Sookie had NOT made taking her home a simple affair.
I was too easily convinced to ‘keep playing’…
Even after I tried… I really tried to explain bloodlust in the least frightening way possible.
Innocent as she was, she was sympathetic in spite of my failure to sugarcoat when she asked for details…
After torturing me with a long kiss goodnight on her porch, she asked when she’d see me again…
Not soon enough.
The drive back to Sligo was miserable… twelve minutes longer than it would be once I could move into my ‘new’ house…
I sat in my hotel room with two hours before sunrise… I returned a few phone calls I missed while ‘playing’ with Sookie…
I tried to distract myself with the prank… I called Bobby to have him collect resumes from interior designers, and again when I remembered Sookie’s idea for an engagement announcement…
I tried to distract myself with Sookie’s birthday plans… I only had to call Bobby one more time for that because he was so ‘honored with the task’ he actually contributed a few ideas of his own.
I’d been trapped in safe-houses for several nights and ‘twiddled my thumbs’ less.
I died in a bed that reeked of Sookie…
And rose so consumed by her, I was near bloodlust until I showered away her scent.
I was just walking out of my hotel room when I felt her cheerful mood come to me in waves… because I needed something else to encourage me, it seemed as though she was excited for the sun to set.
I pulled into Sandwich Island’s gravel parking lot to see Jason bent over a makeshift sawhorse… he was using a jigsaw to cut out letters for the sign.
In an effort to keep to myself how pathetically desperate I was to see Sookie, I meandered towards the adjoining property to see how far the job of clearing it had progressed…
Jason shouted over the noise of the saw, “Still no clue what they’re putting in! Gran grabbed a guy earlier! Subcontractor! He just clears land! Gave the name of some big local developer! Says they’ll be done Friday!” The saw screamed to a halt, but he continued to shout, “Property’s big enough for a Wal-Mart!”
I nodded. “Linda shouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about a Wal-Mart.”
“It’s not a Wally-World she’s worried about. It’s the satellites… I think that’s what she called ‘em… you know, the restaurants that end up getting built all around… the closest Wal-Mart to us has a Mickey D’s inside.”
“Or it could be condos… walking distance from a quiet little eatery for yuppies who want to commute to Shreveport and Bossier.”
He snorted, “Yeah. You clearly ain’t spendin’ enough time talkin’ to my sister. Whole family’s luck is for shit… Women’s inside. Hadley too.”
“What kind of mood is Hadley in?”
He shrugged. “Good. She’s bustin’ her ass to help out. Paintin’…” He chuckled, “She looks like a roofer. Black smears all over her arms and face.” Her family was actively industrious… and Hadley was likewise productive. I might have actually been on to something.
As soon I walked into Sandwich Island, I was greeted with a crowd of smiles and the smells of sawdust and latex paint.
The Stackhouses had already transformed the interior of the small restaurant to the point that it was hardly recognizable as the former bar.
The heavily polyurethaned wooden tables had been covered with green felt, scattered with a sampling of cards, and protected with a sheet of Plexiglas…
The cushions of the chairs and barstools had been reupholstered to match the black booths.
The wainscoting had been painted black and the upper half of the wall had been painted red… Adele, Sookie and Linda were affixing vertical stripes of cards over the red paint…
In spite of the darker colors they’d used, the dining room was much lighter than its previously dingy appearance and I was sure it would be that much brighter with the sunlight coming through the front windows…
The best improvement by far was the way Sookie was moving her ass… there was a small radio on the counter trying to drown out the noise of the saw.
“Remarkable improvement, Ladies. I especially like that you’ve made the dining tables look like game tables.”
Linda beamed and nodded towards Hadley. “It was her idea… and… you know how you keep a little rice in a salt shaker to keep humidity from making it clump? Hadley thought of putting dice in them instead.”
Hadley watched carefully for my reaction… I gave her an impressed smile. “Very creative… it’s difficult to find people who think outside of the box anymore.”
She snorted, “Thanks, but… you should work on that. The way you talk makes you sound old.” Adele and Linda began snickering.
