Chapter Fifty-Six: Announcements
“Wow,” is what I manage to mumble once the doctor has left.
“Yes,” Eric agrees solemnly as I feel like someone who has just been rolled over by a tidal wave.
My eyes narrow as I look at him suspiciously, “You knew, didn’t you?”
Eric sighs and pauses a moment before replying, “I had my suspicions, but I did not want to say anything unless I could confirm it. It appears Cassandra anticipated my doubts.”
I sigh as I take in the past twenty-four hours. Not only did I discover I was pregnant, but I had my crisis of faith resolved once and for all, witnessed my husband returning home with his arm torn off, watched my friend reattach his arm, and then found out I am carrying the reincarnated spirit of a two-thousand-year-old vampire Seer. Yup, sounds like a normal day in the eternal life of a telepathic angel…
“What are you thinking?” My husband asks me in a rather soothing voice. No doubt he’s worried I’m about to be overcome with some type of hysteria.
“I’m thinking this has been a really long day, and I’m going to try and catch a nap before Godric gets back here with Victor,” I answer with a yawn.
“And Diedre?” Eric presses as he follows me out of the living room and up the stairs to our bedroom.
“What about her?” I ask, stripping out of my clothes for the millionth time that day.
“Are we going to tell her about Cassandra?” he asks anxiously.
“Of course we’re going to tell her,” I reply in exasperation. “We have the opportunity to ease some of her anguish. This might be the thing that keeps her from killing herself after she rips Victor apart!”
“What if she tries to interfere with how we wish to bring up our child?” Eric insists I consider the repercussions of the situation before moving forward with my nap. I’m reminded distantly of the night we were still deciding to Bond. Eric has always tried to make me aware of all the negatives. I’m constantly trying to remind him everything has negative aspects, and his arguments are only exhausting.
“Eric,” I sigh and press my forehead into the door frame of our room, “every single person who has ever brought a new life into this world had to put up with every Joe-schmoe out there telling them how to do it right. This won’t be any different than that. We ignore her and do it how we want. If she has a problem with that, that’s her problem. We’re the parents, and she’s got to be old enough to respect that.”
My husband looks at me in surprise before he laughs and nudges me the rest of the way into our bedroom, “You are far wiser than I give you credit.” He gives me a guilty smile as he pushes me into bed and curls around me.
“To be fair, the baby thing is not something you’ve had a thousand additional years of practice,” I reply as I snuggle into his side.
“Are you scared at all?” Eric asks me curiously.
“Sure,” I mumble. “I’m scared about the things we don’t know and how much it will hurt. Mostly I’m nervous the baby will have powers I can’t compete with,” I confess. “What if he can fly?”
Eric shakes his head doubtfully, “I think he will be more like you. He will be stronger than you once he’s grown to a man, but as a child, I think he will be relatively human. After all, vampirism is not genetic.” I can hear and feel his doubt. Apparently I have planted a seed of concern in him. “Sleep, Sookie. I am sure we have plenty of time to worry about these things.”
“All right, all right,” I close my eyes and hug him a bit tighter. “Love you.”
“As I love you,” he answers and kisses the top of my head.
When I wake up, Eric’s still in bed with me, raking his fingers through my hair. “Hey,” I greet him with a half-asleep smile. “What time is it?”
“Almost four in the morning,” he says. “Godric just got in, and they are storing Victor at Pam’s for the day. It is too close to dawn for Diedre to remain aware much longer with her injuries.”
I nod with another yawn and crawl out of bed. “Shoot!”
“What?” he looks at me worriedly.
“With everything that happened, I never got around to grading papers!”
“Oh, I did that for you,” Eric assures me. “I have watched you enough times to grade on your scale.”
“Eric,” I whine, “they’re my students.”
“And our child needed you to rest,” he answers my protest with little concern. “I can fill in the time you are going to lose. I do not want you working four times as hard to maintain your usual habits.”
