Stockholm. Darkness, silence. A soft whirlwind blew his hair across his face when Per got out of the taxi. It smelled like home.
With as little sound as possible, he carried the luggage from the elevator into the living room. He looked around the dark room. A clock on the side table ticked softly. Everything seemed the same as when he left three months ago. His heart leaped – three months. What the hell was I thinking? He shook his head and sat down on the couch to take off his shoes.
Three months he had been away from his family. He could clearly remember the day that he’d left, somewhere in March when the snow had just left the city. And now it was June. Summer was on it’s way, in fact, seemed to already have landed in Stockholm.
“Keep out! Knock first 3 x!” Per smiled when he saw the sign on the door of his son’s bedroom. He hoped he hadn’t been too difficult… the door was closed. How much he wanted to go in, but he didn’t. A door across the hall had a big wooden ‘E’ on it. It was opened just enough to peek inside. His oldest daughter was sound asleep, a pile of stuffed animals and dolls filling her bed. Her long, dark blond hair covered half her face and her mouth was open. Again, Per had to fight the urge to go in and wake her up.
He tiptoed through the darkness to the other end of the hallway. To his right was another, small bedroom. The door was open and the small bed empty. He went to the last room and opened the door without a sound. The room was dark except for one streak of weak light coming in between the curtains. Two of his ladies were asleep in his huge bed. Baby Emilia had pushed her small feet against her mother’s belly, arms wrapped around her arm. Her mouth was open and her little chest went up and down calmly under her breath. Eveline was holding the pillow with one arm and the baby with her other. The sheets covered her up to her shoulder, but she had kicked them off her legs and her right leg stuck out. Her face was half buried in the pillow.
Per crouched beside the bed and rested his chin on the mattress, looking at the sleeping girls. He could only see one of Eveline’s closed eyes, the other was hidden in the pillow. He nearly jumped when the eye opened. It went wider, and wider, looking at him. She closed it again, and then opened it again fast. A smile started to spread over her face. She carefully unwound her hand from the baby’s arms, then slid it over the mattress his way. Per put his hand over hers and saw an intense look on her face.
Suddenly, the baby stirred and smacked her lips, mumbling something. Eveline rose from the bed and put a finger on her lips. She picked Emilia up carefully and cuddled her, then walked out of the room, across the hall to the baby’s bedroom. She lay her down under the blanket and stroked her face. Emilia opened her eyes shortly, seeing her mommy’s face close and felt a kiss on her cheek, then sunk away into sleep again.
Per stood in the doorway looking at them. Eveline closed the door, took his hand and pulled him through the darkness to their bedroom. She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him close. He felt she started to cry and her tears wetted his T-shirt. He held on to her, his hand slowly caressing her hair. It seemed to have gotten longer and lighter. They stood there for a moment, just holding each other.
Her head came up to look at him and he kissed her forehead. Her eyes were now red and swollen but she smiled at him.
“Come…” she whispered and pulled him with her to the bed. She lay down on her side of the bed again and pulled him with her. They lay like spoons, Per still fully dressed. He wrapped his arms around her waist and their legs entwined. His chin rested on her shoulder. They weren’t sleeping – neither of them was even able to close their eyes.
After a while, Per thought Eveline had fallen asleep. He carefully loosened himself from her and tiptoed to the bathroom in their bedroom. He was tired too but it seemed impossible to get sleep this night. Too many things were going through his mind at this moment. He undressed and took a quick, very hot shower. He had been longing for that since his 12-hour trip home had started that afternoon.
He found that his things were still in the same place he left them three months ago. All his clothes were neatly piled up in the closet, color-sorted as he liked them… he picked a pair of boxers and a simple white shirt to wear in bed. Then he joined Eveline again. She had turned around, facing his side of the bed. She was looking at him when he came back.
“Sorry I woke you up,” he whispered.
“I wasn’t sleeping.” She answered. He lay down next to her with his arm around her, her head against his chest. His skin was very tanned and soft and so warm he seemed to have a fever.
They lay side by side in the dark and didn’t speak. Per’s hand wandered through Eveline’s long hair, she had wrapped her leg around his.
Soon after sunlight came through the window, the baby-alarm beside the bed made crackling sounds. Emilia coughed, sighed, and then started to make all kinds of cute and funny sounds. This was usually the way Eveline woke up since her youngest daughter was born. Even though Emilia was always ridiculously early – especially in the summer when the sun came up before six – it sure beat the hysterical crying with which Elin used to wake her most of the time.
Per stirred beside her in the bed and she heard him sigh. They listened to Emilia together. She was laughing and giggling and singing in her little bed. Per wrapped his arms tighter around Eveline. She kissed his chin and came up to kiss his cheek. His skin was raw with stubble and she liked the feel of it on her lips.
“Listen,” he looked at her. “There was press on the airport last night.” Her eyes went big.
“Did they see you?”
“Oh yes they did.”
“Jesus. They knew even before I did… I’m going to unplug the home-line,” she said and got up.
“Hey… shall I take Emilia downstairs so you can sleep a little?”
“No, no… bring her here.”
“Sure? I have to feed her.”
“I can’t wait to see her.”
His eyes were dark and tired. Eveline put her bathrobe on. She walked barefoot over the wooden floor of the hallway to Emilia’s room.
“Good morning darling!” Eveline cooed to her daughter. Emilia was sitting on her knees and held the side bars of her small bed, shaking them around as if she were a wild animal about to break free.
“You’re early again, little Missy!” Eveline said in Dutch. She had made it a habit to speak to the girls in her own language and hope that this way they might learn both Dutch and Swedish. It seemed to work, as Elin spoke both languages pretty good even though she mixed everything up sometimes – just like her mother.
“Ok so let’s see what you have for me here… ” Eveline mumbled while opening up Emilia’s pajama. She changed the diaper and quickly cleaned up the chubby pink baby buttocks.
“Come here sweetie…” she picked Emilia up from the dresser, pulling her to her feet. She stood on her feet a bit unsteady but with a big smile and pulled Eveline’s hair.
“Haha that’s my girl! You can stand up already! Look at you… you’re getting so big. Now, come with mummy…”
With Emilia on her hip, Eveline wandered through the empty apartment. The sun was waking up the city and it looked silent and beautiful from the window. She went to the cabinet with power switches and turned off the central phone line. It went all through the house and connected different phones and lines. Now they could only be reached on their mobile phones.
She drank a glass of water in the kitchen with Emilia sitting on the sink. The baby leaned her head against her mother’s chest and played with the belt on her bathrobe.
Per sat up in bed when they came in.
“Look at that honey, who is that?” Eveline said, now switching to Swedish. Emilia looked at Per with big eyes, then back at her mother. They came to the bed slowly and Per felt his throat thicken when he saw the baby. She had grown so much it caused a stab in his heart. He tried to push away the thought of what he had missed. Eveline sat on the bed next to him and put Emilia down in crawling position. She turned back to her mother instantly, burying her face in her neck. Still she peeked at Per from behind Eveline’s hair.
“Hey sweetie…” he said with a catch in his voice.
“Who’s that Emilia? That’s your daddy! Go and give him a kiss honey, come on.” Eveline turned the baby around and Per held out his hands. It took some time and persuasive sweet-talk before she finally, slowly crawled to Per while keeping an eye on her mother. When he finally had her, he lifted her into his arms and cuddled and kissed her.
“My girl has gotten so big! Hey! You’re crawling and everything. Daddy missed you so much…” he said and Eveline saw tears in his eyes. She sighed and lay down next to him.
Eveline took Emilia on her lap when she seemed to have settled with her daddy’s presence. She pushed her top down and offered Emilia her breast. It felt weird to feed her in Per’s presence even though she’d done it lots of times before. She somehow felt more naked than before, after not seeing him for three whole months. They also barely spoke to each other the whole time. She knew where he was, or thought she knew… and that was that. Emilia happily sucked away at Eveline’s nipple while Per lay beside them. He looked at his daughter for the longest time, unable to take his eyes away from her. Eveline was pleased to see that in-love-look in his eyes, in spite her discomfort. She felt a great need to make sure she restored anything that might have been damaged between these two.
After Emilia’s breakfast, she cuddled and kissed and played around with her daddy for a while. After ten minutes or so, she curled up into a little ball on his chest and seemed to be falling asleep.
“I’m gonna see if Elin is awake, it’s about her time now. I don’t want her or Gabriel coming to the bedroom without knowing you’re here, ok?” she said and Per nodded. He held Emilia with one hand and stroked her head with the other.
Eveline once again walked down the hallway. Elin was sitting up in bed, talking to a stuffed animal in her lap.
“Good morning sweetie! How’s my big girl doing?” Eveline said softly when she came in. Again she spoke Dutch, Elin spoke to her in a mixture of Dutch and Swedish words back. She didn’t seem to realize she was mixing up two languages, which could result in misunderstandings with her dad.
“Hey mummy! Is the morning yet?”
“Yes baby it’s morning. Come here,” Eveline pulled her on her lap. “Did you sleep well?” Elin confirmed that and started to talk about what she wanted to do today – she wanted to see the sheep at the Zoo.
“Well I’m not sure if we have time for that today. I do have a surprise for you…” Eveline stated, stroking Elin’s messy hair.
“A present!!!” Elin said and jumped up on Eveline”s lap.
“No, no, not a present. Well, not really. There’s someone here to see you.”
“Oma?” Elin used the Dutch word for grandmother for Eveline’s mother.
“Haha no not Oma… somebody else. Someone that you haven’t seen in a long time, either. And he really loves you a lot.” Now Elin looked puzzled. Who could that be? Eveline’s hart was pounding. Would the kids cope with this sudden change, now that they had just gotten used to the new situation?
“Can you guess? What man do you love the most in the whole world?”
“Uhm… Gabbe.” she said with a nod.
“Ok… but another one, bigger man…” Eveline said and grinned.
“DADDY!!! Is it, mummy? Is daddy coming?”
“Yes very good! He’s already here, in the bedroom.” Eveline said.
“Is he stay all the day?” Elin said with big eyes.
“Yep. The whole day.” Elin jumped off her lap and ran to the door. With the handle already in her hand, she turned around.
“Come mummy.” she said and beckoned with her hand.
“Shall I come with you?” a big nod was the answer.
The TV in their bedroom played silent cartoons and Emilia sat next to Per on the bed, playing with his hair. She hadn’t really discovered television yet. Eveline entered the room with Elin on her arm.
“Now go have a look honey! There’s your daddy!” she said and put Elin down on the bed, and in the same movement picked up Emilia, who started protesting loudly. Elin crawled to her daddy and fell into her arms, climbing on top of him. Eveline left the room silently.
Emilia got her morning bath. Eveline kept an eye on Gabriel’s room the whole time. While dressing Emilia in her room, she heard Gabriel going to the bathroom, and then back to his bedroom. She picked up the baby and went after him, knocking on his door three times like the sign requested. She waited for him to answer and then went in. Gabriel sat on his bed and was putting on some jogging pants. He was a long sleeper like his dad and she was surprised he was already up.
“Morning there! You’re early today?”
“Yeah I couldn’t sleep! I have to finish the pictures today!” he said with a big smile. He meant the scrapbook with pictures that were taken when Eveline took the kids to her parents in Holland.
“Oh of course… well, do you have a moment? I need to talk to you.” she sat down on the bed with him. He looked at her while changing his pajama shirt to a t-shirt.
“Listen honey… your daddy is here.” she said bluntly. He stopped what he was doing and looked at her in shock.
