Sookie attached herself to my side and thanked me for ‘being sweet’ to Hadley while I watched the scene in the parking lot… Jason tried to talk to Hadley as she left. He asked her if everything was a’ight, then what was wrong, then if he missed a fight…
By the time Hadley was backing her mother’s station wagon out of the parking spot, Jason was charging into the restaurant (after tripping over the saw’s cord).
“What the hell? E’erything was fine. Paintin’, supper, she even said Erik was on to something with the trencher thingys. She was in a good mood.”
Adele offered, “Jason… Hadley and Erik just had a sit down…”
He cringed as he asked, “Come ta Jesus ‘bout the other night?”
Adele shook her head. “No… Poor Erik was nominated by default because we didn’t think we could do it without getting upset. Jason, Hadley has a gift like Sookie, but we didn’t realize it.”
Linda added, “After you left last night, we got to talking about things. It wasn’t long after Carrey left and Cort died that Hadley started really acting up…”
He nodded. “Well, yeah… Hell, I felt bad for her. She lost two Dad types.”
“We all felt bad for her, Jason, and we were all grieving for your parents… that’s why we didn’t realize she had a gift. It turns out she’s an empath…” Before he had a chance to ask the question written all over his face, Linda explained, “Empaths can feel what other people feel, like Sookie can hear what other people think.” Supernatural abilities reduced to Tinkertoys for the sake of Curious George.
I added, “And I believe she can push her emotions as well. While she was calming down, I realized I pitied her. I wouldn’t normally.”
Jason blurted, “HOLY SHIT!” He began pacing erratically with his hands in his hair while he tried to grasp the new information. He finally stopped in his tracks to declare, “She ain’t a slut then!” Absolutely brilliant.
I shook my head. “While we talked…”
He put his hands up to stop me. “Gimmie a minute… She’s really pretty… So if she feels what other people do, then all it would take is a guy getting close enough to hit on her…” Once he’s close enough to make a pass, he’d notice her allure, consciously or unconsciously. “Horny guy makes a play, she feels horny, he gets hornier because of her thang… Like bouncing a ping pong ball between walls. It actually speeds up! Fuck! Like when she says something shitty… even when we try to ignore it, she gets nastier… but she’s feeling how pissed we are… Fuck! She ain’t a slut. She ain’t a bitch… She’s worse off than Sookie e’er was. At least Sookie knew to use her shields… Fuck. Poor Hadley.”
Adele nodded as she pulled out a chair to sit down. “Watch your mouth, boy. There are ways to say that without being vulgar… And no, Hadley isn’t easy or nasty. We’ve always told her she was spending time with the wrong kind of people…”
Jason snorted, “No shit! If she’s hanging out with horny guys and druggies, all she’s gonna wanna do is fuck and get high. What was she thinkin’, Sook?”
He listened so well.
Sookie huffed, “It drove me nuts to not eavesdrop… I didn’t listen until they came out of the office. She… she was…” She sighed and gave Linda a sad look. “When she disappeared for a week… she can’t stand it when Aunt Linda’s sick…”
Linda gasped and slapped her hand over her mouth. “That was my week! Oh God!” Her week. I probably would have needed to ask if it weren’t for the research I’d done on Linda’s illness. Hadley’s disappearance was to avoid her mother’s misery… It seemed like physical sensation was going to be included in the next test.
Sookie nodded. “She didn’t even do much misbehaving when she…”
Adele interrupted, “See Jason. Misbehaving. Just call it misbehaving.”
While Jason nodded, Sookie continued, “Hadley just stayed with a friend in Bossier. She felt bad leaving Aunt Linda when she wasn’t feeling well, but sometimes she just can’t stand it. She feels worse now that she knows she might have been able to block it and stay home to help out… She’s hoping she can block it anyway… like I have shields.”
I offered, “If Hadley can already sense where emotions are coming from, I don’t suggest any of you waste time worrying about her ability. I’ll convince her against dwelling on reactions she had before her ability was brought to her attention.”
Linda whimpered, “You really think she’ll be alright? She was just so…”
I filled in the blank for her when she seemed unable to finish her statement, “Depressed, remorseful, ashamed… Yes. She is. She’s been abusive to her family and…”
Sookie took a turn filling in blanks even though I didn’t pause, “And she wants to kick herself for being nasty about my ability. She thought, ‘I hate that she’s being nice about this when I was always a bitch about her thing’…”
Jason blurted, “How come she gets to say ‘bitch’!? I’m older!”
Adele snapped, “She was quoting Hadley, Jason. Hush!”
