the girls would use once they were returned to Sookie, the bathroom in the hallway, the kitchen, and the two bedrooms upstairs… Sookie had sent her father to buy larger mattresses and with two beds in each room there wasn’t space for much else… not that we needed it. I was just impressed with the thought Sookie and her father had put into our visit. He hadn’t just nailed wood into the window frames. He’d used drywall, framed the windows with molding and hung a painting over them.
As we all filed downstairs again, Sookie complained that the house wasn’t lightproof, so she’d have to depend on us to help her collect our laundry…
Richard jokingly whined that the extra beds meant that he wouldn’t have an excuse to spoon me…
I thanked Corbett for his hospitality…
Edward eye-fucked Ema…
And Gawain was completely silent. No questions or jokes. He used the large group as camouflage and blended in. I was sure he was trying to read someone’s mind to learn more about Ema, but it only reminded me of the hundreds of times we’d been in a situation where he was just as quiet…
Corbett had followed us into the kitchen and as we all gathered, Sookie and Corbett both pushed themselves up to sit on the counter the same way.
Corbett motioned towards the table and offered, “Sit, sit… mi casa es su casa.”
Sookie didn’t wait for us before explaining, “They aren’t the type of guys to sit down for news, Daddy. Besides, Ema isn’t sit-down news.”
She was enjoying herself, letting the suspense build.
“What kind of news is Ema then?”
She smirked and answered, “It’s a girl!”
If she’d used the journal to find a prospective child for me, one that another version of me had chosen, or perhaps just read the journal enough to presume she could find another child for me…
I’d go back to Eijsden and take my chances without bonding.
“Calm down… that came out wrong. Sorry… This here is Ema Oswald from Dallas. Her parents are bible-thumping hate-whores. She’s the middle of five kids…”
Gawain interrupted, “When are you going to get to the part where you explain what the fuck she is?”
He couldn’t tell?
She grinned and widened her eyes. “Her noodle’s pretty unique, huh?”
Edward argued, “She isn’t Human? She smells Human.”
“Can I tell the damn story, y’all? Gawd!”
I growled, “Can you tell the story in a thousand words or less?”
“That depends… have you heard the saying ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words’?”
“You were annoyed by your ex-husband’s assumptions and you filled the time between loads of laundry preparing a PowerPoint presentation, yes?”
She narrowed her eyes. “That was shitty. If you’re going to be a dickhead, do it somewhere else. Unfuck your mood. You were fine until you misunderstood something I’ve already apologized for wording poorly. I don’t pick on you for the way you do things.”
Fuck her and her point.
“Tell the story.”
“Asshat…” She made a show of looking away from me and addressed everyone else. “I’d just gotten home from visiting for Thanksgiving when Selma came over with some printouts that had been sent to her while she was here with us for the holiday. The emails explained that the drawings were an audition to do cover art for my new book…”
Edward nodded. “You get a different artist for each one… The last one was by a woman in Washington DC. Rosario Trejo.”
Sookie snorted, “Superfan… Yeah. The first cover was one of my aunt’s paintings. The rest of them have been done by a different Human with a Faerie ability, mostly kids. Selma collects them and keeps an eye out for submissions that fit the subject of the new book. This batch of drawings was a bit different. Specifically, the artist had drawn pictures of each of the girls. No real shock there because the girls go everywhere with me… but two of the pictures in particular were odd. Two men I’d never laid eyes on. Selma recognized one of them as being the gigantic Norse bitch over there, but the other one was a mystery… Where’s your folder, toots?”
Ema shyly walked out of the kitchen to take a leather portfolio from the table in the foyer. When she returned, she handed over the binder, leaned against the counter next to Corbett and studied her shoes.
Sookie removed one picture at a time… Lindy… then Jenny… then Misty…
The fourth drawing was of me, the gigantic Norse bitch…
The fifth was of Sookie’s brother Brandon.
I couldn’t think of a reason to be less annoyed. “Congratulations on finding a new cover artist, but unless she has the magical ability of making you shut the fuck up and get to the point…”
Before I could finish, she rolled her eyes and huffed, “And tonight’s Honorable Mention for the Darwin Award goes to the obtuse clown in the room full of cutlery, irritating the bitch who’s already proven she’ll perforate his ass when she’s pushed. Shut the fuck up so I can finish and then ditch you to go get a stiff drink before the bar closes…” She didn’t wait long enough for me to return her threat before she continued, “Anyway, Selma and I decided to keep an eye on anything Ema sent just in case. The unknown guy could have been anyone. We didn’t know whether to take the drawings as a threat, a warning, or just happenstance… A week, another batch of pictures. This time it really freaked Selma out because they included Daddy and Allecks and Jason… and more of Eric and the mystery man.”
