POV: Maria Therese Hojem, Greg’s cousin. |
A/N: I’m not completely true to the facts in this story. In let the seller beware, Greg says that his “Papa Olaf” was tossed out of Norway for making his grandmother pregnant before they were married, and hence ended up in USA. In this story, I let papa Olaf stay in Norway, and let Greg’s mom be the one who moved to USA. I don’t like doing this, but I had forgotten about this little fact when I started writing the story, and I didn’t want to give it up…. I’ll try to stay with the facts in later stories!
A/N: I have tried to be true to the timeline (based on Greg’s birthday in his character bio’s). But based on this, Grave Danger would happen about the same time as the story premature, and that would be just too much Angst at one time – so I simply ignore GD in this story!
“Do you see it?”
Maria Therese Hojem, age sixteen and sick of the grownups always in her hair, woke up from her slumber turning her face towards her 15 year old American cousin visiting for the summer. The summer was unusually hot, and she and Greg had packed their sleeping bags and moved out in the open air to sleep under the open sky.
“Stjernene,” Greg threw in random Norwegian words whenever he knew them, and he often did, because he had paid attention when his mother spoke, and he had always been a smart kid. “The stars, do you see them?”
She gazed up, but the still light sky was shielding the stars well in the sun-painted northern summer sky. She had to concentrate to see the stars at all, and when she finally saw the dim lights on the blue roof spread above her head, she could swear they were dancing.
“Yes, look at them.”
She was pointing now.
“No, it’s only the clouds,” he explained.“The clouds are moving in front of the stars, and it makes an optical illusion. It looks like the stars are moving, but really it is only the clouds.
Only clouds move the stars.”
Many stars had been moved in her life since the summer sixteen years ago. The stars had stayed a symbol for them since that summer, the focal point when life elsewhere was too hard, or the longing for each other was too deep.
”Cassiopeia” he usually reminded her. “Look at Cassiopeia whenever you miss me, and I will find Cassiopeia as well, and she (“The Lady of the Chair”) will keep all our dreams and secrets safe, and make sure we never drift apart.”
Kassiopeia was still the only star constellation she for sure knew the name of.
Dreams and secrets… She had plenty of both and she knew that Greg had many himself. Secrets had played a lead role in his life. One secret had been larger than any other though, the one secret he had whispered in her ear the summer they grew so close.
“I like him,” she had said, whispering a deep secret to her newly found friend. She had never expected to find a friend in her cousin that she has barely spoken to in her entire life. He lived far away, in the USA, a country she had visited only once, and that was five years ago, when she was just a kid. He had been in Norway a few times, but only on short visits, and they had no more than gazed at each other. As kids, he had only spoken English, and she only Norwegian.
Since third grade she had learned English in school. Telling the class she had relatives in the USA was fun, but it didn’t help her much on her English skills. Sure, her aunt Kathrine had sent her a few books in English to help her, and TV was all in English anyway, but it was still a hard language to learn.
At age 16 her English was well enough to keep any length of a conversation, but it felt strange getting to know her cousin at this age. He, on the other hand, had started learning a few Norwegian words. He found it sad, she understood now, to speak with ‘Bessa’, or ‘Papa Olaf’ as Greg called him, on the phone, and not being able to communicate that well. Bessa was an old man by now, and only knew a limited amount of English that he had learned during his years in England while fighting the Second World War. He had made a great effort to keep it fresh though, since his youngest daughter married an American and moved to America. Maria kept running down the doors in Bessa’s house, but of course, to Bessa, Greg was equally important and just as much his grand child. Maria was just lucky to have grown up close by.
“I like him,” she had said and revealed the deepest thoughts to the one she now counted as her best friend. Usually, she wouldn’t be shy about telling anyone about her crush on any guy. But this was special. He was… He was just perfect.
Girlish and sixteen as she was she had just kept talking and Greg had been unusually silent. Thoughtful and silent. Usually it would take some strong words to break through her wall of talking, a habit well established in the Hojem family, but at that time it was dead silence that woke her up.
“Why don’t you say anything?” she had asked.
He had only shrugged his shoulders and looked at her. The tears in his eyes had spoken volumes though, and she knew she had to get him to open up.
