Chapter One: Crazy Sookie Makes a Friend
Sookie Stackhouse had long ago become the Ghost of Bon Temps. Eight years, as a matter of fact, was the duration she had so far haunted the small town twenty minutes south of Shreveport, Louisiana. Though she was entirely visible to all the residents, young, old and in-between, she may as well have been little more than a wandering spirit for all the impact she made around those who encountered her.
“Welcome back everyone!” Mrs. Fleure sweetly greeted her sophomore homeroom. Her eyes bounced to each chair, looking for a flicker of cheer. Several students looked down at their desks to hide that they were not happy about the first day of school, but one pair stared steadily at her. Sookie Stackhouse and her unsettling smile. “Did everyone have a nice summer vacation?” You would think after having the girl in her class the previous year, Katherine Fleure would have become used to the attentively trained eyes of her student, but nothing on earth could acclimate anyone to the Stackhouse girl’s unwavering, unnaturally strained smile.
She was perfectly aware that Sookie Stackhouse always did her work on time and acquired exceptional grades, but never bothered calling on her in class. Even the summer class she’d hosted which had included the strange girl hadn’t eased the strain she felt around her. Sookie would give you her undivided attention, but she would not speak. She had not spoken in eight years.
Of course, the accident had been in the local headlines, but it wasn’t until Sookie entered middle school that the teachers were reminded what that car crash had caused other than the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Stackhouse. Both parents had lost their lives, but Sookie had survived. After two weeks in a coma, Sookie had awakened, but did not speak. Principal Clark had used the word ‘traumatized’ several times when he warned all of them, and Katherine felt compelled to agree.
“Well,” the teacher finally continued, “if no one wants to tell us about their summer vacation, I guess we should continue with homeroom announcements. Tomorrow we will have a new student joining the sophomore class. Her name is Pamela Northman, and I want you all to greet her warmly tomorrow!”
“Yeah, Stackhouse, don’t go mouthing off!” Mark Thompson shouted across the room, making several students snicker. Katherine looked worriedly at her student, but Sookie didn’t even bat an eye and her mouth never broke from its deranged grin. She did glance down at her notebook, but that was all.
The infamous notebook, Katherine sighed internally. Whenever Sookie chose to participate in class, which only involved writing answers to questions, she would scrawl the response on her notebook page and hold it up. Katherine detested this method, but had to admit it was better than not being able to call on her at all. In the last school year, Katherine had adapted to Sookie’s needs, but had secretly resented that special accommodations were made. After all, children lost parents all the time and didn’t succumb to such extreme responses. What did Sookie expect to do for a job if she refused to speak? No matter what anyone else said, Katherine was certain Sookie just didn’t want to speak.
Sookie sat quietly throughout homeroom, wondering how long it would take the new girl to start making fun of her along with the rest of Bon Temps. If there was one thing everyone in town could unite on, it was that Crazy Sookie was worth getting a laugh over. Her own brother often got gales of laughter from his friends at her expense, but that was fine. It was one more way to pay for what she’d done. It was one more way to seek forgiveness. It was the only way she thought she could be absolved for the murder of her own parents.
During the fall of third grade, Sookie had been eight years old, and she had been playing somewhere. She couldn’t remember where, the accident had stolen most of her memories from that day. She had screamed and yelled at her parents to the point of tears. She didn’t know why she’d made such a fuss, but the crying had gone on and on. She had thrown such a tantrum about something that surely it was what had caused her daddy to crane his neck around to yell at her. That had to be why they had gone off the road. It had to be why her parents were dead.
The next thing she remembered was waking in the hospital with Gran at her bed side, praying long and hard. Sookie had tried to ask what happened, but parts of her felt disconnected. Her body felt slow to respond, and that familiar path from her brain to her mouth had vanished. In a way, it wasn’t that she couldn’t speak, it was that she couldn’t remember how she’d ever done it in the first place.
Of course, she hadn’t awoken from her coma with the intention of not speaking. At first, doctors believed the silence came from the disorientation and the brain swelling from her head trauma. However, once the swelling had gone down, Sookie still could not remember how to make the words come out. She could comprehend the things around her, but could not turn her own thoughts into words. After two more weeks in the hospital, visits from specialists and dozens of tests, it was finally determined that there wasn’t a physical cause for her muteness.
After the verdict was in, a new set of specialists were filed through Sookie’s room. It was only a few days before they all agreed that Sookie would speak again when she was good and ready. That news had only brought Sookie more anxiety because she felt as though, this too, were all her fault.
