|Primary Characters:||Zac, Fanny, Mårten
|Spoilers:||Just watch the movies, ok?
|Warning:||m/m , rape of minor, language, adult themes
|Description:||Zac and Fanny end up in a situation that brings back dark memories from their childhood. At long last, they start dealing with their feelings for each other. When they return to Angel Farm, Mårten makes an appearance and Fanny has a little surprise for him.
By the time it had grown colder, in November, they were invited to a private party at a pretty fun club. It looked as if it was straight out of the movie Cabaret. The interior decoration anyway. The staff wore thirties clothes, but the guests could wear whatever they liked.
They knew quite a few of the guests. Most of them were in the business and they’d met before, even if they weren’t all friends.
As the evening wore on, some of the guests began to retire to the more intimate rooms upstairs. The whole building, which looked as if it had once been a warehouse or a factory, was owned by the same person, and was at the disposal of the club members.
Fanny danced with all her old friends and one or two new acquaintances, but after a while she began to feel the need for a smoke so she went into the back yard to have a cigarette. She glanced around. Zac must have made a conquest, because earlier that evening, she’d seen him talking to a man in his forties. He was garish, wearing shades with silver glasses and quite pretentious clothes. She didn’t think he was a performer. Most likely he was a producer or something like that. A little later, they’d been having a glass together and she thought she’d caught a glimpse of them dancing too.
But though she’d have expected them to have gone outside to make out a bit, they were nowhere to be seen. Hesitatingly, Fanny walked around a bit, but there really wasn’t anywhere to hide. She went inside again, after treading on her cigarette. It was chilly outside now and she didn’t have a jacket on.
Inside she caught sight of an old friend, or rather one of Zac’s few female conquests and though Fanny always pretended to like her, she knew that deep down she hated the other woman’s flamboyant makeup, provocative clothes and unpleasant manner.
“Have you seen Zac?”
Erika smiled, showing off all her discoloured teeth.
“Oh, yes. He went upstairs with Ulrich a while ago. Do you know Ulrich? He has a record company, though he doesn’t have any of the big names.”
“No, I don’t know him. Nice to see you. I’ll just -”
She pointed vaguely at something. Maybe Erika had the impression she was going to the ladies’ rooms. For some reason Fanny couldn’t define, she felt uneasy. Normally they always made sure to let each other have their respective adventures in peace. Zac almost never interfered in her affairs, if he didn’t think the guy was the unfaithful type or violent. If she didn’t like Zac’s guys, she usually sulked in silence. This time she couldn’t get it out of her mind. She had to make sure Zac was ok.
Though she was met by unfriendly or overly intimate calls from inside the various rooms upstairs, she poked her head through the doorways and looked around. In one room a grossly obese man lay with two almost identical blondes. Though he really ought to have been content with the company he had, he waved invitingly at Fanny. With thinly veiled disgust, Fanny shut the door behind her again.
The last room was at the corner of the building and seemed to be a little bigger than the others. She looked inside and when she saw what was going on in there, she let out a piercing scream.
Zac had been flattered when Ulrich had turned out to be so interested in his singing. Usually, it was Fanny who was the big star. When Ulrich began to hit on him, he’d smiled provocatively and let the older man go on. Ulrich was far from his type, but it had been a while, and somehow he wanted to obliterate the memory of Mårten. Besides, it might as well be Ulrich as anyone else. This was what he was like. Fanny had to learn to live with that.
They retired to a room that turned out to be office and temporary bedroom in one, for Armin who owned the club, but clearly he and Ulrich were close. Zac suspected that they were an item, but now Armin was away and clearly it suited Ulrich to have a little fun on the side.
That didn’t feel right, but the offer Urlich had made had piqued his interest and it wouldn’t be the first time he’d tagged along with someone who already had a partner. Both of them were aduits, or rather all three of them.
Ulrich took a little package from his pocket and began to arrange the white powder it contained. He offered Zac to take the first hit. Zac shook his head. Ulrich glanced inquiringly at him, then shrugged and began to inhale the coke, first into one nostril, then the other. He fumbled around in his pockets, and found a slightly bent cigarette that didn’t smell of tobacco.
Reluctantly Zac accepted it. It looked as if someone had smoked it already. Ulrich lit it for him with a gesture that was a little too intimate and waited while Zac inhaled the smoke, then held out his hand for it, and took it back. He kept it for so long there wasn’t much left of it, by the time he handed it back to Zac, who only dragged on it once, then crushed it out.
It was only a reefer, after all.
Suddenly, Ulrich pressed Zac against the wall and began to kiss him. He was quite rough and normally that would have suited Zac perfectly, but tonight his mind was only half on what he was doing. It wasn’t long until Ulrich dragged him along to the bed and pushed him down on it.
Zac hesitated. He wasn’t really up for it. Not at the moment. He just wasn’t in the mood. What he’d really been hoping for was to hear a bit more about that recording contract Ulrich had used as bait, but clearly he’d lost interest in it by now.
Ulrich kept pressing him and Zac decided to let him have his way, then Ulrich began to pull down his pants and he realized that he didn’t want to after all. Not like this.
“Was ist den los?”
“Nichts. I just changed my mind.”
Ulrich glanced coldly at him and just went on with what he was doing. Zac tried to push him away, Ulrich’s only reaction was to grab his arms in a vice. Zac considered kneeing him in the groin, but the thought of the recording contract held him back.
