En Händig Man

Jag kommer hem till dig så fort jag bara kan

Rain hit the windows aggressively, as if it would come right through. Houses, lots of houses, trees and some larger buildings passed by. The scenery wasn’t quite an inviting one. Still, I was very excited and happily smiling, my face plastered against the window. Who
would’ve thought… who would’ve thought that the job I fought for for so long, would bring me to the country that I almost loved as much as my own?

The bus rolled to a stop. I was the last one to get off and the driver helped me with the suitcases and bags. The building that would be my new home looked as uninviting as the weather had been. It had stopped raining now but the grey darkness stayed, clouds chasing each other angrily along the sky. I managed to get the luggage in and out of the elevator pretty swiftly. With opening the front door a bit shaky for the first time, I was home.

I had to start my new job the following morning. After a couple of hours, my fear of speaking Swedish had vanished and I answered all the polite questions from my new colleagues over lunch as good as I could. This company was a posh affair. They’d hired me as an all-round gym instructor for the coming six months. Apart from teaching different classes, I’d also be teaching the instructors that already worked there. I recently became a Master in Aerobics and had topped the class of my course, plus I’d won first place at an international event. At the
event, which was annually held in Copenhagen, the managers had seen enough reasons to give me a very fat contract, which I gladly accepted. In turn, they agreed to help me achieve another goal – improving my skills as a trainer for aerobics instructors, as well as becoming a personal trainer… I’d passed all the tests and done the courses but until now had no experience.

The first month was wrecking. Everyone worked extra hours and double shifts due to staff shortage. I had ten classes a week for clients and trained three instructors four hours a week each. With the paperwork and the hours learning from other personal trainers, I spent about 50-60 hours a week at the gym… a week didn’t seem to have enough days. I had to watch my diet more closely than ever, afraid to wear out my body. My life existed of just working, eating and sleeping. I hadn’t even been shopping except for groceries, since I’d arrived… this wasn’t completely new to me though. I had worked immensely hard to get to where I was now, putting countless hours in improving my teaching skills and working up my physical condition to near perfection. It had been tough and until now, hadn’t paid off. I wasn’t sure what I was working towards anymore. There was still something that kept me going, a soft little voice inside me that told me it would all be worth it, in the end. Whenever that would be…

After the hectic first month, it got better. One instructor came back from sick-leave and the three I’d trained took over some of my classes. Work got more fun then, when you’re also able to sit back and enjoy the efforts you’ve made. I was very proud of the three I had coached. They did and excellent job and it was great to see them working their classes with succes.

The day finally came that I had my first private client as his personal trainer. More followed until I had five, which was the maximum private clients per trainer. Most of them came two to three times a week for a one hour or 90 minutes training. We worked together in an empty room, just us and the equipment. My response was better than I expected and before I even realized it, promotion was in the pocket.

One day, my colleague Janne called me early in the morning. It was close to eight and I was having breakfast at work while waiting for my first appointment of the day.

“Hey, it’s Janne,” I knew instantly why he called. His voice was soft and gruff and he sniffed – Janne was sick.

“Yeah I got the flu, it’s horrible. I can’t work in this state, my temperature is close to 39.5! Can you call my clients and re-schedule?” he asked me softly. He coughed and it sounded really
bad. I checked our digital planner on the desk computer.
“Let’s see, you have three coming in today. I can call them, perhaps they’re willing to work with me? Are their charts here?” I suggested. The client’s progress is documented in what we call a chart, a personal log for the client and the trainer.
“Yes, they should be in the cabinet. You don’t mind? Are you free?”
“Yeah if I can push your Mr. B to half an hour later, I can fit them all into my own schedule.”

And so it was settled. This would be a long day but I was glad I could do this for him and of course our precious, high-class clients. Of course I already knew that Janne, the most experienced in the whole team, had the Fat Pack – a bunch of famous (in our words ‘anonymous’) clients. Hence ‘Mr. B’ was the second client of his day. The appointment was set for 14:00 and I wanted to start half an hour later. I didn’t think of asking Janne the names of his clients, but the charts had their numbers. ‘Highly private’, Mr. B’s number said. Well, this was important. So I called him. After two rings, the call got cancelled. When I tried again, the phone was switched off and there was no voice mail. After three tries later that morning I still couldn’t get through. I called the client that came after Mr. B, one of my own, and he had no problem re-scheduling to another time. For me it meant that I had no lunch break so I ate during sessions.

At 14:15, Mr. B finally showed up. I was having tea and some fruit, flipping through a magazine furiously. Not picking up the phone and being fifteen minutes late on top of that! Mr. B had some nerve!

“Excsue me miss, is Janne around?” My head turned slowly, ears not believing what they heard.
“Janne couldn’t be here today. Can I help you?” I said with a robot-like voice, replying on auto-pilot. I didn’t forget the professional smile.
“Oh… well… I had an appointment at 14:00. That explains why he didn’t pick up his phone.”

Beside me stood a fairly tall man with different tones of brown hair. He was wearing a dark grey suit. Collar loosened, tie in his hand, sports-bag in the other. He looked at his phone. Somehow my hands got warm and shaky. Of all people, Mr. B had to be… my teenage idol… my life-time hero… the man I used to dream and fantasize about and… I hadn’t completely forgotten, I realized now.

“Janne asked me to take over his clients for the day. I tried to call you but…”
“Ah! Now I see, all these missed calls, that was you? I’m so sorry I couldn’t pick up. I spent my morning in court.” with that he gave me an apologetic sort of smile. Instantly I forgave him.
“Let me introduce myself properly,” I said, holding out my hand.
“I’m Hanna de Ruiter, nice to meet you! Would you mind working with me today?” I smiled and tried to convince myself that everything was going to be just fine! Not a worry in the world!
“Per Gessle,” he shook my hand firmly. ‘DUH!’ said a voice in my head.
“That’s fine with me Hanna, thanks very much. I really need to wind down from all the stress this morning. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” and with that he left for the dressing room.

I didn’t know what to do first: throw up, scream, start smoking again or call my friends back home? I decided neither was possible. I hurried to the exercise room and blinded the windows. Mr. B preferred private, to the very essence of the word, Janne stated on the chart. So the blinds went down and I locked the door behind him when he came in. We were alone in silence. I quickly skipped through the pages of his chart without really seeing any of Janne’s neatly written words.

Per was wearing black shorts and a tight, white t-shirt. Both were some expensive Swedish sports brand hat I’d drooled over in the shops but couldn’t afford. He was tanned and looked physically fit, but his face showed signs of tiredness.
“Ready?” I looked up from the papers. He nodded.
“Sure? Of course I don’t know you at all but you seem a little tired.” I phrased as careful as I could, felt that I had to. A heavy work-out is not the best idea for tired, worn out people. He was taken aback and I instantly regretted what I said.
“Ahh… thanks for noticing. Won’t be a problem. Where do I start?”

He started on the treadmill, which I programmed for him. From slow walk to running in the first five minutes, then a steady tempo for another fifteen minutes. Janne had written that Mr. B was easily distracted. He’d also made a note for himself to ‘participate as much as possible because it seemed to motivate Mr. B.’, and I began to wonder what the B. meant. We all had the tension to nickname our clients…

There was second treadmill in the room, facing the one Per was on. The metaphor was inevitable. I was running to him, yet I would never reach my goal… I directly banned all thoughts and forbid myself to dwell. It was no use, highly unprofessional and above all, I had now been closer to him, and longer so, than any fan in the whole world had ever been or would be. So there was nothing to complain about. While running opposite from each other, I gave Per some minor instructions. He didn’t need many. In my condition at the moment, well-rested and excellently trained, I could’ve stayed on the treadmill for another hour. But Mr. B barely made the twenty minutes I gave him. He started sweating fast and had trouble to control his breath. Eventually, I got off my treadmill and stood next to Per, correcting his body with my hands. Back straight, head straight up, arms halfway the body. Make fists of your hands and tighten your abs.

“Tighten this whole section here,” I said, my fingers on his mid-section abs.
“Come on, put some power on those abs. You need them also for running. Good! Much better!” I could feel his muscles tighten under my fingers.
“Just three more minutes. Control your breath. In, and out. In through the nose, out through the mouth.” I breathed with him. I felt him relaxing when the treadmill slowed down, until it finally came to a stop.
“Phew!” Per said as he stumbled off. He dried his face with a towel and drank some water, while I set up the next machine for him.

We went around the room and used different machines for different muscle-groups. There wasn’t much small talk, though Per told me he hadn’t been working out for a while, or not as regular as he’d wanted and he had started feeling tired and weary and unfit. When he did his
4-5 hours a week at the gym, he felt better all over; slept better, ate better and even seemed to think more clearly.

He had some problems with the leg-press. I checked the chart; he’d been in two days ago on a late evening, and Janne noted that the leg-press had ‘probably been too much’. I told Per to stop, after 8 pushes he was already red in the face and looked as though he was in pain.
“Your legs still hurt from last time, don’t they?” I asked him and pointed at his upper legs. He nodded.
“Yes, I think last time was a bit too much. I could hardly walk this morning!” he looked a bit fierce, something I tried to ignore.
“Ok, yeah I think your muscles are a bit irritated. Can you come over here?” I had walked to the other side of the room and patted the massage-table. He looked a bit hesitant and I tried not to laugh.
“Never been on this table before?” I asked him when he slowly strolled over.
“Ehm, no actually not…”
“It will probably only take a minute. Please lay down on your back.” I said and he did so. I washed my hands in the sink next to the massage table, with warm water and soap. Per watched every move I made, he seemed nervous. I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that he hated to be touched by strangers… well, he had no choice now… I was just doing my job…

I pushed his shorts up a bit and put my hands on his right upper leg. His skin was damp and cool. The muscles were tight like I expected. Thank god for my unability to sit still, thank god I once took that sports-masseuse training when I was bored during my vacation… and thank god someone once taught me about professionalism, too. My touches were no caresses and it wasn’t going to be too pleasant for him either. I told him to relax, gently pushed him down on the table when he came up to see what I was doing. He annoyed me a little. Just let me do what I need to do! My hands kneaded his upper legs until he finally seemed to relax a bit. The outline of his muscles were clearly visible and I focused on that. The goal was to loosen them up. I massaged them firmly with the palms of my hands, pushing and moulding. His breath caught and he almost groaned. I never said it would be pleasant.

After a few minutes of silence, my fingers and wrists got sore, but it worked. His muscles gradually relaxed, especially after a short treatment of the calves.

“Done.” I stated softly. He got up and looked at me in surprise.
“It’s gone!” he smiled, the first real smile I got from him.
“Yes, it seemed to have worked. I suggest we don’t continue that exercise now. We can do some upper-body instead. Have you done the bench-press before?” I moved on quickly, ignoring the alarm bells in the back of my head. He stared at me so intensely, I had to look away.

* * *

“So… hmmm… three knees to the left, turns to two stomps and one knee, yeah a power-knee would be good. The basics can be a mambo and a pivot, then the left foot goes…”
“Heya!” Janne interrupted my muses and stood next to me at the bar. He looked awake and fresh, I smelled his deodorant lightly.
“Aaah you’re back!” I said and hugged him. He sighed.
“Yeah… I’m back. A bit shaky still, but I’m all better. Have to start working out slowly again.” He threw his bag in a corner and took a stool beside me.
“You writing a class?” he said and glanced at my notes. Now it was my turn to sigh.
“Yeah, I’m starting the beginners Steps this Monday. It’s hard to make a simple class after being caught up in creating something as difficult as possible!” I replied and he agreed. I got up and walked around the bar, stuffing the note-book in my bag.
“Coffee?” I offered. Janne nodded. He had a strange look on his face, a silly smile as if he was making fun of me.
“I know something you don’t know,” he said in a sing-song voice when I returned from the kitchen with his coffee. We had sort of a lounge-bar at the entrance of the gym, from where you could enter almost all other area’s such as the dressing rooms, exercise rooms and a hallway with three aerobic rooms. I tried to raise just one eyebrow at Janne, failed, and made him laugh out loud.

