Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
When Sookie called Amelia, her former roommate immediately suggested Sookie move north. “No one would expect it,” she gushed. “I have contacts there!”
Amelia ended the call, promising she’d call back soon with a plan. As Sookie stared at the phone she was reminded of another time she asked Amelia for help. That time Amelia showed up in Bon Temps and cast a spell that sundered Sookie’s bond with Eric. She never questioned Sookie’s reasoning and never once asked Sookie if she’d really thought it through. “Am I really doing this again?” Sookie asked out loud.
Slowly, she rose and walked back into the bathroom. She stared at the stick sitting on the corner of the sink, the one proving she was just as pregnant as she felt.
Around noon today, the shock of things had eased and Sookie stood to get a glass of water. She asked her reflection in the window glass, “Could it be you’re not pregnant at all?” Sookie realized with a start how much the pregnancy was factoring into her planning and how foolish she’d feel if she was wrong. Dressing with a new determination, Sookie drove three towns over to Minden to pick up a pregnancy test. She used the self-check line, her palms sweating the whole time, sure she’d run into a familiar face who would see her and ‘know.’
When Sookie got home, she made a peanut butter sandwich, took a bite, and then marched into the bathroom. Five minutes later, staring at the plus sign, Sookie realized she didn’t feel disappointed, anything but. She felt strangely happy, as if things were finally falling into a new, better pattern.
Sookie returned to the kitchen and spent more time with her notepad. She wrote down all the things that would happen if she stayed in Bon Temps.
Number one on the list was knowing that once her brother found out she was pregnant; he would demand she marry Sam Merlotte. While her relationship with her brother was better than it had been, there were still some things where Jason drew the line. His sister being unwed and pregnant, and living where they knew everyone was right up there. It didn’t mean Jason could browbeat her into doing it. Sookie knew she’d fight him hard, but by the time he finished yelling and screaming and carrying on, there wouldn’t be one person in the tri-county area who wouldn’t know her story.
Even if things did calm down, this was Bon Temps. People would smile in her face, but when she sat in church she’d hear them thinking, and most would think she was a low trash loser who got knocked up and wasn’t smart enough to marry the father first. That kind of thinking would carry to her baby. Whether it was a girl or a boy, this child would carry a mark against it if she stayed here and didn’t marry.
Sookie looked at another of the items on the list. There were options to having this baby, including not having it at all. There were times in her past she had thought about children and she’d decided she didn’t want any. Sookie grew up a telepath with a mother who was afraid of her and a father who didn’t understand. All her life, Sookie felt an outsider, cursed by a disability. People called her names and she had few friends. She was terrified that any child of hers might be telepathic, too, and she never wanted a child to have to grow up the way she had.
Yet, now, faced with the reality, Sookie realized her feelings had changed.
Most of the reason she felt differently was because of her second cousin, Hunter. Hunter was the son of Sookie’s only cousin, Hadley, and like Sookie, Hunter was born a telepath. When Sookie met him, he was only a little boy and he was struggling the same way she had. His father, Remy, knew there was something different about his son but, because it was strange and uncomfortable, he tried to ignore it.
Sookie spent some time with the boy. She talked with him about things. She told him that what he had was a gift and she helped him find ways to understand it and control it. She spent time with Remy, too, teaching him how to spot when his son was ‘hearing’ things, and coaching him in how to help his son.
The boy was in kindergarten now, and able to be around other children. Although he was still young, he could handle things better. No one called him crazy or tried to tell him it was all in his head. Hunter knew that he was different, and he knew that it was okay and because Remy understood more about it, they were able to arrange things at school, so Hunter wouldn’t be put in situations that would overwhelm him.
The last time Sookie saw the family, Hunter looked so happy. He was playing outside with friends, to all appearances like any other normal, healthy boy. It was during that visit that Remy told Sookie he was recently engaged. His fiancée liked Hunter, and Hunter liked her. His fiancée did not like Sookie hanging around, or the talk that followed her. Remy asked Sookie if she would mind keeping her visits with Hunter to over the phone from now on. The request stung, Sookie was surprised how much, but Hunter seemed to be okay with it, and, so far, everything was going well.
