The kindest things people have wished for me was not that I would have someone to love. Nor for someone to love me. I wasn’t wished a successful existence or a glowing family life. No they wished for me to be normal.
I took the words from their mind. Thinking if I wished hard enough it would come true. When that didn’t happen I willed it so. When that didn’t work I told myself I was as normal as I was going to be.
I lied to myself. I’m not normal and I never will be. I’m not abnormal but I’m not normal either. The rest of the world has defined me as such from the day I spoke the words aloud from another’s thoughts. My best hope in life would be attached to a wish that would never be granted.
For to be normal is something I will never be in the minds of others. That is where I reside for I lack the luxury of simply being in my own mind. These days I can afford many comforts but that will never be one of them.
The nicest thing someone ever thought of me was this, ‘She’s too good to simply be my mistress. She deserves someone for life, I can only give her for now.’ I was working in a diner at the time that catered to the affluent workers of downtown Shreveport. He was an exceedingly handsome man but carried himself as any other. I could only ever catch fleeting thoughts from his mind as his languages bled from one into the other. Swedish and German I later found out.
He was married. This I knew from the ring on his finger and the unhappiness in his mind. It wasn’t his morality that stopped him from pursuing me. I had seen and read it in his thoughts that he entertained many women outside his vows. He didn’t marry for love and neither did his wife. We barely spoke more than a few sentences at his regular appearances.
He asked me after my full name once and I gave it without much thought. I had expected an anonymous bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolate or perhaps a stuffed animal proclaiming his love. My views on romance were perhaps skewed by one too many romantic comedies at the time. He disappeared suddenly, soon after that.
I didn’t see his face again until it was printed in a grainy portrait in the newspaper belonging to another customer. I finally came to know his name then. It was a name that would be following me around for quite some time after that.
I offered a dollar for the paper but the man offered it to me free of charge. I bought every newspaper where I saw a mention of his name or the identical portrait. The articles still reside in a folder in my home office. Well it is mine now but it once was his.
The circumstances of his death were suspect but a body was never found. It took his wife four years to have him declared legally dead. His will was extensive and complex and his wife had been less than pleased. She had been unable to access their joint estate from the moment he went missing. He had even asserted for the eventuality of his disappearance in his testament. The lawyer had acted accordingly and barred her all access.
The newspapers and media outlets ran rampant with rumours of his giant inheritance and contested will. Former lovers of his spared no ill words for his wife all hoping for a piece of his fortune. My folder grew bigger again now with more varied photographs of the man I knew briefly. It was some days later that I was contacted by a lawyer. He informed me I had been named in Mr Northman’s will and I was requested to attend the reading of said document.
I assumed he had written me a letter. I had picked it up fleetingly from his mind once. He struggled to express his attraction to me. He felt me too worthy for the only position he could offer me by his side. At the time I didn’t think so highly of myself and would probably have agreed to spend the night with him if he had only asked.
I hadn’t dressed for the occasion as I soon found out from his wife’s impeccable appearance. My cotton summer dress and cardigan screamed poverty. My stylist delights in telling me so whenever he holds one of the two items with derision in his hands now. I expected to simply blend into the background with the many other trustees but it was just his wife and I. Her own legal team soon filed into the room after the will was read at the request of the testator.
My telepathy had made it difficult to focus at the reading. The pages were numerous and the legal jargon paralysed my understanding. It didn’t help that five other lawyers in the room thought in the same vocabulary. The estate lawyer handed me an envelope in the end and through the haze I told myself this must be the letter I was expecting.
The thoughts of his wife were jumbled in a similar myriad of languages I had experienced from his mind. Her thoughts were less than kind. Where he had thought the nicest things of me she was the polar opposite. It wasn’t until later when I had time to dissect what I had been told that I made sense of her thoughts.
She had dismissively told me I would receive nothing. I didn’t take much notice of her comment. My shields had been so battered at the time I didn’t know whether she had said the words aloud or simply thought them.
In the comfort of my own home I sat down with a pot of tea and a box of tissues. I opened the envelope expecting a handwritten letter only to find a legal document. I recognised the first words as the ones his estate lawyer had spoken.
Confused I checked the envelope for any stray pieces of paper. It was simply a copy of the will. Unsure what to do with it I contacted Sid Matt Lancaster, the town’s only lawyer. He had been a good friend of my grandmother’s and had guided my brother Jason and I through her legacy at her passing a few years earlier.
He explained what I had failed to hear at the time. I was the sole heir to Mr Northman’s estate. A man I had exchanged with a handful of times. Mr Lancaster was already in retirement when he handled my grandmother’s estate out of a sense of obligation. He strongly recommended I seek out a professional legal team of my own. Mr Northman’s wife would not hesitate to contest the will.
It took me three days to react. I had initially decided to refuse the estate and let it fall to his widow. It was when I searched my mind for her thoughts that I realised Mr Northman had left his estate to me with good cause. She was annoyed, which was to be expected. Her annoyance about the expedience of his disappearing body was not. Nor her thought that the agreed upon limb left behind was missing. Stories of wolves had done little to placate her.
Like I said my dazed state had left much to be desired. I called upon an old family friend, Desmond Cataliades, a lawyer residing in New Orleans. He offered his services at a discounted rate but my money soon ran out. I was forced to sell my ancestral home as the litigations ensued. I refused to allow the woman who killed her husband claim his estate. She was far from destitute herself whilst I had to work three jobs and live off a minute salary to combat the onslaught of her team of lawyers. It was their strategy to bankrupt me.
She had taken every opportunity to turn public opinion against me. I was a dim witted gold digging whore. I granted her the dim witted remark from our first meeting. I was hardly lucid at the time. The town of Bon Temps was all too happy to substantiate her claims of my mental incapacity.
His sister Lovisa was his only living blood relative. I had assumed that like Freyda she would be contesting the will. When I met with her she surprised me by voicing her support morally and financially. She had no interest in her brother’s wealth and became a witness on their turbulent marriage. He had also disclosed to her that he intended to purposely leave Freyda out of his latest will.
