I was beyond bored, and only at Glamour for a meeting. I knew the club was going to be a madhouse because I’d announced the upcoming closing. I would have made Pam come along to suffer with me if she hadn’t lost a bet to the boys that resulted in a week ‘in hell’. They were having too much fun repeating her nightly tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The trendy clubbers of Shreveport were going to have to find another place to writhe to trance remixes. I’d heard, “ohmigod y’all, I’m so wasted,” enough that I considered slipping birth control into the drinks so my customers couldn’t breed accidentally.
But then… she walked into Glamour… a gorgeous blonde.
The beach theme should have helped her blend into the crowd…
Her white bikini wasn’t the only one in the club, but she was the only one with naturally blonde hair and a real tan.
And her nipples… Oh, the miracle of air conditioning.
Even though the girl was wearing an armband marking her as over 21, she only ordered a cherry coke from the bar and turned to survey the club while she waited for her drink…
A minute didn’t pass before three men were flirting, offering drinks, inviting her to dance.
Laughing. Smiling. Enough physical contact with each one to make them jealous of each other.
And when she paid for her drink she reached into her bikini top to remove her credit card… and I couldn’t see as much as her name because the universe was laughing at me for finally being interested in something. A gold card, and if I had to guess, Daddy’s.
It was even more annoying that as she scanned the club, she overlooked me four times.
No matter how much I tried to force her attention to me, she ignored it… Taking the hands of one of the hopefuls and letting him lead her to the dance floor.
Even in her high-heel sandals, he towered over her.
The only flaw I could find was that something seemed to be scribbled on the palms of her hands, but I couldn’t make out what it was. She was moving too quickly… and it didn’t help that her hips were more fun to watch.
I watched her dance with her partner, then a man cut in, then another… ignoring my meeting until the Vampire walked out. I was finished with him anyway.
Something far more interesting had crossed my path.
I walked through the crowd of mauks that sweat booze and ecstasy, trying to learn something while biding my time for the song to end… If she’d given any of the men her name, I hadn’t heard it.
Her fifth dance partner gave me a look that was supposed to scare me when I tapped her shoulder…
She turned to face me and her smile melted away. “Yeah?” She didn’t stop dancing.
“I’d like to cut in.”
“Where’s your bathing suit?”
“I’m here for business. I’m the owner.”
She sighed and kissed her partner’s cheek, like she had when the other dancers were excused.
“Is that supposed to impress me? That you own a glorified warehouse that serves watered down drinks and plays shitty music?”
It usually impressed women, especially the ones who didn’t know about the other things I own.
“No. I’m just explaining how I got past the bouncers without a bathing suit.”
“Dropping a handful of pennies would’ve worked. They seem shiny enough.”
“Is there anything else you’d like to insult? You seemed to be enjoying yourself until I joined you.”
The way she nibbled her lip and studied the ceiling as she thought about her answer was strangely familiar…
Did I fuck her mother?
She finally offered, “My drink glass was chipped. The dance floor is between the bathrooms and the bar- really poor planning. And you’re an asshole… How’s that?”
I chuckled, “And how do you know I’m an assho-”
I didn’t finish… there wasn’t time before the little cunt drove her knee up between my legs and dropped me to the floor.
“Because, you son of a bitch, we mourned you!”
It wasn’t the first time I’d taken a shot to the balls… but that didn’t matter. It never mattered. Pain. Instant. Agonizing. Systemic.
Somehow the recovery time was the same after we were brought over… and I was more than a little upset about that little reminder that I was Human once.
A large area of the dance floor cleared away to gawk… and I bided my time, waiting until the idea of moving didn’t make the pain worse.
The bitch stared down at me, actually crying as though I was the one to attack her… She shook her head and pulled her leg back to kick my side…
No, I didn’t stop her, but I didn’t feel it either.
I watched the girl stomp away from me, trying to distract myself from the pain by figuring out what the fuck she meant… How the fuck does hair hurt?
