Chapter 2

"Stay where you are! Don't move!" I try to say assertively, but it comes out in a shaken, pathetic wail. The figure in the kitchen spins around, her blonde ponytail swishing. A glass of lemonade slips from her hands as they flinch and gasp, shattering at her feet.

"Lord have mercy, Sari, you put that thing away this instant!" Sookie shrills, clutching her hands to her heart. My hands shake relentlessly as I lower my gun, horrified that I nearly shot my one friend in the whole parish, let alone the state.

"Do you always let yourself into people's homes like this? Because up north? That's how you get killed," I huff, trying to calm myself. Sookie laughs a little and stares at the gun for a moment, then back at me.

"Well, you're not in the north anymore. And besides, I told you I would come get you for work from here on out until your truck gets fixed. So expect me to walk in from now on, okay?"

"Makes sense, considering your about the only friend I've got here. Let me get dressed and put this away, then we can go. Broom's in the pantry closet next to the refrigerator, by the way."

Sookie sighs, and mutters under her breath about guns and people being crazy as she pulls the broom out to sweep up the mess. I take a steady breath, calming myself from the panic. Slipping back into my room, I put my gun down on the bed. It gleams in the filtered sunlight, bouncing small rays onto the wall. "Why did I even think so drastically?" I huff, and in the back of my mind, I hear the rebuttal. "Because you're in Louisiana. You don't know anyone. Vampires are a real threat, even if some are kind. And aside from them, humans can be far worse."

I pull my work uniform out of the closet and let the towel fall to the floor. As I put on my bra, I feel around for the lump in my right breast. It's grown steadily in size since March, and it's only June now. Eventually, the cancer may spread. My energy levels have always been up and down, but the more sick I get, the lower my energy is. I can barely help Sam and Terry with the truck order anymore, or even deal with customers as well as I used to. It's not easy. It's not fair. It's not okay. But I know I have to push forward.

There's a knock on my door, and Sookie's voice lilts through the wood.

"We're gonna be late! Your hair looks fine, it'll dry in the car! Let's gooo!" she calls out, and I see the shadow of her drift away from the door. I stand and finish dressing, then grab a hair tie from my dresser as I slip on my canvas shoes. Not cute, but comfortable enough to work in. Besides, I'd never rake in as many tips as Sookie and Arlene do, with their great hair, curvy hips, and winning smiles. I always look tired, fed up, and uncomfortable. As I step out of my room, I remember my gun, still laying on the bed where I carelessly left it.

"Just one more second, please!" I say loudly, and hear Sookie let out an exasperated "Uggghhh." I grab the gun, and quickly place it back under the sink, in it's holster.

As I exit my room, I see Sookie staring down at the floor, in front of the door to my apartment. "Uh, Sari? You just got some mystery mail."

"Mystery mail? What do you mean?"

"I mean this little letter just got slipped under the door while I was waiting for you." She picks it up, a red envelope with my name on it, no address or other markings.

"Oh jeez. I know who that's from. Just drop it on the table, we gotta go, Sookie."

She looks at me with a nearly innocent curiousity. "Don't you wanna know what it says, or who it's from at least?"

"No, but YOU do, and that's reason enough to leave it until I get home tonight, nosy. Now let's go!"

Sookie pouts with a huff, but turns and exits the apartment. I stop to give the envelope one last glance. The script is definitely not his, but the contents are, that I'm sure of. I chew my lip in consideration. It could be an invitation. It could be a scalding, angry letter. It could be nothing at all. It could acceptance. An offer.

The excitement builds in me, and I swipe the letter off the little table by my apartment door, slipping it into my apron pocket. I can only hope that it's something better than a rebuttal, or a simple invitation to Fangtasia. I take the stairs two at a time to catch up to Sookie, who is already in her car. I climb in to a knowing smirk.

"Get out of my head, Sook. You know I hate that," I say platonically, and cast her a glare. She shrugs, and begins driving, out into the countryside towards Bon Temps.

"Ya know, Sam doesn't much care for vampires. Try to keep that little bit of your life between you and I, okay? No sense in upsetting the boss, especially since he knows you're sick now." Sookie turns left onto a dirt road, and casts her winning smile at me. It's almost as if she truly lights up the car. She's just so sunny, and warm.

"Yeah, I know. I've already warned Eric and Pam not to drop into Merlotte's unless they absolutely have to."

"Pfft! Not that they'd actually listen to you! Hah, they're more stubborn than weeds in a drought. No matter what, they just keep coming."

I laugh, knowing she's right. If Eric felt like it, he'd show up. He'd own the room for his entire stay. Some would try to scare him off, some would try to seduce him, some would even straight up attack. That's the locale around here. But our bullheaded viking would sith through it all until he got what he came for. Pam on the other hand would belligerently tell them all to fuck off, flash her fangs, or offer them their balls on a silver platter. She's that kind of classy, I guess. It's one of the things I adore her for, though she thinks I'm just a stupid "fangbanger". Last I checked, I hadn't slept with a vampire before, let alone had feelings for one. But she still says it. I've learned to take it with a grain of salt. She and I have talked mutually enough for me to know, she's just guarded. Heavily.

