The queue to The Palace was longer than normal. It snaked all around the block, and I felt bad for the poor girls standing there in skimpy clothes. No doubt, they’d be frostbitten by the time they were let in. Me, I can’t think of anything I want so badly I’d be willing to stand in a long arse queue, in subarctic temperatures no less, to get it. Thank gods for small mercies. At least Angel had the good sense to make a reservation for us.
Normally, we’d use the service entrance to get inside our workplace, but there was nothing normal about this night. Something was off. I’d been feeling it for days and it just kept getting worse and more intense. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It was definitely stronger down here. More intense, somehow.
It’s not the cold doing it, is it? Some kind of force is tugging at me, like pushing and pulling at the same time. It hurts, but it’s not unbearable. Have we entered a magnetic minefield? Why is nobody freaking out? Am I the only one feeling this? Oh, gods, where the fuck is Angel?
My anxiety levels were spiking, and I didn’t want to be alone. I had dark specks dancing in my eyes, and my field of vision had narrowed into a thin strip by the time I spotted her across the street. Inconspicuous, she stood there looking for all the world as if she was just having a fag, minding her own business.
My shoulders sagged. Look at her going all Miss Marple on us again; proper scanning the queue for níðingr and other unstable elements in need of a good beating. Angel’s bodyguard antics make me laugh, but truth be told I’m eternally grateful for everything she does to keep us safe. Without her, I wouldn’t be caught dead dressed like this in public.
Apparently, we weren’t in any imminent danger, because Angel flicked the cigarette butt into the snow and turned to face me. In a few strides, she was by my side, arms linked with mine, but something was bugging her. “Hmm, my wilting little flower, I think we’d better get you inside,” she said and pulled me towards the entrance.
At the door, two of our stone-faced doormen, Jonas and Conny, lit up at the sight of Angel. It’s fascinating, the effect she has on most men. “Hey boys!” she grinned, batting her eyelashes like a little minx.
“Angel!” they both bowed in mock deference and Conny was practically eye-fucking her. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, though, as I was sure I was being ripped apart. The force field between the two bouncers was like two polar opposite forces fighting. One threatened to draw me in and the other was violently pushing me away. Anxiety, my old nemesis, reared her ugly head in anticipation again as nausea and lightheadedness set in. I’d never felt anything like this before.
“…but Edda looks like she’s going to a wake. Are they dead yet, or is she planning to kill someone in here?” Jonas talked about me as if I wasn’t even there, and something about him was creeping me out. I had to get as far away from him as possible. “I think I have to search her, you know. Check if she’s hiding anything under that dress.” He smirked and grabbed hold of me as if he was, indeed, going to whisk me away. Mortified, I froze on the spot. Angel didn’t.
“You better keep your fucking hands off her if you want to keep them.” At a speed that put both bulky bouncers to shame, she pulled Jonas off me and slammed him up against the wall. They were big guys, those two, but Angel had speed, technique and experience on her side. Her left forearm was pressing against his windpipe, and Jonas cackled nervously as her left hand grabbed hold of his balls.
She stared daggers at him, as if she was issuing a challenge. As soon as he caved she was all smiles again. Leaning in, as if she were about to kiss him, she purred. “Don’t worry, babes, we’ll finish this later. Just the two of us.” Jonas was dumbstruck and Conny just stood there, as if he didn’t know what to do. Without a word, he pulled the door open and ushered us inside.
Eyes to the floor, to avoid looking into people’s eyes, I headed straight for the coat check. I handed my jacket in and dashed to the ladies’ room. Luckily, I found an empty cubicle right away and locked the door behind me. Hyperventilating, I sat on the toilet seat with my head between my knees. Fuck me sideways, that was weird! We’ve known those guys for years, and they’ve never done anything like that. What the Hel is going on?!
Something was most definitely wrong. My ears were ringing. My heart was trying to break out of my ribcage and I had a metallic taste in my mouth. I forced myself to take slow, steady breaths the way He’s taught me to keep the panic attack from taking hold of me. I bloody well told her we should stay at home, but she never listens. No one fucking listens!
I’ve reverted to Edda three-year-old and, of course, that’s supermum’s cue to barge in again. “Hey sugar, I know you’re in there. How many doors are you gonna make me kick in tonight?”
Oh, for fuck’s sake! I can’t talk to her right now. Why am I suddenly feeling like a bloody magnet? What kind of cosmological fuckery can make you feel like you’re being sucked into some people and forcefully pushed away from others? And why does it get worse if they look at me? I need some fucking answers, V!
