Damn driving in this heat with no air conditioner sucks! Driving in the Louisiana heat and humidity with no air conditioner was the last thing I wanted to do. However, family matters had me packing everything I owned into my tiny little beat-up car and hauling myself back down to the Deep South.
I was one of the lucky ones; I had managed to get out of the small, dead-end, town of Bon Temps. But now I was on my way back and not for a joyous reason. Most people visit for holidays or just because they miss their family. I'll be honest, I missed my family, some of them anyway, but I never visited. I wasn't really close with anyone and Bon Temps was the last place I wanted to live my life, so the minute I graduated high school I packed up my car and high-tailed it out of there. And now I was coming back.
I had been driving for close to twelve hours, only stopping to pee and fill the gas tank, and I was ready to fall asleep. After smacking myself across the face for the fifth time I finally saw the Welcome to Bon Temps sign. Yeah right, I thought, snorting. Bon Temps hadn't changed at all, the streets and buildings were still the same, the only differences were that the trees were taller and some of the houses had been painted since I had last seen them. I followed the familiar streets to the cemetery on the far edge of town, which took all of fifteen minutes, and turned up the familiar dirt road.
The house hadn't changed at all. It was the same old plantation house that I remembered from my childhood. I could tell that the roof was new, still tin but new, and that it had been white-washed since I left, but the house was still the same. I parked my car, but couldn't find it in me to get out just yet. My hands were still on the steering wheel and my head soon joined them. The house itself hadn't changed, but I knew it would never be the same. The last memory I had of this house was the morning I left Bon Temps. My grandmother was always a woman to rise with the sun and make three home-cooked meals a day, with enough food to feed ten. That morning I woke up, hoping to leave before my grandmother rose, only to find her puttering around the kitchen in her housecoat and slippers. She put a plate of food on the table and turned to me.
I could see that she was tearing up a little but all she said was "You need to eat something before you go. We can't have you driving hungry now can we?" After breakfast she helped me load up the last suitcase in my car, gave me a thermos of coffee and a picnic basket full of good home-cooked food, kissed my forehead, and told me that she loved me. That was the last time I saw her. We spoke on the phone once a week, but I hadn't seen her in eight years. And now I never would again.
I took a shaky breath and managed to pry my hands from the steering wheel. I needed to stop running and face the storm. I killed the car engine and walked up the familiar steps of my childhood sanctuary. Before I could even knock on the door something, someone came barreling out of the door and knocked me flat on the porch. Before I had a chance to say anything or pick myself up the jackass had stomped down the steps and walked away. I managed to pick my ass up off the porch only to see a big black truck kick up dirt flying down the driveway.
It was only then that I realized exactly how many people were there. At least six people had seen me get knocked on my ass and the driveway was overflowing with cars. I felt like an idiot for not noticing how many people were there but I was too busy dwelling on my memories and how much I really didn't want to be there, especially for this reason. I began to dust myself off only to feel someone come up beside of me and begin to help. I looked up to see a woman with vibrant red hair give me a sheepish smile.
"Are you ok honey? You're not hurt are you?"
I shook my head, "I'm alright. It's not the worst I've had." Before she could ask anymore questions I asked one of my own, "Is Sookie around?"
"Ugh, she went upstairs."
"Thanks," I said, walking inside. I could find my way around the house blindfolded, so I headed straight upstairs. I bypassed my grandmother's room, I wasn't strong enough to face her empty room yet, and made my way to Sookie's room.
Sookie was the same as I remember; average height, blonde, blue eyed, and tan. Like everyone else she had aged, grown up, but I could still recognize the little girl that I used to live with. The only difference was the angry red mark on her face, someone had hit her. I sighed, Sookie and I never really got on, we were just too different. While we looked similar, genetics and all, we had completely different personalities. Sookie was the southern belle while I was the black sheep of the family. Sookie tended to leap head first into situations while I tended to be more of a look first then leap person, most of the time. But no matter how different we were, she was still family, and no one hurt my family.
"Hey Sookie," I said, leaning against the doorframe.
Sookie and another girl, dark skinned with black hair and brown eyes, turned to look at me. "Leah?" Sookie asked.
Have I really changed that much? "Yeah, it's me Sook," I replied, stepping into the room and moving over to the bed.
Before I could say anything else Sookie leapt up and began to squeeze the life from me. "Oh my God Leah."
I wrapped my arms around her, hugging her for mutual comfort and patting her back. "I know, I know."
I turned my head to look at the room's other occupant. I studied her for only a moment before I recognized her, "Tara?"
Sookie's childhood friend gave me a slight smile. I could tell that she was happy to see me, but now was not the time to play catch-up. Sookie pulled back to look at me, releasing me from her death grip in the process. "Gran's gone," she said, voice cracking a little.
"I know honey."
"How?" She asked puzzled.
"I called her," Tara cut in, "I found her number in your Gran's address book. Though I didn't expect her to get here so fast."
"I got off the phone with you, packed, and hit the road," I explained. I turned so that I was talking to the both of them, "Now I'll be right back," I said turning to walk out of the room.
"Where are you going?" Sookie asked, sounding scarred, like she thought that I was going to leave for good.
