Linda shrieked when Long Shadow grabbed and bit her in one frantic movement…
They were between me and where I kept a stake and I couldn’t risk using a sword in the confined space…
But by the time I’d reached for him, planning to pull him off of her and toss him aside, giving me a chance to grab a weapon, Sookie had taken a gun from her little bag and put it to the back of Long Shadow’s head.
When she fired, it was enough to make Long Shadow release Linda… he dropped to his knees holding his head, releasing an agonized howl that almost drowned out the sounds of the panicked exodus leaving the bar.
I moved for my stake, grabbing it, turning around just in time to see Sookie fire another shot into Long Shadow’s back… It looked like a proper execution… the way she was standing over him when she pulled the trigger… the way she didn’t look away or show any feeling as his remains exploded to drench her body from her waist down…
As Sookie stooped over Long Shadow’s puddle, she asked, “Trey, how you doing over there?”
He grunted as he pushed himself from the floor, “Lin. How is she?”
Sookie stood again, holding Long Shadow’s sopping shirt and shoving it against Linda’s neck. “She’s a nasty bitch, and I don’t know how you put up with her, but she’ll be fine…” She looked at her aunt and instructed, “Hold that to your neck. It’ll heal the bite… So… before the slut with no respect for herself robbed your dumb ass of a Darwin Award, what were we talking about?”
I left my office to check the floor of Fangtasia, quickly making sure no one had been brave enough to stay as I locked the doors… I was checking bathroom stalls (because the gunshots had left my ears ringing) when Sookie called out to tell me about the mass glamouring being performed in the parking lot.
At least my thralls were good for something.
Since I still hadn’t heard anything being said by the time I returned to my office, I stopped in the doorway and asked, “Charmed bullets?”
“Silver tipped ebony. They’re expensive, but…” She toed Long Shadow’s remains with the tip of her ruined boot. “Worth it… Ummm… A Faerie stormed into Fangtasia. She ended Long Shadow while he was working. She claimed she was getting revenge for a blood offense he inflicted?”
I chuckled, “I think that’s exactly what I’ll tell his Maker…” I nodded towards the bar and urged, “The bar’s empty. Linda’s blood…”
I needed to be in a more open space. Linda’s blood was needling me to no end… and I was still on edge from last night and all of the promises Sookie’s ensemble had made.
Sookie followed me to the bar and washed her hands while I texted Pam, “Linda’s here. I hope you won’t miss Long Shadow too much.”
Sookie unceremoniously stripped and dumped her outfit in the bin, jewelry and all, and used a dampened hand towel to wipe the smears of Long Shadow’s blood away from her body…
That’s when Trey led his very shaken wife from the back hall to join us.
Sookie sighed, “Settle down. Do you have any idea how many boobs they’ve seen? It’s not like I’m doing a strip tease. I’m washing away evidence of how stupid you can be. I don’t want to get blood in my new car.”
When she was finished cleaning herself, she held her arms out to ask if she missed anything.
Once Trey set Linda on a chair, he practically lunged for the glasses of whiskey Sookie poured for everyone after she took an extra-large Fangtasia T-shirt from behind the bar and pulled it over her head.
Sookie sipped her drink and started, “Two bullets: $50. One killer ensemble: $3000. One antique Persian rug: $6000 minimum… Making 200 fetishists run from their Mecca: Priceless. Why are you here?”
Linda asked, “I’m here for answers. Why are you here?”
What the fuck did she think I could tell her?
“Business. I work for Vampires, remember? As an agent of one territory, I’m required to declare myself when I’m in another one. Wallace called the Queen and told her I’m in Shreveport, so she told Eric to kiss my ass because she wants me to work for her bad enough to send me a Jag. I was making an appearance so Eric’s thralls can gossip about how nice he’s being to me…”
“You said you were going home though.”
“I did. I went home, bathed, wrapped presents, unpacked my dishes from Rodrigo, and ate some banana-nut bread for a snack… Then I got dressed in what used to be an amazing outfit and came here… Did you drive all the way here and lose your nerve?”
“No. I’m just sick of how much you lie to your family.”
“I’m sick of not being believed, so I call us even. I can’t tell y’all everything…”
“I don’t care about your so-called job… I meant-”
So-called? Who the fuck did she think she was?
Sookie rolled her eyes and groaned, “I know what you meant. It doesn’t make any difference how I ended up with PID. Drop it. It’s over and done. No hindsight, no magic moment, no time machine. Some of us want to move on. Why can’t you just leave it alone?”