As useful as my telepathy was it helped nothing in proving Freyda’s malicious actions. She had her husband murdered that much I could gather but I could find nothing substantial damming her. The thoughts of Eric Northman did enter the record as words spoken to me. I had not wanted to but Mr Cataliades had urged me to do so being one of the few to know of my ability. Knowing the man was dead was the only reason I had agreed to do so. I couldn’t help convict the perpetrator but at least I could speak the truth of his thoughts.
Freyda never won any of her appeals. The will was iron clad and the court finally granted me custody of the estate. I had to wait another six months as she tried again this time in Sweden. They deferred to the American rulings and she lost any hope of overturning the will.
The first thing I did upon taking possession of his inheritance was to arrange him a grave. Something his widow had failed to do in over six years. Had I been his wife it would have been my first course of action. Rather had I been his wife I would not be sitting by an empty grave. He would be at home waiting in a warm bed for me.
Despite the intricacy of his will he left no instructions for his burial. The plot next to those of my family had become available and I didn’t hesitate to buy it. It was a simple headstone. Despite his wealth his home had expressed an appreciation for the understated. I liked that about him.
I came to the Bon Temps cemetery every Sunday. I placed yellow dandelions on my mother’s grave. White daisies for my Gran and a six pack of beer for my father. I assumed the local youths would drink them but I was sure my father appreciated the offering over flowers.
For Eric, he stopped being Mr Northman when I commissioned his headstone, I always brought a bouquet of white roses with hints of green. My Gran had educated me on the meaning of flowers and I knew these conveyed best wishes for a new life. I was never able to find out what his favourite flower was but I assumed he appreciated the gesture nonetheless.
Twilight was setting in and I knew I should be heading back to Shreveport. I had moved into his home when it failed to sell in the struggling economy. The new owners of my former family home refused to sell it back to me despite my offering to pay any price for it.
I would be attending another charity function tonight. Despite smearing my name through the mud and beyond, the elite of Louisiana was happy to host me. It was startling how accepting people became once you had excessive wealth.
My unusual and withdrawn behaviour that was shaped by my telepathy suddenly became quirky and regal. It went beyond ass kissing to insure your donation. Their minds told me they genuinely thought this. Had I been born into wealthier circumstances my disability would probably never have been such an impending condition as it had proven to be.
When I visited the set of graves I always spoke to my Gran first telling her all the new and exiting things I had done that week. The list was never that long I had become somewhat of a recluse, only venturing out for the charity boards I sat in on.
Momma and Daddy were mostly entertained with stories of Jason. He had been the next beneficiary of my inheritance. I paid his mortgage in full that he had taken out to support me in my legal costs. He was also the recipient of a new car and a trust that paid him a monthly stipend. He sill continued to work on the road crew and indulged his friends and dates excessively with the added salary.
His unwavering support had meant much to me and the money was insignificant in comparison to my gratitude. It had been a busy week for Jason so it was fully dark by the time I got to speak to Eric. I usually recalled one of our few interactions or expressed my frustrations with his former wife. This night I was feeling somewhat melancholic.
“I wonder what you would look like if you were alive today Eric,” I said as I brushed away the stray leafs fallen from the nearby linden tree. “This Thursday I’ll be the same age you were when you died.”
I was pretty certain Eric was dead. Freyda’s thoughts had implicated as much. When vampires revealed themselves I had given myself a small surge of hope but nothing came of him. None of the registers documenting the newly turned mentioned him. The ones that could have been him weren’t.
Mr Cataliades had put me in touch with a witch who had performed an ectoplasmic reconstruction but the traces were too old to be conclusive. She had informed me that the man was decidedly dead.
Investigation by private investigators had come up equally empty. Freyda it seemed had covered her tracks exceedingly well.
“Sometimes I feel cheated for not knowing you,” I continued to the ears of the cool night air. “I live among your things. Your sister has told me stories about your mischief as a child. All I got to know was the polite man I served at lunch. Two poached eggs on whole wheat rye, a splash of warm milk in your coffee.”
“I’m going to a charity function tonight,” I explained. “In support of Alzheimer research. Lovisa told me you sat on the board on account of your grandmother. I wish you could have been my escort tonight. I hate going to these things alone.”
“I could take you if you like,” a voice spoke behind me. I recognised his brain signature as a void. Vampire. I had met some pleasant and some unpleasant ones. I assumed him to be the latter even if his voice was vaguely familiar.
The vampires I met at charity functions were usually old. Ancient rather. They were well mannered and civilised. It was the younger ones that I took less of a liking too. Pamela Swynford de Beaufort had become somewhat of a friend although she was considered young by vampiric standards. She had explained to me once that it was lineage and dilution of the bloodline that mattered not age. She came from aristocratic stock both in her human life and in her continued undead existence.
It was the proximity to the home of the local vampire, Bill Compton, that had me carefully reaching for my can of colloidal silver spray gifted to me by Pam. Whilst Bill had been somewhat courteous, the company he kept was considerably less so. It had caused tensions to rise between the locals and the incoming vampires.
I turned around carefully, the pad of my index finger ready to press down and spray. Had the signature been human it would have been resting on a can of mace. When I locked gazes with those impossibly blue eyes I understood how I recognised the familiar voice. It was him. Despite my desire to simply fling my arms around him and call his sister I kept my hand firmly in place not knowing what kind of vampire I was dealing with.
“Is it really you?” I asked hopefully despite my caution.
“Are you ok ma’am?” Alcide Herveaux, the head of my security team, asked as he and his fellow weres surrounded the vampire.
“Yes,” I replied to the werewolf. “Please stand down. He means no harm.”
I didn’t know why I was so convinced of that but I was. His lack of immediate retaliation proved as much to me. He exuded the same calm as Pam did. Bill and his comrades had this restless energy like they were always itching to get to their next fix. It may be foolish but I trusted him instinctively. I was convinced he meant me no harm.
“What took you so long?” I asked as the pack of wolves disappeared from our sights again. “I had hoped after the great reveal…” I trailed off as I drank in his gaze upon me.
