Drained: Chapter 17
The back of my hand hurt. I opened my eyes and I was in a beautiful bedroom. I glanced at my hand and saw the IV and remembered what had happened. I was underneath a very soft sheet and wearing a cotton hospital gown. I felt the F choker around my neck.
This was not the little room with the nurse in the green scrubs. This was a gorgeous room with a canopy bed, draped with panels of white silk. I looked over to the dark mahogany dresser which held a huge spray of red roses in a crystal vase. The walls were painted a pale turquoise and decorated with rich paintings and flow blue plates hung in a row. I looked down to the floor covered with a burgundy and gold oriental rug. A tall heavy armoire stood against the wall to my right. The little metal IV stand beside me was in sharp contrast to the rich furnishings of the room.
I tried to sit up, but was still a little light-headed. I closed my eyes and thought, what next? I was trying to process the fact that Bill had never loved me, but had been sent to hunt me down for the vampire Queen of Louisiana. I’d been grieving for Bill—was I wrong to have loved him? Had it all been a sham? And was Eric in on it? Could our relationship be based on a lie as well? Then I thought of Jason, and I lost it. I stopped trying to be strong and just let it all out. I turned on my side and curled up into a ball to cry, careful not to tangle my IV line.
I must have been crying for nearly an hour when there was a soft knock at the door and then it opened. A tiny woman came in and stood beside my bed.
“I’m Dr. Ludwig.”
I stopped crying and sat up a little, wiping my eyes. “Hello, I’m Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Yes, I know. How are you feeling?”
“That’s understandable. I’m surprised you have any blood left. I had a hard time finding a place to put my needle.”
“Am I in a hospital?”
“No, you’re in your room at the palace.”
“I don’t know anyone named Carla. Are you hungry?”
“Well, I don’t want you skipping any meals. Can I have something sent up for you?”
“Maybe a little later.”
“Okay. Just get some rest. I’ll check on you a little later.”
I watched her leave and thought she was one of the oddest-looking people I’d ever seen. I scooted back down underneath the incredibly soft sheet and soon found myself back to sleep.
I had to use the bathroom when I woke again, so I got up and pulled my little IV stand with me into a most amazing bathroom. The walls and floors were white marble; there was a huge shower and separate claw foot tub. A mirrored tray on the counter held an array of toiletries and cosmetics as well as a tiny porcelain vase with miniature pink roses. I used the bathroom and went back and sat on the bed.
I was feeling much better and was a little hungry, so I thought I’d find the cafeteria. Once I’d eaten, I would ask about Hadley. Had I really seen her? Was it just my imagination?
My IV bag was empty, and I didn’t want to wait for the doctor, so I pulled the needle out of my hand myself. I went back to the bathroom and held my hand under the running water, then pressed a tissue to it until it stopped bleeding. I looked in the medicine cabinet, but there were no band aids. Of course not–why would there be a band aid in a vampire palace?
I didn’t see my clothes, so I opened the armoire. It was filled with clothes, but there was no uniform. I checked the drawers of the dresser and found stacks of neatly folded lingerie and sleepwear—all with the tags still on. There was a pair of manicure scissors on top of the panty pile, so I cut the tags off a pair of pale blue silk panties and pulled them on. There was a matching bra and it was my size.
I searched the armoire again and removed a silk ivory blouse with tiny pearl buttons. The collar and cuffs were a delicate ivory lace. I put the blouse on and then found a straight burgundy velvet skirt that fit me like a glove. There were burgundy suede high-heeled pumps in the floor of the armoire in—of course—my size.
I folded my little hospital gown and stuck it in a drawer, then made my bed.
I went into the bathroom and ran a brush through my hair. I looked very pale, so I put on a little blush and some lip gloss from the mirrored tray. I actually looked pretty good except for the employee tag and red F around my neck that ruined what was otherwise the nicest outfit I’d ever worn.
I opened the door and started to walk out into the hall when a man—a vampire—stepped away from the wall and said, “Hello. How nice to see you’re feeling better. I’m Rasul.”
“Oh, hello. I’m Sookie.”
This had to be the Rasul Eric had been trying to reach. He was very handsome with black hair and dark eyes. He held his elbow out to me.
“Please take my arm. Tell me if you’re feeling faint.”
I surprised myself by taking his arm and we began to walk away from my room down a long corridor.
“We’ll bring your belongings up to your room while you’re out. Can you tell me the combination to the safe?”
I hesitated. This vampire was a stranger to me even though I knew his name from Eric. I reminded myself that I’d also known Andre’s and he’d bitten me without warning.
“I can assure you that the security of your belongings is not in jeopardy here. You are a protected guest of the Queen’s,” he said.
For some crazy reason, I trusted him, and I whispered the combination into his ear as we walked. He just smiled and nodded.
As we came to the end of the hallway, Rasul opened a set of double doors and I was shocked to see a huge open room filled with vampires and a few humans. It was furnished just as you’d expect a palace would be in rich opulent colors and oversized pieces of furniture. The people inside were dressed in suits and dresses. I was glad I’d bothered with the lip gloss.
All heads turned to me and Rasul as we entered, but my eyes went directly to Eric. He was standing in front of a pair of gold velvet drapes (that covered no window) wearing a gray suit with a light blue dress shirt. My heart began to pound in my chest. He seemed to have no expression at all on his face as he looked at me.
“Sookie, please come in,” a woman said from the sofa in front of a huge hearth. “I’m Sophie-Anne Leclerq, the Queen of Louisiana.”
Rasul walked me to her and I let his arm go as I said, “How do you do?”
