“You guys, you really didn’t have to do this…” I said laughing as Tara, Lafayette, Pam and Isobel came filing in my door, each with takeout food and wine in their hands. “I thought we were going out, I got all fancied up.”
“Well, we thought about it, and none of us wanted to be the designated driver, we all deserve to get drunk, so we’re eating in.” Tara said as they started dishing out the food one by one.
There was a bit of everything – Chinese food, pizza, burgers and fries. Jesus, talk about a food party.
“Okay excellent.” You didn’t have to tell me twice, as I slipped off my too high heels, and joined the impromptu pizza and wine party.
Two hours later we were all stuffed and on the happy side of drunk.
“But seriously, I still can’t wrap my head around marrying a stranger.” Isobel shrugged. “It worked out amazing for you, but what if he was a serial killer or something.”
“I’m not saying he IS but what if he WAS?!”
“Well the past is the past, let’s move on.” I laughed. “No, seriously, guys, I don’t know. It was an instinct. I went with it, it worked out.” I said eyeing Pam with a sly smile. She tipped her glass at me before taking a healthy sip.
“Guys, let up okay? Our little Sookie grew up. She realised that the creepy religious guys, or the mommy’s boys weren’t working out for her, so she found a backwoods Viking who’s really, really good at handling his wood.” She said with a giggle causing us all to laugh. She was such a bitch but I loved her.
“What? He is…” Tara justified. “I mean, damn girl at one point I thought Adele was gonna need a doctor!” Tara laughed so hard at the memory she hiccupped, only causing us to laugh harder at her. “Fanning herself thinking all manner of naughty thoughts about your –”
“Stop! Oh my God.” I said laughing before putting my hands over my ears. “No more!”
“What’s Sweden like? I hear the cities are beautiful but he lives pretty rural right, that’s what you said?”
We talked on and off about where I’d been with him, what it looked like and how I enjoyed and loathed my first snow filled freezing Christmas. The tales of how Erik and I kept warm however were reserved for us and us alone. We got very drunk, we ate far too much and it was the most unlonely I had felt in weeks, I had amazing friends and I just had to remember to be as amazing for them when they needed it. They rolled out around two am, and I took a baby wipe to my makeup, not bothered to properly cleanse before slipping into my comfiest Bugs Bunny pyjamas, and taking Sam into bed beside me. I was out in a matter of minutes, the food, the drink all adding to the fact that it was also one of the few nights since Erik had left that I conked out without thoughts of him being so far away.
Except he wasn’t so far away, not that I knew it then of course. All I knew was that there was rattling at the door, shuffling in the hallway and Sam was on the edge of the bed growling like the little warrior he assumed himself to be. I was terrified, that cold chill ran through my body as I woke to the sounds – my head was slightly fuzzy as I was a little drunk still not having had time to proclaim myself hungover after only a few hours of sleep. So, I did what I thought I should do. I grabbed my cell phone and texted my neighbour Kelly from next door if either of us were in trouble or felt unsafe we’d text a coded message and she’d call the police. Kelly was a nurse at our local hospital, and I knew she’d be up late if she was working shifts. After that I lifted the baseball bat from behind my bedroom door and slowly made my way out to the hallway in the dark. I could see the shadow of the person, feeling around for the lamp, Sam was growling at my feel giving me away, but I moved as fast as I could. I aimed for the head of the shadow and gave it my best shot. I swung the bat, and I heard it meet with the other person – the person I assumed was attempting to rob me. Well, they had another thing coming, I thought as I whacked them again and they hit the floor. Three years on the girl’s baseball team in high school served this girl well!
That was of course until I switched on the light, and saw my husband laying on the floor.
“Erik!?” I dropped the bat, and shoo’d Sam out of the way before I got on my knees to inspect the damage done. He was out, but only for twenty seconds or so if I had to guess, but still those seconds felt like hours. He opened his eyes, squinted at me and groaned.
“Jesus Christ woman, what… are you doing?!” He said in English before he started muttering to himself in Swedish. I made out about every third word, none of them pleasant.
“Oh my God…I um… well… I thought you were trying to rob and rape me okay? Sorry! I’m so sorry.” I said before tenderly touching him but thinking better of it and sitting back as he attempted to move. As he did, someone knocked at my door.
I got up and answered forgetting that the five minute text rule was up and Kelly was probably freaking out.
