“It’s not an ‘immediate danger’ type of thing, but Eric, it’s you.”
That was the last fucking thing I needed to deal with.
“Did you come all the way to Eijsden to protect me?”
“I came all the way to Eijsden to bond as promised… While I was driving, I thought of ways to help you stay alive…”
“Stop suggesting I’m suicidal.”
Her eyebrow twitched. “I didn’t, but congratulations on finding that segue.” Fuck her. She’d already suggested it once.
“And how do you propose to help me stay ‘alive’?”
“For starters, you need to start having your Lords come to you so that I can tell you when they’re lying to you… By going to them, you’re giving them the advantage of being surrounded by people loyal to them. Every single one of them could be planning to overthrow you at this very minute. Hopefully, they’ll bring pets with them so I can hear the gossip.”
“Awww, look who read a Ian Flemming novel.”
She narrowed her eyes and sneered, “Awww, look who hasn’t. Don’t be a dickhead. I told you I have my own agenda. Even if I live through a hypothetical coup, I refuse to admit that I didn’t do everything I possibly could to help when the next skip happens.”
“Explain how you think you could be helpful.”
“Because given how well I can read Vampires’ moods, I might as well be bonded to all of you. You might be able to read ticks and mannerisms, but I can tell you if that twitching cheek meant the Vampire was surprised or if he wanted to end you. The same for Dae… Humans and Weres are open books to me. I can hear every thought that dances through their little heads. How it relates to you… I’ll know what your Lords think about you. Were the pets told to fish for information from your staff and pets? Were the guards told to search your property for security weaknesses? Personally, it would make sense for anyone you invited to bring extra staff. If they have a grudge against you, then having your guards followed once they leave the property would be fabulous for…”
“You say that as though I care enough about my guards to pay a ransom of any kind…”
Before I could finish, Sookie’s hand burned across my face with a loud snap… She snarled, “Those poor bastards signed on to protect your ungrateful ass during the day, knowing that if anyone did make a move against you, they’d be cannon fodder. At the very least, you should realize they fucking own you from dawn to dusk since you’ve been a big enough fool to put yourself in a political oubliette. God forbid one of them is held hostage… I was actually talking about someone like Anja being followed long enough for her to visit her parents. Since you’re so fucking awesome that you haven’t given her a raise in the five years she’s worked here, how torn do you think she’d be if her parents were threatened? Bastiaan and his children? Gerrit and his wife? Dinh and Saskia and their parents? You’re lucky they think they’re loyal to you… but you need to do something before someone dangles an irresistible fucking carrot… and just so you know, telepaths and abilities of the like aren’t as uncommon as you think. I know of hundreds. Every King and Lord in Europe could have their own posing as pets and since you’re too daft to know what the fuck we smell like, you wouldn’t know if they were sitting on your horrible face.”
She spun around and folded her arms as she paced and breathed, “Oh God bless it… Is that really what you got from all that?”
“No. I’m an ungrateful, daft, foolish, horrible dickhead. It was all very illuminating.”
“Oh shit. My bad. I forgot to say abrasive, insensitive, and sarcastic.”
“Do you talk to everyone like this?” It was almost funny that it seemed to escape her that I could kill her before she had the time to answer me.
“No. Just you. I figure if I piss you off, at least you’re feeling something. You barely bothered with a dirty look when I slapped you.”
“Emotions don’t seem to serve a purpose…”
“Except the good ones like anger and depression, right? Congrats on bonding with a hormonal woman then.”
“It’s no surprise you’re divorced…”
She interrupted me by laughing manically, “You can shove your opinions up your ass until you’ve read the journal! So… Am I pulling out all the stops or pulling up stakes, pardon the pun, and going back to Bern?”
“I’m not interested in being treated like a child because you don’t approve of my security tactics.”
She shrugged and huffed, “Fine,” as she walked past me to begin climbing the staircase.
“That’s it? No more fight?”
“No. If you want to bond, call ahead and I’ll be sure to be home so you can come by. You’re on your own for everything else.”
