Chapter no 34

Anxious People

The bank robber stared at the bathroom door. Then at all the hostages. Then asked: “Do you think there’s someone in there?”

Zara countered in a way that could have been taken as sarcastic: “What do you think?”

The bank robber blinked so many times that it looked like Morse code. “So you do think there’s someone in there, then?”

“Did your parents by any chance have the same surname before they met?” Zara asked.

Ro took oPense on behalf of the bank robber, and snapped: “Why do you have to be such a cow?”

Julia kicked Ro’s shin and hissed: “Don’t get involved, Ro!”

“You’re the one who’s always saying we’re going to teach our child to stand up to bullies! I’m not going to stand here and let her talk to—” Ro protested.

“Talk to who? A bank robber? Is that bullying? Heaven forbid that someone who’s threatening us with a gun should feel oPended!” Julia said with a groan.

“I’m not—” the bank robber began, but Julia raised a warning 1nger.

“You know what? You’re the one who’s caused all this, so you can just shut up.”

Zara, who was looking at the dust on her clothes and couldn’t have appeared more disgusted if she’d just climbed out of a pile of manure, noted: “Good that your kid’s got at least one mother who isn’t a communist.”

Julia spun around toward her: “And you can shut up as well.”

Zara did actually shut up. No one was more surprised by that than Zara herself.


In the meantime Roger cautiously rose to his feet. He helped Anna-Lena up, she looked him in the eye and he didn’t really know where to look, they weren’t used to touching each other without turning the lights out 1rst. Anna-Lena blushed, and Roger turned around and started knocking absentmindedly on the walls in an attempt to look busy. He always knocked on the walls at apartment viewings, Anna-Lena wasn’t entirely sure why, but he said it was because he needed to know “if you could drill into them.” That was important to Roger, this business of drilling, and it was just as important to know if the wall was load-bearing. If you remove a load-bearing wall, the ceiling collapses. And apparently you could hear that if you knocked on the wall, at least you could if you were Roger, so he did it everywhere at every single viewing, knocking and knocking and knocking. Anna-Lena sometimes used to think that everyone gets a few moments that show who they really are, tiny instances that reveal their entire soul, and Roger’s were this knocking. Because sometimes, so Aeetingly that no one but Anna-Lena would even notice it, he would stand motionless immediately after a knock, looking at the wall in anticipation. The way a child might. As if he were hoping that one day someone would knock back. Those were Anna-Lena’s favorite Roger moments.

Knock knock knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.

He suddenly stopped right in the middle of a knock. Because he was listening to the conversation between Ro and Julia and Zara about the locked bathroom door. A shiver ran down Roger’s spine when he realized that the most terrible thing of all might be hiding in there: another prospective buyer. He therefore decided to take charge of the situation at once. He marched straight over to the locked bathroom and had just raised his hand to knock when Anna-Lena cried out: “Ro!”

Roger turned around in surprise and looked at his wife. She was shaking all over, and was blushing right down to her 1ngertips.

“Please… don’t open the door,” she whispered, and Roger had never seen her so frightened, and had absolutely no idea what might be the cause. Zara was standing alongside them, looking from one to the other. Then, predictably, she walked to the bathroom door and knocked on it. After a short pause someone knocked back.

By then tears were running down Anna-Lena’s cheeks.

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