“That’s odd”, Nevena says. “What is odd?”, I ask. “Elena told me to come here, and she doesn’t show up?” “Elena has tendency to act before thinking”, is the response I assauge her with.
I give her my best shrug (thanks Isocrates) and smile. “Why don’t you take a seat? I have something important to ask you in any case.” She sits down, and I marvel. Marvel over the fact that a girl like her actually she likes me, neurotic tendencies not withstanding. Ah well– I am not getting any younger.
“I…..”, I start, and pause. “I what?”, she tangents, golden eyes puzzled.
“I… was….”, I continue, feeling as if the words are dragged out of me with a pincer. “Oh you’re killing me now, Rune.” Oh hell with it all. She says yes, and we’re golden. She says no, and I guess…. I don’t know what I should guess, but I’ll deal with it as it comes. That’s all I can do, all anyone can do.
” I was going to ask: will you, Nevena-” damn what’s her surname now again“- Stanislaw, go with me to the Bonfire Ball?” There. The words have been uttered, and can’t be taken back. “Yes”, she simply states, before getting out of her seat and buying a pastry. Meanwhile, I sit there, nursing a cold sweat. I blink, slowly, like an owl. Yes?! Just like that?
/Is this not the outcome you desired?/ I expected something more. Fighting a dragon, save a princess. Something like that.
/Dragons don’t exist. There is only my kind./ Nevena puts a plate with chocolate-fudge cake down and leans casually back. She starts to eat pieces of it, complemented by a extra-large cup of coffee. I don’t say anything- you don’t disturb a Swede during fika. It would be the equalivent of interrupting an American Superbowl game, or breaking the fast during Ramadan for no good reason.
My phone vibrates. A message. “Did you ask her?“, it says. I stab the buttons of my phone, relieving some of my anger on the poor things. “Yes, but no thanks to you, Machiavelli.” ” Yes thanks to me, you mean. If hadn’t engineered your little meeting, you’d never have asked her. She would have eventually accepted another offer, and your relationship would have either ended or been irrevocally damaged.” “Whatever.” I block the oncoming messages. Let her stew on that for an hour or two.
Eventually she finishes off the cake. “Are you so surprised that I would say yes?”, she asks, with no small amount of amusement.I answer her question indirectly. “I had psyched myself up for this you know. Ready to go my ten rounds.” She sips from the coffee-mug. “I mean, I didn’t think a girl like you-” I stop before I embarass myself more than I already have.
Nevena stares at me, the expression on her face going from musing to introspective. She scratches her left shoulder, still considering. “Rune, you have a complex regarding your looks, but that’s not just it, is it? I have been wondering, because there is something about you that feels… not properly aligned. Skewered. About that time we had the book-report, you went full fanboy. And that seat in the classroom. All those looks I gave you, which you never seemed to notice. How uncomfortable you seem to be, standing to close to people. What you said about our second date.”
Crap. She knows. “Rune-“, she asks, “- are you…. how do I put this…. bad with people?” I stare at her, not certain whether I should laugh or cry.”Socially dense”, she continues to say. She looks into my eyes with that expectation again. And I feel it. This is an opportunity. An opportunity to broaden this… this nascent relationship we have. To widen it. Make a valley of a small crack.
But I am held back. As my tongue moves to speak a sentence of three words, I find that I can’t do it. I am standing at the edge of a cliff, and the prospect of jumping is too daunting. It would make me vulnerable in a way that no amount of magic could salvage.
So I lie. I tell Nevena that yes, I am bad with people. That sometimes my tongue gets the best of me. That I come off as awkward. I may have uttered the lie, may have expunged it from my throat, but I can feel it’s after-effects. Like thick mucus in my throat.
And I wonder, a bit morose, if this is the standard with which I’ll have to live my life. Lying to girlfriends, never being completely honest? Is that a good way to live, I ask myself, and I wish that Verde would answer. That somebody would answer, give me the easy way out. But I am all alone, all alone.
“Rune?”, she asks gently. I return to reality. “Sorry, I was thinking about something. What were you saying?” This is the second time I have spaced out in a conversation, in less than ten minutes. I have to get a grip on myself.
“Our next lesson starts soon. You coming?”
I pass the rest of the day in a black mood, constantly second-guessing myself in regards to my decision. Elena gives me several glances of doom and destruction, but I ignore them, which is kinda like adding gasoline to a wildfire. She writes on her phone, but when she gets no response, she seems to finally catch my drift.
At the end of the day, I am cornered by Kai and Pontus. They’re standing on opposite sides of my locker. “We were thinking of having a movie-marathon tonight”, Kai says. Get the guys together, so to speak”, Pontus follows up with.
“But we got classes tomorrow??” Have I missed something? I have missed something. Kai and Pontus stare at me, baffled. “Haven’t you heard?”, Kay asks me. “Friday’s lessons are canceled. Conference or something”, he says, answering his own question.
I think of the long day, and my indecision. “You know what? A movie-marathon sounds like the bomb… and I call dibs on the first movie!”