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Dead as a Doornail

Dead as a Doornail: Page 42

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Anyway, she kept her eyes closed and her body slack, and gradually her breathing grew even and deep.

Eric handed me the broom with a triumphant smile. Since he'd lifted Tara, clearly I was stuck with his task. I was awkward because of my bad shoulder, but I finished sweeping up the glass and disposing of it in a garbage bag. Eric turned toward the door. I hadn't heard anyone arrive, but Eric opened the door to Bill before Bill even knocked. Eric's earlier phone conversation must have been with Bill. In a way, that made sense; Bill lived in Eric's fiefdom, or whatever they called it. Eric needed help, so Bill was obliged to supply it. My ex was burdened with a large piece of plywood, a hammer, and a box of nails.

"Come in," I said when Bill halted in the doorway, and without speaking a word to each other, the two vampires nailed the wood across the window.
To say I felt awkward would be an understatement, though thanks to the events of the evening I wasn't as sensitive as I would've been at another time. I was mostly preoccupied with the pain in my shoulder, and Tara's recovery, and the current whereabouts of Mickey. In the extra space I had left over after worrying about those items, I crammed in some anxiety about replacing Sam's window, and whether the neighbors had heard enough of this fracas to call the police. On the whole, I thought they hadn't; someone would be here by now.

After Bill and Eric finished their temporary repair, they both watched me mopping up the water and blood on the linoleum. The silence began to weigh heavily on all three of us: at least, on my third of the three of us. Bill's tenderness in caring for me the night before had touched me. But Eric's just acquired knowledge of our intimacy raised my self-consciousness to a whole new level. I was in the same room with two guys who both knew I'd slept with the other.

I wanted to dig a hole and lie down in it and pull the opening inside with me, like a character in a cartoon. I couldn't look either of them in the face.

If I rescinded both their invitations, they'd have to walk outside without a word; but in view of the fact that they'd both just helped me, such a procedure would be rude. I'd solved my problems with them before in exactly that way. Though I was tempted to repeat it to ease my personal embarrassment, I simply couldn't. So what did we do next?

Should I pick a fight? Yelling at one another might clear the air. Or maybe a frank acknowledgment of the situation... no.

I had a sudden mental picture of us all three climbing in the double bed in the little bedroom. Instead of duking out our conflicts, or talking out our problems, we could... no. I could feel my face flame red, as I was torn between semihysterical amusement and a big dash of shame at even thinking the thought. Jason and his buddy Hoyt had often discussed (in my hearing) that every male's fantasy was to be in bed with two women. And men who came into the bar echoed that idea, as I knew from checking Jason's theory by reading a random sample of male minds. Surely I was allowed to entertain the same kind of fantasy? I gave a hysterical kind of giggle, which definitely startled both vampires.

"This is amusing?" Bill asked. He gestured from the plywood, to the recumbent Tara, to the bandage on my shoulder. He omitted pointing from Eric to himself. I laughed out loud.

Eric cocked a blond eyebrow. "We are amusing?"

I nodded wordlessly. I thought, Instead of a cook-off, we could have a cock-off. Instead of a fishing derby, we could have a...

At least in part because I was tired, and strained, and blood depleted, I went way into the silly zone. I laughed even harder when I looked at Eric's and Bill's faces. They wore almost identical expressions of exasperation.

Eric said, "Sookie, we haven't finished our discussion."

"Oh yes, we have," I said, though I was still smiling. "I asked you for a favor: releasing Tara from her bondage to Mickey. You asked me for payment for that favor: telling you what happened when you lost your memory. You performed your side of the bargain, and so did I. Bought and paid for. The end."

Bill looked from Eric to me. Now he knew that Eric knew what I knew.... I giggled again. Then the giddiness just poofed out of me. I was a deflated balloon, for sure. "Good night, both of you," I said. "Thanks, Eric, for taking that rock in the head, and for sticking to your phone throughout the evening. Thanks, Bill, for turning out so late with window-repair supplies. I appreciate it, even if you got volunteered by Eric." Under ordinary circumstances - if there were such things as ordinary circumstances with vampires around - I would've given them each a hug, but that just seemed too weird. "Shoo," I said. "I have to go to bed. I'm all worn out."

