Somehow, for the first time since I’d found Liz… I could say something was going well…
I could have gotten lucky, but as far as Sookie knew from the journals, there weren’t any Liz’s in Europe so the likelihood of a skip giving me access to her was slim.
I would have given up the Kingdom I never wanted to move to the States if I thought it would be safe. I’d thought about it while we drove from Eijsden to Bern, but if I tried to move to Louisiana after being a European King, LeClerq’s paranoia would have pushed her to act against me. She’d assume I was there to colonize. She’d most likely heard the ‘rumors’ about the European Kings annexing the States to clean up now that Post-Revelation America was a virtual outhouse.
Both Sookies sandwiched me in the longest hug I’d been part of since Coco Chanel died.
The two things providing some optimism at the time were: 1- Once I bonded to My Sookie, it would only be a matter of time before I could see Liz again… and 2- I could use the information from the journals to bide my time waiting for her… postcards of what could have been.
I’d learn what I could of the journals, but I would bookmark passages about Liz to make them easier to find later.
I sat in awe of how easily I’d got what I wanted while My Sookie made a copy of her journal…
I wouldn’t be forced to resort to taking on the chore of Sookie’s trashy cousin and risk dealing with Sophie-Anne’s intolerable self-importance.
Sookie was willing to accept a bond out of the kindness of her heart… that characteristic wasn’t possible anymore. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d witnessed altruism.
Since the Sookie who guided me through skipping found herself without the chore of convincing her other self to help me, she second guessed the sandwich she’d asked for because she wanted to ‘reset’.
She was in a hurry to return to Her Eric as he was alone with six children… While she knew he could handle the task of their care, she also knew he’d be worried enough about her that the telepathic children wouldn’t be handling the stress well. Sookie mentioned that there wasn’t anything worse than knowing God is scared… The children wouldn’t react well to sensing that.
She walked upstairs in the hope that resetting would be as simple as using My Sookie’s bed as her ‘magic carpet’…
My Sookie led me to the sitting room so we could discuss details and we had barely settled at opposite ends of the sofa before she giggled, “Damn. That was fast. She’s already gone. You don’t have to stick around if you don’t want to.”
“Nervous about being alone with a Vampire?”
She shook her head. “I meant that you don’t have to worry about taking her back to Eijsden or anything. I have a light tight room if you want to wait until tomorrow to make that drive. It’s a little embarrassing that it’s servants quarters in the basement, but it’s secure.”
“As long as our discussion doesn’t take too long, I’ll have enough time to return to Eijsden… Why didn’t you contact me after your skip?”
“Oh, I tried… I researched the hell out of you, but whenever I got a lead on where you were, you’d be gone by the time I called. I couldn’t just take off with three kids to try to follow you around when I couldn’t even get you on the phone. Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, Kiel, Ghent, back to Copenhagen… The skip didn’t even happen long enough ago that you’ve given me the chance to find a pattern. Great way to keep enemies guessing, but still a pain in my ass.”
“Fair enough… I imagine we should negotiate.”
“You’re willing to bond. What are you asking for in exchange?”
She gave me a confused look and shook her head. “I think I’m good… I mean, other than maybe some real estate recommendations… Oh! I might need you to glamour Allecks. He may be cool with the idea of a holiday, but he’ll probably put up a fight when I want to make it more permanent. So… with you being a wanderer, where do you suggest I move?”
I stared back at her for a moment… I wasn’t sure how to react. I might have actually blinked.
“I was expecting I’d need to negotiate for you to relocate…”
“Why? I mean, skips are going to happen when they happen, but I think being less than 400km away from one another when they happen would be a good thing. I think it’s a damn good thing you got pulled to Eijsden for the skip. You couldn’t have gotten here before dawn if you two woke up in Copenhagen. If nothing else, the less time we spend traveling would allow for more time. We wrapped up the reason for the skip in less than an hour and you spent five hours driving. This time, who cares, but when you see Pam, you’re going to want that time. And maybe if you don’t waste all that time en route, you might be willing to give me a few minutes to say hi eventually…” She winked as she continued. “I think, if you want to team up on this, I can handle the business end of skipping whenever it’s possible and it’ll leave you free to spend as much time as possible with Pam.”
