Learning to Live Again

By: Lilliana Dearing

Sookie's undoing

"Ten minutes to show time Miss. Stackhouse." My stage hand Ernie said to me as he popped his head into my dressing room. Ernie wasn't really an unattractive man, he was short and had beautiful auburn hair and the most beautiful chocolate colored eyes I had ever seen, prettier then Bills even. But, no one could compare to him. I can't even bring myself to look at another man that way. I tried a few times, I went on dates but I just couldn't do it. I always felt like even just being in another's man company I was cheating on him.

"Thanks Ernie, I'll be right out." It's been five long years sense the fairy's took me from my home and tortured me for hours on end. Five long years sense I couldn't take my life in Bon Tempe and ran; I had some of the scariest news ever in my life just a week before our anniversary and I couldn't take it. Even after figuring out that I was being an idiot a mere twelve hours later it was too late, I ran one too many times. Eventually I ended up here in New York, I couldn't take being in Bon Tempe anymore and New York was about as different from Louisiana as you could get. My phone rang and I knew exactly who it would be. It has been a little ritual of ours sense I opened up this show here in New York.

I click open my cell phone and said. "Sookie here."

"Hello my little telepathic friend. Are you ready for your show tonight?"

"As ready as I always am my Vampire friend. How are you Pam?"

"Sook, Vampires do not have varying health we have been through this many times before. I do not understand why you always insist on asking me."

I laugh a little. "Same old Pam."

"Yes, yes. I have heard that your little modern opera is going quite well. Is it true the theater picked it up for another twelve weeks?"

"Yep, there has also been talk about it branching out and being performed in other theaters around the U.S., it really is insanity. I had never even meant for this to even be seen by anyone Pam. I was just trying to work through things. Once it did get picked up I really didn't think that it would be such a huge success."

"Well what did you expect Sookie it is about you and my Master? Plus as I recall you always were a good dancer, even being untrained. You found your escape on Broadway to heal the wounds and it has been to your benefit. Master always said that you would excel in anything you did if you would only just stop thinking of yourself as just a barmaid."

I sigh deeply. "I know, Pam…" I let the unasked question go without saying. She knew what I wanted to know. I had asked her many times before. I had been staying out of the vampire world for a long time now but they all still knew me and accepted me and for the last year and a half sense I first put this production of mine together they had been helping me search for him more actively. God's knew that Pam and I had been trying for years before to find him and got nowhere. It was always just rumors, Bolivia, Russia, Asia, Africa, and Mexico and many many others. He had been seen everywhere and nowhere. Even with the new help it was more of the same, all rumors. He was smoke on a windy day no one could actually nail down where he was. After I had left so had he, he was gone not even twenty four hours after I was. He had just dropped off the face of the planet, or at least it seemed that way. It was my own fault I just ran from him one too many times and he finally did the same.

She was quite for a long time and said. "I am sorry Sookie there is still no sign of him. I know he isn't dead but I cannot feel him either."

"I miss him, I wish…"

"I know Sook, I know." I felt hot tears threatening to flow down my face and I quickly pulled myself together I didn't have time to reapply all my makeup before the show.

Ernie stuck his head in the door and said. "Two minutes Sookie get your ass in gear, tell Pam to call you after the show." He said angrily and slammed my dressing room door."

"Go Sook, call me when you're done."

"I will, love you Pam."

"I love you to my friend." Pam said and added. "Break a leg."

"Always." I clicked my phone shut and rushed out past the many stage hands and dancers getting ready for the big moment. I was in my first costume of the evening a little white halter dress that was so close to the one I wore into his bar the first night I saw him that they were hard to tell apart. I stood on stage left rolling my head back and forth to loosen my nerves. As much I loved performing, I hated it too, being on a stage in front of thousands of people and praying they would love the performance that you poured your heart and soul into.

When I first put this little production together it was just a way to work through all of my mixed up feelings about everything him and I had been through. I mentally slapped myself, 'why was it that I refused to say his name?' I never thought it and I never spoke it aloud. 'The few times you have let it slip in the last five years it felt like your chest was being torn apart, that's why.' I told myself. I had a show to perform and ripping my soul apart right before I walked on was not the best way to start the show. Although I always seem to get more of an emotional reaction from the crowd when I don't just go through the routine and actually think of him, envision him there in the crowd watching me perform our love on the stage for the entire world to see.

