“Liv says hi.”
I didn’t even turn to face him, I was putting plates and stuff on the table while he stirred our stew with that thoughtful, critical expression he gets when he cooks.
I said I wasn’t sure. That was true, she never told me her last name. He asked me to describe who I was talking about; I did and he shrugged as he brought the pot to the table and I thought for a second he would dismiss it and I would still be in the dark. But then he grinned suddenly and said, “not Liv Björkstedt?” I tried to pick up my fork and start eating casually, but the tension in my tummy was making me almost nauseous, so I just played with it and hoped he wouldn’t notice.
“My first girlfriend – how did you meet her?” Glass shattered somewhere in my brain as something horrible started to fall in to place. As soon as Tove said she – Malin – would want to say hi to Anders I felt like I got it finally, even if I don’t know exactly what I got yet. He smiled affectionately, kind of faraway, and added, “if you can call it that really, we were just children, we went to school together. How is she? How did you meet her?”
Do I tell him the truth at this point? That she tracked me down somehow, approached me with a false name. That she tried to poison my mind against Hanna – that she hated Hanna, told me so right before she died? I need to tread carefully here. I don’t have anything other than weird behavior, maybe there are still some links I don’t know that would tell a very different picture. Have I totally jumped to a conclusion? What would she want with me?
Did she do this to Jenny?
I had a flash of inspiration:
“Did you ever take her to Daniel’s stuga?” He looked surprised at the question, I guess it was kind of out there, but I needed something tangible, a physical place that tied her to everything.
He had. Daniel’s parents let him throw a high school graduation party there, and Anders and Liv had broken up sometime in the wee hours. It was the last time he saw her. “Who broke up with who?” I asked, “was she upset?”
He looked at me weirdly, said he couldn’t really remember, it was nearly 20 years ago. I asked if Jenny knew her. “Jenny? Why would Jenny know her?” He suddenly sat up straighter, flint in his eyes. I felt myself shift under his gaze. “What is going on – how did you meet Liv?”
Shit. I stopped pretending to eat, put down my fork and looked at him, so innocent, so naive. What the hell is he mixed up in that he has no clue about?
I told him. I started from the beginning, from the hardware store. I told him about the night Tove and Hanna blew me off and I called her, how we became friends, what she told me about him and Hanna. He listened, his blue eyes cold and intense as I talked. I could feel myself jabbering, going off into tangents to explain why I hadn’t mentioned my friend Malin before, could hear it all from his point of view and cringed that it made me sound like a crazy person. When I finally finished he sat in silence a while longer, taking it all in.
“It doesn’t make sense – we were just high school boyfriend and girlfriend for barely a few weeks. I can’t believe she even remembers me –” He cut himself off as though his thoughts overwhelmed him for a moment. “I heard she moved away –”
“To New York.” I supplied. I explained how that was why I believed her openness to be friends so quickly; I figured she had been infected by American. Anders nodded, leaned back in his chair. I couldn’t help but notice that he hadn’t taken my hand all this time. Usually, when we talk, he holds my hand, strokes my fingers as though contact with me helps him think. He was just across the table but he suddenly felt really far away. Liv’s boyfriend.