|Primary Characters:||Zac, Fanny, Mårten
|Spoilers:||Just watch the movies, ok?
|Description:||Mårten has a fight with his father and leaves home, forgetting that the last bus has already left. He ends up at Angel Farm, and – well, if he wanted a change, he certainly gets one.
Mårten Flogfält slammed the door behind him. Ten minutes earlier he’d stomped up the stairs to his room, tossed some clothes and other things into a sports bag, then clomped down again. The anger after his argument with his father had begun to fade, but the sudden insight that he didn’t have to stay on the farm, hadn’t changed. He had to get away. If he and the old man had to live under the same roof one more day, one of them would – Mårten stopped himself at the last moment. If he took a deep breath, he wouldn’t think, say or do something he’d later regret.
The front door opened again and his mother came running down the stairs after him.
“No, Mårten, calm down. Dad didn’t mean it. Stop. It will be alright. Mårten.”
He didn’t want to stop, not even for a minute or two, not turn around and look at his mother and least of all talk to her right now. Even if she was completely intolerable these days, she was still his mother. He didn’t want to yell at her that he’d had enough. That he was choking on all the well-meaning advice, all hysterical outbursts and all the exaggerated fuss. It would have been unnecessarily harsh. Despite everything, no matter how much she got on his nerves, he didn’t have the heart to say any of what was on his mind. Instead he took another deep breath and slowed down a little.
“Mum, it’s cool. I – have to do this. Don’t worry about it. I’ll call you.”
“No, Mårten. Please. I’m begging you. Don’t leave like this. Dad -”
“I don’t give a toss about what the old man does or says or thinks. I’ve had enough. Don’t be sad, mum. I just have to.”
When she realized that her son was serious, Rut fell into a terrified silence. This was what she’d been dreading for years now. That in the end, Mårten would have enough of the quiet, uneventful life in the country. She had also worried that his constant arguments with his father would end in something like this. First Vendela, now her son, her firstborn.
Desolate, she pressed her hand to her chest. Her heart was beating so fast, it was as if it was about to break free. For a second she was overcome with a dizzy spell. Then she straighened up. There was nothing to be done about it. Mårten was grown up now, though she hadn’t wanted to face it. Perhaps he had to see the world before he – found himself. Vendela had broken free too, and Mårten was several years older.
Slowly she walked back up the stairs and into the kitchen. Without even considering the fact that it was late and dark outside, she lifted the receiver. She had to talk to someone. Henning would understand. As he always did, he’d console and make her feel better, as Axel never did. Perhaps, after all, she should have –
Not until now, did Mårten glance at his watch. Shit. It was almost ten. The last bus would have left close to an hour ago. It would be too late to get away. Helplessly, he stopped by the side of the road, while he went over his options. Whatever happened, he wouldn’t go back. Mum and dad would really love that. Not for the same reason, but still.
He couldn’t take the car. It was really the old man’s. He wouldn’t take anything that belonged to the old man. The whole point of this was to stand on his own two feet, at last. He was grown up. No matter what mum would have wished.
If she’d had her way, he’d never been allowed to do anything he wanted. He would never have been allowed to see Fanny and Zac. At the memory of the hot Fanny Zander who was such an exotic stranger in these parts, Mårten couldn’t help smiling delightedly. What a girl. How she’d stirred up the scum at the bottom of their rotten little pond. Zac was fun too. In a way, he’d probably stirred things up just as much, if not more. He’d definitely puzzled Eva beyond her limit.
Fanny and Zac would still be here for another couple of weeks, this summer. Maybe he should drop by Angel Farm. They’d be awake, unlike the rest of the old mummies who lived here. Everyone probably went to bed around seven.
The thought of Angel Farm and the two fascinating people who lived there, tempted Mårten beyond his endurance. He was already walking in that direction before he became aware of having made the decison. But why not? There was nowhere else he’d be able to go this late, and nowhere else he wanted to go. Eva and Per-Ove he really didn’t want to see.
A few minutes later he was standing on Angel Farm’s veranda, knocking on the door. The light was on inside, and he could hear music being played rather loudly. That was exactly how he would have liked it at his place. The minute he put on a good album on the stereo, his mother would bang on the wall or hush him. The only music he was ever allowed to listen to was his mother’s hymns. She’d listen to them on the radio or hum them herself. The old man’s monotone whistling he refused to consider music.
Finally someone came to answer the door. The door was opened and Zac was there, a glass in his hand.
“Hello there, Mårten. Come on in. A glass of wine?”
“I’d love one, thanks.”
Zac slammed the door behind his unexpected guest, making Mårten feel welcome. The house projected another kind of pleace than the catatonically sepulchral at his place.
