It was cold outside, the icy wind took turns beating my face from left to right. It felt as if the city had been hit by a tornado and right in the middle was no one less than myself. Shivering, I pulled down my beanie over my ears and stuck my hands in my pockets. Naturally I would forget my mittens today, of all days.
A while later I saw the building not too far away, and I forced my legs to move faster. With a sigh, I shut out the cold and sank to the floor, my back against the door. Suddenly I was hit by a wave of sorrow. Like the storm outside had worked as a shield, but now that I was safe, there was nothing left to hide behind. A tear slowly made its way down my cheek. Then another. And another. Before I knew it, I was crying uncontrollably, and the knees I had pushed up against my face were damp with tears. I felt weak. Uncomfortably vulnerable. I quickly wiped the tears my eyes.
“You can’t cry”, I whispered to myself. “You just can’t.”
I stood up, listened closely for a while and quickly noted that nobody was home. Both relief and loneliness arose inside me, the feelings creeping right below my skin without ever really reaching the surface. Why should I be sad when I was the one to leave him?
Suddenly, the doorbell rang, making me jump. It was probably Eskild who’d just forgetting her keys. I took a deep breath and a quick look in the mirror before I opened the door. But to my surprise, it wasn’t Eskild standing outside. Nor was it Linn, or Isak.
“Hi”, Vilde said, smiling carefully.
“Hi”, I answered. “What are you doing here?”
“I can leave if you want me to…” Her expression changed and her eyes fell to her feet.
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that”, I explained. “I just meant, considering the time. Don’t you have school tomorrow?”
The weak smile appeared on her lips once again, and she mumbled something about being worried. I hadn’t really noticed when, but I felt significantly more relieved now that she was here. Perhaps it was as simple as that I didn’t want to be alone, but there was something about Vilde that made me forget about the world around us. The way she always made the sky brighter, just by being there, whether that was with a smile, a laugh, or a simple look. There was just something about her.
“I brought ice cream”, she said while searching her bag with her hand until she found what she was looking for. “Cookie Dough. Your favorite.”
I thanked her, and invited her in with a hand gesture. The clock had just passed eleven, but Vilde didn’t seem to care about the time at all as she plopped down on the couch with a sigh. I got two spoons from the kitchen and sat down next to her. She leaned her head against my shoulder as I turned the tv on. The news was on, filling the screen with war and violence. Followed by a fire downtown, a murder barely two miles away, and a rape attempt on a young woman in the next city. I shivered. What a terrible world we live in, and here I am, moping about a guy.
“Has William called yet?” Vilde asked as if she’d read my mind.
“No”, I answered, but kept myself from elaborating any further, as I wasn’t sure I could do so without crying.
Vilde didn’t answer. She kept her eyes glued to the screen and her head still on my shoulder. I switched channels, and when Paradise Hotel came on Vilde flew to her feet. I laughed at her reaction as she pretended to be upset, but thank god for bad poker faces because soon, she was smiling again. We watched in silence. Should I be completely honest, I was too afraid to say anything, considering how intensely Vilde was watching the contestants’ every move.
Around eleven thirty, Linn showed up, politely said hi and then disappeared into her room to sleep. Not long after, Eskild came home and sat down on my left side. I asked when Isak was getting back, slightly worried he had been in his room the whole time and heard my breakdown earlier, but when Eskild explained he was spending the night at Even’s, I could exhale in relief.
“Which you would have known, had you read the group chat”, Eskild teased and I rolled my eyes.
My phone had been turned off the entire day, because having it on was just a constant reminder that William didn’t care enough to even call. It’s been two months since I returned from London after having decided to take a semester off school just to be with him. And he couldn’t even reach out.
“I think I’m gonna hit the hay”, Eskild said as he got up on his feet. “Goodnight girls!”
We answered in unison, a ‘goodnight’ from me and a ‘sweet dreams’ from Vilde, our voices tangled together. She giggled, and I couldn’t help but smile. Paradise Hotel had ended now, and we both knew it was time for Vilde to go home, but neither of us said a word. We just sat there, eating away at the little chunk of ice cream that was left while the opening credits to some bad eighties movie rolled on the tv. She leaned her head against my shoulder once again, and I put an arm around her.
“William doesn’t deserve someone like you.” The words made me frown, because in a way, I agreed with her, but at the same time, I didn’t want to think it was over between us, in every way except officially.
