Thirteen, Fourteen ... Little boy unseen (Rebekka Franck Book 7), Page 2Willow Rose
“Let’s go inside,” she said. “Steffen prefers to stay in the house these days. Says he’s afraid of zombies, the poor thing.”
WE GOT back to the office just before lunch. Sune and I had picked up sandwiches for everyone on our way, which we ate before I started writing the article about Steffen and Bastian, who found two bodies in the lake. It wasn’t a big story, and I knew it wouldn’t reach the front cover. Sune did his best to find a picture where the dog looked slightly less malicious, but it still wasn’t front-page material. Not in the way Jens-Ole wanted it to be.
I wrote a couple of small articles about a new bakery opening on our main street and one about one of Karrebaeksminde’s beloved citizens who would turn one hundred tomorrow. I sent it all, along with Sune’s pictures, and looked at the clock. It was time for us to pick up Tobias and Julie from school. When we were about to leave, I still hadn’t heard from Jens-Ole, who needed to approve my articles in case he had any last minute changes.
“I can go get the kids alone, if you like,” Sune said.
“Nah, I want to go home anyway. I’ll just have to make the changes at home, in case he has any,” I said.
I grabbed my laptop from the desk, knowing very well that Jens-Ole wouldn’t be too happy with the article where the boy spoke about zombies and how he thought they would come after him, and a dog so snappy-looking I wasn’t even sure he was going to print the picture. Well, it wasn’t my problem, was it? I had done my part, and now I wanted to go home.
We picked up William first at his day-care. His day-care mom, Anette, was a woman who took care of five kids in her own home, and he absolutely adored her. We all did. It was good to know that he was being well taken care of while we worked. My dad had gotten too sick to take care of him, so it was the best solution for all. William smiled widely and stumbled insecurely towards us when we entered Anette’s house. In his eagerness to get to us, he fell to his knees and burst into a loud scream. I hurried towards him and picked him up. The feeling of defeat wouldn’t go away, and he continued crying as we carried him to the car. I felt a knot in my stomach while trying to comfort him. It was the guilt nagging me. Even though I knew he was in a good place, I still felt bad for working instead of taking care of him at home. It was silly, really. The kid was almost two years old.
“He loves it at Anette’s,” Sune said, as we got into the car and I had strapped William in the seat. “It’s good for him to get out and be with other children,” he continued.
I started the car with a sigh. “I know. I just feel so guilty for wanting a career. That’s all.”
“I know you do, but you’ve got to let it go. If you stayed at home, you would go nuts. You’re simply not cut out for the stay-at-home-mom life. You have to acknowledge that and make peace with it. You like your job, and there is nothing wrong with that.”
“It’s just so hard,” I grumbled. “Especially since the sinkhole-incident. I can’t stop thinking about how I need to cherish every moment I have with him, how I don’t want to miss one second of his life.”
Sune leaned over and kissed me. “You just need to let it go,” he whispered. “That’s all.”
I looked into his eyes with a strange feeling. I knew what he was saying, but I wasn’t sure I agreed. Not anymore. I wasn’t sure I wanted to let it go. Something had changed inside of me, and I had no idea how to embrace it. I had started thinking a lot more about life and how I spent my time, how precious every little moment really was. I wasn’t sure Sune fully understood the extent of it. It wasn’t just some cliché for me anymore. I wasn’t a kitty-poster on Facebook with a message.
I backed out of the parking lot in front of Anette’s house. Anette was standing in the window with the two other kids that hadn’t been picked up yet, waving at William. I waved at her.
“Look William! Anette!” I said and pointed.
William forgot all about being sad and waved eagerly, while chewing his pacifier greedily.
“Let’s go get Tobias and Julie,” I said.
William shrieked with joy. He could hardly contain his excitement, and both his arms and legs moved as he yelled, “Tobby…Juju!”
JENS-OLE WASN’T too thrilled about the article and decided to drop it to page seven. He would print the picture, but not in a big size, he told me on the phone, as soon as we came in the door. The big kids were tired and sat on the couch, each with an iPad in hand, playing Minecraft, while William wouldn’t leave my shoulder and clung to me like he wasn’t sure he was going to ever see me again.
“Other than that, your articles were all fine. No need to correct anything,” Jens-Ole said, to my relief. I really didn’t want to spend my evening rewriting an article I wasn’t too fond of in the first place.
“Tomorrow is a new day,” Jens-Ole said. “Maybe you’ve already gotten your nose into a story?”
Usually, I would have done just that. It never took me many minutes back on the job before I had lots of stories I wanted to research, but for the first time, I really didn’t have anything. It kind of surprised me, and I didn’t want to admit it. Instead, I lied.
“I have a few things I’d like to look into,” I said, while William was fussing in my arms, trying to grab the phone out of my hand.
“That’s my girl. Can’t wait to hear more tomorrow,” Jens-Ole said, right before we hung up.
I put the phone in my pocket, wondering if I could come up with a good story by morning. I shrugged. I had been through this before. A lot could happen overnight. Maybe something would come up.
Julie and Tobias were suddenly fighting, and Julie was screaming.