“Yep he’s here. He’s in our bedroom with Elin.” she said and saw his face change. He started to cry.
“When did he come back! Why! How can he be back? He didn’t call me!” he said and lay back on his bed. Eveline put Emilia next to her on the bad and picked Gabriel up, pulling him on her lap. He hugged him close, with one eye on the baby.
“Shush… come here sweetie. I haven’t talked to him at all, so I don’t know anything either.”
“Is… is he gonna stay?” the boy sobbed.
“I hope so.”
“When did he come?”
“Very late in the night, four o’clock or something.” Eveline replied. They sat like that for a moment.
“Don’t you want to see him?”she asked when his crying had subsided. He nodded but still looked bit scared.
“Why don’t you go downstairs and make some breakfast for yourself. If you want to watch Emilia for a moment, I’ll put her in the playpen. Then I can take Elin to the bathroom and send your dad down to see you. How about that?” Gabriel considered it.
“Or do you want me to be there? I think it’s important that you are alone with him for a moment, to talk with him. It will be harder when the girls are both around.”
“Yes. Ok. I… I’m nervous Ev.” his sweet little face looked up at her. He was getting so big, already eleven years old, but now he was a little boy again.
“Of course you are. I bet your dad is, too. Now go on down, he’ll be with you in a few minutes ok?” she said and patted his behind when they left the room.
Back in the bedroom, Elin was hiding under the sheets and Per was trying to find her. Which was a hard task because she kept moving and was pretty fast.
“Hey sweet-nose!” Eveline located Elin with one move and the girl screamed and giggled when she pulled her out from under the blanket.
“It’s time for a shower baby. It’s hair-wash-day remember.” Eveline said to Elin, now on her arm.
“NO it’s NOT!” Elin said and tried to escape.
“Ooooh yes it is! You did so good last time honey, I was so proud of you!” Eveline pushed her finger on Elin’s chest. Her little girl pouted.
Per had gotten up from the bed and stood beside them. He had a loving, yet painful look on his face which tightened Eveline’s chest.
“Hey you, listen… I talked to Gabriel, he knows you’re here. He’s downstairs and Emilia is in the playpen.”
“Ok. I’ll go and see him then.” Per said, insecure. He was silent for a moment and then switched to business.
“Marie Dimberg just called me.”
“Where? On your mobile?”
“Yeah. She said Expressen has an article about me – on their front page…” he rolled his eyes.
“Did she say what they wrote?”
“Nothing much, just that I had set foot on Swedish ground, carrying a lot of luggage, not wanting to talk to the press. That sort of thing.” he shrugged, looking helpless.
“I think we are in for a media circus soon. Let’s see how long we can keep it off. Did you discuss it with Marie?” Eveline was all business-woman when it came to this sort of thing. Per didn’t seem to know what to do. Could he have forgotten how to be a celebrity? Eveline said she would talk to Marie, then Per turned to leave the room.
“Just one thing…” she put a hand on his arm. “Do you intend to stay?” she looked at him with an almost blank face, trying hard to stay calm. He knew she must be raging inside, he didn’t even dare to think about all her anger, her pain, her grief… he took her hand in his and kissed her palm.
“Yes.” was his short answer, and he left the room.
Gabriel was sitting by Emilia’s playpen. Eveline had given her some brown bread to chew on. She knew it would be all over the place later, but she didn’t have time to be bothered. But Gabriel, responsible big brother that he was, had taken the squashed bread out of Emilia’s little fist and was now feeding her small pieces that he tore off. Part of it was already spread out over her clothes and the playpen and she occasionally spit out some, making the boy laugh. This was the sight that Per got when he came downstairs and it was unbelievably cute.
“Hey there…” Per said softly. He sat down on the couch close to Gabriel, who sat cross-legged on the floor. He looked up shortly and then turned back to Emilia. His heart was sure about to explode, he just knew it.
“Wanna come sit with me?” Per tried. He had absolutely no idea what to do. Gabriel slowly got up, stood by the couch, hesitated, but then climbed on and directly onto Per’s lap. He wrapped his arms tightly around Per’s neck and started to cry.
“Oh my boy… I missed you so much. So incredibly much…” Per said and stroked Gabriel’s back.
“I missed you too,” he said between sobs. They stayed like that for a moment, holding on to each other. Then Gabbe settled on Per’s lap and looked at him, studied his face.
“Where were you dad?” he looked serious. Before Per could answer, the next question came. “Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you call me?”
“I… I was just… I wasn’t feeling so well. It was stupid to leave and I’m very sorry that it was so sudden.” Per said while stroking Gabriel’s hair.
“And now? You’re gonna stay?”
“Absolutely. I’m never going to leave you ever again son, you can be sure of that.”
They sat in silence. Gabriel took Per’s hand.
“Daddy…” he hesitated. “Did you fight with Eveline?”
“Just now you mean?”
“When you left.” Gabbe said. It sounded accusing. Per cleared his throat. When he left… God… it seemed years ago.
“I don’t know… I… I just can’t answer that right now.”
Per awoke with a shock and sat straight up in bed. He had heard her voice like she was right beside him. He looked around the room, making sure where he was. Of course she wasn’t there. He was alone. Sweat dripped from his hair to his chest. It was impossibly hot in the room and the sun wasn’t even up yet. He eyed the clock – 5:30 it said. He lay down with a sigh. His pillow was wet, his face was damp and the sheets stuck to his body. With a growl, he got up and walked to the small bathroom. The face in the mirror didn’t seem to be his. A ghost of what he used to be. Pale and with dark rings under his eyes. He hadn’t slept in days and now when he finally got some sleep, he dreamed about Eveline.
“Eveline.” he said her name out loud to the image of the strange man in the mirror.
“Eveline.” again. Nothing happened. She didn’t magically appear, she didn’t stand behind him with her arms around his waist, telling him everything would be ok.
He wandered through the small room to the balcony. A wave of warm air greeted him when he opened the door. The sky was dark blue with little white dots here and there, like a roof with tiny holes in it. On the other side of the roof was the sun, but Per was trapped inside and couldn’t reach the sun…
He quickly went back inside and got the scrapbook that was on the floor next to the bed. He wrote down the thought about the roof with holes in them.
“Daddy? Did you?” Gabriel’s voice brought him back.
“Uhm, no sweetie. No we didn’t fight.” Maybe that was exactly the problem, he thought.
“Tell me, how is your mum?” Per changed the subject.
“Mum is fine, shes very busy. She was here last week with Karl,” he said and waited for Per’s reaction.
“With Karl huh…” Per said it more to himself than to the boy.
“Yeah she moved to Karl’s house. He has a big house dad, you know where he lives? It’s very close to Jossi and Oscar. I saw their house when we went to Karl’s place.”
“Aha… that’s a very good place to live. So you’ve been at Karl’s place too?”
“Yeah me and Eveline and the girls, we went to see mum there. She is making a room for me there but it wasn’t finished yet! It’s gonna be done soon and then I can go sleep there too!” he said and was pretty excited about it. Per wasn’t, but he ignored that feeling.
“OH!! I almost forget! You know what we also did? We saw Eveline’s mom!!” Gabriel suddenly got all excited and couldn’t sit still on Per’s lap.
“Oh really? She’s really nice, isn’t she?”
“Yes she was very sweet and nice and I learned some English words actually, like “grand-ma” and things! We went there by plane!” he now stood beside the couch to express the whole plane-thing.
“What? You went there?” Per’s jaw dropped.
“Yeah we went to Eveline’s mum and her dad was there and Richard and Christina. They have a really big house! I slept in Eveline’s bed.” with this, he shot Per an expectant look.
“Excuse me?” Per looked fake-surprised.
“We slept in the same bed. She let me sleep in her bed lots of times when you were gone.” Gabriel continued, his fingers drawing circles on the couch. Per leaned his way.
“You were in bed with my girlfriend?!” he said and Gabriel nodded with a smug smile on his face.
“Well you weren’t here…” he said and giggled when Per picked him up on his lap and started tickling him.
Giggles sounded in the hallway when Eveline and Elin came down.
“Aaaah, so there is just one dirty little dog left in this house now!” Eveline stood beside the couch with her hands in her sides. Per looked at the loving smile Gabriel gave her.
“Go and wash up ok?” she said, and to Per – “And you should get dressed too. Set the right example for your son.” she winked at Gabriel who was already on his way to the stairs.
Per took his two suitcases upstairs and in the bedroom and unpacked them. There were a lot of clothes, books, scrapbooks and gadgets that he’d been surrounded by for the past three months. He could hardly look at the stuff without guilt gnawing at him.
Downstairs, Eveline made breakfast for Elin and sat with all three kids around the table, when her mobile phone rang in her purse, somewhere in the living room. Gabriel ran to get it for her – it was Dina.
“You’re awfully early on Sunday morning!” Eveline greeted her friend, trying to sound normal.
“Yep, and I knew you would be, too. I’m on Expressen’s website, not believing what I’m reading. He’s back?!” she said, voice high with excitement. Eveline sighed. Dina was her best friend and she desperately wanted to talk to her but it didn’t seem like the right moment.
“Oh yes. He turned up beside my bed at four in he morning,” she said in a low voice. Gabriel was talking to Elin but she could see on his face that he was listening in on her.
“Oh my God. I can’t even imagine the situation over there. Should we talk another time?”
“That would be better, yes. Are they writing anything interesting?”
“Not really. Just the fact that he’s back. A bad picture of him with suitcases, he’s not looking at the camera. They said he got in alone, took a long time to come out at the gate, got into a taxi and left. The taxi driver had ‘no comment’ when they contacted him later.”
“Ah. Good guy. I’ll call you when I can, ok?”
“Good. You know where to find me… hang in there babe. Good luck.”
* * *
Emilia was in her playpen. Elin was playing with some dolls on the couch. Eveline was vacuuming. Gabriel sat at the dining table in the living room with paper, scissors, glue and pens scattered around. Per stood in the kitchen and looked at the little family going about their day. His mind was blank – he had absolutely no idea where to start. He desperately wanted to talk to Eveline without the kids around, but it looked like that had to wait until the evening. He felt a sting in his stomach every time she looked at him. She was wearing an old pair of jeans and a white t-shirt, her long hair tied into a bun in the back of her neck. She kept putting stray strings of hair behind her ears and they kept falling down to her face. It was a simple gesture but he felt it was the most beautiful thing he ever saw.
In the afternoon, Per and Eveline put the two girls to bed together. Elin didn’t want to sleep, but when she lay in bed with her daddy next to her stroking her hair, she was off pretty soon. Eveline had kept herself busy with housekeeping most of the morning and with this forced Per to tend to the kids. Now with the girls in bed, she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. She still hadn’t really talked to Per. Gabriel was showing him the scrapbook he was making from their trip to Holland… her stomach clenched. She’d taken his kids to Holland without telling him. Not that he was within reach to be told anything, but still… she shrugged off that feeling. It was discussed with Åsa and she had said it was ok to bring Gabriel, who had been desperate to come. So nothing to worry about.
Eveline called Marie Dimberg from the laundry room, while both the washer and the drier were keeping her busy for the moment.
“You must be having a busy morning.” she said when Marie picked up.
“Oh my God, Eveline! I don’t think my morning is any more exciting than yours… what’s going on honey?”
“Uhm well… someone showed up beside my bed at four in the morning. I was shocked – and that’s an understatement. We are keeping ourselves busy with the kids right now. He said Expressen was there to welcome him at the airport? How the hell did that happen?”
