Chapter 4: A Strange Courtship Ensues
When I arrived at the Rattray’s, I was surprised to find that the shifter was still there, waiting for me.
“Is Sookie alright?” he questioned as he leaned against his pick-up. The Rattrays were no longer in the back of the pick-up, so I assumed he had moved them into the trailer. His clothing was disheveled and bloody.
“You should burn those clothes and make sure to wash the back of your pick-up out with bleach,” I advised him.
“I know what to do,” he said irritably, running his hand through his tangled scruffy hair. Why the shifter didn’t keep it trimmed more properly was beyond me. Were I able, I would trim my hair and sideburns more closely. “You gonna answer me?” he demanded.
“The girl will be fine, she has returned home now,” I answered, though it was no business of his own.
“Good, now listen, I don’t know and I don’t care what your business is in Bon Temps, but I want you to stay away from Sookie. I don’t like that she’s got your blood in her.” The shifter had the audacity to try to tell me what to do.
“My blood kept that girl from dying, and I will spend more time with the girl if I so choose,” I replied icily.
“She’s a good girl, she don’t need to get tangled up in your vampire shit, so you just leave her be,” he threatened, stepping closer to me.
I smiled cruelly, making sure my fangs were displayed, then said, “Are you sure that’s what she wants?”
The shifter scowled at me, but he seemed to realize that in a match of brute strength, he could not beat me, so he grumbled, “Just you stay away from her,” then climbed into his pick-up to leave.
After firing up the engine, he rolled down the window and asked, “What are you planning to do about the Rats?”
I studied the landscape for a moment, and decided that since there were no neighbors too close, that a tornado might be a plausible excuse for mangling the humans’ bodies so. “Oh, I think a tornado is due to touch down here tonight,” I replied easily.
The shifter eyed me dubiously for a moment, then nodded and drove off. As though I care whether I have his approval or not.
After I had dealt with the Rattrays, I returned home, but not without stopping by the Stackhouse farm. I wanted to check on the girl. Though she had claimed she was accustomed to working late nights, I couldn’t help but to feel that I should check on her to ensure her safe return home. The Rattrays were dead, a tornado being the only obvious cause of the damage, so they were no longer a threat to the girl, but other things (besides me) did lurk in the night.
All seemed quiet at the Stackhouse residence, and after careful listening, I determined that two humans seemed to be sleeping peacefully within. The residence was similar to what it had been when I was human, but noticeably larger. I wondered when the additions had been made.
Dawn was impending, so I returned to my home. I had agreed to meet Sookie and her grandmother in two night’s time, so I would have the following night to finally make some progress on the repairs to my family home. Many were needed.
Shortly after first dark, I showered and dressed in fresh clothing to meet with Sookie and her grandmother. I was making progress on building a light-tight space beneath my home, but for now, I was forced to sleep within the ground in the cemetery. I had not slept in the ground in some years, so finishing the light-tight space had become a real priority. Not that I was making much progress on the rest of my old home.
I had some skill with carpentry from my human days, but the craft had not been plied since then. I knew I could likely do some simple repairs to my home, once I bought the right tools, but things like electrical and plumbing problems would have to be done by professionals, as I had no familiarity with them in my human life, and neither did I in my vampire existence.
This was proving to be a problem however. Being a small town, I could not get a hold of contractors after-hours, and though I had left messages explaining that I need to be contacted after dark, I had yet to have my calls returned. It seemed that the news had spread that a vampire had moved into town, and I knew the locals would be loath to accept such change … such … an unusual new neighbor.
As I approached the Stackhouse home, I once again found myself taking in the differences in it from my human days. I was torn as to whether the reminders of my human life were comforting or unsettling. I supposed that it was a little of both.
I could hear that someone was outside the house as I approached. My darker instincts took over, and before I could stop myself, I had run at vampire speed up to the house to stand at the bottom of the steps to the porch, hoping to scare whatever human was outside. I knew there was no need to scare the human, indeed it was likely detrimental as I was sent to seduce the girl, but my nature demanded that I be as frightening to humans as possible. Perhaps I should have fed from a human before I came over, instead of drinking that synthetic excuse for blood, I thought to myself.
Sookie was on the porch sweeping, but turned slowly to look down and smile at me. She didn’t even seem surprised by my appearance. She could not have heard my approach, but perhaps she had heard my approach. I had been sure that she was telling the truth when she said she couldn’t read vampire minds, but perhaps she had been lying. What if she can read vampire minds? I shuddered to think what the Queen’s reaction to that might be. She could be seen as either a terrible threat, or a tremendous asset. I was glad now that I had not reported anything substantial to the queen yet, nothing beyond saying that I had arrived at my home and would make contact with the Stackhouse girl soon. It was a dangerous game to play, not relaying everything to the queen immediately, but I wanted to be cautious and know more before I relayed anything at all.
