A/N: A new chapter from your insomnia-riddled writer friend. I wonder if we can get this baby to 1000reviews on FF before it ends. It would be nice, but it’s not essential! All that is essential to me is that you guys are still enjoying this! Thanks for the support, it means a lot, trust me! xo
“Sookie! This is insane, we can’t go out in this, and I’ll freeze to death!” Pam bellowed from her bedroom window, she was not entirely wrong either; the snow was covering every flat surface outside.
“I know we’re working on it!” I screamed back, I had been on and off the telephone since eight am trying to find some form of transport that could come and maybe clear the street or something. She had said that money was no object, and so I made sure to let these men know that right off the bat. It wasn’t my money, so I didn’t mind if she over-paid.
Thirty minutes of her mother pacing the floor, dripping practically in every diamond known to man – at least in my opinion that’s what it looked like, then listening to Pam bitch and moan, and I already had had enough of this day. I knew Eric was right when he said we’d regret getting out of our nice warm bed to socialize.
He was off with Claude at Claude’s ‘friend’s’ home not far from where Pam’s was, the plan was they would go to the church first, greet the guests and everything and myself, Pam, her cousins and her mother would follow. It was traditional for the bride to be late, but as late as we already were might have been pushing it.
The cousins that had managed to make it from Texas were ones I hadn’t heard about, Maggie who was eighteen, and Ethel-Anne who had just turned twenty, and was on the lookout for a British husband. I wondered then if Claude even had any straight friends.
I hoped for the girl’s sake there would be some handsome men to swoon over, otherwise what was the point of wedding at all if not to pair off yet more people.
They both swooned over Eric though, that much was abundantly clear, when he dropped me off that morning, they were both practically falling over themselves to talk to him. It made him blush, that’s how obvious they were being. As such their crush on him rendered me the enemy.
I found it hilarious.
They had been staying the week with friends, catching up with girls they went to boarding school with who had subsequently married and moved here. I guess even snotty girls like Pam’s cousins needed a break from their ‘Aunt Viv’ too at times, I knew I for one would be needing a rather large, life-timed, sized break from her after this.
The woman was exasperating.
An hour and a half later, we made it to the elaborately decorated church ‘on time’. The snow in London had been a record fall, people were panicking, stores were starting to shut, the roads were a nightmare, but no Pam’s over the top wedding would go ahead, she claimed if she had to walk there, she would. When I saw her in her dress and sparkling jewellery, I knew why, she was stunning. She was the quintessential modern bride, so far ahead of her time she had her dress and head-wear in styles that had just come from Paris and New York, she was swinging into the 1920s well ahead of everyone else. Of course she was, it was Pam.
Eric, Claude, and his friend who’s name escaped me looked so dapper in their suits and top hats, and I had to admit a hell of a lot warmer than the rest of us in our silk and lace. Thankfully, our fur coats, borrowed from Pam for the occasion were permitted until we got to the church, I never knew one woman to own so many, let alone so many white furs. I cringed to think what poor animal I was wearing for the occasion.
The wedding went off without a hitch, of course they were both up there lying their asses off, but I was sure now that they weren’t the first couple to enter into marriage telling a false story, and I knew they certainly wouldn’t be the last.
The reception was held at the luxurious and high society filled Langham hotel, I had been told that Royalty for all over the world had dined and stayed there, so of course it would have to do for our Pam. It was intimidating and awe inspiriting all at once, needless to say no expense was spared for them, after all they were footing the bill themselves and wanted the best party in the best place available. For them this was it and I couldn’t argue with their choice, everything down to the high hung chandeliers, to the dinning cloths, to the very chairs, it was all first class. If there was thing better than first class even, I imaged this would fit that grade.
By dinner, the majority of the higher-class guests had smoozed and boozed their way around, Pam and Claude had painted such a dramatically attentive picture of what they were like as a couple that Eric commented that Pam was lost to being a society girl, her true talent lay with acting. I had to agree with him, both of them really, were selling it to everyone and everyone was just lapping it up. Eric and I kept lower key than our couple of the hour, preferring to dine at our table with a handful of Claude’s friends, most of whom did not speak any English, and so they too just kept to themselves. We liked it this way, no real attention was drew to us, other than the odd person spotting Eric and just pushing themselves in to talk to us. I was introduced as his wife for the first time to strangers that night, and it made my heart beat a little faster when he would take my hand so gently and say that this, Sookie Stackhouse was his wife.