“I have no idea. Nobody except Per himself knew that he was coming. Maybe someone at the airline slipped. He told me that they waited for him at the gate and brought him to some VIP area and they waited to see if the paparazzi would leave. But they didn’t, so he had to face them eventually.”
“Have they contacted you?”
“Not yet. But I’m writing a statement as we speak, in case it gets too much. I’ll tell them that he’s had a long break, visiting a friend on the Canary Islands, to get away from everything and be able to concentrate on working on some new material. Nothing personal in there.”
“Very good. Let them speculate all they want. I was thinking, if it gets really nasty, we could have an exclusive with some bigger, national newspaper like Dagens Nyheter or something?”
“Exactly my thought. But we don’t have to do anything just now. Let them sit on it for a while, and try to lay low.”
“Oh yeah! I’m not going to Åhlens this week for sure!” Eveline said with a nervous laugh.
She was in the kitchen clearing out the dishwasher, when Gabriel wandered in.
“Ev, can we have chips?” he asked her. It sounded like he had brought in a friend from school to play.
“Yeah sure, check the cupboard there,” she pointed.
“We’re gonna watch a movie.”
“That’s great sweetie.”
“Yeah. It’s Shrek.” Gabriel said, noisily opening a bag of chips. Eveline’s head snapped up.
“You’re gonna watch Shrek with your dad?” she said and Gabriel grinned at her. It was one of her favorite movies and they watched it together numerous times.
“Wanna come?” the boy asked.
“Oh my gosh… you little… come here!” she said and grabbed him. He quickly put a piece of chips in his mouth and then leaned his head on her stomach.
“Hey tell me, is everything ok?” she asked. He looked up at her and nodded.
“And you?” he gave back. She nodded too.
“Ev, come here,” he beckoned her over to lower her face. Then he spoke softly in her ear.
“Can I ask you something? About dad?”
“Sure you can.”
“Are you… well, I asked dad if he had a fight with you before he left and he said he didn’t, and he also said it wasn’t my fault, so I wonder… if you are in love with him? Still?” he said and took a breath. She looked at him. This kid was something. She crouched down to his level.
“That’s a tough question honey. I have to be honest with you. When your daddy didn’t come home, I was very angry with him, and very sad. But it’s been a long time now and we really have to talk about it. But I’m very happy to see him.”
“Did you kiss?” he said with a frown – as if the kiss would make a huge difference.
“Hehe… no not really. I think… I think maybe I was no longer in love with him for a while but now that he’s here, I can fall in love with him again. Do you understand that?” she whispered. He nodded.
“Yes. I want you and dad to be happy, Ev.” he said and looked at her with a sad face. Her heart shrunk.
“I’m gonna do all I can to make that happen. I promise.” she kissed the top of his head and got up. “Go on, I’ll be with you in a moment,” she said when she saw he was waiting for her to come with him.
Per and Gabriel had installed themselves on the couch with chips and fizzy drinks, the windows blinded so they wouldn’t see the rain. The big flat-screen on the wall already showed the first scene of Shrek, and Eveline was still in the kitchen.
“Eveline!! Come on it’s starting!” Gabriel yelled. No sign. He gave his dad’s arm a push with his hand. “You get her.” he said. Per got up from the couch and went to the kitchen. Eveline stood by the window and just dried her tears when he came in.
“You ok?” he asked and put his hand on her arm. She smiled at him.
“Yeah, I’m fine, sorry. Your son… he’s something. He’s very smart. You better watch out for him.” Eveline said and looked out the window. Per came to stand closer beside her, not really sure if he was allowed to touch her.
“Ehm, I want to uhm… hug you.” he said stupidly. Ok. This could be a start, Eveline thought. She turned around and wrapped her arms around his waist, her head resting just at his shoulder. He stroked her back.
“I missed you so much. I can’t even explain – I…” he whispered in her ear and then loosened from her, looking into her eyes. “I love very much.” he said very seriously. He saw her face change into a cry and took her in his arms again.
They sat down on the couch, each on a side of Gabriel. The movie was well on its way when they finally joined him but he didn’t comment. Halfway the movie, Gabriel leaned against Eveline and she wrapped an arm around him. Her hand ruffled his hair and stroked his head. Per looked at them for a long time before Gabriel noticed he was looking. He turned his head quickly back to the TV.
* * *
“So… he’s in bed.” Per said, walking into the kitchen. Eveline was busying herself once again with something unimportant.
“Good. He’s been hyped up about this last school week for ages.” she said, not looking at him. She knew that they had to sit down and talk like two sensible adults now and she tried to postpone it as long as she could. Per looked into the fridge and picked up a bottle.
“Chardonnay? Since when do you drink this?” he said with a smile.
“Oh, Dina brought it… but we didn’t even open it,” Eveline replied with her hand waving.
“You want some?” he asked. She shook her head.
“I can’t, you wouldn’t want your daughter to get drunk later tonight?” she said with a small grin.
“Oh right… Something else?”
He poured them both some iced tea.
“How is Dina anyway?” Per made conversation.
Silence. It seemed to cut through the kitchen like a cold wave. Eveline had nothing more to do and leaned against the sink with her hands hidden in the pockets of her jeans. There was a smudge of something on her knee where Elin’s dirty hand had grabbed her.
“Ev…” he spoke first. She looked up at him, eyes narrow. He rolled the glass between his hands and turned to her.
“I’m sorry.” he said it softly. His throat was thick, he had trouble speaking. He didn’t want to get emotional – this was too important to ruin. She just nodded.
“You should be.” she said, equally soft. This remark surprised him and a cold fist of fear clenched his chest. He didn’t reply.
“Kids are flexible, they’ll get by. I’ve learned now that they can cope with a lot of things, especially the little ones. Your son is going to need some time to trust you again, but it will work out.” Eveline walked to the counter and picked up her glass. The liquid was cold and sweet in her mouth.
“And you?” he asked, leaning forward to look at her face. She smiled faintly and looked at the glass in her hand.
“Will you trust me again?”
“I… it’s going to take some time.”
“Yes. I understand. But you’ll try?” he asked, eyes longingly looking up at her face. She came down, leaning on the counter too, face on his level.
“I’m afraid I have no choice. You’re impossible but I still love you, Gessle.” she said and smiled. It was a small, but very real smile and the chill in his chest faded. She reached out to his chin and touched him with her fingertips.
“What happened, your razor broke this morning?” she made the same old joke as she always did when he walked around with a five o’clock shadow. He grinned at her.
“No, I thought it would be sexy.” he gave the same old answer and her smile got wider. Perhaps they still knew how to flirt with each other… after so long.
He took her hand in his and walked with her to the couch. They sat down, not sure who should sit where and nearly bumped into each other. Eveline laughed stupidly and shook her head. Then she sat down next to him, leaving just a little bit of space between them. He held her hand, his fingers entwined with hers. His hand was warm and soft, his grip firm.
“Talk to me baby.” she said softly, looking at their hands. She squeezed and he squeezed back.
“I don’t know what to say. Where to start…” he said, leaning her head back on the couch. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Everything is falling apart and I don’t know what to do. How to pick up the pieces. Should I just leave her and quit music altogether? And then what? Then I have nothing.” he whispered into the phone. Åsa let out a sigh on the other end of the line.
“You’re just in a bad time right now, it will pass honey. You know it does. You’ve been through bad times before?”
“Not like this. Not so completely… horrible. I’m… I’m not myself anymore. Or maybe I never was myself at all! I don’t even know what that is anymore.” Per said and got up from his chair. He paced the room, hand going through his hair. He felt tears stinging in his eyes.
“Åsa, I asked her to marry me and she said no.”
“She didn’t say no. She said she’d think about it.”
“That’s the same! God damn it… ‘I can’t answer that right now’, what’s that supposed to mean, huh?” his voice picked up a notch. He took his glass from the table and gulped down the Whiskey as if it was water.
“Did you ask her why?”
“I tried. She played the silent game. Then Emilia woke up and we didn’t get the chance to talk anymore.”
“Not until you left?”
“Really, we weren’t alone for one single moment.” he crouched to the floor and rested his head on the cold glass of the coffee table.
“Well call her now then! It’s just a few days ago Per, you can still pick up the conversation.” his ex-wife was sensible as she’d always been. Though this time, she couldn’t bring him to his senses. He wasn’t capable of putting her words into action.
“I was lost.” Per almost whispered the words. Eveline stroked his hand.
“I was… well…” he opened his eyes and turned his head to her. “I felt like everything had fallen apart. The album, then the lawsuit, then us…”
“You won the lawsuit,” she stated.
Around the time his last album came out, Per had been sued by a girl who claimed he was the father of her one-year-old son. This was a difficult time but they seemed to have worked it out, until that unfaithful party one night – that was what he meant by “us”.
“Honey, I swear that nothing happened. Why can’t you just take my word for it?!” Eveline sat on the bed, still fully dressed in a designer dress, adjusted for her pregnant belly. Per paced the room while taking off his tuxedo and throwing parts of it through the room.
“The facts are against you! I don’t know what to think anymore. You lied to me before, remember that? So what do you expect me to believe, huh?!” he raised her voice.
“Shush, honey keep it down.”
“Oh shut up!” he yelled now stomped out of the room. Eveline let out a shaking sigh. She undressed, took the make up off and went to bed. Per took the guest room.
They had been to an EMI party. Per was performing, Eveline was having fun with her former colleagues. He joined her after his performance. There was this guy hanging around Eveline all the time, a guy she used to work with. They had never known each other in a special way but Dina recently told Eveline that Mikael had a crush on her while she was working at EMI. When he came to her during Per’s performance and made every compliment possible, she wasn’t discarding him at all. It was nice to have some attention for a change. Per had been so busy promoting his album which was looking at being a really big flop, and they hardly saw each other let alone sleep together. Eveline knew it was wrong to get Mikael’s hopes up but for the moment she was weak and leaned into his verbal caresses for a while. She hardly got to see Per at parties like this anyway. She even danced with Mikael when Lisa Miskovsky performed. Per was on the side of the stage and watched them. A sting of jealousy went through him. Mikael didn’t let go of Eveline when Lisa went into a slow ballad. His hand was on Eveline’s hip and when she finally let go of him, he touched her swollen belly. She was almost seven months ahead and shining all over.
Per was out most of the following day and came home after dinner. Eveline had no idea where he’d spent the day, she just tended to the kids and didn’t bother to call him. A chill went through the living room when he walked in.
“Oh hey, finally found your way home?” she asked a bit sarcastic. He shot her an angry look and walked directly to the kitchen. She got up from the couch with some difficulty, and followed him.
“Why haven’t you called? I have no idea where you’ve been all this day.”
“Did you miss me then?” he said, equally sarcastic as she was before.
“Per, really, I’m not in the mood for this.”
“Games. If you’re still on about last night, I can tell you one last time that nothing happened with Mikael. He was just…”
“He had his hands on you. You didn’t seem to mind. And then suddenly you were gone for more than half an hour?” he said with a low voice. Eveline’s jaw dropped.
“Gone? We were just in the hallway…”
“We? You and him? Doing what?” he raised his voice again and came closer to her. He was fuming and she could feel his anger in the air. She backed away from him until she bumped into the counter.
“Per, stop it! Don’t be a prick!” she said and wanted to push him away. His hand grabbed her wrist and squeezed it tight.
“Listen baby,” his voice was tight and low and hit her core. She shivered. “You can tell me right now what happened with you and this Mikael. Last night or last year, I don’t care. I have the right to know.” he twisted her wrist painfully. All color faded from her face.
“Jesus…” she gasped and tried to free her arm.
“What! Has! Happened!” he repeated.
