The first time I was on a plane was only a few weeks after my parents died. It was before the family knew exactly where Jason and I would go, and cousins in Chicago offered to take us in. They had two young kids themselves, and thought the company would be good for Jason and I. Gran had been against it from the start, but Grandpa convinced her that we should at least give it a try. He told her that a young family would be better for us than the two of them. Gran grudgingly agreed, but made Grandpa promise not to tell us that it was essentially a trial-run. We thought it was a vacation. Gran packed up my little Disney princess suitcase and Jason's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles suitcase, and we set off for Chicago.
I didn't remember much of the trip, it obviously didn't work out, but I remembered the plane ride. I remembered the way my nerves snapped as I watched us lift off the ground, the realization that the only thing between my feet and the ground thousands of mile below was a thin bit of metal making my bones rattle. Naturally, we hit turbulence on both flights. It probably wasn't anything too out of the ordinary, but for a small girl who just lost her parents in a car crash, each drop and lurch of the plane made me sure that I was facing my impending death. The trip left me with a distaste for both my Chicago cousins (which was largely unfounded, as they were lovely people) and any and all airplanes (which I still held as very, very founded.)
Bill and I had talked at length about where we would go for our honeymoon, and whether we could get there by car or train, a detail I insisted we consider. Bill had been disappointed we couldn't go with his original idea of France, but I stood my ground, even when he used my love of carbohydrates against me. But, I wasn't getting on a plane. Not even for a perfect French baguette.
All the honeymoon discussions seemed ridiculous now with the knowledge that Bill had been married for all of them. It cheapened everything that happened between us. I thought of this as I sat with Bill on the porch. Gran sat inside with overtures of giving us privacy, but I knew she was sitting close enough to the window to hear every word.
Good, I thought, let her hear. For once I was proud of what I was going to say.
"I was happy to hear from you," Bill said, moving closer to me on the bench. "I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to call you these past few days. But, you said you needed space so…"
"I appreciate you respecting my wishes," I said, folding my hands primly in my lap. "It shows that I wasn't entirely wrong about you."
Bill smiled softly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the same ring box he presented me with months prior. I remembered the joy that bubbled in my stomach back when I'd first seen it. Now, I only felt dread.
"I'm hoping you'll take this back," he said smoothly. "This ring is yours. It can only ever be yours, Sookie."
"I know that I hurt you," he continued. "And I will likely never forgive myself for that particular transgression. Hurting you is the last thing I ever wanted to do, Sookie. I've always felt this strong desire to protect you. So, to know that I in some way caused you pain…" he trailed off, shaking his head, "…it breaks my heart, Sookie. But, I promise you, I will never do it again. I will never put you in that situation. I have learned my lesson."
"Bill, I can't marry you."
He stared at me. "Excuse me?"
"Bill, this isn't right. I can't be the only one who feels that. Ever since our engagement party –"
"It's Lorena's fault," he said in exasperation. "It always is. That woman thrives on ruining other people's lives. We can't let her win, Sookie."
"It's not her," I said firmly. "It's never been about her, Bill. It's us."
"We worked before her," he pointed out fervently. "We worked perfectly."
"And you weren't being honest with me," I reminded him. "For any of it. The couple that you crafted worked. But, I can't be that person anymore."
"Sookie," he scooted closer and took my hand. I reluctantly did not pull away. "I don't want you to be anyone but yourself. I've never wanted anything other than."
"You want someone that you can protect," I told him. "Someone that you can rescue. I'm not that girl. I don't think I ever really was. I met you and I wanted it to work so badly. You were…" I trailed off, trying to think of the right words, "…you were what I thought I wanted. I didn't have to think when we were together because you thought for both of us. I molded myself into someone who would make you happy, and I thought that would make me happy, too. And it did for a while."
No, I thought to myself, until Eric.
"I can't marry you, Bill. It wouldn't be fair to either of us."
