Chapter 1: SAS 943
"Halla planned to take Magnus out for dinner that night, maybe hit Green City Market in the morning to get veggies for omelettes. Unless he wanted to sleep early after his long flight. What if he wanted to sleep but didn't want to sleep with her?"
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Every time Halla Roque was at work and had occasion to look up from her desk (where she was supposed to be doing work but was usually writing fan fiction), the first thing she saw was Magnus Martinsson's window.
It was his window because it belonged to his suite. It was his suite because it was in the hotel where he was staying three months ago when they first met. When they met cute, over hot dogs of all things, and they went on a date. And then he kissed her. And then they slept together.
In Magnus's suite.
Three months ago, and it felt like yesterday. It felt like just that afternoon she'd taken him to O'Hare and said goodbye to him at security with only a single, elegant tear sliding down her cheek. It felt like just last night she'd taken him home, enticed him into her bed, and made love to him until dawn.
It felt like this because every day since they had been apart there had been no shortage of emails and phone calls between the two. Emails that ranged from the mundane (Halla to Magnus: "Do you have Taco Bell in Sweden? I might be a little drunk right now.") to the sweet (Magnus to Halla: "Attached is a picture of some tulips in my neighbor's yard. They're yellow like the dress you wore that last night in Chicago.") to the profane (Magnus to Halla: "I woke up with the taste of your sweet cunt on my tongue. I wasn't sure if you were awake otherwise I would have called to tell you how much my body misses yours." Halla to Magnus: "That's funny because I'm pretty sure when I went to bed last night, right around the time you'd be getting up, I remembered the way your tongue felt on my clit, the feeling of your fingers tickling my nipples, and your cock brushing the back of my throat. Sorry, was that too much? Did I distract you? Did I mention I'm competitive sometimes? PS: My body misses yours too.")
Halla's favorite email was the one that came the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. The message was from Scandinavian Airlines, and it contained the itinerary for one Magnus Martinsson, announcing his arrival on SAS 943 at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on Friday, September 19.
On the evening of September 18, Halla sent Magnus a picture. In it, she was sitting up in bed, covers pulled up just over the swell of her breasts. Shoulders bared, hands folded in her lap, she wore glasses and a mischievous expression on her round face. Her hair fell in waves around her shoulders. Over the spot where her left breast would otherwise be visible if not for the sheet, she had photoshopped a red heart with these words in white: YOU ARE HERE.
The next day, Magnus printed the picture, kissed it before tucking it into his carry-on bag along with his wallet, passport, and boarding pass, and began the drive from Ystad to Copenhagen for his flight.
Halla left work early to meet Magnus at the airport. She stopped at the 7-11 to get a bottle of water to drink on the el. Her favorite cashier Maurel rung up her purchase.
"Plans for the weekend, baby?" Maurel smiled at her as she handed Halla her change.
"Yeah!" Halla smiled as she crammed her change into her pocket, and shoved her water and wallet into her purse. "Remember Detective Snuggums? Tall blond guy, came in a few months ago asking about Chicago hot dogs?"
Maurel nodded. "Yeah. Girl, he was pretty cute for a white boy."
Halla giggled. "Yeah, I’d say so." She bit her lip. "He's back in town."
"Oh? Another conference?" Maurel dropped a few coins in the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny bowl.
"Um, not exactly." Halla blushed. "He's, um… he’s here to see me."
Maurel took a second before breaking out into a smile so wide Halla had to laugh.
Maurel reached behind the register to drop something on the counter in front of Halla. The two women looked down - the something was a box of condoms. Maurel pushed it at Halla.
"Have a nice time." Maurel paused, then spoke again. "Girl, have a good time." She shooed Halla out the door.
On the train, Halla went through her checklist.
Her apartment was clean-ish. There were clean sheets on her bed, and fresh towels in the bathroom. Her cute bras and underwear were on top of the non-cute stuff in her drawer. She had a few staples like milk and eggs and cheese in the fridge and pantry. Did she remember to get beer? Does he drink beer? Don’t all dudes?
Halla planned to take Magnus out for dinner that night, maybe hit Green City Market in the morning to get veggies for omelettes. Unless he wanted to sleep early after his long flight. What if he wanted to sleep but didn't want to sleep with her?
Halla began to fret until the sweet, raunchy voice of Koko Taylor came through her earphones. When Koko sang, Halla always listened:
Tell automatic Slim, tell razor totin' Jim
Tell butcher knife totin' Annie, tell fast talking Fanny
We gonna pitch a ball, down to that Union Hall
We gonna romp and tromp till midnight
We gonna fuss and fight till daylight
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long
All night long, all night long, all night long
In the air, Magnus looked out the window of the plane as it began its descent. Lake Michigan was as big and as blue as he remembered. Vehicles of the size of ants rushed up and down Lake Shore Drive. High-rises gave way to buildings of more modest heights the further west the plane flew. He drummed his fingers on his thigh, then began to tap a pattern in Morse Code, something he hadn’t done since he was a kid.
.... .- .-.. .-.. .- .... .- .-.. .-.. .- .... .- .-.. .-.. .-
SAS 943 landed five minutes early. Magnus tried not to leap out of his seat as soon as he felt the plane touch the ground. There were still a few more minutes of taxiing to the gate, then waiting for the rows ahead of him to deplane. It wasn't until he was in the terminal, speed-walking towards immigration when he remembered to check his phone.
No missed calls. One text message: “Just got to airport. Meet you at baggage claim for your flight. H”
And all at once his heart began to pound.
The immigration officer barely looked at Magnus as he interviewed him, though he did pause when Magnus mentioned he was staying with a friend. Thankfully, he remembered Halla's full name and address, and could recite it casually enough for the officer to grunt and stamp his passport before welcoming him to America.
Once through, Magnus followed signs to baggage claim and made his way to the appropriate carousel. No Halla yet.
Magnus slumped onto a bench and closed his eyes. For a second, he thought. Just a second.
In just a minute he was fast asleep. Legs slightly open, arms propped on the back of the bench. Skin tan from the summer sun, and hair so lightened it appeared golden under the fluorescent lighting. His head fell back so the long column of his neck was bare, exposed just so, to the woman who found him there.
Halla dropped her messenger bag on the floor beside his backpack. She took her place, standing quietly between his legs, and watched him sleep. It took her breath away how beautiful he looked when he slept. It wasn't fair that his eyelashes were so long, or that his lips, while thin, were so firm and pink. Perfect for kissing, she thought.
She leaned down, tenderly grasping his jaw in her hands, and planted a gentle kiss on the corner of his mouth. Another kiss on his left cheekbone. Halla couldn't help herself, she had to slip her tongue between his lips. She had a mere moment to lick the inside of his lips, savor the taste that she had dreamt of all summer, before he began to stir beneath her.
Magnus's tongue found hers, teasing the tip before massaging it with long, languid strokes. He closed his lips around her tongue to suckle, at the same time bringing his arms around Halla at the waist. He pulled her into his lap so that she straddled his thighs. He shifted ever so slightly so that her pelvis was pressed against his. They gasped into each other's mouths at the connection.
Magnus opened his eyes and sleepily regarded the woman seated in his lap.
Magnus nuzzled Halla's neck, sniffed. She smelled like jasmine.
“It was fine.”
Magnus began to rub her back, resenting the slightly cooler weather that made it necessary for Halla to wear a light sweater with long sleeves. He slipped a hand underneath and sighed in relief when his palm found the heat of her bare skin.
“Anything in particular? There’s Reza’s, you liked the falafel, I think. Or we could go for burgers at Lady Gregory’s…”
Magnus shook his head.
"What would you like for supper then?” Halla whispered.
Magnus drew Halla closer to him, and kissed her ear. “You.” Magnus nipped at her jaw. “Just you.”
The song Halla listened to on the el is called "Wang Dang Doodle" and it is amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w6IY0v-0pA
Chapter 2: Summerdale and Glenwood
"Magnus wiggled his fingers, tickling the inside of Halla’s knees so when she jerked in response they parted. He slid his hand up her leg, getting as far as the middle of her thigh when she stopped him by closing her legs."
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Yes, sir. Summerdale and Glenwood, please. That’s near Clark and Foster. Thank you.”
The driver of cab number 2128 nodded at Halla, then shifted the taxi into gear and began the drive into the city.
In the back seat, Halla leaned into Magnus’s arms. She squirmed a little when he pressed a kiss to the crook of her neck.
“Oh, see, if you cannot sit still, that means I have to lick you… right here.” Magnus drew his tongue slowly up Halla’s neck, from her shoulder to the ticklish spot behind her ear. She threw her head back and laughed, then slid down a little in her seat. She blew her hair out of her face and smiled.
“You sure you don’t want to stop somewhere for dinner? I’ve only got some eggs at home, cheese. Maybe a frozen pizza.”
Magnus nipped at her ear. “I will do whatever you like.”
“As long as whatever you like is you... ” Magnus whispered as he moved a hand onto Halla’s stomach. “You… taking me into your bed, and allowing me the privilege of having you as my heart and hands and cock desire.”
Halla bit her lower lip and shut her eyes as Magnus slid that same hand down between her knees. She drew her knees together, trapping his fingers.
“Magnus, “ she moaned. “The driver…”
“Stands to earn a nice tip as long as he continues to keep his hands on the wheel, his feet on the gas pedal, and his eyes on the road.”
Magnus wiggled his fingers, tickling the inside of Halla’s knees so when she jerked in response they parted. He slid his hand up her leg, getting as far as the middle of her thigh when she stopped him by closing her legs.
“You’re going to regret that, Miss Roque.” Magnus hissed.
“Is that right, Detective Martinsson?” Halla whispered. “Or shall I call you Detective Snuggums?”
Halla couldn’t fit her key into the lock of her front door, her hands were shaking so much. Magnus was paying the driver, and she knew he adored her. But she didn’t want him to see her so nervous, squirming in the cab aside.
Halla wondered if he might tease her, kiss her on the cheek, then take the keys out of her hand before opening the door himself. She dropped the keys on the porch just as he came up the stairs. Magnus knelt down to retrieve them, pressing the keys into her palm. He closed her fingers around them, then turned her fist over gently so he could kiss the back of her hand.
Halla rolled her eyes. “That was smooth.”
She fit the key into the lock, gave it a twist. The door swung open, and they stepped into the cool dark of her house. A pile of mail sat in a basket to the side. Halla moved past it to her apartment door.
“Halla, your mail?” Magnus nodded at the basket.
“Leave it,” she whispered.
Halla unlocked her apartment door, walked in a step, then turned to look back at Magnus.
Magnus nodded and, with a few long strides, made his way to Halla. She took a step back when he entered the apartment, closing the door behind him. She watched him as he dropped his bag, kicked off his shoes, ran his fingers through his hair.
Magnus turned around and pushed Halla against the door, cupping her face in his large hands as he kissed her deeply. She reached for him, wrapping her arms around his waist. She gasped when he began to kiss her neck, and moved his hands under her sweater.
“Magnus,” she whispered. “Bedroom?”
“Right.” Magnus stood up and took Halla in his arms, walking her back towards the small room where a ginger cat was asleep in the middle of her bed. The cat yowled in protest when they fell back onto the mattress next to him.
“Murray! Get out of here!” Halla shooed him towards the open window, closing it after the cat hopped out with another sound of displeasure.
“Is he yours?” Magnus grinned at Halla as she crawled back onto the bed.
“Upstairs neighbor. Murray likes to hang out in the yard usually but lately he’s developed a habit of napping in my bed.” Halla frowned. “Okay, this is not sexy at all.”
Magnus shrugged. “I don’t know about that, I think cats are quite sensual.”
Halla threw a pillow at his head.
“Want some more un-sexy talk?” Halla took a sheaf of papers off her nightstand and showed them to Magnus. “Blood test results from my doctor’s visit last week. All clean. And my gyno said my lady bits and my IUD are good.”
“Excellent. You got my email with my test results?”
Halla nodded. “I mean, I don’t read Swedish, but it all looked on the level.”
Magnus nodded. “So…”
“I have condoms but…” Halla bit her lip. “I guess we don’t have to use them. Unless you want…”
Magnus lunged at her, pulling Halla so she lay flat on her back diagonally across the bed. She arched her back as she tugged her skirt and tights off. She pulled her sweater off, and found Magnus licking his lips at the sight of her. His shirt was off, hanging off one arm, but he made no move to remove it completely. He took stock of her, the dark eyes and small hands, breasts soft and belly softer, round hips and plush thighs. He met her tentative smile with a wolfish grin of his own.
“Beautiful,” he breathed as he leaned over to kiss her. He moaned when Halla unzipped his jeans, then slipped her hand in to stroke his cock.
“Sorry my hands are cold.” She whispered between kisses.
Magnus slipped one of his hands under one of the cups of Halla’s bra, massaging the breast and teasing the nipple until it was stiff.
“Sorry mine are too.”
Halla laughed, then sat up to pull Magnus’s boxers and jeans off. She scooted back on the bed, then parted her legs slightly. “Come.”
Magnus knelt on the floor, bending at the waist so his face was aligned with Halla’s sex. He stroked her soft inner thighs, smiling when she began to moan. As her legs spread wider, Magnus caught the scent of her desire. He gently swiped her clit with his fingertip.
Halla whimpered, but said nothing. She arched her hips, then gasped when Magnus met her cunt with his mouth.
Magnus closed his eyes as he began to lick around her labia with a gentle tongue. His nose nudged at her clit, nostrils flaring as his tongue delved deeper into her folds. His tongue was followed, then replaced by two clever fingers that slowly caressed her inner walls.
He shook his head, and pursed his lips around the tender bundle of nerves that his nose had been nuzzling so gently. When he began to suckle, and flick the tip of his tongue against it, Halla jerked away. She was overcome by her own feelings, by the sensation of his mouth and his hands, his breath on her body.
Magnus slipped his hands underneath her ass, squeezing the soft flesh, before he pulled her up towards his mouth. He moaned as he slipped his fingers back into her sex, teasing the G-spot just inside. He sucked harder on her clit.
“Baby.” Halla could scarcely breathe, but she continued to call to him. “Please. Just… oh god.”
Magnus shook his head again. He began to stroke her clit with his thumb, moving down so his could plunge his tongue deep inside of her. Juices coated his lips and his chin, and dripped down Halla’s inner thighs onto the covers beneath her writhing form.
Magnus braced himself, then crept onto the bed. He helped Halla move up so she was more centered, then propped her legs up on his thighs while he knelt before her. Taking himself in hand, Magnus dragged the tip of his hard cock against her folds, then brushed it against her clit.
They both gasped.
Magnus did it again. Halla cried out, and opened her eyes.
Magnus moved so he could hover above her, so he could meet her gaze as he kissed her. To share the taste of her pleasure from his own lips. When she began to moan, teasing his lips with her tongue, he lined his cock up at the entrance to her sex, took a deep breath and, in one stroke, entered and filled her.
“Oh god, Halla.” He didn’t move. He wanted this feeling of her naked flesh, wet and welcoming and hot and so snug, pulsing around him forever. He closed his eyes.
“Magnus, you feel so good.” Halla began to pant as she rolled her hips beneath him. She clenched around him as she did. Magnus met her rolls with slow, shallow thrusts. So many sensations threatened to overwhelm him. Not just the strength and comfort he drew from being inside of her, the slick folds that massaged and clenched around his cock. But the feeling of her mound against his pelvis when they would meet, every roll of her hip rising to meet each thrust of his hip. The way she breasts rose and fell, how soft they were against his own chest. How she would lick at his nipples whenever they were in reach of her pink lips.
When Halla locked her ankles around his hips, he opened his eyes. He watched her face contort as his thrusts were getting deeper, faster, harder. She didn’t roll her hips but now bucked to meet him. She grabbed his ass, digging her nails into the cheeks as she struggled to gain purchase. Her movements were urgent now, and forceful.
When she let go to reach up and grab the rails of her headboard, Magnus rested his full weight on top of her. He slid his arms around her, taking her in a tight embrace while his hips moved faster and faster. Halla unlocked her ankles and drew her legs up at her sides, keeping her knees bent.
“Deeper,” she whispered. She bit his chest. “Faster.”
He responded in kind. She rewarded him with his name, chanting it like a prayer until she moaned and began to scream.
“Oh fuck, Magnus! Yes, Magnus! Oh oh oh… Magnus!” She clenched around him, then spasmed when he slipped a hand between them, and began to rub her clit in rapid circles.
As she came, she continued to cry out to him. He could only murmur her name, first into the pillow, and then into her ear. His hips continued to pump into her, faster and faster, and then they jerked to a stop.
Sex before Halla had never felt this good to him. Three months of sexy photos, dirty phone calls and emails, of lying in bed at night alone with her name on his lips and himself in hand. The separation was worth it for this moment of bliss, worth it for this woman who lay, sweaty and spent, in his arms.
Magnus was worried he was crushing her so he moved to pull out. Halla locked her ankles around his hips. She shook her head.
“I’m gonna crush you, Halla.”
“No,” she whispered. “Stay. You feel good.”
He kissed the top of her head. “Thank you. This feels like, so much better than good.”
“Like coming home.” Halla sighed. “Is that weird?”
Magnus shook his head.
“It’s exactly right.”
Halla smiled, then pressed a soft kiss to the base of his throat. She reached up and began to run her fingers through his hair.
Having Halla live on Summerdale Avenue is my own tribute to andlifeisgrand, whose work I love very much.
Chapter 3: September Gurls
“A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell but I can assure you that Halla and I are extremely compatible in the bedroom.” Magnus coughed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get her from the hallway where she’s been eavesdropping so we can eat our breakfast.”
Halla woke up alone.
