Encore – Chapter 10 – International Immigrants


Leo Melikian, a smart but naïve 25-year old stuck in a lowly white-collar job in the South of France, finds himself living each day twice. Can he use his power to get the girl?

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Chapter 10: International Immigrants

 

‘You should have ; ) Next time…’

I had read that text over and over, at least a hundred times. It had disappeared from my phone as soon as I woke up the next morning in Day B, but its memory remained seared in my mind. I immediately created a new phone contact with the number I had committed to memory the night before: Chiara.

Then, for the first Day B since I had started my travels around Europe, I picked up my Benz from its underground parking, and drove to the airport. I was going back to Stockholm for the second day in a row.

Stockholm was a magnificent city, but that wasn’t why I was going back. My current rhythm of travel was actually making it harder and harder to appreciate the beauty of certain places. The more cities I visited, the more they became similar to one another. In Naples and Barcelona, the little streets had seemed copy-pasted from the Old Nice. In Stockholm, I found hints of all the other cities in Northern Europe I had been to.

The gothic church spires were the same as those I had seen in Brussels and Munich. The elegant waterways that separated Stockholm’s 14 islands, each with a name more unpronounceable than the next, reminded me of Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Even the Swedes, tall, lithe and blonde, swaddled in fashionable coats and sweaters, and a world apart from their smaller and tanner Southern Mediterranean counterparts, could just as easily have been Germans and Danes.

It didn’t help that I was repeating the same visitation patterns as well. Just like in Amsterdam, I picked up a card from a little convenience store in the city center and spent my early afternoon touring the city on one of the blue and white bicycles from Stockholm’s bike sharing program. I stopped for a hot chocolate in one of the millions of coffeehouses that lined the streets. The only difference was the smell inside the shops: unlike Amsterdam, coffeehouses in Stockholm didn’t exactly have weed and mushrooms on the menu.

I had tried to avoid going to museums ever since the Barcelona incident, but my Lonely Planet mentioned one that I simply had to see. It housed the oldest shipwreck ever salvaged, the Vasa, that had sunk in Stockholm’s port in 1628, at the height of the Swedish Empire’s power. Seeing a real galleon sounded immensely cool.

It was named, in a bout of grandiose originality and inspiration, the Vasa Museum. My French reflexes of condescension laughed at that when I first saw it. It was as if we had named the ‘Louvre’ the ‘Mona Lisa Museum’. The laugh was cut short however when I saw the ship: it was breathtaking.

Housed in an atrium as large as a plane hangar, it stretched out 69 meters in length and reached almost just as high. It could have been taken straight out of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie (the 6th? or was it the 7th already?), with an awe-inspiring captain’s cabin and ten gigantic sails. It was covered in gilded ornamentation capturing scenes from Ancient Greece, Egypt, and the Old Testament. Built as King Gustavus Adolfus’ vanity project, it was the most beautiful and powerful ship of the time. The seventy-two 24-pound cannons that it had held were meant to be the ultimate deterrent in the war Sweden was waging against Poland-Lithuania.

Unfortunately for the ship’s crew, things hadn’t exactly worked out as planned. On its maiden voyage, it had sailed a grand total of 1,300 meters before sinking straight to the bottom of the harbor. Due to poor planning, the ship was too top-heavy. As soon as it hit the slightly rougher seas at the entrance of the harbor, it capsized and plummeted into the shadowy depths of the sea, never to be seen again for another 300 years.

Ironically enough, quite a few ministers and shipwrights had known of the problem, but hadn’t dared tell the King. It was he, after all, who had asked for more cannons than the ship could support, and chosen to replace 12-pounders with 24-pounders. Gustavus’ pride became his shame. There was a Management 101 lesson in there: Always create an atmosphere of trust with your subordinates. Do not rule by fear.

Around 6 p.m., I started to look for a bar. Talking to strangers had once made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, but trip by trip, I was slowly becoming more extroverted. Offering someone a drink was the ultimate icebreaker, and there was no better way to get a feel for the cities and countries I was visiting than to talk to their people. The buildings were soulless, empty and unchanged for centuries, but the people were alive, vibrant, and engaged.

