The story you’re about to read is not a story like my usual stories. It’s possible to read it as a standalone story, but otherwise it’s about the main protagonists that you will meet in my first novel “State of Emergency” which is to be published later this week. It contains snippets on how Mercedes and Idun fell in love.
Cover is by the talented Deniz Pekin.
“Hello, I’m Mercedes Alves Correia. I’m here from Quality Homes Real Estate?”
Idun felt her mouth go dry at the Amazon that was standing outside her door with a hand held forward. The woman was at least a head taller than Idun with blue-black hair in an orderly bun at the top of her head. Her mahogany skin had a healthy shine to it and was clearly taken care of. The suave suit she was wearing looked like it had been made for her and Idun’s face turned red when she realized that she was terribly underdressed in a Star Wars T-shirt and washed out jeans.
“Oh yes, sorry!” Idun realized she had been staring without saying anything. “I’m Idun, please, come in!” She smiled and shook the hand that Mercedes was offering a little bit too eagerly.
She then turned to the side and awkwardly scratched the back of her head as the Amazon entered.
“May I look around?” Mercedes made a gesture towards the flat.
Idun fled to the kitchen, wanting to hide her burning cheeks before her real estate agent could notice the strange effect she had on her. She leaned her back against the coolness of the fridge. Come on, Idun. Breathe. It’s not the first time you’ve met a gorgeous woman. What’s wrong with you?
“It’s a very nice flat.” As Mercedes entered the kitchen, she licked her lips. “What is your reason for selling?”
“I want a bigger place.” Idun kicked herself upright. “It’s really as simple as that.”
Mercedes nodded. “Shall we sit down and discuss how to proceed?”
“Yes please,” Idun said tamely. “Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Tea?”
“Coffee would be good,” Mercedes replied, and Idun suddenly wanted to kick herself.
“Sorry, I just remembered I have no coffee.” Her face reddened again. Why the hell had she offered coffee? “But I have black tea?”
Mercedes smiled and nodded, but the smile was stiff and her eyes shone with something close to contempt, or so Idun thought.
“Some tea would be lovely, thank you.” Her voice was somehow cold and warm at the same time.
She sat down at the table, and took out some papers and folders from her briefcase. Idun tried not to think as she filled the kettle with water but she couldn’t help but wonder what Mercedes thought about Idun’s version of interior design. As much as Idun loved it, a probably well-off real estate agent most likely had nothing but amused pity for Idun’s homemade table or her mismatched chairs in different colours.
Oh well, Idun thought, I guess it doesn’t matter. As long as she sells it for me, who cares what she thinks?
She went to her cupboard and inspected the options. This was even worse than the mismatched chairs. Rather than letting her hand close around her favourite cups that were shaped like purple owls or her other one that said “I love my girlfriend even more than I love my tea”, she took out her only regular cups and placed them on the counter.
Her blood ran hot when she saw that Mercedes was fingering Idun’s forgotten papers on the table. Usually that would have been fine – they were just some reports from university – but these were on homosexual behaviour in marine animals.
“I’m studying biology,” Idun blurted out before Mercedes had a chance to think that she was some crazy pervert.
Mercedes let go of the paper immediately, as if embarrassed Idun had caught her being nosy. She flashed Idun a quick smile but it was just as fake as the last one.
“That’s nice.” Her tone was practically monotone. “Long until you graduate? Oh thanks.” She placed her hands around the cup that was placed in front of her.
“About six months.” Idun sat down in front of her. “I just need to finish my thesis.”
“And you’re writing it on…” Mercedes made a gesture towards the bundle of papers.
“About how dolphins act differently when in captivity versus how they act out at sea,” Idun said quickly, “sexuality is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Yes!” Idun got excited in spite of herself. “The findings are actually quite staggering, especially considering-”
“Sorry.” Mercedes interrupted her while stirring an obscene amount of sugar into her tea. “You’re moving because you’re graduating then?”
Idun stared at the never ceasing movement of Mercedes’s hand. How much sugar does one person need?
“Yes.” She eventually said in a small voice, closing her hands around her cup. She wanted to gather strength from the heated liquid.
“Are you looking for a new flat or a house?” Mercedes asked before lifting the cup to her mouth and blowing on it.
“I’m moving in with my dad until I find the right place,” Idun tried to focus on her tea. “It also means that I have time to wait for the right buyer. I’m not willing to go down by much, concerning the price.”
Mercedes nodded mindlessly, put the cup down after taking a sip and made some notes on a paper she had out.
“I take 6% in commission,” Mercedes paused when Idun bit her bottom lip, “it’s a standard fee. I don’t think that you will find anyone cheaper in this town. At least not someone as good as us.”
“No, no, no, it’s okay,” Idun said. “I was just unprepared. It’s the first time I ever sold a flat.”
Mercedes nodded again and made more notes.
* * *
Mercedes continued to explain while the pathetic person in front of her just nodded and made little comments here and there. She wasn’t sure what it was that annoyed her about the student, if it was her stupid red curls, her cow-innocent eyes or her ugly flat, but Mercedes was a professional. If she was good at anything, it was dealing with clients and getting the job done.
“Well, I have to get going.” If I don’t get out of this stupid colourful kitchen soon, I’m going to –
“Of course, thank you.” Idun’s smile was so sweet and so genuine it made Mercedes want to grind her teeth.
