Chapter 28

Strictly out of curiosity I researched the phrase ‘non sibi’ when I got home. I learned that it was ‘not for self’ in Latin. I wanted to ask Gran where the talisman had come from but she was at one of her DGD meetings. They were planning a trip up to Pennsylvania to visit some battlegrounds there so I was sure Gran would get home late.

I looked to see if there were other talismans like mine, but I couldn’t find one. Part of me was elated to know it was one of a kind, but the downside meant that I would never know much about it. Maybe, if I ever got it back, I would take it to an appraiser or a historian to see what they could tell me about the necklace.

Gran gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday and all she ever told me was that it had been given to her for her to keep for me. She was supposed to keep it until my sixteenth birthday. At first I’d been afraid it was a gift from Uncle Bartlett, but Gran had assured me that wasn’t the case. When I asked her who had given her the necklace she never would tell me.

I decided in the morning I was going to demand it. If Callisto was off consulting with former oracles and current heads of vampire state, then it seemed fair to assume it was an object of value. The strange thing was that I suddenly felt naked without it, like something was missing. I told myself that I was just being silly. It was just a necklace.

All the same when I went to bed that night I had a strange dream. In it I was wearing a dress very similar to the one I’d seen Callisto in. My hair was elaborately styled in a fancy up do with lots of curls and a crown of sunflowers sat on my head. My feet were bare and I was standing in a lovely meadow. The sun was warm on my shoulders and I felt safe.

A few clouds passed over my head and I decided to lie down in the grass. When I did it tickled on a gentle way, the way yarn would, instead of poking at me. My eyes closed and I bathed in the warm light. I don’t know how long I stayed there but when my eyes opened flowers had sprung up around me in the most vibrant colors.

I sat up slowly and then stood. A pond appeared in the distance and there was a raven there, like on my talisman, plucking its own feathers and giving them to its young. I stepped closer to the bird, and as I did more and more clouds filled the sky. Thunder started to rumble and just as I was getting to the water’s edge I was out of the beautiful meadow and instead I found myself standing near the bridge my parents’ car had been trapped on the night they died.

Rain began to fall at an alarming rate of speed. Water rose in the creek very quickly and then a pair of headlights came into view. My parents. I started to run toward them, hoping to tell them to turn around, but before I could get to them I was grabbed around my waist and spirited away just as a large wave of water came from out of nowhere to wash away their car. I fought against the hold on me and when I turned to see who had saved me from being swept away I saw Eric’s face. Without warning he kissed me.

I kissed him back. My feet touched the ground and I was back in the meadow. I was alone.

“Sookie?” I heard my name being called. “Sook, wake up.”

My eyes fluttered open and Jason was standing over my bed.

“What?” I asked him, feeling all dazed by my dream.

“Where’s Gran?”

“I don’t know,” I rubbed my eyes, “You just woke me up.”

“Well she ain’t here.”

“What day is it?”

“Friday,” Jason looked at me funny. “What’s with you?”

“I’m not fully awake yet, Jason!” I snapped at him. Plus I hadn’t had my coffee yet, so expecting me to fire on all cylinders was a big mistake. “What’s got your panties all in a wad anyway?”

If he came over and woke me up just because he was hoping Gran would fix his breakfast I was going to give him the biggest purple nurple he’d ever gotten in his life.

“I got into it with Dawn again last night,” he admitted with a pissed off pout on his face. Considering my brother was inching closer and closer to thirty, he didn’t look much over nineteen or twenty, and that was saying something since he didn’t take the best care of himself. Come to think of it, Daddy had always looked younger than he was, too.

“You two finally pull the plug on this nonsense relationship?” I asked and tried not to sound too hopeful about it.

“I asked her to marry me,” Jason said.

Oh hell.

“Boy, you’re lucky Gran isn’t here or she’d whoop you so hard your grandkids would feel it,” I shook my head.

“Gran likes Dawn,” he argued.

“Jason,” I tilted my head.

“She’s had her over for dinner,” he said.

“Jase, honey, having Dawn over for supper every couple of months doesn’t mean Gran would be thrilled about you marrying the girl. Besides, do you even love her?”

“Well you know, Sook, I been thinkin’ about that,” he said in all seriousness, like he really never had considered the possibility until recently. “And I like Dawn a whole lot. We got good chemistry and we like a lot of the same things.”

“Yeah, but do you love her?”

“I know I don’t want her seein’ anyone else.”

“Do. You. Love. Her?”

“I’m tryin’ to.”