“So, tell up!” I said when he didn’t continue.
“Really wanna know?” he teased me more. I poked his side.
“Ouch! Ok ok! I spoke to Per Gessle yesterday.”
“Oh yes? He was here yesterday, we did two hours!” I said proud, as if it was perfectly normal to me.
“Mhm. I know. He called me afterwards.” Janne grinned widely. I raised my hands like, so what?!?!?
“Ok. Well,” Janne took my hand. “we talked about you, I’m sorry. Only positive, don’t look so scared! He said he really enjoyed your training. Actually he called me back, after I’d left a message on his phone if we could re-schedule a few things because I need to cut down my hours, and he said he wouldn’t mind working more with you…” he said this all slowly, as if explaining a story to a child. He still held my hand and stroked it. I closed my mouth which I had opened without noticing. I knew my cheeks were reddening but ignored it.
“What? He wants to switch trainers?”
“Not really. He wants to work out more, and I’m not always available at the hours he wants to come in. So… perhaps you…”
“But I got five already.” I interrupted him.
“I can take Mrs. Jonasson.”
“What!” my mouth flew open again. Mrs. Jonasson was an extremely rich, extremely picky client. Type, blond bored football-players wife. She was the opposite of me and we weren’t a good match. She hadn’t complained yet – probably because until now I did everything the way she wanted – but I didn’t like working with her at all.

“Janne…” I rolled my eyes at him. “I would trade Mrs. Jonasson for any of your clients, you know that. But don’t you think it’s a bit strange that Gessle is asking to switch trainers? Don’t you feel like he’s dumping you? I feel a bit bad…” I looked at him with an I’m-so-sorry-face. Janne leaned his head on one hand, fingers touching his lips. He was serious when he answered.
“I think you’re doing a better job with him at the moment. I have to be honest, I’ve been working with him on and off for quite some time and he’s never been this motivated before. You’ve given him a boost, a new impulse.” Silence. I played with the last bit of tea in my glass and glanced at the clock. My client would arrive soon.
“One thing though,” Janne said, his hand again on mine. “I do think he likes you. Really likes you, I mean. You should tell me right away if that gets in the way of your work, I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”

My client walked in at that moment so I had to leave. Janne’s face had been so serious, he was very protective over me. His hand on mine to underline his comment kept lingering in my mind for a while.

Days, weeks and months flew by. I worked with Per three times a week, usually one and a half hour, sometimes longer. He preferred coming by after lunch or late in the evening and I always made sure there was no appointment right after, because he could change his mind instantly and decide he wanted to do more.

One evening, he came in unexpectedly. I was in one of the halls, teaching and advanced Steps class. We still had about fifteen minutes to go and the group was going strong in full force. They had the whole choreography down, which we had been working on for three weeks. They were enthusiastic, all with red faces, big smiles and sweating all over the place. The music was pumping loud through the room and I screamed my ass off… and then, there was Per. He stood by the door, watching us through the slightly tinted glass. When I saw him, I lost the choreo and stepped away from my bench.

“Marit, can you take my place for a moment?” I asked one of the other instructors that was taking my class. I left my position and walked to the door, taking the wireless headset off on my way there and stood in the doorway.
“Hi! We don’t have an appointment, do we?” I said while glancing at my watch. I tried not to look at Per to obviously. He was wearing a suit and looked very sharp.
“No, no not at all, but I was in the neighbourhood and… ehhrr…” he looked hesitant. I looked back into the room and my class were still doing their thing, Marit was doing a good job even without a microphone. I looked back at Per expectantly, waiting for him to say something. I was in a hurry and I think he noticed.
“Look, I really hope you don’t mind that I bash in here like this, but I have a terrible muscle ache from our work out two days ago, and I have to perform tomorrow night. In this state, I’m going to look as if I just turned eighty…” he said with a funny look on his face. He looked as if either he was going to say sorry, or wanted me to feel sorry for him.
“Ok, I see, you need to be loosened up.” I said as neutral as possible. He needed a massage… and he came to me…
“I’ll be done here in about fifteen minutes, then I definitely need a shower, and then I have time for you. So if you don’t mind waiting?” He didn’t and I rushed back to my class.
I gave them an extra high impulse by changing the music to something even wilder, with a slow build-up and absolutely crashing climax.

After class, I had to clean the room and I did it faster than ever before. I took a mega-quick shower and met Per in the lounge. I was wearing jeans, a white sweater with a hood and sneakers, big bag over my shoulder. He was having a cup of coffee and reading a newspaper, very deep into it.
“Hey…” I said softly. He looked up.
“Oh hey! You’re finished? That was fast!” He put the paper away, gulped his coffee down and got up. We walked directly to the private exercise-room, but I saw a sign on the door that it was taken.
“Mhm. This way then.” I said and pointed. We went around a corner behind the exercise room, and I opened a room. It was a general physical therapy room which everybody could use. You had to book it during the day, but in the evening it was mostly free. I nearly had to push him inside, he was hesitant. The room was quite small. I switched on the light which was far too bright for a room like this. I washed my cold hands with warm water.

“Where does it hurt exactly?” I asked him. He pointed at his waist and the middle of his back, and shoulder.
“Ok. Take your shirt off and lay on your stomach. And loosen your pants.” I said and pointed at the high massage table in the middle of the room. He did what I said without commenting. I couldn’t help that I was in a hurry. I had been working since ten in the morning and just finished teaching three classes in a row. He didn’t know this, he couldn’t, but still I was afraid he noticed I didn’t have much time and was not at all too pleased with this situation. Not the least bit because I so desperately wanted to see him.

My ‘treatment’ took longer this time, his muscles were very tight and took a lot of work loosening up. We didn’t speak the whole time, apart from my directions to him as to how to lay or to relax – he had a hard time relaxing. It seemed impossible for him to let go, one or another muscle would be flexed at all time. If I told him to relax his back, he tightened his shoulders. I told him to loosen those too, and he flexed his legs, I felt under his jeans. He was impossible!

I heard him sigh when I worked on his shoulders and neck. My hands and fingers were hurting but I didn’t want to stop… I was enjoying it too much to touch him. In fact, I got all heated up. I had seen well-tanned, physically fit, good-looking men before, but this one… he was in my heart still and I couldn’t help memories coming back. Good memories of seeing him perform, waiting in line for hours, travelling around Europe to see concerts, posters on my bedroom wall, endless conversations on Internet forums, piles and piles of letters… Oh god. I hoped he never read any of those. Please…

He let out a long, deep sigh when I stopped. I washed my hands slowly. Stalling, taking time. Not looking at how Per slowly got up, stretched his muscles and sat on the table with his legs dangling. His chest was bare. I wished he’d cover up.

“I really, really appreciate this Hanna.” his voice was almost a whisper. A heat-wave seemed to hit me when he suddenly stood close to me.
“N-No problem, really, I’m glad I could help.” I stumbled. I made an odd sway on one leg to step around him and got as far away from him as possible in the small room. He looked around a bit dazed, then found his shirt and started putting it back on. I looked around the room, my eyes were anywhere but on him.

We said goodbye at the door, Per smiling contently and looking very relieved, me silent and in a hurry. He went another floor down to the parking lot, I walked out the front door and took a sprint to the subway. No need to run, they go every couple of minutes, but my body would explode if I walked too slowly. When I came home, I changed my pants and shoes and went running outside. The neighbourhood wasn’t at all inviting to take a nice walk – buildings, buildings and more buildings. An occasional bridge over dirty water and a tree here and there. No fancy Stockholm area but a grey suburb surrounded me, but I didn’t even notice the scenery. I ran and ran. It wasn’t too cold, but when when I took a turn and started the run home, the rain came. I was soaked by the time I got home. After a hot shower I was exhausted and fell deep into a long dreamless sleep.

* * *

Weeks simply passed by and I hardly noticed what day it was. I was working hard, many hours, seemingly to help out the still tight schedule. The real reason was of course that I really needed to get myself out of the way. I dreaded being alone, having time enough to think of him. Dream of him. Speak out loud the things I’d tell him. No, I couldn’t be alone.

I saw Per three times a week, more or less. I had no problem keeping my professional composure, though he seemed to act like less of a client and more of a friend with each week. The day came that he told me he was going to leave soon, to spend the summer in Halmstad. Ah. Of course. I tried not to sigh in relief.

“When are you leaving for Halmstad again?” I asked him one evening when we finished the work out and he headed for the door.
“Half May, in about two weeks.”
“And you return when?”
“End of the summer, August, September. Not sure. Why?”
“Ok. Well, then you should know that I might not be here anymore when you return.” I said matter-of-factly, flipping through the pages of his chart. He let go of the doorknob and walked my way.
“What? Are you leaving?” he looked surprised.
“I’m not sure, but my contract ends in July. I’m not sure if they’ll offer me a permanent position and if they do, I’m not sure if I’ll take it. To be honest…” I hesitated. The look on his face was serious and expecting. I smelled his fresh, warm sweat and looked at his stained shirt for a moment. Then into his eyes.
“My life only exists of working at the moment, and I haven’t seen my family since the holidays. I’m thinking of going back home when the contract ends. I’d love to stay at this gym, and I enjoyed working with you a lot but… well…” I was making excuses. Per interrupted
me.
“It would be a shame if you left, but you need to be happy with what you do, right?” he smiled.
“Yeah…”
“Ok. Just let me know when you’ve decided, you can call me when I’m in Halmstad ok?” again that sweet smile. I smiled back and nodded. He walked to the door but once there, turned again.
“Oh and one thing. How about dinner, before I go to Halmstad?”
“Dinner?”
“Yeah, you and me, restaurant, cosy, eating, chatting? Saying goodbye?”

* * *

Why is it that I always postpone things I need to do, until the very last moment? It was the day of The Dinner Date and I had left work early to go shopping. I earned more money with this job than ever before but never really took time to spend it, except on work-clothes which I ordered off the Internet and were partly paid by my boss… so now, of course, I had nothing to wear… I visited big stores and small boutiques in a high tempo, desperately looking for something nice, something fitting the situation… but what? I had no idea what kind of restaurant he was taking me to. All I knew was that it was an Italian place in the middle of the city. It was probably posh. I didn’t have many posh clothes. I’d already half decided to go for the simple, always fitting black pants, but then again, it was May and spring was on its way. In the enormous pile of clothes on my bed, I found a pair of creamy-white pants, a linen-cotton mix which had a matching jacket. I never wore the whole suit, either the jacket with jeans or the pants with high heels. My brown high heeled shoes went perfectly with the pants, now just something on top…

In a small boutique in Gamla Stan, I found it. The perfect top. It was the same brown colour as the shoes. Long, wide sleeves, tight on the chest and wider down to the waist. The lady of the shop was very helpful and brought me a brown leather belt to match, and a big knitted fluffy vest. At home, I completed the brown look with a small leather purse and big scarf. All colours were matching and the white pants still fit me. It took me nearly an hour to get ready, get my make up done and perfect hair. Oh man, the hair, the hair! I really needed a haircut, shit, I should have thought of that sooner…

I felt odd, standing in the subway with this great outfit. I didn’t dare sitting down, afraid to get my white pants dirty… From the subway station to the restaurant, it was just a couple of minutes walk. I passed by a cash-machine on the way. It was next to a kiosk and I glanced at the newspapers while waiting for my money to come out. I nearly dropped the money when I saw Expressen’s screaming cover: ‘Gessle unveils secret: Divorce is final’, fat letters
said all over the front cover. I didn’t have time to buy the paper and read the story, neither did I want to enter the restaurant and see Per with this newspaper in my purse. So I walked passed the news-stand and headed for the restaurant.

He stood by the door, talking into his phone. He smiled and put his hand up when he saw me, then turned his back to me and continued talking. I waited and felt strange. Many things at the same time went through my head. The thought of course had crossed my mind, if he was flirting with me sometimes while we were working, or if it were just friendly gestures. I had already decided it had to be the last, the thought of actually flirting with him was too much to bear. Then he invited me for dinner. Still trying hard not to dwell. Now, Expressen tells me he’s in a divorce?! It’s Expressen, I told myself. Be sane, they write a lot of crap. Remember Marie’s court case, remember… court? Didn’t he say he had been in court on the first day we met?

“Hi Hanna, I’m sorry, I couldn’t get out of that conversation…” he came my way and hugged me shortly.

The hostess brought us to a table by the window. People couldn’t look in through the tinted glass, but we had a great view on the street, water and a bridge. I draped the vest over my chair and had a hard time sitting comfortably. Per and I did our last work out on Monday evening late, and now it was Thursday. He would travel to Halmstad the next day.

“So… you’re ready to leave tomorrow?” I made conversation. The waiter came and brought us the menu. Per requested a specific wine and already ordered another one for during dinner. I stared at the list of entrées.

“To answer your question, yes I’m ready to leave. More than ready. Looking forward to leave all the business here and relax down there. Have you ever been in Halmstad?” he said when the waiter had taken our orders and brought the wine. I took a tiny sip and tried not to let him notice I absolutely hate wine… Now he’d asked me this tricky question. I decided quickly that it was better to lie, and not let him find out I used to be hysteric fan that followed him around the continent.
“No, actually I haven’t, it’s near Göteborg isn’t it?” He seemed to enjoy the wine a lot, tasting it carefully after taking a good sip and smiled.
“Yes it is. It’s my home town. I always go there in the summer, travel a bit back and forth throughout the year. Of course I go there to work too, in my friend’s studio, there’s such a calm atmosphere in that town.”