She returned the smile of course, but it was strained, her cheeks were starting to hurt from all the fake smiling. She tried to console herself with the fact that underneath all that horrendous, and most likely homemade, furniture, the flat was light and very modern. It would sell quickly.
Idun yawned as she stepped off the bus. She was on her way home after an exhausting day of teaching and could hardly believe it was the weekend already. She had really earned this one. She knew that a lot of people managed to study and work at the same time, but it was really starting to wear down on her. She couldn’t remember the last time she had actually gone out for the weekend, or the last time she had called on a friend just for a cup of coffee. Her life had become a roller coaster of nothing but work and study.
Her flat had still not sold, despite fancy ads in all the right places and three ads in the local paper. She tried not to worry too much; after all, this was supposed to be stress-free selling. It was Mercedes’s job to worry about that. But it was disconcerting for Idun as well. It had been almost five months. It shouldn’t have taken this long.
Idun kept walking down the street, lost in her thoughts, her eyes involuntary focusing on a figure coming towards her on the other side of the street. It was someone she recognized, someone she knew. The woman eventually lifted her gaze and against her better judgement, Idun lifted her hand and waved in a greeting. It was only when she noticed the cool curve of a polite smile that Idun recognized who it was.
* * *
Oh no, not her. Mercedes wanted to just keep walking but Idun was coming closer and she couldn’t bear to be so obviously impolite. She didn’t even have a reason for disliking Idun, there was just something about the bubbly woman that aggravated her to no limit.
“Hi,” Idun stopped in front of her. Oh fuck, she wants small talk? “How are you?”
“Hello,” Mercedes forced another smile. “I am well, thank you, and you?”
“I’m okay,” Idun said. “Happy that it’s weekend. I suppose you are too, being an estate agent must be so stressful.”
Why does she have to talk so much?
“Loving my job makes it easier.” This time Mercedes’s smile was genuine. “Well, I really have to-”
“Any interest for the viewing next week? I will be in class like usual, but I will have cleaned and tidied before.”
“No.” Mercedes sighed. “Sadly not. But I’m not giving up hope, some flats are ju-”
Mercedes looked towards the interrupting voice. The Swedish military had set up different stands on the square to recruit; at one of the stands a tall man was waving at Idun. She waved back.
“Hi!” She yelled, then turned back to Mercedes. “That’s Marco. Friend of my sister’s. She is in the military. Usually she would be here too but she actually volunteered to help out in Japan. With the tsunami… and the earthquake, they were… I’m sorry, I’m talking too much.” Her cheeks turned pink.
“It’s okay.” But Mercedes didn’t mean it. It was strange listening to Idun talking about her sister with so much pride in her voice. Mercedes couldn’t remember ever being proud of a sibling. Or any family member.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it.” Idun’s smile was careful, apologetic. As if she could sense that Mercedes was too tired to stand there and play polite with a client she didn’t even like.
All Mercedes wanted to do was go home, open a bottle of wine and fill her bathtub to the brim with hot and foamy water. She could almost feel it already, the sensation of sinking into a wonderfully warm mass of water. Stretching her long legs, finally relaxing her –
Merda, porra, puta que pariu, filho da mae! Mercedes’s head filled with profanities in Portuguese as the the person she wanted to see the least right now came toward them with quick steps.
* * *
“Mercedes.” The man who had approached them started talking quickly in a language that Idun didn’t understand. “Voce finalmente terminou! Venha beber come a gente.”
Maybe it’s her brother? Idun watched them interact. They were at least from the same country and old friends.
Suddenly he looked down at her and he clutched a hand at his chest in a dramatic fashion.
“Oh, how rude of me!” He exclaimed. “You have a friend with you! I didn’t think I’d live to see Mercedes with a friend.” He laughed loudly and Mercedes turned so red, Idun felt sorry for her.
“No, I’m -” It hurt Idun that Mercedes seemed so furious at the mere suggestion that they were friends but she wanted to set the record straight.
“No, this is -” Mercedes said in the same time but the man interrupted them both.
“So, what is your name, friend of Mercedes? I’m Raphael.”
“Idun Tyr.” Idun felt more and more awkward. “But I’m not…”
“Come on,” Raphael put his arm around her. “Have a drink with us. It’s Friday after all, and you look like you could really use one. Actually, both of you do.”
Idun looked questioningly at Mercedes but Mercedes’s angry gaze was firmly on Raphael.
A quick string of unfamiliar words came out of Mercedes’s mouth, but despite the hostile nature of them, Raphael just laughed and answered something back. Idun was just about to turn around and leave when they turned to her again.
“I know you’re Swedish,” Raphael said, “and Mercedes has been living here long enough to turn Swedish. But I’m Brazilian and I live the Brazilian way. Please, both of us would love for you to join us.”
She had to say no, of course. Saying yes and accepting the invite was ludicrous. There really was no reason why she would agree to having a drink with her estate agent who didn’t like her and apparently their friends whom Idun had never met before.
But Idun was tired. Not just physically tired but tired of the rut she was in. Of routine. She was in the need of something different. Something exciting. A drink with possible friends-to-be seemed like just what the doctor recommended.
“If you don’t mind terribly.” She smiled shyly at Mercedes, almost scared of her reaction. “I would like to…” Their gazes met. Mercedes looked so tired and lost that Idun immediately changed her mind, she opened her mouth to say so when Raphael spoke up.
“Splendid!” He put his arms around her shoulders. “Well, come on now, ladies. Follow me.”
