Christmas and New Year flew by, and soon it was time to go back home. I hated every second of it, the idea of leaving him, his family, even his crazy friends and the nine inches of snow, all of it filled me with dread. I packed my suitcase painfully slowly, as he watched, cup of coffee in hand. We left his Grandmother’s house the day before and checked into a B&B in Stockholm for the night. The drive down was long and tiring, and I wanted at least one day with him alone. It was perfect, just us both, just ourselves to entertain the other. Well, that and a city that I was slowly falling in love with as much as I loved him. Saying goodbye to his family was hard, his grandfather especially. I cried, they cried, hell, even his mom cried – that surprised everyone. I knew it was hard on Erik too, parts of our drive was filled with sad silence, before we’d push each other out of it with talk of the future.
“Don’t leave.” He whined, coming to sit on the bed next to the cases.
“We’ve been through this; you know I don’t want to…” I whined back just as heart sore. “Work, Sam, Gran… they need me.”
“I need you. We need you… the snow… it needs you.” He smiled before putting down his cup and pulling me onto his lap. I snuggled into his lap, sullen and dejected as he held onto me.
“I think the snow will be fine.”
“Who will built the snowmen and give them the breasts with me when you leave?”
“I think your dad might be down for that…” I said with a smile.
“I hate this it’s so much stupid.” He sighed kissing my lips once before pulling back.
“I know… believe me, I know.” I pulled myself away, needing to finish packing. “But, when I get back hopefully we won’t have that long to wait for your go-ahead to come back and we can really start…. Just start.”
Start a life, is what I meant, as things stood it was like living in some kind of legal- illegal limbo. It was not fun.
“We can start looking for a job for you, and finding something you wanna do, and … take some trips… New York maybe? I know you want to go there, and so do I, it’s been years. The Grand Canyon too, that could be fun to see…Lots of things –“
He kissed me then and I all but melted in his arms, knowing that I didn’t know how long it would be before we could do this again. Just be us, together alone in the same room. I tried my best to memorize everything, his hands, his eyes, the way his Erik smell smelled, all before I had to take off for the airport. We spent our last afternoon together in bed, we ordered room service and lots of ice-cream – even in minus twenty degree cold, Erik still liked his ice-cream. Our drive to the airport that night was a quiet one, both of us exchanging looks every now and then but saying not a lot. We had spent days experiencing a long goodbye, and I hated goodbyes.
We walked through and I didn’t let go of his hands once until I got to the security section. Then he pulled me into a hug.
“I love you very much, Sookie.” He whispered and it made me cry, even though I didn’t want to cry, I just couldn’t help it. I wiped my nose and tried to pull myself together before I hugged him again.
“I love you too… so much.” I kissed him then, standing on my tiptoes to do it. And we just stood silent, forehead to forehead, me still on my toes, him bended a little to meet me.
“I’ll see you soon, Wife.” He smiled as the final call came over the sound system filling me with tread.
“I’ll see you soon, Husband.” I smiled to match his as I walked away, letting go of his hand as I wheeled my stuff behind me with my free hand. I didn’t want to look back, it was never a good idea and Erik knew that. Except when I got to the gate, I did look back. To see him standing there, waving.
I broke down in silent tears as I stepped on the plane, people probably thought I was crazy, but I gave no fucks. I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I couldn’t stay. I just hoped that by the time I got home his government approval would be on my mat.
Because this separation thing already sucked. I couldn’t imagine months of it.
Watching her leave to get on that plane was something so hard that it physically felt like a punch to the gut. The drive home was lonelier than I had ever felt, made worse by the fact that I could still smell her perfume in my truck. There was still Christmas music playing on the radio and lights up all over town, and minutes before it was great and wonderful and sweet. Now, it was all just empty. It still shocked me how quickly I had grown so attached to her, to us, and the life we were slowly creating together. I wanted to get the go-ahead for my green card, at the very least to get back and find a job of some sort. Perhaps do as my family had done here and set up a business of my own, though I knew in recessionary times that probably wasn’t such a smart idea, but I hoped the ideas and the plans would fall into place once I got back to Sookie and we could plan properly together.
I only hoped I was not waiting forever for this to begin.