“It serves her right!” Jason had yelled and cried into their Gran’s shoulder. Her own brother thought the loss of her voice was what she deserved for killing their parents, and Sookie couldn’t have agreed more with him by that point. An inability to hold her tongue is what had caused the crash. God had probably seen her not honoring her parents and decided that she didn’t deserve them anymore. For good measure, he took her voice too so she couldn’t hurt anyone else with it.
“Sookie,” Tara Thornton craned to look back at her, “I need a pen.”
Sookie looked at the girl twisted around to face her and Tara resisted the urge to recoil. There was always some gap between talking to Sookie and receiving a response. The blonde always seemed to come out of a fog whenever someone spoke to her.
Reaching into her bag, Sookie produced a pen and handed it to Tara. Without a response, Tara took it just before the bell rang to signal the end of homeroom and the start of first period. Tara was the only person who spoke to her other than teachers. Sure, it was only in the form of asking for a writing utensil, notes or paper, but at least it was never in the form of insults. They had been very close before the accident, but shortly after Sookie returned to school things had changed. Mostly Tara only looked at her or said a word to her when she needed something. Still, Sookie kept giving things to her classmate because it took some of the loneliness out of her silent life to have someone say her name every so often.
Sookie rose to head for her history class, already thinking about a new picture she could sketch throughout the day. She quickly got to her desk, took out her pen and began to doodle. By the end of fourth period, she had three pages of different flowers drawn in blue, black and red ink. They were good in the sense that she had drawn them so often that they had been perfected to the best of Sookie’s ability, but that was all.
“These are pretty,” Sookie turned her head slowly at the boy who came to her table with a lunch tray. It was Bill Compton, one of her brother’s closest childhood friends. Since the Compton house was only a valley away from the Stackhouse farm, Jason and Bill had palled around most of their childhood despite Bill being a year younger. The two of them and Hoyt Fortenberry were still best friends to this day.
Sookie looked at Bill with hesitation. The only one of Jason’s friends who wasn’t mean to her was Hoyt. Bill had a knack for acting like he had finally outgrown harassing her only to do something cruel. Bill’s tormenting had escalated from a gob of gum ground into her scalp to tearing her favorite book in half down the spine. The most recent, however, had been less about doing physical damages, and more about trying to hurt her emotionally. She had no proof, but she was certain Bill had been the one to put notes with the words, “Mute Bitch,” in her locker in sixth grade.
Sookie felt bad for Bill. Even with a valley of graves between their houses, she could still hear his father beating him on quiet nights. Everyone knew that Robert Compton was a drunk, and they knew that’s why his wife Julia had left him. Sookie was certain that the only ones who knew about the beatings were Jason, Hoyt and herself, although she hoped Bill didn’t know that she knew.
Bill stared at Sookie and she stared right back as if waiting to hear what he wanted. Finally the Junior turned around and walked to his table of friends. Jason and Hoyt as well as most of the football team welcomed Bill as always. Sookie looked at her brother briefly, but there was an obvious air of dismissal that the sister quickly acknowledged by looking back at her food. So, she continued to sit alone, eating her meal in silence.
As her food slowly disappeared, Sookie couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have someone sitting across from her at the table. Would people point and whisper less? What would her company say to fill the silence as they ate together? Would their inevitable points of silence be companionable or awkward?
When her lunch was gone, Sookie wandered to the library like she usually did and spent the remainder of her free time hunting down a new book to read. The library was her safe haven. No one could hurt her here. It was the one place she felt she didn’t need to sustain the punishment that was her accepted act of contrition for the deaths of her parents. Everyone was silent here, and she could be normal for a few short minutes.
All too soon lunchtime was over, and Sookie found herself wandering to her next class with a new book to read. She perused it all through her english class, and drew more flowers in her math class. The only subject she paid any mind to in the second half of school was her anatomy/physiology class. Dr. Jones would chop her head off if she played around in his class. She liked that about him. He didn’t treat her any different from other students. He asked her questions in class and beamed with pride when she wrote out the answer. All the other teachers seemed happy enough to leave her be as long as she turned her homework in on time. Dr. Jones forced her to participate all throughout her ninth grade biology class last year. Unfortunately, the teacher for Sookie’s summer Chemistry class hadn’t been as insistent about her participation.
