After about fifteen minutes of pleasantries and tea, we got down to why she was there. She assured me there would be more ‘social’ calls if we wanted to stay in touch, and I was sure I did. Isabel didn’t choose friends without some serious thought and the fact that Pam had lasted as long as she had in her circle said something about her in a great way. The business call was why she was here now, and with a freshly showered Erik finally joining us, we got down to the reasons.
“Breaking it down, Sookie, I owe Erik money, you owe me money.”
“No, I told you, I don’t want her paying for this …”
Erik interrupted and I knew why, he was being sweet and trying to get me out of ‘paying for him’ as he saw it. Nevertheless, there was no need.
“Honey, it’s fine, really. Look, you may not have fully understood what you were signing up for here, but I did. Pam did her job and deserves to be paid for such.”
“Right.” Pam agreed because why wouldn’t she?
“I still think it is wrong.” He stated, sitting back on the couch now, I ignored his pout.
“How much do I owe you, Pam?”
She brought out documents from her spiffy little folder to check.
“I told you that you were getting the friend discount, so all in all six thousand.”
I wondered how much it was without the discount, no wonder Pam lived in Prada.
“Pamela, that is ridiculous –“
“No, Erik, seriously it’s fine. I don’t mind, wasn’t it worth it?”
With that, he visibly relaxed.
“Yes, it was worth so much more that this… but I just think it is like prostitutional services!”
Both Pam and I looked at him then. I had not known he had felt that strongly about it.
“Erik I assure you, at no point in time were you ever being ‘pimped’ like a hooker, none of my clients were sent to you with the expectation of anything other than what you were willing to do and how far you were willing to go yourself. I am the messenger of sorts, I am no pimp.”
I could see how upset it made Pam to be thought of in such a way, I really just wanted this over with.
“I’ll pay you, really it’s fine.” I had known from the start it would be a significant amount of money, I guess that is what a 401k was for right? Paying someone to find you a husband.
“I do owe Erik money too –“
“I do not want it.” He butted in before she could finish, clearly still on his ‘I’m not a hooker’ mood swing. It was sweet, odd that he never fully ‘got’ what was going on, or maybe he just didn’t want to think about it that way. He was a smart man, how he could have missed the signs, I would never know.
“Okay.” I began. “How much do you owe Erik?”
Pam looked again.
“Five thousand dollars.”
With that, Erik looked at me, and then he sat up.
“Fine. You can take the money owed to me for whatever it is owed … Sookie I didn’t marry those other women I promise that.”
Was that was what he was worried I would think? I just smiled.
“I know, it’s okay, we talked about this, remember?” We had, back in Sweden.
“Yes, I know, but I would just like to reassured you once again that I was not a man hooker for hire!”
“I knew it; this is what I get for signing up drunken Swedes. I knew I should have talked it over with him sober, but as soon as I woke up the next morning the person at the desk said you had checked out and were off on a damn boat. How was I to know you didn’t know?” She exclaimed in frustration and I cannot say I really blame her.
“Pam, Erik, it is fine really. Erik you do not have to pay for this, I can pay for it, I want to. I signed up for this, it’s my thing.”
“Yes but now that money comes to me when it could just go back to her and we could both pay extra five hundred dollar and have it all circled off.”
“Really? You’d want to do that?”
“Yes. I was not expecting payment, and I do not like ideas of you paying ‘for me’ in such ways. I do not care what she say, it is hookierish in nature and I am no woman’s hooker.”
Except for that one time he accidentally slept with a hooker. I guess he had a lot of feelings on the issue. Either way I wanted it resolved.
“Fine, if that’s what you want to do to get this over with, great. I still do not mind paying the full –“
“Is that acceptable, Pamela?”
“It’s Pam and yes. It’s coming from the same place anyway, a thousand cancels out what you owe the company now, and that’s it all done and dusted.”
This seemed to satisfy him, his face finally fully relaxed.