I pout a bit, but go about getting ready for my day. By the time I drip my way out of the shower and dress for work, Eric’s gone, but I can smell yummy food being cooked in the kitchen. My nostrils guide me downstairs, and I’m soon sitting in front of a pile of eggs and sausage.
“Thanks, Darlin’,” I smile until I see my usual cup of coffee is now a mug of tea.
“Decaffeinated,” Eric announces when he catches where I’m looking. He holds out Ludwig’s list of “NO” foods, and I sigh in resignation. This part of pregnancy is going to suck. I want my coffee!
After breakfast, I finish my morning routine in time to hear Jason honking for me to come out. Eric gives me a kiss goodbye, hands me my lunch bag and then kneels down to kiss my belly. This new addition to our morning routine makes my face flush in exhilaration. Eric wraps his arms around my hips and nuzzles my stomach a little harder before rising back to his feet.
“Have a good day today,” Eric tells me with another kiss goodbye.
“I will,” I answer. “Love you.”
“Love you both,” he opens the door just as Jason lets loose another impatient honk. My brother throws his hands in the air with an exasperated look as I come skipping to the car.
“Jeez, did you sleep in or something?” Jason asks as I buckle my seat belt and he pulls away from the curb.
“Yeah, actually. After everything that happened yesterday, I decided to sleep a few hours last night,” I confess.
Jason throws a surprised glance at me. I’ve had far more physically taxing days without the need for a nap. However, instead of interrogating, he shrugs and heads for Cammie’s house. When she’s in the backseat, I finally ask about Vegas.
“So, what happened with you guys last night?” I ask.
Jason shrugs, “Got to Felipe’s estate, explained that we believed their king was in danger, and next thing I know; I’m getting an earful of suspicious murmurs.” Jason doesn’t need to tap his head to imply he means he heard someone thinking incriminating things. “I do my ‘threat gesture’ at Godric, and Godric manages to beat a confession out of Victor. The third in command gave us permission to take Victor, and Godric called the Council for further instruction. They said it was cool to put Victor to death and granted permission to take him over state lines so Diedre could do the deed,” Jason explains rather simply.
“It was that easy?” Cammie asks with a low, surprised whistle.
“Well, I’m not gonna go into all the boring shit,” Jason laughs. “After all, we didn’t get in till four in the morning, and that was because we had to wait for all the Council members to throw a verdict and then debate over letting us take Victor out of state. If we hadn’t had witnesses hear him confess to orchestrating the Pythoness’s death, we probably wouldn’t have been allowed to take him.”
Cammie nods, accepting the story. “I got to put Eric’s arm back on last night.”
“I heard about that!” Jason reaches back to offer Cammie a high-five, which she enthusiastically returns. “I’m proud of you!”
“Thanks,” Cammie glows pridefully at her accomplishment, “I was real nervous I’d screw it up. I’ve never reassembled something that was animated.”
“You did awesome,” I assure her.
Cammie grins at me, “Which, reminds me, that I finally finished my series of enchantments that I’ve been practicing the past few years!”
“Which is?” I ask politely.
“Well, I’ve enchanted my and Godric’s wedding bands,” Cammie begins slowly, holding up her hand to show off her stunning ring set. “They’re layered with a few different spells to do what I wanted, and Rose had to help me with a few of the more advanced enchantments that I can’t quite do myself yet, so it took a while…But it should be working.”
“What should be working?” Jason asks impatiently.
“It’s like a glamour, but a witch glamour, not a vampire one. It changes how we are perceived by mortal creatures. It works a little different on two-natured, but it does work. It will let us appear to age!”
“The fuck we want that for?” Jason asks in disgust.
“How about so we can stay in the same location longer,” I tell him pointedly. “We won’t have to move every ten years or less.”
“That’s right! We can live out entire lifetimes!” Cammie gushes happily.
“Oh, Cammie, this is the best news yet!” I praise, feeling relief and happiness at the realization that I can raise my child in a family home instead of having to tear him from his roots every few years. I won’t have to pretend he’s not mine when he gets old enough to be my brother instead of my son.