I tried two bars recommended by the Lonely Planet, well-known for playing electronic dance music long into the night, but got turned down at both by bouncers that looked like Nordic Vikings, with long blonde hair and big bushy beards. My tourist attire of sneakers and black hoodie was apparently not up to the standards of the places. Clothing didn’t seem to be the only issue that determined whether you could get in however. At the first bar, the two Arabic gentlemen behind me dressed in suits, ties and shiny leather shoes were turned away as well. Whether for lack of girls in their party or their distinctly non-Nordic looks, I wasn’t sure.

Of course, I could have pulled out my wallet like I had at The Village, and laid down hundreds of euros to get in. But I had learnt that people tended to be friendlier and easier to talk to in places with a more laidback atmosphere. I picked up a blue and white bicycle and cycled to the next address I had marked out: Mosebacke Terassen.

As soon as I climbed up the wide stone stairs leading to the bar, I knew I had found my place for the night. Hidden on the rooftop of a large two-story building, Mosebacke had the biggest outdoor terrace I had ever seen. On either side of the central alley leading to the indoor area was row after row of long wooden tables and communal benches, each knobby, imperfect and unique. Everyone was seated at the same table as their neighbors, and the place was bursting with the chatter of conversation and laughter. The main attraction had nothing to do with the bar: it was the crowd, the view on Stockholm’s steeply angled roofs and the bright blue sky that wouldn’t darken for another 4 hours.

I ordered a Nils Oscar IPA at the indoor bar, which Google told me was a great Swedish micro-brew, and walked back out to the terrace, looking for a place to sit. On the third table to my right, I spotted a group of blonde Swedes in an active discussion, with two empty spots beside them. Perfect, I thought. I walked over and sat down.

As soon as I did however, I realized I had been mistaken. They were speaking English with strong accents, whereas most of the Swedes I had talked to, be it the cashier at the convenience store or the museum guide, had had polished Americanized tones. I introduced myself and discovered that they were an eclectic group of European students studying at Stockholm Business School. Franz, from Berlin, Germany, had bright blue eyes and a patchy blonde goatee. He had spent two years in Stockholm and was the de facto leader of the group. Pudgy Antoine meanwhile had only spent six months there and couldn’t wait to return to his native Belgium, where, in his words, you have sun in winter too. Johan was from neighboring Norway and kept making jokes on the differences between both countries that none of us understood.

But I had eyes only for the fourth member of their group. Chiara, the Italian. She had a face that belonged on a marble statue, a royal curve of the nose, a sharp chin and cheekbones that felt chiseled out of stone, and piercing blue-green eyes that locked onto you until you felt naked and exposed. But when she laughed, all that hardness suddenly vanished. Her wide eyes transformed into cheeky half-moons and a glowing white smile illuminated her face. Just like the crazy black curls that tumbled down around her face, she was controlled chaos. Impossible to grasp and impossible to ignore.

“So what’s up with all the bouncers here?” I asked.

“Urgh, Sweden is the worst,” groaned Franz, “Happens all the time. They don’t like how you look, they turn you away.”

“Never happened to me,” said Chiara with a sly smile.

“Yeah no shit,” said Antoine, “If I had breasts I’d get in every time as well.”

“What are you talking about? Your breasts are bigger than Chiara’s!” laughed Franz, poking Antoine in his round belly while simultaneously dodging a slap from Chiara.

“So you’ve only been here one day?” asked Antoine, “What did you visit?”

“I cycled around mostly,” I said, “Oh, and I checked out the Vasa Museum!”

“Oh here’s one!” jumped in Johan, the Norwegian, “Why does ze new Swedish navy have glass-bottom boats?”

We all looked awkwardly at each other. This was the third Swedish joke Johan had made, and we hadn’t understood either of the first two.

“To be able to see ze old Swedish Navy!”

We chuckled. For once it made sense.

“No but just count yourself lucky you aren’t Turkish or anything,” said Franz, picking up where the previous conversation had dropped off, “Then you’d never get in.”

“Does Sweden have a big immigrant population?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. Over 15%, and rising every year. Used to be it was only Poles and Finns coming over, but ever since Sweden built one of the best social systems in the world, now it’s Turks, Iranians, Iraqis, and of course Syrians,” he explained.

“Aren’t the Turks and Syrians all heading for Germany?” I asked. When I had been in Munich a few days ago I had listened to a German rant about how for the past three years, Syrians and Turks had streamed in en masse to, according to him, steal their jobs.