What the experience taught her was that a child could be a telepath, like Sookie, and if there was an adult there who understood, things could actually work out. Thinking about it, Sookie didn’t feel worried, she felt excited.
There were other things on the paper. There was the monthly income Sookie received from an account her Great-Grandfather had set up for her. There was the money in the passbook account Pam handed her shortly after Eric left. Sookie figured Eric had set it up, and at the time the thought of him ‘paying her off’ had her teeth grinding, but now it was welcome.
Sookie thought about whether she wanted to come back to Bon Temps. She looked around the room where she sat. This was the place where her Gran was killed. This was the house where Eric held her and promised to stay by her side when he didn’t know who he was. This was the house where they made love on her porch and later Eric told her he should have just turned her against her will. Next to her list of assets, Sookie wrote, ‘Sell the house.’
“There’s nothing left for me here,” Sookie said out loud, “Nothing but sad memories and regrets. I owe myself a new life.” Sookie self-consciously placed her hand over her stomach, and a smile trembled across her lips. “I owe us a new life!” she declared.
She was shaking her head at her own foolishness when the phone rang. The caller ID told her it was Amelia, and Sookie picked up. “I have a plan,” Amelia said without preamble. “I called Fran Miller. I don’t know if you remember my mentioning her, but she’s the woman who helped me discover my witchcraft.”
“I don’t,” Sookie replied. Amelia had been a great talker, but ‘Fran Miller’ wasn’t ringing any bells.
“She was my professor at Wellesley College when I was majoring in Women’s Studies.” Somehow this news didn’t surprise Sookie. “Fran recognized my talent right away and she introduced me to people who helped me become who I am today. Anyway, she’s mostly retired now, and she lives in Boston.”
“Boston?” Sookie asked. “Isn’t it cold up there?”
“Sure,” Amelia laughed, “but if you dress right, you barely notice it.” Somehow Sookie didn’t think that sounded right. “Anyway, Fran recently lost her partner. She’s living all alone in this brownstone she bought in the Back Bay when the area was still a dump. It’s beautiful now and you can’t touch properties up there for anything less than crazy money. So, I called her and she would be willing to let you live on her second floor.”
“Why would she do that?” Sookie asked.
“Well, for one thing, she’s heard of you,” Amelia sounded too pleased.
“How is that?” Sookie felt her radar going up. She was technically immune from supernatural interference, at least vampire interference, but running toward someone who knew about that part of her life hardly seemed smart.
“Rhodes, Sookie!” Amelia sounded exasperated. “You’re famous! Anyway, Fran is mostly writing now, and doing some guest lecturing. She only mentioned she’d heard of you and that a person willing to help people the way you did deserves help when she asks for it.”
“Oh,” Sookie felt a knot unwind within her, “So what do I need to do?”
“Pay rent for one thing,” Amelia said. “She said she’d take $300 a month, which is next to asking for nothing, but she’d also want you to help with books and research. I told her you can cook fried chicken and biscuits that taste like heaven. Oh, and she wants you to get a job, so you won’t be underfoot too much. She said people who don’t work have too much time to get broody and she’s already broody enough.”
The sun was lowering and a ray slanted through the kitchen window. The light seemed to focus on the words ‘Sell the house,’ and Sookie felt as if it was a sign.
“Sounds good,” she told Amelia. “I guess I’d like to talk with your friend.”
Sookie awoke the next morning with new energy. She made it into the kitchen and was singing as she got the coffee started. She had just pushed the brew button when the nausea hit and she barely had time to grab the trash bucket. “Oh great, another music critic,” she grumbled good naturedly, wiping her mouth. She glanced at the coffee dripping and thought about something she’d seen on television, talking about how caffeine and pregnancy didn’t mix. “Well, they will for this one,” she grumbled, but in the next minute resolved to keep her coffee to two cups a day.
