Sookie finished the dishes and moved to wipe the kitchen table down for the third time. Despite the scene from her cousin, the funeral seemed to go on smoothly. After the service many friends of Gran's stopped by the house to show their sympathy. Several gave hugs, brought food, and told stories of how wonderful Adele was. She'd touched everyone's lives in her own way. Everyone seemed sweet but Sookie wanted nothing more than to be alone. She'd heard enough thoughts and good intentions for one day. With one casserole dish after another, the fridge was practically exploding. Just as the sun had set she finally managed to boot Tara and Jason out. They'd lingered behind the crowd, worried about Sylvie and checking to make sure Sookie was alright. She'd lied to them, hiding her concern and took her frustrations out on the house. Sylvie still wasn't home and it drove her nuts. To ease her worry, Sookie did what she'd always done: she cleaned for distraction. Needless to say, the house was spotless.
What the hell am I supposed to do now? She wondered. Sleeping wasn't an option. She wanted to be awake the minute Sylvie walked through the door. And boy, when Sylvie did, she'd get an earful. Sookie was frustrated beyond belief. She couldn't phone her cousin because Sylvie had no phone. Looking for her seemed hopeless; Sookie had no idea where to even start. All she could do was wait, and waiting was the worst. After her cleaning spree, she needed a new distraction. She'd called Bill several times - only to reach his voice mail. The television didn't interest her, the last thing she wanted was more noise.
And then, there was a knocking at the door. Sookie followed the sound with an eye roll.
"I'm sorry, can't talk right now," Sookie strained through the doorway. She thought it best to leave the door shut and keep everyone out. Whoever it was, she didn't want to see them.
"It sounds like you are talking just fine," an amused voice called back to her. It was Eric. With a sudden fit of annoyance, Sookie jerked the door open.
"What the hell do you want, Eric Northman?" She spat.
He stood before her in dark slacks and white t-shirt with a soft charcoal sweater layered over it. Something was different about him, something that made him seem more put together. Sookie discovered it right away. Eric cut his hair. His typical chin-length locks had been cropped; he'd cut them shorter and had the remaining strands slicked back. He held a lavender colored flower in one hand. It appeared to be some ridiculous exotic species that Sookie couldn't type and it was placed in an expensive looking pot. Blank faced, he thrust the blossom in her direction. "My condolences."
"Uh, thanks," she accepted the gift awkwardly and placed it on the stand near the doorway. Eric never cared for anyone but himself. Sookie found it strange of him to stop by with such a gift, as he'd ever even met her grandmother. Perhaps he was trying to be polite, she considered. Paranoia swept her. He could've had it delivered if he was trying to be courteous and yet he was standing out on her porch. She turned back to the blonde vampire, raising a cautious brow. "So why are you really here?"
"Bill sent me."
"Bill!" She exclaimed. "So he's okay then? Why'd he send you?"
"To guard your house," he responded matter-of-factly. "Someone is targeting your family, are they not?"
Sookie pictured the eerie writing next to the pool of blood in the kitchen. You're Next. She shuddered and tried to regain her composure. "Yes," she answered coolly. "So Bill obviously got my messages. Why can't he come here himself?"
The vampire ran a hand through his hair nonchalantly and sighed. "Bill's a little buried at the moment. He enlisted in me for the favor."
"Oh? And what does he have to do for you in return?"
"I haven't decided yet," Eric smirked. "Perhaps you could contribute to his repayment somehow."
"Ew!" She retorted. "Never."
"Hmm," he let out a faux sigh of boredom. "Perhaps your cousin, then."
"Not a chance," Sookie glared. "Besides, I haven't seen her all day."
Eric stood still, keeping his face blank. Sookie couldn't decide if he didn't care about the information she'd revealed to him or if he was waiting for her to elaborate. Communicating with vampires could be incredibly confusing at times. Wanting to vent, she continued on.
"We got in a fight. She made a scene at Gran's service and ran off. I haven't seen her since; she doesn't have a phone so I can't call her."
"Interesting," Eric answered dryly. "Are you going to invite me in?"
It appeared venting to a vampire wasn't the best idea. Sookie stared back at Eric flatly. "No."
