I put on the shaggy blond wig that I’d borrowed from the set. I couldn’t bring myself to wear the one from the costume shop, no matter how clean they swore it was, and adjusted it in the mirror. I looked ridiculous, and frighteningly like pictures of my father from the seventies, but I was grinning from ear to ear. Sookie had agreed to marry me without a second thought really. It was surprising and amazing, and shit, my grin got even wider, it was real.
I found Sookie in the kitchen being smothered by Amelia. She went back and forth between squeezing Sookie and pulling back to look at the ring, squealing in a pitch that I was sure dogs could hear, and then she would hug her again.
I glanced at Tray, who tipped a beer towards me as he said “Congrats.”
Our voices broke Amelia’s cycle, and she threw herself at me for a hug. “Congratulations! This is so exciting!”
“Thanks,” I said again, still grinning like a fool even when she let go of me.
Sookie came over and put an arm around me, her left hand sliding up to rest on my chest so we could both admire her ring. “Are we making a big announcement, or telling people one by one?”
I shrugged. “It’s up to you.”
She bit her lip. “An announcement, if I can contain myself,” she giggled.
“Sounds good.” It actually sounded like a brilliant idea, because I could ask my dad to do it.
Eventually, the girls started pulling dishes out of the refrigerator and lining them up on the counter, then hurricane Amelia blindsided me with questions I really wasn’t ready to answer.
“Will you get married here or in Michigan? Oh, or, in Chicago? Have you set a date? Which of your brothers will be your best man?”
She hadn’t really asked them in rapid fire succession, but that’s what it felt like. I chuckled, “Where, is up to Sookie. When, depends on both of our schedules, and as to which brother, I have no idea.”
Sookie laughed and patted my cheek like a child, “Don’t mind her, it’s just preparation for when we tell your mom.”
“Funny.” I laughed, trying to smile. If she only knew.
Tray and I headed outside to put the meat on the grill, and he hung back watching me for a minute.
“Shit,” I laughed. “This isn’t going to work.”
He laughed. “Yeah. I figured it out a little while ago. I just wanted to see you try to put something on that grill without setting your costume on fire.” He took his robe off and laid it over a chair, pulling on one of Sookie’s aprons over a white t-shirt.
I shook my head and went inside to get a t-shirt. So much for having my ass covered by that robe all night; at least I’d have an apron on in front. When I came back through the kitchen Sookie giggled at me and handed me a an apron covered in lip prints that read across the chest, “Kiss the Cook.”
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically.
Sam and Daph were the first guests to arrive, dressed as jail inmate and a sexy cop. After laughing at me so hard that he had tears rolling down his face, Sam told Tray and I to put on our robes, and that he would take over grill duty.
“Seriously boys, those pants are pornographic. While I’m sure the ladies would love to stare at your asses all night, I don’t. Put your damn robes on and cover up.”
“Oh, they look fine, Sam,” Daph giggled.
“Really fine. Like grade A beef,” Amelia added as Sookie laughed hysterically.
“My point exactly.” Sam laughed.
“Thanks, man,” Tray said quietly.
“Not a problem. I would hope to God that you would do the same for me.”
I pulled my apron off and handed it to Sam, who pulled it on over his orange jump suit. I had to laugh as I thought about it. I would have never guessed that I would actually want to wear that damn robe for the duration of the party, but the alternative was, as Sam said, pornographic.
A few more couples arrived, along with Pam who caught me by myself getting an extra garbage bag from the pantry. She was, as usual, dressed all in black, but this was extreme even for her. She wore a long form fitting collared gown with stilettos, smokey eye make-up, red lipstick, and fangs. She leaned against the door frame, and I took in the entire costume.
“Latex?” I asked with a chuckle.
She looked me up and down and raised an eyebrow. “Those pants cannot feel good. Your nuts must be in your throat.”
I choked a little on my drink. “Fuck, Pam. That’s disgusting.”
“So are your pants.” I groaned and shook my head at her, then she leaned in to whisper. “Did you, you know?”
I smiled. “Maybe.”
“Maybe I’m a virgin,” she cackled. “You’re all smiley and blushing. So I know you did, and I know she said yes.”
“You’re in rare form tonight. And you’re right, but don’t tell anyone. Sookie wants us to make an announcement, probably before we eat.”
“Of course she does.” Pam rolled her eyes.
“Go get a drink and lose the attitude.”
