Copyright © 2021 by Karina Halle
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Cover Design: Hang Le Designs
Edited by: Laura Helseth
The Wild Heir
About the Author
Also by Karina Halle
And For My Norwegian Family
I think we missed our turn
Back it up
You think I'd learn
“Aqualung” - Morcheeba
Adrift By Anders Johansen
I look to the sea.
waves glinting like glass
sharp enough to silence
the emptiest cries.
to a darkness like the hell
from which they came
that she brings me
the hell that made me love her
the hell that love creates.
this sea, she sees
but doesn’t know.
or maybe she does.
maybe that’s the joke.
that we will die here
and then there is the water,
in which we drift.
who doesn’t care about us.
doesn’t care about unrequited love
or burning hearts
or her very heart
that drowns me.
just the empty years
after being saved.
THEN- Eight Years Ago
“Are you lost?”
When am I not, I think to myself. I’m in no hurry to turn around and find out who’s asking the question. I’m in no hurry to do anything, including figuring out where I am.
The female voice doesn’t come again, though I can sense her presence behind me, like she’s waiting for an answer. She doesn’t realize she’s not going to get one. If she did, it would insinuate I need help.
I look down at the schedule in my hands and the shitty map that the principal gave me. I crumple up the map, drop it on the ground, and kick it. It skitters down the empty hallway, past lockers and water fountains and the horrible beige paint that’s piled on the walls. Americans don’t know anything about color.
I breathe in through my nose and contemplate walking forward, ignoring the voice, and skipping this next class, this first class here at Westminster High School. Or I can turn around and stop.
Find my way.
I turn around and see the girl.
This is it, I think, standing, blinking at her. She was no one to me before, just a voice, but now she’s her.
She’s beautiful. But that word seems too plain, too common, a word you use to describe a sunset or a waxed, classic car gliding slowly down the street.
This girl is beyond beautiful. She’s a mix of faults that all combined until she’s something right. A bump on her nose. Acne scars at her chin, covered with makeup that’s a shade too light. Her eyebrows might cost her some friends. But her body is ripe, like a peach, soft and more womanly than anyone in high school should be. Her skin is soft brown. Her hair hangs around her like a shield; I wonder if she hides behind it. And her eyes…warm, mahogany honey…her eyes are what cause me to just stop and stare and wonder why I didn’t turn around earlier. They burn. They scream. They yearn. She has eyes that are already asking me to take her far away and never look back.
I already love her eyes.
I want them to love me too.
I clear my throat, because I can’t take her anywhere unless I speak. The English that usually comes so naturally to me is scrambled and it takes a moment for me to put it together.
“I am looking for Mrs. Chaffey,” I tell her.
Her eyes widen as she hears my accent. I’m not just a boy, I’m a foreigner. Maybe I can’t take her anywhere. Or maybe I can take her too far.
“Mrs. Chaffey?” she repeats. “Do you have Spanish with her?”
I nod. “I was supposed to be there five minutes ago.”
“So was I,” she says with a devious slant to her smile, the kind that tells me we are both the same, or at least she wants me to think so. “Follow me,” she adds, walking past me, her head held high, her eyes glancing me over like I’m a secret. But her words warble, her tone shaky, as if she’s being brave for the first time today.
“You’re in twelfth grade?” I ask, falling in line beside her.
“Yup, a senior,” she says, brushing her hair behind her ear and looking away, her smile now more shy than before. Maybe because I’m walking close, so close I can smell her. A fruity perfume. It reminds me of summers in Todalen, the apple trees by the house, sunshine and fresh air and reading a tattered copy of Huckleberry Finn. The past smells great on her.
“Where are you from?” she asks.
“Norway,” I tell her, observing her closely. The way people handle that information always tells me so much about them.
She nods, looping her thumbs around the straps of her leather backpack. “Cool. Europe.”
“You ever been? To Europe?”
She shakes her head and her earrings, gold stars, catch the faint light streaming in through the windows. She has small ears. I wonder if she likes to have loaded words whispered in them. Point blank.
“No,” she says. “But one day. I really want to go. Maybe next summer after I graduate. Or maybe in college. I need to save a lot of money though. Which means I need a job. But it’s hard to get part-time work and I hear this year will kick our ass anyway, so I guess I won’t be going anywhere until college. I have been to India though, a few times, so that’s something. Right?”
She’s rambling. It’s cute. I might just make her nervous.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Shay,” she says. “Shay Lavji.”
I don’t offer my hand. I was taught to do that, but it doesn’t seem right, not as the two of us walk down the hallways. Instead, I smile. “I’m