Getting off the plane at the airport in Sweden, I had the urge to kiss the ground. I really did not like flying in the planes, I liked it less so with freakish snowstorms and lots of turbulence. I had befriended a woman named Hilda who sat next to me, and on the other side of her was her husband Harold. They had been married over forty years, and I felt like I knew their life story by the time the plane from London landed in Stockholm. I told them of my tale, my new life in America with my new wife and all that we had gone through so far in such a short time. They listened and nodded and ‘awed’ at appropriate times, they also told me their tales of how hard married life could be sometimes, and that it was okay to feel that it wasn’t as easy as everyone pretended it was. But also they spoke of what mattered most is that you stayed true to who you were when you married even if you grow, you must grow together. I knew that Sookie would have liked them, and their story and by the time I landed I found I missed my wife even more than I had anticipated, and I had anticipated to miss her very much.
“ERIK! My lovely grandson!” My grandfather embraced me at the baggage claim of the airport in Sweden, a big smile on his face and a cap on his head. He had grown in a grey beard since I had seen him last, and I found it suited him.
“Your parents and grandmother and I are so pleased you are back.” He hugged me again, never one to shy from his emotions. “I am just sorry Sookie was unable to come back with you.”
I sighed. Not as sorry as I was that’s for sure.
“I know, but you all know the reasons.”
“Yes, and valid ones they are too,” he stated grabbing one of my bags even though I protested, “no matter what your grandmother says.”
“She knows she is just being stubborn, Sookie has a job and a business there, much more than I can say for myself.”
“Legally it was not possible, but after you return, I know you will set goals and achieve them.” He nodded confidently. It was one thing Carl Nordmon was not short on and that was confidence. He always assured me I got mine from him. We stopped off in Stockholm for some breakfast and a few drinks and a lot of catching up, I texted Sookie to reassure her of my safe landing and that I loved her and missed her already. The time difference meant she was either asleep or should have been at that hour, and calling her would have only made things worse by waking her. We would spend the night in Stockholm, as the drive home was long and we were both not at our best. I could not wait for the time difference to catch up so I could talk with Sookie again.
We set off for home the next day, in the afternoon, after browsing around the city with my grandfather since he rarely got the opportunity to do so now that he had slowed down at work. The hours and hours drive home was split between us, even though he argued with me about being ‘well and able’ to do it alone as he had driving down. However, even jet lagged I felt too guilty, he was too old and I wanted him to relax. Sookie had called as we were taking off, apparently her workday had been overly busy, and she did not sound too pleased. Nevertheless, she perked right up when she found out that my bumpy flight had landed safe and that Carl was there and on speaker to talk with her as we drove.
“Sookie my darling grand-daughter in law what a pleasure as always.” My grandfather charmed over the speaker, and I heard Sookie giggle on the other end of the phone.
“Always a pleasure to talk with you too, Carl. I hope the drive wasn’t too sore on you, is Erik taking good care of you now?”
“He is yes, as always with the nagging. I do not know how you can put up with him. No wonders you send him back to us.”
She laughed then.
“Now, now, you know you only get him for a little while, right? Until my government sees sense and allows him to come home.”
Carl looked at me then and his eyes almost seemed sad.
“I know we’ll send him back in one piece I promise.”
“That’s good to know!” She said, her voice breaking up with the bad connection as we drove deeper north. “Have a safe drive okay, I don’t want to distract you anymore… I know what Erik’s leadfoot is like now.” She laughed making him laugh and making me smile.
“It is not lead.”
“Just heavy as hell then?”
“You’re not funny.” I deadpanned.
“No, I know I’m hilarious you don’t need to validate me. But listen, Skype me when you get home too, okay?”
Another home. Had I two homes now, was that even possible?
“I will, we will talk then.”
“Yes, in private and probably without his pants.” Grandfather interjected sending Sookie into another fit of laughter because she bid us good bye and we all hung up.
We were both silent in the car for a few minutes after she left us, it was as if Sookie’s presence was still in the car causing us both to get lost deep in thought.
“She is a good woman, happy, and you love her a lot.” He stated more than asked.