“Oh, Jason,” I shook my head. “Does she love you?”

“I think so,” he said, but didn’t sound too sure about it.

“Did she say yes?” I prayed at least one of them was clearheaded enough to make the right decision.

“She said she needed to think on it.”

“Please tell me you didn’t give her a ring,” I stared up at him. “So help me God if you put Mama’s ring on her finger, I’LL beat your ass.”

Jason smirked, clearly convinced that he couldn’t possible get his ass kicked by a girl. Normally he was right, but at the moment I still had vampire blood in me.

“I’d like to see you try,” Jason challenged.

I didn’t respond verbally. Instead I launched myself at him. Jason laughed as he fell back on the floor. I played the weakling for a few seconds as we wrestled, but in a few fluid moves I had Jason on his stomach with him folded into a hogtie position.

“Shit, Sook, how’d you do that?”

“Get the ring back before Gran finds out, or this is gonna feel like a Swedish massage,” I told him.

“I can’t just ask for the ri- Ah, ah! Okay, okay, don’t break my damn leg!”

I smiled and released his limbs before getting off of him. Jason lay there whimpering and rubbing his various parts. It was alarming how clueless my brother was sometimes. What wasn’t surprising was that he’d pick a wife solely because he liked the sex.

“What happened to not sticking our noses in each other’s relationships?” Jason asked as he sat up.

“This is different!” I argued. “Jason, you’re talking about marrying a girl you’ve never been serious with until you popped the question. You don’t know if you love her, or if she loves you. You’ve never been faithful to anything except for Hoyt and football.”

“Don’t forget my truck,” he smiled, and then threw a pillow at him.

“This isn’t a joke, Jason! Marriage is supposed to be for the rest of your life and not until it isn’t fun anymore.”

“I ain’t stupid, Sook,” he narrowed his eyes.

“Then why did you ask Dawn to marry you if you don’t lo-” I stopped. No. No, no, no. “How far along is she?”

Jason looked shocked and then guilty and then like he didn’t know what I was talking about.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

I looked at him with disbelief. My brother was a real dumdum sometimes.

“Don’t marry her, Jason. It’s a huge mistake to marry her.”

“Why? Because you don’t approve?”

“Because it’s not what you want. Dawn isn’t the girl you want to marry. She’s the girl you like to fight, make up with and fight with some more.”

“Sounds like a marriage to me,” he shrugged.

I groaned in frustration and fell face first on my bed.

“Go home, Jase. I’ll tell Gran you’re looking for her when she gets home,” I said.

Jason grumbled his way out of my bedroom, limping slightly thanks to being tackled by yours truly. That’d teach him. Well, no, probably not. He’d only remember it as long as he was limping. What my brother lacked in brains he made up for in looks, and that was what got him into so much trouble with women. The only part of his brain that ever seemed to fully function was the part that told him how to get laid.

If I was right and Dawn was pregnant, Jason was in a whole mess of trouble. I wasn’t going to say so out loud, but I seriously had to wonder if Jason was even the baby’s father. It wasn’t like either of them was monogamous, so there was always the possibility that the baby wasn’t my brothers. I didn’t know the other men that Dawn messed around with, but I knew why she would pick him to be the baby’s father, regardless of whether or not the kid was actually his.

For all of his hair-brain ideas, questionable decisions where women are concerned and inability to make a commitment that lasted longer than an orgasm, Jason wasn’t completely irresponsible. He had a good job working as a supervisor for the parish road crew, which meant he got vacation time, sick pay, insurance, a retirement fund and a few other perks. On top of all that, he made pretty decent money. Jason had also inherited our parents’ house with the understanding that someday I would take over the farmhouse that had been handed down from one family member to another. Jason was also a high school graduate with two years of college under his belt (and he only dropped out because he lost his football scholarship after a bad knee injury that ended his career).

Minus his ability to stay faithful for very long, my brother was considered quite the catch around here to girls my age. We all have our pros and cons to us, and maybe because I was his sister I saw things a little differently than most people did. I’d known Jason my whole life, and I was privy to a lot of things I knew he didn’t share with other people. Maybe I didn’t have a right to tell him what to do with his love life, but I couldn’t keep quiet when I was sure he was making a big mistake. Marrying Dawn was a whopper.

After I was sure Jason was gone I got out of bed to start my day. It was a little strange that Gran was gone so early, seeing as it wasn’t even eight in the morning yet, but it wasn’t unheard of. It was entirely possible she had a full day of visiting friends on her social calendar. At her age it wasn’t unusual for her to spend her day going from hospital room to hospital room, checking up on someone who’d just had a heart attack, stroke or had broken a bone or needed replacement surgery of some kind.

