When I got home Gran was still gone, as I expected her to be since she was visiting friends in the hospital. I didn’t know what to do with myself. It felt like everything was being stripped away from me, and things had been going so well. I was happy—maybe too happy—and it felt like I was being punished for it. What had I done that was so wrong?
I couldn’t afford to stay unemployed so the first thing I did was go up to my room and change clothes. I wasn’t going to be needing my Merlotte’s uniforms anymore, that was for damn sure. Sam could go to hell for all I cared at that moment. I stripped out of my clothes, gathered up all of my Merlotte’s t-shirts and put them in a pile to take down for Gran to cut into rags.
Even if Sam apologized I wasn’t going back to working for him. I didn’t need all that bullshit. Sam had no right getting involved in my personal life that way. Friend or not, there were some lines you just didn’t cross. He had taken my life into his own hands, thinking he knew what was best for me. If he was so concerned for my safety or welfare he should have said something instead of going over my head like that.
I wasn’t an idiot, but between him and Eric I sure felt like one.
I put on a comfy pair of sweatpants and one of Jason’s old Bon Temps football t-shirts that I’d been wearing to sleep in or on laundry day since I was sixteen. I brought the computer downstairs with me and parked myself at the dining room table with a legal pad I found in one of the buffet table drawers. Step one was reviewing the resume I’d written up before. I had a college degree, dammit.
There had to be somewhere that was looking for someone to do something as menial as secretarial work, and at that point I was so discouraged that I didn’t care if my new job took me out of Bon Temps altogether. Hell, getting out of this little backwater town might do me some good. I changed my dates of employment for Merlotte’s, and then started to do some job searching.
I found a position with the parish that was open. The Hall of Records was looking for a new clerk. The job would mostly be filing and pulling things for zoning board meetings and things like that. It sounded simple enough so I sent in a resume with my fingers crossed, hoping I’d get a phone call out of it at least. I didn’t stop searching there. I let my fingers do some walking and looked at jobs in Ruston, Monroe, Minden and even Shreveport to start with.
While it was true I didn’t really have any administrative skills on my resume, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to greet customers, answer phones, sort mail or maintain office supplies. I was capable of doing all of those things. I as friendly enough to be the first contact a visitor had to a business, and maybe it would be the foot in the door I needed for when something more my style opened up in the business.
By three o’clock I had applied for more than a dozen jobs. Having a cell phone would have been helpful right then, but I wasn’t sorry I’d given it back to Eric. In fact, I needed to box up everything he’d given me and send it back to his house. Maybe I’d drive it over there during the day and leave it on his doorstep. I sure as shit wasn’t going to pay shipping costs and I didn’t want to run into Madame Raven at the club if I dropped it off myself.
With my luck that would be the one time Eric was there at the door. I didn’t want to see him. That reminded me I needed to change the wallpaper on my desktop. There was a picture of us together that I had randomly taken one night when we were lying in front of his fireplace. It was sort of silly, now that I thought about it, and a little sophomoric. I’d always thought that vampires couldn’t be photographed and there he was, staring back at me from my laptop.
My heart clenched to look at the picture and I knew it needed to go. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do the necessary right clicking on my desktop to get into the controls for it. Maybe just one more day, and then I’d make it disappear.
I didn’t have to get over Eric all at once, right? It had taken time for me to get over Beau, and our relationship had been rocky toward the end. With Eric it went from sixty to zero in a matter of seconds. Yes, I had missed signs that something wasn’t quite normal with him, but that was part of what falling in love was sometimes, wasn’t it? Not that I was in love with Eric, but I knew I would have fallen soon enough.
The best guy I ever dated ended up being a fucking vampire.
Suddenly my life felt like a poorly written teen saga, and that was the most sickening part. I was just about to close my computer when I heard someone coming up the driveway. I assumed it was Gran until the car parked in the front of the house. Moments later the doorbell rang, so it definitely wasn’t Gran. I got up to see who it was, and groaned internally when I saw Bobby Burnham standing on the other side of the door. What the fuck did he want? Maybe he came to collect the rest of the gifts Eric had given me. If that was true, he could just wait on the porch while I collected them all.
“What?” I barked when I opened the door.
Bobby thrust a pot of mixed colored flowers at me. They were pretty, but hardly my taste.
“Mr. Northman has instructed me to inform you that these are mixed color Zinnias, and that he received your Petunia’s. They are currently residing in his library and will remain there until he has no recourse but to throw them away. Do you have a response?” Bobby asked in a remarkably haughty tone of voice.
“As a matter of fact, I do. Wait here please,” I said, and then closed the door. I set the zinnias down on the little table near the door and then ran upstairs. I grabbed the first gift he’d sent me, stuffed it all into a bag and brought it downstairs for Bobby. I opened the door and held the bag out to him. “Please return these things to Mr. Northman. I won’t be needing them anymore.”
“As you wish,” Bobby nodded, and then turned to go.
I hated to admit it, but I was curious about what the zinnias meant. All the same I refused to dash up to my room again to consult the book I’d borrowed from Gran. When I got to it, I got to it. I closed down my computer and went to the kitchen to start getting things ready for supper instead.