He received many strange looks of course, before they found their game faces a second or two later, and before when I was a nobody just at his table, they didn’t give me a second glance. Now though, that I was a ‘somebody’ to them, they were tripping all over themselves to kiss my hand and tell me how beautiful I looked and what a great job the girls did with Pam at the wedding. All of them had one thing in common though, besides the air of pompousness that reeked from them. They all looked me up and down and each and every one of them rubbed in that I was ‘a lucky girl’ or a ‘lucky one’ to have ‘nabbed Northman’ like I had ‘somehow managed to do in tying him down’. They all put in their little digs on how I just was not up to snuff for their Mr Northman. At first, I cared, at first, Eric could see it in my face and would counteract with something sweet and funny, like he was the lucky one really and how he had courted me and practically had to beg me to marry him. It didn’t matter to them, I knew they were looking at me like I wasn’t one of them, that or they were looking for a baby bump to see if we had resorted to a shot-gun wedding like I knew they also assumed. However, as the night wore on, my husband danced me off my feet, and we downed some of the best and presumably the most expensive champagne known to man, I found the more I drank the less I cared. A motto once adopted by my crazy Aunt Linda, before she succumbed to alcohol poisoning when she was in her thirties.
Probably not the best motto to adopt then, in that case, I thought.
I was sure that Pam’s mother was judging us from afar, but neither of us cared, even if it was not just Vivian who cast a judgemental eye on us that evening; I figured I might as well get used to it. The whispering would start about my past, both the real one and the made up one. I imagined there would be a game of Chinese whispers almost in the origins of the stories about the new Mrs Northman – the woman with a closet full of skeletons, who would one day become Lady of the manor, so to speak.
And yet as my anxiety levels rose at the idea of this happening, as I left the wedding that night with my husband, happy and content, I found that it mattered very little to me what the snobbish contingent of London thought of me. It only really mattered what he thought, and what the people I loved thought of me, and as far as that went, I was secure in the knowledge that they loved me for who I had become, what I had been through, and how I had come out the other end in one piece.
The rest of them could take a long walk off several short cliffs for all I cared!
By the time we got to the London house that night, neither of us had energy for much else other than sleep, and for once I was glad. I was exhausted, and I knew he felt the same. Strangers really did suck the energy out of you, I realised. You spent so much of your time ‘up’ and being the best you possible, always polite and always sweet, it was tiring. As we all but fell into bed that night I was thankful for the changes that my life had too, ones that I had never expected and some that I wasn’t sure, even now, how I dealt with them. However, thankful I remained all the same. The changes had brought me here, had brought me to him.
And for that how could I be anything but thankful, really?
When Sookie and I got back to Scotland it was the morning before Christmas Eve, and the roads were just about manageable with the heavy snowfall. The towns we passed were in the festive mood, more so this year than others, I had noticed. It was probably because of the ending of the war and the huge steps all counties involved were taking in ensuring peace stayed peaceful, but in my head, everyone was happier because I was happier. It was funny, it was as if I had gone through my own personal war during those years, not just the physical one to ensure our freedoms, but a war in my head, a war in my heart, as I slowly found myself that angry reclusive man I had become before Sookie.
I sighed just thinking about it brought back a swell of feelings I had no use for, not anymore. Pam and Claude were off on their fraud honeymoon, both happy as pigs in shit with the outcome of everything, and by everything I mean all the money they would soon fall into. We left safe in the knowledge that she was happy, and for her at least that was the main thing.
“And there used to be a Christmas gathering here?” She asked as we reached our bedroom, I still smiled at the idea of it being ‘our’ bedroom now.
“Yes, there used to be, but for the past couple of years we sort of avoided it at all costs. It was Sophie’s…”
I shed my jacket and loosened my tie before I sat on the bed.
“It was her favourite thing to do, she lived for it. All the employees would come from town, and from the farms and land, and the staff from downstairs… we’d supply a big dinner for everyone up here in the guest dining room, and then when they left we’d do presents for the staff of the house.”
“That’s sounds lovely, very sweet of her.” Sookie smiled, genuinely as she changed from her boots into something more house friendly.
“It was.” I remembered fondly my first ‘Sophie Christmas’; it was an experience that is for sure.
“And you don’t want to continue that?”
“We were all a little lost after… everything. Neither of us felt much up to all of it without her.”
“That’s understandable I suppose.”
“You think we should?” I asked her as she came and sat next to me, the train had tired us both out, and not from train sex, this time.
“Perhaps. But I’m not going to butt in on this subject, not when we’ve been married five minutes, it’s not my place.”
“How is it not your place? Five minutes or not, you are still my wife and have every right to change things if you want. I wouldn’t stop you.”
She kissed me sweetly then, on the cheek.
“That’s nice of you to say, but after all this is still Niall’s home and while he has warmed to me a little, I am certainly not going to push things.”
She was so logical and cute when she thought like this, her mouth all twisted and her hands flailing.
“I would like our first Christmas together to be a happy one, Sookie. I know it will be regardless, but if this is something you’d like to do…”
“Not really for me, more so for everyone else, I heard Mrs Fortenberry talk about it once, I got the end of the conversation so I wasn’t so sure of the details, but apparently it was something everyone looked forward to.”