“Come on! What is it? Is it something I said?”
“No, nothing.” He had brushed it off and brushed away the tears at the same sweep.
”I thought we were friends!”
“Doesn’t look like it. Here I tell you my deepest secret, and you don’t want to share anything with me. That hurts you know!”
With that she had started walking away, hurt by his indifference. She didn’t get far though before he stopped her.
She had stopped immediately, knowing that deep down she was not angry at him. She was a bit disappointed, she could admit that, but she had seen the hurt in his eyes. Something was wrong, something he did not take lightly.
“I…” He had begun, but had a hard time saying what was on his mind, “there’s someone I like as well….”
‘Okay, so that was the case… a girl.’
“He’s… well, gorgeous...”
‘Okay, gorgeous.. Hey wait a minute, he? HE? Okay, so he is man and she is woman. The words are pretty similar, especially when you mumble like Greg does now, but he said he, didn’t he? Gosh, if he only could speak Norwegian, I can always detect han and henne or hun and han but he and she… They sound too much alike!’
“And his hands….”
“And I just wish I could tell anyone! I wish I didn’t have to keep it all inside, and I wish, I wish I wasn’t gay! There,” He let out his breath, “there… it’s out!”
He had looked so guilty, his eyes had been sadder than the retriever next door. He had looked at her like he expected rejection, almost holding back so that he wouldn’t feel so bad when she did. Except, rejection had been the furthest thought from her mind. She didn’t exactly have much experience with gays. She thought maybe a guy in school was. Of course, probably more guys in schools were, but she thought maybe this particular one was. Nobody cared really. Or maybe, she thought, maybe some of the guys picked on him, but that may have been just because he was generally weird as well, and not particularly smart. She had never cared really. But now, now she cared. It was Greg after all, Greg that had made her laugh the last three weeks, Greg that had gotten them into more trouble the last three weeks than she had ever been in the rest of her life.
Packing her blanket closer around her so that she would not freeze, Maria looked up at the dark sky letting her thoughts fly. The summer furniture was all stashed away, and she had only left one chair out to sit in when she snuck out to smoke. The winter sky was black as coal as the year was moving slowly through the winter. Kassiopeia was clear on the sky tonight, and Maria looked at the card in her hand one more time. Putting out the cigarette she collected her blanket and walked inside to the warmth and light, and the telephone that would connect her with Greg.
Picking out the phonebook to find Greg’s phone number she remembered another phone conversation with said person. She had been 26 years old and pregnant with her first (and only) child when she had received a phone call from her cousin. They had kept in touch monthly since their first summer together, growing even closer by the time. Maria had even visited Greg once in San Francisco. The phone call had come late at night, and her boyfriend, soon to be husband and father to her child, had just been about to go to bed. She had however ended up being awake a long time catching up on the latest events in the life of Greg Sanders.
“Hi Maria”, Greg had said as soon as she answered the phone. No introduction, he just assumed she would know who the voice belonged to, and of course she did.
She had whispered to her boyfriend to go to bed before her, knowing that when the Hojem cousins started talking, they wouldn’t stop for a while.
“So, anything new in your life?” Greg had asked her.
“Not much. The baby has started moving, can’t wait to see it. And in your life, any news?”
“Yeah, it is actually. I’ve got a new job!”
“Great! Gratulerer!!!” She knew he had been looking for a change of scenery. He had been working at the San Francisco Police Department after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford. “So, what’s this job all about?”
“Well, it’s in the DNA lab in Las Vegas Crime lab.”
“Yeah, Las Vegas. Moving away from California…”
“Wow, I’ll say… I knew you wanted a change, but San Francisco to Las Vegas, even I understand that that is some change...”
“Yeah, you have to come visit me here. Promise!”
“Yeah that would be something. Tell me more about your job though, when are you starting?”
“Already have. Started two weeks ago.”
“Wow, two weeks, and you didn’t tell me until now?”
“Nah, would see if this was for real first, and it is.”
“You like it then?”
“Yeah, yeah I do! The job is great, hectic but great. And I feel it is important. You know, the work matter. And the people I work with… you should see them!”