“Who is it? Ivar?”
Fanny’s voice sounded upbeat, or slightly drunk and Mårten was filled with excitement. He could almost see her, cheeks burning and eyes shining, not to mention wearing clothes that revealed more of her body than Eva’s shapeless baggy dresses.
They were standing in the doorway into the big room with the sofa and chairs around a smaller table. That was where they received their most highly anticipated guests, Mårten guessed, not in the great dining hall, where they had the parties which shocked the old women, Henning included.
“Hi, Mårten. I’ll get you some wine.”
How natural it sounded. Not at all like at his house. Here there were no surprised gasps, and no worried questions about why and – all kinds of other things, that you barely had time to register before the next question was shouted as shrilly as the first one. Mårten dropped his sports bag and pulled out a chair.
Zac picked up the bag and put on a chair over by the window. He studied it reflectively, but didn’t say anything. Instead, he sat down on the other side of the table. Fanny was on the sofa, and that was where Zac too had been seated, until the knock on the door had interrupted them.
“How are you doing?”
“Well, I guess – actually I’m on my way to Göteborg. Though it’s too late to take the bus so I thought -”
“Oh, of course you’ll sleep here. Zac? Will you make up a room for Mårten and I’ll -”
“Sure. No problem. So, you’re going to Göteborg.”
Zac nodded to himselfi. That was probably a good idea. He couldn’t see how Mårten had put up with it for such a long time, considering how things were at home. Though Zac understood how Mårten must be feeling, he couldn’t help wondering what it might have been like, growing up with both parents and not have to take care of yourself from an early age. Maybe Mårten didn’t know what a good childhood he’d had.
There had been no question in Zac’s comment, but Mårten interpreted it that way anyway.
“I’m going to apply for a job as a bus driver.”
“Right. Sounds good.”
“Well, there’s this guy I went to school with – a friend. Tommy. He lives there and he works as a bus driver, so I thought -”
“Of cousre. Sounds like a great idea. I’m sure you’ll like it there. In Göteborg.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m hoping.”
“Listen guys, this calls for a celebration, right? Could you get us something stronger, Zac?”
“Sure. Just a moment.”
While Zac vanished into the kitchen, Mårten kept staring admiringly at Fanny. She was just so – incredibly hot. He wished that –
“It’s great to have you here.”
“Uh – yeah.”
“I’m so glad you came. Of course you’ll spend the night here, before going off to Göteborg.”
“That’s bloody decent of you. Thanks.”
“Well, of course you should. There’s plenty of room here.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
They were interrupted by Zac’s return. He brandished a bottle and Fanny nodded approvingly.
“Yeah, that’s the one. Come on. Get Mårten some first.”
Zac glanced at Mårten then at Fanny, then back at Mårten again. He shook his head lightly. Poor Mårten. He didn’t stand much of a chance, but it would be inevitable that a culture shock like this would get those sorts of consequences.
“There you go. And a glass for the lady.”
“Cut the crap, Zac. Thanks. Mm.”
He poured himself quite a generous dose too, then raised his glass at the other two.
“Here’s to you then.”
“Fucking cheers, as he says on tv, that -” *
Mårten broke off. What he’d been about to say wasn’t polite, was it? In any case, Fanny and Zac looked as if they had no idea what he was getting at, so his joke fell on deaf ears. He’d forgotten that they didn’t watch Swedish tv. Here at Angel Farm, there was no tv and in the winters, they’d be in Germany.
“Never mind. Here’s to both of you.”
Fanny let her glass clink against Mårten’s glass, then Zac’s. Zac smiled indulgently. At times it seemed as if Fanny had never quite grown up. That’s what happened, when you were left alone at such a young age. It was clear to Zac, that he had let Fanny down, failed her, no matter how good his intentions. But how could he have done better? He hadn’t been all that old himself. Besides, all that was over and done with. Nothing to be done about it now.
Mårten couldn’t help laughing relievedly. This was just so – cool. Fancy being here, getting drunk with Fanny. Mum – but he really didn’t want to think about his mother now. It would only spoil the fun.
Fanny, too, laughed.
“Let’s get this show on the road. We want more of that stuff, Zac.”
“Maybe we should get something to eat too, so we don’t -”
“Don’t be a such a wimp. Come on. But maybe Mårten’s hungry? Are you?”
“Well, yeah, a little. But no trouble on my account. I’ll be alright.”
“No, of course we’ll get you something. What do we have, Zac?”
“I can make you sandwich or – if you want something more fancy I’ll fry you a few eggs or make an omelette.”
“Oh, no, you don’t have to-”
“No buts. What would you like? Fanny? You want some too, don’t you?”