“Stop it. I think I’d better get going.”
The man on top of him hissed a few words in such rapid German it took Zac a moment to decipher what he’d really said. Something about playing hard to get, but that he wasn’t amused by those kinds of tricks and that he’d teach him.
Zac realized that he’d need to be more clear, if he wanted Ulrich to see that he wasn’t interested. At that point, the door opened and a brittle scream shattered the silence. Suddenly Fanny was there and she was hitting at Ulrich, again and again. She was still screeching in an incoherent mixture of Swedish, English and German for Ulrich to leave him alone.
It seemed Ulrich worked out, because he was in excellent shape. He got up and raised his hand in the air, as if he meant to slap Fanny’s face. All the while, Fanny’s ineffectual blows were raining over him, but missed him as often as they hit.
Instantly, Zac sprang to his feet and grabbed Ulrich’s arm.
“Leave her alone.”
“But the little madwoman attacked me. I’ll just slap her face and throw her out and then I’ll -”
“Don’t touch her.”
At long last, Zac’s tone seemed to filter through to Ulrich and he backed off a few paces, to move out of Fanny’s reach. He glanced surprisedly at Zac, then began to curse.
“You crazy Swedes. I didn’t hear you say anything about being married, but I suppose you didn’t think you’d get the recording contract if you’d told me. Slut.”
Zac ignored him. He pulled Fanny into his arms and spoke softly and soothingly to her. She was so hysterical he was beginning to get worried.
“There, there. It’s alright. There’s no need to be frightened. Let’s go.”
They took a cab home, and there Zac tried to get Fanny to sip a little brandy, but it was over an hour until she calmed down enough so he could get through to her.
“What was that all about? I wasn’t in any danger. He was just a tiresome nobody.”
“But he -”
“I was just going to push him off and leave. Things didn’t turn out quite the way I’d planned, but thanks anyway. You know I appreciate the concern.”
“It was just that I – for a while I thought -”
Zac watched her with increasing concern. She was so pale, it almost frightened him. Her eyes seemed to be encircled by deep, black hollows. He pulled her close again, trying to calm her down.
“There, there. I was never in any danger.”
“It was like that time – remember?”
Zac swallowed hard.
“I thought you’d forgotten about that.”
“You – I thought you were dead. And – all that blood and – did I kill him?”
“No, you didn’t. I swear.”
“But he was lying there and he wasn’t moving and – the blood and -”
“The blood came from me. He just got a big bump on the head.”
“I’ve seen that bastard a couple of times since then. You didn’t give him any permanent injuries.”
Not like them. The scars were still there. Zac would never forget that night. Now he knew what had reminded Fanny of that other incident.
Someone had taken them to a party. A private party in a fancy house in one of the upscale neighbourhoods. He knew where it was, but he’d never been able to bring himself to return, though it would have been more profitable than the areas he normally hung out in.
The party had been very entertaining. Lots of singing and music and dancing. Exactly what they liked. Fanny had ended up the centre of attention for a group of kids, even if Fanny was at least four or five years younger than the youngest of them. Zac himself had got into a discussion with a man in his fifties. He’d had marijuana, and unlike most of the others at the party, he hadn’t been reluctant to offer it to the young boy. Thrilled, Zac had smoked his first joint, and the drug had made him more adventurous than usual. When the man suggested they go upstairs, he hadn’t hesitated for a second.
It hadn’t taken the man more than two minutes to suggest the little transaction. Zac had stared, eyes wide, at the big banknote that the man had placed on a table some distance away. Would that be his for such a trifle? Something as easy as anything. Too high to reply, he’d merely nodded his consent.
The man had taken him to a bed over by a window, facing an inner yard. They’d sat down on the bed and Zac had begun to perform the service the man had asked for. However, it hadn’t taken long for everything to get out of hand. The man had pushed him down on the bed and then –
He still had trouble remembering the incident in all its details. Zac’s mouth went dry though it had been almost twenty years since it happened. There hadn’t been anything he could do to defend himself. The man was stronger and heavier and his weight held Zac down, while he had his way with him. The whole time, the man had his hand pressed over Zac’s mouth.
When it was over, Zac was sobbing loudly, and the man suddenly seemed to realize what he’d done. He glanced furtively around the room and got up. When he returned, he had something in his hand. His other hand shot out and grabbed Zac around the neck. Hard. It felt as if his eyes would pop out. Though he tried to fend the man off, he didn’t have a chance. He was beginning to black out. He stopped fighting back and the man pushed him down onto the bed again, and grabbed something that rustled. When he pulled it over Zac’s head, he realized that it was a plastic bag. By then he was almost unconscious.
That was all he recalled, until the plastic bag was removed and he realized that the weight pressing down on him was gone. He could breathe again. Someone shook him and sobbing, this someone called his name. After a while, he recognized the voice. Fanny.
When he’d calmed down a little, he noticed that Fanny was so hysterical it seemed she would black out. The second thing he became aware of was that the man who had brought him into the room, was lying on the floor. Next to his head was a big silvery cup, looking like a sports trophy.
Zac greedily pulled air into his lungs, hoping the room would stop spinning around him. Instinctively he pulled Fanny into his arms, doing his best to calm her down, though his mind was in chaos. It hurt all over and he was terrified, so frightened he could barely think.