“Hi Kelly.” I said breathless as I opened the door. She looked at Erik on the floor and then to me.
“Jesus Sookie what the fuck you know to text me back!?”
” False alarm. I thought I was being robbed but really my Swedish husband just decided to come back early to surprise me and I guess I almost killed him I don’t even know anymore, I think I’m still a little drunk I don’t know you know?”
She shook her head at me and walked inside, kneeling down to Erik on the floor.
“I’m going to check him over, what did you… a baseball bat?!” she noticed it on the floor.
I nodded sheepishly as she asked Erik to look up and down and she inspected his eyes, reactions and his head. I tried to make myself useful by getting him an icepack which he accepted with a nod. There would be pain and bruising but thankfully it didn’t look like I had done too much damage. She asked that he stay awake in case of a concussion and to call her if anything happened out of the ordinary.
“Another thing, put the bat away okay? I don’t want to come back over her to something like this again. You’ll have people thinking you’re a husband beater.” She said sarcastically smiling at me before she left.
I lingered by the door when she left, just watching him on the couch. I was a horrible wife! But damn if I didn’t have a good arm.
He looked to me then; still we had not greeted each other properly in all the chaos.
“Hi.” He said with a small smile.
“Hi.” I whispered back leaning against my front door.
“You going to stand all the ways over there all night? Come here…” he said with his hand reached out.
I shrugged sheepishly before padding over to him. I realised then I must have looked a mess, my hair in a top knot, my fleece Elmo jammies a size too big, no makeup, probably still drunk. What a sight to come home to.
I took his hand as he laid down the icepack and pulled me to him. I was straddling his lap in seconds cradling his head in my hands as I kissed the rapidly forming bruise tenderly.
“I’m so sorry…” I said before kissing him properly, revelling in the moment as I had missed this, and him so very much.
“Do not be.” He chuckled when we pulled back from our kiss. “I now know my wife can kick all the asses, even in dark hallways. This is good.”
It made me laugh before I buried my face in his neck as we just hugged it out. God I had missed him. His strong back, his Erik smell, his strong almost lung crushing hugs.
“Hi.” I said again checking his face for bruises. He’d grown out the mountain man beard in my absence, I knew this from our video chats, but it was a whole lot more homeless looking in person. I tugged on it a little.
“You know, you don’t look like you, even shadow you looked homeless I’m just sayin’.”
“You don’t like my beard…?” He asked before rubbing it all over me causing me to laugh and wriggle. “Oh no, I’m sorry attacking you with the scratch…” He laughed. Sam who had sniffed around him for about ten minutes was now bored on his mat by the door and looking at us with his usual fluffy distain. My boys were back together and it was awesome.
Some ten minutes after our cuddle time stopped long enough for me to get to the kitchen and heat up some of the leftover takeout food for both of us, Erik came in with one of his duffle bags.
“Here… the flower shopping section was not open so I got you these… see? Tiny deodorants and shampoos, very handy.” He nodded all proud and it made me laugh, they were handy though.
“Aw, tiny Pantene, thank you… just what I needed.” I smiled before standing on my tip toes to kiss him in thanks. “The pills working? Still sore?”
“Little bit but not so much now there is food and you…and tiny shampoos. I love these they make me feel like a giant.” He said holding one up making me giggle.
“You are a giant you fool.” I nudged him with my hip, bringing out plates from the microwave. “Sit. Eat.”
We were acting as if we’d never been apart, that it wasn’t really almost five in the morning and that I hadn’t just whacked him over the head with a bat. I loved this feeling, not that I thought we’d be awkward but I did think there would be more of a transition. We sat and ate in comfortable silence for a few minutes before he went to the living room and grabbed the throw blanket that sat on the couch, piled our plates, and grabbed my hand dragging us to the back porch, to sit.
“I like the sunrises here too. Let’s see it.”
It was sweet, sickeningly so, and a year before I would have scoffed at couples that did stuff like this, but that was then, and this was now. And now I was one of those people that didn’t scoff who instead found it adorable. So, we sat under our blanket, eating our now cold pizza, and snuggled as the sun hit the hills behind my house and slowly rose for the new day.
“Welcome home.” I whispered finally after a few seconds of silence. He squeezed me closer and wrapped the blanket tighter around us both.
Peaceful didn’t even cover it.