"Very well then," he smirked. He knew from his last visit that he could enter her house freely. She'd never rescinded his invitation. He hoped she'd forgotten and it appeared she had. He decided to play along, knowing he could use his still-standing invitation at another time if he wanted. "I'll be on the porch."
With a quiet nod, Sookie closed the door. He watched through the window as she paced about in the living room. Her cousin was gone and she looked worried sick about it. Humans, he rolled his eyes. They seem to get worked up quite easily. When Sookie took a final sigh of defeat and opened a book to read, Eric wondered if he should be searching for the girl. He could recall her scent but he couldn't be sure if a search party was in order. She left on her own accord, he decided. Risking her safety is her own fault. Besides, he deduced, Bill requested me to stand guard of the house; he never specified guarding who was in it.
After standing for quite some time, Eric retreated to a spot on the front step. As a vampire, he never felt uncomfortable. He could be locked in a position for several hours if he wanted and not feel a thing. However, he found it silly to be looming near miss Stackhouse's doorway like some kind of statue. In fact, the idea of guarding her house at all seemed silly. Whoever was targeting her family for associating with vampires would be a fool to return for a second kill so soon. Bill was an idiot to think such an occurrence would even take place. He wondered if Bill arranged for a day guard as well. Eric scoffed to himself, knowing Bill had probably sought out the pathetic shifter from Merlotte's for that role. What a hideous bar, he scowled.
The vampire grew curious of what was taking place at his own establishment in Shreveport. Due to Bill's ridiculous attachment to Sookie, he'd settled for no less than someone of Eric's age to guard the Stackhouse home. Eric amusedly accepted of course, leaving Pam in charge at Fangtasia. He wondered how his childe was behaving. Since they'd acquired their new dancer, Yvetta, Pam was dying to get a taste of her. He'd refused his childe access numerous times but he knew tonight she would disobey him. Playing during my absence, he mused. He began to wish he were at the bar enjoying himself. The majority of humans who entered were nothing but vermin but on occasion Eric was able to find a human worth his while. Pam would be having all the fun tonight while he was stuck on a porch with an untouchable, delectable human inside. He sighed. This is going to be a long night…
Sylvie pulled apart the long blade of grass in her hands. After running from the service, she'd found solitude next to a small pond buried back in the woods. She remembered taking Sookie and Hadley to the area once when they were kids. It was practically succumbed by trees and vegetation, leaving little chance for visitors to come across it. It was her "secret spot." She decided she'd spend the entire afternoon there. Hell, she'd spend all night there if she could. She couldn't face her cousin - not yet.
Sylvie struggled to find the words to say to Sookie. She felt betrayed by her cousin in a way. She hoped she would take her side at the funeral and ask their great uncle to leave. But instead, Sookie just sat there in defeat and let him stay. How could she? Sylvie remembered spending the night with her cousin and having to check under the bed for monsters. The younger Sookie always looked to her for guidance. But when Sylvie stepped in the house only to find 10 years had passed, she knew everything had changed. Sookie didn't need her anymore. She didn't need a babysitter, a rolemodel, or mentor. The adult Sookie was strong. She had a man, a job, took care of the bills and wasn't afraid to speak her mind. But she didn't step up at the funeral. How could someone so strong become so weak? After all the hurt Bartlett had caused them and everything Gran did to stop it. With a whirlwind of emotions, Sylvie wasn't sure what to think anymore. Her mind was exhausted. She didn't know what to feel about her time loss, Bill's disappearance, her uncle Bartlett or her grandmother. There was only one thing she was certain of: she was disappointed in Sookie.
Sylvie picked up a small pebble laying at her side and tossed it into the pond. With a small plop, the water rippled in a steady pattern. Soon the movement ceased, leaving the water calm again. She caught a glimpse of the night sky illuminating its surface, the moon standing out like an opal stone in a cluster of tiny diamonds. She felt a breeze wisp over shoulders causing her to shiver. The sun had been kind during the day but night was there to remind her of summer's departure. Autumn was on its way, bringing colorful leaves and light jackets with it. Knowing she couldn't spend much longer in the woods without a sweater, Sylvie stood up in defeat and headed home. Using the moon's glow as her guide, she made her way through the forest foliage until she reached the dirt path leading to Gran's. When Sylvie finally arrived home, however, she was met with a peculiar sight.
