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Chapter 14: Closing and opening

Chapter 14: Closing and opening

in which things don't go as badly as feared. (Which, admittedly, was pretty bad.)

It had been some days. Anne-Linn was closing the small shop and Marianne had already gone home when Jon showed up. Anne-Linn was not too happy about being alone with a man, even though it was no longer really dark at closing hour. What if he had indeed been "turned on", as Marianne had obviously hoped, and now he was coming back for more? What would she do then? Well, she would probably scream and try to run away... perhaps she could set off the shop alarm...

Don't Panic! Not all men are like that, and you know it! Besides, the day boys go crazy with desire for you, the streets will be patrolled by an army of flying pigs.

"I brought your pictures" he said without further introduction.

"Uhm, Marianne just went home." There, now she had said it. She could feel her body tense up.

"I know. I waited for her to go." That didn't make anything any better.


"Because some of these pictures are of you. They belong only with you, unless you decide to share them. After you have seen them. Besides..."

Here it comes! Her eyes were automatically picking out the best direction to run, even though she knew he would be faster. What are you afraid of? This is not some American movie. Still...

"... I've noticed that you tend to do whatever that other girl says. I don't know why, and I'm not asking. But I thought that if she was here, she would ask you to give her the negatives, and you would probably give them to her. And then stars above know how many places they would end up."

Anne-Linn made an effort to close her mouth. He knew them that well already? Because what he said was absolutely true. Marianne would have asked for the pictures. Anne-Linn would have given her them. And, likely as not, Marianne would come up with some new crazy idea. That was just the way she was.

"You are very loyal to your friend. Even when it gets you in trouble."

"She did not mean to get me in trouble."

"True enough. If she had planned for you to get stuck in that window, she would have sent you through first. And she would have brought her own camera!"

"Well, she thought she had brought her own camera, but..."

"No. That was a lie. One of several. She was making things up the whole time she was in my house. There is no reason for you to defend her, I am not going to hurt her."

"You... you knew?"

"I can tell at a glance when people are lying. I seem to have a special gift for that." He chuckled.

Anne-Linn blinked. She had never heard him laugh, barely ever seen him smile. She wondered why he found that particular thing funny. It certainly was a useful gift, especially if you wanted to buy a used car... but generally more tragic than funny, she would think, since people were telling white lies all the time.

"I'm terribly sorry about that, but she was afraid you would call the police."

"A reasonable thought, given that you were breaking into my house in the dark when you thought it was deserted. Why did you do that?"

"Uhm, we wanted to learn more about you." Now, she had said it. One more question and checkmate, if he really could detect lies.

"Why? Why me?" That was the question all right.

She looked down. She shuffled her feet. "Marianne... Marianne said... that you disappeared. Or became invisible." At least it was a half truth!

He flinched again. Much like he had flinched when Marianne made jokes about him. Or every time their fingers touched. And she realized, too late, that it was probably true. Somehow, he was able to become invisible. He must be some kind of mutant, like in the cartoons... no way! Pigs don't fly, and people don't disappear into thin air. So what was his secret? Whatever it was, it was obvious that he would defend it. That meant trouble, and she did not want that. But there was no way to take the words back.

"Did you really believe that?" he asked after a long pause. "That I can become invisible at will?"

"It does sound stupid, now that you ask. But I guess we were intrigued."

"Then why didn't you just ask me?"

"Well, if you really could make yourself invisible, you would probably lie about it."

"You are right. I probably would."

"So I might as well not ask."

"I can do some things, but not make myself invisible. Or fly, or lift cars, or shoot laser beams from my eyes. I apologize for my lack of nifty, useful superpowers -- it seems I only got leftovers!"

She could not suppress a smile at that strange apology. And then she saw a small answering smile pass over his deep blue eyes, and suddenly she found herself bubbling with laughter. Obviously he was entertained by her giggling, because soon he was chuckling too. The reason for their humor forgotten, they were caught in an escalating spiral of merriment, and soon they were laughing loud enough for the neighbors to hear. At least she was; she could not hear his soft chuckles over her own ringing peals. It felt so good, and all her fear and tension was blasted away, disappearing like smoke on the wind.

Finally she came to a stop, exhausted and flushed with heat. She caught her breath. "Oh, I'm so hot!" She widened the neck of her pullover, resisting the reflex to pull it off completely. Then, hearing herself and realizing what she was saying, she grew even hotter. "Oh my dog, I can't believe I said that!"

He looked at her with curiosity. "But I agree."

Oh wow, he is flirting with me!?

"It really is a lot warmer tonight" he added.

She sighed. What was she thinking? He was right, though. Spring was already giving way to early summer, with the feverish suddenness that these seasons can have up here in the north. No need for this pullover, she had a thick shirt underneath anyway! She pulled it over her head, and immediately felt the fresh air cooling her hot skin. When she finally got her head out of the pullover darkness, she glanced at Jon and found him studying a nearby sign extolling the incredibly low price of cabbage. She looked down and decided that it would probably have been a smart idea to tuck her shirt into her trousers. In retrospect, she realized that it would probably have been smart to do so first. Oh well, perhaps they would sell more cabbage now...

"There was one more reason why I waited" he said, still looking at the sign.

She froze in place. Could I have been mistaken?

"I wanted to see what you were like when not with your hyperactive friend."

Nothing worse? She silently chided herself for her nervousness. "And?"

"I like this you much better than the other you. You should stand up to her more often."

I don't usually take orders from her, it's just in matters of boys, because I know nothing about that. But I can't say that out loud!

But he did not wait for her answer. "Goodnight then", and he quickly slipped into the deepening darkness.