“Didn’t scare me,” Sookie said calmly.
I was embarrassed that my darker instincts had taken over, even for a moment. I needed to make sure my actions with this girl were deliberate and calculated. I was already unnerved by some of my feelings from two nights prior. I had vowed to myself that I would do my duty to my queen, and be rid of the Stackhouse girl as soon as was possible. My actions needed to be deliberate and efficient so that I could be rid of her quicker.
“It’s just a habit, appearing like that. I don’t make much noise,” I explained to her easily. I wondered again how she seemed to know I was there, but decided to handle things cautiously and not question her. With any luck, I would soon know whether or not she could read my mind.
The girl turned around and opening the door, said, “Come on in.” I was contented that her southern upbringing and manners demanded that she invite me in, thereby excusing me from having to explain to her that vampires had to be invited into a human’s home, and could therefore have their invitation rescinded as well. I had no intention of explaining this to her anytime soon, if at all.
As I mounted the stairs, I looked around, taking in the changes that had been made. I was surprised at how much was still familiar. “I remember this,” I told her, “it wasn’t so big, though.”
“You remember this house? Gran’s gonna love it,” she told me with some excitement. She led me into the house, calling to her grandmother as she went.
Her grandmother, Adele, introduced herself far more politely than I had expected a human to do so with a vampire. She made some more polite conversation, and then invited me to be seated on the sofa. I was somewhat surprised when she left the room for the kitchen, only to return to the sitting room with three glasses of what appeared to be some kind of tea. She passed out the teas, and then took a seat on the easy chair. Sookie seemed to hesitate, almost shyly for a time, and then she perched on the other end of the sofa from me, trying to maintain what distance she politely could. I was surprised that she seemed hesitant around me tonight. The first night she had been fearless. Had she found some common sense concerning vampires?
I realized I was still holding the glass of tea that Adele had brought me, so not wanting to offend Sookie, or her grandmother; I politely touched it to my lips, and then set it on the coffee table. I almost laughed when both humans gave each other nervous looks before taking big sips of their own tea. Has it just now occurred to them that they have invited a vampire into their home? I wondered, but I restrained my laughter, again not wanting to offend this girl. Things would not go very smoothly if I did.
I was trying to think of something to start a conversation with, when Adele spoke. “I guess you heard about the strange tornado,” she said.
“Tell me,” I said as conversationally as I could. Of course I knew about the tornado, I was the tornado, but I wanted to know what she meant by strange tornado. Did the human authorities suspect something out of the ordinary? I pondered.
“Oh, two nights ago, a tornado touched down at Four Tracks Corner,” she explained enthusiastically, clearly enjoying the chance to gossip, a trait I was strangely relieved to see was still common in women of the South. “Even though the weather was smooth that night, and no one else saw or heard anything, it apparently touched down there, and turned a rent trailer over. The couple that lived there were crushed and killed. Very tragic freak of nature,” she finished.
Out of the corner of my eye, I observed the girl looking at her hands and making every effort to keep her eyes off me. I hoped her grandmother didn’t notice this guilty behavior. My fear that the human authorities suspected something passed as the old woman called it a “freak of nature”. The advances in technology certainly made it more difficult for vampires to cover their tracks … not impossible, simply more difficult. I will have to use another method the next time I need to hide kills, I thought grimly.
“I went by yesterday on my way to work,” the girl suddenly said. Her eyes remained on her clasped hands in her lap however. “By the trailer,” she added to clarify.
I looked up at her grandmother, but she seemed to only be eyeing her granddaughter curiously, not suspiciously, and more importantly, she wasn’t making any connection to me. “Did you find it looked as you expected?” I asked. I couldn’t help but be curious as to why she would bother going to see the drainers who had tried and nearly succeeded in killing her.
“No,” she told me slowly, I could feel her nervousness since I had given her my blood. It was odd to feel the emotions of a human. I had only ever experienced the emotions of my maker, and then, only when she opened the bond to me. “It wasn’t anything I could have expected. I was really … amazed.”
“Sookie, you’ve seen tornado damage before,” the grandmother said in surprise.
I could feel that Sookie was startled by her grandmother’s comment; she seemed to have forgotten her presence. Her emotions moved too quickly for me to decipher. “Bill, where’d you get your shirt? It looks nice.”
I could sense that she was grasping at a way to change the subject, but I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes. Did she think that I magically made clothing appear? “Dillard’s,” I answered shortly.
I was surprised that the grandmother seemed pleased by this, but perhaps she had envisioned me running around thieving. This seemed to signal the end of the polite chatter, and Adele eagerly launched into questioning me.
“And your people were from this area?” she asked me.
