Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Chapter four (segment one), 2016, August, Ulf

With him at the helm yesterday's afternoon workshops had gone off without a hitch. Sure, some of the attendants showed some initial disdain at his apparent age, but he quickly put them out of any misconceptions.

Most of them were the same kind of over-aged middle management he remembered had held back much needed corporate change during his first life, but if you hit them hard enough over their heads with working solutions you peeled off the covers they hid behind. In at least one sense Ulf preferred Japanese upper management to the Swedish counterpart he was used to. When they decide to go for broke they were absolutely ruthless with their workforce, especially with their middle management.

He used that advantage just as ruthlessly and forced the entire assembly to climb the murderous uphill hiking path to the camping he had made certain hadn't been brought down to the hotel.

Up there he worked them to their bones, and when he finally allowed them to rest most were so tired they just crawled into their tents and fell asleep.

To their horror he had them carry all equipment down the same path earlier this morning, and it was a dishevelled bunch that took a well deserved bath in the hot springs.

Ulf left them there after he received a long email from Christina, had two bento boxes made for them each and sauntered down to the beach. Work was what he needed, and Christina. And she had written that he was needed down there.

He made it just in time to meet her on the walkway when she was ready for lunch and learned that Principal Nakagawa apparently had promised her something. They sat down with their legs dangling and arms hanging through the railings. Ulf had the pleasure of watching Christina light up with a grateful smile when he brought out their lunch.

“I've been so scared,” she said.

There wasn't much of an answer he could give her. He hugged her closer with one arm. “Sorry. I won't be like that again,” he murmured. He'd been in black despair once before, but when he finally crawled out of it after two weeks of the worst binge drinking he'd experienced since university days he never returned into his private hell. Well, apart from now, he recalled and for a moment he was back in the ghastly scene with policemen backing away and a frantic teenager waving a gun until he put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

“Ulf? Please, you promised!”

He shook himself out of it and pulled a sobbing Christina into his arms. “No, I'm not going there again.” Ulf watched waves rolling over sand and pulling back again. Just like Christina's breath slowed down to the rhythmic calm and love he had grown used to the last month. “I'm here with you. For as long as you want me.” He hugged her harder and held her until he heard her stomach growl.

She pulled herself free and looked shamefacedly at him. Flicking away hair that had tangled in her face she regained her composure. “What about that lunch?”

Ulf grinned and handed her a paper napkin. Not even a super model was an image of perfection with snot in her face.

Without further talk they dug in on their lunch. Eating made him remember how hungry he really was, and they kept at it in silence only broken by requests for the bottle of water they shared.

When Nakagawa arrived mid-lunch he was dressed for vacation. He had a man with him. Younger, maybe forty.

“Good day,” Nakagawa greeted them.

“And?” Ulf asked, nodding at the stranger.

“Mister Hammargren,” the stranger opened in passable English. “My name is Arata Onishi. Pleased to meet you. Arata is my first name and I'm fine using it.”

Ulf looked at Nakagawa for an explanation.

“Onishi-sensei, sorry, Arata is one of my medical experts. I've informed him about our earlier conversation, well Christina's and mine. A medical examination won't be needed.”

Ulf and Christina looked at each other. She blushed momentarily and Ulf gave Nakagawa a questioning look. “Medical examination?” he asked. He looked at Christina again, but she only nodded as if everything made sense.

“Yes, I'm quite certain,” Arata answered instead. “You see, those reactions you mentioned,” Christina blushed some more, “are natural for your age.”

“We're bloody fifty years old. With the experience to boot,” she growled, and Ulf had to smile. She had just copied one of his own expressions he used when he got upset.

“Your bodies aren't. I won't even agree to that you're fifty mentally.”

Christina looked up.

Arata turned his palms up as if he was reciting from a book. “You see, even though we prefer to think that we are in control of our thoughts, a lot of them result from biochemical reactions we can't control. Call it hormones if you like.”

Ulf nodded. He had enough of a scientists mind to grasp that hormones most likely only had a part in his problems the last year. But the layman explanation was sufficient. Now he understood what the conversation was about as well.

“You're telling me that we'll continue to behave like teenagers?” he asked, and this time he gave Christina a long look. No wonder it feels like a first love again.

“I'm trying to tell you that, to a certain degree you will behave like the teenagers you are, but with more memories and experience than normal.”

Damn, she's beautiful. I can't stop looking at you. “Please tell me more,” Ulf said and forced himself to do just that. He hated talking to someone's back just as much as anyone else, and he didn't intend to be impolite enough to force the doctor to do the same.

“For example, you'll be quicker to anger than before you arrived here. But you'll also have greater resources to use for cooling down,” Arata explained and looked at them both. He had that questioning look of someone talking to children, uncertain if it wasn't too hard to understand.

“How long,” Christina wondered.

“Can't say for certain. When you're thirty things should be like normal. But age related diseases will be pushed into the future.”

That was a relief. Apart from behaving like puppies in heat for a few more years they'd basically get to live another thirty or so extra years for free.

With that the topic died, but rather than walking back to the hotel both Nakagawa and Arata sat down on the walkway. Arata brought out two sun hats he had folded in a bag and gave one each to Ulf and Christina. “I'm a doctor after all,” he said as explanation.

Neither Ulf nor Christina answered, but Ulf sent the man a thankful thought as they finished their lunch in the baking sun.

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