“I’ve been on my own for a long time.”
“Sure… but this time, it’s actually your fault.”
I didn’t need her help. She might have been onto something as far as security was concerned, but I certainly didn’t need my hand held.
Her lifetime was hardly a spec compared to mine. Who the fuck did Sookie think she was? Everything she said was a nagging reminder of how she thought I should be conducting myself differently.
What the fuck did that little cunt know about being a King? I’d been a fucking King since before her parents were born.
While she explained to her three miniature bitches that ‘you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped’ and gathered their belongings, I sought out the silence of my chambers.
Replaying Pam’s videos again while I tended to more business… business that would have been done before I left my room if I hadn’t thought I’d have to track her down.
It was insane to think that she’d driven all the way to Eijsden to harass me when she had an ex-husband in Bern.
Even though I was sure her journal entry was jaded, I scanned it looking for the reason for their divorce. Whether I liked it or not, I was going to have to see her again… I wanted ammunition… I was hoping to find that he’d committed adultery or beaten her. Neither would be surprising given her mouth, but if I was lucky, throwing such a fact in her face would shut her the fuck up.
I was three pages into the journal entry that was nothing but a copy of what the more tolerable Sookie had told me, when I realized I let something Sookie said slip by me…
The journal entry that reminded me was, “…We all wish we knew about Jason’s ability all along. For me, it would have been nice to know I wasn’t the only one, to feel less isolated, to feel less like a freak…”
She said she knew of hundreds of Humans with abilities.
In one of the videos Pam made, she mentioned finding two other telepaths that didn’t fall from the Stackhouse family tree.
How the fuck did two become hundreds?
Since Sookie and her petulant little spawn had only been gone for a few minutes, I knew I could catch up to her…
They couldn’t all be dictatorial, arrogant cunts.
My ‘life’ would be much simpler if I could just pay a fucking semi-Faerie who isn’t related to Sookie to bond with me. Sookie had clearly decided the favor she was doing invited her judgmental sermonizing.
I followed my blood all the way to the heart of Eijsden. The little bitch had parked her Mercedes SUV with Swiss plates in front of the local inn, but I could feel that she was in the restaurant across the street…
She was checking in? I almost laughed when it occurred to me that she thought I might try to convince her to stay.
Sookie had taken a table in a quiet corner, showing and feeling no signs that she was in a hurry to drive back to Bern…
I moved a chair from an empty table to sit next to her, shooing Misty to slide over.
“You know ‘hundreds’ of Humans with abilities.”
Sookie sipped from her water and nodded. “Go fuck yourself.”
“You were offered my help. You rejected my help. Any and all assistance a Human with an ability could offer would require me to help you find them. Go fuck yourself.”
“How did you find them?”
“If you bothered yourself with reading the journal, you’d know already. Go fuck yourself.”
“Why the fuck do you have to be so difficult?”
She shrugged and took a bite of her meal. “Only seems fair. I don’t care if you’re a king. You’re behaving like an asshole, treating me like shit in the process, and I don’t have to let it slide.”
“What happened to getting along to help skips go more smoothly?”
“Fuck it. I look forward to seeing other versions of you. As fleeting as the skips will be, those Erics are enjoyable to be around.”
“Oh really? How enjoyable was it to wake up with Me, Sookie? Did he…”
She smiled, smirked really… distracting me long enough to stab her fork into my thigh.
The cunt left it there while the customers at a nearby table gasped in horror. The children had stopped chewing their food and let their jaws sag.
I growled, “That might be more effective if that was silver.”
“Or if I gelded you…” When she reached as though she was planning to take Jenny’s fork and try again, I had enough.
After I pulled the fork out of my leg and tossed in onto the table, I grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the restaurant…
It was actually disappointing that she didn’t bother resisting at all.
When I turned around to face her, the feisty little cunt punched my jaw… she hurt herself more than me, but she had the steel to hide it.
She hissed, “Don’t you FUCKING DARE act like this around my girls! I’ll stake you myself before I let you set this precedent…” Oh really?
