I was in Oslo.
It was almost three in the morning and my phone was ringing.
“What do you want, Jase?” If he was drunk I was going to kill him. Eric and I had endured a crazy long train ride with a stinky Turkish guy yelling into his phone behind us ninety percent of the way.
“You need to come home, Sook,” he replied in a somber tone.
“Three more weeks,” I mumbled. I still had Copenhagen, Paris and Barcelona to see.
“Gran had a heart attack. You need to come home.”
I sat up in bed.
“Is she okay?” I couldn’t lose Gran. Someday, yeah, it was inevitable. I wasn’t ready for that day yet. I probably never would be but it was too soon.
“She’s still breathin’,” he answered, “But I know she’ll want to see you when she comes to. They don’t know when that might be.”
I looked over at Eric, who was asleep next to me. In my gut I knew Gran wouldn’t want me to give up the rest of my trip for her, but I also knew that if she was recovering from a heart attack, she wouldn’t be able to handle Jason for long. He wasn’t reliable and there would be doctor’s appointments and maybe meetings with specialists.
“What happened? How did she get to the hospital?” I asked.
“She wasn’t feelin’ too good and called me to take her to the hospital. She had the heart attack in the car. She’s been in for about an hour.”
At least Jason took her to the doctor.
“It had to be bad if she asked to go to a doctor.” Gran hated to be a burden.
“She was feelin’ short of breath,” he told me.
“Well that isn’t unusual.” The stuffy, humid air had her winded a lot of the time.
“I guess it was really bad. I don’t know. She just called and asked if I could take her.”
I sighed heavily.
“Is she with Dr. Garza?” I asked.
“Yeah, they called Dr. Garza in. I called the hospital as soon as she started to… you know,” Jason finished quietly. “It terrified me, Sook.”
“I can imagine.” I didn’t want to leave but I didn’t know if I could stay. Unlike my brother, I couldn’t just put myself first, even if Gran might get mad at me for coming home early to take care of her. I could always come back to Europe, but Eric…
“I’m sorry to call you. I know it’s the probably the middle of the night, but I… if she goes I don’t think I can handle it without you.”
“No, it’s okay. I’m glad you called,” I told him. “I’ll look at the flights home and let you know what I book.”
“Thanks, Sook. I love you.”
“I love you too. Kiss Gran for me,” I said.
“I will.” With that Jason hung up.
I sighed again and set my phone on the nightstand.
I didn’t want to go home yet. Of course I was worried about Gran and I would be for the rest of the trip if I stayed.
“Is everything alright?” Eric mumbled.
“I have to go home,” I replied honestly.
His eyes popped open. “Why?”
“Gran had a heart attack.” My eyes welled up. I wasn’t sure if I was crying over Gran or having to leave.
Eric sat up quickly and pulled me into his arms.
“Is she…” He trailed off instead of asking the hard question.
“No,” I sniffled. “But she’s not awake either.”
“Shit,” he muttered. Eric started rubbing my back, holding me as tight as possible. “Do you know what happened? Never mind, that’s a stupid question.”
I waited until I calmed down some before I tried to answer him.
“I’m not really sure. She was having a hard time catching her breath so she asked Jason to take her to the doctor. They were in the car when it happened,” I explained. “She’s still unconscious and I don’t know if she’s going to wake up. I didn’t call her when we got here. I promised I’d call…”
“We’ll get you on a plane as soon as possible, Sookie,” Eric promised. “Do you know how long until we get to Oslo?”
“We’re in Oslo,” I reminded him.
“Shit, I knew that.” He was still mostly asleep. “Go; start packin’ I can make your flight arrangements.”
“No, I’ll do it. Go back to sleep,” I told him. He wouldn’t know the best place for me to fly into or any of that.
“I’m not going to be able to sleep, Sookie. This is… I can’t sleep now,” he said, kissing my forehead.
“Then I guess you can change your flight back to Ireland,” I told him. I got off the bed and I dug my tablet out of my bag. I hadn’t even unpacked my things.
“I think I’ll go back to see my mother for a while,” he admitted. “They don’t expect me back at the pub just yet.”
“You could go to Amsterdam.”
“No,” he shook his head. “I need to spend more time with Mor.”
“I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you again so soon.” I turned on my tablet and tapped the internet app icon.
“Yeah. I think I’ll stay a week or two before I go home. Maybe I can get her to move to Ireland.”
“Maybe,” I said absently. My mind wasn’t on Elin or what her future living situation might be. I Googled for flights from Oslo to Dallas. I was going to have to fly to London and then to Miami. From there I’d switch planes before continuing on to Texas. I’d have to rent a car and drive back but it took less time than a shuttle flight to Shreveport.
Eric disappeared into the bathroom. I put my tablet on the table and got back in bed once my flights were booked. I was leaving the next morning. Very early in the morning. I decided I’d email the information to Jason in a few hours. Before I stretched out I turned off the lights and pulled up the blanket.
I didn’t know what I was going to say to Eric but I knew I had to say something more than just goodbye. He came out of the bathroom a moment later, crawling into bed with me. He wrapped his long body around me.
“I can’t put into words how much I’m going to miss you,” he whispered.
“Don’t,” I whispered.
He shifted his position and tilted my head toward his, pressing a lingering peck on my lips.
