Close to Dead

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Chapter 30: Don’t Let the Bitches get you Down

Nothing would ever be the same again. Somehow, I knew it to be true. I guess I always knew it, but I had always been able to deny it until now. Now, it was bare, naked, and staring me straight in the eye. The truth. The future. Wait … this was how I started this story, so surely I couldn’t finish it the same way. I mean, what would be the point? Besides, I no longer cared if things were the same. Who wanted things to remain the same? Not me. I craved change. I swear I did.

True, the same sentiment remained: nothing would ever be the same again. It was still staring me in the eye, the truth, ugly though it might be, and the future, a mere phantom of unknown things. They were still pulling on me, every which way, but for once, I wasn’t afraid. I guess things had changed.

After I placed Hunter’s picture on the mantle, I began to cry. I’m a woman, I do that sometimes, so sue me. It was close to my time of the month, and I’ve been very ‘weepy’ lately anyway. I wondered if the little boy was okay. Here I was, in my heart of hearts, a mother without a little boy, and he was a little boy without a mother. Life sure was unfair sometimes.

I walked toward the foyer, took my coat off the hook by the door, and I stepped outside. The sky had that winter look about it … almost evening, sun hiding behind clouds, more dark than light. I didn’t slip my coat on my arms. I sat on the steps, with the coat over my legs, and I laid my head on my lap and I continued to cry. Sometimes all we needed was a good cry, right? It was good to cry sometimes. Purge your soul and all that crap.

I recalled how Eric told me that I made things more difficult for myself than they needed to be, and you know what, he was right. I hate it when he’s right. Here I was mourning something I would never have (a son and a normal life), and in the same breath, I was practically throwing out something just as good, that was right in my lap, because … well, I don’t know why I was doing it. Eric was a part of my life, good or bad, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, with a marriage license or not. Vampire politics aside, I was trying to make him deny what he was, telling him that if he loved me, he wouldn’t include me in his life, yet the next moment, I would become upset with him when he hid things from me, or if he didn’t include me in his life. It was a paradox, I tell you. On the other hand, maybe not. I might not know the meaning of the word.

I wasn’t fair to him. He said loving me was difficult. He was right, and that wasn’t fair of me. I dried my tears from my cheeks and rubbed my eyes, even as I heard my phone ringing. It was Eric calling me back. I knew it was, and I knew he would. He would always call me back. I needed to realize that fact.

Instead of answering the call, I went inside, changed my clothes to something very nice, did my hair and makeup, and when it was full dark, I got in my old car and started toward Shreveport.

As I drove, I thought of all the other things that Eric had said to me concerning our relationship. I thought about the talk we had regarding marriage, children and minivans.

Flashback:

Do you think that I don’t want what other women want?” I asked pointedly.

I think you are not like other women, hence the reason I love you,” he answered succinctly. “I know you want what other women want, however, and I can’t give you those things, so that is why I can never seriously ask you to marry me, because I doubt if you could ever seriously say yes.”

Well, that rather said it all, didn’t it? I frowned and without any words coming to the forefront of my mind, I did the first thing I could think to do. I reached behind me, grabbed my pillow, and hit him on the face. “That’s what you think, Eric the big, bad vampire!”

He sat up and said, “That’s what I know, Sookie the small, good human!” He took his pillow and hit me over the head.

Hey!” I shouted.

We both stared at each other and then he smiled. “Sookie, you know that I can never be human again.”

Well, duh,” I replied, eloquently, I might add.

I could never give you certain things that a human husband could give you,” he added.

I brought my knees up to my chin to rest my cheek on them, and turned my face toward the wall, away from him. “I know.”

Things like summer vacations at the beach,” he said.

Right, vacations,” I said softly.

Or Minivans,” he said.

No Minivans,” I repeated.

Or children,” he said.

I took a deep breath. I didn’t repeat that one. His voice was kind and gentle. “I’ve been married before, Sookie. I’ve had children. I’ve experienced these things, you haven’t, and if you were to marry me, you never would. It’s a lot to consider, and a lot to ask of you, so that is why I have not considered asking you to marry me seriously, because I suppose I know, seriously, what your answer would be, and I do have my pride.”

I turned my face slowly toward him. “But I do love you, Eric. I don’t know what I want.”

How unfair of me! He was ready to give it all to me, except for the children part, which he literally couldn’t give to me, and I had the gall to tell him that I didn’t know what I wanted! I was such a fool.

Who’s to say that even if I hadn’t met Eric, or, even if I didn’t remain with him, that I would meet someone, get married, and have babies? Just because I had childhood dreams that included these things, didn’t mean they would have automatically have happened for me! I used to dream about being a fairy princess, too … oh wait, that one turned out to be real.