“Someone’s got to put up with me”, I joked. “Better it be someone who lives in another country.”
“Seriously, Noora.” She sat up and turned her head around. Her eyes didn’t have the same happy spark as before, instead, there was something new in them. “You’re the best person I know and you’re wasting your time with him. If he cared, wouldn’t he have called by this point?”
I swallowed hard. This wasn’t exactly a conversation I had been looking forward to. Was it something I had gone over again and again in my head every single night? Absolutely. But it wasn’t something I preferred talking openly about.
“He’s probably busy…”
“For two months straight? Without a single break? You hear how it sounds, right?”
“Yeah, well, how easy do you think it is? Do you think I can just stop loving him because I returned home? It’s not like the feelings just wear off with the distance, you know.”
“I’m just saying that you deserve someone who loves you just as much. Someone who’s there for you.” She put her hand softly on my knee as she spoke, and didn’t look away for even a second.
I didn’t know what to think. The thoughts flew like lost bees inside my head, and suddenly there was nothing there but the two of us. The world around faded away, piece by piece, until there was only us amid complete nothingness. Vilde was still looking deep into my eyes, as if she was awaiting a response, but I couldn’t get a single word to form on my lips, and remained silent. She lowered her gaze slowly, and I followed it to her hands where she’d picked off most of the pink nail polish that bedecked her nails. She did that sometimes. Before exams, or presentations. Before meetings with Kosegruppa. And now, sitting in my living room and talking about my relationship.
“Love isn’t like in the movies, Vilde.”
“It can be.” She met my eyes again. “If only you hadn’t been so extremely blind.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I raised my eyebrows with a brief laugh.
But her eyes showed no sign of humor. “You deserve someone who loves you like I do.”
Suddenly the world stopped completely. It may just be us two, in the middle of nothing, but even a void can freeze in the moment. I think time itself might have been moving backwards because I heard her voice time and time again, repeating the same sentence over and over and over. Like I do, she’s said. Like I do. What did that mean anyway? It could mean a hundred – no a thousand – different things! And she expected me to understand just like that?
“I know you love William, but I hate to see you this sad all the time. I just want you to be happy again”, she said carefully. “You don’t have to feel the same about me.”
Without my brain fully registered what was happening, I reached my hands out toward her and placed each one on either sides of her face. Nor did I register leaning forward and pressing my lips against hers, and she seemed equally as surprised when I leaned back again. She stared at me for a couple of seconds – while I was searching for words – but soon found her way back to the way too short kiss we had just shared. Her lips were soft, and tasted of strawberries mixed with the chocolate taste from the ice cream, and her hands were entangled in my hair. A wave of relief poured over me, like a weight being lifted off of my chest, or a puzzle piece filling the empty space in my heart. My thoughts were still scattered all over my mind, but now they all shouted the same thing. Vilde! Of course it was Vilde with the smile as bright as a thousand suns. Vilde with the contagious laughter that was anything but possible to ignore. Vilde with feeling for me.
I didn’t want the moment to ever end, but just like all magical moments, ours was interrupted. By the doorbell? I frowned and met Vilde’s equally as confused look. Maybe it was just Isak that had decided to come home after all.
I tiptoed over to the door, not wanting to wake anyone up, and slowly opened the door. It creaked more than usually, and I turned around to make sure no angry housemates had emerged from their rooms. It didn’t seem to have woken anyone up, and I turned back around but wasn’t met by Isak this time either. My eyes grew wide and the air was punched out of my lungs, this couldn’t be real.
“Can I come inside?”
William stood leaned against the doorframe, no smile on his lips and his eyes red by what I could only imagine was tears. I couldn’t make a single sound, and my feet felt frozen to the cold floor below them. William didn’t say anything either, but raised his eyes from me to something behind. Vilde.
My eyes quickly followed and landed on Vilde, meeting her somewhat astonished look. She didn’t speak. She just looked at me and something inside me burst, because soon the thoughts were once again racing in my head and the tears burned behind my eyelids. For the past two months I had wished and prayed for an answer, a sign, anything from William, but now that he was standing here, now that Vilde had kissed me and I had kissed her, I didn’t know what I wanted anymore.
I remained quiet, while the thoughts were deafening, but turned my head back to William and out of my mouth came the only answer I could get myself to utter.