I rose to an irrational nagging. Confusion and anxiety. The insanity would have been crippling unless the source of it had been on her knees next to me.
The weary grin on Sookie’s face was still a welcome sight, but it could have had something to do with the plunging purple tank top and skin tight denim shorts she was wearing.
I put my hand on her knee and slid it along her thigh. “You missed me enough to track down my resting place?”
She shook her head. “I didn’t… I… I dozed off on the couch at Alcide’s house. We went back there instead of going all the way back out to Bon Temps when we got done with errands… I woke up here, curled up with you.”
“You fell to sleep in one place and woke up in another?”
She nodded. “I didn’t leave the room because I wasn’t sure if the room past it is light tight, but I think it’s happening again.”
I sat up, looking at the bed beyond Sookie. “Pam? Where is she? She was right here when I died.”
Sookie shook her head. “I don’t know. It was just the two of us when I woke up.”
“Is there anyone here?”
She shook her head again. “I can’t feel anyone.”
“Have you looked around to see if there ares any hints?”
“I didn’t want to invade or anything… but I did use the bathroom. Do you usually keep toilet paper?”
While I tried to collect myself, I noticed a few things that she wouldn’t… The sheets on my bed were black and I’d gone to rest on white ones. If Sookie was spending any amount of time at my house, I’d need black ones too because blood wouldn’t stain them. There were two laptops stacked on the desk next to my computer monitor. I hadn’t unpacked mine last night and Pam’s was covered in rhinestones. And on the nightstand I never used because I was never on that side of the bed, was a second charging cord for a phone and an old copy of Jane Eyre. “No. I don’t keep toilet paper in this room… that book, on the desk, it doesn’t belong in here. Go see what it is.”
When she left the bed, I did too… My bathroom had everything from Sookie’s soaps and toothpaste to a small jewelry box on the counter and her makeup bag in the cabinet… My closet was full of my clothes and a full wardrobe of Sookie’s things… Because we’d been staying in a hotel, Sookie’s things sharing a closet with mine hadn’t been something I’d spent any time thinking about, but… In my house, my closet in my resting place, seeing Sookie’s clothing mingling with mine, I was surprised by how welcome the sight was. It wasn’t just a change of clothes or two. There was far more of her apparel in my closet than there had been at her own house.
She’d been quiet as she leafed through the book… “This is either a brilliant hoax or you’re right and something is happening again.”
She didn’t answer me. She took the book and went to sit on the bed listlessly. I’d been too curious to notice what the book had done to Sookie’s mood…
“Sookie, what’s in the book?”
She whispered, “It’s an album.”
“What’s in it?”
“Gran… Eric, my Gran is in it.”
“She would be…” It would make sense for her to bring that sort of thing to my house when everything pointed to her living with me.
“No… This isn’t mine… This isn’t… She never… These pictures are of…” She was having such a hard time making herself say anything, I went to sit next to her…
She was mindful enough of my interest that she started at the beginning again… I watched her flip through the pages… Her Gran, Jason, Pam, Hadley and I were all posed for various pictures in a cemetery…
There was a formal affair that we all attended. Mixed in with the pictures of all of us dancing or socializing with Hadley were a couple candid pictures of Compton dressed like a transvestite bride. It was ridiculous and I couldn’t help but laugh…
Several pages that seemed to chronicle construction at Sookie’s house… What seemed to be the remodeling of the porch and installation of a suite of safe rooms…
More posed pictures of what would’ve looked like a vacation if it weren’t for the fact that the smiling people were at the Texas School Book Depository, the Cowboys’ stadium and the Dallas Aquarium… They’d squeezed sightseeing into what seemed to be the business trip Sookie and I were about to take.
There were pictures of Sookie and me with her family, at both of our houses… Pictures of a little boy in four different bedrooms and smiling in each of them. What seemed to be swimming lessons and a ‘movie night’ that included Pam and Bubba… Sookie smiled and called the boy lucky to have vampire friends since she couldn’t ever get any enjoyment from watching movies with friends.
It was an album of everything that could’ve happened if I hadn’t kicked one fucking fangbanger… One useless fucking idiot who couldn’t keep his hands to himself…
She whimpered, “If I hadn’t fallen for Bill’s bullshit…”
I wasn’t sure how to start trying to convince her that she wasn’t to blame. There didn’t seem to be a way to keep her from hating herself. I didn’t want her to suffer, but I was trying to convince myself that what was done, was done… Guilt wasn’t something I had any practice with. Especially when I was the one feeling it.