Linda looked like she was chiding a child when she started, “Because that’s when you started hiding things from your family… you came home with that tattoo, and you started staying away from the house as much as possible… and you decided to go away for school… and then you started working for a Vampire you found at a strip club… and dating a guy with no intentions of settling down with you… and on the rare occasion you’re home, you stay with Shawn and Hadley like you’re avoiding me and Momma because we call you on your bullshit…”
“You don’t call me on anything. You nag. Hadley and Shawn are happy to have me. You and Gran look for chances to make digs about what I do and who I spend my time with. Gee. Go figure why I don’t want to spend the night under the same roof as y’all… You didn’t come here for me. Say what you’ve got to say to Eric. I had enough during the sit-down.”
“Who needs a stage name for legitimate work, Sookie? Really? It’s insulting that you think we’re that stupid.”
“When you say we, you mean you. You’ve jaded Gran and she’s the only other one who thinks I’m…” Sookie switched her attention to me and smirked, “I’m a hooker, Eric. My pseudonym, the short contracts, the clothes and gifts… She’s seen Pretty Woman too many times… Remember how appalled Gran was when she thought you hired me? Linda has it in her head that as a hybrid, I’m a delicacy.”
I shook my head and sat across from Sookie at the bar. “If that wasn’t so insanely insulting, I’d laugh.”
“It can be funny once in a while… Now that I know about her ability, it explains how dead on balls accurate her imagination can be. Gawain’s jokes about how Atum missed my pussy aside, Aunt Linda got hung up on imagining you and Tyson fighting over me…”
I actually did laugh at that one. “When you first discovered the massage oil? We were fighting for a turn…” It was practically a nightly ritual. Tyson and I would think of excuses to go first.
“Shirts off, fangs down… In case you ever cared why she didn’t warm to you like the rest of the family, it’s because she was sure you were a paying customer.”
“How completely ignorant… Zee and I have made more than a few jokes about the effects of the oil. Linda knows I began paying Zee for massages.”
“She reads into things… even when what she sees is innocent… but it doesn’t help that my former employers aren’t exactly prudish… lots of nakedness and donors… and in her mostly Human little brain, marriage proposals don’t come without a test drive…”
I snorted, “And she doesn’t realize that your ability is what was test-driven… Linda, the Vampires who were taken with Sookie don’t marry Humans. Offering her a marriage, an interest in their Kingdoms, was an incredible compliment.”
Sookie added, “So were the invitations to be their child… It doesn’t matter to her. By the time she’s done twisting it, everything’s shameful and dirty to her.”
“Did she think Asa was sharing you all that time?”
“She thought I was just fucking my guard. Asa isn’t really himself in Bon Temps. He’s not a fan of hers any more than Gawain is.”
Linda shook her head disbelievingly, as though my conversation with Sookie had been scripted. “I always assumed it was JB who gave you PID… But if another Sookie had a baby with him, that theory doesn’t hold water anymore… You had to know I thought it was him, but you let me blame him…”
“Who says I knew otherwise. I’m a slut, remember… The doctor told you I had to have it for at least a couple of years for it to be so acute… You did the math. I’ve been fucking every guy I’ve met since I was thirteen.”
“No one ever said you were a slut.”
“No one had to say it. On top of everything else I was dealing with, I got to listen to how embarrassing my STD was, and hear about how I was raised better than to be easy, and how you hoped I didn’t rub off on Hadley.”
“Should we have told everyone that you nearly died because you were doing God knows what with God knows who?”
Sookie shrugged and walked out from behind the bar. “I don’t see how it matters. It happened forever ago…”
“Where are you going?”
“To get my things… I’m not listening to this shit again. You’re going to call me a liar just because I won’t give you answers that don’t mat-”
“Oh, they matter goddamnit! I want someone to explain to me why, when I concentrate on why you had PID, I see Eric glamouring my mother to leave him alone in your room with you…”
I hadn’t ever had such a strong urge to vomit.
I knew Linda didn’t think I could have given Sookie any diseases because we’d had that conversation during a Sunday supper; Jason had quarantined himself while he had a cold, so before I went home that night, I delivered a care package for him.
Linda was working under the assumption I’d molested Sookie, and it was the first snowflake of an avalanche of taboo behavior…
Sookie stopped in her tracks, and I heard her stomach lurch.
