I couldn’t remember the last time I was speechless.
Somehow Lindy’s answer seemed more surreal than rising to the reality of skipping.
“She lost the baby?”
Misty snorted, “It’s called a miscarriage, not that you care.”
Lindy hissed, “These things happen. Funny how this thing happened the morning after you grabbed her! She woke up bleeding with bruises on her.” I bruised her? I hadn’t handled her that roughly… had I?
Misty rolled her eyes and when she began walking away from me, the other girls followed.
Those apples didn’t fall far from that insolent little tree…
I blocked their path and repeated, “Bruises where?”
Jenny shook her head. “Don’t growl at us. You don’t get to be mean to everyone just because Pam died, stupid. Get over yourself…”
Lindy sniffled, “At least Pam knew you loved her. Do you think the baby knew we loved it before you killed it?”
When Lindy ran off, Misty and Jenny followed after offering scathing looks in my direction.
I wasn’t sure I’d have gone after them, even if I could have made my legs move…
I’d threatened… it was a guaranteed tactic to get any mother (and most fathers) to comply…
I’d never followed through. I’d never had to. I wouldn’t have.
I’d grabbed Sookie’s wrists. Wrists only. Granted, I twisted her arms up behind her back and lifted her, but… She wasn’t shaken. I didn’t drop her.
I hadn’t hurt her enough to cause tears…
She hugged me before I left…
Of course, once she called to stall her arrival I thought the hug was a feint…
That she was telling me what I wanted to hear. That she was buying herself time. That she was planning to try to escape her promise. I’d had her passport flagged so she couldn’t disappear into the ether.
When my legs finally seemed mobile, they carried me downstairs to my room…
I was half of the way there before I thought of something to do once I was there…
The logs. The photos.
The only thing I hadn’t been able to monitor while I was having her watched was her phone… After one night I regretted sending Humans, thinking a Were would be valuable in that capacity.
If I’d sent Weres, I’d have known that Sookie’s health was the reason for the delay immediately. Something would have been said… something could have been overheard.
I spent less time and effort on what my informants sent me than I did with the journals because the reports were interfering with my plans…
I looked through the photos, searching for clues… She’d all but called me oblivious, and given the new information, I was sure I’d missed something obvious.
But photo after photo… nothing.
It took looking through them a third time to realize she wasn’t smiling in any of them, even then I only thought to look because I remembered that she smiled as she walked away to explain to the neighbors about the commotion.
Every single photo taken of Sookie showed the same apathetic look on her face.
How the fuck was I expected to know why she was seeing her physician?
How the fuck was I supposed to decipher the repetitive facial expressions of a perfect fucking stranger?
Why the fuck would Sookie come to Eijsden if I’d hurt her?
She was showering when I returned to her bedroom… taking a moment as I closed the door to realize Sookie had been right about my oblivion to an extent…
Her room was rife with the scent of blood… I hadn’t bothered myself to sample the air… I didn’t care what the fuck she smelled like. The more Sookie’s scent had been mentioned in the journal, the less attention I paid to the entry. Those notations were clearly made for someone who cared about how she smelled.
When I walked into her bathroom, she yanked a towel from the hook to cover herself and shouted, “BOUNDARIES! We need to establish boundaries!”
“Why didn’t you tell me when you called? You lied and told me Allecks was your reason to delay your arrival.”
She growled, “Etikette? Verstehst du?” Yes, I fucking understood…
She rolled her eyes. “Would it have made a difference?”
“I wouldn’t have had you followed. I wouldn’t have been suspicious of your delay.” I would have offered to wait or go back to Bern. Giving her my blood earlier would have served a dual purpose. My bond. Her health.
“I didn’t lie. Allecks really did want to spend time with the kids before we left Bern. I told him we’d be gone for a few weeks and he hasn’t gone more than a couple of days without seeing them since he moved out.”
“Why did you come here? Did you come here for revenge?” I could understand the inclination, but that didn’t mean I was going to die in my chambers and practically put the stake in my chest myself.
She furrowed her brow and shook her head. “Revenge for what?” If I couldn’t feel her confusion, I would have thought she was being coy.
She huffed and shook her head again. “I was raised by a Were, Eric. I think I can handle it without scheming to kill someone.”
“So miscarriages are commonplace and unremarkable, yes?”
Her throat seized like it had earlier when we spoke… when I mentioned the pregnancy. That should have been a clue… but by itself…
She dropped her chin to study the floor and sighed, “You’re talking about that.”
“What the fuck else would I be talking about?”
“The delay… well, they’re connected but… The miscarriage knocked me on my ass for a few days because I had to have a procedure, and subsequent pain killers. I had to rearrange a lot of stuff so I could tie up loose ends before I left Bern.”