“That is good news, just tell them that and they will worry less for you.” I knew who they were, they were my parents. They were always worrying. Even if my father was absent, most of my life he was off working on oil rigs or on trawler boats for months on end, I knew he still worried for me as I worried for him, as we both worried for our mother who in turn worried for us both. But, I didn’t want that life for me, for any family I would have. To be an absent father, even just emotionally like him was not what I wanted. I wanted that stupid idealistic white picket fence life, where I kept my wife happy, she made me happy, and one day we had children who would make us happy and who we would keep happy. At least of course, until their teen years when they would hate us regardless of whatever we did… until their twenties when they hopefully rediscovered how amazing we were as parents and we were back to happy again. I would not be absent in any sense. Just this small absence from Sookie now was more than enough!
Driving back into town, it was dark and just after nine pm, I was beyond tired and Carl had snoozed on and off since eight, we were more than glad to be home again. The town looked as familiar as of course it should. The same bars and shops and people and snow, but somehow maybe because I felt different now, it did too. We were both silent as we dragged our tired bones from the truck, into the house where my mother, father, grandmother and friend greeted me. I was dead tired but the happiness I felt in seeing everyone again was something that picked me up more than the three-iced mountain dew’s I had that one time at Sookie’s gran’s house, and then I didn’t sleep for two nights! There were so many questions from all directions, from my grandparents to my mother and my father and all my friends as we sat, ate, and caught up on life that had passed in the months since I had gone to America. It was a happy time, but one person was missing and from now on if she was not there she would always be the one person missing from any party. I talked of her in almost every sentence, showed many photos on my phone, and noticed too that my grandparents had our photos up on the wall now with the rest of the family; it made my heart happy to see our wedding photo next to my parent’s photo.
“Do you like it? What’s it really like?”
“What’s she like at home, is she as nice as she was here or is there an inner crazy person. She is beautiful there has to be crazy!”
“America laws are weird.”
“What’s the candy like over there… What’s the women like over there?”
“You look so TAN! Oh, my god!”
“Did you bring us presents?”
My friends, while was sure they meant well, their line of questioning was insane, and I was so overly tired that I couldn’t even really remember what I told them.
When I called Sookie again, I was a little drunk and overly tired but so glad to hear her voice yet again, it was now too late to Skype, but the next day we had a date to do just that, and she even insisted I wear no pants. I would definitely wear no pants, if she would wear none too. And by pants I mean the euro version of the term and she would be underwear free for our Skype call, she agreed reluctantly with a giggle before we bid each other goodnight.
I would make sure no one else was home for that.
By the end of my first week without Erik I had gotten used to the semi-sleepless nights – apparently now I was just used to him in bed next to me, and used to his slight snore, which I was even surprised I missed too. I had kept myself busy though, work was picking up since the florist that used to nab our business relocated to a more upscale part of the city, and while I hoped to one day be the one relocating, for now I was happy where I was. Jess and I had a frank and rather heated talk about her and Hoyt – again – resulting in a rather silent work place, I had hoped if I talked to her enough about that, she would see sense. But, she was seventeen and in love, what I said didn’t matter at all to her then. Tara, Pam, Isobel and I hung out a lot that first week, I think it was rather sweet how worried they seemed for me, with Erik gone, but it really wasn’t all that necessary. I mean, sure, I was an emotional mess and our phone bills were probably huge already with all the texting we did throughout the day, and with Skyping at night we saw each other every day but we didn’t really ‘see’ each other.
Erik seemed so happy to be home, but with a healthy side of guilt for my absence, I never wanted him to feel that though. If he was happy to be home, he should revel in that happiness, missing me and being happy to be home did not have to be mutually exclusive. By the third week though, I was feeling the strain a little harder as the world embraced the Christmas build up, and I was alone and depressed while my love was on the other side of the world. I knew Erik was feeling similar, but we hid it well when we talked, we always tried to focus on the positive and tell each other all the stories of our days apart. He had taken up fishing again with his dad, taking the boat out as far as they could for a couple of days, coming back with a lot of fish and crab, making his mother and grandmother busy with fish pies and all manner of fishy meals. The man could chow down on a plate of muscles like no other, that’s for sure. So I knew he was enjoying being back in the land of fresh-fresh fish too. He had told me tales of his friends, and how they had been encouraging him to go out with them more than he really wanted to. He said he just wished for the call from me that said his visas were granted and that he could come back. I wished for that too, but for the time being we were making do, like so many other couples throughout the world.