In the meantime, which seemed to be my motto when she left, everything I did was ‘in the meantime’ – when I started working with my grandfather, when my father and I took to ice-fishing, when I even started customising a few pieces in the shop, all of it, in the meantime. Weeks passed as slow as the snow melted, and things got harder and harder with the distance between Sookie and I became more apparent. There was an ocean between us, literally, and while we talked every day, skyped, and wrote, it was never the same as being there in the same room with her. Seeing her animated and chatty on the laptop was never as great as being there in person and allowing her wit and enthusiasm to catch on and spread to whomever we were talking with. As the days turned into weeks that turned into months, our conversations grew shorter, our plans grew sparse, and the loneliness set in.
One particularly bad night was Valentine’s, as Sookie and I skyped our date that night and I saw the flowers I had arranged for her in the background, she began to cry and nothing I could have said stopped her.
“It’s just harder than I thought it would be, so much harder.” She sobbed quietly as she sat on the couch, I knew it was her spot. She wiped her eyes but rolling them at herself, sniffing loudly.
“I know… but soon…”
“No, not soon, Erik, the stupid government and their fucking backlogs, nothing is being done. They said a few weeks… it’s been months.” I knew she had been on the telephone a lot, and at one point even threatened to ‘go down there and give them a piece of her mind’. She was a brave woman, I knew that much.
“It was never hard being alone, never this hard. Before I met you… it was easier.”
That almost hurt, but I knew where she was coming from. It still stung though.
“No, not that I want to go back to that … what I mean is now that we’re us, I don’t want to be just an I again, you know?” Her eyes were red and her makeup smeared, she had dressed up that night, showing off her outfit on camera doing her little twirl in her black dress and even heels. I felt like a slob in my work jeans and t-shirt.
The weekends were the hardest for both of us, at least during the week we both threw ourselves into our work and it distracted us from everything else. But it was on those two days of the week, every week, where our time was our own, that we both just had too much damn time to overthink.
“It will soon, and we’ll be together again.” I tried to boost her spirits but she just wasn’t in the mood that night.
“I consider moving there every damn day you know? If I could afford it…. And bring Gran and Sam and maybe Jason…And the sunshine.” She laughed then, all cute and adorable. I so badly wanted to reach out and touch her. It was twenty-thirteen, how the hell was this shit not possible yet?!
We talked for a long time after that, I even watched as she shrugged off her dress and slipped on an old t-shirt, and slid into bed with her laptop on what I knew still as ‘my side’ of the bed. We had attempted cybersex a few times in my absence, but Sookie was not all that comfortable with all the talking dirty, so it became more funny than sexy, and tonight was clearly not a night for that.
I woke up to a dead laptop early that morning, like so many mornings, where we had fallen asleep on the cam. I assumed she was long asleep as usual too. I slammed the thing shut and attempted to go back to sleep as I always did, but pillows and space were now no substitute for her.
When I got back to the States, I spent a few days alone dealing with my physical jetlag, as well as my emotional jet lag caused by leaving my husband behind in his snow globe dream of a country. I filled everyone in on my Christmas, and managed to have dinner with my Gran, but other than that, I spent my time at work preoccupied, my time at home preoccupied, and just about every other second of the day loathing the limbo we were all currently stuck in.
Almost daily phone calls to various departments of my wonderful government did nothing other than piss off the people on the other end. They had real problems, and my little one of missing my husband was not high on their list of things to give a fuck about. Logically I got this, but illogically I wanted to scream at them to find the damn paperwork, process it and let him come back. But no, that would be considered hostile, and that was the last thing I wanted. So, we waited their backlog to …un-backlog and for the letter to pop through the post telling me that Eric was free to return and legally be allowed to do so as his entry to the country, as well as ability to work and live were all above board because he married a citizen so come on in.
It took months, from when he first left until the end of February to be exact.
I remember coming home from work, groceries in hand, keys in the other, to be greeted as per usual by an over excited Sam waiting to be fed and walked. My mail was in my mouth, and ignored it until I had let Sam out to do his business, and come back for his dinner. Then I opened it, addressed to him so even at that my heart skipped several beats. Before I even had the first paragraph read, I was dialing the very long code to his Swedish cell.
Phone bills be damned!
I was smiling and bouncing around the living room slightly, which made me realise I had to pee, as I waited for the phone to start ringing.
“Erik’s coming home, Sam!”
Sam gave no fucks.
“Erik! Guess what came in the mail, go on, guess!” I said excitedly, still bouncing, still feeling the urge to pee.
I heard him laughing on the line, before he spoke the noise in the background behind him then silenced.
“I take it I can come back now? Your government checked me all the way out?”