Linda continued, “Your little crush on him… the cookies… the notes…”
The worst part was that she was probably justified to believe I’d hurt Sookie… if that was all she saw…
Sookie interrupted, “Stupid. Human. Cunt!”
“It makes sense, if you… When that kind of thing happens to little girls, they can end up… promiscuous… Were you scared to tell us? How long did it go on?”
Sookie shook her head and rolled her eyes. “I should have let Long Shadow drain you… Your dumb ass stormed into Fangtasia to accuse Eric of being a child molester? I can’t count how many kinds of fucking stupid that is!”
“You need therapy, Sookie. You need to stay away from him…”
Sookie stormed towards her aunt and snarled, “You need to stop playing guessing games with my life. If you want answers bad enough to dig, exhume the whole body. Ask the right fucking questions, you ignorant cow… Don’t think about why I had PID when the other Mes didn’t. Focus on who gave it to me. Focus on how…” When Linda’s face began taking on an ashen hue, Sookie nodded and hissed, “There you go, you busybody twat. There are your precious answers. The big mystery is solved… Congrats… Why don’t we try a little experiment? Can you focus on what he did to me and Hadley? You want to know everything, right? Go for it? What exactly happened?”
No sooner than Sookie was finished asking the question, Linda ran from her seat towards the bathrooms, but she didn’t make it as far as the doorway.
While Linda was still retching, Sookie continued, “How many fucking times did I tell you to drop it? How many times did I tell you to leave me alone about it? Why don’t you listen when I tell you there are some things you don’t need to know? Why can’t you just back the fuck off?”
Linda spit and sobbed, “I did… until…”
“Until you had your little Sherlock Holmes epiphany. You thought Eric was the ‘big bad’ because you went off half-cocked instead of trying to focus on the bigger picture. Your first outing with your ability has been epic. Shit like this has to be why Faeries are endangered.”
Linda was beginning to cry when Trey asked, “Will someone fill in the blanks? Do I need to kill someone?”
Sookie offered, “Gran’s brother molested me and Hadley when we were little. When Gran found out she called her boss and took the day off, claiming we were sick, and when Eric came by to check on us, she told him what happened. Dealing with their thoughts was actually worse than being molested. Gran told him I was a telepath and why I was so miserable, so Eric glamoured everyone to forget it happened and took care of the problem to make sure it never happened again. I was a happy camper. I didn’t have to be scared of Sunday suppers anymore, and no one imagined my hell every time they looked at me… The problem was that since my guardian didn’t know I was molested, I didn’t see a doctor… Fast forward a few years and miserable periods were just something I dealt with. I didn’t bother complaining about it much because I assumed I had endo like Aunt Linda did. I didn’t have time to go to the fucking doctor. I had tests to ace. I had colleges to apply to. I had shit to do and I didn’t want to waste time being told there wasn’t anything that could be done, like they told Aunt Linda. And to be honest, the idea of a gyno exam freaked me out for typical reasons, plus telepathic cons. They said Aunt Linda’s endo wasn’t bad enough for a hysterectomy, and I wasn’t nearly as bad off as her. I sucked it up and motored through… It wasn’t until I had an abscess go septic that I realized Bartlett gave a gift that kept giving. I thought I had appendicitis until I woke up after my hysterectomy…”
He cringed and lifted his arms to take half a step towards her before she stepped away.
“Don’t feel sorry for me… When my period started making me miserable, I started looking forward to it getting bad enough to have a hysterectomy. I sure as hell didn’t want to go through what Aunt Linda did for decades. Trust me, there are worse things than not having to worry about birth control and not feeling self-conscious about being on my period when I work with Vampires…”
Linda sniveled, “Why didn’t Hadley get sick?”
“I don’t know. Look at her medical records. My guess is that Hadley got antibiotics for something else and it cleared up. I never got more than a cold and never saw a doctor for more than school immunizations…”
If I hadn’t glamoured everyone… If other Sookies had the same experiences with Bartlett, they obviously recovered from the trauma… If I hadn’t meddled, Sookie wouldn’t have almost died. She’d be able to have her own children.
Sookie turned to point at me and warn, “You stop it. You aren’t allowed to feel guilty. I ignored symptoms of endometriosis for three years. If I’d taken the time to go to the doctor, even a week before the abscess ruptured, I wouldn’t have needed a hysterectomy. This doesn’t fall on you in any way. There isn’t a day that goes by when I regret what you did for us.”