“A cheese sandwich. But an omelette might not be such a bad idea. Do we have mushrooms and tomatoes? Bring some salted peanuts too, for Mårten to nibble on while we’re waiting.”
“I’ll see what we have. Just a moment.”
“Get me some more of that stuff first.”
But Zac had already vanished in the direction of the kitchen. Fanny took the bottle and poured two generous doses for herself and Mårten. After a moment’s consideration, she refilled Zac’s glass too, though he hadn’t had all that much.
“We got that on the ferry. Nice, huh?”
“Yeah, this is something else. Not like Koskenkorva or moonshine.”
“You could say that. Is that all you got? Hold on a sec. I think we have something stronger.”
Fanny ran to Zac in the kitchen.
“Hey, don’t we have some of those really strong beers left? Mårten’s never had any decent booze or beer. I thought -”
“Do you really think it’s such a great idea to get him drunk like that?”
“Don’t make such a fuss. What’s the harm in that? You and I get up to some serious drinking sometimes, as you well know.”
“Sure, but you know how it is with Mårten, don’t you?”
Fanny made a face. She didn’t want to be reminded of the fact that Mårten was partial to her. It would take all the fun out of things.
“You’re such a worrywart. It will be ok. I think he’s really sweet.”
“Sweet enough that you won’t mind if he starts pawing at you or something?”
“What’s the matter? Don’t tell me you’re jealous, because – I know you’re not. Unless – Now I get it. Ok, I promise. I’ll keep my hands off your guy. Will that do?”
Zac never knew where that mean streak came from. Most of the time Fanny was exactly like she always was. Irresponsible. Unconcerned. Reckless. But still, cheerful and sunny like the little girl he’d raised somehow, while trying to raise himself and keep them on a straight course through all traps and pitfalls down on the Continent. He’d been burned sometimes, but fortunately he’d been able to protect Fanny from all that. Despite that, it was Fanny who had that mean streak. Maybe it was just the grief and loss, following her mother’s death.
“Yeah, that will do. Just think before you act. Don’t hurt his feelings. He’s pretty ok considering he’s Axel’s son.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll take it easy. Now, where are those beers?”
“Up there. In that cupboard. Want me to get them for you?”
Fanny had already pulled out a chair and was swaying back and forth, rather alarmingly. Hastily, Zac grabbed her legs to steady her a bit.
No reply. She found three bottles of beer and almost dropped one of them. Zac caught it elegantly in one hand, while holding on to Fanny until she was safely on the floor again.
“I guess that one’s mine, so I’ll take that. Just remember what I said.”
“Oh, alright. Can I go now?”
Zac sighed. There would be no point in nagging her any more. Mårten would end up hurt anyway. And he knew that Fanny didn’t really mean anyone any harm, neither Mårten or himself.
In reply to his unspoken thought, Fanny suddenly made an about turn and returned to him. She reached up and gave him a feather light kiss on his left cheek, right next to the corner of his mouth.
“Sorry. Never mind me. You know what I’m like.”
“It’s alright. Hurry up and get back to our guest now.”
To chase away the melancholy mood, he put his hand on her butt, as if to hurry her along. She turned around again and stuck her tongue out, but actually hurried up a bit.
It didn’t take Zac long to conjure up a rather tasty omelette, with tomatoes and mushrooms, and some cream. Fortunately there was still some wine left. In Zac’s opinion, you couldn’t have whisky with omelette. Wine or beer, but nothing stronger.
He added some bread, butter and cheese. Before long they were seated around the table again, eating and talking. At times breadcrumbs sprayed from Fanny’s and Mårten’s mouths, but Zac indulgently ignored that. All Fanny’s little childish idiosyncracies filled Zac with affection, at the memory of the little girl she used to be. Perhaps he was worrying needlessly. Mårten would be a perfect playmate for Fanny, as long as he wasn’t her brother, or perhaps for that very reason. In any case there wouldn’t be any sex. Zac was reasonably sure of that.
But he couldn’t get the other two to hold off on the booze. By now they’d finished a bottle of wine, which was nothing, not even for Mårten, Zac imagined, but also the beer and greater part of the whisky. That bottle was already looking alarmingly empty.
This wasn’t a good idea no matter how you looked at things. Zac himself was already a bit tipsy. Normally, it didn’t matter, but now that Mårten was here, he wanted to be able to keep an eye on things, and if possible try to distract Fanny and Mårten.
Fanny began to sing and dance around. She made a few lighthearted improvisations based on their show and finished off by sitting on Mårten’s lap, as she sometimes did with one of the male members of the audience down in Germany. Preferably someone a bit on the youngish side. The older, fat ones, who were constantly beckoning to her to join them, she did her best to avoid. So did Zac. In any case, Mårten’s gaze was just as vacant as those of most of the members of the audience. In any case, the majority were men. The sort of women who appreciated the show, Fanny definitely avoided as much as she could.