He still didn’t remember how they’d made their way out of there. The memories from the time right after the incident, were mercifully sketchy. Someone had made sure he was given medical care. Presumably, that someone had looked after Fanny during that time. One day he’d been back with her again. From then on, he’d done his best to forget the whole thing. Most of the time he was successful.
“When you were lying there, on the bed, I thought you were dead. And then I knew that I’d never be able to love anyone else.”
“I know. I’ll never be able to love anyone but you either, but that’s not enough.”
“How can you say that? Of course it is. No, don’t say that again. I know who you are. Of course I do, but I love you anyway.”
“But I can’t -”
“I can’t be the man you deserve. You know that.”
“Why not? I know what you think, but what if I don’t agree? What if I say that what we have is enough? I can see other guys on the side too. Why not let me decide for myself what I deserve?”
“I want you to have a guy who wants you and no one else. Who doesn’t end up in bed with your half-brother or anyone else. Like that moron Ulrich or anyone. That other guy wouldn’t.”
“No, but he might go off with that Erika.”
“Erika? What about her?”
“She was here tonight. I don’t understand what you ever saw in her.”
“No, but that’s no wonder, is it? You don’t even like my boyfriends.”
“But anyway – what was it about her?”
“She just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Besides -”
Suddenly, Zac burst out laughing. It occurred to him that Mårten would appreciate Erika. A highly skillful girl. Exceptionally knowledgable. Though on second thought, she’d be more to that perv Per-Ove’s taste. Extremely acrobatic and very, very creative.
Fanny’s tone warned him he’d need to tread softly here.
“She was – or still is, I guess – a real expert. Amazingly so. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Fanny glared at him.
“Or maybe we wouldn’t need another guy. Clearly you’re still partial to that – porn star.”
“No, I’m not. I never really was, but – since she was so eager, it was quite fun and educational.”
Fanny shook her head as if she had a hard time believing what she was hearing, then the corners of her mouth began to twitch and in the end, she burst out laughing too.
For a while, Zac thought she was getting hysterical again, but then she began to dry her tears and though from time to time, she burst out laughing again, she seemed to be collecting herself.
“What’s so enormously funny?”
“You. And her. You’re afraid you’re too gay for me, right?”
“Well, yeah, I guess that’s what I’m saying. But -”
“Exactly. But. Clearly, you’re not too gay to appreciate that amateur hooker for all her exciting tricks.”
“Yes, but – Well, I guess, if you look at it that way.”
“You know what?”
“I might know a trick or two, that you might appreciate.”
“Your Italian count?”
“He wasn’t a real count, just an actor. Porn actor.”
“He was? I never knew that.”
“He was so scared you’d hit on him he put on that aristocratic act.”
“Me? That, stupid, vane guy? Never.”
“Yeah, you’re right. He was stupid and vane. When your guy is more vane than you are, it just doesn’t feel right. But anyway, he taught me a thing or two.”
“Really? I’ll bet you’re just saying that to tempt me.”
“Is it working?”
Zac leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips.
“Actually, it is. Is it true?”
“I guess you’ll see.”
“Alright, then. You got it, Fanny. One more time.”
“What do you mean, one more time? If you’re just going to sleep with me once to check if I’m telling the truth about Marcello, you can forget about -”
“No, we’ll try again. One last time. Remember what happened the last time, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“Alright, I won’t.”
Angel Farm was exactly the same. Maybe the curtains were a little more faded, but otherwise it hadn’t changed a bit. Nothing else, either. The same afternoon Ivar came for a visit. He studied them intently, then nodded as if his observations confirmed something he’d long suspected.
“So you are married now?”
“Well, not exactly married, but – we decided to try again.”
Ivar nodded again. It was obvious that he was weighing his words carefully, before he opened his mouth again.
“I’ve always felt that the two of you are a perfect match.”
“Really? You think so?”
“Yes, I do.”
“So, do you want a drink?”
“Not that green stuff.”
“No, of course not. Zac? What did we get this time?”
“Just a second, and I’ll line it all up. You choose.”
“We have a little present for you too. Do you know where it is, Zac?”
Ivar looked a little ill at ease, but it was obvious that he was struggling with himself.
“It’s here. There you go, Ivar. It’s from both of us.”
Reluctantly, Ivar opened his present. It was a medal, that might be made of real gold, that Fanny had become infatuated with in an antique shop, on the coast of the Baltic sea, when they’d been touring the resorts up there. The antiques dealer had told them it was from the old Soviet Union. War loot that had changed hands once again.
Ivar seemed to like it as much as Fanny did. When he didn’t think he was being observed, he kept glancing at it, as the afternoon slipped by.
“Oh, have you heard that the Flogfälts’ son, Mårten, has disappeared? He went to Göteborg last autumn and he hasn’t come back.”
“I see. Then I suppose Rut is devastated?”
“Yes, she’s at Henning’s almost all the time. Apparently, he’s the only one who can console her.”
“What about Axel? How is he holding up?”
“Well, he – I don’t know. They say he isn’t talking about it. We don’t speak to each other either.”
Fanny nodded absently. When she heard Mårten’s name again, it had reminded her of the incident that had occurred just before they returned to Berlin.
“Are you alright? Anything the matter?”
“No. I – but let’s not sit here sulking. Zac, can’t we just play a little more music? Let’s do Lili Marlene.”
“Sure. Hold on a sec.”