“Why shelter them? Intimidation works.” And violence. Violence’s success rate was extraordinary.
“Fuck you in your dead ass, buddy! I’m talking about girls letting men treat them like shit. Forget the millennium of apathy you’ve lived, and think about how you’d have reacted to seeing one of your daughters manhandled. If you want to talk to me, you’ll be civil.”
“I think I prefer you like this.”
She stared at me with her lips parted for a moment, blinking in her shock. “That’s so sad I could cry. Are you going to be nice, or are you going to imply I’m comfortable being in bed with strangers in front of impressionable little girls?”
“What’s sad about that?”
She raised an eyebrow as she offered, “Because I can only think of one other person who ever would have gotten away with saying ‘fuck you in your dead ass’… Better that way anyway. I’m a horrible actress and you can test a person’s patience like a Weight-Watcher tests elastic… I’m going back inside because I’m freezing. Are you going to watch your mouth?”
“Go fuck yourself. You said go fuck yourself repeatedly.”
“They’re telepaths, Eric. They’ve heard everything… Cursing aloud doesn’t faze them, but I have an example to set if I want them to be strong enough to know they’re better off alone than with someone offering nothing but disrespect and apologies. It doesn’t matter that you’re a King or a Vampire because, to them, you’re just a guy. A cranky guy, but a guy nonetheless.”
“Is that what ended your marriage? Disrespect and apologies?”
She snorted, “Would you just read the damn journal?”
“I was… I was looking for the reason for your divorce when I remembered you said you know of hundreds of people with abilities.”
She smiled and closed her eyes to shake her head. “At least that’s something. How far did you get?”
“A few pages. It was basically a reiteration of what Sookie told me while we drove to Bern.” From what I read, it was well written though… it was much easier to understand than the hurried spewing of data from the other Sookie.
“That’s because Our lives were the same until the summer We went to Switzerland.”
“What made you stay?”
“Calvin, my stepfather… I was staring at my suitcase because I couldn’t decide if I should pack. The other Sookie got a call from Daddy. In my version, Daddy asked Calvin to call Me because I always minded him. The problem was that Calvin didn’t see the point in Me ‘coming home’ when I was going to school in California anyway. He didn’t struggle to add to my college fund so I could end up being stifled in a tiny town like Bon Temps. Granted, he was hoping I’d shoot for settling down somewhere in Louisiana, but I talk to everyone all the time.”
As I nodded, something else occurred to me. “When the other Sookie called your brother to find you, he asked about ‘the baby’. When Sookie said ‘he’s good’ because of her infant, Jason said ‘not the baby you married’.”
She chuckled in spite of the fact that her teeth were beginning to chatter. “Jason’s a bit of a turd. He doesn’t get why Allecks and I divorced when we can still be friends. He watched too much Divorce Court when we were kids.”
“What was Allecks being a ‘baby’ in regards to?”
She studied me for a moment before tilting her head to the side. “As soon as you look at the journal, your mind goes directly to what Pam added to it. As soon as you see something from or about her, you data-dump the rest, don’t you?”
I growled at her. I wasn’t going to admit to it. She couldn’t possibly understand why, and all admitting it would do is bring her sympathy back to the surface like sewage.
She nodded and took my hand, leading me back into the restaurant. “Why didn’t you just say so, jackass… I’ll make you a deal. As long as you’re nice, I’ll tell you what you want to know about me, our version. You’re going to have to force yourself to look at the rest of the journal though.”
“And if I’m not nice, you’ll stab me.”
I almost laughed when she didn’t correct me.
As she took her seat to join her little monsters, she explained, “We just needed to straighten a few things out…” She patted the seat next to her as my invitation. “Eric’s going to keep us company while we eat.”
Misty looked like she smelled shit as she grumbled, “Oh goody.”
Jenny shrugged and offered, “He’s in a better mood.”
