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Now that Ben and Helen’s father (damn him!) has come to Iceland, it’s necessary for the story to unfold for him to “written out” – or in other words – left to stew in a Reykjavik geothermal pool for a couple of chapters. I’d wondered how I was going to do this, and then (in conversation with soulsong) I realised – it’s so simple. Going after Helen, searching for her himself is going to in itself dangerous, especially considering the freak weather conditions they are experiencing in the centre of Iceland at the current time. The chances of him getting in the way of the rescue services are high. Ben’s father, who, upset though he is, is taking a more pragmatic approach and explains all of this to his son, and that how he and Ben’s mother don’t want to lose another child – that they just couldn’t bear it.
But Ben is determined. On an impulse, he packs his rucksack, and a tent, and leaves. He doesn’t talk to his father again. He just goes, and he would go alone if it were not for Hanna Katla arriving home at that time, and after failing to reason with him, goes with him, rather than see her cousin go off alone…
“I don’t know why,” begins Ben, “but this – it’s so beautiful.”
He looks from the view, again to his side, at Hanna, and at her quizzical expression.
“It’s grey. It’s concrete. It’s cold. But there’s something about this that, I don’t know–” he stops, looking to Hanna for help in articulating his thoughts.
Hanna Katla bites her lip pensively, kind of agreeing with her cousin’s words, reading what his intentions are. She too looks across a the view. A shaft of sunlight breaks though the clouds. She nods, almost a laugh.
“You see?” Ben tosses his head at the timing, “You get days when there’s no natural colour, and then suddenly the sun &150; it does this.”
The cloud has broken in a swathe across the horizon, and a sunset is rich in gold, red, mauve and orange. With just his eyes, nose, ears and mouth exposed to the chill evening air, Ben relaxes in the hot tub, comfortable and settled, Guðni to one side and Hanna to the other.
Ben lays in the temperature rich water of the tub, listening in vaguely to the conersation that passes across. His father is asking Hanna about university. And she is explaining it all to him – the three months earlier in the year that she spent in Italy as part of her course.
For the first time in fifty or so hours Ben’s thoughts relax enough to turn once more to his paper. Staring up from the water tinged with blue from the refraction of light, at the sky above he sees in the lines of clouds a temperature by tourism chart – and suddenly his mind is crunching the numbers and exploding with thoughts and scientific processes.
Waves washe over his face, and the level is displaced. Hanna Katla pushes herself up from the side, drips of water sliding from her, and she climbs out from the hot tub to dive back into the pool.
As Ben and his father turn from watching their relative depart, their own gaze catches that of the others. Both, almost speak – Ben catching his words almost as they tumble from his mouth. He sees Guð catch his words. A silence settles in the seconds that follow before, before the words are rearranged and spoken.
“I brought some mail out for you,” Guðni opens the conversation uncomfortably, “Research materials I think – Bangor postmarks.”
Ben nods. Thanks.
“I was thinking,” Ben begins, hesitantly.
His father looks up – interested, expecting a theoretical and deeply scientific discussion akin to many a breakfast time before school.
“Was thinking I’d go up there,” he watches his father’s expression carefully, “to the Highlands,” and sees incomprehension in Guðni’s face.
“To do something. Pabbi, I can’t sit here and do nothing. Helen is out there – somewhere,” his gaze is intense, “I have to help.”
There’s a slight shake to Guðni’s head but he makes no response. He remains silent, and in his silence he draws out from Ben more of an explanation.
“I can’t explain it.”
Guðni disagrees with his son, “Benjamin. the authorities are doing everything they can to find Helen. There’s nothing taht you, me, your mother can do,” he watches his son, observing the physical signs of his anguish.
“I know you feel helpless,” Gudni explains his reasoning, “Lord knows I feel it to.”
“Then why won’t you help me?”
Guðni looks away. Across the rim of the pool. He looks back at his son, “It’s too dangerous. And there are professionals – plenty of professionals. We would just get in the way.
“It’s three days pabbi. If they don’t find her soon–”
“Then we’ve lost her.” Guðni stares directly into his son’s troubled eyes, “Yes. I know.”
“Then the more people we have looking for her…?”