“Stackhouse, stick around a minute. Don’t worry, you won’t miss your bus,” Dr. Jones stopped Sookie as she packed up her belongings. She sat patiently while the other students filed out, “As you know, part of this class’s requirement is giving a researched demonstration.” Sookie looked at her hands nervously. She had always had to take an incomplete on class projects like these, but her otherwise perfect grades remained mostly unharmed. “Now, you could partner up with someone who can give the explanation of the demonstration and I will give you a passing grade as long as I am told you helped.”
Sookie deflated further. No one in her science class would help her. It didn’t matter how smart she was. Having to spend several afternoons and a possible weekend with her was unimaginable to her classmates.
“The new transfer student will be in your class,” Dr. Jones pointed out optimistically. “Would you like me to suggest it to her?”
Sookie bowed her head and shook it.
“Sookie, this demonstration is thirty percent of your grade for this semester. That will mean you can only get as high as a C for the semester in this class,” Dr. Jones warned.
Taking her notepad out, Sookie wrote, “Could I just write out my speech like I usually do for partial credit?”
“If I make an exception for you, then everyone will start forgoing the project for partial credit, Sookie,” Dr. Jones sighed. “I’m not trying to bully you, but what are you going to do if you don’t start learning to work with others?”
“I just want to draw,” Sookie replied.
Dr. Jones smiled, “I know you enjoy that very much, Sookie, but do you love it because it’s your calling? Or do you love it because it lets you continue to hide?” When Sookie didn’t reply, Dr. Jones stood back up. “Think about it. We won’t even begin handing in papers for it until Homecoming. If you change your mind about pairing with the new student, let me know and I will talk to her for you.”
Sookie nodded as she gathered her things back up and headed for the door. The hallways were already thinning down as more and more students raced to get a good seat on the buses. There were only a couple dozen by the time Sookie got to her locker, and she quickly shoved all her materials inside.
It was a mad dash to make it to the bus, but Sookie managed to take a seat near the middle of the war zone that was Bus 16. The middle of the bus was always the worst. There were always things being thrown around and screaming back and forth. The middle just always seemed to catch all the debris.
Finally it was their stop; an eight minute walk to the house with Jason, Bill Compton, and herself. Sookie carefully trailed several feet behind, knowing better than to have her back to Bill or even her brother. Despite the fact Jason knew that Sookie wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouthful he had never laid a hand on her. He also never stopped or prevented an assault on his sister. That was why Sookie remained cautious of those around her until she was safely at home.
“Whoa,” Bill stopped suddenly to look up at the old Beauchéne Plantation, “the people working on Rosenfont Hall have really done a great job!”
Jason snorted, “You always had a hard on for that place.”
“Rosenfont is the jewel of Bon Temps! It’s the only thing people come to this shit hole to see!” Bill protested. “It’s the epitome of Southern Colonial-”
“Yeah, yeah, you wanna be an architect. I get it,” Jason grumbled with a roll of his eyes. He kept walking home, but Bill remained paused in front of Rosenfont Hall.
Sookie stood frozen as well, but it was not in admiration of the ongoing restoration. If she kept walking then Bill would be able to sneak up on her. She needed a good head start to even hope to outrun him. The girl’s heart thrummed achingly against her ribs. Her house was a six minute walk from Rosenfont, four if she ran full throttle, but Bill was faster by far. If he got the urge to take after her, four minutes was three minutes too long.
Just as Sookie was resolving to make a break for it, Bill snapped his eyes on her. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he asked and Sookie swallowed and nodded in agreement. Without any warning other than his gaze, Sookie already knew that this conversation would not end well for her. “You haven’t even looked at it. Look,” he pointed, but her eyes remained trained on him. Bill snatched her arm and pulled her toward him. “Look. At. It.”
Shivering nervously, Sookie needed all her will power to look away from Bill. As her head finally started to turn, she felt Bill’s hand leave her wrist and touch the back of her neck. As she predicted, the encounter was turning sour. Bill pushed her to the ground and pressed her face into the gravel road.
Without her consent, a sharp cry burst from Sookie’s mouth, and Bill grinned. “See? You can make noises just fine. So, why don’t you tell me to stop? Come on! Tell me to stop, you stupid mute!” She felt his hand press harder, and the gravel imbedded deeper into her cheek and temple. Despite the whine that continued to pour from her mouth, Bill continued to mock her. “Tell me to stop and I will.”
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” A cool, bored voice demanded. Bill Compton looked up from the sobbing blonde to see a gorgeous girl staring him down from the gate of Rosenfont Hall.
