In which the long awaited date finally takes place.
Only the most primitive animals don't learn from repeated experience. Oh, and people in love. Kurt is neither of these, and so he left PawPrince in the living room before going to bed, and locked the door from the inside. The cat meowed pitifully, but Kurt was unmoved. The creature spent most of his days napping on pretty much any flat surface, so would certainly not die from spending a night on the sofa.
This worked well enough, except that he doesn't have an alarm clock, since the cat always wakes him up. So he overslept and did not wake up until woken from the banging on the bedroom door. Sitting up in bed, he looked at the watch and was relieved to see that he had only overslept by half an hour.
"I'm coming, Prince!"
"Make that Princess" comes the familiar voice of Bodil from the other side of the door.
"Bodil! What are you doing here at this time of the day?"
"IM IN UR HOUSE, DEFLATING UR CATZ!"
"Oh for the love of Peter, Paul and Mary! You can stop trying to break down my door now, unless you are desperate to see me change clothes."
"As if!" But she really does stop banging the door.
PawPrince is quite hungry and agitated, as could be expected. Since he doesn't have hands, he cannot fetch his own food. Bodil is not so restricted, and is making herself a large sandwich while Kurt eats his cereal.
"So according to your observations that the werecat only transforms every other morning, I will be back at Thursday at the same hour. You better be dressed this time. You are going to be late, aren't you?"
"Not by much." She chomps down on the sandwich. Kurt is convinced that she ate breakfast before leaving home. There is no way her mother would allow her to escape without.
remember that I will be out this evening."
"I still think it's a bad idea" says Bodil around her food. "You should find a nice boy instead."
"You've watched too much Gravitation and Loveless."
"You are only delaying the inevitable. Also, your choice of shounen-ai anime is uninformed to say the least."
As for the date, Kurt arrives five minutes early at the railway station and finds to his dismay that Lisa is already waiting there.
"Have you waited long?"
"No, I just arrived, so it is fine."
"I am sorry, I really don't know the first thing about dates. I tried to look it up on the Web, but most of the content seems to be humorous in nature or else expecting you to already know the basics."
"This really is your first date?"
"Yes. Please be gentle with me."
She laughs, but at least she really does so gently. "A date is nothing more than two people being alone together to get to know each other and have a good time in each other's company."
"Yes. Of course, by 'alone together' I mean 'not part of a group'. It is customary to date in very public places, such as eateries or cinemas, because after all you are with someone you don't fully know and you don't want to risk anything."
"Well, of course not."
"So we should probably find a place to eat, within a price range fitting for students such as us."
"I dressed up too much, didn't I?"
"it is your first date after all." Lisa smiles warmly. She is amazingly tolerant of his social clumsiness! Then again, she is several years older than him. It must be like going out with a kid rather than a real date.
Since Kurt is expected to choose, he decides they go to "Robots & Pie". It is a cozy Mom & Pop place, though it is a little bit of a walk from the station. The husband of the family makes little toy robots. They are not really robots, just toys that look like robots, and lovingly hand-crafted and painted. His wife makes wonderful pies of many different sorts. The place is not serving anything stronger than beer, and they don't keep open as far into the night as most eating places, but he and Lisa won't need that. Hopefully not.
"Wow! I did not even know this town had a place like this."
"They don't advertise, it is word of mouth only. But it works amazingly well. After all, almost every kid in this town has one of Kristian's toy robots. And whenever someone sees them, they think of Ella's pies at the same time, at least if they are hungry. Likewise, parents or older siblings who eat here will often buy with them a toy robot for the kids. So it really works, even though it sounds like a strange combination."
They pick a pie each. Kurt takes a hearty bacon pie, while Lisa chooses a healthy blueberry pie. Kurt is about to pay for the both of them, but Lisa intervenes: "Please let me pay, I was the one who asked you on this date after all!"
"But I'm the guy!"
"That's certainly true, but I kinda broke the tradition by asking you first. I don't think the books were written with this in mind."
"Web pages, in my case."