“Do you know what it’s like to be an immigrant in Germany these days?” asked Antoine rhetorically, “Far right movements, hate crimes…”

“It’s not far-right, it’s nationalist,” cut in Franz in a tone that brooked no argument. Except from Chiara, who had a sudden twinkle in her eye and looked ready to pick a fight.

“Yup – they’re Neo-Na…tionalists,” she said, pausing just enough for us to know what she meant.

“Whatever,” said Franz, “Call it what you like. They’re ruining the country just like they’re ruining it in Sweden. Do you know that all you need in Berlin is five kids and you don’t have to work? The government gives you 4,000 euros per month and a free washing machine! And who pays for that? Hard-working Germans.”

“Bullshit,” said Chiara, her face a stony goddess of wrath, “Germans don’t get that and neither do immigrants. That’s fucking propaganda.”

“I’m from Berlin! I know!” answered Franz with passion, “They stay in their communities, they don’t work, they just take and take and take from the state because we were able to build a strong social net with our blood, sweat and tears.”

I had had many a conversation on immigration over beers with Hanaa. An immigrant herself, she had gone on long structured diatribes, which always sounded just like a lawyer’s closing argument, on the benefits of immigration. I heard her voice speak through mine.

“It’s not immigrants that are the problem,” I said softly. All four pairs of eyes turned to me.

“Immigration is great. Empires were built on immigration. Look at the United States. Look at France. Look at the Roman Empire,” I said, and noticed Chiara perk up at the mention of Italy’s history, “They wouldn’t be where they are without immigration.”

“Yeah but that was a long time ago, the situation is different now!” objected Franz.

“No it’s not,” I continued, “Look, you have two types of immigration. You have the ‘Brain Drain’ immigration, where the best and the smartest from under-developed countries come to study in the top universities. They learn and then stay and add value to the country, they create companies like Google or Tesla or Yahoo and they go into politics and change the country for the better. You have to agree that that’s a good type of immigration for Germany right?”

“Yeah, but I’m not talking about those immigrants. I’m talking about the poor and the refugees,” countered Franz.

“That’s the second type,” I said calmly, “And that’s a great type to have too. That’s the type that has nothing and is just looking for an opportunity to build a better life. They’re the ones who take all the shit jobs that Germans don’t want. Cleaning lady, construction worker, plumber… They’re just looking for a shot at something more, and they’re willing to work harder than anyone else for that. They’re keeping prices low, which helps the economy, and they’re not taking any jobs because you don’t want those shit jobs anyways.”

Franz was starting to look flustered.

“He’s right,” jumped in Antoine, “The problem is not immigration. It’s integration. When the immigrants who come in don’t take on the values of the country. Given how we treat them, they end up feeling exiled, inferior citizens. When immigrants used to come to the US, they became American first, whatever they used to be second.”

“Exactly!” I said, “The problem is that the people abusing the system aren’t immigrants, they’re second-generation immigrants. They hold French, Belgian, German, Italian passports. Tightening regulations at the border makes no sense because the people causing the problem have every legal right to be there.”

“Molenbeek,” said Antoine softly.

“What?” asked Johan.

“Molenbeek,” he said again, “It’s a part of Brussels, Belgium’s capital. It got a ton of Moroccan immigration in the 60s, and now it’s considered a hotbed for jihadist recruitment. But all the potential recruits are all Belgians. They were born there. They just feel like they don’t belong there.”

“That’s where the terrorists from the attacks in Paris where from, right?” I asked.

Antoine nodded. “And the Brussels airport attack,” he added. Silence hung heavily.

“I’m gonna get going,” said Franz sullenly. He rose and left without another word.

I looked around, embarrassed. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t mean to make him leave.”

Chiara laughed with a perfect smile.

“Don’t mind him. He gets all worked up over nothing sometimes,” she said.

I bought a round of beers and we got to talking about lighter subjects. Before I knew it, two hours had passed and both Antoine and Johan had left for other parties, leaving just Chiara and me.

She sipped from her beer, looked up at me with those half-moon eyes, and giggled.

“You know we Italians hate the French right?” she laughed.

“Really?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“Yup. The order goes,” and she moved her hand from bottom to top as if climbing a staircase, “American tourists. Kids from Rome. Chinese. Arrogant Frenchmen.”

“Well it’s a good thing I’m too awesome to be arrogant then,” I said with a cocky grin. She laughed. It was such a beautiful laugh that every time I heard it my heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe that I was making this incredibly beautiful girl smile.