I had always loved to dance and I had a natural propensity for it. Directors were always surprised by the fact that I wasn't trained and that I had a natural talent and ability to pick up routines without seeing it more than one time through, before long I was one of the most sought after dancers for any Broadway production.

After I had finished writing up this little production of mine, I used to sneak into whatever theater I was working at hours before my practices, and I would dance out my part on the stage. A few of my new friends had caught me and they joined in these pre-rehearsal run threws of my love story. They fell into various characters here and there until finally I had every single roll filled including his, although that was the very last to be filled and Roland had always danced that part. Apparently word had gotten to the director about my little pre-rehearsal gathering for the production I was currently dancing for, (I am not going to say what it was let's just say it involved a ton of lions and a struggle for supremacy,) and he snuck in early to hide in the back row and watch my love and loss story play out.

The great thing about my production was that it used all modern music to express the things that had passed between my bonded and myself. It covered everything from the time I first met him to when I ran away and my own emotional fall out afterwards. But, I am getting off track, the director of that little production, you know the one with all of the lions and the evil uncle and the struggle to take his rightful place, watched my little play, rock opera, dance numbers whatever you want to call it he watched it all the way through. It always ended the same way, I would dance my way around the stage chasing after the ghost of my lost lover and in the end I would be crumpled in a ball on the stage in tears with his loss but knowing I would always wait for his return.

On that day, as the last notes died away and I once again had tears streaming down my face thinking of him and wishing I had done so many things differently, I heard the clap clap of someone's hands coming from the auditorium. I whipped my head up to see the director standing at the front of the stage clapping his hands wildly, his own tears streaming down his face with the emotional telling of my story. Less than six months later we had my story up and running on a little stage off Broadway, but its popularity just kept building and building until I had landed myself dancing here on the most famous stage in the entire world, Carnegie Hall.

"Thirty seconds." Ernie whispered in my ear. I closed my eyes and focused on that part inside of me that was him. I could almost feel him; the more I concentrated the more my imagination spun with him filling me up to the brim. It had been so long sense I had felt him so closely, even if it was imaginary, I knew tonight would be one of those nights that I had the whole house crying. So I did something I hadn't done in over six months. I got down on my knees and whispered a quick prayer. "God, bring my Eric back to me and if you can't return him to me watch over him. Let him feel how much I miss him every day. Let him someday at least forgive me for all the pain I caused him. I am sorry that I spurned the gift you gave to me Lord. I know that we were meant to be and I am truly sorry. I love you Eric."

I saw my friend Lucinda take the stage and the theater went quite. This was the only part in the whole production that had any speaking lines. The rest of mine and Eric's story was all told through movement, dance and accompanied by carefully selected music. The critic's loved it because there had never been anything quite like it before. Lucinda flitted gracefully to center stage and raised her gossamer voice for all to hear. "Carnegie Hall proudly presents Scarlett and Leif: a story of love and loss. Two lover's," she motioned to one side of the stage and my friend Roland took the stage. Lucinda then motioned to my side and I slowly walked onto the stage. I could feel the press of human, were, and vampire minds pressing on me and I quickly pushed them out. I felt the familiar butterflies flitting about in my stomach that signaled my nerves. I concentrated on that imaginary spark of Eric, picturing him sitting in one of the box seats staring down at me as I took the stage.

A smile spread across my lips with the warmth that thought brought to me. Tonight I would truly dance for him. Lucinda's monologue continued, it was always my little joke that Eric and my relationship was a tragedy and the only tragedy bigger than ours was Romeo and Juliet's so we put together a play on words imitating the opening from the famous play. "Both alike in dignity, in fair Louisiana where we lay our scene, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean, these star crossed lovers loose each other tragically, The fearful passage of their tragic mark'd love and stupidity that tares apart these fated lovers apart, Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend."