You’d think a weirdo would be ok with shit getting weird, but I… I swear, I knew what that dickhead wanted to do to me. Not as if I could hear his thoughts, or look inside his head or anything. But somehow I knew what he wanted to do. I knew how he felt. Please, please, please don’t do this to me. Not tonight, V. Not here. Just tell me what the Hel is going on before I lose it!
“Okay,” Angel quipped. “I’m coming in.” With her dress pulled up over her hips, she scaled the cubicle wall effortlessly and perched like an oversized bird on the top. She even cocked her head like a bird, looking down at me as if I were a damsel in distress, and she was the rescue team come to haul me out of a stormy sea.
“Hmm… You’re hiding something from me.” She dropped down, with a resounding click-clack from her stilettos. Hunching down in front of me, she brushed a tear from my cheek. “Come on, baby, you’re not spending New Year’s locked up in here. Let’s go find our seats.”
Annica, our shift manager, had saved us a corner table. Bless her. It was out of the way, but with a view of the whole banquet room. With my world off-kilter, I was relieved to see that only the waiting staff would have any reason to come near us. Again, small mercies. I really needed some space to calm down and get a grip on the situation. There was no way I was going back to the looney bin if I could help it.
Angel looked genuinely happy, but I could tell that she was afraid. She thought I was going to leave her. “Don’t worry. I’ll be ok,” I said, squeezing her hand and trying to school my face into a reassuring smile. “I’m just a bit nauseous. It’ll pass.”
“Oh, gods! You’re pregnant again?” She looked so worried I had to laugh.
“Don’t be daft. I told you, that department is closed. I’m done.”
“You sure of that? Pixie will be three this summer, so it would be right on schedule for you.”
I guess I could see where she was coming from. I’d managed to fall pregnant every three years. Three pregnancies and six kids. In six years. I didn’t care what He said or thought about it. I was done.
“Read my lips. There. Is. Zero. Chance. Zero. Nil, zilch, noll. Inte en chans. There’ll be no more babies. Not in this lifetime. Ok?”
“If you say so. But I think we should pick up a few tests tomorrow, just to be sure.”
“The fuck?! Unless Örlog’s changed the cosmic laws, I’m pretty sure it still takes two people to make a baby. I haven’t even looked at a man since Pixie was born, so I don’t need…”
An overwhelming sense of disdain made me lose track of what I was saying. Looking up, I saw one of my least favourite people swanning towards us. Helen fucking Svensson. The girl who painted a target on my back in our teens, and went out of her way to make my school years as miserable as possible. Great! Of all the extras they could have hired for the homecoming parties, of course, they had to pick Barbie girl. Well, she was scared of Angel so I left them to it and tried to put my hypothesis to the test. Was the force field I was sensing magnetic? And was it really getting stronger with eye contact?
Randomly looking over the restaurant, I managed to meet the eyes of a few people and, sure enough, it was there. I felt emotions, feelings and intentions. They were diffuse, but I could definitely feel them. And they did amplify with eye contact. Loki’s loops! Someone must be dancing on my grave tonight…
Snapping fingers pulled me back out of my head to find Angel sitting across from me with a glass in her hand. “To us, my beloved sister, and to a new beginning. Cheers!”
“Cheers, my love.” I had no idea when the bubbles had arrived, who served them, or whether she’d ordered something to eat. I didn’t really care. I drained the glass, surprised to find we’d got a really nice cava. Angel would’ve picked the cheapest option, so this must have been Annica’s treat. I made a mental note to thank her later.
I knew I should make an effort to be a good sister, but I couldn’t get over what I had felt from Helen. “How can you be as beautiful as she is and still be an insecure, backstabbing piece of shit? It’s always baffled me how venomous that pretty little mouth is, and how people still treat her like a fucking princess no matter what she says or does.”
“Well, she was always the ultimate bitch, but look where it got her. Who’s the Queen and who’s the wench now? A shitty attitude may go a long way in school, but it doesn’t open any doors in real life. I pity her. She’s lost the King and the crown. Her good looks are fading, her ladies in waiting have abandoned her, and she has to work for her living like the rest of us.”
“Oh, give me a break! Helen fucking Svensson is no mousy wench, and He’s neither a King nor a bloody trophy. He’s bold, brilliant and beautiful, for sure, but he’s still just a man. And he’s not mine.”
“We both know you won the war, darling. And whether you care to admit it or not, you’ve always been his Queen. Helen knows it too and she hates you for it. If you could just get over yourself, you wouldn’t have to work another day in your life. You’d be living it up as Mrs Nylander of Solvogna.”
