A Necklace for Victor

Liksom_C1A short story by Mårten Melin
Translation: Katherine Stuart
From the short story collection Liksom helt magiskt (Like, totally magic), published in January 2014 by Rabén & Sjögren

He didn’t wear a bicycle helmet, but I don’t think he was fifteen yet. If so, he must have repeated a year, because I knew what class he was in. He’d been going to our school for a few months, I just hadn’t really noticed him until now. I checked him out as soon as I got the chance. There was something that drew me to him. He had his locker in the B corridor and sometimes I walked past there even though I didn’t really need to.
We’d said ”Hi” to each other. That was it really, just said ”Hi” in passing. He’d looked at me a bit longer than normal I thought, but that didn’t have to mean anything. Lots of people look at me. It’s my hair. It’s like really red, even though Mum and Dad are both blonde. Stuff like that can skip a generation. Things do sometimes. Granddad was a redhead. I’ve seen his photograph.
It was Thursday that I found out his name was Victor. I heard one of his classmates call out to him. He’d looked tired, had dark rings under his eyes. But that just made him look even more good-looking because it matched his dark hair. It was the same day the newspapers wrote about the sheep that had died. I saw the billboards during lunch break.
”That’s horrible!” Wilma said. ”It has to be a wolf.”
”There aren’t any wolves around here,” I said.
”They can roam a really long way. It might be just around the corner. Groarr!”
Wilma threw herself on top of me and bit into my scarf. I laughed and pushed her off, straight into a woman who looked at us disapprovingly. Wilma burst out laughing and I did too, although I thought it was a bit embarrassing.

That afternoon when Wilma and I were sitting in the café, he came in alone. He bought a glass of lemon squash (they have great lemon squash at our school, almost everyone buys it) and then looked around. The café was busy and there were no free tables. He looked at me, and without really thinking about it I waved to him. Had my brain worked properly I would never have had the courage! He smiled and came, his gaze fixed on me the whole time. Wilma stiffened.
”Do you know
him?” she whispered and I hoped Victor didn’t hear.
”You can sit here if you want to,” I blurted out, not sounding as cool as I’d wanted.
”Thanks,” he said and sat down. ”Lots of people here today.”
”Mm,” I said and didn’t know what more to say.
He didn’t say anything either, just drank from his glass. Wilma nudged me. It probably meant that I should say something.
”Are you going to wish for a helmet for Christmas?”
Groan! I could have kicked myself! Why did I say that? But Victor laughed.
”So you’ve been checking me out, have you?”
It was embarrassing to admit it. But I was feeling rather brave. I don’t really know what made me feel that way. Perhaps because Wilma was with me. There were two of us. And only one of him. So I shrugged.
”Well, I know what your name is anyway.”
”I know what yours is too. Nea. It’s nice.”
Wow, he knew my name!
Victor emptied his glass and stood up.
”See you,” he said.
Then he left. We watched him go. Wilma opened her mouth first.
”He likes you. That’s pretty obvious.”
And I liked him. It was stupid, of course. But that’s the way it was.

I made the necklace that very same afternoon. I had the leaves in a box in my room, I filled a small medallion with them. Then I put some glue on the lid so that it couldn’t be opened, and threaded it onto a leather cord. I put it in my bag.
I breathed out. Would he think it was weird that I gave him a necklace? But it was for his own sake – even if I couldn’t say that to him. Everyone I cared about had one. Everyone I cared about
had to have one. No question about it.

Mum came home at 5:30. She looked stressed out. She quite often looks that way.
”Sweetheart?”
There was something in her voice that made me realise she was going to ask me to do something. I sighed.
”Yes?”
”Grandma called, she wasn’t feeling very well and wondered if I could come by with a few things. Could you go and buy them and pop over to her place with them?”
Mum handed me a list and a few bills.
”Do it straight away and I’ll get dinner ready while you’re out.”
She gave me a kiss on the cheek. I put on my boots and jacket, reached for my bag and went out. It took less than five minutes to walk to the store. I put together the things I needed quickly and paid for them.
As I walked out someone called out to me.
”Nea!”
It was him! My heart skipped a beat, or it felt like it did anyway. He jumped off his bicycle and locked it. Then he came up to me. We stood in silence for a few seconds. Why is it so difficult to talk sometimes?
”Erm … do you live around here?” I managed to get out.
”Away up on Rose Street,” he said and tossed his head (in the direction of Rose Street I suppose, I didn’t actually know where it was).
I remembered what I had in my bag.
”I have a present for you,” I said, before I remembered that I didn’t really have the courage. ”Here.”
I picked up the necklace.
”This might sound a bit silly, but … can you wear it?”
I smiled a bit too broadly, he laughed and looked at the necklace.
”It’s very nice,” he said and put it on.
I let my breath out, looked up at the sky.
”I’ve got to go now. See you later, OK?”
”OK,” he said and went into the store.
I half ran all the way to Grandma’s.

