The light was gently fading from the sky when I finally reached the turn-off for my house. Normally I enjoyed the sunshine, but after my encounter with Amelia my mood had plummeted. I felt it would have been fitting if there had been a storm on the horizon. Somehow I just didn’t feel that I deserved the sun right now. The world around me should be grey with a wind that ripped the warmth from my bones instead of a sky tinted a beautiful soft rose color that faded into twilight. I pulled into the driveway and parked, getting out of the car and heading towards my back door.
The garden that had over-bloomed all summer was still going strong, but it was yet another slap in the face. My great-grandfather, Niall, had blessed the land before he sealed the portals that divided my world from the world of the fairies. When I’d first noticed I was unappreciative, thinking that he might have helped me in a way that was more concrete. Thinking back on it now, I realized what an ungrateful child I had been. No, it wasn’t a magic sword or some kind of get of jail free card, but he had known that I loved the outdoors and had given me beauty. He hadn’t needed to give me anything, but he did. It wouldn’t fade with the years and I knew now that it was something to remember him by.
I unlocked the house and stepped inside. Even this house had been given to me. After my parents died, my grandmother had taken me in. Most kids weren’t as lucky as me to have a house passed down to them. I’d been so upset when my grandmother had been murdered that I hadn’t ever stopped to think about how lucky I was. She had given me a home and surrounded me with love. There had been things she had lied about, but then again I wasn’t the good Christian I professed to be either, so add another checkmark to the growing list of my faults.
I hung my keys on the hook next to the back door and headed to my room to change out of my work clothes. I put an old pair of sweats and grabbed the first t-shirt my hand found. It was the Fangtasia shirt that Eric had given me long ago. I sighed and shoved it back down in the drawer, pulling out a ratty old blue one instead. I felt like Scarlett O’Hara: I wouldn’t think about that now, but somewhere deep inside knew I was fooling myself. I slid my feet into a pair of flip-flops and headed to the kitchen to pour myself a gin and tonic. I knew I had some serious soul-searching to do, and though I didn’t imbibe much, I needed something to dull the ache that had taken up residence in my chest.
I didn’t bother to grab my library book as I headed out to the front porch swing. Sitting there, legs tucked up underneath me, reminded me of the nights Eric and I had spent there. I didn’t want to think about him. I wanted to ignore any of the memories that might open the wound I had sealed and shoved into a box in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t anymore. Through my streaming tears I saw the beautiful driveway he had given me. Had I ever even thanked him for it? I couldn’t remember.
Once the dam had broken there was no turning back. There was the bullet he took for me, even if he had tricked me into to sucking it out of his chest in order to get his blood in my veins. Then there was my cell phone and the Cranberry colored coat that used to be my favorite and now resided in the back of my closet. I laughed at the irony. It was exactly what I had done to him and our relationship: shoved everything of beauty as far away from me as I could and only focused on the bad. It wasn’t my boyfriends that I blamed: it was Eric.
How many other people had I forgiven? Bill, Quinn, Alcide, Amelia, no matter what, I’d forgiven them all; I mean that’s what I was taught to do. But the man who protected and loved me, what had I done for him? I hadn’t fought for him that was for sure. The last few conversations we’d had, if you could call them that, I’d slung the blame on him, like I’d blamed the blood bond for my feelings before that. I didn’t want to hear what I considered to be excuses, and maybe they were, but it didn’t necessarily follow that they weren’t true.
I was knee deep in my pity party when I looked up and saw Karin standing in front of me. I hadn’t realized that night had truly fallen and that she would be arriving soon to protect me, which, of course, made me cry even harder. She stepped onto the porch, leaning against the post and just stared at me. Her gaze held no sympathy.
“Oh Karin,” I began, but I really didn’t even know where to start. “What have I done?”
“Ahh, so you’ve finally realized what a bitch you are then?” Her lips curled up slightly in a scornful smile, her blond hair framing the angles of her face.
“Well that’s one way to put it, though I might have thought you’d be a bit nicer.”
“Why? We’re not friends. Has anyone else called you out on your bullshit?” She asked.
“Only my friend Amelia, though I don’t suppose I have the right to call her that.” Karin might seem cruel to me, but she was being honest, and I knew I had to do the same. “I’ve been so thoughtless never seeing everything Eric had done for me. Even you, Karin. Here you are protecting me, because he wanted it, and I never even thought about what it meant to you, the life that you would have to put on hold. I believed it was my due, I believed that it was owed to me for all that I had suffered.”
“Yes, I gave up a year of my life, and I’ve had my hands full protecting you from everyone who is still trying to get to you.” My surprise must have shown on my face because she continued, “Yes Sookie, there are still those who wish to abduct you for their own purposes. Do you think that because you are protected from Freyda and Felipe’s vampires that there aren’t others who are willing to risk their lives to acquire the power that you hold? Or do you still wish to hide behind this façade of a normal life that you so desire. You will never be normal Sookie. You can only accept your life as it is. My master gave up a hundred years to give you that opportunity, but I think you’re a fool. He didn’t have the choice to marry Freyda, but he did have the choice to protect you as best he could, which meant leaving everything he had known behind and putting his life on hold for another century, all for a blond bimbo who couldn’t see what was right in front of her.”
“I didn’t realize…I mean, I figured he made the choice to leave me behind and go pursue the power that Freyda offered him.” I’d finally stopped crying, but my voice still wavered as I said the words.
“Let me explain it to you, even though I think you are deluding yourself and that you know the truth already. Eric had no choice in the matter and he has gained no power. He had to obey his maker’s last wishes. He could have turned you against your will, at any time, ensuring that you would still be around two hundred years from now, but he didn’t. He wouldn’t do that because he knew you didn’t want it, you ridiculous girl. And what did you do?” She waited for my response, forcing me to say the words.
“I threw him out of my house.” In saying the words I felt my heart break. I had been horrible to him, and it took others holding up a mirror to my actions to even make me realize it.
“Yes. You threw him out and spit on everything that he had done for you in the process, and still he let you walk away. He didn’t force you to face up to your naivety knowing that you might never understand the depth of his sacrifice for you. Then he gave up more of his life despite all of this because that is how much he loved you. He wouldn’t even let Pam come here and rip your head off for your treatment of him, though she really wanted to. You never deserved Eric.” Her gaze offered me no reprieve from the truth she laid out in front of me.
I had been blind to his sacrifice. There was no defense I could offer and simply said, “You are right Karin. I wish so much I could change the past knowing what I’ve realized tonight, but there’s no way to go back. There’s no magic to change what happened between us.”
“No, there isn’t. What you will have to live with, for the rest of your natural life, is the knowledge that, for every one of your sunrises Eric is a slave to a woman who cares nothing for him, who is using him simply for the protection he can offer her. Long after you are dead and buried, he will still be enslaved to her, and he did it all for you.” She straightened her body and walked to me, placing a hand on my chin, lifting my eyes to hers. “I will leave you now, but know that I will be here for you, and I hope that you can accept this gift that he gave you and not squander the cost of your freedom.”
She walked away, leaving me alone with the stars and my thoughts. My drink sat forgotten at my feet. I had no idea what I was going to do with the revelations that ricocheted through my rib cage. I was broken, but I couldn’t allow myself to stay that way. I needed to figure out a way to honor everything Eric had done for me. I wasn’t sure where to start, but I knew one thing for certain, I wasn’t going to allow myself to be blinded to the truth I had ignored for so long. I would start tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.