I spent the next day wandering through the house and alternating between feeling guilty and relieved. Guilty since Sam was one of my best friends, but relieved because I knew now that I wasn’t dead inside. All the snide, mean comments that I’d thought and said had a reason, not a very good one mind you, but at least a reason that I could pinpoint. If they had a beginning I could put an end to them. The lashing out would stop. The person I’d seemed to be morphing into was someone I didn’t like. Were there some vampires who were terrible, awful, horrible individuals who deserved to die terrible, awful, and horrible drawn out deaths? Well yes, and I could think of a couple who were at the top of my to-do list. I did mention I’d become bloodthirsty, right? But there were also some humans who had proven to be disgusting and vile too, though I would leave those folks to law enforcement. Humans had very different ideas of justice than vamps and there wasn’t much that a cop could do against Freyda or Felipe anyway, so I wasn’t feeling much in the way of guilt when it came to dispensing a special brand of justice in Eric’s name.
Maybe I’d just gone through and seen too much in the last few years, but I’d left the guilt trap behind when Freyda had forced Eric into a cushy version of slavery. Maybe I was simply realizing that I was more like Eric than I had previously wanted to admit. I’d heard somewhere that common goals were good in a relationship. Maybe I should get a bumper sticker that said “A couple that slays together, stays together.” I wonder what Buffy would say about that? There was a perverse little chuckle that bubbled its way up from deep within and I let the smile slip out. It felt good.
I knew I needed to talk to Sam, but it was going to be a difficult conversation. I didn’t want to hurt him, though I didn’t really see that as a possibility. Sitting in the kitchen at my grandmother’s table there were a hundred tiny tasks that I could come up with to postpone the inevitable, but I knew that I really shouldn’t put it off. I knew that the longer I did, the harder it would get. So I bit the bullet and called his cell. My foot twitching while I waited, he picked up on the third ring. He was working so I kept the call short, asking him to come by tonight and he agreed.
The rest of the afternoon and early evening passed like a traffic jam. I’d think I’d kept myself busy for an hour and when I glanced at the clock it’d be only ten minutes later than the last time. I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. I’d never really broken up with someone before. All my relationships had either fizzled out, ended with a bang and broken bones, or like Eric and I, with a slamming door. I told myself for the hundredth time that I was doing the adult thing. Should I try to break the ice and ease him into it or to just dive headfirst into the deep end? Should I make him a drink or dinner?
I considered calling Tara, but I knew what she would say and it wouldn’t be supportive. She liked the idea of me settling down with Sam. He was the safe choice. Children, picket fences, the whole nine yards. Besides, she had twins and didn’t really need my baggage loading her down. In the end I turned on the radio to the local rock station and made dinner simply because I needed something to do. I’d go stir-crazy waiting for him to arrive. When he finally did I had dinner on the table: Spaghetti and meatballs made with my grandmother’s homemade sauce.
I saw him climbing the porch stairs and called out to him. “Come on in Sam. I was just finishing up dinner. Have you eaten?” I’d assumed he hadn’t considering he’d been working all day. It wasn’t uncommon to grab a quick bite during the day, but it was still early enough that I knew he hadn’t had much time between finishing up there and heading here.
“Nope I haven’t. Got a beer? I’m parched. We were pretty busy. Speaking of…you coming back soon?” He asked with an ease born of our years of friendship.
“Yup. I called Holly and Andrea today letting them know I’d be back tomorrow. Beer’s in the fridge. Would you mind passing me the bottle of red I have sitting on the table? I need a refill.”
“Where’s your glass, I’ll take care of it. You just finish up what you’re doing.” I strained the noodles and grabbed a bowl so that I could put them on the table with the meatballs and sauce.
“Make yourself comfortable, won’t be but a minute more. Any interesting gossip at the bar?” Yeah, I was making small talk, so sue me.
He handed the glass back to me and I took a small sip. He bent in to kiss me and I must have flinched because I saw the recognition dawn in his eyes.
“So you didn’t just call me to cook me dinner like a good girlfriend.” He sighed and settled back into the flower patterned chairs that circled the table.
I took a deep breath trying to settle my nerves. “No Sam I didn’t, but we’ve been friends for so long, I didn’t want this just to be that conversation.” I could feel the sadness welling up inside him and I resisted the urge to put my arms around him in comfort. I piled the noodles on his plate and let him cover it with sauce himself; some people like a lot and some only a little. I’ve learned not to dish it out myself. I realized that I was mentally stalling and I began the conversation I wanted to hide from.