* * *
It wasn’t as bad as Mercedes had first thought. Raphael had taken them to small pub where they had joined in with the regular crowd, other South Americans with the occasional Swedish partner. More than anything, Mercedes was surprised how easily Idun managed to blend right in, it was as if she was made for talking with others and her bubbly ways seemed to be actually appreciated by the others. Pretty soon Mercedes stopped being annoyed that Idun got along so well with her friends, and more annoyed that Idun seemed to speak with everyone but herself.
“So you and Mercedes are old friends?” Idun was looking at Raphael.
“One could say so.” Raphael winked at Mercedes. Mercedes growled. “But one could also say that we used to be married.”
“Oh!” Idun looked at Mercedes quickly. “I never would have guessed.”
Mercedes took a sip from her drink and tried to ignore them but couldn’t.
“We haven’t been married for six years,” she found herself saying, “I hardly think it counts.”
Raphael clutched his chest dramatically at Mercedes’ words and Idun giggled.
A wave of annoyance washed through Mercedes. Raphael wasn’t flirting, was he? She stifled an uncharacteristic growl that rumbled through her chest.
“What about you?” Raphael said. “Boyfriend? Husband? Secret lover?”
Idun seemed to blush and Mercedes had to grit her teeth. Raphael was totally flirting with Idun. And usually Raphael could charm anyone.
“Oh no,” Idun said, “I’m now strictly workaholic.” Pfft, Mercedes thought, like that girl even knows the meaning of workah- “And my last relationship ended when she-” she?, “-moved away. For work ironically.”
“Did you say she?” Raphael asked.
“Well, yeah,” Idun said, “I’m gay.” She said it matter-of-factly, like it meant nothing to her but Mercedes noticed how Idun’s nails were starting to dig their way under the label of the bottle in front of her.
She’s actually nervous about our reaction. It was almost quaint. At least Raphael can’t charm his way into her bed now. Not that Mercedes had been worrying about that. Or even thinking about it. Of course not.
“You know, I’d never guessed.” Raphael was still talking.
Idun chuckled awkwardly, visibly relieved.
“What did you expect?” Her smile was cordial but a little bit strained. “I suppose my hair’s too long, my nails are too painted and I don’t constantly talk about… umm… sports.”
“You got me,” Raphael said dramatically, “I think I’ll need to reassess everything I know.”
Raphael still thought he was charming, that much was clear, but Idun’s smile wasn’t as easy anymore. They continued talking though and Mercedes diverted her attention elsewhere. Eavesdropping was pathetic and beneath her. She turned to the other side of the table only to find her other friends engaged in a conversation about politics. Mercedes felt strangely alone. What I wouldn’t give to be soaking in my tub right now…
“Are you annoyed I came?” Mercedes had been staring into her drink, but the sound of Idun’s voice made her look up. Raphael had gone to the bathroom and Idun was now looking directly at her. Her eyes were wide and worried and the nervous pinkness in her cheeks was back.
“I mean, I could see you weren’t very pleased,” Idun continued when Mercedes didn’t reply, “and I wasn’t going to accept the invitation but I really needed this.”
Mercedes forced herself to smile, and surprised herself when the smile actually felt genuine.
“I’m glad you did,” she said, “you and Raphael seem to get along.”
“Oh yes,” Idun said, “I think I disappointed him though.”
“The gay thing?” Mercedes asked and Idun nodded. “Nah, he has his pick among women, one less will do him some good.”
“If you say so.” Idun’s eyes sparkled in the dim light. “It doesn’t bother you, does it? The gay thing?”
“No.” But Mercedes meant yes. It did bother her, it bothered her a lot, but she couldn’t put her finger on why.
“Good.” Idun leaned back in her seat. “You have wonderful friends. So welcoming.”
“I’m glad.” Mercedes tried to relax, but it was clear that Idun wanted to talk with her now.
“So how long have you been living in Sweden?”
Mercedes suppressed a yawn. Always the same question.
“Twelve years this December.”
“Then your Swedish is really good,” Idun said. “The queen has been living in Sweden since the seventies and her Swedish is still bad. It’s kind of an ongoing joke here.”
“I had no idea,” Mercedes said politely.
“So why did you move here?” Idun was apparently set on talking all night. “I can’t imagine living somewhere warm with beaches, palm trees and pretty people and then moving away from there.”
Perhaps not, Mercedes thought, but the corruption, slums and alcoholic parents were very easy to leave.
“Raphael,” she said, “he had gotten a job offer. We were still married so when he moved, I moved.”
“Ah okay.” Idun nodded. “Sorry for asking so much. I think that drink went straight to my head.” She looked at her small glass that was empty but couldn’t have held much liquid to begin with. “I don’t take alcohol well.” She waved at the waiter to bring her some water.
“What are you going to do after graduating?” Mercedes could hardly believe the question that came out of her mouth. You’re engaging in small talk now? Really, Meri?
“Teach high school.” Idun thanked the waiter who brought her water. “I don’t have a formal degree in education but I have taken a few pedagogy classes, and I’ve been temping a lot.”
“Oh sorry.” Idun took a sip. “I work as a temp teacher, standing in when regular teachers are ill or away. Today I taught fourth grade math.” She chuckled.
“What?” Mercedes asked, smiling at the bubbling sound of Idun’s laugh.