When Fanny tried to disentangle herself from Mårten’s arms, she only made it as far as the next chair. From there she continued her incoherent tale about a partly or entirely imagined adventure down on the Continent. Sometimes Zac did that too. Some guys were into that kind of thing.
But for some reason, Zac began to worry about Fanny’s consumption of alcohol. Hadn’t it increased a little too much in the past few years? Wasn’t there a tendency to seek consolation in alcohol, every time something didn’t go her way, or, like now, when she wanted to unwind and celebrate a little? He had to discuss that with her as soon as she had sobered up again. As soon as he had.
Rather sadly, Zac noted that Mårten, in his clumsy, inexperienced way, had really got into flirting with Fanny. Fanny, who clearly saw it as a splendid joke, flirted back. That made Zac uncomfortable. She shouldn’t be doing that. Toying with Mårten’s feelings. And if she was serious – but she mustn’t be. No matter what Fanny had said about Ivar being her father, Zac had a feeling that Mårten might be her brother – She had to know that as well as he did.
“Zac, would you get a pair of scissors for us?”
Zac started. He hadn’t been keeping track of the conversation, so he had no idea what was going on.
“Yes, scissors. Wake up. I want a lock of Mårten’s hair. Where do we keep the scissors?”
“I’ll go and look.”
“Good. I want a lock of her hair too.”
“Sure. No problem.”
He thought he remembered where he’d seen one. It turned out he was right, so in less than a minute, he was back. Disapprovingly, he watched Fanny ruffling Mårten’s hair, while he was holding on to Fanny’s hair, which meant their faces were very close by.
“Here they are.”
Fanny tried to snatch them out of his hand, but Zac pulled it out of her reach. She wouldn’t be able handle them, not without running the risk of hurting Mårten and Mårten was just as bad. Much better if Zac did it.
“No, I want to -”
“Don’t you remember how I used to cut your hair, when we were kids?”
“Oh, right. Zac could have been a hairdresser. He’s dead good at cutting hair. Ok. Go on then.”
Zac grabbed a handful of hair and carefully snipped it off. There wouldn’t be any jagged uneven gaps in Mårten’s hair. Not that it would matter to him now, but his passengers or his employer might wonder later on. Since he realized that Mårten wouldn’t give up until he had a lock of Fanny’s hair, he cut off rather more of hers.
“Want me to tie something around them, so you won’t drop them?”
“Don’t bother. I’ll put it in my wallet.”
Fanny bounced up and disappeared into the hallway, where her jacket hung.
Mårten smiled, looking pleased.
“Yeah, I can put mine here in my wallet.”
With a bit of trouble, he proceeded to just that. When he was finished, he brandished his wallet in the air, displaying it to Zac, as if he was proud of his idea. Zac smiled benevolently.
When Fanny returned, she didn’t seem quite as ebullient as a moment ago. That too, was typical of her. Her mood vacillated like quicksilver. It was all part of her charm.
Mårten on the other hand, was still very cheerful. He pulled Fanny closer, and tried to kiss her. Zac shifted nervously on his chair.
Fanny skillfully evaded Mårten’s hands and tried to change the subject.
“Zac, tell us about -”
She couldn’t think of anything, but stared imploringly at Zac. And as usual, he tried to comply.
“Once there was a actual royal in the audience. He came by, night after night. One of Fanny’s greatest admirers.”
“A king? Which one?”
“Not a king, but a relative of all kinds of kings and queens. There are a lot of them down there, on the Continent. They don’t have their own kingdoms, but still – Well, in Lichtenstein there’s a duke or whatever it is, and in Monaco they have a prince, but most of them don’t have anywhere left. In any case, this one whatever he was, was in the audience, staring at Fanny. And then one night -”
“That’s no fun. No, let me go, Mårten. I’m tired. I’m going up to bed. You’ll make up a bed for Mårten when you guys go upstairs, right?”
“No, don’t go. Fanny. Can’t you stay a little longer? Sit here with me and -”
Once again, Mårten pulled Fanny closer, but again she evaded his grasp.
“I need to sleep. My beauty sleep, you know. Zac, he’s so handsome he doesn’t need to sleep. So are you. Stay and talk. Goodnight, Mårten.”
Hastily, she gave him a peck on the cheek, and pulled back. Nodding briefly in Zac’s direction, she disappeared through the door.
Mårten fell back on his chair, looking so crushed, Zac felt even more sorry for him. That puppy look was actually quite cute.
“Here. Have another. Some more mushrooms? I’m sure it will still be tasty, even if it’s cold.”