“Oh… I, uh, was,” Bill stammered at her beauty and blushed.
“Getting the fuck away from my property?” the girl finished for him coldly. Her blue eyes flashed like sunlight gleaming off a sheet of ice.
Bill quickly picked his bag back up and sped away before the mysterious foul mouthed girl could say another word.
“Are you all right?” the girl asked once Bill had ran down the road. She came to stand in front of Sookie, and crouched to start putting things back in the other girl’s bag. “Oh, this is lovely,” she exclaimed as one of Sookie’s earlier drawings floated from between the pages of a textbook. “Did you draw this?” she asked, holding up the picture.
Sookie nodded as she finally began to help putting away her books. When the girl tried to hand her the picture back, Sookie shook her head and pushed it against her savior’s chest. Thank you for helping me, she thought as she silently offered the drawing. The thought startled Sookie. When was the last time she had thought of an actual line of dialogue she wanted to share with another person? This was one of the rare instances in her daily exchanges that had nothing to do with school or responding to a yes or no question.
“Thank you,” the girl smiled. Suddenly Sookie realized who the girl must be. Pamela Northman! “Your face is scratched up,” Pam remarked as she reached forward to brush away some gravel that clung to Sookie’s skin. “Come inside. I’ll clean it up.” Sookie shook her head suddenly and pointed down the road. Pam raised her eyebrows, “I, uh, don’t know how to ask this without sounding offensive, but are you really a mute?” Sookie nodded. “Oh, well, that…,” Pam paused. Could mutes still make noises when they were in pain? “I can call your house for you,” she offered instead. “Please, your face is bleeding.”
Sookie allowed Pam to help her up, and followed the girl past the gate of Rosenfont.
“What’s your phone number?” Pam asked.
Sookie took out her notebook and wrote down the number. Before she handed it over, she wrote, “Please, don’t tell her about Bill.”
The last thing Sookie wanted was Gran mentioning Bill’s actions to Mr. Compton like when Bill had kneaded gum into Sookie’s hair. It had been a afternoon of peanut oil and smelling like Thanksgiving turkey for three days that had kept Adele Stackhouse from shearing off her granddaughter’s hair at the scalp. However, smelling like she’d just come out of a deep fryer was nothing compared to the whooping Mr. Compton had given his son. Bill had come to school black and blue with his arm in a cast. He’d said he’d fallen down the stairs, but he had glared at Sookie the whole time on the bus. She’d been in first grade at the time, and she still remembered that contemptuous look. She still remembered that her tattling on him had caused that broken wrist and all those bruises. Even before she lost her voice, she vowed to never tattle again.
Pam nodded grimly at Sookie’s request before dialing. As the phone rang, Pam suddenly realized she had no idea whom she would be speaking for, nor to whom she would be speaking. Sookie seemed to realize this too because she wrote, “I’m Sookie Stackhouse,” on the paper next to her plea not to tell Gran about the bullying.
“Hello?” a rough, old voice came over the phone.
“Hi, is this the Stackhouse residence?” Pam asked politely.
“Yes, it is,” came an equally polite reply. “How can I help you?”
“This is Pam Northman from Rosenfont Hall. Sookie tripped in front of my house, and I invited her in for tea and a band-aid,” Pam lied effortlessly. “I just wanted to let you know not to worry.”
“Why thank you!” Adele crowed happily, wondering if Sookie might make a new friend, and hoping to God that she did. “If she plans to stay past dark, just let me know when to come pick her up.”
“I will,” Pam assured. “Have a nice day.”
“You too, young lady,” Adele gushed at the display of manners.
“Thank you,” Pam smiled genuinely as she hung up the phone.
Sookie stared at Pam in surprise. Not five minutes ago Pam had let two F-Bombs drop as casually as a ‘please’ or ‘thank you!’
“So, what grade are you in, Sookie Stackhouse?” Pam asked casually. Sookie held up all ten fingers. “A sophomore? Me, too. I hope we have a class or two together.”
Sookie took up her notebook again and jotted down, “Homeroom and anatomy/physiology are the only ones I know for sure.”
“Ugh, anatomy,” Pam groaned. “That’s the one where we dissect things, isn’t it?” She looked at her perfectly manicured nails. “I don’t suppose you have a shitty subject I could compensate you for not having to put my hands inside a dead body?”