"I've been driving for twelve hours," I said, "I gotta pee something fierce, then I'm going to get me some Tylenol and coffee and stretch my legs for a minute. Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere."
I did my business quickly but stayed in the bathroom longer than necessary. I leaned against the door, breathing deep, and trying to not to give into the desire to run. I had been running my entire life. Whenever life got too hard I had a tendency to pack up and run away. I was determined to not run from this though. Once I finally got myself together I took some Tylenol for the massive headache I was fighting and headed to the kitchen to get my coffee. The kitchen, like the rest of the house, was crawling with people, but not for long. A fresh pot was still brewing when Tara came downstairs and shooed everyone out of the house. Thank God, I thought. I didn't know how many more looks I could stand before I snapped at someone.
"Sookie still upstairs?" I asked, walking into the living room with my cup to meet Tara.
"Yeah but she's out. After Jason hit her she took that Valium and was out like a light."
"Wait Jason did what?"
"He hit her. He found out about your Gran and blames Sookie. He came thundering in yelling how she should be dead instead of Gran and hit her. I chased him off."
I was pissed; Jason had no reason to hit his sister. "I'm going to kill him," I growled. "But that still doesn't explain why he would blame Sookie for this. Jason may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he isn't completely stupid."
Tara sighed, "You might want to sit down." I did as she said and waited patiently, sipping on my coffee. "Did you and your Gran talk any before…" she trailed off. I nodded. "So you know about the vampire that moved across the cemetery?" I nodded again. "Well Sookie and him been seeing each other…"
It was then that I interrupted, "Hold up there, rewind. You are telling me that my innocent, cream cheese, vanilla cousin is dating a vampire?"
"Yep," Tara said popping the 'p' and nodding.
"Huh," I sat back, "I never would have guessed Sookie had it in her."
Tara gave me an incredulous look, "I'm sorry, are you ok with this?"
"Tara," I began, "Sookie is twenty-five, and that is old enough to make her own decisions. It's time for everyone to quit babying her and let her make some mistakes."
"So you're saying that it's ok for a vampire to bite your cousin?"
"I'm saying that Sookie is a grown ass woman. It's time for her and everyone else to realize it, especially now." I decided to bring us back to the subject at hand, "So Jason blames Sookie because she's dating this vampire?"
"Yeah," Tara said, deflating some, "your Gran was the third…"
"She told me about Dawn and Maudette," I interrupted, not wanting to go there just yet; I wanted to pretend just a little bit longer.
"Well the two of them were fang-bangers and some people think that vampires did it, others think Jason killed 'em."
Now this just didn't make since to me. Gran had told me that Maudette and Dawn were strangled and, from the gossip whores I overheard, the kitchen was an awful mess from the fight Gran put up. "Ok that doesn't make any since. Why would Jason kill any of them, especially Gran? He may be a dog, but he's not a killer. And why would a vampire strangle anyone? I mean they're strong enough to crush someone, rip off their head even, and why leave the blood? Most killings that have been linked to vampires have either been revenge killings, or the result of losing control while feeding."
"Ok when did you become all logical?" She asked giving me a small smile.
I gave her a weak smile of my own, "I watch way too many cop shows."
"So what do you think is going on?"
"Well you said that Dawn and Maudette were fang-bangers," at that she nodded. "I highly doubt that Gran was a fang-banger, but she was friendly with the town's vampire. Maybe someone is killing people who have any kind of relationship with vampires; friendly, romantic, whatever."
"But why would someone kill them for that?"
"Why do people join the KKK and burn crosses? It doesn't have to make sense to us; it just has to make sense to them."
Suddenly someone called from the kitchen, "Bitch! Get your ass in here and help me clean up!"
I could feel my face lighting up, "Lafayette still here?"
Tara laughed at me, "Yeah, come on." She grabbed my hand and led me to the kitchen where her cousin was beginning to try and clean up the mess people left behind.
Once again I leaned against the doorjamb; this had always been my usual pose. Lean against the doorframe or the doorjamb a moment before entering the room, let people decide if they want me there or not before barging into their space. The only places this rule didn't apply to were my home at the time, or the common rooms of Gran's house. However, the kitchen was Lafayette's domain; he was a better cook than I could ever hope to be.
"Hey there hooker," I said from my perch.
Lafayette turned to see me, eyes widening once he recognized me. "Well I be damned, Leah Thompson, how long has it been?"
I pretended to think a moment, "Eight years."
"Well what are you waiting for?" I was confused. "Bitch get your white ass over here and give me a hug," he said tilting his head and opening his arms. I smiled at him and soon found myself wrapped up in his arms.
Lafayette and I had always been close. While Sookie and Tara were best friends, I was best friends with Lafayette. I was drawn to his flamboyant personality and confidence. He was everything I wasn't; flashy, flamboyant, and just plain fabulous. He brought out a different side of me, one that was more playful and open. But at the same time I kept him from doing something so stupid that it would get him killed. I had lost touch with him over the years but now it felt like I had never left.
Lafayette pulled back from me, looking me up and down, "How you been hooker? Staying out of trouble?"
"Been making some actually," I joked giving him a wink.
He laughed, "Now that's my girl!"