After the attack on Sookie, and Eric’s impromptu visit, everyone was revved up and anxious for the battle. There was no real reason for us to get together this evening at Fangtasia, but there was so much riding on this that we had all agreed to meet one last time anyway. Bubba had already made his way to Oklahoma and I could only hope that he didn’t say something to give us away. I trusted him implicitly as far as his loyalty went, but he wasn’t exactly known for his intellect. Still, I was relatively sure he realized the importance of keeping his mouth shut.
Quinn had been dividing his time between Louisiana and Oklahoma, but would leave this evening to head to the Queen’s compound to put the finishing touches on the party. He had much to do before the event and Freyda would no doubt have a hundred last minute additional requests for him to fulfill. Bill, Karin, and I would leave just after nightfall tomorrow and drive through the evening. It wasn’t a very long drive, well the way I drove, and we would be there shortly after midnight to greet and pay the accorded respects to Freyda. It would be difficult to simply acknowledge Eric and move on, but absolutely necessary.
Sookie would drive herself to the airport in the morning. It had been decided that she needed to appear as if she was leaving the country on vacation. We counted on the surveillance of her being stepped up in the wake of all of us leaving and this way it would look like she was leaving to stay safe while we were away. She had an hour and a half layover in Atlanta where she would meet up with Marie, a human I spent time with on occasion. Marie was more than happy for a free trip to Rome and would meet Sookie in one of the restrooms to switch clothing. If all went according to plan, Marie would board the plane in Sookie’s place. Sookie would then leave the airport, with no one the wiser, to pick up a car that had been planted there for her. She would drive as far as Hot Springs, rest up, and then travel on to meet up with Quinn in time to prepare for her role.
But tonight was just for us girls. We were going shopping. Karin and I needed costumes, even if Sookie didn’t, and we all needed the release. We wrapped up the last bits of discussion and parted ways. I handed Quinn Sookie’s katana so she’d have it with her during the fight, giving him a look to ensure that he knew would have trouble if anything happened to it, and he nodded, departing for his trip. Mustapha and Warren left to hit up one of the were-friendly bars in Shreveport and Bill, presumably, to go brood somewhere.
The bar was starting to fill up, as it always did this close to Halloween. The holiday encouraged those who normally wouldn’t, to walk a bit on the wild side. I was in no mood for the crowd this evening and was glad I had planned this little outing for Sookie. We would, ostensibly, be purchasing clothes for her “vacation” in addition to our costumes, but I really thought Sookie’s wardrobe could use a little updating anyway. We’d head by the costume shop first and then to Tara’s Togs, which was owned by Sookie’s friend. She had confided in me that she was worried about Tara’s response to everything, but I knew that she would need to make peace with her friend before the battle. I reminded her, when she balked at the idea, that none of us might survive the coming fight, and then she agreed quickly enough.
We picked up Sookie at her place and headed right to Angelina’s, a high end costume shop that opened by appointment only. I couldn’t stand those shops that smelled of musty body odor. Angelina’s served the upper class and costumes were not rented, but purchased. The idea of wearing something that had been worn by a sweaty sorority girl did not appeal to me. We were greeted by Jasmine, a tall, graceful brunette who offered Karin and I warmed glasses of True Blood and Sookie a glass of wine. She asked for and accepted a Pinot Grigio and proceeded to wander idly through the outfits that were superbly arranged.
Karin had decided to go as Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, who lead her people in revolt against the Romans. It seemed fitting to me and I doubted that Freyda would be smart enough to catch the reference anyway. I needed something equally as ingenious. I turned to Sookie to ask her opinion on my costume and found her gazing wistfully at a gown of pale pink and silvery grey. The bodice was covered in tiny iridescent salt-water pearls that caught the light of the shop, glittering and reflecting the lightly colored silk. The skirt consisted of several cascading layers and would suit her perfectly. She truly would look like a fairy princess in it and I found that I couldn’t resist.
“Sookie,” she glanced up from her reverie, “how would you like it if we had a ball of our own once this is all over and we are back where we belong?”
Her eyes sparkled with hope and she nodded. “Could we really Pam? I mean, I don’t need anything as beautiful as this, but it would be fun, don’t you think? You know something to celebrate everything that we’ve gone through?”
