Excerpt of Before The Frost by Henning Mankell
(Page 3 of 5)
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They got on each other's nerves almost immediately. Linda was impatient
to start working and accused her father of not pulling strings hard
enough at the station to get her a temporary position. He said he had
taken the matter up with Chief Lisa Holgersson. She would have welcomed
the extra manpower, but there was nothing in the budget for additional
staff. Linda would not be able to start until September 10, however much
they might have wanted her to start sooner.
Linda spent the interval getting to know again two old school friends.
One day she ran into Zeba, or "Zebra" as they used to call her. She had
dyed her black hair red and also cut it short so Linda had not
recognised her at first. Zeba's family came from Iran, and she and Linda
had been in the same class until secondary school. When they bumped into
each other on the street this July, Zeba had been pushing a toddler in a
pushchair. They had gone to a café and had a coffee.
Zeba told her that she had trained as a barmaid, but her pregnancy had
put a stop to her work plans. The father was Marcus. Linda remembered
him, Marcus who loved exotic fruit and who had started his own plant
nursery in Ystad at the age of 19. The relationship had soon ended, but
the child remained a fact. Zeba and Linda chatted for a long time, until
the toddler started screaming so loudly and insistently that they had to
leave. But they had kept in touch since that chance meeting, and Linda
noticed that she felt less impatient with the hiatus in her life
whenever she managed to build these bridges between her present and the
past that she had known in Ystad.
As she was going home to Mariagatan after her meeting with Zeba, it
started to rain. She took cover in a shopping centre and--while she was
waiting for the weather to clear up--she looked up Anna Westin's number
in the directory. She felt a jolt inside when she found it. She and Anna
had had no contact for ten years. The close friendship of their
childhood had ended abruptly when they both fell in love with the same
boy. Afterwards, when the feelings of infatuation were long gone, they
had tried to resuscitate the friendship, but it had never been the same.
Linda hadn't even thought much about Anna the last couple of years. But
seeing Zeba again reminded her of her old friend and she was happy to
discover that Anna still lived in Ystad.
Linda called her that evening and a few days later they met. Over the
summer they would see each other several times a week, sometimes all
three of them, but more often just Anna and Linda. Anna lived on her own
as best as she could on her student budget. She was studying medicine.
Linda thought she was almost more shy now than when they were growing
up. Anna's father had left home when she was five or six years old and
they never once heard from him again. Anna's mother lived out in the
country in Löderup, not far from where Linda's grandfather had lived and
painted his favourite, unchanging motifs. Anna was apparently pleased
that Linda had reestablished contact, but Linda soon realised that she
had to tread carefully. There was something vulnerable, almost secretive
about Anna and she would not let Linda come too close.
Still, being with her old friends helped to make Linda's summer go by,
even though she was counting the days until she was allowed to pick up
her uniform from fru Lundberg in the stockroom.
from Before the Frost by Henning Mankell Copyright © 2006 by
Henning Mankell. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be
reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the