I also don’t know why I worried so much about money. Eric had plenty of money, yet I talked about how I had my pride, and I couldn’t take his money. Yet, according to Bill, my great-grandfather Niall left me a butt-load of money, with Bill as trustee, so I really needn’t worry about that. I could do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do. Unbelievably, I always thought it would be nice to open my own store, a gift shop, a craft store, or maybe even a bookstore. I might have to look into that.

I was almost to Fangtasia and I still didn’t know what I wanted to say to Eric. I knew one thing I would tell him was that I finally wanted to go to his house. It seemed to be something that was important to him. He asked me why it was that I had never asked to go there, and the truth was, as lame as it sounded, it never occurred to me that he would want me there. I always thought he would feel like I was a bother, but, apparently, it was something he thought about. He even asked me about it, that night at Bill’s house.

Flashback:

Did you like coming here, to Bill’s house?”

Yes, I guess,” I responded.

Does it seem strange to you that you’ve never been to my house?” he asked intensely.

I looked at his large hand as it covered both of mine. “I think it’s sort of strange,” I finally answered.

Why haven’t you ever been to my house, Sookie?” he asked.

I look over at the other wall, to avoid his stare. “You’ve never invited me.” That sounded feeble, even to me.

Where do I even live?” His voice was silky. I looked at him. “You don’t know, do you? Did you ever come to Bill’s house without being invited?”

Yeah, sure,” I shrugged a shoulder. I suddenly felt corrosive with guilt, and I wasn’t entirely certain why. “Eric, let’s take care of one of our problems at a time, okay? If we get out of this unscathed, I’ll come to visit you, and I’ll even bring you a house warming present, like a nice bundt cake or something, or maybe a fern.”

Do you think you would ever be happy with me, just me and you together, at my house, or yours, just being together?” he asked, his blue eyes watchful. Suddenly, all bravado was gone. He was just Eric. Just Eric.

He reminded me of the Eric that I first fell in love with, the one that I found wandering barefoot during the middle of the night, in the middle of January, after that witch cursed him. The Eric who had forgotten who he was. It was easier to love that Eric. Did that mean that I loved a fake Eric? Was I in love with the thought of a man who wasn’t even real? This Eric was complicated. This Eric had so many complications in his life that I merely felt like one more.

I started to cry. “I do love you.” Again, it didn’t answer his question, exactly, but it was the truth, and it was the way I felt. He pulled me over to his lap, and rocked me back and forth, giving me comfort and reassurance. “I don’t know what else to say, Eric. I would love to be able to have a normal life with you. I realize I might never get everything that I’ve always dreamt of: a little ranch style house, green shutters, a red door. Pink rosebushes in front, a little blond baby, who looks just like you, playing in the yard, a dog, a cat, a floral couch with fluffy pillows, but I’m not sure that matters anymore.”

Don’t forget the minivan,” he added.

I laughed, even as I cried. “Right, no minivan, but Eric, I really mean this from the bottom of my heart, I love you, and I’ll support you the best I can, but you have to start being honest with me. You have to start trusting me, and you have to make me a promise that maybe someday we might have somewhat of a normal life, if we are going to have a life together.”

He seemed circumspect, the way he dropped my hand and stood. “You’ll never have a normal life with me, but I’m selfish, and I won’t give you up no matter what, even if it means no ranch house, no rosebushes, no little blond baby, who looks just like you not me, no cat, no flowery sofa with puffy pillows …”

Fluffy pillows,” I corrected.

Fluffy pillows, and no minivan, but dammit, Sookie, what I do promise you is a life full of living, a life full of love, a life with me, forever, if you want, or at least, as long as we both shall live.” I stood up and threw my arms around him. He whispered in my ear, “When this is over, will you come to my house for a conventional date? I’m asking, will you accept?”

Oh, Eric,” I said frantically, pain suffusing my face. Then I answered the only way I knew how, with the same response I had given him all night. “I love you.”

Thinking over that conversation, I finally knew what I was going to say to Eric once I got to Fangtasia. I was going to accept his invitation to that date at his house. I could cook, for myself, and then we could do something normal, like watch a movie, and then maybe make love on the couch. I might even buy him some fluffy pillows. I remember how much I liked doing normal things with him. It was nice.

I pulled into the front parking lot of Fangtasia (The Bar With A Bite) and I shut off my car. Just like the last time I came, I stayed in my car for a moment. I admit I was a bit scared for some reason. I didn’t want to come off desperate, and I still didn’t really know exactly what it was I was going to say to him. Maybe I would merely tell him that I loved him, and tell him to take me home.