‘We mourned you’?
What the fuck did that mean?
Who the fuck would mourn me?
I forced myself from the floor, wishing I’d conformed to the theme’s dress code because swim trunks were looser in the crotch, and followed her.
Even if she hadn’t confused me, she wasn’t getting away after attacking me.
I expected to have to chase her… if she were smart, she would have run, but once I was through the front door, I could see her. She was standing next to a Jeep, fastening the buttons of a denim skirt…
She was watching the door, waiting for me to come after her.
After studying the parking lot to be sure I wasn’t going to be ambushed, I made my way towards her…
“Who the fuck are you and why the fuck did you just attack me in public?”
Fuck. They still hurt.
She reached into the Jeep to remove a shirt and snorted, “What? You don’t recognize me?”
“I’d remember if I fucked you.”
“Not if you killed my uncle?”
“Why do you think I killed your uncle?”
“Because he coincidentally choked to death on his own vomit the very night my grandmother found out he’d been molesting me and my cousin. Ring any bells, Northman?”
No. No… I glamoured them. I glamoured them all.
She snorted, “Oh looky there… You do you remember me…”
Twelve years had changed Sookie Stackhouse more than I could have imagined, but I definitely remembered her.
Adele had only been our assistant for a couple of weeks the last time I laid eyes on Sookie, but I couldn’t risk seeing her again.
Pam and I hadn’t found a single aspect of Adele’s work for us to complain about. She surpassed our expectations from her first day, and that wasn’t just because she knitted long-johns for Pam’s hairless cat. Adele answered every call eager to be given her list of errands, and left triumphant messages once her tasks were completed…
That night in particular, I hadn’t given her anything to do, but Pam (Liz, back then) had asked her to take a color swatch to a furrier. The event the coat was meant for was months away, but Adele had left a message that was hardly understandable… a sobbed apology for letting the errand slip her mind. Pam being Pam (or Liz, as it were) wanted me to check on the family… She didn’t have to ask twice.
When I arrived at Adele’s house, I could hear sniffling and choking from the driveway… the extra car didn’t bode well either. When Adele answered the door, her face was blotched and swollen. Her fist was full of tissues… and she smelled like gun oil.
I had to wait to hear why she was so upset while she apologized about the forgotten errand… but the reason, the trauma, the excuse to delay ordering a lavender fur was more than forgivable. Pam had called just before dawn and spoke to Adele. While Adele and the children ate their breakfast later that morning, Adele mentioned that her brother invited Jason and Sookie to go camping for the weekend. While Jason seemed pleased by the plans, Sookie vomited. The idea of being alone with the man made her physically ill. Adele spent hours with Sookie, hearing that her own brother had been abusing not just Sookie, but her other granddaughter as well… Sookie had been too embarrassed to tell her father and her mother hadn’t believed her because the uncle was a ‘sweetheart’ and always thought of their family. The fact that he usually visited baring gifts was partly responsible. The abuse wasn’t limited to an isolated event; it had been going on for years.
It only made the situation worse that Adele was wrought with guilt. When Adele’s daughter was much younger, her brother tried to help Linda change into her pajamas. Linda had the sense that it wasn’t appropriate and ‘screamed bloody murder’. Perhaps it was because Adele’s husband pistol-whipped the pervert that he never tried again, but once everyone’s nerves were settled, they regretted the incident and thought Linda might have just been ‘spooked’.
Inside the house, I could hear Korobeiniki, weeping, writing… and eventually, I heard Sookie shriek, “STOP THINKING ABOUT IT! I WANT IT TO GO AWAY!”