Idun took another sip. “I should have said I tried to teach fourth grade math. Usually the younger students get very unfocused when their regular teacher is gone. After about half the time, I gave up and we just played a game of hangman instead. There was no point in forcing when they weren’t learning anything anyway.”
Mercedes smiled genuinely and tried to think of something else to say, something to keep their easy conversation going. Talking with Idun outside of work was… nice. Pleasant.
Her smile disappeared when Raphael came back, sat himself down next to Idun and again monopolized her attention. Mercedes watched Idun turn away from her, as if in slow motion, and she didn’t like it. Not one bit. She wanted to keep talking with Idun. To learn more about her. To hear her laugh again.
But clearly Raphael was more interesting. Mercedes felt rejected. And she was not used to feeling rejected.
Idun couldn’t help but throw one last look in the mirror before she headed out. It was D-day. Her flat was finally sold. It was finally possible to turn over a new leaf. To start again in a new place. The timing had turned out to be quite perfect, her graduation was just a few days away. She could truly start her new life when she moved. But first she needed to head over to Mercedes’s office to sign the papers.
Which brought her to this. Looking in the mirror. Brushing her hair again. Debating on whether to put makeup on or not. Idun wasn’t sure why it felt important. She wanted Mercedes to remember her. To remember her as pretty. Or at least tolerable. Idun had washed her strawberry-blonde hair and used the expensive shampoo instead of the generic kind. She had put on a white blouse and black slacks. She was even wearing a small silver necklace that had a blue bird that her sister always said brought out the colour of Idun’s eyes. Before Idun put down the mirror again, she almost thought that she had managed. She didn’t want Mercedes to forget her.
* * *
The buyer was friendly enough, but Mercedes couldn’t properly focus anyway. She explained the terms and conditions and sat patiently as both the buyer and Idun were reading their respective contracts. Mercedes noticed to her distress that instead of thinking about all the money she would receive on this transaction or what she would do later, her mind was occupied by Idun.
To Mercedes’s annoyance, she couldn’t stop thinking about how Idun’s legs and ass had looked in those trousers, or how her eyes seemed bluer than usual when focused on the words on the paper. Sometimes her lips formed the shape of a word, but instead of ignorant, Mercedes found it endearing. She found herself fantasizing about teaching Idun Portuguese. Having the lithe body next to hers, pointing on the page and seeing the raspberry pink lips form the unfamiliar words. Mercedes guiding and teaching, moving Idun’s unsuspecting lips to Mercedes’s mouth, to Mercedes’s neck, guiding it downwards. A shiver went down Mercedes’s spine and she forced herself to shake the naughty thoughts away. It wasn’t like her to daydream. Or fantasize about sex. Sex with women. Sex with a client. Sex with Idun. Mercedes almost groaned out loud at the images that flooded her mind. Idun with her eyes closed, her head tilted back, her mouth open to let out a moan.
“Let me just sign this,” the buyer said, waking Mercedes up from her thoughts. She handed him a pencil and tried to focus on the dress she was planning to buy next week, but a twinkle in Idun’s eyes broke her concentration.
* * *
Mercedes was in a worse mood than usual, Idun noted as she signed her part of the contract and handed it back to the buyer. Whenever the agent had looked at her, her eyes had darkened and her mouth had been reduced to a line. It was clear that Mercedes was very angry with her, but Idun couldn’t figure out what she had done. It wasn’t exactly a secret that Mercedes hadn’t liked her in the beginning, but Idun thought they had passed that now. After the night at the pub, Idun had almost hoped that they could be friends.
But the estate agent Mercedes Alves Correia was back, her face not just a professional mask but a grumpy professional mask. She hardly looked at Idun as the buyer signed the papers, shook their hands and left. Idun sighed and stood up. She opened her bag and started gathering all the papers and contracts. She spent a long time looking at them and putting them in her bag. She knew that Mercedes was looking at her, but Idun couldn’t help it. This was the end. When Idun was done she would shake Mercedes’s hand, she would leave and then they would never see each other again. Eventually Idun couldn’t drag it out anymore. She looked up and put her bag on her shoulder. Mercedes was looking at her with an unreadable look on her face.
“Well, thanks for everything.”
Mercedes nodded but said nothing. Idun nodded quietly as well. Moved her bag to her other shoulder. She started walking towards the door, but Mercedes was standing in the way and even though Idun was coming towards her, Mercedes didn’t move. They found themselves standing in front of each other. Idun had known that Mercedes was taller, but their position made it even more obvious. Idun felt herself hypnotized by Mercedes’s eyes, the colour of dark whisky with little flecks of gold spread around the iris. They were eyes made for drowning in, and Idun noticed to her distress that she had forgotten how to swim.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with you.” Idun’s mouth was dry. So this is goodbye I guess.
“Likewise.” Mercedes seemed to think for a moment but then she started moving out of the way. Slowly, as if she wanted the meeting to end as little as Idun did.
“I have lessons now.” Idun felt like laughing nervously. “What I mean,” she continued, “is that I have lessons now but I finish at four. We could… I… you,” she took a deep breath, “will you go out with me? Tonight? We could go and have dinner or something.” Idun wanted to disappear through the floor. You don’t ask a gorgeous and fashionable and very straight woman out. You just don’t. Not that Idun asked many women out at all, but definitely not women like Mercedes.
Mercedes looked equally shocked and her face made Idun look away in shame. She wanted to take it back. To stop feeling so ridiculous. Mercedes would say no, of course, and even if she didn’t, where would Idun even take her?
