It’s a loss that had me crying the entire flight home.
It’s a loss that has rendered me incapable of doing anything but curling up on on the bed or the bathroom floor, much like I did after my parents, like I should have done more of. Perhaps I’m grieving for them too. Lord knows that never goes away.
And now I’m back here.
In this town.
In this house.
And I realize that this isn’t my home anymore.
I don’t have one.
I’m officially nomadic.
The vacancy inside me has returned but I can’t even move in.
“Maggie,” Pike whispers from the door.
I’m curled up in bed. I haven’t moved all day, not even to go pee. Viktor the moose is tucked up under my arm.
“What?” I ask softly, hoping he doesn’t ask me to do anything because I don’t think I can.
“I’m taking R and T and Callum to see a matinee,” he tells me. He pauses. “I saw an ad in the paper for a job at the movie theatre. I know it’ll probably be obsolete in a year but do you want me to suss it out for you?”
“Sure,” I say, my voice dull. The world dull. Sure I could work in a movie theatre. Sure I could work back at the hotel. Sure I could try and do a lot of things but none of that seems to matter right now except for this pain that I’m carrying inside.
Why did we have that fight?
Why didn’t we just talk it through like rational people?
Why did I push him away like that? Because it got too hard? I’ve been able to stay strong through everything in my life and yet the moment that love got too hard, I bailed.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
The tears start flowing again.
I guess I fall asleep because when I open my eyes, the sun coming in through the window has shifted.
I should probably go and pee.
I shuffle out of my room, wearing the same PJs as I’ve worn the last few days, and look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I don’t even recognize myself and I desperately need a shower.
When I’m done in there, I shuffle out of the bathroom, planning to go straight back to bed when I pass by April’s room. Her door is open.
“Maggie,” she calls out to me.
April and I have gotten a lot closer since our time in Sweden, so at least something good came out of me dragging them all there.
I pause at her door and lean against the doorway. She’s sitting cross-legged on the floor with a bunch of letters displayed in front of her.
The sight of them makes my heart lurch.
“Where did you get those?” I whisper.
A wash of shame comes over her. “I took them from the mailbox.”
“Are they recent?” my heart jolts at the thought that maybe Viktor has written to me. We haven’t said a word to each other after I left, which is another thing that’s killing me. It didn’t end well.
But if he’s written me, if he says he loves me, if he wants me to come back, I’ll…
“They aren’t recent,” she says quickly, perhaps reading the look on my face. “They’re from the fall. I took them and hid them because I didn’t want you to read them.” She pauses. “I didn’t read them either, see, they’re sealed. But I knew they were from him.”
“Why did you do that?” I ask softly, my heart seeming to break all over again.
“Because I was a dick,” she says. “I’m sorry. I wanted you to have them. They smell nice still.” She picks one up and smells it and then holds it out for me.
I walk in and gingerly take it from her. Hold it up to my nose. Breathe it in.
I breathe in Viktor.
The faint smell of lavender.
The tears start falling. I’ve been conditioned.
“Aren’t you going to read it?” April asks, eying me with concern. She doesn’t do well when anyone cries, which is why I’m surprised she’s talking to me right now, showing me all this.
I shake my head. “There’s no point. I know what these letters would say. They’ll just remind me of everything I lost. Everything I had.”
“You know we all would have moved to Sweden,” she says matter-of-factly.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean Viktor asked us and we all said yes…thinking that you would have said yes.”
I blink at her, frowning. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. He asked you all? He never asked me. I mean, not in an official sense.”
She rubs her lips together, silently debating something.
She sighs. “Okay well I guess he wouldn’t care if I told you now. But…he was going to propose.”
“He told me. The night we got into Sweden and you were asleep, we stayed up drinking together.”
“Focus,” April says gesturing with her hands. “He was kind of drunk but, like, kind of sober at the same time and anyway he asked if I would move to Sweden and I was like, yes please, get me out of the murder house, thank you. Anyway, he then said he planned to ask you to marry him. You know, become a princess and all that. He said we could live in the palace and have nannies and eat pickled fish. I really thought that’s what was going to happen.”