I almost laughed myself. “I’ll have to work on that. English isn’t my first language…”
“Yeah? What is?”
“Swedish… and I learned several other languages before English for that matter.”
“Damn. Why so many?”
“Necessity. I travel frequently and business meetings go more smoothly without a translator.”
She nodded for a moment while everyone else seemed to be enthralled by our interaction. “Hey… speaking of business. Mom’s dying to know what’s going up next door. Do you know how she can find out?”
I nodded. “I already know.”
The only movement Linda made was to raise her eyebrows. She was holding her breath.
Sookie wobbled her head. “If… if you already know… and you haven’t said anything… what is it? Is it exactly what we’re worried about?”
I shook my head. “Not exactly.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes and urged, “Don’t tease… not them. C’mon. What is it?”
“Are you giving me permission to tease you?”
“What do I have to do to find out?”
“A kiss hello would do nicely…” When Sookie steeped towards me, I moved. “Not from you. You kissed me last night.”
She feigned a horrified gasp when I leaned over and waited for Adele to stop laughing enough to peck my cheek. As anxious as Linda was to hear news, even she almost smiled.
I whispered to Adele, “It’s a drive-in theater.”
She gasped. “Well, I’ll be! That’s nothing at all to worry about.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think it is. The company hasn’t applied for any licensing through the health department to allow them to distribute refreshments either, so I strongly suggest investing in a popcorn maker.”
Linda blurted, “Movies!? Oh my God! That’s perfect! I mean… it won’t kill us and it’ll be great for the town… How do I get in touch with the owner!?”
I had my mouth open to ask why she wanted to know when I was hit in the back of my head with something hard… I turned in time to see a die roll to a stop while Sookie scoffed, “You’re looking at him.” Sookie threw a die at me?
I raised an eyebrow at her. “What makes you think I’m the owner?”
“Because no one gave two spits about that property until you and Mr. Merlotte butted heads. Because what are the odds of Aunt Linda being lucky enough for a reciprocal enterprise opening right next door? Because I’m a believer in the saying, ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’. What idiot opens any kind of movie theater without researching enough to know concessions are where most of the profits come from?” Sookie was definitely a keeper… after more than three centuries with me, Pam might not have put the clues together so quickly. She would have been preoccupied by movie schedules.
Her hands were on her hips and her chin was raised… I was being challenged.
I walked towards Sookie slowly. “Are you assuming I have a clandestine reason for opening a drive-in theater?”
“Uh… yeah. I think you’re being a Helpy Helperton. I think you’re going to advertise the hell out of the grand opening of your theater, that just so happens to not have a concession stand, to help generate more traffic over here.” Eventually, I’d discover something about Sookie I could consider a turn off. I might as well have told her my plan ahead of time as quickly as she saw through it.
“As much as I want to know what a… ‘Helpy Helperton’ is, I’m confused about why you seem opposed to the venture. If I buy a parcel of land and have it cleared, relocate my existing drive-in fixtures from East Carroll Parrish where it’s no longer a novelty, advertise it’s opening in a newspaper I already own, run movies already licensed through my theater in the mall I own, and donate the proceeds to charity as a write-off… How is this a bad thing?”
Her face puckered up so tightly I had to bite the inside of my mouth to keep from laughing at her. She whimpered, “I guess I should just shut up and let the grownups talk business, huh?”
I smiled at her. If nothing else, she tried to find a way to accuse me of being suspiciously charitable. “One of the key elements of business is marketing. A business such as a drive-in is a novelty. They’re lucky to stay open for a decade, but they take a very small investment. I’ve learned, because I’ve owned several, they’re more prolific in rural areas where there isn’t much competition for something to do on a Friday or Saturday night and there’s less ambient light to interfere with the picture… but I’ve also found that in smaller towns it’s more difficult to keep a concession stand staffed. An indoor movie theater might make most of its revenue from refreshments, but drive-in customers are less shy about bringing their own snacks from home… Now since its purpose is charitable, I only need to hire one person. That person needs to be able to run the equipment and manage the scheduling. Each organization will be required to find its own volunteers to work at the gate and clean the property after the movie. Any Friday or Saturday night without a designated charity will be staffed by… people I know and the proceeds will go to the Red Cross…”
Linda began cackling and apologizing for her outburst… Adele and Sookie began laughing, more at Linda than the irony that set her off…
The most interesting element was the expression on Hadley’s face. Rather than looking as though she was waiting for the inside joke to be explained, she was smiling… uncontrollably, inexplicably beaming.
