Roses are Red (And so is by Blood)
(Week 5 of The Maple Bookshelf's War of the Words)
Disclaimer – All characters and canon situations are the property of Charlaine Harris, her publishers, and HBO. No money is made from the writing or publishing of this fan fiction.
Sitting all alone on my couch, eating a piece of birthday cake I bought for myself at Walmart, I look toward the anniversary clock on my mantel. Its thirty-eight minutes after nine. It's hard to believe that I'll be fifty years old in a little more than two hours. Where did all the time go? What happened to all the years? They've gone by so fast. It's as if I blinked my eyes and thirty years went by.
The thing is I don't even feel fifty. I don't rightly know what a fifty year old woman is supposed to feel like, but I don't reckon she feels the way I do. I remember when my gran turned fifty. She seemed so old. I'm sure she didn't feel old, but to my brother and me, she seemed OLD. For fifty is old. It's half a century, yet it's also a mere drop of water in an ocean deep and wide.
Earlier today, my friend Tara told me that there's no way I looked fifty and I smiled and thanked her. What else could I possibly say to that? I agree? Because in fact, I do agree. When Gran was fifty her hair was already gray, she had wrinkles, and she wore little cotton house dresses with flowers all over them. My hair is still long and blonde (thanks in part to Miss Clairol). My figure may not be what it was when I was twenty four, but it's not bad. I still wear pretty much the same things I wore twenty years ago. Tonight I have on my favorite white shorts and pink t-shirt. I've had both for more than fifteen years, and knowing that I can still put them on gives me some comfort, that's for sure.
I often wonder if my youthful appearance has anything to do with all the vampire blood I used to ingest and I figure that it does. I don't know how I feel about that. It might have just as much to do with my Fae heritage as to that.
My daughter, Emma, called me about two hours ago. She said she was busy with school work, but she wanted to call and wish her momma a happy birthday. I love that kid so much. She looks just like I did at her age. She's taller than I am, but she has long blonde hair and brilliant blue eyes. She's the best thing in my life, that's for sure. She's the only child I was blessed with. My husband always told her she was the apple of his eye, but for me, she's always been my bright and shining star. Besides looking like me, she doesn't take after my husband or me at all – much to my relief. In other words, she's not a shifter like Sam; And except for a bit of Fae blood, which she gets from me, she's not a telepath (thank the Lord above) and she's never dated a Vampire. The only thing a bit strange about my daughter is that she has a werewolf (Alcide Herveaux) for a godfather. She's about as normal as a normal person could be.
She turned twenty last summer. She's going to college all the way up north at Kent State University in Ohio. I'd never heard much about Kent State except I knew four students were killed there during the Vietnam War, but I only knew that because of that song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. She got a full scholarship and she's not afraid of the cold Ohio winters. She wants to be a Zoologist. I miss her something fierce, but I'm happy she spread her wings and got the hell out of Bon Temp, Louisiana. I only wish I'd been brave enough to do the same when I was her age.
Through a series of unfortunate events… my parents' early death, the murder of my grandmother, and then all things 'Vampire' and supernatural, I was stuck here and have often regretted it, although I've come to realize that because of it I'm the person I am today.
I like the person I am.
My husband died last year. It was a shock to us all. He was only 56 years old. He was outside his bar, Merlotte's, about to leave for the night, when a drunk leaving the bar got in his car, put it in reverse rather than drive, and backed right over Sam as he was taking out the garbage. He died a few hours later at the big medical center in Shreveport. Emma and I got there right before he died. We told him goodbye. We hugged and kissed him. Emma told him that he was the best father a girl could ever have – and he was.
I told him that he was the love of my life – but he wasn't.
That dubious distinction has been held by a vampire named Eric Northman for over twenty-five years. And though I haven't seen him for 22 years of those years, I still think about him all the time. I wonder if he thinks about me, too.
He would still be as handsome as sin. Tall, blond, built like the former Viking that he was. See, the thing about Vampires that all the books and television shows have wrong is that people pretty much look the same after they're turned into vampires as the looked when they were people. In other words, if you were old or ugly, fat or bald, before you were turned, you'd be an old, ugly, fat or bald, vampire. You don't become instantly beautiful the moment you turn from plain old human to vampire.