“Excellent. I hate money discussions.”
He really did, even at the store when things are a percentage off the price he will not remind the sales girl, it was odd.
He breathed a sigh of relief when we both gave her cheques for the amount needed to sort things out, and in truth, she breathed a sigh of relief too.
“You guys are my last coupling for a while; I’m taking some personal time from the company.”
“Oh, that’s nice though, I mean, it’ll give you a shot at slowing down. Is’ says you work too hard and I really believe her.”
“Yes, and with my mother being ill and I just realised I want to make the most of my life and not be so overly committed to my work. I have girls who run it for me when I’m not there to do it myself, and as it stands I’ve sorted all the couples I had in limbo, you guys were my last. So, a break is just what I want. Just to hang out and breathe.”
“Maybe focus on your own life for a changes?” Erik asked and she nodded.
“Yeah, exactly. Maybe find myself someone, if hell manages to freeze over.” She laughed and pushed her hair behind her ear, but I knew that laugh, I knew that tone. The one where you were so used to lying to yourself and to others with sarcasm to hide how alone you really felt. It was not a fun head space to be in that is for sure.
“How about we go out for dinner, to celebrate then?” I suggested out of nowhere really.
“Really?” Pam asked but she seemed hopeful.
“Yeah I mean we’re one of your successes, right? And it’s your last ‘case’ for a while, I say we all need to just relax and enjoy the moment.”
She shrugged with a smile.
“If you’d like, I could eat. Erik?”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
I nodded all these of us smiling.
“Great, just let me take a quick shower and get changed and we can hit up my friend Lafayette’s place. Well, I say his place; he’s the head chef there so it’s so of his, but not really.” Since the wedding Erik and I had been making more of an effort to stop being the newly wed shut-ins that we’d accidentally become, and we’d made it out with friends almost twice a week since then, it had been good for us and for me.
I could not go with the possible stink of sex in the air though, no matter how quickly I had washed my hands and face and spritzed perfume around before I answered the door to Pam, I wasn’t gross!
I wanted to make Erik’s time here as social as we could make it, it was helping me come out of my homemade shell too, which was such a good thing. I used to be a lot more outgoing than what I had become since I had taken on the business, it was not that I worked twenty-four hours a day or had this super demanding business. But it was just that as my dating options depleted into the weirdos’ that this world had to offer, I found myself caring less and less about getting done up and sitting in a bar with my friends trying to ‘bait’ men. It wasn’t what I wanted, of course it’s not knowing what I really wanted that led me to Erik, running away from the norm had led me straight into his arms.
A taxi cab, starter course and three very quickly downed margaritas later, Pam was regaling me with her story of how she met Erik and how exactly she managed to rope him into ‘her web’ she said as she cackled drunkenly. Apparently, drunkenness was a theme in their odd friendship/working relationship. Erik was drunk and just out of a rather dramatic breakup, fed up finding women on his, and in swooped Pam with her offer. She had really only sent him a few in a few years, because he seemed distant, but I seemed perfect for what was going to be either her final attempt or one of her final attempts.
For my sake, I was glad she gave him another shot.
By the time, Lafayette was finished his shift we were all, for the lack of a better term, a little bit shit-faced. He and Pam became fast friends that night and they both led us down a path of shots and singing!
There was karaoke, and more shots of course and he encouraged it even more when he joined our table. We all were too drunk actually, so drunk that we managed to get Erik to sing. His rendition of Abba’s Waterloo is not something I could forget, no matter how much I wanted to!
By the time we crawled into our new and much sturdier bed that night, we were not able for much else other than deep sleep.
By the next Friday, I had successfully finished flowers for a wedding, a christening and a funeral, Jessica and I were both feeling the strain of all three occasions in the one week, new beginnings, and sad endings all around. It might have seemed strange, I knew we were just providing the flowers, but I liked to think we added a little something special to each occasion, even if it was just to prettify the surroundings and cheer everyone up.