“Are you crying?” Jason demands and I wipe at my eyes in surprise.
“I’m just having a girly moment,” I reply lamely. Maybe I should just tell the whole family about the baby tonight. It seems mean to let Diedre in on the news and not my family…
I am the most distracted teacher the rest of the day. My students are even noticing that they can get away with just about anything today, and Mrs. Eyes-in-the-back-of-her-head-Northman is powerless to stop them.
It’s just impossible to concentrate when thoughts of babies are on your mind. Every time I look at my students, I wonder about the type of child my baby will be. Will he be bright and quiet like Joshua? Will he be boisterous, but deceptively brilliant like Christopher? Will he be withdrawn and struggling like Dustin? A class clown like Kevin? Maybe he’ll be an annoying little shit like Jimmy. Ugh, please God, not like Jimmy! Give him flight before he turns out like Jimmy!
At mid-day, my mind wanders from the personality of my child to the place I would like to raise him. Eric had insisted that we move out of Louisiana so we could return when we had our first child, but had promised to return there to raise him. Now I’m not so sure I want to do that. As a teacher, I don’t want my child to go to Bon Temps High School. It has so little to offer, and our son will have even less in common with the majority of his classmates than I did. At least I was able to bond with a lot of them with our lower middle class status.
School in Shreveport was a little better, but only because Jason and I nearly killed ourselves to afford to live in a good school district. Currently, we are all working at a good public school, and I’m pretty sure it will stay that way for quite a while.
Not to mention, if we stay here, we already all have jobs, I consider. I don’t want the whole family to be uprooted by this, after all, and I want us to all be near each other. Certainly it’s important for extended family to be part of a child’s life? Especially since we’ll all be with each other for a very, very long time.
By the end of the day, I don’t think I’ve taught a single student anything. I climb into my brother’s car later that afternoon, and fall asleep on the drive home, hugging my mail carrier bag.
“Hey, Sleepyhead,” my brother’s voice drags me back into awareness.
“Hey,” I mumble back.
“Are you okay?” Jason asks as I jerk awake. Camilla’s sitting in the backseat still, staring at me worriedly.
“Why are we at my place? Cammie gets dropped off first,” I answer confusedly.
“We were worried about you,” Cammie replies, and I can hear the concern in her voice.
“Sorry,” I sit up a bit straighter, “I should go in and go back to sleep.”
“Here, I’ll help you,” Jason jumps out of the car, and so does Camilla. My best friend grabs my bag, and Jason practically carries me into the house.
“Guys, I’m not that weak,” I chuckle tiredly. I don’t remember being so tired. Not even when I was still a mortal!
Eric meets us at the front door and scoops me out of Jason’s arms and into his own. “Come in,” he tells our family. Jason and Cammie glance at each other nervously, but follow us to the sitting room.
“Sookie, if you are not even able to make it through an entire work day and stay conscious, perhaps keeping this news to ourselves is pointless,” Eric tells me.
I can only nod in agreement. Cammie and Jason are staring at us expectantly.
“So,” I say in as nonchalant a way as possible, “I’m pregnant!”
My best friend and my brother both yell in surprise and then they’re hugging me excitedly.
“This is amazing!” Cammie says. “Oh, I finished those enchantments right on time!”
“I’m gonna be an uncle!” Jason crows happily. “I’m gonna get this kid is so much trouble!” he declares.
I giggle at their reactions and accept another round of hugs. “There’s more-”
“Twins!?” Jason asks excitedly.
“Oh,” I frown, I hadn’t considered that yet, “I don’t know about that. I’m only a couple weeks along, and we only just found out yesterday.”
“Ouch, bad timing,” Jason flinches.
“What’s the other news?” Cammie tries to get me back on topic.
I take the last letter written by the Ancient Pythoness that I’ve been carrying all day and hand it to them. They read it silently and then look up at me for some sort of additional explanation.
“So, apparently my baby is the reincarnation of Cassandra,” I tell them.