I had already resigned myself to having to speak about my human life, and was prepared to give an abbreviated history. “My father’s people were Comptons, my mother’s people Loudermilks.”
“There are lots of Loudermilks left,” Adele replied with growing excitement. “But I’m afraid old Mr. Jessie Compton died last year.”
I had actually been surprised to find that my descendant had died the previous year and not more recently. Queen Sophie-Anne obviously had this plot in the works for far longer than I anticipated. I wondered if she had me in mind when she planned this, or if she had killed my descendant to have access to my old home. I did have to admit that the location would make it quite convenient to deal with this girl.
“I know,” I again said calmly. “That’s why I came back. The land reverted to me, and since things have changed in our culture toward people of my particular persuasion, I decided to claim it.” I left out that I had little choice in returning to Bon Temps, and that my queen had been the one to ensure that I received my family’s land.
“Did you know the Stackhouses? Sookie says you have a long history,” the grandmother asked. I had been concentrating on thinking about my task, in hopes of trying to see if the girl could read my mind and give herself away, but at the question, the girl smiled at her grandmother. Either she was very good at hiding, which I doubted since I felt nothing but happiness from her emotions, or she couldn’t read my thoughts.
I returned my attention to the grandmother and answered, “I remember Jonas Stackhouse. My folks were here when Bon Temps was just a hole in the road at the edge of the frontier. Jonas Stackhouse moved here with his wife and his four children when I was a young man of sixteen. Isn’t this the house he built, at least in part?” I questioned politely. My answers were well prepared, I knew from what Sookie said that her grandmother would be happy to have any history of the area and her relatives that she could get, and indeed, she seemed to be eating it all up.
“Did he own slaves?” she finally questioned me after she had asked several other questions about the Stackhouses. I was more than willing to answer questions about the Stackhouses as long as she didn’t ask too much about my own history, though I knew it was likely to be inevitable.
“Ma’am, if I remember correctly, he had a house slave and a yard slave. The house slave was a woman of middle age and the yard slave a very big young man, very strong, named Minas. But the Stackhouses mostly worked their own fields, as did my folks,” I answered truthfully. I knew slavery was still a touchy subject, even all of these years later, but I trusted that Adele would understand that they were different times and that by no means were my family nor the Stackhouses owners of big plantations that would employ the use of many slaves.
“Oh, that is exactly the kind of thing my little group would love to hear! Did Sookie tell you about my club, the Descendants of the Glorious Dead?” she tittered.
I had already resigned myself to having to speak to this ridiculous club, so after asking Adele a few more questions about the club, and what I would speak about, we set-up a time for me to speak to them at their next meeting. It galled me that I would have to relive my human life to a bunch of worthless humans, but I could easily see that it would help me to win over the girl more quickly. Therefore, I would swallow my pride and speak to them. After I was through with the girl, I could always kill any of the humans that would be present when I spoke. In that vein of thought, I decided that it was time to make more progress with the girl.
“And now, if you’ll excuse Sookie and me, maybe we’ll take a walk. It’s a lovely night.” I got up and moved slowly towards the girl. Though she had not been frightened earlier, I wanted to make sure my vampire instincts didn’t get out of hand again. I reached out to take the girl’s hand, and was pleased when she put her hand in mine, and allowed me to pull her to her feet. It seemed her shyness had passed.
“Oh, you two go on,” the grandmother said, still tittering. “I have so many things to look up. You’ll have to tell me all the local names you remember from when you were …” she trailed off, looking for a polite way to say when I was alive.
“Resident here in Bon Temps,” the girl said smoothly. I was impressed with her quickness.
“Of course,” I replied. Though I had promised myself that I would move slowly, I found myself wanting out of this house, and away from talk of my human life. Without a backward glance, I pulled the girl into my arms and sped towards the door. I was pleasantly surprised when the girl smiled and her emotions told me she was pleased as well.
“We’ll be back in a while,” the girl told her grandmother.
“Oh, you two don’t hurry on my account,” Adele said as she was gathering up the tea glasses, she had not noticed our quick exit of the room. “I’ll be just fine.”
As we walked outside, I kept the girl’s hand within my own, the warmth of her hand was oddly comforting, and it seemed to settle my emotions. A cat emerged from the shadows, and rubbed against the girl’s legs. She bent down to pet the cat, and then it moved on to rubbing against my own legs. I was not thrilled with being covered in the smell of a cat, but the animal seemed to be important to this girl. Trying to be amicable I asked, “You like this animal?”
“It’s my cat. Her name is Tina, and I like her a lot,” she responded. I remained still and let the cat continue to smell me and rub against me. Animals often had varied responses to vampires, some were undisturbed by our kind, but most sensed our nature and avoided us.
“Would you like to sit in the swing or the lawn chairs, or would you like to walk?” she asked when the cat was finished with me.