“You have made the unfortunate acquaintance of my ex-wife,” he said with a note of sympathy. “My estate needed to rest safely with you.”
“I’ll return it all to you Mr Northman,” I said sincerely. “It was never mine to begin with. I donated some to charity and had to pay a lot of legal fees. I’m sure we can arrange a payment plan.”
“Please call me Eric,” he said gazing at me intently. “Everything is yours to keep.”
“Surely I can’t,” I stammered. “I never wanted it. It belongs to you.”
“I assure you it’s all yours,” he insisted. “I want you have it.”
“That was when you were truly dead,” I countered.
“Let us leave this conversation for another time,” he returned and I agreed even though the thought of me holding on to his substantial wealth sickened me. It was the same ill feeling I had when I was first told the scope of my inheritance.
“I’m sure there are things you would like to know,” I offered as I motioned for him to walk beside me on the dewy grass path.
“How did you know?” he asked before clarifying, “How I felt about you. Why I left everything to you.”
“I prefer not to have this conversation here,” I said careful not to speak of my telepathy in a public space. Herveaux was well aware I was different but not even he knew he was guarding a telepath. His presence and team of protection was mainly on the insistence of my brother when I was randomly attacked.
It had nothing to do with me personally I knew that from her head. Jason had convinced me regardless that my notoriety and newfound wealth would attract attention at some point and I best be prepared.
It was Freyda’s petty thoughts of me that had made me agree in the end. My estate would be left to charities and my few remaining family members. I didn’t put it past her to just have me killed for the sake of it. For sport. In comparison to the murder of her husband mine would be a mere glitch on her morality scale.
“Would you like to come to my home? Well your home,” I said as we reached my car. The car had always given me strange looks. When I took possession of his home it came with many cars. They were brand new when he died and stood immobile for all those years. Many had accrued in value for being rare and remaining untouched. The press had been less than kind over my similar status into my early adulthood.
The more ostentatious ones were donated for charity auctions, the practical ones gifted to staff. I kept his beloved Corvette. It was apparent that it was the car he had used most. So I couldn’t bear to get rid of it.
My pragmatism enforced me to use it for myself just like his home. The car already had some age on it when he disappeared. Added to that the quintessential testosterone coupe jarred justly with my perceived persona. I didn’t care much for the thoughts of others anymore. Once they had been cruelly written out to share with everyone they didn’t seem that impressive anymore.
“I would like that,” he answered to my invitation. A spark of delight danced through his eyes when I offered him the keys to the old Corvette. I hoped he was still able to drive. When I asked him he told me he was still capable even though he mainly relied on flight these days. I knew from Pam this meant he was of a distinguished line; it was a rare vampire gift. Most especially in one so young.
He purred along with the noise of the engine. “You have taken good care of my baby,” he smiled at me. “She’s as responsive as when I last had her.”
I simply smiled kindly not sure what to say, nor how to respond to the suggestive tone. The car was his again as soon as I handed him back the keys. I could argue till the end of days with him to take it all back but I preferred to just speak with him of our time apart for now.
“Wealth agrees with you,” he said gazing at me by a red light. “You look as beautiful as when I last saw you. You haven’t aged a bit.”
Money had nothing to do with my appearance. The stresses of the legal battles should have aged me considerably but it never had. I used the same inexpensive drug store products as in my waitressing days. Pam had dragged me to a spa once or twice insisting I try treatments that held little benefit for her. I didn’t notice a difference to underscore their efficacy.
Never one to take a compliment well I ignored his remark and simply countered, “Neither have you.”
“I don’t have wealth to thank for that,” he smirked as he let his fangs softly slide out.
“They have yet to bottle that effectively,” I returned. “My friend is still working on that. She’s been hounding me for an investment.”
He chuckled softly as he continued to put the car through its paces. I had become quite used to the feel of it myself. The car all but demanded to be driven like that. Eric was quicker to shift and accelerate than I ever could with his vampire speed. The newer models now offered a quicker response option engineered specifically for vampires making them impossibly fast. Surprisingly they didn’t incite as many accidents as one would expect. Their heightened senses were responsible for that too.
The trailing cars of Herveaux and Son Security only barely kept up with us. My telepathy informed me they remained close by enough. They could always track me through the GPS chip I carried on my body if necessary.
We were soon standing on the drive to the impressive mansion. He wanted to hand me back the keys to the Corvette. I told him to keep it and I saw he wanted to argue against it but chose not to.
He took in the unchanged décor of his former home after I disengaged all the alarms. I had changed a few things but they were minor, though I am sure he could spot every tiny difference with his roaming eyes.
It was truly his home. It felt like a bachelor pad, my brother had unsubtly dropped a hint once or twice that he’d love to live here when it refused to sell. It had never really been their home. Freyda seemed to have resided mostly in an apartment downtown and was busy decorating a newly bought home. Those two properties thankfully sold quickly. I donated the proceeds of those sales to a battered women’s shelter.
“Would you like something to drink,” I asked as he took a seat on the large leather couch. He looked strangely out of place in his own home.
I stocked Royalty Blend for when Pam came around. I never had seen her touch the cheaper synthetic Tru Blood. She would probably never have to. Being from a distinguished house gave her benefits most vampires would never have. She didn’t instantly burn up in the sun but stayed out of it regardless. Her dislike of silver was simply a matter of taste. She could ingest human foods and drinks though she rarely partook in it in favour of blood.
It was why the pure blooded were so civilised. They had mingled among humanity for centuries without fear of detection. Their vulnerabilities were marginal, truly only their unchanging appearance forced them to move around. The impure vampires were forced to hide out in the shadows viciously hanging on for survival.
It was their inequality in numbers that pushed the Houses of Sanguine to reveal their divided species. It was how they asserted their control over their foot soldiers. Their humane front masked the feral nature of the others. It had sounded decidedly feudal to me when Pam informed me of the intricacies. She assured me this was the only way for order to be maintained.
The Sanguines like Pam were rare. She came from an exceptionally discerning line. Any offspring that displayed the mutations that plagued the impure were ended instantly upon rising. Other houses were less discriminating, as the turned ones were often lovers intended to keep. It was these children that increased the numbers of the impure breeds. Pam had been selected on her qualities of intelligence, strength and beauty.