Waking up next to her later that day was glorious. Just her being there in the space where she hadn’t been for so long, it made me spoon her tighter for a few more seconds, just enjoying her smell and the sound of her being next to me deep in sleep. The night before had been eventful to say the least, head injuries aside, we had spent the early hours eating and watching the sun come up before we took a shower – sex free because I was ‘airplane gross’ apparently – before we all but fell into bed. We kissed and fooled around but in truth as much as I was so happy to be touching her and to be touched; we were both dead on our feet. We assured each other that there was ‘plenty of time for that’ before we all but passed out at around seven am – and there was time for that – three times the next afternoon.
After I got back things got chaotic fast, Sookie was working overtime because of weddings – six in three weekends meant a lot of flower arranging and a lot of stressed brides. I took over in the shop with the orders and the payments, doing what I had done for my grandfather for years as a teen, freeing Sookie and Jessica up to get their arrangements perfect. The baseball bat story was one told often in my first few days back, as her friends showed up to welcome me back and we hosted and went out to a lot of dinners – so much so I swore I had gained weight since being back. American portions were so overly large too, and well, so was my mouth. The best part of being back though was her, and our times together. And even if I’m being overly honest, I missed Sam too. The little fucker had grown on me and now we were sort of a team. Well, we were a team until Sookie saw me feeding him the fat off my meat at dinner and there was an argument about his health and how she assumed I was unconsciously trying to kill our dog.
It was a thing, and Sookie gets mad faster than any woman I’d ever known.
But, logic won over in the end, and I agreed to stop feeding him the scraps…when she was not at home to see it. She didn’t know about the last part, but Sam did. We had a code. I’m pretty sure it was a code anyway.
“Erik can you load these into the car for Mrs Stevens?” Sookie called from the back room coming out with the last dozen roses. There were twelve in total and all pink, heading to the elusive Mrs Steven’s home for her party that afternoon. She was a sweet old woman but very wealthy and thus snobbish in her manner to someone she viewed as ‘foreign’ even after I told her I was married to Sookie she still didn’t believe me.
“That’s fine.” She said as I finished loading and I noticed an IKEA catalogue in her front seat.
“You should not buy from there. Not good quality at all.”
She raised her brow.
“It’s my granddaughters actually, she’s heading off to college and needs a few things, and personally I wouldn’t dare. My home is my heart and I would never fill it with things someone else may have.”
“All the things? I mean furniture is important but like… rugs and stuff?”
She pursed her lips so I carried on, even if I was confused by her hyperbole.
“I made furniture, back home in Sweden; it’s a family business many years. I agree that things should be … unique there. In the home. Ikea is not unique, even though my wife she would live in it if she could.” I sighed, I knew she wanted to make a trip again soon, and since I was back, I would probably have to go. Into that annoying maze of mass production. Ugh.
“You know, my husband and I are on the lookout for new porch seating… is that something you used to do? Were you good?”
I folded my arms, knowing I was the best with my grandfather.
“Extremely the best. I can show you pictures of our items if you like. In facts…” I pulled out my phone and showed her the photos of our last piece for the neighbour’s son. It was a rocking chair for his wife.
“Oh my, that is stunning. Erik was it?”
“Yes Mrs –”
“Ellen please.” She smiled and suddenly the years almost melted from her face.
“You have a nice smile, Ellen.” I complimented and she blushed, I didn’t meant to make her blush but I was glad the compliment made her feel that way.
“Oh, dear boy… listen… Your Sookie has my details, she is my regular florist after all, she’s wonderful and there’s no faffing about with her. I trust if you’re interested in doing this for us you’d send us more photos… and pricing of course… we’d pay you well you know.”
Given how much the woman dropped on flowers it didn’t surprise me that she’d pay well for furniture. The difference is, mine would last her the rest of her life, Ikeas… psh.
“Excellent expect the e-mails, I will come by?”
“To see, of course yes. We’ll organise a time and everything for that, next week perhaps at your convenience of course.”
I nodded and closed her car door then, opening the driver’s seat and waited until she got in to close her door. She drove off with a wave and another smile, and I walked back into the shop with a job, a real job and a huge smile that even Jessica noticed.
“You flirting with old Mrs-”
“No… well maybe a little, but also I have a job a real one. Sookie?” I called to the other room.
With that Sookie poked her glasses glad nose out of the office.
“I got a job, a real life one.”