“Oh, let’s walk for a while. I need to stretch my legs,” I replied, I hoped it was a normal human response, but something seemed to make her uneasy, at least from what I could tell from her emotions. Nonetheless, we began to walk down the graveled road in front of our two homes.
I was curious as to why she had gone to see where I had left the drainers, and why it was that she seemed so unsettled. “Did the trailer upset you?” I questioned curiously.
She seemed to consider this for a while, and then said, “I feel very … hmmm. Fragile. When I think about the trailer.”
I was surprised by her very honest answer. Humans were fragile, but they were often loath to admit such weaknesses, even to such obviously superior beings. “You knew I was strong.”
Her head tipped to the side in an oddly curious manner, “Yes, but I didn’t realize the full extent of your strength. Or your imagination.”
“Over the years, we get good at hiding what we’ve done,” I told her. She was inquisitive about my kind, and I couldn’t help but wanting to be truthful. Perhaps if I simply answered her wonderings, she would be more agreeable with the queen later on. The smoother the transition into the hands of the queen the better.
“So. I guess you’ve killed a bunch of people,” she stated, but she didn’t seem to denounce me for this. Interesting.
“Some,” I answered quite truthfully.
She let go of my hand, and clasped her hands behind her back. “Were you hungrier right after you became a vampire? How did that happen?” she asked me in that simply curious manner again. As if she were a child inquiring about the why the sun rose and fell each day.
The question startled me, and I couldn’t hide my reaction. The mixture of her open curiosity and fearlessness amazed me. I considered not answering her, or telling her not to ask me about such things, but decided to stay my course. I would answer truthfully and see how she reacted. I could always remove the memory from her mind if she couldn’t handle my answer.
“As to how I became a vampire, that’s too long a story for now,” I explained. “But yes, when I was younger—a few times—I killed by accident. I was never sure when I’d get to eat again, you understand? We were always hunted, naturally, and there was no such thing as artificial blood. And there were not as many people then. But I had been a good man when I was alive …” I caught myself quickly, the party line, so-to-speak, was that we weren’t dead, that we had a virus. I continued as smoothly as I could, “I mean, before I caught the virus. So I tried to be civilized about it, select bad people as my victims, never feed on children.” Images of my own children flashed through my mind. I had hated those of my kind that fed on children, they were innocents, and they had not even had the chance to experience the good or the bad in the world yet. In the first few years, when I couldn’t control myself, and when meals were scarce, I had succumbed to my hunger, and I had fed on several children, though I always heavily glamored them to remove the memories from their minds. I continued on, trying to move past the dark topic. “I managed never to kill a child, at least. It’s so different now. I can go to the all-night clinic in any city and get some synthetic blood, though it’s disgusting. Or I can pay a whore and get enough blood to keep going for a couple of days.” That is if I fed deeply. “Or I can glamor someone, so they’ll let me bite them for love and then forget all about it. And I don’t need so much now.”
I had thrown a lot at her, and was surprised when she fired back with, “Or you can meet a girl who gets head injuries.”
Deciding to keep with blunt honesty, since she had responded well to it thus far, I said, “Oh, you were the dessert. The Rattrays were the meal.” And what a fine dessert she had been.
“Whoa,” she whispered. “Give me a minute.”
Again, I was surprised that she reacted so calmly to my explanation of what I was, and that I had killed many people, but seemed unsettled by me killing two humans that nearly killed her. Perhaps the fact that she knew those humans simply makes their deaths more real than the deaths of others from my past.
I had all of the time in the world, so I simply waited for the girl to gather her senses. It surprised me when she closed her eyes and let out a sigh of relief. I opened myself to her feelings even more than before, interested to see how she was handling my revelations, and was washed over with her sense of happiness.
She seemed so accepting of me and of my nature, and this was without being glamored into accepting me. I almost smiled as I asked, “Are you happy now?”
“Yes,” she answered quietly.
I was surprised to find myself saying, “You feel good to me, too.”
“How so?” she asked slowly in her curious manner.
Almost as if she could glamor me into answering her, I said, “No fear, no hurry, no condemnation. I don’t have to use my glamor to make you hold still, to have a conversation with you.” It surprised me how honest she seemed to influence me into being.
“Glamor?” she questioned.
It surprised me that she hadn’t questioned this sooner. Again, I found myself answering, “Like hypnotism. All vampires use it, to some extent or another. Because to feed, until the new synthetic blood was developed, we had to persuade people we were harmless … or assure them they hadn’t seen us at all … or delude them into thinking they’d seen something else.” With the Great Revelation, now it was more likely that we had to glamor the thrill-seeking fangbangers into leaving us alone.
“Does it work on me?”