We talked some more about Halmstad, and if it wasn’t a hassle to have two houses quite far apart, when he suddenly moved the conversation over to me.

“So how are you liking Stockholm so far? Is it much different from home?”
“Oh yes, very different. I come from a small city and this is just so huge! I love it here though, Stockholm is beautiful and the people are quite nice. The only thing I lack here is time!”
“Yes, you seem to work all the time. What do you actually do when you’re not at the gym?” he had a funny smile on his face.
“Uhm… I sleep?” I said, and we both laughed.
“Well, I do sleep a lot when I’m home. And on Fridays I do my housekeeping and groceries… quite boring ay?”
“You’re off on Fridays?”
“Yes. I work all the other days. Not the whole day of course, but there’s always something – teaching, administration, and so on.”
“Busy girl huh…” he looked thoughtful. We were silent for a moment when our entrées were brought by the waiter.

“Well, I guess you already know what I do for a living, so there’s not much I can tell about that.” Per said, and took a bite. I tried to think of something to say.
“Why not? I bet you can tell me things I don’t know yet…” I gave back and winked. He seemed to like that, stopped what he did to look at me for a moment.
“When I start talking about my work, there will be no end.” he kind of warned me. I smiled.
“I don’t think it would bore me one bit.”
“Hehe. Ok. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!” he said, laughing. Then he took his glass and held it in the air.
“Let’s toast to a great evening and a great time working together!”
“I’ll toast to that! Cheers!” Our glasses met and tingled. My belly tingled too.

The food was delicious, the restaurant perhaps a bit too posh and boring for my liking but Per was an excellent date. He told funny stories, made jokes and compliments and like I had expected, I wasn’t bored one minute. I even started liking the wine after a few more glasses. During the Crème Brulée he got serious.

“I want to ask you something, something totally different.” he said after wrapping up a story about not knowing how to behave in the presence of someone even more famous than him. I felt so related to the feelings he talked about, that I hadn’t made any comment, afraid I would say too much and reveal things I wanted to keep from him.
“Have you seen a newspaper today?” he asked me out of the blue. I looked down at my spoon. My throat got stuck. It took a while before I dared to look up. I’m not sure why I acted like this, but all of a sudden it got so personal, personal for him and I felt like I shouldn’t be there with him and not talking about this subject.
“Yes, actually I did. Just before I came here.” I looked up at him. Frowned eyebrows, mouth tense.
“Ok. So you know about my divorce.” he said and looked down on his desert.
“Yes. I’m sorry about it. I didn’t bring it up because I wasn’t sure if you wanted to talk about it…”
“Actually I don’t. But I just wondered if you knew, since I’m taking you out to dinner… and, well…” he stopped, leaned back and moved around in his chair. I put my elbows on the table, chin resting on my folded hands. I waited.
“I just, hehe, uhm, I just hope you didn’t find it too strange that I invited you for dinner just like that.” He didn’t look at me and my god, he suddenly got so shy… I melted for him in that second.
“Should I find that strange? Do you know what clients invite me to sometimes?” I decided to joke it off and break the tension. It worked, he laughed.
“Haha, no, I don’t know. Do I want to know?” I shook my head to that.

We stayed a little longer, he drank coffee and I had some more wine. We talked and flirted occasionally. The flirting was becoming an addiction in itself. Once you find out you’re good at something, you don’t want to stop… and he seemed to follow every lead I gave him. Answered every smile, laughed at every joke… and I was the same. Weak as ever.

It was time to leave far too soon. Per took care of the check quickly and led me outside. A bit dazed, I stood on the side walk. The porter opened the door of the taxi for me and Per’s hand lingered on my lower back, gently ushering me towards the car. We sat side by side on the back seat. Per talked to the taxi driver he seemed to know quite well, telling him where to go. He would drive Per home first and then take me home on Per’s expense.
“Per, I can pay the taxi, it’s no problem.”
“No no, of course not. I invited you over, so I’m going to make sure you get home safely.” he patted my leg with his hand. I nodded slowly and looked at his hand, then back at him. He had already taken his hand off my leg, now when I looked at him, he put it back. I must be drunk, I thought to myself, that I let a man just touch me like that. I felt the warmth of his hand through the thin fabric of my pants. I put my hand on his to stop him from rubbing my knee. He took my hand and our fingers entwined like it was completely normal.

“Hey,” he said softly. I looked at him.
“Don’t forget to call me when you’ve decided what to do, ok?” he asked. We sat close together. I nodded.
“Or well, you can call me anytime, actually.” He said, and moved his eyes away from mine a bit nervously. I didn’t giggle, but it was hard.

The big Mercedes stopped slowly in front of Per’s house. The taxi driver got out and opened the door for Per. He looked at me, seemed to wait for something.

“Thanks Per, I had a lovely evening.” I said and smiled at him. He was leaning my way and somehow, my hand touched his cheek. He beckoned me with his finger, invited me to come closer and I did, I came closer and closer until… until his nose touched mine.

“Hanna…” he said with his Swedish ‘flow’.
“Per,” I replied rather comically with as much ‘flow’ as possible.
“I want to kiss you.”
“Oh…”
“Ok?”
“Uhm… I…” I didn’t know if that was ok. I didn’t know anything. In fact, I couldn’t think at all. I didn’t think, I acted. My hands took his coat and pulled him an inch closer, very softly, but it was all the encouragement he needed. His lips landed hastily on mine, kissing, searching, feeling…

My lips still burned when I got home. I went straight to bed. Good thing the alcohol made me sleepy so I couldn’t stay awake for too long, repeating our kiss in my head again and again…

Two months later
Sunday morning, nine o’clock. The alarm clock beside my bed woke me up half an hour before and I had just tied my shoelaces. The door to the balcony was open and a breeze came in softly – it was still a bit cool outside but the sky was clear blue and promised a great day ahead. I needed summer more than ever before, and the past weeks I had taken in every bit of good weather there was.

There were some ruffling sounds in the next room and Janne came into the kitchen. He was wearing cycle clothes and slippers and glanced at the clock.

“Coffee? You got plenty of time.” I said and walked to the sink.
“Yes please. I thought I was late.” he replied and sat down at the kitchen table, going through a case of CD’s. I put a coffee mug in front of him and touched his hair. He looked up at me, we stared at each other for a moment. I smiled and bent down to kiss him.
“Hmmmmm… oh no.. no no, don’t start that again. Then I will definitely be late…” he said and pushed me away gently. I giggled and walked back to the sink. I placed a few things in the dishwasher.

“Alright, I’m going now. See you somewhere this afternoon, ok?” I said while I put my hair up. We said goodbye with a few more kisses. Janne was going to teach two spinning classes at the gym. I was off, and took some time to run around in the beautiful weather.

Nobody at the gym was surprised when Janne and I became an item. It was just a matter of time. We got quite close and I had noticed the change in his behaviour even before he realized it. After the dinner with Per, I was a bit lost for a couple of days. He didn’t call, didn’t send any messages and neither did I. I didn’t know what to say, was too confused and caught up in my own thoughts to be able to talk to him. One part of me wanted to continue what he had started in the taxi, perhaps call him or sent an sms that I’d really like to see him again soon… then there was my other part, the pondering one, always worried and insecure. What did my feelings really mean? And how real could his feelings be, if he’d only just gotten out of a very long marriage? How could be with him, be myself with him and still hide the fact that I was a huge fan not too long before we met – really met. I met him before, in his role as the famous pop star. I was sure he didn’t remember that. But I couldn’t imagine being with him and keeping such a big part of me a secret. I told Janne about my dinner with Per, when we had a quick pasta meal in town after work. I had told him what had happened in the taxi, too. I just needed to talk to someone… I didn’t tell him everything about my doubts and fears, but he knew the big lines.

“I can’t decide what you should do, sweetheart. I just know that he already liked you when you started working with him. In fact, he even told me he was considering to ask you out, but felt it might not be the right moment. And I guess when you talked about leaving, he thought it was now or never.” Janne said. I chewed my pasta thoughtfully before I replied.
“I just don’t know how serious I should take this. From his side, but also my own. How real can this be and how much of it is just… fluff?” I sighed and pushed away my plate.
“I don’t think it would work, let alone be practical. Per Gessle dates fan, weeks after his divorce. I don’t see that. I don’t know what he sees in me anyways.” I said more to myself than to him.
“Oh, but I do.” He said softly. He looked at his plate.
“What do you mean? He told you that too?”
“No. But I’m a man. I have eyes.” He gave me a cheeky smile. I didn’t quite get what he said, silly little girl that I am sometimes. Janne didn’t mind explaining himself though. He picked my hand up from the table and held it in his.
“You’re a beautiful girl Hanna, anyone can see that. On top of that, you’re also nice, great to be with, funny and smart. Gessle hasn’t called you because he’s probably stupid. I would have called you the minute I got home. Or maybe I wouldn’t even have let you go home…” He
looked intensely into my eyes when saying all this. I couldn’t help the blushes and the shy smile.
“You’re a bad man. Taking advantage of a half-drunken girl like that.”
“Don’t you like bad guys then?” he was still stroking my hand.
“Are you trying to hit on me?”
“Yes. Am I lucky?”
“Who knows, you might be.” I said, then pulled my hand away.

It didn’t take more than a few days for Janne to win me over completely. We didn’t talk about Per anymore but spent a lot of time with each other.

The time had come now that I was actually going to leave Stockholm. I had decided to not accept the contract they offered me and go back home. When I told Janne about it, he was understanding. We didn’t talk much about the subject and it wasn’t hanging in the air either. I
think neither of us expected our love to be an everlasting one.

Sitting on my little balcony in the sun, all alone, enjoying the silence and the occasional bird singing, I decided it was time. I picked up my phone from under the wooden chair I was laying in, and flipped through the numbers. It was time to call him. Janne was still out, he wouldn’t be back until late that afternoon. After my running and some house hold tasks, I was now reading a book in the sun, relaxed and happy. I listened to the rings… it rang twice… three times… four… ‘Hi, this is Per Gessle, you’ve reached my voice mail. Leave a message and I’ll call you back…’ Beep!

“Ehm, hi. Hi Per, it’s Hanna. I’m calling because, uhm, to let you know that… I’m leaving Stockholm. I’m going home in about two weeks. So when you come back from Halmstad, you can continue your work outs with Janne. Sooo… well, uhm, I hope you’re having a good summer. Goodbye.”

In the evening, I made dinner for Janne and me. I am not very fond of cooking but when someone else enjoys what you make, it becomes much more fun. We ate at the kitchen table with wine and candles and left the dishes in the sink. We cuddled up together on the chair on the balcony – there was only one chair – and watched over the silent suburb around us. We didn’t speak, everything was already said. We just lay there and cuddled, and kissed. Janne’s hand slipped under the thin cotton dress I was wearing. His hands were cool on my skin. I tried to find a more comfortable position but it seemed impossible to be both close to him and not hurt by the rough wood of the chair… I climbed on his lap and straddled him, taking his face in my hands. I enjoyed the feeling of his stubbed jaws against my hands. I could still smell some of his perfume, sweet and cool at the same time. His hands had completely disappeared under my dress and I started to wiggle out of it… when my phone rang. I heard it buzzing under the chair and bent down to pick it up. Janne continued kissing my neck and shoulder. I looked at the screen. Of course it was Per. I looked at Janne, who had pushed down one strap of my dress and was kissing his way to my nipple. I pressed ‘cancel’ and dropped the phone to the floor.