If I didn’t know better, I might have thought a good mood was viral.
“Linda, now that I settled your curiosity about your new neighbor, do you mind settling mine? How did your appointment with Dr. Ludwig go?”
She stopped laughing in an instant and charged in my direction. Her mood wasn’t the only one to become more serious… the other Stackhouse women sobered instantly and Sookie was feeling frightened. When Linda hugged me, she hit my body hard enough to have knocked over a normal man. “I have cancer.”
“That’s what she’s telling my insurance company… Cancer is the biggest concern because it could hide in all the other tissue… so she’s going to lie and say she did a laparoscopy and found cancer so she can do the hysterectomy before I actually end up with it…” She tightened her arms around me and sighed, “God only knows how bad I would have gotten before something was done. Thank you.”
“I’m happy to help. When will you be having surgery?”
“Next Friday… I’ve got less than two weeks to get this place together so everything’s set for the opening. Momma’s going to see to things while I’m recovering.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Such as take advantage of the next ill-behaved Vampire and force a donation to aid in her recovery?
She let go of me just to shake her head. “I don’t think so… Sookie’s going to help me interview this week. I’m already in touch with vendors. Jack sent a friend of his out. A butcher in Bossier… The biggest thing is that I need to find someone who knows her way around yeast. We’re hoping business is so good we need another helper and you can’t have a sandwich shop without good bread.”
She laughed, “But I want customers to come back… So… We’ve covered interior design, business and medicine… what’s next? Journalism maybe?”
I chuckled, “Unfortunately, our favorite reporter missed her deadline because she was arguing with a tow truck driver last night. Tomorrow’s article should be interesting. The real estate agent left a message for me. Someone called to inquire about the house today… after a month on the market… Actually, I was considering psychology as a topic of discussion…” I tilted my head in Hadley’s direction. “Might I borrow your office for a few minutes?” Striking while the iron was hot… Since Hadley seemed to be in an amiable mood, my discussion with her should, theoretically, be a less painless process than if I had to force her into a better mood.
After hearing her mother say, “No guts, no glory,” and wish me luck, Hadley cringed all the way back to the office.
I sat on the Shifter’s former desk chair to leave the sofa for her.
She huffed as she flopped down and offered, “I won’t go back to your club if that’s what you want to talk about.”
I shook my head. “It’s not… I don’t mind if you go back, but I’d prefer you curtail your behavior enough that I’m not fined.”
“Oh… okay… um… then what did you want to talk about?” No guts, no glory…
“Sookie can read minds… She hadn’t told me before we met, but that’s why you called her a freak, yes?”
“Are you having a sit-down with me because you want me to be nice to your girlfriend?”
“I would like for you to be more cordial, but that isn’t my reason to want to speak to you privately… When it came to my attention that Sookie is a telepath, we began brainstorming and came to the conclusion she isn’t the only member of the family with a gift…”
“You want to talk to me about Jason?”
“No, but it’s very interesting you mentioned him. Why would you assume I wanted to discuss him?”
She shrugged and huffed, “I dunno… Since we were kids I’ve suspected he was like Sookie. Just… too good at reading people, I guess. Like… you shoulda seen him play ball. It was like he could predict what play the other team would run… and… he’s never had to try to get laid. I dunno… I just thought maybe I was on to something.”
I nodded. “You might be. Sookie mentioned something similar… I actually want to discuss that your family and I believe you could have your own gift and you just don’t realize it.”
Her head jerked back and she made a face that looked like she smelled shit. She scoffed, “What gift could I have? Wouldn’t I know? Are you sure Sookie isn’t just desperate to be normal? She could be reading into things because she hates being alone.”
“You seem to be in a much better mood than you were the other night when I met you.”