“NOTHING! Are your ears not working?!” she snapped and raised her voice.
He slapped her cheek. Immediately he backed away from her, hand flying to his mouth. She looked at him shocked.
“I knew you were lost when you hit me.” Eveline said, startling Per in the silence around them. He covered his face with his hand.
“I don’t know what the hell got into me then… I was such a fool. I couldn’t think clearly anymore. Everything seemed to be… well…” he sighed. She was silent.
“It was so unlike you to do that.” she shook her head. He turned to her on the couch and held her face with both hands.
“Please, please Eveline, listen to me, I don’t know what got into me that night and I swear it will never happen again! Do you hear me?” he said, his eyes watering. She couldn’t speak.
“Please…please say you forgive me that…” he whispered now. His face was a cramp and a single tear slid down his cheek. She came closer and wiped the tear away.
“I forgive you. I will forgive you for everything, if you promise never to leave me out again. You have to talk to me sweetie. I can’t read your mind… not all of it.”
He was a total mess now and she took him in her arms. His head rested on her chest, arms clinging to her like a little boy. He let out a deep, shivering sigh. They were silent for a moment and Eveline stroked his hair.
“We both made mistakes. You have to forgive me also – I knew something was up with you but I was too stubborn to go after you and find out what it was,” she said. He came up and looked at her.
“I mean… I felt that… I didn’t know what but I just knew things were going the wrong way. I didn’t want to… oh how do I say this…” she let go of him and rubbed her face with her hands, as if it would help her think better.
“I don’t think it would have mattered, really.” he said.
“No? We wouldn’t have had that horrible fight if I hadn’t let Mikael flirt with me like that.” she said and Per closed his eyes when she said the guy’s name.
“But why did you?”
“I guess…” a sigh from her. “I was just weak. My hormones were flying high and I felt you weren’t there for me, you weren’t answering whatever needs I had. I was very selfish.” she spoke softly.
“Not just you. That whole thing with Mikael, I knew it didn’t mean anything. I was looking for reasons to be angry with you. I was such a mess, everything was fucked up. I took it out on you.”
Per let out another sigh. He felt relieved, empty and tired. Eveline yawned.
“You should go to bed sweetie, it’s late.” he looked at his watch – it was after midnight.
“I know, but I have… I have so many things to ask you,” she said and she moved closer to him on the couch. He wrapped an arm around her and she put her head against his chest. His hand stroked her hair slowly.
“We can talk another time. We have all the time in the world…” he said and kissed her head, hoping that what he said was true.
They walked up the stairs together. Per checked on Elin, Eveline peeked into Emilia’s room. When they stood in the bedroom together, Per hesitated.
“I’ll, uhm, I’ll take the guest room…” it was more a question than a statement.
“Do you want to?” Eveline replied with a cheeky smile. He got shy and grinned.
“Well, no. But…”
“This is your bed you know. It’s your room, your house…” she went through the closet and found a top and some comfortable panties to sleep in. She started to undress and Per got shy again.
“Yeah… so you want me to sleep here then?” he swayed from one foot to the other, not knowing how, where to stand and where to look when Eveline took off her t-shirt and bra. She nodded just shortly, then put the top over her head walked to the bathroom.
They took turns in using the bathroom. Eveline was sitting cross-legged on the bed, reading some magazine when Per came out in just a pair of boxers. He lay down and looked at her. The magazine she was reading was Dutch.
“Where did you get that?”
“Oh, my mum sends them…” she said and flipped the pages. Suddenly she started to giggle… then laugh… and laugh harder. She made Per laugh even without knowing what was so funny.
“Oh my… this is just too funny. You’re in this… this gossip area here…” she pointed at the page and showed him the article, laying down next to him. There were a bunch of pictures with celebrities there, and one of them showed Per at some international award show years ago. He was wearing a tuxedo and took a pose for the camera.
“It says – ‘Roxette’s Per Gessle got lost’, or something similar…” she read the article again and translated as she went along. “Roxette’s former front man Per Gessle is nowhere to be found. Swedish press are speculating that he left his second wife, the Dutch Eveline. He leaves a son from his first marriage and two daughters with his new young wife. Gessle’s latest album was a big flop, possibly because he was made to do a paternity test in a lawsuit a groupie started against him. This got more media attention than any album he ever made. Perhaps the aging pop star should count his blessings – and his children – to come to his senses…” here Eveline stopped reading because she was cracking up with laughter and couldn’t stop. She collapsed beside him on the bed and buried her face in the pillow. Her smothered laughter and the jerking of her body caused him to laugh too.
“Hahahaha… aging pop star… oh my God…!”
“You think that’s funny?” Per said with a grin on his face. She looked at him and bit her lip not to laugh. He picked up the magazine and looked at the picture of himself.
“Aging pop star huh… and what does that make you?” he turned to her and carefully put his hand on her waist. He squeezed her softly, and she jerked slightly.
“The young… innocent…” he squeezed her harder with every word and she started giggling again, “Stupid little foreign girl that fell for… what? The money?”
“AH! Stop it!” she laughed and tried to push his hand away from her ticklish area.
“The money? Was it the money?” he demanded.
“YES! Hahaha… yes it was the money! Always has been!” she tried to keep her voice down. She had managed to escape his tickling hand by turning around, but now she was much closer to him. A little bit too close maybe. Per’s hand was hanging in the air and when it came down, it landed on her hip. His fingers touched her lightly and he leaned his face towards her… his lips grazed hers in a soft kiss. She barely felt it but his scent was impossible to miss. His face, so close to her. His lips on hers, his tongue now hastily licking her bottom lip before he entered her mouth. He kissed her carefully, as if she was made of glass and he was afraid of breaking her – or the moment. His hand on her hip was restless, the feel of her skin made him hungry for more. Their kisses sent his heart fluttering in his chest. His hand slipped up over her hip to her waist and he held her there. Then her hands got between them. She picked his hand up from her waist, the other on his chest.
“Per, I…” she moved away from him, out of breath. The awkwardness was back in the room and Per felt regret sting in his chest. He lay down next to her.
“I’m going to fast.” he stroked her arm. She didn’t look at him.
“I can’t… I don’t…” Eveline searched for words.
“I’m sorry.” his soft voice said.
“I’m not ready for this…”
They got under the covers and lay side by side in the dark, trying to fall asleep each on their own side of the bed.
* * *
“Yeah I was pretty amazed myself, I had no idea. The press knew before me… yes. At the airport, yes. Oh there he is now, I have to go, mum…” Eveline hastily ended the phone call when Per walked into the kitchen. She sat on top of the counter.
“Good morning…” he mumbled. He wore track pants and a t-shirt and his face was gray and sleepy.
“Good afternoon, rather!” Eveline said smartly. The clock showed it was after twelve.
“I can’t believe I slept this long…” he said and looked around disoriented.
“Coffee then?” she hopped off the counter and walked to the coffee machine. She was wearing a pair of white cotton pants, light green t-shirt and flip-flops. Per sat down at the dinner table while she made coffee. She brought him the cup, one sugar and a gulp of low-fat milk, and swayed the newspaper his way. It was opened at the ‘Nöje’-page… current Swedish celebrity gossip.
“Per Gessle returned to Swedish ground” the head read in big black letters. A grainy picture of him in the arrivals hall of Arlanda Airport. He wasn’t looking at the camera.
“Ugh…” he commented and pushed the paper away.
“Anything shocking in there?” he looked up at Eveline who was leaning against the sink. She shook her head.
“Apart from the fact that they knew at all, no.”
“How did they know, I wonder. Though they can’t surprise me anymore.”
“Oh by the way, some people called you,” she put down her cup and walked into the living room, coming back with his mobile phone and a notepad.
“I took your phone from the nightstand because it kept buzzing. You were so far off, I didn’t want to wake you.” she flashed a sweet smile and started reading from the notepad.
“Three journalists called – Anders Lindeberg from Expressen, Lena Andreasson from Aftonbladet and Lennart Holm from Hallands Posten. I told them all that I was your assistant and that you couldn’t come to the phone. Anders Lindeberg was very persistent and he recognized my voice. I told them all to call D&D for an official statement. Marie Dimberg called a little later, she asks you to call her back. Marie Fredriksson called and sends her love. Åsa called and sends her love. Uhm…” she flipped the page.
“Oh yeah, Lena Andreasson called again and this time she knew who I was. I told her to find something useful to do with her time.”
“Ev, stop…” he sounded weak. Her head came up.
“Enough?” she asked. He nodded and held out his arm, pulling her to him. He wrapped his arms around her and leaned his head against her stomach.
“I’m so tired.” he sighed. Her hands went through his hair.
“You slept around the clock….”
“Still tired.” it was a mumble. Eveline crouched down to his level.
“I know you are, but that’s ok. You don’t have to do anything. Go and take a shower.”
“Hmm. Where are the girls?”
“Emilia is in bed, she has a little fever. Elin is out with Auntie Dina,” just as she finished speaking, they heard Emilia cry.
“Oh there’s Emmie now, I better go and check on her.”
“A fever? Does she have the flu?” he stood up and followed her.
“Could be, or just a cold. I don’t think it’s anything serious.”
Per stood in the doorway of Emilia’s room and watched how Eveline picked up the baby. She sat in the middle of the bed on her knees, crying and looked helplessly at them.
“Oh my little one, what’s going on here? What are you doing? Eh?” Eveline muttered to her daughter in her own language. She took the baby in her arms and cuddled her, patting her on the back. Emilia put her head on Eveline’s shoulder and her crying slowly faded away.
* * *
Most of Per’s day was spent on the phone or at the computer in his office. Eveline came to check on him from time to time. He sensed that she was worried about him because he was down and silent. Her worry made him feel better. He somehow needed to feel she cared about him to be sure she did.
Per was busy typing when Gabriel came in.
“Hey you! How was school?” Per said enthusiastically.
“Oh, good… it’s the last week!”
“Yeah so I’ve heard…”
“What are you doing?” Gabriel pointed at the screen.
“Typing emails. Lots of people want to talk to me now that I got back.” Per answered. Gabriel lingered around by his chair, his hand on Per’s arm. Per pulled the boy against him.
“What’s up, huh? You wanna talk about something?” he asked. Gabbe shook his head.
“I don’t know. Can I just stay here with you?”
“Sure you can. But I’m pretty boring.”
“That’s ok!” Gabriel said.
And so he stayed in Per’s office for the rest of the afternoon, not doing much. They talked about this and that, watched stuff on the Internet, Gabriel told him more about school and Oma in Holland and mama and Karl.
They looked up when the door opened. Elin came in with her coat still on.
“HEYAAA!!” she yelled and ran to Per. He was now sitting on the couch with Gabriel and they were playing a computer game.
“Hey sweetheart! Did you have a nice day? Hmm? Did you have fun with Dina?” he asked and she crawled on his lap. He started to tell him all about her day, what she did, where she went, she saw the sheep and she ate French fries.
“Oh my gosh, you were soooo spoiled!! And is there any room in your belly now for dinner? I think mummy is going to make dinner soon.” Per said and squeezed Elin’s belly. She giggled.
“Yeah dinner! We have macaroni dad! You like macaroni?” she put a hand on his cheek and looked seriously at him. He confirmed that it was the best food in the whole world and she was satisfied. She sank down into his lap and watched the screen, where Gabriel was racing about five laps ahead of his dad.