Jonas, and Lucas, Emil, and Emilie, Sara and Rita joined Erik and I for our nightly Skype one night. They were heading to the bar, there was a soccer… football match on and it was their ‘thing’ now that Erik was home. Nevertheless, they wanted to talk with me – or mores the point to tease Erik and me about our relationship, it was cute but of course, I felt the pangs of jealously, though I didn’t let them take me over.
“Sookie you must come back, we had such fun last time and really we will have the fun again!” Rita bellowed, her dark red lips making her perfect teeth appear even whiter than in person, everyone was fighting for camera space to wave and blow kisses at me. Erik just rolled his eyes and looked adorably embarrassed at their behaviour and of course prying questions.
“That is unless he’s got you pregnant. That’s not why you stayed right?!” Lucas asked nudging Erik like boys did. It was my turn then to roll my eyes.
“Don’t worry Lucas, I promise you’ll be Erik’s first baby mamma…”
My sarcasm caused all the girls to ‘oohh’ at him and laugh; he just stuck his tongue out at me before kissing Erik dramatically on the cheek and raising his beer to me.
“Touché, Mrs Nordmon!”
We bid our goodbye’s like a ridiculously cringe-worthy couple, complete with kissy noises just to annoy his friends, he promised to call me before my bedtime, but I knew when he did the broken English he now spoke would be shattered as he’d be drunk as a fool no doubt. I agreed anyway and we signed off, I had arrangements to work on for the next day and busied myself with them for a few hours, before taking Sam out for a lengthy walk that ultimately led me to Tara’s place.
I noticed many boxes in her hallway.
“Going somewhere?” I asked when she let me in but she just sighed.
“I’m not, but uh, JB is. We … well we broke up.”
“What!? Tara… what the hell? How? When?”
“Like six hours ago, come in. I have wine.” She offered as I let Sam off his leash and free to run around her apartment.
Three glasses of wine later I found out that Tara had feelings for Pam, Pam was being an amazing friend but also a flirty mess and she was just confused as to where her life was going, but she ultimately felt that even if it wasn’t with Pam, it couldn’t be with JB either. She just wanted more out of life. She wanted to see where things went with Pam but wouldn’t nor couldn’t do that while still in a relationship – so she decided to end it. I was proud of her and Pam really for having the sense to do things above board, JB might not have been what she wanted out of life but that didn’t make him a bad guy, it didn’t give her a free cheating pass just because she was confused.
That night I had ended up going home a little tipsy, I even got a cab to take me what would have taken me maybe ten minutes to walk, because well, I sort of couldn’t walk.
Wine was the devil, what could I say?
The very drunk (on both sides might I add) conversations with my husband that night were ones I never wanted to forget, but we both probably would. We confessed our loneliness at being apart and the worry that the visa might never come through, what the future held for him and me and us together and apart when it did come through and how scary it all was that our lives had changed so much in such a short space of time. He told me how different his town felt to him now, how disconnected he felt from it all, he was sure it was just my absence now that made it so but he was worried that it was more than that. I didn’t want him to lose his connection with his home, not ever, so we made a pact that whenever things were getting too much and we needed a vacation, Sweden would be stop one on the map of Sookie and Erik, he seemed to like that idea, the idea of coming back to visit more often. Even though we knew it was expensive, he was sure that once he found his feet in America that he would be able to bring in a decent wage with his trade. I truly hoped that was the case because I knew that Erik was not a man that would allow himself to just sit around all day doing nothing, he wasn’t raised or really even built that way.
I knew if he came back and found nothing, he would slowly go insane and our relationship would only suffer because of it. Neither of us wanted that to happen, so we vowed to jump full steam ahead once he was allowed to come back. We mentioned Christmas and how, we had agreed before he left not to ‘do’ Christmas, because he hoped to be back before then, but my calls to the visa departments bore no fruit as to the status of his applications, so basically we were resigning ourselves to our first Christmas as a couple, apart.
That was not the most fun realisation either of us had ever had, however the Skype sex we had after our conversation was.
Even if I felt vaguely ashamed the next day, I told Tara of course and she cussed me out for being an idiot in thinking such things about myself and that sex, in whatever incarnation with my husband was never something to be ashamed of. The next evening I came home from work to a package on the step, upon opening it I found a note from Tara asking me to some ‘light’ reading and to open my mind. Six books on sex and a dozen website URL’s later, I think it’s safe to say my mind wasn’t the only thing that was open!
I guess Erik was in for a bit of a surprise… or twenty when he got home!