I was surprised at her question. Did she wonder if I had glamored her already? In a way, I was surprised at myself for not glamoring her, but I told myself it was because she had not proven difficult in anyway yet, so there had been no need to. “Of course,” I answered her. No human was immune to vampire glamor. It was what protected my kind for untold centuries.
“Okay, do it,” she told me confidently. Why would any human ask to be glamored?
Deciding to humor the girl, I said, “Look at me.”
“No matter. Look at my face,” I commanded, placing my hands on her shoulders. I tried to silently influence the girl, telling her to step in to me and kiss me. Something I had been thinking of far too much lately.
I was surprised when nothing happened so I whispered aloud, “Can you feel my influence?” Perhaps her telepathy afforded her a higher resistance and allowed her to keep from acting on the compulsion.
“Not a bit, I’m sorry. I just see you glow,” she told me.
I leaned back a bit, startled. All vampires could see one another’s glow; it was one of many ways that we knew each other on sight. “You can see that?”
“Sure. Can’t everyone?” she said eyeing me curiously.
This girl was proving to be more and more confounding. “No. This is very strange, Sookie,” I answered absentmindedly. I would have to tread doubly carefully now with this girl if she could not be glamored. Never had I come across a human, nor heard of one that couldn’t be glamored. Glamoring and influencing others came very easily for me. If I can’t influence her in any way, how am I going to get her under my control? I almost shuddered as I realized that I would have to court her, as a human would.
“If you say so,” Sookie was answering me. “Can I see you levitate?”
“Right here?” I was pleased at the thought that maybe it wouldn’t take too much effort to keep her content.
“Sure, why not? Unless there’s a reason?”
“No, none at all,” I replied, letting go of her shoulders. I very slowly floated slightly into the air, and held my position, giving her time to take it in. I had always considered myself to be quite lucky that I could fly, it was a very useful skill.
“Can all of you do that?”
“Can you sing?” I questioned back. It was not surprising that she would question this. Humans didn’t understand that vampires were as different individually as humans were.
“Nope, can’t carry a tune.”
“Well, we can’t all do the same things, either,” I answered as I slowly landed on the ground. “Most humans are squeamish about vampires. You don’t seem to be.”
She shrugged but didn’t answer. It finally struck me that she seemed as much of an outcast in this area as I would be. Perhaps that was why she was accepting of my otherness, because of her own otherness. “Has it always been hard for you?” I questioned.
“Yes, always,” she replied bluntly. I was somehow pleased with her bluntness. Even in my human life, my wife had accused me of being as blunt as an ox. I didn’t reply to her, waiting to see if she would say any more, and indeed, she continued on.
“When I was very small, that was worst, because I didn’t know how to put up my guard, and I heard thoughts I wasn’t supposed to hear, of course, and I repeated them like a child will. My parents didn’t know what to do about me. It embarrassed my father, in particular. My mother finally took me to a child psychologist, who knew exactly what I was, but she just couldn’t accept it and kept trying to tell my folks I was reading their body language and was very observant, so I had good reason to imagine I heard people’s thoughts. Of course, she couldn’t admit I was literally hearing people’s thoughts because that just didn’t fit into her world.
“And I did poorly in school because it was so hard for me to concentrate when so few others were. But when there was testing, I would test very high because the other kids were concentrating on their own papers … that gave me a little leeway. Sometimes my folks thought I was lazy for not doing well on everyday work. Sometimes the teachers thought I had a learning disability; oh, you wouldn’t believe the theories. I must have had my eyes and ears tested every two months, seemed like, and brain scans … gosh. My poor folks paid through the nose. But they never could accept the simple truth. At least outwardly, you know?”
Her candidness pleased me, perhaps my glamor did not work on her, but maybe I was still able to subtly influence her behavior. Then again, nothing seems to work as it should with this girl, maybe she is just being very open with me of her own will. Either way, I decided to keep her talking, if I had to court her as a human would, I would need to know more about her from her own lips, and not just what her cousin and the townspeople had told me.
“But they knew inside,” I commented.
“Yes. Once, when dad was trying to decide whether to back a man who wanted to open an auto parts store, he asked me to sit with him when the man came to the house. After the man left, my dad took me outside and looked away and said, ‘Sookie, is he telling the truth?’ It was the strangest moment.”
“How old were you?” I remembered that her parents had died, but I could not remember when the cousin had told me that had been.
“I must’ve been less than seven ’cause they died when I was in the second grade.”
“How?” I asked, though if I recalled this much correctly it was a flood.
“Flash flood. Caught them on the bridge west of here,” she said, confirming my recollections.
Death was of no consequence to me, but I did wonder at how well she was able to harness her gift for such a young age. If she could use her telepathy at the age of seven to weed out lying humans, surely the queen was right and she would be a powerful asset now that she was grown. “Was the man lying?”
