So I went home, brooding over Pam’s warning and Eric’s words and demeanor. I thought about crying but didn’t have the energy. I was too tired of being sad to make myself even sadder. Obviously, there was a lot of upheaval at Fangtasia and a lot of things hanging in the balance. There was nothing I could do about it except stay out of the way in the hope that I’d live through the change in regime, whatever that turned out to be. It was like waiting for the Titanic to sink.
Another morning went by, another day I passed holding my emotional breath, waiting for something to happen . . . something conclusive, or terrible.
I didn’t feel as though I were waiting for the other shoe to drop; I felt as though I were waiting for an anvil to fall on my head. If I hadn’t met with such a crushing reception when I went to Fangtasia, I might have tried to shake things up on my own, but I was discouraged, to put it in the mildest possible way. I took a very long, hot walk through the woods to put a basket of tomatoes on the Prescotts’ back porch. I mowed my meadowlike lawn. I found I always felt better when I was outside: more whole, somehow. (And that was good, because there was a shitload of yard work to do.) But I brought my cell phone with me every step I took.
I waited for Sam to call me. But he didn’t. Neither did Bernie.
I thought Bill might come over to let me know what was going on. He didn’t.
And so ended another day of noncommunication.
The next day, when I got up, I had a message of sorts from Eric. He had texted me – texted me! – and not even personally, but through Pam. She relayed a stiff message, informing me that he’d talk to me later in the week. I had cherished a hope that perhaps Pam herself would show up to bawl me out or to enlighten me about how Eric was faring . . . but no.
As I sat on the front porch with a glass of iced tea, I examined myself to see if my heart was broken. I was so emotionally exhausted, I couldn’t tell. As I saw it, maybe melodramatically, Eric and I were struggling with the chains of the love that had bound us together, and it didn’t seem we could either break free of those chains or resume them.
I had a dozen questions and conjectures, and I dreaded the answers to all of them. Finally, I got out the weed whacker, my least favorite yard tool.
My gran used to say, "You pays your money, and you takes your choice." I didn’t know where the saying had originated, but now I understood what it meant.
"Of course," I said out loud, because the radio was playing and I couldn’t hear myself think over it, "if you make a decision, you have to abide by the consequences." I hadn’t even made a conscious decision to use the cluviel dor to save Sam; I’d acted instinctively when I saw him die.
Finally, I’d reached my saturation limit on this retroactive second-guessing. I threw down the weed whacker and screamed out loud. Screw all this brooding.
I was sick of thinking about it.
So I was delighted, after I’d put away all the yard tools and showered, to hear a car crunching up my gravel driveway. I recognized Tara’s minivan. As she drove past the kitchen window, I peered out to see if the twins were strapped into their car seats, but the windows were tinted too dark. (Seeing Tara in a minivan was still a shock, but during Tara’s pregnancy she and JB had vowed to be model parents, and part of that picture was a minivan.) Tara’s shoulders were rigid as she walked to the door, but at least she was coming to the back door as friends should. She didn’t fool with knocking. She opened the back door onto the laundry room/porch and yelled, "Sookie! You better be here! Are you decent?"
"I’m here," I said, turning to face her as she came into the kitchen. Tara was wearing some stretchy brown pants and a loose white blouse, her dark hair in a braid down her back. Her makeup was minimal. She was lovely as always, yet I couldn’t help but notice she’d let her eyebrows stray all over. Motherhood could sure wreak havoc on a woman’s grooming. Of course, having two at one time would make "me time" extra hard to come by. "Where are the babies?" I asked.
"JB’s mom’s got ’em," she said. "She was drooling at the chance to keep ’em for a few hours."
"So . . . ?"
"How come you’re not going to work? How come you’re not answering your e-mail or picking up your mail at the end of the driveway?" She tossed a bundle of envelopes of all sizes and a magazine or two onto the kitchen table. She glared at me as she continued, "You know how nervous that makes people? People like me?"
I was a little embarrassed at the chunk of truth in her accusation that I’d been selfish in staying out of touch while I’d been trying to understand myself and figure out my life and my future. "Excuse me," I said sharply. "I did call in sick to work, and I’m surprised you want to risk taking my germs back to the babies!"
"You look fine to me," she said, without a speck of sympathy. "What happened to you and Sam?"
"He’s all right, isn’t he?" My anger faltered and disappeared.
"He’s had Kennedy working in his place for days. He talks to her by phone. He doesn’t come over to the bar." She was still glaring at me, but her stance was softening. I could tell from her thoughts that she was genuinely concerned. "Kennedy’s real happy to do extra bartending, since she and Danny are saving up to rent a house together. But that business can’t run itself, Sookie, and Sam hasn’t missed four days at the bar, if he was in Bon Temps, since he bought the place."
That last part was mostly a muted blahblahblah. Sam was all right.
I sat in one of the kitchen chairs a little too hastily.
"Okay, tell me what happened," Tara said, and sat opposite me. "I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. But I guess now you better tell me."
I did want to talk to someone about what had happened at Alcide Herveaux’s country place. But I couldn’t tell Tara the whole story: the captive rogue Weres, Jannalynn’s betrayal of her pack and her leader, the horrible things she’d done. I couldn’t imagine how Sam was feeling. Not only had he learned the true nature of his girlfriend – though evidence suggested that he’d always suspected Jannalynn was playing a deeper game – but he had to absorb her death, which had been truly gruesome. Jannalynn had been trying to kill Alcide, her packleader, but she’d given Sam a mortal wound instead. Then Mustapha Khan had executed her.
I opened my mouth to try to begin the story, and found I didn’t know where to start. I looked at my friends-since-childhood buddy helplessly. She waited, with a look that said she intended to sit right there in my kitchen until I answered her. Finally, I said, "The gist of it is that Jannalynn is now completely and permanently out of the picture, and I saved Sam’s life. Eric feels that I should have done something for him, instead. Something significant, that I was aware of." I left off the punch line.