I must’ve floundered for a while, watching Sookie go back through most of the album again before my phone began ringing from the nightstand.
When I saw that Sookie’s house was calling, I let her answer it… I was hoping that it would be her grandmother to be honest… Some sort of contact with her.
“Well, my little faerie, you’ve done it to me again. Do you have any idea of how disorienting it is to rise 40 miles from where you die? Nevermind. You will eventually.”
She actually giggled. “Um. Which Eric is this?”
“How the hell do I answer that question?”
“Do you wear a wedding ring?”
“Yes… Which Sookie is this?”
“You came to my house and we went to Fangtasia together. How many have you met?”
“Three. Mine, you and we don’t want to talk about the other one quite yet. Where are you? Have you seen hide or hair of mine?”
“We’re at your house. My Eric is with me. I haven’t seen another me. Where did you wake up?”
“I rose at the Bon Temps house.”
Sookie gasped. “How!? Are you alright? Where were you?”
“In the suite of vampire safe rooms we’ve added. I’m going to assume that you haven’t renovated yet. You should.”
She sighed, “As soon as I have the time. We’ve been crazy busy… I napped on Alcide’s couch. Would it make any sense for her to be there?”
“You ask as though any of this makes sense. Is the family there?”
“The house is empty.”
“Adele and Hunter should be home soon. They know about our little cross-overs so feel free to visit. I’ll be there in 20 minutes. I’m leaving now.” As soon as I heard that we should be expecting Adele, I went back to the closet and started dressing.
“Where would they be?”
“Alcide probably just took them shopping. I’ll be there soon.”
By the time he hung up, I was dressed and had my hand out to take hers.
She didn’t seem to understand that I was excited for her to get to see her Gran… Knowing how much losing the woman pained Sookie, I was as anxious for the meeting. If we could learn to control our strange circumstances, Sookie could have her back in part. It would be better than nothing… It could bring some peace to Sookie.
I’d carried her up the stairs since she seemed apprehensive and set her on the counter in the kitchen… More subtle additions. We’d passed a sofa just outside of the bedroom door that had a pillow and blanket neatly stacked on one end and the kitchen counters had a collection of pink appliances and there was a large bowl of fruit on the bar next to a basket of drawing supplies.
“Are you going to be alright? To see your grandmother again?”
Her eyes welled and her chin trembled. “I don’t know… Why are you so… If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re excited.”
“I am. I know how much you miss her. You don’t have to settle for talking to her headstone. You can actually hug her.”
She nodded, focusing on her knees.
“If nothing else comes from this bizarre thing that happens, you still get to see her from time to time. I’d be even more excited if we could figure out how to make it happen instead of randomly rising up like this.”
“Of course I am. Losing her was horrible for you. This way you still have something. More than a cemetery plot at least. I think we could make it happen…”
“What if this isn’t real though? Honestly. This could be a strange joint hallucination because… Well, no one knows what happens when Faries and Vampires get together. It could be something… what if it’s because of blood exchanges or something?”
“Then that would make us figments of someone else’s imagination since we hadn’t shared blood yet when it first happened to us.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I am… but would it matter?”
“What do you mean?”
“If this is all just an elaborate hallucination, would you care? You would remember it, enjoy it while it’s happening. Smell her, hear her… I’d accept it.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “Accept it…?”
“When I was made a vampire, I never saw my family again… Being a vampire, I didn’t even get dreams about them.”
“You’d have taken anything you could get, huh?”
I nodded, wishing I hadn’t brought up my life. “We had to walk away. There wasn’t a choice… I want you to think about seeing her again in terms of living too far away to visit often… but you’re lucky that you get to visit.”
“Instead of thinking about being responsible…”
“That wasn’t you. That wasn’t your naiveté or Sophie-Ann’s curiosity or Hadley’s melancholy. It was Bill Compton and his attempts to exploit you to help elevate himself past his worth. You’re allowed to hate him, but do it later. This Eric and Sookie only spent a few hours with us… We don’t know when this could happen again. If you waste this visit, you could miss her entirely given her age. Enjoy this visit while we’re here so that you don’t regret anything later.”
She nodded, taking me very seriously.
“This is an opportunity… not a funeral, yes?”
She gave another nod as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Yeah… yeah. Absolutely. You’re right.” Her look was resolved even though she was full of doubt.
