It took a while for me to find what I was looking for in the book of flower meanings. The whole thing was actually kind of fascinating. It never would have occurred to me that there was meaning behind the flowers Eric had sent me other than he knew he was up shit’s creek without a paddle.
Petunias were the flower of choice to respond to Eric’s hyacinths. I made sure the basket I picked wasn’t pink, and had it scheduled for delivery the next day. I included a note that said, “Nice try.”
I was lightheaded because I hadn’t eaten anything so I set my computer aside and went downstairs to find some food. Gran was in the kitchen and it looked like she was mixing biscuit dough in a bowl on the table.
“What are you making?” I asked her.
“Chicken stew and biscuits. Are you hungry?”
“Starving. I haven’t eaten since before work yesterday,” I told her.
“Good gracious, honey. Well get yourself a snack before you have a spell,” she said. “There’s some banana pudding in the fridge.”
“You’re telling me to spoil my supper?” I smiled at her.
“Well I don’t see the harm in it. Besides, what cures heartache better than banana pudding?”
“Gran, I’m fine,” I insisted as I opened the fridge. “I liked Eric a lot but I wasn’t in love with him.”
“But you were close to it.”
“Close doesn’t count.”
“Sookie, when it comes to matters of the heart it all counts. Every little thing you feel is going to stay with you no matter what. The feelings will pass but the memory remains,” Gran said in what I referred to as her ‘wise old owl’ tone.
I found the container of pudding and pulled it from the fridge. Gran may have had a point but that didn’t mean I had to forgive Eric right away, or even give him another chance. I was still too hurt or angry to even consider doing such a thing. He apologized with flowers but that meant little to me when he couldn’t look me in the eyes and admit that he was wrong.
While I spooned pudding into a bowl I thought about how safe I’d felt with him in sessions, or just in conversation. Opening up to him had been relatively easy for me, minus talking about Uncle Bartlett. Eric had taken care of me and lived up to his end of the bargain and then some in many ways.
But by failing to mention that he was a vampire all of that went out the window for me. It wasn’t just the vampire thing he’d lied about either. He had lied about his age, probably the wife and kids, maybe even about his business. I knew he had a boss somewhere, but he hadn’t bothered to mention her to me at any given point. Plus there was Callisto and the fact that I had taken his blood. What kind of long-term affects would that have on me? Judging by what Pam had said Eric hadn’t been completely truthful about the side effects of vampire blood either.
How was I ever supposed to trust him again?
I grabbed a box of Nilla Wafers from the pantry and added a few of those to the pudding I’d spooned up before I put the rest of the pudding away.
“So are you fixin’ to tell me why that young man of yours got into it with Sam Merlotte last night?” Gran asked.
“He didn’t. Sam attacked him for no reason, as far as I can tell,” I said as I grabbed a spoon.
“That doesn’t sound like Sam.”
“No, it doesn’t. Eric said there’s some bad blood between them because of previous dealings in business.”
“I’m sure it’s more than that.”
“So am I but Eric wouldn’t go into details.”
“Then get Sam to tell you. Might be pretty important.”
“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe I should just stay out of their business. If Eric wanted me to know he would have told me.”
“Maybe,” Gran said. “Or maybe he didn’t think you would understand. Sometimes that temper of yours blinds you to everything, Sookie. You’re so busy reacting that you forget to listen.”
I wanted to argue but that was exactly what Gran was talking about. I knew I could fly off the handle sometimes but in this instance I felt justified. If Gran knew the whole story she might understand better.
That got me thinking about the myths I’d heard about vampires and my mind reeled around to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and all of the vamp trivia I’d learned there. Vampires needed an invitation into a person’s home, right? Well I had invited Eric in. What was stopping him from just coming into my house at any time? Fuck.
I needed to tell Gran everything, no matter how crazy it made me sound. Well, she didn’t need to know about the sex stuff, but the reason why I broke up with Eric. She needed to be able to protect herself just in case Eric decided to break his promise about not hurting me.
“So did you find what you were looking for in that book?” Gran dumped the biscuit dough out onto the parchment paper to start cutting her rounds.
“I did, and Eric will be receiving a basket of petunias.”
Gran smiled at that and asked, “Are you sure this is something that can’t be forgiven, honey? You always seemed so happy when you were going off to meet him.”
“Gran, the things he lied about… I think you’d better sit down for this,” I sighed and pulled out s chair at the table to sit down too.
“Is he married?”
“I wish it was that simple,” I sighed again, and Gran stopped what she was doing but didn’t sit. “You’re going to think I’m insane for believing this. I doubted whether or not it was true myself, but Gran, Eric is a vampire.”