Sookie paused as she remembered the research demonstration. Playing with her pen she hesitated further to ask. Pam was just joking, right? She didn’t actually want to help Sookie at all, she just wanted to get out of doing any work. Then again, Sookie was planning on doing the research herself anyway. If Pam wanted to be her spokesperson, she would happily give her credit.
“There’s a mandatory research demonstration-”
“Fuck my life,” Pam lamented as she read the first line.
“If I do all the work, will you read the index cards to the class?”
“Wait, you’re going to do all the work on the project and dissect my frog, but all I have to do is read some index cards you’re going to write for me anyway?” Pam asked. Sookie nodded earnestly. “Well, I’ll need to find some more things than being your representative to pay you back, but I accept your offer.”
Sookie’s eyes widened; not because Pam accepted to take Sookie’s guaranteed A+ in anatomy/physiology, but because she offered to pay her back. No one ever looked at Sookie’s offers as more than compensation for having to spend time with her.
“For now, how about I start by cleaning that face of yours,” Pam laughed as she took Sookie’s hand and lead her to the kitchen. She took out a First Aid kit and quickly cleaned up Sookie’s scratches. Next a soft, square bandage was taped into place and Pam began putting away the supplies. “You should be able to take that off before bed. Just be gentle when washing your face tonight.” Sookie’s smile easily said, ‘thank you’.
The pair stood awkwardly silent for a minute before Pam cleared her throat uncomfortably and began moving about the kitchen to make some tea. “Do you have a preference in tea?” Pam asked and was delighted when Sookie shook her head ‘no’. “Is jasmine tea okay?” Sookie shrugged. She didn’t know anything about tea. All she knew was that Gran drank Earl Grey.
“I can be a bit dominating in conversations,” Pam mentioned as she began filling the kettle, “but I’ve never talked to someone who couldn’t talk back.”
Sookie remained self-consciously standing in the middle of the kitchen while Pam zipped around her making little sandwiches and opening packages of what looked like hard cookies. “Our mother loved tea time. When we were living in England, she fell in love with the idea, and it sort of carried on even after we left. My brothers and I still have afternoon tea every day.”
A pang struck harshly at Sookie’s heart. Pam had brothers. It sounded like they liked her. She wondered what it was like to have a brother that wanted to spend time with her.
“Oh, is that silly?” Pam asked in embarrassment. Sookie shook her head. “You looked upset at the idea of tea time.”
How could Sookie even begin to explain the depths of her envy? It would take so many pages of her notebook to express her despair that she couldn’t have such a relationship with her own brother. Afternoon tea? She’d be lucky to received an afternoon talk.
“Oh no!” A voice called from the foyer as the sound of the door closing snapped through the air. “Pam’s already put on the kettle!”
“Looks like we’re having jasmine tea again,” another voice chuckled. “Although the cucumber sandwiches taste better with it than that chai crap you make us drink.”
“You just have a resistance to being happy,” the first man teased.
“And you have an unhealthy obsession with cinnamon,” the second man answered.
“Guys, we have a guest for tea time,” Pam called as she brought the tray of crunchy cookies and fresh sandwiches out to a rather quaint, round table. Whoa, they do take tea time serious! Sookie thought as she saw the soft, floral printed table cloth dressing the rich mahogany table. Gran would melt over this set-up.
“Oh, hello there,” a man about her height with short brown hair waved merrily before accepting the tray his sister was handing him. “I’m Godric Northman. Pleasure to meet you.”
Sookie’s face blushed softly at his smile. It brought another ache. These people didn’t know just how crazy she was yet. This generous and kind greeting would not continue for long. Oh well, it will make for a nice memory, she reasoned with an air of contentment.
“I’m Eric Northman,” Sookie had to look way, way up as another striking blond stood before her. The former pink stain of her cheeks transformed into a radiating glow as she looked up at the giant. He was tall, lean, and had an artful array of golden strands of hair. “What happened here?” he touched Sookie’s jawline just below where her bandage stopped. His touch made her heart pound briefly against her ribs. What the heck was that, ‘ba-dump’!?
“Some asshole smashed her face into the ground right in front of our gate,” Pam huffed, and Sookie’s face tore away from Eric’s touch to gape at Pam. I thought it was our secret! “Oh, I’ll keep the secret from your mother, but no way is he not getting a beating from my brother at some point!”
Sookie grabbed her notebook and wrote, “Grandmother. My parents are dead.”