Her maker had known instinctively she would turn pure. She was not a pet to simply amuse him for the ages. Pam was given a choice and informed that if she were to turn impure she would be ended. She agreed regardless of the possible outcome. At her successful turning she was considered royalty amongst her kind. She held a position of authority in the southern states though she never fully disclosed what that entailed.
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,” Eric replied to my offer of hospitality.
I set down a tray with a pitcher of sweet tea and some crystal tumblers. As I poured out two glasses I remarked on his rare status.
“You seem to know a lot about vampires,” he noted. “Were you so convinced that it was that what had happened to me? Why you held everything of mine in place.”
I gave him my kindest smile as I handed him the glass. Our fingers briefly met and it was almost as if sparks flew between us at the touch of it. His touch was not as cold as the impure but not warm enough to register as fully human either.
“I had a private investigator assure me you were decidedly dead. A witch told me the same,” I sighed. “The Great Reveal gave me some hope but it seemed false at the time. I think I kept things as they are because it never truly felt like mine.”
He sipped quietly without comment as he took in my words and roamed his eyes over my simple white sundress. I shifted uncomfortably with his penetrating gaze.
“I knew from your wife you were supposed to be dead,” I revealed. “I read it in her mind.”
He blinked at me once as he took in my words. I knew from Pam it was an unnecessary movement. Pam was one of the few who knew of my ability. I had confessed it to her hoping that she knew where it came from but she had nothing to offer in explanation. She had requested the use of it and I had been happy to oblige.
There was a natural scepticism directed at her kind and my read on humans and weres helped where possible. She had in turn helped look into Eric’s disappearance and death. Access to Freyda was difficult, my hopes of glamouring her into telling the truth were squashed quickly. Like many who could afford it she had upped her protection to include the threat of the supernatural.
Witches were earning millions dispensing their wards. High tech companies offered protective measurements against their superior skills of manipulation. I forewent the exorbitantly priced contact lenses that deflected their glamour when Pam found me naturally immune to it.
We were not so different to the Sanguines, our one percent to the other ninety-nine. We held our status by the gold of our coins and power of our positions. The supernatural was just another set to manipulate and control.
“You are a telepath then,” he said confirming what he already seemed to know. “You read my mind.”
“Yes,” I simply replied. It was the only explanation of how I knew of his inner thoughts without him ever speaking them. I could have denied it but he would have figured it out regardless.
“Can you…” he hesitantly started.
“No,” I returned. “Vampires read as a void to me. It’s why I enjoy the company of a few.”
He nodded with some relief. It was interesting to witness how human he still was in his gestures. He still breathed though it was unnecessary to do so. Pam had quit from the moment she wore her fangs in proud display.
“Were you serious about attending the banquet with me tonight?” I asked glancing over at the time. I would have to cut our conversation short soon if I wished to arrive at a respectable time.
“It is to be my coming out of sorts,” he told me. “I did not wish to catch you unaware. I would be honoured to have you as my date.”
I smiled a soft smile. He hadn’t changed much in his years gone. Where I was hardly the same girl anymore. “Are you still married?” I asked. “Officially.”
I had been happy to be off the media’s radar for the past few months. Showing up with him on my arm would reignite it all back up again. I hated having to consider those implications before my own wishes.
Mandy my publicist was going to be having a field day with all of it. I hated having my very own publicist but Pam convinced me it was better to control the media then let it run rampant with assumptions. I hated that she was right even more. That’s why Mandy was the perfect publicist. There wasn’t an ounce of niceness in her body. I could be annoyed with her without feeling guilty about it.
“Death did us part,” he shrugged. “Vampire human marriages are considered illegal in this state.”
“But not Sweden.”
They were both Swedish nationals and had married there. The official legal ceremony had been in the states. It was the reason Swedish courts had deferred to the American ones. Besides Mandy I would be calling on Mr Cataliades before I left for the night. If I was to go at all. I doubted there would be any precedent set for a case like theirs. I surely would have heard about it.
Mr Cataliades prepared his defences as soon as he received my call. He had already prepared for the eventuality at my behest with the Great Reveal. The lawyer assured me the courts would find little stock in any claim by Freyda.
Besides that, we had negotiated certain terms with Freyda in exchange for retrieval of some of her things. She was unusually attached to her family’s summer home in Sweden that fell within the estate. I had little sympathy for the woman but in this I could understand her. It kept her quiet and stopped me from having to maintain a property I would never visit. It also stopped her from pursuing any further claims against me.
Mandy insisted I attend the function as I was expected to represent as a board member. My sudden absence would be suspect and speak of collusion. I was to be taken by surprise and play the victim. She suggested I leave early in tears. I disregarded her last advice.
There was only so much pretence I could agree to in order to maintain a modicum of privacy. Attending the event in the arms of Eric was not something that would sustain that. Despite my wish for it. It was a good thing wishes didn’t hold the same reverence as they once did to me.
I offered Eric use of my bathroom. His tuxedos were still safely tucked away in the attic. His suits had been donated to help the homeless find jobs but there was little demand for the custom dress suits. He followed me up to retrieve his favourite in midnight blue. Despite it being his home he moved about it as a guest.
The door to the master bedroom stood open. It was the only room that truly appeared to be different to the rest of the house. I beckoned him to follow at the sight of his curious eyes.
“A lot of this furniture belonged to my grandparents,” I explained as he looked around. “I know it’s a little different to what was here. I still have it in storage.”
“Sookie,” he said instantly appearing in front of me. “I really don’t care for those things. I came here to see you.”
His body leaned into mine inching closer as he stared those penetrating blue orbs into mine. My breath hitched at the feel of it. He exuded a quiet power that when unleashed on anyone else would be frightening.
“What do you want from me?” I asked with a lump in my throat as my back collided with one of the four posters from the bed. His fingers softly reached for a lock of my hair tucking it behind my ear.
“Do I really need to tell you that? Haven’t you already read it from my mind years ago?”
