Setting: End of Season 1, right before they find the body in Andy's car.

A Southern Story

by Changeable

Chapter One: Spacy Daisy

Downward Facing Dog. Three rounds of breath. Breathe in, breathe out; breathe in, breathe out; breath in, and exhale slowly now as you bring one foot at a time up between your palms. Breathe in. I'll never be able to do this without hearing my instructor's voice, those soothing tones like sugary late night talk-radio murmurings that make me so sleepy, in my head. But I guess it's not that bad. Yoga is supposed to be relaxing, no? It helps somewhat, when I manage not to drift off.

And right now I could really use the relaxation, which is why I'm forcing myself to do this at five thirty in the morning. This is my favorite time of day, though I'm almost never awake for it. The sun is still a bit off from the horizon, and the world outdoors is all cast in a cool blue glow. The birds are just starting to sing, and the air's not yet too hot — something which I never really took into consideration before moving down here to Louisiana. Which brings me to why I'm stressed: new town, new job, new life. I'm out on my own and in the "real world" for the first time ever, and though I don't like to admit it, I'm intimidated.

My parents would probably laugh at me. Intimidated? By a little hick town like Bon Temps? You'd think after a five-star educattion at a university like UVA, I'd recognize my superiority. You'd think I'd know I ought to be working up in DC at the Washington Post, or over in Atlanta at CNN. Now that would be intimidating, and that's why I'm content to start small. I certainly didn't have to come all the way to Louisiana to begin my career as a journalist, but I wanted to get away, and I've always loved the South. Bon Temps was one of the smallest places on the map, and I liek the name. Good times! You know this town has to be fun. Anyway, I want everyone here to like me, and knowing they'll soon be reading my articles in the Bon Temps Observer is pretty nerve-racking.

Exhale your hands to the mat. I still have to find a story, for one thing. Inhale feet back into Plank Pose. What am I going to write about? What interests these people? Oh, god, I have no idea. And exhale your whole body down to the mat, keeping hands beside the shoulders. I'll have to go into town today and get a feel for the locals.

I inhale and lift my upper body into Upward Facing Dog before exhaling smoothing into Downward again, then dropping down onto my knees and hopping up to my feet. My brain is suddenly on overdrive, flitting through ideas and wondering about all the people I'll meet. There's no damn way I can get yogic in this state. I roll up my mat, pick up my blackberry and jump in my car, having had to drive out to this secluded area rather than try to relax in my tiny backyard. And let me tell you about my car: I love it. It's shit, but I love it. It's an ancient Volkswagen beetle convertible, lime green, that will barely start up without a good kick. It's adorable, and I guess that says a lot about me, doesn't it? Having a cute car is more important to me than having a reliable car.

Back at home I shower and attempt to get ready for a day out, but inexplicably I spend three hours deciding on an outfit. And I tell you, I am hardly satisfied with my choice, but you can only try on so many clothes before you finally give up and thrown on a dress in exasperation. So I'm wearing this pink ruffly affair that I just know my grandparents would adore and my boyfriend (if I had one) would scrunch his nose at. It's not sexy and it's not cute, but it's "pretty" and unoffensive. I look like a sweet innocent rose. I pull my hair into a simple ponytail and stare at the mirror, stuck. Eyeliner? Not today, I decide, and smooth a soft pink shadow over my eyelids and brush on the mascara. I step back to consider myself.

I don't look bad. Certainly not perfect, but I make an okay girl-next-door … sort of. Okay, my heavy Russian features ruin it entirely — the wideness of my face and the high cheekbones are just too much! And, damn it, I meant to get my eyebrows waxed again yesterday. I sigh, defeated. I could pass as one of those not-really-beautiful-but-somehow-attractive models you see in high fashion magazines — the ones that make you go "how did she get to be a model?" — but as an unassuming Southern belle? I am a total failure. If only I had inherited less from my Baba and more from my German Gramps. At least I got the blonde hair from his side.

I place my hands on my hips and gaze around the room. Now what am I going to do? It's barely nine am. Hardly a decent time to meet locals. I'm not in the mood to clean this epic mess I've just made, so perhaps I'll work on the kitchen? I've only been here since yesterday, so I still have a few boxes to unload. Well, most of them. My bedroom is the only thing I've finished. But then I realize I'm hungry and there's no food in the house. Time to socialize after all.

I take a last glance in the mirror and head to the door. I stop, run back for my keys, and head off into town.

Well, I don't know where to go. Bon Temps isn't a big place, but somehow I end up driving around for two hours looking for the perfect breakfast joint before giving up and settling on the next place I see: Merlotte's. It's a quaint little bar and grill, the privately owned, down home kind of place you expect to read about in Mystery novels. Hoping the food is not all grits and rice with gravy, I park my bug and go check it out.

Inside, it's cozy. A bit dimmer than I expected. There are stuffed animal heads mounted on the walls, but besides that not a lot of decoration. All in all a clean, promising establishment. There's a sign to inform guests they may sit wherever they please, so I settle myself into a booth. There are only a few people in the bar — obviously breakfast/lunch (it's about 11:30 now) isn't the busiest hour of the day. I'm there only for a minute before a peppy blonde waitress bounds up.

"Good morning!" she beams, order-ticket and pen at the ready. "My name is Sookie and I'll be taking care of you this morning. What can I get ya?"

I glance at the menu for the first time. "Oh, um, I haven't really had a chance to look —"

"Oh, I'm sorry, darlin'! Should I give you more time?"