When she’d brushed her teeth and sat back down at the kitchen table, she reached for the yellow pad and flipped the page. Across the top, she wrote, ‘Things I Need to Settle.’ This would be the list of the things she’d need to do before she could start again. Looking around the kitchen, Sookie thought about what she wanted to take with her into this new life, and she realized that aside from her Gran’s iron skillet and the old wood rolling pin, everything else in the kitchen could stay. Standing, Sookie walked into the living room. Her eyes lit on the old, ugly afghan lying across the back of the couch. It made her chest ache, looking at that old blanket, but as much as the memories that clung to it hurt, they were too much a part of her. “I’ll have them wrap me in that when I die,” she said out loud, and she closed her eyes, thinking of the times she and Eric had wrapped themselves in it and each other.
It was sharp, this pain Sookie now knew was her broken heart. She thought of something the heroine in Jane Austen’s story “Persuasion” had said, that the only thing she claimed for women was that they loved longest when all hope was gone. “I guess I’ll have a chance to find that out,” she said out loud and brushed away the quick tears that fell over her cheeks.
When she finished walking around the house, Sookie realized that what was really important to her would fit in the trunk of her car. “Like I thought,” she said to her reflection in the bedroom. “Your life here is just all used up.”
Amelia called back around eleven. “Are you still thinking about going through with this?” she asked.
“It’s the right thing for me,” and Sookie knew she was resolved.
“Well, if you’re serious, I’d like you to call Fran. I have her number. I think you’ll like her. She’s a pistol, like you.” Amelia read off the number and Sookie checked it. “I guess I’m just surprised,” Amelia said after a minute.
“About what?” Sookie asked.
“I never figured you’d leave Bon Temps,” her friend replied. “You were so determined to get your life back and get all the supernatural complications out of it. I figured you and Sam…”
“About that,” Sookie interrupted her. “Guess it won’t be any big surprise to hear me say I was wrong-headed,” and the quick catch in her throat surprised her.
“What are you saying?” Amelia asked. “Sookie, are you okay?”
“I think I’m going to be,” Sookie told her. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that future isn’t here. I got what I wished, a life without Supes, and you know what? It wasn’t what I wanted after all. Fact is, I had everything I wanted and I threw it away with both hands.”
“What are you talking about?” Amelia asked.
“Well,” Sookie sighed, “It’s like this.” She told Amelia about the past month. She told her about Sam and how the quiet that followed Eric’s departure had allowed her to realize what was important. “One of the things I finally figured out is that Eric Northman was the love of my life, and now that door’s nailed shut forever for me.”
“Oh, Sookie!” Amelia cried. “Are you sure? After all…”
“What, Amelia? He’s a vampire? Well, I guess that joke’s on me, because he’s married now and I’ll be long dead by the time he’s free.” Sookie took a deep breath, “It’s worse than his being finally dead, because I know he’s still out there somewhere, but you know how this is. Two hundred years! So, I have a choice. I can sit here and wallow in regret, or I can do something to try and make another life.”
“Do you think that moving is going to fix this?” Amelia asked. “I’ve tried to run from heartbreak, and let me tell you, it doesn’t work!” Sookie figured Amelia was talking about Tray. Tray was a Were and he and Amelia were close. At first, Sookie hadn’t thought he was anything more to Amelia than the other men and women who seemed to drift through her life, but when he was killed, Amelia mourned him.
“I have a good motivator,” Sookie said, and she told her friend about her pregnancy. “So, you see, I can’t be selfish about this. I’m responsible for someone else now. I’ve got to make this right for both of us.”
“Sam’s?” Amelia asked, and when Sookie didn’t answer right away, Amelia said, “Are you sure you aren’t just reacting to this news? Maybe you’re just panicking and that’s making you think Sam is the wrong choice.”
“I knew Sam was a mistake before I knew about this,” Sookie felt a great calm. “I knew that this box I built for myself was something I’d have to walk away from. I finally figured out where my heart laid. When this surprise came along, it was like the icing on the cake for me. New start, new family, new reason to try. I can’t explain it, but this baby feels like a gift.”
“It won’t feel like a gift if Sam sues for parental rights,” Amelia said sharply.
“Which is why I’m not telling him right away,” Sookie said. “It’s not that I’m going to hide it forever, but I know Sam. He can’t go without someone in his life for long. He’ll find someone and he’ll get all wrapped up in them. Then, when I call him, he won’t be so quick to want to throw a wrench in his new plans.”
“That’s a terrible thing to say!” Amelia exclaimed.
