Title: The Grace of Flowers
Author: Terri Botta
Support Stacie Auction Winner: Sookiebontemps
Ficlet Challenge: Write a story just for Sookie that involves Gran or a memory of Gran.
A/N: Sookiebontemps was one of the three bidders who grabbed the 2,000 wc stories I offered for $20 for the Support Stacie Fan Fic Auction. She actually bid more than $20, and that was much appreciated. She wanted a story that was all about Sookie, something that was just for her, and she wanted it to center around Gran. This is for her, for Sookie, and Gran.
The Grace of Flowers
Time heals all wounds they say. They're wrong. The wound does close over, but it never really heals. Every now and then something will peel back the scab to reveal the sore underneath, and she will see that it's still there, and the pain is still as sharp as ever. Grief is the same way.
She never really knew her parents. They were taken away when she was so young. Her memories of her mother and father are vague and fuzzy, like watercolors or the woods when there's a fog. She doesn't really remember them, and she certainly does not miss them. In hindsight, she wonders who she would have become if they had lived.
Her mother had been obsessed with her father, almost to the point of neglecting her own children, and she had failed to protect her daughter from a predator. Her father, one-quarter fey as she knows now, wasn't the attentive, doting male influence fathers are supposed to be in their children's lives.
She knows she was never Daddy's Little Girl.
There are days when she is quiet and reflective (not too many because the past is something she does not like to dwell upon) when she tries to imagine what it would have been like to grow up in the same house her brother still lives in, to have lived in a normal home with normal parents, to have had a normal childhood, but she can't seem to picture that road that wasn't taken.
That pain has faded. The wound came upon her too young, and she remembers it the way a child remembers an accident or a broken bone. The scars are there, the memory is there, but the pain is only an abstract concept because it has been so long.
But she remembers her grandmother. That pain hasn't faded, and she hopes it never will. It, and her memories, are all she has left of the woman who raised her, who took her and Jason in when she didn't have to, and looked after them better than their own parents.
Forget wondering who she would have been if her parents had lived. It is much more appropriate to ask who she would have become if her parents hadn't died.
The two questions don't necessarily have the same answer.
Unlike her parents, she does miss her grandmother. Gran was more of a mother to her than her own mother ever was, so it's understandable, but sometimes Gran's memory comes back so suddenly and so unexpectedly that she's surprised by how fresh it is. It can be triggered by a sound, a scent, a familiar sight that brings it all back so clearly that she can almost imagine Gran still sitting on her stool in the kitchen – the kitchen that doesn't exist anymore, the one that burned down and the beloved stool with it.
At least she still has the flowered cups and the table. Those things survived Charles Twining's attempt to kill her, even if the other things did not. Somehow sitting at the table and drinking from her grandmother's cups makes her feel close to her again. She knows there are times when she could really have used Gran's advice and understanding ear, although she isn't sure if Gran would have approved of some of the choices that she's made. She knows Gran would have loved her nonetheless, and she would have come to love her granddaughter's final choice. Of that she has no doubt.
Spring is always a bittersweet time of year for her because the flowers Gran planted come up in all of their glory. The daffodils and irises welcome the return of the warmth and sunlight, and the yellow bells burst out in shocks of gold, and she remembers how much her grandmother loved the green and growing things.
Did Gran love them because they made her feel closer to Fintan? Did working with the earth bring back the memory of the half-fairy who had given her children? Gran always seemed so content in the garden, singing softly to herself. Did she wish for her long lost lover to return? Did she ever miss the man her granddaughter had never met? Gran's husband had died long ago. Had she ever hoped that Fintan would return to her?
One of the worst parts of losing Gran is the loss of the answers she knows she could use now. There are so many questions, so many things she wants to know, but the only one who could have told her is long gone, and she took her answers with her. How much did Gran actually know? Did she know Niall? Did she know all about fairies? Did she know why Fintan had forbidden Niall to see her and the children Fintan had sired?
She doesn't know and now she never will. Not unless she finds a diary or a stack of letters hidden somewhere in the attic or under the floorboards. To be honest, she hasn't really looked. It's one thing to hope for answers, but another thing entirely to actually get them. In her life, the answers she always thought she wanted usually turned out to be the ones she wished she hadn't gotten.
Of course, the absolute worst part of losing Gran is the loss of someone who accepted her unconditionally. There have only been two people who have ever known all of her and loved her despite all of her flaws, and Gran was one of those precious two. She was lost without her in those first months afterwards, alone in the cavernous house that Gran had left her, and afraid of the dark for the first time – and not without good reason.