I had to catch Adele before she fell to the porch while she hyperventilated, repeating, “That poor baby… that poor baby…”
I wouldn’t have begrudged Adele for her reaction anyway, but once she finally calmed down, she explained why it was so much worse for Sookie than anyone else. Sookie Stackhouse wasn’t ‘just’ molested. As a mind-reader, the girl also had the privilege of hearing and seeing her abuser’s thoughts… and now that everyone knew what happened, she could hear and see everyone imagining her abuse… over and over and over…
And the added bonus that her cousin was furious because she seemed to have some sort of Stockholm Syndrome. She believed Bartlett’s proclivities were perfectly natural and claimed Sookie was jealous of the attention she’d been getting.
I wanted to vomit.
There was a certain amount of curiosity about Sookie’s ability, but while Adele wept that Sookie hated her ‘specialness’ I felt more revolted than I could remember.
I caught myself thinking Appius’s young victims were lucky enough to die.
Adele repeatedly apologized for letting her ‘dirty laundry’ interrupt my life, because it wasn’t like I could ‘wave a magic wand that would kill her brother and help Sookie’.
One member of the family at a time, I waved the magic wand.
Jason was completely oblivious to what was happening because he thought Sookie had a stomach bug. Sookie didn’t want him to think about it, so she refused to say anything. He’d quarantined himself in his bedroom and it was for the best.
Since Adele had invited Linda to come over once Sookie exposed that Hadley was a victim… Linda was called to the porch and glamoured to forget the whole incident.
Then Hadley was glamoured to forget being molested and all contact with Bartlett, and she was given finite rules about who the fuck was allowed to touch her and how.
There had never been a time when I’d appreciated how easy it was to glamour a child. Adults could be glamoured to forget a detail or two or do something out of character… children could practically be programmed.
When Sookie refused to leave her room, I had Adele invite me in and she led the way upstairs… I still had to force open the door because Sookie had barricaded it with her dresser.
She was under a quilt in the corner of the room with her hands over her head… sobbing…
I faked the calmest demeanor I could as I moved her dresser into its usual position.
“You said you want them to stop thinking about it…” She held her breath at the sound of my voice. “I can do that.”
“I have a talent like yours. I can make people forget. Linda and Hadley have already forgotten.”
She wailed, “Then make Gran forget!”
I had to wait for Adele to clear a fresh wave of tears from her eyes to catch her attention before I took control, but as soon as I did, Sookie yanked her quilt from her head and stomped towards me.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m making her forget… Adele, are you paying attention?”
She nodded with the typically glazed look in her eyes. “You bet, Eric.”
“I was just stopping by to make sure you’re feeling well. Liz said you left a message for her that you and Sookie fell ill this morning. A stomach bug?”
She nodded. “I guess so.”
“You fell ill this morning during breakfast. You decided to call Pam to postpone your errand and retired. You’ve been ‘sleeping it off’ all day. You and Sookie slept all day. Nothing else happened. Understand?”
She sighed, “I hope Jason hasn’t eaten everything in the pantry.”
“He’s a growing boy. I’m sure he tried… It’s good to know you’re feeling much better now. There’s a pleasant breeze tonight. Why don’t you take a book to the porch and enjoy it while I check on Sookie?”
She grinned as I released control and offered, “Lovely idea. Would you like something to drink?”
I shook my head. “No thank you.”
When she turned to leave, I looked down at Sookie and her mouth was hanging open.
Her face was swollen and covered with tears and mucus.
“Teach me to do that!”
I chuckled, “I can’t do that…”
“Hadley and Aunt Linda… they don’t remember?”
I shook my head. “No. Nothing happened…” As I squatted down to be closer to eye level, I asked, “Do you really hate your ability?”
She scoffed, “Wouldn’t you? I… I… Wait… You’re different. You’re not like everybody else.”
She was very right about that, but she didn’t need to forget one trauma just to become terrified of me.
I pushed my influence, “Sookie, I need you to pay attention… Your family isn’t going to remember anything about today. They’ve completely forgotten about what you told them. Bartlett never touched you.”
She winced when I said his name, but she nodded. “Thank you.” At least Sookie felt victimized so I wouldn’t have to go into graphic details again. I wasn’t sure I could stomach a repeat of Hadley’s glamouring.