I tried to return to the topic. “The point is, you can’t pity her. She’s learning about her ability now. You wouldn’t feel pity for an infant learning to walk either. You’ll offer a hand when she needs it because there will be reasons for her to hate her nature, but feeling sorry for her will only hinder her progress.”
Jason argued, “What the fuck makes you an expert on someone you just met!? You don’t know her!”
I growled and forced myself to remember Sookie’s (and now Hadley’s) suspicions about Jason having the same ability. If they were correct in thinking he could be empathic, he wouldn’t calm down if I let myself become annoyed.
Sookie huffed, “Jason, settle down. He’s not running a blitz. He’s being reasonable because he doesn’t know her. He doesn’t have any attachment to Hadley that would make him want to coddle her. He doesn’t condone the way she’s treated her family, but he can understand how her ability has gotten in the way of her interactions with people… he’s looking at this as a neutral third party. And he’s right. If we sit around and feel sorry for her, then she will too… and she needs to try to get a handle on this or it’ll make her nuts. Trust me. I would know.”
He shook his head and snorted, “What the fuck are we s’posed to do then? Ignore her?”
“No. We help her when we can.”
“When the fuck was anyone going to tell me? Y’all were waiting until I left the other night, weren’t ya?” It didn’t escape me that he was sure we were waiting for him to leave.
Everyone else answered him with hesitance, so I nodded. “We weren’t waiting for you to leave to discuss Hadley specifically. We thought there was a plan in place for helping her.”
“Then why was everyone waiting for me to take off?”
“Because there was another matter to discuss… Sookie hadn’t explained her gift to me right away, but I could sense something different about her. Once we began discussing it, we established a working theory regarding how she’s telepathic. That was the real reason we missed your party Friday night. I made contact with someone who I hoped would be able to shed some light on the subject. As it turned out, my designated expert is actually related to you all. I was given a message to deliver and that letter was why we were waiting for you to leave last night… Since we didn’t know how accurate our theory is, or what was included in the message, we opened it privately.”
“Privately, huh? Jack was there.” Fair point.
“Jack promised to stay in the bathroom while the ‘private family matter’ was discussed.” Not a lie.
“So… y’all know how Sookie ended up being a telepath? How Hadley ended up being a… a…”
I finished, “An empath. Yes. It seems as though your grandfather had a supernatural heritage he wasn’t aware of.”
“So… what’s supernatural about ‘em? You tellin’ me like Grampa was a ghost?”
“No… Your grandfather was the son of a Faerie Prince.”
Jason began chuckling immediately. “Know what… that’s awesome. I guess I can come clean now… y’all, I’m secretly a werewolf… and my mom, she was a mermaid. Yeah. I played ball with a gargoyle too.”
He’d barely gotten as far as saying he was a werewolf before we were all laughing. The rest of his sarcasm was redundant.
I couldn’t help myself. “Don’t forget to mention your aunt. She can read palms to see past lives…”
Linda snickered as she fed the joke, “And Erik’s a Vampire.”
Jason nodded, completely sure we were adding to his joke. “Of course he is… ain’t one of y’all gonna offer him a drink?”
Sookie giggled and tilted her head to bare her neck…
For a split second I thought about avoiding the temptation… I could have just added to the joke by asking if they had ‘blood lite’ on tap…
Jason hadn’t taken the news of Faeries seriously. Since there wasn’t a way to prove Faeries existed without capturing one, something needed to be done…
I combined my options, darting across the dining room faster than he could track and grabbing Sookie to bend her backwards as though she was being dipped…
Since Adele and Linda had already witnessed how quickly I could move, they began laughing as soon as Sookie jokingly giggled, “Eeeeeek!” while I chewed on her neck.
Jason shouted, “HOLYSHITMOTHERFUCK NO WAY!”
I chuckled as I helped Sookie stand again, enjoying the way she watched me lower my fangs before I turned around to approach Jason slowly.
My fangs were the only things that existed to him as I spoke. “Your grandfather was part Faerie. Werewolves exist. Mermaids are a figment of the imagination caused by scurvy, heat stroke and months away from anything feminine. Gargoyles are also known as Ghouls or Zombies in some circles. Linda actually did glean a fragment of my Human life, which ended nearly a thousand years ago… I really am a Vampire. There is hardly anything you’ve ever heard of in a bedtime story or epic poem that doesn’t exist, at least in part.”
He’d only taken one step back and he was staring at me as though I was glamouring him. He breathed, “That’s crazy.”
Before I had the chance to respond, Adele asked, “What about Rougarou? I meant to ask the other night… Is that the same thing as a Werewolf?”