After some well-spent time with Janne, he went home. He’d been with me for four nights now and we needed some alone-time. It was almost eleven when I came from the bathroom and switched on my laptop which sat on the kitchen table. My phone started buzzing and I smiled, would that be Janne to tell me once again how gorgeous I was? ‘Gessle’ the display said. Oh. Ok.
“Hi Per!”
“Hanna, hi! I’m not calling too late am I?”
“No, that’s ok. Did you get my message?”
“Yes I did. I’m very sorry to hear that you’re leaving.” he sounded as if he was in a hurry, and the line wasn’t too good.
“Are you driving?”
“Yes. I just left the studio and now I’m driving home. The weather is amazing. Are you enjoying the summer? Are you off?” he asked. I got up and wandered to the bedroom.
“I’m off, yes, and it’s great! It’s been a while since I could just do whatever I pleased and with the weather being this good, it’s even better.” I said, while taking the wet towel off my hair. I started brushing it in front of the mirror.
“So, uhm, you got no plans for the next two weeks?”
“Not really, no. Just hanging around, spending my money. I’m taking it easy. You?”
“I’m working in the studio most days. My son has been with me for a while, his mum picked him up on Friday.” he spoke a bit softer when telling this. Of course, his divorce… I almost forgot. I acted on impulse and said what I felt.
“Oh shit, of course… you broke up! You’re alone in the house now? How does it feel?” I blurted out and instantly felt embarrassed for getting so personal. He was silent for a moment.
“Oh I’m sorry Per, I didn’t mean to be rude, I just… sorry for asking all this. But how are you coping?” I hastily added. Again, he took his time.
“I’m… ok, I guess. Alone, yes. Working, trying to pass the time. It’s really kicking in now, reality I mean. Especially spending so much time alone with my son was… different. Just a moment.” There were some ruffles and sounds, and then he was back. Suddenly closer.
“I got home now. Listen, I was pretty shocked when I heard you say you’re leaving. I would like to see you again.”

Shit! Why did he have to say that?! My heart must have missed a beat because I was suddenly out of breath. The hairbrush got entangled in my hair.

“Uhm.”
“Last time was special.” he said. I heard him walking, opening and closing doors.
“Yes.”
“Hanna?”
“Yes.”
“I should have called, right?”
“Perhaps…”
“I’m sorry,” a sigh. “I was a bit… hesitant. I didn’t know if you… whether I… well…”
“It’s ok. I got a phone too you know. I just forgot how it worked.” We were silent, then started talking at the same time.
“You first,” I said.
“Ok. You won’t believe the coincidence, but just before I heard your message, I thought of you. Do you teach Yoga? Or this other thing, what’s it called, Pilates?”
“I’ve done that occasionally, yes. Why?”
“Would you stay longer if I’d offer you a job?”

He had me. I didn’t reply. I was sitting cross-legged on the side of the bed, examining my legs if they needed to be shaved. Now I didn’t know what to say.

“What do you mean?” I kind of stumbled. He explained quickly that he overheard some employees of his hotel talking about the gym-instructor that was ill. She would be out for a couple of weeks and they had no one to cover.
“Per…”
“So I thought, if I let you stay at the hotel on my expense, you can make some money with the classes and… well, maybe we can spend some time together…?”
“So you’re asking me to come to Halmstad and work for you? At the hotel?”
“You wouldn’t be working for me, not really. Technically, I own part of the hotel but I don’t actually have a function there… well maybe it’s just a stupid idea.”
“No! It’s not stupid, I’m surprised. That’s all. When would I start?”
“You’ll do it?”
“I’m not sure…”
“You can start by calling the manager tomorrow. Her name is Ylva, just call the general number of the hotel and ask for Ylva Ekman. Tell her that I told you to call.” he spoke fast and I quickly scribbled down the name on a piece of paper. It was the wrapper of the lingerie Janne bought for me a few days before. I was back in the living room which was all dark now.
“I have to go now. I’ll let you know, ok?” I said, suddenly determined to end the conversation.
“Oh, ok. Yes, let me know. We’ll talk soon ok? Goodnight.”
“Goodnight. Sleep well.”

He wished me the same but it didn’t help much. I tossed and turned the
whole night.

A week later…
My belly tingled as I recognized the bus-stop. The whole trip had been like Memory Lane to me. I recognized everything – the train station, the park, the hotels, the river, Picasso, the bus-station… and now, Hotell Tylösand. It hadn’t changed since I last visited it. It was a few summers ago, and I took the art-tour with a couple of friends. At the reception desk, I asked for Ylva. She emerged from the office when she heard my voice.

“You must be Hanna! Welcome!” she said and led me into the office. I left my luggage at the desk. It was quite a lot. I’d bought a new, huge suitcase just before leaving Stockholm. Janne complained when he had to take it to his car. He hadn’t commented on my plan to go to Halmstad, even though it meant we had one week less to spend with each other. He didn’t comment on the temporary job in Hotell Tylösand, or the fact that I would see Per again. It made leaving a bit easier, though I saw something in his eyes when we said goodbye. Something I didn’t comment on.

So now, I was in Halmstad. I would teach my first classes tomorrow. Per didn’t even know I was here. I had only sent him a short sms saying Ylva and I would work it out and I’d keep him posted. That was five days ago and I’d left him hanging with that. He tried to call me
but I never picked up. I spent all my time with Janne…

“Hey stranger!” he picked up. It was late in the afternoon.
“Hi there. What are you doing?”
“I’m in the studio, big surprise. You?”
“Do you have dinner plans?”
“Not really.”
“Want to join me?”
“What?”
“I’m at Tylösand.”
“What! When did you get here? Why didn’t you tell me?” He said loudly
and sounded as if he jumped up.
“Surprise! I made reservations at Carlos. Can you make it in about… an hour?”
“Geez… Hanna… I don’t know what to say…”
“Can you make it?” I smiled so hard my cheeks would burst any minute.
“Of course! I’ll be there!”

Sitting at Carlos, an Italian restaurant around the corner of Hotell Tylösand, I suddenly realised that there was nothing to be nervous about. It’s was only a quarter to six, and he wouldn’t be there on time, so I would have at least another half hour to myself…
“Miss, do you want to see the menu?” the waiter came by.
“Not yet, I’m waiting for someone.”
“Ok, a drink maybe?”
“Yes please. Can I have a Southern Comfort with ice, and a glass of water on the side?”
“Very well. I’ll be right back.” The waiter gave me a cheeky kind of smile. Maybe he’s not used to women ordering whisky? He came back quickly and also brought some bread. It was quiet in the restaurant, only one family with kids were at the other end of the terrace, waiting for their pizza. I was given a cosy, quiet spot in a corner which was shadowed by some big trees. I could see everybody coming and going and had a good overview on the whole terrace. I enjoyed watching the other people and the waiter running around. A group of young friends arrived and sat down a few tables down my left. They were dressed in beach-wear – tops, skirts, dresses and t-shirts over bikini’s, some boys without a shirt. Tanned skin, latest fashion in clothes and hairstyles. Typical Swedish teenagers. Their accent sounded posh and I enjoyed listening to their gossiping about mutual friends.

I saw Per arriving, he was on foot and just crossed the street when I spotted him. I felt nervous, my heart started to beat a little faster and suddenly I needed to check my clothes. Maybe I should have worn something fancier? Was it too simple? I was wearing my favourite jeans skirt which was so faded it was nearly white. It was comfortable and cute at the same time. I wore a tight white tank top, under it a bikini top because all my bra’s looked stupid with it. The bright green bikini top added some colour to all the white. My hair was held back by a simple clip and apart from mascara and lip-balm, I wore no make up. I licked my lips as Per climbed up the stairs to the terrace. Shit. I wished I had dressed up. I felt too simple, too ordinary.

“Per!” I said his name not too loud, when I saw him looking around the tables. He came my way and I stood up. He took off his sunglasses.
“Hanna. It’s good to see you.” He spoke so softly I felt a bit uneasy. I wasn’t sure what to do, but he pulled me into a hug I couldn’t refuse. He smelled fresh and his hair was wet, as if he just came from the shower. He was wearing white-washed jeans, slippers and a pink t-shirt.

Who on earth ever came up with the idea that men should start wearing pink? I decided my outfit was fine.

He hugged me so tight I nearly gasped for air. When I loosened myself from him, he didn’t let go right away. He looked at me and stroked my arm with his hand.

“It’s good to see you,” he repeated himself. “You look amazing.”
“Uhm, thanks, I feel pretty good. How about you?”
“Oh, I’m a bit tired, we worked until late last night and I didn’t sleep well, it was too hot. But other than that, I’m ok. Nothing major.” He didn’t look at me and I knew he was hiding something.
“Nothing major… but? A lot of little things?” I asked, leaning over the table towards him. He looked at me a long time with a sweet smile, studying my face. We got interrupted by the waiter.
“Good evening Mr. Gessle, what can I get you?” he asked Per with a big smile. Per ordered a certain kind of wine I never heard of and the waiter left. We talked about the hotel and I told him I would start teaching the next day. Ylva had explained to me that there was no real regular gym instructor at the hotel, but there were a small pool and gym available to anyone. They needed someone to monitor the gym, to be able to offer the clients help if needed. I was scheduled to be present at the gym between ten and twelve in the morning and three and five in the afternoon. Furthermore, I would teach some Yoga/Pilates inspired classes, every morning from eight to ten and twice a week in the evening. No exception on the weekends, I worked seven days a week now.

“That’s a lot more than I expected. Don’t you mind?” Per said. We had decided to order only a main course and were waiting for that.
“I don’t mind at all, when they pay me the figure Ylva mentioned!” I replied and stuck out my tongue. He laughed.
“Ohhh so you’re in this for the money huh!”
“Absolutely. And staying at this hotel isn’t exactly punishment either. I’m going to take some time to get back in shape. I’ve been sloppy with my own work outs lately and I can feel it, it makes me restless.” I waved my arms up and down as if I was stressed, to emphasise my words. Per’s eyes wandered over me.
“What? Are you trying to spot signs of weakness?” I asked and made a funny face. He laughed and shook is head, while the waiter brought our food. For a moment, we were caught up in tasting and discussing our dishes. Mine was a very soft vegetarian lasagne with an amazing spicy sauce. Per had some kind of fish, which he made me taste. It was delicious but I wasn’t so graceful in taking the bite he offered me. Some sauce fell on the tablecloth and stuck to my chin. I looked for my napkin but he beat me to it, wiping my chin with his napkin. ‘Mushy mushy’, a voice in my head said.

“Thanks. I’m so elegant.” I smirked.
“You definitely are.”
“How about you and your work outs? Have you done anything lately?” I asked.
“Why, does it show?” he said and looked at his own body, then to me. I nodded enthusiastically, but I was lying.
“Oh thanks a lot… no, I haven’t done much. The first week I was here, I made an attempt with the machines I have at home, but it was too boring, and Mats kept calling me to come to the studio. So that’s where I spend most of my time now, sitting on my ass and eating bad food…”
“Haha… same here… we hardly left the house these past two weeks. First there was a party with everyone from work, then they called me to take over a few classes and that was it. I went running a few times but not as much as I should have.” I rolled my eyes at him.
“We?” he looked at me questioningly. I felt the blush crawling from my neck up to my cheeks.
“Uhm, yeah… I… dated someone. Shortly.”
“Someone I know?”
“I’m afraid so, yes.” I said, looking at my plate. Per put his fork down and sipped his wine, looking at me.
“Janne.” he said, a bit too loud. I looked up and nodded. Why did I feel the need to apologize? He only nodded.
“You’re not surprised?”
“No.” he said and with that, the conversation died a little. We finished our food. The waiter came along the moment we leaned back, as if he had been watching us and waiting for us to finish.
“Would you like to see the menu for some desert perhaps?” he asked. We didn’t want any desert. I just wanted to run away. Instead, I ordered tea and Per coffee.

“Are you in love with him?” he asked out of the blue. I nearly jumped out of my chair and got angry with myself for that.
“No!” I replied a bit too fast and harsh. “I mean, I don’t think so. It was… a fling. I guess.”
“You don’t sound too sure.”
“I’m not too sure about anything at the moment”. I played with the last remains of the whisky. Before he could say anything more, I leaned across the table and put a hand on his arm.
“Hey, let’s go out tonight and get drunk. I bet you know a good place to go? What do you say?” I said and gave him my sweetest smile. He tried to look serious but failed, his face broke to a smile.
“How did you come up with that so suddenly?”
“It’s been a while since I was drunk. I want to sink away… at the party with my colleagues, I stayed sober because I didn’t want them to remember me drunk… haha”
“I have to go back to the studio tonight.”
“But not all night?” I pouted.
“No, probably not all night…”
“Ok! Then we have a date! Where are we going?” I said, all excited – and above all, happy to get the eerie Janne-topic out of the way.

It was half past ten in the evening when Per finally called me. He’d been caught up at the studio and was driving home. We agreed to meet in an hour at Lilla Helfwetet. I lied that I didn’t know where that was but I would take a taxi so it wouldn’t be a problem. He warned me that it was a bit posh, they wouldn’t let me in with sneakers.
“And you should bring your ID. How old are you actually?”
“Uhm, hehe… guess.”
“That’s dangerous, I’m not going to do that. Please!”
“Too bad… I’m old enough, don’t worry.” I giggled in the phone. He was exactly twenty years and four months older than me but I didn’t share this information with him.

