Chapter 2: Meeting again for the first time

In which history repeats itself when a customer seems to be his own twin brother.

There were never many customers at this time of the day and week, which was probably why Mrs Hansen habitually left it to the two girls. How the grocery shop even turned a profit remained a mystery to Anne-Linn, even after working here for months. Perhaps it didn't. Or perhaps the pensioners who lived around here shopped like mad during the day. There was no way Anne-Linn or Marianne could know, since they were both in high school then. But when they came here after school, it was almost too quiet for two people. They spent more than half the time unpacking, sorting, washing and (unofficially) reading weeklies and cheap novels. Well, the ones Marianne read were not just cheap. Even looking at the covers made Anne-Linn blush. Then again, she blushed easily. Or so Marianne claimed. Marianne sure didn't.

Taking care not to leave any dog-ears or fingerprints in the new romance novel, Anne-Linn had come to page 35 when her childhood friend suddenly gave a small shout of surprise. "Would you look at that?"


"It's Saturday Boy! And he's coming here!"


"Yes, right now! You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry ..."

"Is he gonna find out who's naughty and nice?"

"Well, that's pretty obvious. Too bad the naughty girl is already taken! Ha!"

"Hush now..."

"Want me to cover for you while you run to fix your makeup?"

"Don't be silly. When have you ever seen me use makeup?"

"And see what it has brought you. Still a virgin at 18! Now, there he is."

As he stood in the doorway, silhouetted against the spring afternoon, you could see that he was about average height for a Scandinavian man. But as he stepped into the room, he somehow seemed taller. It was probably just his slender, wiry frame and a fairly long face that made him look taller than he really was. His short hair was as always pitch black, and his large eyes a startlingly deep blue. Anne-Linn had never seen anyone with eyes like that, so deep blue they were almost bordering on indigo. Usually when eyes were dark, they were brown, not blue. It sure made him easy to recognize, though, as if that was necessary.

He was looking around with curiosity, as if he was seeing the shop for the first time. Strange – it had to be him, there was no way there could be two like that. So why was he acting like that? Looking around at the shop and ignoring them? Well, he wouldn't be ignoring them for long: Marianne was already stepping toward him. "Hail, mighty programmer! What brings you to our humble shoppe this beautiful day?"

He looked at her with startled surprise. "Do we ... know each other?"

She giggled. "I would say so. But not in the biblical sense, if you know what I mean."

His reaction surprised them both. He shivered visibly, somewhat like a dog shaking its wet fur. "I dare say not!"

"Hey, I was just kidding. But you are, uh, him, right?"

"Jon" supplied Anne-Linn, embarrassed that her friend had managed to forget his name yet was acting so familiar.

He definitely recognized the name at least. His eyes fell on her, and for a moment she could not think at all. Then he nodded and looked back on Marianne again, and Anne-Linn could breathe. Why did she react like that? Yes, she was kinda shy with strangers. OK, skip the 'kinda' part. But it did not usually paralyze her like that. Then again, she rarely met young men even as customers. Most boys she met were in school with her, and most men she met here were quite a bit older. Jon could at most be a couple years older than her. Still, that alone should not be enough to make her confused like that. She felt her ears grow hot. Great, just great. She turned away quickly until it passed.

If Marianne was in any way flustered by not remembering the name while her friend did, she did not show it. Then again she never did. She just shrugged it off. "Well, anyway, have a nice shopping. I'll be over at the frozen food with my rear in the air, if you need something. But I am sure Haugtusla here will serve you in any way imaginable. Right, Tusla?"

"Haugtusla?" Jon wondered aloud. "Well, OK. I'll just find what I need."

"I hope you do" said Marianne slyly, and was off to the freezers.

He really doesn't remember, Anne-Linn realized. He has never heard my nickname before. How can that be? I know we're not going out or anything, but he's stopped by here every Saturday for half a year, and Marianne has chatted him up every single time. And lately she has been pretty heavy-handed in trying to make him notice me. How can he possibly have forgotten everything? He looks like him, he moves like him, and the voice is the same. He even recognizes his name. Why then does the act like this is his first time here?

Marianne was true to her word: She sauntered over to the deep frozen chickens and started to rearrange them. Anne-Linn busied herself unpacking sweets, while watching Jon out of the corner of her eyes. He grabbed a shopping basket and started to traverse the aisles methodically, as if making a mental map of everything. This was exactly how he had acted the first time he came here, a little over 6 months ago. Even then, he stood out from the usual folks who came here. Well, mainly because they were old folks, but even so. And like now, he had politely ignored Marianne and gone about his shopping. It took a quarter of a year before he warmed enough to reply with more than single words. And now, for some obscure reason, they are back to square one. Does he suffer from some kind of multiple personality disorder? No, not unless the personalities are identical twins. Perhaps that is it ... he is Jon's identical twin. Wouldn't you react to the name of your twin? Of course you would. But he reacted with surprise, as if he did not know Jon used to shop here. They can't be on the best of terms, then. What a shame. Jon seemed like a nice enough guy, even if a bit asocial. OK, make that quite a bit.

Jon's twin completed his circuit of the shop, having put about half a dozen everyday items in his basket. Anne-Linn noticed with some satisfaction that he walked right past Marianne, who was doing her very best make sure her well-toned backside was within easy reach. Anne-Linn always envied her those slim, trim, buttocks and thighs. She herself was born to be pear-shaped, evidently: No matter what she did or didn't do, that was how she stayed. At the dawn of puberty, her hips and thighs had simply exploded in size, and stayed that way ever after. She had tried jogging, biking, swimming and a dozen diets. And she still felt like she was waddling instead of walking, although both her mother and Marianne claimed she exaggerated and was "just slightly chubby" in Marianne's exact words. So why couldn't she have the "chubbiness" on her chest like Marianne? Or not at all, like her mother?

The twin came up to the cash register, and Anne-Linn handled the sale, but her mind was only halfway in it. Wonder if Jon will be back on Saturday? He is kinda nice, in his own shy and reclusive way. Is his twin the same way? Much good it would do me to know ... we are both terminally shy around strangers, so even if he shops here till we both die from old age, we'll never get past a "hi" and a shy smile. But even so ...

She gave him back his change, and their fingers touched. He froze. For several heartbeats he stood there, like a statue, not taking the money, his hand touching hers, while his dark blue eyes grew wider and wider. This was becoming embarrassing! Then he suddenly checked himself, grabbed the coins and hurriedly withdrew his hand. He took a deep breath. "I ... I am Jon." And he ran out the door.

And then, much to Anne-Linn's surprise, Marianne ran to the door too. She only put her head out, though, and looked around. When she came back, she too had a shocked expression on her face. "Dear sweet mother of pearl!" she exclaimed. "What did you do to him?"

"Gave him his change back."

"This is, like, the first time I've seen a boy dissolve."


"Yeah. You know, disappear in thin air."

"What do you mean?"

"I watched him. He suddenly looked all shocked, back when the two of you were together there, and then when he ran out the door I could see him through the window. He took a couple steps and then disappeared. Just like that. I looked out and he was nowhere in sight."

"You mean he ran away, right?"

"No, I mean what I say! He disappeared in thin air. Not around a corner, not behind anything. Either he ceased to exist or he became invisible."

"But that is not possible."
"That's what's creepy. Like he was a ghost."

"He was not a ghost. I touched his hand."

"So that's what you did."

"To give him his change back! Except he kinda locked up right then. And then he said 'I am Jon' and ran away. Besides, ghosts don't buy groceries. I think."

"And people don't disappear in thin air. If not a ghost and not a human, what was he then?"