I turned to her, impressed with her curiosity. “Along the same lines. We call them ‘Bitten’ now, or ‘Mutatio’ in the Old World. Rougarou and Wendigo legends stemmed from what happens when a Were bites a Human. In some cases it causes them to shift partially and eventually go mad.”
“So a Rougarou is actually what’s in Werewolf movies… That pitiful manimal thing that usually dies at the end of the movie.”
As I nodded, Jason found his breaking point. “THIS. IS. CRAZY! THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS MONSTERS!”
“Not in a traditional sense, Jason. I’ve seen and heard about atrocities you can hardly imagine that had been perpetrated by Faeries. Can you picture your grandfather seeking refuge and slaughtering a family of 14 because the stench of rotting bodies would keep Vampires at bay? Of course not, but I have witnessed a Faerie commit that very offense myself…”
He genuinely looked like he would be ill.
“Most of us live very quiet lives blending into Human society. Those of us who don’t are the source of the mythos. They tend to be killed as quickly as possible by their own kind to prevent exposure… You need to know because you have a Supernatural heritage… but you’d find out about Vampires eventually regardless because we’re organizing to reveal ourselves.”
One could say, the lights were on, but no one was home…
“Sookie? Can I have a hint?”
She giggled, “He started slipping when you said ‘atrocities’. He’s locked up.”
“Tell me you’re joking.”
“He spent a minute thinking about all the proof that he isn’t a fairy, so I left him to his girlfriends. When I went back to check, the gears were locked. He’ll be alright. Just give him a minute.”
Linda offered, “It wasn’t anything you said, Erik… He just gets overwhelmed.” It was charming that she thought I needed encouragement.
I snapped my fingers in front of Jason’s face a few times, and when that didn’t work, I slapped him.
He staggered back a step and scowled at me. “What the hell was that for!?”
“You were drooling.”
He put his hand over his cheek and rubbed. “Oh… a’ight… So… Grampa was really a Faerie?”
“He was… Faeries are sensitive to two things. Citrus and iron…”
“Holy shit! Aunt Lin… She gets a rash!”
I nodded. “That would be what made the connection for me.”
“Dayum! So we got more kin?”
“You do, but since Faeries have been feuding for years we’ve been told that having contact with them isn’t in your best interest. We’ve learned the death of your parents was part of the grudge between clans and your surviving relatives don’t want to risk your safety.”
“Wow… Shit… that’s… Werewolves are real? You know any?” The fucking idiot overlooked that his father was murdered. It was probably for the best, but it was still more evidence that he hadn’t ever swam through the intellectual end of the gene pool.
I nodded. “You do too. Merlotte is a Were…”
“No shit!? Is that what the thing was about? When we was shooting pool? Vampires and Weres don’t play nice together or something?” Linda snickered behind me, probably because Jack and I seemed to ‘play nice’ well enough.
“We don’t tend to intermingle. We can work together cohesively, but it usually takes a common interest for us to do so… ‘That thing’ was because Sookie had already gotten Merlotte’s attention. I wouldn’t have given him a second thought if he simply offered a ruling and left. He decided to show his territorial nature when he saw Sookie’s date was a Vampire.”
He stared at my shoulder for a moment, so just for fun, I lifted my hand to slap him again, but he blocked it… and slapped me instead.
“Ha, ha! I wasn’t locked up that time. I was thinkin’…”
I was laughing too hard to be annoyed. It had only been fair.
“I was rememberin’… that asshole… he was trying to out you, wasn’t he? Saying shit about Gran inviting you in and havin’ a hissy about your age when he looks older n’you.”
I nodded. “He was.” Sookie cleared her throat gently as though I couldn’t tell by how tense she suddenly was that I should prepare myself.
“He… You… Fuck. Don’t get pissed, Aunt Lin… I swear on Daddy’s grave, I think your boyfriend’s a Werewolf too.” Oh my, my, my… Look who finally found the light switch.
She giggled, “I know, Jas. It’s okay.”
He looked like someone had just told him clouds were made of marshmallows. “Yeah?”
She nodded. “I’ve been dating him for almost three months and I didn’t notice a single thing that worried me… and then I found out Erik did a background check on him too. Jack’s a good man.”
Jason snorted out a laugh, “Most of the time.”
Linda snickered a warning, “Careful. Watch stuff like that. You could be opening yourself up to Faerie jokes.”
His eyes widened while he thought about it. He nodded and opted to change the subject. “Alright… so you said you thought you had a plan for Hadley… Are you holding off on the whole show or what?”