Eric Northman was sitting on the steps playing with his cell phone. Through the screen's dim blue lighting she could see his fingers moving extremely fast. He looked up at her immediately, a wide grin plastered across his face. "Someone's in trouble," he commented.
Sylvie stopped before the first stair and rolled her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
Eric sat on the steps like a statue. His only noticeable moments of animation were when his lips moved. "Standing watch."
"You're not even standing," She retorted. Sylvie paused, a frown forming on her brow. "Wait…watching what?"
The statuesque vampire looked back with a half-smirk. "There's a killer on the loose, didn't you know?"
Sylvie let out a tortured groan. "Go home!"
Before Eric could retort, the front door swung open at warp speed. It was Sookie. "WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?"
"Out," Sylvie folded her arms.
"Get inside!" Sookie roared. "Now."
Sylvie exchanged looks with an amused Eric, who appeared to be staring her up and down as she walked up the steps.
"Nice dress," he remarked.
Sylvie glared over her shoulder with sarcasm one last time before following Sookie inside. "Nice hair."
She closed the door quietly behind her as Sookie began to pace in the living room.
"Do you have any idea how worried sick I was? Where were you?"
Sylvie stared blankly at her cousin. "Does it matter?"
"Yes, it matters!" Sookie hollered. "Where did you go that was more important than your grandmother's funeral?"
Sylvie felt her anger building. How could Sookie grill her on what was funeral appropriate? "I don't know, Sook!" She snapped, "where'd your fucking brain go when you let Uncle Bartlett barge in on the service?"
"I didn't! That was Jason's doing!"
"You could 'a said something, but you let him stay!" Sylvie threw her hands up. She knew Jason was also at fault, but she couldn't help putting the bulk of blame on Sookie instead. "How could you do that?"
Sookie folded her arms in defense. "I wasn't going to disrespect Gran and make a scene."
"You did disrespect Gran, Sook. You disrespected her when you let that low-life, piece of shit pedophile sit front row like he'd never been kicked out of this family."
"And you disrespected her when you up and walked out!" Sookie fumed. "You don't think I hated having him there after everything that he did? You don't think I'll be kickin' myself for the rest of my life for lettin' him sit there? I know I will, but god dammit at least I can say I was mature enough to stick it out and be there for my grandmother. That ain't something you can say! You're a little girl, Sylvie. You need to grow up."
"Ha!" Sylvie snorted. "Grow up? Now that's funny. Last time I checked I was the one lookin' under the bed for you to make sure there weren't any monsters. Last time I checked you were the one hiding in the closet because you were so afraid Uncle Bartlett would find you!"
"Well that was then, and this is now! I'm older now, I've moved on!"
"What, you're older now so that means you know better than I do?"
"Yes! Believe it or not, Syl, I do. Regardless of what happened, you should've stayed for Gran."
Sylvie was completely floored. How could Sookie think she'd done the right thing? "Wow," she glared over her shoulder as she reached the doorway. "You have no freaking clue, do you? I'm outta here."
"Get back here," Sookie trailed behind. "Don't you walk away from me, Sylvie!"
"Go on," Sylvie hollered pushing the door open, "keep talking to me like you're my mother!"
After bursting through the doorway, Sylvie stomped down the stairs past Eric. She didn't bother making eye contact with him. She was sure if she did, he'd find something sarcastic to say. Instead, she continued to march through the yard. She had to leave; she couldn't be around Sookie. But before she could get far though, a voice called out from behind.
"You're not leaving this house!" Sookie roared, pounding down the steps.
"I already did," Sylvie whirled around instantly. She wasn't about to take orders from her cousin. "And I'm not stopping!"
Sookie marched quickly towards her cousin. "So help me God," she huffed, "you are not leaving this house again. Not after what you did today. I will lock you up if I have to!"
Sylvie stared at her cousin who was standing before her with folded arms. "Lock me up, huh? Gonna ground me too? I know you like to think you're in charge of me Sook, but you're not. You never have been. Stop kiddin' yourself!"
"I'm not tryin' to boss you around, I'm tryin' to talk some sense into you!"