I didn’t answer him as I adverted my eyes to the floor and bit down on my lower lip. “Someone for life,” I whispered under my breath. His fingers grazed up my neck and jaw pulling my eyes to his again.
“Is it because I am vampire now?” he asked with pain in his eyes. “I let you walk once because I thought you deserved more. I don’t know if I can do it for a second time.”
I didn’t know how to respond. The man I thought was dead stood before me declaring his interest in me. We didn’t know each other. He observed me from afar and I was familiar with his innermost thoughts about me. Did we really know each other? Were we even the same people as when we saw each other last?
“You don’t think I deserve more anymore?” It wasn’t an accusation it was simply a question I needed answered.
His intense look was blinding, the silence was frightening and his gaze hungry. Eric moved his body impossibly close to mine, any manner of respectable distance lost.
“No,” he said with an unrelenting hold. “You deserve more than I could ever offer you. You deserve a husband who you love and who loves you more. Children that adore you and refuse to leave your side. You deserve the sun and the moon and the stars. You deserve to live a happy life, a normal one.”
“I…” His silencing thumb cut off my words to my indented lips. I wanted to tell him those were thing I was never destined to have. Things I stopped hoping and expecting for long ago.
“I can’t give you those things,” he continued as his hand softly caressed my cheek. “I can only offer you me. I can love and adore you but I can’t give you sons or daughters.”
He moved out of my personal space with a regretful sigh at the sound of the doorbell. I directed him to one of the guest bathrooms as I went to see to my guest at the door.
Pam looked disdainfully at the sight of my attire when she asked why I wasn’t dressed yet. Her interest in my evening dress soon dissipated at the sound of running water.
“You finally let a man enter this house Stackhouse,” she quipped with an upturned brow. “It’s about time you stopped mooning over the dead. Speaking of which, your Mr Northman,”
“Is the one in the shower,” I interceded knowing Eric’s vampire hearing would put him in earshot of our conversation. There was no doubt in my mind he was listening.
If I had not known Pam was harmless her fang filled grin at my words would have been frightening. It didn’t surprise me she knew of Eric’s reappearance so quickly. Vampires were worse gossips than the old biddies of Bon Temps.
“I’m impressed,” she said meaning it in earnest. “You move quick for a breather.”
“Yes those lungs do tend to slow us mere humans down,” I sassed back with equal cheek.
It was our self-deprecating humour that made us seek out each other’s company. She was as lonely in her world as I was in mine. Where everyone avoided me like the plague she had been kept out of reach through protocol.
She had made it known more than once we should be more than friends and allies. Her lacking appendage had made my decision simple much to her disappointment.
Her eyebrow had remained up in stasis with my lack of an answer. “It’s not what you think,” I supplied. I had an inkling of what she thought. Her thoughts were often ironically impure for such a thoroughbred.
“What should I think?” she tittered with amusement that only Pam could afford at my expense.
“I’m not sure,” I said honestly needing a friend more than a laugh. She pulled me into an embrace. She had only done this to me in comfort once before. It made her awful at it. I appreciated it nonetheless. The last time it had occurred she had sworn it would be my death if I ever told anyone about it. It only made me love her more.
“Let’s get you dressed,” she said when I lingered too long. I wordlessly followed her to my expansive walk in closet. It was the size of my Gran’s living room. Under encouragement of Pam and my stylist it was filled to the brim. Most items I would wear once and never again. Pam had informed I had to wait at least fifteen years before a charity would be able to auction them off with interest.
Pam was gazing appreciatively over my intended outfit for the evening. She squinted her eyes a bit imagining the intended accessories. My clutch was exchanged for another and the necklace moved back in its place in the vault. She knew the code within her endless memory vault. I had given it to her willingly as a flick of her wrist was as effective in opening it otherwise.
Pam rushed me into the bathroom wordlessly. I would be spared an oratory on fashion tonight with her approval of my choices. I closed the door on her lust filled gaze with an evil smirk of my own.
With my body prepped and primed Pam attended to my hair. It was an indulgence of hers and I allowed it. Where her entire existence, alive and undead, others fussed over her she enjoyed tending to me. I appreciated it, as I didn’t have to deal with the calamitous thoughts of a hairdresser.
She had displayed nurturing tendencies with me often. I had asked if she had no longing to sire children of her own. While it was expected of her and she undoubtedly would at some point she felt no urge. I was the first she had even contemplated it with but the she lacked the feel of a certain pull. I was grateful for that, I had not interest in being turned.
“She’s quite a beauty, is she not Northman,” Pam spoke whilst my eyes were being brushed with shadow. Sanguines referred to each other by their last name, it was a sign of respect the impure were denied.
It had long made the selection pool of possible progenies for the Sanguine limited to those humans that actually carried such a name. Commoners had been a rare choice of progeny up until the last couple of centuries. Most pure blooded that I had met carried at least one set of double-barrelled surnames.
The fact that Pam often referred to me by my last name in the company of others was a huge sign of respect and elevated my status amongst the Sanguines. It was something not granted often to those outside their kind.
“She is even more beautiful than I remember,” Eric’s baritone voice answered whilst I desperately tried to still the rabid tremors of my cardiac muscles. Despite Pam moving onto my lips with precise determination I didn’t dare open my eyes. I hoped the blush Pam had applied masked the real one that formed at his words.
“Our senses will reveal more than what was visible before,” Pam returned with an amusement that was coming from my flustered reaction. With colder steel in her voice she addressed Eric more seriously, “You will do well not to speak of our interaction to others Northman.”
It was one thing for Pam to dote on me like a china doll but her station in life did not allow for public acknowledgement of it.
“Of course Cousin,” he returned. My eyes opened at hearing of their familiar relation. They did not withhold the accusing glare at the vampire who was currently brushing powder over the bridge of my nose.
“Leave us,” Pam commanded. It was a frightening tone of voice coming from her. I had seen it shake many to their cores and Eric didn’t hesitate to disappear instantly. She finished to swipe the brush softly over my face as she critiqued her own handiwork. My silent stare wasn’t acknowledged till she deemed me ready.