“Well, yeah… I was drunk as hell and pissed that you canceled my party… I’m over that…” She smiled and lifted her hands to twirl her fingers through the air. “This is exciting… Mom’s wanted this since I was little.”
“We think your excitement could be partially thanks to being surrounded by people who are excited. Do you know what the word ‘empathy’ means?”
“Well, I guess… like sympathy, right?”
“There is a slight difference. For instance, I sympathize for your mother because of her illness. In order to empathize, I would have to have shared the experience.”
She shrugged. “Okay…?”
“We think you might be empathic.”
She stared at me, blinking erratically for a moment before breathing, “You’re serious.”
“Why don’t you think I’m joking?”
“I don’t know… Why the hell would you think I’m empathic? Ask my family… They call me selfish and mean…”
“I don’t think you are… No more so than any other person has the capacity to be. If you were truly selfish and mean, it wouldn’t make sense for you to be so happy for your mother… Would it help to hear I know someone else who has empathetic abilities?”
“Oh… so that’s why Sookie’s thing doesn’t freak you out like it does everyone else? You… you’re used to that kind of freak thing already, huh?”
“I’m going to assume you mean mysterious or surprising when you say ‘freak’… if that’s the case, then yes. I’m familiar with the phenomenon.”
She grinned and squeaked, “Yeah? That’s cool… I mean, most everybody around here is freaked out by everything… Hell, me and Jas went to school with a gay guy… I think Jas was the only guy who’d talk to him… So… when you say ‘know someone’, you mean you, right?”
I nodded. “My empathy is limited and works differently than I think yours does. My sister and I have an empathic connection. An example of it would be that I occasionally forget to eat if she’s been a glutton… She’s blamed me for ruining movies for her by being unimpressed… and I recently went shopping for pajamas. I found myself with an armful of clothing. As it turned out, she was at a store at the other end of the mall and I didn’t realize it until four bags later.”
She snickered, “So just your sister? Her too?”
I nodded again.
“Okay… any bright ideas on how to test your theory? I mean… if you’re right, my freak ability has done a pretty fuckin’ good job of layin’ low for 20 years.”
“I’d like to point out that you’re incredibly calm and open-minded at the moment… In the beginning it was difficult for Pam to remain calm if I was angry. Hunger, frustration, amusement, fear… If I felt it, she thought it was her own emotion…”
“You say that like you met when you were older.”
“We did. I was raised in Sweden. She was raised in England. We had different fathers.”
She tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. “You’re lying.”
I smiled at her. “Actually, I’m not going into full detail. How could you tell?”
She shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t… I don’t know…” She scooted towards the edge of the sofa and leaned towards me. “That’s… okay, that’s weird… I mean… it was like… Have ever asked someone ‘are you mad?’ but you just know better when they say no?” It didn’t take empathy to have that experience, but as new as the concept was to Hadley, ‘knowing better’ didn’t have to have a finite definition… If she was willing to humor me, I wasn’t going to squander the opening.
“Absolutely… We might be able to work with this.”
Her eyes lit up. “Like… you say something, and I guess if you’re on the level?”
“I wouldn’t call it a guess, Hadley. Are you ready?”
Her nod was almost enthusiastic. “Yeah. I guess I am.”
“Alright… I’m older than Pam.”
“I wrecked my first car.”
She shook her head. “That’s not the same… like… that was a real lie, wasn’t it?”
“It was. My first car has been in a warehouse since I moved from St. Petersburg. It’s in pristine condition because I rarely had the opportunity to drive it…” Granted, it was a Benz Velo from 1895, but it was still, technically, a car. “I hate these jeans. They cramp my balls.”
She snorted as she laughed, “Poor you!” I was beginning to realize how pretty she really was when she wasn’t snarling and slurring and wearing smeared makeup.
“Your family annoys me to tears. I hate how close Sookie is to you all.”
She smiled and shook her head. “Anyone could call bullshit on that one.”
I shrugged. “Perhaps… My favorite color is silver. My birthday is in March. Toto is my favorite band. One of my feet is a size larger than the other. I’m afraid to fly. I’ve never been to France. My favorite food is bratwurst with sauerkraut.”