I was on the spot, on time. I took the bus to town and strolled through the streets. It was still warm and there were lots of people out and about, most of them already drunk. I had some drinks in Tylösand’s garden while reading a book in the sun after dinner, but didn’t feel intoxicated yet. Some guys came out of a pub and commented on me out loud and I laughed at them. One of them wanted to come my way but his friends dragged him along, making excuses to me… I knew I had taken a chance with what I was wearing. Per could either like it or hate it, depending on the impression I made. I had to make sure to complete my look with the way I behaved… I was wearing a black dress, the kind any woman should have. It was made of a soft stretch fabric which didn’t wrinkle at all, not even after spending a long time in a suitcase. On the front it looked simple, a simple black dress in a straight line, ending just under my collarbone. It left my arms bare and was perhaps a bit too short for my own good… but my legs are my best feature, I didn’t mind showing them off. The real catch was on the back, or rather, the non-existence of it. It left my back bare, so far down I had bought a special pair of low waist panties to avoid them from sticking out. There was some extra fabric draped around the back-area, creating a luxurious effect. I had a small black leather purse in one hand, a big silver sparkly bracelet and matching earrings, high heeled black velvet pumps and my hair was up, a few strings hanging around my face. I was ready to meet Per now…

Waiting outside Lilla Helfwetet, I checked my make up for the twentieth time. The eye-shadow was sort of silver, fading to black. My attempt at ‘smoky eyes’ had turned out pretty well. The new mascara I bought also did a good job, and finally the lip gloss finished it off. It would not get sticky or ‘kiss off’, the manufacturer had promised on the package. I sure hoped they were right because I hated wearing this stuff. I felt like I couldn’t talk or it would drip off my lips.

The doorman had already asked me if I was ok standing there and I said I waited for someone. I was about to ask him for a cigarette, when Per finally arrived. Twenty minutes late this time… He looked at his watch when he came walking around he corner and adjusted his shirt. He was wearing black jeans and a black shirt with some kind of pattern, probably flowers, on it. Leather jacket in hand. I realised he didn’t recognise me when he walked straight to the doorman and greeted him. He went inside and I laughed out loud… the doorman looked at me and I went to him.

“I thought I would be hard to miss in this outfit, but my date just walked right passed me…” I said to ‘Gustav’, as it said on his name tag. He covered his mouth with his hand when he laughed.
“Oh, miss, did you bring an ID?” he asked when I was about to enter.
“Do I really need that? Or are you flirting with me?” Oh boy, if I was already like this with ‘Gustav’, what would he rest of the night bring? He didn’t even blink when he made a complimenting remark and took a quick glance at my ID.

I entered the club and looked around first. It was busy but not crowded. The music was loud and pumping, club and dance music mixed by a DJ in a booth on the middle of the dance floor. Tables were placed around the dance floor. Looking at some of the visitors, I relaxed. I wasn’t as overdressed as I thought. I spotted Per leaning against the bar with a beer. He looked his watch again and scanned the area. He didn’t see me.

“Was that a move to put me in my place?” I said when I stood in front of him.
“Hanna?! Oh my god it’s you!” he was flabbergasted, mouth hanging open and eyes going up and down, checking me out.
“I was standing outside for about twenty minutes and you just walked right passed me.” I said, one hand in my side. I tried to stay serious. He bought it.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry, I…”
“How are you going to make up, huh?” I said. My eyes couldn’t hide anything and now he knew I was making fun of him. He laughed, then thought for a moment and took my hands, keeping me at arms length.
“Let me start by saying you look beautiful. Gorgeous. Second, all the drinks are on me. I’m really sorry.”
“Hmmm. Ok. Apology accepted.” I sat down on a stool by the bar and ordered a rum and coke. Better stick to the drink I started with at the hotel.

I commented on the club, that it was nice but had a lot of rich kids around. We looked at the people around us and talked about them, clubs and pubs, restaurants, good food and family occasions. That brought us to my plans to go home, and I told him about my place in Holland, my friends and family and the friend that had been living in my apartment.

“She’s going to move in with her boyfriend in a couple of weeks, two months tops. So we’ll share it for a while.”
“Is it a big place?” he asked.
“Not big, but big enough to share temporarily. We’ve been very good friends for years so I don’t see any problems. Besides, she’ll spend most of her time with her boyfriend anyway, decorating their new home and stuff. It will be good for me too, sharing the costs, because there won’t be a job waiting for me when I get there.”
“Really? You have no real plan then?”
“Nope. Or actually, I do. I just don’t know where to start.” I said, and explained to him what my plan was. I wanted to open my own practise, perhaps inside a gym, where I would be able to advise and train people. I wanted to give them an overall treatment, which would include nutrition advice, work outs and medical attention when needed. I wanted to certify as a physical therapist and sports masseuse before starting something.

“Oh yes, a masseuse… now that you mention it…” he said, with a hand on his back and a very painful look on his face. I turned my head to one side and eyed him suspiciously. He made some fake moans and pretended to have trouble standing up.
“When it’s that bad, I would call an ambulance rather than give you a massage.” I stated dryly.
“Oh… but I feel much better suddenly!” he said and came back up from his cramped position. I shook my head and ordered another round of drinks. When I went to the bathroom a moment later, I felt the alcohol tingling through my body. My head was woozy and my legs didn’t feel very steady either. The clock in the bathroom told me it was half past one. Time had gotten ahead of me.

Back at the bar, other people were standing where we had just been. Per was standing a bit further away, against a wall, typing something into his phone.
“Our place was taken?” I said.
“Yeah, they were crowding our spot so I moved.”
“Shall we take a seat? My legs are not so steady anymore…” I said and pointed at an empty table with a couch and comfortable chair. He put his phone away and wrapped his arm around me. His hand was warm on my naked back. He stroked it. Goosebumps appeared on my arms.
“Are you ok?” he asked when we walked to the table. I was concentrating on his hand on my skin.
“Yes, yes I’m fine. Just… drunk!” I dropped myself on the small, soft couch. He sat down beside me, his arm now around my waist. Somehow my head ended up on his shoulder. I wrapped my arm around his waist and cuddled up to him. He seemed a bit uncomfortable but I was too vague to really interpret anything. I acted as I felt, alcohol always made me impulsive and bold.
I lifted my head up to his ear and said softly, “Maybe it’s time to go soon,” and kissed his jawbone. He turned his head slowly to look at me.
“Maybe it is?” he said and touched my hair with his fingers. His other hand went to my back and stroked it first between my shoulders, then further down until he reached the line of my dress. I sat up a bit to level my face with his. It was dark in the club, his eyes lit up occasionally in the light beams that danced around us.
“Would you… uhm…” I sighed against his cheek.
“Yes I would,” he said. I leaned in, my eyes already closing and my lips pursing, looking for his mouth.
“Hanna…” he took my chin with his fingers. I opened my eyes.
“Not here. Let’s go.”
“Go where? I can’t walk anymore.”
“Of course you can. I’ll help you, come on.” he said and got up, pulling me with him. With his leather jacket over one arm and his other around me, we pushed through the crowd and left the club. Another man was now standing at the door and he wished us a pleasant evening. I mumbled something dirty but I don’t think he heard it. Per lead me away from the club, over the dark street. I wasn’t sure where we were going but it didn’t seem the right direction. We walked beside some water… what was the name of that river again…
“Nissan…” I said out loud.
“Hmm?”
“Oh nothing.” I said, suddenly realising I was not supposed to know the name of the river. I had never been to Halmstad, right? God I was getting paranoid. I shook my head a bit and tried to walk a straight up, breathing the air in deeply. Per suddenly stopped walking, I almost stumbled over my own feet because my arm was still around his waist.
“Are you really ok?” he asked, worried. I smiled, having trouble to stand straight up and still. My legs moved on their own.
“Don’t worry honey, I’m really fine. Just… intoxicated…” I said, and swayed his way. What I did can’t be called walking, swaying is a better definition. I leaned against him now, my hands at his waist. My fingers stroking him.
“Per…” I whispered his name softly. He looked down. “When are you finally going to kiss me?” I said, my head tilted to one side. He hands came up and he touched my face, taking it in both his hands. They were pretty big, and warm on my skin. He started walking, pushed me slowly backwards until I leaned against a wall. The bricks were cold against my back and I felt goosebumps rising on my skin. I didn’t have time to think about that, because Per was leaning down and finally, finally his lips touched mine. He kissed me very carefully. His lips were wet and soft, opening to invite my tongue inside. I felt limp and held on to him, kissing him back in his slow rhythm. His hands left my face and slid down my body, resting at my hips. I took one of his hands and pushed it further down, around, to my ass. I was impatient, needed to feel more of him, not able to keep up the slow kiss anymore. I sped up, kissing him wildly, pulling his body against mine. He followed my lead, fingers digging gently into my flesh, thighs touching mine.

“Honey… don’t stop…” I gasped when his mouth left mine.
“Geesh Hanna… I never thought… you could be like this…” he said. It sounded strange but I couldn’t think. My brain had stopped working.
“I can be anything you want…” I mumbled, equally strange. I kissed his throat, his jawbone and cheek and licked his earlobe. His hands went restlessly up and down my sides and to my ass again.
“Let’s go.” he said, voice hoarse.
“Where?” I replied and pulled him back.
“Where do you want to go?” his fingers touched my face again. I was about to say, anywhere, if you come with me, but it seemed too cheap. I didn’t say anything. We walked for a while, I didn’t know for how long or where to, but we got into a taxi somehow. Before I knew it, we were at the hotel. I took his hand and pulled him with me out of the taxi. He let go of my hand when we entered the hotel and walked beside me with some distance. He greeted the girl at the desk, someone I didn’t recognise. We took the elevator and went to my room without saying anything. I closed the door behind us and went right back to kissing him again. My hands messed up his hair and I was out of breath but couldn’t stop. I pushed him to the bed and onto it, crawling all over him like a cat. I pushed my body against him, satisfied to find him slightly hard inside his pants. We lay like that for a while, kissing and cuddling, his hands running over my body and my legs wrapped around him. I was hot as hell and didn’t give much attention to the nauseous wave that came over me once a while. He flipped us around and was on top of me, his hands creeping slowly under the dress, when the nausea got very urgent all of a sudden.

“Per… Per! Stop… please…” I panted against his mouth and pushed him away. I sat straight up on the bed and put a hand on my stomach.
“Baby? What is it?”
“I… I think… god…” I stood up and walked around. My shoes were in the middle of the room and I nearly tripped over them.
“Hanna?”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Oh no.”
“Oh yes. I’m sorry. You have to go.” I said, suddenly sobered up. I held my hand in front of my mouth and looked at the bathroom door.
“You can’t stay here when I get sick, please. You have to leave.” I mumbled. He got up and looked helpless.
“I can stay, it’s no problem.” he stroked my arm.
“No, please go. I’m so sorry, I…” I broke away from him and went into the bathroom, lights on, door locked. It took a while before it really started and it was over before I knew it… I had gone too far. Too much alcohol and too much worry and stress in my body. Too much excitement all in one day.

After rinsing my mouth numerous times and brushing my teeth thoroughly, I went back to the bedroom a bit shaky. Per sat on the bed with a bottle of water from the mini bar, flipping through a magazine.
“Feel better?” he asked, getting up from the bed.
“You’re still here? I feel awful.”
“I didn’t want to leave you like this. Come here…” he wrapped his arms around me and put my head on his chest, stroking my hair. It had become messy and he took the clip out, massaging my scalp with his fingers.
“I’m really sorry.” I said in a small voice.
“It’s ok. Can happen to anyone.” he kissed my forehead and hair and stroked my face.
“You know Hanna… I think we should slow down a bit. I really like you and… well, I don’t want to rush things. It’s been too long for me since…” he stalled.
“Since what?”
“Since I’ve been with a woman other than my wife. Ex-wife. I am a bit… insecure at the moment. Vulnerable maybe. I don’t mean to be dramatic but…” he didn’t really know how to say it but I understood what he meant.
“I get you. It’s all still fresh and perhaps this is too soon?” I said, looking up at him. He was more than ten centimetres taller than me. He nodded, looking into my eyes. His eyes were intense and seemed a darker brown than before. So different from Janne’s slightly cold blue eyes.