I saw Pam at the door. She was looking my way. She motioned with her hand that I should come to the door. I glanced quickly in the mirror and got out of the car. I had to wait at the curb for two cars to pass by before I crossed the street, and then I ran toward the door. It had begun to rain, so that was another good reason to run. I shook my hair, leaned over, and gave Pam a quick kiss on the cheek.

“How are you, Miss Pam?”

“I’m just fine, Miss Sookie,” she said with ease. She smiled a warm vampire smile. I really think that Pam was probably my favorite all time vampire, next to Eric, of course. “And to what do we owe this esteem pleasure?”

“I just thought I’d stop by. I haven’t seen Eric for almost a week,” I said, walking through the door.

“And whose fault is that?” Eric asked from inside the bar. I was surprised to see him. He smiled at me, and though the light was dim inside, his smile was bright. I must have smiled back, because he continued to smile, grabbed my hand, and pulled me to him. He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, and pulled me over to the side. “I tried to call you back, lover, but you didn’t answer your phone. What did you need?”

“Oh yeah, sorry about that, but I didn’t really need anything,” I began, “I’ve been feeling a little morose today, and I called earlier just to hear your voice.” He seemed a bit surprised by that statement, albeit happy, too.

He put my hand up to his mouth, kissed my fingertips. “I do wish you had answered my return call, Sookie, that way you wouldn’t have bothered to come all the way out here tonight.”

I felt my bubble instantly burst. “Is it a bad time?”

“No, anytime I see you is a good time,” he answered, pragmatically. “However, once again, I’m entertaining tonight and since you don’t want to be involved in the business side of things, I thought I would warn you. Why don’t you drive back to your house, and when I can get away, I’ll come over and see you?”

“Who are you entertaining?” I asked cautiously. I tried to look around his body.

“The new king and several of his people are here tonight, dear one,” was his answer. Ah … I see. I told him that I didn’t want to meet the new king, and he was trying to honor that wish.

“I might as well say ‘Hello’ to him since I’m here, unless you don’t want me to meet him for some reason,” I said, sweet as pie.

He eyed me suspiciously. “What are you playing at, Sookie?”

“No games, Eric, I just think I should meet your new boss. He’s important to you, I’m sure, and I thought I was important to you, but if I’m wrong on both accounts, well, I guess I could leave ….” I let that sentence trail off, and I tried to look all-innocent, but he wasn’t biting.

“What’s going on here?” he asked, now a bit perturbed.

“Okay, I’ll try to explain, but do you have a moment for me to do so?”

He looked over his shoulder, then back to me. “If you give me the Reader’s Digest version.”

How the hell would he know what ‘Reader’s Digest’ was, I wondered. Oh well. If he wanted it short and sweet and succinct, I would give it my best shot, but since I couldn’t really even articulate my feelings to myself, it might be difficult.

“Okay, here goes,” I started, on the crest of a deep breath. “I’ve been feeling rather sad again lately, especially today, and I finally figured out that my sadness is all of my own making. I guess you could say that I had an epiphany.”

“Oh really? An epiphany? How quaint.” Eric smiled. “Tell me all about it, but first, are you certain that you even know the meaning of the word?”

I glared at him with the best ‘screw you’ look I could muster. I knew what it meant because it was once on my ‘word-a-day’ calendar. “Shut up and listen,” I chastised.

“I know I act like I’m missing so much by being with vampires, but what I didn’t realize until my epiphany was that I could be living my life to the fullest, right by your side, if I would ever give it a chance. I probably was never meant to have a normal life anyway, whatever normal means. For me, I always assumed that meant a husband, kids, a minivan, and a white picket fence, but before vampires, I had no social life to speak of, no prospects of any kind, be it because of my telepathy, or my fae heritage, or whatever, so who’s to say that without vampires, I’d be married with kids by now?

“I mean, I keep waiting for something good to happen in my life, for my life to start, but it’s already started! When I think of all the terrible things I’ve been through, Eric, I realize that I’ve survived all these things because of my association with vampires, and most of them with you by my side. I tend to take that for granted, and instead of waiting for the good things to start, and for the bad things to end, I need to look around me and see that perhaps the good things have been here with me all along.

“And it’s not fair to ask you to not involve me in vampire politics, because that’s part of your life. That’s like you asking me not to involve you in a big part of my life. I mean, we hardly get to see each other as it is, since you aren’t out in the day, and you work so much at night, and I live in a different town. If I miss you, it’s because I hardly ever see you, but that’s my own damn fault.