Zac tried to pour the last drops of wine into Mårten’s wine glass, but instead, the latter grabbed the whisky bottle and poured himself rather a lot. That couldn’t be exactly healthy, but Zac knew how Mårten must be feeling, and didn’t make any attempt to stop him.
He pointed dramatically in the direction where Fanny had disappeared.
“That’s bloody typical. What girl would want a guy like me? Huh? Of course she doesn’t want me. I’m a stupid rustic, just like my old man. A real square.”
“Here. Have some more whisky. If you only you knew how many times I’ve felt like you. Everyone does, some of the time. But you can’t have everyone. It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you’re just out of luck.”
“No, I don’t believe that. Didn’t you and Eva -”
“Eva. Yeah, but she wants everyone. Or she would have wanted everyone, if there had been anyone but me. Ragnar of course, but he’ll never marry her, the slimy bastard. And then there’s her crazy brother.
“Oh, him. Right. Fun guy.”
“No. Not fun at all. I mean, I don’t mind a bit of porn once in a while. It can be pretty – But his bloody movies. You might have seen some porn, but I can guarantee that those – they take the cake. Should be bloody illegal.”
“Really? Well, I don’t really watch any porn myself. Anyway, that’s ok then. You don’t have to stay here any longer. In Göteborg -”
Zac didn’t bother pointing out that he usually got as much sex as he wanted, without having to resort to staring with eyes glazed over, at some tv screen. Reality was a lot more exciting than a few flickering frames of film. Or he used to, before he ended up out here, in the sticks.
“In Göteborg everyone will feel the same way she does. Because I am a bloody peasant.”
“Don’t say that. You’ll have a great time there. There has to be, at least I guess so, a lot that you can’t find here. Clothes and gadgets and more people. All kinds of things.”
“But no one will want me. Is it the clothes? Or is it just that I’m butt ugly?”
“You’re not ugly. The clothes might be a bit – unimaginative, but – I’m sure you’ll find something better in Göteborg.”
“Yeah, I’m ugly. I have to be. No one wants me.”
To Zac’s distress he caught a glimpse of tears in Mårten’s eyes. Filled with compassion, he reached out and patted Mårten’s shoulder rather lamely. When he’d first come to Angel Farm and this one-horse place, he hadn’t been above scaring Mårten a little, by pretending to hit on him. It had amused him to add a bit of innuendo to everything he said to the farmer’s son, but now – he knew Mårten too well, and cared too much about him.
“Hey, take it easy. Mårten. Hey.”
Helplessly, Zac began to pat Mårten’s back, as he’d sometimes had to do with Fanny. Though usually he’d just hugged her. Maybe twirled her around a bit, or pushed her down onto the bed and tickled her, until her tears were gone and she’d forgotten what had made her sad. But this was Mårten, not his little Fanny from all those years ago.
Even so, his clumsy attempts to comfort Mårten seemed to have filtered through and to Zac’s surprise, Mårten leaned his head on his shoulder.
“There. It’s ok. Hey. There are plenty of girls out there. You can take my word for that.”
“Yeah, but they won’t want me.”
“Of course they will. Hey, look at me. Hello. I swear. When you’ve been in Göteborg for a few months, a year, tops, you’ll have a girlfriend, and you’ll – Definitely.”
“No. I’ll never have a girlfriend.”
Unconsciously, Zac began to stroke Mårten’s neck. Without noticing, he’d leaned a little closer, and Mårten was pressing against him, in a way that should have set off Zac’s alarms. For some reason, though, it didn’t. Somehow, their faces ended up very close, and by now, Mårten’s cheek was resting against Zac’s. The sobs began to abate a little, but Zac kept stroking Mårten’s neck and the back of his head.
Suddenly, Mårten looked up and their eyes met. Zac gasped and without knowing how it had happened, he found that their lips had met. The kiss made Zac utterly forget all his resolve, even if he didn’t forget who he was holding. Mårten. A straight guy. He couldn’t do this. Not if he wanted them to still be friends. Especially considering the fact that he – might – be Fanny’s brother. In any case, this was simply unthinkable.
But to his utter and complete surprise, Zac was forced to realize that Mårten wasn’t resisting him. Quite the contrary. Instead, he returned the kiss remarkably skillfully. Zac found it increasingly difficult to keep a clear head. Another possibility was beginning to seem far more attractive. Perhaps they could – or maybe – what would be the harm, anyway? Elsewhere, in bigger towns and cities, this kind of thing must happen quite often. There was no reason to go into hysterics. Maybe – or rather – screw it. He couldn’t hold back any longer.