I had talked to Jess about the Hoyt situation, and she had, after some coaxing come clean to me that her Hoyt was in fact not the Hoyt we all thought she was dating. I told her that it was wrong, that he was taking advantage of her even if it seemed like he wasn’t – he was. He was so much older and he knew how to play women, I hated the idea of her first love and subsequent heartbreak coming from that douchewad.
She promised me she would stay away from him, as long as I did not tell her mother. It wasn’t my business to get involved at all, and I knew that. I also knew how much it sucked when other people got up in my business, especially my love life. But, she was still seventeen, so I spent many a day debating with myself if keeping quiet was the best thing for everyone. It was hard to know sometimes.
I had not seen Tara in weeks, and it was getting beyond stupid as far as I was concerned, so after work that Friday, I knew she’d be in the store doing her inventory, and I decided to call around before she shut up shop. Needless to say things were awkward as fuck.
“Hey.” I said coming in as she was closing out the register. Looking up she seemed surprised, then possibly a little mad.
“Hi. Remembered the way here then?”
And so it set the tone.
I wasn’t here for her shit.
“A little like you forgot the way to my place, or my phone number then? I guess so.”
We both stood there, clearly a ton of tension between the two of us, none of it good.
“We need to talk, Tara. You know we do. Or maybe we don’t and we let this fester and kill our friendship. I’m here to talk but if we do is up to you.”
She sighed, bagging the cash and switching out the lights.
“Come through to the back, I have coffee.”
By the time the coffee was brewed neither of us had said a word to each other still.
“So,” I said taking my seat at the small kitchen table that took up some of Tara’s break room.
“What’s the deal, Tara? Why the personality transplant.”
“I don’t know what you’re –“
“You do, please don’t lie, and don’t make this out to be all my fault either. Because we know this is something you’re taking real issue with and I just don’t know what it is to address it.”
She was silent.
“Is it Erik? Is that what it is about, you don’t approve or something?” I was beginning to see slowly, that other people’s approval mattered very little at the end of the day, but I still yearned for it. Human flaws an all that, I guess.
“No. I approve, I do. He’s a great guy from all I’ve seen and I am happy for you.”
“You don’t see happy for me… I mean was I not a good friend to you? Have I not supported you through everything? Failed men, failed jobs, and failed women even… I have been there cheering you on and helping you up and celebrating when you needed a friend. I guess I’m just hurt you don’t seem to want to reciprocate.” I admitted fearlessly even if my hands were shaking under the table.
“I am happy for you, Sook. I guess I’m just not happy for me.”
I did not get it.
“Well I mean here you are after having waited for ‘the one’ for so long, in more ways than one, I mean you never settled for the shit you were offered here and I really admire that. I think I… I think I settled.”
“I mean it was okay, until Erik came along, it was. But then here’s this guy, this good looking European guy who sweeps you off your feet and that’s amazing really, but then I think, there’s JB who’s idea of a date was taking us to donate blood because it meant getting tea and cookies for free.”
She sighed and I fought the urge to laugh even thought I felt bad. Because seriously, blood donation as a date? Even with the scientologist, it never got to that.
“I’ve been with this guy six years, Sook and I practically had to force him to ask him to marry me. You meet Erik and within weeks you’re not only dating or engaged, but actually fucking married.”
I understood then, she was jealous, but she just did not want to be.
“Shit, Tara… I’m sorry things aren’t how you want them to be really I am.”
“And it’s not something you should be apologizing for either, Sookie, this is my deal my issue and I’m sorry I’m been so off. I’ve just been so sad… and I feel pathetic for it, but there it is.”
“Are you feeling like its settling?”
“ A little.”
Not good at all.
“Well, my advice would be if that’s the thinking it’s not meant to happen. You are better than a girl that settles for something she is not a hundred percent happy with, and he’s better than the guy the girl settles for. He’s someone’s idea of perfect, and if that’s not you, then that’s okay.”