“Yes.” Idun looked up in surprise and Mercedes smiled. It was small and quick but a smile that promised of warmth. “I get off between 4 and 5 usually. Why don’t you come and pick me up?”
The Beginning Part Two
Idun and Mercedes had first gone to a cafe for a light dinner and then they had gone to see a movie. It had been one of those silly adventure movies where the hero finds the treasure, gets the girl and unlocks some secret mystery in the meantime. Mercedes mainly thought that the movie was pathetic but every time she glanced at Idun’s face, she had a look of wonder on it, like she really was enjoying the movie. Later when they were outside the cinema and Idun asked if Mercedes had liked the movie, Mercedes hadn’t the heart to say what she was actually thought.
Then Idun walked Mercedes home in the autumn night. If Idun had been a man, Mercedes would have been almost offended at the notion that she needed an escort home but with Idun it felt natural. Not like Idun didn’t think that Mercedes couldn’t handle herself, but rather that she did it out of a wish to spend as much time as possible with Mercedes. That had brought them to the steps of Mercedes’ building.
“I had a nice time tonight,” Idun said, “I’m sorry that you didn’t like the movie.” She smiled apologetically.
“No, no, it’s fine,” Mercedes found herself saying, “I had a good time too.” A chilly autumn wind blew past them, causing Idun to pull her jacket tighter around her. Mercedes wished she was closer so she could have seen the goose bumps that were forming on Idun’s neck below the messy bun.
“I should go,” Idun said after a few minutes of silence; she looked nervous for a little bit but then she moved closer. She stood on tip-toe and pressed a kiss to Mercedes cheek. It hadn’t lasted a minute and yet, Mercedes had gotten warmer from that small kiss than any other.
“It’s cold,” she said when Idun was about to turn around, “and dark, why don’t you come upstairs for a bit?”
“For a bit?” Idun said, her smile was shy, “I don’t think it’ll be warmer and lighter in a minute.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Mercedes replied, “just come upstairs, please. I’ll make some coff- tea. I think I have some tea.”
Idun walked back and passed through the door that Mercedes was holding open.
“It’s fine with just water as well.”
* * *
Idun couldn’t help the desire to snoop when she got upstairs to Mercedes flat. It wasn’t something she did usually as she believed in respecting people’s privacy. But as she had taken of her shoes and her jacket and Mercedes had gone into the kitchen to fetch them something to drink she couldn’t help but to look around.
Mercedes had expensive taste, that much was clear. And she clearly loved indulging herself. There was a leather sofa with what looked like a very soft blanket folded on the side. A couple of real estate magazines lay neatly on top of the coffee table, mixed with what looked like a newspaper in some Latin language. Idun guessed Spanish but wasn’t sure. Everything looked immaculate, like a showhouse. Idun almost found it a bit sad and she started missing her own flat. She had just moved in, but she missed the messy, cozy atmosphere of her home. Mercedes’s home had a cold tint to it that gave Idun chills if she focused too much on it.
“It turns out I had no tea.” Idun looked up, Mercedes was standing in the hallway, holding a tray with two glasses on it, “but I brought some coffee for me and some orange juice for you.” How Mercedes knew that Idun loved any type of fruit juice was a mystery, but Idun gladly accepted the glass.
“Thanks,” she said.
“Where are you from – Brazil wasn’t it?” Idun asked when they sat down next to each other on the sofa. Mercedes had had to move the rug before sitting down. Idun guessed that Mercedes usually sat by herself on the sofa, and that’s why the rug was placed so strategically in the middle.
“Yeah, I’m from Brazil.” Mercedes sounded monotone again and she didn’t elaborate. “Are you from here in town or?”
“I’m from Boden, a town up north,” Idun said, “so, Brazil, they speak… Portuguese there, right?”
“Yes.” Mercedes sighed. “When did you move here?”
It seemed that Mercedes really didn’t want to talk about Brazil, and as much as Idun wanted to pry for information she decided to back off.
“We moved around a lot after my mother died,” she said instead, “but we have stayed here since my sister joined the army. It wasn’t as tempting to keep moving around once we were adults and wanted to settle somewhere. It was good, I got to finish the last years of high school here. Then I went travelling on my own for a while, but I always came back here.”
“I’m sorry about your mother.” Mercedes’s voice sounded strangely cold, it puzzled her.
Idun shook her head.
“Nah, it was a long time ago. I hardly remember her.” Mercedes was looking somewhere else, it made Idun feel like she was intruding. Mercedes wasn’t really one for idle conversation. But Idun could sense other things from her, awkwardness and insecurity. Idun hoped that she could make her more comfortable, but in the same time she wondered, why did Mercedes agree to these small dates when she was clearly so uncomfortable with them. All they had done was have polite conversation in each other’s vicinity and share one cheek peck. Hardly something to write home about.
“I’m very close with my dad though,” Idun said mindlessly. “What about your parents?” Mercedes mouth was reduced to a line. Idun had clearly hit a nerve.
“They are still alive.” Mercedes took a deep breath. “At least my mum, not sure about my dad.”
“I’m sorry for asking,” Idun said softly, and she was. But she didn’t know what else to talk about. Maybe she was making a mistake. There were other women out there, women who weren’t like Mercedes, women who were fun and open and easy to deal with. Women her own age.
They sat quiet for a few minutes, sipping the contents of the cup and glass. Idun started wondering if maybe it would be better for them both if she just left. Then she looked up at Mercedes and her breath was almost taken away by how beautiful the woman was. And how much Idun felt pulled to her. She didn’t want to give up yet.