He looked disappointed, and I couldn't exactly blame him. Taking from the engagement ring in his pocket, he thought this meeting was going to have a very different outcome. I wanted to comfort him somehow, but didn't know how anymore. I'd never been something other than his girlfriend or his fiancée. I didn't know how to act in the new role of ex-everything.
"Is there any chance you'll change your mind?" he asked.
I shook my head. "No. I'm sorry."
He sighed. "I will always love you. Until my last breath."
I closed my eyes briefly, feeling my heart splinter. After everything he put me through at the engagement party, I never expected this to hurt as much as it did.
"I know you will."
I waited a day before calling Eric. He didn't answer, and I left a message asking him to meet me at Merlotte's for lunch. When he didn't show I drove over to his house.
"He's not here," Mrs. Northman said. I sensed some level of aloofness in her, and wondered if Eric let anything slip about certain events.
"Do you know when he'll be back? Is he at the hospital?"
Mrs. Northman shook her head. "He's not at the hospital. He went out of town."
I stared at her. "He what?"
"I know," she said wearily. I saw then that the aloofness was targeted at her son, not myself. "I tried to talk him out of it. But, he was determined. He said something about needing to get Pam something. He said it couldn't wait."
"Well, I'm sure it was important."
Mrs. Northman frowned. "I don't see what could be more important than being with your sister during her last days, but…what do I know."
I swallowed hard an tentatively asked, "So, it really is that bad?"
"The doctors said she doesn't have longer than a few days."
"And Eric left?"
Mrs. Northman threw her hands in the air. "I told you, Sookie, I don't know why he left. But…I just pray he gets back here in time. Before…" she trailed off, "…he'd never forgive himself if he wasn't here."
I went to the hospital afterwards, saying a few words to Dan and ruffling Lily's hair before walking into Pam's hospital room. She looked even paler than she did when I saw her a few days prior. Her eyes were half-open, not focused on the television playing some TLC show up on the wall. They slanted toward me when I sat next to her, and she smiled weakly.
"How are you feeling?"
"Like I'm dying."
"Pam, you're not –"
"I am dying," she said. "Everyone keeps denying it. I'm half convinced that I'll die and they'll keep telling the doctors I'm just asleep."
"I think the doctors can tell the difference between dead and asleep," I said slowly.
Pam was quiet for a moment and then asked, "Did something happen between you and my brother?"
I felt my cheeks flush. "Why do you ask?"
"I'm not blind. Or deaf. I heard you were here a few days ago."
"We're friends," I said off-handedly. "Friends support each other."
"You're not wearing your engagement ring."
I stuffed my bare hand under my arm. I understood that Pam was gravely ill, and that entitled her to the satisfaction of most if not all of her whims, but I couldn't tell her this particular secret until Eric knew. I owed him that.
"Where is your brother?" I asked, trying to deflect.
"Being ridiculous," she said. "I haven't had much of an appetite, and he asked me this morning if I could eat anything what I would want. I told him I wanted those old candy cigarettes we used to eat."
I smiled in surprise. "I haven't thought of those in probably over a decade."
She laughed lightly. "Me neither. But when he asked me it was the first thing I thought of."
"Don't they not make them anymore?"
"They don't," she confirmed. "But, naturally, he tracked down a place that sells them a few hours outside of town."
I suppressed a smile and said, "He's driving hours to buy candy cigarettes?"
"You know my brother," Pam said. "He gets an idea in his head and then you can't talk him out of it."
"Yeah," I said softly, thinking of our argument. "I do know how he is."
Pam went quiet again, and after a moment asked me, "Do you love him?"
I didn't know which him she was referring to, but the answer was the same. "I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"It's not an easy question," I said, somewhat defensively.
"Yes, it is," she said. "You can't see this until you are where I am – which I pray to God is not for a very, very long time– but, Sookie, it's the easiest question there is."
I hesitated and told her, "I'm not marrying Bill."
"It's not because of Eric," I blurted out. "I mean, not entirely."
"I know," she said. "I heard about the vampy wife." She paused. "Whether anything happens between you and Eric, can you promise me you'll look after him? He's not..," she trailed off, her voice catching. "He won't take this well. And he'll need someone, but he won't admit it. Promise me you'll be there for him, even if he's an ass. Which, let's face it, he probably will be."