She waited for a moment to be sure I was done with my test. She shouted, “TOTO!? Whose favorite band is Toto?”
I chuckled, “Only because of their song ‘Pamela’… My sister will do anything to avoid that song.”
She giggled, “Have you had an 80s Night at your club?”
“As a matter of fact, I haven’t. I was trying to think of a theme for the next 18 and over night… the last theme caused a lot of trouble.”
“I’m sorry about that… I…”
“I was referring to what Sookie’s nightgown did to me… but while we’re on the topic, what were your plans when you left your house Thursday night?”
She knit her eyebrows together and shrugged. “I dunno… What do you mean?”
“I mean, and try to focus on the fact that I’m inquiring rather than passing judgment, did you leave your home with the intention of drinking, losing control, and fucking strangers?”
“If you’re just curious, there are nicer ways to put it.”
“Look at me. Concentrate on our conversation. I haven’t given you any reason to think I’m setting you up for an insult because I’m not. I’ll go as far as telling you I’ve fucked more strangers in a single night than you did and I’ve been much more intoxicated… We’ve established you can sense bullshit and that’s a step in the right direction. My question is solely for the purpose of, for lack of a better term, diagnosing the extent of your ability. Now… When you left your home to go to the club, what were your plans?”
She shrugged. “I just wanted to dance and have a few drinks. You know, have some fun.”
“And when did your mood, your goals for the evening, change?”
“I… I guess I was in line… I… Your bouncer let me in for a kiss…”
“I don’t want to get him in trouble… He was kinda cute, so I figured, ‘what the hell’. If I’m not paying my cover, more money for drinks, ya know.”
“Ummm… they don’t wear nametags. He had a tattoo of a cartoon wolf on his forearm. No wedding ring. Medium brown hair and light blue eyes…” Hank. That prick smelled Fae because she wasn’t soaked with booze and cum yet and Hadley’s ‘clean’ scent was probably what made him believe Hadley’s story about knowing Sookie. “It was just a kiss… but… I guess it kind of set me off.” I couldn’t even fault him for it without being a hypocrite. Fuck.
“Set you off?”
She huffed, “Yeah… Mom says I need to work on impulse control… that I’ve always been a follower… I just get carried away. I always tell myself, ‘just a few drinks, dances, whatever’, but it always snowballs.”
“After Sookie and I took you home, how long did it take you to calm down?”
“I dunno… Jack hung out with Mom for a while. He mostly grumbled about something needing to be done about me. After he left, I went and talked to Mom. I know she worries, but…”
“Hadley, she’s more than worried… She’s willing to do anything to keep you from getting yourself hurt. As drunk as you were the other night, you couldn’t have fought someone off if you wanted to. I didn’t have any difficulty putting you in the car even though you were resisting me. Do you remember that?”
She sighed, “I do now… I… just… get… carried away… I don’t mean to party so hard.”
“Hadley, you’re a very attractive girl… I’m going to fill in the blanks to paint a more complete picture… You left your home wearing a corset and thigh highs because you knew some men find it sexy and encouraging. You like the attention. You wanted to dance and have a few drinks and while you could have done both alone, who wants to? You stood in the queue and when my bouncer asked you to remove your jacket to be sure your attire complied with the theme, he was automatically interested. He offered free admission in exchange for a kiss and that ‘set you off’… You entered the bar and turned plenty of heads. Lust at first sight on a large scale. Men immediately began giving you the attention you set out to get. You danced, drank and fucked one right after another. When Sookie first noticed you there, you were the meat in a hard on sandwich…”
A tear rolled over her cheek and she whimpered, “Stop.”
“Not yet, but I’m almost to the good part… The bouncer came to me about how to handle you and when Sookie and I met you next to the limo, you were pleased to see her initially… you were smiling until you were within arm’s reach of us. Sookie was embarrassed by your behavior and disappointed to end our date early. You were somewhat of a cockblock as far as I’m concerned. You were argumentative and belligerent until I began distracting Sookie with conversation to calm her down. You fell asleep until you were tossed into a bathtub. By then your mother was upset by your behavior. Jack was upset by what the stress is doing to your mother. When did you settle down enough to have a civil conversation with your mother? Once it was just the two of you… Once it was just you and the woman who loves you unconditionally, no matter what you put her through…”
She sniffled, “You said you were getting to the good part. Hurry up with that, please.” It was a relief to see she was capable of remorse.