Good. I only had to wonder how many times I’d need to repeat that to myself before I’d believe it.
She turned to scowl at Linda. “No. You don’t get to blame him either. Talk to Gran about that one. She was the one who accepted his offer, and you watched him glamour Hadley. You actually had your own gyno-nightmare and you were too upset at the time to think we’d need to see a doctor…”
That actually did make me feel better… and Pam. Pam didn’t mention it either. Even as an afterthought, we could have glamoured Adele to make sure Sookie and Hadley were seen by a doctor. Pam had medical training and she didn’t think of it. That was good. That was more convincing, but I needed more.
Linda walked behind the bar and asked, “Why didn’t you tell us then, in the hospital, when we were thinking…” She sniffled and shook her head, stopping to rinse her mouth out in the sink.
“When you were doing a mental roll call of all my boyfriends, imagining me fucking everywhere in the parish, with boys I barely touched? When you were thinking I was whoring around instead of at the library? When you suddenly started doubting every-fucking-thing I said? That’s when you wanted me to tell you Dear Uncle Bartlett was a creep? Because being a slut wasn’t bad enough, I needed to be a lying blame-shifter too? Or, if I was ‘lucky’, you’d believe me and go back to picturing it like you did the first time you found out… Go fuck yourself… In hindsight, I probably should have just told y’all, but this is what I get for thinking things would blow over and you’d let me get past it.”
Linda shook her head, sniffling again, “I wouldn’t have… Sookie, he made a try at me too. I wouldn’t have thought you were lying…”
Sookie’s jaw clenched and she tilted her head to crack the joints of her neck. “And you let that pervert– You know what, fuck it. It doesn’t matter anymore. It stops. You’re going to stop being a bitch about every goddamn move I make. My employers aren’t sending me gifts because they miss my blow job technique. Those men don’t bother with names. Pussy is disposable to them. I’m ERICA FUCKING WEISS. Sluts get cab fare. I GET CARS. Pets get flats. I GET HOUSES… I’m not keeping myself busy and avoiding my family because I can’t stand to be reminded of what I can’t have. IF I want to settle down, I’ll do that, but I do not need a man or children to validate my existence…”
“We just want you to be happy…”
Sookie snorted, “Fuck you. You want me to be happy choking down your flavor of happiness. I am happy. I might not have shelves full of cookbooks, or a room just for craft supplies, but I like my life. And if one day I decide to have kids, I’ll have my eggs harvested and I’ll pay for a surrogate because I can afford to, because of my ‘so-called’ job. The sooner you get your head around the fact that I’m exactly where I want to be, the better. Thinking about how pathetic I am when the kids asked me about what singles do on Christmas Eve is one thing, but the amount of time you spent imagining why Maximo sent me a padded headboard is absolutely ridiculous. By the time Brandon was at the house for ten minutes, he told the boys that he’d ground them if he caught them listening to your thoughts… I can’t tell you how many times Ari’s asked me disturbing questions because of something she got from you…”
Linda had the decency to look like she was going to be sick again.
Sookie continued, “The life I have is the best case scenario I’ve been imagining since I was a kid. I’m sick to death of you giving me grief over it, especially when anyone else who goes against the societal grain gets your support.”
Linda sighed, “We thought…” She paused and began pouring another drink. “It might not have been flattering, but we thought… if you found the right guy, you’d settle down… We thought you were running from your history… We were thinking the worst, but… that’s why we wanted you to put down roots.”
Sookie shook her head and walked towards my office, mumbling as she disappeared into the hall, “Because a husband and a bunch of babies would fix all my issues, right? Issues that bad couldn’t possibly make me an unfit mother or anything, right? Nooooo. Shitty diapers and a vacuum are all I need. Because everyone knows reckless whores make excellent wives and mothers. Right. How could I forget? And stop saying ‘we’. Gran doesn’t like doubting me. You’ve got her full-time, so you share your fucked up suspicions with her. Gran’s only part of ‘we’ because I’m not home to campaign… Fucking Radio Act of ’27. Whoever thought that one up should’ve included families. I’m the goddamn Green Party…” It was becoming difficult to keep a straight face by the time she came to the doorway again and set down a mop and bucket with her phone to her ear. As the phone rang, she told Linda, “Get to work. I think we’ve established I’m not a housewife…” The phone stopped ringing, but no one offered a greeting. Sookie sighed, “I need you. How far from Fangtasia are you?”