I smiled a bit. "It'll take more than that to get rid of me."
"Good," she said, her eyes drifting shut. "I feel better knowing he'll have someone."
I stayed for lunch, helping Pam get some broth down, before leaving. I asked her to tell Eric to call me, although I didn't hold much hope that I'd get any phone call. He had enough to worry about right now without me thrown into the mix. Still, I didn't let my phone out of my hand for the rest of the day.
One week later, while pouring a cup of coffee for Bud Dearborn at Merlotte's, I heard the news I'd been dreading. Naturally, the news came from Maxine Fortenberry.
"It's so tragic, the poor thing," Maxine said loudly, her group of church ladies listening with rapt attention. "Leaving behind a small daughter like that? Her husband seems wonderful, of course, but a little girl needs her mama. It's just heartbreaking."
"Damn shame," Bud said to me, shaking his head solemnly. "At least she's at peace now."
"You're right," I murmured off-handedly, my thoughts back to Pam in that small hospital room. I hadn't visited since our talk about Eric, afraid of running into him at the hospital. It all felt silly now. There was a simple solution to my issues with Eric. I tell him the truth. Bill and I were over. I loved him and always had. But there'd be time enough for that after he buried his only sister. Now was not the time to go all in with declarations of love.
"Oh Sookie," Maxine said loudly. "How are the Northmans taking the news? I know you've been close with them recently. Especially Eric. How is he?"
There was so much insinuation wrapped up in that string of sentences that I didn't even know where to begin. A sharp retort was poised on my tongue, but I remembered Gran and how she always lectured me about honey going farther than vinegar. That last thing I needed right now was Maxine spreading some story about my rudeness clearly indicating some falling out with the Northmans. She'd take that and run with it.
"They're managing as well as can be expected," I said vaguely. "All of them are."
"It's just so sad," Maxine went on. "And Pam was so young. Why, she wasn't much older than you. And look at all the life she lived. Married with that sweet young girl."
I blinked rapidly at the inherent dig at my own unmarried and childless state.
"Yes," I agreed, voice careful. "It really is awful."
"Sook, can you come over here?" Sam said loudly from the bar. I flashed Maxine an insincere look of chagrin and said, "Duty calls. You tell Hoyt I said hi, okay?"
"I will, Sookie. You do the same with Bill, you hear?"
I stared at her, wondering how I'd been ringless for an entire week and the town hadn't figured out that we'd broken up yet. I wondered then if Bill was just saying we were putting off the wedding or something. Not wanting to get into a big snit about it, I told her, "Of course, Mrs. Fortenberry," and made my way over to Sam.
"I thought you might need some saving," Sam said in a low voice when I joined him at the bar.
"Thank you. She was asking me about the Northmans, and how they're doing with Pam."
"Beady eyed vulture," Sam said under his breath. "You know anything you tell her the whole town will know in fifteen minutes."
"I kept it vague," I said. "Not that I'd know anything."
"Eric still not returning your calls?"
I sighed. "I'm giving him space now. I figure it's the least I could do."
"Did it ever occur to you that space may not be what he needs right now?" Sam asked, eyebrows raised. I told him everything earlier that week when Bill came in to the restaurant and I quickly hightailed it back into the kitchen. Sam was firmly on the side of my telling Eric how I felt. I was firmly on the side of waiting.
"He can barely look at me," I said. "It's better this way."
"He'd be fine looking at you if he knew you loved him," Sam pointed out.
I shook my head. "I know this may sound weird, but I feel like this is Pam's time. The focus should be on her and her memory, not me and Eric."
Sam shrugged. "I guess. Just don't wait too long to tell him. You aren't doing either of you any favors by dragging your heels."
"I know," I said quietly. Secretly, my hesitance wasn't entirely due to Pam. I was afraid that words wouldn't be enough. I knew I hurt him with my indecision about Bill, and part of him probably felt that Bill would always be in the picture. That a part of my heart would always belong to someone else.