“You spent the day in bed because you were unwell.”
She nodded again. “Got it.”
I almost stood up to leave it at that, but I added, “Sookie, I know there are unpleasant aspects of your ability, but it’s part of who you are. I understand that more than you can realize. You have to embrace who you are. If you try to stifle anything for long enough it’ll become your enemy. Use it, practice with it, strengthen it. Once you have more control of your ability, you’ll be able to appreciate it… Imagine scalding yourself in the shower. Do you adjust the knobs or hate bathrooms?”
She smirked slightly. “I adjust the knobs.”
“Good girl… Your ability is incredible. Whether you realize it or not, you have the world in the palm of your hand.”
She nodded and I sent her to bathe so I could make a graceful exit… When I returned to my house that night, Pam was waiting for news… As curious as she was, she knew better than to push me for answers. I didn’t want to talk about it. All I wanted to do was wash Bartlett Hale’s stench away from my hands.
Adele was our assistant for eight years before we reinvented ourselves. We would have done it sooner, but Pam had become attached enough to the woman that I let her stall for a couple of years. Pam’s attachment had been the perfect cover to my own… But in those eight years, Liz and I avoided contact with the children because Sookie had been able to sense a difference. Normally it wouldn’t have been so difficult, but Adele continually invited us to her family gatherings. She’d leave homemade gifts for us, or baked goods… We spoke to them on the phone, sent appropriate gifts on the relevant occasions, and let ourselves run into Jason a few times, but Sookie’s ability made her a risk we couldn’t take.
Sookie scowled at me with her arms folded while everything came back to me as though it had been last night.
I shook my head. “I glamoured you.”
“You thought you glamoured me. It didn’t work. I can’t be glamoured. I’ve tested it.”
“How did you do that?”
“Random Vampire in the street interview. How the hell do you think I found out? Another Vampire tried to glamour me when I was old enough to know what was going on… Gran loved you. She held a service for y’all because you were ‘buried’ in Sweden.”
“How is she?”
She rolled her eyes as though Pam had taught her how and reached to the back seat of the Jeep… She flung a restaurant menu at me like a frisbee.
“After Gran’s boss ‘died tragically’, leaving her with a severance package that could choke your mom, she opened the restaurant she and Aunt Linda had been talking about for years.”
“Did you just suggest my mother was a horse?”
“Yup. Open the menu. It’s really cool. I think you’ll get a kick out of the stuff with stars next to them…”
I opened the menu for Sandwich Island and a large portion of the first page was dedicated to a brief history of the sandwich and its namesake Earl, including the connection to the name of the restaurant. As many times as I’d spoken to Adele, it didn’t surprise me that the history buff would sneak education into her customers’ lunches.
The first starred item was called a Trencher… the description called it the ‘grandaddy of the modern sandwich’ and dated it back to medieval times. A slab of bread topped with stewed lamb, carrots and gravy.
The second starred item was called ‘English Roast’… rare roast beef and cheddar cheese. Available in two portions, Henry VIII and Lady Jane Grey.
Medieval fare and a traditionally English dish. That wasn’t a coincidence. Adele knew we were Swedish and English respectively, but there were more contemporary recipes she could have used.
“What do the stars signify?”
“It’s on the back. A portion of the Trencher’s proceeds go to the Red Cross. The English Roast’s proceeds go the World Wildlife Fund… Same with the desserts. A sweet waffle topped with ligonberry sauce for you, and a brandied apple tart for Liz… You should have told her, Eric.”
“Told her what exactly? That we needed to reinvent ourselves before someone realized we hadn’t aged since we arrived in the Area?”
“Yeah. She raised a goddamn telepath. She could have taken ‘we’re Vampires’ a whole lot easier than the registered letter from the executor of your estate…”
“Why wait until now to knee me in the groin?”