“Try harder to believe it.”
She reached up and put her arms around my neck to bury her face under my chin. “I’m going to need you. I’m going to need your help.”
“You want me to push you?” After what we had done to one another the night before, I was close to asking for her request in writing.
She nodded without pulling away from me. “Please?”
She hadn’t let go of me. I could feel her trying to control her mood… If she’d just gone numb, she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy her chance at seeing her grandmother again and she didn’t want to squander the occasion… I didn’t have to mention it. She knew.
When the garage door motor turned on, her arms tightened and for a split second, she felt like she was going to hide.
There wasn’t any noise from a car… as I listened, it seemed as though whoever it was that came in through the garage had been on bikes…
I could feel her…
The ‘old’ woman had a presence that couldn’t be ignored. It wasn’t supernatural… It was more like being in the presence of someone who took their experience seriously.
When she walked into the kitchen, she huffed, “Little girl, you best get your rump off my counter. No one wants your butt for dinner.” I almost told her to speak for herself.
I whispered to ask Sookie if she was going to be alright if I let her go and waited for her to nod slightly before I stepped back.
Before Sookie could push herself off of the counter, her grandmother tackled her for a hug. “My stars! Which one are you?”
Sookie sobbed against her grandmother and I felt like I was choking on the grief she felt. It didn’t escape me that the woman instinctively knew that she wasn’t looking at her Sookie.
While Sookie explained who she was, there was a light tug on the front of my pants. There was a toddler looking up at me fearlessly. “You don’t know us, huh?”
“No, but I’ve heard of you. You’re Hunter, yes?”
He nodded. “We’re friends.”
“Yeah. Why aren’t you taking care of another me?”
“I haven’t been told about you yet.”
He giggled. “That sounds funny.”
“I know. I understand you have the same talents as Sookie.”
He shook his head. “My shields aren’t as strong as hers. I have to borrow hers or use a vampire bubble.”
“They should get stronger though, yes? Now that you’re getting some coaching.”
He let a smile pull at the corners of his mouth as he nodded. “They are… Sookie says I might be able to go to school.”
“Stronger shields will make things easier for you than they were for Sookie.”
“And when I have a hard day, I know Sookie will get it. Daddy never did… Barry says I’m very lucky.”
“Who is Barry?”
“Another telepath. He belongs to Sheriff Stan now.”
“You found another telepath?”
He nodded. “In Dallas. He thought that that I packed rocks in my bag and it made an echo.” Funny.
“That’s what Sookie said it sounded like when she found a telepath in Baton Rouge.”
“It seems like telepaths can hide from everyone but each other.”
He was in the process of agreeing with me when he left to dart out of the kitchen area and then through the dining room’s patio door… When he came back, he was being carried by the other me. Hunter’s ability was honed enough to have sensed a flying vampire’s approach. Impressive.
The other me smiled in Adele’s direction. “At least someone is excited for this to be happening again.”
Adele laughed at him. “At least you have your own clothes this time. Sookie will probably get back in Alcide’s sweats.”
He gave her a nod. “There have been worse things. Thank you, Mary Sunshine.”
Sookie giggled when Adele stuck her tongue out at him. “So where is Sookie?”
“She’s on her way… Did Alcide actually leave when there was something ‘better than cable’ to watch?”
Adele shook her head. “No. He was going home to get ready for some hot date when he left a couple hours ago.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Then where were you when they rose here?”
“We rode our bikes over to Paulette’s so that Hunter and Chris could play while I helped Mags with sewing her new curtains.”
He glared at her. “If I had known you’d traipse around unprotected, I would have moved Paulette to somewhere across town. Next time, have Alcide drop you off and call me for a ride home.” Sookie scowled at him for reprimanding her grandmother, but Adele took it in stride…
She smiled and pecked his cheek. “It was spur of the moment so I didn’t think anything of taking our bikes. Next time, I’ll do that.”
“Thank you… did everyone catch up while I was flying all the way from Bon Temps?”
Sookie nodded and asked where a restroom was so that she could wash her face…
Once she was gone, I found myself on the receiving end of a questioning look from the other me. “Why doesn’t she know where the restroom is? Is she still being uncooperative?”
I shook my head. “Far from. We only returned from traveling last night. She hadn’t been inside the house until she woke up in my room.”
He groaned. “My room… Has this happened to you other than to meet us?”
“No. Have you learned anything about it?”