She wasn’t alarmed, not at first. For a second, she thought it was just another Saturday. A typical Saturday where she’d tumble out of bed, pee, wash her hands and face, brush her teeth, scrape her hair into a ponytail, slink up the block to Starbucks, pay too much money for a warm croissant and a hot chocolate, come home, shower, and search Tumblr for new pictures of Tom Hiddleston to “like” and reblog before taking the Clark Street bus to the movies.
Then she remembered that this Saturday morning was different because Magnus was visiting. The charming Swedish detective had swept her straight into bed almost as soon as he had landed at O’Hare the night before. But where was he if was not in her cozy bed?
It was then that she heard the sound of someone in the apartment.
Halla crept to her dresser to take out her favorite sleep shirt - a faded red tee from Hot Doug’s. She shivered as she shrugged it on. After pulling on a pair of knee socks she sneaked down the hall to peek into the kitchen.
Magnus was at the stove, cooking eggs in her fancy frying pan. He spoke to Murray the cat, who sat on the counter next to two clean plates.
“So you see, Murray, as fond as I am of you, my heart is taken by another.” Magnus paused to listen to Murray whine. “I’ve no doubt one day you’ll make some boy cat very happy.” The cat whined again. “What’s Halla got that you haven’t? Apart from being a human lady, she’s very beautiful. I’ve always had a weakness for dark hair and dark eyes -- the darker the better. Yes, she’s funny. Also smart. And very kind, something you know firsthand, don’t you? It’s not every neighbor who lets you nap in their bed when they’re not home.”
Murray yowled, prompting Magnus to lean over and scratch the cat’s head with one hand while he continued to scramble eggs with the other.
“What else? She has a beautiful laugh.” Magnus laughed when the cat scoffed, then whined louder. “Okay, you have a point when you say she doesn’t speak Swedish but then again, old man, neither do you.”
Halla stifled a giggle while Magnus continued speaking over Murray’s protests.
“A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell but I can assure you that Halla and I are extremely compatible in the bedroom.” Magnus coughed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get her from the hallway where she’s been eavesdropping so we can eat our breakfast.”
Halla watched Murray hop down from the counter and stroll down the hall to her bedroom for his morning nap. She turned around to find Magnus standing in front of her, a plate of eggs topped with chives in each hand. He pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“Morning, lovely.” He handed her a plate.
“How did you know I was out here?”
Magnus smiled at Halla, and kissed her again.
“Darling, did you forget I’m a police officer? You can’t sneak up on me.”
He laughed when she scowled at him. “There’s tea and coffee in the living room. I couldn’t find any bread so I got croissants from Starbuck’s warming in the toaster. Hope that’s alright.”
Halla shuffled to the sofa and took her usual spot at the end closest to the window. There were two forks and two napkins on the coffee table next to two steaming mugs. Taking a fork, she curled up and began to eat. Outside was gray and rainy but inside was warm and cozy. She had eggs and tea, made for her by the sweet man rattling around her kitchen.
Magnus joined her on the sofa, dropping a warm croissant on her plate before taking the spot beside her.
“How did you sleep?” Halla took a bite of eggs.
“Soundly. Deeply. Sweetly.” Magnus leaned forward to take the cup of coffee from the table in front of him, sipping at it as he sat back. “You?”
“Very well, thank you.” Halla ripped her croissant in half so she could make a sandwich with the eggs on her plate. She took a bite, and chewed slowly. “This is delicious.”
“It is, isn’t it?” Magnus made a little sound of contentment that made Halla giggle.
“I didn’t know I had chives.”
“You don’t. Your neighbor next door has a little barrel planter on the sidewalk in front of her house. Chives and basil. I took some of both when I came back from getting the croissants.”
“Very nice, detective.” Halla rewarded him with a kiss on his cheek. “Is that tea mine?”
Magnus nodded, and handed it to her. He took her plate and set it on the coffee table. “What would you like to do today?”
“Hmm. What did we do last night? Remind me?” Halla laughed when Magnus leaned over and began to kiss her neck. “Oh right. That.” She turned to face him, smiling as she traced his lips with a fingertip.
“I felt so close to you.” Magnus spoke in a hush. He closed his eyes.
“Me, too.” Halla whispered. “I feel close to you now. It feels good.”
Magnus opened his eyes and smiled at widely at her. He set his plate down, took another sip of coffee and set the mug aside too. Then he slid his arms around her. “You sure we can’t just go back to bed…”
Halla giggled. “We could…”
Halla sighed. “I think I need you here. Now.”
She slid her body down the sofa, gasping as Magnus slid his hands under her shirt to pull it off. He growled when he noticed she wasn’t wearing panties.
“Naughty girl. Coming to breakfast without underclothes. Oh!” Magnus was startled by Halla sliding her hand into his boxers to tug at his cock, which was getting harder the longer she writhed beneath him. He tugged his boxers off and threw them on the floor.
Halla shifted so she lay on her side. Magnus turned to face her. She hooked a leg over his hip, and moaned when Magnus thrust his hips towards her.
“Baby…” Halla gasped as Magnus moved her leg higher on his hip. He slipped a hand under her knee, pulling the leg up and spreading her wider so his cock slid easily into her wet sex. “Oh fuck.”
“I love that you’re always so wet for me.” He whispered in her ear. “It’s so hot. You’re so fucking hot, Halla.” Magnus took her hip in his hand, squeezed it as he began to thrust. His strokes were minimal, almost lazy. It was agony to Halla, who wasn’t sure if she could take her pleasure at such a leisurely pace.
“Magnus…” She bit his shoulder. “I want… I want you. Faster.”
“Hush.” Magnus moved his hand from Halla’s hip to her clit, brushing the sensitive nub with his thumb. He snaked his other arm around her shoulders, pulling her to keep her from falling away from him. Halla’s head fell forward so that her forehead was pressed against his chest. Her eyes were closed.
Magnus relished the sound of her gasping and whimpering, begging for relief from this exquisite torture. She was so desperate, panting for him the way she did. He fucked her as slowly as he pleased. There was time enough for this; sex that was slow and careful, deliberate.
He stroked into her, then stopped. Magnus relished the feeling of closeness, of being fully seated within her with nothing between them. He delighted in how she shivered, taking her tighter into his embrace to warm her. He rolled his hips, grunting when her walls clenched around him. He was so hard but only beginning to get close to his own release.
Magnus began to stroke her clit, finding that when he used the pad of his index finger against the left side, Halla’s breathing quickened. The faster he stroked that spot, the more her hips would jerk against him. She moved against him, bucking her hips faster while his own hips remained nearly still. But that could only last for so long. If she was going to lose control then he would not be far behind.
Magnus rolled onto his back, clutching Halla tightly around the waist so she now lay on top of him. He groaned when he felt her tongue flick one nipple, then the other. He bent his legs and planted his feet on the sofa, using this new leverage to thrust up into her.
Halla ground her hips into his, then pushed herself up so she sat astride him. Her breasts shook gently as she began to ride him. Eyes closed, she bit her bottom lip and moaned her pleasure. Her nipples were so hard that Magnus had to touch them, had to taste them. He sat up so he suck them into his mouth, worshiping them with grateful, lavish sweeps of his tongue. He fell back when Halla began to move faster and harder, her hips winding faster against him.
She looks like a goddess, Magnus thought as considered the sight of Halla on top of him. Her hands dug into his ribs, gripping him so hard he knew there would be bruises. Good, he thought. He groaned as she moved faster and harder on his cock, pounding him with a fierceness that made him cry out.
“Halla! Oh god. Please.” Halla opened her eyes, and laughed huskily at the sight of him panting beneath her. She kept going.
When Magnus felt her tighten around his cock, he slipped a hand between her legs, finding that sweet spot on her clit to tease with his thumb. When he found it, Halla jerked her hips. She screamed.
“Magnus! Oh god! Magnus yes!” She kept squeezing and pumping even as her own orgasm took over, not stopping until his own hips thrust up hard into her, and then again, and then again, and over and over, colliding with her, until he came inside of her. Halla rolled her hips, slower and slower, until she collapsed against him. They panted together.
“I thought morning sex was supposed to be lazy,” whispered Magnus. He drew a few damp strands of hair back from her forehead before kissing her.
“I guess that’s the difference a good breakfast will make.” Halla purred. She squeaked when Magnus brought his hand down and gave her a sharp, satisfying smack on the ass.
Halla’s eyes began to close until the sound of her phone going off in the bedroom startled her. She frowned at the interruption of her post-coital reverie.
“Is that your phone? What song is that?” Magnus tugged gently on Halla’s hair.
“It’s ‘September Gurls’ by Big Star.”
“What’s he singing?”
Halla cleared her throat:
September girls do so much
I was your butch and you were touched
I loved you, well, never mind
I’ve been crying all the time
“That doesn’t sound like much of a love song.”
“Well, I think it is, but Big Star could be a little sad. It was kind of their thing.” Halla groaned when the phone rang again. “Back in a moment, love.” Halla gently pushed herself off Magnus, then shuffled back to her bedroom to get her phone.
Magnus sat up, cleaned himself up as best he could, then gathered the plates and mugs to bring them into the kitchen. He was heading back to the living room to grab his boxers when he heard a strange sound behind him. He turned around to find Halla standing in the hallway, wearing a short nightgown and holding her phone in her hand. Tears streamed down her face, leaving trails on her cheeks before dropping onto her chest.
Magnus didn’t think, he just got to her as fast as he could so he could take her in his arms. He kissed the top of her head as she wept.
“What is it?”
“He… he….” Halla couldn’t speak. Magnus walked her to the kitchen, where he gave her a cup of water.
“Sip this, slowly now.” He rubbed her back as she drank. “What’s wrong? Darling, please tell me.”
“That was my brother on the phone. Uncle Gerhard, my great uncle, the one who named me, he… he’s…” Halla couldn’t continue as her sobs overtook her.
“I’m sorry, Halla.” Magnus tipped her face towards him with his hand so he could kiss her. “I’m so sorry.”
“He’s gone.” Halla hiccuped.
Magnus nodded. He slid an arm around her shoulders, then took her to the bedroom. She crawled into bed first, curling into a ball that Magnus wrapped himself around. She sobbed.
“It’s okay. I’m here.” He pressed a kiss to the back of her neck. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Halla grabbed his arm, pulling it around her tighter around her belly as she cried herself to sleep.
Chapter 4: Detour
“Halla.” Magnus whispered.
“What?” She sighed. “Why?”
“You know why.”
Halla nodded. She looked miserable. “Say it.”
Halla woke up to find Magnus sitting up next to her, reading. When she stirred, he slid down under the covers and touched her face, running his finger against her cheek, brushing the swell of her lips. He had taken her glasses off while she slept, so her eyes were unfocused.
“Hug me,” she whispered.
He drew her into his arms. She murmured a question into his chest.
“It’s about 1:00.”
She murmured again.
“Nobody called but I think your brother texted. I didn’t read the message.”
Halla felt around the bed, finding her phone under Magnus’s pillow. She flipped it over and squinted at the screen.
Check your email. Call me when you’re ready.
“Magnus, can you hand me my laptop? It’s behind you, under the nightstand.” Halla sat up and slid her glasses back on, while he reached for the computer. He placed it gently in her lap.
She flipped the MacBook open, chuckling when it showed that the image she had chosen for her wallpaper was the souvenir photo of them posing awkwardly in front of the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Magnus smiled at the two of them, Halla looking dreamily down at the camera, and himself looking almost dignified.
“I know it’s cheesy, but…” Halla stopped talking when she felt Magnus press his lips to her temple.
“It’s sweet.” Magnus slid his arm around her shoulders, and picked up his book as Halla logged on to check her email.
“Huh. Okay.” Halla sniffed, then began to scan the message from her brother. She talked more to herself than to Magnus.
“Funeral is Monday, visitation tomorrow. Wow, that’s quick. He only died late last night. Why didn’t they call me sooner… typical, Dad. They already looked at the will? Oh, Dad gets his house, money goes to… ha! Public television and the animal shelter. Of course. God, how much is this going to cost… oh, he paid for it in advance. Bury him with Tita Bette, Papa, Mama. Okay. Money for... oh!” Halla choked up, prompting Magnus to toss the book aside and stroke her hair.
“What’s wrong?” Magnus whispered.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean…”
Halla laughed. “I know, it was just kind of funny.” She sighed. “One of the things Uncle Gerhard allocated money for was airfare so he could be sure I’d be there.”
“Because you’d have to go at the last minute?” Magnus nodded. “Last minute fares can be expensive.”
“More like, I didn’t go home when Tita Bette, his wife, died five years ago. I was too broke, and too proud to ask. He said it was okay, but I always felt bad. I never got to say goodbye to her.”
“Were you close?”
“To her? Yeah, but me and Uncle Gerhard…” Halla ran her fingers through her hair, twisting a lock around her index finger. “He was my buddy. He was such a crank, and what a pain in the ass he would be if he thought you weren’t listening to him. But he was my friend. I miss him so much.”
Halla picked up her phone and began to tap in a number. Magnus began to say something but thought better of it.
“Hey. Yeah… I took a nap. Tired. You?” Halla nodded. “How are they?” She snorted. “Of course they didn’t get the money. He knew what they’d do with it. So let them sell the house.” She got out of bed and began pacing around the room. She stopped at the window, opening it to let Murray inside. Murray meowed at Magnus before curling up on the bed at his feet.
“So visitation is tomorrow -- should I come in tonight? It’ll be expensive, sure, but… no, I’m not going to stay at the house. I could do a hotel. Maybe I’ll see if John and Marcus are around, maybe I can stay with them. They won’t mind.” She stopped pacing and plopped down on the bed, where she began to rub Magnus’s feet absentmindedly. She looked at him. “No, he’ll… I don’t know. Let me call you back.” Halla hung up and tossed her phone on the bed next to her.
“I’m coming with you.” Magnus drew himself up, crawling to the foot of the bed to sit at her side. Halla shook her head and frowned.
“No, you’re not. I’ll be back Monday night. You can, I don’t know…” Halla traced patterns on his bare thigh with her finger. “Drink beer at The Hopleaf. Hang out with Murray in the yard. Visit the Bean. Do vacation things. Not funeral things.”
Magnus shook his head. “No. I’m going to Uncle Gerhard’s funeral with you.”
“Because you need me. I can’t let you go like this.” Magnus grasped Halla around the hips, moving her until she scooted into his lap. She draped her arms around his shoulders and pressed her forehead to the crook of his neck.
Halla protested. “But…”
“Halla.” Magnus whispered.
“What?” She sighed. “Why?”
“You know why.”
Halla nodded. She looked miserable. “Say it.”
“I love you.”
Magnus let out a deep breath while Halla sobbed.
“This is awful.” She leaned into Magnus’s embrace, weeping into his neck. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
Magnus wiped a tear from her cheek, then kissed her tenderly. “How was it supposed to be?”
“I don’t know,” Halla sniffed. “No, wait I do know. We were supposed to have finished doing something cute or romantic, like riding the Ferris wheel, or sitting in the North Garden at the Art Institute. You’d look at me, and then it would just hit you. You were in love. And you’d tell me. In this dream, you always say it first. And then I say it back, and then we make out.”
“That sounds nice.”
“But totally fake, right?”
Magnus shrugged, then pulled her in tighter. “Maybe just a little cute.”
“And then you messed it up! You told me you loved me after you found out my uncle died. You feel sorry for me.”
“No.” Magnus sounded firm. “That’s not true. Take it back.”
“Okay.” Halla looked at him. “I’m sorry.”
“No apology necessary.” Magnus smiled at her tenderly. “So now you’re wondering…”
“It was the moment I first saw you. It was like I told you before -- I touched you, and you were mine. I was yours. I wish I could explain better. Every time I touch you. Every time I see you…”
“The thing you said, that first night. The hum, when the lights come on.” Halla whispered.
Magnus nodded. “You’re the hum. When I’m with you, it’s like something inside… it just sparks to life. Nothing was missing or wrong, but now it’s better. I feel better. Because of you.”
Halla sighed. “That’s a pretty good explanation.”
“But I don’t think I realized or could understand, that it was love, not properly, until now. While you were asleep.”
Halla quirked an eyebrow at him.
“I slept for a little while but then I got up. Something was bothering me. I thought it was because I left the breakfast dishes, so I washed those. I tidied up my things, got fresh clothes out, put yours in the hamper.” Magnus bit his lip. “What?”
Halla let out the giggle she had been keeping in, then snorted. “Housework!”
Magnus laughed. He kissed her neck.
“I got back into bed, and I looked for something to read. I found that book you read to me in June. I liked it. Not my usual taste, but I did. And I wanted to wake you up to tell you that I liked it. I wanted to tell you that, and that you look like an angel when you sleep. Did you know that?” Halla shook her head. He pushed a curl out of her eyes. “Well, you do. Even when you’re drooling on your pillow.”
“Oh my god…” She blushed.
“I want to tell you everything, Halla.” Magnus looked serious.
“You probably could have skipped the thing about the drooling.” Halla squealed when he nipped at her jaw.
“Sitting in bed, with that cat glaring at me through the window, listening to the rain, you beside me. That’s the happiest I’ve ever been, Halla.” He lifted her fingers to his lips to kiss them. “I’m so happy because I’m with you. I’m so happy because I love you.”
“Oh.” Halla tightened her grasp around his shoulders. She couldn’t bear to look at him.
“You don’t have to say it back,” whispered Magnus. “It’s a lot to hear.”
“No!” Halla popped up, rather impulsively, then settled herself back onto Magnus’s lap. “Sorry, I just… I’m going to say it back. But nobody’s ever said it to me. It was a surprise, not totally, but… I don’t know if I’m ever going to say it to you in a way that could compare to the way you said it to me.”
