I didn’t understand the Facebook. The pictures were not very flattering, and all the conversation was very small and meaningless. It was nice though, to get a look at my future wife’s life, in America. Last week, she seemed to be attending a birthday party for a small boy.
This week, she would share my bed and fall into deep love with me. It would be more enjoyable than the cake with the cars on it, for everyone involved.
“Erik, why not Ingrid, or Marie? Why must you have this fascination with American women?” my grandmother barked, as she knit by the fire. “There are many girls in town that would love to be your bride, and would be a better match.”
“I want to go and be my own man, and have an adventure,” I replied, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “I will bring Sookie to meet you in a couple of days, and you will like her as much as I do.”
“Pfft,” she replied, shaking her head. “You think life is like the movies in America. It’s not.”
“I don’t think that.” I shrugged. “I think it’s very different from here.”
When I’d decided to try online dating, with some help from this wonderful woman that I met in Stockholm a few years ago, I never could have imagined the adventures I’d have with the women that she was kind enough to give my information to. Pam was a good friend, helping me understand American women and how to date them. I’d had several American girlfriends, but never had I been so certain that I’d found someone special as I was when she sent me Sookie’s information.
I made sure to talk about marriage a lot too, just like Pam told me I should. The other women, they didn’t like it when I wouldn’t marry them in one week, but I didn’t like them so much, and it seemed like they were expecting very different things from me. There was something about Sookie that might have been different though. She had a lovely smile, and Pam had told me that she was very innocent. I would have to wait and meet her to find out.
It was a six hour drive from my village to Stockholm, where her flight would land the next morning, so I left and drove the night before so I could be well-rested when I claimed her at the airport.
I didn’t like the city. It was very noisy, and the people weren’t as friendly as they were in the country. I’d lived in Stockholm briefly when I was young, but it wasn’t long until I was desperate to return home, to a smaller place where I knew everyone. That was a long time ago though, and I was ready to venture out into the world and experience new things, and I’d told Pam that I didn’t want to meet anyone that lived in a big city.
Sookie was from a very small town, Pam had told me. I liked that about her. I also liked that she sounded uncomplicated, and that she was very beautiful, with a nice figure. She liked flowers, and nature, and those things were important.
My grandmother was right. I could have married a girl from town, continued on the way my family had done for generations, had my children, and settled into regular life.
I’d tried to do that on several occasions. I’d had relationships with many women from my town since I was a teenager, but very quickly, we had nothing to talk about. We had all grown up the same way, knew all the same people, and liked all the same things. I found myself often creating many problems that didn’t exist in order to have some excitement, and women didn’t like that very much. I also found that I had very little chemistry with any of them. Of course, we enjoyed sex, but I also enjoyed sex with myself, and my hand had no personality at all.
Americans and Swedes were very different. I knew that from American television. There would be lots of passion, and disagreements to enjoy making up over. It would be exciting, and if we were as compatible as Pam thought we would be, life would be a new adventure every day.
I decided that I would arrive at the airport appearing as I always did, in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Pam suggested I dress more nicely than I usually did, but I disagreed with her on that point. If a woman was going to fall in love with me, she needed to see me as I usually was. That was advice my father had given me when I was very young.
I didn’t sleep well in the hotel, because I was both excited and a little nervous for the next day. True, I’d had many women come and visit me through Pam, but never had I had Pam be so enthusiastic about one in particular. I purchased some flowers for Sookie early that morning from a street vendor by my hotel. Simple daisies with a pink ribbon. She probably worked with very extravagant flowers every day, and I wanted her to know that I appreciated simple beauty, and that I was not an over the top person. I didn’t want her to love me because of what I could buy her, but because of the person I was.
I wanted love like my grandparents had. The kind that lasted for sixty years without any signs of decay. The kind that challenged you, and made you want to be a better person. The kind that was an extension of you. The kind where you knew what the other person was thinking or feeling, just because you knew each other so well.
I hoped I would be able to find that with Sookie.
“What do you mean ‘vacation’? You never take time off, Sookie.” Jessica said as I informed her of my somewhat seemingly spontaneous plan.
“And to Europe, alone? Sookie, do you really think this is such a good idea?”
No, I didn’t. In fact I was pretty sure it was a horrible idea, and I was setting myself up to be like that girl, in that movie with Liam Neeson being all bad-ass. That I was just flying to this strange land, to be kidnapped by some seemingly handsome Swede, and God knows where I’d end up.
That was me, anxiety girl. Able to jump to the worst conclusion in seconds!
But, this time I had to try. Eric and I had emailed back and forth for hours upon hours that week, and I called him twice. He seemed genuine, he seemed sweet, and he seemed to really value his family. All things I was looking for in a partner, just ones I couldn’t seem to find, around here. So what if I had to go a little further afield to find love, was that so unusual? I was sure if there was a business for it, and Pam was proof that there was a very lucrative business for it, then lots of women had been in my position before. I was not a freak. In this instance at least. I was NOT a freak.