He turned on the cassette tape and then, to Fanny’s surprise, he got up and stood by her side, one arm around her shoulders. With the other hand, he grabbed her hand. Though sometimes they sang it together, just for fun, he never used to perform it with her in front of an audience. But this time he sang along with her in the chorus. Just like when they were children.
That night, they went to bed feeling as if they’d come home. It wasn’t always that way. Angel Farm was great, but Berlin was where they’d grown up. At last, Angel Farm felt more like a real home, than a summer house.
Towards evening the following day, someone knocked on their door again. Fanny smiled.
“Ivar again. He must be lonely now that -”
“Want me to get it?”
“No, I’ll do it. You keep an eye on dinner.”
When she opened the door, for a split second, she didn’t believe her eyes. Mårten looked so different somehow, and it wasn’t all that much to do with the change in clothing style. There was something in his eyes and somehow he looked more grown up too. More sure of himself, though as the seconds ticked by and she didn’t say anything, a hint of a doubt crept into his eyes.
“Hello. Come on in.”
Mårten was barely inside, when to his surprise he felt Fanny’s arms around him.
She hugged him hard, but after a moment she let go and pushed him away.
“If only you knew how much I’ve been thinking of you. Oh, and by the way, I have something to tell you. Come on. Zac will have dinner ready in no time.”
From the kitchen they could hear the clink of china, then Zac stuck his head out and called to them.
“Is Ivar staying for dinner?”
“It’s not Ivar, but he is staying, right?”
Mårten nodded mutely. Zac’s voice made him remember that night so long ago. If Fanny had been thinking of him a lot, he’d been thinking of her, and of Zac too.
“Now tell me all about it. How have you been, in Göteborg? Do you enjoy working as a bus driver?”
“Yeah, it was ok, but now I’m working as a mechanic. Better hours and it’s really well paid too. But now I’m on vacation for a week. So I was thinking – I’ve actually missed mum a bit – and dad too. And I was thinking -”
He didn’t know how to express what was on his mind. Though he’d tried, he hadn’t been able to stop thinking of Fanny. The girls he’d finally met, hadn’t been like her. Zac, strangely enough, had been right. It hadn’t been too difficult to get girls after all. For a while it had felt pretty cool, but despite everything, that wasn’t what he’d been after. In the end, he hadn’t been able to stay away any longer.
When Zac walked into the room, with plates heaped with steaming food, he almost dropped them. He hadn’t expected to see Mårten.
Fanny studied Zac’s reaction closely. He almost dropped the plates, and that almost never happened otherwise. She felt chilled, even though the sun had been baking on the windows all day. Here it was, what Zac had been warning her about. It had been too good to be true.
Zac knew what Fanny had done with the lock of hair. All he could do was wait for her to tell Mårten what she’d learned. He was wondering about Mårten’s reaction. But there really couldn’t be any doubt about that. Zac noted that Fanny didn’t say a word to Mårten about what had happened between the two of them this winter. Didn’t that say it all?
Fanny and Mårten were looking at each other in silence, and didn’t seem to notice Zac’s reaction. As smoothly as possible, he set the plates down on the table, trying to appear unperturbed.
“There. All finished. Dinner’s served.”
Mårten dropped his bags and walked up to the table. Zac was setting out glasses and cutlery and didn’t look at him. Fanny pulled out a chair and sat down, eyes glued to Mårten. She carefully considered what to say to him. In the end she shrugged and smiled.
“Listen, Mårten. Actually, I – I hope you don’t mind, but – I sent your hair in for analysis.”
“I see. What kind of analysis? Did you think I was doing drugs or something?”
Mårten laughed easily. By now, when he’d spent a winter in the city, it wouldn’t have been too strange if he’d had traces of some recreational drug in his system, but for whatever reason, he hadn’t been into that. Sure he’d had some beer and a bit of stronger stuff, but no drugs.
“No, I mean, it’s a DNA analysis. You see – maybe you know that your dad told me he was my dad too?”
Mårten nodded. What a fool he’d been. Or rather, he still was. He’d forgotten about that, that night. Now he saw why Fanny had pulled back. That thing about Ivar must have been a mistake. He ought to be grateful. But be that as it may, he just felt desolate and empty inside.
“I see. That. I’m sorry, Fanny. But didn’t you say it was Ivar? Besides, why should your mum be into my dad? He’s not exactly a hottie.”
“I’m sure your mum thinks so.”
Zac felt he’d been quiet for too long.
But Mårten didn’t look convinced.
“Nah, I don’t think so. When she got round to it, dad was the only one left. I think she’d rather have Henning, but he’s sort of married to the church or whatever.”
Fanny shot Zac a glance that silenced him. She just had to tell this her own way.
“You don’t have to apologize. I’ve know for ages that you’re sort of – partial to me. Of course I don’t mind. But as it happens, it wasn’t like your dad thought. He isn’t my father.”
Mårten began to feel a little hopeful again. So all wasn’t lost, after all. A smile spread across his face, that was looking a little different without the tobacco deforming his upper lip.
“No, I think it must be Ivar.”
Mårten looked up, a puzzled expression on his face.
“Ivar? Yes, that’s what you said. But I found it a little hard to believe. Kind of unexpected. I thought your mum would have met some cool dude in Germany or something.”
“She did later. More than one. In any case, I thought you’d like to know.”