She snorted and walked away. When I came out of the pantry, there were more guests coming in to the kitchen, and I wondered where my family was. There was no where in my costume to keep my phone, so I had stashed it on top of the refrigerator. I grabbed it and checked for missed calls, but there weren’t any. I texted Chris, “ETA?” to find out when they were coming.
My phone vibrated seconds later with his reply. It was the number 5, nothing more. I smiled, anticipating their arrival. I had told them to ring the door bell a few times, which Sookie hated, knowing that would get her to come inside and open the door.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, I heard the chiming of the door bell through the outdoor speaker on the patio. I had made sure that Sookie was closer to the house than I was, so she would answer the door. I followed a bit behind her, and almost laughed out loud when the bell sounded several more times as she walked though the house.
I stopped in the kitchen, so it didn’t seem like I was following her. As she reached the door, I heard her say quietly, “Good lord. Hold your damn horses.”
She pulled the door open and there was a chorus of, “Surprise!”
Sookie was quiet, and I knew she was confused and was blinking repeatedly, trying to figure out if what she saw in front of her was real. She swivelled her head towards me, and I could see her eyes were full of tears, then she turned back to my family and started to laugh.
Mom started crying too as she stepped forward and pulled Sookie into her arms, completely unaware of just how special this night was.
“Oh my god! Did you tell them?” Sookie asked me over her shoulder. Then she asked mom, “Did you know?”
Mom wiped her eyes and looked at me. “Did we know what?”
Sookie laughed, pulling back from mom to hold out her hand and show off her ring. Mom’s hand shot out and grabbed Sookie’s wrist, practically pulling her shoulder out of the socket, then there was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down. Even Rachel and Zaneta, who hadn’t officially met us yet, were chattering about the ring and offering congratulations.
Dad stepped forward and gave me a hug, and before I knew it, he was holding Sookie and mom was launching herself at me. She squeezed me in her arms, and then smacked me on the back of my head complaining that I hadn’t told her. Then she hugged me again, like nothing had happened, saying how excited she was for us. When she stepped back she had to wipe her eyes.
Sven and Chris officially introduced us to Rachel and Zaneta, or Zee as she told us to call her. The girls all laughed about seeing Sookie’s ring before they were introduced to her. Everyone was talking at once when my brain cleared after surprising both Sookie and my family, I realized what all of their costumes were.
They were dressed in an ensemble costume that was a combination of the Wizard of Oz and Wicked characters, that I was certain my mother had orchestrated. Elphaba from Wicked had been her go to costume for the last several years. My dad was dressed as the Tin Man, Chris was the Cowardly Lion while Zaneta was Glenda the Good Witch. Sven was the Scarecrow and Rachel was Dorothy.
I stepped aside to let them into the house. Mom and Sookie walked in arm and arm, giggling as mom told her about the green stage make-up that covered all of her exposed skin, and I hoped she didn’t get too crazy about wedding plans right away. I held the door for everyone as they went into the house. As they walked by, Sven gave me a look and I nodded. We needed to talk.
Chris raised an eyebrow at me, “Nice pants.”
He laughed and walked into the house. My dad was the last one to go in and I grabbed his sleeve to get his attention. He looked at me questioningly, but l waited to speak until everyone was a few steps ahead of us.
“I have a favor to ask you, Dad.”
“Sure thing. What do you need?”
“I want you to make the announcement for us tonight.”
He looked at me, a number of emotions crossing his face in just a second, then he cleared his throat and nodded. “I’d be honored. Let me know when you’d like me to do it.”
“Before we eat, I think. ”
He smirked at me and laughed. “Alright.” He looked at me for another second, then he nodded and headed into the house.
I followed him inside and then out to the pool area where everyone was gathered. Sookie and I stood near my family, and she teased me for surprising her again with my family. We introduced them to to the Dawson’s and Merlotte’s and caught up with everyone, getting to know my brothers’ girlfriends and chatting with other guests here and there. After about twenty minutes the pool area was filling up and Sam had the chicken ready.
I stood with Sookie near the grill and prepared to say a few words of welcome. Before I could even attempt to get everyones attention, Amelia let out a wolf whistle that damn near ruptured my eardrums. All heads turned toward us.
“Thanks, Amelia.” I chuckled
“Not a problem, cowboy,” she teased. She was overly excited about the western I was filming.
“The food is ready, but bear with me one second. I just want to thank everyone for joining us at what Sookie and I are hoping will be an annual event.” I paused and smiled down at her.
Chris shouted, “What time does ABBA take the stage?”
Then Sven yelled, “Shut up and let us eat!”
Everyone was laughing, and I had to shake my head and laugh with them. “I was about to say how happy I was to have my family here tonight.” There was another chuckle from the crowd and I paused. “Anyway,” I started, but my dad interrupted.
“Well, I’m glad we’re here,” Dad joked, putting his arm around my mom. He cleared his throat. “I’d like to make a toast if you all don’t mind. It’s a rare occasion that Elsa and I get to spend a night with all three of our boys together, and this evening is even more special. Tonight, we’re proud to say that we’re gaining a daughter, since Eric and Sookie got engaged this afternoon.” There were murmurs, shouts, a frightening scream from Martini, and clapping from our friends as my dad raised his plastic cup. Sooke was crying as my dad toasted us. “To Eric and Sookie.”
Everyone toasted, and I leaned down to kiss Sookie as she wiped tears from her eyes. We looked into each others eyes for a moment before we realized that everyone was watching us.
Sookie giggled. “So, yeah. The food is ready. Everything is on the counter in the kitchen.”
There was more laughter and people began to speak all at once. Sookie was being passed around from person to person getting hugged, and I’m pretty sure every man that was present patted me on the back. It became rather surreal, nodding and smiling, thanking people while keeping an eye on Sookie, who was beaming.
The whole night seemed like one giant dream sequence. Amelia and I freaked out like teenagers when I told her I was engaged. It was funny, neither of us had been nearly as excited when Bill and I got engaged. There had been so many signs with him I just didn’t see; but it made everything with Eric so much sweeter. I may have had a wedding before, but I realized that for the first time, I was getting married. That probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone if I said it out loud, but in my head, it made a world of difference.
After a few other guests arrived, I rushed let someone in before the doorbell made me crazy, and when I threw the door open, I found the cast of the Wizard of Oz standing outside. It took a second before I realized it was the entire Northman family. I knew Eric was responsible for it, but to what extent? Did they know? I was squeezing his crazy mother like a maniac when he told me they didn’t. Then I was holding my hand out and Rachel and Zee joined in the screaming and hugging.
When Eric joined me outside, I stood on my toes to whisper in his ear, “I don’t know how you do it.”
“What?” He looked confused.
“I hate surprises. You’ve bowled me over twice today, and somehow I’m not upset with you at all. In fact, if there weren’t all these people here, I might show you exactly how not upset I am.”
He threw his head back laughing and pulled me close to kiss my forehead. “You can show me later. I promise to remind you.”
I snorted. “I’m sure you will.”
We had decided that we’d make an announcement about our engagement, and I knew Eric had it handled. I wasn’t hiding my ring per say, but I was staying away from Martini until there was an announcement. If she got anywhere near me, she’d sniff out the new diamond smell and know from the look on my face that we were engaged, and then everyone would know. She was nothing, if not a drama queen. She’d shown up tonight in a blond wig and a white halter style dress, a la Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. She was currently across the pool, leaning close and giggling with Daph, and I wondered if they knew.
I chatted with Zee about her job in Seattle working for a marketing company. She joked that getting involved with Eric was the smartest marketing move I could have made for the blog. I laughed, saying that was the only reason we were together. We watched Sven and Rachel standing off by themselves, talking quietly and Zee raised an eyebrow at me.
I shook my head. “No idea.”
“They’ve been kind of quiet since they got in last night. Chris thinks they’re being strange.”
“Well, I don’t know Rachel, but it’s not like Sven to be so quiet.”
She laughed, and Eric began to speak, getting everyone’s attention. I moved to stand by his side and watched his brothers move closer together and his parents come towards us. Chris and Sven heckled him, which was totally in character and hysterical and then I glanced at Eric in surprise when his dad started to speak. I teared up right away listening to Jens talk about how glad he and Elsa were to be there with all of the boys, and then he said how special tonight was because I was becoming their daughter, and I lost it. I didn’t even hear him announce that we were engaged. But everyone cheered and clapped, and I heard Martini’s shriek of joy, so I knew that he’d said it.
I sniffled, and buried my head in Eric’s shoulder for a second, willing my tears to stop so I didn’t ruin my eye make-up for a second time. It was so amazing to me to have all of the Northman’s with us. Aside from my brother, everyone that I considered family was standing with us, sharing our news. I don’t think Eric knew how perfect he’d succeeded in making the night for me.
I was hugged, squeezed, and passed around like a rag doll, and then I was enveloped in Martini’s strong arms. The hug was quick, and then she was pulling at my hand, daring to try to take my ring off and try it on. I yanked my hand away.
“There’s not a chance in hell I’m taking this ring off for you, girlfriend.”
She threw her head back. “Oh, sweety, you’re too cute! Just lemme look at it then! It’s so sparkly! And it’s big! Like I have a feeling something else that man gives you is!”
“Ohmygod! Stop!” I laughed. She loved to try to get details about our sex life.
She took the hand I held out to her and lifted it up to look at my ring, turning my hand to see it from every side. Then she got serious. “I am so happy for you.” She fluffed my hair and put a hand on my cheek. “This is what it was supposed to be like before. You know that, right?”
I bit my lip and nodded. “Now I do.”
She smiled sadly. “Yeah. I didn’t realize that you didn’t feel like this back then. I’m sorry, Sook. I thought you really were happy with him.”
I sniffled and blinked away tears. “Thank you for sticking it out with me even though you hated him.”
“Oh, girl. You’ll never get rid of me.” She shook her head and grinned, lightening the mood again. “And now that you’ve got that piece of man candy locked up tight, I’ll just be hanging around for crumbs.”
I giggled and glanced over at Eric before speaking, “He’s very tidy. I don’t foresee any crumbs, but he might let you do his hair once in a while.”
“That is more than enough, baby.” She hugged me again and kissed my forehead, then wiped her red lipstick off my skin. “Now, go mingle. You’ve got lots of people to show that sparkly to.” She straightened my collar and fluffed my hair again before patting my ass. “Go on.”
A little while later I saw Pam and Eric standing together talking, and I figured she’d need to talk to him about a public announcement, so I walked over to see what she had to say. We’d seen each other several times throughout the night, but she and I hadn’t really gotten a moment to talk, or snipe at each other as it were. She looked me up and down as I got closer, a tight smile on her face.
“A white costume. For purity, I assume?”
I rolled my eyes. “A black costume. How predictable.”
She snorted. “I suppose congratulations are in order. That is, if one should be congratulated for getting engaged to this guy.”
“Oh, I think he’s a catch.”
She leaned close to me and whispered conspiratorially, “He reads food blogs.”
Eric shook his head at us, and I leaned in, mimicking Pam. I looked around, like I was making sure no one else was listening. “I write a food blog.”
“Well, then you two can be losers together.”
We all laughed, and when we settled down, I asked where Alcide was.
“He’s on a date.”
“Really? Wait, with the girl from the Emmys?”
Pam rolled her eyes and Eric answered. “Turns out she works for Warner Brothers. Her office looks out on part of the Bloodlust set.”
“So if he disappears next season, you’ll know where he is,” I joked.
Eric groaned. “Maybe I’ll get him injected with a tracking system, you know, like a dog.”
“That sounds like something I would say,” Pam laughed.
“Okay. Next question,” I looked at Pam. “Are you issuing some kind of press release? Do you need anything from me?”
“Aren’t you sweet?” she snorted. “It’s all set to go. I’ll send it from Eric’s laptop in a little while.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Who do you think held his shaky hand while he picked out your ring?”
“Oh, yeah. I guess you knew already.”
“It was only her and Sam. Well, and Chris; he was in charge of the family surprise part,” Eric confessed.
“I’m not mad.” I laughed. “Someone needed to hold your hand, right? And besides, all of those people will stand up in our wedding anyway.”
He smiled at me and Pam looked confused. “What?”
“You’ll be in our wedding. I mean, I don’t know if you’ll be a bridesmaid or groomsman. I guess we’ll let you decide which side you want to stand on, but of course you’ll be in it.” Eric’s arm was around me, and he gave me a squeeze. I thought for a second Pam might cry. “Oh, shit, Eric. I think I broke her.”
He laughed. “She’ll be okay. Occasionally the estrogen in her system leaks out through her eyes, but it’s rare.”
“Fuck you. Both of you.” Pam laughed; she was back to being herself. She shook her hair over her shoulders. “I’d be honored to stand up in your wedding. Thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me; I have work to do and an attractive red head over there to introduce myself to.”
She walked away, and I turned around to hug Eric, resting my head on his chest. He rubbed my back and I sighed. Amelia had gone around and lit the candles that we had out and someone had turned on the outdoor lights.
“There’s something I need to warn you about,” Eric said quietly.
He sighed. “I swear to you she didn’t know before tonight, but, it’s quite possible my mother has been scouting locations for weddings and receptions.”
“It’s like, a sure thing.”
I laughed. “And did someone tell you why she was doing this?”
He sighed. “She told dad it was because you don’t have a mom help you with it.”
“I know. I was pissed until he said that. How can you be mad about that?” He chuckled.
I laughed. “You can’t be.”
“But,” he leaned back so we could see each other. “You don’t have to go with any of the things she suggests. You can go out on your own, whatever.”
“What’s all this ‘you’ talk? I thought this was a Team Northman thing.”
“Oh, it is, but you’re team captain for the wedding planning.”
I grinned. “Okay, just as long as you don’t think you’re getting out of things like tasting wedding cake and picking out flowers.”
He groaned. “Really?”
“Oh, yes. The whole nine yards, Northman.”
“You know what? I can’t wait.”
“Good answer.” I joked. “Now, speaking of Team Northman. What’s going on with Sven?”
“No idea. I’m going to investigate that now.”
“Alright. You go find him; I’ll go talk to your mother.”
“On three,” he joked.
I shook my head. “Dork.”
“You love me though.”
“I certainly do,” I said, listening to him chuckle as I walked towards his mother.
Elsa was talking with Sam and Daph when I found her. Sam was teasing her, asking how many years she was going to wear the same costume.
“Well, have you seen me in it before?” she huffed.
“Not in person, but I’ve seen the pictures.”
“That doesn’t count.”
“What ever you say, Mom,” he laughed, and then he nodded at me. “Hey, Sookie. Congrats!”
“Hey, thanks, Sam. I’m still getting used to it.” I held my hand up and both Daph and Elsa laughed. “I’m not used to wearing a ring on that finger.”
“Well, get used to it. It will be there for a long time,” Daph teased. She gave me a quick hug and said congratulations, then looked around at the three of us. “I’m going to get a drink. Those Tootsie Roll things are good. Does anyone need anything?”
“I need a beer. I’ll come with you,” Sam said, and then they headed towards the cooler, leaving me with Elsa.
She took my hand, and looked at my ring again. “It’s very beautiful, Sookie.”
“Thank you. Eric picked it out on his own; I had no idea.”
She kept hold of my hand and her eyes were cast down. “I really screwed up our first meeting at the house, didn’t I?”
“Oh, no. Not at all. Once I understood why you were, well, doing what you were doing, it made sense.”
She raised her eyes to mine and laughed. “Really? Maybe you can explain it to Jens and the boys then. I’m just kidding.” She sighed. “I am so truly happy that you’re becoming a part of our family, and I hope that you can give me another chance to, I don’t know what. I just hope you can forgive me.”
“Elsa, Mom, you’re forgiven.” I put my hand over hers. “But you have to come clean with me.”
I raised an eyebrow and then grinned. “I heard you’ve already been scouting churches and reception sites.”
“Oh!” She laughed. “They told you already? Well, yes. I’ve started to get some brochures and get some prices but everything really depend on dates you know. And well, I don’t know what kind of wedding you’re thinking of, I mean, you’ve been married once before, so I didn’t know if you wanted a church wedding or not, so I’ve looked at some venues that do outdoor and beach weddings. As far as receptions go, well, you know more about food than I do, but I wanted to get an idea of what was out there,” she trailed off. “I got a little carried away, didn’t I?”
I smiled, but held two fingers up indicating a little bit. “Give me a day or two to let all of this soak in, and then Eric and I will talk about what we want. I’ll call you after that.”
“Really. We’d love to hear your suggestions.” I was careful not to say help. I mean, I did want her to help, but I didn’t want her to think she was making decisions. I’d already learned that she was overzealous, so I figured the best way to go about things with her was cautiously.
“Sookie, I can’t wait. Oh my goodness, you are taking our last name, aren’t you?”
I looked at Eric huddled together with Sven. Sven was talking fast and Eric looked particularly green, but when he saw me looking, he shook his head. I wasn’t sure if that meant don’t come over or keep my mother occupied, so I smiled at Elsa.
“Of course I’ll be a Northman. Do you think I should make Stackhouse my middle name or just drop it?” I figured that would keep her talking for another five minutes, and it did.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to Eric alone, but whatever was going on with Sven led to a round of shots. The rest of the night was full of mingling with our friends and family, Tootsie Roll drinks, dancing with Daph, Amelia, Rachel, and Zee, and eventually, three drunk Northman brothers in the pool. It was a fantastic end to the night, complete with their mother telling them they would all catch a cold. I looked on laughing, and realized, I hadn’t missed Michigan at all that night. Best. Halloween. Ever.