“I was introduced to him in the early hours of the morning,” she said with a warmer tone resonating from her vocal cords. “I assumed you would like to hear it from me in person. I did not anticipate him beating me to you.”
I wanted to believe her. Pam had no reasons to lie to me. Despite our close friendship and her respect for me I knew if she was ever forced to choose there would be no hesitation about it. Her loyalties lay with the blood and we did not share ours.
“Did you lie?” I asked with a tremble in my voice. If I had even thought to cry the glare she gave me would have sent my tears running back into their ducts. Pam took far too much pride in her work to allow for me to ruin it. “You told me if he were turned you would know about it.”
“The circumstances of his turning were not ideal,” she spoke frugally as she pulled a needle through two clumped together eyelashes. “They are not mine to share. He was registered unofficially in records even I don’t have access to. I only knew of him from this morning onwards.”
Pam didn’t lie to me unless it qualified as classified. She was always brutally honest with me. It was a quality I had a high regard for. Only rare individuals truly spoke their mind, where their thoughts matched what came out.
“Thank you,” I said knowing she spoke as much truth as she could afford. “Did they treat him well?”
“Yes,” she assured me before her taunting tone continued, “Although my uncle did complain over his continued infatuation with a mortal woman.”
I shook my head at her antics knowing full well she was feeding me a fantastical line. This much I knew of all vampires; emotions, feelings and the warm fuzzies were topics you didn’t speak of. Some denied having them others accused each other of having too many. The realm of psychotherapy had yet to break ground successfully amongst the ancients.
I noticed the keys to the Corvette lying on the table in the hall when my transportation arrived. Pam and I drove in the back of the limousine together even though we would now not be able to enter together. It wasn’t an issue seeing she always took an endless amount of time posing for photographers whilst I preferred to slip in undetected.
One of the weres had escorted me in and sat beside me at the table. He was dreadfully young, only just out of high school. His tuxedo was a rental but appeared to belong to another family member judging by the fit. He was nervous and excitable despite my attempts at calming him down. I cursed whoever thought it appropriate to schedule an event this close to the full moon.
I made small talk with the fellow attendees at the table. The conversation was always the same, where to summer, the newest restaurant openings and the limited cultural season. It was only on a rare occasion that someone with other interests joined the conversation. I was happy to know one such sat at our table this evening as she told me about her job working research on an expedition in Antarctica.
Despite their scattered seating the Sanguines often entered the room in one pack. Tonight was no different. The sight of Eric among them sent whispers and gasps echoing through the room. I put on my best shocked face till he moved over to my table. We conversed softly out of bounds for any to hear of what we spoke to one another. Truthfully we didn’t have a dialogue we fed each other lines to appear we were having a conversation. It was brief, leaving the only audible sentence to be heard that we would speak together soon in a more private setting.
I politely bid my goodbye to the other members of the board and slipped out of the venue anonymously. When I arrived at the gates to my home the photographers already stood in line waiting and I was glad for Pam’s insistence on blinded out limousines over my preferred town cars. I was pleased to see the extra hired security for the next few weeks were already in place and keeping everyone at bay.
Alcide Herveaux stood waiting by the door with a giant opened umbrella despite a lack of rain. It would deter the photographers from getting a recognisable shot of me. There would undoubtedly be a photo of me in the paper in the morning but it would be of me attending the party not my attempt at fleeing the scene.
On the Thursday of my birthday I was met with an extraordinary amount of flowers, chocolates and stuffed animals. It was a tween’s wet dream and I knew Pam was responsible for this sickly sweet sight. Eric sent me a small gift but I never found the courage to open it. The sight taunted me every time I left the house as it lay next to the untouched set of keys. I drove around in Jason’s old truck now.
It would be several weeks before I heard from Eric again. Predictably the media speculated on our relationship in the same manner as before. They quickly changed their narrative on us being former lovers when I appeared to continue doing what I always did whilst Eric was spotted all over town in the company of others.
That company was mostly Lovisa, who had jumped onto the first flight from Copenhagen when I had called her that evening. She stayed in my home as she always did when visiting Louisiana. She was overjoyed to have her brother back again. I greatly enjoyed her company during the daylight hours. Lovisa was tight lipped about her brother and I couldn’t decipher the language of her mind.
It hadn’t failed Freyda to stand at attention at his reappearance. I was untouchable from her litigation but Eric wasn’t. Her legal team was soon working at full time capacity again. Mr Cataliades proved to be invaluable once again throwing out every claim she intended to enter into court. Eric officially accused her of attempted murder and his maker testified anonymously about finding him on the brink of life moments from his death.
I assumed from Pam’s veiled statement that there was more to the story than that. Pam had also been noticeably absent in the past weeks. I didn’t need to ask. I knew it was under orders of others that she kept her distance. The same applied to Eric. Vampire publicist to their cause, Nan Flanagan, was seen hovering in their presence constantly.
It was a battle fought in the media. The justice department could do little without a lack of physical evidence. Vampire rights were still difficult to define and the interpretation was fluid at best. Eric was still considered dead but was ironically still married to a very alive person.
His divorce was swift as there were no common assets to divide. Their prenuptial agreement granted her nothing without producing an heir regardless. Mr Cataliades warned me she could pursue a stronger case if the Vampire Rights Amendment came to pass. Being married to a vampire would invalidate the clause demanding heirs and the status of my inheritance. I changed my permanent residency to the United Arab Emirates at a steep price with that information. It was a safe bet that that part of the world would not be granting vampires any rights in Freyda’s lifetime or recognising other countries that did.
Eric’s money and assets now lived in offshore accounts and Switzerland in my name. I didn’t coordinate with him on this. Mr Cataliades informed him of my actions and provided legal help to him when necessary. I never heard any argument come back.
I still ‘spoke’ to my Eric every Sunday in Bon Temps. I had come to the conclusion they were two divergent streams of the same person. The one that rested under the heavy Louisiana red soil in my hometown was my imagining of a person whose mind I knew intimately. The other one walked around and talked but I had no read on him whatsoever.