She pulled those drawings out of the binder and showed each of them to us.
Richard shrugged slightly and offered, “They’re spot on from what I can see.”
Ema snorted, “She’s getting to the interesting part.”
Sookie nodded and continued, “The next batch was more drawings of the stranger and Happy McSassypants… more of the same kind of sketches. A week later, Selma comes by for a visit with another bunch of drawings. I was beat… Lindy had been up all night because she wasn’t well and I barely looked at them… This batch had a drawing of the girls lined up in the back seat of my car, and a highway sign for Cannes… and another one of me in bed. I was sleeping with a big ‘ol anaconda arm wrapped around my waist even though I’m single. That’s when Selma and I decided this girl needed to be checked out. That next afternoon, before Selma could dig anything up, I woke up from a nap with that huge arm around my waist, so of course I thought I was dreaming about the drawing… That poor guy…”
“Don’t you mean Happy McSassypants?”
She acted as though I hadn’t spoken at all. “Y’all met Allecks, so you can imagine how silly Eric looked wearing clothes two sizes too small… He was pulling on miniature sweatpants and trying to explain skipping when he noticed the pile of sketches on my dresser. He joked, ‘If you haven’t met Me yet, at least you know Ema and your brother. You wouldn’t believe how many of you don’t know Brandon exists’.”
Gawain’s eyes bulged. “You woke from a nap with another version of Eric… and he already knew about Ema? And the stranger was your brother?”
Sookie nodded. “They learned about Ema in ‘the braid’, but His Sookie had known about her brother since high school… So, I took notes while Eric drove to Cannes so he could reset. We checked into a hotel on the waterfront and I felt his mind sizzle out. That’s the only way I can describe when he reset. As soon as I realized my jaw was sagging, I started calling every phone registered to an Oswald in Texas until I got her on the phone. Then I called Daddy to tell him about Brandon… The drawings have been coming to her since she was big enough to hold a crayon. She zones out and doesn’t realize what she’s drawing until she’s back…”
As Sookie reached into the binder again, Ema offered, “And if I tried to draw someone right now, it wouldn’t look anything like them.”
Richard looked like he was about to say something, but balked when Sookie beamed at a page in Ema’s book.
She giggled and leaned over to ask Ema, “I bet you lost sleep trying to figure this one out.”
Ema was nodding when Sookie held up the page with a sketch of perfectly arranged shoe chess pieces.
Edward actually gasped, “Not like Ian… not remote viewing… A psychic!?”
Sookie held another drawing up as though she specifically wanted Gawain to see it. The scene from last night after Sookie spoke to Jason…
A drawing of the ridiculous tickling match we’d had earlier…
All were drawings Sookie could have sent details of ahead of time, but…
When Sookie held up a rendering of Jenny dangling from my neck…
Edward, Richard and Gawain traded looks as though it was the proof they’d been waiting for too… Sookie hadn’t left our sight in hours. There was no way Ema had been told about how Jenny woke ahead of time.
Gawain shook his head like he was trying to clear a fog. “Do you know why… why is a little girl in Texas drawing a Vampire King in Europe? Sookie, you aren’t even local… There was no connection between you when the drawings started.”
Sookie shrugged. “Markos is a tight-lipped shit. Did you know that?”
First Tyson, now Markos… I was tempted to ask if I was the last European King she’d been in contact with.
Gawain nodded. “It’s impossible to get anything out of the asshole. Maybe he’s a Faerie.”
She giggled, “Touché… I only mention it because I almost got myself killed asking about the Ancient Pythoness, but eventually one of his staff members sent me a message. All he knew was that rumor has it Pythia was having visions of Markos for centuries before he was born. The other Eric said they’d exhausted all roads, but I figured I’d try too…”
“Pythia? Are you saying Ema’s an Oracle?”
“No. Oracles are just what Greece had. You’re sniffing the right trail though… Our little Ema is a Sibyl. I guess it’s pretty much the same thing except she’s singing with a different choir and we know she isn’t hallucinating because of methane. As far as we can tell, Ema’s the living, breathing, drawing version Pythoness and she’s been having visions of her caretaker. Ema drew her first sketch of Eric back in May when she turned 18. It took her a while to realize who she was drawing. It wasn’t until her parents dragged her to church and they started bashing the Notorious books that she learned who I was.”
“Happy McSassypants!? You think Eric’s meant to be her caretaker?”