She isn't afraid of it anymore. Now she welcomes the night the way the leaves turn over to meet the rain, but back then there were too many shadows and too many things lurking in them.
She welcomes Spring too, even though it marks the anniversary of The Beginning – the event that started it all, the fateful night William Compton walked into Merlotte's Bar and turned her life upside down. For a time she believed that dating Bill was what had caused her grandmother's death, and she blamed herself, but even if she hadn't met Bill, Rene's mind was too damaged and splintered for something not to have leaked out eventually. Once that had happened, she would have known he was behind the murders, and he would have come after her anyway.
The same time of year brings her closer to her memories of Gran. Not only in the riots of color erupting from the flowerbeds her grandmother had so lovingly planted, but in other ways as well. She finds it is the simple things that bring back the strongest memories. Like rain on the tin roof, drumming out a steady, soothing rhythm against the metal.
"Gran, we need a new roof. There's no gettin' around it."
"I know, Sookie dear. I just hate the thought of you spending your hard earned money on something like that."
"What else do I have to spend it on? It isn't like I have a boyfriend to buy presents for or anything."
Gran had smiled so sadly, but she'd said nothing.
"I'll call Randall Shurtliff and have him give us some estimates."
"I want a tin roof."
"I was hopin' to put regular shingles on it."
"No. It has to be tin."
"Tin gets too hot and it needs more maintenance."
"I rocked your father and your Aunt Linda to sleep listening to the sound of rain on this roof, and I'll not lose that reminder."
"Okay, Gran. Tin it is."
She'd paid for the new tin roof, and then she and Gran had sat and listened to the patter of the rain during the first storm after the new roof was installed. Gran had sighed, her eyes closed, and smiled softly. When Gran eyes opened again, they'd been full of quiet sadness and gratitude, and she'd found herself smiling back. She still finds the low, drumming sound comforting most of the time, and she'll often just sit quietly and listen to the spring and summer rains.
If rain on the roof can bring back memories of shared quiet companionship, the smell of Campho-phenique can trigger a memory of a scraped knee or elbow, and she finds herself smiling as she recalls Gran's steady, tender comfort in the face of tears.
She's always been an easy weeper, and Gran had seen her share of waterworks from her granddaughter, yet none of them ever seemed to ruffle her feathers or falter her reassuring smile.
"Just a bit of this, Sookie dear, and we'll have you right as rain."
"Oh no, Granny! I hate the smell of that stuff!"
"Some Neosporin then. It doesn't smell."
To this day she can't smell the acrid antiseptic without remembering all the times Gran used it for injuries great and small.
Gran's garden tools are still in the shed, and she's finally reached a point where she can look at them and handle them without feeling a tightness in her throat. The trowel and spade are kept towards the back, and her grandmother's garden gloves are still hanging from their hook. In all this time, she's never moved them.
"Sookie, Dear, would you go get me the hand trowel from the shed?"
"Okay, Gran. Hey, what are these?"
"They're irises dear."
"They look like funny onions."
Laughter. "Oh no, dear. You don't want to be eating those, trust me. But when they come up to bloom, you'll think they're God's own grace put right into a flower."
"I thought that was lilies bein' God's grace in flowers."
"All flowers are God's grace."
"Even the little ones?"
"Those have the most grace of all."
Even now she can't look at the tiny white wildflowers that dot the edges of the woods without remembering her grandmother's words and smiling.
This afternoon she saw an announcement for a Descendants of the Glorious Dead luncheon, and she remembers Gran making potato salad and peach tea for the ladies. Gran loved her little group, but she often thought that they gathered mostly just to gossip and trade recipes than for any other reason.
She recalls the night Bill came to speak to the group, how polite and accommodating he was, how overjoyed and proud her grandmother was, and how she came home from the meeting to find Gran dead in the kitchen.
She'll never forget that smell or the unspeakable horror that awaited her, glaring in the bright light of the incandescent bulbs. She'd screamed and screamed.
She shudders and shakes away the memory as she brushes away a tear. Yes, it is always the little things that take her by surprise: the sight of a piece of jewelry that was left to her, or the scent of her Gran's favorite perfume. Sometimes even a sale on Gran's preferred brand of shampoo can leave her standing in the market aisle, recalling the thick, waves of Gran's hair and the scent of flowers rising from it as it dried.