“Oh, yes. He planned to take Daddy’s money and run.”
“You have a gift,” I commented.
“Gift. Right,” she said with a frown, as though I were a slow child.
“It makes you different from other humans,” I told her, reminding her that we were both different.
“You’re telling me,” she agreed derisively. Then she looked at me as we were walking and asked, “So you don’t consider yourself human at all?”
“I haven’t for a long time,” I said truthfully, and if this girl were honest with herself, she would see that there appeared to be very little about her that was like any human either.
“Do you really believe you’ve lost your soul?” she questioned.
I had been Christian as a human, and had wondered this several times in my existence as well, “I have no way of knowing. Personally, I think not. There is something in me that isn’t cruel, not murderous, even after all these years. Though I can be both.” I did occasionally wonder if this wasn’t something I had simply convinced myself of, to make my existence easier.
“It’s not your fault you were infected with a virus,” she told me kindly.
I couldn’t stop myself from snorting. Her naivety was both endearing, and infuriating in equal proportions. It only served to remind me how vast the gulf between myself and my lost humanity really was. “There have been theories as long as there have been vampires. Maybe that one is true.” I regretted it as soon as I said it; I couldn’t glamor this girl, so I needed to be careful with what I said. “If what makes a vampire is a virus, it’s a selective one.” I tried to answer dismissively, but I couldn’t help but to feel somewhat angry at being a vampire. I may have learned to embrace my darker nature, but there was still a part of me that despised it. Standing here with this girl, only served as a reminder of how different we truly were.
“How do you become a vampire?” She couldn’t seem to help but ask the question. I wasn’t thrilled with the topic, but decided to answer nonetheless.
“I would have to drain you, at one sitting or over two or three days, to the point of your death, then give you my blood. You would lie like a corpse for about forty-eight hours, sometimes as long as three days, then rise and walk at night. And you would be hungry.” I wondered if perhaps one day this would be her fate with Sophie-Anne, after she had used her abilities for a time. Sophie-Anne would have to risk losing the girl’s talents, but the possibility that she could keep them for all time would be too rich of a deal to pass on.
The girl seemed to consider this for a time, and then said, “No other way?”
There were oldwives tales of course, though I had never actually seen it happen firsthand. “Other vampires have told me humans they habitually bite, day after day, can become vampires quite unexpectedly. But that requires consecutive, deep, feedings. Others, under the same conditions, merely become anemic. Then again, when people are near to death for some other reason, a car accident or a drug overdose, perhaps, the process can go … badly wrong.” I considered the vampire, Bubba, whose turning had gone so terribly wrong due to his years of drug use. He had little of his own mind left, and could be upset easily, but with careful handling, could be a very effective tool, and he had always responded well to my own cool demeanor.
Again, we walked in silence. Though the girl did ask questions when they seemed to come to her mind, I was thankful that she was not prone to mindless chatter. I had spent the last several years working on my database and traveling extensively, so I was surprised at how enjoyable her simple questions and her companionable silence could be.
“What do you plan on doing with the Compton land?”
“I plan on living there, as long as I can. I’m tired of drifting from city to city. I grew up in the country. Now that I have a legal right to exist, and I can go to Monroe or Shreveport or New Orleans for synthetic blood or prostitutes who specialize in our kind, I want to stay here. At least see if it’s possible. I’ve been roaming for decades.” The answer was well prepared, but in this moment, simply walking down the gravel road with this girl, it actually seemed like a possibility. Why can’t I stay here, enjoy this girl’s company, and still finish my database? The thought skittered across my mind, but I batted it away to focus on what Sookie was asking me.
“What kind of shape is the house in?”
“Pretty bad,” I admitted to her. “I’ve been trying to clean it out. That I can do at night. But I need workmen to get some repairs done. I’m not bad at carpentry, but I don’t know a thing about electricity. It seems to me the house may need rewiring.” I could continue on without having it rewired for a time, but with my database, I had come to rely a great deal on computers. They seemed to me to be the greatest invention that humans had come up with thus far.
“Do you have a phone?”
“Sure,” I answered in surprise. Did she think because I was vampire that I didn’t have nor use such modern amenities?
“So what’s the problem with the workmen?”
“It’s hard to get in touch with them at night, hard to get them to meet with me so I can explain what needs doing. They’re scared, or they think it’s a prank call,” I said with frustration. If this continued on any longer, I would have to begin tracking these humans down, and forcing them to meet with me, but that was far more trouble than I would like to go to.
Sookie gave a short laugh, and then said, “If you want, I’ll call them. They know me. Even though everyone thinks I’m crazy, they know I’m honest.”