I corrected, “Liz…”
“Not to be shitty about it or anything, but I think you might want to try to get used to thinking of her as Pam since there aren’t any Lizs in the journal… the rest of them changed their names to Pamela because she hated the way Liz sounded with a thick southern accent… You know, when I couldn’t track you down, I tried finding her. Hotels, casinos, fashion blogs… anything mentioned in the journal. I started to worry that something happened to her when I didn’t find anything, but I didn’t expect this.”
It was endearing that she was worrying about someone she’d only read about.
“You’ve adjusted to the idea of uprooting your life in less than an hour.”
“Well, I keep to myself a lot. A few miles won’t discourage my best friend, the girls are homeschooled because of their telepathy, and I work from home. I don’t have any anchors that would give me a perfunctory excuse to refuse. As long as I can find stables for our horses nearby and a football league for the girls, they’ll be happy.”
“You aren’t dating anyone that would object?”
“I dated one guy a few months ago. He seemed too eager to meet my kids so I listened to his thoughts. I was worried he was some kind of pedophile. I cut him loose before he wasted too much time on someone who didn’t want more kids.” Fabulously planned. Ending a relationship with someone who wanted children, only to become pregnant.
“Oh, this baby is definitely Allecks’s. We had too much to drink at a fundraiser for the museum and got lost in the ‘romantic setting’ of a secluded hallway… When I told him I’m pregnant, he flipped out a little. He was beating himself up about being selfish enough to divorce me when there was just Lindy to think about, and he was feeling guilty for dating again, and he was assuming I was pining for him because the kids hadn’t mentioned meeting any guys. He was ready to remarry me. I let him think paternity was in the air so he’d have the chance to catch up to himself. He hasn’t been himself since his parents died. I guess that’s what happens when your parents figure out a way to punish you from beyond the grave. He never wanted their money or the hotel so he was more than a little thrown by the stipulation that the hotel couldn’t be sold and he had to run it in order for Lindy to inherit it once she’s 18.” Poor Allecks. Sentenced to managing a hotel for 12 years.
“What kind of problems can you foresee as far as he’s concerned? Your daughter is moving and Vampires will be part of her routine.”
She smiled, “He’ll be fine. I’ll get a place with a room for him to stay in when he visits and I’ll make sure the kids get to see him here. As much as I love and miss my family, I promised to stay in Europe and just spend summer and Thanksgiving in the States.”
“Did you avoid mentioning his opinion of Vampires or did you forget I asked while answering my other question?”
She giggled, “I kind of hate that you’re so guarded. The other Eric, and the Erics from the journal, were more laid back…” I decided to ignore the temptation of pointing out that my Maker (not the other Erics’) had betrayed me (not them) and subsequently cost me the life of my (not their) child. “I didn’t forget… He doesn’t have a grudge against you guys, if that’s what you were asking. He’s not particularly territorial or jealous. He should be fine as long as I don’t keep Lindy from him.” It all loosely translated to Allecks being a complete pussy.
“Does he know about your ability?”
She cringed. “I tried to tell him. Fact of the matter is… I didn’t listen for so long, I forgot it was an option until I was venting to my Daddy about how nasty Allecks’s parents were to me. My Daddy suggested I listen to them to get some kind of dirt… and use it to get them to at least back off. I mentioned it to Allecks and it made him think I was crazy… specifically that I wasn’t dealing with the stress of being away from home and being snubbed by his family. So I told him I was just thinking that hypothetical telepathy would make some aspects of life easier. He knows about Hadley being a selfish gold-digger, so he was supportive of me raising Misty and Jenny without hearing about their telepathy. They call him Onkel. The girls understand that some Humans just aren’t ready for that kind of thing.”
“Some Unmenschlichen aren’t ‘ready’ either.”
She poked her bottom lip out and frowned sympathetically. “I know, sweetie, but at least there’s a bright side for you. The other Erics are usually annoyed because of the worrying it causes. There will be interruptions, but this is all so you can see Pam again. You’ve got a really good reason to be putting yourself through it.”
I could have choked on her optimism and compassion. Bonding was the only way I could ensure that I’d eventually see Liz again. I wasn’t looking for a ‘best friend’. I’d already lost mine.
“If we don’t have negotiations to discuss, then we should talk about compensation.”
She raised an eyebrow. “No we don’t. I don’t want for anything. I make my own way. I always have.”