“How about I talk it over with Niall, see what he thinks, and if he’s not against it, we’ll throw something together?”
“I know it would mean a lot to them, that’s all.”
I knew that too, and in truth, we had things to celebrate this year unlike the other years, I felt like it would be the perfect way to cement how things would go from now on. I wanted to be involved in the community, with the employees that I needed to get to know better, and it might even lift Niall’s spirits too.
I hoped they would in the very least.
I found him in his library, deep in thought with his paper in hand, his gaze fixed firmly out his window.
It snapped him out of it.
“Eric, my boy, you’re back then!” He said attempting to stand, but thinking better of it and sitting back down again.
“You’ll have to excuse me; I am ever so tired these days.” He spoke softly. It was strange, in just a few days I had noticed his deterioration.
“Never worry about that, it’s only me, and you know you don’t need any airs or graces when I am around.” I laughed, patting him on the shoulder so he would not feel bad. I hoped he did not.
“How was London? How was Pam’s elaborate lavender marriage?” He smirked.
“Read all about it then?”
With that he laughed. “Oh Eric, it’s in every paper from here to China I would imagine. They do make a handsome couple I will give them that. Such a waste of a pretty woman however, to a man that will never touch her like she deserves.”
I shook my head.
“And you know as well as I do Niall, if Pam wanted a man, she’d have one, hell, she’d have us all if she wanted.”
He nodded then.
“This is true.” With a sigh, he put his paper down. “Well, whomever she chooses to fill her bed, better be worthy of her, is all I can say. That woman is a riot.”
We talked a little then on London and the changes. Of how all his old friends sent their well wishes to him through me, and they longed to have him back down there, raising hell with them. I knew and he knew he probably was not up for that again, the journey alone would be too harsh on him.
Still, the hope lived.
“And you and Sookie?”
I smiled then giving myself away.
“My God, you look like a kid who got all his Christmases at once. Is she really that amazing a woman?”
“She is, and I hope you’ll get to know her as I do… since we’re married an all.”
He did a double take at me then, before he pierced his lips together.
“So you went ahead with it. This is where I say congratulations then?”
“Only if you mean it, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it. I will not be offended if you are not happy for me, for us. I’m happy enough for everyone involved, but if you are and you mean it, by all means…”
He stood then, slowly, but surely, he stood up. I followed his lead, and for the first time since I had met him, he moved in to hug me. It was tentative and guarded of course, manly above all else, but the gesture was there, and it was not something lost on me by a long shot.
Then he smiled.
“I say congratulations then because I do mean it. I knew my Sophie made you happy and you made her as happy, but it like her it was too short lived. You did, and you do deserve someone who will make a life with you. I am glad, though I may have a hard time admitting it… I am glad you’ve found someone kind and smart… not bad looking either.” He grinned. “Not that I was eyeing up your wife or anything, Eric.”
I smiled back. Twenty years ago though, it might have been another story.
“That means a lot coming from you.”
He nodded solemnly and sat back down with a ‘huff’ sound, his chest was in trouble now too it seemed.
Before I left the room we talked about Christmas, and he agreed eventually, siting it to a ‘we need to make the girl feel welcome now don’t we?’, and finishing off with ‘let her do what she wants, she’s a woman she will in the end anyhow.’ I took it as a win, for both of us and went off in search of Sookie. Unsurprisingly I found her in the study downstairs, by the fire with Thor at her feet and a book in her lap, she looked so at home there, so much more so than she ever did in that uniform.
“Christmas is a go.” I confessed sitting down next to her, the glow from the fire hitting my face nicely.
Her eyes widened.
“He seems more than fine with it, he even said he’d try and pick himself up to attend whatever we want to plan.”
She seemed excited at this prospect.
“Oh that is good news, Eric. It might lift his spirits to see everyone from town that knows him, that has worked for him for so long too.
I agreed with her and told her all the things that needed to be done before we invited people. It was usually Christmas Eve, so we were really cutting things fine in terms of ordering in the food, drinks, and everything we normally did from Glasgow for the occasion. I knew in order to get it all here in time someone would have to go and bring everything back.
Sookie looked shocked at the amount of stuff that needed to be done, but never one to back down from a challenge she stood right up and literally rolled up her sleeves.
“This means I get to see the locked ballroom, doesn’t it?”
She was right, that had been locked from view since Sophie had died. It was in there we had our wedding dance, in there we had every Christmas dance. I was not even sure where the key was.
“That it does, it’ll need cleaned too, I think… I think Mr Dearborn has the key.”
“Of course, right of course. And the guest dining room too will be needing aired out. Oh, finally something to do!” She said putting down her book, and walking to the window before she stopped.