“What was that? Is that the pot I hear calling the kettle black, Mrs Svelander? I’m pretty sure the same applies to you, only you actually married the man. How about you “just get over yourself” and go back to being Hunter’s doting little housewife again? Between the two of us, you are after all the one who considers marriage a career aspiration.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! My dear husband made his bed, and long may he suffer in it. Don’t even try to pretend we’re in the same boat. You have a man who adores you, but you’re keeping him at arm’s length. I have a lying, cheating son of a bitch of a husband who couldn’t care less about me or our daughter. You won, damn it, and you could literally have it all.”
“Gods, I wish you knew just how wrong you are. I didn’t win Horse in the lottery or some stupid tug of war. We’re family, ok. He’s been my brother since I was three, but how I feel about him makes no difference. He can never be mine and I’m not for him.”
“So, you admit that you love him?”
“Are you seriously asking me that? Of course, I love him. I always will. But officially, he can never be anything but my brother. I don’t care what people think as long as they’re not paying my bills. Who I fuck, and who fathered my children, is none of their damn business. I’ll keep… What?” Angel’s face was a sight to behold as she did her level best not to burst out laughing.
“What’s so fucking funny? Oh, let me guess, the bitch is back?” I was suddenly aware of her forceful push again. Well, that’s interesting. Apparently, I can’t feel it as much if I’m focussing on something else?
Giggling like a bloody schoolgirl, Angel gave Helen fucking Svensson one of her sweetest smiles and motioned for her to approach the table. Helen served Angel her food and they exchanged some pleasantries. Then, as if it was an afterthought, she plonked the other plate down in my general direction and stalked off in a huff. Bloody cheek!
“There are only two people in this world that I genuinely hate, and that fucking twit is one of them. And not even for what she’s done to me, but to my kids and all the people whose spirits she’s broken. I tried for years to find a single redeeming quality in her, but she has none. I even tried empathising with her, thinking she must surely be hurting to be that evil, but I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to care for her. Or pity her. Hel, if she was on fire I wouldn’t even bother pissing on her to save her life.”
“Ya done? We’ve got Club sandwiches! The best Sundsvall has to offer, and you wanna talk about the waitress? Look, I’ve got us a second bottle of bargain bubbles too!” Bless her, she didn’t even know what she was drinking, but Angel was positively beaming as she added condiments to her clubs. I couldn’t share her excitement. There was no way I was gonna eat anything Helen fucking Svensson had touched. Or spat on, more like.
I have to admit, all things considered, we had a moment there that was quite nice. The world may have been on fire, but in our little corner, with bubbles in my glass and a bubbly Angel talking about… No wait! That didn’t sound particularly happy at all. “Hang on a minute, how did we go from ‘yay happy sammiches’ to how much you hate Hunter and Gunilla?”
Hunter is Angel’s estranged husband and the true love of her life. But he’s also the knob who knocked up another woman while Angel was pregnant with Juicy. When his cheating arse was exposed, she took the baby and moved in with me, but she’s not divorced him. She says it’s because she won’t spend a penny on something that’s not her fault. Anyway, something was obviously going on there so, in an effort to clear my mind, I drained my glass and tried to listen to her grievance. Hunter’s handling of their Yuletide agreement.
I sprayed my bubbles all over the table in shock, as the voice was back in my head after more than a week of radio silence.
‘Haakon Goþe. King Haakon the good. The reason we moved the Jólablót back a month? That’s what you asked me about, wasn’t it?’
Seriously, Vanadís? That’s hardly the most pressing issue I’ve had today. Where the Hel have you been?!
‘Well, it was the church of course. Haakon wanted to be more like his mate, Æthelstan, and turn Norway into a Christian country. He took Óðinn and the Wild Hunt off the table, and told us to rejoice at the birth of a Christian progeny instead.’
Why didn’t he just have a birthday party in December then, and let us keep our Jól where it belongs? It seems to me that midwinter ought to be observed in midwinter.
‘I thought you said we had more important matters to talk about? And you’re right. We do. He’s coming, and you better play our stones right this time.’
Cards, Vanadís. We play cards here, not stones. Who’s coming? And what do you mean…
Angel was waving a napkin like a white flag in my face, and that put a stop to our conversation. “You zoned out again. Edda, I know something is wrong. I know you’ve been hiding something from me. But I want you to know that I love you, and I forgive you for shutting me out. It ends tonight, though. Tomorrow you’re going to tell me everything, and then we’re dealing with this. Whatever it is. Do you understand me?”