“You married a man of means…” Even if she turned down a bribe, it didn’t mean she wouldn’t expect a payment of some kind from me. She’d clearly become used to her more privileged circumstances. Horses and homeschooling… moving to another country on a whim…
“Let’s get something straight, buddy. I feel badly that you lost Pam, but that doesn’t give you license to shit hate in my direction… I married a man who lived in a flat with a hotplate. I was a maid at a hotel and he drove a taxi. His parents were ‘of means’. He’d been cut off long before I came along and we were fine with that. Don’t you sit there and assume I had any ulterior motives when I hooked up with Allecks. We scraped francs together to make sure our bills were paid until we made our own way. I don’t need your fucking money and I sure as hell don’t expect to be paid for something that’s going to happen whether I cooperate or not. Am I making myself clear?” Crystal. Clearly, she was a cunt when she felt insulted.
“Do you plan to use your support and maintenance payments to relocate and rent a house?”
She narrowed her eyes and shook her head as she stood up. “We’re done.”
“Done. Finished. Complete. It was the least bitchy way I could think of to tell you I’m over your snarky, hostile comments. You’ve lost someone important to you and you’re being a bitch to someone who can help you see her again. I agreed to bond, not be your personal fucking piñata.”
“Yeah. A piñata. It’s a decorated paper mache container that’s used…”
I growled, “I know what a piñata is. How do you think I’m treating you like one?”
“Because no one really cares about the piñata. They just care what they can get out of it. I don’t think manners are too much to ask when I agreed to give you what you want…” She jerked her head towards the door since I hadn’t budged. “You should be on your way. I’ll let you know if I have company you’d be interested in… Go on. Bis spöter.”
When I stood quickly and moved to loom over her, she didn’t balk. “Bis spöter? You are dismissing me?”
She narrowed her eyes and gave me a sarcastic smile. With a raised chin and no fear, she answered, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Majesty, but I’m sure you can understand how overwhelming your presence can be to a peasant like me.”
“You’re too bold for your own good.”
“Saw right through that, huh? I guess I should have just said ‘fuck off’. Oh well.”
“You already agreed to bonding…”
“Sue me! How fucking dare you put a price tag on seeing Pam again! I rescind your invitation!”
Before I could be pulled too far away, I grabbed the bitch. I wasn’t fucking done with her.
Her resistance was insignificant compared to that of the other Sookie and she gave up, practically going limp, as we passed through the foyer.
Once we reached the stoop of her townhouse, she snorted, “Brilliant. What now, jackass?”
“You need to watch yourself.”
“Oh really? Why is that? Are you going to abduct me from my porch in clear view of my neighbors’ 20-some-odd security cameras and force feed me your blood until we’re bonded?”
“Sookie told me skips continue after the Faerie has been brought over.”
“That’ll be fucking awesome! We’ll skip all over the place for eternity. It’ll be even better that you’ll hate me for not being what Pam was to you… and even better still that Pam thinks the reason you were always such a God as a Maker was because you always tried to not be like yours… You’d definitely have something to brag about the next time you see her… you know, that you’re an even bigger asshole than Appius since you’d be taking me away from three children and killing me while I’m pregnant too. BONUS!”
“What part of my warning confused you? I don’t care that you have children or that you’re pregnant. It’s in your best interest to cooperate.”
“What part of my initial cooperation confused you? I don’t need this shit, you know that. I don’t need the drama. I don’t need to uproot my life so that you can have a Hallmark moment with a Pam who’s going to look at you like you’re a stranger because you aren’t her Maker. I offered to help you because I felt sorry for you. I sympathized for your loss. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if turning you down kept you from her… I guess what confused me was that I wanted to do the favor for another man. The other Eric I met was grateful I had something he could wear and I let him explain why he was in my house before I could call the police… You basically asked what Pam’s ransom was because I couldn’t possibly be capable of goodwill. Do you realize how fucking offensive that is? And you didn’t just do it once. You did it three times and managed to imply that I was a gold-digger in the meantime. You are not the man I met last month…”
I opened my mouth to remind her why I was so fucking different, but I was interrupted when the door to a neighbor’s house opened and a child shouted, “Mommy!”