Pam grimaced apologetically, “I’m sorry. Ours are gone too. They died at the end of last school year.” Sookie’s hand went to her mouth, and Pam could read the condolences in her eyes. “It’s all right. Well, as all right as it can be. We’re getting right along, and Godric agreed to stay with us until Eric and I finish high school and start college. It won’t be so terrible.”
Eric watched the two girls a moment and stared back and forth between them and the notebook before asking, “Does she not speak?”
“No, she doesn’t,” Pam sighed. “So let’s help out by giving her ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions until we get to know her better.”
“Would you mind telling us her name then, Pam?” Godric sighed.
“It’s Sookie Stackhouse,” Pam smiled.
“A pleasure then, Sookie,” Godric pulled a chair from the table. “Have a seat, won’t you?”
Nervously, Sookie accepted her chair and sat rigidly as a teapot and four delicate teacup and saucers came to the table. Sookie watched as the siblings bustled around her in preparation for their afternoon tea.
Finally all were seated, and Sookie was surprised to be quickly addressed.
“So,” the handsome, blond brother looked at her curiously, “Stackhouse? That’s one of the two houses up the street, isn’t it?” Sookie nodded that he was correct. “I’ve been up here for the last few weeks getting things cleaned up and moved in, and heard a bit about the local families.” Sookie gave him as pleasant of a smile as she could manage. When he returned it, she was surprised. People usually gave her a weird look when she smiled.
Thankfully, Sookie was taken out of the limelight as Godric announced, “Eric picked out his car.” Godric’s snicker made Eric roll his eyes.
“Is it a Corvette?” Pam teased.
Eric’s eyes went glossy the way Jason’s glazed at the car dealership when he saw the fully loaded Chevy Tahoe. Of course Jason had ended up with a small Ford Ranger instead, but he had been grateful to have earned enough to buy even that.
“It’s an Acura Integra GS-R,” Godric laughed, knowing that his brother had despised driving his Jeep for the past month after having driven all the way down from New York.
Sookie’s teacup rattled. She knew little about cars, but she did know that the new Acura was easily over $20,000. That’s more than most of Bon Temps makes in a year… On top of that, the Northmans had not only bought Rosenfont Hall, but were restoring it.
Godric smiled at Sookie’s shaking teacup, “Yes, Sookie, we are quite wealthy.” Shyly, Sookie set her teacup back down so as not to distract the others with its clinking. The china alone probably could buy Jason’s Ranger. “Rosenfont, however, has belonged to our mother’s family for generations. She was a Beauchéne before she married our father.” Sookie’s jaw drooped a bit. The Beauchénes were famous, but it was thought the last of them had died five years ago when Lady Margarette Beauchéne passed away. She had been like Bon Temps Royalty. Gran had even come to Rosenfont on several occasions with care packages the last couple years Margarette had been alive. No one had really known what became of Alice Beauchéne, and Margarette had been rather tight lipped about her daughter’s whereabouts.
“Grandmother certainly let the place go quite a bit those last few years,” Eric sighed. “It took me all summer to strip and refinish the woodwork. Then I had to patch all the plaster after the electrician updated the wiring. I must have driven to and from Shreveport thirty times this summer. Too bad Bon Temps doesn’t have a hardware store worth a damn. I might have actually gotten a chance to meet some locals that way.”
He did the refinishing himself!? Sookie felt faint. The Northmans were not only cultured, wealthy and astute, but comfortable with physical labor as well!?
“Our father was a Lieutenant in the United States Air Force,” Eric smiled at Sookie’s shocked expression. “When he married our mother, they agreed that they didn’t want their children growing up with money. Don’t get me wrong, they spoiled us rotten at Christmas and birthdays. Especially Pam-”
“Hey!” The sister protested sharply.
“But they still made us earn everything the rest of the year,” Eric finished as though Pam hadn’t interrupted. “Please, enjoy your tea,” he gestured, “while my sister tells me about some boy I will be beating the crap out of some time this week.” Sookie’s face paled. “Just kidding!” Eric grinned devilishly, and it made Sookie uncertain if he were kidding or not.
“Eric will be finishing his Senior year at your school,” Godric explained. “Are you a sophomore like Pam?” Sookie nodded, even though she was only missing a single credit to be considered a Junior. “I am glad she will start school tomorrow knowing someone already. We have been unpacking this whole time because Eric came down early to start the restorations. He only just finished the patching and painting last week and then helped the movers bring all of our stuff in. It’s been a mad scramble ever since.” There was a very natural pause as he took a sip of his tea, and Sookie quickly took a gulp of her own to maintain the pacing. “Do you do well in school?” Sookie nodded slowly as if not wanting to brag. “Pam only does well in Home Ec. and literature classes.”
