The parking lot of Bellefleurs was practically packed by the time they arrived and Sookie could hear the noise of the bar even from inside the car. Shoring up her shields, she unbuckled her seatbelt, grabbed her purse, and climbed out of the car. She could feel her nerves returning as she stared up at the old place. For reasons she couldn’t even explain to herself, she had always allowed the good folks of Bon Temps to treat her with scorn and look down their noses at her. She hadn’t forgotten what had happened in the church just days before she left. They had all blamed her for the swarm of infected vampires that swept through the town, and she had let them… Well, no more! She would own up to her own mistakes, but she wouldn’t let anyone blame her for things that were far beyond her control.
Clutching her purse tightly, Sookie waited for her brother and his fiancée to get out of the car. As she waited, she dropped her shields and scanned the bar. From the mental noise inside, Sookie could tell many of her old friends were inside as well as a few vampires. She counted at least four voids.
Pasting on a smile, she followed Jason and Willa while they finally made their way into the bar. Sookie was barely through the door when the mental chatter battered against her mind and she slammed her shields into place. She didn’t want to know what everyone was thinking at her sudden reappearance, although from what Jason had said they should have known she was returning. Sookie was barely two feet inside the door when she heard the unmistakable voice of Lafayette above the noise.
Sookie hardly had time to react before she was all but tackled by her old friend. She laughed while she was picked up and spun around. All her anxiety disappeared as she had the stuffing hugged out of her by one of her best friends.
“Hookah, I missed ya,” Lafayette cried, refusing to put her down. “This place ain’t the same without my baby girl!”
Sookie blinked back tears at his words, and she suddenly felt guilty for leaving and not telling Lafayette. The older man had always been there for her; yes, they’d had their disagreements over the years, but he would do anything for her. Hell, they had buried a body together! Those kinds of things only brought you closer together.
“I missed ya, too, Laf,” Sookie replied, her voice filled with emotion.
Unfortunately for Sookie, not everyone was as happy as Lafayette to see the blonde telepath. “What the hell is she doing back?!” Jessica snarled contemptuously while she eyed the blubbering Lafayette and laughing Sookie. She hadn’t forgotten the callous way that Sookie had abandoned Bill and was still holding a grudge.
“Well, considering her brother is getting married, I would say she’s back for the wedding,” James replied with a snort.
“She has no right to be here after what she did!” Jessica spat.
James shook his head when he saw the angry look on the redheaded vampire’s face. It wasn’t a good look for her, and James wished she would let go of her anger. She had no reason to be so angry at Sookie. The blonde fairy hadn’t done anything to her. Yes, she might have walked away from her Maker, but after spending five minutes in Bill Compton’s presence, James couldn’t blame her. It was clear to everyone but Jessica just how manipulative Bill was, and how devious he could be. When it came to her Maker, Jessica wore blinders.
Or perhaps she is so much like him she just doesn’t care, James thought. He had once fancied himself in love with the pretty redhead, but it hadn’t taken him long to realize that Jessica was too immature to experience a real relationship, and what he thought was love was just lust. He cared a great deal about her but he wasn’t blind to her faults. She had no idea what love was, and with a Maker like Compton, it wasn’t surprising. Jessica only wanted him when she couldn’t have him, and it was the same with Jason and Hoyt. When they were single she didn’t want them, but the moment they became involved with someone else, they were suddenly the loves of her life. She had ignored him while they were together, but the second he got involved with Lafayette she wanted him back, and it was the same with Jason when he got involved with Willa.
“She has more right to be here than you,” James told her, not pulling any punches. “Jason is her brother; she has every right to attend his wedding. Grow up, Jessica, you’re acting like a child.”
James didn’t give her a chance to reply before he crossed the short distance and tried to pull an overexcited Lafayette off of Sookie. “Baby, Sookie needs to breath,” he said, tugging on his arm. “She won’t disappear if you let her go.”