“Yeah, that was – Thanks for telling me. Besides – I -”
“No, never mind.”
“I guess we’d better eat then. All done, Zac?”
“Absolutely, just tuck in.”
They ate and made toasts and drank and talked until long after the last morsel was gone. Even so, a slightly tense mood lingered.
When they got up to move over to the sofa and the chairs by the other wall, Fanny hugged Mårten. He tensed up. It was too hard to just hug her like he did with mum and his cousins. The girls. Besides, to be honest, he sometimes had that reaction with some of them too. Like Eva and even more some of the others. A few of them were actually quite hot, but no one was anything like Fanny.
Zac hastily retreated to the kitchen, with the dirty dishes and the empty bottles. He’d never imagined Fanny’s guy would look like that. Despite his recent transformation, Mårten still was a real small town boy and he and Fanny couldn’t have all that much in common, other than physical attraction and perhaps an unexpectedly strong mutual sympathy. But regardless of that, Mårten would make a far better boyfriend for Fanny than he, Zac, could ever be.
Zac was considering just sneaking out through the back door and go for a ride on his bike. At least that would be something. But to his surprise, Mårten and Fanny turned to see where he was going.
Impatiently, Fanny called him back.
“Where are you going now? Can’t the dishes wait? Now that Mårten is back again. I think we need to talk a little.”
Mårten’s smile froze. Zac looked as if he wanted to sneak into the kitchen after all, and from there, to somewhere else, but in the end, they both braced themselves. If Fanny wanted to talk, they would, in the end, it was hardly any use postponing the inevitable.
“Well, sit down. I know guys are hopeless at talking, but surely what happened last summer is something we’ll need to discuss?”
“Oh, get a grip. Want me to start?”
Since there wasn’t any reply this time either, Fanny was beginning to get angry. She wouldn’t be able to move on to the next step in her plans, if what happened didn’t get a satisfactory explanation.
“Ok. Blame yourselves, then. Mårten, you see, after a while I realized what had happened and was really pissed at Zac. I’m hoping you’re not – that you’re not feeling – Shit. Zac?”
All Zac wanted was to go, but he knew that he’d never be able to refuse Fanny anything, so he clenched his teeth and made an effort to force the words out.
“Mårten, if you feel that I – if what happened wasn’t what – what I’m trying to say is that I apologize. It was unforgivable of me, and I hope you don’t hate me for it.”
Mårten pushed his chair back and for a second it looked as if he was going to make a run for it, but in the end, it was obvious that he decided to force himself to reply. Zac cursed under his breath. Sometimes girls could be so tiresome. If they’d been allowed to continue to ignore what had happened, everything would be a lot better. He could easily understand how Mårten felt.
“But, I – that’s not what – you don’t need to apologize. If anyone does, I guess it’s me. But I – actually – I’ve been thinking about this a lot and – I wanted it. This may be hard for you to understand, Fanny, but I – suddenly I felt that -”
Mårten broke off, cheeks burning a hot deep red.
It was as if Fanny lost her wind. She stared from Mårten to Zac, then back again, looking astonished. This wasn’t the outcome she’d expected. Grimly, she forced herself to continue.
“Oh, I see – well, I guess I’m the one who should apologize. I – hope you two will be very happy together.”
With that, she turned on her heel and ran back up the stairs. She left two helplessly staring guys behind.
Mårten pleadingly sought out Zac’s gaze, but for once he was too caught up in his own confusion to pay attention.
“That’s not what I meant. It’s her I love. Uh- well, no offense, but -”
Slowly, Zac returned to normal. He even laughed. Smiling crookedly, he faced Mårten again.
“No problem. That’s exactly how I feel about this, too.”
Mårten stared suspiciously at Zac. What was he saying, really?
It was plain that Mårten hadn’t caught his meaning, so Zac hastily explained.
“I think you’re quite hot, but it’s Fanny I love.”
The blush was back, and Mårten didn’t know where to look. Once again, he was able to control his emotions and face Zac again. Apart from the embarrassing part of Zac’s comment, this was actually a bit inconvenient. He realized that compared to an old love like Zac, he wouldn’t have much to offer Fanny. Exactly as he’d known all along. It was hopeless.
“I was just thinking – I wanted to be honest with her and – I couldn’t let her be angry with you, when it was my fault as much as yours.”
“I appreciate that, but you can safely assume that’s all in the past. Nothing to worry about. Fanny flies into a rage sometimes, but it never lasts long. I’m more concerned about this little misunderstanding. Would you mind if I went upstairs to talk to her? Don’t go away. I’m sure she wouldn’t want you to wander off again, and I certainly don’t. Will you stay?”
“Oh, well, sure. No problem.”
Zac ran up the stairs calling Fanny’s name. At worst, she might have sneaked out and taken the bike and considering her driving skills or lack of, anything could happen. But she was lying on the bed, and didn’t look nearly as devastated as Zac had feared. In fact, she looked more angry and sulky.
“Hey, that didn’t come out right. The kid’s not very good at expressing himself. All he wanted to say was that he wasn’t mad at me. Exactly what I thought. Don’t you think I know when someone’s into me? There are certain little signs to go by.”
“I know. Not so long ago, it felt as if it was me you were into. Those little signs you mentioned.”
Zac smiled. She was right about that. He wasn’t at all surprised she’d noticed.