“Yup, I’m sure. I’m due some time off, and don’t worry. I’m having Tara come in and cover for me, you’ll be fine.” Tara was watching Sam too.
“That’s not what I mean, you’re going on vacation alone…that’s a little sad.”
I glared at her, wishing I could just tell her I’d met a man and I was going to see him, but the circumstances weren’t something I wanted to get into. Not with a teenager. “Yeah, well, I’m a little sad. I’m also leaving on Wednesday, so let’s finish off the Winchester wedding flowers, okay?”
After that I spent the next two days internally freaking out. Calling, texting and emailing Pam. Mostly it was reassurance, mostly it was because if I did get kidnapped there was at least one person who knew where I was, and what I was really doing. Catching my flight to New York was one thing, I was a jittery mess of nerves as I took my seat on that first flight. But, by the time I flew out of New York for London, I was feeling a little bit more at ease with my choice.
We were just meeting, after all. Nothing had to happen beyond that. I was going to meet a man that I had spoken with on the phone a few times and shared awkward emails with. If I met him, and we didn’t click, I’d chalk it up to a vacation in Stockholm and consider myself no worse for wear.
At least outwardly. Inwardly, I’d probably continue to feel bad about myself, being unable to even secure a mail order husband. That was a dating fail on a whole new scale.
It was around seven in the morning when I arrived in Stockholm. I had no idea what time it was in Louisiana. I’d slept very little on the plane, both nervous and anxious about what today would bring. I wondered if people ever just knew, when they saw someone that it was the right person for them. Love at first sight, or whatever. Was it a real thing, or was it just lust, and they tried to cover it up by making it sound like something more than that.
I wondered what my deal breakers were when it came to this rather unusual set up, and I decided that they should be the same as they were with any other man I met. I wouldn’t date anyone that was disrespectful, or mean, or didn’t treat me in a way my grandmother would approve of. I wouldn’t date anyone that was lazy, or part of a weird cult, or that didn’t like animals. I wouldn’t date anyone that was unfaithful.
I wanted the kind of love my grandparents had; the kind built on an undying mutual respect for each other, and on a strong foundation of friendship and shared experiences over the years.
I was wrong. He wasn’t short, Eric. Quite the opposite. He was really, really tall. And scruffy, and all man through and through. Great chin, barely hidden beneath the stubble, manly neck and shoulders. Strong arms peeking out from his t-shirt. I swallowed, hard. This guy? At first glance, he made me weak in the knees, the way no one else had at first glance, ever. Maybe I should have come to Sweden years ago. Maybe he’d take one look at me, and turn around and walk the other way.
He didn’t though. He walked confidently towards me, hands stuffed in his pockets and smiled brightly.
“It’s a good morning,” he said, in very accented English. “Welcome to Sweden, Sookie.”
I cleared my throat. “Um, thanks,” I choked out, realizing I probably looked like hell. “It’s…it was a long flight.”
He was holding flowers. They were pushed in my direction. I took them. Daisies. I wondered if he knew what daisies meant in the flower world. The sentiment was sweet, either way.
He cleared his throat too. “I think you should have some food. The airplane food, I hear it isn’t very good. We will go and get you some food.”
I flinched as his hand slid into mine, leaving me to tow my suitcase with the other one. His move surprised me for a couple of reasons. First, I was used to having even the most terrible of guys take my suitcase, and second, it was surprising that he immediately held my hand.
We got to his truck, a faded red, older model with a pick-up style back. It reminded me so much of my brother Jason’s run around that it made me smile. What didn’t make me smile so much was his handling of my luggage, there could have been breakables in there! I thought, as he carelessly threw my cases in the back and strapped them down, after we stood there looking at it for a few minutes, wondering who would put it in the truck. After a somewhat awkwardly silent drive to the city, we found ourselves seated at a little cafe, outdoor seating was a huge thing in Stockholm, even if their ‘Summer’ was as chilly as our Fall. I liked that the people seemed to be making the most of the weather either way.
“Are you hungry?” I asked as we both glanced at the menus, before sneaking peaks at each other in between.
“A little. I had breakfast but was not really in the mood for food then. Now I could eat. How was the flying? The um, the flight?”
I nodded. “It was good, there were three flights. One from home to New York, then from there to London, and finally from London to here. I must admit I’m a little… off centre right now. Time wise.”
“Yes. All muddled up in the air!”
I smiled as the waitress came to take our order, and Erik spoke in fluent, fast, Swedish while she did so.
“Do they get mad if we don’t all speak it so fast? Or… at all?”
He smiled. “No, from what I hear only France does that. The Swedes are not so …rude.”
“Good to know.”
