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an oncoming addiction
Franklin Mott was not what Tara needed right now. What she needed was a week or two of uninterrupted sleep, years of therapy—preferably with a shrink who specialized in traumatic encounters with the supernatural (vampires and maenads were real, so someone like that had to exist).
Since Tara had no insurance, and thus no way to pay for a psychiatrist, what she could afford became what she needed. There was about a hundred dollars in her account, enough to pay for a weekend binge. As there was no one who could help her make sense of recent events, what Tara needed was to forget, if only for a time. She hated to wake up confused and disoriented, but she always fondly recalled the few seconds before she remembered where she was and how she'd got there. When she started drinking she looked forward to the moment she would forget who she was.
But Tara wasn't an alcoholic (yet) and knew when it was time to quit. If she started seeing alcohol as the only remedy it wouldn't be long before she was like Lettie Mae, finishing bottles of Listerine in a few gulps because there was nothing else in the house.
Tara glanced up from the rum and coke she'd just mixed, meeting Franklin's gaze. He'd been staring at her since he'd come into Merlotte's fifteen minutes ago. There was a hint of a smile on his lips. He was amused by her attempt at avoidance.
"Are you alright?" Arlene asked, setting down her tray on the bar. "Sam's not here so you can grab a little something from the back if you want. I won't tell."
Tara tried to muster a smile. Arlene was one of the many clueless and sometimes ignorant white folks in Bon Temps, but she was good people, too.
"A box of that expensive gin just came in yesterday," Arlene said in a sing-song voice.
Tara looked to the end of the bar. Franklin was still staring.
"Me and drinking right now is a bad idea," Tara said. "But thanks."
Arlene smiled. "I know it's bad right now. People will talk for a while, but it'll get better. Look at me, I've got Terry now."
Tara smiled despite herself. She allowed a brief moment of hope before she checked herself. History told her it wouldn't get better. As a child and teenager she'd been neglected and abused. As an adult she'd gradually lost everything, including her free will and the only man who loved her as she was. Now there was a vampire with a hard-on for violence calling on her. Whatever happened next would involve a lot of blood.
She knew that when she took her lunch he would follow her outside. Tara had prepared a speech, detailing her sad history and the many reasons she couldn't have anything to do with a vampire at the moment. It sounded like the speech she'd given to Joshua Deane in the ninth grade. She would've been as brusque with him as she had with all the other boys before him, but he was a deacon's son. Lettie Mae would've beaten her raw if she wasn't contrite and pulled the old "It's not you, it's me" song and dance.
She congratulated herself on not jumping or letting out a startled squeal. She did experience a full body shiver, though.
She would never tell him, but Tara liked the sound of his voice. Franklin's accent was so different from her own. It spoke of other places that seemed like distant fantasies on the good days and impossible dreams on the bad.
Tara wondered why someone like him would come to Bon Temps when so many desperately wanted to get out.
"Why are you here?" She didn't want to make small talk, didn't want to talk about herself. "Something to do with Bill Compton?"
He smiled slowly, baring his teeth. "I've heard about him. He's of little interest to me."
"Then what is of interest to you?"
"Now, you know I can't tell."
"On account of me being human?" He nodded. "You're not planning anything evil, are you? We've had our fair share of that around here. Like everybody here, evil just don't make it out of town like it planned."
"No," Franklin said, looking past her into the darkness. "I can tell that it doesn't." He paused, his gaze sliding over her body, appreciative. Tara shivered again. "I can't tell you anything, but just think of me as a civil servant. I'm just doing my job."
"Civil servant? How's the pay?"
"Shitty and there's no health insurance."
Tara laughed. The ever-present ache at the centre of her body eased slightly.
"My, you are beautiful."
Tara stopped laughing and looked to the ground. No one but Eggs had ever sounded like that: arrested and awed by her. That kind of admiration, she'd always thought, was reserved for women like Sookie, the very pictures of Southern purity and innocence.
"Look, I'm sure you're an okay vampire and all, but I don't need this right now. I got some wounds that are still open. It'll be a while before they close."
The slow smile was back. "That's alright. I would make a joke about being a vampire and having all the time in the world, but I'd rather not."
"I'd rather you didn't either." Tara glanced at her watch. She wasn't ten minutes into her lunch, but she needed an excuse. "I should go back inside."
"And I should be going. My work won't get done by itself." Franklin took a step back, more for her comfort than anything. "Goodnight, Tara."
"Goodnight," she murmured, turning away.
She ate in the storeroom, unable to taste her food. Franklin had told her he would wait for her to get over Eggs, something that seemed impossible to Tara. How could she get over it? How could she ever go through a day and not think about his prone body, the blood seeping into the dirt? How could she ever wake up and not feel so brittle and tired?
Last night, for a short time she'd felt like she had before Maryann, before Sam and before she'd stopped having a semblance of control over her life. She'd felt the familiar fire under her skin as she'd hit the asshole who'd pissed on the spot Eggs had died. It had felt good to vent her anger. How many times had she been told that she was slowly being poisoned by the demons inside her? She'd let them out last night, and for a while she'd felt alive. No amount of alcohol, no drug, could replicate that high.
And that scared Tara.
She'd beat the man bloody. When Franklin let him go he'd collapsed in a groaning heap before eventually crawling away. Wide-eyed, Tara had stared at her bruised knuckles, then at Franklin's mouth, his fangs still visible.
I'm a monster, she'd thought.
Knowing she was about to bolt, Franklin grabbed her arm. "He deserved it. Don't feel sorry for what you did, not even for a second."
"Not even for a second," Franklin interrupted.
Adrenaline still coursed through Tara. It was easy to believe him and obey.
A day later and the guilt had not returned. A dangerous thing, she knew.
Tara finished her meal and returned the plate to the kitchen before going back to the bar. Arlene was waiting for a drink order to be filled. She motioned Tara over with a nod.
"Are you sure you're alright? I know you said you weren't going to have anything, but it's alright if you do. It don't mean you're weak, or nothing. It's just something to get you through. We'll look out for you if you're worried about taking it over the limit."
Tara shook her head. "I'm good." She put on a smile. This one was not as false as the ones that had come before. "Besides, a bottle of gin isn't what I need right now."