We did not say anything for a while then, she was clearly deep in thought and I was deep in her homemade cookie selection.
“I just wanted it to be different, to feel… different.”
“I know. I mean with Erik I felt nothing but fear half the time was I doing the right thing, was he, and what were we thinking? Could we possibly be in fact, completely mental? All of those things.”
“I still think that from time to time, but the rest of the time I think of how much happier I am when he’s around, how much more ‘me’ I feel, and that outweighs any of the doubt. I mean, I’m sure he has his doubts too, it’s been a huge deal for him, moving so far, knowing no one an all.”
“But, I think we both know that we’re better together than without each other, it’s cheesy and I swore I wouldn’t become one of those people who gushed over her husband, but it is what it is and while it’s very early days I feel like I know his character at this point.”
When she was silent, I continued.
“I’m not going to tell you what you should do for definite, only you know that. I will say though if JB is the person I think he is, then he’s a good enough guy he just might need some romance training. And besides, he can’t do things for you if he doesn’t know you want them; he’s not a mind reader.”
“I guess you’re right… you are.”
“So maybe just talk it out with him? I talk to Erik about everything that’s bothering me, and he only has the basic grasp on English at times!” I chuckled.
“Hey, sometimes I think JB has the basic grasp on it too.” She laughed too.
Our version of English was special, you could say.
“Talk to him, and if the things that are wrong are deal breakers then you have to break the deal, but don’t do anything rash if you can help it, Tara.”
She and JB were a good match, but JB being a mamma’s boy and having his head up his ass half the time convinced me that they just needed to hit restart on a few aspects of their relationship. Not that I was an experiment at any means, but it was mostly just common sense after all.
By the time Halloween rolled around Sookie and I had begun counting down until my departure, not externally but internally I knew with every morning I woke up my time with her was limited until The United States Government told me it was okay to come home to my wife.
It sucked, but it was what it was and we both were trying hard to accept things as they were. We couldn’t fight the law, not on this, and it was meant to be mere weeks, but even at that it just seemed too long.
Sookie was a huge fan of Halloween, I personally had never really seen the big deal, but then Sweden wasn’t as big on the celebrations as America, and as I found out, they went ALL out for Halloween. Houses were decorated even more so than what I imagined for Christmas, there were ghosts hanging from trees, witches in the front yards, and a pumpkin on just about every flat surface you could think of.
It was… interesting.
The best part of it all though, the candy.
I mean I knew it was for the children, but it didn’t mean that some of it couldn’t not have also been for me.
Sookie assured me I would get sick, and of course, she was right. By the time we were dressed to go to Isabel’s annual Halloween Party, I was suffering from a serious case of gummy tummy.
My wife and debated a lot in the weeks coming up to Halloween if we should go the cheese-tastic route and do ‘couple’s costumes’ or go as something vaguely connected but not so obvious. Apparently, Sookie suffered some anxiety in becoming ‘one of those’ couples that try too hard and fall flat on their failed faces. She didn’t want us to be one of those, so the debate lasted at least two weeks before we went costume shopping.
In the end we decided on something simply obvious, at least Sookie thought so.
I ended up as Thor, and she decided she wanted to be Captain America. They weren’t really a couple, except Sookie said on the internet that everything got coupled up, so we figured why not? That, and it fit us perfectly given our history, and I was also asked ‘who said a Captain had to be a man?!’. It was hard to argue with her after she altered the hot-ass costume on herself.
Of course, we barely made it to the party on time, it wasn’t really my fault she looked that good in blue white and red spandex, it was not my fault at all!
“You guys, finally!” Pam said as we entered her house, she had invited the entire city it seemed like, her place – her large sprawling, amazingly modern place, was packed to the brim with Batmen and Cat women, Woody’s and Bo peeps, there was an endless list of ‘slutty’ versions of things too which was cool I guess.