Lucinda quickly left the stage and the music from the first song began to swell, Madonna's Crazy For You, that license had been a pain to attain, 'Bill' aka my friend Atien took the stage at my side and he spun me and twirled me around as 'Eric' sat aloof in his throne across the stage. Atien and I did the dance of where I was drawn to Eric and he kept pulling me back to him, until I finally broke free and ran towards him we reached out and barely touched fingertips when, I was pulled back into Bill's waiting arms.

Song after song, costume change after costume change, slowly progressed through my tragic story of love that I threw away, I was fully in the moment, I felt like I was reliving every second of mine and Eric's relationship more powerfully then I had in some time. I could feel the emotions from the crowd as they were focused on the ballet/play/opera whatever in front of them and I let their emotions carry my own into full submersion of it all. The more it all went on the stronger I felt that little piece inside that was Eric grow, the more I could imagine that he was there living it with me.

I never picture Roland as Eric (that is a huge no no, it cuts to close to the quick so to speak, it's the same reason I never say his name.) he was always a facsimile, a pale imitation of the real deal, but tonight something came over me and I fully threw myself into my performance picturing Eric there dancing in perfect succinct movements with me. I pictured his loving arms wrapped around me and being ripped away both by my own stupidity and his pride. The cue for the last number came up and I felt the tears already sliding down my face with wanting my lost love and chasing the ghost of him around the stage, the last note played and I threw myself to the stage curled in a heap of mournful loss. I was completely spent crying my eyes out for the love that I no longer had. The crowd was completely silent as they watched me spill my soul out on the stage for all that I had lost.

There must be something on the air tonight and I knew that everyone was feeling the power of it too because Lucinda took the stage standing just off to the side of me. We had never done a conclusion scene before, it had always just been curtains down when I was a crumpled mess on the stage but something was different with tonight's performance. Lucinda's voice rang out again with the last lines from Romeo and Juliet we had joked about doing it but it never felt right, until now. "A glooming peace this morning with it brings; The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things; Some shall be pardon'd," She gestured towards ghostly Eric who was hovering just on the edge of the stage. "and some punished:" she gestured down to me. "For never was a story of more woe, Than this of Scarlett and her Leif." Although the names were not as poetic as the original it was perfect. The curtain fell and I vaguely heard and thunderous eruption of applause and screams from the crowd behind it. Everyone from the cast rushed to my side, I still had tears pouring down my face from my overwhelming emotions of reliving mine and Eric's tragic love story so vividly.

"Sookie, you have to get up we have to take our bows." Lucinda said. I just nodded my head in agreement as Atien and Roland helped me to my feet. We all made our way through the curtain and I braced myself, putting that fake smile on my face that I had practiced for so many years, and took the stage for our curtain call. I walked out onto the stage and I saw there wasn't a dry eye in the house, everyone was standing and clapping and screaming, even the vampires who knew that the story is a true one were moved to tears with my production tonight.

Three curtain calls later and the crowd was still chanting my name, I retook the stage again this time by myself and raised my hands, everyone fell silent. "Thank you, thank you all, I know that Scarlett and Leif would have been proud to share their story with you this night. If you take anything away from tonight take this, never be afraid to tell the one you love how you really feel and never be foolish enough to let them go because of your own pride and stupidity. Thank you all for coming." I took one final bow and left the stage.

Once I was behind the safety of the curtain, away from the prying eyes of the public, I let the tears start again. I felt like my heart was breaking all over again with the loss of Eric, my beloved, my bonded, my husband, my soul mate. I ran past my friends and the stage hands, never stopping not thinking until I reached my dressing room and slammed the door behind me. I flung myself into my make up chair laid my head on the table between my hands and just wept.

I vaguely heard my cell phone ringing but I didn't bother to answer I knew it was just Pam checking in to see how everything went tonight and I didn't want to talk to her. I just wanted to wallow here in my self-pity and loathing for awhile. I don't know how long Ernie had been knocking on my door but he eventually let himself in and crouched in front of me, he placed his hands on my knees and looked at me kindly wiping my tears away. "I'm sorry Sook but the king of New York is here to see you. Do you want me to tell him to go away?"

I shook my head back and forth in the negative slowly pulling myself together. "Tell him that I need ten minutes and then come back okay."