“I’ve known Sam for a long time,” Sookie told her, “and when he realizes I’m not asking him for anything, he’ll let it go.”
“Well,” Amelia said after a minute, “Why don’t you call Fran? Let me know how it goes, and if you really don’t like her, I can figure out something else.”
“Thank you,” Sookie said. “You didn’t really have any reason to help me, but you are, and I’m most grateful.”
“Don’t be silly,” Amelia replied. “You helped me when I needed it. This is the least I can do.”
Sookie worked the list she’d written down on her yellow pad of paper.
First, she called Sam and told him she quit. Sookie had looked back over all her bills and her savings, and knew she had more than enough to live for months if she was careful. The thought of walking back into Merlotte’s and seeing his face was too much.
“So, that’s the way it’s going to be, Cher?” he said, and Sookie could hear the edge of anger in his voice.
“I’m sorry I hurt you,” she replied. “We were friends. I know you wanted more, but I just can’t, Sam. I think you can see that.”
“You’re still a partner here,” Sam told her, as if she could forget.
“We’ll figure that out,” Sookie told him, “but I don’t want to work there anymore.”
When she drew the thick line through the item on the list, she felt as if a small chain holding her down was broken. It felt wonderful.
Looking at the next item on the list, she stood and walked to the kitchen drawer where she’d thrown the business card Mr. Cataliades left her.
“I am relieved you called me.” Mr. Cataliades was dressed formally, a vest buttoned over his ample belly and his fingernails newly manicured. “After our last parting, I was afraid you would remain angry with me. Not seeing you again would have made me sorry indeed.”
“I still don’t know how I feel about everything,” Sookie answered honestly as she brought his cup of sweet tea to the table.
“But, whatever it is that you have to ask me is important enough that you are willing to set that aside,” and the attorney accepted the tea and settled back again.
“Guess that’s true enough,” Sookie agreed. “I want to leave here, cut ties. I want a fresh start, but I need to know if the protection from vampires extends beyond Louisiana.”
Mr. Cataliades didn’t bother hiding his surprise, “Usually women in your condition are looking to settle in.”
“Nothing much gets past you, does it?” Sookie grinned.
“You smell differently,” the demon shrugged.
“Eww!” Sookie couldn’t help lifting her arm and sniffing. “That’s not very reassuring.”
“I assure you,” Mr. Cataliades said gently, “it is a very appealing odor. Then again, I assume the child you carry is Mr. Merlotte’s….”
“Guess my bed arrangements are pretty common knowledge,” Sookie sighed.
“When I left, you were showing a clear preference. I assumed things would progress along their natural path,” Mr. Cataliades confirmed.
“Well, there’s been a change of plans,” Sookie sniffed and then drew herself taller in her chair. “I don’t want to stay here and I don’t want to stay with Sam Merlotte. I’m heading for a new start, and I want to leave before anyone else sniffs me out.” Sookie was happy she hadn’t gone to the diner to quit in person. If the attorney could smell the pregnancy, there was the possibility that Sam would, too.
“So then you are looking to leave soon…” and the attorney raised one eyebrow.
“Within the week if I can arrange it,” Sookie nodded.
“What do you intend to do with the house?” Mr. Cataliades asked. “Do you need it shut down until you return?”
“That’s the thing,” Sookie said and she felt her conviction. “I’m not planning on ever returning here. I’ve decided to sell the house.”
“Oh…” and Mr. Cataliades cocked his head to the side.
“What?” Sookie could tell there was something.
“This land has been in your family for generations,” the attorney said reasonably.
Sookie’s eyes narrowed, “Which family?” Sookie had found out that she was part Fae. Her Grandmother was human, but her real Grandfather was a son of Fae royalty and a great friend to Mr. Cataliades. When the attorney didn’t answer, Sookie said, “I want to sell it all. I think I’ll be needing the money, even if it’s for a college fund.” She looked around the kitchen, “I’m sure you see my Grandfather when you look around here, but all I see is heartache.”
Mr. Cataliades pursed his lips, “If you would be agreeable, I could handle the sale for you. I can assure you the buyer will pay top dollar. Everything can be handled discretely.”