“Jasmine, if you would help her?” I gestured to the woman to take Sookie back and ensure that the dress would fit her, though I already knew that it would.
“Oh Pam. I couldn’t. This is simply too decadent for a simple country girl like me.” Sookie had back away, but not before Jasmine swept the dress into her arms and began to move towards the fitting rooms.
“Nonsense. If you are to be on Eric’s arm when all of this is over, you need to dress the part. I will hear no more of your protestations. Now shoo.” I made a motion for her to scoot. “But I also need your help choosing a costume for myself, so think on that while you get naked back there.”
She narrowed her eyes at me, but just laughed it off. “You could go as a dominatrix seeing as you so enjoy torturing me…”
I snickered at her and considered it for a moment. Halloween was a come as you aren’t kind of holiday, but it didn’t feel right.
She kept calling ideas out while she dressed. “The Queen of Hearts? I mean you could go around yelling ‘Off with their heads’ all night. Or how about Marie Antoinette? Or the Greek Goddess Athena? Or Lizzie Borden?” She was about to erupt in giggles at her suggestions. “No! I’ve got it. You could go as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“Alright, alright, calm yourself missy.” I was about to go on when she came out in the dress and it was even more magnificent than I imagined, fitting her perfectly and hugging every one of her luscious curves. I only wished that I could take a picture of her and send it to Eric, but that was definitely too dangerous. I couldn’t risk Freyda confiscating Eric’s phone and getting suspicious. “You are absolutely stunning Sookie.” And she was. A small part of me, okay not really a small part, envied Eric his good fortune in finding this beautiful creature.
She came into the room fully and twirled about, the skirt flaring around her ankles and giving her an air of innocence, except I knew better. Sookie had been through more than most humans and had somehow been able to keep her sunny optimism. Sure she had gone through a rough period during the time before and after Eric left for Oklahoma, but I blamed that on the situation. She was unused to the love that he felt for her, as any mostly human girl would be. He was intense and had not loved anyone like he loved her. It would be overwhelming to even the most experienced of women.
“Do you really think so Pam? I feel, well I truly feel like a fairy princess in this. I only wish that Eric could see me in it,” she sighed longingly.
“And I only hope that he remembers not to tear it in his eagerness to ravish your beauty.” She blushed and reminded me of the girl in the white dress who had so innocently come into Fangtasia, and our lives, what seemed so long ago. So many things had changed and if you had told me back then that I would be preparing to fight beside her to free my maker I would have laughed wholeheartedly in your face.
Her mind seemed to have taken the same track. “You know, when I first met you Pam, I always thought you looked like Alice in Wonderland. Those days seem like so long ago, don’t they?” She furtively wiped a tear from her eye and blinked, quickly heading back towards the dressing room. The hope flickered in her eyes. “Well I’d better get this off before I ruin it. Dreams…There’s no way I could afford something like this. You will just have to deal with what I can purchase when we return from Oklahoma,” she said, but her eyes told a different story.
I looked at Jasmine and motioned that she should take it and wrap it up. She didn’t need to know that I was going to purchase it for her. It would be a present, when we survived. She would argue if I said anything now anyway. We spent another hour with Sookie rattling off ridiculous costume ideas, but I finally found one that would suit. Everything was wrapped and I handed my card over the counter to pay for all of our purchases. I had Sookie call Tara to let her know that we were on our way and would be there in an hour or so.
Tara greeted us at the door, hesitating when she remembered that Karin and I were vampires, but we were customers so she fell back on her professional demeanor quick enough. Sookie looked disappointed, but after I had a few words with Tara, she would reign in her disapproval and give her friend what she needed, kindness and understanding.
“Tara, Sookie will be leaving on a trip to Rome tomorrow and she will need several outfits to take with her.” I rattled off what she would need. I drew close to her and whispered, “You will treat your friend kindly, Tara. I know that you don’t exactly agree with her lifestyle, but it is her life and you will support your friend. We may be vampires, and you may not agree with that, but we love that girl fiercely and will not take kindly to your mistreatment of her. You have been friends since childhood, is that not correct?”
“Yes, Pam, but you don’t understand,” she began to say.