Clumsily they got up. Neither of them wanted to let go. Somehow they made their way up the stairs and instead of heading for the guestroom, Zac steered Mårten in the direction of his own room, where Mårten a few summers ago had put up some bookshelves, and patched up some rat eaten boards. They sank down onto the bed and –
The following morning, the intoxication made it a little hard for Zac to remember exactly what had happened, when at long length he woke up. His head ached and it was quite a while until he realized what was different. He opened his eyes, but immediately closed them again.
In any case it was clear that he was alone. His bed felt so strangely empty now that he’d had company there, for once. When Fanny felt lonely, or the sound of rats inside the walls had driven Zac to seek safety in someone’s reassuring arms, he’d gone to Fanny’s room.
A moment later, the door opened and a sulky, squinting Fanny looked in.
“There you are. I’d like some coffee and aspirins. Could you -”
Zac’s first impulse was to ask Fanny to get them herself, but in the end, he didn’t have the heart to do it. With an effort, he got up. His head was pounding painfully and he only wished he had been able to go back to sleep.
His nudity usually didn’t bother him at all, but this time, he vaguely remembered what had happened last night, and for once he felt shy around Fanny. It was as if she would be able to see what he’d done last night. But of course that was nonsense.
In any case, she hadn’t stuck around to stare at him. As soon as she’d satisfied herself that he was on his feet, she’d stumbled back into her own room.
When he was back, with the coffee and the painkillers, her eyes were closed, but when she heard the door she looked up.
“Thanks. Come to bed. Let’s sleep a little longer.”
“No, I’m going to -”
She didn’t insist, she just gulped down the coffee, though it was scalding hot, and she swallowed a few of the pills. Then she rolled over on her side and pulled the covers up so far, the hair on top of her head barely showed.
Zac disappeared back into his own room. He would definitely be able to go back to sleep.
Later in the day, when he’d cleaned up as best he could and made proper breakfast for Fanny, he felt a little better. They were both more or less back to normal.
Even so, Zac couldn’t help thinking over what had happened. Would Mårten hate him now? Had he ruined everything? By now, he regretted letting things go so far. A kiss, when they were both as drunk as they had been, should have been possible to get over. At least Zac was hoping that Mårten wouldn’t be too – provincial and maybe homophobic. When you thought about it, it wasn’t entirely inconceivable. In any case, Zac suspected that Axel would be likely to come after him with a loaded gun, to avenge what he’d done to his son.
And they’d done so much more than just kiss. Normally, Zac would just have laughed at the thought of a furious father. Who cared? Things were a little different now. He had been staying out here for a while and he’d begun to understand the hicks a bit better. He couldn’t deny that he was a little ashamed of himself. If he ran into Axel it would be a bit – unpleasant.
He tried to ignore his feelings of guilt towards Fanny. This wasn’t the way he wanted to treat her.
“By the way, isn’t Mårten up yet?”
“Already? Do the buses leave this early out here?”
“It’s past ten, Fanny.”
“When did he leave? I didn’t hear him. He must have left really early.”
“I don’t know. He was gone by the time I got up.”
“When you got me that coffee and the painkillers? Oh. He must have been really keen on that bus job.”
Zac didn’t reply. He pretended to be extremely interested in stirring his coffee, though he used neither milk, cream or shugar. Fanny didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.
“We might as well finish packing soon, right?”
“I guess so.”
“Do you still have a headache? You poor thing. Want me to give you a back rub?”
“What? No thanks. I’ll be ok.”
“Why are you so grumpy? Maybe you were right last night. Maybe we shouldn’t have had so much to drink after all.”
“No, maybe we shouldn’t have.”
“Ok. That’s it. I’ll go upstairs and see about the bags. When you’re in that kind of mood, you’re no fun at all.”
Once upstairs Fanny took a peek into the room Mårten had slept in. In any case she assumed he had used that room. That was the one they usually designated the guest room. Angel Farm was full of rooms, so she couldn’t be sure. To her surprise, the room seemed unused. The bed didn’t seem to have been made up and everything was exactly as it had been before. Zac really was meticulous about the cleaning.
A little surprised, Fanny glanced into the other empty room, the one opposite. She frowned. Why hadn’t Zac made up a room for Mårten? Had he left the poor thing to crash on the sofa? In any case, she really didn’t think Zac would have put Mårten in the attic.
By now she’d forgotten about the packing and the bags. Instead, she returned downstairs, slowly and gingerly, so that the headache wouldn’t come back.
“Where did Mårten sleep anyway?”
She looked around the room they’d been in the night before. There were no traces of their party, except for the empty glasses that were still on the table. There wasn’t even a pillow on the sofa, just the usual little cushions and they were exactly as she’d left them.