"Anyway, let me pay, OK?"
"What if I insist?"
"Then we shall just have to split the bill."
"Well, that is the least I can do."
"OK, since you insist."
They get back to the table with their pies and mineral water. Lisa tries to lighten the mood: "Well, we avoided a fistfight back there. Not too bad a start."
"Although I guess we did embarrass ourselves just a little." Kurt grins ruefully. He knows Ella recognizes him, by face if not by name. Quite possibly both.
"You seem really familiar with this town for a first-year student. Could it be that you are from around here?"
"Not just around here. I was born in this town and have lived here all my life, in a small house on the edge of the town, or at least it used to be the edge of the town until just recently."
"Wauw! Was that a good guess or what?"
"Almost as good as guessing that I was a first-year."
"Hmm? You look the part, you know."
"Actually you are the first person ever to say that. I always hear that I look a year or more often two older than my age."
"Oh my. I don't know what to say."
"The truth would be a good start, since we are here to learn to know each other."
sighs. "You are entirely too sharp for me. Yes, I did ask
around just a little bit."
"You could have just asked me, you know."
"I am sorry. But we women are in some ways still the weaker sex, you know. Even though I am older than you, I felt safer having just a basic idea of what kind of person you were."
"So how much do you know about me now?"
"Not much, I'm afraid. I know your name, age, that you're supposedly from around here, that you are quiet and don't go out much, but doing well at school. Kinda mysterious but probably not dangerous, people say you are very levelheaded and nobody has heard about you getting in trouble."
"Aren't you afraid that I may be hiding some deep dark secret from you?"
"I hope that if you do, I will sense it in some way during our time together. I think I am a better judge of character than I was when I was young. Good thing too."
Kurt picks up a small piece of pie. "I think it would be only fair if you told me a little about yourself too."
"OK. I really am 27, although just barely. I always hear that I look younger than I am, but I realize that I probably seem like an older woman to you. I guess there is no helping that. At that age it is quite a gulf, at least that way."
"I'd say it would probably be the same the other way. I certainly have no interest in girls 8 years younger than me."
She laughs at that, a spontaneous and warm laughter. She really is a woman rather than a girl, but he would have thought "mature" instead of "older". He does not say that, though. As usual, he thinks more than he says.
"I live around halfway between the cities, so it doesn't much matter which college I attend. I took the technical-administrative education here because it is likely to land me a job. Lots of girls study the humanities: Literature, history, psychology, pedagogics, even feminism. It won't be easy to get a job with that, except by teaching it to another generation of kids like themselves. Of course, many women don't mind. They don't need a well-paid job, or even a job at all, since their husband will be the breadwinner of the family. Also, guys generally don't like their woman to earn more than them. It makes them insecure and can really destroy a relationship. But I'm planning to provide for myself and my son. I need the money."
"Well, I feel relieved to see you are not trying to get me as a provider."
"Haha! No, I want you as a friend. Also, you are kinda attractive. But I don't plan to marry you. That would just not be fair. You should not be stuck with an old woman like me for life. Anyway, it is not a suitable topic for a first date, I believe."
"I take your word for it."
They eat in silence for a little while, before Lisa speaks again.
"You already know about my son Alexander Hamilton and his father, Toby Hansen. Ironically he was not the love of my life, really. He was more of a rebound guy. Ordinary, solid, marriage material, that was what I thought. As I said, I was not much of a judge of character back then. Also, this was all in comparison to Abdullah al-Arab, my first and greatest love."
"You are kidding me!" For once, Kurt speaks before he thinks. But evidently Lisa is used to it.
"In all fairness, this was before the relationship between the peoples became as tense as it is today. But I really should have known better. I was too young, too dumb, a honest to goodness dumb blonde. Even so, my brain knew that this man could not possibly be for me, but my heart overruled my brain and did pretty much what it wanted. And he was a wonderful man in many ways. Above all, he made me feel incredibly beautiful and attractive, like a goddess, not just a sewage drain for excess sperm. Pardon the crude language, but some Norwegian guys really have a lot to learn about how they approach girls and the whole thing about sex. It isn't just a biological need, you know. Perhaps it is for young men, I understand it can be really pressing for some, but to us it is much more."