We talked for another hour. She told me how she didn’t want to go back to Italy because her parents asked her to stay close to home, while she wanted to explore the world. She told me how she felt trapped. She explained how everyone had thought she was crazy to leave beautiful Verona for deathly-cold Stockholm, but how it had been the best decision of her life. She added how she had fallen in love with an Indian-Canadian student, and how they had fought every single day of their two-month relationship until she broke it off in tears and screams.

Passion and contradiction defined everything she did. One moment, she was calm and composed, the other she was slamming her palm on the table so violently that our glasses shook. Her voice trembling with anger, she ranted about how corrupt and broken Italy was, only to praise the incredible Tuscan food and wine and tell me that if she had to eat another Swedish herring she would throw up on the spot.

“I’ve never tried Italian cheese, but I’m guessing it’s like a slightly inferior version of French cheese?” I joked.

She slammed her glass down on the table and looked at me with fire burning in her eyes.

“Apologize.”

“What?” I asked. She suddenly looked so serious that I was caught off-guard. I wasn’t sure if she was joking or not.

“Apologize,” she said, her eyes darker than ever.

“Come on, I’m sorry, I was joking,” I said awkwardly. She continued to stare at me, fuming for what felt like an eternity, before bursting out in laughter.

“You French,” she laughed, “Always surrendering.”

“True,” I said, drinking from my beer, “We should learn how to switch sides like the Italians. Then we wouldn’t have to do that.”

She punched me and it was my turn to laugh.

“Follow me,” she said, suddenly getting up, “I want to show you something cool.”

She grabbed my hand and dragged me through the bar and up a small wooden staircase I hadn’t even noticed. It opened on a narrow hidden balcony with no tables, two stories above the main one. From there, we could see over the rows of darkening rooftops, all the way to the waterways behind them.

“This is my favorite place,” she said, “Not just the view. Look.”

She pointed up the wall. A meter or so over the doorway, strands of ivy crawled over the building, speckled with the tiniest of white flowers.

“I love those flowers.”

“I love the view,” I said, deliberately looking straight at her. A hint of a smile appeared on her lips.

Her phone suddenly started to ring. She looked at me apologetically, and rummaged through her black bag. She pulled it out and checked the screen.

“It’s Alessandra, my roommate,” she said, “I have to take this, sorry.”

In rapid-fire Italian, and with even more rising and ebbing of passion in her voice than I had seen all night, she shot out questions and answers and hung up. She looked at her phone dejectedly.

“Everything ok?” I asked.

“No, she’s not doing well. Boy trouble. I have to go back home.”

The look of dismay on my face must have read like a giant neon sign. I liked this girl, and she was about to disappear from my life forever. She suddenly took out a black felt pen from her bag, grabbed my arm, and wrote down her number.

“This is me,” she said. She winked with those entrancing blue-green eyes, squeezed my hand, mouthed ‘Call me’ and she was gone. I was dumbstruck. I quickly entered her number into my phone and stared at it for a while. I couldn’t believe I had just spent such an incredible and unexpected night. When I closed my eyes I could still see the corners of her mouth as they curled up in a smile, the perfect pink of her lipstick, and how soft her lips had looked.

Maybe I was reading too much into this. Most likely, she just considered me a fun guy, a friend, nothing more. Something that I was sadly used to. Throughout high school and university, I had kept trying to get close to girls I really liked, only to end up friend-zoned each time. Even when it came to my on-again off-again business school relationship, I had always felt like I was the friend she would go to when she needed comfort rather than her actual romantic partner.

I started to feel angry. I had been through this too many times, and I hated the limbo of not knowing. I set my elbows down on the railing, looking out over Stockholm. Not that it actually mattered. Tomorrow I would disappear from Chiara’s memory, having never existed.

But then again, that might just be what I needed. I was in Day A. Any mess up I made wouldn’t count. I could push further than was reasonable with absolutely zero consequence. I could solve the mystery here and now. I took out my phone and typed up a text to her.

‘You have no idea how much I wanted to kiss you on that balcony.’

It didn’t matter if she thought I was too forward. At least I would know and spare myself nights of agony, obsessing over what each and every gesture and phrase had truly meant.

Moments later my phone vibrated with a new incoming message. It was from Chiara.

‘You should have ; ) Next time…’

I made up my mind in an instant. I was going back to Stockholm tomorrow on Day B. I was going to meet Chiara all over again. And this time, I was going to kiss her.