Sookie figured whoever the attorney had in mind was probably supernatural. “My brother, Jason, will likely be put out when I sell,” she warned.
“My recollection of the terms of your Grandmother’s will left this house entirely to you,” the attorney replied.
“I didn’t know you read my Gran’s will,” Sookie’s eyes narrowed.
“I have always taken a great interest in you,” Mr. Cataliades replied smoothly. He sipped the tea and smiled when Sookie got up and returned to the table with a plate of cookies. “I am sorry for your loss,” he said after a few minutes. Sookie almost asked him what he was saying, but as soon as her eyes met his, she knew. He rarely made a show of it, but Mr. Cataliades could read Sookie’s mind, and had.
“It’s too late for me,” she shrugged. “I know it’s foolish, but…” and she looked at her hands, her misery suddenly welling up, “but I kind of hope that if I live a real good life, maybe I’ll come back and next time I won’t screw everything up.”
“There is a saying that for every door that closes,” the attorney leaned forward, and Sookie could see he cared.
“When I was a little girl,” Sookie smiled even though tears started to spill over her eyes, “I remember reading ’Eight Cousins.’ I loved it so much more than ‘Little Women,’ although Gran said it was sentimental hogwash.”
“I remember the book,” the attorney nodded. “Louisa Alcott certainly appealed to young girls.”
“There was a character in the book, the heroine’s Aunt Peace. I remember they talked about how her sweetheart had died at sea and how Peace was good and kind, but always kind of waiting after that. I think that’ll be me, kind of waiting for when I can finally join him.”
The attorney leaned forward, his face serious, “Sookie, you are a young woman. You will have a family and a new life. You are too young to put yourself on a shelf, pining for something you will never have.”
“I’m just being silly,” Sookie leaned back, tucking her feelings away. “I’ve made you uncomfortable, and that wasn’t what I meant to do.” She picked up the attorney’s glass and refreshed his drink. Setting it back in front of him, she smiled, “I’m sure you’re right. It’s all just fresh right now.”
Sookie sat back down and when she looked at the attorney she could see he didn’t believe her, which was fine because she didn’t believe it either. Looking away, the attorney said, “I am pleased that I can be of service to you again. It will be my pleasure to handle these transactions for you. If I may ask, where do you intend to go?”
“I’m not sure,” Sookie said, happy they were on less dangerous ground. “I have a lead on someplace in Boston.”
“A lovely city,” the attorney nodded, “and very friendly toward the supernatural, despite their history.” The attorney tapped his business card, “You have my numbers, including my personal number. Please never hesitate to contact me at any time. I hope you know that I consider myself your friend.”
“Thanks, Desmond,” Sookie smiled and, reaching across the table, squeezed his clasped hands with one of her own.
The attorney rose and headed toward the door, then stopped. “I wonder if you have thought about taking some precautions to not be recognized.” When Sookie made clear she wasn’t sure what he meant, Mr. Cataliades explained. “Stackhouse is a recognizable name. Any vampire who has met you will recognize you by sight, but for the supernaturals who haven’t met you, your name is unique. They associate Stackhouse with Rhodes.”
“What would you suggest?” Sookie asked.
“I could change your name. Sookie Stackhouse would still be your legal name, but you would have a working title of sorts. You would have paperwork that would allow you to get identification, including a driver’s license in your alter ego. Passports and taxes would still need to be in your legal name, but most people on the street would never see either of those.”
“You can do that?” Sookie was surprised, but she could see the possibilities.
“Of course. Do you have any ideas? You don’t have to choose right away, but it would be best if it was arranged before you left. That way, wherever you land, you would be able to use your new name when you arrived.”
“Susan Hale,” Sookie said with almost no hesitation.
“Hale was your Grandmother’s maiden name,” the attorney nodded.
“And Susan is pretty close to Sookie. When I was little, I wished my name was Susan, so I’ll be able to get used to it.”
“I’ll start right away,” the attorney bowed a little formally. When he straightened, he took Sookie’s hand in his and ran his thumb over the back. “I’ll check the terms of your protection order, but I suspect its formal protection won’t extend beyond Felipe de Castro’s territories. Of course, I will call you as soon as I confirm everything.” He looked up into Sookie’s face, “I am very sorry for everything that’s happened. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think there’s anything you could have done that would have made a difference in terms of Mr. Northman’s situation. I reviewed the contract at his request. It would have taken Freyda’s final death to set it aside.”