“My dad went to Brazil once,” Idun said, needing to say something.
“Oh,” Mercedes said politely but without emotion in her voice, “where did he go?” She put her cup down on the table but didn’t look at Idun.
“He was in Rio,” Idun said, “Mercedes, I don’t mean to be impolite or anything and I’ve enjoyed our little… get-together, but I’m not sure you enjoy my company at all.” A faint blush was spreading over Mercedes’ cheeks.
“Do you want me to go?” Idun pressed on, “I hate feeling like I’m not wanted.” She put her glass on the table and stood up. Mercedes looked up in panic, she stood up as well and grasped Idun’s wrist before the latter had managed to leave the room and enter the hallway.
* * *
Mercedes looked down at the pale wrist that was in her grip. The contrast between her own skin and Idun’s skin was beautiful and somewhere in Mercedes mind, a picture of how beautiful they would look, moving together, formed. Mercedes felt herself blushing and absolutely hated it. She let go of Idun’s wrist.
“I’m sorry,” she said and awkwardly scratched the back of her neck, she hated feeling like this. “I’m not sure what I should do, or how I should act.”
“Have you ever dated a woman before?” Idun asked although she thought she knew the answer.
“Not a woman, no one so much younger than me, no one since my divorce,” Mercedes said. “Saying that this is a first is an understatement. I’m not sure how to act or what to do, or what’s proper or…” Mercedes stopped talking, she couldn’t believe how open she was being. She looked worriedly at Idun, scared that she would find contempt there but Idun was smiling warmly at her.
“It’s not a problem,” she said, her smile slowly melting all of Mercedes’s fears; she reached out again and took a hold of Mercedes’s hand.“Come on, let’s sit down again.” They returned to the sofa, their hands still entwined. Mercedes didn’t know if she was supposed to let go of Idun’s hand or not, so she kept a firm hold. Idun’s hand was smaller and quite cool and she was clearly not letting go.
“Let’s start over,” Idun said, “I’m Idun, I teach high school biology, I really like novelty china and silly adventure films and I think you’re absolutely beautiful.” She looked down after that, somehow she looked both embarrassed and happy about what she had said.
“I’m Mercedes,” Mercedes said slowly, “I’m an estate agent and I… I’m interested in….” Mercedes searched within herself, she couldn’t think of a single thing she could say. Money? Status? Brand furniture? “I love bubble baths.” She wanted to hit her face on the table. Bubble baths? Bubble baths? Where did that come from? Surely they were nice but she was more interested in Idun than she was in bubble baths.
Idun didn’t manage to hide her giggle and Mercedes’s face fell. This had been a bad idea.
“Don’t be embarrassed.” Idun gave Mercedes’s hand a squeeze. “Bubble baths are awesome.” She looked like she was about to start laughing again and Mercedes angrily pulled her hand away from Idun’s. Awkward or not, she did not like the feeling that she was being mocked. Idun’s smile faltered into a concerned frown.
“Let’s have sex.”
Mercedes looked at her in shock.
“What…” she stuttered, “what… do you mean? I….”
“Well,” Idun said slowly, “it’s what you want, right?” Mercedes didn’t know if she was joking or not and she had no reply. It had to be what she wanted, right? That had to be the reason why she was sitting here with a much younger woman. What else could Idun give her? What else could Mercedes want from her? The idea that Mercedes could want something emotionally was laughable. She needed no one, never had and she didn’t expect this to change. She looked back at Idun.
“Okay.” Mercedes’s heart was beating in her throat and she felt to her terror that sweat was breaking out in the palm of her hands. Not sexy. Mercedes had never worried before, but now she felt positively nervous. Despite Idun’s suggestion, Mercedes couldn’t see why she would be interested in her, a much older woman. Mercedes looked good, and she took pride in her looks, but she was still well over 30 and Idun was younger. Nine years younger? Mercedes hadn’t done the math but it was something around there.
Without any warning, Idun leaned forward and kissed Mercedes on the mouth. It was soft and sweet, no tongue and when Idun pulled back again Mercedes was grateful for her dark skin, otherwise she would have been red. Her skin felt hot and her breath had sped up. Like an anxiety attack, except not an anxiety attack.
“Was that okay?” Idun’s question made her look up again. Her eyes were fixed on Mercedes’s face with such an intensity that it made Mercedes’s skin crawl, and her mouth was adorably pink and slightly open. There was something in her face, a yearning that made her heart speed up.
“Yes, it was okay, more than okay.” Mercedes wanted to do it again. She tried to remember if kissing Raphael had ever felt so… electric but she couldn’t. This, human affection, somebody else looking at her and kissing her. She had missed it, she had to admit. She couldn’t even remember the last time she and Raphael had kissed. Probably more than seven years. Suddenly, Mercedes wanted to kiss again. She craved it. The contact.
This time she dived forward, determined to kiss Idun breathless. If she could somehow retain the upper hand, she knew she would feel better. Less insecure. More in charge. She leaned forward, and suddenly dived down from Idun’s lips to nip at her throat. She wasn’t sure what she should do, but there was something appealing about making a mark on Idun’s pale neck. Suddenly she felt the pulse point under her lips and on instinct she bit down. She felt Idun gasp above her, then she shuddered and simply melted. She fell backwards and grasped at Mercedes’s shoulders pulling her with her. They kissed deeply, hungrily. Mercedes’s head was on top of the clouds, like her brain had ceased to function. Her entire being had been reduced to simply needing and wanting. She wanted Idun more than anything.