Magnus laughed. “This isn’t a competition, Halla.”
“Says the guy who said the words first.”
“Now you’re just stalling, I think.”
Halla nodded. “Okay. I’m going to…”
Magnus interrupted her with a kiss, taking possession of her. He nipped at her with his teeth, eliciting a gasp that he used as an opportunity to slip his tongue into her mouth. She moaned when his tongue found hers, massaging it slowly until he began to suck on it. She gripped him tightly, moving her hands from his shoulders up to the nape of his neck. His hands made their way around her waist, squeezing her gently in rhythm with his kiss.
Halla rolled her hips, whimpered, then fell back on the mattress. She was breathless and a little out of sorts. She waited for Magnus to snuggle into her, and rest his head on her shoulder. He slipped his hand under her nightgown, bringing it to rest on her bare hip.
Halla looked down at him, and met his gaze. His eyes shone up at her. A tiny smile played on his lips. She brushed her thumb against his mouth, which curled into a grin.
“Magnus, I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Magnus sighed in contentment. “And…”
Halla sighed in resignation. “You’re coming to New York with me.”
Magnus nodded. “Yes.” He kissed her. “Good.”
Chapter 5: 36 Hours In New York
"Halla looked up to find Magnus gazing at her with such a look of adoration, of love that was open and unabashed and unashamed, that she stopped breathing for a moment. She was confused. Why wasn’t he pulling away? Why wasn’t he wondering why this grown woman could still be brought so low by something that happened a lifetime ago?"
They didn’t leave for New York until Sunday. That left the rest of Saturday to book tickets, pack a small bag for Halla, and go to Lady Gregory’s for an early dinner.
When they got home, Halla tried to make love to Magnus. She wanted to lose herself in his arms, give her body and her mind up to him, to feel anything than the loss she felt, and the dread when she thought about seeing her family. But she couldn’t. She was too tired, too sad, and she couldn’t explain. Magnus’s body in her bed, legs entwined with hers, his hands stroking her belly to soothe her, his presence warming her and consoling her in the night, would have to be enough.
In the morning, they showered together. Magnus shampooed her hair, and she soaped his back. They made sure Murray the cat resumed his rightful place at home upstairs with the neighbor before heading to O’Hare.
At the airport, Halla opened her laptop, propped it up on her lap, and tried to write. After 10 minutes she gave up, closing her computer with a satisfying snap.
“Are you sure you don’t want to spend more time in New York? Visit with your family?” Magnus looked up from his phone to find Halla staring out the window at the plane they were due to board. She sighed.
“Not really. I mean, I love visiting the city, and I want to show you around. But…” Halla sighed. “I have a reading on Wednesday night, back here.”
“They’d understand if you missed it.”
“I don’t want them to have to understand.”
“Okay.” He nodded. “I can’t wait to see you perform.”
Halla wrinkled her nose. “I haven’t written anything yet.”
“Halla! I never figured you for a procrastinator.”
She looked guilty. “If it helps, I write really fast.”
Magnus laughed. “When did you expect to write something before Wednesday, with me here?”
“I thought maybe while you were in the shower, or asleep, or eating?” Halla fluttered her fingers over an imaginary keyboard, then snapped her fingers. “Just like that.”
Magnus smiled. “What makes you think I would have left you alone long enough to permit that? Okay, that sounds menacing.” Magnus grimaced which made her laugh.
The voice of the gate agent interrupted them, announcing that boarding had begun for their flight. Magnus pulled Halla up out of her seat.
“What are you doing? It’s not our turn yet. It’s first class. We’re in group…” Halla looked down at her phone to check her boarding pass. She looked up at him. “Magnus.”
“Hmm?” Magnus met Halla’s confused gaze with a beatific smile. He handed her her bag.
“Why is my seat number now 2A? I thought I was 18B.”
“I may have gotten us upgraded.”
“Please don’t tell me you paid all that money…”
“I didn’t!” Magnus held his hands up. “I may have let slip to the gate agent that we were, um, engaged.”
“Huh.” Halla noticed Magnus’s mouth curling into a smile, and how a light came up in his eyes, when he pronounced the word ‘engaged’. She tried not to grin but she couldn’t help herself. “Engaged? Why not say we were married?”
Magnus shrugged. “Perhaps I said we were newlyweds.”
Halla shook her head. “You are ridiculous. But anything to get more legroom. And here I thought we lucked out because the tickets were so cheap already.”
“Maybe that was Uncle Gerhard looking out for us.” Magnus stopped to look at Halla’s face change at the mention of her late uncle’s name. She smiled wistfully.
“Yeah, maybe that was.” She slipped her hand into Magnus’s. “Let’s go -- the other swells are boarding.”
New York was sunny and warm, a welcome change after two days of cool Chicago rain. Magnus shrugged his jacket off as soon as he and Halla stepped out of the terminal. Halla laughed when he inhaled deeply, then coughed from all the exhaust in the air. They made their way to the taxi stand to get a cab.
“Did you get a hold of John and Marcus?”
Halla nodded. “Yeah. I guess their landlords are out of town, so we can stay in our own space. We just need to make sure we clean up after ourselves.”
“Excellent. So, Sunnyside to drop off bags, then the funeral home in Jamaica?”
She sighed. “Yes. John and Marcus said they’ll be up late if we want to stop by theirs for a drink. Which, once you meet my family, will most likely be a sure thing.”
“Halla, what is it about them that has you so…”
“Anxious? Terrified?” Halla sighed. “It’s just… every time I’m near them, I feel like I’m suffocating. Like they want me near so badly, but not because they love me. They want to know everything all at once all the time. Anything I do or say is up for intense discussion, so much criticism. There are no boundaries. It’s all fair game.”
Magnus pulled her into his chest. “So Uncle Gerhard was different, then?”
Halla sniffed, then smiled up at Magnus. “Yeah. He and Tita Bette were so independent. They never had kids, so they were free, I guess, to travel, pursue all sorts of hobbies. Maybe it’s not fair to my parents, who, after all, had three children to support. Still, Bette and Gerhard were a little more liberal. They liked to talk our ears off, but they also knew when we needed to be left alone.” She shook her head. “My parents could never do that. Especially my dad. He could never leave me alone.”
Something in Halla’s voice spooked Magnus. He lifted her chin to him. “Halla. Käraste.” He kissed her. “What do you mean?”
“Can we not do this now?” Halla closed her eyes to blink away the tears that were beginning to fill them.
Magnus nodded. He leaned down to nuzzle her, resting his head on her shoulder..
“Good,” whispered Halla. “Because if we get into that shit, I’m going to need a drink.”
After saying a quick hello to John (“Halla, you look ravishing. So sorry about Gerhard. Magnus, we’ve heard nothing about you but we adore you already.”) and Marcus (“Magnus, do you have any gay brothers who are into burly Mexicans? Because if so then HAVE THEM CALL ME.”) and taking their bags upstairs to the landlord’s flat, Magnus and Halla were on their way to the visitation.
The suggestion to use John and Marcus’s favorite car service was a good one, as a town car driven by a handsome Ecuadorian man in a guayabera arrived quickly to take them to the far side of Queens. The driver asked a question in Spanish -- before Magnus could ask him to repeat it in English, Halla leaned forward and replied. They exchanged a few more words before Halla said “Gracias, señor, por sus condolencias.” and leaned back into Magnus’s arms.
“I didn’t know you spoke Spanish.”
Halla grinned. “I don’t, not really, but living in New York, it’s pretty necessary. And in Chicago, too.”
“I’d like you to teach me.” Magnus kissed her cheek.
“Beso.” Halla smiled.
Magnus squeezed his arms around her.
“Abrazo.” Halla lifted one of his hands and pressed it to her heart. “Corazon.” She lifted his hand to her lips to kiss them. “Mahal kita.”
“What’s that?” Magnus whispered.
“That was Tagalog, not Spanish.” Halla turned to kiss his cheek. “I love you.” She kissed his jaw, and then pressed her head to his shoulder. “It means ‘I love you.’”
Magnus looked at Halla’s face, closely, as if the first time. She looked sad, but no less lovely than the first time he saw her.
“Fräknar. Jag älskar dina fräknar, Halla.” Magnus smiled. “Freckles. I love your freckles, Halla.”
Halla smiled and repeated his words. “Jag älskar dina fräknar.” She looked hopeful. “How was that?”
“Perfect,” replied Magnus. “Jag älskar dig, Halla.”
“I think I know what that means.” Halla nodded. “I think that one’s my favorite.” She repeated the words. “Jag älskar dig. Jag älskar dig. Jag älskar dig, Magnus. Jag älskar dig.”
The car pulled up to a small funeral chapel just off the Grand Central Parkway. Halla tried to tip the driver, handing him a $20 bill for the $15 fare, but he waved it off before driving away. She looked up at Magnus and shrugged. “He said to make an offering to the Virgin on his behalf, in memory of my uncle.”
“That was awfully nice of him.”
Halla smiled, then took Magnus’s hand. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.”
The chapel lobby was cool, and occupied by an older gentleman in a wrinkled suit. “You here for Bern?”
“Straight to the back, miss. Sir.” He nodded at them.
“Thank you, sir.” Halla squeezed Magnus’s hand, and they walked in together.
Magnus scanned the room, taking note of the rows of chairs set up to allow for a center aisle and the floral arrangements. A few pictures in brass frames were scattered about. Mourners sat by the door, looking up when Halla and Magnus came in. One of them stood up and rushed towards Halla.
“Oh, Halla. It’s been so long.” The mourner was an older woman, hair worn in tight white curls around a pink-cheeked face that matched her velour jumpsuit. “I’m so sorry, honey. I know you and Gerhard were close.”
“Hi Marian.” Halla squeezed the woman, then turned to take Magnus’s hand. “Marian, this is Magnus. He’s my, um…”
“Sweetheart?” Marian whispered. She winked up at Magnus. “You Czech?”
Magnus blushed, then shook his head. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but no, I am not Czech.”
Halla laughed. “He’s Swedish. Marian Frank, this is Magnus Martinsson.”
Marian took his hand and petted it. “So you’re not Czech.” She shrugged. “Nobody’s perfect.”
Halla laughed. “Magnus, Marian, okay if I leave you to talk? I’m gonna go to my family.”
“Shouldn’t I…” Magnus’s voice faltered when he saw Marian shake her head.
“Let her. Her dad’s… just let her be. She’ll be back soon.”
Magnus followed Marian back to her seat with the others, but kept his eye on Halla as she walked up the aisle, taking a few tentative hops before tapping an older woman on the shoulder. The older woman turned, revealing a face not unlike Halla’s, but a little thinner, less round in the cheeks. She had Halla’s wavy hair. She hugged Halla awkwardly, then stood back as a older gentleman, balding and a little stooped, tried to pull Halla into a close embrace. He whispered something in Halla’s ear; she stood up straight and stiffened at his touch.
Another woman, about Halla’s height but thinner, squeezed Halla tight about the neck. But Halla didn’t visibly relax until a younger man, with a case of bedhead and Halla’s nose and lips, punched her on the arm and said something that made her laugh. She shook her head. The younger man walked Halla over to the casket, which was open. Magnus watched the two of them kneel by the casket, their heads bowed in prayer. He looked down at the empty seat next to him, where he found a prayer card. He picked it up and examined it.
The prayer card bore Uncle Gerhard’s name in full, Gerhard Bern, and his dates, 1925 - 2014. There was a picture, a black and white photograph of Gerhard in his 40s, dressed for a hike in a safari shirt and shorts with sturdy boots. He was packing a pipe while sitting on a low stone wall. His head was thrown back as he laughed at the photographer. He looked healthy and alive, a little loud and maybe even dangerous. Magnus wished he could have met him.
“I think he would have hated you.” Magnus looked up to find Halla smiling at him. The younger man was at her side.
“You think?” The younger man considered Magnus with an impish grin. “I don’t know, Gerhard and Bette always liked visiting Sweden.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t care much for authority. Hated cops.” Halla reached for Magnus’s hand, then pulled him up. “Magnus, this is my brother Joe. Say hi, Joe.”
“Hi, Joe.” Joe gave a friendly wave. Halla punched him in the arm.
“Joe, it’s nice to meet you, though I’m sorry for the occasion.” Magnus shook hands.
Joe nodded. “Thanks, man. It’s nice to meet you.” He peered at Halla. “Sorry to ruin your vacation.”
Magnus blushed. “Oh, so…”
Halla nodded. “I told Joe about you. My parents and sister know a little. They know to stay away.”
“Halla, am I really so awful?” Magnus couldn’t help but ask.
“No,” replied Halla in a voice so small that Magnus instantly wished he could take his question back. “But they are.”
“Heeeey. I’m Stella.” Halla’s sister joined them, throwing her arm possessively around Joe. Halla’s sister was pretty, with full lips and a delicate figure. She wore a short black dress under an anorak, skinny legs in black Chelsea boots, and a lot of eyeliner.
“Magnus, this is my sister.”
Magnus looked at Stella in wonder. Halla sighed. She was used to guys looking at Stella like that.
“You sound alike. Almost exactly.” Magnus looked at Halla, who looked down at her feet. He frowned at Stella.
Stella threw back her head and laughed. “Good, I hope? So, are you dating my sister, or just fucking her?” Stella stuck her hip out. “Just kidding. It must be love if you came all the way from Switzerland to bang her. Hope it’s worth it!”
Magnus stared at Stella, who smirked and rolled her eyes. Halla’s lips twitched; her eyes flashed. Magnus looked at her. When he held out his hand, she took it and leaned into him. He slipped his arm around her shoulders.
Halla looked at her sister. “Stella, I think you’re drunk.”
“Halla, I think you’re a bitch.” Stella sucked her teeth.
“Stella…” Joe hissed.
“Stella, I am sorry for your loss. But you owe Halla an apology.” Magnus’s voice was cold. Halla squeezed his hand and shook her head.
“Or what? You’re going to arrest me? Spank me? Oooh.” Stella glared at Magnus, then laughed at Halla’s discomfort.
“Magnus, no. Ignore her.” Halla closed her eyes.
Stella pointed a finger at her sister. “Sorry, but you took off and you never come back to visit.”
“I do visit. You’re always too busy…” Halla stopped. She shook her head and clenched her hands into fists. “No. I’m not going to do this. We’re here for Gerhard.”
Stella narrowed her eyes at Halla. “Of course we are. How foolish of me to forget. You’re here for family. When you choose to remember that we exist.” She turned on her heel and returned to their parents.
“Joe, can we go now?” Halla looked at her brother with tears in her eyes. He rubbed her shoulder.
“Yeah. You missed most of the neighborhood oldsters, some of Gerhard’s former co-workers. That’s about it, mourner-wise. Me and Stella are driving Marian back, then going back to Mom and Dad’s. You gonna meet us here tomorrow, or at the church?”
“The church.” Halla took Magnus’s hand. “10:00. Full Mass?”
Joe shook his head. “Short service, burial is at 11:00. You staying at John and Marcus’s?”
“Yeah,” replied Halla. “Their landlords are out so we’re using their place.”
“Got it. Tell ‘em I say hi.” Joe nodded, then stuck out his hand. “Magnus, nice meeting you. Sorry about Stella. She’s, um… yeah.”
“Of course, man.” Magnus looked down at Halla, who was fidgeting. “Good evening.”
Halla was silent in the car back to Sunnyside. It was late afternoon, and the sunlight made her glow. The light flickered as they drove past buildings, their shadows dancing on her face as she sat and stared at nothing. She was golden and tawny in the light of the setting sun. But her face was blank, nearly unknowable. She was beautiful and exotic. Magnus was breathless just looking at her.
At the apartment there was a note pinned to their door. “Went to the movies, then market. Text when you’re ready for dinner. We’re making steaks around 7-ish. J & M”
Halla read the note out loud, then looked up at Magnus. “Good. That gives you some time to fuck me up.”
“Halla…” Magnus watched her stalk towards the bedroom, flinging off her jacket, then her sweater and bra. “What are you doing?”
She turned to face him, toeing off her shoes then stepping out of her pants. All she had left on were her panties and the pearl studs in her ears. She looked defiant and hurt, almost hard though her face and body were soft, so soft and warm in the light. She breathed fast, taking air in gulps that made her chest heave. Despite himself, despite wanting to be careful of whatever she was going through, Magnus felt his cock stir.
“Magnus.” She whispered. “Please.” Halla closed her eyes, and didn’t flinch at the sound of Magnus kicking the door shut behind him. Magnus got to her in four strides. He took her mouth first, biting and licking her lips while she whimpered at the force with which he kissed her. His hands reached for her ass, kneading the soft flesh while she rolled her hips into him.
“Fuck, Halla.” Magnus groaned as walked her into the bedroom. She crawled back on the bed. She crossed her legs and looked at him expectantly.
“That’s right. Fuck. Me.” Halla’s eyes were dark and angry. She licked her lips while she watched him throw off his jacket and kick off his shoes.
She lunged forward to yank down his jeans while he pulled off his shirt, not giving him a second before she grabbed his cock and lowered her mouth to it, swirling her tongue around the tumescent head. She flicked her tongue at the slit, tickling it. She smiled when she heard Magnus groan again.
“Halla. On your back.” Magnus pushed her off, then waited until she lay in front of him. He thought, she wants me, and I want her. I love her. He removed the rest of his clothes while Halla watched him, whining with impatience.
“Hurry,” she whispered.
Magnus took a few pillows, then slid one under Halla’s head.
“Magnus, I said fuck me.” Her mouth was set, eyes following him as he lay beside her. He pulled a blanket around them, then kissed her shoulder.
“No. Not like this.”
“Like what?” Halla sighed and tried to pull away but he slipped his hand down her body before bringing it to rest on her belly.