“She ain’t goin’ nowhere,” Lafayette cried, finally letting her go. “I ain’t allowin’ it. My baby girl is back home where she belongs.”
“I’m not leavin’, Laf, I promise,” Sookie said softly, smiling up at him. “I’m back for good.”
“Good, cos Lala will tie your pretty ass up if ya try ta leave again,” Lafayette swore. “Now…” He trailed off while he walked her to a booth and turned around to face the crowd. “Sookie is back, y’all. Those of you who know and love her, come on over and say hello! And, those who don’t… Get the fuck out, y’all ain’t welcome no more!”
“Lafayette!” Arlene screeched from behind the bar. “Don’t you be tellin’ my customers to leave!”
“Bitch, please!” Lafayette replied, fanning his hand about. “Any of these ignorant fuckers ain’t happy ta see my girl back can get ta steppin’. I ain’t lettin’ no low IQ, cousin fuckin’, redneck trash upset her… And that goes double for you, Miss Thang,” he added, addressing Jessica directly. “Ta’night ain’t ‘bout you or your Maker, so take ya attitude and shove it.”
Sookie bit her lip to keep from laughing as Lafayette insulted half of the bar. It wasn’t until he was right beside her did she realize just how much she had missed her flamboyant friend. They had spoken a few times over the years on the phone, but not as often as they once had.
She shook her head as she watched him stare down Jessica. She had heard the redheaded vampires’ words when she walked in, and she knew Jessica was still holding a grudge for her abandonment of Bill, but truthfully, Sookie didn’t care. Jessica was much like Bill in her behavior. It was one rule for her, another for everyone else. She wouldn’t let Jessica or anyone else judge her.
“Welcome back, Sookie,” she heard a gruff voice say and she looked and smiled when she saw Andy standing by her table. “Lafayette was right. The place ain’t been the same without ya.”
“Thank you, Andy,” Sookie replied sincerely, touched by his words. “How are you? Is the family well?”
“I’m good,” Andy nodded. “Family’s good, too. I married Holly a few years back. Adilyn is off at school. My little girl wants to be a doctor.”
“That’s great,” Sookie said, genuinely happy for them all. “Congratulations to you and Holly. I’m sorry I wasn’t around to see you get married.”
Sookie spent the next thirty minutes catching up with some of her old friends and ignoring the glares Jessica sent her way. As she laughed and joked with Lafayette and James, she felt a sense of contentment settle over her and she realized she didn’t need the acceptance or approval of everyone in Bon Temps. She had the love and friendship of all those who mattered. The rest could go to hell. As she caught up with her old friends, Sookie’s eyes kept dropping to her purse. She could practically feel the piece of paper with Eric’s numbers on it calling to her. She shook her head slightly while a smile tugged at her lips. Everything in her was telling her to call the Viking and, for once in her life, she wasn’t going to ignore what her head and heart said.
Grabbing her purse, she tapped Lafayette lightly on the shoulder, asking him to let her out of the booth. “Excuse me for a minute,” she said. “I need to use the bathroom.” She nodded at Arlene behind the bar while she made her way to the ladies room. Pushing the door open, she paused when she heard Jessica in there growling into a phone at someone.
“She’s back! She showed up at Bellefleurs tonight like nothing happened!” Jessica spat, unaware that she wasn’t alone in the bathroom anymore. “I don’t know… No, she doesn’t… No one does… Okay… Yeah…”
Sookie leaned against the sinks while she listened to the one-sided conversation. She wished she could have heard who was on the other side of the phone. However, she didn’t need to know who it was to know they were talking about her. I guess some things never change. I’m still a topic of hot gossip. As she listened to Jessica insult her on the phone, Sookie had to wonder how Jessica hadn’t realized she was in the bathroom with her. She should have heard her heartbeat by then at the very least. How can she be so ignorant of her surroundins’? Then again, she does have Bill as a Maker. I doubt he taught her anythin’ more than how nothin’ is ever her fault, and she’s always the victim.