Gran’s eyes widened and said, “You’re right. That does sound like a load of horse puck.”
“At first I thought maybe he was just a little touched in the head, but there is some very compelling evidence to support his claim.”
“Like he’s got fangs, for one. He can put them up whenever he wants so until last night I’d never seen them. His skin is always cold unless we… that’s not important,” I blushed, so I’m sure Gran figured it out. “The most important thing is that he put my hand on his chest where his heart should have been beating and there was nothing, Gran. No bouncing under my palm, no sound under my ear when I listened. His chest was silent. He didn’t breathe, either. Not breathing would have made his pulse go faster but there was nothing. He’s not dead but he’s not alive either.”
Gran pulled out a chair and sat down. I couldn’t blame her. After a moment she asked, “Did he bite you, Sookie?”
“No, he healed me. Last night after Sam threw him out of the bar I walked Eric out to his car. He was kissing me goodbye when a wolf appeared out of nowhere. Eric tried to get me to go inside so I wouldn’t get hurt-”
“So of course you stayed put,” Gran cut me off. “Foolish girl.”
“Gran it was a big black wolf with razor sharp looking teeth. I wasn’t about to leave Eric alone with that thing! Plus I was afraid to move. I thought I was better off right where I was. But then Eric shoved me toward the door and the wolf attacked. It got Eric first and I probably should have gone inside for Sam’s gun but I couldn’t leave Eric. I ended up getting thrown toward a truck at one point and I bumped my head pretty hard on the bumper.
“It knocked me out for a few seconds and when I came to the wolf was pretty much on top of me, pinning me to the ground. Eric grabbed it by its neck to get it away from me, but rather than staying down like I should have, I got up to help Eric. The wolf was wiggling around and its paws were flailing all over and I got scratched. The claws ripped through my shirt and scratched my chest pretty deep,” I told her.
“My stars! Sookie did you go to the hospital? That head injury alone sounds pretty bad,” Gran said. She was right to be worried about me even though I was just fine.
I stood up, lifted my shirt and showed her that I was okay. I turned around slowly so she would see I didn’t have a mark on me.
“But how is that possible?” Gran asked.
I knew that even if I sounded crazy with what I was saying, she believed me. Jason was the wild storyteller in our family. He liked to make up his own details when he couldn’t remember the truth. So far he’d survived three shark attacks over at Harrison’s pond and he’d been struck by lightning twice. The lightning strikes might have explained a lot but they both supposedly happened on sunny days. That was my brother for you.
“Eric said that his blood heals humans. He says he’s more than 1,000 years old.”
Gran didn’t know what to think, as was obvious by her expression. If she thought that I was a little touched in the head she kept it to herself. Frankly I was still stuck on how I hadn’t figured it all out sooner.
“Do you care for him?” Gran asked me.
“I thought I did,” I admitted.
“Does he care for you?”
“Well, according to Pam, the woman he turned into a vampire 200 years ago, if he didn’t care I’d be dead because Pam woulda ripped my throat out,” I told Gran.
Her reaction was immediate and fiercely protective. “And Pam would have found herself with a suntan for the first time in two centuries.”
I smiled at the way Eric had once been so anxious to meet Gran, the source of my sass and wit. Of course that wasn’t happening now.
“She told me Eric wouldn’t allow it. Until last night I trusted him. I felt safe with him. I thought I might fall in love with him,” I explained to Gran. “But how do I get past something like that? Besides, what kind of future could we have together anyway? I want to get married, someday have babies. And if it’s true that Eric is more than 1,000 years old, what could he possibly find interesting about me?”
“Maybe he likes that you see the man and not just the fangs,” Gran suggested. “You wouldn’t want everyone to look at you with pity for the rest of your life if it was somehow obvious that you’d been abused.”
Gran was right about that. Eric said that normally he erased memories but he couldn’t do that with me, for some reason. I doubted I’d be able to look that up on the Internet since vampires weren’t supposed to be real. If I wanted to know more I knew who I was going to have to ask. I wondered if it was all a facade. Was he only nice to me because he couldn’t bite me without me knowing it? If he could erase my memories would he have treated me differently?
“You’ve a got a right to be upset, Sookie. Something like that is a pretty big thing to keep secret,” Gran agreed.
“But…” I knew there was more.
“But if you care for him try to work it out,” she advised.
“Gran, he’s a vampire! He’s not human.”
“But he was. And from all you’ve told me before he’s a functioning member of society with a job, house, car and he’s taken a shine to you. But if you decide to give him a chance you bring him around the house so he can pick his switch,” she said. Gran meant business about it, too.