This is how Eveline found them a little later. She had given Emilia a feed and was busy with dinner. She could use some help though – making dinner with a baby on her hip wasn’t exactly efficient. So she had to find a big brother or a daddy that could stay in the living room with the little girl. She called the kids – no answer. Looked in Gabriel’s room – empty. Then she opened the door to Per’s office… Gabriel was leaning his head on Per’s shoulder while half-laying on the couch. Elin was sitting on his lap and had clamped her little arms around his neck. Per kissed the side of her head.
“Look who’s there…” he whispered when he saw Eveline standing by the door. Elin smiled and waved.
“We watch movies mama!” she said. Cartoon Network was blasting out something Eveline didn’t recognize.
“Well well, doesn’t this look cosy? I was wondering if you could watch Emilia while I make dinner, but it seems you’re busy…” she said to Per with a smile.
“No no, it’s no problem, wait…” he said and put Elin by his side on the couch, then took Emilia from Eveline’s arm.
“Let me have a look at my little girl…” he sat her down on his lap and played with her. She laughed out loud. Eveline left the room silently.
It was delightful to have the whole kitchen all to herself and be all alone there, just for a moment. She made a simple macaroni with tomato sauce, minced meat, some vegetables and a lot of cheese. This was for the kids. It was a self made recipe and she finished it in about ten minutes. Then she continued the task of cooking for Per and herself. It wasn’t easy… Per was used to restaurant food and he couldn’t even so much as boil and egg himself so there was a huge responsibility resting on her shoulders… and she really wanted it to work out this time because he just got back and, well, it feels good to cook a nice dinner for your man… she made them another sort of pasta, with a slightly more sophisticated sauce and a salad on the side. It didn’t take long to make but it was a matter of timing to get the taste just right – bake the chicken a little too long and it’s ruined…
It all seemed to work out nicely and she went to get Gabriel from Per’s room. He helped her set the table in the living room. She lit candles and put on some soft music.
It was a very cozy family dinner during which the kids did most of the talking. Elin was a good one to have around, she couldn’t keep her mouth shut for a second and Eveline was glad that her daughter filled up the silence.
* * *
Two days later
Per put Gabriel to bed after being beaten at another video game. His son asked him all kinds of nasty questions about the time he was away and his relationship with Eveline. The kid was just too smart for his own good, Per thought when walking down the stairs. The living room was dimly lit, silent and empty. He wandered through the house looking for Eveline and found her in his office. She was sitting in his big leather chair, flipping through her mailbox while talking on her phone.
“Hmm… I’m not sure yet. I don’t know anything, actually. I can’t very well go and… uhuh… right! We can’t just pick up where we left off, especially cause that sucked also.” She was talking in a low tone, not knowing Per was listening on the other side of the door. He turned around and wanted to leave, feeling bad listening to her private conversation.
“Well if that’s how it is… hmm yeah. Yes of course! Of course! That’s what I tried to say all along but he didn’t listen…”
There she had a good point. He hadn’t listened to her at all, for a long time. He heard her words but not what they meant…
Per stirred. He’d fallen asleep on the couch and a sound woke him up. The TV was on. Eveline walked through the living room with her shoes in one hand, purse in the other. He saw how she put the purse on a chair slowly, trying to be silent.
“Hey…” Per’s voice was thick. He sat up on the couch and looked at her.
“Hi… sorry I’m so late. Has Emilia been awake?”
“Yeah just shortly but she didn’t cry or anything.” he said and rubbed his eyes.
“Ok I’ll wait up a bit for her next feed. You can go to bed now.” she didn’t look at him. Her voice was hoarse. Per got up from the couch.
“Eveline, it’s half past twelve!” he realized as he saw the clock on the other side of the room. She didn’t reply, searched for something in her bag. He stood beside her and smelled cigarettes.
“Have you been smoking?!”
“No of course I haven’t. Other people did.” she still didn’t look at him. She’d been to an EMI party where all her former colleagues were. She and Dina were the last ones to leave and she took a very drunk Dina home in a taxi before going home herself. All the drunk people around her had been a funny sight – Eveline only had one glass of red wine and she didn’t even like it. But it was fun to see all the familiar faces, dance around and just talk about nothing. She was exhausted now, her legs were trembling but it had been so worth it. Just to laugh and have fun, she had been afraid she forgot how to do that.
The baby alarm on the table produced some static rustle, then a soft baby-cry. Eveline picked it up and switched it off.
“I’ll feed her and then I’m going to bed. Are you coming?” She looked at him now, her face pale and tired. The furrow on her forehead seemed permanent and it annoyed Per.
“I’m going to check my e-mail.” he said while turning around.
“Fine then.” she said in a very irritated tone, very silent but he heard it.
“Excuse me?” he snapped his head around. She walked into the kitchen. He stomped away into his office and shut the door.
Per watched TV alone for the longest time. He flipped the channels, not really seeing anything. His mind was busy and he checked his watch every five minutes. Eveline took a long time. When she finally came into the living room, he did a double take. She was wearing slick cotton gray pants and small white top, no bra. His eyes stuck to her ass when she walked to the kitchen. He made out the lines of her panties and the soft swell of her forms and swallowed. She came back a few minutes later with a cup of tea.
“You want something?” she looked at him. Yeah, he did want something… He shook his head but kept looking at her as she walked around the table and sat down on a big leather chair, legs dangling over the side, face towards the television.
“What?” she asked with a funny smile. He shook his head. “Can you turn this up…” she waved her hand at the TV which was now showing the news. He had somehow put up BBC World. Tragedies of the world passed them by.
“Hey!” she said when Per shut down the TV. “I was watching that!” She picked up the remote control just as he put it on the table.
“I want to talk to you.” he said it softly. Her hand hung in the air.
“Oh… yes. Sorry, of course.” she turned around in the chair, her bare feet now dangling off the other armrest. He hated it when she sat like that on his expensive designer furniture… she saw his eyes on her legs and sighed in a fake annoyed way and turned around again to a normal position. He loved it when she made funny faces at him and forgave her instantly. He nearly forgot what he wanted to say.
“Uhm, yeah. I wonder… well, forgive me for the heavy language, but I wonder… what are we heading to? What’s next?” he sat at the edge of the couch, elbows on his knees.
“I wonder that too.” her voice was soft now. Per got up and paced the room.
“You know… I think you’re struggling with something. I’m not sure what it is but you’re obviously not happy. There was a time when life seemed to lead itself and everything was effortless. It changed slowly and we became a mess.” It sounded simple when she summed it up like that. There was an identical leather chair next to her and Per leaned leaned his hands on the head-rest. He nodded slowly.
“What has caused the change?” she continued and put her tea cup down. He shrugged and sighed. He was fighting a silent battle inside and his head was spinning. He couldn’t speak, afraid his voice would be squeaky. Eveline went to the kitchen and came back quickly. Per saw through a haze of tears how she put a bottle of wine and two glasses on the table. She looked up and saw his watery eyes.
“Oh honey…” she whispered. He held on to the chair and crouched down, leaning his forehead against the back of the chair. She was beside him instantly, sitting on her knees.
“Come here baby… please…” she couldn’t stand to see him cry, to see him so miserable. He mumbled excuses. She hugged him close to her, strangely sitting on the floor he nearly choked her. She let go of him and took his face in her hands.
“Listen. I have a theory. You wanna hear?” she put up a cute voice. He managed a smile and nodded.
“You have to stop letting your insecurity get to you.” There, she said it. Per shakily sipped the cold white Chardonnay she had poured for him. “It’s tearing you up and there’s no need for that.” She sat cross-legged on the couch, Per on the very edge of it. He cleared his throat, looking at the glass in his hands, but didn’t speak. She chewed her lip over thinking her next move. Her heart-rate was up, she was nervous. The importance of the moment seemed to hang in the air.
“Per, come here. Sit down and relax. We’re talking and we’re ok.” she said, one hand now on his neck. He turned around fast and startled her. She spilled wine on her lap and gasped.
“Oh – sorry, shit, give me that…” he took the glass from her.
“It’s ok, it’s not much. Never mind.” Eveline said, catching her breath. An apologetic smile on her face.
“Are you afraid of me?” he asked out of nowhere. Her eyes were big and she felt caught.
“It’s ok, I understand…” he turned his head away.
“No no, it’s not ok. Sorry. I’m not afraid of you, I… I just…” she stumbled. Silence.
“This is exactly what I mean. We walk on egg shells, Per.”
He looked at the floor. Eveline wanted to let out a deep sigh but stopped herself right on time. She put her glass on the table and took his glass out of his hands. Her hand turned his face and she did what he least expected – she kissed him. And another kiss, and another, seducing his mouth into a sweet wet game. He didn’t have time to digest what was happening, she pulled him on the couch until he was on top of her. He got totally lost in her mouth…
“Ev, honey…” he gasped. She smiled at him.
“What are you… I thought…”
“I just want to kiss you.”
“Why?” he heard how stupid it sounded and both laughed.
“Just… because I want to. And because I can.”
They kissed again and Per caressed the side of her thigh. The fabric of her pants was stretchy and soft and he couldn’t stand to see her wearing those.
“What are these?” he nodded at the pants.
“Uhm, pajama pants? Stay-at-home-mum’s pants?” she giggled.
“Hmm. I love them.” he snuggled her neck.
“Haha you do?! I thought you were more into tight jeans and flimsy black dresses…”
“I like those too. But these pants… so nice and soft. I can see everything…” he chuckled and squeezed her ass gently.
“Oh come on! They’re supposed to be un-sexy!”
“Doesn’t work. You look all cuddly now.” he settled his head on her chest and looked into her eyes.
“Not only because of the pants, I hope,” she shot him a serious look.
They lay on the couch half-entangled in each other and sipped wine.
“Do you know why I kissed you so suddenly?” she asked.
“Because I’m so terribly attractive?” he said, rubbing his nose along her breast. Eveline giggled – this was the way she liked him… this made her remember the good times they had.
“Hehe well, that too… but what I meant is, you are doubting everything. You wonder if I’m afraid of you, if your son wants to talk to you and what the press writes. You weren’t like that before and I think you’re making things so hard for yourself.” she thought out loud. He let the words sink in.
“You see a difference with… what? When?”
“Hmm… I remember when you told me that we would make it. We had only just became a couple, I had finally managed to seduce you, and I got pregnant and everything seemed to be a big chaos. It was you who told me that everything would be ok, that I would manage and that we would make it. Remember that night when you returned from some promo-trip and I was in tears?”
“Are you awake?” he whispered. She mumbled something.
“Yes, I’m awake.” She said softly and turned her head to him. He only saw the soft glow of her eyes in the dark.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, still whispering. Eveline shrugged first, but he kept looking at her. Then she sighed.
“I’m a little homesick I guess… and I… I feel… strange.”
“Do you feel sick?” he sounded worried. She shrugged again. Per moved closer to her and wrapped an arm around her waist.
“I feel as if I did something wrong…” he said with his mouth against her hair.
“No no, you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s me, I’m not my best today. Sorry.”
“You know I love you, right?” he said and kissed her cheek. Eveline held her breath and felt tears prickle behind her eyelids.
“I love you and I missed you so much…” he whispered and hugged her close. A sob left her throat and Per startled.
“Hey what’s this… why the tears? Mhm?” he said in his sweetest voice. Eveline laid her head against his chest and cried softly for a few minutes.
“I-I don’t know what’s wrong, I just feel so sad, a-all the time…” she sniffled.
“Everything goes so fast, I can’t keep up!” she said and took a deep, shaky breath.
“You mean with us, and the baby? Does it scare you?” Per stroked her hair.
“I think so. It’s just… I have no idea what to do with… with everything. I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”
Per sighed and bit his lip. He thought for a moment.