Had Zac baited Mårten so he’d run off into the darkness all by himself? Or had they simply had some kind of falling out? She had to know. There were times when Zac had flirted a little with Mårten, just to get a good laugh at the guy’s expense. Mårten himself hadn’t even seen that. What if Zac had begun to make fun of Mårten for some reason? Except that was more like her than Zac, who was always so nice that sometimes it was annoying.
She went into the kitchen where Zac was still staring out the window, looking melancholic. That was unusual. At this time of the day, Zac had usually already done the dishes and tidied up a bit if needed, and maybe he’d have been on his way to do the shopping. The only times he’d react like this was when he was in love with someone who didn’t return his feelings or when someone had dumped him. Except now that couldn’t be it. They hadn’t met anyone else for weeks.
Zac started and faced her, looking tormented. Something was wrong. She could feel it. What had he done?
“What do you mean?”
He was trying to shrug it off. Zac always sounded like that when he was trying to avoid replying. He couldn’t lie to her. She could, but for that very reason she always tried to avoid doing it, unless she knew that the truth would upset him too much.
“Last night, after I went up to my room.”
“Nothing. We just had a few more drinks, then we went to bed. Why?”
“You never made up the guest room. Either of them.”
Zac shrugged and looked away. He wouldn’t meet her gaze. But she wasn’t going to let him off that easily.
Fanny moved closer and stood between Zac and the window, and grabbed his chin. She forced him to meet her gaze.
“Talk to me. Don’t tell me he was on the sofa, because he wasn’t. I can see that. No one’s slept there. In any case it’s too small for either of you to sleep on it. I wouldn’t be able to get a good night’s sleep on it. Tell me the truth now.”
Zac didn’t reply.
“Did you have a falling out? Did he go off again?”
“No. Mårten was a little upset when you’d gone, but other than that, nothing happened.”
“Nothing? So where did he go?”
A sudden insight hit Fanny and she had to sit down. No. Not Zac and Mårten. It was impossible. Surely Zac couldn’t have – it was possible that Mårten hadn’t been able to handle that strong liquor and they had been mixing a few too many kinds of alcohol. That was never a good idea, as Fanny had learned from her own painful experience.
“What did you do to him?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“What did you do?”
Zac seemed to crumple up a little, then collected himself and faced Fanny again.
“Fanny – it wasn’t meant to happen. I had no idea that was going to happen. We -”
“You slept with him?”
The look in Zac’s eyes was answer enough.
Fanny began to pace back and forth in the kitchen, more upset by the second. Strangely enough, she’d always had far more temper than Zac.
“I don’t get it. How could you? Mårten’s bloody straight. You just – do you know what you’ve done? He – Bloody hell. You make me sick. We have to go out and look for him. Maybe he’s – Don’t just sit there. What if he’s -”
“Fanny. I didn’t rape him. How can you even think such a – Fanny. Hell. I don’t know how this happened, but he wanted it as much as I did. Don’t you think I would have – I was baffled, but he was in on it. Of course. I’ve never forced myself on anyone in my entire life.”
“At the very least, you took advantage of him. Don’t tell me you’ve had the hots for Mårten all along, because I know you haven’t.”
“No, I haven’t. You know as well as I do that he isn’t my type. What’s the matter anyway? Jealous?”
Fanny paled and Zac knew he’d gone too far. Her eyes shot flames at him and her cheeks flushed an angry deep red. Suddenly, Zac felt a stinging blow to his cheek. His own temper flared and he shot up so fast, Fanny took a step back. But he merely turned on his heel and went into the other room and began to pick up the empty bottles and the dirty glasses.
Without paying attention to Fanny, he began to do the dishes, then put everything away. They’d be closing up Angel Farm soon, so he might as well get started.
When it was clear that he was going to ignore her, Fanny stomped up the stairs, three steps at a time, just like when she was a child. She tossed a few garments at random into her bag, and tore out the contents of drawers and closets. Most of it ended up in wild disarray on the bed, but some slipped onto the floor. In the end, she sat down on the bed, burying her face in her hands. Silently, she cried her anger and disappointment.
Two days later they were on their way back to Germany.
The first night they spent in an ugly motel beside the Autobahn. They had to share a room, but fortunately there were two beds. Fanny curled up into a ball, and turned her back on Zac. Zac remained on the sofa over by the other wall for quite a long time, thinking. When Fanny’s breaths had slowed down and he knew she was asleep, he stretched out on the other bed, facing away from her.
By the time they arrived in Berlin they had calmed down a little.
As usual, they spent the first few days settling into the room they usually rented. An upper middleaged woman, most likely a prostitute, had the key. She liked gossiping and would flirt with Zac routinely. Most of the time, it amused him to play along. Once he’d almost ended up in bed with her, before he’d been able to think of an excuse to leave. This time he was so absentminded, the woman merely shrugged and returned to her own flat, as soon as she’d handed over the key.