I cut her off. “Yes I do. You had a bad experience with a vampire and you’ve seen Sookie in trouble since the supernatural community found out about her. That is not her fault, and there is nothing she can do to hide from who she is, nor should you want her to. But she needs to be protected and we can do that, not to mention we have been teaching her to protect herself, which is utterly more important. She can’t pretend to be simply human, because she is not. She is so much more than that. She also needs acceptance right now, and you will give it to her.”
Tara swallowed and nodded to me. Sookie poked her head out and asked Tara for her help in choosing some outfits. “I would really like your opinion Tara, you have such class and if I’m going to Rome I need to look the part.” Her eyes looked shyly at the woman who had been her best friend for years. I knew how much their estrangement hurt Sookie and I wanted them to kiss and make up. I chuckled a bit to myself with that image in my brain.
“Anything you want Sookie, it’s my treat.” When she looked like she was going to argue with me I stopped her short. “No ifs, ands, or buts Fairy Princess. I don’t have want to hear it. You will look like an international woman of mystery if it’s the last thing I do.” She sighed loudly, but I could tell she saw that it was useless to argue with me.
Tara looped her arm through Sookie’s and though she tried to hide her surprise at her friend, Sookie smiled warmly at Tara. “Come on Sookie, I have a new line of Betsy Johnson in that would look absolutely spectacular on you.”
They spent the next few hours in a sea of sundresses. She also chose some dresses that gave her a very Lauren Bacall look and suited her perfectly. I insisted that she also purchase several pairs of dress pants with matching tops, as well as silk lingerie. My favorite part, of course, was the shoes. Anyone who knows me knows I love my footwear. I insisted on all designer: Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, all the good ones. I found a strappy pair of silver heels that would look perfect with the dress she got from Angelina’s and I added those to her growing pile of purchases. She scowled at me several times, but I could tell she was getting into it. I pointed out that we were friends, and this is what friends did right? Shopped together? It wasn’t my fault that I refused to shop at Target, or Tarjey as she liked to pronounce it, as if saying it in a French accent made it any better.
She pulled me aside to point out that she wasn’t actually going to Rome and I just shrugged at her and added a few silk scarves and a white sun hat that would look absolutely darling on her. I realized that I was having fun, though Karin hadn’t moved from her seat at the front, keeping an eye out for any danger that might attack. This was exactly what we needed. A night without sparring, danger, or planning, the calm before the storm as it were.
She hugged Tara before we left and I could tell she was getting teary-eyed. It seemed that the two of them had made up at some point during the excursion and I was glad of it. Tara wasn’t aware of what awaited us, but if the worst happened at least they had this last evening together. I thanked her and we gathered up the bags and headed out to the car to head back to Sookie’s house.
Once there Karin excused herself to go to her post in the backyard while Sookie and I packed for her trip. It didn’t take long and it occurred to me that I wouldn’t see her again until we got to Oklahoma and I realized that I wasn’t ready to leave her. So we settled in on the couch to watch a couple episodes of Buffy before I left for the evening. We watched a few of the lighthearted ones, the musical was her favorite and it made both of us smile, so that was good.
Before I left I hugged her tightly, shocking her. “Sookie. This might be the last time we get a chance to spend time like this and I just wanted to say…” I realized I was getting choked up and pulled myself together before continuing. “I wanted to say that I am really glad we’ve become friends. You always were my favorite breather, but I feel that now that you’ve accepted the love that you and Eric share that we have become much closer. I have Karin, of course, but it’s the not the same. You are like a little sister to me and I hope that we get more chances to spend together. When you and Eric aren’t fucking like bunnies that is,” I added for levity.
Her good southern girl rose to the occasion. “Pam! Goodness.” She blushed, but she hugged me fiercely. “But seriously, I know what you mean Pam. I’ve never had a big sister and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better. And you know, thanks for teaching me how to fight and all that.”
“Be safe Sookie, I would hate to lose you after all the hard work I put into training you. I’ll see you in a few days.”
She blinked back the tears that threatened to fall and kissed me on the cheek. “Ditto,” was all she said in response.
She closed the door after me and I as climbed into the car to drive away from her, I admit that I had to wipe away the pink-tinged tears that fell down my cheeks.