“Like…” Magnus looked at her, noticed that her bottom lip was shaking. He kissed her. “Like you’re angry and hurt and this is the only way to fix it.”
“What if it is?”
“Do you think so?” Magnus watched her nod. “I’m not convinced.”
Halla fought back the tears that sprang to her eyes. She let them fall, then turned to look at her beloved.
“Halla,” whispered Magnus. “Why did your sister talk to you like that?”
“She… she’s the good one and I’m the bad.”
Magnus tucked her hair behind her ear. “How so?”
“She was the thin, pretty one. Still is, as you can see. And don’t say she isn’t pretty, I saw the way you looked at her.”
Magnus scoffed. “She’s pretty but something in her eyes… there’s no light.”
“Okay,” replied Halla. She couldn’t contain the grin on her face. “She did better in school. She didn’t finish college but she gets by. She always has. She has a lot of admirers who help pay for her apartment, buy her clothes, take her places. She lives here, sees my parents all the time. She always knew how to please them. I never did. And I didn’t care.” She avoided Magnus’s gaze.
“Why didn’t you?”
Halla ran her fingers along Magnus’s jaw, feeling the stubble. He turned his face to kiss her palm.
“I never felt safe around them. My mother was moody, prone to fits of screaming and tantrums. If I got too close, I’d get hit. Not Stella, not Joe. Just me. It was like my presence just made things worse. So I learned to make myself scarce, spent more time at school, other people’s houses. I think she’s taking something now, or maybe it’s because she’s older, but so she’s quiet now. Almost dull. But when I was growing up, I never knew when she’d blow.”
“And your dad?”
“Critical. So critical. It was like, he already had his pretty daughter, and his son. And I was the spare girl. I ate too much. I was too fat so I couldn’t wear my older sister’s hand-me-downs, which of course he thought was too funny not to tell the neighbors about. I was stuck-up because I got a scholarship to go to private school. And when I got there, because I wasn’t the brightest in my class, it was like I was a failure. So I just put my head down, spent that last year of school living with Gerhard and Bette. I was so happy to get into the U of C…”
“The University of Chicago?” Magnus smiled. “That’s a good school.”
Halla sniffed. “Yeah. I knew I’d get in. I knew it would be a snap. Isn’t that obnoxious? I was so happy to go because it was the furthest school I dared apply to. If I hadn’t, I would have gone to school here.”
“So you stayed in Chicago all this time?”
“Yeah. It was a relief to be at a place where I wasn’t compared to my sister. Where my father wouldn’t turn up to make a scene or humiliate me in front of my classmates, which he did when I was in high school.”
“Was that all he did?”
Halla dreaded this question. She didn’t want to answer it but she owed it to Magnus to tell him everything.
“No,” she whispered. “One night, I must have… I don’t remember it well, but I came home late. Stella did it all the time but for some reason when I did… He just yelled and yelled and I ignored him. I put on my Walkman and went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night. He was on top of me, cursing at me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but… his hand was between my legs. Over my pajamas. It was like…” Halla choked. “It was like he was trying to rip me apart. Oh god, I was so scared.”
“Oh my käraste… “ Magnus pulled Halla into him, hooking a leg around her. She whimpered, then continued speaking.
“I don’t know how but I fought him off, shoved him out of my room. Stella thought I’d attacked him, and my mother did, too. Joe was at a sleepover, so he missed it. I packed a bag, and took the bus to Gerhard and Bette’s. That was the last night I spent under their roof.”
Halla looked up to find Magnus gazing at her with such a look of adoration, of love that was open and unabashed and unashamed, that she stopped breathing for a moment. She was confused. Why wasn’t he pulling away? Why wasn’t he wondering why this grown woman could still be brought so low by something that happened a lifetime ago?
“Tell me something, Halla….”
Halla laughed. “Shit. I’ve done nothing but talk. You poor thing, having to listen to all of this.”
“Sorry, but there’s something I have to know.” Magnus looked serious. “When I touch you, when I kiss you… does it do anything? Has there ever been a time when….”
“When I felt bad or uncomfortable, maybe triggered?” She smiled ruefully when he nodded. “No. Never.”
Halla slid her hand to grasp his hip. “Because it’s you. I always know it’s you. You could leave me tomorrow, and I could hate you forever but I could never forget the feeling of your body. The way your body loves mine. Every time. Every single time. You touch me, and I fall in love all over again.”
Magnus let go the tears he had been holding in. Halla laughed at him. “You big softie.”
Magnus pulled Halla on top of him, laughing quietly when she squealed in delight. He eased her legs apart with his own, groaning when his erection brushed up against her sex. She was wet.
“Hi,” whispered Halla. She giggled. She rolled her hips, raising them slightly. She took Magnus’s cock in her hand and placed the tip at her entrance. With a sigh, she lowered herself onto him.
“Halla. Oh my Halla.” Magnus looked at her face. The light was back in her eyes. He rocked into her, then slid his hands down to grab her ass. He squeezed her, gently at first, then more firmly. She rolled her hips faster, matching their movements to the rhythm of her cunt clenching around his dick.
She laughed, then made a sound of delight when Magnus slid his hand between her legs to tickle her clit.
“Yeah?” Magnus whispered.
She nodded, and he stroked the tender nub, first gently and then faster. She stiffened, then began to buck into him. Hips jerking, she moaned before nipping at his chest.
Magnus shuddered, cursing silently as he jerked his hips, and then again. “Close. I’m so close.”
Halla sighed, then bucked hard when he increased the pressure of his finger on the side of her clit. As he continued to stroke, and pump into her, she began to lose control.
The orgasm broke through her, spreading from her sex down into her legs, and up through her back, belly and chest. Her breasts were hot, and she was flushed all over. She looked at Magnus’s face, which was contorted with pleasure as he came right after her. He rolled his hips, relishing the feeling of her still clenching around him, reveling in her wet cunt. He watched her hair tumble around her face in waves, wild and smelling faintly of rain. He bucked his hips again, which made her groan with pleasure, then slid his arms down her back to caress her.
“Halla.” Magnus smiled as Halla wiped a tear from his face. “We shouldn’t go tomorrow. If it isn’t safe, or if you feel uncomfortable…”
Halla shook her head. “It’s fine. I’m safe. You’re here.” She reached up to kiss the base of his throat, ran her fingers along his clavicle. “I’m home.”
Magnus closed his eyes and held her tight. He smiled when he heard her speak.
“Jag älskar dig. Jag älskar dig. Jag älskar dig, Magnus. Jag älskar dig.”
Chapter 6: "That she will keep returning"
“How can I ignore her when she obviously takes such pleasure in being cruel to you?” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Käraste, but I’d rather she stayed away from you.” He kissed her hand. “From us.”
Magnus placed a mug of tea on the table next to Halla’s side of the bed.
“I’m still sleeping.” Halla’s voice was muffled as she hid under the covers.
“Of course you are.” Magnus sat on the edge of the bed, just next to where Halla lay. He found the curve of her hip and placed his hand there, touching her gently over the blanket. “But if you want to stay in bed longer, I can get your clothes out, start the shower.”
Halla peeked out from under the sheet. “Really?” Her voice was soft. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t sound so surprised. Of course you’d do that for me.” She smiled at him tenderly. “What time is it?”
Halla sat up, pulling the sheet up to cover herself. “Hey. C’mere.”
Magnus sat back down and waited.
He kissed her.
“Thank you.” Halla reached up to stroke his face, run her fingers along his jaw.
Magnus looked at her. “You’ll be be okay? I can wash your hair. You like that.”
Halla shook her head. “I can manage. Unless you want to see me naked that badly.”
Magnus chuckled. “Well, I always want to see you naked, and badly at that.”
Halla smiled. “That’s always nice to hear. But I can manage a shower by myself.” She kissed him. “I won’t be long. Oatmeal sounds good.”
Magnus shook his head in response to Halla’s question. They stood in front of the church, hand in hand, having been dropped off by another handsome Ecuadorian driver from Marcus and John’s car service. The morning sun was bright, but the air was cool so they wore jackets to guard against the chill. Halla was glad she had packed tights to wear under her simple skirt and sweater.
“It’s easy. There will be a program, all in English. No Latin like the old days. You can follow along, read the prayers and Scripture aloud where it’s indicated. A few hymns, of course. As for knowing when to kneel or stand or sit, just follow me.”
“Who will be there?”
Halla turned to look at the people entering the church. She smiled in faint recognition as she saw their faces.
“My family, neighbors, Marian of course. She’s lived next to Gerhard for 40 years, so she was close to Gerhard and Bette, to put it mildly. Gerhard was an only child. Who else? Um, co-workers from when Gerhard worked at the Associated Press. Nurses from the last hospital where my aunt worked. You won’t be the only non-Filipino person, if that’s what you’re worried about! You might be the tallest person there, though. Certainly the blondest. And the handsomest.”
Halla stood on tip-toe so she could run her fingers through his curls. “And now you’re blushing.” She smiled. “I’m going to have to tell you that everyday if that’s the kind of reaction I can expect.”
Magnus smiled at her. “Gerhard was German, right?”
“German-American. Bronx-born and raised. His parents emigrated in the teens. He has some cousins in Berlin. He and Bette met in the sixties when she came from Philippines to go to nursing school.” She sighed. “But we were his family here. He was always yelling at my parents and aunt for speaking Tagalog in front of him. He was excited when Joe took German in college, so he wasn’t the only German speaker in the family.”
“Were Joe and Gerhard close, too?” Magnus slipped an arm around Halla’s shoulders. She leaned back into him.
“Yeah. Joe went to college in Connecticut, but he’s been back in New York since graduating. He’s working on a family history, so he and Gerhard worked on organizing notes, photographs when he got to Gerhard’s side.”
“Will Joe continue?” Magnus wondered.
Halla nodded. “Yeah. I think he wants to take what he was able to do with Gerhard, go to Germany, look up a few of Gerhard’s cousins’ kids to finish it up.”
“If he does, tell me. I’d love to help him, maybe help with research or just hang out. I could meet him there.”
Halla kissed him. “You’d do that?” She kissed him again. “Thank you. I think Joe would like that. He likes you.”
“Good. I’m glad he does.”
Halla’s family arrived, stepping out of the limousine hired to take drive them for the day. Her parents nodded at her as they passed, while Stella rolled her eyes. Joe waved hello, then raised his eyebrows in question.
“We’ll be in.” Halla nodded at him, and Joe entered the church. She looked up to find Magnus looking at her with concern in his eyes.
“I’m not sure if Stella wants to hurt you or fuck you.” Halla laughed bitterly. “I think sometimes she thinks the two are the same.”
Magnus frowned. “If she says something to you again…”
“Please, don’t. Just ignore her. She’s mourning, too.” Halla’s defense of her sister was feeble, and she knew it.
“How can I ignore her when she obviously takes such pleasure in being cruel to you?” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Käraste, but I’d rather she stayed away from you.” He kissed her hand. “From us.”
“I know,” whispered Halla. “But I should introduce you to my parents at least, and Stella will be stuck to them for the day, so just… try?” She lifted his hands, turning them over in her own before kissing them. “Please?” When Magnus nodded, she closed her eyes and whispered “Thank you.”
The church was nearly a cathedral, too big for the intimate funeral which was relegated to a small chapel located just beyond the church’s transept. The smell of the incense was strong, overwhelming almost, in such a closed space. Stained glass windows brightened the sunlight that streamed in but still had to compete with the dozens of candles lit in niches that lined each wall. The casket bearing Gerhard’s body seemed too big for the narrow aisle it crossed as pallbearers brought it close to the altar.
Magnus and Halla sat in a pew behind her parents, just beside Marian and her niece. Halla’s father turned to nod at them as they took their seats, while her mother tried to smile. But the older woman’s face seemed clouded over, by grief or by medication, Magnus could not tell. He squeezed Halla’s hand, prompting her to look at him. Thank you, she mouthed. He pressed his cheek to hers, and whispered “I love you” into her ear.
A few mourners introduced themselves as distant cousins of Bette’s, some mistaking Magnus for a relation of Gerhard’s or a colleague from the AP. They chuckled when he’d shake his head no, then smile when he’d squeeze Halla’s hand tighter.
Stella turned to look at them, glaring at the lovers as they sat. Halla looked down at her knees, while Magnus returned Stella’s glare with one of his own. He pulled Halla closer into him, embracing her, protecting her. When Halla slid her hand up his chest, bringing it to rest on his shoulder, Stella turned around with a huff and ignored them for the rest of the service.
When the service began, Magnus found that he was able to follow along, just like Halla had said. He repressed an urge to chuckle when the priest referred to “Gerard” and “Betty” in his eulogy. Catching his eye, Halla rolled her eyes a little and nudged him before turning her attention back to the priest.
Halla slipped out of his arms only once, when she walked up to receive Communion. She looked somber as she shuffled forward, though she smiled at the priest before she accepted the flat wafer he pressed to her tongue. Returning to the pew, she immediately knelt to pray. Magnus made to join her but she shook her head. “Almost done, love,” she whispered. “Keep your seat.” Still, though, head bent in prayer, she reached an arm back, searching for his hand with hers. He caught it, stroking it, until she was done.
Halla cried softly as they worked, the sound of dirt falling from their shovels was so final and mortal in her ears. She hung back while her family threw flowers, single roses in shades of red and orange, on the coffin. Magnus accompanied her when she placed her own flower, shedding a tear when she quickly leaned down and kissed the casket before it was lowered into the ground.
They had ridden to the cemetery with Marian and her niece, and were happy to accept the ladies’ invitation of a ride to Gerhard’s house where Halla’s parents were serving coffee and cake. They were all walking to the sedan when Halla’s father tried to stop them.
“Halla, we should ride together. As a family.” He seemed to say the last word with some hesitation, Magnus thought. “You can bring your… friend. There’s room in the car.” Halla’s father gestured at Magnus.
“It’s Magnus, sir. Magnus Martinsson.” He held out his hand, but Halla’s father did not take it.
“Dad, this is Magnus. My boyfriend.” Halla looked up to meet her father’s gaze.
“Sure he is.” Stella scoffed. “Why have we never heard of him? Right, because you never tell us anything.”
“There was never anybody…” Halla started
“Nobody?” Stella smirked. “That I can believe.”
“Nobody…” Halla drew herself up. “Nobody who I thought would have the patience or the strength to put up with you.” Halla raised her chin in defiance, ignoring her father’s glare to meet her sister’s eyes.
Stella scoffed. “Whatever. I bet he’s not even your boyfriend.” She didn’t look up at Magnus when she said this. “What took you so long? Did you have to save up to hire him?”
Magnus took a step forward, but Halla stopped him. She squeezed his hand, and sighed.
“You’re so jealous.” Halla said softly.
“You’re jealous.” Halla shrugged. “I’m in love, and he loves me. I don’t need you. I don’t want you. You’re my family, you were my family. But with Gerhard gone, if you can’t get it together to stop --
“Halla.” Her father sounded stern, cutting her off, “We just think you…”
“What?” Halla looked at her father with pity. “What do you think? I stopped caring about that 20 years ago. I left. I only ever came back for Bette and for Gerhard, for Joe.” Halla looked at her brother lovingly. “But that’s it. Joe, you’re always welcome to see me in Chicago. And I’ll always come back to see you, but just you.”
“Halla….” Her mother shook her head.
Halla shook her head. “I’m sorry, but…there was a time when I thought I needed your approval, needed your attention. And I believed I could still get it. But you could never treat me, could never love me, the way that I needed you to.” She looked up at Magnus.
“Gerhard loved me, and Bette did, too. I know you loved them as much as I do. But we don’t need to do this anymore. Actually, I don’t care what you need. What I need to do is eat some cake, go to Gerhard’s house one last time, then get on a plane back to Chicago with this guy here.” She tugged on Magnus’s arm. “Come on, Marian’s waiting.”
Halla and her brother sat in the backyard of Uncle Gerhard’s, watching Magnus pace as he spoke on his cell phone.
“Yeah, and using the money to fund their retirement.” Joe shrugged. “It makes sense. Besides, the house is old, needs too many repairs.”
“I know, but… I’m going to miss it.” Halla sighed, then squeezed her brother’s arm.
“You gonna head inside? With them still in there?”
“Yeah. There was just a couple of pictures I wanted. I can get them without much fuss, I think.”
Joe nodded. “Good.”
When Magnus got off the phone, Halla stood up. “Joe, more cheesecake?”
“Please,” replied Joe. “I’m gonna need it if I have to put up with Stella later tonight when I drive her home. After what you told her.”
“Too much huh?” Halla looked regretful for a second.
Joe grinned. “Are you kidding? It was AWESOME.”
Halla smiled, then approached Magnus. She kissed his cheek. “Everything okay?”
Magnus ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah, just… something I’d been hoping for fell through.” He shrugged. “Not a big deal, not when you consider the day.”
Halla smiled up at him. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. Was it very important? You want to talk about it?”
Magnus shook his head. “No. It wasn’t anything I wanted anyway. I’ve got everything I need.” He leaned down to kiss her.
Halla rolled her eyes. “You and your lines.”
“It’s the truth.” Magnus paused. “Well, if I had some cheesecake then I really would have everything.”
“Jerk!” Halla teased. “Come inside. There’s something I want to show you.”
Magnus smiled and nodded at the remaining guests as they entered the house, walking through the kitchen and dining room before coming to a stop in the living room. She ignored her parents and sister.
Halla brought him to the fireplace, gesturing towards the mantel which was full of framed photographs.
“Gerhard was a professional photographer. He and Bette traveled all over the world when they could, if it was for his work or just for pleasure. These are all from their journeys.” She picked a picture up and placed it in Magnus’s hands. “This is my favorite picture of me with them.”