“I mean don’t miss me,” I said.
“That’s impossible,” he told me. “You got under my skin.”
“I won’t miss you,” I told him.
“Okay.” He kissed me again. He didn’t believe me.
“I mean it. I’ve decided I’m not going to,” I said. I got a taste of it while he was in Ireland but it was different. “I know this is it. It’s over. So I’m not going to waste my time missing someone who isn’t coming back.”
Eric sat back some before saying, “You know I’d come with you if I could, right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cursed the reasons I have to stay. But, this is for the best. And I am going to miss you, if only for a little while. It would be impossible to even try not to. You’re the first girl to make me feel anything in a long time, Sookie. I will hold onto that for a long time.”
I felt like hardening my heart was the best way to go. If I was mean he wouldn’t miss me and maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much to leave him.
“Come on, Eric, if we really wanted to be together nothing would stop us. Obviously we don’t. Let’s not pretend this was more,” I said as convincingly as I could.
“Okay,” he whispered. He figured out what I was doing. He shifted so he was lying on top of me. “One more for the road? Is that the phrase?” he asked as he dipped his head to kiss my neck sweetly.
My breath caught on the ball of emotion in my throat. I was caught in a bad spot where my body said yes but my head said it was a bad idea. The heart… it never did what it was told and I was afraid that in the moment I’d tell him I’d stay or beg him to come home with me.
“I should make arrangements for a rental car,” I said. It was probably the least sexy thing I’d said during the entire trip.
“It’ll still be there in an hour,” he reminded me. Eric rocked his hips so I could feel his stiffening cock rub against me.
“Yeah,” I nodded but in my gut I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I hadn’t turned down sex once on the trip. We had been together for about four weeks all told. There had been a lot of sex in that time.
His kisses moved along my neck, up to my jaw, and finally ending at my mouth. It was slow and sweet. Eric’s hips stopped moving and he settled his elbows next to my head as his tongue slipped through my lips for what was probably going to be the goodbye kiss. It was as good as all the others from a technical standpoint but more important, there was a ton of emotion in it that wasn’t there in the beginning.
I had to push him off of me and get out of bed. I locked myself in the bathroom and sat against the door. If I didn’t, those things I shouldn’t say were going to come flying out of my mouth. My stomach was doing flip flops and I felt a little lightheaded. I took a few deep breaths so I’d calm down.
The combination of potentially losing Gran and having to leave Eric behind was fucking with my emotions big time. It was causing an anxiety attack.
The last time I had one of those was before I left for college.
What a life I had. It was the middle of the night in a foreign country and I was in the middle of an unintentional game of Tug ‘o War. On one side I had my brother pulling me home and on the other I had a man who I’d consider giving up everything for to stay.
That’s ridiculous, Sookie. You sound like an obsessed tween. He couldn’t even give up his work for the whole trip. You’d end up miserable here when he spent more time at the bar than with you. Just go home and forget him.
So I did the most logical thing.
I spent the rest of the night on the bathroom floor.
My entire body was sore when I woke up. I had been lying awkwardly on the cold tile floor and if Eric had come in I hadn’t heard it. At first I was confused about how I ended up there but then I remembered Jason’s phone call. Gran had a heart attack.
She could be dead.
I bolted off the floor and out of the bathroom to find my phone. It was still on the nightstand where I left it, but when I picked it up it wasn’t queued to the regular home screen. Instead a video was ready to play. Eric was frozen in time, sitting on the bed. It was still unmade but when I looked around the room I realized he was gone.
So was his suitcase.
My heart sank.
All thoughts of Gran were momentarily pushed aside.
Eric was gone.
The video was his goodbye. All the things he might have said to me in person were preserved on video. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it. If he told me he loved me I was going to lose my mind. Okay, maybe that was being overdramatic. It would definitely hurt to hear it. Not that I’d think he was lying because I wouldn’t. Eric didn’t strike me as the type to lie about his feelings.
In the end I decided I owed it to him to hear what he had to say. Before I could change my mind, I tapped the playback button.
He started talking in Swedish at first before he paused. He took a deep breath before he said, “I will carry you with me forever Sookie. In my heart, that’s where you will live until I find you again.” He blew a kiss into the camera right before the video stopped.
It was short, sweet and to the point. I didn’t recognize any of the words he had said in Swedish but it may have been for the best. I watched the video again and then went back to my home screen so I could call Jason and check on Gran. I was tempted to call Eric but decided not to. Despite his claim that he would find me someday, I wasn’t going to put any stock in that. Just because we had a hot fling it didn’t mean we were destined for more.
I pulled up Jason’s contact and dialed his number so I could get an update on Gran. Of course it was the middle of the night so I only got his voicemail, but I left a message for him. Hopefully he’d call me back when he woke up. I had less than twenty-four hours left in Europe. Rather than pacing around my room, waiting anxiously for Jason to call, I decided to get dressed and go have breakfast. I wouldn’t be able to see everything I wanted to see in Oslo, but I could do a little sightseeing.
I went to my suitcase to get out clean clothes and I froze when I found one of Eric’s shirts there. It was a T-shirt from a U2 concert like twenty years ago. He had been wearing it the day I saw him in London. I clutched the shirt to my chest and inhaled. It smelled just like him.
That was when it hit me he was gone.
It was over.