"You can head home early if you want," Sam offered.
I shook my head. "I'd rather be here. But thanks."
Sam nodded, wiping his hands on his pants. "Alright. If Maxine Fortenberry starts asking you any more questions just let me know and I'll go over there. You know how much she loves grilling me about my love life."
I laughed, patting Sam's arm as I passed. "You're a good boss, Sam."
The Northmans didn't do a traditional wake and funeral, which would likely be the talk of the town for at least the next four months. Pam wanted something nice for her daughter to remember. Not caskets and perfumed flowers. Instead, there was a banquet with all of Pam's favorite foods and her favorite band, The Proclaimers, playing in the background. There were no pictures of Pam around, no large flower arrangements or somber In Memoriams. In fact, if an outsider saw the banquet they wouldn't have known that anything sad had happened at all. People were smiling and laughing. Lily, looking remarkably like her mother with her long blond hair and prim pink dress, sat on her uncle's lap the entire day, pulling at his ears and stuffing herself with ice cream and cupcakes.
"This is probably the strangest funeral I've been to," Sam noted, finishing his beer. "I actually heard they tried to get a face painter but he cancelled last minute. Can you imagine a face painter at a funeral?"
I thought about Pam and smiled slightly, "At this one, yes. Pam was irreverent like that. She would have hated the idea of everyone standing around being morose. And, besides, look at Lily. Who would have thought she could be smiling and laughing at her mother's funeral?"
She was currently sipping at a cup of pink lemonade, and Sam remarked, "Maybe there's something in that lemonade."
I gave him a look. "Stop that."
"It is nice," Sam admitted. "Just strange."
"It's better this way, trust me," I said, remembering my own parent's funeral. "It'll still be difficult for her. She'll have days that she'll miss her mother so much that it takes her breath away. But, at least today she's happy. Distracted. The pain can wait until tomorrow."
"I'm going to get another beer. Do you want one?"
I nodded. "Sure, thanks."
He walked off and my gaze returned to Lily and Eric. He was whispering something to her, and she nodded, looking up at him intently. He kissed her forehead and she curled herself in his arm, pressing her cheek against his shoulder. He looked over toward me and our eyes met. I felt a jolt go straight through my stomach, and suddenly all I wanted to do was be over there with him. I wanted to press my hand against his, tell him everything until my voice gave out or there was nothing left to tell, because he deserved that. Especially after what happened, he deserved to know that someone loved him. That he wasn't alone in all of this.
Bill couldn't have had worse timing. I glanced over at him and then back at Eric. The moment was broken, Eric's face turned away.
"How are you?" Bill asked. "You look good."
"Thanks," I said, looking back over at Eric. He was watching us now, his expression unreadable. I tried to convey to him through a look that this was nothing, it was only a conversation; but he either was unconvinced or didn't care, as he looked away.
"Look at us talking civilly," Bill said, voice deceptively light. I knew he was uncomfortable, how could he not be when I wanted to practically crawl out of my skin. "This is very adult of us."
"Yes, it is."
I looked back over at Eric. The chair was now empty.
"I'd hoped we could still remain friends of sorts," Bill continued, oblivious to the maelstrom of emotions coursing through me. I was entirely outside of our conversation, which was why I nodded emphatically and returned, "Yes, definitely. Of course."
His face brightened. "That's wonderful. I can't tell you –" he placed a hand on my waist, " – I am so happy to have you say that."
Suddenly he was embracing me, and I froze, my body pressed against his. I pulled away roughly and he stammered, "I'm sorry, that was only meant as a friendly gesture. I just…"
"Sookie, I have your beer," Sam said, taking in Bill's red-stained cheeks and my pale ones. I took it from him quickly and said, "Thank you. Um, if you'll excuse me…"
I ran off, hoping to find Eric or a nice corner that I could hide in. Frankly, at this juncture, either would have been nice. It turned out that I found Eric first. He was in the lobby of the banquet hall, hands stuffed in his pockets and frame facing the exit. I called out his name and his shoulders stiffened.