Magnus ran his fingers over the glass, smiling at a young Halla, all big glasses and frizzy hair, sitting and laughing between her aunt and uncle on a bench in front of an ivy-covered building.
“My first year of college. They came for parents’ weekend.” Halla hooted with glee. “Oh my god, I thought I was going to kill them. They kept yelling at me about my grades and shooting dirty looks at any boy within 10 feet of me.” Halla laughed. “Bette spent the entire weekend flirting with my RA, Randy. He played football at Boston College -- she always had a thing for quarterbacks. And the guys in my dorm all took turns smoking tobacco out of Gerhard’s pipe!”
“Really? Ha!” Magnus threw back his head as he guffawed. He tugged on a lock of her hair. “No wonder you loved them. They sounded like fun. I’m so sorry I never got to meet them.”
“Yeah. They were the best.” Halla nodded, then wiped a tear from her cheek. “They came back when I graduated, and stayed for the whole week. They brought pipes for the guys from my dorm! When Gerhard and Bette weren’t on campus doing things with me, they were at Jimmy’s watch the Bulls in the playoffs. It was so amazing.” She took the picture and slid it into her handbag.
“Now,” whispered Halla, “I want you to look again. Another picture, but just the two of them. It’s my favorite. You’ll know it when you see it.” Halla looked up at Magnus’s face while he searched. He bit his lip, concentrating, as he scanned the photographs.
“Oh Käraste.” Magnus looked down at her face, smiled, then looked back at the picture he took off the shelf. He handed it to her. “It’s perfect.”
They looked down at the picture together. It showed Gerhard and Bette on their honeymoon in the 1960’s. The two of them stood, arms wrapped around each other at the waist, in front of a Ferris wheel. They were laughing in the photograph, Gerhard doubled over while Bette looked mischievous.
“It’s the Riesenrad, in Vienna.” Halla whispered. “I’ve never been myself, but I know it from movies like The Third Man, Before Sunrise.” She looked up at Magnus. “I’d like to go.”
“We will.” Magnus wrapped his arm around her shoulder and kissed her forehead. Halla took the second picture, tucked it into her purse.
In the yard, Joe and Marian were digging into slices of cheesecake. A plaid blanket was spread over their laps to warm them. They waved as Halla and Magnus returned outside. Walking to the far side of the garden, in the corner, they found the steps down to the lower garden. There, a weather-beaten table and chair sat on a flagstone patio, waiting to be used. The retaining wall was covered with ivy that sprung at them as they descended. Around them were neatly trimmed hedges and a few small trees that in spring bore flowers.
“Halla, it’s beautiful.” Magnus took a few pictures of the garden, catching her in a few shots as she stood by one of the trees.
“Magnolia, I think.” Halla knocked on the trunk. She turned to find Magnus standing in front of her, a serious expression on his face. She frowned.
“What’s wrong? Should we get going? Our flight’s not for a few hours, right?”
Magnus shook his head. “We’ve got time before we need to go. It’s just, it’s too bad your parents are selling. You love it here. It’s a shame the house isn’t going to you.”
Halla shrugged. “I’m not sure I’d want to have to deal with it anyway. This was home, and will always be, in a way. But I’ve been in Chicago so long, there’s a life I have there.” She looked up at him, touched his jaw with her fingers. “And there’s you. I have good things in my life. Things to look forward to.”
“Halla?” Magnus looked down at her tenderly, smiling as she buttoned his jacket against the cold wind that had begun to blow.
“Yeah?” Halla slipped her hand in his.
“You know, I can’t wait until you meet my family. But they’re not exciting, not like Gerhard and Bette. Dull as dull can be. So normal.”
Halla sighed. “That actually sounds wonderful.”
“And then maybe you could, you know…” Magnus whispered. Halla looked up to find his eyes so big and full of something that looked to her like hope.
“I could…” Halla whispered. “What could I do?”
“Join. Join my family.” Magnus leaned down to kiss her. She nodded, then wiped the tears that had begun to stream down her cheek. “Maybe even start one. Of our own.” He bit his bottom lip, which had begun to tremble.
“Yeah. Yeah!” Halla laughed, the pressed her face into his coat.
“We’d need help. I still need help.” Halla looked at their hands, which were clasped together. “I think I may talk to a therapist when we get back, after you return to Sweden.” She nodded. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s about time.”
Magnus kissed her. “My brave girl.” He kissed her again. “My strong, brave girl.”
Halla licked at his lips. “Yes, well, your strong brave girl is lucky that she has a strong, brave boy to help her.” She nipped at his jaw. “That means you.”
Halla eased off Magnus, letting him stand up so he could pull her to her feet. “I take back what I said, by the way.”
“What’s that?” He took her hand and lead her to the steps.
“About Gerhard hating you.” Halla nudged his arm with her head, then looked up at him. “He would have liked you.” She took a moment to think about it. “He would have liked your manners. He’d absolutely love that you wouldn’t take any shit from Stella.” She nodded. “Yeah. He would have liked you a lot.”
Chapter 7: Central Standard Time
"Magnus was napping, his head resting on Halla’s shoulder. She turned her face to him, pressing her nose to a spot just above his temple, and inhaled. She detected soap, a little sweat. He smelled a little like grass, maybe from the garden back at Uncle Gerhard’s house. Inhaling again, she was overwhelmed by the warmth of his skin. She pressed her lips to his brow, kissing him with a sigh. All at once she felt seized by desire, a feeling of want so intense it took her breath away."
Halla tried to write on the plane back to Chicago. She had to write something to read at the Gallery Cabaret where, on the third Wednesday of every month, her friends Tait and Lauren produced a live lit show. She didn’t remember the theme. Something to do with love or sex or the body. She could only recall that she had to write something that was true and, if she was lucky, something that people wanted to hear. A story she wanted to tell. But she was restless, distracted. She couldn’t focus on the empty screen and the cursor that seemed to taunt her with its incessant blinking.
She had just buried Uncle Gerhard and, while she was grieving, she felt relieved that she was able to see him laid to rest. She had just told her parents and her sister that she no longer cared to be part of their family. It pained her, but it was the right thing to do.
Magnus was napping, his head resting on Halla’s shoulder. She turned her face to him, pressing her nose to a spot just above his temple, and inhaled. She detected soap, a little sweat. He smelled a little like grass, maybe from the garden back at Uncle Gerhard’s house. Inhaling again, she was overwhelmed by the warmth of his skin. She pressed her lips to his brow, kissing him with a sigh. All at once she felt seized by desire, a feeling of want so intense it took her breath away.
She wanted him.
When she closed her eyes all she saw was the two of them, naked, in her bed, having sex. Not just having sex but fucking. It looked to her animalistic and aggressive, him bent over her, taking her from behind while she screamed into her pillow. She saw him pulling out of her, biting her shoulder and then her ass, then flipping her over before plunging his cock into her pussy and pounding into her.
In her mind Halla arched her back and tried to slip her hand between her legs, to take part in her own pleasure. But Magnus grabbed her wrists, holding them above her head so she was caught, with nothing to do but take what he gave, let him fuck her until she came undone and he shuddered to his own release. This was nothing like the tender, loving way they treated each other, both in and out of bed. This was something different and wild. It was raw. In her vision, he was taking her, marking her, using her. And now it was all she could think about.
Halla’s eyes flew open. She was flushed, from her face down to her breasts. All she could hear was her own panting. She pressed the call button above her head.
“Everything okay?” A beautiful flight attendant, her short red hair worn in a perky bob, hazel eyes full of warmth, knelt down in the aisle next to her and smiled.
“May I have some water?” Halla wondered if the attendant could tell what she had been thinking about.
“Of course. You look like a little flushed. Are you okay, hon?”
Halla shook her head. “Just a little warm.”
The attendant nodded. “Here, let me turn on your air.” She stood up and twisted the knob above Halla’s head. The cool air blowing felt good on her face.
“That feels so much better. Thank you.” Halla smiled weakly.
“Great.” The attendant winked at her. “Back with that water. We’ll be starting our descent in about 30 minutes, in case you were wondering.”
“Thank you,” whispered Halla. She leaned back in her chair, smiling as Magnus shifted to nuzzle into her neck. The air and the water would help cool her brow and soothe her dry throat. But what was she going to do about the tight wet heat that had begun to build between her legs?
“Hey Murray!” Magnus leaned down to greet the cat who sat on the porch of Halla’s house. The cat responded by purring, then rubbing himself against Magnus’s feet.
Halla rolled her eyes. “Nice try, Murray, but he’s taken.” She unlocked the door and let them all inside, Magnus laughing while he carried their bags. They made their way into her apartment, Murray scowling when Halla nudged him back into the hallway and shut the door in his face.
“Halla, you were quiet in the cab. You okay?” Magnus set the bags down, then removed her jacket before shrugging his own off. He hung the coats up by the door, and rubbed his hands together.
She nodded. “Sure. Just a little warm, and a little sleepy maybe. But it’s a little early for that, I think.”
“Do you want some water?” Magnus smiled down at Halla when she took the bags to carry them back to her bedroom. She nodded.
“Yeah, and maybe we should get dinner? Let’s order in. There should be menus stuck to the fridge.”
Magnus poured two glasses of water, setting them on the counter next to where he had spread the menus before him. His stomach grumbled, and he ran his hand through his hair as he considered the options. Dumplings and cold sesame noodles? Falafel and shwarma sandwiches topped with hummus? Or maybe large juicy burgers that dripped fat onto piles of french fries?
“See anything you want?”
Magnus looked up when he heard Halla speak to him from the hallway.
Halla was wearing a dress, one that he recognized as the sundress she was wearing the day they met. A strap had fallen down one bare shoulder but she didn’t move it back into place. Her lips, freshly scrubbed of the lipstick she had carefully applied for the funeral, were swollen.
Halla shrugged. “It was just so hot on the plane. And it’s a little stuffy in here, too.” She saw the water on the counter. “Is that mine? Thanks.” She walked into the kitchen, placing herself between Magnus and the counter to pick up the glass. It was then that he noticed that the back of the dress was unzipped, so he was treated to the sight of her naked back.
She tipped the glass to her lips and drank, not bothering to wipe away a thin rivulet of water that leaked from the corner of her mouth, down her chin, and between her breasts. She put the glass in the sink, then looked down at the menus to study them.
Magnus reached out to brush the hair hanging down her back, arranging it so the back of her neck was exposed.“Thanks, baby. That’s better.” Halla didn’t turn to look at him.
Magnus stood behind her, placed his hands on the counter, and leaned down, pressing small wet kisses up and down the side of her neck.
Halla sighed. “How do you feel about pizza? We could get Giordano’s. We could do a large, for the leftovers.” Halla’s breathing got faster, shallower as his kisses became more insistent. “Maybe Korean fried chicken. There’s a new place up near Loyola. I think they deliver. Oh!”
Halla gasped when Magnus slipped a hand down the front of her dress, cupping a breast. His fingers teased the nipple, which was already hard to his touch. She shivered.
His other hand was pressed against the small of her back, having slipped through the open back of her dress. Magnus shifted so that it slid down her hip and to the front, resting on Halla’s pubic mound. He squeezed it, gently, then slid his index finger down the front to tease her slit.
“Oh god…” Halla squeezed her eyes shut, then let her head fall back onto Magnus’s chest. He breathed slowly, focusing on the sensation of her wet folds yielding to his touch. He looked at her breasts, which were now exposed, having been liberated from her dress by his hand, and licked his lips. He leaned down to bite her bottom lip, tugging on it before slipping his tongue into her hot, inviting mouth.
Magnus was so focused on touching her, on pleasuring her with his tongue and his fingers, that he missed her hands slipping down the front of his jeans. He gasped in surprise when she squeezed his erection through the fabric. He groaned as his hips jerked forward into her hands.
Halla responded by pressing into him, then removing her hands and placing them back on the counter in front of her. He rubbed his index finger against the side of Halla’s clit, gasping when she shuddered against him. He bit her shoulder, lightly, then pulled her into him. He steered her to the bedroom.
The room was dark, and cool, the result of a breeze blowing in through the open window. Halla stood at the edge of the bed, facing it, not looking at it. Her head fell forward, chin touching her chest, letting her eyes flutter shut. Behind her, Magnus slowly got undressed. She relished the sound of his clothes falling on the floor, and was nearly undone when she heard him unbuckle his belt.
“Now, now,” whispered Magnus when she cried out at the sound of him unzipping his jeans. He kissed the back of her neck, then pushed off his jeans and boxers. He hissed when the tip of his erect cock would brush against the back of Halla’s skirt.
“Did you feel that?”
“Darling, I need you to tell me.”
“Yes,” she whispered. “I feel it. I feel you.”
“Good.” He slipped his hands around her, under her arms and began to massage her breasts. “What do you want?”
“I… I want you.”
“You have me.” He nipped at an earlobe with his teeth. “What do you want me to do to you?”
“I want you to take me.” Halla turned her head but did not meet his gaze. Her eyes were shut. “I want you to fuck me.”
“Yes,” Magnus hissed.
“I want you to fuck me, fuck my cunt, from behind.” Her voice cracked on the last word. “I want you to fuck me. Fuck me hard. Fill me up.”
“Because you’re mine.” Magnus felt her nod. He tugged on her hair. “Tell me.”
“Yes.” Magnus slid his hands to her waist, pushing down the dress that still hung crookedly from her hips. Once she was naked he covered her sex with his hands, then began to rub her clit between two of his fingers.
“Oh shit…” Halla whimpered. Her hands, which had been grabbing at his hips, squeezed him. He groaned and jerked into her, his cock brushing the underside of her ass. He bowed, keeping his hands between her legs, never letting go.
Halla crawled onto the bed. Magnus freed one of his hands to grab a pillow, moving it close enough for Halla to grab and work under her head and shoulders. She laid her head down and knelt, knees pressed into the mattress, ass raised before him.
Magnus bent down and pressed his face into between her legs. He opened her up, tracing his fingers up her inner thighs and then to her labia while his tongue began to tease her. He clucked his tongue when he heard Halla begin to whine.
He plunged his tongue inside of her, tracing random, ragged patterns while his mouth sucked on her tender flesh. She pressed back against him and rocked while he brought a finger up to tease her clit. Juices ran into his mouth and down his chin, onto her thighs. Keeping his finger on her clit, he slowly licked the nectar from ever skin, and then from his own lips.
Still kneeling, Magnus straightened up to brought his cock against her pussy. He brushed the leaking tip against her ass, pressed it to the tender spot behind her folds, then slid into her in a single agonizingly slow stroke. He remained still, relishing the feeling of her hot, tight cunt around him. He began to move his hips, slowly at first, laughing to himself at how good she felt around him.
“Halla, you are so hot. You feel so good. Your pussy is… oh fuck, babe. Do that again. Oh fuck yeah. Your cunt, it’s so good. It’s perfect. And it’s mine.” He leaned down to kiss her back. “It’s all mine.”
When Halla purred, he nipped her shoulder with his teeth, then soothe the bite by sucking on the spot. While thrusting into her, Magnus would almost pull out, waiting just a few moments too long for Halla’s taste before sinking back into her. He would lightly spank one ass cheek, then another, if she whined and bucked against him in her impatience.
“Hush. I’ve got you.” Magnus began to pump faster, bracing himself against her by grabbing her hips. She moaned, and pushed back into him, spreading her knees wider to take him. Her pussy tightened, matching the rhythm at which her ass met every thrust of his hips.
Magnus pulled out, his wet cock bobbing and slapping against her ass; this made Halla moan. He nipped at her ass with his teeth and she moaned again. Magnus carefully flipped her over, but roughly pushed her legs so that her knees were raised, and pushed his dick into her hot cunt again.
“Fuck. Oh my fuck… shit. Mmmmm. Magnus! Yes!” Halla’s eyes were open, her pupils blown with lust. Her mouth was slack as she panted and heaved beneath him. When she slid her hands between her legs to tease her clit, Magnus grabbed her wrists and yanked her arms up, pinning them at the wrists with his hands.
“NO.” He grit his teeth, leaned in and nipped at her jaw. Freeing one hand, he pulled her up so the backs of her thighs rested on top of his. He began to pound harder.
“FUCK.” Halla screamed. “YES.” His cock was filling her, angled so that it brushed against her G-spot with every stroke. Her legs thrashed and her back was almost numb, as though every nerve in her body had rushed to her sex, pooling there so she was wracked with a pleasure that blinded her with flashes of light.
He began to stroke her clit with his thumb, rubbing rough circles against the side. He kissed her, teasing her tongue with his slowly then harder, sucking on her tongue so that she was breathless.
Halla was undone. She had no voice left. Her lips moved as she cried out silently, wordlessly into his mouth. She whimpered as she squeezed her cunt around him, milking his cock as he came inside of her. She relished the feeling of Magnus’s hips pounding into her, bruising her hips as he thrust again and again, jerking raggedly to his own climax inside of her. Magnus released her hands so Halla could wrap her arms around him at the shoulder, so she could bury her face in his chest and cry.
She cried because she loved to come, because she loved the way he made her come. She cried because she loved making him come, because she loved the way it felt when he came inside of her. She cried because the roughness with which he had just fucked her came with the same love, the same commitment, the same intimacy that came when he was tender and gentle. She cried because she was alive and she could feel all of these things. She cried because she loved him, and because he was hers.
Magnus collapsed on top of her and she moaned at the delicious feeling of him on her. When he started to roll off, she locked her ankles around his hips and shook her head. She pulled him closer.
“No.” She hissed in his ear. “You’re not going anywhere. Stay.” She kissed his throat. “Please. Stay.”
She looked up at him, meeting his gaze. His eyes, like hers, were full of tears.“
Alright?” He kissed her lips, sucking on her tongue gently. “Are you okay?”
