I was no more met with silence than I was with the fierce sound of disappointment. It took my mother one more minute from when I stepped through the hotel-room door to unfold her arms and step forward from the shadows that she was hiding in.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Agnetha?”

I glared at her through my side-fringe of glossy hair.

“Nothing. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

She took another step towards the door, and me, not changing her expression one bit. Her temper matching mine, she used the voice that she’d had on the phone earlier.

“Dinner is in the restaurant- and soon. Get Benny to give you an update if you would like. You have ten minutes. I’ll be in reception.”

She swept out the room, stopping momentarily to pick up the book that had been lying on her bed.

Wow, that was frosty.

It seemed mother had a recent knack for being as cold as the snow with me nowadays.


I stubbornly ignored my brother that evening, despite the fact that he was the only one who would talk to me, but I knew all there was to know for the itinerary, even if the path set out was not one I would happily go along.

However, there was a downside to the pattern of ignoring everybody. Even during our meal in the cosy restaurant of the hotel, my brother was, though he did not realise it, going on and on about the machinery, and especially the guns, he had seen in theWarMuseum, or the exciting rumours of sighting of Marina R in mid-Moscow, and various other sort of boy-talk that pleased him.

It was then that I remembered how often I had hated Benny’s company as a child; my volatile nature made it so tempting for me to cause him pain.

Note to self: find some way, in the future, of being able to control the anger towards my brother.

Still, Benny went on and on. I even tried to block him out, as I stared into the remains of my fish-pie, by going through ABBA songs in my head, but it was no use. ABBA just didn’t cut it for me anymore, especially since Josh Craig... Besides that, my namesake kept morphing into the blonde Marina, who proceeded to remind me of my persistent brother. How Benny would be in glee if he knew that I had shared many a sentence with her recently! How he would marvel, although he might perhaps be rather worried for my sanity, if I told him that I had seen pistols up close, pointed right at me.

“Cheer up, Agnetha,” Benny said, once mum had made her way to the ladies’, “there’ll be more interesting sites for you to visit.”

“Ben...” I sighed. “I’m gonna blow this place soon. I don’t want to...do the sort of sightseeing that you two like to do. I’m more into...adventures, you know?”

I’d almost said that I didn’t want to spend time with him. I held my breath, hoping that he didn’t suspect a thing. Luckily, just like usual, he carried on in full gear.

“Yeah, I do see your point. But I don’t think mum will let you wander off again. It would do you good to do the type of sightseeing that we do.”

“I’m not gonna ‘wander off’. I just want a bit of freedom.”

“Did she tell you that you’re grounded?” he said bluntly.

So! This was the information that she had wanted me to be up-to-date about.

“I am not!”

“You are too!” he retaliated automatically. It was like us to be a pair of silly, bickering siblings at a time when maturity was more appropriate.

Seeing mum return, Benny excused himself and headed in the direction from which she had just come. I watched his retreating back all the way.

“Mum,” I said pensively when she had reached the table, “am I grounded?”

My mother looked up from rooting through her handbag, surprised, as though I had suggested the dreadful thing myself. I supposed that she was not in the mood for subtle conversation, and had expected the same silence of me.


She was still cross with me, unhappy about my actions, but I could tell that she was softening towards me in the way a mother always should.

“Does that mean that I have to stay with you and Ben tomorrow?” I said in a small voice.

“Yes, and maybe the day after, depending on how you behave.”

“Mum, I-”

“Agnetha.” Now, her voice had deepened to a whisper. “Please don’t take that tone. I know what you’re going to say, but it won’t make a difference. My decision is final. Now, when Ben comes back, I’ll head to the room. Let’s get some sleep, okay. Everything will be easier in the morning.”

I was in quiet solitude for another minute, my fingers locked under my chin, and my eyes facing nothing by the crown on the reddish, peeling wallpaper, before Benny jumped into my thoughts with his loud voice and eccentric movements.

I dragged my feet, albeit unknowingly until we got to the lift just outside the restaurant sector; my movements were just as slow wandering down the lengthy corridor to our hotel room.

Yes, things would certainly be better in the morning. I couldn’t see how they could really get worse.


The End

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