 

In my haste to see Chiara again, I was back at the Mosebacke at 3 p.m. This early, it was mostly empty, with only a scattering of guests enjoying coffee and hot chocolate. I sat down at an empty table facing the entrance, ordered a hot drink, and waited.

Would she actually show up? I thought. Was there any way that my actions today had indirectly influenced her group to change venues? A butterfly effect. Maybe Franz had been queuing behind me at a convenience store, and my absence made him think of another place to go to instead. But I dismissed the idea. The odds were too tiny. Of course she would show up.

But just in case she didn’t, I wondered if there was any way I could get to see her again. Maybe I could find her with a Google search of ‘Chiara’, ‘Italy’ and ‘Stockholm Business School’. Better yet, I could always ditch everything, sign up to SBS for the coming school year in September, and meet her as a student!

I realized the stress of waiting was making me overreact. That line of thought was creepy at best and stalkerish at worst. I tried to calm myself down, pulled out my Kindle, and started to read a few magazines. I didn’t have the attention span to focus on anything more than small blurbs. France’s private retirement fund AGRCOC warned that it was on the brink of bankruptcy. Mr. Perret, our Finance Minister, was now dating a Czech model. France’s ride-sharing app was being closed down due to legal concerns about worker classification. The usual. I kept looking at the entrance from the corner of my eye and glancing up when newcomers entered.

Three interminable hours and five magazines later, I saw all four of them walk in. I recognized her immediately and my heart stopped. She was even more beautiful than I remembered, laughing and smiling as they sat down. Strangely, they chose a different table than yesterday. I looked back at where we had been sitting the day before and saw that another group occupied it. Maybe they switched places before I showed up? I wondered.

I stilled the slight tremor in my hands, took three deep breaths to calm myself down, and walked over to them. Just like yesterday, I introduced myself and they invited me to join them. As Franz recounted his 2-years in Stockholm, I kept glancing at Chiara, thinking of how to restart our conversation. I got my shot when Antoine, the Belgian, asked me where I was from.

“I’m French,” I said, looking at Chiara, “I realize that’s probably the worst thing to be for you, except maybe a kid from Rome or a Chinese tourist.”

She chuckled, but the others looked confused. The conversation moved on but I felt my heart surge with elation at her laugh. I was in. Now I just had to build on my advantage.

“So what brought you to Stockholm?” I asked Chiara.

“Studying,” she answered.

“Why not in Italy?” I pressed, “Wouldn’t your family want you closer to home?”

“No,” she said, and sipped from her beer. She was lying. She had told me the opposite the night before. I didn’t understand.

I realized my mistake. I was focusing on her too much, at the expense of the group. I needed to re-enter the group dynamic, because right now I was looking like a creepy guy who had joined them just to hit on the girl. I raked my mind thinking about what had been said last night. Immigration! I needed to kick start the conversation on immigration again. I looked at Franz.

“So what’s up with the bouncers here? Turning away non-Swedes?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, looking me up and down with a wry smile, “Given how you’re dressed, I’m not so sure you got turned down because of that.”

The three others laughed, and every single one of Chiara’s chuckles felt like an icy dagger stabbed straight through my heart. I tried to launch Franz on immigration again, but he kept dodging it and switching to other topics. They seemed to focus on talking to each other and locking me out.

In a fit of desperation, I tried asking a few more questions to Chiara directly, running through the topics we had discussed yesterday: her dreams of travel, her relationships, her family. She shot down every single question with a short monosyllabic answer. I was bombing and I knew it. Franz, Johan, and Antoine all fidgeted in their seats, looking distinctly uncomfortable. Suddenly Franz stood up.

“I’m gonna get going,” he said, and my heart soared. I remembered this moment. He was about to leave and I was going to be able to get closer to Chiara.

“Anyone want to join? I’m hitting up Emily’s house party,” he added.

“Yeah, please,” said Chiara, immediately standing up as well and packing herz wallet into her bag. Both Antoine and Johan followed suit. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. They were supposed to stay. I was powerless.

“It was fun meeting you,” said Franz with a pained smile, extending his hand to me for a shake, “Enjoy the rest of your stay in Stockholm.”