“In and out it seems, but yeah basically you can come home, and there are some more things to sign and do but free and clear it seems! Yay right?” I caved making my way to the bathroom, he could deal with the sound of me peeing I decided.
“That’s so wonderful; I will book my ticket for a couple of weeks from now, get things all circled off here.”
“I can’t stop smiling.” I said as I started to pee. I heard him laugh again.
“Are you peeing with excitement?” He asked.
“Sort of… sorry. That and I came from the store but just couldn’t wait to tell you.” I beamed and I heard the smile in his voice too.
“I am glad you were excited so much to tell me this, I am now too.” He sighed. “It has been hard this space.”
“It has.” I agreed. “Let me wash my hands…!”
When I had finished making a fool of myself I was back on the phone and hearing him laugh at me once more. I missed his laugh. I missed his everything.
“How has your week been then?” he asked as I got comfortable on the couch. I told him all about my picky customers and he told me of his.
“I have Bill’s wedding in a couple of weeks, they stuck with us for flowers, even after I made it clear I’d rather he not. He’s very… involved in his wedding. He’s worse than the bride, not that that surprises me, control freak that he is.”
“And you have to?”
“Eh, Jess and I can handle it.”
“How is Jessica… still with Hoyt?”
“No, that burned out apparently. Recently too, she won’t say why, but I figure it’s because he got bored – well that and she turned eighteen.”
“My thoughts exactly.” I sighed then, tired.
“You know me so well…” I smiled.
“Well this whole nothing being with you has made me listen for the signals I would normally see.” He quipped and I just wanted to hug him. I missed his hugs too.
“Well, Tara and Pam are still going strong; we’re doing dinner tonight actually. They’re forcing me to get back to life, they said I’ve been hibernating for too long.”
“They are not wrong. I want you enjoying life my wife, just because I am not there… doesn’t mean you must mop.”
“That.” He laughed. “I am going for drinks with friends tonight also; it will be good for us I think yes?”
“I think yes. Go book the ticket!”
“Yes Ma’am.” He laughed before we said our goodbyes. My next call was to Gran to tell her the good news.
“It’s been so great having you do this for me, Erik you are amazing with your hands.” Maggie said leaning against her kitchen table. Maggie was a client, she had tasked us to reinstall new doors in her kitchen, and it was the last day of a week long job. My dad had left the last bits to me, of course. Maggie was a flirt that was for sure, but I never really took the bait. I conversed of course but that’s where it ended, because her whole lonely housewife thing, really wasn’t working on me. I had a lonely housewife of my own that I was eager to get back to.
“It’s no problem really, almost all done and soon will be out of your hair.” I answered back in our native language, it wasn’t a large job but it paid well, and that was the main thing I figured.
Maggie wasn’t really great at reading signals, and just kept on keeping on with the flirting and it was a little distracting, and she was as subtle as a flying brick as it happens. Talk of how her husband and children didn’t need her anymore, how she felt unloved, all of it was very cliché and while I did feel sorry for her, it didn’t really give her the right to slide up next to me and start touching me. Less blunt at first of course, touching my arm when laughing or nudging too close to me so she was talking. I noticed and I knew she noticed me noticing. I did not want to embarrass her by saying anything but when she began talk of how we could kill a little time together it reminded me of a porn film I saw once and right away I wanted out of there.
“Maggie… please.” I said taking her hands off my chest as gently as I could sidestepping as far away as I could too. It wasn’t that she was unattractive, she wasn’t, she held up well for a married woman of fifteen years with two teenage kids, but that had nothing to do with it. Sookie had everything to do with it. Before, when I was single and things like this would happen, and freakishly they happened often, there would only be one question on my mind – should I go for it or not? But now, things were different and I was different.
“I’m married, Maggie. You know? We’ve talked of my wife…” and we had, for days I had been at her home each day working, we talked on all manner of subjects, Sookie and America most of all.
She rolled her eyes.
“Yes, and I have a husband, both of them are thousands of miles away… they’ll never know.” She came closer to me again, and I backed away. I checked over the kitchen, and realised I was done. I lifted up my tool kit, and figured she could do the clean up on this job, I wanted out of there.
“I would know, you would know… and secrets never stay buried, ever. Besides, I don’t want to cheat on my wife, not now or ever.”
“You say that now, but give it a few years, you’ll be off fucking anything that wants you.” She snarled bitterly, causing me to roll my eyes then.
“Don’t compare everyone’s marriage to your own.”