Oh, and vampires don't sparkle in the sunlight like the do in those books. Sunlight's not a vampire's friend, if you get my drift.
I stand up from the sofa, pick up my half eaten piece of cake and my glass of tea from the coffee table, and turn off the television. I mainly had it on for noise anyway. Going from room to room, I turn off the lights, lock the back door after placing the plate with cake in the sink, and with my glass of tea in my hand, I cross back over to the foyer to lock the front door. My hand is on the lock and I'm about to turn the tumbler when instead I open the door. Turning off the front porch light (so the bugs won't eat me alive) I step over the threshold to go sit on my front porch swing.
It's nice to feel safe sitting on my own porch swing in the middle of the night. There was a time, not so long ago, when I wouldn't have been so lucky. But ever since I broke the blood bond with Eric, and he left Louisiana to marry the Queen of Oklahoma, I've lived a relatively peaceful and safe life.
Not that it's fair to blame all my previous bad luck on Eric. If I wanted to trace my bad luck with vamps and supes on anyone, I should probably blame Bill Compton, for he's the first vampire I ever befriended. Well, we were more than friends… Bill was my first love and my first lover. Shortly after we started dating, Eric forced Bill to admit to me that he made me fall in love with him because of my Fae blood. After that, all the love I had for him turned to hate. Now, I barely feel anything for him. He still lives across the graveyard. He still looks thirty-five years old. He stopped by earlier this evening, right at dusk, and wished me a happy birthday. He gave me a book. Sometimes I think he's still in love with me. Sometimes I don't care.
Placing my tea glass on the floor, I begin to swing back and forth, one foot underneath me, the other touching the floor of the porch to give me purchase. It's a cool night and I wish I had thought to grab my sweater – it's just inside the door. I don't want to get up to get it, though, so I close my eyes and breathe in the smells of the night. I feel at peace. I feel happy. I chuckle because I don't feel old at all.
But mostly, even though I feel happy and at peace, I have to admit that I also feel lonely. I feel nostalgic. I feel a bit weary and tired. I wish I had someone to share my birthday with. Perhaps that's the hardest part about turning fifty – the knowledge that I am alone and will be celebrating my birthday by myself.
And I've come to realize that it's okay to feel a bit sorry for myself once in a while. I've earned it.
Bringing my left leg down to join my right leg, I accidentally knock my tea glass over, spilling the tea everywhere, breaking the glass. "Damn it all to hell," I mumble. I lean over to pick up the three pieces of glass. This was my favorite glass, too. It had belonged to a set my grandmother bought with green stamps back before I was born. There were only two left, this one and another one, which has a chip around the rim. They have little white and yellow flowers on them. They remind me of a happier time. They remind me of my childhood and my grandmother. Now there's only the one left, and it's the one with a chip. Figures.
Placing the two largest pieces of glass beside me on the swing, I leaned over to pick up the last piece. And damn it again, if I didn't cut my thumb, right on the tip, with the pointy edge from that last piece of glass.
Dropping the piece of glass on the seat with the others, I cradle my injured thumb in my other hand and watch as the blood pools to the tip. The blood there is dark red. I squeeze my thumb and watch as the drop of blood grows, dripping from my thumb down to my bare thigh. I don't want to get it on my white shorts, but for some reason, I'm fascinated by my own blood.
It's nothing special. It's red. It's the color of some roses I got earlier in the day. They arrived by courier. The man knocked on my door, I answered, and he handed me the largest glass vase I'd ever seen and inside it were fifty of the prettiest red roses. I thanked him, placed the vase on the dining room table, and handed the guy a ten dollar bill for a tip. I would have given him a five, but the ten was all I had except for two ones.
When I walked back over to the bouquet, I hesitantly opened the card. All it said was 'One for each year – because their beauty and fragrance remind me of you'. In my mind I wondered if they might be from him… from Eric. But then I dismissed that notion. He's never given me anything in twenty-two years. He's never called me, he's never written, and he's never sent me a card or even a postcard. Why would he suddenly send me roses (fifty of them) for my birthday? Did he even know when my birthday was? Tossing aside the notion that they were from him, I convinced myself they were probably from Alcide or my brother.