“Be fair!” Pam whined. When her brothers looked at her with raised eyebrows, she mumbled, “I do well in orchestra too.”
“Too bad Bon Temps doesn’t have an orchestra,” Eric sighed. “Pam plays the viola.”
“I was surprised she wanted to play something that touches her face since she’s so obsessed with her make-up being perfect,” Godric smiled over his teacup at Pam. The younger sister huffed at her brother’s comment, but still took ladylike sips from her own cup.
Dazzled by the refined family, Sookie tentatively took up her own cup once more and tried to mimic their elegance. She knew she must look like a chicken caught in a fox’s jaws, but she still tried to look normal.
“Stackhouse,” the girl’s eyes flashed on the middle brother, and that scorching blush returned at his blue eyes, “that’s the farmhouse on the northern fork in the road, right?” Sookie nodded. “We’ve never met them. Growing up, we really only visited Grandmother at Rosenfont for Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter when we could. Our father’s responsibilities at the airbase didn’t offer many opportunities to visit for long. Even though our roots are in Bon Temps on our mother’s side, this town is still a stranger to us.”
“Maybe you could give us a tour?” Godric suggested warmly.
Sookie thought for a moment about what sort of tour she could give them. There were only a handful of places that were off the beaten path that she knew about, but they were all fishing holes and hunting hides.
There’s always, Sookie stopped that thought immediately before it could finish. She would never be able to go back to the old willow tree that she had spent her summer days in the boughs with a book or a tape player. She remembered laying at the crest of the hill just outside the shadows of the tree, and letting the sunlight hold her. She missed that tree, but the hill it lived on overlooked the crash sight that Sookie had murdered her parents at. Sookie could never go back there again.
“Sookie?” the girl started at Godric’s concerned voice, and her face adopted a shy, apologetic look. “You went somewhere just now,” he teased.
“Does that mean you’ll show us some places?” Pam asked.
Slowly, Sookie nodded in agreement. There were a few fishing spots that had beautiful scenery. Even if no one here was in to fishing, they could still appreciate the beauty of the area. That was what Bon Temps truly had to offer–beauty.
The sprinkling of homes kept vibrant and beautiful by Southern Pride, and the dark but undeniable history that peppered them with scandal. Rosenfont Hall was special for the area because it was erected shortly after the civil war. It was the only plantation in Bon Temps that had never owned slaves, and because of that had a rather shaky ground among the community. Some spited the Beauchéne family for being the first plantation to pay its workers fair wages despite the color of their skin. Others in the community celebrated the new family for the same exact reason. There had been many fires and threats, but Rosenfont Hall prevailed. It was one of three plantations still relatively intact, and the only one that was still owned by the original family.
As afternoon tea concluded, Sookie moved to help clear the settings, and received immediate dismissal by Eric.
“Thank you, but you are Pam’s guest. Godric and I will clear,” he politely declined.
Faltering for a moment, Sookie was taken by surprise when Pam grabbed her wrist and hauled her toward the sweeping staircase. “Come on! I want to show you my room!” Pam crowed, excited to finally show off her crowning achievement since moving to the South.
Sookie was still dazed by her sudden ascension to the second floor, but that sensation transformed into one of awe when Pam flung open her bedroom door. Pausing in the doorway, Sookie took a moment to appreciate the splendor before she stepped inside.
Pam’s room was a soft pink reserved for newborn baby girls, but with the dark walnut accents and gold filigree; the room was one of regality. Her viola case leaned artfully against her vanity, and Sookie felt drawn to the instrument.
“Would you like me to play for you?” Pam offered sweetly upon seeing Sookie’s focused gaze. “Since the high school doesn’t have an orchestra, I’ll need someone to play in front of!”
Sookie nodded slowly as Pam picked up the case to lay on her bed and extract her viola. She sat at her vanity, watching herself in the mirror as if it were just as important to look gorgeous playing her instrument as it was to look gorgeous the other remaining hours of the day.
There was a tension in the air just before the bow caressed the strings. It was lower than Sookie anticipated, but she quickly remembered that the viola and the violin weren’t supposed to sound identical. There was a richness to the viola that the violin could not match. If the violin was meant to pierce your heart with emotion, then the viola was created to massage and calm you into accepting and experiencing that emotion.
