Close to Dead

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Chapter 6: High Time:

I always seem to get the shopping carts with the squeaky wheels. I hate that. I would get another one, but I already had this one laden with so much stuff, that I was a bit too lazy to change it now. Sam was walking ahead of me, talking amicably, putting things in my cart, asking me if I needed bread, did I need toilet paper, (yes and yes) and I got a flash of a future that I knew I would never have. This was what normal people did.

Normal people went shopping at Wal-Mart. Normal people walked along the aisles, talking about what they needed and didn’t need, wondering if they needed paper towels or bleach, wondering if they should buy the shampoo that was on sale, or should they spend the extra dollar and get the brand they like. Normal people did these things. Not people like me. I would never be normal.

Sam pulled the cart as I pushed it. It was unnecessary for him to do so, it wasn’t exactly heavy or hard to push, but it was just the type of thing Sam did for me. It was the type of thing that a boyfriend did for his girlfriend, or a husband did for a wife, and once again, I was struck with a sort of melancholy when I realized that I would never have that little bit of normalcy. And I was jealous of every single person out there who had it. Damn them all.

I stopped pushing the cart, and Sam must have noticed, because though he was still pulling it, he looked back. “Something wrong, Sook?” he asked.

“I need to go back.”

“Home?” he asked, approaching me with concern.

I tried to smile. Putting on plastic smiles was my specialty, my forte. I said, “No, back to the toiletry aisle. I need tampons.” I didn’t, but I knew Sam wouldn’t follow me if I said the ‘T’ word. Sam was like any man in that aspect. Squeamish about female things.

“Oh, well, I’ll be over here, looking at paint samples. I’m thinking of painting the living room in the trailer,” he said with a smile. “I’ll be right here though, okay?” He knew I would be safe in Wal-Mart. I smiled and went over to the feminine protection aisle.

I perused the aisle for a moment, not really looking at anything, and then I stopped. I turned from the shelves, and everything blurred. I wanted a normal life. Why was everything unfair? I took a few heavy breaths to calm my nerves, and to keep from crying in front of the maxi pads, when I heard, “Excuse me, Miss, are you okay?”

That was when I knew.

Time stood still.

That’s an overused expression, and who knows what it really means, but I swear by all that is holy, and perhaps by all that isn’t, it really felt as if time stood still, right there among the pads, tampons, and vaginal creams. I turned toward the voice, and looked into the eyes of the most handsome man I had ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty, especially since having known Eric and Bill. I thought perhaps that it was an angel. If it was, that meant I must have died and gone to heaven, which meant that at least my soul wasn’t lost yet, which really had been a concern of mine over the last year or so.

He smiled at me. Everything seemed so much brighter, and lighter, and every other synonym a person can use for the word, ‘light’ just because he smiled. He asked again, “Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” I managed to say, though even to my ears, it sounded more like a breathless rush of air, than a word.

He smiled again. He placed one hand on my arm, and the other cupped my cheek. That in itself was odd, since he was a virtual stranger, but at least that strange action broke the spell that I seemed to be under, because the instant that he touched me, I knew who he was, because all fairies love to touch people, and I knew he wasn’t an angel, but a devil in disguise.

I backed up so suddenly, with his hand still on my arm that I knocked hard into the shelf. I hit my hip with such a force, that I cried out, and knocked things off the shelf onto the floor. I slipped to the ugly, white tile floor, and looked up, and he was gone.

Sam heard me yelp, all the way over in the paint aisle. He ran toward me, but when he reached me, I was alone.

His hands went to my arms, he yanked me up, and he asked, “Sookie, what happened? What’s wrong?”

“He was here, he was right here. Did you see him?”

“See who?” Sam asked. He looked to the right and to the left.

I shook by head. Maybe I imagined it. I wouldn’t put anything past me. After all, what would a fairy need with tampons? I bent down to pick up the things on the floor, but Sam said, “Leave them.”

He gently steered me out of the aisle, and back toward our cart. He must have believed me, because he took us to the checkout, and he kept looking over his shoulder the whole time. When we got to his truck, he loaded me in the cab first, and then he locked my door before slamming it hard. He put everything in the back, and he got in.

He looked at me and said, “What did he say to you?”

I looked at Sam and said, “It doesn’t matter.” I turned my head toward the window, and I began to cry. Sam reached over and stroked my hair. I never knew why I cried these days. I wasn’t sure I ever needed a reason. Maybe it was because I was mourning the things I would never have. Maybe it was because Sam was the best friend I ever had, and because even at my craziest, he always believed me. Maybe because in that briefest of moments, I didn’t think that fairy or man, or whatever he was, was going to hurt me, and heaven help me, I wanted a family, and he seemed to care, no matter how brief his concern.

Once at home, Sam unloaded my things and then he said he had to get to the bar. He kissed the top of my head, as I sat at the table, and he said, “Don’t fear, Sookie. Someone is out there watching you, and Eric will probably call you later. I’ll call him and tell him what happened in the store.”

“No!” I said frantically, finally finding my voice and courage. I stood up and said, “Please, don’t worry Eric. Nothing happened. I was probably imagining things. No one was even there, I’m sure.”

“Sookie, what did this man look like?” Sam asked me.

I waited, and then I knew I couldn’t lie. “He was the most breathtaking, handsome man, I’ve ever seen, and I know Eric Northman, so that’s saying something. He had hair that colour of winter wheat, and it was to his shoulders, and somewhat wavy. He had brown eyes, with green specks. He had white teeth, and a kind smile. He wasn’t as tall as Eric, but he was tall and well built, and he smelled really good.”

I wasn’t embarrassed saying these frank things to Sam. It was the truth, after all. In addition, I knew without a doubt that it was this Larkin Talkington, because Sam hadn’t moved a muscle since I had finished talking. Sam swallowed hard, grabbed my shoulders and said, “I don’t want you to answer the door to anyone, do you hear me? No one! Don’t answer the phone, either. I’ll get Terry to staff the bar tonight. I’ll come back here, until Eric or one of the other Vamps can come.”

He stormed out the door.

I ran to the open door and yelled, “Sam? Sam?” It was too late. He was in his truck, the wheels spinning gravel as he sped out of the driveway.

I slammed the door shut and locked it tight. Then I ran to my kitchen, to look for anything I might have to protect me from fairies. I figured it was high time I began to protect myself, since everyone else had done such a horrible job of it in the past.

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