Lindy didn’t bother looking up from her plate to argue, “Yeah, but for how long? He’s worse than Grandma…”
Sookie cleared her throat to interrupt them and explained, “My mother. She was an abusive alcoholic for as long as I could remember. She was so nasty, she hated in her sleep.”
“And she drowned, yes?”
Sookie shook her head. “No. My lovely mother killed herself behind the wheel last year. The other Sookie’s mother was the one who managed to drink herself to death without killing anyone else in the process. Father of two and sole provider. One of my other pet peeves is when people don’t consider how their actions affect others.”
“At the risk of lighting the fuse on your other known peeve, how did your mother react to your marriage to Allecks? I only ask because the other Sookie mentioned her mother was elated for her first marriage and he was of average means.”
Sookie offered a slight grin and nodded. “She would have been over the moon… if she knew. Allecks’s parents had cut him off when they found out he switched his major in school. I went with him to mail his first manuscript and we spent the last of our money on postage. We passed the registers office on the way home and he made a joke that we weren’t sure what we were going to eat for dinner, but we could get married for free… We went in and applied for our license and it came in the mail on the same day as the letter from Allecks’s first publishing offer.” How nauseatingly romantic.
Sookie gave a friendly wave to a family as they were shown to their booth. The young boy in the party was gawking… It wasn’t something I was unfamiliar with, but it was odd that he was gawking at Sookie instead of me.
I asked, “Kismet?”
She giggled, “Of course. We were stupid kids… well, I was. Allecks is just a romantic sap. We got married before he signed his contract and celebrated with a trip to Louisiana to meet my family since his hated me even more once I was an Auers…”
Lindy added, “And even more when Pappa dedicated his book to Mommy and didn’t mention them.”
Sookie shrugged. “There wasn’t anything about me they didn’t hate though.”
“What was the book?”
“Stones. It’s reminiscent of The Count Of Monte Cristo. A man was separated from his family while they fled Poland during World War II. He struggled to survive in a concentration camp just to find out they were all murdered shortly after they were separated. He spends the last half of the story exacting his revenge on the supposed friend who told the SS where his family was hiding.”
“That sounds delightful.”
“It did really well in the States… But a heartbreaking Holocaust story is as easy to find as your oldest neighbor or relative here. It was a slightly fictionalized account of what his great-grandfather lived through.”
“He didn’t lose his whole family then.”
“Oh, he did… Parents, wife and four tiny children… He started over a few years later…”
Sookie was interrupted when the boy approached the table. It wasn’t his approach as much as the way the girls collectively giggled. He looked like he was choking on his own tongue… His face was ashen and clammy. It was the kind of demeanor one could expect of a star-struck sycophant.
He stopped at a respectable distance between Sookie and Jenny while his immature Adam’s apple bounced.
Sookie smiled and reached out to take his hand and encourage him to come closer. “How are you?”
He looked like he was going to weep. “You’re her.”
“Yes sir, I am. Who are you?”
He made a noise that was something of a cluck. “Daan. I have all your books.” Her books?
“I’m honored. Which is your favorite?”
His eyes lit up as he blurted, “Sensational! I read it all the time! I have it on my iPod… I have Hearing Aid in the car!”
Sookie nodded. “Those are high up on my list too… Do you have Special Guest yet?” Special Guest… I couldn’t figure out why, but that sounded familiar to me.
“It’s not released yet. Not here…”
Sookie smirked and reached into her handbag to remove her keys. “It isn’t released anywhere yet. Would you like to be the first boy in Eijsden…”
He shouted, “Yes!” as though his life depended on it.
“You wouldn’t turn around and sell it online would you?”
She giggled as she stood up and promised she’d be back quickly, asking Misty to order dessert if the waitress returned.
The girls and I watched Sookie hold the pre-teens hand as they crossed the street and unlocked the back door of Sookie’s SUV. His parents quietly apologized to me for the interruption and complained about the boy’s manners and then his obsession with ‘those books’.
Misty shook her head and snorted, “We can’t go anywhere, can we?”
