In which three girls share soda, tasteless humor and worries.
"That was a wonderful movie! I feel so empowered!"
"Haha! Me too!"
"Espen is going to cower in fear when you return!"
"Well, I'm not returning to him tonight!"
"How far are you two come, anyway?"
"Er, I don't think we should talk about that here..."
"Whoa! That sounds interesting..."
"Susan, Bodhild, I have ordered a big pizza for us. If we get on the next bus, we will be there before it arrives."
"Right! Let's run grrls!"
If the two girls had not known Anne-Linn so well, they might have wondered why they were taking the bus. She was after all the daughter of one of Scandinavia's richest and most successful businesswomen! Surely she could afford her own car or at least a taxi... Then again, if they hadn't gone to the same school for years, they would never have guessed that she came from a rich home at all. Ever since the end of grade school, Anne-Linn had been careful to build her own identity. She wore ordinary clothes and no jewelry, she made her own lunch, and she would go on vacation with her friends when she got a chance. She had even taken a job in a small grocery shop after school, even though she could need the time to study. Anne-Linn wasn't stupid, but she wasn't a super genius either. For all anyone knew, she was just an ordinary girl.
Of course, as they walked from the nearest bus stop, the house that gradually grew bigger was anything but ordinary. Both of them had been there before, and knew that Anne-Linn only had a few small rooms on the ground floor. But they also know that Anne-Linn's few small rooms together were more than many newlyweds' apartment. They never brought that up, though.
Whatever other thoughts may have been in their heads were chased far away when Tassen greeted them. For his enthusiasm, each of them could be his long lost mother. Not that you can have more than one mother, strictly speaking, but the big shaggy dog would never win fame as a great biologist. His strength was in other areas. A lot of areas, including jumping, licking, and tugging. Laughing, the girls let themselves be herded into the main room like so many bleating sheep and flopped down on the overly soft horseshoe couch, which had presumably been trendy some time well before Anne-Linn got it.
"So, Bodhild, now that we are alone... How far have you come with Espen?"
"Well, when you ask that way..."
"I'll go fetch some soda and snacks. Be back soon!"
"Whoa!" The two remaining girls looked at each other as Anne-Linn quickly slipped out the door. "Suspicious!"
"Once could be a coincidence, but twice is trouble!"
"You don't think that she possibly... Espen?"
"No way. We've been together for like two months now, and Tusla has been fine with it all the time."
"Perhaps she thought you were going to get, you know, 'technical'..." Susan giggled.
"Hello? We're only dating! I'm not that desperate, even though I don't plan to be a white bride... and anyway, it's not like I would use words like 'throbbing' or, umm..."
"No, no! 'Dewy'! As in 'dewy love petals'..."
"Oh my DOG! Ah-ha-haah! I can't breathe! Ooh! Dewy bwahaha wheee!" Susan fell backward on the couch, screaming with laughter and kicking her feet in the air, and Bodhild lost her innocent mask only seconds later.
When Anne-Linn returned, the two girls were still rolling around and laughing like mad, and even Tassen was joining in which confused barking. It sounded like a complete madhouse, and the expression on her face made it even harder for the two to stop laughing. She set the soda down. "What's with you two now?"
Bodhild regained her composure first. "Oh, we were just talking about..."
"...dewy rose petals! Bwahaha oo-oo!"
"Huh? What's so funny about that?" Anne-Linn was looking from one to the other of her friends who were once again collapsing in helpless laughter.
"Not, not..." Bodhild struggled to catch her breath. "Not rose petals. Dewy... dewy love petals!"
The two girls broke down in laughter again. Anne-Linn looked just confused at first, but then her eyes widened and a furious blush spread across her face until it was almost as red as her hair. When she finally spoke, her voice was thick, almost hoarse: "Who are you, and what have you done to Susan and Bodhild?"
This did not exactly help. But finally they managed to calm down. As usual it was Bodhild who first came to her senses. "Sorry, Tusla. We just imagined what you might be thinking, since you ran away."
"Each time we began to talk about Espen."
This time the blood drained from her face. "What are you talking about? What are you even thinking?"
Susan spread her hands apologetically: "We thought perhaps that you were afraid we would be talking dirty..."
"Well, you were!"
"But only because you ran away!"