Halla sighed. “Yes. More than okay.” She kissed his jaw. “Thank you.”
“It wasn’t too…”
Halla shook her head. “It was raw. So raw. And rough. Rougher than I’ve ever… Yeah. But…” she trailed a finger down his arm. “I wasn’t afraid. Because it was you.” She smiled. “Because I always knew it was you.”
Chapter 8: Sound and Vision
“It’s my piece for Tait and Lauren’s show.”
Magnus nodded. “The live lit show, right? All women, writing on a single topic.”
“Yes,” replied Halla testily.
“What’s the theme?” Magnus sipped his tea carefully.
Halla closed her eyes. “Summer love.”
Magnus sputtered. “SO IT IS ABOUT ME.”
Magnus came back from his morning run to find Halla sitting on the couch. Hunched over her laptop, swearing under her breath and typing, she wore glasses, a ratty gray sweatshirt, boyshorts, and black thigh high tights -- her writing uniform.
“Hey baby.” She muttered, not looking up the screen. “Good run?”
“It was great.” He locked the door behind him and kicked off his sneakers. Before heading to the kitchen to make them tea, he kissed the top of her head. “I ran into the Puppet Bike on the corner.”
“That’s nice.” Halla frowned as she punched the Delete key several times with her index finger.
“It was being operated by the mayor.” Magnus filled the electric kettle with water then plugged it in. He peeked into the living room, to see if Halla had looked up or moved from her seat. She had not.
“Okay.” Halla narrowed her eyes and sighed. She blew an errant lock of hair out of her face.
“The mayor insisted I give him a piggyback ride up and down Clark Street.” Magnus crossed his arms and leaned in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, watching her concentrate.
“Wonderful,” murmured Halla. She propped her legs up on the coffee table, crossing them at the ankle. Magnus smiled at the sight, then groaned slightly as he pictured her stockinged legs wrapped around his waist.
“The mayor agreed to marry us.” Magnus walked back into the kitchen when he heard the kettle whistle. He found the drawer with her tea. “Earl Grey? Irish Breakfast? Organic Jasmine?”
“Interesting choice.” Magnus fixed the tea, adding a splash of milk to his Earl Grey. He helped himself to some sugar from the bowl next to the kettle. “Yes, Rahm Emanuel himself is going to marry the two of us as long as we agree to have the Puppet Bike puppets as our witnesses. The ceremony will be at the base of the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. How do you feel about having a gigantic Chicago hot dog instead of a wedding cake?”
“Great. Whatever you want, baby.”
“We have to name our firstborn Maurel after that clerk at the 7-11. But only if she’s a girl. If our first child is a boy we’ll name him Tweedy after the lead singer of Wilco.”
“Sure. Maurel Wilco Tweedy.”
Magnus returned to the living room with the tea. He set one down on the coffee table next to her feet, then crept around the couch so he could stand behind Halla. He leaned over her shoulder and began to read to himself:
"Well, if you're sure." Michael looks doubtful.
"I do love hotel showers, and fancy hotel toiletries, so I may change my mind and take you up on that shower after all." I try to sound breezy.
"I hope you do."
"What?" I startle at what I think are the words "I hope you do" coming out of Michael’s mouth.
Michael looks at me, then wipes a blob of cheese that apparently had been on the corner of my lip THE ENTIRE TIME I WAS TALKING TO HIM.
"I said, I hope you do." Michael smiles at me.
“HEY!” Halla jerked away from him, slamming her laptop shut and clutching it to her chest. She glared at Magnus as he came around the couch and took the seat beside her, nuzzling her neck. She tried to squirm away from his touch.
Magnus looked at her, eyes shining with amusement. “Was that about me? Are you writing about me?”
“No.” Halla blushed.
He shook his head. “Then what was it?”
“It’s my piece for Tait and Lauren’s show.”
Magnus nodded. “The live lit show, right? All women, writing on a single topic.”
“Yes,” replied Halla testily.
“What’s the theme?” Magnus sipped his tea carefully.
Halla closed her eyes. “Summer love.”
Magnus sputtered. “SO IT IS ABOUT ME.”
Halla set her laptop down, then crossed her arms in front of her. She stuck her chin out. “No, it’s about someone else.”
“Liar.” He grinned while he took another sip, then set his tea down.
Halla whined when Magnus slipped an arm around her hips, and pulled her into this lap. He hummed in her ear. “Magnus Martinsson, detective and muse to sexy girl writers.”
Halla rolled her eyes but did not move away. “Magnus Martinsson, you are a busybody and a distraction.” She whimpered when Magnus began to suck on her earlobe.
“Isn’t the show tonight?” Magnus whispered.
Halla nodded. “Yeah, but…” She squirmed when Magnus slipped a hand between her thighs and began to stroke her gently. “I’m just about finished.”
“Will you read it to me? Private show?” Magnus kissed her jaw. “Please…”
Halla giggled, but then snapped to attention and hopped out of his lap. She smiled down at him, slapping his hand away when he tried to slip it under her sweatshirt. She grabbed his wrist and checked the time on his watch. “Oh crumbs, we gotta shower. Gotta get downtown for your surprise.”
“My surprise?” Magnus followed her down the hall to the bathroom. Halla started the water, and tugged off her clothes. He joined her in undressing. “Sure this isn’t just a distraction to get me off the subject of what you were writing?”
“It could be that, too.” Halla ran her eyes over his body, licking her lips. She pulled back the shower curtain and stepped in. “But seriously, dude, get your hot ass in here. We’ve got places to see, foods to eat, people to do... ”
Magnus laughed and squeezed under the spray behind her.
Magnus stood in a dark room, surrounded by strangers, his face lit up with utter glee. His lips moved, but Halla couldn’t hear him. She pulled off her earphones.
“This. Is. Amazing.” He pulled her into him and kissed her on the temple. “Thank you.”
“I hoped you would like it. I know David Bowie is one of your favorites…”
“He’s the best, and this exhibit is incredible.” Magnus looked around the fourth floor gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art, surrounded by people enjoying David Bowie Is, the massive exhibit devoted to David Bowie. His look, his music, his movies -- the artist was represented in music videos, concert footage, clips from his movies; props and handwritten lyrics and photographs; and endless mannequins wearing iconic costumes.
The headphones contained tracking devices so the audio would change depending on the wearer’s proximity to a particular display. Magnus read each placard carefully, smiling when a favorite song would begin to play. Halla darted about, dancing whenever she heard a song that was particularly catchy or beloved to her.
“C’mere.” She dragged him to a small vintage television, which was set up in a corridor devoted to the 1980’s. When they got close enough, they saw a video of Bowie performing “The Man Who Sold The World” on Saturday Night Live. Halla was mesmerized. She swayed to the song, singing along as the video played in a loop. She laughed when Magnus spun her around.
In the gift shop, Halla picked out a pair of red and blue lightning bolt earrings. Magnus snatched them out of her palm and paid before she could stop him.
“So what was your favorite part?” Halla smiled up at him as he put the earrings on her ears.
“You dancing to that SNL video. How many times did we watch it?”
“Four? Five?” Halla shrugged as they made their way to the stairs. “I like to listen to Bowie or Roxy Music, dance around the day I have a reading. Loosens me up.” She leaned over the railing and pointed down to the ground floor. “I also like to see these guys if I can.”
Magnus peered down to find an almond shaped koi pond four stories below. “Are those…?”
Halla nodded. “Yes, they’re koi. Don’t all museums in Sweden have them?”
Magnus shook his head. “Not that I am aware of, no.”
“That’s a shame.” Halla clicked her tongue.
As they made their way down the stairs, hand in hand, Halla looked up at Magnus. He looked relaxed. “Thank you for coming to see me.” She kissed his hand.
“You’re welcome.” He took a seat next to her on the bench next to the koi pond, enjoying the opportunity to rest after walking all over the museum.
“Do you miss home?”
“A little. I emailed my parents a few times, in the mornings while you were sleeping.”
“How are they? Are you missed terribly?” Halla looked a little forlorn when Magnus nodded. “What would you be doing with them right now?”
“We’d be at the cottage. It’s where we go every June for the midsummer holiday. We go in September right before it starts getting cold, for one last break but also to close it up for winter. Mum and Dad read, I usually swim or hike in the woods. My father and I go fishing, and Mum cooks whatever we catch for supper.”
“But you missed out this year, because you were here in June. And you’re missing it now.”
Magnus nodded, then kissed her on the mouth. “It will always be there. It’s beautiful country, where the cottage is. I can’t wait for you to see it.”
“Would they like me? Your parents, I mean.” Halla shook their head. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound so needy, but they’re your family. I want to meet them. I hope I like them.”
Magnus chuckled. “I think they’d want to know why you’re so loud. Hey!” He mock flinched when Halla poked him in the ribs. “Mum would want to hug you, because you’re so cuddly.”
Halla rolled her eyes. “You can just say I’m fat.”
Magnus grabbed her around the hips and kissed her neck. “You… you just fit. You fit me.” He closed his eyes and nuzzled her cheek.
“That’s better.” Halla sighed. “And what about your dad?”
“He would be a little more reserved with his opinion. That’s just how he is.” Magnus bit his lip, then drew himself up and looked in Halla’s eyes. “I think he’d want to know what your intentions were. Career and, eventually, family.”
Halla wanted to make a joke, and was going to but then she saw how serious he looked. She smiled when Magnus leaned in to kiss her. “I have a career as an IT project manager, and that’s going pretty well. There’s writing thing, as you already know, being my muse and all.” Halla laughed when Magnus, clearly pleased, blushed. “And as for family?”
“Yes?” Magnus’s eyes widened.
“I meant what I said back at Gerhard’s. If we marry, or we don’t and you just knock me up with one or possibly a gazillion impossibly cute Swedish-Filipino children that will look like me but behave like you, I’m in.” Halla nodded, then cleared her throat. “I’ve still got work to do, prepare for that life. Our life. But yeah.” She nodded. “I’m in.”
Magnus smiled. “Maybe we should start practicing on making those Swedish-Filipino children you just mentioned…”
“If we do then we should go back to my place, lest we frighten the fish.” Halla laughed. She stood up and looked at Magnus, who still sat in front of her. She pushed a few stray curls off his forehead. “Tell your dad that… you’re good to me. And all I want to do with my life is return the favor. I just want to be good to you.”
“Oh Käraste…” Magnus stood up and took Halla in his arms. “You have no idea how good you really are.”
“Okay, Halla, who is that tall blond dude over there by the pinball machine?” Halla’s friend Tait tugged on her bottle of LaBatt Blue, then wiped her mouth on the back of her hand.
“My parole officer.” Halla smiled into her drink when Tait rolled her eyes.
“Don’t give me that look, missy. Just tell me who he is!”
“He’s my friend.” Halla shrugged, and tried to look innocent.
“Whose friend? What?” Lauren joined the ladies at the bar of Gallery Cabaret. They nodded at friends who were filtering in for the show. “That dude? If I weren’t with Phillip and six months pregnant with our kid, I would be climbing blondie over there like a tree.” She pointed her finger in Halla’s face. “LIKE A TREE.”
“Well, something tells me that tree’s already been climbed.” Tait smirked at Halla. “Over and over again.”
“Okay, bitches, I’m gonna leave. Which means you’ll be down a reader AND you won’t hear me tell the story of how we met…” Halla pulled away but let her friends yank her back into their circle.
“So he’s your summer love?” Lauren’s eyes widened when Halla nodded. “Girl…”
“GIRL.” Tait grabbed Halla by the shoulders. “TELL ME EVERYTHING.”
Halla shrugged. “It’s in the story!”
“No but, no but…” Tait bit her lip, then hopped up on her toes. She whined when Halla shook her head.
“Sorry. It’s all very PG.” She picked up her gin & tonic and sipped it demurely.
“Bitch if it’s PG then it can’t be everything!” Halla laughed.
“Oh well. Sorry about it.” She shrugged. “I can’t tell everything. First of all because that would take all night…”
Lauren sucked her teeth. “Oh shit…”
“And second, some things should stay private. I don’t think I could get into the details in a room full of strangers.”
“But you know us, and most of the people here, lady!” Tait stamped her foot.
“Which is actually worse!” Halla shook her head. “Besides, I’m not very good at writing smut anyway. It’s all fluff and feels.” She squeezed Lauren’s shoulder when her friend began to whine. “Okay, maybe it’s a little sexy. See you up there.” She winked at the ladies then joined Magnus by the pinball machine for one last pre-show drink to calm her nerves.
I turn back to see Michael standing over me. He’s smirking.
“Officer Snuggums? That’s cute. That’s very cute.” He sighs.
“I know.” I shrug. “I’m a funny girl.”
“Yes, I think I see that now.”
“And you will see me later.”
“Yes,” Michael breathes. “I most certainly will.” Michael takes a beat, then with a sigh steps back, and pushes through the revolving door. He waves at me from the sidewalk before running to catch the light.
As soon as I lose sight of him, I run to the ice cream freezer, open the door and stand for a bit, letting the air fan my skirt, praying it’s enough to cool the delicious heat between my legs.
Halla looked up from her phone, off which she had just finished reading her essay, and smiled at the audience. “Thank you.” She blushed when she heard their applause, and laughed when Tait yelled “Ow! Hot dog! Hot dog!” She got off the stage, thanking a few friends in the audience as she passed.
She had been thrilled when people laughed about the cheese on her face, was relieved when they oohed over him cleaning it off her face. A few nervous titters came when she described her fantasy of fucking Magnus in the shower.
Tait hissed “There’d better be another essay to follow this up. DETAILS, WOMAN.” before heading out to get tacos at Arturo’s with her boyfriend. Halla eventually made her way to Magnus, who was leaning against jukebox.
She had avoided looking at him while she read, making eye contact with everybody in the bar, including the brother and sister bartenders, but not him. She’d never told Magnus what she remembered of the first time she met, the first time they kissed, the first time they fucked.
“Hey.” Halla looked up at him, gasping when she saw how dark his eyes were. He took her in his arms and kissed her hard. His tongue pushed past her lips, licking the delicate, sensitive flesh, and began to massage her tongue. His hands found their way under her skirt, squeezing her ass so she rolled her hips into him. He bent his legs so his pelvis was closer to hers when she did. He moaned.
“‘In my head a scene of the two of us, naked, him rutting against me in one of those huge shower stalls you always see in Skinemax movies, has already begun.’” Magnus quoted Halla’s words back to her, then bit her lower lip. “Oh darling. You naughty thing.” He flicked at her lips with his tongue. “If only you knew what I was thinking that day we met. That dress of yours, your chest all flushed and pink. Your hair.”
Halla whimpered, then looked up at him and sighed. She brushed his jaw with her fingers.
“So why don’t you show me?”
Chapter 9: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Magnus Martinsson
"The picture was posted to Tait’s page. It was from the night before, but Halla didn’t remember it being taken. In the photograph, she stood at the bar’s pinball machine, hands on the flippers poised to play. Her head was turned, looking back and up at Magnus behind her. He was leaning over her, his hands covering hers. Her eyes were bright and shining, and she was laughing."
The morning after she had read her story about meeting Magnus at the Gallery Cabaret, which was then followed by Magnus spending all night showing her exactly what he had fantasized on that occasion, Halla lay in bed. She smiled when Magnus kissed her good morning before heading out for his run. She heard him step out into the hallway and say “Hello, Murray” to the neighbor’s cat before he closed the door.
Halla got up to pee, brush her teeth, wash her face, and bemoan the sparseness of her eyebrows. She decided to keep her glasses on instead of putting in her contacts. She looked at her naked breasts, wondering if she could somehow will them into riding just a half inch higher. She laughed at herself, then crawled back into bed.
On her nightstand, her phone buzzed once, then again, and again. She picked it up and looked at the display. Her eyebrows shot up.
“What the…” She swiped, scrolling through notifications from friends, friends of friends, everybody who liked a picture of her that Tait had posted on Facebook. What picture?, she wondered. She reached for her laptop, opened it, and logged on.
The picture was posted to Tait’s page. It was from the night before, but Halla didn’t remember it being taken. In the photograph, she stood at the bar’s pinball machine, hands on the flippers poised to play. Her head was turned, looking back and up at Magnus behind her. He was leaning over her, his hands covering hers. Her eyes were bright and shining, and she was laughing.
The photo was captioned by Tait: Halla at last night’s show with “a fan”. ;) #getithalla
“Dammit, Tait,” Halla muttered to herself. The notifications were mostly from her friends liking the photo. And then there were the comments from the friends who weren’t able to attend, and therefore did not get to make Magnus’s brief acquaintance at the bar.
Damn gurl who is that?
UR SO CUTE!!! #squishyourcheeks
WHO’S THE BOY HALLA?!
Halla didn’t respond to any of it, or the comments that followed. She began to feel foolish and impulsive for writing the piece about Magnus in the first place, though he didn’t seem to mind. Was she a hypocrite for wanting to keep him to herself, to keep their relationship just between the two of them for just a little longer? Halla was startled from her musing when Tait messaged her.
Cute picture, no?
Oh. Was I not supposed to post that? I just thought it was so perfect! You looked so sweet together. And your eyebrows looked good.
Are you gonna tag him?
I just… I want to keep him, keep us, just between us for a little while longer.
You should have thought of that before you wrote your summer love piece about him, fool!
Okay, I guess that’s fair. But can I take it back?
What, the story? Sorry. No. And from the way you two were making out after, I’d say he’s cool with your relationship being official -- in real life and on Facebook (where it really counts).
We were not making out!
Dude, he had his hand up your skirt.
His hand slipped!
Into your vagina? Did his tongue accidentally fall into your mouth too?
Gotta go - I think I hear him coming back from his run.