The Sunday I returned after apartment shopping in Abu Dhabi I found someone else had tended to my family’s graves. A bouquet of daisies and dandelions sat exactly a week old. An empty beer can indicated the six pack had found its local partakers again. Eric’s grave was missing its customary bouquet.
I told my Gran of the apartments I had seen. I hated them all. They were decorated to boast in their wealth. In the end I purchased one that looked akin to a high-rise office inside and out. It lacked any character but it was decidedly preferential to anything else I had seen. I left it unfurnished, as my first visit to the city would most likely end up being my last. As a vampire, Eric would never step a foot in the country despite the Sanguines being untouchable worldwide.
I had a strange sense of triumph knowing that ownership would revert to Eric when he got his inheritance back from me. He would be the first vampire to have that in a country that did not recognise his existence. Mr Cataliades had naturally set it up so that the legal framework was untouchable. I should be outraged that the law could be manipulated so easily for those who could spare the cash. I wasn’t in this instance.
I waked the shorter path back to my car. I usually avoided doing so as it would lead me in clear sight of my former home. I was shocked to see no signs of life in the property. On closer inspection I saw the home now stood empty. I reached Jason and at the panic in my voice he told me the house hadn’t sold to anyone else. They had simply disappeared in the middle of the night.
My brother proofed to be the rumoured idiot that he was with his excuse for not informing me earlier. He reminded me he was only to call me if there were rumours of the house coming on the market. He didn’t think them disappearing from one night to the next warranted me a phone call. The peach pie I had baked for my brother went home with me untouched that afternoon.
When I dumped the repossessed pie on the table in the hall I let out a small snort at the collection of items that sat taunting me on a daily basis. I threw the keys in the drawer after I put my coat and bag away. I took Eric’s present and accompanying card now knowing full well what was hidden inside. I attacked the pie ferociously with a fork as I continued to glare at the offending items. It did nothing to contain my rage so I shoved the pie aside and ripped at the intricately wrapped box.
It contained a set of keys and the deed to my grandmother’s former home. I left a particularly nasty voicemail for Pam at the sight of it. She knew how I felt about glamouring people to do things against their will. I didn’t know if she had used Eric as a decoy for the scheme she had been concocting or that they had joined their forces for it. If I had a contact number for him he would have received an equally pleasant message on his voicemail.
After sundown I had anticipated some sort of reaction from Pam. Her holier than thou attitude never shied her away before so I assumed it would be no different now. I yanked open the door with an angry huff at the recognition of a void at the door. It wasn’t Pam or Eric.
The sight of the eternally peaceful Godric had my rage rushing out of my system. I had met him once before some years back at one of Pam’s soirees. He was an odd sight with his boyish looks combined with the honed brain that put a collection of scholars to shame. Pam warned me he teetered on the edge of melancholy most days and hated his Sanguine status. He felt himself no better than the rest. Godric was a gentleman where others pretended to be one.
I liked him instantly at the time. He was an outsider amongst his own kind and I connected well with him on that night. He had been one of those rare gems that didn’t enjoy talking of personal wealth and all its accompanying facets.
I invited him in and he asked for a drink of water from the tap. I half suspected him of surviving on a diet of bread and water. The Southern Woman in me wanted to force feed him all the Royalty Blended I had in the house at the sight of his pale complexion. Pam and Eric had both retained their human complexion with a regular intake of blood. Godric’s pallor made him look like the impure bloods that could never hope to achieve that rosy glow.
“I hear you didn’t like my gift to you,” he started after taking a tentative sip from his glass. I thought I was having a delayed reaction to the jet lag as I tried to take in his words.
“Your… gift,” I managed to stammer out putting down my shaking glass of sweet tea. Miraculously all the liquid had remained inside the tumbler. The night we first met I had been in a surly mood myself. The owner’s of my former home had made it known in no uncertain terms there wasn’t a price known to man they would sell my home back to me for.
I had assumed for so long they were simply holding out for a better deal. Tired of the chase I had sought them out in person to determine their price with the aid of my telepathy. I was horrified to realise they actually spoke the truth. Pam had directed me to Godric’s direction that night mumbling that misery loved company.
He had offered me the aid of his glamour. At my explanation of my objection to its use he agreed it would be unfair. He promised me he would do everything in his power to return my house to me that didn’t involve involuntary coercion. I thanked him but didn’t think much would come of it at the time.
“How?” I finally asked when he didn’t seem to voluntarily divulge how he got my home back.
“It didn’t make sense,” he said thoughtfully. “I have been alive for over two millennia and I had never heard of a human to refuse untold riches. It was not till I went to look at your home that I smelled the magic that surrounded them. An exceptional caster had spelled them. It took me quite some time to find someone who could release them from that prison.”
Tears fell from my eyes knowing that my ancestral home was really mine again. I thanked him repeatedly and hugged him without thinking about it. He was so stiff in my embrace he made Pam look cuddly.
“I take it you like my gift then?” he chuckled softly. I could only answer with an enthusiastic nod as I searched out some tissues to dry my eyes. “I have to say these are the first time I witnessed happy tears. They are quite different.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his childish wonder. It amazed me he could still be taken by surprise after experiencing so much in all those years of his continued existence. I disappeared into the kitchen to return with a bottle of champagne and Royalty Blended. “We’re going to have a proper drink you and I,” I announced in my happiness. I ignored his hesitant look as I mixed him a cocktail of equal measures from both bottles in a champagne flute. Pam drank it often and named it a bloodini. I thought it sounded like a Houdini mishap.
He drank his concoction sipping politely whilst I happily allowed the delicate bubbles of champagne to dance around on my tongue. “We should have made a toast,” Godric remarked as the glasses stood empty on the table. Had he been any other person I would assume it was an indirect way of asking for another glass.
“I think there should be three present before it is considered proper,” I said remembering it vaguely from my grandmother’s teachings. I didn’t offer him another drink knowing he would decline. I filled my flute with a small sip and held it up to him knowing a lack of etiquette didn’t bother either of us. “To Godric. For proving to be the kindest man alive,” at the realisation of my gaff I added, “or undead.”