“Hey, this is a real job, it’s MY job.” Jessica pouted returning behind the desk with a scowl but I ignored her and filled Sookie in on the news. She was of course thrilled for me.
“Oh!” Her eyes widened and she smiled before hugging me, we went into her office to discuss it she was beyond happy for me. She knew I liked to keep myself busy, and even just a week of enjoying life and her was enough but also not, and only she knew what that meant.
And something did, a week later I was at the Steven’s home, even though mansion would have been a better word for it, measuring up and looking at her material options. I gave her my time and my budget, which I knew was high, but the quality of what she would receive, would match and she seemed to know this. We agreed and off I went.
“And you just married, just like that?” Lucy asked me, as she had just about every other question under the sun in the four hours I had been there that first day, and the days to follow. Lucy was Mrs Steven’s granddaughter, she was sixteen and pretty, but sheltered, so it was expected that she’d want to talk to the ‘new’ person hanging around their massive home.
“Just like that.”
“And you guys are still together?”
“Almost a year now.” It would be a year in May; it was now almost the end of March. “And yes, still together, working out the kinkiness.”
She burst out laughing, I think I was wrong.
“Kinks. Is what I meant, okay?”
“It’s okay, I get that you’re probably working out a lot …of things with her…” she looked me up and down, and suddenly I remembered what it was like to be sixteen.
I coughed but continued the sawing, making sure my measurement were correct.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?” I asked as she kept on watching, making me uncomfortable.
“I guess… I cut out early though, I had things to do here, besides my dad he’s head of the school so none of the teachers would dare say anything to me.” She smiled.
“He’s the… principle huh?”
“He is we’re staying here until our house gets renovated, it’s much nicer than ours and I like it better here…” she smiled at me, and I hoped I wasn’t the reason why she liked it better here.
“It’s posh that’s for sure.”
“Grandma likes posh, that’s for sure.”
“She does, that is why you should probably go to the things you have to be doing… I need to work.”
“I’m bothering you?”
“No… well… no but still… she might not like you talking it up with strangers.”
The girl sighed then, rolling her eyes.
“She doesn’t like me talking with any guy, stranger or not.”
“Smart woman.” I noted, cutting off a large piece of the base from the saw.
“If your mother had said that to you or Sookie’s grandmother to her… you both wouldn’t have met!”
I furrowed by brows at her then.
“I’m not sixteen and neither is Sookie.”
The next couple of days were the same, she would appear and disappear as I got the majority of the base laid, I might need help when it came to the fencing, but Sookie assured me that Jason would help with that which I was grateful for.
Walking with Sookie and Sam that weekend I finally brought up the subject of the girl.
“I think Mrs Steven’s granddaughter has crushes on me.” I said as we stopped by the side of the park to let Sam sniff a tree.
“What? Isn’t she like ten?”
“Oh…I forget people grow when you forget they exist. It’s Lucy right?”
“Aw well its sweet she has a crush.”
I stopped again, this time to look at her.
“Ah, you thought I’d be mad?”
Well, maybe a little?
“I don’t know…maybe?”
“Should I be? I mean do you have a crush on her?”
I was shocked at that, even with her super sarcastic tone.
“Definitely not, she’s sixteen!”
“Some of those girls today though dude, they don’t look sixteen …” she said in a manly voice, clearly mocking. I nudged her with my hip them knocking her off her walk with a stumble.
“Hey! Ass! I was joking.” She said, nudging me back but having no effect on me because she is a tiny woman and I am not. “If I have nothing to worry about then its fine, just … I don’t know… keep it light so she doesn’t get the wrong idea.” She shrugged being no help what so ever.
“When I had sixteen I had crushes and I would just… not stop even if there was no wrong ideas.”
“When I were sixteen.”
“When I … okay fine wrong words are wrong this is not the point right now!”
“The point is you’re freaking out the girl has a crush on you, but come on dude, my gran has a crush on you, hell, PAM has a crush on you and she’s gay. So, I think you just have to accept that all women find you cute or hot or fuckable or all of the above….it’s hard life.” She smiled.
I was still perplexed.
“You’re cold woman Sookie Stackhouse.” I said smiling but she frowned. “Wait no… cool. Cool woman not cold.”
Then she smiled.
“Come on Swede, this cold woman wants a cold drink!”
Jesus, I really needed to break out the Rosetta once more, my words were starting to get me into more trouble than usual!