“I think so. When I lived here, lots of English was spoken, to practice. The tourists that come to the village begin … badly too.”
“Ja. It is comical. Funny.”
“I can imagine. What did we order?” I whispered.
“Oh! I ordered tuna salad on the wheatbread for myself, and chicken salad same for you. Is that acceptable?”
The fact that he presumed my order was a little annoying, but it wasn’t something I hated, in fact it was what I was going to order for myself anyway. So, I let it slide.
“It’s fine, thank you.”
With that came the awkward silence, one that both of us fell into as we people watched from our little table on a cobbled side street of Stockholm. I noticed a few things. Almost everyone was tall, or in the range of lanky at the very least. The men liked their grey and black tones, as well as some form of white sneakers. There were the few rebels though that went for colour in their clothes, and black sneakers, but they were few and far between. Another thing I noticed is that the people were striking. Maybe not all of them beautiful, but they all had something… European about them I surmised. Maybe it was just because I was the ultimate tourist in that moment, but it was interesting to observe somewhere new.
“I would like for you to come to my home. Tomorrow, if you would like? I am not so good with all this.” He gestured his hand out towards the city. “I like more open spaces. More fresh air. Less people.”
I understood that. Some people thrived in cities, with the hussle and bussle of all the people, and the noise. Then there were others that felt a little bit more at peace living life at a somewhat slower pace. I realized in my mid-twenties that I was also one of those slower paced people. Shreveport was a city, sure, but not compared to here.
“I know what you mean. I loved living in the big city for a while, but it takes its toll on you, I think. Unless you’re built for it, long term it can be draining. I enjoy the quiet seclusion too, but I think that somewhere there has to be a middle ground, somewhere in between the city noise and the deafening silence.” I ran on, lost in thought for all the moves I made to New Orleans and back again, and the reasons for it.
We talked through our lunch, as I asked about his family, and how he had travelled down, how his trip was and if he normally drove such distances for a date. He assured me he didn’t but that from all he’d seen, he was sure I was worth the effort. I wanted to assume the same, or my three plane rides had been for very little. I offered to pay for lunch, and to my surprise he did not question my offer as most men would have. It took me aback slightly, but I ignored it. Pam did say something about them being big into equality when it came to things like that.
We walked along the water happily as he told me some tales from his time in the city, and what various landmarks were, until he spotted a ice-cream truck and just had to get us some. It was cute how excited he got when he realized they carried the rainbow sprinkles.
“It’s not that I have not been with the women, I have. Many women.”
I wondered just how many was ‘many’ for him. I was scared to even imagine. “But it is just difficult to find things… common things together after the sex. The sex is always great, and for long time, that was all I thought was needed. But, as I grow older, I find… I need more.”
He grinned. “Well, I would never say no to more sex, Sookie.” He looked at me then, not totally dissimilar to how he had been eyeing me before, but there was a subtle shift in his intent. He was sizing me up, and not for the first time that afternoon, I imagined. When he tore his eyes away, he looked out to the water as he continued his talk. “But I want more of the feeling. Connection? To the woman I am sexing. It seems there is a gap between the passion from the sex, and passion for each other outside of sex.”
I nodded even though I had no clue about that kind of connection, since I hadn’t allowed myself to connect.
“What about you? Why did you go to Pamela? You are a very beautiful woman, you have an easy laugh and a honest tongue. American men do not appreciate these things?”
“No, they appreciate it, but I have been… unlucky too. With the connecting.”
Okay so it wasn’t sex, but there was definitely an error somewhere in the computer system that was my personal life. I needed a boost. A reset. An upgrade.
On our little walking tour, we took in all the sites and for this tourist, it was a lot of fun for both me and my camera. Erik seemed amused at my need to document our little adventure, but only jumped in and took the camera off me, to take one of the both of us when we stood outside the Royal Palace, before smiling a big goofy smile and handing it back.
He was a strange one, that’s for sure. But, I think I liked his brand of strange, it meshed nicely with my own. So far, anyway.
The day quickly turned to evening, and after dinner, we stopped in front of a small hotel on the outskirts of the downtown.
“I hope this will be good,” he said, nodding at the hotel. “When you asked me to book, I heard this one was where people liked.”
“I’m sure it’s great,” I said, smiling at him. “And I can pay for your room, since–”
“There is only one room. I have paid,” he said, hopping out of the truck, and handing me my suitcase as he grabbed a small overnight bag, presumably for himself. “It’s a busy time in Stockholm.”
I swallowed, hard. I didn’t know him. He’d anticipated us sharing a room. He’d paid for a room. What was he expecting? What was the proper etiquette? I’d never felt less in control of a situation I should have felt entirely in control of.
He quickly determined that he’d made me uncomfortable, which seemed to make him uncomfortable. “There are two beds, in the room. I do not make such assumptions, Sookie. I am not that kind of–”
“Oh, I didn’t think you were,” I mumbled. “I just–”
“It’s fine, Sookie. I will not bother you if you’re uninterested in me–” He shrugged, seemingly not offended by my seemingly immediate rejection.