“Not really. Sophie-Ann has experienced it several times because of Hadley. I have a copy of a journal she’s made notes of her ‘adventures’ in. Adele has it memorized. We’ll make copies… There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason…”
Adele interrupted, “Except the sleeping… Sookie and Hadley were sleeping and woke up to the craziness with y’all. It’s never happened while any of you are awake.”
He nodded and continued, “That would be the only common denominator.”
“You said that there was another time for you… That you didn’t want to talk about that Sookie.”
“That was a spectacular evening. We laid to rest in Dallas and rose in Shreveport together and found her counterpart packing… Sookie and I tried to intervene, but she couldn’t be convinced to not elope with Compton… He took her ignorant ass to Labrador and she refused to realize that they’d never be able to return since the Queen didn’t approve. They were bonded. She was a lost cause.” Adele agreed with a sad nod.
“What was the difference? The event that made things go differently?”
He shrugged. “We know that Jason died in that version. Sookie watched him bleed to death while trying to defend her from Rene. We didn’t get any actual answers from that Sookie… She was convinced that Bill Compton was a saint and I listened from the yard while my Sookie yelled at her because every time my Sookie invited me in, the other uninvited me.” He acted like Sookie’s stubborn nature was foreign to him.
“Did she think yelling would help the situation?”
“My Sookie has very little patience for other versions of herself. She says that she’s only interested in meeting versions of herself with ‘some sense’… Between the way yours acted and Bill’s puppet, I can see her point. Tell me yours came around.”
I nodded, not sure of how much I should say in front of the grandmother and child. “She apologized for how she reacted when I took her home, in fact. She came around so quickly that I was convinced that she was just a remarkable actress.”
Adele laughed, “Not Sookie. She can’t lie her way out of a paper bag… Well… wait. You haven’t known her for long so I guess you haven’t bonded. Have you learned the difference between her smiles yet?” If the woman knew about bonding, then I’d been censoring myself for nothing.
“We’ve bonded… And the difference was something I noticed the night they visited us.”
She patted my shoulder on her way to the refrigerator and started pulling things out, I assumed to begin preparing a meal. “Good for you then… I’ve got to say, I’m more than a little surprised to see you act so upbeat about this little skip.” She pointed over her shoulder. “He hates it with a passion.” I was ‘more than a little surprised’ over how familiar she behaved towards me. I understood that she was living with another version of me, but that by itself was unique. Then again, one granddaughter was a telepath, another was a vampire and her grandson was showing signs of having an extra-sensory nature… why not?
“I’d just talked to Sookie about it last night. With all of the changes she’s faced in the past few days, she’s still haunted by your death. When I spoke to the queen, I got the feeling that she’d been ‘skipping’ as well. I’m actually hoping that we can figure out how to make it happen, so that my Sookie wouldn’t be completely without you.”
“That’s sweet… Is Jason being impossible?”
“Not at all. His opinion was a problem for less than a minute before he received what I’ve been told you’d call an attitude adjustment. Hadley has been impossible.” As Sookie returned from the bathroom, she tucked herself under my arm and put hers behind my back.
“Oh lord! What has she done?”
“She started an argument with Sookie… When Andre punished her for it, she lashed out by contacting Compton’s maker… Lorena’s attempt to replace Compton with Sookie failed miserably and Hadley is in a relative prison as punishment for her part.”
“That girl! Damn if she can’t find trouble like you can find stubborn women…” Very amusing and too accurate. Sookie gave a quiet giggle at the simple truth.
The other me interrupted, “Diantha and Gladiola were sent to end him, not fetch him?”
I nodded. “So Lorena decided to claim Sookie as hers and I ended her.”
He chuckled. “They couldn’t possibly die nearly enough for my tastes.”
“They were ended in your version too?”
“We just returned home from Dallas a couple of nights ago. Stan Davis hired her for a clinic and she discovered from a local pet that Newlin had a vampire in custody that he intended to burn… There was a hostage trade. I have three vantage points of the burning if you’d like a copy. You’d have to keep it with you when you go to rest like you will the copy of Sophie-Ann’s journal, but we know that you can take things along.”
“After what he put Sookie through, I’m definitely interested in my own copy. I’ve found a perk of my own to these… Are you calling them ‘skips’?”
“Adele is. I call them a pain in my ass…” Hunter giggled at his answer. “…She has an interesting set of theories. She’s been too cocky since she figured out that mercury destroys witches.”
