Welcome to my mid-summer thriller. I’ve had the idea of writing this for a while and now seemed like the right time. The concept of mid-summer has always felt a little magic to me. Perhaps because in Scandinavia, we have several legends surrounding that time of year. Homborsund, and Nellevine, who are both real, also have a strange appeal to me. And I wanted to combine them all in a thriller to be published here. This is the result. Enjoy every day in June up to mid-summer eve which is June 23rd.
It was only when I saw the signs of Grimstad bus station I realized I’d been holding my breath. Not literally. It takes a super human to actually hold your breath from London to Oslo and then the five hours from Oslo to Grimstad. And heaven knows I’m not a super human. But that’s how it felt. I let the tension that had built up in me since I got that fatal phone call at work yesterday go. I rolled my shoulders, nearly hitting the middle-aged, bespectacled man reading a newspaper next to me. I was safe now. Nobody could find me here. Only my best friend Melissa knew Aunt Emma and her paradise house by the sea which was situated in Homborsund which was in between Grimstad and Lillesand. And Melissa would never tell anyone. She was on my side. Even though I wasn’t sure whether she did right in being on my side.
“We have now reached Grimstad,” the driver announced in a distinct southern Norwegian dialect. I got up to get my small suitcase down from the overhead locker, and only then, did the man next to me notice my presence.. I realized he must have been sleeping behind that newspaper. “Excuse me, I’m getting off.” My Norwegian felt rusty after not having been used for years, except for the times I spoke to Aunt Emma.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Is this Grimstad?” I smiled and nodded while he kindly helped me to get my suitcase down. “I must have been sleeping. This job makes me dog tired.” I didn’t get to ask what job he was doing, because at that moment the bus stopped and the doors opened.
The name Grimstad literally means ugly town. But I love Grimstad. Especially in the summer when it’s buzzing with tourists and rich people from Oslo who escape to their south coast homes and sailboats and the often better summers here. The entire south coast is in fact a summer paradise. I’ve heard it’s quiet and rather boring in the winter. I’m sure it’s true though I struggle to believe this place even having a winter.
“Sandra, over here!” I turned to see Aunty Emma waving and I started jogging towards her.
Aunt Emma is my mum’s fifteen years younger sister. I don’t really call her aunt at all. She hates it. Says it makes her feel old. She is forty-five, but looks a lot younger with chestnut brown wavy hair down to her shoulders and huge green eyes. She’s single, but was married once when I was little. She never talks about her ex-husband though. Only says that she’s much happier now alone. She was even thinking of getting a dog, but hadn’t yet decided what kind. “How was your trip?” she asked as we were driving home from the bus station. “Smooth, no delays,” I replied as I watched the postcard perfect houses in different colours with their newly painted fences and trimmed hedges passing by. I opened the window and drew in the sea air.
“It was quite unexpected, but lovely of you to come.” I closed the window and turned to her. I wasn’t in the mood for a conversation now. I needed my own space. I needed to figure out what to do now. “Can we please not talk, about why I’m here?” I asked. Emma took her eyes from the road and scrutinized my face. I could tell she wanted to say a lot. But in the end she sighed and said “It’s ok. But whatever it is, you’re gonna have to deal with it at some point. I’m here to talk whenever you want to.”
It was nearly 9 PM when we got to the house. But it was still light outside and it would be light for a good while yet. So after having carried my suitcase up to the guest room, we packed a basket with shrimps, white bread, mayonnaise lemon and white wine and went down to the small private peer where we sat down. We were quiet at first, just pealing the prawns and throwing the head and shells into the sea where they were soon picked up by greedy screaming seagalls. Then we talked about non-committal things. Emma’s job as the HR person at an oil firm which enjoyed. And my job as one of the press officers for the London mayor which I was less keen on.
“Have you applied for anything else then?” Emma asked refilling both our wineglasses. “I’m looking around,” I replied. I couldn’t tell her that returning to London was not an option. Not after yesterday’s phone call. It had come in at 3PM. That time when it’s the hardest not to fall asleep at your desk and that time everyone’s avoiding the tea round, yet everyone’s desperate for a cuppa. The most desperate one will end up doing it, taking orders from the colleagues about milk, sugar type of tea and so on. Yesterday it had been me. I was writing a press briefing about an upcoming event and my heart wasn’t into it. Deborah, who sat next to me, had called med back from the kitchen. We often answer each other’s office phones, and take down messages for each other, so I’d been very surprised when she’d called me over. “Sandra.” A voice said after my breezy “Hello Sandra speaking.”I froze. I hadn’t heard that voice in ten years. In fact, I had been convinced that the voice’s owner was dead. Long dead. But I would always recognize it. “Sandra, you can’t run from this any longer. You can’t.” Then a laughter that made the blood ring in my ears.I know you did it. You’re guilty Sandra. Guilty.” Then, a click and then silence. I knew then I had to run away. Far far away. London was the last place I wanted to be and the last place I should be.