“The good part is, in the next few nights, you stayed in that safety zone. You kept to yourself other than interacting with your mother and she wants nothing more than for you to be safe and happy… You enjoyed some mother/daughter time… She mentioned you’ve been helping her with the menu, and enjoying movies and snacks with her… you haven’t argued since Thursday night… Hadley, what all that adds up to is that you are very susceptible to your surroundings. The way your family described your interactions with them tells me that you feel their frustration with you and you misread it as your own. The situation escalates until there’s an argument.”
“FUCKING FABULOUS! I gotta say, it takes balls to call that shit a gift! If I can’t be around people…!”
I cut her off. “Shhhhhh… It takes practice, but you should be able to understand it enough to control it. I won’t deny there are situations your gift could make unbearable. Take Sookie’s gift, for instance… Lectures weren’t difficult because everyone was concentrating on the same thing, but testing was nearly impossible after a few minutes because everyone thought at a different pace. Her own thoughts became part of the jumble… Just last night, she sat in my hotel room with me and focused on a conversation happening in the lobby from several floors away. She wasn’t born with that focus. She’s had to apply herself… Your gift is newly discovered. Don’t look at the mountain, focus on the foothills first.”
She tossed herself against the back of the sofa and whimpered, “How? How the hell do I do that?”
“I think it would help if you start by identifying it. As feelings come to you, try to focus on the ownership. Right now, I understand what you’re going through because Pam had the same trouble.” As confused as Pam was for a while, at least she knew why… Pam was a Vampire… Hadley couldn’t be trusted with the reasons for her gift yet.
“Fuck. Let me guess… it only took a few years for her to get a handle on it, right? I’ll only be confused for forever?”
“A month. Maybe 6 weeks. It’s been ages since either of us have confused extreme moods. You may very well have more trouble since it seems as though your ability has a broader scope, but Sookie has offered to help if you’ll accept it.”
“How is she supposed to help? Why not you since you have it going on too?”
“I’m not always available. Sookie is. And since Sookie can read minds, she can pinpoint the nature of an emotion. For instance, she can tell you if a man is imagining how he wants to fuck you or how to impress you. For now, I think your best course of action is to insulate yourself with your family because they know they need to be more honest with you about the origins of their emotions until you learn more about it.”
She pouted her lip and sighed, “Alright… but… it’s not them I really have to worry about.”
“But they can help calibrate your gauges, yes? Spend the next few days concentrating on where emotions are coming from. I’ll have Sookie go shopping with you, just the two of you, so you can test yourself…”
“Yeah? What are we shopping for?”
“Something to wear to 80s Night… You can drink and dance all you want. You can test your ability and I’ll make sure you don’t get carried away, even if it means cuffing you to the desk in my office.”
Her chin puckered and she sniveled, “Really?”
I nodded. “You can have unlimited fun… and you won’t wake up with regrets or a list of apologies to make.”
She stared at me for a moment before she braced her elbows on her knees to sob into her hands.
“Hadley, I know I’m new here, but it doesn’t seem like Stackhouses give up easily. They’ve been trying to help you since they discovered you were abused. They’ll help you through this.”
She wailed, “Fuck! They told you!?”
“While we were discussing your ability… as it turns out, your ability betrayed you in that case. You thought it was completely natural, yes?”
She moaned, “Oh God… I’m going to be sick…” Pushing calm to Pam was easy… I knew how to manipulate a bond… guessing how to influence an unconnected stranger was like driving blindfolded.
“Don’t do that. You were a child. You couldn’t have stopped him… It was one of the factors that made me realize what you’re capable of. Knowing that your reaction was atypical gave me a bigger picture… Go to the restroom. Clean your face. Give your nerves the chance to settle. You have a lot to think about… and you need to brace yourself. Your family loves you and they want to help you, but I’m sure they’re going to be anxious and watchful.”
