Man what a strange dream! And it felt like it lasted half the night, too. Arvid staggered to his feet. His head was still swimming with the vivid images from the dream: The houses of stone, the brightly shining wood, the soft blue fabric hugging Avdyra's body ... Uh, yes, it was a silly name, and he would likely never see her again. Though who knows ... it seemed that this dream was pretty similar to the one he had a week ago. Or was it only a week? He shook his head.
It was quite a change to come down to the breakfast table, where his mother was patiently waiting. She had probably been up before dawn, praying for his sinful soul and giving thanks for her wonderful daughters who were now safe in the care of their husbands and thus saved for all eternity. Arvid could have packed his own lunch, or even better, bought some in town. But every single schoolday morning the mother hen was there waiting for him, and today was no exception.
"Arvid, you should not wear perfume. It is vanity, and besides it is unmanly." "It's not perfume, Mom. It's aftershave. I'm a man now, you know, and have to shave occasionally." "Yes, time flies. Life is short. But certainly that is not a reason for a men to wear perfume." "Mom, it is not perfume. It is aftershave, and it helps the pores of the skin contract after shaving, keeping the skin fresh." "It smells." "So does soap." "Not like that." "Mom, it is not perfume. None of the boys will mistake me for a girl, trust me." He was pretty close to saying that none of the girls would either, but that would certainly make her knees blister. So he bit his tongue, and then a piece of bread.
Things had not always been this strained. Thinking back, he had a fairly happy childhood. There were of course things you should do and things you could not do, but that is how life always is for a child. Yes, his father did spank him occasionally, but you could see that the man did not like it. It was his holy burden as a father to chastise his children, that they sin no more. Not like Andersen, whose wife left him and the Last Church of Prophets on Earth too, after she found him "disciplining" their teen daughter. Now that was an event. Of course none of the grownups ever talked about it, but things have a way of getting out. Arvid had been just ten by then, but he was still fascinated and tried to find out as much as possible.
Now, eight years later, he understood a great deal more. And the thought came to him unbidden that Susanne ought to keep an eye on her husband the preacher too. The man was entirely too happy with seeing other people humiliated. There was something sick to his delight, certainly. The way he planned ahead, arranging for people to be in debt to him somehow, to need him. The way Susanne was acting like a shamed dog around him. Sure, she had always been that type, but the guy had made it bloom.
Suddenly, the bread tasted like ashes in his mouth. He excused himself quickly and went to the bus stop early.
For once Arvid did not have to run to catch the bus. He had time to look around. At this time of the year, the sun was not yet up when he went to school. But the light of day had come, and an echo of fire in the high mountains to the north-west. The fields south of the road were brown and lifeless now, yet so full of latent fertility, saved for a faraway spring. The wind brought a slight smell of earth and beginning decay. Fall was coming. It was truly coming now.
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[Remember the disclaimer about no intentional similarity to actual people or events? Guess what? It still applies. I mean it. Really.]