Lindy offered, “It could be worse. You act like you forgot what happened in California.”
“What is her penname?”
They were both surprised by my question, finally turning their attention back to me. Misty offered, “Ana Louis for…”
I nodded as I finished, “Louisiana… The book signing she went to last week…” The book signing she attended in spite of recovering from a miscarriage.
Jenny explained, “It was for Special Guest. It’s getting released next week.”
“What are her books about?”
“A telepath… the first one is about a telepath who helps a Werewolf because he’s in trouble for killing someone. She has to prove he’s innocent before the next full moon so he doesn’t shift in jail, but no one wants to listen to her because she’s just a teenager and she can’t tell anyone she’s a telepath.”
“There’s a series?”
“Yeah… Nine books since just after Lindy was born. It drove Sookie nuts to be in a wheelchair and Grandpa caught her writing a journal out of boredom. He said it made really good fiction. She started writing it as a novel…”
Lindy added, “They want to make movies, but Mommy’s holding out until they let her keep creative control. She’s stalling because she doesn’t want to out Weres.”
“Didn’t Twilight already do that?”
Misty snorted, “Mommy wrote them as real… and her Vampires don’t sparkle, or have weird eyes either.”
“How does your mother know so much about Vampires?”
“You know she’s not my mom, right?” Another one. I was so fed up with being corrected…
“Yes. Your mother is Hadley. She’s selfish and immature. Sookie took you in, sees to your needs, coached your ability, and stabbed a Vampire because she felt he was setting a bad example for you. If she does the job, then she’s earned the title… How does your mother know so much about Vampires?”
The little twit stuck her tongue out at me and mocked, “Mermermermermer…” under her breath.
Jenny kicked her sister under the table and offered, “Sookie learned about y’all working in Auershaus… but she has a couple of Vampire friends… Her publicist is one.”
“Her publicist is a Vampire and allowed her to write books about Vampires before the Revelation?”
“Selma helped her. Vampires weren’t actual characters until the fourth book and that was released the same week of the Revelation. The first few mentioned were good-guys like Selma the eighth book was the first one with a Vampire bad-guy.”
“And what was he like?”
Misty blurted, “He was a selfish ass and didn’t care about anyone but himself.”
“You know, I’m really not fond of you.”
“Whah. The ironic part is that the Vampire in the book really is a selfish jerk. You made that segue on your own.” Fuck all of them. Really.
“What do you know about irony and segues at your age?”
“I’m eight years old, homeschooling on a high school level because I’ve had a telepathic tutor for two years. Irony is incongruity between what is expected to be and what actually is… You thought I was slamming you. Ha! You did it to yourself, smarty-pants.”
Lindy finished, “A segue is when you make a transition from one thing to another… such as you connecting the description of a fictional narcissistic character to your own disposition. In case you’re wondering, narcissistic means self-absorbed. You should read Metamorphoses.” Fuck. I couldn’t decide if I should slap the mouthy little brats or just be impressed. They had better vocabularies than some Vampires.
“How old are you?”
“I’ll be seven in two months… but I’ve been reading since I was two.”
“Bedtime stories by Plato?”
She snorted, “Ovid. Please tell me you were just testing me.”
I nodded, still shocked. “Are you what they call savants?”
“No. We have a higher comprehension level because we don’t just hear what people say. We can hear everything. Most kids get stuck with baby talk for a while…”
Jenny offered, “The hard part was sentence structure since people don’t think in complete sentences.”
Lindy nodded. “Nouns and verbs were a piece of cake. When I was a baby, Mommy read all kinds of stuff and I’d lay in my crib and listen…”
Jenny huffed, “Our mother would watch TV while our step-fathers were at work, so we watched game shows and talk shows until we came to stay with Sookie. She straightened us out.”
“And taught you how to be snarky and call Vampires asses, yes?”
Misty rolled her eyes and whistled for the waitress. “There’s a saying about biting the hand that feeds you. Sookie’s turned her life inside-out to come help you and you’re the antithesis of grateful. Am I supposed to sugarcoat that you’re a big fat disappointment?”
