I followed Larsa over to the living room. Killian have the same pine-green corduroy couch he’d had since his first apartment, the only difference now being that there was a plush indigo recliner near it. Larsa picked up the wool blanket that had been draped across it and plopped down, and I took a seat on the end of the couch near him.
Larsa seemed sturdy– I don’t mean buff or stocky, but definitely built for working– though he wasn’t tall by any means. Killian had at least a couple inches on him, and he was barely average height in boots. He seemed genuinely happy, not the forced ‘nice-to-meet-you’ happy. He was also just a little nervous to be meeting me. His blue eyes were bright and hopeful, and he was dressed casually in dark blue jeans and a t-shirt– I was tempted to ask if it was one of Killian’s– but I got the feeling this wasn’t what he was used to wearing.
“So… ah…” I hesitated. I didn’t like asking the typical questions, but the truth was I did want to know. “How did you meet Killian?”
Larsa thought for a moment, as though trying to put the words together. “Laundry,” he said. I think he was getting more nervous by the minute.
“Laundry, huh? Is there a story to that?”
I could hear Killian laughing from the kitchen. “Ye’ll love this one, lass.”
Larsa nodded. “I used to live on the other end of the apartment complex,” he began. Killian’s fun-loving nature seemed to have put him back at ease. “He was in the laundry house when I went to wash my clothes one night.”
“You didn’t meet at the university or the music hall?” I asked. That was so often how people met. “How did you two get to talking?”
Killian was laughing again.
“He, uh…” Larsa’s cheeks pinked. “I had a lot of laundry to do, so he had to open the door for me.”
“It was more than that,” Killian added. I could hear him putting the last few items away. “He’d practically waited until everything he had was dirty, so he had more than he could carry. I don’ know how he made it from his apartment to the laundry room without droppin’ shirts and socks everywhere.”
“I did drop a couple things.”
“Aye, lad,” Killian agreed as he stepped out of the kitchen with three cans of soda. He handed one to me and another to Larsa. “We found out later that ye’d dropped yer–”
“Please don’t,” Larsa cut in, looking genuinely bashful. I could imagine easily enough what it had been. He calmed down when he saw that Killian wouldn’t embarrass him. “He kept helping me that night. I was a couple quarters short, so he gave me some. Then he helped me move things from the washers to the dryers and kept me company even after his clothes were all folded.”
I gave Killian a proud smile as I cracked open my soda. “Always the gentleman; I’m glad that part of you hasn’t changed.”
“He also helped me carry my clean laundry back home.”
“He’s always been a great helper,” I told Larsa. “Did it take him long to ask you out on a date?”
Killian was chuckling next to me, probably trying not to let soda come out of his nose.
“Actually…” Larsa’s cheeks were pink again. “I asked him.”
That had me grinning. Killian was usually the one to ask the other on a date, and that usually took him time to work up the courage. I listened to Larsa tell me about their first date, and then their second, and before too long we moved onto other topics.
I was quickly getting to know Larsa, and by the time Killian got up to call the Chinese restaurant, we’d powered up the Nintendo Switch to play Mario Party until Stefan and food arrived.
I checked on my phone when a ping came in with the tone I’d set for Stefan.
See you soon, my friends!
We have the green controller waiting just for you, I texted back.
Then I smiled at Larsa and asked for his number so I could add him to my contacts and include him in the group chat.
😀 Drive safe, Stefan, Larsa soon sent the group. I’m looking forward to seeing you.
Woaaahhhh! Okay, this is going to be a great night!
I didn’t know what Stefan meant by that last message, but I didn’t have time to think about it; we had a group challenge to complete in the game.
We had completed a few more challenges in Mario Party by the time a knock came to the door. Killian answered it and greeted the delivery boy from the Chinese restaurant warmly, then took the box over to the kitchen table. Larsa hopped up to help set out the boxes and get some plates and utensils. Then there was another knock, and he set the plates down to answer the door.
“Larsa!” I could hear Stefan exclaim. “You’re looking great!”
There was a soft oomph, and I looked up to see Stefan embracing Larsa, who was returning the hug and laughing.
“It looks like playing house with Killian has been treating you well,” Stefan went on as he looked around the apartment. Then he noticed me and, with an even bigger grin on his face, set his bags down and hurried over to hug me. He was so excited that he lifted me off the floor.
“I have missed you, Leila!”
“I missed you, too, Stefan,” I laughed.
He eventually set me down and kissed the top of my head. “I’m glad you came down to see us.”
“Well, I did hear that a new DJ is debuting tomorrow.”
He smiled down at me — did I mention that he’s well over six feet tall? — and said with a wink, “I hear he’s going to be everyone’s new favorite.”
“He’s been one of my favorites for a long time already.”
Stefan feigned a hurt expression. “One of many? I’m not your number one DJ?”
I giggled softly.
“You can be my number one fan,” he added, as though trying to tempt me.
“How could I resist such an offer?” I replied.
Then Stefan drew in a deep breath. “The food arrived before I did, I see.”
“Not that long ago, actually. You probably saw the delivery boy leave as you were coming up here.”
Stefan took a couple minutes to put the mead he’d brought into the fridge, then came to the table with four bottles of hard cider. He took the chair next to me and we passed around plates and food. Soon enough, we’d toasted to being together and were eating and talking and generally having a great time.
“So how do you know Larsa?” I asked Stefan as I finished off an egg roll. “It looks like you’ve gotten to meet him before tonight.”
“I’ve known him longer than Killian has,” Stefan told me.
I gaped. His tone was way too matter-of-fact for my taste. “But how– did you two do laundry together, too?”
Stefan laughed so hard that he nearly spilled his soup. “So they told you the story of how they met, huh?” He shook his head and pulled himself together. “No, we never did laundry together.”
“We did make a lot of laundry for our mothers, though,” Larsa added.
I looked over at him. “Sounds like there’s a backstory you need to tell me.”
“It’s simpler than you think,” Stefan explained. “Think of it this way: you and Killian are cousins of sorts, right?”
I nodded. “A few times removed, but yeah. Wait, so Larsa and you–”
“We’re more distantly related, but yeah,” Stefan said.
I remembered then that while Stefan had been born in the U.S., his parents had immigrated from Sweden when they were small children. His grandparents still kept in close contact with their families in the old country, and he used to visit Sweden in the summer as a young boy. Stefan loved reading about Norse traditions, Viking history, and Scandinavian culture.
“Larsa’s immediate family comes from much further north than mine,” Stefan added.
“Sápmi,” Larsa said, referring to the land where the Sámi people live.
“I knew he’d come to Portland to study, but I didn’t realize he was living in the same apartment complex as Killian,” Stefan went on. “I was going to introduce them, but they managed to meet all on their own.”
“Clearly I have a lot to get caught up on,” I said. “I want to hear all about what you three have been up to.”
“I’ll tell you,” Stefan agreed and he got up to get us a couple more ciders, “but first I want to know about your new house and what goes on there at midnight.”
A pretty little Sámi song now that you’ve learn Larsa’s background: