Leap of Faith
Chapter 16: It’s Just You and Me, Bird
KLEENEX – get it. Got it? Okay. That was a PSA from A Redhead Thing to warn you about this chapter – although they will be happy tears.
I held Sookie’s hand as we walked back to the car. It was pretty dark, so we were stumbling in the sand and laughing. The engagement ring looked gorgeous on her finger, and much to my relief, it fit perfectly. I wasn’t surprised that she said yes, but I had been holding my breath waiting for the answer. We weren’t you average love story, and I knew she might be a little shocked when I told her I wanted to get married the next morning.
As we rode back to my apartment I waited for the questions to start; I knew the wheels in her brain were turning. Her first question shocked me though, it meant that she had been thinking about this for a while, probably since our conversation in the bathroom the other morning.
“Eric, how soon do we need to get married so that we can make sure all of the paperwork is done before you leave? I mean, so that they know I’m your contact person.”
Contact person. She was fucking adorable. “Sookie, you’ll be my wife, not my contact person.”
“I know. You know what I mean.”
“Really, Bird, the sooner the better. There’s always red tape and you never know how long things are going to take.”
“Oh. Okay. So what are you thinking?”
“No, lie to me. Duh. Yes, honestly.”
I laughed, grabbing her hand, bringing it up to my lips and kissing the back of it. “Don’t freak out. Okay?” I glanced at her. The car was illuminated by only the dash lights, but I could make out her face and she was smirking, good sign. “Tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? Eric! That’s. I mean, tomorrow?”
“Relax. Just listen. There’s no waiting period in North Carolina. We just need to go to the County Clerk’s office to get our license and then we can get married. There’s a Reverend that does a lot of ceremonies for people who either don’t have a church here or are getting married at the last minute; that happens a lot around the base. I’ve talked with him a few times, about life and love and all of that.”
“I understand, but what are you going to do? Call him in the morning? That’s awful short notice.”
“Cal talked to him when he did Twining’s ceremony. He’s free all week.”
She laughed. “Busted!”
“What? I’ve been planning this.”
“We’ve only been back together like a week.”
“Soph’s been talking to me about it for at least six months. So there.” I couldn’t believe I just said that. But we were both laughing, so she wasn’t going to give me shit about my childish comeback.
“Okay. So what’s the plan?”
“Rise and shine at eight-hundred hours, comms with Reverend Taylor, a little PT, time for hygiene and grooming, transpo to the county clerk’s office no later than thirteen hundred hours, and then to our final objective.”
“Um. Okay. What’s PT?”
“Are you going to the gym?”
She started cracking up. I’m sure she remembered the last time I exercised but didn’t go to the gym. I certainly wouldn’t be forgetting it any time soon. She yawned and stretched as we pulled into the parking lot behind the bar. It was a Monday, but there were still a fair amount of cars there. Thalia was gone for the night, so I slid the Vette into my spot under the a halogen light. It had an alarm, but I also kept it parked in a well lit spot directly in the view of a surveillance camera. I’m a protective father, what can I say?
We headed up the stairs and into the apartment. Sookie had mentioned that she planned to come back here while I was deployed to see Soph and Thalia. It tore me up that I had to leave now that we had straightened our shit out, but I loved the idea that she was making friends with people from my new life. I got to meet Amelia, and I’m sure there are other people she’s close with, and I want to know them. We’ll never get back the time we were apart, but at least we can find a way to build on our time together now.
We were in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and I watched Sookie doing her normal routine. She used the toilet, took off her eye make-up, washed her face, put on lotion and creme under her eyes, then brushed her teeth and put on lip balm. There were so many steps involved compared to my ritual – piss, brush teeth, bed.
She was putting the stuff under her eyes when she noticed me looking at her in the mirror. I had been slowly brushing my teeth for much longer than necessary, but she captivated me. Her movements were graceful, almost choreographed.
“I’m just watching.” It came out as a mumble because my mouth was full of toothpaste.
“You’ve seen me do this a thousand times.”
I spit and rinsed my toothbrush before putting it away. “Yeah, but that was a long time ago. You didn’t used to do that creme stuff under your eyes.”
“I guess I didn’t. I’m getting older.”
“You’re beautiful. You don’t need all of that crap.”
She turned and put her arms around me. “Thank you. And you’re right, I probably don’t need all of this now, but I’ll be glad I did it in a few years.”
“Really? I just thought it gave you soft skin like, tomorrow, or something.”
“That’s what you get for thinking.”
“Har har. I’m getting in bed, but I’m not falling asleep tonight, future Mrs. Northman.”
“I’ll be right in, future husband.”
“Damn, I like the sound of that.”
“Me too. Now let me brush my teeth so we can celebrate our engagement.”
I climbed in bed and listened as the water ran and she brushed her teeth. A couple minutes later she opened the door; before she turned off the bathroom light I saw that she was completely naked. I thought she might have worn some more of her silky lingerie, but I sure as hell wasn’t sending her back to get dressed.
Morning came quickly, and I hadn’t really slept well. Oh, I had fallen asleep exhausted, sated really, after amazing celebratory sex with Eric, but I woke halfway through the night and my thoughts kept me awake. It’s not that I was nervous or uncertain. I want to get married, more than anything. I wished my Gran was here though. After all that we had been through I wanted her to know that Eric and I had made it back to each other. I knew she was up there watching, but I was still sad.
Then my thoughts went to Eric; where he was going and what he would be doing, and for the first time I truly began to worry. What if something happened to him? What if he didn’t come back? I couldn’t help it and found myself crying softly, but it was still loud enough that it woke Eric up. He kissed away my tears and held me, whispering sweet words and professions of love until I fell asleep.
I smelled coffee but could still feel Eric snuggled around me. In fact, I realized that he was running his fingers through my hair. Rolling over to face him, I was met with a grin.
“How long have you been up?”
“Half an hour. I started the coffee and came back to bed.”
“What time is it? Did you call Reverend Taylor?”
“It’s only seven thirty, we’re ahead of schedule.” He stretched forward, kissing me sweetly, then put his head back on the pillow and continued gazing at me.
“Eric, about last night. I got a little overwhelmed, that’s all.”
“Bird. We don’t have to do this today. We can do it later this week or we can wait until I get back. Then you’ll have plenty of time to plan everything you want, you know, for your dream wedding.”
“That’s not it.” I cupped his cheek and felt my eyes fill with tears again. I wasn’t about to explain to him that I hadn’t even thought about getting married since he’d left. Well, except for the day when Alcide had tried to propose. Besides, it didn’t matter anymore. “I want to do it today. I want to get married and be your wife. I’m just terrified of being your widow.”
His eyes closed, then opened them and looked at me. “I never wanted you to have to worry about that. It was part of why I broke things off.”
Putting my fingers on his lips, I interrupted him. “I said I was afraid, I didn’t say we weren’t getting married.”
“Sookie, I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you love me and we’re getting married today. That’s all that matters.” He did, but he managed to do it using body language.
A while later I woke up again and Eric was checking his watch. “It seems we have rearranged the schedule. We’ve taken care of PT, but I still need to establish comms with the Reverend.”
I laughed. “Go call him so we can get this show on the road.”
Eric got up and found his cell phone on the dresser. Still naked, he walked into the living room and made the call. He returned with coffee and a smile, sitting next to me on the bed. “We’re all set. He’ll meet us at 2pm. We’ll have plenty of time after that to come back here for a while before heading to Twinings’ party which will now be our own little reception as well.”
“I don’t know. Jessica might not want us to steal her thunder.”
“Jessica will be fine. You have about an hour and a half to get ready. We’ll go to the Clerk’s office and then I’ll drop you off at Thalia’s to change, or whatever you need to do, and she’ll bring you over to Reverend Taylor’s place.”
“What? I missed that in the plans last night.”
“I know this isn’t a traditional wedding, but I thought you wouldn’t want me to see your dress before hand. So Thalia will drop you off. Our witness will be the Reverend’s secretary, Betty.”
“Thank you for thinking of that; but you know Eric, Thalia can stay, she doesn’t need to just drop me off and leave.”
“Nope. It’s just you and me, Bird.”
I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Can we take a camera? I’d like to get a couple pictures.”
“It’s taken care of. Betty will have a camera.” He stood, taking my hand and pulled me up. “You need to go get showered. I’ll take one after you so you have time to do your hair and whatever else it is that takes you so long to get ready.”
I rolled my eyes, he knew exactly what took so long, he used to sit and watch me get ready. Heading to the bathroom, I showered, half expecting him to join me, but he didn’t. I surmised that we had officially started our wedding day itinerary, and he was honoring wedding traditions as best he could. He surprised me with his decision to have none of his friends at the ceremony, but I knew why he did it. He wouldn’t let me be the only one making sacrifices for our wedding.
Dressing in shorts and a blouse, I dried my hair while I waited for Eric to get in the shower. Once he was behind the curtain, I checked to make sure my dress wasn’t too wrinkled and packed my cosmetics and shoes into the bag. By the time he got out of the shower I was back to drying my hair, our two garment bags hanging next to each other on the bedroom door.
Waiting for him, I considered calling Amelia and Tara, but decided that he was right, it was just us today. He came out of the bathroom in a towel and grinned at me, dropping it to show me his ass on his way into the bedroom. Emerging a few minutes later, he was in jeans and a polo, looking like a runway model.
“Do you have everything you need?”
“I guess. Um. I just realized though, I don’t have a wedding band for you. I don’t even know if you can wear it when your gone.”
He sat next to me on the couch. “We have rings, Bird. I have the whole set from my great grandparents. I had them all sized at the same time. Mine should still fit.” He took a small velvet pouch out of his pocket and showed me the two matching bands.
I tried the larger one on, it was way too big, even for my thumb. There was a giant lump in my throat and my eyes welled up. “Can you wear it? Would you have to leave it here anyway?”
Taking my chin in his large hand, he kissed my tears. “I’ll be able to wear it, Sook. We’re in gloves almost all the time. If it’s not on my hand, it will be around my neck with my dog tags.” He paused, nervously. “You need to tell me if you don’t want to do this today. We can wait.”
“No, we can’t wait. I want to get married today. There are just a lot of unknowns. I know I’m not making sense, but, we’re doing it today.”
“Alright then. If you’re sure, let’s go get a marriage license.” Nodding, I watched him grab our garment bags and put them over his shoulder, then he took my hand and we headed to the car.
The process of getting our marriage license was ridiculously easy. It took all of about ten minutes. Eric drove over to Thalia’s house and carried my things to the door. He rang the bell and gave me a kiss while we waited.
“Hey guys! Come on in! So, today’s the big day?”
“Yeah. Thanks for letting me get ready here.”
“Are you kidding? This is awesome! Okay, get out of here Eric. This is girl time.”
“You know where to bring her?”
“Yes. Now go.” She took Eric’s arm and was directing him towards the door.
He looked back at me, he was so much taller he could see over her head. “You okay?”
“I’m fine. Go. I’ll see you in a while.”
“Okay.” He was still looking back at me as the door closed.
Thalia laughed. “He is whipped!”
“I guess so.” I smiled and stood in the entry way; my nerves were starting to get to me.
“Well, come on in. I’ll show you to the guest room. Let me know what I can do. Do you need anything pressed, or do you need help with your hair?”
“If you could steam my dress that would be great.”
She led me to a guest room. I changed into my robe so I didn’t have to pull anything over my head when I put on my dress. I went across the hall to the bathroom and turned on my curling iron. When I was finished putting the big curls in my hair, I put some spray on it all and then ran a round brush through it to soften the look. It came out perfectly, creating waves around my face and hanging gracefully over my shoulders.
Thalia came in and offered to help with my make up and since my hands were getting a little shaky. I accepted, showing her the colors I wanted to wear.
“So, neither of you mentioned this yesterday.”
“Yeah. He proposed last night.”
“Oh my. Well, that does sound like Eric though. He’s pretty determined once he sets his mind to something.” She had smoothed foundation over my skin and was applying eyeshadow while she spoke. “Tell me how he proposed.”
I told her the story and she laughed about the MRE. “At least he picked a good one. Most of them are disgusting. Did he tell you they save their favorite parts to trade? They’re like little kids.”
We were quiet as she continued applying blush and powder. She leaned back on the vanity and smiled at me sadly. “You should know, Eric used to talk about you a lot when I first met him. It was back before my husband, Quinn, died. Eric used to turn down the girls that his friends were setting him up with, because he said there was someone he wasn’t over yet, he never said your name though. I would have remembered it. Most of them thought he was making you up. Cal defended him, but they were all pretty afraid of Eric kicking their ass so they didn’t bitch too loudly. I guess that someone was you.”
“I guess so.” I sighed. “We’ve missed a big chunk of each others lives, Thalia. I didn’t even know about the bar until two days ago. Do you think, I mean, is there anything else I don’t know?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t think there’s anything else he hasn’t told you. He’s pretty up front. As far as the bar, it’s really more mine than his. It’s just his money running everything, well, originally it was his dad’s money, but you know what I mean. I think he still meets with me when he comes home to make me feel like he didn’t really give me a bar after Quinn died. Eric wouldn’t want me to feel like a charity case, but Sookie, the way he set everything up, the better the bar does financially, the more I make. It’s in my best interest to treat the place like it’s my own, and I do. I like to make Eric feel needed and help with important decisions, but he doesn’t really care. Maybe that will change when he comes back next year, maybe it won’t. Either way I have a hell of a business partner, and hopefully a new friend in his wife.”
“Of course you do. Thank you for telling me all of that.”
“Sookie, he loves you.”
“I know. I’m not worried about that. It’s…”
“Everything else, I know. But you know what? Look at me. Whatever happens, you’ll be fine. Soph and I will be here for you every day. If you need to call or come out here to stay, we’ll be here.”
Thalia stood and moved a curl away from my cheek. She nodded at my appearance and smiled. “Okay Sookie, I’m going to let you do your own eyeliner and mascara. I don’t want to poke your eye out or anything. You have waterproof mascara, right? Then you’ll be all set.”
Facing the mirror, I added the finishing touches and took a step back. My hair looked great, and Thalia had done a beautiful job with my make up. It was a little bit more than I would wear on a normal day, but nothing over the top. Checking her watch, she told me it was time to get dressed, so I went across the hall to change. I packed my things back into my bag and hung it over my arm before going to find Thalia in the kitchen. She was holding a bouquet of roses and wrapping the stems with a dark blue ribbon that I immediately knew would match the color of Eric’s dress uniform.
“Oh. Thalia.” My voice caught, and she looked up.
“No, Sookie, don’t cry. I had no idea what you were wearing, but I had this in my sewing drawer and it just seemed perfect.”
“It is. It’s perfect. Thank you. Did Eric tell you to get the flowers?”
“Yes.” She smiled. “He called and gave me a list of things to do this morning when you were in the shower.”
I shook my head. “He’s amazing.”
“He is. You’ve got a keeper Sookie.” She clapped her hands together. “Okay. We have about fifteen minutes before we need to leave. So, I want you to come outside with me and we’ll take some pictures of you by the flowers. I’ll email them to you as soon as I get back here so you can see them the next time you get into your email. Sound good?”
“It sounds great. Thank you again.”
Thalia had a good eye and took a number of pictures in a very short time. She directed me here and there, had me turn my head, look over my shoulder, and lay my hand over the bouquet with my engagement ring sparkling in the sun. I couldn’t wait to show them to Eric. We climbed into her car and drove to a small subdivision.
“Wait here. Okay?” Thalia ran to the front door carrying my garment bag, chatted with a woman, handing her my bag before coming back to the car. “Eric’s in the backyard where you’re going to have the ceremony. So go on in and Betty will take you into the office.”
She helped me out of the car and grabbed my flowers from the floor in the backseat. “Thalia, I can’t thank you enough.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie. I’ll see you later tonight at the party for Twinings and his crazy wife.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek and got back in the car, waving as she drove away.
I stood at the end of the driveway for a second, gathering my wits. Exhaling, I turned to walk towards the house and realized Betty was holding the door for me.
“You look lovely dear. Come on in. Your flowers are beautiful. Your fiance is ready whenever you are.” She took my hand and led me through the house. “The Reverend is out back. Let me go get him so you can meet him. I’ll be right back.” I wondered how many of these rushed ceremonies the Reverend participated in.
I waited in the office. A few moments later, I was met by an older man with a warm smile. He introduced himself as Reverend Taylor and told me how honored he was to perform the ceremony for Eric and me. He explained that he had known Eric for several years, telling me what a great influence Eric was on his team, whether they were at home or on deployment.
I thanked him, knowing he was right about Eric. He asked if I was ready and led me to the sliding door in the kitchen. My breath caught at the site of Eric with his back to me, wearing his dress blues, standing in front of a small gazebo. Betty was waiting off to the side, camera in hand. Reverend Taylor told me to wait, that he would signal me when it was time to walk out and meet them. He patted me on the elbow and went out to meet Eric.
The three of them turned to look at me, and I stepped into the sunlight, smiling so wide that my cheeks hurt. The immensity of the moment hit me. I was walking towards the man that was about to become my husband. He was the center of my world, and the realization of that in the last week had explained why everything in my life had been off kilter without him. I was fighting tears. How many times had I dreamed about this very moment? The reality was nothing like my old dreams, but it was perfect, and I was glad that it was just the two of us.
Eric was smiling at me, his eyes never leaving mine as I walked towards him. When I stood next to him, I had to wipe away a tear that I couldn’t contain.
“You look beautiful,” he said quietly.
Beaming at Eric, I felt his fingers on my wrists. He gently took bouquet from my grasp and leaned it against the step of the gazebo, before taking my hands in his. He squeezed my hands and turned his head toward the Reverend but my eyes never left his face. Reverend Taylor talked about bravery in marriage and in service as a marine before beginning with the basic wedding rigmarole, but I barely heard him.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today.”
I continued looking at Eric, taking in every inch. All of my questions and fears meant nothing; they would still be there when the ceremony was finished, but at the moment, I didn’t care. Eric was striking in his uniform, the dark blue a contrast to his blond hair and tanned skin. He seemed to stand taller when he was wearing it; I remembered that from Gran’s funeral. Eric was an impressive man in general, but today, his demeanor screamed powerful and dangerous yet controlled. It was a little overwhelming, to see these things in him, and know that he was mine.
Finally, Eric turned his face to me, our eyes meeting. There was a sheen of sweat on his forehead, it made me smile, he was a little nervous too. He began repeating after the Reverend, reverently speaking his vows. I needed to pay attention. I wanted to hear Eric commit himself to me. I wanted to be able to replay these words over and over in my mind when he was gone, and know that he loved me as much as I loved him. He was holding my gaze, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to speak when it was my turn. And then he said it, “For as long as we both shall live.”
My eyes closed automatically. I bit my lip and felt his hand cup my face. “Sookie,” he whispered.
Exhaling, I opened my eyes and tried to smile. Reverend Taylor looked at me questioningly and I nodded. It was my turn. He read the verses and I repeated them back to Eric. Thank God they were broken into small sections because I really had no idea what I was saying. I was focused on Eric; the look on his face and the feel of his thumb rubbing the back of my hand. I whispered the last line, pretending that if I said it quietly enough the God’s wouldn’t hear it.
Eric handed the rings to Reverend Taylor, and from the corner of my eye I saw him making motions to bless them as Eric watched. We exchanged rings, they fit perfectly of course, and suddenly it was over.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. Eric, you may now kiss your bride.”
One blond eyebrow raised at me and Eric stepped forward, wrapping me in his arms and kissing me like we were naked and alone, his body poised to fill me.
Here’s a picture of the dress if you’re curious. Very simple.