“Shit,” Jason’s jaw slings open, “you guys are having a boy!” he laughs and I remember the vision Cassandra showed him.
“Eric! You were right!” I laugh as well now.
“Of course I was,” Eric teases.
“That or your daughter is freakishly tall with very masculine arms,” Jason pokes his tongue out at my husband.
“My daughters have always been lovely,” Eric assures us. “If I have one in this existence, she will be even lovelier because Sookie will be her mother.”
“You’ve had daughters before?” Jason asks in surprise. Of course I know about Eric’s human life, but Jason has always only been entertained by Eric’s historical accounts, not his personal ones.
“Yes, three daughters and two sons,” Eric nods and I watch with a twinge of sadness as Jason and Cammie lean in curiously. I hate hearing this story. “My youngest son died in infancy. The older son and second daughter were taken by disease. The youngest girl perished in a fire with her mother. My oldest daughter was killed while I was away.”
I watch the shock consume my brother and my friend, and their jaws slacken before their expressions turn somber.
“That sucks, Eric,” Jason finally comments.
Eric shrugs, having come to terms with it long ago. “Yes, but it is probably what lead me back into battle. It is more than likely what gave me the ferocity in battle that Godric admired. Quite possibly, the loss of my human family is what turned me into a vampire. Now I have the loveliest wife, and a family much stronger and closer than my human one ever was. So, I am thankful for their sacrifices because they have brought me here.”
I lean my head against Eric’s shoulder and take his hand in mine. Despite his speech, there is this deep undercurrent of something like sorrow. It is ancient like him, and perhaps he doesn’t feel it himself anymore. He is so used to that sorrow being there, it is merely a part of him now that he has accepted and no longer acknowledges.
Still, it is that sorrow which is still new to me that makes me love him even more every time I feel it swell like a gentle ripple of a pond. It makes me love him because even after a thousand years, he still loves and appreciates the family he lost. They will be written on his heart like an old tattoo for the rest of time, and I will happily write our own family alongside them. I will never try to cover their existences, merely create our own, permanent art to accompany what has always been there.
Jason and Camilla stay at our home for the remainder of the afternoon. They work in companionable silence over their grading papers, breaking the quiet for an occasional comment or joke. Sookie seems to perk up with the company and activity, and I have to wonder if her exhaustion is merely the result of her abrupt loss of caffeine.
Soon, grading is finished, lesson plans are made, and the three teachers rise from the coffee table to head for the kitchen. Camilla is practically hanging from my wife’s waist, rubbing her belly and talking in a childish whistle of a voice. Jason is all smiles, and the glow of excitement shines in his eyes as he warms a bottle of blood in our microwave.
“So, what are you going to name him?” Jason asks curiously as Sookie and Camilla make their own snack.
“Leif,” my wife replies immediately and makes my heart swell with love. She is still willing to use the name!
Jason looks at me suspiciously, “Your choice, I take it?”
“I suggested it a long time ago,” I confess without guilt. “It was never set in stone.”
“I love the name,” Sookie injects. Her voice is an annoyed huff at her brother, and it makes me chuckle. “You know I’ve always liked family names.”
“Oh,” Jason glances, “who was Leif?”
“My brother,” I answer.
“That’s cool,” Jason loses some of the earlier distaste for the name. “Got any girl names picked out?”
I glance at Sookie curiously and she shrugs. “I don’t really know,” she replies. “I really like the names Alexis or Alexandria.”
“Those aren’t family names,” Jason teases.
“So?” She pouts. “I still like them. Besides, they sound like strong names. Pretty, but strong.”
“I think they’re perfect,” Camilla pipes in, and I have to admit that I like them too.
“I like the name Alexis,” I offer. “It is a beautiful name.”
“Good, it’s settled then. When we have a girl, we’re naming her Alexis,” Sookie says with finality on the topic.
I chuckle at her fake sternness and continue to discuss the day as everyone enjoys their midday snacks.