I had to hear that, since I’d remembered too well her thoughts about the Bombay ‘type’ of blood. “And how did you do that?”
She lifted her chin and gave me a proud smile that I was already familiar with because of Sookie. “Too much folklore that said witches melt in contact with water and not enough that mentions how horrible they’d smell without baths… The complete lack of ‘verified’ witches in New England during the witch trials helped… the water there has high mercury levels. So it would stand to reason that they’d avoid the area if they could sense it or not be able to last long in an area where the water was laced with poison… At room temperature, mercury could look like water to anyone who doesn’t know better. Two and two.” There wasn’t any mystery left to where Sookie would’ve gotten her aptitude for deduction.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “So what are your theories regarding the ‘skipping’ that’s going on?”
“Oh, I couldn’t guess how… But if you think about it, you know… since every part of your life, your long life especially, has been the same as his right up to the moment that he opted for an early dinner and you stayed on your seat, I think it’s entirely possible for you to wake up in a different ‘skip’ every night until something changes to make you take notice.”
I just stared at her. The idea was as bizarre as it was horrifying.
She chuckled at me as she poured a cup of juice for Hunter. “…Nothing would be different for you until you woke up in the wrong place… And I think… honestly, I think that it has something to do with the mood you die in… Y’all met up the night after I had my spell…”
The other me corrected sharply, “Heart. Attack. It wasn’t a case of the vapors, Adele.”
She rolled her eyes as she continued, “The other time they skipped was when Sookie and Bill were about to elope. Sookie did mention how tetchy you were when she refused to work for you the night before. When Sophie-Ann skips, it’s usually a matter of state that has her figuratively tossing and turning… Did something happen last night?”
I nodded and Sookie tensed next to me. “We had a misunderstanding that got away from us. We argued and our moods affected each other. Because of Hadley’s recent attitude, Sookie is concerned that becoming a vampire would make her perpetually hostile like her cousin.”
Adele frowned at Sookie sympathetically as she rubbed her arm. “Aww, you don’t have it in you to be mean for long. Don’t let Hadley ruin your plans. You’ve never been anything alike. You were always a better person than she was. You’ll be a better vampire too.”
Sookie’s lip trembled. “You aren’t upset that I’m thinking about it?”
“Why would I be?” That. That was the most surprised I’d ever been. Accepting that one granddaughter was turned as a last resort was one thing, but being supportive of one who was planning to be turned was another thing entirely. I couldn’t think of a soul that would be any less stunned.
The other Sookie did arrive wearing Herveaux’s clothing and while ‘the family’ laughed at Sookie’s description of his reaction when he came from his room ready to go out to see Sookie napping on his sofa while they ate their meal. My Sookie thanked me with a grateful feeling every time I pushed to lift her mood since she was close to tears through most of the meal…
Since the hosting versions of us were expected at Fangtasia, a fact the he was bitter about once I’d mentioned how I escaped the task, Sookie and I stayed at the house so that she could enjoy Adele’s company.
While the two of them retired to the patio with iced teas, I managed to fill my time.
I’d been volunteered to ‘babysit’ Hunter… I used ‘my’ laptop to make copies of Sophie-Ann’s journal and Bill’s barbeque… and on Adele’s suggestion, I made notes on ‘all things political and private’ that had happened to us since our first ‘skip’… All the while, Hunter sat at the opposite side of the desk and worked in primers… He had excitedly told me that he was ‘all ready’ for first grade and that ‘I’ was teaching him and Sookie Italian (by extension Latin) in preparation for their trip to Rome.
More odd to me than what had put Sookie and me into the situation of ‘skipping’, more odd than facing that Sookie and I could find ourselves in incalculable scenarios and trying to come to terms with the fact that we’d have to suffer variable after variable… The oddest part of the evening was that Adele told us that it was a ‘normal night’ for them…
When ‘the family’ hadn’t been traveling, their nights consisted of dinner, followed by Hunter’s lessons which Eric and Sookie had been tending to because Hunter could get answers from Adele’s mind… on working nights, Sookie and Eric would go to Fangtasia and over their weekend, everyone would spend their time in Bon Temps, including Pam and occasionally Bubba.
Sookie and Eric hadn’t spent a night away from each other since the night he took her to Shreveport to protect her from Lanier.