“Before you left Bern to come to Eijsden to follow through on a promise even though I caused your miscarriage.”
She shook her head again, withholding her reply, but the anger she was stifling was obvious.
“Lindy said your miscarriage happened the morning after we met and you awoke with bruises.”
She scoffed, “I knew it… this is all about culpability… You’ve managed to twist my miscarriage to be about you.”
“The children were waiting for me in the hallway. At least they were willing to give me some information.”
“So what… Do you feel guilty? Can you feel guilt?”
Some nights it was all I felt.
She snarled, “Don’t waste the time. The miscarriage wasn’t you. You’re free to wallow in the pool you’re used to.”
“When I grabbed you… Lindy said…”
She shook her head and waved her free hand dismissively. “I’ll have to talk to the kids then. They shouldn’t blame you. They must’ve seen you grab me… maybe they saw you pin the other Sookie while she was here…”
“Then what caused it?”
She studied me for a moment before tilting her head. “Scar tissue. I was in a car accident when I was pregnant with Lindy and my pelvis was broken. I had to have an emergency cesarean. We both almost died.”
“Why didn’t you stay with your family?”
“Because…” She paused to clear her throat. “Because the girls are mind readers. Having Allecks stay with them was smarter because… he wasn’t attached to the baby yet. He worried for us, but he wasn’t grieving.”
“The loose ends… They seemed to be nothing more than visiting with friends.”
Her posture sagged as she sighed, “If you insist on doing this now, could you at least turn around? I have some modesty.”
I turned around to humor her. “From the reports I was given, it didn’t seem like you were making any preparations to leave Bern.”
“Yeah… I spent a day and a half in the hospital. Allecks had been tending to the kids at home and I did go home, but… by then all of our friends heard and were stopping by and sending flowers. I couldn’t take it because all the ‘love and support’ did was make me think about it and I have a life to live so I don’t have time to wallow…”
“Are you drawing a parallel from your miscarriage to Liz’s death?” As soon as the question crossed my lips, I realized I should have at least tried to word it differently… losing a child was one of the few Human experiences I wouldn’t demean. I only asked because she’d told me to wallow just a moment before and I could have taken that she was suggesting I follow her lead.
It wasn’t the same thing… but I only knew that because I’d had both experiences. I could also recognize that until I lost Liz, losing a Human child had been the most devastating event to be suffered… and surviving children never filled that void.
While I waited for her answer, I realized that other than the anger she’d briefly felt, her mood was relatively frozen. Defensive, annoyed, mournful… it had been the same since she’d first taken my blood.
“No. It’s not even close to the same…”
I couldn’t decide if I wanted her to clarify or not. Being called a fan-girl again would negate what little empathy I could muster for her.
As she turned the faucets to end her shower, she sighed, “There are some people who’d call me nuts, but the way I look at it, I lost a lottery. All I had was hope and possibility. I wasn’t far enough along to know if it was a boy or a girl, or feel it move, or hear it’s heartbeat on a monitor… Don’t get me wrong, I spent five days wringing out my pillowcase and I’m still prone to weepy moments, but… You lost 300 years of love and trust and friendship. I can’t even begin to image what that’s like.”
She squeezed past me to enter her room, going directly to her suitcase while I reeled. I might have just been in shock that she wasn’t trying to commiserate.
I’d threatened her, had her followed, planned her abduction…
It wasn’t beyond me to appreciate that she still followed through on her promise in spite of what happened to her…
I couldn’t be sure how long I stared at the doorknob while I tried to process my situation.
When I looked up, she was fully dressed and sitting on the side of her bed brushing her hair… She probably could have left for her dinner plans and I wouldn’t have noticed.
“You checked out. Did you hear me?”
“I’m not… No. I don’t think I did.”
“I was just saying I understand why you miss her. I’m not suggesting for a second you try to forget, but… you’ve shut down. I only know her through the journal and I know she’d hate to see you so miserable.”
“She would make fun of me either way.”
Sookie put her brush down and walked towards me. “No. She wouldn’t. She’d snatch me off of my feet and order me to unfuck you because she couldn’t see to it herself. You know she would. You know damn good and well that she’d be livid. You’re nothing but a shell of the man she adored…”
“You’re talking about us like you know us again.”
“You didn’t know I had a miscarriage until the girls mentioned it…”
“I would have if I smelled your blood…”
“But you didn’t… when was the last time you smelled your surroundings without a reason?”
“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?”
“Because all through the journal scent is a huge thing for every other Eric. Identifying threats and whatnot… It’s a great excuse that the house reeks of Weres, but are they the right Weres? I know too much about what you’ve been up to, but you don’t have any idea of who’s watching you like a hawk. You have no idea that the children had been sleeping over with a Daemon family even though they were crawling all over your lap right after they left the house… You can’t ignore that her scent is gone, Eric.” Yes I fucking could.