“Good colleagues, then? ”
“Yeah, the best. I work closest to the lab techs of course. There’s a pretty handsome guy in the A/V lab; Archie, not gay of course! And then there’s Jackie. She is a master of fingerprints, I tell you, never even think about doing a crime and expect her not to recover your prints! I have a feeling she will become a good friend, she is beaming some rather protective vibes.
”You should see the CSI’s here though. They are out of the lab a lot of the time of course, but when they are in, they do stand out.”
”Well there’s a woman called Catherine, she’s kind of second in command here. Not only does she go by the American version of my mother’s name, she also acts like she’s my mother. She has a kid, and I have a feeling she became a mother to everyone younger than her the day her kid was born, or maybe she always has been, who knows… Anyway, she is mothering me, and I feel like I should tidy my room whenever she walks into my lab.”
“You never cleaned your room, Greg.”
“No, but my mom always TOLD me to!”
“Okay, I won’t argue with you.”
“Better not. I haven’t started on the best part though – the men!”
“Ah, you know we love the men!”
“There’s Grissom of course; the boss.”
”I think so… He’s, well he’s one of the kind. Let’s just say the worm pile papa Olaf keep behind the barn is nothing compared to this man’s bug collection. Kind of creepy really, but something about him just oozes confidence. I can’t help but trust him, and the other guys seem to follow his leads, so he can’t be all that bad.”
“Not my type – too old as well. But speaking of good looking, there’s a guy here that would turn your knees into gel-o. His name is Warrick. He’s tall, black, but with the most stunning green eyes. I had serious trouble looking away the first time I met him. I don’t think I drooled though. At least he doesn’t act like I have drooled all over him, so I think I’m okay.”
”No, straight as an arrow.”
“No, that’s okay, I’m not into him, I just think he’s hot, that’s all. And eye candy is always good, even though there’s nothing more.”
”Yeah I guess. So that’s the team then?”
”Yeah, pretty much, there’s Nick as well.”
”Yeah, more please…”
“Just made CSI 3, Warrick’s best buddy I guess.”
”Yeah, a tad bit shorter than me.”
“Dark hair, brown eyes. Texas accent.”
”Oh my God! You have fallen for him, haven’t you!??”
”Yes you have! Greg, I know you by now.”
“You can talk my ears warm about most anyone but those you fall in love with. Then I always have to drag the information out of you! Come on, admit it!”
“No! No I haven’t! I have just met him!”
“And? I know nothing about him!”
”Are you crazy! He’s… He’s from Texas, and he’s straight, and he’s.. Oh my God, I’m in love with him! Shit!”
“I knew it! Ha, I knew it! Told you so!”
Her daughter’s calling from the child’s bedroom made a halt in Maria’s plan to call Greg as well as dragging her out of her little trip down memory lane. She hung the card on the refrigerator door for later inspection. She wanted to have at last an hour of undisturbed time to herself when talking with Greg, so she knew better than calling before Selma was tucked in and way into dreamland.
”Coming Hon,” She answered, placing the phonebook down by the phone, with the right page still open.
Her daughter was the single most important light in her life. If Maria ever forgot to enjoy life, Selma would usually do or say something to remind her of how lucky she was. Greg had yet to meet this sunshine, but he was always making sure he was updated on all events in this little person’s life. He has already sent her a chemistry set. Maria was not all too sure the chemistry set would come to such good use with this little girl though, she was more interested in dolls, and painting.
It was just before Christmas in her daughter’s fourth year she had received the letter from Greg.
Christmas is getting closer and I have finally put together the wish list you have nagged me about!
1) You to come visit me in Las Vegas! (Do you realize it’s been more than 4 years now?)
2) Colorful art by your talented daughter (never underestimate the power of finger painting art on the wall!)
3) Freia Melkesjokolade (Need some Norwegian chocolate now and then)
4) Pictures of you and your lovely offspring. (I still have about 2 square inch free on my board).
5) A kiss from Nick. (Ah, don’t think you can help me with that, and besides, I have already gotten that).
Did I hear you scream just now?
Yeah, that’s right; Nick kissed me! Or I kissed him, we still argue about who attacked who first!