“You know I am. Besides, you might want to talk to Mårten too. He has something he’d like to tell you too, that you’ll want to hear. Though how you’ll feel about that – well, that’s up to you.”
“I can’t go downstairs now, can I? Now that things got so embarrassing. Just apologize to him and tell him I have – a migraine. Please? Then the two of you could -”
“I don’t think so. I’m too sober for that kind of thing. Fanny, this changes nothing between you and me. Not as far as I’m concerned. But – if you want to change your mind, I’ll understand. He’s not exactly as I expected, but at least he’s a whole lot more straight than I am.”
“Yeah? Easy for you to say. You’ve already had him.”
“Stop that. You’re embarrassing me. Just go downstairs now. I’ll do the dishes.”
“You? Embarrassed? I’d be interested to see that.”
“For your information, I get embarrassed a lot, but I’m just such a good actor, I can hide it.”
“Actor? You? If you say you’re a decent performer, I’ll buy it. Your voice is actually pretty good.”
“Thanks. Under normal circumstances, I’d love to stick around and listen to all those lovely compliements, but you have a date downstairs. Go on and put that kid out of his misery.”
“You mean you have a date, right?”
“No, not downstairs. Up here maybe, but downstairs, a lovesick farm boy is waiting for you. Do I need to carry you?”
“Don’t you dare. No, don’t touch me.”
But all Zac did was kiss her lightly on the tip of her nose, and grab her right hand to pull her to her feet.
“Go on downstairs now. I’ll do the dishes.”
Fanny sighed in a slightly exaggerated fashion, then shrugged.
“Oh, alright, then. Just because you’re so cute when you’re embarrassed.”
She kissed him so forcefully, Zac’s eyes widened in astonishment. Perhaps he’d misjudged her feelings for Mårten.
When Fanny entered the room, Mårten was staring unhappily into the table.
“I’m sorry. I – you know how it is with us artists. We have unpredictable tempers. That’s what’s so charming about us.”
Mårten looked up and thought that it was something else that was really charming, but he didn’t get the words out until Fanny was already sitting next to him. She reached out and squeezed his hand.
“Ok. I’m going to listen to you now.”
“I – sorry about that. I just wanted you and Zac to know that I wasn’t pissed off with him about that. It was actually – maybe it was the booze – but he was so nice and understanding and anyway it had been so long since I -”
Mårten broke off, self-consciously. Fanny wouldn’t want to know about that. If he got into all that, he might have to tell her about Eva and he didn’t want do that.
“What I’m trying to say is that I love you. Ever since I saw you the first time, standing by your grandfather’s grave. You’re so pretty and – different from the other girls and – I haven’t been able to forget you.”
Fanny didn’t know what to say. She had always liked Mårten even if she, just like Zac, had liked to get a good laugh at his expense. Earlier, before they’d grown to know each other better. For a while, she’d looked upon him as a charming, uncool little brother, but now – when he’d returned from Göteborg – He really had changed. Grown up. Suddenly, she realized what it was Zac had seen in him. But this just wouldn’t work. She loved Zac and – lately she’d actually begun to believe that Zac really loved her back. The right way.
On the other hand, they were artists. Performers. The villagers wouldn’t have any difficulty imagining anything at all, as far as the weird continental people were concerned. But if she was going to worry about what a bunch of old gossips thought about her, she might as well pack up and escape back to Berlin. This was her home and she had as much right to live here as anyone else.
Somewhere deep down, she knew that Mårten had a very special place in her heart. It was also possible that Zac would enjoy having Mårten included in what they had. But almost at once, she checked herself. She couldn’t seduce Mårten just to keep up Zac’s interest in the relationship. If anything were to happen between her and Mårten, it would have to be for her and Mårten’s sake.
Mårten unhappily awaited her next words. He knew that a girl like Fanny would never want a guy like himself. It was all just childish dreams and nothing more. Poor Fanny was trying to think of a nice way to tell him. He couldn’t bear to hear it. Clumsily he got up and looked around for his bags. He might as well go back home again, to mum and dad. A farm boy like himself belonged in a farm. Anything else would be too much to hope for.
When Fanny noticed Mårten’s reaction, she had no trouble guessing what was behind it. She reached out and lightly touched his cheek.
“You’re not leaving, are you? Come here.”
Mårten stared inquiringly at Fanny, too paralysed to do as he was told. In the end, she had to take a few more steps and put her arms around him.
“Don’t be sad. We both like you, you must have noticed?”
“Yeah, I know. It was just that I was hoping -”
“Of course. I guess I wasn’t making myself very clear.”
Softly, she kissed him on the mouth. He was as hot as a stove and was breathing heavily.
“Come on -”
Zac poked his head through the kitchen doorway and saw what was happening. He was about to discreetly vanish back inside again, when he saw Fanny waving impatiently at him. Filled with mixed emotions, he hung the dish towel over the radiator and hurried after the other two. This wasn’t a good idea, but as usual, he couldn’t bear to disappoint Fanny.
They woke up late, when the sun got into their eyes. When Fanny woke up, at first she didn’t know why the bed felt so crowded. She tried to turn over, but realized that she was pinned down by – two different people. Eventually, she managed to open her eyes, and saw that Mårten and Zac were stretched out, partially on top of her. Holding her. They both seemed to be deeply asleep. She considered untangling herself and continue her sleep in Zac bed. This really was a little too tight. It hadn’t felt that way last night. The memory made her smile, delightedly. And Zac had been so reluctant at first.