I was hesitant to simply turn this over to the girl; I suppose the human part of me that this girl stirred, objected to having a woman do such work for me. However, I couldn’t deny, that from a vampire standpoint, that it would be very convenient to have this girl be my daytime person. Perhaps it would help to further entrench me in her life. “That would be a great favor,” I told her slowly. “They could work during the day, after I’d met with them to discuss the job and the cost.” I will have to ensure that on those days I go to ground, even if I have secured my light-tight space by then. It is too great a risk to have humans discover it and come upon me in my weakened state.
“What an inconvenience, not being able to get out in the day,” Sookie said.
I felt my eyebrow rise at her statement. Had she seriously never thought of this before? “It certainly is,” I said plainly.
“And having to hide your resting place,” she added carelessly.
I remained silent, trying to discern if she had read my thoughts. She seemed to finally take in my silence, and as her face turned red, she quietly said, “I’m sorry.”
I could feel her embarrassment keenly, but no guilt, so perhaps she had not read my thoughts, but simply had spoken in a careless manner. “A vampire’s daytime resting place is his most closely guarded secret,” I explained, trying to keep the stiffness out of my voice. I could not afford to snap at this girl since she could not be glamored.
“I apologize,” she said in a small voice.
“I accept,” I responded.
We continued walking until we reached the road. Though my vampire sight had allowed me to see Sookie quite easily, she had been unable to see me very well until we stepped into the moonlight. As she quickly looked me up and down, I did the same. She had been quiet for some time, and I was struggling for something to say to her. Preferably something to once again lighten the mood. “Your dress is the color of your eyes,” I finally said after casting about.
“Not a lot of it, though,” I couldn’t help but adding. Though this girl did have the grace and manner that had been apparent in my human life, she certainly did not dress like the women I had been familiar with.
“Excuse me?” she said, clearly startled.
“It’s hard for me to get used to young ladies with so few clothes on,” I answered truthfully. While there was much about this technological age that I enjoyed, I rather missed the clothing of my human life. It left more to the imagination … and a man had to work a little harder to see what they desired to see.
“You’ve had a few decades to get used to it,” she answered sassily. “Come on, Bill! Dresses have been short for forty years now!”
“I liked long skirts,” I said honestly. “I liked the underthings women wore. The petticoats.” She made a grunting noise, and I couldn’t help teasing, “Do you even have a petticoat?”
“I have a very pretty beige nylon slip with lace,” she retorted. “If you were a human guy, I’d say you were angling for me to talk about my underwear!”
I laughed to myself, thinking, Who says I’m not? “Do you have that slip on, Sookie?”
She stuck her tongue out at me, nearly causing me to laugh again at her antics, and then she hiked the edge of her dress up, revealing the lace garment, as well as some of her tanned leg. “Happy?” she asked when she had smoothed her dress back into place.
I would fondly remember the sight of her shapely leg later, and I couldn’t help but answer, “You have pretty legs, but I still like long dresses better.”
It was like an echo from my human life. “That’s what my wife always told me,” I replied before I could stop myself.
“You were married.” And just like that, the lighthearted mood was gone again.
I could not glamor this away, and likely, if she looked back in the parish records, she could learn this herself anyway. “Yes, I became a vampire when I was thirty. I had a wife, and I had five living children. My sister, Sarah, lived with us. She never wed. Her young man was killed in the war,” I said without emotion.
“The Civil War.”
“Yes. I came back from the battlefield. I was one of the lucky ones. At least I thought so at the time,” I said, trying to keep the bitterness out of my voice. At this moment, standing with this girl, what I wouldn’t give to have a second chance at humanity. But, such thoughts were futile, and wasteful. I am what I am.
“You fought for the Confederacy,” she said with wonder in her voice. I suppose to a human, it was a wonder to stand and talk to someone who had participated in such a major event from around 150 years before.
“I hadn’t much of a uniform by the end of the war,” I replied, lost in thought. “We were in rags and starving.” I mentally shook myself from the depressing subject and continued in a cold voice, “It had no meaning for me after I became vampire.” My maker had worked hard to make me see that point. Her lessons were not soon forgotten.
“I’ve brought up something that upsets you. I am sorry. What should we talk about?” she asked as we turned around and continued back towards her home.
“Your life,” I replied easily. Not only did I need to know more about her to court her properly, but also, I was curious about her.
“I get out of bed. Then I make it up right away. I eat breakfast. Toast, sometimes cereal, sometimes eggs, and coffee—and I brush my teeth and shower and dress. Sometimes I shave my legs, you know. If it’s a workday, I go in to work. If I don’t go in until night, I might go shopping, or take Gran to the store, or rent a movie to watch, or sunbathe. And I read a lot. I’m lucky Gran is still spry. She does the wash and the ironing and most of the cooking,” she answered.