"I guess that's why the whole romance thing is so big with women."
"It really is, too. At least when we are young. There needs to be feeling, a lot of feeling, but when those feelings first are there, we can go really crazy about a guy. That's what happened to me. But of course in the end it could not be. The chasm was too wide for it to last. I was completely crushed. And it was after that, after I stopped weeping and started picking myself up from the floor, that's when I met Toby and veered straight over in the opposite ditch. And this time I got myself good and pregnant. I expected this would cause Toby to settle down and become the responsible family man that I saw in him. But that responsible family man was just my own daydream, because he was so different from the wild romance of my first love."
"OK, that must have sucked."
"Yeah. Back to weeping and stuff, except now I was also puking and stuff. But my mother took care of me, and I guess she took care of the baby too at first. And little by little I grew up, and took responsibility for my own life. Now, it is weird to think back and see the stupid girl I was back then. Not that all young people are stupid, but I was. There is nothing more to say about that, really. I've learned my lesson, and it was a tough one, but I love my son more than my own life. He is not just some cuckoo his father left in my nest. I see parts of his father in him, but parts of myself too. And above all I see a real human, a child who needs me, a child who will grow up to become his own man one day. And I will do what I can to make sure he becomes a better man than any of his parents."
"I am not sure that is in human hands to decide."
"Perhaps not. But I will do what I can. There is no way I could not. That's just the way a mother's love is, I guess. I have learned that from my own mother. She could tell me exactly what she thought about the things I did, but she would not have hesitated for a second to walk barefoot through hell for me if needed."
"Your family seems to breed great mothers."
"Don't go planning anything, drowning boy." But she grins a big grin as she says it.
Kurt has finished off his pie, and Lisa starts the final assault on hers. "Say, I've been talking and talking like I was making a speech. Can't you tell me a little about yourself too, dark and mysterious stranger?"
"There isn't a lot to say, really. I am too young to have lived a life worth telling."
"Still, you have lived for 19 years. Do you have parents? Brothers, sisters, cats, lovers?"
"I grew up with my mother in her house here in town. I've visited my father two times, both of them with her. The funny thing is, they are crazy about each other. It was downright embarrassing to be in the same room as the both of them."
"So they were still friendly with each other?"
"That is to put it mildly. But my father is a crazy inventor. Actually I am not sure exactly how crazy he is, he seems to make a pretty spectacular living from it, enough to keep this large underground base in the wilderness."
"Woah. Like something out of a movie?"
"Yeah. In the French Pyrenees, outside some village there, very scenic. He really is a genius, but pretty weird. I guess I am a lot like him."
"You don't strike me as quite that weird."
"Not yet, perhaps."
"So you too grew up with your mother?"
"Well, not really. Oh, she was around most of the time when I was little. But around the time I started school, she resumed her travels around the world. Since then she has been home only every now and then. My grandmother took care of me."
"How was that?"
"Good. She had all the time in the world for me, and patiently helped me with my school work, as well as teaching me everything in the house. She also told me about old times, and she introduced me to many of the people in the town. She was a wonderful grandmother in every way, a true mother's mother."
"You say 'was'. Is she...?"
quite, but she could just as well be. It began so small, so
creeping, she did not notice herself. She would forget things that
had recently happened, then she would misremember dates, not remember
names. And then it happened faster and faster. I think there may
have been a brief time there, when she realized what was happening,
and it filled her with fear. And there was nothing I could do,
nothing anyone could do. And then she was gone. I mean, she is still
alive, but she is not herself. You may say she is someone she was
before, but I don't think she is even that. She does not know day
from night, or north from south."
"Yes. I had to get her into professional care, I could not keep staying up at night watching over her. It hurt to do it, but I just couldn't risk her life. Good thing the state pays for these kind of things here, or we would have had to mortgage the house."
did the right thing. There is no way you could care for a demented
old woman and still get your own education."