Her slight movement stirred up the entangled bodies and made the guys begin to wake up too. Mårten smiled sleepily, but delightedly.
“Shit. So it wasn’t a dream. Damn, this is cool. If dad knew he’d blow up and mum would like have a stroke or something.”
Zac smiled crookedly then yawned widely. Mårten really had a way with words.
“Is that so? Well, I’m always happy to oblige. Though I wouldn’t want Rut to be so badly shocked she’d get ill. You’re not planning on telling anyone at home, are you, Mårten?”
“Why not? Aren’t we, like, going to get engaged or something?”
Catching sight of Zac’s expression, Mårten did his best to calm him down.
“Hell, no. Of course I won’t. Though it would be fucking great if dad found out. Mum would just die and -”
“But we wouldn’t want that, now would we?”
Zac had an unpleasant feeling this was a very big mistake. Though Mårten was kind of sweet, actually. In an immature, rough sort of way.
“Take it easy. What time is it? I’d better go home anyway. Mum would almost die if she knew I was back and didn’t come and see her.”
“I guess I’ll get going then, but I’ll be back tonight.”
“You do that. If you don’t, Zac and I’ll be upset, won’t we?”
Zac looked as if he was going back to sleep.
Fanny pulled Mårten close and kissed him on the cheek. When he’d got up, she pulled the covers up and closed her eeyes. Just a little while longer. When she looked up again, she found Mårten gone. She turned over and faced Zac.
“Are you alright? You didn’t seem very happy last night?”
“What? No, I still don’t think this is such a good idea, but as long as you’re happy, I guess -”
She moved a little closer and Zac put his arms around her. Her head rested on his shoulder.
“You’re not jealous, are you?”
Zac didn’t reply. How could he explain his mixed emotions about this? He’d never be able to make her understand that she meant too much to him and that even if he liked Mårten, it wasn’t the same.
“You are. That’s so sweet.”
Zac’s twisted into a mask of fake torment.
“No, not sweet. Don’t say that. It makes me feel like a little china figurine.”
“How about hot?”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to tease you. But you are jealous, aren’t you?”
Zac opened one eye and considered trying to explain anyway. With a sigh, he decided he might as well.
“Maybe. You have to admit that he’s more -”
“Your type, I was going to say, but then he isn’t.”
“He’s totally sweet, but so are you. Sorry. Handsome, sexy, cool.”
“Alright, alright. It’s not the words that bother me.”
“I love him, but there’s no one like you in the entire world. Don’t you get that?”
Zac couldn’t help moving even closer. None of this was any use, but hearing her say that, felt great anyway. He just couldn’t bring himself to do the right thing, not right now. Soon he’d have to – but Fanny was so happy and he – He loved her so much that sometimes it hurt inside. There was no escaping the fact that it felt great to hear her say that too, to him.
“Zac? What you did for me, no one else would have. Ok?”
“What do you mean me? What about you? If not for you, I would have been dead now, whether he’d suffocated me or not.”
“Oh, that. What did you expect? I would have done anything. Is it true that you’ve seen him since?”
Zac really didn’t want to get into all that. That had to be the worst experience of his life, Fanny’s alarming condition included.
“I see. Lucky him. But I wouldn’t have been sorry even if he’d died. Not after what he did to you.”
“Alright, alright. Can we change the subject, please?”
“So where was I? Oh, right, those bloody braces. And all those times we didn’t have anything to eat and I was so hungry I was crying. I didn’t understand it then, but now I know what you did. No one else would have done that for me.”
Zac started. He’d been convinced that he’d manage to hide that from Fanny. In fact, he’d almost managed to make himself forget too, just like that incident.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just go back to sleep and I’ll go and put the kettle on.”
“You thought I wouldn’t get it? Of course I was really selfish and immature, but I pieced it together in the end. The others were talking about it and suddenly I saw that our friends didn’t have that much food to give us and besides, those braces – no one would have been able to afford to give us that much. Lazslo and Andrej and AnneLiese – their teeth were crooked. I was the only one who got mine fixed.”
“I just have to say it. You were amazing, but I wish you hadn’t done it. Crooked teeth wouldn’t have killed me and I wouldn’t have died of starvation either, it just felt that way at the time. When I got it – I wanted to rip those braces out and – then I thought it was only fair if I did it too. You needed even more food than me and -”
“Fanny, you didn’t do anything -”
“Just listen to me. That night you were at Masha’s – you were sleeping with her too, weren’t you? Did she give you money?”
“Stop it. That was so long ago in a different life. I don’t want to talk about it. But what did you do?”
“I went down to that street, you know. All the other girls were much older than me and I must have looked like a little beggar, but anyway – there were tourists too. Families. You know what it was like. Then an American walked by, one of those disgustingly rich ones. Forty or so. I don’t know. All the grownups looked the same to me.”
Zac’s eyes burned. He didn’t want to listen to this. That was exactly why he’d done what he had. To protect her. So she wouldn’t have to do anything so dangerous and humiliating and –
“No. Not you. That’s why I did it. So you wouldn’t have to. Why did you do it?”
“Just listen to me. When he saw what I was doing, he looked really odd, so I was afraid he’d get angry or tell the police, but then he brought me to a bench nearby, and made me sit down. He looked as if he felt really sorry for me. He asked me if I was hungry and told me he knew of a Catholic orphanage where the nuns would take really good care of me. If I wanted, he could take me there, or he could tell me how to get there. And then he said – just listen to this – because this is bloody hilarious – he said he’d pray for me.”