"Ran away? I went to fetch these!" Anne-Linn pointed to the soda. "They don't have legs, you know!"
"Not just this time. In town, too. When we started to talk about love, you suddenly remembered that we had to run."
"Well, it was that or waiting for the next bus."
"But then it happened again here. There are 60 minutes in an hour, and any one of those minutes would be enough to fetch the soda. But you suddenly had to do it at the first sign that conversation might turn to cuddling."
There was a short silence. Anne-Linn did not seem happy. "I just tried to be a good hostess."
"But aren't you curious about how Bodhild is doing? Are you interested?"
"It's a... private thing. I don't want to snoop."
"But I wouldn't have told anything I did not want you to hear! Or even anything he didn't want you to hear."
"I... I just don't want to meddle in other people's love life."
"I wouldn't let you. And you know that. You must have had another reason to not want to hear."
"Like for instance boy trouble."
"That's... that's ridiculous! I don't even have a boyfriend. You know that! I never had a boyfriend. And I sure don't have time for one now, with the finals coming up."
Bodhild looked straight at her. "You don't have time for a boyfriend because of the finals? So are you saying that I shouldn't have time for Espen?"
"No, of course I'm not saying that! What I'm saying is that I don't have time to go looking for a boyfriend right now, even if there was the slightest chance that I could find someone who loved me and not my mother's money!"
"Love is not a job, Tusla. It is not something you apply for. It is not something that eats up your time and leaves you tired and drained. Love is natural. It is something we were born to, like eating or breathing. It is not something we struggle to perform, it is something that happens to us, although we can resist it. But why should we resist? Love is good. It gives me strength, it gives me new energy. It is like finally standing on two legs after having hopped around on one leg for far too long. I am not going to put Espen on hold till my exams are over. He is a part of my life, a life we are going to spend together. It is not love or school, it is not love or job, love or career, love or life. My love is a part of everything in my life, and it is the most important part. If you try to give up love, you will just hurt yourself."
Anne-Linn looked away. "I... I am sorry. I just... don't understand it, I guess. I wonder if I ever will."
"Tusla, listen to me. In real life, love is not like what you read about in romance novels by Margit Sandemo. It is not a scary stranger with occult powers who suddenly comes into your life, sweeps you off your feet and drags you into a life of adventure and battle against evil forces. It is like a friendship that grows until you cannot bear to be apart. It is like discovering a part of yourself that you did not know existed. As if you suddenly found a whole new level of your house where you had never been before! You find yourself laughing at jokes you didn't know were funny, you find yourself listening to music you didn't know you liked. You look up, and did not know the sky could be so blue. You look down, and did not know the grass could be so green. Every breath you take ... you realize you have never been so alive. That is the magic of love. And it is enough."
Susan was just sitting there, drinking in every word. Anne-Linn, on the other hand ... she still seemed uncomfortable. "It's not that I disagree with you, Bodhild. It's just ... well, I don't feel ready for such things, OK? Give me some time."
"But you seem uncomfortable even hearing talk about love. That's not even like you used to be. It is as if something has happened recently."
"Nothing like that."
"Nothing like what?"
"Like the love stuff. Just... just something strange at work."
"Not something strange involving a boy, by any chance?"
"Just a customer, and he's not a boy anymore either."
"Well, if it's about work, then obviously it has nothing to do with love and such."
"No. It is more like a mystery."
"Death in aisle four?"
"We're still not sure if he is dead, but he did disappear."
"Well, that's the thing. According to Marianne, he vanished into thin air."
"He did, now?"
"That's what she saw. And he never came back."
"Mysterious! How long ago was this?"
"Right. And he never came back."
"He has bought groceries there every Saturday for half a year."
"Perhaps we could help you look for him."
"That would be easy. If you ever see a young man with indigo-blue eyes, that is him."
I have never seen it before either."
"I did not even know it was possible."
"Neither is disappearing into thin air."
"We will definitely look for him. Right Susan?"
"Of course we will! Leave it to Nancy Drew!"
"You make me feel so much better, you know."
"Hey, was that the doorbell?"
Must be the pizza guy."
"I better go take a look at his eyes."
"Ha! You girls ..."
But somehow she seemed more relaxed now, after having told that strange story. Really strange ...