“I compared notes during other skips. I need to get back to our recent skip because we were distracted, but in the two strands we talked about, Ema suddenly went nuts drawing and it’s usually centered on Erics and Mes… And the drawing tends to slow down once she’s with Eric… Also, she’s always prepared to leave her home without hesitation. I bought her a plane ticket and wired some cash to her. She’s been staying with Daddy since the same day of the skip where I learned who she was.”
I growled, “Both of the versions you’ve met without me knew of a Sibyl and you’re only now telling me.”
She rolled her eyes and still addressed everyone but me. “So I was having a hell of a time tracking down Eric. In the meantime, Ema’s been trying to get her passport in order. As public as I am, I can’t exactly have an illegal nanny. I figure since we’re flying back on a charter, she’ll go with us and Daddy can send her papers when they finally get here. My original plan was to have her with me in Bern so that when I found Mr. Congeniality everything would be taken care of. The bureaucracy in obtaining a passport in post 9-11 America is insane and it doesn’t help that her parents had her committed…”
Corbett finally added, “Like my ex-wife did to Sook… So, we ready to go grab a few drinks and check out that Shifter you married?”
Sookie giggled and pushed herself from the counter. “I didn’t marry him. Another Me did.”
Corbett snorted, “Whatever… I nearly shit when you told me. I’ve been going to Merlotte’s since it opened. He doesn’t seem like much. Calvin checked him out and got posturing horse-shit. Can’t imagine what you’d see in him.”
“I don’t know… Shit happens. I’m sure She just hooked up with Him because She was bored.”
“If you get drunk tonight, you gonna take him out for a test drive?”
She snorted and walked out of the room. “Like you’d notice with the way the waitresses flirt with you… I’m changing out of my layers. Gawain, Edward, Richard… Do you guys want to tag along and meet some bona fide rednecks?”
Edward called after her, “I don’t even own overalls!”
She giggled, “Silly yankee… them’s day wear.”
Corbett nodded. “Y’all would be better off in Ts. Cashmere and collars’ll make the townies think the gays are takin’ over.”
Gawain looked down at his sweater and asked, “How does one look homosexual?”
Corbett pointed at Edward and said, “Like that…” While Richard and Gawain laughed at the stricken look on Edward’s face, Corbett offered, “Just kiddin. Sorry. Y’all look nice. Too nice for a backwater bar full o’necks. It’s the kind of place you can go for lunch during a workday covered in sawdust. Sook says y’all are layin’ low anyway. Mata’utia would shit kittens if he found out y’all were here, right?”
Shit kittens. Another American gem.
“Fair enough.” Gawain tilted his head and turned to go upstairs… while they changed, I went to Sookie’s room…
I didn’t bother knocking, but she was already speaking when I turned the knob. “You aren’t invited.”
“I don’t need an invitation to a public bar. Do you think you’re punishing me somehow?”
I closed the door behind me and she was searching a fully stocked closet. “You’re being a fuck. I don’t want to be anywhere near you right now. I’m not letting your attitude ruin how happy I am to be home.”
“You called her a present and then said ‘it’s a girl’. What the fuck was I supposed to think?”
“I meant in a guardian capacity. I immediately realized why you took it the wrong way and apologized. You continued to seethe. You didn’t even have the decency to keep it to yourself until you calmed down.”
“What makes you think I’m interested in acting as her guardian?”
“Because all of the other known Yous have, even the one who’d just lost Pam. Ema doesn’t expect anything like a father/daughter dance or anything for fuck sake. She needs to be protected… And don’t stand there and tell me you aren’t willing to do it like I don’t already know better.”
“I didn’t say that. I was asking why you’d automatically assume.”
“I automatically assumed because the other Yous I met weren’t being shitheads. Granted, I put telling you about her on the back burner because you were such a knob at first, but after the last couple of days I figured your head was far enough out of your ass.”
“Far enough out of my ass to what?”
She snorted with her back to me and removed her top and bra to replace them with a tight purple shirt with no back…
“I don’t know… Far enough that you wouldn’t just scare the living shit out of her in the first five minutes. I mean, she’s been told for the last few years that she’s a lunatic and that Vampires are monsters. I was worried that you’d do your best to prove one and she’d start to think the other is true too…”
“This is because your mother treated you like a pariah, yes?”
She unzipped her boots and kicked them off, pushing her jeans off to replace them with a fresh pair of black ones and take a pair of purple pumps to the bed.
She sat down and huffed, “My interest and maybe my attachment to her, yeah… But that doesn’t have anything to do with why I’m pissed at you for being an über-bitch.”
“Oh… pray tell.”
“You immediately thought I was trying to replace Liz for you. Why the fuck would you think I’d presume to do that? I guess I was just too hopeful, but it really seemed like we were starting to get along…”
It hadn’t been just her… As I was getting used to her busyness, I was catching myself appreciating her, being entertained by her… perhaps even liking her.
