Helen pads barefoot across the silent vestibule, the slap-slap of skin on cold ceramic echoing throughout the unearthly quiet.
Hanna pushes through the doors, and steps out into the open. She wanders aimless in the grounds, smelling the fresh Icelandic night air. She quickens her pace and strides out up the slope at the back of the main school building.
Laughter. She stops, listening. Again, giggling and joking penetrates the night.
A fumbling at the lock. Helen tumbles out of the historic, turf-roofed farmhouse at Hólar, with Hannah and Alice, all in a fit of mirth.
“No really,” Alice affirms, “at it like rabbits they were.”
“And they still don’t know? That you all – you-” Her eyes bulging with disbelief. Helen mouths the word know. Hannah shakes her head, confirming the validity of the story. Helen can hold in full raucous laughter no longer, and the three girls collapse in hysterics.
Hanna approaches the farmhouse. A chill sweeping across her, she feels the spirits of those who have trod these steps before her.
A mobile rings, cutting across a still night and midnight hysterics.
She pulls the phone from her pocket, and glances down at the number. The phone continues to ring. Looking at the number, Hanna bites at her lip.
He stops, swinging round on his feet in the middle of crossing the car park. Hanna quickens her pace to join him, bounding down the slope and slowing in the last few steps.
“Hanna?” I thought you’d pushed off to bed.”
With a simple shake of her head she need not answer this. She steps up to her friend. He reaches out to her, “You okay? You look troubled.”
It’s silly. She can’t tell Bjäkk about seeing-sensing-feeling Helen’s presence. It’s emotion carried down from the mountains on cold night winds. It’s nothing. Just her own fears. But the phone call. She’d let it ring. She’d frozen at the thought of answering it. What was she scared of. She looks into Bjäkk’s blue eyes.
Bjäkk watches her. He waits for more.
“I couldn’t speak to him. What would I say Bjäkk? Id have to admit what stupid, crazy thing Ben and I were doing-”
Her words stumble to an end. Hanna looks searchingly in Bjäkk for help and for reassurance. He takes here in an embrace of comfort and warmth.
A new day breaks. Clear, northern sun casts strong shadows over the rural city of Hólar. A population of one hundred it is no more than a community of a few farms, houses, and the agricultural school.
In the first floor classroom Ben stirs from his sleep. Blinking, he adjusts to the light that seeps through the curtains. Rolling over he looks across to his cousin’s mattress. He peers closer. No one. He flops back onto his back, exhausted already – nights are never long enough.
Hanna wakes in Bjäkk’s arms, curled on the sofa in his crowded bedsit. She untangles herself from him, remembering dimly the events of last night. Or was it early this morning? The bottle of Brennivin stands as reminder to the shot drinking and late night talk.
How late did they stay up talking? And at what point did conversation fall to sleeping? She picks up a shot glass where it had been left lain in the chair. She crosses to the window and pulls back the curtains.
She pours out a mug of coffee and gathers up the bowl of muesli toped with sour milk, skyr and fresh fruits. Moving through the canteen she approaches Ben, alone at a table, eating his breakfast.