What was unusual was that there wasn’t a note on the kitchen table like there usually was. Gran was good about letting me know where she was going and when she would be back, and the fact that I’d fallen asleep before she got home the night before made me a bit nervous. While I was waiting for my coffee to brew I heard a car coming up the gravel driveway. I figured it was Gran so I started pulling things out for breakfast. There were no clean dishes in the rack by the sink so I was sure she hadn’t eaten before she left.

It was possible she’d just gone into town to run some errands. Her car didn’t pull around the side of the house, so my heart sank when I heard footsteps coming up from the front steps. It wasn’t Gran. The doorbell rang and I rushed to the front door. If it was someone from the sheriff’s office I was going to have the biggest spell of my life.

Never in my life was I so glad to see Bobby Burnham standing at the door, holding a big bouquet of flowers. Judging by his nasty attitude every time I saw him, I had to wonder how much it pissed him off to always be delivering gifts to me every time he came.

“Good morning, Bobby,” I slapped on a smile just to piss him off even more.

“Here,” he thrust the flowers at me. “These are Anemones, courtesy of Mr. Northman.”

“Thank you, Bobby,” I said as I took the flowers.

He didn’t even wait to see if I had anything else to say before he turned and left the porch. What a jerk.

The flowers were unscented but they were very pretty with their big, white pedals and black stamen at the center of the bud. I headed upstairs to see what the meaning behind them was, and when I found their entry in Gran’s book, my heart clenched a little.

Refusal and abandonment—forsaken.

Before I could get too bogged down with feeling guilt for walking out on Eric without returning his sentiment the night before, I remembered that he was the reason we were in this mess in the first place. The flowers he’d sent were lovely and all, but if he was serious about wanting me back then he was going to have to do something more than send me flowers every day.

At the same time, I decided it couldn’t hurt to let him know that he wasn’t the only one that was suffering. I did some looking around in the book before ultimately settling on marigolds, which were a symbol of sacred affection, cruelty, grief and jealousy. Part of me worried that by sending flowers back and playing Eric’s game I was giving him false hope that someday we might get back together. If only I was good about letting someone else get the last word in an argument, I’d be much better off.

Only instead of having the flowers delivered to Eric I decided it was time to pack up the rest of the things he’d given me over the course of our short relationship, and send them back along with the marigolds. I tried not to get nostalgic or reminiscent as I bagged up Eric’s gifts. I told myself that there was no reason to get maudlin. We hadn’t even been together for that long.

I got everything packed up, including that special toy Eric had given me, and put the bag by the door for me to take to him. Downstairs I made myself some breakfast and drank my morning coffee. The fact that I still hadn’t heard from Gran made me a little nervous, but I let it slide. If something had happened to her I had no doubt that somehow Maxine Fortenberry, the town busybody, would have gotten wind of it already. So far the phone hadn’t rung yet, so everything had to be fine.

After breakfast I went upstairs to shower and get dressed. I had to go to Shreveport to pick up the flowers since I could only find them at one florist. They were a little past season so they weren’t easy to find. I got dressed in a pair of comfy old jeans that fit me perfectly, and a chocolate brown v-neck sweater. I was a little annoyed that Callisto was still holding my necklace hostage, but it wasn’t like I could go after her to get it back.

All the things Pam said the night before about Oracles of Delphi sounded like a bunch of malarkey, but given that I now knew there were vampires and shapeshifters in the world it wasn’t so hard to believe that there could still be oracles, too. What I did wonder, was what sort of thing Callisto was if she could just go to this ancient woman to ask her questions. The whole thing was convoluted and a little difficult to make much sense of. It all hinged on whether or not I could get myself to believe that all of these mythological creatures really had been in existence all along.

Humans were good at seeing what they wanted to see and blocking out the rest. I knew that from personal experience thanks to Eric. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had ignored all the red flags that had risen one after another. I had seen what I wanted to see and not what was. There had been moments when I’d questioned things, but never once did I press him to explain. Instead I just let things drift along as they were because I was happy and I didn’t want to rock the boat.

He still lied to me but I had been complacent with it all. Blaming Eric for everything was the easy way out, and it wasn’t the way Gran had raised me. I was responsible too, in some capacity. With that in mind I left Gran a note in case she came home while I was out, and then picked up the bag with Eric’s presents in it so I could head out to Shreveport. I wanted to make sure the flowers were delivered to him before sundown.

 

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