When the sun begins to set we all pile into Jason’s SUV to head over to Pam’s house. Rather than trying to move Victor around while he’s bound in silver, we decided to have everyone convene at the makeshift prison Pam fashioned out of her basement. I have the feeling she will be expanding on that prison now that we have finally had a need for one. Suburb Secrets, I think with great amusement. The idea of Tribunals taking place beneath the ground of our gated community in these modern times brings a rattle of laughter to my chest. Sookie glances at my sudden chuckle, but shakes her head as if she has thought better than to ask what is so funny.
When we arrive at my Child’s home, we file in and wait in the living room for Godric, Diedre and Quigley. The sun has only just set, and I know it will probably be another half hour, so we decide to let Pam in on our news while we wait.
“Pregnant?” my Child says in surprise. “I thought Ludwig would have been able to predict this before it happened. Everyone made it sound like it would be noticeable when you went into heat.”
Sookie snorts, “I’m not a dog. Could we not say ‘in heat’?”
Pam shrugs, “Whatever. So you were stealthily fertile?”
“Apparently,” Sookie laughs. “We both just felt like something had changed and we both called Ludwig only minutes apart to request some tests. She showed up, and we found out we were already pregnant!” she gushes.
“Well, congratulations,” Pam nods. “How far along are you, and when can we expect the little devil to make an appearance?”
Sookie shrugs, “Well, I’m only about two or three weeks. It’s super early in the pregnancy, and with all the unprecedented variables, Ludwig has to watch the development before she can begin guessing at a due date.”
Pam nods again, but does not ask any further questions. I can feel in our Link that she is too busy doing the math and arriving at the same curious conclusions I did yesterday.
Before Pam can begin asking further questions, I sense Godric on his way and assume that Diedre and Quigley are with him. When my Maker arrives, he is alone.
“Where’s Diedre and Quigley?” Jason asks, poking his head through the curtains to look out the window.
“She needed more time,” Godric sighs, “I fear that she is planning far more than how she desires to end Victor.”
I glance at my wife and know what she is thinking. The letter from Cassandra is still folded in her purse, and I have a feeling that it will be read several times this evening.
“Sookie,” I look to my wife, “let Godric and Pam read the letter. It is better we are all on the same page this evening.”
Sookie nods and pulls the paper from her bag. Godric and Pam press together to read it, and it only takes a second for them to look up in surprise.
“Is this real?” Pam asks in a soft daze.
“Yes. Ludwig brought it to us last night,” I assure them. “Apparently it was given to her several months ago with the order not to read it until yesterday. The same day we would discover the pregnancy.”
“Do you think Diedre will believe it?” Pam asks.
“She will believe in a letter from Cassandra. The envelope even had her seal,” I tell them.
“This is unbelievable,” Godric murmurs as he hands the letter back to Sookie. “We need to show this to Diedre before she kills Victor.”
“Agreed,” Sookie chimes in. “Part of me wants to believe she doesn’t need this to find a reason to keep living, but another part of me doesn’t want her to go on without hope when we can give it so easily.”
Though I do not like how freely we are speaking with Victor in earshot, I know his permanent death is a relatively short time away. Still, this openness with an enemy nearby is putting me on edge.
Thankfully, there is soon a knock on the door, and Pam opens it to reveal Diedre and Quigley standing on the doorstep.
“Where is Madden?” Diedre demands even as she is hopping into the house with Quigley’s assistance.
“Wait,” Sookie rises from the sofa, “there is something we need-”
“After,” Diedre snaps impatiently.
“Now,” Sookie responds in the commanding tone she uses mostly in the classroom. Diedre blinks several times as she is surprised that Sookie would use such a tone on her.
Quigley helps Diedre come sit in the living room, and Sookie wastes no time leaning over the coffee table to hand our most revered ancient the letter that has brought so much dispute in its short time in our lives.
Diedre takes the paper and looks at all of us curiously. I watch her eyebrows rise higher and higher on her forehead as she reads, and then finally looks up. “What is this?” she demands.