He took a walk around the neighbourhood, leaving Fanny in a bar, chatting to some old friends. They were old Ossis, and presumably they’d have much of interest to tell them about the days of the DDR, but Fanny was more keen on listening to their professional memories. Many of them were artists of one kind or another. She loved to listen to their tales of the time her mother had used to perform in Berlin.
When it was getting dark, Zac reluctantly returned to the bar. The sound of song and piano music came from inside, but the music was just from an old tape recorder on a shelf. When he opened the door, he heard that the song was Lili Marlene, Marlene Dietrich’s old hit song. Fanny was singing it.
She had learned it when she was so young, it just looked funny when the little girl dressed up and performed the old song. The memory brought a fond smile to Zac’s lips. The shoes had been too big and the hat too. All of it was too big and old and worn. Old enough to have belonged to Marlene Dietrich or one of her contemporaries.
When Zac walked in, he noticed that the old regulars recognized him.
“Zac. Willkommen. Why don’t you sing something for us too?”
“Hello. I’m not in the mood right now. Another time.”
Perhaps they could tell something was wrong, because no one insisted. When Fanny finished her song, she got up and left, without finishing her drink. Zac glanced around the room, then hastily said goodbye to their old friends and hurried after Fanny.
She was on the bed, staring at the ceiling.
“We could wait a while, but isn’t it best that we talk about it? When we get back to work, we’d better -”
“What’s there to talk about?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the real reason you’re so pissed off at me. Be honest for once.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sure. This thing with Mårten was a mistake. Don’t you think I know that? But you’re not this angry about Mårten. Admit it.”
“When you’re like this, I don’t want to be with you.”
“Too late. We’re stuck with each other, whether we like it or not.”
“I hate you, Zac.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I hate when you do this. It’s not fair.”
Deep down, he knew she was right. It wasn’t fair. Since he couldn’t – But somehow, he needed to hear her say it, even if it hurt as badly every time.
Fanny turned and faced him, and now he was regretting his outburst. Her eyes were filled with tears and her face twisted oddly, as she was trying not to cry.
“Baby. Sorry. I’m a fucking idiot.”
“Yes, you are.”
He leaned down and brushed away the tears making her cheeks catch the faint light thrown by the one lightbulb.
She threw herself into his arms and went on crying for a while longer. That reminded him of Mårten that night. But right now he had no interest in that. If only he could –
“You win. I love you. Bastard. But that doesn’t matter to you, does it?”
“Sh. Easy. It’s alright. I’ll be good now. Sorry. You’re right to hate me. It’s all my fault.”
“Yes, it is, but you won’t listen to me.”
“Fanny, it’s no use. You know how it is.”
“So do you. You know that I -”
“I’m sorry. If there was any way that I could -”
“You love me too. Admit it.”
Zac fondled Fanny’s hair. Before he knew what he was doing, he was kissing away the tears. When he realized what he was doing, he stopped and pulled Fanny into a hard embrace. She’d manoeuvred him into a corner and that served him right. He should know better than bringing up that old quarrel between them. There was no way he could win this argument, but sadly, neither could she.
“Yes. I love you too.”
His voice was barely more than a whisper.
“But that’s not enough.”
“What if I say it is?”
“Fanny, I can’t be your guy. You know why.”
“I know why you think it won’t work. But I still don’t know why. If you want to see others, so can I. We’re not like everyone else.”
“No. You deserve much better than that.”
“Right. Then I guess we’d better go to sleep. Our first gig’s tomorrow. If you can call it that. Easing into the job.”
“Yes, you’d better go to sleep now.”
“Will you sleep here with me?”
Zac really didn’t want to. It wouldn’t be right. Not after all this. But he knew that he very rarely managed to deny Fanny anything. He sighed.
“Sure. You take the bathroom, I’ll wait my turn.”
* Mårten is referring to a legendary, popular entertainment show on Swedish tv, Jacobs stege (Jacob’s Ladder) from the 1980’s – some clips from the show are being shown on tv from time to time. It’s a classic. The show host, Jacob Dahlin, used to make a toast and say ‘skål, ta mig fan’ – or in Italian ‘cin, cin al diavolo’ – which made Italian pop siner Eros Ramazotti uncomfortable in one episode – and means something like ‘ fucking cheers’ or something along those lines (or in Italian ‘here’s to the devil’). It’s not really the sort of language you’d use in a fine parlour, and what Mårten was about to say was ‘that fag/poof on tv’, or something like that, a reference to Jacob Dahlin being one of the first celebrities that everyone knew was openly gay.