I can’t believe a word of this.
He was going to propose?
“When?” I ask. “When was he going to propose?”
“Christmas Eve,” she says. “But you guys were being weird and the next day no one said anything, I guess because of the whole incident, so I assumed it didn’t happen.”
I put my hand to my head. “Oh my god. He was going to propose and we started fighting and…”
“Yeah so it seems you guys did the opposite. Instead of getting engaged, you broke up.”
“But,” I say, walking into her room and sitting on her bed, my eyes drifting absently over the letters as my mind tries to catch up. “But…you would move there? What about what happened with the paparazzi?”
“Whatever, I’ll deal.”
“What about the others?”
“They were all fine with it. Pike wasn’t loving the idea but I mean who cares. He’s eighteen, he can go and live in LA if he wants to and, like, open a tattoo shop or something while the rest of us live in a friggin’ palace. I mean, hello, who gets the better deal here. Not him.”
I can’t get this new information to settle in my head. All the crying has rendered it useless. “Rosemary and Thyme. Rosemary wouldn’t want to leave here, leave all her sports teams.”
“Rosemary has fallen in love with skiing,” she says. “She was quick to say yes. Thyme has fallen in love with the Swedish death metal music scene.” She laughs. “She says it’s musik spelled with a K. And Callum wants to become a Swedish Chef now, so there you go.”
“Viktor asked all of you? When?”
“The day before Christmas Eve. I don’t know where you were. We had a family meeting without you.”
I can picture him calling them all around and asking them and…oh, my heart. My heart. This man loves them as much as he loved me.
He still loves you, I tell myself. It’s not too late.
“But if you guys moved there…the paparazzi, I mean they are ruthless. You know what happened.”
“I’m sure they’ll get tired of us and honestly, I don’t mind the attention.”
“You were knocked over!”
“I think that scared you more than it did me. I was fine, wasn’t I? And that made them all look really bad, I think they would have backed off after that. Look, I don’t like my photos being taken all the time but I don’t know, it’s kind of fun. Makes me feel like a celebrity. I’ll deal with all of that for a chance at a new life. Don’t you think we all deserve a do-over?”
April is right.
I’ve had days to mourn and stew and grieve and try to sort out my feelings.
And yet now I’m figuring out my feelings in seconds flat.
“I’ve got to go,” I tell her and immediately scamper out of her room into mine.
“Where are you going?” she asks, following me.
I grab a small suitcase and throw it on the bed.
“Where does it look like I’m going?” I ask, glancing at her over my shoulder. “Now help your sister pack.”
* * *
* * *
This is a mistake, this is a mistake, this is a mistake.
“Would you like some water, miss?”
Mistake, mistake, mistake.
“Thank you,” I tell the flight attendant, picking the cup off the tray and nearly spilling it on the guy that’s squished next to me.
I’m in the back of the plane.
Flying to Stockholm.
Landing in one hour.
I have no idea what awaits me when I land.
There was no time to plan anything.
Okay, well there could have been time but after talking to April, there was a switch in my brain that had always been connected to my heart and suddenly it turned on. It was a lightbulb going off, but it wasn’t just in my head, it was in the deep-seated soul of me. It was a light that glowed through the darkness I had been drowning in, a darkness I wanted to drown in, maybe because I’d spent so much time in the last year acting like a robot and distancing myself from all the loss and grief and reality. Maybe I fell so deep because I never let myself fall before.
But this light went on and it illuminated everything and in a second I knew that I had to go.
I had to be with Viktor.
At any cost.
That the only thing that makes sense in this world is the two of us together.
Without him, I’m just surviving.
So I packed with April’s help and then when Pike got back with the kids, I hastily told them the plan and begged for him to drive me to LA where I could catch a plane. I know Pike wasn’t all that happy that I would be using some of our savings on something that might not pan out but by the time the minivan was pulling up to LAX, everyone was chanting Sweden, Sweden Sweden! and that’s when I really knew that my family has my back as much as I have theirs.