I did meet a woman in the hardware store that day.
I accidentally tried to cut the invisible Swedish line at the help counter, and she tapped me on the shoulder and explained that you didn’t physically line up, but took a number. She was around my age, looked friendly, and as I walked home, blinking back tears of lonliness, the thought popped into my head that we could have got to talking and exchanged numbers. Maybe she had lived abroad, maybe even in the US, so she knew what I was going through. And when I got home, I started to write the blog about the stupid little incident with the numbers, and I found myself typing the alternate ending, my ending, in which I felt like I had finally made a friend in this country.
It felt harmless; hell it was harmless back then. Pathetic, sure, but harmless. What’s a little white lie amongst strangers on the internet? It made me feel a tiny bit better, made me feel like it was possible something like that could happen someday. That’s why I never told Anders about her. It’s one thing to blog pitiful fantasy, it’s another to discuss your imaginary friend out loud. I was going to just leave it at that, but then all the comments were so supportive and happy for me, that I felt like I would seem even more of a loser if I never actually met with her. Then Hanna and Tove blew me off that one night, which gave me the perfect opportunity to “call her”. In fact I sat in a bar alone for a couple of hours, hating Hanna and Tove and looking up flights home on my phone, that I couldn’t afford.
A while later, I started to cringe at how I kept going on about the little tidbits I’d picked up about Jenny and Hanna and Anders, so I wrote about her telling me some ‘gossip’ – a theory I came up with based on Facebook stalking them all. Malin voiced my opinion of Hanna at the time, while I cast myself as the good guy, taking such bitchiness with a pinch of salt.
Then last week when I had an attack of conscience about this blog maybe having informed the killer of the victims’ wherabouts, and started to worry about the commenters who theorized about me having killed Hanna while sleepwalking, I resurrected her so I could deny what I was accusing myself of. I should have left it at that; Anders would never have had to know.
I’m not the killer. I’m pathetic and neurotic and paranoid, but I didn’t murder anybody.
But I thought I might have. Some of you wondered about my sleep walking – you think I didn’t?
“We only have your word for it you were sleeping.”
You think that hasn’t been clanging through my head this whole time? And the farmer. After the police dropped me off that night, I suddenly couldn’t remember the walk thought the woods. I remembered watching Daniel’s family, then I remembered being caught by the police at the farm. Did I just wake up? How much time had passed?
I was 12 years old and in the back seat when a drunk driver ploughed into my parents’ car. My dad was killed instantly, but my mom was conscious. Groggy, but her eyes were open and she smiled at me when I managed to unclick my seatbelt and climb over to her. She held my hand and told me to keep looking at her, and that an ambulance would be there any second to help us all.
We had just studied CPR at school. I think I wanted to be an assistant lifeguard or something that summer, so when her eyelids started to flutter shut and she lost consciousness, I listened carefully to make sure she was still breathing, and when I didn’t hear anything I thought I should give her mouth to mouth. The teacher had probably told us never to move anybody with a broken neck, I can’t remember, maybe I didn’t realize her neck was broken, maybe I thought it was more important for her to breathe.
When my Grandma discovered that I overheard that horrible female officer who was supposed to be guarding me saying that there was a chance my mom could have survived without my ministrations, she told me the chance was miniscule, if it existed at all. Then countless therapists told me the same thing, in various ways.
Anders doesn’t remember, but they talked about Liv that night at Daniel’s stuga: Daniel told some stupid story about the first time Anders was ‘engaged’ – to her when they were kids and he later mentioned that they had dated for real as teenagers. When I saw Tove with a woman who looked a tiny bit like Liv according to the school photo I found on Daniel’s Facebook – I was so desperate to have a solution, or at least a new avenue of investigation that it all clicked together in my brain.
So I asked Anders about her, and when he asked how I knew this woman, I couldn’t admit that I thought I recognized her because I had looked her up after that night, so I found myself telling him the story of ‘Malin’. I think I almost believed it for a second; the logic of this ex girlfriend mysteriously befriending me started to make sense.
I didn’t let him call the police, I’m not that cruel. I let him call her, just on the outside outside chance it was her talking to Tove, that somehow she was involved, but I couldn’t let him call the police. I told him the miserable, tragic truth and I don’t expect him to forgive me or understand.
I don’t expect you to forgive me or understand either. You’ve all been reading, and commenting, and supporting me, and I let you believe that my stupid little fantasy was true. And if it muddied the waters as to who Hanna and Daniel’s killer is, I will never forgive myself. It was only when I knew that I couldn’t have killed Daniel – physically, I was with Anders the whole night and even I can’t walk five blocks and break into an apartment in my sleep – that everything started to fall in to place.
Because it wasn’t so hard to see once I started thinking clearly again. I just called her. She is on her way over now.