“What makes you think the American isn’t off riding all the dick she can when you’re gone.”
That made me laugh.
“Goodbye Maggie. I trust you can do the clean-up then. The bill will be in the post.”
I started to make my way out and I heard her crying. Women tears were my weakness, but I knew if I went back to console her, it would appear as if I wanted to do more. I didn’t. So against my gut, I walked out the door leaving the woman crying. I got home to find Grandad at the kitchen table, the house otherwise empty.
“Your Grandmother has gone to bingo, there is coffee…” He said not looking up from his newspaper.
“The Karlin job go well?” He asked as I took my seat at the table. I just shrugged.
“That bad huh?”
“She was a bit of a desperate housewife.”
He chuckled then.
“Yes, we know, why do you think your father wanted in and out of there as fast as possible, or why he took you with him? She’s a determined woman that one.”
“Everyone in town knows it’s all a bit sad. Love-less marriages.”
“Not something you ever had to deal with, right?” I asked, hoping I knew the answer.
He just smiled.
“Your grandmother and I fight like cats and dogs in the rain in winter.” He described. “But we love each other like nothing else. It’s not your movie love, the unrealistic perfection where no one is ever wrong or mad or hurt, but it’s what comes after the problems, the pain and the uncertainty, the feeling that you’d rather argue with her than sweet talk anyone else. That is what I remembered always.”
I nodded, beyond glad he had his head screwed on and that their life together wasn’t a lie, unlike Maggie and her husbands. I didn’t want my life to become a lie, not now, not ever.
I sighed with relief; I wasn’t sure what I would have done had the love I had idealised for so long turned out to be a fabrication of my stupidly romantic brain.
“Erik I’ve been thinking, with you gone and your father taking over the fishing business from Tomin –“Tomlin was retiring, dad was thinking of making it his thing, captaining his own ship – so to speak. “Your grandmother and I really… well you know, we’re not getting any younger.”
He rolled his eyes.
“Anyway, I think it is time to shut up shop.”
That shocked me. It shouldn’t have, but it really did.
“For…all the reasons I just gave you, pay attention boy.”
It was my turn then to roll my eyes.
“But business is good, I don’t….”
“It is, but it was Nordmon and Sons now it’s just … Nordmon and that isn’t what I want, I am too old.”
I loved the business and the work and art we produced, suddenly I was very heart broken.
“Do not look so sad eyes, Erik. It is only an end of an era, besides I think you will keep it going, just not here.”
I didn’t answer.
“When you have your sons with Sookie, you can carry on the name if you’d like, if they’d like. But you will be having half American babies they will probably want to become the iPhone or the Tweeters or something I don’t know, but whatever you and they choose it will be good because it will make you happy. This made me happy, but I am kidding myself. I am too old and it is too much, I think your grandmother deserves some time now, and so do I, to just relax and retire properly.”
“But you always said retirement was for pussies.”
He did, constantly, more so when drunk.
“Well, it still is, but this old man knows his limits.”
“You’re not that old.” I argued he just smiled and patted me on the back.
“Thank you for this, and for all your hard work, but it’s time. Just like it is almost time for us to see you off again, or did you forget?”
I hadn’t forgotten, and a week later I was back in Stockholm as I decided to try and get an earlier flight out since I had finished up all jobs I’d taken on a little earlier than I thought – my heart breaking as I closed up the shop for what I knew to be my last time. My family was sad too of course, but I knew we would see each other again soon, so this goodbye was a lot less difficult than my first, we had dinner the night before I was due to leave, and it was a great time to have them all in one place with my friends once more. My grandfather announced his retirement; there was cake and tears, both coming from my grandmother, but thankfully tears of happiness as they were planning a trip to Italy that summer. I could feel heartbroken about the business or I could feel happy for their next chapter.
I chose to focus on the happy, as I was off to write my next chapter myself.
A week earlier than planned I got back to the United States, many planes and airports got me to Louisiana, but after a delay in New York, I was much later back than I had anticipated. Two am, to be exactly. Nevertheless I was too excited to be home, to be near her that I didn’t want to wait – I got home at three am, and tried to sneak in as quietly as I could. Sadly I am not the king of stealth in any shape of form, and as I snuck in, in the dark, I banged into a table that wasn’t where I left it and as I turned around to find the light switch, Sam had me by the ankles.
Before I knew what hit me, something literally hit me.
Next thing I knew I was waking up to a shocked looking Sookie with a baseball bat in hand.
Welcome home indeed!