“It’s a letter Cassandra gave to Dr. Ludwig. It was given to her with the instruction not to read it until yesterday; the day we found out we’re pregnant,” Sookie explains calmly. The rest of the family remains in a spectators’ silence.
“Was there an envelope?” Diedre whispers.
Sookie reaches back into her purse to produce the envelope and all of us watch as Diedre examines the pouch with yesterday’s date. Diedre carefully pulls apart the seams of the envelope until it is a large paper and gazes at a single word that had been scripted in small, delicate letters: ‘Eshe’. Diedre’s name back in the days of ancient Egypt; a name I had forgotten until it was spelled out in front of me.
Diedre finally seems to accept the authenticity of the letter and begins to openly weep in front of us. Quigley pulls her against his chest as she sobs, and small wells of blood are collecting in his eyes also.
“We wanted you to know before you went ahead with executing Victor,” Sookie whispers to her gently. “We wanted you to know there will be someone worth living for in just a few months-”
“No,” Diedre sits up sharply, wiping at her eyes, “not months. Years,” she declares as she seems to hesitate to stand.
“What are you talking about?” Sookie asks in surprise as she instinctively cups her belly. I feel my own spine tingle as I angle my body between my wife and Diedre.
Diedre’s lips tilt in pained smile. “My love for Cassandra does not evaporate just because her soul is on the edge of rebirth. I am and will continue to be in mourning,” she explains. My body relaxes as I lean back and sit beside my wife. “Just yesterday a wise woman told me that I need to discover who I am without Cassandra, and that is still true. Your child will grow and become an adult. They will become their own person, they will not become Cassandra.
“I think it is important,” Diedre continues, “that I find out who I am as they become who they will be. That way, we can fall in love like we are meant to.”
Sookie’s lips tug into a soft smile, “That’s beautiful, Diedre. Oh, and we’re about ninety percent positive the baby is going to be a boy.”
That information seems to light up behind Diedre’s formerly vacant eyes, and I could swear that Camilla just snorted on a laugh.
“I look forward to knowing him in, oh…. Seventeen years?” Diedre requests aloud. I personally have no problem with my son courting his future Bonded at seventeen, but I look to Sookie curiously.
“That’s how old I was when I met my future Bonded,” Sookie gazes at me fondly. “I think it’s a lucky age.”
Diedre smiles, “Then Quigley and I will leave tonight after I have executed Victor. It is time for me to start my journey of self-discovery.”
With that statement, Diedre rises to her feet with Quigley and I follow them to the basement along with Godric. Diedre makes no protest as my Maker and I follow, and I am grateful. After all the information that has been explored within his range of hearing, I am quite in need of reassurance that he is dead and gone.
As we arrive in the basement, Victor jumps to his feet and snarls. The smell of his flesh searing against the silver shackles which was only a faint aroma upstairs is a pungent odor in the darkness.
Diedre hobbles forward in a strong stride that belies her injuries, and reaches out with her intact arm like a striking cobra. Victor stares in shock and only has a split second to see his own heart ripped from his chest before he turns into a waterfall of blood an tissue. Diedre drops the mush that was Victor’s heart on the ground and turns to incline her head ever-so-slightly at Godric and I.
“Thank you for your sanctuary, your kindness, and the hope you have brought me. I will see you in 2026,” Diedre teases.
“He will most likely be born in the beginning of next year,” I tell her with a laugh. “Ludwig has doubts it will be a quick pregnancy.”
“Then I will see you in 2027,” she smiles politely.
“Before April, please,” I request. “My biggest regret from when I first began courting Sookie is that I missed the opportunity to take her to Prom. Thankfully, she became a teacher and I chaperoned a few with her,” I joke and manage to steal a chuckle from Diedre’s lips.
“I will remember,” she promises.
After that exchange, Diedre and Quigley head back upstairs, and a moment later, I hear the front door open and shut. Godric and I look at one another and each let out a sigh of relief that everything is finally settling into place. The small, intimate world we have created is finally coming back to a time of peace; just in time for the arrival of my first child.