“It’s such a pleasure to have you here, my dear.” She was very petite and had been turned young like Andre, but she was also quite lovely in an emerald green dress. “You know your cousin, Hadley, of course.”
Hadley was sitting beside the queen in a black lace dress. She gave me a smile but didn’t speak.
“And you’ve met Andre.” She gestured to her right where Andre sat at a chess table with another vampire. “Note the choker, Andre.”
There was a smattering of laughter in the room, but Andre wasn’t smiling.
“Hello,” I said and nodded to him. He gave a tiny nod in return.
“You’ll meet everyone else in due time. Please relax and enjoy yourself.”
I started to walk away, but she added, “Wait. Eric, have you met Sookie?”
Eric was suddenly beside me. “Yes, of course, Your Majesty. Sookie lives in Area Five.”
“Not any more,” she said.
“Helo, Sookie,” Eric said politely.
“Hello,” I said.
His eyes were burning into mine, but I couldn’t read his expression. Was he angry? I wasn’t sure.
“Hadley, dear, why don’t you entertain your cousin—see to her needs.”
Hadley stood and took my hand and led me away from the Queen and Eric. We sat on a sofa in the far corner of the room.
“Are you hungry? Thirsty?” she began.
I wanted to grab her and shake her and ask her a thousand questions, but I knew that we were being eyed and that every vampire in the very large room could hear us.
“Yes, I am. Should we go to the cafeteria?”
“No, we can send for food to be brought to us up here.”
She raised her hand and a human in a white shirt and black pants appeared.
I looked up to his expectant smile and asked, “Would it be possible to get some chicken soup?”
“Of course. You may order whatever you’d like.”
Hadley added, “And grilled cheese sandwiches?” She smiled at me and I saw her as a little girl again for a split second. I’d missed her.
“And a coke, if you wouldn’t mind,” I added.
“Make that two,” Hadley said.
As soon as the waiter had left, Hadley asked, “So, how have you been?”
“I’ve had a tough week, like everybody else.” I was acutely aware that people were listening to us.
“How’s Gran? Jason?” She smiled sweetly.
“They’re both dead.” Amazingly, I didn’t cry.
Hadley’s smile faltered. “Well, we can catch up tomorrow.”
I knew she meant while the vampires slept.
“So, that’s a pretty blouse,” she said.
“Isn’t it, though?”
And so we sat and made completely vacuous small talk until our meal arrived. We moved over to the long dining table at one end of the room and sat as we were served our white trash comfort food with fine china and crystal.
I was always aware of Eric’s presence, but tried not to watch him too much. I remembered Indira’s words: don’t draw attention to him.
After Hadley and I ate, we moved back to our sofa. One by one, vampires came over and introduced themselves to me. It felt like a fancy cocktail party only I was the cocktail.
I started to fade and asked Hadley if it would be okay if I went to bed.
“Of course. You should say good night to the Queen.”
I stood and walked to the Queen with Hadley. Hadley sat beside her again and I waited until I had her attention.
As she looked up at me, I said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I need to rest.”
“Of course not. I hope you’re feeling better soon, dear.” She looked around the room and said, to no one in particular, “Where’s Rasul?”
“I can take her to her room,” Eric said, suddenly beside me again.
“Lovely. Thank you, Eric. Good night, Sookie.”
Eric and I turned and left the room together and headed down the long hallway in silence.
When we got inside my room, I closed the door behind us and turned to him.
“Are you mad at me?” I whispered.
“I have no reason to be angry with you, Sookie.” His voice was very cold. “Is there anything I can get you before you go to sleep?”
I searched his eyes, but I hardly recognized this very polite and stiff Eric. “No, I guess not.”
“May I heal that for you?”
He was looking at the back of my hand where I’d pulled the needle out.
“Thank you. That would be great.”
He took my hand in his and licked the tiny red dot. I watched his tongue and felt a flicker of lust.
“And the marks on your neck. May I heal those as well?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He stepped closer and bent down to softly lick the two marks Andre had left. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent.
“Do you have any others?” he asked, inches from my face.
I pushed my sleeves up past my elbows and held my arms out. He licked the right one where I’d donated blood and then the left where I’d had my first IV.
“Thank you,” I said as I lowered my sleeves.
He looked into my eyes with cold intensity and asked, “Have you any more fang marks?”
“No one else has bitten you?”
“Then, I’ll leave you to get some rest.”
I so didn’t want him to leave, but he was acting so odd—so distant.
“Thank you. I am tired.”
“Well, it was nice to see you again. I hope I’ll see you again soon,” he said.
It was nice to see me again? I was baffled at his coldness.
“Are you leaving?” I asked.
“Soon, yes. I need to get back to Shreveport.”
I wanted to go with him, but it felt wrong to say it. I was so hurt at how distant he seemed.
“Here, let me give you my number,” he said. He walked to the nightstand and opened the drawer, taking out a pen and small pad of paper, and began to write. “If you’re ever in Shreveport and need anything, please don’t hesitate to call me. Here’s the number to Fangtasia.”
He folded the little piece of paper and returned the pen and pad to the drawer.
I took the paper from him and looked into his eyes, but there was nothing there that I recognized. I felt like I didn’t know him at all.
“Have a lovely rest, Sookie,” he said as he turned and walked out the door.
“Good night,” I said to his back as he left.
I sat on the bed feeling so drained. I’d come here hoping I could be with Eric—that we could be together like we had been in Magnolia Grove. And now, I had no one. Jason was gone and Eric didn’t want me. I started to cry.
I opened the little piece of paper in my hand and read it through my tears. There was no phone number. It said: Cameras everywhere. I love you.