Since the ‘telepathy clinic’ had existed in Shreveport for their version of events, there hadn’t been many minds to read so they called the house to offer some Q&A… they were grateful for my information about Paulette’s charmed rings and Michelle’s discovery… and I was grateful for the warning about Dallas’s pitfalls and their discovery of Barry…
While they laughed at the idea that ‘my’ Pam and Jason had made each other their Flavor Of The Week, they explained that their Pam and Jason behaved like bickering siblings when they weren’t going to bars to act as each other’s wingman.
And based on what they knew and what I shared with them, Pam’s theory about Stackhouse genealogy wasn’t challenged. As a matter of fact, sharing the idea instigated a bout of brainstorming that only added weight to Pam’s thoughts.
Since none of us were sure of what brought on the ‘skips’ or what caused everything to ‘reset’, it was suggested that when Hunter turned in, Sookie and I should too. They explained that when they returned to my house after their visit with us, they’d only been in bed for a few minutes before their Pam came to check on them. Since Hunter had taken to sleeping on the sofa just outside the door to my room so that he could borrow my bubble to ‘have his own dreams’, he might be a witness of sorts to everything normalizing.
It made sense. My only worry was that since Sookie seemed attached to the idea of staying, taking her away from ‘Gran’ wasn’t something I was going to enjoy.
As I filled my time and Hunter worked more diligently than I would’ve expected of a boy his age, I’d felt Sookie moving around from time to time to go to the restroom or the kitchen, but I was more preoccupied with her moods. She was a walking contradiction. Delight and depression had married to cause some form of bittersweet melancholy… I could hear her laugh from time to time, but every joy was practically swallowed with misery no matter how hard I tried to compel her moods. I was beginning to question if ‘skipping’ intentionally would be in her best interest, but ultimately, I’d let it be her decision.
Even though it was after 1am, Hunter was still happily coloring in a workbook. He had made a game of explaining what was ‘awesome’ about vampires, so I found myself giving high points of telepathy in turn. He asked about Michelle and offered some information about Barry. The new telepath worked as a bellboy at the hotel they had stayed in when they visited Dallas. His shields were different from Sookie’s in that Sookie’s mind felt like mine. He described it by saying my ‘bubble’ was like floating in the pool with his eyes closed during the day. Light and practically weightless. Barry’s shields felt more like laying in a hammock in the shade. If he pushed hard enough, he could get through them. Barry also had a talent for moods according to the boy. Barry’s telepathy helped him feel the nature of thoughts which Sookie and Hunter were pacticing.
Sookie’s mood had darkened suddenly just before she and Adele joined us in the library…
She stared at me for a long moment before her chin trembled. “Gran’s tuckered out. She’s heading up to bed.”
Adele sent Hunter to dress for bed and came over to kiss my cheek. “Thanks for taking such good care of Sookie. I’ll see you around…” It was engaging to say the least, but Sookie’s mood was spiraling too fast and she was resisting the help she’d asked for. She turned to Sookie and gave her another long hug and kissed her as she pulled away. “…You remember what we talked about, hear me?”
Sookie nodded, shaking tears from her cheeks to fall to the floor.
When Adele walked out, Sookie leaned against the doorframe and watched her leave and I was left to watch like a proverbial deer in headlights until she started choking between cries and reduced to hugging her knees on the floor…
I managed to think of grabbing the disk I’d made before I picked her up. I didn’t bother with trying to convince her to walk. Every part of her ached.
Trying to talk to her didn’t help because she was too grief-stricken to speak clearly.
Trying to force any amount of composure was useless because she was still resisting.
All I could do was lay with her and wait while she wept and sputtered into my chest. All the while I felt more pain and defeat than I had for the loss of my own family. The only ‘bright side’ I could think of was that Sookie wasn’t hiding from me or blocking me from her feelings…
Waiting for Sookie to calm down noticeably had been the longest half hour of my life.
Gradually her breathing quieted and all she seemed to have left was tears. Her despair had even waned enough to consider her generally upset so I risked trying to talk to her again. “Even if we don’t discover how to come back intentionally, we’ll be back in time. It’s only been 8 nights since the last time. It’s bound to happen again eventually.”
Her emotions became wistful again as she shook her head calmly. “No. We’re done. I don’t… I can’t come back.”
“What do you mean ‘can’t’?”