“Not that I am bored or anything…” she backpedalled but I found it only adorable that she thought to do so for me. I knew she was bored, even being back mere hours, Sookie was a woman that liked to keep busy, and going for a hundred miles an hour as one of the staff to barely moving as my wife, well it was more than understandable to say the least.
“It’s okay if you are you know, I understand that this is a …an adjustment too for you.”
“I am used now, just so used to being useful.”
“I know, but I want you to relax… but now there is this to organise, I mean I can send the order for the refreshments and everything now, send someone to pick it up, but everything else that needs to be done here…”
“I’ll do it. Or I’ll rope everyone in downstairs to help. You, go telephone whoever needs to be telephoned and I!” She sing-songed her ‘I’. “Will run downstairs and get everyone on board.”
I just laughed at her enthusiasm, and for a second it brought me back to Sophie, they shared the same big hearted nature and now it seemed they shared a love for celebrating other’s. My father always said I had questionable tastes in women, but I liked to think that now I had more than proved him wrong.
I had married two women that were the most unselfish I could find. It inspired me to check myself in terms of my own self involvement too, since our first meeting that was sure of Sookie and I. she had forced me to look at myself and my choices even when I clearly didn’t think I could. She forced me to come back to the land of the living.
Thank God for her, I thought. Moreover, I would thank God for her, every day I woke up beside her.
I went with her, downstairs for moral support more than anything. Well that and to ask if I could have some apple tart for dessert that evening, the one made here almost rivalled Sookie’s.
It was funny, being able to walk down there with her, being able to hold her hand as we took the stairs as steep as they were. I still did not know how everyone had the energy to fly up and down there all day at the speed they did, and with the amount of items they had to bring up and down too.
It was luncheon time for them which meant ours would be soon after, we both felt bad as they one by one noticed us standing there.
Mrs Fortenberry was the first to stand, then Mr Dearborn, then the cooks whose names escaped me but I wanted to make sure they knew that I of all people enjoyed their work. Next, there was Remy, Millie and then Sam who was next to Amelia, she beamed as she saw Sookie, and Sookie beamed right back.
One was missing.
Trey. He had been helping himself to more stew, walking in with his plateful when he saw us. His face changed colour slightly.
It was funny.
I really wished things were a lot less formal here than they were, I felt our lives in general would be a lot more relaxed if they didn’t look like they were about to tip over every time they saw one of us somewhere weren’t ‘allowed’.
“We’re so sorry for interrupting you all again, please take your seats.” I said as Sookie looked up to me with a smile, then back to Ames. The one friendly face in the crowd, I imagined.
“We just came to tell you something… Sookie?”
With that, she looked shocked back at me; I guess she figured I was not going to let her tell them. I just nudged her playfully and they all noticed.
“Oh, right, well. Here is the thing… Christmas … the Christmas thing. The dinner…thing.”
She was losing her nerve, I put my hand on her back to try to give her some non-verbal reassurance. She could do this.
“Basically,” she began again, “Lord Niall has expressed his desire to have the Christmas Eve gathering this year, again.”
With that the table began ruffling with looks to each other, nods and eyebrow quirks.
“We’ll be needing Sam and Remy to go to Glasgow in the morning to fetch the foods, and I’ll need Amelia and Millie upstairs to get everything sorted if that’s okay?” She asked looking to Mrs Fortenberry. Who in all honesty looked a tad taken aback by her bravery.
She delivered that strong and natural, only I noticed that her hand was shaking and that is only because I was still holding it. Signs of affection were not something I was willing to stop just because Sookie’s former co-workers may judge us for it, we were married we could do what we liked where we liked from now on.
“Well, Ms Stackhouse –“
“Mrs Northman. Mrs Fortenberry, if you don’t mind.”
Now even that surprised me, she said it with such confidence; I think I even saw her straighten up her posture.
I beamed as big as Amelia was from the other side of the table. It was clear from everyone’s faces that she hadn’t spilled the beans, that too surprised me.
They talked logistics for a few minutes more before all parties decided that ‘it was sorted’. Sookie was happy; there was pep in her step. She liked making people happy, and every formerly grumpy face at that table now had a smile.
We left the kitchen happier, but quickly none the less. Just before Sookie called back.
“Oh, just for the record, he hasn’t married me because I’m pregnant, so let’s stop that little rumour from spreading before it starts.”
With that she hightailed it up the stone steps when we got to the top of the stairs she started laughing.
“She probably things I’m a stuck up little Madam now, I can almost hear her say it…” She chortled. “But God that felt good to say out loud.”
“It felt good to hear, Mrs Northman.”
She grinned as she stood on her tiptoes to kiss me.
“Yes Sir, Mr Northman, it does.”
A little idea of what I had in mind for Miss Pam 😉 Hope you enjoyed guys!