I stepped away from him and went to my suitcase, which was still unpacked. In the pile of clothes beside it on a chair, I found a white top and my cotton white boxers. I took his hand.
“Sleep with me tonight? Just sleep?” I said. He took a deep breath and stared at the wall behind me, thinking. I let go of him and went into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth again, drank some water and went to the bathroom. I removed the now awful-looking make up from my face, while trying to hear what Per was doing in the living room. There was nothing, no sounds. When I came back out, now wearing the top and boxer shorts, he was sitting on the only chair in the room, elbows on his knees and rubbing his hands together. He watched me get into bed. It was three o ‘clock and I set the alarm to seven thirty.

“Come.” I patted beside me on the bed. After a long minute, he took his shoes off and got up. He killed the lights and lay beside me on the bed. He kissed my neck once, then stroked my hair until I fell asleep.

Friday morning, eight o ‘clock. I arrived at the classroom where four women waiting for me in sports-outfits. One of them was Ylva.

“Good morning ladies!” I cheered at them and opened the door with the key Ylva had given me the day before. The room was fresh and very bright, making the headache sting even harder between my eyes. I set up the music, took a moment to find out how the microphone worked and went to perform my task. We filled 55 minutes with different Yoga positions and Pilates exercises, until everyone sweated and moaned. The next group was already waiting when we finished, this time three middle aged women and one young man. Ylva congratulated me on my class and said she’d really enjoyed it. The second hour was easier, I did almost exactly the same as far as I could remember. I didn’t prepare anything for this class, apart from practising a bit before I came here. I used the trick I always use when I haven’t had time to prepare a class like this; start at the top of the head and work your way down the body. There’s an exercise for every part and once you’re finished, you’ll see that time is almost up… After these two classes, I changed my clothes in the office beside the classroom and headed for the gym. It was empty. I took out the food I had brought and flipped through one of the newspapers that was on the desk. After about an hour, a man arrived. He was wearing a suit and carrying a plastic bag.

“Oh hello. I didn’t know there was supervision!” he said and smiled.
“I just started today, I’m Hanna, hi!” I said and shook his hand. He explained that he was often in Halmstad on business and always stayed at Tylösand. He wanted to work out for about an hour, and could use some help. After he’d changed, I went through the gym with him, asking what his goal was with this work out and explaining what he could do to reach it. When he was half way, it was twelve o ‘clock and time for me to leave. He was fine finishing on his own, the gym was open 24 hours a day so people walked in and out all the time. Three men arrived when I left, also surprised to see me. I explained what I was doing there and they promised to come back soon to get some advice. I went straight to my room, lay on the bed still dressed and fell asleep.

A phone was ringing somewhere… dizzy… oh my headache is gone, thank god. Cold shivers ran through me when I got up to get my phone.
“Per…” I said, and then heard how awful my voice sounded.
“Hey you, what’s up?”
“I just woke up, I’m a bit off! Sorry hehe.”
“I’m sorry to wake you then! Go back to sleep.”
“No no, it’s ok, I have to get back to work in about an hour anyway.” I said, and took a glass of water in the bathroom.
“Ok. How did it go this morning?”
“Alright. Nobody noticed anything I think… what time did you leave?” I asked. He was gone when I woke up that morning.
“I left when you were asleep, about half past three or something. I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t want anyone to see me there. I hope you don’t mind…”
“No, it’s fine. I don’t know if I would have been as fast with getting ready this morning, if you were around…” I said with a giggle.
“Hmm maybe not, huh…”
Silence. I thought of what to say and how to say it.
“Per…”
“Hanna…” we said each other’s names at the same time and laughed.
“You go first.” I said.
“No you.”
“Ok. I’ve been thinking a lot.”
“Yes. Me too.”
“What were you thinking?”
“Worrying if I have been acting like a fool last night.”
“You?! It was me who almost threw up all over you, in the middle of… well… in the middle of…”
“In the middle of something very good…”
“Uhm. Exactly.”
“But I am usually not that insecure. I usually know exactly what I want and how, but now…”
“You seemed to know what you wanted last night.” I said. I was now in the bathroom, brushing my hair. My stomach growled, I needed to eat soon. Per chuckled into the phone and he made something flutter around my belly.
“I wanted you really bad, yes.”
“What?”
“Eh?”
“Wanted what?”
“Like you don’t know that.”
“I do, but I want to hear you say it… hehe…” I smiled at myself in the mirror. I looked much better than that morning, thank god.
“Oooh… so you’re fishing. Ok. I wanted to make love to you.” he said. It sounded simple and sweet.
“And now?”
“I still want to. But I also think it’s good that it didn’t happen last night. I want to take it one step at the time, if that’s ok with you.” he said. He was very honest and I almost got emotional. It was not ok with me. I wanted everything, and I wanted it right now. But at the same time, I didn’t want anything because… because there was such a big part of me he didn’t know about. I’d told him so many lies, I was worried I would forget about one, or mix it up with something else… I sighed.
“I understand you very well, and I’m glad that you’re so honest with me. But when August is over, I’ll be gone, you know.” I had to swallow after saying that.
“I know, I know. Let’s just see how things work out, ok?”
“Yes. I have to go now and get ready. When will I see you again?” I sang the Three Degrees’ song into the phone. He laughed.
“I don’t know, are you working tonight?”
“No. I’m taking an early night today. Tomorrow it’s Saturday, perhaps we can drink some water together?”
“Haha… water, yes, very good plan. Call me tomorrow then, ok?” he said, and with that we hung up.

We spent the next week dating. We met each other a couple of times. He came to the hotel’s gym after my work had finished there to do a work out and we worked down the same programme as before. If we went out for the evening, I was very careful with drinking, I didn’t want to get lost in my own lies anymore. We’d kiss and cuddle a bit when there was no one around, but I was very careful not to get too worked up, and he was the same. It was like we were afraid to loose control and have wild sex right on the spot…

One day, Per came to the gym unexpectedly. It was almost five o ‘clock and I was there with Ylva, who’d become a regular at the gym. She always used to go on her own, but now she enjoyed working with me and had learned a lot. She was very good, strong and motivated so we had a great time. There were still some things I wanted to do with her, even though my shift had ended. When I saw Per standing by the glass doors, I walked to him. He looked serious and something was not good.

“Hi, what’s up?” I asked, worried.
“I’m stuck,” he said, voice a bit cramped. I looked puzzled.
“I mean, my back is stuck. I can’t move.” he said, voice again tight and he reached back with his hand.
“Oh oh… is it that bad?” I said. I could clearly see the pain on his face. He just nodded.
“You should call the doctor instead of coming to me. I am not certified.”
“I know, but my therapist isn’t available until tomorrow afternoon. And I can’t stand this anymore. Could you please try to do something about it?”
“Yes, I can try something, carefully. Here, take this, go to that office over there and lay down. I’ll be with you as soon as I can, ok?” I said and gave him the keys to the office. He left, almost limping…

I still needed some time with Ylva and I didn’t want to leave her on her own. As soon as she said she was ok and would manage to do the rest of the exercises herself, I left and went to look at Per. He wasn’t laying on the sofa as I had told him, but was walking around the room.

“I can’t lay down.” he said. His face was painful and angry. I looked around the room. There was no proper massage table in this building that I knew of. I took the chair with wheels that was at the desk.
“Sit here, with your back to me, and lean your arms here.” I pointed at the chair and made him sit on it backwards. I searched through my sports bag and found the lotion I always used to calm down my muscles when they were aching or strained after a work out. It had something minty and hot, something that heated up the muscle and made it easier to relax. A massage would stimulate the bloodstream and certain ways of massaging would irritate the muscle, encouraging it to heal faster. I helped him take off his shirt and touched his neck. Everything was tense and strained. While exploring his back, I came closer to the most painful spot and he jerked up.
“There. That’s it.”
“You have to promise me to see a doctor tomorrow, Per. This has got nothing to do with our work out yesterday. Did you feel this yesterday?”
“Not really. I was achy afterwards but not different than usual. This morning, I could hardly get out of bed.”

I started with his neck and shoulders, loosening up the muscles. The chair was far from comfortable and I almost got a backache myself from the strange position I was in. He relaxed more and more when his neck and shoulder muscles got less tight. When I went further down, he responded with moans and jerks of his body that he couldn’t control. I was very careful, not digging too deep into the muscles. The worst pain was on the right side of his lower back. I worked on the left side first, which was sore from walking in a wrong position all day long. When I went to the painful spot, I heard him breathing deeply in and out through his mouth, long, shaky breaths, trying to stand the pain as good as he could.
“You ok?”
“Yes. Go on.” he said through clenched teeth. And so I did, softly moulding his skin and the muscles beneath it. His breathing gradually got more regular.
“It’s getting better now.” he said softly.
“Was it a move you made that caused this?” I asked.
“No, I just woke up like this. Stayed in bed for a long time before I dared to get up. I took a hot bath, called Mats at the studio that I couldn’t make it. I spent the rest of the day popping painkillers and taking hot showers, and laying in bed.” he explained. I asked him to raise both his arms in the air and sit straight up. He did it, though with some difficulty.
“You need to lay down. I can’t reach it like this, I’m getting a backache myself!” I said and looked around the room again. How? Where? The sofa was too small. He looked at me, with a smile for the first time that day.
“Your room?” he said cheekily. I laughed.
“My room. I’m afraid that’s the best option…”
“Don’t worry, I am not in any shape to… well, do anything else but lay there helplessly on your bed…” he said, one eyebrow raised.

And so we went upstairs. Per limped to my room. I took all the blankets and pillows off the bed. My room was a big mess but he didn’t comment. He lay down in the middle of the bed, head on his arms. I knelled down next to him and continued to softly massage his lower back. After a while, I needed to relax my hands, and figured there wasn’t much more I could do. So I got up and went to the bathroom to wash my hands.

“I think that’s all I can do for now. You should stay like this for a while, just rest and do nothing.” he had his eyes closed and looked sleepy.
“I was about to fall asleep when you stopped,” he said with a giggle. I went to the bed and laid down next to him, stroking his hair.
“You had a hernia once, right? What happened with that?”
“Yeah, I had a hernia in ’96 during a GT tour…”
“Återtåget.”
“Yes. It was worst just before we had to go on stage, I couldn’t walk normally, my right leg was all cramped. We had to call a doctor. He gave me a shot that was so heavy, I felt I finally knew what drugs are all about…” he looked at me with one eye. I laughed.
“Oh, that must have been horrible, performing in a sort of haze… do you think anyone noticed? The audiance or the press?”
“I’m not sure about the audience, but we told the press later.”
“Did you get surgery?”
“No. It healed by itself after I spent a lot of time flat in bed, not doing anything. Horrible time, I was bored out of my skull.”
“Hmm I can imagine.” My fingers went through his hair and I caressed his cheek. He hadn’t shaved and it looked very sexy. I kissed his cheek, his ear, behind his ear… went on to his neck.
“Is this part of the treatment?” he asked. I giggled.
“Yes it is.” I said. I couldn’t restrain myself. There he was, in my bed again, helpless and weak… I got closer to him and lay my body against his, wrapping one leg around him. My hand stroked his naked back and went through his hair again. His eyes were now open and he looked at me. With some difficulty, he managed to turn around and lay on his back. I straddled him but didn’t sit down, I didn’t touch him with my body. I placed my hands beside his head and leaned down and kissed him. Slow, warm kisses… my body reacted immensely and I was completely hot in no time. Per’s hands were on my face, he had a thing for holding my face when kissing me, and making a mess of my hair.
“Hmm… baby…” he mumbled.
“Hmm…”
“You still haven’t told me your age.”
“Haha… why do you think about that now?” I said, and licked his lips. I sucked on his bottom lip and bit it so that he was unable to answer.
“I just thought, Återtåget was in 1996. How old were you then?” he said, his eyes now open. I continued kissing him and looked into his eyes. I felt nervous. Shit, had I slipped?
“In 1996… I was… sixteen.” I said. I kissed down his cheek and to his throat, on to his ear. I licked his earlobe and took it between my lips. I’d found out this heated him up like nothing else. He hissed through his teeth.
“Ok… so you are now…”
“Twenty-seven.” I whispered it into his ear. He replied with a moan, and when I went back to his mouth, his kiss was more urgent than before.
“Too young…” he whispered between kisses. I stopped and looked at him.
“Too young for what?” I said, swaying my hips over his body. I could just rip his clothes off and eat him alive… his hand grabbed my t-shirt and he pulled me back down.
“Too young for me… I’m old you know…” he kissed me hotly.
“I know…” I kissed him back.
“Did you see Återtåget?” he kept coming back to that subject. I shook my head. He wanted to say more but I didn’t let him, kept kissing.
“Hanna…” he said, slowly stopping me.
“You’re killing me, we have to stop this… I should go home.”
“Oh… yes. I wouldn’t want to kill you…” My hand reached down and I touched the lump inside his pants. He was wearing long sports pants and I could touch whatever I wanted. There were probably some simple boxer shorts under the wide pants. He was hard and I felt his response when I softly squeezed him. I had never touched him there before. I bit my lip and looked at him. His mouth was open and he looked horny as hell.