Gawain answered, “I’ll be in range in under a minute,” and ended the call.
When Sookie turned down the hall again, Linda watched the empty doorway… She didn’t move to take the mop and bucket until she heard the back door to Fangtasia open.
As proud as I was that Sookie didn’t back down, watching Linda’s shoulders shake as guilt hit her like a ton of bricks wasn’t as vindicating as I thought it would be.
Gawain might have been able to revel in the schadenfreude, but I was part of the show. I had a hand in the whole debacle. If I hadn’t interfered, Sookie would have just lived a normal life. She would have healed from the trauma. She would have been fine. In sparing her from one inconvenience, I’d inflicted damage to her family and her body.
Linda was almost finished cleaning her mess when Sookie and Gawain returned.
Sookie sighed in my direction. “You’re doing it again. I was serious. Stop.”
Easier said than done.
Gawain added, “This is why she didn’t want you to know.”
Of course he’d known…
The closeted telepath would have heard Linda wondering if she was fucking Gawain too, wondering if Asa shared her or if Sookie was cheating on him, wondering what she’d done to earn the ‘rainbow’ Wallace sent her… Whatever they assumed about Sookie and her life, Gawain would have heard them reading into every move she made.
Why didn’t he say something to me about the way they treated Sookie? Or make jokes about them? Or tease me for keeping company with them?
Linda groaned, “Of course you told him… What did you need him for?”
Sookie’s lip curled. “To glamour you.”
Linda argued, “I’m not agreeing to be glamoured again. That’s caused enough problems already.”
“You don’t need to agree. It’s happening whether you like it or not.” Her voice was like ice. Erica was trying to join the family.
When Linda raised her eyebrow as though she was daring Sookie to do something, Gawain began his approach.
Sookie explained, “You can’t be trusted. You solved a fifteen year old mystery, but your instincts are for shit. You got emotional. You had a conniption that cost a Vampire his life. You made horrible accusations about someone who’s only ever helped our family… Gawain’s not glamouring you to forget. He’s glamouring you to not think about what you found out tonight around our family, because, so help me God, if you show my niece and nephews what you saw, I’ll kill you.”
Just before Gawain took Linda’s attention, Linda whimpered, “The babies.”
Sookie snorted, “Yeah, the babies you’re scared will grow up like me because we have the same ability. If I ever hear you say another shitty thing about my mother again, I’m going to punch you in the face on principle. You’re no better than she was.”
Linda actually broke eye contact with Gawain and shook her head. “No! If I knew… Sookie, I wouldn’t. I was wrong, but… If I’d known the truth…”
Trey snorted, “You’re just gonna have to prove that, Lin. It’s gone on long enough she doesn’t have any reason to think you’ll change now…”
It said something that Linda’s husband was taking Sookie’s side of the matter.
Once Gawain began Linda’s glamour, Trey whispered to Sookie, “What was up with the lunatic who attacked Lin?”
Sookie breathed, “She’s twice as Fae as I am. She was riled up and pumping adrenaline when she breezed past the bar. Eric and Pam are so used to our scents by now that they don’t have problems, but they’re careful to shower before they’re around other Vampires.”
“Gawain isn’t tempted for the same reason Shawn isn’t. He knew Faeries before he was brought over. The scent is just a scent to them…”
He nodded thoughtfully. “That’s right. Shawn knew Brandon before… Makes sense I guess. Like a scent memory, right?”
“More like tempering. Ever drive through a town with a paper mill and wonder how the hell people could live there? They’re just used to it… You’re driving, right? She’s starting to blur.”
“Yeah. You aren’t good to drive though. You’ve had a few.”
“I know. I’ll get Eric to give me a ride home… He might need a massage so he’ll stop blaming himself.”
I doubt even a massage could stop me.
Once Gawain released his hold on Linda, she asked, “What about Hadley?”
Sookie shrugged. “What about her? She’s perfectly oblivious to the fact that her empathy made her enjoy being molested…”
Linda gasped, “She didn’t!”
She wasn’t arguing. She was appalled.
I nodded to substantiate and offered, “When I glamoured her, I thought she had some sort of Stockholm syndrome. She suggested Sookie was jealous because Bartlett liked her more. She was having a tantrum because you and Adele made it clear Bartlett was unwelcome…”
Linda covered her mouth and shook her head. “That’s… Please stop… I think I’m going to be sick again.”