I answered, “Now that we know about her ability, the charade is pointless. She’d most likely be able to sense whatever actors we involved aren’t being truthful because while we talked she sensed that I was dodging a topic…”
Linda interrupted, “Yeah… what was that?”
“I explained that I have an empathic connection to Pam in the loosest of senses. I mentioned that Pam confused our emotions at first. I told Hadley, Pam and I weren’t raised together because we have different fathers…”
Linda laughed, “And mothers, but who’s counting?”
I nodded. “She suggested I was lying. That was when she became curious enough to let me test her. She still hasn’t been told I’m a Vampire, but…”
Linda shook her head. “No. That’s better… she’s already dealing with a lot of new information. You’ll always be a Vampire. It’ll keep…” She stood up and pointed towards the door. “Alright folks, let’s wrap this up…”
Jason was told to clean up his mess and put away his tools. Adele was asked to help Linda put leftovers from their dinner into containers…
And even though Sookie was asked to close the paint cans and stack them neatly, she worked just long enough for everyone else to become immersed in their own tasks.
She acted as though she was going to hug me but pinched my sides instead. “You might not be the jealous type, but it turns out I am. You’ve barely talked to me since you got here.”
I raised my eyebrow at her. “What makes you think I came to Bon Temps to see you tonight?”
Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped… I had to grab her wrists to keep her from hitting me. “You big jerk. I’ve been thinking about you all day and that’s what you’re going to be like?”
“I can’t say that I’ve been thinking about you all day, but the Sookie related thoughts I had before dawn took their toll… and you were still on my mind when I rose. It isn’t often that I take a cold shower intentionally.” Often/ever, tomayto/tomahto… but I proved cold showers don’t cure anything.
She giggled and leaned against my chest. “It sounds like you were thinking about the same thing I was… Why did you come by? I wasn’t expecting you because I figured you had business to do. I’m all kinds of nasty from working and painting…”
“I don’t mind how nasty you are. I can always bathe you… I’ll tell you why I’m here once we’re alone.”
She narrowed her eyes and breathed, “There better not be more flowers in your car.”
“What about my hotel room?”
The corners of her mouth turned up in spite of her. “There either.”
She snickered, “Kiss me before you give me a reason to kick your ass.”
It was probably best that a car pulled into the parking lot when it did… The way Sookie nibbled my lip, and pushed her body against mine, and whimpered…
We could have gotten carried away…
Sookie cleared her throat and stomped over to work on her task as Jason told the visitor the owner was, “Inside. Only fox in the henhouse.”
Eventually I was going to remember to ask if Jason’s thoughts were like comic book cells while I was alone with Sookie.
A woman so petite she made Sookie seem tall, walked in and thrust a large wicker basket at me. Bouncy, blonde curls, pale blue eyes, and a bright smile.
“A friend of mine told me her husband is clearing land next to Bon Temps’s soon-to-be sandwich shop. I thought I’d audition. I’m Julie. I live in Minden. I’ve been working at a bakery there for 8 years, but the owners warned me they’re closing soon thanks to a super-grocery store opening just across the street. So, here I am, with my fingers crossed that you need someone who knows how to make everything from beer bread to white. I try to work opposite my son as much as possible to keep my grandbaby out of daycare, but I’m pretty open.” When ‘Julie from Minden’ was finished with her spiel (during which, her smile never faltered), she nodded towards the basket.
I pulled the cloth covering the contents of the basket away to reveal an impressive array of breads. Even if I didn’t know one from another, there seemed to be no less than a dozen varieties by the looks of them.
I offered, “You have excellent timing. The owner was just saying she was hoping to find someone who knew her way around yeast.”
“Oh! The guy out front said you’re the owner. ‘Only fox in the henhouse’. I assumed…”
“I own the property. Sandwich Island’s proprietor is one of the hens. Erik Nordmann.”
Sookie sidled up to me and reached into the basket to remove a roll and take a nibble. She hummed approvingly and called, “Aunt Linda!”
Linda appeared in the window between the kitchen and dining room. “Yeah? Oh my God! Jules!? Is that you?”
Julie’s mood instantly sank.
She’d already taken several steps back towards the door by the time Linda ran into the dining room. As she hugged the woman and swayed from side to side, she cooed, “It’s been forever! How’ve you been?”
Julie humored Linda begrudgingly and answered, “You know… taking care of things. Working, paying bills… How have you been?”
“I’m getting better all the damn time…” Linda stepped back and looked at Sookie. “Sook, Julie dated your daddy. They were together for a few months.”
While Julie’s look became more nervous, Sookie’s eyes lit up. “Yeah? High School?”