“I’m serious when I say that you’re the love of my life, and I know I won’t be whole unless I have you unequivocally, and I know you feel the same way for me. Maybe we need to reexamine the whole ring thing. Maybe you need to get down on your knees and convince me it’s time to accept your ring. I feel ready for it.”

It looked like he wanted to interrupt me so badly, but I wasn’t about to let him speak yet. I wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

“I also want to go to your house. I want to see what it looks like. I want to visit you there. I want to spend the night. I want you to clear out a drawer for me in your dresser and I want to put my shampoo in your shower. I want us to be like a normal couple and do normal things. I don’t really crave all the vampire excursions and excitement. But when it’s just you and me, and we’re doing normal things, like watching a movie, or reading a book, or doing a crossword puzzle together, or just getting ready for bed at night, well, those are the moments I pine for and I want those types of normal things, and I want them with you.”

He stared at me for a long time. I swallowed hard, blinked three times and then said, “Well?”

“First of all, I asked for the short version,” he said, though he smiled. I hit him on the chest. “Second, when have we ever done a crossword puzzle together? I’m sure I would remember that, because our vocabulary is so vastly different. I like to do the one in the New York Times. You like to do the one in People Magazine.”

I took a long breath in and let it seep out my mouth slowly. Was he trying to goad me?

He took a step closer, leaned down slightly, and whispered in my ear, “What a brave woman you are, Sookie Stackhouse. I’m so happy that you’re mine. I know what it took for you to come here tonight, and to say all of these things. You have made me very, very happy. You’ve made me happier than I’ve been in perhaps one hundred years.” He wrapped his arms around me, he breathed in my scent, and I did likewise, as I sunk into the confines of his embrace.

“Would you care to meet the king?” he asked, his nose gently nuzzling my hair. I lifted my head from his chest.

“I said so, didn’t I?”

“So you did. You said so much there, I almost forget half of what you said,” he teased.

He took my hand, his fingers lacing with mine, and he pulled me toward his regular table. There was a vampire there, with two other vampires standing behind him. To my surprise, a tall vampire with long brown hair stood. He was as tall as Eric was, and as good looking. His hair fell in waves down his back. He had slight facial hair and his shoulders were broad. He looked as if he was right from Robin Hood times. That was the first thing that popped in my mind.

“Sookie, this is our new king, Paean Après. Paean, this is my Sookie.” Eric brought my hand to his mouth and kissed the top, and then he placed it in the king’s outstretched hand.

The new king smiled warmly at me. “I’ve heard so much about you, Sookie, from Eric and from some others. I didn’t know if I was going to get to meet you or not. I asked Eric to introduce us, but he kept stalling. I was beginning to think you were a figment of his imagination. I should have known that Eric’s imagination could never imagine anything as beautiful as you.” He bowed his head slightly, and then he, too, kissed the top of my hand. He released it and inquired, “Have you come to join us?”

“No, Sir,” I replied with my best smile. “I came to tell Eric some important news, and to tell him that I would meet him at home later.” I turned to Eric. “Eric? Shall I see you later, at home?” I emphasized the word, ‘home’.

He knew the implications of my words, even though no one else at the table did. He smiled with his whole face, his eyes warm and mischievous. “Why don’t you wait in my office, and then we’ll go home together, dear one. I’m almost done here.” He motioned toward the back of the bar with his head.

I nodded, then turned to the king and said, “Nice to meet you, Your Highness.” I nodded to the other two vampires, who must not be important enough to have names, and then I started to the back of the bar. It was just as well. I didn’t know where Eric lived anyway. I only said what I did for his benefit.

Opening the office door, I peered inside slowly. The last time I came in here there was a half fairy/half vampire sitting on the couch. I didn’t want to take any chances. The office was empty so I walked inside and sat right down at Eric’s desk. I recalled my list from a few weeks ago, when I made the quasi vampire pro/con list. I called it my ‘Before Vampire List’ and my ‘After Vampire List’. Since I didn’t know where that list was, I decided to start another. I figured I had some time to kill, and I felt ready to confront this now, at least with myself.

I pulled open a drawer and found a yellow legal pad. I pulled open the top drawer and found a black pen, very expensive looking. On the top of the page I wrote, “Sookie’s Life with Vampires”.

I drew a line down the middle of the page first, and then on the right hand side of the page I wrote, “Pro” and on the left hand side I wrote “Con”.