I noticed that she made no mention of a social life to speak of. I remembered her remarks from the night I gave her my blood and asked, “What about young men?”
“Oh, I told you about that. It’s just impossible,” she said matter-of-factly.
She seemed so flippant about it, that I couldn’t help but ask quietly, “So what will you do, Sookie?”
“Grow old and die,” she said shortly. But there was no self-pity or scorn in her voice, she was merely stating facts. I took her hand as I admired the fact that she felt no self-pity, nor did I feel pity for her myself, I had the feeling she was meant for more than an ordinary human life.
I found myself wanting to imagine what she might look like in the sunlight. “Take the clip out?” I questioned softly.
She shrugged, and then removed her hand from my own to remove the clip. She shook her head to loosen the locks of her hair, and my hand moved of its own volition to help spread her curls about her shoulders. She seemed to take this as an invitation to explore my face, and since I had touched her without permission, I allowed it. Her hands delicately stroked my sideburns.
“They’re long,” she said quietly.
“That was the fashion,” I answered. “It’s lucky for me I didn’t wear a beard as so many men did, or I’d have it for eternity.” In truth, though a man my age normally wore beards at the time, my wife had preferred me clean-shaven. She always said it reminded her of our youth, when we were first married.
“You never have to shave?”
“No, luckily I had just shaven.” Not wanting to dwell on the time I was made vampire, I refocused my attention on her hair. My wife had had golden hair as well, though such light colored hair had not been common around this area in my human life. “In the moonlight, it looks silver,” I said wondering at whether her locks would look golden in the sunlight.
She was obviously uncomfortable with the conversation because she changed it rather abruptly. “Ah. What do you like to do?”
A faint smile touched my lips. I removed my hands from her hair, and we continued on once again. “I like to read, too,” I answered. “I like the movies … of course, I’ve followed their whole inception. I like the company of people who lead ordinary lives. Sometimes I crave the company of other vampires, though most of them lead very different lives from mine.” The last several years I had been working tirelessly on my database, so I had been in the company of many vampires. It was soothing to be in the company of this simple girl. Perhaps instead of looking at this as a punishment from Sophie-Anne, I should look at it as a reprieve from the darkness of my kind.
“Do you like television?”
I found myself enjoying this simple conversation. “Sometimes. For a while I taped soap operas and watched them at night when I thought I might be forgetting what it was like to be human. After a while I stopped, because from the examples I saw on those shows, forgetting humanity was a good thing,” I confessed. At times, I had become very melancholy about my lost humanity.
We were nearing her home, and I could see that light was spilling from within the house, but the quietness from inside told me that Adele had retired for the evening. I had intended to leave Sookie on her porch, as I remembered was the polite etiquette in courting from my time, but Sookie stopped me by pulling on my hand.
Very slowly, she placed her lips delicately on my cheek, and then inhaled my scent. That simple act was almost vampire-like, and combined with her closeness, and her smell, caused a shudder of pleasure to pass through me. I could not help but to turn my head and catch her lips with mine. Her arms snaked smoothly around my neck, pulling me closer to her, and it drove me to deepen the kiss as she parted her lips. I could feel some surprise on her part, I wondered if she had ever been kissed in such a fashion. As her breathing sped up, I felt her arousal and my own acutely. Her taste was like no other that I had tasted. It was divine. I knew if I did not stop now, I wouldn’t be able to, and I would have her whether she wanted to be had or not. Not an altogether displeasing prospect, but if I remembered courtship correctly, that would be far to forward of an act for our first visit. In this moment however, my mind was filled with such a fog of arousal, that I couldn’t clearly remember how human courtship was suppose to go.
Nevertheless, I pulled back, trying to sort out my thoughts. “Good night, Sookie,” I told her with one last stroke of her golden locks.
“Good night, Bill,” she said, and I was pleased that she sounded somewhat breathless. “I’ll try to call some electricians tomorrow. I’ll let you know what they say.”
“Come by the house tomorrow night—if you’re off work?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes,” was her simple answer.
“See you then. Thanks, Sookie,” I said, and then turned to walk slowly into the woods towards the cemetery that separated our properties. I had much to consider about this girl, and as much as I wanted to, I knew that I could delay a call to the queen no longer.
A/N: Ok, so I was able to get that out much sooner than I anticipated. I finished with some interviews today for an article, and just couldn’t make myself sit down to focus on writing the damn thing. So, I procrastinated and worked a bit more on this instead and finished it. Oh well, the article is only due tomorrow. I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t push my deadlines now would I! 😉 Oh, what the editor would say if she knew! Ha! She’d probably have a heart attack, they don’t normally like it when you wait till the last minute, and I doubt she would be impressed that I worked on Fan fiction instead of my assignment. But then again, my favorite quote has always been, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by,” by Douglas Adams.
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