A World Away: Chapter 12
Eric and I spent a heavenly few hours cuddled up on the sofa with the baby. Everything finally felt right after so much heartache—not knowing whether Eric was alive or dead, having to come home to have Pamela alone, losing Gran. I was so grateful to finally have him home with us. He had been through so much and was clearly still in pain with his leg injury and looked so very thin. But I knew that it could have been so much worse and that he was one of the lucky ones. The war was over for him now as well as for me. I was still so worried, of course, for all the other men fighting, including my brother. But now my focus for our little family of three would be here at home and for that I was relieved and very grateful.
I was fading fast and hoped that Eric would sleep with me. I knew that it was inappropriate of course, but didn’t much care at that point. Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about sex. I just didn’t want him out of my sight. But he expressed concern about that decision and so we agreed that he would sleep in my old room across the hall. I thought I’d have trouble sleeping with him in the next room, but I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was exhausted, of course, from the normal lack of sleep a new mother experiences as well as working a full day. But for the first time since that night in France, I knew where Eric was and that he was safe and my mind was at rest as I drifted off to a happy sleep.
Pamela woke me a few hours later to eat of course. After I got her back to sleep, I tiptoed into Eric’s room and watched him sleep for a minute. Maybe it was wrong, I don’t know. I just wanted to be near to him and make sure he was okay. The second time Pamela woke me, I went ahead and got up even though it was still early. I was excited about the day ahead and wanted to get it started. Pamela went back to sleep, but I started to cook breakfast even though it was still dark.
I woke to the heavenly scent of coffee brewing and bacon cooking. It was still dark outside but I could hear a few birds starting their songs and I knew it would be light soon. I had slept like a baby for the first time in a very long time. My mind was finally at peace knowing that Sookie was safe and that she still loved me and now I also knew about our beautiful daughter. My future had never looked better than it did at that very moment.
I walked into the kitchen and stood for a moment to watch Sookie at the stove, her back to me. She looked so delicious that I just couldn’t resist sneaking up behind her and putting my arms around her.
I was frying some bacon, letting my mind drift to all I needed to get done today, smiling to myself when suddenly Eric was behind me, his arms wrapped around me and his lips kissing my neck. My smile grew wider as I set down the spatula and turned around. I started to say good morning but was cut off by a hard passionate kiss. Eric’s tongue and strong embrace took my breath away and I responded with a passion of my own that was completely unexpected. One hand went to his hair, pulling his head closer to me while the other found the small of his back. His hands seemed to be everywhere, but then settled on my behind, pressing my hips to his firm erection. My hand lowered to his own perfect behind and I was reminded of the brazen overture that I’d made just like this in a dark classroom a long time ago. Back then he was just the handsomest boy I’d ever known. Now he was the father of my child and my future husband. I was lost in the kiss and the feelings of arousal that I hadn’t even realized that I’d been missing when Eric abruptly broke the kiss and walked briskly back into the bedroom, closing the door quietly behind him. It was a perfect repeat of the darkened classroom kiss, complete with his unexplained departure. I stood in shock, panting heavily and reached behind me to hold on to the stove for support. Suddenly Amelia appeared and looked concerned. “Sookie, are you okay?”
I snapped out of it, realizing at least this time why Eric had ended our little make-out session. “Of course. Good morning. I was just up early and thought I’d make some breakfast. Are you hungry?”
“Um, yeah, but I think your bacon is burning. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” I went into hostess mode and poured Amelia some coffee after turning my now slightly overdone bacon. I watched Amelia eye the closed bedroom door and then she looked back at me. I could tell she wanted to say something, but as if on cue, the bedroom door opened and Eric emerged, smiling happily.
Amelia and I said good morning in unison. Eric kissed me sweetly on the cheek and excused himself to go into the bathroom.
Sookie had to be at work at 9. The courthouse opened at 8, and by 8:45 we had applied for our marriage license and obtained all the paperwork to change Pamela’s name legally, simply switching her middle and last names. I’d speak to my lawyer later about making certain that she was my legal daughter after Sookie and I were married. I waited at the hospital for a few minutes until I was able to meet Mr. Cataliades and Dr. Quinn. I have to admit that I enjoyed the look of shock a little more than I should have when Sookie told Dr. Quinn that we were engaged.
I gave Sookie an intimate peck on the cheek and told her I’d see her at dinner, loving the feel of having to coordinate my day with her. I mentally skipped to the bus stop even though my leg prevented my body from following suit.
I took the train to Shreveport, packed a bag, filled Pam in about all the good news, and was back at Sookie’s house a little before dark. Unfortunately, I had missed dinner, but Sookie warmed some leftovers up for me. Amelia congratulated us on our engagement before retiring to her room upstairs, graciously leaving me alone with Sookie and Pamela.
I was sitting on the sofa holding the baby when Sookie emerged from the bathroom in her robe and gown. Her hair was pinned up haphazardly and I watched, mesmerized as she released it and it fell about her shoulders. She snuggled up to me and I breathed in her delicious scent. She smelled like some sort of floral soap. I couldn’t possibly identify which type of flowers she smelled like. All I knew was that I couldn’t get enough of her. I was kissing her lips, her hair, her nose whispering how beautiful she looked when the baby started to cry, interrupting my trance.
Sookie took Pamela from me and casually unbuttoned the front of her gown. She exposed her breast and Pamela latched on, sucking happily. I was certain that my mouth was open as I realized that I was staring, and so I closed it and got up to get Sookie the glass of water that I was learning she liked to have when she nursed.
Once the baby was fed and tucked into her bed, Sookie returned to the sofa. She told me that Mr. Cataliades had switched her day off as she’d requested so that we could get married in the morning as we’d hoped.
It had been a crazy and wonderful day. Eric and I got our marriage license. I was able to show my new fiancé off at work for a minute before Eric left to go back to Shreveport. Eric couldn’t stay indefinitely at my house with just the clothes on his back obviously, and we didn’t want to be apart for even one night, so we agreed that he would retrieve some clothes and return in the same day. We had so many decisions to make. Where would we live? Would I be able to quit working? I so desperately wanted to stay home with Pamela, but Eric had just gotten home and I had no idea what his plans were. He obviously could no longer fly planes, and I had no idea what else he wanted to do with his life. It felt wrong to ask even though it would certainly impact my life as well as his own. I wondered if it might be a painful subject to bring up—that he had become too disabled to continue doing what I knew he loved. These things would all be worked out in time. What mattered the most was that we were together.
So at the end of a long day, I took a bath and put Pamela to bed before sitting with Eric on the sofa in complete contentment. He took my hand and I could tell he had something he wanted to say. I sat up to listen as he began. “Sookie, I know that we’ve done things a bit unconventionally and our timing has been unusual to say the least, so I hope you’ll forgive me if this seems like an odd time to do this.” He carefully slid off of the sofa and got down on his good knee. I felt the tears start as I realized what such a posture must surely mean. He reached into his inside jacket pocket and withdrew the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen. I gasped as he said, “Sookie, will you marry me?” I nodded yes as the happy tears freely fell. I held out my left hand and we both kind of looked at it for a second. Then I removed the plain band as he slipped the diamond onto the same finger. He took the wedding band from me and placed it in his jacket pocket. “We’ll need that one tomorrow, if that’s okay.” We both kind of laughed a little and then I just stared at the ring on my finger in awe.