It was good to see him smile as I downed the fresh sip from its vessel to return it with my own. “Tell me Godric, what makes you smile? It is more than my happy tears.”
“I finally understand something I could not for over two millennia,” he said cryptically before disappearing from my sight in a blink of the eye. I blinked intentionally again to register that he had truly gone and it had not been a trick of my mind.
I resealed the Royalty Blended even though I knew I would most likely be tossing it out within 24 hours. I stuck a small spoon down the neck of the champagne bottle and placed both back in the fridge. The gift wrapping paper still lay strewn on the table. It wasn’t till I picked up the set of keys I saw the engraved key ring.
Back fair and square. -G.
I made a note to myself to apologise to Pam for my outburst. I was glad for not having Eric’s number. He’d probably run screaming in every other direction if he knew the real me. My heart cracked a little when I opened the sealed card that had foregone my notice earlier in the day.
On the thick card a small pencil drawing revealed two people who lay across a bed sleeping peacefully their hands entwined. The composition and shading reminded of a heart where the heads provided the rounded tops and the arms outlined the remaining contours. The resemblance to Eric and I was uncanny.
The card sat empty inside the only letter I found was an E on the bottom corner of the drawing. I looked in the envelope and found a few pieces of a once whole heart candy. They were the type my Gran always bought me for Valentine’s Day. I pieced it back together and read the offset typography.
I would have swooned over such a gesture when we first knew each other. Now I realised I was just as split into two as he was. There was the real me and the one he imagined me to be for years. An extension of my twenty three year old self. In each other’s mind neither one of has had aged a day.
I had met and entertained other men after his first disappearance. I soon found out it was a useless pursuit, none compared to the man I visited every Sunday. Even though I never knew him. I rejected his true self in favour of an empty void in the cold ground. The irony was not lost on me.
He hadn’t just been silent all this time. He had been awaiting my reply.
I felt like an utter asshole. My earlier happy tears could no longer claim to be the only ones present that night. I was being a coward because I feared what he would do to the bubble I had imagined us to be. I realised I had destroyed the one he carried for us with my continued procrastination.
Scarlett O’Hara proved to be an awful role model at the moment. Regarding her romantic history I should probably have known better.
I arranged for my florist to send a bouquet of fifteen of the green tinted white roses to Pam’s manor. The card was to simply carry my initials. I knew it strange to send a man flowers but it was how I had been communicating with him for years. It felt familiar. The number of roses was significant and I knew Pam would explain it if he didn’t know for himself. It expressed an apology that I did not have the guts to speak aloud to him yet.
My day was full with my charity work and the sun was already setting when I reached the drive of my old family home. Jason was waiting for me on the porch looking as eager as I. Our relationship had strained when I had been forced to put the house on the market. Somehow we had made it through and were closer than before.
We walked through the home that held so many important moments in time for us. I cried many tears at the familiar sights. The pantry door still showed the markings of our heights through our childhoods. Jason, Hadley and mine next to those of our parents and theirs. The kitchen carried the trenches where our Gran’s footsteps had ground into the grain of the wood. We laughed over the mysterious stain in Jason’s bedroom that still failed to disappear. Some paint colours were different but the previous tenants had miraculously changed very little. It felt like home again but it also didn’t.
“What are you gonna do with it sis?” Jason asked of me as we shared a beer in the empty living room. I hadn’t given it much thought. Before I just wanted it back the way it was. How it had always been. I would know where to place every single item of furniture and every knick knack back in its place. It would be a monument to my Gran’s extraordinary character lying untouched.
I had been planning to move out of Eric’s from the moment he reappeared in the flesh. I didn’t know if I wanted to live in the shadow of another again. Inserting myself in a life I didn’t lead in a town where few spared a nice thought of me. The thoughts had become more hostile with the growth of my fortune.
“Would you like to live here?” I asked conversationally. I never cared for it to belong to me. I cared for it to remain the homes of Stackhouses. I didn’t see myself sprouting any heirs anytime soon. I had considered doing it on my own for a while but recent circumstances had thwarted that.
“I never thought about it,” he returned honestly finishing up his beer. “Maybe.”
That was enough of an answer for me. I’d leave it for another day when I knew what would make sense. Jason offered to take me out to eat at Merlotte’s but I declined. It was one of the places I worked myself to the bone during all the trials and tribulations. I had seen enough of the place for a lifetime and I had unfinished business next door.
I hugged my brother goodbye and agreed to be meeting soon. He had been making good on his promise not to spend the money from his trust anymore. He grumbled about a lack of friends because of it. I let him know in no uncertain terms that they couldn’t be his friends if the money was what was keeping them around.
I pulled the single rose from the car and headed over to the cemetery. I knew it like the back of my own hand. I had spent hours as a child in it. Jason had always been wary but my Gran taught us there was more to fear in the living than in the dead. I wondered if she would still maintain that had she known of vampires.
She would undoubtedly have jumped at the chance of meeting them wanting to know their extensive histories as her own. She would probably end up categorising them as alive just as I had done with Godric the evening prior.
I sensed a void in my little corner of the graveyard. I had bumped into my nocturnal neighbour once or twice before but I knew it not to be him. I recognised his signature now and I took a deep breath before continuing on.
“Are you here to tell me it’s over?” he asked gesturing at the single black rose in my hands. I looked at him past the indifferent mask that all of his species seemed to carry so well. He was still hurting as was I. At least I knew the cause.
“In a sense,” I said softly as I kneeled down into the soft ground by his grave turning my back to him. “Yes.”
I pulled the relatively fresh bouquet of white roses from the stone and replaced it with the single dark bloom. I let the tears of the pain and grief of the preceding years fall from my eyes as I said my goodbyes. As I wiped the distress from my face I pulled my body up to face him again.
“I’m Sookie Stackhouse,” I said as I reached out my arm, “and you are?”
He hesitated a moment looking at my hand before taking it in his own.
“Eric,” he replied as he pulled my knuckles to his lips, kissing them gently with a hidden smirk. “Eric Northman.”