I still think it was him though. You see, we were playing PS2, done that a few times I tell you…This time it involved a couple of beers and some potato chips (nothing unusual in that.) Anyway, we were down to the last piece of potato chips, I manage to grab hold on it, and he tackled me (Never thought he would be that desperate for potato chips.) What could I do? I hurried to put it in my mouth, leaving half on the outside to tease him. I guess we were sitting pretty close, because he didn’t have a hard time reaching out and break the half off putting it in his own mouth (God that was sexy!). Anyway – as you know potato chips isn’t actually known NOT to be crisp (you do eat potato chips, don’t you? I guess that little rug rat of yours litter it all over your precious IKEA couch). Well, the point is, there were crumbs down my chin, and he actually leaned in to lick it off me! (I swear, he did!) I didn’t exactly pull away though, and here is the origin to our dispute. He claims I leaned in first, but come on – HE did! He wanted that potato chips so much and licking me at the same time was just a bonus! A bonus he liked though, because we ended up making out for the rest of the evening. (Don’t think I can go into details here, the paper I’m writing on will probably burst into flames, that’s how hot it was!)
Let me just say: That was 3 weeks ago, and he is still here! Speaking of which: he is currently strolling into this very room, beautifully wet, only wearing a tiny towel, and I’m NOT strong enough to let such an opportunity pass!
Talk to you soon!
It hadn’t taken long after that until Maria herself had heard from the one and only Nick himself.
Emne: A little help?
Sendt: On, 10.03.2005 14:45:34 – 0800
I know we don’t know each other, but I know you have heard about me, and I have heard a lot of good things about you. As you probably know I’m so lucky to be in a relationship with your cousin. In a few weeks he turns 30, and it’s like to surprise him with a special gift. I know he is very found of Norway, and his Norwegian heritage and I would like to honour him by giving something from Norway. The problem is that I don’t know what that would be. This is where you come in. Do you have any idea about any jewellery he would appreciate getting, and also, if you knew how I could get hold of it? I would be grateful for all help I could get.
Subject: Sv: A little help?
Date: Wed: 03.10.2005 11:30:56 pm + 0100
Yeah, I have heard of you all right. Hope you are fine.
Of course I will help you pick out the best gift for the goof we both love!
You know he loves “Norrøn mytologi” (eh…Nordic Mythology, isn’t that what it is called in English…?), right? I was thinking, maybe he would like a necklace with a symbol from that?
Emne: Re: Sv: A little help?
Sendt: Tor: 11.03.2005 13:03:12 - 0800
Thank you! That would be great. He talks about Norse (it’s actually called Norse not Nordic) Mythology all the time. I must admit, I know nothing about it though, even though I try to pay attention when Greg talks about it! It is about Odin and Thor, right? And there is something about a pig that is being slaughtered every night but still lives the next day….
Subject: Sv: Re: Sv: A little help?
Date: Fri: 03.11.2005 1.27:35 am + 0100
That’s okay. To tell you the truth, I’m not that into Norse Mythology (thanks for the help with the name) either, but I happen to have a husband that is all into it though, so I got some help from him finding the right thing.
The pig is called Særimne.
He suggested Mjølner, Tor’s hammer. It is thrown away and always hits what it is aimed at, and then it always to return….
It symbolizes regeneration.
It is also strengthening both male virility and female fertility
I don’t know if you would like that. If you do, you can find it here:
Please tell me if you are having trouble buying it, then I can buy it for you and send it to you!
Klem fra (hug from) Maria.
Emne: Re: Sv: Re: Sv: A little help?
Sendt: Fre:11.03.2005 15.47:26 - 0800
Thank you! You are a life saver!
Subject: Sv: Re: Sv: Re: Sv: A little help?
Date: Sat: 03.12.2005 12.04:52 pm + 0100
And it is a pleasure to be able to help!
Have fun on his birthday, and make sure he feels special on the day!
Emne: Re: Sv: Re: Sv: Re: Sv: A little help?
Sendt: Lør: 12.03.2005 09.42:23 - 0800
Klem (see, I learn Norwegian!) Nick.
Emne: Thank you!