Sookie’s Life with Vampires:

Pro

Someone to love me and someone to love

No longer lonely

Has gone to interesting places

Gotten to know about her fae roots

Finally a place to belong / Accepted

Con

Sometimes gets in deep shit and hurt

Feels as if my life isn’t my own

Sometimes feels scared of things

Gotten to know about her fae roots

Sometimes taken advantage of

After I had four things on each sides I stopped writing. I could think of plenty more things, I was sure, but I didn’t want my con side to be bigger than my pro, and frankly, since I thought of more cons than pros, I stopped writing. Eric walked in and walked around to the back of my chair. Without a word, he looked at my list. He took the pen out of my mouth (sorry, I know it’s a disgusting habit), and, in his unnaturally neat cursive, he wrote under the pro “Magnificent sex with Eric tonight.”

I smiled and took the pen from him and put two exclamation points after it. He smiled, looked down at me and asked, "Two exclamation points?"

I nodded and asked back, “Are you done already?”

“Yes, shall we go?”

“To your house?”

“No,” he said.

I looked crestfallen, I know, but I tried to hide it. I thought I made it clear to him, after my little speech, that I wanted finally to go there, but fine, I would go wherever he wanted to go, for now. I placed the pen back in his desk, folded my list and placed it in my purse, and swiveled his chair around. I couldn’t get up, because he had a hand on each side of me, on the arms of the chairs.

Finally, I asked, “Where to, then?”

“We’re going home,” he murmured silkily. He leaned closer and skimmed his nose along my chin, and then he nipped my jaw, before kissing my neck.

I pushed him away and stood up. “You’re such a big romantic sap. I swear, if half the minions in your domain knew how sweet you were, they would laugh themselves senseless.”

He threw his arm around my neck and said, “Good thing you’ll never tell a soul.”

“I might. I might need to blackmail you someday.”

“Hey, that could be on your pro side of your list, too!” he said, laughing. “Blackmailing Eric with four exclamation points after it.”

He pulled me to the back parking lot and I complained, “I left my car around front.”

“It will be safe there for the night. I doubt even carjackers will bother with that piece of rubbish.”

“Hey, don’t say bad things about my car, especially after I just called you sweet!”

“You no longer think I’m sweet?” he asked seductively, when we reached his car.

He opened the passenger side of his car and as I slid in I said, “Sweet my ass.”

He got in his side, reached over, pinched my butt and hummed, “Yes, it is sweet.”

We drove for over a half an hour. We were on the outskirts of town, near the highway, when he turned his car into a nice subdivision. Yes, the houses here were nicer than most, but they weren’t mansions. I turned to look at him. “Is this your neighborhood?”

“Yes,” he answered. The houses weren’t piled close together, and there were lots and lots of trees. Each house was on a least a quarter to a half an acre lot, and most were two stories, with two and three car garages. Most of them were brick. We pulled to the end of cul-de-sac, on a hill, with tons of trees in front, and at the end was a very long drive way, and a well maintained, two story house, which I couldn’t full appreciate until we drove down the driveway and parked the car.

“Is this where you live?” I asked. I stared up at the house from the car. It was beautiful, but, still, rather normal. Almost suburban. I could picture a minivan parked in the driveway, and some fluffy pillows inside.

“Yes,” he said readily. He was out of the car in a flash and he pulled on my car door. He took my hand. “What do you think?”

“It’s not what I expected,” I answered honestly.

“What did you expect?” He leaned his long frame against the car and folded his arms. He had an amused grin on his face.

“I don’t know,” I said, folding my arms to ward off the cold. “Maybe it’s too dark out here to see it well, but I thought you would live in a bigger house, not that this isn’t grand. I mean, you could fit four of my houses in this one house!” I stepped on the sidewalk that led to the front porch and stared up at the house.

I continued, “I thought you would live in something modern, mostly glass, or maybe something gothic, like a castle, with a dungeon.”

He laughed. He walked behind me and said, “A castle? With a moat and a tower?”

“Maybe, and chains on the walls,” I laughed. “I don’t know, something more like a crypt or something.”

“A CRYPT?” he repeated loudly. He threw his head back and laughed.

I laughed too and said, “That can be my nickname for you. Crypt keeper.”

I looked over at Eric and he did something I hadn’t seen him do in a very long time, or maybe, never. He laughed. A real, long, hard, belly laugh. He grabbed my hand and said, “Shall we enter my crypt?”

“Are you inviting me in?” I asked.

“Can I rescind my invitation later?” he asked. He pulled me into his arms. We stood on his porch, under the glow of a security light, and he placed his arms tightly around my body.

“Never. You may never rescind my invitation,” I assured him breathlessly. Lord, I felt so happy for a change.

“Good,” he answered. He reached for the doorknob, put a key in the lock, pushed it open and said, “Welcome home, Sookie. Welcome home.”

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Date: 22 Apr 12 06:41pm
it is me ti yoiu