The others mumbled a salutation and started to go. They walked away towards the entrance. I couldn’t believe it. I had completely fucked this up. My Day A/Day B power, instead of being a gigantic advantage, had made me fail. I watched her crazy curls bob up and down as she bounced away down the stairs.

I can’t just let this happen, I thought. There had been a connection the day before. She had liked me. And I really liked her. I wanted to feel that again. I couldn’t just let her leave.

Suddenly, I had an idea. I jumped up and ran inside the bar as fast as I could. I raced towards the small staircase and took the steps three by three until I broke out onto the tiny hidden balcony. I hastily apologized to the couple enjoying a romantic moment, and put my hands on the iron railing right where it met the wall. I put my right foot into the intricate ironworks and pushed myself up, pressing my hands against the wall to keep my balance. Still too short, I thought. I raised my left foot onto the guardrail, and in a burst of effort and precariously maintained balance, I found myself teetering on top of the fence.

Holy shit I’m high, I thought, looking down at the street three stories below. A fall from this distance was sure to kill me. Worse yet, I was in Day B. None of the usual questions about whether or not I would really die even mattered. If I fell, it was most likely game-over.

My attention snapped back to the task at hand. I reached out for the ivy climbing over the doorway, and managed to break off a piece with as many of the white teardrop-shaped flowers as I could. I jumped back onto the balcony, and dashed down the steps into the bar, sprinted along the central alley to the exit, and almost tumbled down the main stairway to the street below. I wildly looked around, searching for Chiara. Had I missed her?

I caught sight of all four of them waiting for a taxi at the street corner. I ran over there as fast as I could, slowing to a stop a mere meter away from them. Panting, I tried to catch my breath.

“Chiara,” I said, and she turned towards me with a startled look in her eyes.

“Here, this is for you,” I said, handing her the piece of vine, still heaving from lack of air.

“How… are these?” she asked bewilderedly.

“They’re from the little balcony. I climbed up to get them. Look, I know I’m coming off as weird and creepy, but I just knew you’d like them. Just like when I saw you enter that bar. I knew. There’s something special about you. You’re like what happens when molten lava hits freezing cold water. I can’t explain it.”

I saw a flicker of hesitation pass through her eyes. It was working.

“I know I just gave you the worst first impression ever. But look, I’m a good guy and I know that if you gave me a chance you’d see that. And you’d see that there’s something special about us as well.”

She took half a step forward, half a step back.

“I’m just asking you one thing. Let me buy you one last beer at the bar, and if you still think I’m not worth your time after that then so be it. Just… Just trust me. I’d hate myself if I lost the opportunity to get to know such a fantastic person. Especially when I know, I know, that there’s something special here. Please, believe me.”

I stopped, bent over with my hands on my knees to keep trying to catch my breath, and looked up expectantly at her. For three agonizingly long seconds, she just stood there, hesitating, not speaking a word, still holding onto the branch of ivy.

Then I saw the branch slip out of her delicate hands and drop to the ground. Silently, she turned around, and got into the black taxi that Franz had just flagged down. Antoine followed her with an awkward smile to me, then Johan. Franz opened the passenger door to get in and looked back at me one last time.

“Get lost,” he said in an eerily calm voice, “I see you near her again and I’ll beat you up.”

He got in and the car drove off. I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk and watched as the cab rounded the corner and disappeared into the night. I could barely move. I had done everything I could and still failed. I bent down and picked up the branch of ivy with the white teardrop flowers.

What had gone wrong? I wondered. But I already knew the answer. To get the same result, I needed to play it in exactly the same way. And I hadn’t. The smallest of changes had made it spiral violently out of control. I had messed up at every step: not making myself look good with the immigration talk, not making Franz leave, not getting Chiara to slowly warm up to me. I had only myself to blame. I put the ivy branch in my backpack, and walked away.

As I sat down on the bed in a dingy hotel room, I pulled out my computer. A quick search found me the document I had started a month ago, simply titled ‘Rules’. Under Rule 4, Only smoke on Day As, I wrote down a new one. Rule 5: Beware the butterfly effect. I stared at it. It didn’t seem right.

Rule 5: Beware the Chiara effect.

That was better. I closed my computer and got into the covers, my head going over everything I should have done differently, when suddenly it hit me. Tomorrow was Day A, which meant that for the next two days I was going to wake up in Sweden. I groaned in frustration. This was another city I certainly wasn’t coming back to any time soon.

 

~ End of Chapter 10 ~

 

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