"I know, but I don't need to like it."
"No wonder you didn't get into the habit of going out much."
"Actually I think that may be a genetic thing, something from my father's side."
"Well, a terminally ill grandmother isn't exactly the best starting point either."
"I don't know, it seems to make a great conversation topic here at least."
Kurt follows up with a Baked Alaska, while Lisa just gets a cup of coffee. "I think there is someone else you have forgotten to mention" says Lisa.
"Hmm, my cat really came into my life pretty lately. He is barely grown. I guess you could call him a teenage cat."
"And he is not the only teenager in your life, is he?"
"Huh? Oh, you're probably thinking about Bodil."
"The crazy girl who dragged you into the Megaslide in the first place. If not for her, you would never have landed in my arms. Tee hee."
"I don't have any memory of that, which is probably just as well." He feels his face grow hot.
"You say you have never dated anyone, but the two of you are really close. Are you childhood friends? Cousins? She did not at all look like your sister."
"Friends, but only since high school. She is a year and a half younger than me, and I guess she acts even younger."
"And you act even older."
"She isn't as crazy as you make her out to be, though. She really cares for people. She just isn't very practical. She means well, but she tends to be too quick or too strong in all she does. She is so full of energy, she just can't help herself."
"Isn't that just what you need, an energetic friend to offset your calm and quiet nature?"
"I don't know... she drives me nuts, but she is my friend. And the thing is, I don't make friends easily. With her, I don't need to do anything. She does all the work of being friends. If she wants something in return, she says so, loud and clear. She does not sneak around waiting for me to guess the right thing to say."
"She really is ideal for you, I guess."
"As a friend, yeah. Just don't get any weird ideas, as it seems some people do. We are just friends. We've never done anything weird, and never will."
"Never is a long time."
"It is just not like that. I mean, she is just not like that. She doesn't have an interest in boys that way."
"It is not something I should talk about behind her back."
"Well, then at least she is probably not mad about you going out with me."
"She thinks you may have some hidden motive, but obviously she doesn't see you as a rival."
"Obviously not." Lisa smiles. "So then, since I seem to have to let you leave without molesting you this time, is there any hope that we can meet again? On a date, I mean, as opposed to just running into each other on campus once in a blue moon?"
"You would actually want that?"
"Yes! I enjoyed the place you picked, I enjoyed talking to you, and I like you better now that I know you better. Would you consent to another date, if I promise that I will once again abstain from ripping your clothes off and doing unspeakable things to your young and tender flesh?"
"Uh, as long as it's not every day, I guess."
"Tee hee, I think I shall be able to live without you for a few more days, after all these years not even knowing you. Do you have a phone number? Cell phone preferably?"
"I do have a cell phone in my Palm Treo."
"In your palm tree??"
"Palm Treo, a kind of PDA. Pocket computer if you will."
"Ah! Care to exchange numbers?"
"Sure. Let me just look it up. I call myself so rarely."
"Haha! Me too. But I guess I give it away more often. I guess girls just phone more."
"At least in public, yeah."
They exchange cell phone numbers, and then...
"As the expert on this town, would you deign to accompany me back to the railway station? I suppose I could find the way on my own, but why try with an expert at hand?"
The fall air has become quite chilly in the evening now. One of the days they must have crossed that invisible line from early fall, which is like a slow and humid afterglow of the summer, and into late fall, the true fall where nature realizes that nothing can go on forever. Fallen leaves swirl in a bitterly cold wind. If not for the wind, it would not be so bad. As it is, it bites into any exposed skin, making it tingle and turn red. The two of them speak little on their way back, and nothing of substance. But finally they draw close to the old station building.
"I think we can agree" muses Lisa "that a goodnight kiss would be way out of proportion for such an evening. But a hug can't possibly hurt, can it?"
"Probably not." And so they do. She smells nice, probably from the shampoo.
"Well. My cat is waiting..."
"At least it is not going to interrogate you about your date!"
"I sincerely hope you are right."