Sendt: 05.06.2005 03.22:26 - 0800
I guess you know what Nick gave me for my birthday! The necklace is beautiful, and he told me you helped him pick it out! Thank you! Really appreciate you doing that! Also love that he wanted to give me something Norwegian. See why I fell in love with him?! He is just so thoughtful! Most people would just have given me something easy, but he did all the effort doing what he thought I would mostly like, and that makes it so much more valuable!
And guess what!?!
He took me to the aquarium, and then to a pricy restaurant! It was him and me the entire evening. It was my night off, and he had actually managed to convince Grissom to give him the day out as well. How he did that, I have no idea! I’m not sure I want to know either; we both probably owe Grissom our kidney for some experiment or something!
Okay, so I probably have to go to bed now! I have a hot boyfriend waiting for me, and to tell you the truth, I’m not too sober either, so I won’t make too much sense!
Oh… Thanks for the gift! Loved the sweater (Did you talk to my mom? It was a perfect fit!), and especially thanks for the 4 pounds of chocolate! Melkesjokolade and Kvikk Lunch, my favorites!!! Do I have to share with Nick?
Oh, yeah – bed!
Selma was afraid of monsters hiding in the corners of her room. A diffuse light from the streetlight outside made scary shadows on her wall, and it was difficult for a little girl to find rest. There had been many nightmares and many nights where Selma had padded into her parents bedroom, to sleep in the proximity of her parents safe guard.
Around six months ago though, it had not been Selma, but a nightly phone call that had woken Maria up from her sleep.
The phone rung, and her first thought had gone to Bessa. She prayed nothing had happened to him. She picked up on the forth ring, only to hear a broken voice.
”I have ruined him!”
“What? Greg? What are you talking about?”
“He came home today.”
”Home, from where?”
”Texas. He’s been in Texas for the weekend, wanting to tell his parents about us. He’s… I made him do it!”
Maria felt he needed to tell the story, and she let him do it in his own pace.
“He came home today. He wasn’t supposed to come home until tomorrow. He was all destroyed. They, they didn’t want to know about him anymore!”
”No. Oh my God!”
“Yeah, they, they said he is no longer their son!”
”Yeah, and I made him do it!”
”I told him that if he didn’t tell his folks I would break up with him! I can’t believe I did that! I couldn’t imagine… I had no right. I just couldn’t, I was suffocating!”
”You haven’t been happy about it for a long time Greg!”
”So you had to!”
”So you say you should just have continued the way you were?”
”I can’t… It’s not fair that Nick is gonna suffer the rest of his life because I didn’t want to be anyone’s secret. It’s not like he was ashamed of me. I mean, he had no trouble telling people at work, it was only his folks. Why couldn’t I just be happy with what I had? No, I had to crave for the whole package. Not happy until I have ruined the life of the man I love, just because I’m a egocentric bastard!”
“You are all to hard on your self! What you wanted was not unfair, and you couldn’t know they would react like that!”
”I should have!”
”No Greg, it is not common to react like that!”
“But he was always so afraid of it. I just, I didn’t really believe it, because my family accepted me so easily.”
Maria had felt a stab in her stomach thinking back on the time her aunt Katherine had called her mother to tell her about Greg. Maria had been 19 years old at the time, and a homosexuality debate had run hot in the Norwegian media. The law was about to change, and gay were given the right to get register in partnership. The partnership law was equal to the law of marriage, except for one important paragraph; gay partners are not allowed to adopt. People had argued high and low on whether or not homosexuality was a sin or whether or not it was natural. In her own mind, Maria had no trouble accepting gay love as equal to heterosexual love. She had never even considered thinking about it in any other way than a variety of normality. How her parents felt about it however, she didn’t know. It was a relief therefore to hear her mother being supporting of Greg when she talked with her older sister in the phone. Aunt Kathrine had been in need of comfort after having just found out her only son was gay. Apparently, she hadn’t taken it lightly. Bless aunt Kathrine though, she had never expressed her dark thoughts to her son, but had consistently used her sister as a vent to air her worries, and with time she had grown to accept the fact, and also during years she had come to be proud of her gay son. Maria could only be happy Greg had been in total oblivion to his mother’s disappointment. She had many times felt like sending her aunt a huge bouquet of flowers to thank her for never adding to Greg’s already heavy burden. She could only hope and pray she would always treat her own kid as respectfully as Aunt Kathrine had done, if she would ever to be confronted with situations where she would feel disappointed like that.