Hearing Jessica end the call, Sookie placed her purse down on the sink’s countertop and crossed her arms over her chest. She grinned when she saw the look of surprise flash across Jessica’s face as she opened the bathroom stall door and saw her standing there.
Jessica froze when she saw Sookie leaning against the sinks. She had been so focused on her phone call she hadn’t registered the blonde fairy’s presence. As she stared at her, Jessica wondered how much she had heard. Did Sookie know it was her she was talking about? Did Sookie know what she was talking about or who she was speaking with? Looking at her, Jessica dismissed the idea that Sookie knew anything. She never did.
Stepping out of the stall, Jessica glared at Sookie, her anger clear to see on her face. She couldn’t believe she once thought Sookie was her friend. In Jessica’s mind, a real friend didn’t run out on you when the going got tough. She had abandoned Bill, a man who loved her more than anyone else ever could, in his hour of need. She had shown herself to be truly heartless. As far as Jessica was concerned, Sookie had no right coming back to Bon Temps. Bon Temps was Bill’s home and Sookie should have stayed far away as possible. She was the one who had run away and she should have stayed away.
“You have nerve! Showing your face around here after what you did!” Jessica spat. She wouldn’t bite her tongue and pretend she was happy to see her back. She didn’t care what James or Lafayette said, she had more right than Sookie to be there. She wouldn’t let those two tell her any different.
“What did I do, Jess?” Sookie asked, refusing to let the infant vampire bully her. “Break up with a man who was manipulatin’ me? Walk away from a man who had done nothin’ but betray and hurt me?”
“Bill was dying and you abandoned him!” Jessica snarled, getting in Sookie’s face. “You just walked away from him without even looking back.”
“Yeah, I did,” Sookie replied with a nod. “It was the best thing I ever did. You and Bill talk like I owed him somethin’. I didn’t… I don’t. I don’t owe him or you a damn thing…”
“Bill loved you,” Jessica argued as if that was all that mattered and in her mind, it was. Bill loved Sookie; therefore, Sookie should have been with Bill.
“Hoyt loved you, but that didn’t stop ya from jumpin’ into bed with my brother,” Sookie retorted, pulling no punches.
“That was different,” Jessica replied, backing up slightly. “I didn’t love Hoyt like I used to and my relationships with Hoyt and Jason are none of your business.”
“Sweetie, you don’t have a relationship with Jason,” Sookie said, her tone firm. “And of course it’s different, it’s about you. You’re like Bill in that regard. You think it’s one rule for you and another for everyone else. However, in case ya’re not gettin’ it, I’ll break it down for ya real easy… I don’t love Bill. I don’t want to be with him. I don’t owe him anythin’. You say your relationships with Hoyt and Jason are none of my business; then any relationship I had with Bill has nothin’ to do with you.
“Now, I heard ya say I had no right to be here and that’s where ya’re wrong. Ya see, Bon Temps is my home. I was born here, I was raised here, and I’ll spend as much time as I want here. No little girl with a set of fangs is gonna tell me differently. Now, if ya’ve got a problem with that… well, then you’ve got a problem, not me.”
Jessica stared at Sookie in shock unable to believe what she was hearing. She had never seen her so strong before. From the times she had seen her argue with Bill, Jessica believed Sookie always backed down when confronted. Bill had always been able to get her to do as she was told… Almost always. Bill hadn’t been able to make her heel the night she had left. Jessica had thought that was just a one-time thing. At a loss at what to say, Jessica just glared at Sookie before vamping out the bathroom leaving Sookie alone.
“Teenagers,” Sookie snorted, shaking her head. The redheaded vampire reminded Sookie more of Bill than ever. One rule for them, another for the rest of us.
Remembering what she came into the bathroom to do, Sookie grabbed her purse, fished out her cell phone, and the piece of paper with Eric’s numbers on it. Taking a deep breath, she tapped in the number for Eric’s cell phone and waited.
Sookie felt the breath catch in her throat when she heard his voice. “Hello, Eric…”