“Listen honey, you don’t have to do anything you’re not ready for… if you want to wait with… well with moving in here, or maybe even with having a baby… I understand. It’s all happening at the same time now.”
Eveline sat up in bed and turned on a small light on her bedside table. Per popped his head on one arm and looked at her.
“I don’t want out, please don’t think that.” she said, sniffing a little and wiping away her tears.
“I… I love you too. I do! And… and I want to be with you. Live with you, and have your baby. I really want all this, but… it’s going so fast, and I’m not sure if I can manage…”
Per swallowed. He had been keeping his breath when she spoke and now he was happy to hear her say these words. He didn’t know what to say. He just wrapped his arms around her waist and laid his head against her belly. He sighed.
“You’re not alone you know. And you will manage, I’m sure. I believe you will.”
The scene suddenly popped into his mind and he remembered it clearly.
“What are you saying?” he looked puzzled.
“What I’m saying is,” she took the bottle of wine and filled up their glasses. “that things are the other way around now. I’ve been going over everything that has happened a million times. It seems you have lost your self confidence. Or got more insecure, one or the other. I gotta pee, just a second.” she got up and hurried to the bathroom. Per stared at his glass. Her words danced around in his head. She scared him with her clear mind and her words… they were so true. Everything was a mess and it was his fault. Insecurity was settled deep in the root of his personality. He’d always taken it for granted. He had been successful in his work for so many years, and his marriage with Åsa had been good while it lasted. Everyone has ups and downs in their lives but somehow it seemed harder and harder to recall the ups when it’s just downs you’re getting.
He was standing on the balcony when she came back. A chilly stream of air reached her bare arms. She stepped onto the cold tiles and stood beside him.
“I guess you’re right.” he said, voice firm. She hugged herself against the cool evening wind and waited for him to go on.
“I fucked up. This whole mess is entirely my fault.”
“I lost touch with myself, Ev. Completely lost it and I don’t know where it went. I can’t seem to do anything right anymore.” he let out an irritated sigh.
“Honey…” she placed a hand on his arm but he pulled away and turned around.
“That’s not what I meant!” she followed him inside.
“It’s what it comes down to! I’ve never been this low, I never had so many things going wrong at the same time. Now being in the middle of it, I can’t handle it. I’m weak!” he was angry. Eveline saw the change in him, the difference from before she went to the bathroom to now. She took a deep breath to stop her heart from pounding. She was afraid of him but she couldn’t let him notice that, it would ruin the whole conversation they had. She sat down on the couch.
“Don’t take the blame for everything, please. Everybody is weak sometimes, that’s ok. Everybody fucks up and sulks for a while. Then you pick up the pieces and you move on. You can’t leave the pieces on the floor!” she said with some Swedish grammar mistake that made Per laugh in spite of everything. When she realized her words didn’t work in Swedish, she repeated them in English. She was suddenly beside him.
“Come on, let’s go to bed. I’m beat.” she took his hand and pulled him with her. His mind was still spinning but he followed her up the stairs.
In bed, in the dark, Eveline was awake for a long time, lots of thoughts going through her head. She felt Per move. He came closer to her.
“Ev are you sleeping?” he whispered it. She opened her eyes and shook her head. He ran his index finger along her cheek.
“You… what you said… I think you’re right.”
“Not everything is your fault honey. And if it is, you can make it better.”
“I don’t know how.”
“We’ll find a way…” she said and hugged him closer.
* * *
“I’m here, sitting in a bed
In a place where I don’t feel at home
Where are you, I sure wonder why
You haven’t called me, you promised you would
The phone must be broken, it has to be broken
I’m sure there’s a reason, say there’s a reason
I fight against the hours, I cannot go to sleep
I know that if I lay down now,
Inside I know I’ll weep
Guess I’m holding on to treasures
To things that just aren’t there
To people that I used to know,
To words I wish to hear”
Eveline wasn’t in bed but the rest of the song made perfect sense to her. She was laying on the couch listening to music. Lene Marlin’s gentle voice filled the room and touched her very deeply.
“I’m here, thinking only of you
Wish to know, if I need to go
And I try, I swear to you that I try
But you haven’t called me, you promised you would
The phone must be broken, it has to be broken
I’m sure there’s a reason, say there’s a reason”
A single tear left her eyes and dripped over her nose.
A sound on the stairs suddenly made her sit up and wipe the tears away… someone was coming.
“Ev?” Gabriel whispered into the darkness. There were no lights on, just the little red led of the stereo flickering.
“I’m here honey, what is it?” she sat up straight and pushed her hair back.
“I-I can’t sleep.” he stuttered.
“Me either. Come here…” she held out her hand and he climbed on the couch with her. She held his warm, sleepy body against her and sniffed his blond locks. A cry died in her throat.
“Are you cyring?” the boy turned around in her arms and looked intently at her face.
“Yes baby, I’m sorry… you caught me.” she tried to smile.
“Why are you crying?” he crawled closer to her and wrapped his arms around her neck. Eveline sniffed.
“I just… I miss your dad…”
“Me too. I think about it all the time, Ev. I hope he’s ok.”
They sat there for a long time in the darkness while the music played on.
“I’m thinking about you, wondering about you
Do I really know you, have I ever known you?”
* * *
Eveline woke with a shock and gasped… thank God, it was just a dream. That Per hadn’t called her in three months and turned out to be dead – it was a bad joke of a dream. She breathed deeply and slowly. It had been so real. Even her eyes were teary when she grasped the impact of her dream. The clock showed 03:47, it was on the line between night and morning. She turned around slowly and looked at Per sleeping beside her.
The week had passed by terribly slowly. They were trying to pick up their lives again, but it was hard and it needed time. They had time, but Eveline was impatient. She wanted Per to act like his normal self again. She wanted him to be as funny, witty, sexy and playful as before. She wanted him to make silly jokes, write funny songs and work his ass off like he used to. She desperately wanted him to touch her – but at the same time she was afraid of her own response… he had been around the house a lot until Marie Dimberg saved them and asked him to come by her office. Per was mobbed by a group of press when he left her building. Eveline encountered the same mob when she picked up Gabriel from school the other day, and decided to go shopping without the kids. The mob were waiting for her outside the supermarket when she came out.
“Eveline! Excuse me Eveline, can I ask you a couple of questions?”
“Eveline over here! Can I take your picture?” *click click*
There were three photographers and two journalists with recorders. She tried to pass them but they blocked her way. Then she sighed and finally looked up at them. It was silent now except for the clicking of a camera.
“No, you can’t take my picture because I look like shit today. But hey, you already did! So what are we going to do now? Are you going to delete them?” she said in a calm, friendly tone. She even managed to produce a smile – *click click* went the camera. It was a good thing that she had two heavy bags in her hands and a purse on her shoulder, otherwise she might have grabbed their camera’s to throw them to pieces. But she kept her smile. Slowly she walked over the sidewalk. They followed her like flies.
“Eveline, can you tell me where Per has been all this time?”
“Did you know he was coming home?”
“Are you leaving him?”
“Are you pregnant?”
This last remark made her laugh and the photographer that had made it, was proud of himself.
“Oh well thanks a lot! I haven’t quite lost all the weight from my last pregnancy, thank you for noticing!” she commented. They were blocking her way when she wanted to cross the street.
“Ok guys, I would really like to go home now. I know you wanna know everything, but I’m not going to tell you. So you better give up.”
“Do you love him?” she heard the same guy’s voice in between the other questions and she turned her head to him. She looked into his camera.
“I love him very much.” she said just before she slipped on her sunglasses.
That was yesterday. She had called Dimberg after this and they agreed that it might be better to talk to one of the newspapers and give them some sort of story, so the rest would lay off for a while. Eveline sighed when she thought about talking to the press. She didn’t really mind, most interviewers were nice and polite. But it was awful to see the article later and realize that nice girl that you’ve talked to so personally, has twisted your words around.
She moved over the mattress closer to Per. He was sleeping with his back towards her. He had pushed away the blanket in his sleep, it was pretty warm in the room. Her hand touched his hair lightly, the back of his neck, and his shoulder. She kind of hoped that the snotty photographer would print her words – that she loved him very much. She somehow didn’t know how to tell him. Her hand went from his shoulder down over his arm.
“You’re giving me goosebumps…” he whispered and she startled. She came closer to him, her body almost touching his back.
“Did I wake you?” she whispered softly against his neck. No response. “Per?”
“Hmmm ‘s ok…” he slurred half in sleep. Eveline moved an inch closer and their bodies touched. Her hand went further down to his waist. His arm came up and pulled hers around him. She snuggled up to his back and buried her face in his hair. Her heart was beating faster. They hadn’t been this close often since the night he returned.
Her fingers touched the hairs on his stomach while his hand stroked her arm. Per was fully awake now, no half-sleep in sight. He had a hard time pushing away all the sexy thoughts that appeared in his mind’s eye. Eveline added to the excitement by kissing his shoulder. A soft, lazy kiss, just her lips touching his skin. She went on to his neck and Per felt his belly twitch. He didn’t dare to move an inch while her mouth went up to his ear and kissed his cheek right under it. Her hand moved up to tickle his chest hair. Per felt her knees against the back of his legs. Was this an invitation? He wasn’t sure what to do. He could either wait for her, or take action. Waiting might cause her to stop, action might mean another turn-down…
“Honey…” he whispered.
“Hmm…” her voice close to his ear.
“You’re killing me.” he said and felt her body move when she chuckled. Her hand pressed him to turn towards her. His body closed around her in an embrace, his nose in her neck. He loved how she smelled and pushed his nose into her hair, kissing behind her ear. She stroked his hair and felt the blood rush through her body faster and faster while they searched for what once had been so easy…
Per’s hand traced the line of her body and rested at the end of her top, lingering on her belly as if asking permission to continue. He caressed the small line of naked skin between her panties and top. He kissed her mouth as gently as he could. His self-control amazed him when he answered her slow tongue flicking out to his lips. The sleepiness had definitely left both of them – he felt her tremble as his hand moved under her top. Still afraid to continue, he whispered her name against her cheek.
“Eveline… baby…” he breathed. Her answer came quickly, “Touch me…”
Under his cool hands, her body felt like fire. Her breasts were swollen and her nipples hard. Her bosom was still almost twice its normal size because of the milk she produced for Emilia… Per didn’t mind at all… he closed his hand around one of them and rubbed her nipples between his fingers. He felt a gasp from her lips that were pressed against his.
“Gently babe, gently…”
“Still sensitive?” he asked.
“A little…” she sighed. She licked his bottom lip and ran her tongue along his teeth. He wrapped a leg around and moved on top of her. Eveline spread her legs and felt his hips sink between. He was panting now and the kisses grew more demanding. Her arms were around his neck, hands messing up his hair. She pushed her hips up to him to feel the hardness inside his boxers.
“Mummy…” Elin’s little voice sounded through the dark room. Per gasped for air and nearly had a heart attack. He quickly moved away from Eveline.
“What is it baby?” Eveline whispered and moved to the side of the bed while adjusting her top.
“I wanna sleep with you.” Elin said in a mixture of Dutch and Swedish. She climbed into the bed and curled up beside Eveline.
“God that nearly killed me…” Per whispered under his breath. Eveline giggled. She lay down next to Elin with an arm around her.
“She’s already sleeping again…” she said. Per moved closer beside her.
“Well… we better follow that example then.” he kissed Eveline’s shoulder and pulled the sheets over all three of them.