“Angel, I’m so sorry…”
“Nu-uh. Don’t! I don’t want apologies, I just want us to fix it. Tomorrow. Do you understand me?”
“You sound like you’ve been taking lessons from Horse.”
“Maybe I have. Are you not eating your sandwich?”
“What do you think? It’s been compromised.”
Never one to let food go to waste, Angel rolled her eyes at me and wrapped my sandwich in a napkin. Discreetly, she stuffed it into her bag and poured the last of the bubbles into our glasses. “A final toast. Drink up, systra mi. It’s time for the dancing Queens to hit the dance floor.”
Now it was my turn to do the eye roll. “I’ll try ok, but I’m not making any promises. Something is really creeping me out tonight, and I don’t know if I can handle a crowded dance floor.”
We left the restaurant hand in hand and headed up the iconic staircase to the dance hall. It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes before the anxiety resurfaced. Dancing was definitely not in the cards for me tonight. It was hot and humid. The music was so loud the floor was vibrating, and it was jam-packed with people in various stages of increasing intoxication and decreasing inhibition. And, worst of all, I was drowning in waves of emotions and intentions, or whatever it was I felt. My flight instinct kicked in with full force and I had to get the Hel out of here.
Hyperventilating again, I ducked and weaved out of the dance hall and ran down the stairs. The restaurant was closing, so I couldn’t return to our table. In a split-second decision between the loo and the basement, the latter won and I fled down the second staircase with a steady grip on the railing. There’s a small, laid back bar called The Back Pocket in the basement. It’s a cosy place, with a tiny live music scene, but what I really love about it is the long L-shaped bar and the Grecian style columns. You can literally disappear in here.
What with most people working it on the dance floor in anticipation of midnight, the bar was virtually empty. Relieved, I grabbed a bar stool in my usual hiding space behind the column at the far end of the bar. A pint of Guinness appeared in front of me, but I was too worked up to even think about where it came from. I needed to talk to Vanadís. I was hoping I could persuade her to be useful for a change.
Taking a deep breath, I cleared my head and tried to contact my elusive sister. She didn’t respond. Eyes shut, I focussed on what I could feel. It was diffuse at first, but after a while, I was walking across a field covered in mist. Only the mist was made up of people’s innermost feelings. It was eerily quiet, but far from peaceful.
There were no words. No pictures. Not even a loose thought. But I felt grief, regret, guilt, pain, agony and shame in here. I sensed despair, desperation and anxiety. Lust and love. Love and lust. Greed. Desire. Jealousy. Attraction. Some of it was in the past, I think. Some of it was happening right now. And some, I was sure, was yet to come. What would, or perhaps should, be.
I jumped in fright when something nudged my arm. Confused, and slightly disoriented, I realised that the bar had filled up. I must’ve been wrapped up in my head for quite some time. Smiling, Annica was holding a microphone to my face, and nudging me towards the stage. Two guys I’ve never seen before were looking our way. One sat by the piano, the other on a stool with a guitar on his lap. Oh, fuck no, I’d rather disappear into the mist in my head! I hate being put on the spot, and an unrehearsed performance with unknown people is, by definition, a fucking rough spot.
The piano guy nodded at me and began to play ABBA’s Happy New Year. In my key. I gave my boss a death glare and closed my eyes to let the music lead the way. I was vaguely aware of someone taking my arm and leading me closer to the stage. “May we all have our hopes our will to try, if we don’t, we might as well lie down and die.” Ouch, that line hit me hard.
The guys kept playing. Where one song ended, another began, and I lost track of time. They played some of my all-time favourites, all in the perfect key for my voice. I knew I’d been well and truly had, but the crowd was lovely and the force field was more bearable while I was singing. The unnerving push and pull motion was still there, but I almost felt like I was in control up there. Until I felt a man, whose intentions were very clear, step up behind me.
He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me back into his hard frame. Holding me tight, like a predator who’s just caught his prey, he nuzzled my hair, breathing me in. His hot breath tickled my neck as he let out a deep, primal growl, followed by four simple words that took my breath away.
“Happy New Year, baby.”
– – – – – – – – –
And there we have it: the first draft of Chapter 2. If you can, please press the star to vote for my story, share it on your socials and leave a comment.
Love and Lust,
© 2021 Lïnnéa Lucifer. All rights reserved.
The right of Lïnnéa Lucifer to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publisher.
First published online in 2021 on www.aswewrite.com and on Wattpad.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Still just a rough draft, but I believe in the process! If you liked what you read, please share using the buttons below and leave a comment. Thank you!