 The next day he caught up with me in the corridor. He grabbed hold of my arm. It almost hurt a little.
”We need to talk,” he said.
”OK, OK,” I said and shook off his hand. ”No need to give me bruises for it!”
”Sorry,” he said. ”Can we go outside?”
He nodded towards the school yard. I went ahead of him. What was this about?
We went and stood by the loading dock outside the kitchen.
”What is it?” I asked.
He held out the necklace.
”You have to put it back on!” I burst out.
”Are you crazy? It hurt! When the moon rose … It really burned! Check it out, it made a mark!”
He pulled down his jumper and bared his neck. And there, under his Adam’s apple, was a sore. A burn sore. I stared at it. My heart was beating faster and faster. This could only mean one thing.
”Why did you give it to me?”
My mouth was very dry when I answered:
”I thought, I didn’t know … ”
Something began to creep up on me. At first I didn’t know what it was. But then I understood.
It was a rush of happiness.
I threw my arms around his neck. That probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. He shrank back.
”OK,” I said and tried to pull myself together. ”Sorry… I thought it would protect you.”
”From what?” he said.
”Doesn’t matter. Here, give it to me. You obviously don’t need it.”
I took the necklace from him. The cord was broken, but that could be replaced. And I could save the medallion until it was needed again.
”I give a necklace to everyone I … care about.”
So there. I’ve said it.
”You should too,” I continued. ”If I’ve understood things correctly. I can help you make them if you want.”
He looked at me, puzzled.
”My foster parents have necklaces on all the time. Do you think … ”
”Yes, I do. And that’s a good thing. But there could be others. In the future, I mean.”
”But why?”
”Do you—” I began and took his hand.
He didn’t pull away.
”Do you think we could meet later tonight, down at Black Field? Where the forest starts, you know where I mean?”
”I think so,” he said. ”But it’s the third night tonight, I can’t … ”
”Yeah, you can. See you there around 11 o’clock. OK?”
I saw how his brain was working. It would probably put two and two together pretty soon.
”Come on,” I said. ”We’re going to be late.”
We were still holding hands when we went in through the door.

He arrived pretty much on time. We had maybe half an hour left. It was cold. I shivered. I should have put on a warmer jacket. But soon it wouldn’t make any difference.
”Has this been going on for a long time for you?” I asked.
He shook his head.
”Just a few months,” he said. ”And … you?”
So he’d worked it out. That was good.
”About a year. We girls are a bit more mature than you guys, you know.”
He didn’t laugh.
”Do your parents know?” he asked.
”Mother does. But it’s like she pretends not to. I have to deal with it pretty much by myself. Although she has talked about a school for children who are … gifted. But I don’t know. I think it works just fine like this.”
He nodded.
”And the necklace?”
”Filled with wolfs bane. It keeps us away. My friend Wilma has one. And my mother. We’re likely to hurt the ones we love, you know.”
He reached out for my hand. I took his. We went into the forest, into a small glade. I usually go there when it happens. It’s far enough away from any people.
”Those sheep …,” said Victor.
”Yep,” I said. ”That was me. And it was stupid. But sometimes I sort of can’t stop myself.”
He pulled a face.
”You know what … I think it’s starting now.”
”Mm,” I said. ”I feel it too. We should take off our clothes, right? That jacket looks kinda expensive.”
He looked at me, appalled.
”Look, I’ve seen guys without clothes before,” I said.
At day care, eight years ago, maybe I should have added.
Victor contented himself with turning aside. Then he took his clothes off. And so did I. He had a nice bum.
”I brought a bag that we can put our clothes in,” I called out to him.
That was the last thing I said that night. We both looked up at the sky. There it was.
The full moon.

Something took hold of me. Something that made me transform. I let it happen, let it wash over me. I fell down onto the ground. And then I got up. Not on two legs. But on four.
I looked over to where Victor was. His fur was bathing in moonlight.
He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I howled at the moon, and so did Victor.
Then we ran further into the forest, side by side.

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