Now, watching my blood on the tip of my fingers – blood that's as red as those roses – I know without a doubt that my first suspicion was right. Those roses are from him.
For some insane reason the thought of that makes me cry. I hug my bleeding thumb next to my chest and let the tears come as they may. I don't care. There's no one around to watch me. There's no one around to care. In two hours I'll be fifty years old and I can cry if I want to.
I close my eyes again to block out the pain.
Times passes, I don't know how much, and I think that I might have drifted off to sleep, when suddenly I hear someone ask, "Why the tears?"
I'm afraid to open my eyes. I'm afraid the voice might be real, and I'm also afraid that I might be imagining it. I feel as if I'm stuck in a true quagmire – and yes, that's a word I learned from my 'word of a day calendar' years ago. Was this real (I hope so) or am I really safe inside my house, tucked inside my bed, and was all this just a dream?
I hope not.
"Are you crying because you're fifty?" he inquires, clear and closer. "Or are you crying because you actually hurt yourself when you cut your thumb on that glass?"
I keep my eyes closed. The voice isn't real. There isn't anyone here. I refuse to believe he'd come after all this time. I refuse to open my eyes and ruin the moment. I would rather imagine he's here, finally, than open my eyes and see that it's all just a dream.
But then… then… he's in front of me. I know it because I can sense him. I can smell him. I can see him in my mind. I broke the blood bond I shared with him more than twenty years ago, but somehow, even without the bond, I know he's here. He reaches out and strokes my cheek with one finger. Then, he takes my hand from where I'm crushing it against my chest and holds it in his hand. I feel a soft touch to the tip of my thumb. It feels like a kiss. Oh please, let it be a kiss.
"Won't you open your eyes, Sookie?" he asks.
I shake my head no. My eyes remain shut.
"Why won't you greet me? We haven't seen each other in over twenty years." I feel the swing bob up and down as he sits next to me.
I immediately open my eyes and say, "Watch out, there's a broken glass there."
He smiles at me. The pieces of broken glass are in his hand. He leans over to place them on the floor.
I can't believe he's real. My God, he's as beautiful as ever. He looks like the Eric from my dreams. He looks like the Eric from my past. I've ached for him for so long. I've mourned for the love we once had. I realize that our break up was more my fault than his, but that didn't mean I didn't regret it, or that it hadn't caused me pain, for it had.
I want to be peevish and ask him if his wife, 'the queen', knew he was here, but I didn't want to spoil things. Still, he'd taken an oath to never see me again. He did it to keep me safe, or so he had said at the time. Why then was he here?
I look down and just notice that he still has my hand in his. My thumb is no longer bleeding. He holds it tightly in his and begins to push the swing back and forth with his long legs. I pull my legs up underneath me and sigh.
I've missed him so much.
I hardly know what to say.
Silence surrounds us like a blanket. It brings me comfort. He's looking out toward the night. I turn my head and look at him.
"What are you doing here, Eric?"
"I wanted to wish you a happy birthday, Sookie." He smiles and turns his head toward me.
I wanted to ask him, 'Isn't your bitch of a wife going to be mad that you're here', but I quickly rephrase it and ask, "Aren't you still forbidden to have any contact with me?"
He shrugs in that nonchalant way of his and says, "Old rules no long apply. I am no longer connected to the queen of Oklahoma. We are no longer married."
"Vampire divorce?" I ask lightly.
He laughs. My God, but I've missed the sound of that laughter. It rumbles through me like an electrical current.
"Something like that," he says with another laugh.
We're quiet again. I truly don't know what to say, because all my feelings are mixed up and confused. I feel tears burning my eyes, but I don't want to cry again. I refuse to cry again.
"You're still beautiful," I tell him. He is, too. He's so damn beautiful that it hurts to look at him.
He stares at me intently and says, "You stole my line, Sookie. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever known."