The bed was empty when Per woke up. He glanced at the clock – it was nearly ten. It was Saturday and he was home for almost a week. Images of the night passed through his mind while he slumbered a bit. Eveline had surprised him by accepting his touches. He hadn’t thought… he had thought about it but he hadn’t expected that anything would happen so soon. Or that it would happen, at all. She had been so right about his insecurity and he was especially insecure about her and their relationship.
There was a note from Eveline on the table in the kitchen saying – “We’re going to see the sheep… will be back soon.” she had signed with three E’s and one G with three x’s… she had written it on the back of an empty envelope. A pile of mail and newspapers were under it, and he started to scan the headlines with a cup of coffee in hand.
There was a small picture of him on the cover of Aftonbladet “Eveline – I love Per very much! Story continues on page 14” the line under it said. His jaw dropped and he flicked through the pages. There was a picture of Eveline, she looked over the edge of her sunglasses into the camera.
“Per Gessle hasn’t talked to the press since he returned to Sweden almost a week ago. When our reporter asked his Eveline how she feels about their relationship now she answered “I love him very much”.
Per swallowed. She hadn’t told anything about talking to the press. When did that happen? The photo looked recent.
“Marie, hi it’s Per.”
“Good morning! How are you?”
“Good, good, listen, I think it’s time we talk to the press. For real.”
“Ah… you’ve read Aftonbladet.”
“I’ve been discussing it with Eveline. She wants Dagens Nyheter to do it since hey were pretty good to you in the past.” she stated quickly. Per was taken aback – they already discussed it?
“You talked to her about it?”
“She called me about it and I think she’s right. Your lady is pretty straight-forward Per, that’s only good isn’t it? It’s not like she doesn’t know how to handle these things.”
“That’s true. You’re right… ok so did DN request anything at all?”
“Kind of, yes. They replied right away when I sent them the general statement last week and asked if there was a possibility they got an exclusive on you once you were ready to talk to the press. All very polite. We can invite them to my office?” her words went around Per’s head. “I love him very much” – he looked at the picture of Eveline with her words under it.
“Let’s do it here.” he said. Marie was silent for a moment.
“Yes, at home, with the kids.”
“Uhm, ok. If you think…”
“I do, and I’m sure Eveline will agree. Set it up, ok?”
Going to the park had been a good plan. Around nap-time, both the girls were exhausted. Gabriel was at a friend’s house for the whole afternoon, so the house was quiet. Eveline had noticed Per going up to the studio after they’d put the girls to bed. It had made her smile that he seemed to be working on something. She was standing in the kitchen, reading a magazine, when Per wandered in. She didn’t hear him and he took the moment to watch her. She was caught up by her magazine, bending over the table to read it. She’d crossed one foot over the other and her ass stuck out backwards in his direction. She was wearing a white, flowing skirt with flowers on it and her feet were bare.
He walked to her slowly and put his hands on her hips. She turned around and found herself suddenly in his arms… he pulled her closer.
“Hey. Busy?” he said, his face close to her.
“Not really. You? Working?” she asked back. Having him so close still was something she had to get used to, in a good way though. She hoped her face wouldn’t turn red.
“You’re blushing…” Per said with a grin and stroked her cheek.. Eveline got shy and looked away.
“I have to get used to this again…” she smiled sheepishly.
“To me…” he frowned.
“Yeah, to us I guess… But in a good way,” she added when she saw his face. “You make me shy, like we just got together or something…”
“Ok… and that’s good?” he wondered. She giggled and nodded and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Yes, that’s good. It’s like… like I’m falling in love with you all over again…” she said softly.
“Ah… I think I feel the same. I’m not sure how to… act. If we can just go back to… everything…” he stumbled a bit. Eveline looked puzzled. He moved both his hands down to her ass.
“Like, if I can do this, just like that…” he bit his lip and gave her his naughty look.
“Hehe… sure you can do that,” she said and kissed him sweetly on the lips, “it’s still all yours…” she whispered to his mouth. More warm kisses followed and Per squeezed her ass.
“Hmm I think I like this falling-in-love-thing…” he mumbled between kisses. He licked her lips and met her tongue with his own.
A buzzing sound startled them. Eveline’s mobile phone on the table had started buzzing and was now dancing around the table. Per didn’t want to let her go, but she turned around in his arms and picked up.
“Hello? Yes Gabriel… are you having a good time? Oh?” she listened. Per had his arms still wrapped around her and was kissing her neck. She smelled fantastic, her body’s scent mixed with a light, fresh perfume. The feeling of his breath on her skin caused a jolt in her belly.
“Oh… sleep over? Tonight?” she looked back at Per. He nodded and shrugged, why not?
“Yes honey it’s ok with us, if you want to stay over… yep, no problemo, I’ll come by with a bag for you. Which shirt? Ok, ok. Yes… yes he’s right here. You wanna talk to him?” Per listened to the conversation but was a bit distracted. His hands were on her ass again, caressing her through the silky fabric of her skirt.
“Alright. Yes, I’ll do it!” she laughed. “A real kiss? Like in the movies you mean?” she went on and held the phone away from her ear. Per heard his son making disgusted sounds loudly.
“Well… I’ll try. Promise. Hehe… I’ll see you later honey!” and with that she hung up, still laughing.
“What was he on about?!” Per let go of her.
“Hahaha… that boy of yours, he’s just… such a boy! He said that I should give you a kiss. But not one from him, one from me. A ‘real’ kiss…” she turned to him again and wrapped her arms now around his waist.
“A real one…” Per’s hands came up to her face.
“Mhm. But not with spit and everything because that’s disgusting…”
“Ah ok… I’ll try not to spit…” he chuckled. He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her again, softly. He licked the inside of her bottom lip and went on teasingly slowly. Eveline held her breath and didn’t move an inch… then he suddenly kissed her intensely, his tongue dancing around with hers. He had her on a string, once again. His kisses did the trick, once again… he kissed her almost into a trance. She gasped when he let go.
“Hey, listen. Since Gabriel won’t be here tonight, how about we go out?” he said, completely normal. Eveline was half-panting and hanging on to his arms. She pushed some hair away from her face, trying to compose herself.
“Oh dinner…” she was confused.
“Yes dinner. You’ll wear a dress, me a suit, we sit and we eat? Dinner?” he looked funnily at her. She smiled – again that shy smile. Per got all warm when he saw that.
“Yes, ok, good idea, very good. I’ll Ava if she can come watch the girls.”
Per waited for her to make the phone call and when it was confirmed that Ava would come over that evening, he left the kitchen. In the doorway, he turned around.
“Oh before I forget… there is a good picture of you in Aftonbladet. Really good one…” he winked and then left.
Eveline sat down at the kitchen table and touched her cheeks – they were all hot. Geesh, if he had kept going like that they might have ended up on the kitchen floor… she giggled to herself at that thought… now what did he say about Aftonbladet?. Blood rushed to her face again when she thought about the reporters at the supermarket. Quickly she flipped through the paper. There it was, exactly as she had expected, an hoped. Strange relationship she was in, communicating with her lover through the newspaper… but it had worked.
Gabriel’s friend Andreas didn’t live very far away, just a few blocks down the center of the city. Eveline walked there and dropped off his backpack with some clothes and his toothbrush. She wandered into town a bit, no reporters in sight thank God. The city was buzzing with people, enjoying their Saturday. There were lots of tourists and a lot of traffic going around.
Eveline hadn’t liked Stockholm when she first moved there. It was too big, the people all seemed too stuck up and she kept getting lost while shopping. But after four years, she had learned to love it. She knew where to go and where not to go, and she had made a lot of friends.
Giorgio’s had been fully booked when Per called them, but when he spoke to Giorgio himself, an empty table magically appeared.
“Ev, can you, uhm…” Per walked into the bathroom where Eveline as doing her make up. She turned around to him and quickly fastened his cuffs without asking what he wanted – she already knew. Per stared at her. She was wearing a honey-colored dress he hadn’t seen before. It had a tight top and flowing skirt with lots of different layers. She was wearing the white-golden necklace he’d bought her when she got pregnant with Emilia, with matching earrings. She also wore a ring that he’d bought her once… not so long ago.
“I’m going straight to bed, ok? I’m exhausted.” Eveline said while kicking off her high heels. Per stood in the living room with his coat still on.
“Mhm. It was a long evening.” he replied. They’d been to a charity fund raiser and it lasted much longer than they had hoped. The babysitter had just left.
“Ev, wait a second…” he said when she was already walking up the stairs. She came back and he heard her sigh. His right hand was in the pocket of his coat. The small, square box felt cold. She stood in front of him now.
“Uhm, I have to ask you something.” He hung his coat over the end of the couch. He nearly dropped the box from his slippery, sweaty hand. His other hand took hers.
“Ok…” she sensed something in the air around them.
“Things have been difficult lately, I know that. But I love you, I love you a lot. So I hope…” he showed her the box. Eveline’s jaw dropped and she looked at him, petrified it seemed. Per ignored the gnawing feeling inside him, ignored the voice in the back of his head telling him this had not been a good idea. He opened the box and took the ring out. It was a simple, small engagement ring in white gold.
“I hope you want to be my wife.” his voice was hoarse, his throat dry. He picked up her hand, it seemed limp, and pushed the ring on her finger. It fit perfectly. She stared at it.
The silence was unbearable. It lasted and lasted, until Per finally spoke.
“Please say something.” his voice was hoarse but steady. He had already given up before he spoke.
“I don’t know… I… I just can’t answer that right now.”
“Per? Did you hear me?”
“Uhm, yes…” Per snapped back. He tried to guess what she had just said but had no clue.
“I said, are you ready? The taxi can be here any moment.” she smiled and patted his arm, then left the bathroom.
Going to Giorgio’s was like coming home. So many things had happened there… If these walls could talk, Per thought when they were seated at their regular table. After they assured Giorgio that everything was fine, he brought them the menu in person and a bottle of his finest wine, on the house.
Well into the evening, Eveline realized they had only talked about the kids… her world was pretty small so there was little else to talk about. She’d told him about their visit to her parents, what a hassle it was to travel alone with three kids. Per seemed to feel uneasy as she talked about the time when he was away, but somehow she managed to smooth things out and he relaxed.
“I didn’t mean to talk about the kids all the time, but I kind of feel you should know all these things. Like, catch up, or something.” she played with her empty glass. Per shifted in his seat. She looked questioningly at him but he didn’t say anything.
“You feel guilty?” she put her hand on his that was resting on the table. He entwined his fingers with hers and felt the ring. He just nodded then, looking into her eyes.
“Push it away. If I can accept it, so can you…” she stroked his fingers and looked sweetly at him. The warm feeling was back in his chest.
Ava sat on the couch with a book when they came home. Eveline had met her at Gabriel’s school, Ava also looked after one of the kids in his class after school hours. Eveline paid her the usual amount and then she left.
“Stop!” Per said when Eveline bent down to take her shoes off. Her feet were killing her – the shoes were new. She’d bought them in town that afternoon to fit with the dress.
“What?” she said and rose. He came her way. He’d taken off his coat, suit jacket and shoes. She was now as tall as him.
“I love tall women.” he said with a sly grin.
“Oh do you? Tall women with sore feet, then?” she gave back, hands placed in her sides. He picked them up and put them around his waist. Their noses touched on the same level.
“Love the dress, love the shoes.” he said softly. Eveline smiled and kissed him.
“Love the ring, also…” he continued and touched it. She kissed him again.
“Anything else?” her lips were a smile against his mouth.