“Sookie, you’re home,” Gran said with surprise when she came in through the kitchen door just after five.
“I got fired,” I said bluntly, and Gran stopped in her tracks.
“Fired? What in the world for? You’ve only called in sick a handful of times since you started working for Sam. Heck, he had to send you home last winter when you insisted you were fine,” Gran recalled. Sam did have to send me home. I was running a fever of 102 and I felt like death on fire, but I’d gone to work until Sam told me to go because I was scaring the customers away.
I’d been out for three days after that with the worst case of the flu I’d ever had. It got to the point where Gran thought she might need to run me up to the hospital if my fever didn’t break. I’d even spent those few days in my childhood bedroom where Gran could keep a better eye on me. She’d waited on me hand and foot, waking me up every few hours to help me to the bathroom, get me to drink something or to take more medicine. Miraculously, Gran never caught what I had and I’d been worried to high heaven that she’d catch it.
“I suppose you could say he fired me for sassing him,” I admitted, and Gran was immediately ready to start lecturing me for my forked tongue and loose lips but I continued, “I found out why him and Eric don’t get along. Turns out that Sam isn’t quite normal either, and he could smell that Eric was a vampire.”
Anything Gran had a mind to say was gobsmacked right out of her head. It took Gran a moment to start moving again, and when she did she went straight for a chair at the table. I rinsed my hands in the sink and went over to join her.
“What do you mean about Sam not being normal?” she asked.
I relayed the conversation to her, making sure to let her know what Sam had feelings for me—not that she was surprised to hear that part. To me it all boiled down to jealousy. Maybe Sam did think he was protecting me by forcing Eric to be honest, but he could have killed me in the process. He clearly hadn’t thought out his actions very well.
“That boy,” Gran shook her head. “I oughta go over there and make him pick a switch, too.”
I smiled and said, “I think his broken ribs are reminder enough that he messed up, Gran. Besides, now he’s down the best waitress he’s ever had. That’s probably punishment enough.”
“I know the Lord says to turn the other cheek when someone does you wrong, but I really have a mind to wring that boy’s neck. What was he thinking doing that? Was he trying to get himself killed?” Gran’s neck was starting to get red as she got angrier. Usually I only saw that happen when she heard Jason did something foolish.
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “But I gave him back his keys and when I got home I started applying for jobs again. Working for Sam was only supposed to be a temporary thing, so maybe this is for the best. I didn’t want to work there forever anyway.”
“Of course not, but it was a decent enough job that paid your bills,” Gran said. “It’d be nice to have something new before you gave up the old.”
“I agree with you but it isn’t like I had a choice,” I said.
Gran nodded her agreement about that, and then to my surprise leaned over to give me a big hug. I hadn’t realized I’d needed one but as soon as her arms wrapped around my neck I burst into tears. All of the stress in the last few days finally hit me and all I could do was cry about it. Gran didn’t raise me to be a Pitiful Pearl, but she’d also said there was nothing wrong with having a good cry now and then. Sometimes it unclogged the soul to make room for happier things.
She stroked my hair and even hummed one of her favorite hymns while she rocked me back and forth until my tears dried up. When I was finished having my hysterics, as she sometimes called them, Gran handed me a napkin from the holder at the center of the table so I could mop up my face.
“You’ll find where you’re meant to be, sugar,” Gran assured me as I wiped up my tears. “Maybe it’s time you move on from here.”
“I’ve thought about it, Gran, but I can’t leave you alone here,” I said.
“Horse puck!” she shot me down right quick. “First of all, I’m no invalid. Second of all, your brother is just a few miles away. He’s not as reliable as you are, but he knows I’ll whoop him good if he breaks a promise to me. Third, you’re a grown woman, Sookie, and you should see what else is out in the world. You’ve got the education, the smarts and the desire to make something of your life that doesn’t just revolve around making the world’s best cookies or runnin’ your babies to pee wee football games.
“Take advantage of being young, unattached and childless while you can. You might just find the man you’re meant to be with. Then you can settle down and have the things you’ve dreamed about, and I don’t think you’re going to find them while you’re reading on my porch swing,” Gran advised.
“Has anyone ever told you that it’s annoying how right you are most of the time?” I asked her.
“Not unless they wanted a taste of my wooden spoon on their backside,” Gran winked at me.
Maybe Gran was right. Maybe it was time to move on from Bon Temps and see what else the world had in store for me.
“Gran, Eric sent me more flowers today,” I told her.
“What’d he send?”
“Mixed color zinnias,” I told her, and she smiled. “What’s it mean?”
“Thoughts of absent friends,” she said after a moment.
Gran wasn’t the swoony, romantic type generally speaking, but I could tell that she approved of Eric communicating his feelings in flowers. It was an old fashioned way of courting a girl, and that was something Gran would always approve of. She patted my hand and then got up to see what I had cooking on the stove for supper.
Meanwhile, I sat there trying to figure out if I should keep replying to Eric’s floral statements or if it was best to just nip it in the bud.