“She doesn’t want to help me. She thinks she’s protecting me. I don’t need a wet-nurse.”
Misty shook her head, but her reply was delayed by the waitress’s arrival. “Yes ma’am, we all need…” She reached for her glass and lifted it. “Meer drinken… and… four…” She held up four fingers and said, “Veir… peach tart… Ummmm… meer drinken en vlaai voor vier personen.”
The waitress laughed lightly and offered, “Goed gedaan, meisje…. Je bent een snelle leerling.”
I opened my mouth to translate, but Misty waved her hand dismissively. She answered the waitress, “Dank u wel, mevrouw.”
Once the waitress was gone, I mentioned, “You must be a fast learner… Have you been practicing?”
“Did you miss the part about nouns and verbs being a piece of cake? I prompted her with cues…” Industrious. Uncouth, but industrious. “Anyway… I was about to say that Sookie doesn’t want to babysit you. She wants to help you see Pam again… Picture this… swampy, boggy marshland like the Polystovo Swamp during a nasty thunderstorm…” That was easy enough. It was a fabulous place to hide bodies since there wasn’t a Human for kilometers.
“Now picture the Great Barrier Reef. Clear and clean… I hear even at night you can see through the water to the bottom.” Yes… horrible place to hide a body. The fish didn’t eat carcasses before a boat full of tourists inevitably discovered them.
I shrugged. “Fine.”
“That’s the difference between you and the other Eric. His mind is clear and light. Yours is crazy dark and thick. Sookie drove all the way up here because our heads are clear. She figured we could watch out for you until you get a grip.”
“You say that you don’t want to be here.”
“Nope. I’ll hold out for an Eric I don’t mind hanging out with…” Misty winced when Jenny kicked her under the table again. “I’ll kick you back next time.”
Jenny chided, “Be nice. Sookie told us he’s the only Eric like this because he’s the only one who doesn’t have Pam anymore.”
“If his head is too far up his butt to watch his own back, then… Darwin Award!”
Jenny’s chin puckered as her eyes welled. She hissed at her sister, “He wasn’t always like this. He was a good father and Maker. He doesn’t need to be taken out of the ‘gene pool’. He just needs to stop sleepwalking through life.”
Misty huffed, “You get too attached to characters when you read. You should stick to non-fiction.”
“Bite me, butthead! You said He was better than any father or stepfather We ever had…”
“That wasn’t Me-me and that sure as heck wasn’t him… That Eric would’ve beat this one up just for grabbing Sookie.”
Since Misty and Jenny seemed to reach an impasse, shooting daggers at each other, Lindy shrugged and offered, “We’re opinionated. Wanna guess where we got it from?”
So help me, I chuckled, “No. I think I know… Where do you fall in this debate? Are you a tie-breaker?”
She shrugged again and sipped from her glass. “No… I see both of their points. We haven’t seen any reason why Pam loved you so much…” That fucking stung. It didn’t matter that Lindy knew absolutely nothing about what the fuck she was talking about other than what she read in the journal… There was another saying… Out of the mouths of babes. “…Or why my Mommy would want you to be her Maker like the other Sookies… Mommy has her fingers crossed that you can come out of your funk though. I guess I do too.”
I was trapped in a conversational black-hole. The more questions I asked, the less I liked the answers I was getting.
Between having my nose rubbed in my life and having my disposition debated by midget philosophers…
I couldn’t decide if I was going mad or if that conversation had been the sanest I’d had in years.
The children were well into their vlaaien by the time Sookie returned…
She studied everyone carefully as she approached and reclaimed her seat. “I’m sorry that took so long. Daan was chatty… What did I miss?”
Misty offered, “Not much. The Vampire hasn’t read Metamorphosis.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Of course he ha- which one of you called him narcissistic?” Sookie read between those lines quickly enough.
All three children shrugged silently and shoved another forkful of their dessert into their mouth.
Sookie blurted, “Horseshit… If y’all were nice, then why are you all locked down?”