She continued, “I’ll go you one better… Did you think I sent my father out shopping for a Human for you to turn? What the fuck was going through your head to make you jump to the conclusion that Ema was a made-to-order child?”
“You said ‘it’s a girl’.”
“Yeah. We covered that… My mistake. I apologized…”
“That’s it… I didn’t…” Fuck. “I suppose you could say that I jumped from there.” Without taking anything rational into consideration.
She rolled her eyes and sighed, “So… the flying Vampire was just still in the air from his initial conclusion jumping when he suggested I shut the fuck up and get to the point.”
“Is this the closest I’m going to get to an apology?”
“You told me to shut the fuck up too… and there was a lot of name calling.”
She reached for the door and sighed again, “I meant for not knowing better… Eric, I respect what you had with Liz. I wouldn’t, not in a million years, think another child could make it better.”
“Because you’ve lost children.”
“I learned earlier than that… I had to hold my father up when he buried his sister.”
I caught myself being jealous of him… He had someone.
I caught her arm before she could walk out. “I’m sorry. If you can understand the rest, you know why I don’t trust people easily…” If at all.
“Are you fishing for a hug after you suggested I can’t be shut up?”
“No… You really can’t be shut up. You even talk in your sleep.”
“Oh fuck! What did I say?”
I made the mistake of showing my concern. It only made her more anxious…
“Edward tried to talk you into spoiling your next book… Do you remember that?”
“No… We’ve GOT TO get you to read that journal. My sleep talking is mentioned several times. I’m really bad… and it’s a huge liability because I have no filter. Please tell me I didn’t… Fuck Gawain in his mind-reading ass. Did he get anything about you? I mean… Was he in my head while I was writing? I have to water things down for the story. Was he making fun of the ‘Young Adult’ novelized version of you?”
I snorted at her little rant, but I was close to laughing.
“No… Edward’s probing for story details made us realize you talk in your sleep. It inspired Gawain to monitor your thoughts, but I grabbed your hand, hoping the ‘quiet mind’ mythos might help cloud things. It worked, but while he argued about secrets, you stirred enough to tell me to explain because you were sick of the topic.”
She whined, “And you told him because I told you it was okay.”
“Not before you exposed that he doesn’t die for the day and he only needs to avoid direct sunlight.”
She gasped and covered her mouth. “I DIDN’T!”
I chuckled, “I believe your exact words were, ‘Fuck you, Gawain. Enjoy my big secret.’ He wasn’t happy about his secret coming to light, so to speak, but I thought it was fitting.”
I’m not sure she could have felt more embarrassed.
She breathed, “What did he say?”
“About his secret or yours?”
She cringed and whined, “Both?”
“It seems as though hearing about your recent miscarriage cured his need to discuss it. He chose to explain why he kept his secret and quickly turned his attention to Edward’s copy of your book.”
“Of course he kept not dying a secret… paranoid ass Vampires would assume he could get to them during the day… or try to hire him to get to others… FUCK A DUCK! I can’t believe I did that!”
“Why aren’t you more concerned with spilling your own secrets?”
She huffed, “Because he would have heard anyway. It’s all Daddy’s been thinking about since we got here.”
“You suggested that would be the case then too. Now that I know, I’ll disregard anything you say while you’re sleeping.”
“How the hell isn’t he furious?”
I shrugged. “Ask him… Perhaps he assumes you learned about it while skipping?”
“No. He knows I found out today. He knew I’d know because he can tell the difference too.”
“Then he probably assumed it would come up eventually.”
She whimpered, “Maybe… Promise me you won’t say anything.”
“No. I’m going to say plenty. The next time it rains, I’m going to give the prick a list of errands.”
She giggled, “You know what I mean, you big turd… Promise you won’t say anything to anyone else. I feel bad enough that y’all know.”
“I wouldn’t say anything regardless.”
“Thank you… Do I look alright?”
“That depends. Are you trying to make sure every man in Bon Temps is thinking about your nipples?”
She nodded and took my hand, tugging me towards the door. “As opposed to thinking about the four Vampires I’m with, yeah. Simple men aren’t scared of nipples…”
Thinking of everything again.
One slip, one poorly chosen turn of phrase, and I’d let myself forget how much time she spent being considerate of me…
That she’d been completely sincere when she told Gawain how highly I ranked on her list of priorities…
That she’d already done so much to prove she didn’t take my relationship with Liz lightly…
And now she was willing to objectify herself to distract the small-minded locals from our presence…
I really should have known better.
If I could trust anyone, it was Sookie.