He needed help to get off the bed, but when he walked around the room he was surely more comfortable than when he came in. The next day, he went to see the doctor who assured him he had no hernia. There was a strained muscle and he should rest and see a physical therapist. So he did that the same afternoon. He sms-ed me that the therapist was male and by far not as sexy as I was. The treatment was hurtful and he would stay around the house for a couple of days. Maybe I wanted to come over?

So there I was, on my way to Per’s house. I took a taxi there and looked at the immense gate. I felt a bit unwell in my stomach. I’d been here once before, to see where my big idol lived… I’d been standing there with a friend, checking out the area, when a car came. It was black with tinted windows. The gate had opened and the car went in. Now I was at he same gate, ringing the doorbell. I knew he could see me, so I looked at the camera and waved. He buzzed the door open and I walked over to the front door. Two cars were parked outside, and there was a garage that could probably hold four more. The huge Porsche Cayenne and the sexy little Mercedes SLK were standing in the driveway, looking shiny as if they were brand new. He opened the door for me and greeted me with a kiss. He was wearing the same jogging pants as before, and a t-shirt.
“Did you park the Cayenne and the SLK outside to impress me?” I asked while following him through the hallway. He laughed.
“Yes, did it work?” he asked. I shook my head.
“Nope. Sorry. Cars don’t mean anything to me…”
“Ay shit. That’s too bad. What does?”
“Haha. I’m not going to tell you!”

We sat in the garden, the sun was warm and there was a little breeze from the sea. We drank iced tea and ate chips and talked a lot, a bit too much in my opinion. He didn’t touch me or kiss me, but seemed determined to talk about me all the time. Asked where I was from, about my education again, my work, friends, family… even my cats were discussed. Telling him about my friends was dangerous. Most of them were in other countries and I met them usually through Roxette-related situations. Met them on forums, fan meetings, at concerts and through mutual friends – all of them Roxette fans. Most of my friends and I were no longer very active fans, but still we had that history together. I felt more and more uncomfortable. I tried numerous times to bring the conversation to him and his background, but then it was also hard not to interrupt him and say, ooooh so this and this rumour is really true? And ask him, did you REALLY never sleep with Marie Fredriksson? Because a friend of mine said that her friend had a friend who had a fling with MP and he said when he was drunk that you and Marie… my head was spinning. I went to the bathroom to sort myself out. I didn’t even drink any alcohol and was already dizzy.

“So sports has always been your biggest passion?” he continued when I came back.
“For the past few years, yes. It’s since four years or so that I’ve started that. I made a career-change, so to say.”
“What did you do before that?”
“Administration, that sort of thing.”
“And in your spare time, sports?”
“Yes, I was at some gyms from time to time going to their classes. But the real passion started in 2002. I didn’t really liked working in the fitness-part of the gym, especially not at my latest job. But in Stockholm, with the private clients, it was very cool.” he stared at me.
“What?” I said, smiling.
“I’ve been thinking.” oh god. My heart skipped a beat. I waited.
“We are from different generations. That’s very interesting.” he said. I exhaled. Don’t be so paranoid!
“Yes it is… so perhaps you don’t want to know that you’re about the same age as my mum?”
“OH! What?!”
“My mom’s forty-six.”
“God. Even younger than me.”

We had spent hours talking and it was getting dark. I was very tired because I gave myself a hard work out in the gym that afternoon, so I left pretty soon. I was on the phone with the taxi company, standing in the kitchen, when Per walked in.
“Skogsvägen, yes. Ten minutes? Ok that’s great, thanks!”
“Smart girl.” he said, standing behind me and wrapping his arms around my shoulders. I clicked the phone to close and looked up at him questioningly.
“Calling a taxi I mean.” he looked strange.
“Why, how else would I get here? The bus stop is…”
“Is?”
“Quite some walk. I saw that once when I came from town.”
“I don’t even know where the bus stop is. Did you realise that I never told you my address, when I invited you? You already knew where I lived.” He said, his face in my hair. I looked straight ahead and saw our reflection in the tinted glass of the microwave. My face looked pale.
“Doesn’t everybody know that? I just told the taxi driver I wanted to go to Gessle’s house. He took me here, so I figured this had to be it.” I said. It sounded stupid and I felt tension all through my body. Cold sweat in my hands. Then the doorbell rung.

The taxi took me back to the hotel. I had trouble falling asleep, pondering and worrying about all his questions and my strange answers. Would he find out? Or did he already know? Or, worst case scenario, did he recognize me? I didn’t know. There was no way to find out without saying too much myself…

Time went by rather smoothly after that. He didn’t come up with too many difficult topics and when he did, I managed to avoid them pretty well. We were dating a bit, got lost in kisses from time to time but nothing more. Honestly, I was getting a little tired of the situation. I was ready to sleep with him any moment, day or night, and didn’t think about anything but him and wanted to grab him the minute I saw him. There was no way I could have a relationship with him, so I might as well take what I could and leave… while he was clearly trying to build up something between us, not only an immense tension but something more, something special.

It was only a week before I would go home. I’d already booked my ticket.

One Sunday afternoon, I had been running along the beach. It was not too hot that day and I was very well equipped with a hat and sun lotion. I wore a sports bra under some flimsy beach-top and very small shorts, so I would even get tanned while working out. My jogging shoes completed the picture rather horribly but I couldn’t care about that. I had been running for an hour and a half straight and was feeling lovely exhausted when I took the last sprint over Tylösand Beach. I arrived at the back door of Solgården soaked with sweat. A glimpse at the clock in Leif’s Lounge told me I had plenty of time for a swim and a quick shower before my afternoon shift. I got a towel from my bag which was in the office next to the aerobic room, and headed for the elevator. I would get my bathing suit and clothes from upstairs, take a nice swim to cool off and shower at the pool. Then I could walk right into my shift afterwards. I hummed a tune and felt very good. I nearly bumped into Per on my way to the elevator in the lunge.

“Hey you!” I said, surprised.
“Hey gorgeous.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked. He looked a bit strange. It was only one o ‘clock, so it couldn’t be, but he seemed a bit… drunk?
“I had a meeting this morning, and lunch afterwards. On the terrace by Solgården. Some very pretty female jogged by.”
“Ahaaaa! You saw me!” I laughed. He got with me into the elevator.
“I’m going to take a swim before my shift starts.” I explained. He just nodded, then cornered me against the mirrored walls of the elevator and kissed me. It was short, because the elevator had already reached my floor. He came with me into my room and just stood there while I threw some things into a sports bag. Bathing suit, towels, shampoo, bra, top, jogging pants…

“Hmmmm…” Per stood behind me and wrapped his arms around me. He buried his face in my neck, which was all wet with sweat, and growled. My body immediately reacted, but I also got irritated all of a sudden. I pushed him off me.
“Per, I’m all sweaty and yucky.”
“I don’t mind.” He came back. His hands went for my ass. My shorts were cold and sticking to my skin. He rubbed his hips against me and was very clearly aroused. I turned around and shoved him aside.
“Per! Stop ok! I have to go!” I shouted a bit too loud.
“Whoa, what’s this!” he said, hands in the air.
“I’m just, I just, well! I just don’t want to!” I shouted again.
“I don’t believe this!” he said, now also angry.
“What? That I can resist you? Do you have ANY fucking idea how long I’ve been doing that?!” I zipped up my bag and rubbed my shoulders dry with a towel. He opened his mouth to say something.
“No, don’t talk. Please. We’ve been talking too much already. I’m fed up, ok? I’ve had it with this whole situation. It makes no sense, Per! What the hell are we waiting for?”
“Baby…”
“Don’t call me that! We’re not a couple and we won’t be. I was more than ready to fuck your brains out, a long time now I’ve been ready. But nothing more than that, ok?” he looked helpless at me.
“Don’t give me that look again!” his weakness made me furious. I threw my towel hard into his face and walked away. Or, wanted to walk away. He yanked my arm and pulled me to him, kissing me hard before I knew what hit me. His tongue probed my mouth aggressively. I pushed and writhed to get away, he took hold of my wrists and pushed me to the bed. We tumbled down, him on top of me, almost falling off on the other side. He continued kissing me and pushing himself against me, his erection hard against my belly. I kicked and felt tears stinging in my eyes. What the hell got into him?!

“Let me go, asshole! Go away!” I said when his mouth finally left mine.
“Hanna, shut up! Listen to me!” he straddled me and held my arms above my head.
“Listen! I’m sorry ok. I got carried away, I’ve had too much wine with lunch. I couldn’t eat, I haven’t slept for days, I…”
“I don’t care! Let me gooo!” I wrestled with him, until I was on top, holding his hands above his head.
“I love you.” he said it.
“Oh yeah?”
“I’m so in love with you Hanna, it hurts. I… you can’t leave. Please.” he got weak under me and I loosened my grip. He came up and kissed me softly, suddenly sweet… I cried. I couldn’t help it, tears just streamed down my face. He came up, me on his lap, and we kissed and kissed and…
“Baby… don’t cry, please… what’s the matter?” he said, stroking my face.
“You can’t… I’m, I mean, I, you can’t love me. Don’t do that.” I sobbed. He held me in his arms. I got out of his embrace and stood up. I picked the towel up from the floor and dried my face with it. He sat on the bed, said nothing. Looked at me.
“You don’t know me Per. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I can’t be with you. I am going home next Friday and there’s nothing you can do about it. And I won’t come back to this shit-country ever again.”

With that, I left him in my room. I skipped the swimming and took a long shower at the pool, where nobody could see me cry.

The gym was empty. I adjusted the leg press and took the seat. I pressed until my muscles stung. Next thing was the bench-press, which I didn’t take too far because there was no one around to assist if anything would go wrong. I continued on an abs machine. You sit down in between the weights and press them either out or in, training the transverse abdominals. I did both, until I felt the sting and even pushed a bit further, until I had trouble breathing. I was wearing myself out and I knew I would pay for it later. But I needed to release the angry energy that had been building up inside me. My tears had dried, but the pain was still there. I didn’t even understand it myself, how I had come to such an outrage. It was ridiculous, unnecessary and above all, very immature. What annoyed me most, is that he would know now that I was hiding something. I feared the moment he would come to question me about it.

On to the floor, I did sit ups until my abdominals cramped. I was sweating all over again and decided there was one last thing I needed to do. I knew now that Per was watching me. He had been standing by the glass door for a couple of minutes. I rolled to my stomach and started push ups – the exercise I despise the most. Toes placed firmly on the floor, hands on the floor next to the chest, and lift. I counted softly to myself. Per walked in, the door made a squeaky sound and his shoes a soft noise on the carpet.

“Vijftien, zestien, zeventien, achtien, negentien…” I counted in Dutch. Per sat down on one of the machine’s benches and watched me.
“Eenentwintig, tweeentwintig, drieentwintig…”
“Hanna.”
“Vierentwintig, vijfentwintig…” I was having a lot of trouble pushing up now, after twenty-five times. My breathing had become irregular, arms burning and shaking.
“Are you finished?” he asked when I halted at twenty-five.
“Zesentwintig… zevenentwintig…” I completed the thirty and cheered silently to myself. I’d never gotten that far before. I lay on the floor panting and unable to move for a moment. Per got up and crouched beside me.
“Now are you done?” he asked. I said nothing. I could hardly breathe and waited for the shivers and shakes to leave my body. I had definitely crossed a line here and I wasn’t too sure it was good for me. Per carefully put a hand on the back of my head.
“Hey… are you ok?” he asked in a sweet voice. I suddenly regained my strength and got up and away from his hand.
“Perfectly fine, thank you.” I managed to say. I walked to the other side of the room and took my bag, then walked to the door. He blocked my way.
“This is insane. You have to talk to me.” he said, hands at his sides. I couldn’t look at his face.
“I have nothing more to say. I’m sorry I went into such a rage, that was not necessary. But I meant what I said.” I said, staring at the ground.
“I meant what I said too. You haven’t answered that.” he said. I shook my head. My throat was blocked, I couldn’t speak. Stupid tears were stinging behind my eyes again. I looked up at him.
“I need to be alone right now. Go away.” I said with a tight voice. He stepped aside and let me leave.