She nodded and stammered, “I’m… I’m choking on… I…”
“You’re mind is flooded with questions. You’re thinking of all the times your ability confused a situation for you. You’re regretting every man, every drink, every insult, every argument.”
“Do you read minds like Sookie?”
“No. It’s natural to assume you’d think about it, but you need to realize that your family understands. You’ll be given a blank slate.”
I waited, feeling enough sympathy for Hadley to call it remarkable. I knew all too well that some would take advantage of an empathic connection to another… Makers and children, Masters and pets…
Then I realized she was probably feeling sorry for herself.
While Hadley splashed water on her face, I realized her ability had the opposite effect on her life as Sookie’s… Sookie was still a virgin because her ability made it impossible to not be distracted by the thoughts of any man who touched her. Hadley’s ability made her absorb the lust of any man…. so she’d probably never been with a man that thought of her as anything but somewhere to put his dick.
‘Charge your Vampire with erasing Hadley’s humiliation.’
I was still willing to glamour her to forget what happened to her, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the Prince meant the molestation Hadley suffered as a child or the way she humiliated herself when she ‘got carried away’.
If nothing else, I needed her to remember what her uncle did to her for the time being. That memory needed to be present as proof that her ability forced her to do and feel things she didn’t necessarily want. She needed to remember something that could make her feel ill if she was going to learn from it.
Sookie, Linda and Adele had already stopped what they were doing, watching the hallway as we emerged.
Hadley looked up to me and bit her lip, leaving me to explain.
“We struggled to think of a way to prove anything for a while, but when I answered a question, I avoided going into details and she could tell I wasn’t being completely forthcoming. We tried a series of lies and truths and Hadley didn’t falter. Also, she never assumed my suggestion was a joke…” Linda, Sookie and Adele were all weeping quietly… Sookie was feeling a strange combination of pity and excitement I would have to ask about later. “For now, as an empath in training, she’s an emotional sponge until she learns how the feelings of others affect her. Range seems to be a factor, so you’ll need to do Hadley the favor of giving her some distance if you have an extreme emotion…” I looked down at Hadley. “Did I cover everything?”
“Ummmm… I’m gonna stay close to home for a few days to get a handle on things. He wants me and Sookie to go shopping for something for the next theme night at his bar…”
Adele interrupted, “Is that a good idea?”
Hadley pointed at me as she answered, “He says between him and Sookie, they’ll be able to keep me in check… Besides… now that I know I’m not going along because I want to… you know.”
Adele offered a sympathetic nod. “If we knew, baby, you wouldn’t have gone on like this… Your gift’s a sneaky one.”
Hadley nodded and left my side to take a key ring from a purse on the counter. “I know… I’m gonna go home… I don’t want to bail out on y’all, but… I need to be alone for a little while.”
Linda stepped towards her daughter, shaking her head. “Hadley, baby, you don’t have to go… We won’t talk about it if you don’t want to.”
Hadley shook her head as she began crying again. “Mom… I just found out everything I’ve ever felt might have been because of someone else… I need to be alone. I want to get my head on straight… No offense Sook, but…”
Sookie waved her hand as she interrupted, “It’s okay. I understand. Really. You need to think and not worry if I’m in your head. Quiet time is always good for me too.”
Hadley studied her feet for a moment before she cleared her throat and asked, “Were you… you know… were you listening?”
Sookie shook her head. “Not to you. I can’t hear what Erik’s thinking. I was just paying attention to his mood to see how things were going.”
“Okay… thanks…” She stopped long enough to kiss Linda and offer, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m alright. I just need to think.”
I caught her attention by saying her name and she stopped at the door to glance over shoulder. “She’s worried, not feeling sorry for you?”
She shook her head. “No… Sookie feels sorry for me… Mom and Gran are just worried.”
Sookie nodded to confirm Hadley’s accuracy, so I offered, “Well done. How complicated is it to differentiate now that you know it’s there?”
“It just takes a second.”
“Your grandmother and mother are concerned. Sookie has compassion for your situation… What are you feeling, Hadley?”