“Beau,” Sookie’s voice emitted before her throat closed like an iron gate around the syllable and choked out the rest of the word. This was only the third or fourth time Sookie could recall that she managed to utter a syllable that wasn’t brought on by injury. As always, the involuntary sound made her heart race and throat close. Pam stopped playing abruptly to stare at the girl. She could have sworn she’d heard a sound come from the silent girl’s lips.
Just a sob, Sookie reasoned anxiously. Sobbing and injury were the only times a noise could be brought from her mouth, and the music had been building a castle of emotion across her chest. The stone fortress had merely torn an audible cry much like Compton’s assault had. Only, this time, the sound that came from her was almost… welcome.
Pam and Sookie stared at each other a long moment before Pam smiled and began putting away her viola. “Would you like to stay for dinner?” she asked.
Sookie hesitated. She really should be heading home. Pam could already tell that Sookie didn’t plan on staying even before she shook her head. “I’ll have Eric take you home. He’s crap at cooking, so it’ll save me and Godric from putting out fires.” An amused smile split Sookie’s lips and Pam was taken aback. Sookie’s mouth had remained in a pleasant upward tilt, but it had just seemed frozen there for most of the afternoon. A grin-and-bear-it smile. Now a genuine smile of joy and amusement tugged at her lips, and it made the silent girl all the more beautiful.
“ERIC!” Pam shouted suddenly, making Sookie jump. “TAKE SOOKIE HOME!”
“FINE!” Eric yelled back, causing Sookie’s head to spin. What had happened to that upperclass refinement at tea time?
“I’ll walk you out,” Pam offered as she ushered Sookie out of her bedroom and to the staircase. Not being swept down the stairs like she had been coming up them, Sookie took the time to appreciate the ornate detail of the spindles. Rosenfont really was a castle.
“Got your bag,” Eric held up Sookie’s book bag by the front door. She hugged it to her chest as she followed Eric out the door.
“See you in school tomorrow, Sookie!” Pam called with a wave.
Pam was presented with another of Sookie’s beautiful smiles just as Eric opened the passenger door of his new car. “You’re my first passenger!” he announced to her. Sookie’s grin turned nervous. “In this car,” he explained with a chuckle. “I’ve driven people around before. Hell, I’ve driven in New York City. I think I can handle some empty country roads!”
Sookie relaxed as Eric made his way to the driver’s side, and she quickly buckled her seatbelt.
“I hope we’re not too talkative for you. Is it just as frustrating for you when people assume they know how you feel?” Eric asked as he opened the door to lean in and push the seat back. His brother was so much shorter, it was comical.
Sookie looked at Eric curiously and drew a question mark in the air.
Eric gave her a rueful smile, “Whenever I’m quiet, everyone assumes I’m in a foul mood. Does that happen to you?” Sookie shook her head. “It must be nice to have time to yourself in your own head without others thinking the worst.” Sookie smiled, but it wasn’t the one of joy she had worn moments ago. “It must be lonely, too.” She lifted her shoulders casually as Eric finally climbed into his seat. “Would you like to ride with us in the mornings? You can walk up to the house instead of the bus stop and I’ll drive you to school.”
Jason would hate that. Sookie knew her brother would be jealous. He only drove his truck to work and not school now because he said he was saving on gas. Sookie knew it was because Gran would make him drive Sookie to school now that they were in the same building. But if I have my own ride, he can start driving his truck again. Maybe that will make him happy? Maybe he would even start driving Bill to school again and Bill would let down on some of the bullying!
Sookie nodded cautiously.
“Great! I’ll see you in the morning then!” Eric beamed as he pulled out of the driveway and down the road. In a moment they were turning onto the northern fork and reached her driveway. “This is some nice land. Very Little House on the Prairie,” Eric teased lightly as they bounced up the gravel driveway. “You need your driveway re-leveled.”
Sookie nodded in agreement, but it wasn’t in the funds at the moment. The old wooden boards of the house needed a new coat of paint before the wood started weakening.
When they pulled up to the farmhouse, Sookie was surprised when Eric hopped out from his seat and jogged to her door. “My mother was from here,” he reminded Sookie. “I know about Southern Gentlemen and manners.”
Sookie accepted his hand that he offered and a new flame grew under her cheeks as their fingers touched. His hand was so warm. It spread heat all the way up her elbow and into her chest. Her skin tingled and her scalp prickled with the spike in her blood pressure. This man was bad for her heart!