"Sense?" Sylvie glared. "If anyone needs some sense, it's you. Don't you remember what he did to you? To the both of us? Gran threw him out for a reason, Sook, don't you forget that. How dare you try to tell me I'm wrong for walking out!"
"I do remember but it's over with, Sylvie!" Sookie moved in closer. "It was long ago; I've gotten over it. If you would just talk about it, you'd be able to let it go like I did!
Sylvie never told her cousin the details of her encounters with Uncle Bartlett. Sookie had tried to bring it up several times but Sylvie never opened up. The memories were just too painful. There were many times during her visits that Sylvie would tell Hadley to go outside and play, just so she could distract her uncle from going after her sister, too. Sylvie felt a tingling in the back of her brain as her cousin moved in closer. Sookie placed a hand on her shoulder as her voice grew soft. "Look, I don't know everything that happened between you and him but-"
Sylvie saw red immediately. Sookie was trying to read her mind. On instinct, Sylvie's hand jutted out instantly, slapping her cousin in the face. "Don't try that mind shit with me," she barked. "I'm better at it than you."
When her cousin stared back in speechless horror, Sylvie realized her wrong doing. She was angry beyond belief but slapping Sookie had been wrong. The look on her cousin's face said it all. She was wide eyed and terrified. Sylvie started regretting her actions. Hitting her seemed like an involuntary movement, one she couldn't control, but Sylvie knew better. She could've stopped herself if she had been thinking. She was just too furious. It was then Sylvie remembered the cause for her anger in the first place: Sookie didn't stand up for her at the funeral. While Sylvie recognized her mistake, pride took over. Even though Sylvie felt terrible, she wouldn't apologize for slapping her.
"Don't follow me," Sylvie pointed stubbornly at her cousin before darting her eyes over to a curious-looking Eric. "You either."
And with that, she stormed off.
She padded towards the cemetery, purposely kicking up dirt as she went along. What did I do? She wondered. What is wrong with me? Sylvie felt awful. She couldn't believe she'd raised a hand at Sookie. Her own cousin - her family. She disagreed with her about Bartlett but she shouldn't have pushed her away. With Gran gone, Sookie and Jason were the only family she had left and she was running from them. Where do I go now? She thought. She'd abandoned her loved ones again. First her entire family, then Gran, now Sookie. Hadley might be out in the world somewhere, but Sylvie never felt more alone. The night had grown colder and darker, making it harder for her to see. The tears forming in her eyes weren't much help either as she approached the graveyard. Her feet skidded to a halt at the entrance gate. She fumbled helplessly with the gate's latch, her hands much too shaky to open it.
"Ouch!" She cried as she jerked the lock open, cutting her palm on a piece of the rusty metal. Ignoring the pain, she curled her hand into a fist and entered the cemetery.
Bon Temps' cemetery was old and quiet, its silence washing over her with a familiar feeling of peace. Most of the grass remained unattended, growing in wild clusters throughout the property. Only a few plot areas were mowed, which Sylvie observed to be graves of the recently deceased. Small dirt trails broke through the ground leading to different sections of the graveyard. Sylvie's eyes wandered down the trail she knew so well. She walked along with a deep breath. Trees loomed over her in the dark like tall shadowy creatures, their branches acting as arms hugging her into darkness. As she continued, the moon crept through the leaves to occasionally light her path. Like many times before, Sylvie passed the faceless headstones until she found a name she recognized. Only this time, she recognized two.
Accompanying her grandfather's headstone was her grandmother, Adele. Her stone was new and clean but Sylvie knew it would age with time to match his. Some of the floral arrangements she observed earlier in the day were still there, marking the memorial. I'm sorry, she thought, running her fingers across the stone. I'm so, so sorry. Sniffling lightly, she moved near her grandfather's headstone in fear of disturbing the fresh dirt around Gran's plot. I love you so much. I miss you terribly. Her tears had faded, but her sadness was still there. The cold air began to take its toll. Sylvie pulled her knees to her chest and draped the fabric of her dress over her legs. She started to wonder what the future held. Ever since Sylvie came back, her world seemed to crumble. Would anything be okay again? She felt blood oozing between her fingers, trailing down her arm. She let out a long sigh, clutching her throbbing palm with her opposite hand.