“Hey! What’s going on in here?” I yelled, and stormed into the living room.
“Tobias pulled my hair!” Julie said, crying.
Sune came up behind me.
“Don’t pull her hair! Say you’re sorry,” I said angrily.
William was crying in my arms as well now. He was angry because I didn’t let him have the phone.
Julie looked at Tobias, waiting for her apology. It didn’t come.
“See, he doesn’t even want to say he’s sorry,” she said and looked at me. “He’s so mean.”
“Am not!” Tobias argued.
“Oh, yes you are. You’re always so mean to me!”
“Just say you’re sorry, for crying out loud,” I said.
“Hey, hey, not so fast,” Sune said, and stepped forward. “Who says he even did it?”
I looked at Sune. Was he for real? “Well, Julie said he did,” I said.
“Maybe she’s lying,” Sune said.
“I’m not lying!” Julie said with a whining voice, and then started crying. “I’m NOT a liar!”
“No, of course you’re not a liar,” I said, trying to comfort her and William at the same time. “Sune didn’t mean that.”
“Yes, he did,” Julie said. “He always thinks the worst of me.”
“Oh, come on,” Sune said. “Don’t let her do this to you. She’s such a drama queen.” He looked at Tobias. “Did you do it, Tobias? Did you pull her hair?”
Tobias thought for a long time, then nodded.
“Ha!” Julie said. “Told you so.”
“Okay, well now that we’ve established that he did pull her hair, maybe now he can say he is sorry?” I said to Sune. The tension between us was getting bad. I didn’t like it. There was nothing like our children that could make us turn on each other lately. It was becoming a bad habit. But, I had to defend my child, didn’t I?
“Maybe there’s a reason why he pulled her hair,” Sune said. “Tobias doesn’t do anything like this without a reason.”
We all looked at Tobias to get an explanation. “She stole everything in my chest and won’t give it back,” he said.
“Chest?” I asked.
“In Minecraft,” Sune said, annoyed, like I was supposed to know what they were talking about. “They put all the stuff they gather in their chests.”
sp; “Did you steal all of his stuff?” I asked Julie.
“He took my diamond that I found. So, I stole everything he had,” she answered. I looked at Tobias. My head was starting to hurt.
“You didn’t find it. I found it first!” Tobias said.
I looked at Sune, thinking I was ready to let them handle this on their own. I was getting tired of the discussion, but Sune wouldn’t let it go.
“You can’t just steal everything, Julie,” he said.
I stared at him with surprise. “Hey, don’t take it out on her,” I said. “It seems to me, they were both in on it. Besides, I think it’s slightly worse to pull someone’s hair than to steal some things in a computer game.”
Sune looked at me like I was an idiot. “How can you say that? If she hadn’t stolen the things, Tobias never would have touched her.”
“I still don’t think…” I didn’t finish the sentence before the doorbell rang. Sune didn’t look like he was ready to let go of the discussion, but I was happy to have an excuse to leave the room. I smiled at William and told him to never grow up before I opened the door.
Then, I froze.
It was David. David Busck.
“WHAT ARE you doing here?” I asked, and hugged David tightly. I hadn’t seen him since that day we got out of the limestone mine two and a half months ago. He had left the hospital before me and never said goodbye.
“I…I was in the neighborhood,” David said, and looked at William. Loud arguing voices still came from the living room. “Is this a bad time?”
“No, no, come one in,” I said, and pulled his arm.
“I could come again another time. I’m in town for a few days,” he said, but I pulled him inside and closed the door.
“No way. You’re staying for dinner,” I said. “Sune! David is here, come say hello.”
“David?” Sune came into the hallway. Then he smiled. It came off a little awkward, but I didn’t think David noticed. I wondered why he was acting that way. They shook hands. “Hey…man…what are you doing here?”
“I was in town and thought I’d stop by to see how you were doing,” he said, looking at me. Then he shrugged. “Anyway, you all seem to be well. I didn’t mean to interrupt…”
“Nonsense,” I interrupted him. “Stay for dinner.”
It might not have been the best of decisions, but I just wanted to be friendly. David had been my friend and closest ally in the caves underground. I cared deeply for him and had long wondered how he was doing. But, I hadn’t considered Sune’s feelings in all this.
David sat in the kitchen while I cooked. I served him a glass of wine, while Sune stood in the doorway, looking like he couldn’t decide whether to come in or stay out.
“So, how have you been?” I asked. “Why didn’t you say goodbye at the hospital?”
I put the wine in front of David and he tasted it. “Well, I didn’t want to disturb you,” he said. “You were with your family.”
“Still, you should have said goodbye,” I said with a frown. “I’ve wondered for months what happened to you and where you went.”
David chuckled. “It’s nice to know,” he said. “But, to be frank, it’s been quite a journey. After I left the hospital, I went to Copenhagen, where I lived with a friend for awhile, trying to avoid the press.”
“I know,” I said. “The first weeks were brutal. They were constantly calling with the phone constantly ringing and the press even showing up on my doorstep. It’s ironic to suddenly be on the other side of the microphone, huh? Well, you’ve tried it before, but it’s a first for me.”