I turned in time to see two more children join the first and they all squeaked in unison, “ERIC!” as they began running down the steps and along the sidewalk in pajamas. They’d met the other Me?
Sookie barely opened her mouth to growl, “So help me God, Eric, if you hurt one of them, I’ll do everything I can to make sure you regret it.”
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh at her threat, respond by suggesting I bond to one of them since they’re all telepaths too, or point out that I’d only become hostile towards her once she began behaving like a twat…
It didn’t matter because I didn’t have time before I was attacked by the children. Two of them hugged my legs and the third, the tallest, hugged my waist.
As the neighbors stepped onto their stoop to ask Sookie what was happening, Sookie gave me a warning look and started explaining that the children must have overheard her laughing with an old friend.
I’d only seen a photo of Lindy, so I was unsure of which one it was who asked, “When did you get here? Are you our Eric?” Curly blonde hair and eyes the color of amber.
“I rose to the sound of another Sookie trying to kill my guards trying to get to me. She’s already gone back to where she belongs.”
“No. She was vacationing here with her family, and I was in Copenhagen on business. We rose in The Netherlands.”
The one with straight dark hair chirped, “That’s like half way!” At least Sookie didn’t seem to be failing at their schooling. “The other Eric lived on a boat. He had Gran and Hunter and Cort. Who do you have?” No one.
“I have a pair of guards who were bested by a tiny blonde in her underwear.”
Lindy finally offered something to the conversation. “He’s got us. If he’s our Eric, the one that stays, he’s got us.”
That seemed to make perfect sense to the other two children and the one with dark hair asked, “Who did Sookie have?”
“She had several children…” I had to struggle to remember names. “Tina, Shelly and Magnusson… and she was raising her own Misty and Jenny as well.”
Sookie was still reassuring her neighbors that there was nothing to worry about and apologizing for the commotion when the one with curly blonde hair took my hand and re-issued my invitation…
As the three little girls led me back to where my conversation with Sookie had gone astray, Lindy asked, “Is this your first skip?”
I nodded. “Yes… Am I to assume you met the other versions?”
“Just Eric. He was cool… He showed us pictures of Cort and Hunter. They’re our skip-brothers… you know, same parent- different reality. He told us all about our Gran too. We never met her b’cause she died when Mommy was little… She sounds cool… Did you see the journal yet?”
As I shook my head, the children crowded around me on the sofa. “No. I haven’t been here for long. I was planning to read it as soon as…”
“Read it? You should wait to read it… You should watch it first. The videos are the best part. You and Mommy. Uncle Jason. Gran and Pam…”
“Videos of Pam?”
“Yeah… Where do you live?”
“I have several houses…”
“Mommy said if we started skipping a lot like the other Eric said we could, we’d move north. We’ve been window shopping. We like Amsterdam because it’s in the middle of the Northern Kingdom. Mommy said driving to track folks down would be a nightmare so we should do what we could to make it easier on everyone.”
“I have a house in Amsterdam… but your mother mentioned you have horses. I don’t think they’d enjoy the city… I have a castle in Limburg with its own stables though. Since your mother is considering moving to help me, I was going to invite you all stay in one of my houses…” I honestly had been. It only seemed fair… and hearing that Sookie was already considering moving without being asked, almost made me regret that I’d offended her by asking how she was expecting to be compensated.
I’d offended her by pressing the issue… but it wasn’t as though I had any experience with altruism or pragmatism…
Everyone I spent any amount of time with had selfishness and irrationality as a foundation to their character.
The one with curly hair squeaked, “We’re moving to Limburg!”
“If your mother is agreeable, but she’s quite angry with me at the moment.”
The dark haired one shook her head. “Not at you… she hates that you think she’s a gold-digger. Onkel’s parents did too. She thought she put it behind her.”
“Were you listening from your sleepover?”
All three of them nodded… I reeled. There was another large townhouse between our locations.
Lindy explained, “You walked past the house when you got here so we were excited… Just tell her you’re sorry. The other Eric warned her that Sookies take Erics by surprise. She wants to help you… she just wants you to be nice.”
“I’m not sure I know how to be nice.”
She snickered, “You’re being nice now.”
The children, little informants that they were, prattled until Sookie returned…
They didn’t seem to have much more need for breathing than I did, but the information they shared made the encounter worthwhile…
As soon as Sookie joined us in the sitting room again, rosy cheeked from the cold, the girls chirped, “We’re moving to Eijsden!”