There was another round of ‘innocent’ shrugging.
“Are y’all protecting him because he was an asshole again?” Fuck.
“I resent that…”
“No. You resemble that. Deny that I have a reason to ask.” Fuck.
“Fair enough… Metamorphosis came up in conversation actually… they were explaining your career. The topic segued into other things they’ve read.”
Misty snorted, “Yay. He can use it in a sentence.” I almost laughed at the sardonic little bitch.
Jenny offered, “He was surprised by some of the stuff we’ve read.” I was beginning to get the sense that Jenny was the softest of the three… the peacekeeper.
Sookie shrugged as though having small children with a grasp of Darwinism was a small feat. “Well, when you think about all the stuff my neighbors’ kids know about psychiatry and law learned via osmosis, it kind of makes sense that an avid reader’s kids would know their way around a library. Add that they can eavesdrop on anything they want… Why would they want to listen to Dr. Seuss when Ovid is an option?”
That would have been a fine point if I didn’t have a guard who routinely pranced about my estate chanting, ‘I do not like them, Sam I am’. Perhaps I should hire the children to babysit Miles?
Misty offered, “Osmosis is the movement of molecules through a cell wall such as the manner in which water is absorbed by the root system of vegetation, but in this case, Sookie is using it figuratively to imply education via constant exposure such as the way most people develop their seed language in infancy.” I changed my mind about her. She was growing on me.
I chuckled, “Smartass.”
She answered me with an unapologetic shrug.
While Sookie and the Unholy Trinity finished their meal, I let our conversation echo through my thoughts… it was a bizarre situation to find myself in.
The fact was that the four of them knew more about me than anyone else. It was as though they’d been spying on my existence since it began… but the spy was Me.
It didn’t take any thought to understand why my mind was such a stark contrast to the other Eric they’d met… The rumination was caused when I tried to decide if it was a negative difference. The other Me, fortunate asshole that he was, was on an extended holiday. He had Pam onboard his boat jokingly calling him Gilligan (and forcing me to download an episode of the absurd show to fully understand the joke)… I couldn’t have cared less about his amassing ‘family’. He had Pam…
But… He had Sookie… version after version… the only irritating thing about anything I’d learned from the journals and videos was that Pam consistently mentioned the relationships various Mes had with Sookies…
No version of My involvement with Sookie had been detrimental.
As a minimum, I needed to recognize Sookie had a certain amount of respect for what Pam meant to me.
More so… I needed to recognize that Sookie, even if it wasn’t Our reality, had forged a friendship with Pam.
If Pam could tolerate her, I could make the effort.
And if Pam’s trust in Sookie didn’t seem like a good enough reason, I could use the fact that Sookie offered to telepathically suss out traitors in my Kingdom.
I tried to find a flaw in my reasoning… but as Sookie paid for their meal with a Platinum card, I was still struggling.
Trusting Sookie… if I was wrong, I wouldn’t live to regret it… was the only rational option.
I followed them out of the restaurant to Sookie’s SUV, but they continued to walk towards the inn…
“If you’re trying to teach me a lesson, I’m not sure what point will be proven by staying in the local inn.”
Sookie sighed as she fished a key from her pocket and passed it to Jenny. “I’ll be right up. You girls go ahead.”
I was forced to wait for Sookie until the door to the lobby closed behind the children.
“I’m not going back to your place.”
I rolled my eyes. “This is nonsense. You expected me to come after you.”
“Yes, but I didn’t have any intention of responding to your bullying.”
“I’m not bullying you.”
She held her hands up. “Hold on. Back up. I was expecting you to come after me to bully me. You’ve given me your blood. There isn’t any point in me going back…”
“Then why check in instead of returning to Bern?”
“Because I already spent several hours on the road today. I’m not about to put myself in a position to fall asleep behind the wheel. We’re staying here for the night and in the morning, since Allecks thinks we’re on holiday, I’ll drive to Amsterdam. We’ll go to the Van Gogh Museum and interlope at a festival or two, God knows they have plenty…”
“This is ridiculous. Just follow me back to the castle.”