"Please just leave me alone," he said, voice guarded.
"Eric, what you saw –"
"I don't care about whatever you and Bill Compton were talking about, or the next chapter in your fucked up love story. I just buried my sister. So, spare me the details, Sookie."
"It's not what you think," I continued, walking toward him gingerly. "We're not together anymore. I told him –"
"I don't care what you told him," he said, turning toward me suddenly. His face was tired, eyes drawn and red. It was a face I knew well, it was almost more familiar than my own.
"Eric, please –"
"I'm tired, Sookie. I'm tired of trying to make you see that I've changed. I'm tired of trying to make you see that you're marrying a complete ass hole and he'll never make you happy. I'm just tired. So, you two go be together. Live your shitty life together. I'm done."
"I don't want him," I said, stepping toward him. "I want you."
He laughed, the sound brittle. "Are you fucking kidding me? You want me?"
"Yes," I said, reaching toward him. "I want you, Eric. You are all that I want. Just you."
He stepped away from my touch. "Yeah, just me until the next time he does something nice. The next time he does something that reminds you of the man you fell in love with. Because you still love him. I saw it in there. You can't see it, but I can."
"I don't love him," I said, but the words rang false.
"See, you can't even convince yourself. How do you expect to convince me?"
I was angry at him. Angry at myself. Angry at Bill for somehow not leaving my heart, even after all he'd done.
"I want to be with you," I said softly. "I love you."
Eric shook his head and murmured, "It's not enough."
He walked past me back into the banquet hall and I stood there, staring at the spot where he stood. I heard someone approaching me, but didn't need to look back to see who it was. I recognized her perfume, a light scent that always comforted me. It didn't work anymore.
"Sookie?" My shoulders began to shake and she asked, "Sweetheart, what is it?"
"I need to leave," I said. "I can't be here."
Gran drove me home, not saying a word for the entire drive. When we got home I changed into my pajamas and met her in the living room. She beckoned me with one hand and I curled up in her lap, just like I used to when I was a little girl. She gently ran her fingers along my hair and asked me what happened. I told her everything, about Bill and how after everything that happened, I still loved him. I told her about Eric, and what he'd said to me in the lobby.
"Sweetheart, you can't control who you love. We have very little say in that."
"He looked so hurt."
"Of course he did."
"But, he doesn't understand, I don't want to be with Bill. I couldn't after everything that happened. But those feelings, they aren't like a light switch. I can't just turn them off."
"Have you told him this?"
"I've tried to. He won't listen, though. He hears Bill's name and he clams up."
"You have to make him listen, then," Gran urged. "Make it so that he has no other choice."
"Do you love Eric?" Gran asked me pointedly. Without hesitation I said, "Yes. So much that it sort of scares the shit out of me."
"Then, it's simple. Try harder. Try until you've done everything you possibly can, and then after that try some more. Because if you love him as much as you say you do, you don't have another option. Life is too short to let something like that go."
I paused for a moment and asked her, "Do you think I'll ever stop loving Bill?"
"I don't know," she said. "Maybe you will. Maybe you won't. But, remember, we may not be able to choose who takes bits of our heart but we do get to choose who we give ours to. That choice is powerful, Sookie. Never forget that."
I woke up the next morning determined to show Eric that I was choosing him. I was going to call, but then decided to go to the Northman's instead. It would be easier to do this when he couldn't just hang up on me. I drove over, rehearsing my speech in my head the entire way. I had no idea if it would work and I felt almost dizzy with nerves. I pulled to a stop in front of the house and stepped out. After a quick once-over in my side mirror, I walked up to the door and knocked. Mrs. Northman answered, and looked surprised to see me.
"Sookie, hello. What are you doing here?"
"I was hoping to talk to Eric. Is he around?"
"No, I'm afraid he's not."
My face fell. "Oh, okay. Well, do you mind giving him a message for me? Just tell him I was here. I wanted to talk to him. Actually, I can just come back. Do you know when he'll be here again?"