"Why are you so quiet today? We always chat on the way to work, but you're awful pensive," Sookie says, pulling my head back into reality.

"Sorry, just got a lot on my mind," I murmur, watching the road pass under us.

"Like what, a hangover?" She laughs, but I feel her hand rest on my shoulder.

"Are you sure it's safe to drink in your condition? If you don't mind my askin'."

"Hasn't killed me any faster than the cancer already is, so I don't think a little wine is gonna hurt anybody."

"Okay, I just wanna be sure you're okay. You're my friend, Sari. I'm here for you, okay?"

"Thanks, Sookie. I appreciate that."

She smiles a little, and turns left into the driveway of Merlotte's. There's no cars in the lot yet, but that about figures, we don't open for another hour. Sookie parks close to the building now. She told me a drug addicted couple attacked her in the parking lot after work one night, and she nearly died, had it not been for her Bill. Ever since, she parks as close to the bar as possible, no excuses. I appreciate that myself, because I'm too frail to get in fights now. Which is a far cry from the young woman I used to be in Michigan. I was a bar brawling harpy from the fires of Hell, and had no qualms with knocking a bitch on their ass. Now I'm a sickly, bitter woman with a death wish. It's funny how time changes you. Strong to weak, brazen to shaken, brave to meek.

We exit the car and walk around back, following the sounds of boxes being hefted, and the occasional grunt of exertion. Sam and Terry are unloading crates of bottled beer and liquor from the back of his truck.

"Good morning, ladies!" Terry says cheerily, his smile a little frantic looking, but true.

"Morning Terry, morning Sam," I say, giving my best shot at a smile. Sam looks up at me from the box he's bent over, but just looks. No smile, no hello.

"Meet me in the office in a little bit, Sari. Okay?" he says, then lifts the box, with a huff, toting it into the bar.

"What was that about?" Sookie mumbles, then walks in after him, casting a questioning glance to me over her shoulder. I shrug, and begin to worry.

"He's just worried about your diagnosis, is all. Wants to make sure you can keep working, or if you still want to, I'm sure," Terry says, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

"Yeah, I'm sure that's all it is. I'm gonna get to filling the ketchup bottles and setting tables. See you in there, Terry," I say, very matter-of-factly, and pat his arm. He gives a warmer smile and goes back to hefting boxes off the back of the truck.

As I enter, I can hear Lafayette and John in the kitchen, doing prep. Sookie is talking with Tara, who is at the bar, wiping down glasses and rolling her eyes at Sookie's recounting of last nights adventures with Bill. But my aim is to the office, where Sam waits. The door is cracked, and it's quiet. The soft morning light beams out the doorway, inviting and warm. I fell in love with this bar because of that feeling. Light, warm, jovial. The bar was like Sam, in a way. There to lift your spirits, give you some clarity, or just keep your good mood good. I step in, pushing the door open. Sam sits at his desk, writing on some paperwork, not paying attention.

"You wanted to see me?" I ask softly, and he jumps a little. "I'm sorry, did I startle you?"

"Yeah, sorry. Didn't sleep much last night. Can you shut the door please and have a seat?" he asks, running a hand through his hair. I shut the door and sit in the small chair next to the desk, facing him.

"I think we should talk long you have left," he sighs, and puts a hand to his face, rubbing his temples with his index and thumb. My heart clenches a little, but I swallow the small flit of anger that tries to escape.

"Okay... What about it?"

"I don't want you to over-exert yourself. Your health is above all the most important. Arlene is always looking for hours, especially since she became a single mom again. And I'd still pay you, even if you weren't working. I know I don't pay a ton, but I don't want you to run broke. Certainly not in your condition."

"Don't give me pity, Sam. I'm here to do my job, because I actually love it. I love coming in to work every morning to see you and Terry doing inventory, to banter with Lafayette and Tara. I love my morning drives with Sookie, or Arlene, depending on who's working. This is my life. This is all I have. I don't want to just sit at home and waste away."

"I don't want to see you waste away, period. Why won't you try to fight? Just a little? Why?!" Sam suddenly looks angry, almost betrayed. His eyes mist over a little, but he blinks, and the tears are hidden away.

"Who in their right mind, with such little chance of remission, and no health insurance, and no money, is going to start up chemo, or radiation therapy? Not me. That's who. I know it sucks, but it's what I've got. I have to stick it out. I've even thought of alternatives, and those aren't exactly fun OR possible."

"Alternatives? Like what?" Sam squints his eyes a little, like he knows where I'm going with this.

"Er...nothing. Nothing at all. Just forget this, okay? I'll be fine. Just let me work, and when it's too much to handle, I'll let you know. Okay?"

He sighs, and stands up. "Okay. We'll see how it goes."

"Thanks, Sam," I breathe, and stand up with him. He pulls me into a hug, and pats my hair a little. He smells funny, like swamp water and earth.

"FYI, Sam, you should probably put on deodorant before you go hugging pretty girls, especially after lifting heavy boxes. You smell like swamp," I chuckle, and playfully punch his chest as I walk out of the office. He looks taken aback, like he's been caught, then grins crookedly.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Get your butt to work!" He chuckles, waving me away.