He runs in the morning? Of course he does, with #thatass.
You know white boys don’t have asses like that unless they run. Or maybe it’s from ALL OF THE SEX YOU MUST BE HAVING!!!!!
Halla pulled the sheet up to cover her breasts when Magnus entered the bedroom. He smiled at her from the doorway, then took his phone out of his pocket. “May I?”
She nodded and he took the picture. He checked the photo - nearly identical to the one she had sent him the week before, but for the laptop on her knees and the post-coital glow that made her cheeks pink. Magnus crawled into bed, slipping out of his running clothes before getting under the covers.
Halla leaned over and sniffed his hair. “You are so sweaty.”
Magnus wrinkled his nose. “Sorry. I should get in the shower.”
“No,” Halla whispered. “You smell wonderful. Like you do usually but, like, squared.” She giggled then nipped at his earlobe. “Delicious.”
“Or maybe you just want me to make you breakfast?” Magnus arched an eyebrow at Halla.
She shrugged. “Well, I am kinda hungry. And as long as you’re offering…” She squealed when he began to tickle her around the waist.
“Hey, what’s that?” Magnus peered at her computer screen. “Is that us? On Facebook?”
Halla felt herself flushing. “Yeah. Tait took it last night before the show. We can take it down… ”
Magnus leaned in to get a closer look. He wanted to grimace. He never liked the way he looked in pictures. But pictures taken with her, of which there were few, were special. “You’re beautiful.”
Halla smiled. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks. So are you.”
Magnus looked up at her. “We’re friends on Facebook. But we’re not a couple there, are we?”
“No.” Halla gently shook her head.
“Do you think we should fix that?” Magnus smiled at her.
Halla was a little embarrassed to admit that yes, she did want to fix that. She nodded, then blushed when Magnus deftly took the MacBook from her, found her profile settings, and changed her relationship status to “In A Relationship With” and typed in his own name in the text box that appeared.
Before he hit the “Save Changes” button, he looked at her questioningly. “Anniversary?” He looked at the screen again. “Am I putting down the day we met? The day we first kissed? The day we first…”
“It’s all the same day, dear.” Halla rolled her eyes when Magnus laughed.
“Or is it the day we said I love you? What about the day at Gerhard’s in the garden… ”
“When we talked about your family, our someday family?” Halla’s eyes were teary. “Oh shit, just put down the day we met before I start crying.”
Magnus chuckled, then typed the date: June 20. He looked up at her. “Ready?”
Halla kissed him. “Go.”
Magnus clicked the “Save Changes” button. When he did, his own phone pinged in his pocket. “Just a tick…” He launched the Facebook app, and confirmed the status change. “That’s it.”
“Huh.” Halla looked at his phone, then up at his face. He looked ecstatic. She plucked the phone out of his hand and placed it on the nightstand next to hers. Magnus closed her computer and slid it onto the floor by his side of the bed. Halla slipped her arms around him and pressed her face into the crook of his neck, inhaling him once more before she parted her legs and rolled her hips, sighing as he entered her.
Magnus frowned as he reached into his jacket pocket and took out his phone. “I’ve only got three more days here. These Facebook notifications can wait until I get back.”
“Maybe Facebook can wait, but I don’t know if your friends can.”
“Family, too.” He studied her face, then kissed her forehead. “There are a few messages from my mother there.” He smiled when Halla’s eyes widened. “She’s already sent you a friend request, I think.” He kissed her again.
“Who thought a little thing like changing your relationship status would be such a big deal?” Halla laughed, then rested her head on his shoulder. “What are your friends saying?”
Magnus sighed, sliding an arm around her shoulders while he launched the app on his phone. “Huh,” he said. “Lots of likes of the status change, and of the picture now that I’ve tagged myself in it.. A few comments.” He chuckled. “Mostly my mates who all say the same thing. ‘We knew you didn’t go back for the food!’ and ‘God Bless America’”. He rolled his eyes, and Halla laughed.
“I wonder if they’re all checking out my Facebook profile now.” Halla sat up. “You think I’ll pass muster with your buddies?”
Magnus nodded, then looked down at her, smiling when she met his gaze. “I’m sure you will. Because you’re wonderful. And maybe because my previous girlfriends were just…” He shook his head.
Halla couldn’t help but smirk a little. “They couldn't have been that bad. Surely?”
Magnus shrugged. “Maybe not when I look back but at the time, when I was with them, it was like we were always good on paper, as you say. But in reality… we didn’t fit. It never worked.”
“Was it that awful? And how many girls were there anyway?!” Halla poked him in the ribs.
“Not a lot, I swear! It’s more like I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me.” He bit his lip, then continued. “They were fine. All pretty, smart, popular. My parents liked the ones that stuck around long enough to meet them. But there was never that feeling I thought I was supposed to feel, that connection. I would wait, give it a few weeks, a few months. But nothing.”
“So what changed all that?” Halla smiled up at him.
“So I’m not very pretty or smart or popular like your previous girlfriends, then?” Her voice was teasing, which put Magnus at ease.
“You’re the prettiest, smartest, loveliest person I know.”
She rewarded him with a kiss. “Right answer.”
He reached out to her, resting his hand on the nape of her neck. “You’re just… special to me. You’re mine.”
“So I am.” Halla pulled his face down to press her lips to his. She was about to deepen the kiss when she heard the passenger in front of them clear her throat loudly. Startled, she looked at the passenger, who had turned to look at the two of them.
“Do you mind?” The lady had frizzy hair that hung limply around her face. She sported a large bandage on her cheek, which appeared to be smeared with lipstick. “Some of us are trying to ride the bus.”
Halla rolled her eyes, but didn’t go back to kissing Magnus. She regarded the passenger with a bemused expression, saying nothing, and was relieved when the lady turned around and faced the front of the bus.
The passenger launched into a diatribe, first about the President, then the Pope, and then various world leaders. She did this as the bus drove from Broadway and Argyle to Clark and Diversey, at which point she started jabbing her finger behind her at Magnus and Halla.
“And these couples. Sinners. Devils! Whites with blacks, blacks with whites. These whites with ‘Ornamentals.’” She shook her head, the whipped around to stare Halla in the face. “TRAITOR. WHORE. MONGRELS AND MUTTS. MONGRELS AND MUTTS.”
Halla’s face felt hot. Her breathing got shallow as she stared at this woman who now screamed insults right at them. She looked up to find that Magnus was bright red, nostrils flaring and jaw set. He squeezed her hand, then leaned forward.
“While I suspect that an apology to my girlfriend is not within your ability and your understanding, I suggest you do so this instant.” His voice sounded tight, and he looked like he wanted to explode.
“Oooh, listen to Mr. Fancy!” The lady rolled her eyes at him. “Fuck. You.”
And then she spit in Halla’s face.
Halla was shocked. So shocked that she could do nothing but laugh, then curl up against Magnus when he grabbed her tightly, shielding her. She wiped her face and clutched at his shirt, whispering at him to look at her. “Don’t do anything. Please. She’s crazy!”
The passenger screamed as the bus lurched to a stop. The driver strode to the back and stood over her. “Lady, are you getting off this bus or am I calling the police to boot you off?”
“I paid my fare, just like everybody else! I’m not going anywhere!”
“Well, not everybody spits on other paying passengers. And that’s battery, so…” The driver looked up to address the bus. “We’re gonna have to stop here folks. Sorry but I gotta call the cops.”
All at once people began to get up, grumbling at the passenger who sat screeching and wouldn’t leave her seat. Halla was relieved that only a few of them shot her weary looks, that more people squeezed Magnus’s shoulder in support or told them they looked sweet.
Once they promised the driver they wouldn’t leave before the police arrived, Halla and Magnus stepped off the bus at Clark and Deming to get some air. She looked up at him, concern and love in her eyes when she saw the expression on his face.. He looked like he wanted to cry or scream or hit something. She felt strangely at ease. They were off the bus. They were together.
Halla wrapped her arms around his waist and snuggled into his chest. She didn’t speak, merely hummed until she felt his breathing slow. When she began to rock against him, she felt his chin rest on top of her head. She looked up at him.
“You okay?” Magnus smiled when Halla nodded. “I wanted to kill her. It’s awful, but I did.”
“That was pretty extreme, what she did. But she didn’t hurt me, not really.” She reached up to wipe a tear from his cheek. “Are you alright?”
“What’s that shrug? What does that mean?”
“It means… I wish I’d been able to arrest her myself. I wish I could have sent her away. I wish she’d never been there in the first place.”
Halla looked down to see his hands were closed in tight fists. She slid her hands down his arms, holding his hands in hers until they relaxed and she could take lace her fingers with his.
“She was one person, Magnus. She may not be the only person in the world who may not like the look or the idea of us together. There may have been others on the bus. But they didn’t do anything like she did.” She squeezed his hands. “And if your Facebook is anything to go on, I think our friends and family are cool with it. And they’re the only ones who count, right?”
Magnus nodded. “Well, we’re the only ones who count, but it’s nice to have their support.” He closed his eyes when Halla pulled his arms around her, and she snuggled into him once again.
Halla finished chewing her bite of cheeseburger then swallowed. She reached for the diet coke in front of her and took a sip. “Nah. It felt more surreal than anything. And she might be banned from CTA, or at least riding the Broadway bus, for a while. I think that’s punishment enough.”
“You’re too good, Halla.” Nat’s husband Kevin Johansen stole a wing from Nat’s plate. His gray eyes flashed with delight when Nat protested the theft. “I would have yelled at her myself, then let Officer Hot Stuff over here arrest her.” He shook his head, then smiled when Magnus leaned over and kissed Halla’s temple.
“That’s Detective Hot Stuff, thank you.” Magnus mock bowed, then laughed when Halla threw a crumpled napkin at his head.
The four of them sat on the patio in front of Big Chicks, Nat and Kevin’s favorite bar. Whenever the door swung open, the sound of dance music filtered out to the street. The patio was lit with strings of rainbow lights, which cast a festive glow on the patrons.
Nat leaned back in his chair and rubbed his flat stomach. “I don’t know, Halla. This food baby could be my last.”
Halla snorted. “Are you kidding? What food baby? You’re flat as a pancake.”
“And we’ve still got that apple crumble for the table coming, right?” Kevin patted his husband’s stomach fondly. “So what did you guys do after you got off the bus?”
“Well…” “Well…” Magnus and Halla laughed when they spoke together. She leaned into him and smiled. “You tell them.”
Magnus cleared his throat. “After we got done speaking to the officers, I was still angry over what happened. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. This awful woman who spit, spit, on Halla. After saying such awful things, screaming them. But then we started walking, and Halla made me close my eyes so she could lead me somewhere. She promised me something that would make me feel better.”
“What was it?” Nat wiggled his eyebrows at Halla in a mock leer.
“Nothing like that, you goof.” Halla smiled. “I took him to the lily pool.”
“NICE.” Nat took Kevin’s arm in his. “That was our first date.”
“It’s magic, that place.” Halla sighed. “So quiet, with that cool pavilion, and all the plants. We were going to check out the history museum with the big hot dog you can lie down in, but I thought the pool would be better.”
“It really was.” Magnus took a sip of his beer. “There was nobody there, just the two of us.”
Nat looked mischievous. “Alone, just you two?”
Halla nodded. “Just us. Some ducks.” she smiled. “We may have made out a little.”
“That’s my girl!” Nat looked proud. “Sorry we missed your show last night.”
Halla shrugged. “You didn’t miss much.”
Magnus sat up. “You’re wrong.” He looked at Nat and Kevin. “She was great.”
Nat nodded. “But I did see the new relationship status on Facebook. So it’s official! You’re a thing?”
Halla blushed. “We are, as you say, ‘a thing’”. Her eyes lit up as a waitress set down a dish of apple crumble topped with vanilla ice cream on the table. “Oh look, dessert!”
“Nice try, missy. But you’re not changing the subject now, not when you’ve got Detective Hot Stuff right here.” Nat shook a tater tot in Halla’s face for emphasis.
Magnus laughed as Kevin clapped him on the back. “I get the feeling I’m about to get interrogated.”
Halla giggled. “You’re a detective, you should know about this stuff.” She winked at Nat. “Fire away.”
“What’s her middle name?”
“Stone Roses, Prince, and Kylie Minogue.”
“Blue?” Magnus looked confused for a second when Halla shook her head at him. “Gold!”
She then threw up her hands in frustration. “Nat, this is all stuff you can find on my Facebook profile. Remember that 25 things meme? It’s all there.”
Nat closed his eyes for a second, then opened them slowly. He leaned forward. “Do you love her?”
“Yes.” Magnus nodded, then squeezed Halla’s hand. “Of course I do.”
“You gonna be good to her?”
Halla interrupted. “Okay, Dad…” She quieted when Magnus looked at her. “What?”
He kissed her hand. “Let him continue.” He looked at Nat. “Please.”
“You gonna be good to her?”
“Always.” He cleared his throat. “Forever.”
Nat picked up his pint glass and drank some beer. He smiled at Magnus. “Okay, that’s all I got. Kevin?”
Kevin stroked his beard. “Brothers or sister?”
Magnus shook his head. “Only child.”
“Been in a serious relationship before? Engaged? Married?”
“Not really, which means no to the other questions.”
“You gonna marry this one?” Kevin nodded at Halla.
“If she’ll let me.”
“Yes.” Magnus turned and looked at Halla’s smiling face. He spoke again without turning back to Kevin. “Oh god, yes.”
“We’re godfathers to the first one. Remember that.” Kevin lifted his glass. “To Magnus and Halla.”
Nat clinked his beer against his husband’s glass. “To Magnus and Halla.”
Halla looked at Magnus, who returned her gaze with unabashed tenderness. “To us.”
He kissed her. “To us.”
Chapter 10: Wang Dang Doodle
"Soft curls fell over his brow, complementing the dark blonde eyelashes that brushed his high cheekbones. She cherished the freckles that dotted his face and neck, even inside his ears. She had been memorizing him throughout his visit, the way he looked and smelled and tasted and felt, mapping his body before he had to return to Sweden. Halla had pictures of him from the week, pictures of them out on the town, as well as a couple taken of their post-coital bliss when they had stayed in. All were precious, but this examination of him was crucial. Pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek, she slipped a hand around to the nape of his neck so she could run her fingers through the curls."
In the days since they’d returned from New York, Magnus and Halla had established a routine.
Magnus would wake up between 7:30 and 8:00 (which was late for him, but early for Halla), go for a run, come back home, and kiss Halla awake if she wasn’t already up. They’d eat breakfast, fool around, shower, go out to a museum like the Art Institute, or a cozy neighborhood like Lincoln Square to amble about, or to a movie, and then stop for lunch. Afternoons were for long walks on the lakefront or more fooling around at home. Dinner was usually out with one or two of Halla’s friends, then to a sleepy bar like Simon’s for a nightcap, and finally home for cuddling that usually led to lovemaking. Days like these were exhausting but satisfying. Halla hadn’t slept so well as when Magnus was in bed beside her.
She was surprised when she woke up, on the morning of his last day in Chicago, to find him lying naked in bed. Fast asleep, lying on his side facing her, lips twitching slightly as he breathed. His running clothes and shoes were still stacked neatly on the little chair by her bedroom door. Halla rarely had an opportunity to gaze upon him like this, without him wanting to talk to her or hug her or kiss her. Not bothering to put on her glasses, she leaned in for a closer look.
Soft curls fell over his brow, complementing the dark blonde eyelashes that brushed his high cheekbones. She cherished the freckles that dotted his face and neck, even inside his ears. She had been memorizing him throughout his visit, the way he looked and smelled and tasted and felt, mapping his body before he had to return to Sweden. Halla had pictures of him from the week, pictures of them out on the town, as well as a couple taken of their post-coital bliss when they had stayed in. All were precious, but this examination of him was crucial. Pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek, she slipped a hand around to the nape of his neck so she could run her fingers through the curls.
“That feels good.” Magnus murmured. He opened one eye, peering at Halla. He grinned, and kissed her on the mouth. “Good morning.” He kissed her the cheek. “Are these freckles new? I should really investigate…” Halla laughed softly when he began to nuzzle her neck.
“Good morning, love.” Halla whispered. “Time for your run, isn’t it?”
Magnus shook his head. “Not today. Thought I’d try another form of exercise this morning.” His blue eyes flashed, and he smirked.
“Oh did you?” Halla arched an eyebrow back at him.
“I did,” replied Magnus innocently.
He pushed Halla onto her back, easing off her t-shirt as he did. She squirmed under his touch. Once her shirt was disposed of, he kissed Halla, from the crook of her neck down to soft underside of her breasts. She moaned when he teased her nipples into stiff peaks with slow, careful laps of his tongue.
“Oh goodness, Magnus.” Halla looked down at him. She blew a lock of hair out of her eyes. “This is a very unusual exercise regimen you’ve devised.”
Magnus began to stroke her soft belly. “This was just the warm-up, Käraste.” He leaned in for a kiss, and brushed her belly again, smiling when Halla began to laugh.
“Sorry, love,” she replied sweetly. “I guess I must be more ticklish than usual.”
“Is that right?” Magnus began to tickle Halla, laughing with her as his fingers danced their way across her belly. When she rolled over to escape the delicious torture of his touch, he reached out for her. “Oh no you don’t!” Magnus took her hips in his hands, holding her in place while he moved on top, straddling Halla across her bottom. He hovered a little so she could arrange her arms more comfortably.
She said nothing as he squeezed her shoulders, only whimpering quietly as he began to run his hands up and down her back. He gently pushed her curls to one side so he could lean forward and begin kissing the back of her neck.