“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
She frowned and took a step back as she nodded. “Okay… When you finally see Pam again…”
I ran my fangs out and growled, “Do not try to predict anything she would do! You don’t know her!”
Rather than being frightened, she felt more pathetically compassionate. Infuriating.
She shook her head and offered, “I wasn’t… I was going to ask if you’d listen to me once you see Pam again… Eric…”
I hissed, “Stop. Pitying. Me.”
“I can’t help it… And I wish like hell I knew why I want to help you so much, but let me tell you, anyone else would be waiting for their nuts to drop out of their throat right now. We didn’t learn anything from the skip. I went to sleep the night we met sure that the reason for our skip was that you need to open your eyes… Maybe bringing me here because you want to see Pam again will lead to me being able to help you find someone who wants to hurt you… We can’t know for sure… But I’m not one to sit idle. I’m not one to mince words. Since I started using my ability again, I haven’t as much as walked out of a store without scanning the parking lot. You’ve given yourself a blind spot and I don’t understand it. Watching out for yourself doesn’t mean you love her less. Saddling yourself with guilt forever won’t bring her back. It has to be enough that you loved her and were good to her while you had her. Your safety is…” Fuck her and her theories.
“Are you done yet?”
She sighed and walked towards the door. “No, but I’ll stop for now. You aren’t listening anyway… C’mon.”
Curiosity led me to the doorway to see where Sookie was trying to lead me. I watched her walk towards the door of the children’s room and pause to motion for me to join her.
After the way the little bitches had spoken to me, accused me of hurting Sookie, I wasn’t exactly in the mood for more abuse.
I have no idea why I complied.
When the children saw me join Sookie at the threshold of their room, their faces fell… Lindy’s face was still streaked with tears.
Sookie shook her head and chided, “Don’t be like that. We need to have a serious talk… You made Eric think he caused the miscarriage. Do you have any idea how mean that was?” I might have laughed under different circumstances. Children were picking on me?
Misty explained, “Grampa called to warn us… then HE shook you. We saw it… and then you… then the baby died!”
“When did he shake me? Show me…” After a moment, Sookie shook her head and ordered, “One at a time.”
I actually found myself curious about their ability while they relayed messages to their mother. I couldn’t decide whether it was a positive thing for them to be such perfect witnesses, but it was interesting to know they could elaborate on a story so clearly.
When it was her turn, Lindy sniveled… concentrating on Sookie’s face before shouting, “And the bruises! He bruised you!”
Sookie looked back to me and sighed before turning to them. “He did… but that was my fault too. We were arguing, being oversensitive, and I uninvited him from the house. I tried to end the conversation by being a brat… he overreacted… neither one of us were playing nice by then and I can’t even remember what started it… He grabbed me, but he didn’t jostle me any more than going riding would. He just wanted me to listen to him. I was surprised to see the bruises when I woke up. Eric had a firm hold on me, but it didn’t hurt.” It was actually somewhat of a relief to hear Sookie say that out loud.
Jenny argued, “What about the rest of it?”
Sookie shook her head. “That wasn’t me… not Us. That was the other Sookie, the one that skipped to us. What you saw was when she was fighting the guards here. That was Miles and Gerrit… and they were doing their job. They thought Eric was in danger.”
There was another curious moment of silence before Sookie said, “We’ll communicate aloud when Eric is around. That’s rude… And the bruises I had are probably because of the other stuff going on.”
Lindy shook her head and whimpered, “Then it just happened? No reason?”
Sookie sighed, “No baby. Just the scars from the accident… Eric might not be used to having friends, but he doesn’t want to hurt us…” Of course not. Hurting them would be counterproductive. Things would go much smoother if they were compliant.
Jenny finished, “He just wants to see Pam again.”
Sookie nodded. “That’s all… Now… how y’all acted towards him was horrible. You made him think he’d hurt me… After what happened with his Human family… that was unforgivable.” Fucking journal. I was going to have to study the whole fucking thing to find out how much they knew about me. I was sick of hearing about my existence from strangers.
Misty was the first to make eye contact with me. She cringed and offered, “Sorry… we didn’t realize it was the wrong Sookie.”
Jenny continued the apology, breathing, “Yeah… we were confused… sorry.”
Lindy didn’t look at me. She was too preoccupied by picking at the aglet of her shoelace, but she mumbled, “I’m sorry too… I was meanest… sorry ‘bout your babies too.”
Rather than let myself become more annoyed by how the children could use egomaniac correctly in a sentence, yet be confused by the meaning of ‘privacy’, I offered, “It seems we all made false assumptions. When your mother called me to delay your arrival, I assumed she changed her mind about helping me.” And Sookie was guilty of assuming I wanted a bond/therapy package deal.