I got up to give Gran a hug. Her advice was good. I didn’t know if I’d be willing to give Eric another chance but thanks to Gran I was at least thinking about it.
The next day I went back to work. It was the lunch shift and I got there a few minutes early in the hopes of talking to Sam privately. He was behind the bar putting up the liquor order and checking his inventory when I walked in.
“Morning, Sam,” I said softly when I stepped inside.
He froze for a few seconds before turning to face me with a sheepish, guilty look on his face. He set down the bottles in his hands and came around the bar and sat on one of the stools. I closed the distance between us to join him on the next stool over.
“I’m sorry about the way I reacted the other night, Sook. I don’t know what came over me. I wasn’t thinking clearly. All I know is the second he walked in I could smell the vampire-”
I gasped and my eyes went wide. He could smell a vampire? What the fuck? How was that possible?
“You what?” I asked.
“He still didn’t tell you?” Sam growled low in his throat and it reminded me of… No. No, it wasn’t possible.
“The wolf,” I whispered and Sam’s reaction was all the confirmation I needed.
“He told you about that?”
“You were the wolf?” I demanded and jumped off the stool. Sam hung his head. “You could have killed me, Sam! Do you have any idea how bad that head injury could have been? If I had fallen differently…”
“I never meant for you to get hurt, Sookie,” he said sincerely.
“Sounds like the mantra of abusive rednecks all over these parts.”
“Will you please just let me explain?” he asked, sounding very much the same as Eric had only Sam was my boss. If I didn’t want to listen it would mean quitting my job and I couldn’t afford to do that.
“Fine,” I huffed.
“I could smell the vampire because I’m what’s known as a Shapeshifter. That means I can turn into any animal I want, anytime I want. It’s not the same as a werewolf. I chose a wolf because they’re powerful and intimidating. I thought if you saw a wolf you would run and leave Eric alone. When you passed out I was trying to protect you by pinning you down like that. I didn’t want you to get up and hurt yourself even worse because you were dizzy or something,” Sam explained.
“Then why did you claw me like that? I thought I was going to bleed to death.”
“It was an accident,” he insisted. “I was going for Eric but you hot in the way. When he threw me I hit a tree. It turned ms human again. I broke three ribs from that throw.”
To prove it, Sam stood up and lifted his shirt. His ribs were bandaged all the way around his chest.
“Oh Jesus, Sam,” I muttered.
This was all… Was everyone I knew some sort of secret species?
“Was it worth it?” I demanded.
“Sook, you deserved to know what he was. Vamps are dangerous and I don’t want you getting hurt because he’s too dishonest to tell you the truth,” Sam rationalized.
“Eric’s not the one that turned into a deadly animal and almost killed me, Sam! Eric is the one that saved my life when you thought you’d take things into your own hands,” I glared at him. “God, and I thought Eric was the one I couldn’t trust.”
Sam winced at that. He hung his head again and quietly said, “You don’t know he hasn’t glamoured you.”
“Yes, actually, I do. He can’t do it. He’s tried and it doesn’t work.” I hated saying that out loud because it sounded as awful as it was.
“How do you know that for sure?” Sam asked.
“Because if he could just wipe my memory why would he let me keep my memories from that night? Why not just wipe the slate clean so he could have a fresh start? I broke up with him that night, Sam. I’m sure that makes you very happy but it makes me pretty damn miserable,” I said as my eyes welled with tears. “Why did you have to get involved, huh? What gave you the right to do that? Were you really so jealous of Eric that you thought if you ruined my relationship that I’d finally see you the way you want me to?”
Sam looked at me like I’d just junk punched him and verbally that was probably true. I didn’t feel sorry for it, though. Sam had backed Eric into a corner. In my opinion he was lucky he wasn’t dead.
“You know I always knew you had a selfish streak to you. With Jason being your brother and all I assumed it had to be a mile wide sometimes, but I never thought it was that deep, too,” Sam said to me.
“Fuck you, Sam Merlotte! You almost get me killed and break up my relationship and you want me to thank you for it? Don’t you dare talk to me about being selfish when the only person you were looking out for the other night was yourself!” I yelled at him.
Sam eased off the stool and said, “If that’s the way you feel then maybe it’s best you don’t work here anymore.”
“You’re firing me on top of everything else? Your little plan didn’t end with me running into your arms so I lose my job, too?” I glared at him. I wanted to slap him.
Unfuckingbelievable! I’d been working for Sam for a long time. I was the most reliable waitress he had, but if this was the way he wanted it, then fine. I pulled my keys out of my bag and took the bar key off my king. I slammed it on the bar top.
“Consider me resigned, Sam. You can mail my last check,” I said and then stormed out of the bar.
So far it just wasn’t my week.