“Gran said that she wouldn’t see me if we started skipping just to see her…” Sookie stopped to take a shaky breath. “…She reminded me of how sad we thought Mrs. Mason was when we heard she had a séance to try to talk to her husband… Gran said it would be the same thing… That even if I stay human and only live as long as she has that saying goodbye to people is part of life… letting go is just something everyone has to deal with. Even if we started skipping on purpose so that we can have Sunday dinners together, sooner or later I’d have to bury her too because Eric and Pam promised to not turn her… or keep her alive with their blood. She made them.” Judging by what I had seen of their interactions, it would most likely be a very hard promise to keep… Even if my other self hadn’t seemed so attached to her, prolonging Adele’s life for Sookie’s sake would have been a profound motivation to break that promise.
“But it could happen accidentally, like this time.”
She sighed as she nodded. “It could… Gran made me speak my peace though. Just in case it doesn’t happen.”
“What did ‘speaking your peace’ include?”
“She asked me what I would’ve said. You know, if I had known she wasn’t going to be around anymore… like we had the chance to say goodbye to Aunt Linda. I told her that I love her and miss her and that I was sorry that I got her killed by being with Bill… She told me she knew that and to be careful what I wish for…”
“How exactly does that adage fit your situation?”
“Because I always wanted to be normal… I got it in spades by dating Bill?”
I pulled away to look at her and was only more puzzled by the serious expression on her face. “How the fuck is what he did to you considered ‘normal’?”
She let herself giggle at my reaction. “Ok, first of all, if we luck out and get to see Gran again, you should spend some more time with her. The way she looks at things is just crazy sometimes… but she’s always right. She dared me to name one person who’d never been lied to or taken advantage of. Then she reminded me of eggs having to get broken to make an omelet, kissing frogs before I found ‘my prince’ and that if I felt sorry for myself for having one bad boyfriend that I should just visit Arlene and her kids to remind myself that I was better off than she was… I almost forgot how annoying it was when she did that.”
“To be clear, your grandmother condensed her murder and everything else that Bill is responsible for down to the notion that he made up for all of the lousy boyfriends you could’ve had if you weren’t a mind reader.”
She huffed, “That’s exactly what she did… You know, when I tried reminding her that she wasn’t the one who was stabbed to death in our kitchen, she told me I wasn’t either and I needed to get over it because she didn’t want me spending my life missing her instead of living… She said that my Adele was a lucky woman. She died after a long, full life. She had her share of laughs and tears and she knows for a fact that dying isn’t that bad because she’s talked to plenty of people who’ve done it.”
“Sookie… did her heart attack cause brain damage?”
“No. She’s always been like that. She can make huge events seem like nothing and find grand significance in the smallest of things. It can be infuriating… But I’m always going to miss it.”
“Of course you will.” Adele Stackhouse had been Sookie’s only adviser, her only influence… Sookie hadn’t just lost her grandmother violently… No. Considering how close, how important Adele had been to her, that Adele had been the only person to ever truly love Sookie… for all intents and purposes, Sookie had lost her maker. It gave new weight to the statement Sookie had made about her favorite people… I found myself feeling genuinely privileged that I was in Sookie’s ‘top 2’. For that matter, I had the brief thought that I’d regard Adele’s counsel faster than my own maker’s.
“She said I was lucky.”
“Did you tell her about your Blackjack skills?”
She smiled. It was still small, but it was improving with every attempt she made. “She said that I could be bitter that certain choices made crappy things happen, or I could consider myself lucky… Her Sookie didn’t lose her Gran and didn’t get snowed by Bill, but…” She sighed as though she didn’t know how she felt about what came next. “…but she said that since her Sookie didn’t go through what I did, that she won’t ever understand how lucky she was that you were the option. That Sookie doesn’t know betrayal well enough to appreciate sincerity. That Sookie doesn’t know being down well enough to appreciate her pedestal… No one believes in der Butzemann until their ankle gets grabbed. No one believes in God until they witness a miracle. She said that I learned a lot of lessons in a short amount of time and that her death was just part of my crash course. Her Sookie has a lot left to learn.”
“Fuck. Sookie, I think I might miss her.”
She giggled and snuggled back under my chin. When I felt her mood lifting, clearing like fog I closed my eyes just to enjoy it and concentrated on the sound of her voice. It was still heavy from her crying fit; hours of weeping had put a frailty into her voice that was only just getting its life back. “I’ll get to see her from time to time, in small doses, but she told me that I’m not allowed to hold on to her ghost. I’d make a miserable vampire if I couldn’t wrap my head around outliving people.”
“I am going to have to spend some time with her during our next visit. She really is impressive. I can understand why losing her was so dramatic for you.”
