Today's Reading


It had been an evening like any other, spent stretched out on the sofa.

They lived in a little apartment on the ground floor of an old house at the western end of Reykjavik, on Ljósvallagata. It was positioned in the middle of an old-fashioned terrace of three houses, built back in the 1930s. Róbert sat up, rubbed his eyes and looked out of the window at the little front garden. It was getting dark. It was March, when weather of any description could be expected; right now it was raining. There was something comforting about the patter of raindrops against the window while he was safely ensconced indoors.

His studies weren't going badly. A mature student at twenty-eight, he was in the first year of an engineering degree. Numbers had always been one of his pleasures. His parents were accountants, living uptown in Árbær, and while his relationship with them had always been difficult, it was now almost non-existent; his lifestyle seemed to have no place in their formula for success. They had done what they could to steer him towards bookkeeping, which was fair enough, but he had struck out on his own.

Now he was at university, at last, and he hadn't even bothered to let the old folks know. Instead, he tried to focus on his studies, although these days his mind tended to wander to the Westfjords. He owned a small boat there, together with a couple of friends, and he was already looking forward to summer. It was so easy to forget everything—good and bad—when he was out at sea. The rocking of the boat was a tonic for any stress and his spirit soared when he was enveloped by the complete peace. At the end of the month he'd be heading west to get the boat ready. For his friends, the trip to the fjords was a good excuse to go on a drinking binge. But not for Róbert. He had been dry now for two years—an abstinence that had become necessary after the period of serious drinking that began with the events that had unfolded on that fateful day eight years earlier.

It was a beautiful day. There was scarcely a breath of wind on the pitch, it was warm in the summer sun and there was a respectable crowd. They were on their way to a convincing win against an unconvincing opposition. Ahead of him lay training with the national youth team, and later that summer the possibility of a trial with a top Norwegian side. His agent had even mentioned interest from some of the teams lower down in the English leagues. The old man was as proud as h ell of him. He had been a decent football player himself but never had the chance to play professionally. Now times had changed, there were more opportunities out there.

Five minutes were remaining when Róbert was passed the ball. He pushed past the defenders, and saw the goal and the fear on the goal-keeper's face. This was becoming a familiar experience; a five-nil victory loomed.

He didn't see the tackle coming, just heard the crack as his leg broke in three places and felt the shattering pain. He looked down, paralysed by the searing agony, and saw the open fracture.

It was a sight that was etched into his memory. The days spent in hospital passed in a fog, although he wouldn't forget the doctor telling him that his chances of playing football again—at a professional level, at any rate—were slim. So he gave it all up, and sought solace in the bottle; each drink quickly followed by another. The worst part was that, while he made a better recovery than the doctor expected, by the time he was fit, it was too late to turn the clock back on his football career.

Now, though, things were better. He had Sunna, and little Kjartan had a place in his heart as well. But despite this, his heart harboured some dark memories, which he hoped he could keep hidden in the shadows.

It was well into the evening when Sunna came home, tapping at the window to let him know that she had forgotten her keys. She was as beautiful as ever, in black jeans and a grey roll-neck sweater. Raven hair, long and glossy, framed her strong face. To begin with, it had been her eyes that had enchanted him, closely followed by her magnificent figure. She was a dancer, and sometimes it was as if she danced rather than walked around their little apartment, a confident grace imbuing every movement.

He knew he had been lucky with this one. He had first chatted to her at a friend's birthday party, and they'd clicked instantly. They'd been together for six months now, and three months ago they had moved in together.

Sunna turned up the heating as she came in; she felt the cold more than he did.

'Cold outside,' she said. Indeed, the chill was creeping into the room. The big living-room window wasn't as airtight as it could have been, and there was no getting used to the constant draughts.

Life wasn't easy for them, even though their relationship was becoming stronger. She had a child, little Kjartan, from a previous relationship and was engaged in a bitter custody battle with Breki, the boy's father. To begin with, Breki and Sunna had agreed on joint custody, and at the moment Kjartan was spending some time with his father....

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