"I'd imagine not for quite some time," Mrs. Northman said in a strained voice. "He went back to New Orleans early this morning."
I stared at her. "Excuse me?"
"I wasn't exactly pleased he ran off so quickly either," she said, wiping at her nose. "But he said something came up. Business or whatnot. He said it was important."
"Of course," I said quickly. "Of course it's important. I –"
"I know you and Eric saw a lot of each other while he was here," Mrs. Northamn interrupted. "And I can't help but notice you haven't been wearing your engagement ring. Did anything…" she trailed off, shaking her head. "I'm sorry. Please…it's none of my business. I just…it was nice having my son home again. I had thought…"
"I'm sure the business was very important. He wouldn't have left otherwise."
I laid a reassuring hand on her arm. I felt like a traitor. He didn't leave because of business. He left because of me.
"Thank you, Sookie. If he calls I'll tell him that you were looking for him."
"Oh, don't worry about that. It wasn't important, anyway"
"Are you sure?"
I nodded. "Yes, I'm sure. It was nice seeing you."
I turned around quickly before she could see the tears filling my eyes. I drove home with the sinking feeling that this couldn't be it. This couldn't be how our story ended. I knew that words weren't enough. They hadn't been for me after he hurt me, so why would mine be enough for him? But, I was supposed to have a chance to show him more. To prove to him that I did love him – more than Bill, more than anyone who came before or could come after. I was choosing him. I was taking what was left of my heart and telling him, this is yours, keep it safe.
But I couldn't exactly do that when he was in New Orleans.
And then I go an idea. An idea that terrified me to my core and made me sweat clean through my shirt, but I knew it was right. It was the only way.
"You're flying to New Orleans?" Gran said in disbelief.
"I'm going first thing tomorrow morning. I already looked up the flights and it's the next one out."
"Sookie, are you sure that's such a good idea?"
"It's the only way," I said. " I have to prove that I'm in this. I need to make him understand that I am choosing him. Words aren't enough, so I'm going to have to show him."
"You haven't been on an airplane since –"
"I know," I interrupted, taking a deep breath. "And I'm probably going to pass out from the stress of it all, but if I don't do this I'll regret it for the rest of my life. He's the one, Gran. He's the one I'm supposed to be with, I can feel it in my bones. If this is what it takes to be with him, well, then it's worth it."
Gran gave me a tight hug and then whispered, "I have some old Valium if you want to take a few with you."
I let out a breath. "Oh, thank the Lord."
One Valium and two hundred dollars later I was sitting on the plane, panic still flooding my chest as the airplane taxied down the runway. I barely slept the night before, visions of the airplane crashing and Eric rejecting me filling my dreams. I was actually relieved for my alarm to go off. Reality couldn't be nearly as awful as what my subconscious worked up.
I was mildly concerned for just how out of it I'd have been on the plane if I didn't take the Valium. It still felt like an elephant was on my chest, and every time I looked out the window the elephant gained about one hundred pounds. And we hadn't even taken off yet.
"First flight?" the elderly woman next to me asked.
I smiled tightly and admitted, "Second, actually. But the first was pretty emotionally scarring. It's taken me almost twenty years to get on another one."
The woman's eyes widened. "Then what brought you here?"
I swallowed hard and sheepishly admitted, "This may sound sort of silly, but love."
The woman gave me a knowing look and returned, "Dear, that isn't silly at all."
Forty terrifying minutes later I was in New Orleans and when I stepped into the airport, the harsh air conditioning hitting my face, the only thing I could think was – where the fuck is a fucking bathroom.
I'd done a remarkably good job with keeping my absolute terror bottled up on the plane ride, so much so that it all seemed to overflow at once the moment my feet touched solid ground. I didn't even make it to a bathroom, clutching the sides of a garbage can desperately as I emptied the contents of my stomach into it. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, I heard someone say my name.
Here I was, overcoming my paralyzing fear of flying to triumphantly tell the man I loved that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, and he found me doubled over a trash bin.
"Eric, hi," I said weakly, wiping at my mouth.