"Shouldn't one of us stay here with you tonight?" Bill asked.

If I'd had to say yes to that, had to pick one of them to stay with me that night, it would have been Bill - if I could have counted on him to be as undemanding and gentle as he'd been the night before. When you're down and hurting, the most wonderful thing in the world is to feel cherished. But that was too big a bunch of if's for tonight.

"I think I'll be fine," I said. "Eric assures me that Salome will scoop up Mickey in no time, and I need sleep more than anything. I appreciate both of you coming out tonight."

For a long moment I thought they might just say "No" and try to outwait each other. But Eric kissed me on the forehead and left, and Bill, not to be outdone, brushed my lips with his and took his leave. When the two vampires had departed, I was delighted to be by myself.

Of course, I wasn't exactly alone. Tara was passed out on the couch. I made sure she was comfortable - took off her shoes, got the blanket off my bed to cover her - and then I fell into my own bed.

Chapter 14

I SLEPT FOR hours.

When I woke up, Tara was gone.

I felt a stab of panic, until I realized she'd folded the blanket, washed her face in the bathroom (wet washcloth), and put her shoes on. She had left me a little note, too, on an old envelope that already held the beginnings of my shopping list. It said, "I'll call you later. T" - a terse note, and not exactly redolent of sisterly love.

I felt a little sad. I figured I wouldn't be Tara's favorite person for a while. She'd had to look more closely at herself than she wanted to look.

There are times to think, and times to lie fallow. Today was a fallow day. My shoulder felt much better, and I decided I would drive to the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Clarice and get all my shopping over with in one trip. Also, there I wouldn't see as many people I knew, and I wouldn't have to discuss getting shot.

It was very peaceful, being anonymous in the big store. I moved slowly and read labels, and I even selected a shower curtain for the duplex bathroom. I took my time completing my list. When I transferred the bags from the buggy into the car, I tried to do all the lifting with my right arm. I was practically reeking with virtue when I got back to the house on Berry Street.

The Bon Temps Florist van was in the driveway. Every woman has a little lift in her heart when the florist's van pulls up, and I was no exception.

"I have a multiple delivery here," said Bud Dearborn's wife, Greta. Greta was flat-faced like the sheriff and squatty like the sheriff, but her nature was happy and unsuspicious. "You're one lucky girl, Sookie."

"Yes, ma'am, I am," I agreed, with only a tincture of irony. After Greta had helped me carry in my bags, she began carrying in flowers.

Tara had sent me a little vase of daisies and carnations. I am very fond of daisies, and the yellow and white looked pretty in my little kitchen. The card just read "From Tara."

Calvin had sent a very small gardenia bush wrapped up in tissue and a big bow. It was ready to pop out of the plastic tub and be planted as soon as the danger of a frost was over. I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of the gift, since the gardenia bush would perfume my yard for years. Because he'd had to call in the order, the card bore the conventional sentiment "Thinking of you - Calvin."

Pam had sent a mixed bouquet, and the card read, "Don't get shot anymore. From the gang at Fangtasia." That made me laugh a little. I automatically thought of writing thank-you notes, but of course I didn't have my stationery with me. I'd stop by the pharmacy and get some. The downtown pharmacy had a corner that was a card shop, and also it accepted packages for UPS pickup. You had to be diverse in Bon Temps.

I put away my purchases, awkwardly hung the shower curtain, and got cleaned up for work.

Sweetie Des Arts was the first person I saw when I came through the employees' entrance. She had an armful of kitchen towels, and she'd tied on her apron. "You're a hard woman to kill," she remarked. "How you feeling?"

"I'm okay," I said. I felt like Sweetie had been waiting for me, and I appreciated the gesture.

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