In which the voices in your head may be saner than most.
"'Soon, Tassen. I'll just get myself a little juice first."
"I knew you would understand."
Anne-Linn was in the kitchen when the phone beeped. She grabbed a box of juice first, then the phone. "Hello?"
"Hello, can we interest you in the latest advance in miniature golf?"
"Marianne! How was work?"
"I promised to say hi from your boyfriend. Hi."
"He's not my boyf... Jon came TODAY? On a Tuesday?"
"What was that sound? Did you drop something?"
"I was just trying to juggle juice and phone at the same time." "Wruff!"
"Was that your conscience barking, or just Tassen?"
"Just Tassen." "Wruff!"
"Jon misses you, obviously. He just bought some pasta and such useless stuff."
"Were those two sentences supposed to be connected in some way?"
"You're supposed to be the smart one, you figure it out. And have fun studying! I'll catch you at school."
Anne-Linn picked up the box. Why had Marianne called just to say that? She had to know it would just irritate her... But why? She had already told everybody: Jon was not her boyfriend. And if she was honest, she would have to admit he wasn't even a friend. Just someone she had met. There was no reason why his comings and goings should be the measure of her day. She had finals to study for. She had a dog to care for, and an apartment to keep tidy. The whole idea that Jon was somehow special to her was actually something Marianne had come up with, wasn't it? Just another of Marianne's countless attempts to hook up people. For all Anne-Linn knew, Marianne might be interested in him herself and just wanted her friend to keep him around until a suitable occasion...
She shook her head: Suspecting her friend was just stupid, and she knew it. Marianne had finally found someone she wanted to settle down with; well, for Marianne-values of "settle down". And they were friends, Marianne and her, from the sandbox. She just wanted to help. There could be no doubt about that. "Come on, Tassen. Let's take a walk."
The nights were growing shorter and less dark for every day now. Before the finals were over, it would be summer for real. She needed new clothes, she suddenly realized. All she had was old stuff from back when she didn't know much about clothes. Well, perhaps not all of it, but still... She was a different girl now, somehow. Not just girl either. She was a woman, and she suddenly realized that this was the first time she thought of herself that way. She had been a girl, and then she had been a big girl. Not a young woman. And it showed. She looked down at her clothes, all the way down her old jeans to her sneakers. Functional clothes, and not too expensive. After all, she didn't want to use the credit card that her mother always left behind for her. In an emergency, sure, if something happened; but nothing ever happened around here. But she had been working evenings and weekends, had saved up money that she planned to use for a vacation. But if she used some of it now, she could get some nice summer clothes before all the good stuff was gone from the shops. After all, this summer she would be out of high school. If that didn't mean she was a woman, she didn't know what would do. Surely that was the reason why she was thinking about this now, of all times. She had been studying all evening, after all.
Even though it wasn't really dark yet, the birds had largely fallen silent for the night. Of course, they would be wide awake at five in the morning, singing like mad. She had never understood what could possess a living creature to sing its lungs out at five in the morning. But for now, peace and quiet ruled the old alleys and the park where she walked with Tassen. Not that it really was a park, even. The town had simply grown in such a way that some undeveloped land became surrounded by roads that eventually grew into streets. If she had walked in the opposite direction, away from the town, she would have come to farmland broken up by rows of trees and small hills. But the road that way was so lonely, mostly only cars driving out of town. Here, closer to the town itself, there would be other people: Some, like herself, walking a dog; sometimes she would recognize one of them, even someone from her neighborhood. They were children on bikes, or couples going for a walk together.
Suddenly she remembered another walk along this roads, not so long ago. She remembered the sudden feeling of sadness and loneliness. Why is today different? Because a boy was looking for me? she asked herself.
-Don't be silly. Boys have been interested in you before , her self dutifully answered.
-Not really. Everybody wanted to be my friend when I could spend my mother's money. Jon obviously had no idea who I was when we met, and I doubt he knows yet. And I want it to stay that way as long as possible.
-You don't know that for sure. That he's not after the money.
-Yes I do. Remember his face when we laughed together? The surprise and delight? Jon is more lonely than I have ever been. Someone who looks for money would want to impress me, and loneliness is not impressive.
-So why are you so happy, if he is such a loser?
-He is not a loser. He has a job, a house, and decent manners. And I'm not so happy; I am just not so sad anymore.
-Sure you don't have a crush on him?
-Why on earth would I have that?
-Because he is single and because you have read way too many romance novels. And of course, because he is the only boy who has held you in these years since Joachim...
"Excuse me, young lady!"
"What?" Anne-Linn was pulled out of her inner dialog by a female voice. A woman in her early forties, dressed in fashionable sportswear, had stopped beside her.
"If you are planning to walk much further, I would recommend you go on the other side of the park and not continue all the way to Station Road. I have heard there is a sort of gang forming around there."
"A gang? Here in Fjordheim?"
"Perhaps not quite a gang yet, but there's definitely something bad going on. My brother is in the police, and he has asked me to stay away from there. A young girl like you would certainly be no safer. There are some boys getting together and making serious trouble. I thought I should warn you."
"Yes, isn't it? It wasn't like that when I was your age, that's for sure."
"I guess the town was smaller back then, and everybody knew everybody else. It's really more like a city now, isn't it?"
"That, and we didn't have all those immigrants back then, black and brown and every shade of color."
"Well, there aren't all that many of them..."
"But those that are, are nothing but trouble. There's a reason why those people used to live in the bush while our ancestors built this country. They're horribly primitive, you know. It's in their blood."
"Well, the Vikings were kind of primitive too, I guess..."
"Let me tell you something. You may read in the books that the Vikings were bloodthirsty savages, but that doesn't mean it is true. I think they just got a bad reputation because they didn't get along well with the Jews and such. Just like Germany in the forties."
"Uhm, I think I really should go back home now..."
"Yes, that is probably the safest. A nice white girl like you shouldn't wander too far this late at night."
Anne-Linn managed to keep her mouth shut until she was safely out of earshot, but not a breath longer. "No wonder they make trouble, if this is how they are treated!"
"Wurff!" said Tassen, whose race nobody would ever be able to find out.