“Because I realized you’re a Vampire when I met another one. After thinking about it, I assumed it had been a hellacious car crash, maybe the wreck was a cover story for something more sinister. My friend said it wouldn’t be unheard of. I just graduated and came home. I’m eating breakfast and reading the paper and I see that Erik Nordmann’s closing his club… When I saw that grainy little picture of you, I knew.”
“Did you tell Adele?”
“No. Now that I’m sure, I’m telling her.”
“Sookie, it’s not as though we had a choice… We’d already been in the Area for…”
“For decades. And digital cameras were in cell phones so that was another risk and… and it’s probably better that you sent someone to glamour her to forget the details of her job. Yeah, I get it, but she loved you. She had nightmares about what happened to y’all, just like she did after my parents died. You couldn’t have died in an avalanche or boat scuttling or something else. You know how she lost her son.”
It was only a matter of months before the Revelation… I could see Adele then. Explain. But not yet…
“She’s a Human…”
“She’s the Human who cried for weeks after you and Liz ‘died’, asshole. You could have been a dragon and she wouldn’t have cared. Go see her.”
“She’ll have a fucking heart attack, Sookie.”
“Or cry all over you. Get in the Jeep.”
I snorted, “You drove all the way to Shreveport to knee my balls and now you expect me to leave with you?”
“Do whatever the fuck you want to do. Either way, Gran’s going to find out about you as soon as I’m home. Be a chicken shit. See if I care.”
“Does she know about your Vampire friend?”
She nodded. “Loves him to death.”
“I meant, does she know he’s a Vampire?”
“Yeah… and she couldn’t be happier about planning a midnight wedding.”
Fuck… it probably would have been better if I had told Adele.
“You’re marrying a Vampire? Sookie…”
She scoffed and rolled her eyes, turning for the Jeep, so I caught her arm. “Who is he?”
“Not me. Hadley… Now you care?”
Of course I cared. I’d walked away from thousands of employees, servants and slaves… Adele Stackhouse was the first one I’d ever missed. It wasn’t just the proficiency she’d shown at her job; genuine people were almost as rare as telepaths…
“Yes. Your grandmother was more than just an employee.” Sookie was the only reason we distanced ourselves as much as we did.
“Hadley went to beauty school and she’s been working at a salon, but she’s planning to open her own place with a couple of friends.”
“The Vampire, Sookie, who is he?”
“It doesn’t matter. He treats her like a queen.”
“And his intentions are completely admirable, yes? He couldn’t possibly be trying to learn something about Adele’s employment with me.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Because I’m a telepath. Because I’ve been working as a telepath in Houston since shortly after I started school so I know how to read Vampires’ moods. Because…” Her lip trembled in spite of the angry look in her eyes. “Because someone told me that once I had control of my ability, I’d be able to appreciate it… that I had the world in the palm of my hand.”
I took her wrists to be sure… On the right hand, the delicate outline of the continents in the eastern hemisphere… Africa, Europe, Asia… Australia was on the heel of her thumb… On her left, North and South America.
She had a tattoo based on something I said to her?
“You were nine.”
“I don’t see how the hell that matters. Do you have any idea what you did for me that night? You saved me from a monster. You were my hero before you left the house…”
“I’m not a hero.”
She quoted, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
The Fitzgerald quote was a tad theatrical, but… maybe in the mind of 9-year old.
“I didn’t tell you I was going to kill him.”
“You didn’t have to… Erik, you didn’t glamour Gran to keep Bartlett away from me.”
Nine. She was nine… and reading between the lines better than most adults I’d had contact with.
I snorted, “You never told anyone I killed him.” She knew. Twelve years and I thought I’d secured her silence.
She shook her head. “I was too busy thinking of ways to repay the favor.”
“Did you come to a conclusion?”
She grabbed my arm and began pulling towards her Jeep. “Nope, but I know a really smart lady who might be able to help me come up with something.”