Chapter 33: Face North
“Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light.”—Pythagoras
Eric felt numb as he drove into the parking garage of his building. He felt numb as he rode the elevator up to his floor. He felt numb as he stepped out of the elevator and didn’t see Ned shooting into the foyer to greet him.
He didn’t hear noises from the kitchen or the bedroom. No lights were on.
As he always did, he set his car keys and wallet down onto the little table in the foyer. Sookie’s laptop bag was there as it always was, and he dragged his fingers across it. Suddenly needing to see every single trace she’d left behind, he hurried into their sitting room. A few library books were on the table—some of his and some of hers. The sight of them comforted him, but also broke him a little more.
He walked into their closet and saw some of Sookie’s clothing still on her side.
“Not empty,” he said aloud.
Not being able to face their bedroom, the place where they had married each other the night before, he walked into his office. On the desk was a white hand towel with a small hammer and the broken listening device on top of it.
“Sookie,” he whispered, shaking his head a little.
Next to the towel was an envelope with his name on it. And on top of that was the compass Adele had left him in her Will.
His knees shaking a little, Eric sank down into his office chair and held the envelope and the compass for a while as he closed his eyes and prayed to God and to his grandfathers and to his mother and to Adele that Sookie was safe and that she would stay safe. He prayed that all of the pain of their parting could be somehow placed upon him so that she could go on and find the happiness that she deserved. He prayed that she would remember him and the brief life that they had shared with fondness—and not come to hate him for the things that he could not give her. He prayed that one day, a worthier, braver man would walk into her life. He imagined her walking down an aisle in a flowing white wedding gown, looking radiant and content. He prayed that she would have children so that she could pass on her light to them. He prayed that she would find work she enjoyed and spend her days in peace and happiness.
And—finally, after he’d transferred all the wishes he’d had for himself and Sookie to her and this better man—he prayed one selfish prayer: that there was a heaven and that he would see her there one day, even if he could not have her there either.
He prayed until it was night and the room with lit up with only the city lights.
And then he turned on his lamp and read the letter from Sookie.
My Dearest Love,
I could spend pages writing “I love you,” over and over again. Yet it would not be enough. There are not enough pages—not in all the world. There is not enough time.
When we were in Sweden, we would often sit out at night and look at the stars. My eyes were always drawn toward Polaris, the North Star. You told me its Old Norse name, leiðarstjarna. And—under that star—we talked and made love and were happy.
In Manhattan, the lights and the buildings can make it impossible to see any stars, even one so bright as leiðarstjarna. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to see it, Eric. I promise you that—no matter where I am—I will always face the north at night and remember better nights. Nights when we were together.
You are my North, Eric. You are the direction my heart will always point in. And you are the brightest and the strongest star in my sky. You always will be.
Promise me that you will remember your own strength, Eric. You are stronger than Appius—so much stronger. You have been dragged through hell by him, yet you have become such a good man. It takes so much more strength to be willing to stay there and protect those you love than to run away. And that strength makes me love you even more than I did before.
Remember, Appius is the weak one, Eric. Only the weak prey upon children. Only the weak make others suffer so that they will suffer less. You are nothing like him, and that makes you so much more.
You are the love of my life. And I will always be yours. Even if it takes decades, you and I will be together. Do not give up hope, Eric. And do not stop looking north.
Below Sookie’s name was the passage from the Faerie Queene that had been written to him in the codicil that Adele had included with her Will.
What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eate the earth? it is no more at all,
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought:
For whatsoever from one place doth fall
Is with the tide unto an other brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.
Eric read the letter over and over again before he folded it carefully and placed it back into its envelope. He stood, compass and letter in hand, and walked into his and Sookie’s bedroom. He put the letter into his nightstand and then walked out onto the balcony.
He held the compass in his hands and then turned due north. Sookie was right. Tall buildings and light pollution hid the North Star from him, but he closed his eyes and saw it all the same.
“I love you, Sookie,” he choked out, his throat burning from both the trauma of the wound his father had given him and his tears.
The cold January night bit into him. But he stayed outside until his body was as numb as his heart.
A/N: Hello all, this last chapter is shorter than usual, so I am able to bring it to you today. The Epilogue is also relatively short, so there’s a chance it may be done today too. If so, I’ll get that to you too. If not, you should have it tomorrow. Thanks for all the comments I’ve already gotten for the last chapter!
Next up: Just as with Comfortably Numb, the last word of this sequel will come from Appius.
P.S. The passage quoted is from Book V, canto ii, verse 39 of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.