"I see karma has reacted rather quickly," a smooth voice spoke.
Sylvie froze. Her heart pounded furiously. Averting her eyes, she saw a pair of large black shoes standing a few feet away from her. As she trailed upward, she was reminded of the dream she'd had the other day. Just like before, Eric Northman approached her in the graveyard. Sylvie recoiled instantly.
"I told you not to follow me," she hissed.
"You try to disappear but all you really want is to be found."
"No, I don't. Go away."
"Stop acting like a child," he knelt in front of her, gently reaching for her wrist. His cold fingertips brushed against her skin as he examined the wound. "You're bleeding all over yourself."
Sylvie kept her gaze down at Eric's hands, fearful of looking him in the eye. When his thumb pressed near the cut on her palm she flinched, attempting to jerk away from his grasp as if she'd touched a hot iron.
The tall vampire stood and extended his hand, letting out a small sigh. "Come."
Without protest, Sylvie took his hand with her good one and stood up. After helping her rise, Eric ended their brief moment of hand holding and began to walk towards the cemetery entrance. Within a few moments, they were at the gate.
"How'd you find me?" She asked, keeping her gaze down at the ground.
"I know your scent," he replied, opening the gate. It had been all too easy for him to find her; she had a powerful scent - the cut made it even more apparent, causing him to leave his post at the Stackhouse residence. Cut or not, however, Eric knew he could find her from miles away if he wanted.
The two walked through the remaining forest path in silence as they headed back to the house. The only sounds Eric heard were insects and birds flying about, along with Sylvie's feet padding behind him. He dreaded the grueling pace that humans walked and the journey back to the Stackhouse residence seemed even longer than normal. He knew his legs were much longer than Sylvie's and he smirked as he noticed her steps double just to keep up with him. Without hesitation, he scooped the girl up in his arms and sped off to the house. As he wisped past the trees, Eric could feel Sylvie's heart speed up with surprise and he enjoyed the way her breath tightened in his arms. She was afraid. His amusement was cut short, however, when he set her down on the porch.
"What was that for?" She frowned, struggling to keep her balance.
"You were going too slow," he stated. Eric noticed the girl was still clutching her palm. His eyes traveled down her wrist, following the trails of drying blood that crept from the wound. It smelt delicious. He longed to lick the wound clean, taking time to run his tongue along every single little red trail, but he knew his desires wouldn't be fulfilled. He looked over to the porch swing. "Sit down."
"I'm not talking to her," Sylvie muttered.
"You don't have to," he rolled his eyes before heading to the front door. He'd heard the girls quarreling inside the house. From that he'd learned their great uncle was a pedophile and he couldn't blame Sylvie for being angry. But Eric wasn't going to take sides. Family matters were none of his concern. Instead, the blonde vampire crept into the house quietly. His invitation still stood but he wasn't going to let Sookie know. He knew she'd retreated upstairs since the slapping situation with her cousin, so he lingered silently on the first floor. After finding a first aid kit from the downstairs bathroom, he grabbed a quilt from the sofa and headed outside.
"Here," he said, wrapping the quilt around her shoulders. "Give me your hand."
Sylvie doubtfully extended her palm. "Do you even know what you're doing?"
"I am a vampire, not a fool," he retorted in annoyance, beginning to clean the cut. Soon all the blood was gone. He dressed the wound in silence, leaving the girl's palm wrapped neatly in a bandage. "There."
"Thanks," she mumbled, fiddling with a stray thread on the quilt.
Without word, Eric returned to his post. Sylvie did not speak a word to him either, instead turning her attentions to the stars. The vampire kept his gaze into the woods. Everything seemed calm with the world. The night was quiet, occasionally whispering a cool breeze through the bushes that bordered the porch. From time to time a squirrel could be heard jumping about the tree branches, but most life was settling down for the night. As time passed, Eric's eyes wandered towards the slowing heartbeat on the porch. Sylvie was curled up on the swing, eyes closed. She'd fallen asleep.
He gently lifted the girl into his arms and carried her inside. After placing her on the living room sofa, he adjusted the blanket so that she would stay warm.
"Good night my little mind reader," he whispered. "Sweet dreams."