“I’ll do what I can, but from what I hear, Hunter is up your butt unless you’re at work. You’re his favorite person… Well, Gran’s too, but she didn’t say that out loud.”
“Yeah. You. He can’t hear you and he isn’t scared of you… Gran said that Hunter idolizes you…” The boy had been taken from his father. It would make sense that he’d latch onto someone. Since Hunter didn’t have any way to know what kind of monster I could be, my quiet mind would make me the obvious candidate…
“I meant her.”
She snickered against me. “The other you indulges her like mad… books and talking about history… She said that she never had half the interest in what Grampa had to say as she does you. That if she met you when she was still young and pretty, you’d have been in trouble.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh really? I suppose she was excluding that vampires ‘didn’t exist’ back then.”
“Psshh… like that would’ve mattered. She believed in vampires before y’all came out.”
“Really?” There was no way that Sookie didn’t feel my surprise.
“Yup. Maxine Fortenberry came over because she saw it on TV and told Gran all about ‘bloodsuckers’ in a tizzy… Gran told her ‘well Duh, Maxine’ why else would there be vampire folklore in every corner of the world… and she told her to keep ahold of her knickers because she’d bet she could think of a hundred other kinds of things that Maxine never thought existed because Maxine was too obtuse… Think about it, Eric, she raised a telepath.”
The suddenness of the voice coming from behind me startled both of us. “This is what you pillow talk about? God, I’m glad your sex life is interesting enough to make up for it.”
Sookie and I shot away from the mattress to see Pam laying where she had been when she’d died for the day. She immediately began looking herself over, no doubt to make sure that Sookie hadn’t played another practical joke… All Sookie and I could do was gape. Everything had reset. ‘Just like that’. I had to wonder if I would’ve felt it if I hadn’t been preoccupied with Sookie’s emotional state. “How much did you hear?”
Pam gave us a puzzled look. “Since Hunter was up your butt… Why does she get to say things like that and you growl at me for saying things are in your ass?” Because Pam does it when I’m already pissed about something and Sookie uses it as a synonym for paying special attention to someone. “….What the hell is wrong with you two? You act like you’ve seen a ghost. Why is Sookie crying? Is something wrong?”
My sheets were white again. My closet and bathroom were just as untouched by Sookie’s items as they had been when I died that morning. My desk was empty. There was no sofa, no resting child waiting when I opened the door to my room… I could’ve said that it all had been a dream if it weren’t for the disc that I had tucked into the waist of my jeans… Somehow, while my eyes were closed, while I was worried for Sookie’s condition, everything had corrected itself.
While I took a moment to look around the room, Sookie answered, “It happened again. This time I fell asleep at Alcide’s waiting for him and Paulette to ward his place and when I woke up, I was here. You were gone. We visited them this time. I saw Gran and met Hunter… the other you called Gran to ask me if I was still a bitch. It’s happened to them another time…”
“You didn’t tell me?”
“They didn’t visit us. They visited another version of me and I was bonded to Bill and eloping… That Eric was not a happy camper, but he did joke about keeping me…”
Sookie was interrupted by the ringing of my phone, leaving Pam wanting for more by way of an explanation.
I answered mine, knowing as soon as I saw the caller ID that we hadn’t thought we’d be skipping so we hadn’t explained it to anyone. “Herveaux?”
“I can’t find Sookie. I left her alone in my house and didn’t leave the property. Paulette and I have looked everywhere she could have possibly got to on foot. She must’ve slipped out, but I can’t find her scent anywhere in my yard, nothing else either for that matter. Do you have any kind of bead on her because of that ring?” His panicked explanation was nothing more than an arrangement of growls.
“She’s fine. She’s with me.”
He was quiet for the time it took for him to grasp that she wasn’t in danger. “I’m going to kick her ass! That’s it. That’s my last fucking request before you kill me for losing her… That little shit… Paulette! She’s fine. She went over to Eric’s!”
“Alcide, calm down. No one’s going to kill you. You couldn’t have stopped her…”
“I could’ve given her a goddamn ride and I wouldn’t have been freaking the fuck out for the last 3 hours! She said she was laying down for a nap. All she had to do was say something… We couldn’t get ahold of Jason either. Anything could’ve happened!” Sookie whispered that he left his phone in the work truck because he’d broken several while on the job.
“You and Paulette should come to my house. We’ll explain when you get here.”