She pushed Idun’s shoulders back and then lifted her legs so she was straddling Idun on the sofa. Then she lunged back to Idun’s mouth. Without being able to help it she rocked her hips once and gasped at the glorious friction and the warmth that spread between her legs. She rocked her hips again, and then again. She moaned into Idun’s hair. It was only when the burning had reached her abdomen and spread along the insides of her thighs that Mercedes realized she what she was doing. She was rubbing herself on Idun like, she didn’t know what. And even though Idun didn’t seem to mind, she had her arms around Mercedes in a firm grip and was trembling slightly, it was hardly a dignified way to come. And Mercedes knew that if she continued she would eventually come.
“Why did you stop?” Idun’s voice was throaty and she rubbed her nose on Mercedes’s neck, “it’s okay. I can tell you really need it.” When Mercedes didn’t move or answer, Idun worked a hand in between their bodies and started undoing the buttons on Mercedes’s trousers.
Mercedes wanted to ask her what she was doing, but all she did was manage to whimper and she tensed her muscles so she could lean back a bit and give Idun enough room to finally get her zipper down and plunge her hand into Mercedes’s underwear. Mercedes could feel how wet she was but all thoughts of embarrassment flew out the window when Idun glided through her wetness, touching all the right places and causing Mercedes to tremble against her hand. The touch was electric and without Idun barely moving at all, Mercedes started thrusting against her hand, unable to stop the frantic movements of her hips. She buried her face in Idun’s hair but quickly realized her mistake; Idun smelled delicious.
“No, we have to stop,” she said even as she thrust faster, “if we don’t, if we don’t,” she panted, “I… will…” the climax was sudden and brought such relief that Mercedes teared up. She ground her hips into Idun’s hand and Idun’s body, while gasping as pleasure ripped through her. She stopped moving, letting her head fall down on Idun’s shoulder.
“Did you just…” Idun’s voice made her feel ashamed. She couldn’t believe she had come so quickly or so intensely from so little. Idun groaned and she realized that she must be crushing her hand. Mercedes quickly lifted her hips and allowed Idun to move her hand away. Idun then brought it up to her lips and started licking her fingers off. Mercedes just stared. She was sure that this was just inappropriate, but even as she thought about it she felt herself grow warm with arousal again.
“Idun,” she said, her voice darker than usual, “should we go to the bedroom? I think we would be more comfortable there?”
* * *
Idun felt nervous when taking her clothes off. Mercedes was a goddess, long tan legs, trim waist and muscled arms. Mixed with the long black hair, the woman could have been an Amazon. Idun felt like a Swedish hobbit next to her, short and round. When she finally got her shirt off and her jeans skirt fell to the floor and she was standing in front of Mercedes in just her underwear, she felt self-conscious and more than a little bit nervous. But when Mercedes’s gaze fell on her, and went from her head down to her thighs, stopping in all the right places, Idun started feeling a bit better. Because there was desire in Mercedes’s gaze. Desire and want and need and lust. Idun felt her heart quicken and moisture gather between her legs, she wasn’t sure she had ever been so aroused before.
“I want to feel you,” Mercedes said, her accent thicker than usual, “can I…” she made a gesture towards the bed. Idun nodded, semi-conscious of the environment. All she could see was Mercedes. She knew that Mercedes was still inexperienced, a bit unsure, but she could still practically feel the dominance radiating from her. This would be interesting.
Before Idun had managed to walk closer to the bed, Mercedes had pulled her into an embrace, pressing their chests together. Idun’s skin felt like on fire, pressed into Mercedes’s soft chest. Idun stood on tiptoe and searched for Mercedes lips with her own. At their contact she groaned. This was heaven. Idun was so wrapped up in all the sensations she only noticed how urgent Mercedes’s touch had become, kissing her fiercely and running her hands over every part of Idun’s body. She grabbed a hold of her hips and pressed her closer.
“I want you now,” she growled and Idun found herself pushed on the bed. She didn’t know if Mercedes was still uncomfortable or if she had found her confidence. She didn’t even have a chance to ask before Mercedes was on her, kissing her breath away, hands grabbing at her chest, somehow not really sure what to do but that only turned Idun on more. This was wonderful and lovely and great and exciting.
“Mercedes,” she whispered when her lips were left in favour to kiss over her chest. Mercedes was a force on top of her, completely lost in her own world and somehow everywhere at once. Suddenly, Mercedes forced her legs apart and placed herself there, but not before nearly tearing Idun’s underwear apart when pulling them of her legs. Idun cantered her hips up, trying to find some friction for her aching core but before she manage to grind herself against anything, Mercedes had moved her hand and without hardly waiting pushed two fingers into Idun, stealing her breath away. She was wet enough for it not to hurt but it was still too much too fast. It didn’t help that Mercedes started moving right away or how she very quickly figured out that she could angle her thigh and use it to thrust harder into Idun. Idun wanted to tell her to slow down, to be more careful, but Mercedes was somewhere else and Idun didn’t have much choice but to let Mercedes fuck her. And it was feeling so good anyway. Idun groaned and dug one hand into Mercedes hair and the other dug the nails into Mercedes back, she moaned and threw her head backwards. She couldn’t believe that the unattainable estate agent who she thought hated her was now on top of her, driving her fingers deep inside her. The only word she was able to think was Mercedes’s name, so that was all she said in a constant litany. Climax wasn’t as explosive as much as an electric current that spread from her abdomen, out to all her limbs and made her clench around Mercedes’s fingers.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” she heard Mercedes chant quickly before biting down on her shoulder again. Idun could feel Mercedes trembling, so while she was still riding out the last of the waves, her hand left its nest in Mercedes’s hair and followed her sweaty stomach down to the wet place between Mercedes’s legs. She found her mark right away and that was all it took for Mercedes to shout out her release and fall on top of Idun in a warm heap.
