Posted here for soulsong … see, I did go and do some writing last night! Thanks for the telling off!!
“Welcome home to Hólar?” Ben repeats Bjäkk’s words with confusion. He stands, fiddling with the straps of his rucksack in the classroom presided over by portraits of previous tutors, scientists and academics. Hanna pushes some tables aside and moves to stack some chairs.
“It’s tradition,” Hanna explains, “It’s said that wherever we come from no matter wherever we’re headed, this place, Hólar – it’s home to everyone.”
Ben nods, “It’s a nice idea.”
“It’s, welcoming.” Hanna agrees, without a hint of irony. She turns to face her cousin, but is distracted by a noise at the door beyond. It swings open, and Bjäkk enters, backing his way into the room pulling and pushing two mattresses with him. Almost immediately the two cousins are taking the mattresses and sling them down on the floor.
Bjäkk sidles around the mattresses, coming alongside Hanna, allowing his hands to help her with the straps of her rucksack. Ben watches, eyeing the two of them, as he casts out his sleeping bag, and unpacks his towel and washing kit.
Bjäkk and Hanna laugh and share a joke, their conversation becomes close and private.
Ben watches from the outside, only supposing at the subject of their talk. They were close friends at school, he knows that, but he had never suspected –: till now –: how close it may have been.
Bjäkk notices Ben’s observing eyes, and draws Hanna further into privacy. Ben casts his eyes about the room. He takes up his wash kit, makes a brief interjection as to his departure, and leaves the classroom in search of the washroom. Hanna glances briefly after him, offering her cousin a slight wave as he turns before finally leaving the room.
Hanna returns her gaze to Bjäkk, taking in the rough lines of his jaw and his shock of dark black hair.
She leans into him under the portrait of a former headmaster, staring up into his darkly handsome eyes. She giggles flirtatiously, fingering the collar of his shirt.
“Helen,” he grins wryly, “Don’t.”
Andy steps back, removing Helen’s hand from him. She smiles coyly – he’s tall, slender, and gorgeous. She tugs at his sleeve, twisting her fingers in his cuff.
Hanna starts. She pulls back, drawing in her fleece tightly around her. Bjäkk is staring at her, his face wrapped in concern.
“It’s nothing,” but still Hanna feels herself shiver, “Just, I felt here here –: with us.”
Bjäkk’s concern narrows, searching within himself to understand. Hi mindset is surrounded by the fear in Hanna’s voice and the agitation in her actions. He reads as a reaction to the events surrounding her cousin, and the tragedy unfolding in the mountains.
“She stayed here, didn’t she? You saw her,”
Bjäkk nods, “Just in the morning. The group she was with – I gave the tour,” he grins, “You know the aquarium, cathedral, the gruesome stories of bishops beheaded.”
“How was she? Helen?”
“Full of life. Spririted. I think,”
Helen runs from the school and across the grass outside the front entrance to where the dozen other people in her party are gathered under the trees. She launches herself at Andy, thrusting her arms around him, and rebounding around him, her fingers entwining with his.
Bjäkk looks to Hanna, remembering how the group of guys and girls had stood before him, gathering ready for his tour, “I think there was one that Helen –: she was sweet on.”
In the washed out, blue tones of night, Andy sits by the shore of Mývatn, looking out over the lake. A cold wind blows in across the water, stinging his skin into goose bumps and yet he feels nothing. He looks up into the mountains. Somewhere out there, he daren’t think–:
The three of them sit alone in the canteen, whilst somewhere beyond kitchen staff can be heard clattering plates, bowls, pots and pans. Ben spoons up hot meat sout, savouring the warmth as it travels down his gullet.
Bjäkk slides into the seat next to him pushing a bottle of Egils beer each towards Hanna and Ben. He lifts a third bottle to his lips, and nods.
Across five tables Helen and her party of friends tuck in to a meal of soup, cold meats and salad. Helen swigs down a mouthful of water, looking out the window, across the grounds to the square white cathedral tower with its black spire, almost a silhouette against the valley view.
Drawn suddenly back to the group by a question aimed in her direction.
“Yeah, me and Ben –: my brother –: we have duel nationality. Our dad, Guðni Ármannsson, he wanted to make sure we grew to love this country. I don’t think there’s been one year I haven’t come out at least once a year.”
“But you’ve never done one of these holidays before?” her interrogator is a self-confident, fair-faced twenty-nine year old, Hannah Ball. With the fingers of her left hand she hooks back her shoulder length blond hair, and with the other, forks up some cold meats with some salad.
Helen shakes her head, “It was Andy that suggested it,” she glances across at her tall, dark, spindly friend, “We go fell running together at uni. He had done some of this kind of think in the UK –: and when I said what Iceland was like.”
Hannah nods, she glances at Alice to her side, “Kind of similar. We first met on a conservation holiday in Yorkshire – you know, dry-stone walling and the like. This kind of deal seemed like the next step.”
Hanna agrees, throwing the discussion open to her cousin, “That’s kind of similar to what Ben’s been working on.”
“Yeah?” Bjäkk swigs back more beer.
Ben observes Hanna from across the table with some wondering, “Well in a way. Hanna hasn’t got it quite right. You’re very marine based,” he puts his understanding to Bjäkk, “I look much more at the climate-temperature models. I think I may have found a new way of measuring the subtle differences in temperature change, season by season, year by year.”
A quick glance round the table tells Ben that Hanna’s understanding has glazed over, but Bjäkk, but Bjäkk he – Ben elaborates his theories, exploring the complex algorithms of sea ice formation against tidal reach, with someone who understands.
Hanna watches the discussion develop and her interest wane. She slowly slips away from the table with her bottle of beer. Soon she is stepping quickly across the tiled and deserted corridors.