“Hmm… so sweet. And warm, as always,” Magnus murmured as he kissed a trail along her spine. Seemingly innocent pecks at first, followed then by little nips with his teeth that he would soothe immediately with soft, almost fragile kisses. When his lips reached the swell above her ass, Halla squirmed.
“Magnus, please…” she whined as she pushed her hips up towards him.
“Hush,” replied Magnus. “Quiet, love.” He stroked her buttocks with his hands, squeezing the flesh with a satisfied groan, then continued to kiss her down to the backs of her knees. When he licked the back of one experimentally, he was rewarded with more laughter from Halla, who struggled but did not try to move away. He blew a raspberry into the other and she squealed.
Magnus stood up, then helped Halla get to her knees near the edge of the bed. When he sat down, he guided her until she was seated on his lap, her soft back pressed to his hard chest. They both moaned when his erect cock pressed up between her legs, rubbing against her slick folds. He couldn’t help bucking against her when the head of his dick brushed her clit. Halla gasped, then parted her legs as she took him in hand.
“Oh, love. Please.” Magnus’s voice was soft but insistent. Halla had no reply, but simply eased him into her, exhaling slowly as his cock filled her completely. Magnus thanked her by nipping at the back of her neck.
“Fuck! Oh Magnus…” Halla closed her eyes as she felt him thrust up into her. She rolled her hips for him, then took his hands and brought them to rest on her sex.
Magnus looked at the side of her face. He focused on her lips, so pink and swollen as she panted. Her clit was hard and so sensitive, so much so that Halla would stiffen and whine when his fingers swirled around it faster. She tightened around his cock, making them both gasp while his strokes sped up just a little.
When Halla turned her head to the side, he managed to capture her lips between his before she let her head fall back on his shoulder. She rubbed her sensitive palms across her nipples, a small distraction from the heat of her pleasure as it began to build in her sex.
“Halla, look. Look at us, love.” Magnus met Halla’s gaze as she lifted her head to see their reflection in the mirror of her dresser, which stood just beyond the foot of her bed. Her hair was wild. Their eyes were glassy and dark, their cheeks flushed. He kissed the back of her ear.
“Can we… I’m not sure I can hold on…” Halla brushed his cheek with her hand, then closed her eyes again.
“We can. We will.” Magnus moved a hand up to her throat, stroking it gently while his other hand worked her clit faster. Halla arched up a little on the balls of her feet, then sank back down onto Magnus’s cock — his strokes were now faster and more erratic. She opened her eyes to see him still gazing at her face but his eyelids fluttered the closer he got. She clenched her jaw as everything came together and then fell apart, all at once, tightening around him as she cried out in release. Halla arched forward, fumbling for his arms, pulling them tight around her breasts as she shuddered through her climax.
“Halla!” Magnus cried out, then again and again as he came. He bucked his hips, growling when she pushed back at him as her cunt clenched around his cock. She milked him, using her last bit of energy before she allowed herself to go slack.
Magnus lay back, enjoying the weight of Halla’s body on top of his. She tried to roll off him but was stopped by Magnus tightening his arms around her. He rubbed his hands up and down her sides before bringing them to rest between her legs, cupping her sex.
“Oh my god.” Halla could only stare at the medallion on her ceiling, blinking as though seeing it for the very first time. “I mean… wow.”
Magnus sighed. “Yeah.” He closed his eyes and hummed contentedly when Halla brought her arms to rest on top of his.
“Okay.” Halla nodded, then chuckled. “I don’t want to be the one to say it, but… think that’ll hold you until the next time we see each other, whenever that is?”
“I don’t know.”
“What?” Halla turned to look at him, a smile on her lips. “You don’t know?”
Magnus shook his head. “No,” he whispered. “Maybe we need to do that a few more times, just to be sure.”
Magnus didn’t have much to pack so he was ready to go by midday, though his flight didn’t leave until evening. Halla waited by the door, watching him as he spoke to his mother on the phone. Not speaking Swedish, she didn’t understand what was said, though she recognized her name a few times, as well as “Chicago” and “O’Hare.”
“How is she?” Halla smiled when he ended the call with a sigh. She put down her purse and joined him on the couch.
He ran his fingers through his hair. “She’s fine. Has a few things at the house she wants me to check out later in the week.”
“That’s nice of you to do that.” Halla smiled as she gently plucked the phone out of his hand and put it on the coffee table.
Magnus smiled. “Well, I do the best I can.” He looked at her in confusion as she unbuckled his belt. “What are you doing?”
She sank to the floor, sitting between his legs which she pushed apart with a loud breath. She rolled her eyes at him as she unzipped his fly. “Isn’t it obvious?” She slid her hands under him, squeezing his ass — when he arched a little off the couch, she laughed as she tugged his jeans and boxers down. “You took just a little too long on the phone. I’m impatient.” She paused for a moment, then took down the top of her dress and pushed down her bra, baring her breasts to him.
Magnus’s eyes widened as she leaned forward, taking his cock in her hands, and stroked it a few times. Then she swirled her tongue around the head.
“Oh fuck…” Magnus gasped. “But what… oh god... oh Halla...”
Halla peeked up at his face, then released him from her mouth. She smiled up at him. “I’m just so hungry. I don’t think I can wait the five minutes it will take to walk to the Hopleaf.” She shrugged.
Before Magnus could protest, Halla took his cock into her mouth again. He pushed his hips up slowly and she stroked the shaft with her hands while she used her tongue to trace carefully every vein on the underside. As she worked her hand closer to the base, she followed it with her mouth, flattening her tongue to his cock to get it slick. She pressed the tip of her tongue to the slit, then inhaled as she took the head in her mouth again.
Halla purred as best she could when she felt Magnus’s hands in her hair. They were gentle as she sucked and took him further into her mouth. She bobbed her head up and down, sucking in her cheeks as she did. Occasionally his cock would slip out and she’d chuckle, for Magnus would whimper for her until she began to suck at him again.
She relaxed her jaw just as she felt the tip of his cock touch the back of her throat. Stilling her head, Halla moved her hands up to Magnus’s. He thrust up, ever so slightly, and tightened his fingers around Halla’s hands, which now rested on his hips. She hummed as his thrusts got faster. His cock was so big in her mouth that she couldn’t help gagging a little. When she did, he would stop, as quickly as he could, waiting for her sign, a tap on his hip indicating it was alright for him to proceed.
Their entwined hands tightened around each other as Magnus pumped into her mouth. Halla could feel tears pricking her eyes, but she didn’t care. All she had to do was breathe, and hold on as he came. She slipped a hand between her legs and found herself soaked. She kept her hand there, just touching her clit, and that was nearly enough for her to come.
When Magnus came, spilling into her mouth, moaning her name, she let the tears flow, down cheeks that were a little sore and flushed. She was ecstatic, for reasons that she couldn’t quite explain. She sighed as she felt him relax and sag back into the couch.
“Käraste.” Magnus whispered to her, stroking her face as he helped her sit back and release his cock from her lips. He held his breath for a moment when she looked him in the eye and her throat pulsed, indicating that she had swallowed. He slid down to the floor, where he wrapped his arms around her. “Are you there?”
Halla nodded. “I’m here.” She kissed him on the lips, then again at the base of his throat. “I’m here.”
“This is really good.” Magnus looked up at Halla. “What do you think?”
They were naked, eating lunch in Halla’s bedroom. The plan to get Belgian-style frites and beer was scrapped in favor of crawling back to bed, ordering deep-dish pizza from Giordano’s, and seeing how quickly Magnus could bring Halla to climax with just his lips and his tongue before it arrived an hour later.
Halla put her slice down in the pizza box that sat between them on the bed. “Sausage. Plain old sausage. Can’t be beat.” She looked at the slice of pizza in his hand. “You’re sure that’s it? That’s the one?”
Magnus swallowed his bite. “Onion and olive? Oh yes..” He looked up to find Halla frowning at him. “What? It was only on my half anyway.”
“But then I end up with the leftovers, and that’s what I’ll have to remember you until we meet again.” She pouted, then protested when Magnus blew right into her face. “No! Not the oniony olivey pizza breath!” She squealed when he kissed her, snaking his tongue into her mouth. She whimpered. “Oh… hmmmm.” She giggled when he broke the kiss. “Lucky for you for you’re a good kisser.”
Magnus took her hand in his, kissing her fingers gently. “Thank you. But if my breath is so awful, I’ll never have it again. At least, not when I’m eating pizza with you, anyway.”
“You promise?” Halla looked up at him, grinning when he smiled back at her.
“Yes, love. I promise.” Magnus brushed her hair out of her eyes. He closed the pizza box and set it on the floor. He crawled onto the bed, lying on his back as he held his arms open for Halla to snuggle into him. “Speaking of promises…”
Halla groaned. “As far as transitions go, that wasn’t awkward at all!”
Magnus laughed. “Well, somebody had to bring it up!”
“Bring what up?” She arched her eyebrow questioningly. “Oh, you mean…”
“Yes, darling. I mean…” He hugged her gently.
“The future.” She closed her eyes.
“Our future,” whispered Magnus. He sighed when she pressed a kiss to his shoulder. “You should visit, meet my family. I want them to know you.”
Halla nodded. “Yes. And I want to know them.” She bit her lip, then opened her eyes. “When?”
“Is Christmas too soon?”
“I’m not sure. It doesn’t feel too soon. It’s just that…” Halla breathed out. “I called a therapist, talked to her a little on the phone. I made an appointment for next week.”
“That’s great. I’m so proud of you,” Magnus murmured.
“I just… I just want to feel better about my own family stuff before I meet yours, you know? The therapist, she could help me decide if a Christmas visit is a good idea.”
“I can’t imagine that it would be anything but a good idea. Unless you think Christmas would be tough, without Gerhard?”
Halla smiled. “It might be, sure. When I was a kid we’d spend the whole day at Gerhard and Bette’s. I loved Christmas with them.” Halla wiped a tear from her cheek. “But I’d still have to explain about the rest. What are your parents going to make of the girl who doesn’t talk to her parents, avoids them like they’re the plague?”
“They’ll understand.” He smiled at her when she looked up at him questioningly. “They will. I know they will. I’ll help them.”
Halla nodded. “Thank you.” She sighed. “And then there’s the distance.”
“Yes. Which is not inconsiderable.” He sighed.
“And I would never ask you to leave your job, your friends and family, to move here for me.”
“Käraste, you know I would do anything…”
“I know you would, that’s why I insist you stay in Ystad.” She traced his lips with her fingers. “Your work is important.”
“But not more important than you.” Magnus smiled at Halla. “And what about your work?”
She shrugged. “It’s not like it’s my calling. But I can do it, and I suspect I could probably do it from anywhere.” She wiggled her eyebrows at him. “Even Sweden.”
“Well we do have wi-fi,” said Magnus.
Halla laughed. “It’s all settled then. Wi-fi! Pickled herring! Tall blond hotties! Sign me up” Her face softened. “But yeah. A big move like that? I want to. And as for work… my performance review is just after the new year. I could talk to my boss, see what he thinks.”
Magnus kissed her. “This is such a big step, I know. Huge. Thank you. Just know that this won’t stop me from searching for something here in Chicago, or anywhere else in the States.”
Halla shook her head. “You don’t know what you’re in for. Harsh winters…”
“Really? A Swede can’t handle harsh winters?”
She rolled her eyes. “People drive terribly, and there are potholes everywhere. There’s all this crime, and it’s so expensive…”
Magnus laughed. “So why do you live here again?”
Halla sighed. “It’s just my home. It’s been my home for so long.” She idly ran her hand up and down his stomach. “Maybe that’s just as good a reason to go somewhere else, find an adventure.”
“Adventure? Is that what this is?” Magnus’s lips curled into a smile as she kissed him on the jaw.
“Baby, it’s life. Our life.” She squeezed him gently. “What’s a bigger adventure than that?”
“Beautifully put, Käraste.”
Halla grinned. “Well, I have been known to write a little.”
“So I’ve heard!” Magnus scooted down so he could kiss Halla on the mouth, then look in her eyes. “Written anything else this week? About me, perhaps?”
“Ah, not quite. I’ve had a little bit of a block since Wednesday. But I’m not concerned. I have ways of unblocking.”
“Oh? How so?”
“Well, I read. I go back to some favorite books. Stories on the internet.”
“What kind of stories?”
“Sexy stories… ” Halla blushed when Magnus nuzzled her neck, then nodded.
“Are you going to tell me one?”
“What time do we have to be at the airport?”
“Well… “ Halla kissed him. “I could just show you.”
Magnus closed his eyes when Halla leaned in to kiss him. He moaned as she pushed him, gently at first, then a bit stronger so he rolled onto his back. Halla straddled him, then took his hand and placed it at her entrance. She leaned over him, her face hovering just above his.
“You’re so wet,” Magnus whispered. “Oh god…” He opened his eyes, already getting lost in hers.
“Just for you. Only for you.” Halla kissed him on the mouth, nipping at him until his lips parted and she could slip her tongue between them. She gasped when he began tracing circles around her clit with a finger. “Oh shit…” she cried. “Oh yes.”
Magnus planted his feet on the bed, bending his legs. His cock was hard, brushing up against the swell of Halla’s ass. She rolled her hips, leaning back a little so she could reach between her legs, take him in hand, and guide him to her entrance. She eased herself down, moaning quietly as he filled her. Hands splayed on his stomach, she began to rock back and forth, her eyes shut.
Slow at first, Halla rolled her hips, laughing softly when Magnus would meet each roll with a quick snap of his hips. “Oof! Oh… that’s nice,” she whispered. He brought his hands up, massaging her breasts and occasionally tweaking her hard nipples with his fingers. When she slid a hand between her legs to stroke her clit, he lightened his touch, brushing the hardened tips of her breasts with his thumbs. “Oh yes! Oh!”
She cried out, then opened her eyes to find him looking at her with pure lust. “Oh Magnus… fuck!” Halla fell forward, grinding against him, desperate to touch as much of him as she could.
Magnus slid his arms around her, grabbing her ass as he thrust up into her hard and fast. He winced when Halla bit his chest. “Oh fuck! Halla, I’m going to…” He pushed off with his foot, gently rolling them so she lay beneath him.
Halla freed wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him tight so her forehead was pressed against his neck. All she could feel was him, all she could touch and taste and hear and see. Magnus was intense, focused on the way her sex felt, wet and warm, as he thrust harder and faster into her, heard only the sound of her panting and whispering his name, tasted only the salt on her skin when he nipped at her throat.
“Ah, Halla! I’m going to…” Magnus called to her, and she responded by locking her ankles around him. He was filling her, fucking her so hard that Halla could only scream his name, having forgotten her own, as she began to come. She kept her legs wrapped around him as he climaxed, buttocks clenching and hips jerking until, finally, he relaxed into her embrace.
Halla kissed him tenderly, and stroked nape of his neck. She traced faint patterns, circles and swirls, as she whispered “I love you. You’re mine.” She smiled when Magnus kissed her on the lips. “Mine. Forever.”
They were both quiet in the cab to O’Hare. They sat, he with his arms around her, her head resting on his shoulder.
When they arrived at the airport, Halla paid the fare, shooing Magnus away when he tried to pay instead. Magnus slung his bag over one shoulder, then offered an arm to Halla as they entered the terminal. She couldn’t bear to look at the security line, and it wasn’t time yet for him to go through. They found a spot where Magnus could put his bag down, and wrap his arms around her.
Halla couldn’t help but cry, sniffling every so often as tears streamed down her face.
“I’m not going to tell you not to cry, but…” Magnus pulled her tighter. “I hate leaving you. I don’t want to go.”
“I don’t want you to go. But you have to. I know that. You have things to do, I have to get ready.” She looked up at him. “Why can’t I just snap my fingers and have everything sorted out?”
“What do you mean by ‘sorted out?’” Magnus closed his eyes and leaned his head on hers. She turned her head, pressing her cheek against his chest.
“We’re together. Living in the same place, in the same house. It’s dinner time, and you’re annoyed because you can’t find something. A book, maybe, or your glasses.”
“But I don’t wear glasses. You do.”
“True but it doesn’t have to be that.” Halla bit her lip. “Somebody finds the glasses. Not me. Not you. Our child.”
Magnus let out a breath.“What’s she like?”
“What makes you think she’ll be a girl?”
Halla smiled. “Okay. So she’ll find them. Because she listened to you rant for a bit, figured out where they were. She’ll run off and bring them back, and she’ll be so pleased that she found them, and so will we. We’ll sit down to eat. Then it’s bedtime. You make sure she brushes her teeth, and I read her some Harry Potter. We kiss her goodnight. We turn in for the night, fool around for a bit…” She laughed when Magnus made a sound of mock protest. “Okay, we fool around for a long, long time. And then we go to sleep. Get up in the morning, do it again. Every day.”
“That’s a good story. You should write it down.”
“It’s… it’s nothing. Just a way of saying I think I know why I feel so… ugh, I hate when I can’t describe… It’s like, I don’t feel desperate. It’s not like I won’t see you again. It’s not like we don’t have a plan to make a life together. It’s just…” She wiped her eyes. “I know what it’s like now. To love, to be in love. And not just with anybody but with you. And there’s this feeling, like… I know now that I have something to lose. Someone to love.”
“Käraste.” Magnus could hold in his tears no longer. “Oh my love.”
Halla reached up, standing up on tiptoe, so she could wrap her arms around his neck. She tightened her embrace, and began pressing soft kisses to his temple, his jaw, his cheeks. She kissed him on the mouth, then whispered “Jag älskar dig, Magnus.” She ran her fingers through his hair. Magnus looked at her face, committing to memory the love he could see in her eyes, and could feel in her touch. He replied “Jag älskar dig. Jag är din. Du är min.” then kissed her again and held her tight, breathing her in until, at last, it was time for him to go.