Linda seemed oblivious to Julie’s mood as she answered, “Nonono. When your mother kicked him out back when Jason was little, he met Julie…” Linda looked at me to elaborate, “My brother’s wife was insanely jealous and whenever he worked late, she thought he was cheating. It didn’t matter what his timecard said. She went to a lawyer and had separation papers done and everything. I guess she was trying to scare him into apologizing for being faithful. Whatever. We’ve established she was a nasty bird… My brother found Julie working at a diner near a job site… Corbett was never happier than he was those few months they dated. The only reason he went back to Michelle was…”
Julie finished sadly, “Michelle threatened to move to Monroe and take Jason with her when she heard about us.”
Linda laughed, “You know, Momma and I finally had enough and told Corbett he picked the wrong girl… He told us it was too late because Sookie was on the way. Michelle made him miserable until they died. They were actually on their way back from trying counseling again when that bridge washed out.”
Sookie blurted, “OH. MY. GOD! Thanks a lot, Aunt Linda! You make me regret being born!”
Linda dismissed Sookie with a wave of her hand. “Oh hush! Your daddy thought the sun shined out of your butt, girl! He loved y’all and thought he was doing right by you, staying with your mom… Momma! You’ll never guess what the cat dragged in!”
While we waited, Sookie shook her head and hugged Julie. “It’s nice to meet someone who made Daddy happy.”
I was tempted to pinch Sookie. I wanted to know why Julie’s throat was seized. It didn’t seem like a chance encounter with an ex-boyfriend’s family should cause her reaction… and the fact that she was staring at her car as though she was frightened of it was troubling.
Linda asked, “So what’s your story? Are you married?”
Julie shook her head. “Widowed… My husband died a few years ago.”
Linda urged, “Kids?”
Julie cringed again and… I honestly thought she was willing to shoot herself to escape the reunion.
“One. Brandon… Did you have more? Hadley, right? She was just starting to walk when we met.”
“Just Hadley. How old is Brandon?”
Julie’s face fell when her blatant attempt to change the focus from herself failed. “He’s… 19.” And we were only hours away from Sookie’s 19th birthday… Fuck telepathy. I figured it out on my own.
Linda’s face pulled into a gnarled combination of confusion and irritation. “You didn’t have kids when you dated my brother, Julie.”
Julie sighed and nodded. “Nope.”
Linda growled and the look on her face was nothing if not disgusted. “Julie, right now I really need you to tell me that my brother pined over you until he died even though you cheated on him.” As opposed to keeping Corbett’s son from him? After seeing how immersed Linda was in Jason and Sookie’s lives, I’d guess Julie might have been safer if she was unfaithful.
When Julie stared at her hands instead of answering, Sookie staggered back a step and bumped into me.
Adele had just joined us when Linda snarled, “I want to meet my brother’s son, Jules. Where is he?” Adele gasped.
Julie whimpered, “He’s in the car… Linda… Adele…”
Linda barked, “No excuses.”
“No. Not that. He knows about his father. I didn’t… Michelle tracked me down and told me to back off because she was pregnant… I didn’t want Cort to get stuck… Two kids with his wife trumps a mistress and you know how torn up he would’ve been over it… I didn’t know I was pregnant yet and I was ready to kick Michelle’s ass when I heard the baby she scared me off with was four months younger than Brandon… She lied to me… By then I’d already made my peace with raising Bran on my own… When Cort died, I didn’t want to add to what Jason and Sookie were going through and my husband was a good man. Brandon loved him… It’s been…”
Linda shouted, “NINETEEN YEARS!”
Sookie’s hand flew into the air and she blurted, “SHUT UP! BOTH OF YOU! Brandon’s like me and he’s freaking out! He recognizes Jason!”
That remedied the arguing. Linda, Julie and Adele even stopped breathing.
All eyes were on Sookie as she explained, “Once you said he was in the car, I went into Brandon’s head and he was in Jason’s. Jason gave him a wave and thought, ‘Damn, that dude looks more like my dad than I do.’ Brandon was hoping like hell Jason was just hired as a handyman until he started listening to us to be sure.”
Julie whimpered, “You too, Sookie?”
“Yeah… We got it from Daddy, Julie. Brandon would’ve had a mind reading sister all along if he met us… Oh… My… God… Erik! He’s the guy. My other stalker.”
Julie shook her head. “He wouldn’t do that…”
Sookie shook her head and held her finger up. After a pause, she explained, “It’s just a joke because we’ve run into one another a few times, including the other night when Erik and I were on a date. Erik’s my other, other stalker… Brandon’s coming in.”