“I’m interested in you,” I stammered. “I’m just…it’s so fast.”
He shrugged. “Yes it is, life is too fast sometimes. But in this…case, speed is not so necessary. You are here for a little time, we have some time to get to know. And if it doesn’t…fit. Then we know.”
I nodded at his words as we continued to the front desk, before he leaned down and whispered. “The relationship I mean. Other things, it is large I assure you, but we should have no problem with the fit.” He had a grin on his face and a look of mischief in his eye. I felt the blush sink from my cheeks to my neck as the receptionist bit back her giggle at us both.
“Well that’s … good to know?” I commented making him smile wider as he handed over his details.
“I think it is good thing to know. For the future…of knowing.”
I smiled and shook my head. He had a naughty sense of humour, that for one, was also good to know.
When we got to our room, one that was as minimalist as you could imagine and yet somehow still warm and inviting, all I wanted to do was take a shower and sleep. The journey was slowly catching up with me, and I longed for rest. True to his word there were two large beds in the room, as well as amazing air con. We both awkwardly shuffled around the room, the TV on in the background helped some, but not a lot in diffusing the tension between strangers. Strangers in a very odd situation that they put themselves into. I dug my shower gel and shampoo out of my luggage, as well as my pyjamas.
“I’m going to shower, do you need to use the -”
“No, I am okay. Thank you. I will shower after you if that is acceptable?” He asked from the edge of his bed, digging out a book from his duffle bag.
“Of course. I won’t be long.” I said, grabbing my cell.
When I got to the bathroom, I managed to mass text both Isabel and Pam, alerting them both to my safe arrival. I got a text back from both of them when I stepped out of the shower. Pam telling me to relax and have fun, and Isabel telling me the same, but with a side of caution on everything to begin with. I was glad they cared and it must my mind somewhat at ease knowing they knew the deal of where I was and what was happening.
“I was thinking -” I began as I came out of the bathroom clean and cosy in my pink polka dot sleep shorts and tee, only to find Eric sitting cross legged on the bed in nothing but his rather form fitting boxer briefs. Leaving, I had to admit, very little to my imagination.
So that was how they made them in Sweden.
“You were thinking?” He asked, sitting up, closing his book.
“Uh, um. Yeah…” I rushed to my bed, putting my cell on the charger beside it. “The Katarina thing in town? I’d like to do that tomorrow, before we leave, if that’s okay with you?”
He smiled.“Not so afraid of the heights then?”
“No, not heights, my brother isn’t so fond of them but weirdly I’m okay. Not a huge fan of spiders or water at times though. But I would like to see the city from there, before we leave.”
“There is no problem, I liked to see more too. We will go early, before we have the long drive to my home, is that-”
“That’s acceptable, thank you.” I smiled, handing him my shower gel as he made his way to the bathroom with his neatly folded blue towel tucked neatly under his arm.
He had an amazing butt. Everything else was amazing, but that butt? It was the best one I’d ever seen.
“Something you like?” he joked, catching me oogling him. I had no idea how long I’d been staring.
“Oh…I was just…I’m just tired, and–” I blinked at him, blush spreading over every exposed inch of my skin. “I guess I’m in a bit of a daze.”
He smiled knowingly. “Okay, Sookie. I’ll just be in the shower.”
I flopped back onto the bed, mentally chastising myself for getting caught like that. But then I questioned, why shouldn’t I check him out? He’d spent most of the day oogling my rack, why couldn’t I simply, check out the merchandise? Then I mentally chastised myself for referring to him as merchandise, even in my head I was guilt tripping over nothing. I really needed to relax, and I had, at dinner I was fine. But now, being in such a small space with him, alone. It was an entirely different atmosphere, one I wasn’t sure I was emotionally mature enough to deal with. Ridiculous, I know. But a huge part in why I was the way I was, among other things, I felt like I was emotionally stunted somewhere along the line, and it’s why my relationships suffered. I wanted to change that though, I wanted to put on my big girl panties and play like the rest of the kids. I just wish I understood the game.
I was mostly asleep, curled up on top of the blankets in my robe when I sensed someone standing over me. It took me a minute to realize where I was, and when I opened my eyes I was nearly level with his…stuff. In a towel.
“You’re tired,” he said, smiling down at me. “You should go to sleep.”
I sat up and tugged my robe around me. “It’s early here still.”
“I can entertain myself,” he said. “I’ll watch some television, and you can rest.”
“I’m glad I came,” I said, smiling at him. “I think I needed an adventure.”
“I think we will have many adventures Sookie,” he replied, sitting beside me on the bed, a grin on his face. “I hope we will.”
A/N: Thoughts? 🙂