"Sure Sook," he turned to go and stopped just at the door. "Sookie, why do you keep putting yourself through this, if you can't take doing this production we can give your part to someone else. I know that it is really personal for you, but when you have these nights, well it scares me, they get worse every time. You should move on, forget, Leif, or whatever his name really was. Move on with your life Sookie, we all care about you and don't want to see you hurting any more. Date for goodness sake, find another production to work in; you will still make money off of this one your story will continue being told even if you aren't here. Or if you don't want to work just go on a long vacation, somewhere warm, you used to talk about how much you loved the sun. DO SOMETHING ANYTHING!"

I sighed deeply and continued removing my stage makeup as I watched Ernie in my mirror pour through his little tirade, it wasn't the first time I had heard it. We had worked together for a long time in various things, he really wanted to date me but I just couldn't do reciprocate those feelings for anyone besides my bonded. I just had no drive for it. I slumped my shoulders foreword suddenly feeling the weight of the last five years pressing down on me. I was so tired. "I don't know Ernie maybe your right, maybe I need a break. Somewhere cold, somewhere that no one goes, I am so tired, this city is just so loud all the time it's like my brain is vibrating in my head. I'll think about it okay, a few months might be good."

"Let me know okay? We can have your understudy filling your part at any time but we need to have a few run threws with her if that is what you are going to do."

"Sure, Ernie." I wave my hand at him and he silently slips out of the dressing room without another word. Ten minutes later the king of New York was being ushered into my dressing room, Robert and I where fast friends after I came here, he was something of a ladies' man, and he reminded me a lot of the man I had lost. I think part of his appeal was the fact that Robert was so much like Eric. Tonight he had a new piece of arm candy glued to his hip, a pretty little red head by the name of Lola. "Your Majesty." I curtsied deep to him and his laughter boomed and reverberated in my dressing room and I couldn't help but smile.

"Now is that any way to treat a friend, come here mia bella." Robert pulled me to him tightly and kissed my cheeks. His date looked very put out but I didn't really care. Robert had always been good to me and had been one of my biggest supporters in finding Eric. He released me from the hug but left his hands on my shoulders. "It has been to long sense you have come and seen me mia bella, why have you not been to the compound?" he chided sternly.

"You know why Robert."

"I know Sookie, I'm sorry there is still no word."

"I know, I spoke with Pam."

"Word about what, who's Pam?" Robert's date said I could hear in her voice that she was irate that I was still in Robert's embrace. I raised one eyebrow at Robert and shook my head slightly.

I stepped away from Robert and he turned to his date. "Nothing my pet now let me introduce you to my friend. Sookie Stackhouse, my darling Lola, Lola, meet my old friend Sookie." Robert exaggerated the word friend so that he could send the clear message that we where nothing more than just that, friends. He clearly wanted to avoid a confrontation with this woman later. I didn't really blame him, from the way she had butted right into our private conversation I knew she must be a firecracker.

I took her hand gently and shook it and poured every bit of my simple southern hospitality into my words. "It is a pleasure to meet you Lola. Please won't ya'll have a seat?" I had lost a lot of my accent sense moving here, people had seemed to have a hard time understanding me when I spoke so I had made a conscious effort to rid myself of my accent.

They quickly took seats on my little sofa and I sat across from them in my make up chair, turning it around so that I could face them. "We won't be staying long Sookie, I just wanted to see you and commend you on your very moving performance this evening. I don't think there wasn't a single heart that didn't bleed with you tonight."

"Thank you Robert." I nodded my head in appropriate appreciation of the compliment. It took a lot to move a vampire to tears and I knew that I had done just that tonight.

"Yeah, it was really beautiful I cried and cried." Lola interrupted Robert, wow this girl was just asking for trouble. With her manners she wouldn't make it long in Robert's world. "You know what I don't get though?"

"Now Lola, you should not pester Sookie with your questioning." Robert chided lightly, I could tell just by him doing this and not commanding her silence that he was fond of the girl. Interesting, maybe old Robert had finally found someone he wanted to settle down with.

"For a friend of yours Robert I will happily indulge in a few questions. It's okay Robert, what is it that you don't get?"

"Well… Scarlett and Leif were in love right?"

"Very, very much." I said sadly. Even the name of my little production was a tribute to Eric and I and our time together in Jackson. I sighed slightly feeling the hot tears stinging just behind my eyes.