She didn’t have to ask twice… The last thing I wanted to think about was that night, and Hadley and Sookie weren’t even my children.
Sookie offered, “In case you haven’t noticed yet, I want you to think about the braid. In the version Brandon visited, Shawn claimed Hadley’s oldest child because she was already pregnant when she realized what she was. She was the town slut and didn’t know who Leif’s father was. She was also the town slut until she ran off in the other versions we know about. Her ability made her prone to spiraling… but…”
Gawain interrupted, “Eric, what did you say to Hadley when you glamoured her?”
“I wasn’t graphic because of her age, but Linda wanted it to be clear that Hadley shouldn’t be intimate with anyone unless it was her own volition. Anyone who respected her wouldn’t pressure her. Linda and I debated verbiage because she thought I should have glamoured Hadley to hold out for love. I had to point out that pedophiles love children before she’d accept ‘respect’.”
Gawain nodded approvingly. “Given how broad the ‘love’ spectrum is, she might have accepted advances from anyone…”
Sookie offered, “But ‘respect’ is probably why our Hadley only had sex with one guy before she met Shawn… Aunt Linda, the point is that the only other Hadley who wasn’t out of control and having babies without fathers was the one in Jason’s visit, and she knew about her ability from when she was little. If it wasn’t for Eric, our Hadley would have been just as FUBAR. Leif, Hunter, Misty, Jenny… God knows how many other babies she had for men who just used her. Our Hadley couldn’t have been more relieved to hear I met Hunter so she could find out how he was. She wished she was a telepath so she could see Her other babies, but the other Hadleys were horrible moms. My secret cost me nothing…”
Whether she wanted children or not, the option wasn’t nothing.
“And Hadley is completely happy in her untainted oblivion. Telling her would just open an ugly can of worms… If you tell her what happened, then keeping my mouth shut all this time, and letting you call me a slut would have been for nothing. This is done. Don’t bring her into this.”
Tray nodded. “I shouldn’t have to say it, but I’m with Sook. I vote we start killing rapists and glamouring victims…”
Sookie mentioned, “Thomas John and Zhang already do in cases with DNA confirmation and evidence. Dmitri’s working on it too…” She raised an eyebrow at Linda. “Is this settled? Have you learned your lesson about asking for other people’s nightmares?” When Linda nodded, Sookie continued, “Good. The story is that you stormed into the bar. Eric and I were waiting for you because Pam warned us. We didn’t pass ‘Go’ or collect $200. We went straight to his office, but Long Shadow caught your scent. After you were attacked, Trey took you home because you were shaken up.”
Trey offered, “Good. I’ll remind her of this shit whenever she needs it… Lin, can I start the I-told-you-so now?”
Linda actually nodded. “I always thought you… You’re so damn hell bent on keeping the peace… I thought you were just trying to calm me down.”
Gawain chuckled, “Is that what he sees in you? You keep him busy?”
Sookie giggled, “Can we discuss what you’d see in her?”
He shook his head. “No. We really can’t…”
I might have pushed, teased him like Sookie and I had been teased for ‘our’ weddings, but the long look between the two telepaths stopped me. I was sure Sookie would explain later if I thought to ask.
He pushed, “I want to hear the reasons for your mostly-true version of events.”
She sighed, smirking as she started, “Her near-miss will end up being a punchline. ‘Well, that’s about as stupid as a Faerie in Fangtasia.’ She needs to be reminded of that as often as possible, but apparently the family needs it too since I haven’t scared the shit out of them by telling them how often I have to play opossum and wait for my guard to pull an affectionate Vampire off of me… Alright, so Trey’s driving Aunt Linda home. Eric’s driving me home and, if I have to bite him so he believes me, I’m going to keep him from feeling guilty… And you…”
Gawain snorted, “Pam’s waiting up for Santa. I’m returning to Bon Temps. I might visit you once Atum’s in town, but you and Eric might as well already be married. You’re the most boring assholes on the planet.”
She whimpered, “You poor baby. What’s the world coming to?”
He jokingly shuddered. “It’s horrible, Sookie. All the talking you do… It’s as though you’re friends. It’s just not natural…”
She snickered and swatted his ass when he kissed her cheek.
As he led Linda and Trey to the front door, he called back, “Nice cleaning job, by the way. Let me know when you’re ready for Knighthood.”
Once the door was closed behind them, Sookie locked the door and walked over to take my hand to tug me to the back of the bar.