Sookie scowled at me and growled, “Ladies, I think that point is still a topic of debate…”
I stood, more calmly than I had the last time I’d argued a point and left several steps between us. “I don’t think it is. They seem to be a majority.”
“This isn’t a democracy, your Majesty… and I’m not particularly fond of the way you used them to…”
“I haven’t used them. In fact, I have a great distain for the practice… Which, I believe, could have been the reason for our misunderstanding.” And I may or may not have been slightly abrasive because I needed a favor from someone… let alone her… I couldn’t decide if it was because she was Human, or Faerie, or perhaps it was that I loathed her sympathetic demeanor.
She rolled her eyes and folded her arms. “You’re politicking me… Hurry up and get to your point.”
“Earlier, I asked what manner of help you might need in order to relocate because I consider that my responsibility. You wouldn’t be moving if it weren’t for the favor you’re willing to grant me.”
She narrowed her eyes and breathed, “Fine. Keep talking.”
“I’m offering the use of my estate in Eijsden. It’s convenient to the rest of my Kingdom, already has a full staff and stables with room for their horses, and the community has a football league. It seems like the most practical choice and the children agree…”
“Again, not a democracy. Are you going to have another shit-fit if I just move to Amsterdam on my own?”
“No. I’d prefer if you allow me to repay the favor by purchasing the house you intend to move to…”
“I have my own money.”
“I never accused you of being indigent.”
“You suggested I’d be using alimony and child support I don’t get.”
“No. I asked if you would be using it because if you were, I was going to argue against it. Again, I feel your relocation is my obligation since I’ll be benefitting from our situation more than you will.”
With my back to the children, I couldn’t distinguish who began the chorus of pleading for their move to Eijsden.
Sookie growled in her throat and shook her head while the children were still actively begging. “You were an asshole.”
“That isn’t an uncommon occurrence… How often do you behave like a twat?”
“Whenever I need to.” I might have been wrong, but it sounded like our situation was relatively level.
She glared at me, giving me nothing as a hint towards what her answer would be. She finally offered, “I’ll think about it.”
“Are you going to research homes for sale in Eijsden once I leave?”
“If I say yes, are you going to buy them all so I have no choice but to stay on your terms?” So help me, I almost laughed.
“I’ll think about it.”
Since pushing is what initially caused our confrontation, or so I was told, I nodded. “I’ll have my steward contact you.”
“Because he was raised in Eijsden. He’ll be able to tour prospective properties for you and pass along helpful information. His name is Dinh. Keep in mind that he’s already enamored by ‘you’ for the bruises you left on Miles.”
She bit her lip to try to keep from smiling. “My first meeting with your guards in Eijsden is a good reason to stay somewhere else.”
“Actually, I was thinking you could have some fun teaching the children how to embarrass them further. When might I expect to see you again?”
She opened her mouth to answer quickly, possibly to make a snide remark about my insistence, but closed it again to rethink her answer. After a moment she answered, “Since Sookie told Allecks it was just a holiday, we need to make it look like one. I’ll call Allecks tomorrow and let him know we’ll leave next week.” Reasonable enough. The children were excited enough to begin cheering so Sookie directed the rest of her answer towards them. “IF I’m comfortable enough there to make the move permanent, we’ll address that later.”
The children groaned behind me.
I nodded and offered, “Understood.”
Her posture relaxed slightly as she sighed, “Thank you.”
What the fuck was she thanking me for?
As I stepped outside, I realized that she wasn’t rescinding my invitation, but when I heard her open the door, I was sure I’d had the thought prematurely.
She jogged down the steps to catch up to me and stopped just inches away. “Clean slate?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“We clearly poured salt on one another’s biggest wounds earlier… I want to be friends since two skips in a month probably mean we’re going to have to work together from time to time.”
I nodded. “That seems accurate.”
“All of it.”
She nodded and sighed… then took a step to give me a hug. “I’ll let you go so you have the chance to watch a couple of videos before dawn. Call me if you have any questions. Pam’s really bad about using slang and she’s been in the States long enough to use it like a surgeon uses a scalpel.”
I actually chuckled at the idea. “I’ll do that.”