Idun chuckled softly and cradled the tired Mercedes in her arms. She had never felt so alive before. Mercedes’ heart was beating heavily against her chest and much lower another muscle was pounding consistently, almost begging for attention. Idun withdraw her fingers, but cupped her gently. That was without doubt the best sex she had ever had. And she couldn’t wait to do it again. But first she needed to rest; when Mercedes withdraw her fingers Idun couldn’t help but wince. She was sore, sore in a way she had never been before, and she had had no idea that Mercedes taking charge like that would have turned her on so much, but it had.
A deep sigh alerted Idun to the fact that Mercedes had fallen asleep. She stroked her tenderly over the hair and placed a kiss on her forehead.
“You really needed that, didn’t you?” With much effort, she pushed Mercedes to the side, and she pulled the cover over both of them. She was not about to leave Mercedes sleeping by herself, not after everything they had shared. She curved herself into a ball, pulling Mercedes arm over her chest. Then Idun had the best sleep she had had in years.
“You want a divorce?” Raphael couldn’t believe his ears at first even though a nagging voice in his ears kept saying that he should have seen it coming. Mercedes had been different ever since they had moved to Sweden but especially in the last few years. She wasn’t the same goofy teenager that Raphael had married, or the hurt young woman who had cried for weeks after they had lost their child. This Mercedes was an adult, an almost 30 year old woman. An estate agent. Professional. Spoke Swedish without even a hint of an accent. This Mercedes was somebody he didn’t know.
“Sim,” Mercedes started replying in Portuguese but quickly switched to Swedish. “Yes. A divorce. I want to be free. I need to be free.”
Raphael closed his eyes, sighing and fought back unmanly tears. Now that Mercedes had uttered the words, Raphael understood that he had been waiting for them. He had seen it coming, or at least he should have. They had always been good friends, made a good team and supported each other through the years. But their marriage had never been a marriage between a husband and wife. Raphael had thought that it had been okay anyway, that Mercedes would get over the miscarriage and let him share her bed again. That Mercedes would be happier after getting a real estate degree, after learning Swedish, after getting a job and having her own bank account. That when she was ready she would return to him. Be his Mercedes again. That they could be happy, despite being sexually and emotionally mismatched.
* * *
Years later, Raphael didn’t regret his failed marriage anymore. And not when he asked Mercedes about the new client of hers. The cute, timid young woman who had gone out with them a couple of times. Most people wouldn’t have noticed but Raphael saw her blush, not her cheeks but on her ears. His tall, powerful and untouchable Mercedes was smitten. For a woman. Just like his divorce, Raphael should have seen it coming. Mercedes, a lesbian. Of course.
Mercedes rolled her eyes at him, and flipped her head until her hair covered her ears then continued complaining over the flat being hard to sell. It didn’t matter; for Raphael, Mercedes had always been easy to read.
There had been times were Raphael had regretted their divorce, times when he wished that he could have stayed married to the love of his life. All those doubts were left behind when Raphael invited Mercedes and her perhaps-maybe-but-not-really-girlfriend. That young teacher, Idun. He had sometimes suspected that Mercedes liked women the way he did, but never had it been more clear than when he saw how she looked at Idun.
“How are you? Mercedes treating you right?” He asked when he found Idun in the kitchen on her own, fingering his collection of glass figures of different Star Wars characters. They were odd and Mercedes had always hated them, but Idun seemed to like them. Idun twitched when he spoke to her.
“Umm… yeah,” she said and smiled, a rather adorable blush spreading over her freckled cheeks, “we’re having a good time. It was so nice of you to invite both of us, not many… I mean. We don’t get to do much together.” Except shag, Raphael thought to himself. He smiled reassuringly at Idun.
“It’s clear that she is quite crazy about you,” he said instead.
“You think so?” Idun seemed to shine at the thought. “Sometimes it’s hard to know what is going on inside her head.”
“Well,” Raphael said, “it’s easy once…” whatever he was going to say was cut off short by Mercedes entering the room.
“He is not giving you a hard time, I hope?” She said and went straight over to Idun, putting a possessive arm around Idun’s waist. It was awfully sweet how Idun seemed to light up at Mercedes’s touch. Raphael just hoped that Mercedes knew what a young and tender heart she was playing with. If she even knew that it wasn’t just one heart.
“I got to make a toast to love,” he exclaimed instead, ignoring Mercedes’s eye roll at the ‘love’. They went back to the table. Raphael stood up at the end and held up his glass, waiting to get all his guests’ attention.
“Most of you might have already heard a version of this speech before, but under the circumstances,” he stopped to quickly wink at Idun and at a scowling Mercedes, “it is really warranted on a night like this. Here is to those that I love, here is to those that love me, here is to those who love those that I love and here is to those that love those who love me.”