The next day went by in a haze. I left my phone in the room and didn’t check it all day. I did my classes and gym-supervision, then went to town and had lunch with Ylva and some other girls from the staff. We walked around town a bit, I bought some clothes, and then returned to the gym for my afternoon shift. Nobody turned up. I took some time to relax with a book. At five, I went to the last bit of After Beach at Leif’s Lunge and had a greasy hamburger dinner in the sun. When I came back to my room, it was almost seven. I tried to ignore my phone. Lasted half an hour, then it buzzed announcing an sms coming in. I looked at the screen. Five missed calls, six sms-es. The one that just came in was from my mom, asking me to confirm my arrival time. One missed call was from her too. All the rest were from Per. My heart sank. I was afraid to listen to his messages, but still I did. First he just asked me to call him back. Then he sms-ed, asking if I got the message. Then he sms-ed again, if I could please call him. And so it went on, until the last message he finally said something.

“This is my last try honey, then I’ll give up. I need to talk to you. Or actually, I need you to talk to me. Don’t you see how I’m struggling here? Please, drop all the mystery and just tell me what is going on. What is holding you back? Why can’t you just tell me? Allow me to know you, Hanna, I really want to. After all that has happened, you can’t leave me like this. I miss you.”

I paced around the room after listening to it for the fourth time. I was immensely sad but couldn’t cry, perhaps I was already out of tears. I typed numerous sms-es and deleted them again. Finally, I spent some time pampering myself. I took a hot bath, shaved my legs, scrubbed my skin all over and afterwards rubbed myself with lotion. I did my nails and applied a facial mask. All in all, I was busy with myself in silence for a couple of hours. Then I picked up the phone again and typed an sms.

*I have told you too many lies to hide things about myself, i feel there is no way back*

The reply came instantly.

*You can undo them by telling me the truth. I can’t imagine what can be so horrible about you*

I typed: *I am not the person you think i am, would that be horrible enough?*

I was worried my spelling of certain words would suck, but what would it matter anyway…

*Depends*

Was all he replied. I took a deep breath, and another one, before I typed:

*I lied to you from the moment we met until today. I was a huge fan for fifteen years and have always been in love with you. I can’t tell reality from fantasy anymore*

I was sitting on the bed and put the phone down beside me. I bit my lip and watched the silent TV-screen. An old episode of ‘Friends’ was on. It took a while before he replied.

*What do you feel right now?*

I snorted out loud and got up, paced the room again.

*Like i am not being honest with you or myself. I don’t trust what i feel anymore*

*I only know what i saw in your eyes, many times. Something amazing that made me feel better than i did for a long time*

I wanted to throw the phone out the window. He was winning me over. I was slowly giving in. I didn’t want to admit defeat, but I craved to be with him all the same. I grabbed a pair of jeans and a big sweater that were laying neatly folded on the table. I put them on over my white top and boxers shorts in which I had planned to sleep. Slippers, wallet… oh! Phone!

*Are you still there? Or did you fall asleep?*

Per sms-ed me. I was already in the taxi. I hesitated. Should I let him know I was coming over? Maybe he wasn’t even home, suddenly crossed my mind. Though it was nearly midnight.

*I’m in a taxi. Are you home?*

*Yes*

The taxi pulled up in front of Per’s gate. I paid him with my credit card and tried to look as natural as possible. It was close to midnight and I’d called a taxi to take me to Per’s home. Everybody in this area knew where he lived.

He buzzed me in immediately when I rang the bell and came walking out the front door when I crossed the driveway. He took me in his armsm, I wrapped mine around his waist and pressed him tightly against me. He stroked my hair and kissed the top of my head. We stood there for a good five minutes until we slowly let go. He cupped my face in his hands and looked at me.

“It’s good you came,” he said. I just looked into his eyes and didn’t know what to say. My throat was stuck, all of a sudden I seemed to have lost all the confidence I thought I had.
“You think so?” I finally managed. He nodded and smiled, then took my hand and made me follow him into the house. There was only one small light on in the living room. His laptop, phone and a glass of wine sat on the table. He sat down on the couch and I sat strangely beside him.

“So…” I said and studied my nails.
“Yeah so…” Per replied. We looked funnily at each other and giggled. “Do you want a drink or something? Some wine?” he said and pointed at the glass on the table. I nodded, not knowing what else to do. He went to the kitchen and came back with a glass of light red wine. He sat down on the couch much closer to me than before.
“I’m flying home tomorrow.” I unnecessarily stated a fact we both knew. I sipped the wine, it was bitter. Per was leaning my way and he was so close I could feel the heat coming from his body.
“I know that,” he said and touched my hair. I looked up at him, he stared at my mouth. I took another big sip of the wine. Its bitterness nearly made me shiver and I leaned forward to put the glass on the table. I stood up from the couch, I just couldn’t sit still with him so close to me.
“I’m not sure what I’m doing here,” I said softly and walked around the room. Per drank his wine and sat back. He didn’t say anything, just looked at me.
“I’m not sure about anything, actually. Was it wise to tell you the truth?” I said but didn’t wait for him to reply.
“Was it wise to lie about myself to begin with? Would you ever trust what I say just like that, when it all started with lies? What is real about my feelings and what’s left of the old teenage fandom?” I knew I was ranting but couldn’t stop. The truth was also that I desperately wanted to sleep with him but I didn’t want to be cheap. I wanted to be real and not play some role with him. I tried to be myself but it was damn hard.
“I just don’t know what you expect from me, or if I can live up to that.” I whispered it almost, looking at the floor.
“What do you mean?” he finally spoke calmly.
“What I mean is… what do you want? What do you want from me?”
“Right now?” he said and grinned, “I can think of a few things I want from you right now…” he said and looked somewhat shy at his wineglass. Oh shit… he was so cute… I sighed out loud. His head came up sharply, checking if that was a good sigh or not. I walked his way with my hands deep in the pockets of my jeans and looked at the floor.

“Hanna. Let it go, please. Don’t worry so much.” I sat back down next to him on the couch.
“What?” I looked at him, confused. He picked up my hand.
“Your issues. I understand them, but try to let them go for a moment. Just for tonight.” he said, looking at me sweet and sexy at the same time. When I didn’t reply, he pulled my hand, pulled me closer to him and wrapped one arm around me. He put his other hand once again on my face, as if he wanted to keep me in place. He gave me a little kiss, and another one, and another one… his tongue lingered just between my lips, waiting for permission. I opened my mouth a little bit – it was all the permission he needed. He pushed his tongue inside to find mine and danced around. He battled my tongue, licked my teeth and tightened his grip on my face.

It seemed to last for minutes until he finally let go of me, his mouth open and his breath slightly ragged.

“Per, I…”
“Shhh…” he kissed my lips again, then my cheeks, slowly going down to my throat. He pushed me down onto the couch and half lay on top of me. He kissed my ear and licked my earlobe.
“I don’t want to wait anymore,” he licked my neck, just below the hairline.
“I’ve been a fool… such a fool…” he whispered in my ear. His hands we all over me now and he slipped them under my sweater. He pushed them under my top and I shivered when I felt them on my skin. I pulled his face to mine to kiss him again, harder now. It was time to take my part in this game.

“You’re a fool,” I said breathlessly between kisses, “but I love you.” There. I blurted the words. I kissed him slowly, sweet and wet. A little smack sounded when we let go. He looked at me a moment, then got up from the couch and pulled me with him. He took my hand and led me out of the living room, around a corner, up the stairs, passed a bathroom, passed two other rooms to his bedroom. The bed was huge and had a big white, thick, fluffy cover draped over it. There were two, three, four pillows on it. We stood there, hugging and kissing until he pushed me onto the bed, dragging me to the middle of it. My sweater got tangled around my waist but he had no trouble taking it off, along with the top. I didn’t wear a bra and he stopped kissing me to look at my breasts. His fingertips went up and down my sides and my nipples stood up instantly. He grinned at me and I rolled my eyes at him. He kissed my breasts softly first and folded his hands around one each. His tongue flicked out and licked a nipple, then he covered it with his lips and sucked. Tension was building inside my body and I couldn’t hold still. I writhed under him, spreading my legs and wrapping them around him. His head came higher up to kiss me again and he pushed his hips into mine.

“Oh… hmmm… I… I don’t know where to start. I want to have you. All of you…” he whispered softly against my mouth. I giggled and sucked on his bottom lip.
“Ah… no rush baby… we have all night.” I answered and looked into his eyes. They seemed to have changed to a darker brown and were looking at me intensely. They took my breath away.

I pulled at his shirt until it as over his head and loved the feel of his naked torso on me. His pants followed fast, and then he started on my jeans. I felt sorry for not wearing anything more interesting than my boring, old, white boxers but Per didn’t seem to mind. He slid his hands up and down my hips, belly, stomach and up to my breasts again. I wrapped one leg around him and flipped us over. I straddled him and sat straight up. His hands followed the movement of my breasts, then down again over my naked back to my ass. He wanted to touch me everywhere at the same time. My hips were pressed down onto him and I moved back and forth a little, feeling him hard against me. I bent forward and messed up his hair with my hands, looking intently at his face.

“So… Mr. Gessle…”
“Yes, Miss Hanna?” he replied with a grin. He never could pronounce my last name correctly.
“What shall I do with you…” I said, my voice soft and low. His grin got wider.
“Whatever you want…” he moaned and pushed his hips up. His hands were now on my ass, moulding and feeling. He started to pull the boxers down until he could slip his finger in between, finding my warm wetness waiting for him. He bit his lip and growled, pushing a finger inside. I went down over his body, leaving quick kisses on his chest and stomach. His boxers were flying through the room and the hard evidence of his arousal was right there before me. I got my right hand around it and exposed the red tip of his dick. My tongue flicked out and I licked his head, around and around and my mouth followed. I took him in, slowly, deeper and deeper into my mouth. He disappeared completely until he reached the back of my throat. I sucked on him and moved my head up, and back down, taking him in even deeper. I couldn’t see his face but I heard him panting deeply. His legs were slightly trembling beneath me. I picked up the pace and sucked him a bit faster, pushing my tongue against the shaft for more friction. I did it by the book and he went crazy… his hands got entangled in my hair as he held my head in place – as if I would go anywhere – and pushed his hips slightly up to meet my mouth. I didn’t know exactly when to stop but I kept on until he hissed something between clenched teeth.

“Oh baby… that’s so good… oh shit… stop… stop…” he said and held my head in his hands. We rose up at the same time and he pulled me to him, kissing me frantically.
“Jesus Hanna… Ohh…” he was shaking and I chuckled while kissing him back. I climbed on his lap, my legs around his waist and he pushed me down on the bed. He was now on top of me and I felt his hard dick already pushing against my wet entrance. With his hand, he pushed it against me and rubbed it all around my lips and clit. He teased me and made me laugh and moan at the same time…

“Come on…” I sighed and pulled him closer. He finally pushed inside me a little and my breath caught in my throat.
“Yes… yes…” I whispered barely audible when he pushed further. He took it so slow I was already crazy before he was completely inside me. His face was in my neck and he whispered my name.
“Hanna… Hanna… oh you feel so good… oh yeah…” he kept talking to me and it heated me up totally.
“OH!” I moaned loudly when he started thrusting harder.
“You like that? Tell me… talk to me baby…”
“Oh yes that’s good – oh! Oh…” I wasn’t used to talk so much during sex, this was something new and exciting… my former boyfriends hadn’t been especially talkative in bed.

“Oh geesh… oh… baby I have to… wait…” he mumbled and slipped out of me quite suddenly. I opened my eyes and looked into his.
“What is it?”
“It’s just…. ah…” he leaned his forehead against mine and took a deep breath.
“I don’t want it to be over just yet… hehe…” he said with a grin and kissed me. He lay down next to me and we moved into spoon-position. His hand stroked my breasts and his mouth was in my neck. His fingers trailed down lower and lower and he pushed one inside me. I was dripping and hot, so hot… he thrust one, two fingers inside me and slid back and forth. His now wet fingers started to stroke me and rub my clit gently.

“Help me a little honey… tell me…” his hot breath was on my ear. I panted and moved my hips in his rhythm, mumbling some directions and he followed them all. He rubbed me to high heaven… I barely had the chance to calm down, when he picked up one of my legs and pushed his hard dick inside me from behind. With his fingers still there and his insanely slow rhythm of pushing in and out of me, he had me going crazy again in no time at all. I clutched the sheets, called his name and moved my hips with his as good as I could. He started to shiver and held his arm tight around my belly, giving three, four hard thrusts while he came…

* * *

A sound very close to my ear woke me up. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes in shock – it was Friday. I was going home! My eyes closed immediately and I slowly got aware of my surroundings. I was laying with one foot dangling over the side of the bed, belly flat on the sheets. I felt sticky.

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