She made a brief stop in my office to take her coat and purse, long enough for me to see she’d scrubbed away all the visible traces of Long Shadow, and towed me through the back door.
Once we were settled in my car it occurred to me to ask, “What about Trey’s thoughts? As much as he plays with Arianna, she might hear something.”
Sookie whispered, “You don’t know anything.”
I rolled my eyes. “What don’t I know?”
“He can glamour Weres.”
“Oh, come on! Really? That asshole…”
She snickered, “Don’t be too bitter. You’d probably already know that if it came in really handy.”
“Fair enough… Why is it that Granny and King Tad are off limits?”
“Ohhhhhh, I probably shouldn’t tell you that he’s never been more of a mind to expose his ability than when my family’s around… The temptation to do exactly what Brandon did tonight has been killing him. And you might appreciate how ironic it is that Brandon’s low tolerance for bullshit is what made him one of Gawain’s favorites… and it’s exactly what he doesn’t like about Aunt Linda.”
“Sookie, why did you put up with it?”
“It’s a bed I made, Eric. Everything was fine, great even, for a long time. I was almost sixteen when it happened and I was tempted to call you… I really was, but then I realized you’d probably feel guilty. Good call on my part. I was going to ask if you’d glamour the family to believe the lie they told everyone in town… I honestly didn’t think it would snowball like it did. Jason and Hadley knew better than to think I was doing anything other than studying or tutoring when I wasn’t at home. I had one year left of school before I could go away for college. In teenage-girl logic, it made sense that Aunt Linda would get over it once I wasn’t home anymore. Then I came home for Christmas with nice presents for everyone and an endangered pet. I tried arguing with her, explaining that Wallace hired me to sit with him during meetings, but the fact that I met him at a strip club suggested I was out whoring around… As hurtful and shitty as some of her thoughts have been, she was basing it all on lies I perpetuated.”
“All in an effort to avoid facing ‘it’.”
She cleared her throat and nodded. “Yeah. Have you scheduled your thralls to remind you of your Maker?”
“But what? I don’t need to be constantly reminded of it to know it happened. If someone randomly slapped you in the face with one of the unhappiest moments in your life, you wouldn’t want to see them often. Blame my ability for why I like having my secrets… Gawain’s more upset about things than I am… If it wasn’t for how painfully ignorant Aunt Linda’s been to everything we’ve told her, it would all be a joke. Her ability- in this case, I guess it’s a disability– kept contradicting us.”
“It’s not the least bit funny.”
“I told you to stop, didn’t I? I’m pretty sure there are witnesses and everything.”
“If I hadn’t interfered, you would be…”
“Normal? Average? Bullshit. Which part of the braid do you want to wallow in?”
“The one you visited wasn’t miserable.”
“Good. I was hoping you’d pick that one… That Sookie was raised below the poverty line because Gran never applied for the job as your assistant. That Sookie’s ability made her miserable, and she ended up being a teen pregnancy statistic because the only boy she could tolerate was practically brain-dead. Seriously, JB is a beautiful goon. It’s no wonder he couldn’t figure out how to work a condom. I was his tutor for remedial math while I was taking advanced trig. It wasn’t until after that Sookie’s husband was killed in action that she got her shit together. By then she had a baby to think about. And you’re forgetting that the Hadley from that braid bled to death in a bathtub after having a fatherless baby. I think if she was thought of as more than a snack, Sophie-Anne would have done more for her… No resources. No college. No plans. No goals. Going with the flow because she was just trying to get by. And when I told the other Me you glamoured the family, she misted up because her family still thought about it from time to time. She said she wished she’d known you back then… What you did improved the quality of life for me and Hadley as a minimum. I won’t even go into all of the collateral benefits.”
“Did you tell the other you that you can’t have children because of my glamour?”
“I told her that I didn’t see a doctor because of it and I let symptoms go unchecked… She told me if I decide to settle down, I have plenty of money to hire a surrogate or adopt. She didn’t want children when she got pregnant either.”
“Really. That’s the more popular consensus too. Even the Mes who have a grip on their ability don’t automatically jump on the idea of maternity. Sookies with kids have surprise babies, not planned families. Yeah, they’re awesome moms, but… I’m good at everything I put my mind to, so that’s no shocker.”
I actually chuckled at her. “You’re humble too.”
“I try… Lightning strikes a house you never use. Are you going to cry over it?”