"Well so if they were in love, where is there happy ending. I mean really it's not a very good ending is it? They went through all that stuff together only to be separated and loose each other forever. It's not a very happy ending to this epic love story."

"Not all stories have a happily ever after Lola." I said sadly. "That is just something that we have come to expect through Hollywood and fairy tales. Some stories are actually quite tragic. Scarlett and Leif, well, they are one of those sad tragedies." I felt an ache in my heart and soul I could feel that part that was Eric, the one I had been imagining all night rip with an identical ache.

"Well, then what's the point?" Lola said huffily crossing her arms across her chest.

I sigh again. "The point I think, is to learn from their mistakes so that you don't make similar ones, that and so that their story is out there for all to see. They were really perfect for each other, it seemed a shame that no one else knew about it. There love was so perfect that it deserves to be shared with the world, even if it didn't end all that well."

"Is that how it really ended for them? Scarlett left Leif in the dust, and Leif was never heard from again?"

"Sadly I am afraid so." I felt another rip of pain tear through me I really wanted to be alone but I was too polite to say anything.

"Where are they now did they at least get there happily ever after off the stage?" Wow this girl was really pushing it with her questions but I just couldn't help but answer her.

"No, they didn't get there happily ever after." I felt the hot tears start to stream down my face and I was choking back a sob as Robert pushed Lola out of my dressing room and brought me into his arms. Robert was running his hands through my hair and rocking me back and forth, hushing me slightly.

"We will find him mia bella I promise, we will find him."

I shook myself slightly out of my depression. "I don't think he wants to be found Robert, least of all by me. This whole mess is my own fault; I have no one to blame but myself for my misery. I deserve it, I did this to us."

Robert ran a hand lightly over my cheek and looked into my eyes, he had the most beautiful green eyes I had ever seen and maybe if I had met him before Eric I would have been inclined to gravitate in his direction but now I didn't even have the smallest flutter of desire for him. "Mia Bella," he said softly almost reverently. "why don't you take some time away from this production, I hate seeing you like this. Date again, do something besides torture yourself night after night for him, for ERIC FUCKING NORTHMAN."

I winced slightly at Robert speaking Eric's name aloud everyone who knew my situation was very careful to avoid his name, just like I was always careful, tonight was not going to be one of those nights. I tried to change the subject away from his name. "You sound like Ernie. I don't know maybe I do need some time off, I was thinking Scandinavia for Christmas, and Christmas is still far enough away that I would have plenty of time to make the arrangements."

"You hate the snow Sookie Stackhouse." Oh shit I was in trouble he used my full name.

"He doesn't." I said softly not daring to look Robert in the face.

"Damn it Sookie, how long to you plan to torture yourself for Eric? How long are you going to deny yourself love and companionship?" He stood and pulled me to my feet with him, his face was just inches from mine and I knew that he wanted to kiss me.

"Don't Robert, don't do it." I said softly.

"Damn it Sookie, you live like a nun, but even nuns get forgiven for their sins eventually. How many Hail Mary's do you have to say in order to be forgiven? How long are you going to torture yourself over this? He's gone Sookie, your bonded is gone, move on please, I could … well I can't replace him but I could love you please Sookie let me love you." I could see Robert leaning into me he was going to try and kiss me and I forcefully stepped away from him. Thankfully he let me, if was so inclined he didn't have to let me step away.

I felt a blinding rage building inside me and it took all of my will power to suppress it. "Robert I can't, I just can't. I love Eric I always have; from the first moment I meet him. That is the whole point of this damn thing that I put myself through every single night. I screwed up and ran one too many times, there will never be enough penance that I can pay to forgive myself for ripping out my soul mates heart and doing the Mexican hat dance on it. It doesn't matter that I figured out a short time after I left that I loved him, needed him to survive, by the time I got over my own foolishness and stopped being scared it was too late."

"You do know that he probably found someone else by now, he probably has another lover, he probably never felt the same way for you that you do for him, and he doesn't deserve your devotion." Robert spat bitterly.