"What are you doing here?"
"Christening this garbage can, apparently," I said, still too mortified to say much else. "Oh God, can they fine you for this sort of thing?"
"You hate planes," he said slowly. "You haven't been on one since that trip you took to Chicago after your parents died."
"That was true until about an hour ago," I said, hiking my thumb back toward the gate. "Well, the second part, I mean. The first part is definitely still true. Why can't they engineer planes without turbulence? That seems like something they should have figured out by now. It's 2015."
"I don't think they can change basic principles of aerodynamics, Sookie. Regardless of the year."
"What are you doing in the airport anyway?" I asked.
He looked at me strangely and said, "Catching a flight back to Bon Temps."
My eyes widened. "You are?"
"I had some business I had to take care of," he said evasively. "So, I took care of it and now I'm heading back."
"You actually had business come up?" I asked in disbelief. "I…I thought you left because of me."
"No. I…uh…," he paused, as if caught in a sort of internal conflict, and then finally resolving it he admitted, "I actually came back here to close on the sale of my apartment. I'm moving back to Bon Temps, at least for a while."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "You are? Your mom didn't mention that. She actually seemed sort of concerned you weren't coming back."
Eric rolled his eyes. "I told her that the closing might take a while depending on our lawyers. I should have known she'd take that for code that I'm not coming back. Which is ridiculous, considering."
"I'm taking over my dad's company. I saw during all of this with Pam how much it took out of him. I casually mentioned taking on some responsibility and he practically handed the company over. He couldn't have been happier."
"You're really moving back," I stammered. "That's…wow."
"You still haven't told me what you're doing here," he said, his voice careful.
My cheeks stained red and I mumbled nervously, "Well, you know, I was going to make a big romantic gesture. Show you that I loved you by willingly getting on a plane to come and see you and all of that. But, of course, you know…best laid plans?"
"You got on a plane to show me that you loved me?"
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," I said, wincing slightly. "This is very uncomfortable now. I…I think I may need that garbage can again."
"You love me?"
"Yes," I said, suddenly feeling shy.
I stared at him. "And what?"
"There has to be more than that. You didn't fly all the way here just for that."
He was right, but I'd worked myself into a frenzy and now was on the other side, just bone achingly tired and mildly nauseous. But he was looking at me, really looking at me, and this was probably the only chance I'd get.
"Look, you're right. I don't just love you," I began. "It's easy to love someone. You don't even have to try. It just happens and then you're stuck with it. I don't just love you, Eric. I choose to love you. I choose to be this crazy person getting on a plane to show you that I'm serious, because I can't imagine any other alternative. I can't imagine a life without you anymore. I don't want to. This is all I want. I choose you, Eric. I choose us."
He stepped toward me, and I didn't know whether I wanted to step toward him or run. I still didn't know if he'd say yes. Even as he took another step, his hands encircling my arms, I didn't know. I wouldn't let myself believe or hope, not until he brushed his lips against the top of my head, his arms going tightly around my waist.
"I really want to kiss you right now," he murmured. "But you sort of just puked in a garbage can."
I laughed against his shoulder, relief flooding my chest. "Yeah, sorry about that."
He kissed my forehead and my eyes drifted shut. This was worth it. A million plane rides would have been worth it.
We found a little toothbrush kit in one of the gift shops, and I hurried off to the bathroom and cleaned up. He was waiting for me when I walked out, looking remarkably handsome with my bright pink suitcase by his side and purse slung over his shoulder. I didn't hesitate before throwing my arms around his neck and kissing him soundly. He kissed me back, arms winding around my waist and holding me tightly as he lifted me off the ground. I knew we were making a scene, but I didn't care. I was too happy to worry about what other people thought.
I was able to get a seat on his plane back to Bon Temps. We sat side by side, our hands entangled on the armrest between us. I felt my stomach flutter as the plane took off, but then Eric turned my face toward his and caught my mouth with his own. His mouth was warm and inviting.
I never disliked plane rides again.
A/N: I'd love your feedback!