I pull my hand from his. "I'm old." I can hear a slight pout in my words, and I don't care. "Don't lie to me. It's condescending." I don't know why I'm acting like such a jerk, but perhaps it's because there was always so many lies and so much subterfuge between us, and I don't believe a word he says.
"I'm the old one, Sookie." He picks up my hand again, from its place on my lap. He stares at it. Bringing it up to his face slowly, he kisses the middle of my palm. It's so endearing it makes me want to cry even more.
So I let the tears fall as they may.
He wipes away one with his other finger. "Please don't cry."
"It's my birthday and I can cry if I want to." I smile, mostly because he smiles.
"I think that's a song," he tells me with a gleam in his eye. Then he sighs. I always find it odd when vampires do human things like sighing.
"After all these years, Sookie, do you still refuse to forgive me for all my sins?" He pushes the swing back and forth. The motion is comforting. So is his presence.
I move slightly so I can rest my head on his shoulder. "Have you forgiven me for mine?" I think that's the better question.
"Would you believe me if I said there's nothing to forgive?" He turns and lifts my head from his shoulder with the tip of his thumb on my chin. "The moment I met you, my life changed. Believe it or not, Sookie, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. Don't forget that. I've lived for thousands of years, but the only time I think I was truly happy were the few years I was with you."
I think that's about the sweetest thing I've ever heard. "I've never stopped loving you," I tell him. It's the truth, and I think it's high time I tell him so.
"Didn't you love your husband?" he asks. Sam was always a sticky subject with me and Eric.
"I loved him," I begin, "but the painful truth, Eric, is that while I loved my husband, I was always 'in love' with you." I bite my bottom lip to keep from saying anything more. I don't want to embarrass myself.
He laughs again. "Well, aren't you sweet?"
I laugh too. "I remember when you asked me that right after I first met you, and my answer was, 'Not particularly'."
"And somehow we were both right," he says with a raise of his eyebrows.
Without another word passing between us, he pulls me toward him so that his arms are around me and I'm locked in his embrace. I feel a kiss on the top of my head. I close my eyes as he says, "Happy birthday, my Sookie."
I look up at him and give him a wobbly smile. Bending his head slowly, he presses his lips to mine. My God, my God, but it's so sweet that it's painful. I recall every single kiss he's ever given me. I relive them all in this one, simple kiss.
Lifting his head, he asks, "What are you going to do for your birthday tomorrow?"
I shrug. "I don't know. I might stay in my pajamas all day long, eat the rest of my cake by myself, and sit on the couch and cry all day." It sounded pathetic, yet it was truly what I intended to do.
"I hope not," he tells me, brushing my hair back from my face with his hand. "I hope you have a wonderful and happy birthday. You need to make it a good one, after all, you only turn fifty once, right?" He kisses me again. It's a longer kiss than the first one, but just as lovely.
He continues to hold me until my eyes feel heavy with sleep.
I'll never know how much time went by, because the next thing I knew I was in my bed and it was morning. I must have gone to sleep last night. I woke up with a start; light is streaming in my room through my lace curtains. Eric is gone. I'm alone.
I go into the kitchen and get another piece of cake for breakfast. I eat it slowly, all the time thinking about last night. Perhaps it was all just a dream. Maybe I never went outside in the first place. Maybe I locked the front door, went straight to bed, and everything that happened after that was just a dream.
Pushing the cake away from me, I go to look in the sink. There's the plate and fork from my piece of cake last night. They're the only things in the sink. There's no glass with white and yellow flowers. I walk swiftly to my room to look on my bedside table. No glass. I run back to the kitchen and open the cupboard above the sink. There's only one glass in there with white and yellow flowers, and it has a chip on the rim.
I don't have to go back outside to know that I'll find the broken remains of the other glass on the floor of the porch. I know in the deepest part of my heart that it's there, and that he was really here last night. He held my hand. He held me while I cried. He kissed my lips. Then he left.
I don't know if I'll ever see him again, but I think I will. I smile and decide to get showered and dressed and then I'm going to do something exciting, something joyful, for my birthday. After all, I only turn fifty once, so I'd better make it a good one.