“They love you Greg,” was all she could answer him, and she knew she was telling the truth.
”But so should Nick’s family.”
”They should, and that’s exactly why you are not to blame! They should accept him the way he is, and hopefully they’ll come around!”
”I don’t know… I just can’t believe they did that!”
”Neither do I.”
“I’m sorry to dump all of this on you, I just didn’t know who to call.”
“That’s okay Greg.”
”It must be late in Norway.”
”Yeah, don’t worry about it though. You can call me anytime!”
”Thanks! Love ya!”
”Jeg er glad i deg også!”
It hadn’t taken long before she had heard from Greg again. This time to tell her that Nick had indeed not left him, but rather that he considered Greg his true family. She had wanted to take the first flight to Las Vegas so many times to check up on them, seeing for her self that they were okay, but the way from Norway to Las Vegas was long and expensive. She had been bound to trust whatever they told her was true, and after a few months she actually believed them. It was probably Nick that had finally convinced her. He had answered the phone one day she’d called. Greg wasn’t home, and they had ended up talking for almost an hour.
”How are you feeling?” she asked, trying to form the question as round as possible, leaving it up to him how much he wanted to reveal.
”Not too bad,” he said, leaving the subject open for her to continue.
”But not all good either?”
“No, it can’t be all good when my family still doesn’t want anything to do with me, but I’m learning to accept it now.”
“But it hurts?” She was afraid she was all too blunt, and had no right to asking all these questions, but she decided to be open about her concerns, and ask as long as he didn’t cut her off.
“It hurts. I think my relationship with Greg is better than ever though.”
”Yeah, I guess it’s true what they say, that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
”Yeah, but it’s still a hard way to learn...”
”Sure is. But at least, I feel honest now. It was so bad lying for all those years. I can’t be the son they asked me to be, and if they can’t accept the son they did have, then I guess they have to live without he son. I’m grieving though. It’s like… You know I did lose my family, and I guess it isn’t all that different losing them to death as losing them through non-acceptance. Except that this time the grief is mixed with disappointment, and that has been hard to accept. But I have truly come to the conclusion that it is not my fault, so at least I don’t have to struggle with my conscience anymore. It is easier to accept it then.”
”Did you ever think it was your fault?”
”Yeah, all the time. I don’t know how though, because deep down I knew being honest was the only right thing.”
“But then, I mean, Greg..”
”I see where you’re going. No, I never blamed Greg. I knew Greg was right, and I saw that telling my parents was the only right thing to do, not only for him, for me as well. I wasn’t happy about keeping him a secret either. Not only did I want to bring him home for Christmas, but I wanted to get rid of that bugging little voice in my head that always wondered how long Greg would stay with me if I didn’t tell my family. You know, I don’t think Greg would have actually have left at that time if I hadn’t told them then, he loves me too much for that, for some reason. That the problem was becoming so big that he actually voiced it was enough to wake me up. I knew it was time to do something about it, and I guess the rest is history.”
”And now, I miss my family, but I honestly am happier now then I was, and better yet, it gets easier every day.”
And the lady of the chair is watching over you
Selma had finally fallen asleep after they had joined forces and together forced all monsters away. The brave little girl needed just a little light from an open door to feel safe.
Maria closed the door to the living room where her husband watched TV on her way back to the kitchen. She picked up the cordless phone to sink down in the old rock chair while she talked to Greg.
The phone rang three times before she heard the familiar voice: “Sanders”.
“Hi Greg, Maria here.”
”Maria! So good to hear from you! How are you?”
”Fine, sweetheart, and you?”
”I bet. I received your invitation, you must be happy”
”Good! Yeah, I am! So, do you think you can make it? Can I finally get you to come visit me in Las Vegas?”
“Sure I can! I will do all I can to make it happen. I wouldn’t miss your wedding for the world!”
Did anyone say Norwegian?
Stjernene = the stars
Bessa = an often used nickname for grandpa.
Han/henne = him/her
Han/hun = he/she
Gratulerer = congratulations
Mamma = Mommy
Hei = Hi
Klem/Klem fra = hug/ hug from