“Sorry there was traffic.” Sookie lied as she discreetly took my hand off her ass. It made me smile. We had been together now since the end of May when we first met and so much had happened in such a short span of months. But I knew it was all for the betterment of our lives. I hadn’t been as happy anywhere but with her, and I hoped the case was reversed also and she felt the same. Sookie was now someone who seemed so much more confident in herself, more self-assured even in the way she walked. I was not so cocky as to think that being with me was the sole reasoning for the change in her, but I liked to think that being secure with us had a positive effect on her inside as well as the smile she wore on the outside. We mingled the party for some time, I met people who worked for Pam who gave me a knowing look as I told them who I was there with, and they congratulated me several times. It was slightly embarrassing but they meant well and it did not seem so false. So, I enjoyed myself. I met up with Lafayette and Isabel as Sookie talked with a tall brutish looking man and a waifish blonde, animated and smiling I was glad to see her coming out of her shell, as Adele had called it.
“Erik you’re a big guy, right?” Lafayette asked as I made my way into the kitchen. They had snacks.
“I am told so.” I smirked and it made him laugh, before I popped a mini pizza into my mouth.
“Right, well I wanna do a keg stand but no one can manage my fine ass. Be a sweetie and help a brother out?”
“Laf, are you some kid or something… we’re adults! Adults don’t do keg stands!” His female friend who I didn’t know screeched. She had flame red hair and was dressed as a ‘naughty’ nurse.
Otherwise known as a nurse with her boobs half out.
“This adult wants to. What do you say Thor?”
I laughed and indulged him, we almost ended up flat on our asses a few times and once people saw what was happening, more people wanted in. My arms were killing me.
I had a turn, then held three others, and had another turn. Between that and mixing my drinks, I was getting drunk faster than I had anticipated.
It wasn’t until Sookie rounded the corner with a curious look on her face that I stepped away.
“Having fun?” She asked in a tone that implied she knew I was. I just smiled and kissed her.
“A little bits of it, but more of it when you are around like this. I mist placed my hammer.” I had, I was a terrible Thor, and he never would lose his hammer without people taking it from him and throwing it to earth to teach him a lesson.
“Yeah, I forgot where I left my shield too; if we’re invaded we suck.”
“It is fines. I saw a bat man over by the wine if all else goes to fail he can do things with his bat… powers.”
She giggled putting her arms around my neck and sliding up closer to me.
“I’m glad we came tonight, even if it was rather hard to get out of the house.”
“Something was hard but I do not think it was only the leaving of the house.” I answered lowly into her neck as she shivered slightly. Turning Sookie on in public was fast becoming one of my favourite things.
Next to sexing her in public.
“You’re a bad man.” She said a knowing look on her face as she helped me to another beer, and herself to more wine. “Did you see Pam and Tara? They’ve been talking all night, I’ m glad she came.”
I looked over my shoulder and sure enough, Tara and Pam were still talking each other’s ears off, lots of laughing, lots of hand gesturing.
“That is nice. I am glad she you and she are more friendly again.” I nodded.
“Me too, I mean, I know things with her and JB are kind of screwed right now… but I’m glad we’re talking again.”
She whispered then, not that anyone was going to hear us over the music.
“She’s unsure about marrying him; she thinks she’s ‘settling’. I told her if that’s what she thinks then maybe she shouldn’t do it. But, they’ve been together a long time and if what she told me is true, then I think they both need to take a long hard look at where they are going with things.”
“Being together long times isn’t just the signs that the time together has to go on.” My English got shitter the drunker I got, it sucked. It sucked because it had been improving greatly since meeting Sookie and having to use it every day all day.
We continued to enjoy the party that night, I even managed to channel my maturity and hold my wife upside down to the beer keg. She assured me as a Southern girl it was not her first handstand. I was oddly proud; none of the other women were women enough to trust their men not to drop them.
The party was bittersweet for us in some ways, because we knew in two short weeks; our time together – at least for the time being – would be over.
I had to go back to Sweden.