“Hmmm… love this too…” he wound a string of her hair around his finger. Their kiss deepened and soon they were continuing what they started in the kitchen that afternoon. His hands wound around her waist and again down to her ass. He pulled the fabric of the dress up, up, high up until he could place his hands under it. He sighed when he felt her ass, sliding his fingers up and down under the rim (?) of her panties. She let go of his mouth to catch her breath and looked at him with dark eyes.
“Hmm… I… hmmm…” he couldn’t stop kissing her and searched for her mouth again. She leaned back so he couldn’t reach.
“I want to make love to you…” he whispered under his breath. Finally! The voice in Eveline’s head screamed. She didn’t say it out loud though, left him hanging for a moment. When he opened his eyes, he saw her look. She bit her lip and gave him that glance… that very special glance. He hadn’t forgotten about that.
In the bedroom, Per switched on the two bedside lights and went to brush his teeth. Eveline checked on the girls and followed soon. She took the dress off and slipped into a silky bathrobe. Then she joined Per in the bathroom. They grinned at each other in the mirror.
Eveline sat on the end of the bed and watched Per take off his pants and socks. When he wanted to start on his shirt, she took over. Her fingers were shaking a little while she opened the buttons slowly, one by one. Per took a deep breath when her lips landed on his chest. The more buttons opened, the more kisses she placed on his chest. Her hands were also restless on his skin, pressing into his sides. She pushed the shirt over his shoulders and reached for his mouth to kiss him again. With his hands around her waist, he pushed her gently backwards on the bed and crawled over her. He undid the robe and pushed his hands under it. Their bodies touched and Eveline sighed against his lips. His kisses sent her mind spinning and set her body on fire. He touched her breasts, still tucked away in a strapless push up bra. His lips now landed there too, kissing between…
“This new too…?” he asked, fingertips touching the fabric of the bra. She nodded
“And this?” he touched her matching panties. Another nod.
“Wow… it’s beautiful… fits you so well.” his fingers lingered at her panties for a moment. Eveline swallowed – she couldn’t speak. Her whole body was tense and nervous jolts shot through her belly.
A raging storm was going on inside Per but he managed to appear calm. His fingers were a bit unsteady when he unhooked her bra, breath somewhat shallow when his lips touched her breasts. But her obvious tension eased him down – one of them had to be in control of the situation an he felt he had to be that one.
Her panties followed the way of the bra pretty quickly and now he had her naked beside him. He kissed her until she whimpered and slipped his hand between her thighs.
“Ahhh… mmmm…” she moaned contently when her fingers felt her up. Her hand clutched his hair and her body writhed on the sheets. She pulled him to her, needed to feel his mouth on hers again. His tongue swirled around in her mouth while he pushed a finger inside her.
“Baby… let me just…” he breathed the words and let go of her lips. He moved his lips once again over her breasts, licking a nipple before he went further down. Eveline’s eyes flew open when his tongue tasted her and gently licked her up and down. She looked down at his face between her legs and he gave her a cheeky grin. She had to laugh but pleasure took hold of her and she groaned. Her hips bucked and trembled and when she breathed deeply in and out, Per realized her orgasm had come so fast he had missed it.
“Whoa baby…” he panted in her ear.
“Hmmm… wow yourself…” she giggled. He had gotten rid of his underwear and was on top her now, the tip of his penis nipping at her entrance.
“I… I want you.” he stumbled with a hoarse voice. She kissed him in reply.
“Ev… tell me…”
“What honey?” her voice was dark as his.
“Tell me it’s ok… I don’t want to…” he started but she cut him off.
“Yes. Make love to me Per… come…” her hips moved up to his invitingly. He felt her wetness slide along his penis and then slipped inside her just a little bit. She held her breath. It hurt her and he knew it. The last time they had made love for real was before Emilia was born. The first time after the baby is always difficult.
“Is it ok?” he hissed between his teeth.
“Oh… it hurts… a little bit. But I need you. I need you so much.” her voice was a almost a cry. He touched her face and felt her cheeks were wet. He pushed further into her, slowly thrust in and out. His belly tightened with tension.
“Oh… you feel so… good…” he moaned with his face in her neck. Eveline’s body cramped under his as she swayed her hips in his motion. He took it slow for a long time, much longer than he thought he could stand. She relaxed little by little, the pain faded away little by little. Her heard her panting, moaning softly and it turned him on. He moved his legs so that she was now between them… he hadn’t forgotten the way he could make her come in this position. With her thighs a bit closer to each other and short, quick thrusts, he would put just the right amount of pressure on her swollen lips…
“Ohhh… oh yes…” she slurred the words and Per grinned to himself.
“Good?” he wondered.
“Oh yes… yes… so good… oh!” she cramped under him, trembled and dug her nails into his shoulders. He didn’t have to look at her face to know she was biting her lip not to cry out loudly. It was nearly too much to feel her warm, soft, jerking body under his and he couldn’t stall any longer. He whispered every loving word he could remember into her ear as his orgasm rushed through him and he finally collapsed on top of her.
She tightened her grip on him, her arms wrapped all around him and their cheeks touching. He let out long, deep breaths into her hair. Their legs were entangled and he was still inside her. His body felt limp, hot and shaky as if he had a fever. He fought the urge to doze off and slip into sleep but pulled up his head to kiss her.
“You are amazing…” he whispered between kisses. “And I love you terribly much.” he added. She laughed in spite of her tears.
“I love you too, Per Gessle… my God… you are something.” she whispered and breathed heavily. He stroked her breasts lazily and laughed.
“Seems we haven’t lost it…” he said with his lips right under her ear.
“Oh… you haven’t lost it for sure… I’m not sure if I can walk…”
“Hmmm you don’t have to go anywhere…” he wrapped a leg around her.
“Actually, I do. I really, really have to pee…”
Couple of days later
Eveline stood in the hallway, checking herself once again in the big mirror.
“You look pretty.” Gabriel walked into the hallway.
“Thanks honey!” she laughed at him. He stood beside her and they looked at themselves.
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” she said and adjusted the collar of his polo.
The doorbell startled both of them.
“I guess that’s the journalist. Go get you dad.” Eveline gently pushed him out and pressed the buzzer. She leaned against the wall with her arms crossed, waiting. A moment later, there was a knock on the door.
“Hi, I’m Lena Ekdal.” a tall blond woman came in, followed by a man with messy black hair.
“Niklas Hansson, nice to meet you.” the man said. He carried two big bags with equipment.
Eveline welcomed them and showed them to the living room. Per just walked in with Gabriel and the journalists shook hands with him and Marie Dimberg, who had arrived an hour earlier. She usually ‘sat watch’, as Per called it, during important interviews. Though there was little to fear as she had already gone over it all with Lena Ekdal the day before.
“I think it’s best to do the pictures right away, before the kids get fed up with it.” Eveline announced when Niklas Hansson wanted to sit down.
“Very good idea, where? Here in the living room?” he walked around the room a bit, looking around. Then he discovered the cozy lounge room at the front of the house.
“Wait, this is perfect! Can we do it here? The light is just perfect!” he got all excited. Per, Marie Dimberg and Lena Ekdal had trailed after them.
Hansson sure knew what he was doing. He placed Per in the middle of the big, fluffy sofa with Eveline and Gabriel each on a side of him. He asked Eveline to take off her high heels and lay down on the couch with her bare feet dangling over the side. As soon as she knew the time and date of this interview, she’d started picking out clothes for the whole family. They all matched each other with jeans and white shirts. Per was wearing a tight white T-shirt with a V-neck, Gabriel a white polo, Elin was cool in faded jeans and a white long sleeve and Emilia got a new jeans skirt for the occasion. Eveline herself had been cheering in the bedroom when she realized her favorite dark blue jeans fit her. She had completed it with a white linen blouse.
Elin had to lay down on top of her mother, head resting on her chest. Gabriel sat beside Per, leaning against him while Per held Emilia in his arms. She was wide awake and suspiciously watching all that went on around her. Apart from very professional, the photographer was also well prepared. He’d brought some sort of hand-puppet which entertained the kids and especially sent Elin into fits of laughter… which made everybody else laugh too, and – snap! The picture of the perfect family was shot. He took a few more of the kids alone and Per and Eveline alone, standing on the balcony with a view of Stockholm in the background.
When they finally sat down with coffee, Eveline’s nerves had calmed down and she noticed Per was the same. He was relaxed and open. He did most of the talking, with Marie Dimberg interfering from time to time. The questions were quite simple – where had he been? Why? Why that long? And what were his plans for the future? Eveline kept silent and tended to the girls and poured coffee.
“So we can assure our readers that everything is now back to normal?” Lena Ekdal asked.
“Not really…” Eveline spoke softly. Per turned his head, surprised. “I think you can tell them it’s even better.” she smiled at Per and Niklas’ camera clicked. Per took her hand in his and touched the ring she was still wearing. His eyes questioned her. The silence in the room lasted several seconds, until Marie Dimber cleared her throat meaningfully. Per glanced at her and then look at the ring on Eveline’s finger, her hand still in his.
“Actually, we have a little announcement to spice up your story,” he looked back at Eveline. She nodded.
“We’re planning to get married at the end of the summer.”
Per’s ‘little announcement’ shook up everything. Dagens Nyheter printed an article the following day but left the whole interview for the Saturday Special as planned. Eveline had called her parents the same evening to tell them the news so that they wouldn’t hear from others. Marie Dimberg had been royally pissed that Per had acted so impulsive – she hadn’t even known they planned something…
Per and Eveline had spent the whole day in each other’s presence after their wonderful lovemaking. They proved their love to each other by repeating the act time and time again… the phone was ringing off the hook after the publication in DN and all they had to do was refer to the interview that would be published a few days later. Some friends seemed offended that they had to find out in the newspaper but the most important people were just happy for them. That included Åsa and Marie Fredriksson – two very important women in Per’s life. Dina was suddenly at their doorstep with a bottle of champagne and she ordered that Eveline would get the biggest and best bachelorette party in the history of famous Swedes.
Their marriage in early September was one big dream. Both were relaxed, all their friends and family were there. The ceremony and reception took place in Stadshuset’s ‘Golden Room’. For the dinner, live music and party after this, Per had managed to take over all of Giorgio’s after they’d promised Giorgio to bring down their guest-list to one hundred people.
In June of the following year, Per conquered Sweden once again with his new album. ‘En händig man’ broke all his previous records – a tour was already planned even before the album was out. Every night he played, he dedicated one song to his wife…
Du kommer så nära (du blir alldeles suddig)
som om jag
var skyldig något till någon
det är en känsla jag har
jag inte kan skaka av
när du är kvar
då blir jag någon annan
då tänker jag som någon annan
ett helt annat jag
men du kommer så nära
du blir alldeles suddig
jag vill ge dej min himmel
med en ny månskära
men du kommer för nära
som om jag
inte litat på någon
jag vill lita på någon
men jag blir aldrig klar
när du är kvar
då blir allt lite bättre
jag blir lätt lite bättre
det styrs av någon lag
men du kommer så nära
du blir alldeles suddig
så mycket att känna
så mycket att lära
du kommer för nära
du kommer så nära
You come so close (you become all blurred)
as if I
owe something to someone
that’s the feeling i have
i can’t shake it off
when you remain
then I become someone else
then I think like someone else
a whole other me
but you come so close
you become all blurry
I want to give you my haven
with a new crescent moon
but you come too close
as if I
don’t rely on anyone
I want to rely on someone
but I’m never ready
when you remain
then everything gets a little better
I get a little better
it’s a rule by law
but you come so close
you become all blurry
so much to know
so much to learn
you come to close
you come so close