“Sam, I’m not being fair to you. I’m sorry, I really am. But I realized I really rushed into things with you before I was ready. You deserve someone who can love you and I’m just not that person.” My spaghetti was awfully interesting, but I made myself look directly at him.
His shoulders sagged as he took another bite, presumably to give himself time to form his response. I waited silent and with not a small amount of trepidation.
He finally responded after what felt like foever, but really wasn’t more than a minute or two. “I think I knew that even in the beginning, but I didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to believe that you might love me. I’ve waited so long for my chance with you. Watching you date unsuitable men and burying myself in dangerous women.”
“Yeah, I think we might have stood a chance before my life changed so drastically, but I’m not the girl I was two years ago. I’ve seen too much to go back to who I was. But truthfully, and I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but I’m not over Eric yet either. With everything that was happening at the time I just kinda shut down, ya know?” I look at him earnestly, hoping he’d see that I desperately didn’t want to hurt him, but that he deserved the truth. “He was such a huge part of my life and then he was gone.”
“He left you Sookie, and chose that despicable Queen instead.” He was getting angry and though I didn’t fault him for it, I couldn’t let him think that I’d cast him off for someone who’d walk away from me like that.
“It wasn’t his choice Sam. With vampires…” How did I put this? “Well, they have to obey their maker and his had signed a contract with the Queen of Oklahoma forcing him to be her Consort. Maybe it would have ended anyway, I don’t know, but that’s not why I can’t be with you. I can’t be with you because I can’t love you properly. I love you like my best friend, but I’m still hung up on Eric. I’m going to Oklahoma to save him, and I don’t know what’ll happen after that. It doesn’t seem right to keep you hanging on in the hopes that I will eventually feel that way about you.”
“I get it Sook, I really do. I can’t say that I’m not hurt. I mean I would have preferred this story to have a different ending. Maybe it does it some parallel universe somewhere. Maybe there we got married and had 2.5 kids, but in this universe, I have to admit my disappointment, but at least we gave it a try right?” The sorrow hung over him like a shroud and I could only hope that it wouldn’t stick around too long. He deserved to be happy in love and not with some crazy girlfriend who would betray and accidentally kill him.
Our plates of food sat uneaten in front of us and I leaned back in my chair giving him a moment. The silence settled around us, but it didn’t feel as heavy as it had before I’d told him the truth. It made me sad, but also hopeful that this wouldn’t mean the end of our friendship.
“You want me to reheat the food?”
“Nah, but I’d take another beer if you’re offering.” I nodded and walked to the fridge to pull another out. Handing it to him I sat back down and refilled my glass. He continued, “So friends then?”
I laughed, “I thought that was supposed to be my line?” Glancing at him I saw that he understood that I was trying to lighten the mood. “Yeah, definitely. Honestly it’s a weight off my shoulders to hear you say that. I really don’t know what I would have done if you had gotten mad and stormed out. Sure woulda made work unbearable for both of us.”
“I hope you know Sookie, that no matter how much I disagree with your decisions, we’ll always be friends.” His smile was genuine and I relaxed, knowing that we would be okay, both of us. “But don’t think this means I’m gonna stop calling you out when I think you’re making a rash choice, like running off to Oklahoma to get yourself killed.”
“Come on now Sam. You know I have to do it.” His eyes showed his smile as he took a sip of his beer and he leaned back in the chair looking comfortable and at ease with himself. “You could always help you know. If you had any bright ideas for taking down a vampire who was stronger, faster, and way sneakier than me, I’d welcome any input.”
“Well now I think I’ll pass on your suicide mission, but if I come up with anything brilliant I’ll be sure to give you the heads up. When will you be leaving again?” He asked tentatively.
“Won’t be ’til the end of the month. I’ll be taking a vacation to a sunny beach in Caribbean if anyone asks.”
“Got it. And seriously Sookie, if you need my help, all you need to do is call. No, I’m not big on the whole Save the Viking plan you got going on, but I’m still here for you.”
“Thanks Sam, it means a lot to me.”
The rest of the evening passed companionably and I tried not to feel too happy, after all I had just ended my relationship, but I felt free for maybe the first time in my life. Like I had done something good for myself, taking a step in the right direction. I knew that even if Eric and I didn’t get back together that in the end I’d be okay. I’d started taking care of myself and it was a good feeling.