After Sookie kissed them all and suggested they prepare to leave, she herded me back to the hallway.
Her eyes began to water as she closed the door behind her. She cleared her throat and offered, “That was entirely my fault. I’m sorry.”
“Sookie showed me the fight she had with your guards because most of it was… like a Benny Hill chase scene. What the girls showed me was like a surreal brain-soup of Sookie fighting with Gerrit and Miles and our argument… I was having nightmares when I first got home from the hospital.”
“You had nightmares about me?”
“I have nightmares whenever I’m on anything stronger than Tylenol.”
“Misty said you were warned…”
Sookie cringed and shook her head. “Did you read the part of the journal that mentioned our version or the one that visited us?”
I shook my head… neither additions could have offered any news about any of Pam’s lives that the other Sookie hadn’t already told me.
She huffed, “That… explains… a lot… You make it really hard to hold back I-told-you-sos.”
“Am I about to get more ‘friendly advice’?”
“Sort of…” She turned, motioning for me to follow her as she walked towards the stairs… She finally began explaining once we were in the main hall. “You need to watch out for yourself…” I refused to take survival lessons from a fucking Human.
“I’ve changed my mind. Go home. I’ll contact your cousin.”
When I turned to leave her, she grabbed my arm. “Eric, wait… If you’re really sick of me then hear me out and I’ll load up the car and go back to Bern tonight. Alright? I really think you need to hear this.” Of course. I needed to hear more harping about my ‘obsession’ with Liz and how could I ignore the opportunity to be reprimanded for running with scissors?
“I’m gonna need five because you need some extra info. I tried to explain earlier, but we got hung up and you got frustrated before I could get it out… I always considered my ability to be a freak occurrence, but now we know that wasn’t really the case. When Daddy called me and told me he didn’t think Aunt Linda had much time left, I got home just in time to say goodbye to her. I didn’t think much of it at the time, mostly because I was just grateful for the chance to see her again, but a couple of months later, he called me because he had a feeling something bad was going to happen to me. I blew him off. I promised him the doctor told me everything was fine and told him Allecks would make sure to call him as soon as I went into labor. The car accident happened that night when I was coming home from work. Looking back on it, I was probably just suffering from cabin fever since I was in a wheelchair for a few months, but I started seriously scrutinizing his ‘feelings’ and when he came to visit, we played with the idea that he could be a psychic…”
“You think your father is a psychic.”
She smirked. “Because that would be stupid, says the Vampire to the Faerie…”
I snorted, “Fair enough.”
“Specifically, and for lack of a better term, he’s a harbinger. He doesn’t get a specific mental visualization of the future. He gets a general sense. The morning before the accident, he woke up miserable. He said he felt like he did when his mom and sister died. Like he was already in mourning… Then while he was still in Bern, helping Allecks with me and Lindy, he woke up one morning feeling giddy. Allecks and I made fun of how goofy he was being… I mean, he even walked on his hands and suggested I learn to do it so I didn’t need help getting to the bathroom because I hated all the fuss… It was lunchtime when Jason called to tell us Lauren’s water broke and they were on the way to the hospital.”
“You father had an extrasensory warning about your accident and the birth of one of his grandchildren…”
“He did… and because we were paying attention he started working on it… He knew when Lauren got pregnant with Finn and Lily, and when she went into labor with them, and when I was offered my contract, and when Allecks’s parents died, and when a friend of mine who he never met was raped, and when Allecks and I decided to divorce…”
I added, “And before you miscarried.”
She nodded. “But he didn’t have the same happy feeling about this baby as he did the others. And no, it wasn’t because Allecks and I were already divorced… he started calling me when he got the feelings and we talked through possibilities to narrow things down. He’ll get the general feeling, like before my accident, but when he started trying to figure out the feeling, he realized it was centered on me…”
“How long has he been exploring the ability? Nearly seven years, yes?” The other Sookie only said Corbett Stackhouse had a ‘hyper-sensitive oh-shitometer’.
She nodded. “He’s even had a feeling of both skips… it’s not terribly surprising that every word he’s used to describe the sensation is a synonym for confusion.”
She snickered, “I know, right?” But then her mood became more serious as she continued, “I think you should read your journal, sweetie. I was all set to call you and explain what was going on and ask for two more days. Daddy called me at 4 o’clock this morning. He’s got that ‘someone’s going to die’ feeling again.”
“In addition to the sense of your miscarriage?”
She nodded, “We ran through the family. The feeling is centered on me, but it isn’t for me… We ran through the kids and Allecks… my list of friends and contacts… I’m worried about you and your safety because… it’s not an ‘immediate danger’ type of thing, but Eric, it’s you.”