Her grief and loss are too close to the surface. Today is the day Gran died.
Melancholy, she wraps herself in the "hideous" yellow and green quilt and goes to sit on Gran's rocker on the front porch. She knows she should take the laundry down from the line, but she can't bring herself to do it. They will smell of sunlight and the wind, just the way the laundry smelled when Gran did it because she always put it out to dry if she had a choice.
"My lover?" a voice calls softly, and she realizes that the sun has gone down sometime during her silent ruminations.
She doesn't bother to answer because there is no need. He can feel everything she is feeling through their bond so it won't take him long to figure it out.
He comes to stand next to where she is seated, and she notices that his hair is wet. He's been awake long enough to shower and dress, and she feels a pang of guilt. He likes to wake beside her on the nights he stays over, but she was too caught up in her memories to keep track of the passage of time.
"I'm sorry," she apologizes.
"It is no big deal. You are… very sad tonight, my lover," Eric says.
She nods because there is no point in denying it. "Yeah."
He is silent for a while, staring out at the night, before whispering gently, "Tonight is the anniversary of your grandmother's death."
She swallows hard and blinks back the tears. "Yes."
Strong arms come around her, and she finds her cheek pressed to his broad chest as he kneels on one knee beside her. "I'm sorry."
"I love you. I am here if you want to talk."
She sniffles, but smiles in spite of herself. He kisses her gently, then pulls back, giving her her space.
"I've been thinking about her all afternoon. Started when I saw a flyer for a Descendants of the Glorious Dead luncheon and the date was on it. Brought it all back," she explains.
She has to give him credit. Normally he would now crack a joke about vampires being the "Glorious Dead" and complain about his lack of invitation to speak to the group regarding his recollections of the War of Northern Aggression. Since he is being quiet, she won't remind him that they don't want him there because he fought for the Other Side.
The scent of Angel's Trumpets comes to her on the wind, and she laughs a little. She never would have thought of Eric as having a Green Thumb, but yet he has planted his own little bed of flowers that bloom at night, and the 10" inverted flutes are most fragrant after dark.
She chuckles and imagines what it would have been like if Eric and Gran had gardened together. What a sight that would have been.
"She would have liked you. I think," she says.
He raises an eyebrow at her, but his mouth is turning up at one corner. "You think?"
"I'm pretty sure, actually."
"I am sure I would have liked her," he answers. "She raised you, after all, so I would hold her in high esteem."
She can't resist the chance to tease him. "I'm not sure you would have. She liked Bill."
He frowns, but she knows he isn't serious. "Even the most outstanding people are allowed a lapse in judgment every now and then."
She snorts. "Lapse in judgment?"
He shrugs. "It was the most tactful way of putting it."
"And you're all about tact."
She laughs again and smiles at him, and she's already feeling better, but that is probably because she is feeling his contentment and joy through the bond. These days he's always happy when he's with her.
"I think she would have been happy because I am happy," she tells him.
"All good mothers want the children they raise to be happy."
The wind blows and she shivers a little. Now that the sun has gone down, it's a little chilly.
"You should go inside. You are cold," Eric says.
"Yeah, I should," she agrees and rises to her feet.
She stands at the edge of the porch, looking out at the flowers and carefully maintained gardens that her grandmother had loved.
"Gran loved her flowers," she comments.
"That is easy to see."
She smiles, and for a moment she can see a tiny, old woman kneeling next to the flowerbeds. Gran is wearing her gardening gloves and a broad-rimmed straw hat, and it is a sweet and comforting vision.
"Let's go inside," she says, offering Eric her hand.
He takes it immediately, his long fingers curling around hers, and bends down to kiss her. "Anything for you, lover."
She sighs and turns to go into the house with Eric at her side. As she steps through the doorway, she is certain she can hear her grandmother singing softly.
"There were fairies at the bottom of our garden…"
A sad smile touches her lips, and she sings the little ditty in her head.
'Good-bye Gran. I hope you're gardening in heaven.'
The wind blows again, and she catches the unmistakable scent of Gran's perfume just as the door closes behind them.
There were fairies at the bottom of our garden.
They often had a dance on summer nights.
Like butterflies and bees made a lovely little breeze
And the rabbit stands about and holds the light.
There's a little wood with moss in it and beetles
And a little stream that quietly runs through.
You wouldn't think they'd dare to go merrymaking there,
Well, they do, yes they do, yes they do.
- Rose Fyleman (excerpt)