I felt my blood boil again but this time I unleashed it full force on Robert. I had never lost my temper on him and I most certainly hadn't been stupid enough to lose my temper on a vampire in a very long time. "I am just going to say this once, so I want to make sure you are paying very close attention. One I am sorry that you have feelings for me but I can't and won't ever, EVER, reciprocate those feelings Robert. Two, I know that my bonded loved me; I know it with a surety of the soul that you cannot ever imagine. I know you have never had a bonded human that you loved so you have no way of understanding what Eric and I shared. And Three, where ever Eric is right now, I hope he is happy, I hope he has been able to find someone that loves him the way he deserves to be loved. I hope that he has managed to find some kind of peace. As far as I am concerned he deserves it, I may live the rest of my life alone and miserable paying a penance that can never be repaid but I sure hope that he doesn't nor does he deserve too."

I collapsed on my makeup chair behind me, my soul felt like it was shattering all over again. Ragged sobs broke from me in a never ending wave of sadness. "Mia Bella…" Robert said softly kneeling in front of me.

"Go, Robert just go." I buried my face in my hands a cried again tuning out the world around me for the second time tonight. Sometime later I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder and looked up to see Ernie.

"Sook, I'm sorry, Pam called the theaters phone looking for you. She is worried about you, she said that she has been calling your cell for hours and you're not answering." He knelt down in front of me mirroring the position that Robert had taken earlier. I could see the concern on his face but I could also see the look that he was resolving himself to make a pass at me. Damn it I just couldn't take it anymore not tonight.

I threw myself out of my chair grabbed my coat and my purse from my makeup table and said. "I will call her from the road." And walked quickly across the room, I had just reached the door when I felt Ernie's hand grasp my bicep to hold me in place. I shook my head slightly, what is it with the men in my life declaring their feelings for me tonight. I couldn't take another episode of this. I could feel that anger again; it was rising up inside me threatening to lash out. I wasn't sure where this was coming from, it felt wrong, it was painful and foreign and just not quite right. I have never been this hot headed.

I brushed my thoughts aside and without looking at Ernie I said stiffly trying to contain the rage I felt welling inside. "Ernie I suggest you remove your hand from me right now." He removed his hand quickly from me as if I had just burned him. I turned to face him and he was even rubbing his palm as if it hurt. "You were right; I need a break I can't take it here anymore. I quit."

I ran out of the theater as fast as my feet would carry me, I was still in costume and my toe shoes but I didn't care. I needed to get away, I couldn't stay here, I felt like I was being torn from the inside out in a million directions. My breathing was coming in gasps and my body was screaming in pain. I flipped open my cell as I was running down the street towards my loft. I didn't live far from the theater; I just need to make it a few more blocks. I would surrender to the pain as soon as I got through my front door. My heart was screaming at me, and my soul was crying for release, I wanted nothing more at this moment then to throw myself off a roof just to stop the pain. I had never been suicidal and the fact that I was seriously considering it at this moment was scaring me even worse. I had lost everything and I would never have it ever again. I didn't know if I could continue to live my life without him. He was the air that I need to breathe, he was the food that nourished my body, and he was my everything.

Tears were continuing to stream down my face, I couldn't get them to stop. I had fully surrendered to my own misery. I hear Pam's voice come over the line. "Sookie?" she said worriedly. "I have been trying to call you for hour's what's going on."

"Pam… come… please…. I can't… take it… I can't … live without him … please…"I gasped between every word I couldn't get a good breath; I knew logically that I was causing myself to hyperventilate but I just couldn't stop.

"Sookie, get home, I will be there in two hours. Can you get home? Are you safe?" Just as I was opening my mouth to answer yes I was standing in front of my loft's building and there in the doorway was Eric Northman in all his glory. I stopped dead in my tracks staring at him. I had now officially lost it, my brain had finally gone over the edge into oblivion and I was hallucinating so that I could cope with my loss and not do something foolish.

He was staring right at me, red tears rolling down his face as rapidly as my own, and that was it that was all my poor little mind could take, everything went dark and I could hear Pam screaming my name over and over again on the telephone as the world went dark. I gladly surrendered to it, I hoped I would never come out of it; I had gotten to see my beloved one more time before my end even if it was only a hallucination. I could die happy having that face be the last thing that I see.