Sookie gritted her teeth, “I don’t get it!” she exclaimed. “He didn’t sign it! He didn’t agree to it! He’s a free man, like anyone else.”
“He was once his Maker was finally dead,” Mr. Cataliades tried to explain. “But under vampire law, Mr. Northman was not free as long as Appius Livius Ocella existed. His Maker was within his rights to bind the Viking and that obligation did not end with his true death. It was a cleverly crafted piece of work. I believe Appius knew he wasn’t long for this world and he meant to be sure of his child’s future.”
“A future that didn’t include me,” Sookie felt a lump form in her throat.
“He would have considered you as beneath his progeny,” the attorney said. Sookie knew Mr. Cataliades didn’t say it to be cruel, but it stung all the same.
“Well, I guess he won in the end,” Sookie smiled sadly.
“There’s no reason you can’t, too,” the attorney assured her, and bowing, he left her standing on her porch. Along the tree line, Sookie saw the pale flutter that was Karin. She wondered if the vampire would catch on to what was happening, and Sookie resolved that when she did leave, it would be during broad daylight.
“I understand you want to leave your home, and you’re in a hurry. Do I have to worry about someone chasing you?” The voice on the other end of the line sounded like an older woman.
“No, ma’am,” Sookie told her. “There won’t be anyone chasing me. I’m not in any trouble. I’m just a woman who needs a fresh start in life.”
“Amelia tells me you’re not a charity case.” It was a statement, but it still sounded like a question.
“If you’re asking, I can afford to pay rent and my share of things. Amelia tells me you need someone to run errands and do some cooking, and I’m happy to do all those things. I do intend to get a job…”and Sookie let the statement dangle.
“I heard what you did in Rhodes,” Fran replied. “It was a brave act. You have a good reputation, but if you have trouble chasing you, I can’t have you here.”
“No, no trouble,” Sookie repeated. “Fact is, there’s a contract that’s supposed to make sure I don’t have to worry about any vampire interference for the rest of my natural life. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how far that will carry if I leave Louisiana, but I have an attorney who is checking it out.”
“So, if it isn’t you running away from trouble, why pick up from your family home and move north? Don’t insult my intelligence by saying this was some kind of plan. Amelia tells me you are looking to leave right away and that sounds like you’re in a hurry,” and Fran waited.
“I am in a hurry,” Sookie acknowledged, “but it isn’t because of the kind of trouble you’re thinking. It’s more every day, human needs to start over again trouble.”
“Living with regret is a terrible thing,” Fran said in the silence that followed and Sookie wondered how much Amelia had told this woman.
“I’m looking for a place where I can build a new home and put this whole sorry mess behind me,” Sookie sniffed. “I’m looking for a new start for me and my baby.”
“Amelia told me you were expecting, but she said you’re pretty early on,” confirming that, as usual, Amelia had no discretion when it came to Sookie’s secrets.
“That’s true,” Sookie acknowledged. “So I have time to get things settled and find a place before I become a package deal.”
“Is there a father?” Fran asked.
“He’s not the man I love,” Sookie replied, “and I can’t see getting married just because I’m pregnant.”
“There are other options,” Fran replied.
“Not for me,” Sookie told her. “I’ve thought about that, I really have. I can’t explain it, but I want this baby. I want a family, and this seems like a sign.”
Sookie could hear the woman on the other end of the line sigh, “Family,” she said. “You sound like a woman who understands loss. I’ll tell you what, if you want to try, I’ll give you two months. You have to agree that if we don’t suit each other, you’ll find another place.”
“I can live with that,” Sookie agreed.
“And I’m wiping Amelia Broadway’s memory,” the woman continued. “She will tell your tale to anyone who buys her a drink. She means well, but she can’t be trusted with a secret, and you sound too much like a secret.”
She wasn’t sure what to think, but she didn’t protest. When she hung up the phone, Sookie looked out at the moon peeking through the clouds. “It’s starting!” she said out loud, and she was sure that whatever it was, it would be good.