She shook her head and sighed, “No Eric. I’ll bond with you because I promised to, but I’ve read the journal. I know that getting attached to you is inevitable. I already feel responsible for you to an extent. I need to do everything I can to distance myself from you and hope like hell that I’m wrong about how much danger you could be in.” She was going to make me ask.
“I want you to return to the castle…”
“No.” Even better. She was going to make asking difficult.
“I want you to return to the castle because you offered to use your ability to help me. It wouldn’t be practical for me to refuse such an offer.”
“Because even if you prove to be completely useless, I’ve lost nothing by giving you the opportunity to prove yourself.”
“And what if I’m loyal to Clovis, Eric? What if I’m working for someone who has a grudge against you already? I’ve been living in his Kingdom since I was 17. How many of your enemies could I have met?”
“Droves… I doubt that’s the case.”
“Because an American version of you…”
“An American Me who was vacationing in whose Kingdom? Give me something better than using another version of Sookie’s loyalties as your excuse.”
“Why are you forcing me to rationalize why I should trust you? Shouldn’t this be the reverse?”
“No. I want to know why you’re asking for my help now when earlier you acted like I was an idiot for suggesting you might benefit from telepathic security measures.” She wasn’t just going to make it difficult… she was going to make it hurt.
“Because I realized Pam trusts you… Other Yous… As much as I loathe to admit it, I don’t remember any part of the journal that said you are as much as bad luck.”
She studied me for a moment before pressing, “You’re willing to admit that you don’t have anything to lose. That’s flattering.”
“I’m not… I’m not trying to offend you this time. You asked. I’m explaining. I’m not in the practice of trusting anyone because trust is how I lost the only person who ever meant anything to me. You can’t fucking hold that against me when you already acknowledged the logic… and it should say something that I’m going against my better judgment because of Pam’s opinion of you.”
She tilted her head and offered, “Any friend of Pam’s?”
I growled, “Somewhat.”
She groaned and rubbed her hands over her face… She shook her head and studied my shoes… She folded her arms and paced the walkway…
Finally she offered, “I was serious about the amount of shit I’m willing to take.”
“You won’t disrespect me in front of the kids.”
“Should we discuss how they speak to me?”
“No. Like I said, you’re just a cranky guy to them. Welcome to the real world, Eric. If you want respect, you have to earn it. Don’t let their size fool you. None of them have had a childhood. Misty and Jenny have been shit on and abandoned by a revolving door of Hadley’s meal tickets. And Lindy’s first word was ‘whore’ thanks to her grandfather’s opinion of me. Their trust issues are just as rational as yours.”
“I’ll do my best to be respectful, but you have to forgive that I’m not accustomed to Human company.”
“Noted. Go home before your ears freeze off. I’ll see you in a few nights.”
“A few nights?”
She nodded and began walking backwards towards the inn. “Yeah. We’ll be back on… Monday. Neutral corners will do us some good, I think. It’ll give me some time to clear my head and give you some time to read the journal. I’ll call if my plans change. Call me if you have a change of heart. Cool?”
“You’re still going to Amsterdam.”
She shook her head. “No. I’m going to die of hypothermia… Go home. I’ll see you in a few nights.”
“Where will you be staying?”
“Tell you what, if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll stay wherever you make a reservation and I’ll check in with Lord Willem… If it’ll get you to let me go warm up.”
“I’ll have Dinh make a reservation, but I don’t recommend meeting Lord Willem… I don’t trust him.”
“You don’t trust anyone.”
“He’ll be the first one I have you… Listen to? Read?”
She nodded. “Read or scan when it’s Vampires or Daemons… okay. We’ll avoid Vampires while we’re there. Thanks for the warning. Goodnight?”
I nodded, sure I wasn’t going to change her mind.
As I walked back to my car, Sookie leaned outside just long enough to yell, “Read. The. Journal. You know I’ll test you.”