“Can you believe those people who made deals with them?” David said.
“No! Lars Dalgas, the librarian! Who would have thought that he would end up a reality star?” I laughed.
David chuckled as well, and we went quiet for a little while, both thinking about Lars and the others trapped in the mines. The silence made Sune uncomfortable.
“So, what about that Lars?” he asked. “Why is it so funny that he is a reality star now?”
I shook my head and looked at David. Our eyes locked for a second. I turned my head. “It’s not that funny. It’s just that…well…” I shrugged. “I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it’s not that funny after all.”
I returned to peeling the potatoes in the sink. I felt bad for Sune. I could tell he felt left out, but I really didn’t know how to explain Lars to him. I really didn’t want to. A lot of things had happened down there that brought out the worst in people. It was better to be forgotten.
“No, I really want to know,” Sune said with a slightly shrill voice. “Tell me everything about this Lars Dalgas.”
I looked at David. “There really isn’t much to tell…”
“Oh, then I must have gotten it all wrong then, ‘cause a minute ago, it seemed like there was plenty to tell,” Sune said.
David looked uncomfortable. He got up. “You know what? Thanks for the dinner invitation, but I need to take a rain check. I have stuff to do. I’ll see you around, okay?” He shook Sune’s hand, and then hugged me.
“But…” I tried.
“It’s okay, Rebekka. I didn’t mean to interrupt like this,” he said, and almost ran out the door.
I was baffled.
Sune chuckled. “That was strange, huh?” he said with a laugh.
I stared at Sune. “What the hell was that?” I asked.
He looked like he didn’t understand. “What do you mean?”
“Why did you, all of a sudden, act like this jealous boyfriend?”
“What do you mean?”
I rolled my eyes and returned to my potatoes. I felt sad that David had left so quickly. I really wanted to know how he had been. I had really missed him.
“Okay, so what if I got a little jealous, so what?” Sune said. I could tell by the sound of his voice that he wanted to fight.
“I really don’t want to…” I said.
“I think you should. I think we need to talk about this,” he said.
I turned and looked at him. His cheeks were red and his eyes wild. I didn’t like him when he acted like this.
“Oh, I’ll start whatever I need to,” he said.
William started fussing in his high chair, where he was eating carrots and a banana.
“Let’s begin with you explaining to me why you’ve been wondering about this guy for months?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You just said it yourself. You told him you had been wondering about him for months. Those were your words, not mine.”
I exhaled. “I wondered about what had happened to him. Is that so strange? I care about people.”
“So, now you care about him, do you?” Sune asked.
“Yes. Yes. I care about David. Is that so wrong? I mean, we went through a lot of stuff together in those caves; it’s not something you simply forget after a few days. I’m never going to forget him or what happened to us.”
Sune looked like I had offended him. “You’ll never forget him? What does that mean? Did anything happen between you two down there? Why were you hugging him when we came down to rescue you?”
“What?” I grabbed William and got him out of his chair. He stumbled across the room.
“You two were standing awfully close when I entered that cave. In each other’s arms even. I could tell something was going on between the two of you. I just knew it. I could tell by the way you looked at him. Don’t you think I know you?” Sune was almost spitting when he spoke. I had never seen him like this.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“How can you not know what I mean?? I walked in there, ready to rescue you, and then I found you…I find you in the arms of this…this…guy.”
“Oh, my goodness. This has bothered you ever since, hasn’t it? I can’t even remember it.”
“You don’t remember that you were in h
is arms when I found you? You expect me to believe that?” Sune said.
I shook my head. “I…I really don’t remember. I was starved and dehydrated. There’s a lot from down there I don’t remember.”
Sune gritted his teeth.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No. I don’t. There you have it. I can’t stand the fact that you don’t talk about what happened down there with…with him. Why won’t you tell me about it?”
“Mostly because I only remember bits and pieces, but also because I really, really want to forget. I want to move on with my life. My life with you,” I said, feeling tears pile up.
Sune bit his lip and shook his head. Julie and Tobias had started fighting again in the living room.
“I don’t believe you. I think you want to remember. You wanted to when David stepped in the door, didn’t you? You wanted to talk about old times and know everything,” he said, making a mocking voice.
Julie started screaming again. I wiped my hands on a towel. “You know what? Believe what you want. I don’t have time for this,” I said, and walked into yet another war zone.
PASTOR KLARA KEMP was sitting in her office in the vicarage that belonged to Karrebaeksminde Church. She was working on her sermon for next Sunday, and thought with joy about last Sunday’s speech. She had talked about gays and how homosexuality didn’t belong in the church and how it was an abomination, according to the Bible. She had long watched where the country was going on this, and now that the church accepted those kinds of people getting married within the church walls, she knew it was time for her to speak up.
Pastor Kemp was old and knew she didn’t have many years left before she had to resign. And she was determined to fight for the truth till the end. They’d have to carry her out of her church. She wasn’t going to let anyone of that kind get married in her church. And she would let her congregation know how she felt about it. There was no doubt in her mind that she would never approve this.