I smile at her. Southern people are so damn nice, I can't get over it. I love how everyone calls you by old-fashioned endearments. "It's no problem. I just want something small. And some orange juice. Is the orange juice here fresh-squeezed? I don't like concentrate." I internally cringe as soon as those words leave my mouth. God, I know just how to be a picky elitist. Learned it from the best, after all. Mom and Dad.

Sookie seems unfazed, but shrugs apologetically. "Tropicana is all we've got."

"Oh, well, that'll be all right, actually," I say, trying to redeem myself. "And for breakfast, I'll have whatever you recommend."

She nods, her ponytail bobbing in that perfect Southern Belle fashion. Hmm. I wonder how well my ponytail bobs. "Okay, so I got your orange juice and a fried egg sandwich comin' right up." She smiles and whirls around to deliver the ticket, walking with a happy skip in her step. I wonder what's got her so pleased.

I sit back and gaze out the window, a little uncertain what to do with myself now. I watch a woman at the bar for a few seconds, but she seems to take my gaze the wrong way so I turn away.

Sighing, I sit back, tapping my nails against the table — an old habit I've never been able to stop.

"Here ya go!" I nearly jump as the waitress sets down my plate. Face burning, I offer up a half-hearted smile of thanks, realizing with some embarrassment that I've spaced out again.

I expect the waitress to move off to the next table, but instead she lingers, and sensing she's waiting for something I glance up from my fried egg sandwich and Tropicana orange juice. "Um, yes?"

"You're new around here, aren't you?"

I laugh awkwardly. "Ha, do I look that out of place?"

She gives a friendly grin. "No, it's only that I know just about everyone who comes in here, and I ain't seen you before."

"Oh," I laugh again. God, I hope I don't seem hysterical. "Well, I just moved in yesterday. Sorry, I'm Daisy. Well, Marguerite. Marguerite Meyer, but Daisy. Marguerite is French for Daisy. It's after my grandmom. She wasn't French, just —" I realize I'm babbling. I swallow that sentence and move on with bravado. "You're Sookie?"

"Sookie Stackhouse," she says, nodding, politely ignoring my awkwardness. We shake hands briefly. Her handshake is strong and confident. I must be sure in the future to be better at mine. "So where you comin' from, Daisy? Your accent is very pretty."

"Virginia, and thank you," I say, taking a sip from my orange juice. Too sweet, and I can taste the coldness from the pasteurization. I resist the urge to cringe. "I prefer yours though. I'm fresh out of college. Got a job at the local newspaper here."

Sookie is staring at me. "Now why on Earth would come all the way down to Bon Temps for that?"

I shrug. "Seems like a nice place."

She snorts. "Yeah, wait 'til you hear about the murders that been happening."

Now it's my turn to stare.

"Oh!" Sookie blushes. "I didn't mean to frighten you. I just … well I think you should be prepared to hear about it. People love to gossip in this town."

I force a wan smile, but my bubble of happiness suddenly has a leak. Murders is such a small, middle-of-nowhere town? "That's all right. I guess there are bad people everywhere, huh?"

"Guess so," says Sookie, a little sadly. There's an uncomfortable pause before she announces with her previous pep, "I should get back to work."

I nod. "Of course, but maybe we can talk later? You're the first person I've really met here." I hope that doesn't sound as needy as I think it does.

But she smiles even wider. "Sure! I don't get off work 'til late, but why don't you come on by in the evenin' and I'll introduce you to everyone."

I can't keep the delighted expression off my face. I'm sure I look stupidly giddy as I nod eagerly and say, "That'd be great. I'll definitely stop in."

"Great!" With that she turns on her heel and dutifully returns to work. I finish my breakfast quite happily (Sookie made a good choice), forcing out any of those insecure little thoughts that like to flit through my mind whenever I've met someone new.

The rest of the day takes forever. It's spent sorting out things in the kitchen, inventorying all the small but extremely important items I didn't think to bring with me (like the ice tray! I can't believe I didn't think I'd need an ice tray). It's spent wondering what color I should paint the living room for an hour, then remembering I have this place on rent and am not allowed to "alter" anything. It's spent folding clothes. It's spent watching day time talk shows and wondering how something being filmed live at three o'clock could have vampire guests.

It was nearly four last I glanced at the clock, and now Dr. Phil is over and it's five thirty and I don't know what the hell happened. Sitting on my hand-me-down sofa, I slam my head against the armrest. Fuck. What was I even thinking about? Ah, vampires. Dr. Phil set me off, I guess. Back at UVA I never got to meet any or really discuss them, it being a fairly conservative school, but since they came out of the coffin I've been intrigued. They're immortal, for God's sake! How could you not be intrigued?

I don't want to dwell on what was going through my mind. Let's just say my grandmother would have a heart attack if she knew I were thinking such things about fangers. Or anyone. It was just idle day-dreaming, anyway, but people might take it the wrong way.

Damn, I've been day-dreaming way too often lately. Not only about vamps, but everything under the sun. I zone out and the world around me melts and all these different places in my head begin to bloom, and I barely even notice. I shouldn't say "lately," actually, now that I think about it. It's more like "always." Junior year of high school my circle of friends started referring to me as Spacy Daisy. I once accidentally introduced myself that way in college.

Oh, god, I don't want to think about that.

It's too early to head back to the bar. And since I sort of have to hand in something by Tuesday or lose my job, I set to work at my laptop. After ten minutes I'm still just staring at a blank document.

What the hell am I going to write about?