“A vacant house isn’t the same thing…”
“Tell me how it isn’t. The vacant house is just sitting there. You pay taxes on it. You have maintenance done on it. Maybe one day you’ll use it… If the house burns to the ground, oh well. If the property was for a specific activity, then you consider shopping for another one, maybe renting something if it was meant for vacations… But to be honest, you probably would have ended up liquidating it before you used it again. Since I had no intention of using my uterus, it’s illogical to mourn its loss. There’s a short list of other useless organs a Human can live without.”
“You weren’t the least bit upset?”
She snorted, “I’m going to have to get a book or something.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Gran and Aunt Linda could have been wrong, but if you’re telling me I should be devastated, then apparently I missed a memo.”
“You’re being flippant…”
“Not really. I’m willing to admit that my reaction could be atypical. Everything else about me is, so why not? Okay… If the doctor told me ahead of time that I needed a hysterectomy, then I probably would have been terrified, but I think that could have been said of a tonsillectomy or something more routine too, right?”
“I imagine that would stand to reason.”
“Alright… But I woke up in the middle of the night after a ballgame… sort of. I was aware that I was throwing up all over myself, and I fell out of bed trying to get to the toilet. I remember hearing Gran calling Jason and 9-1-1. I remember thinking she was overreacting. I remember them all thinking I had appendicitis. I blacked out and when I woke up, the nurse was thinking how sad it was that I had to have a hysterectomy at my age.”
“So it happened too quickly for you to react at the time, yes?”
“Yes, and while I was waiting for the doctor, I had a little party… No more periods or cramping. It wasn’t until the doctor told me why that I started panicking, and that was only because I didn’t know how to deal with keeping my secret. Aunt Linda made it easy by assuming I had issues from losing my parents and I was desperate for attention… The doctor was going on and on about the fact that they managed to save one of my ovaries, because lightning struck the other side of the house. That meant no menopause in my teens. Honestly, I was more preoccupied with the timing. It happened a week after school let out, so I was really happy I wouldn’t miss school and fuck up my GPA. I did hate being in the hospital though. That sucked ass because the pain meds messed with my shields. I was fine once I got home though.”
“I think I’d be more pissed if someone cut my hair at this point.”
“I felt guilty that I got a hysterectomy… and Aunt Linda was still dying for a week every month… I will bite you if that’s what it takes. You’re hung up on missing something no one thought of. The Sookie I met said she saw a doctor a week later, and it was Bud Dearborn who asked if we’d seen a doctor yet. Cops and rape kits.”
“It doesn’t sound… Sookie, it doesn’t sound like you dealt with it.”
“You mean like denial?”
She took a deep breath and shook her head slowly. “I might consider that more seriously if other Mes jumped on the suburban bandwagon with gusto. Even the Sookie who’s trying to get pregnant has been married for a couple of years, and I’ve already admitted that I could eventually consider it… And it’s not that I ignored my hysterectomy. It did get overshadowed by the causal drama, but I dealt with it. I even spent a couple of months thinking ‘holy shit, I can’t have kids’, but then a waitress at the sandwich shop got knocked up and when she wasn’t complaining about struggling to feed her older kid, she was throwing up every time someone ordered a Rueben.”
I snorted, “Morning sickness turned you off to having children? Are you that shallow?”
She giggled, “In this case, Arlene’s unplanned misery reminded me that I never wanted kids to begin with.”
At least she considered it, then reconsidered it… At least it occurred to her.
“I think the most compelling arguments are that Linda didn’t think to take you to a doctor, and that other Sookies aren’t drawn to motherhood.”
“Good. Focus on that… Shit. I forgot to mention that to Aunt Linda. She still thinks I talked myself out of wanting kids because of the hysterectomy, instead of realizing I’m indifferent because of my lack of interest. It’s like feeling sorry for a righty without a left arm.”
“It’s reasonable for her to assume that, even now, you could change your mind.”
“I’ve contemplated being a Vampire more than I’ve considered being a mom.”
She rolled her eyes and leaned back against the seat. “Now that you’ve nearly killed my buzz, would you drive?”
I finally put the key in the ignition and snorted, “Ending Long Shadow didn’t do that?”
“You might be on to something. I might be spending too much time with Vampires.”
“Because you didn’t panic?”
“Because I was thinking, she might be a pain in the ass, but she’s Mine.”
I nodded as I backed out of my parking space. “It’s official. You spend too much time with Vampires.”