But whatever she’d just said, Fanny wasn’t laughing now. Tears fell down her cheeks and she bit her lip to stop crying. Zac tried to wipe the tears away, but she pulled back.
“That’s nothing to laugh at. It was bloody lucky you didn’t run into some old pervert who – Don’t you see what might have happened? You, if anyone, should know that -”
“I know. Don’t you think I know that? He – had – a brown paper bag with sandwiches – and he gave it to me. And a ten mark note. He said that was all he’d got so far, but the nuns would be sure to help me. Then he patted my hand and told me things would work out. And then he left.”
“So you didn’t find those in a garbage can. I remember thinking it was odd. To tell the truth, I thought you’d nicked them, but I was so hungry I ate them anyway. So you hadn’t already had some? I should have known. You looked so famished, but -”
“I couldn’t eat them. It felt – I was so ashamed. If mum had seen me she would have -”
“I know, Fanny, but everything’s fine now.”
“No, it’s not. So that’s why you went with him, that sick bastard? He was going to give you money?”
Zac hesitated. He had been hoping that he’d never have to explain that to Fanny. To be honest he’d wanted to bury the memory forever, but – Maybe he’d better tell her, if only it made Fanny calm down.
“Yes. He’d promised me a hundred marks. You probably didn’t see it, but there was a banknote on the table some distance away from the – bed. At the time, when you were in a state of shock – I’d forgotten about it, so I didn’t take it, but -”
“And what about all the other times? When I wasn’t there? You could have been killed at any time. And left me all alone.”
“I know, but I didn’t go off anywhere with them. We – it was just in the street the other times.”
“You could have been infected with something too. Hell, Zac. If that had happened, you would have left me all alone.”
“I’m sorry. I just didn’t know what to do. You were so hungry and then that thing about your teeth. You were so upset they got so crooked and I wanted – One of them – he was pretty decent. He gave me food and other stuff sometimes.”
“Who? One of the ones you didn’t go off with?”
“Yeah, one of them. Leif.”
“Leif? But wasn’t that – Lotte’s husband? Zac, did he have sex with you, though he was involved with Lotte and – Shit, I don’t believe it. Fucking hell. He was over fifity. How fucking gross is that? It was my fault. You’d never have done if it hadn’t been for me nagging you and demanding -”
“No, it wasn’t your fault. You were growing. Everyone needs food. I’d have done it for a burger or anything. I was hungry too. And I wouldn’t have been infected with anything. It was just that once when he went crazy. The other times -”
“I don’t want to know. Hell, you were just a kid too. And there I was, never guessing what was going on. Fuck. Something could have happened to you and I – love you so fucking much.”
“I love you too. It’s alright now. All that stuff happened so long ago. We – were two different people back then. Now we have Angel Farm. We’re home now. I swear I’ll never leave you.”
“Do you really promise that?”
“Yeah, I promise. Don’t worry. I’m here. I’ll always be here. As long as you want me.”
“That’s forever, you know that? I’ll always want you.”
“Ok. Then that’s as long as I’ll be staying with you.”
“Mm. As long as we have each other, everything else will work out.”
Fanny nuzzled up against Zac and let his scent fill her nostrils. She was already missing Mårten, but there was no one like Zac. She’d never let go of him. If she did, she’d be lost.
Zac felt her sobbing abate. It would be ok. As long as they had each other, nothing would be too tough. Not even the memories and all that other stuff. Maybe he’d been worrying needlessly. When it came down to it, he only needed her. And maybe Mårten a little bit. Then something occurred to him and he came fully awake with a start.
“You don’t think Axel will want to kill me?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Axel. If he finds out what happened. I wouldn’t want him to come after me with the gun.”
“Don’t be absurd. Where do you get this stuff? Axel is pretty ok. Mårten just doesn’t appreciate him right now, but he will. When it’s too late.”
Zac knew what she was getting at, and hastily steered the conversation away from that line of thinking.
“But still – you don’t think he’d -”
“Give me a break. People don’t do that. They don’t shoot each other. Not in real life.”
“How can we be so sure of that?”
Zac had a feeling Fanny didn’t really see the seriousness of the situation.
“Don’t be scared. If Axel gets pissed off, I’ll protect you. But he’s not going to find out. Mårten won’t tell him. Come on, don’t you see that? I mean, how could he?”
“Yeah, well, you heard him, didn’t you? Very flattering it was too. This thing that happened – it was totally obvious that he was only doing it because his parents would hate it.”
“Yeah, yeah. But Mårten is different now. Didn’t you see that he’s grown up now?”
“He was a bit hotter than before, but I’m not sure about the grown up bit.”
“Forget about it. I’ll deal with it. There’s no need for you to worry about it. If I could protect you when I was twelve, I should be able to do it again.”
Zac considered for a moment. Despite everything, he was a little reassured. Yes, Fanny could be tough sometimes, even if she could also be childish, spoiled, careless and – totally awesome. When he thought about it, life really was pretty good, despite everything. No use worrying about something that most likely would never happen. In any case, he should probably get up and make lunch. By now it was far too late for breakfast. If only Fanny hadn’t felt so incredibly soft and fragrant and –