© The author reserves all rights to this work.
This story is of an adult nature. It is not intended for minors nor for those whose law in their land forbids them to read this material.
This story is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental and unintentional.
NB: Words found between asterisks (*) refer to words exchanged in psychic or telepathic communication.
Sven Sklerer was waiting outside the ice-cream parlour for his date to show up. He had been seeing Carrie for several weeks now and he was starting to be enamoured by her. Carrie was a friend of his sister’s. They hit it off instantly on their first date. They were very comfortable with each other. Though he was already reaching forty, Sven looked like he was in his early twenties.
“Sorry to keep you waiting!” Sven heard Carrie calling from behind him.
“I wasn’t waiting long,” said Sven politely as he handed a small bouquet of flowers to her.
Carrie took a whiff of the flowers and said, “Don’t bluff me. From the relative temperature of these flowers, I would say that you arrived between fifteen to twenty minutes ago.”
Carrie was specializing in forensics at the Magi Insititute. She was quite a number of years older than Sven but her appearance was comparable to him.
Sven’s heart stopped a beat. He did not mean to deceive Carrie. It was the polite thing to say at the time.
When she noticed that he was a little pale, she quickly said, “But I think it’s sweet anyway. The flowers are lovely.”
Sven relaxed a little. They entered the ice-cream parlour and ordered their usual milk shakes. As they were drinking, Carrie noticed that Sven was a little different that day. He felt a little different.
“What’s the matter Sven, you seem a little jumpy today.”
“Me? Jumpy?” asked Sven innocently. He realized that he could not put off what he needed to say. “I’m not jumpy, a little nervous perhaps but definitely not jumpy,” he said with a slight grin. “I’m nervous because I’d like to ask you an important question.”
Carrie giggled, “What’s this important question? Don’t tell me you’re asking me to marry you?”
The casual way in which Carrie had replied caused Sven’s heart to drop. If she’s so casual, there can be only one answer, he thought, looking down.
Carrie also noticed the way his face fell and realized that that was probably what he was about to ask. She kicked herself for being such a stupid girl. She liked Sven a lot but had not thought that Sven would move so fast. “If you are,” she said with some trepidation in her heart, “I won’t say no …”
Sven took a few moments to realize what Carrie said. He looked in surprise.
“… but I won’t say yes immediately, either,” Carrie finished her sentence.
This caused Sven to get confused.
“Sven, you’re a very nice guy and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to you, but we’re still young, too young to be thinking for marriage.”
Sven was relieved. The answer was not a definite no. “So you won’t mind us going steady?” he asked as he took out a little box and put it on the table.
“Is that what I think it is?” said Carrie cautiously. The box looked suspiciously like a ring container.
“Why don’t you open it and see?” suggested Sven.
“But won’t it mean that I’ve accepted a proposal if it turns out to be a wedding ring?” asked Carrie.
“Carrie, would you go steady with me?” asked Sven earnestly. “If you would, you should open the box.”
Carrie did not know what to say. She was afraid. She had had a boyfriend before but he left her for another girl. She really liked Sven but the memory of the heartache was discouraging her from taking the next step. She searched her mind for a response.
“What about Jorg?” she suddenly asked.
“What about Jorg?” Sven asked in return, wondering why his best friend was suddenly brought in.
“Does he know that you’re asking me to be your steady girlfriend?” asked Carrie.
Sven stared at Carrie. “No,” he answered.
“Didn’t you tell him?” she asked.
“Why should I tell him?”
“You tell him everything, don’t you?”
“Almost everything,” Sven answered, not knowing where this was leading.
“Why not this thing?” she asked.
“I don’t see why he should be in an issue that concerns you and me,” Sven responded.
“You really don’t know, do you?” Carrie asked.
“What?” asked Sven frowning. He was now even more confused. The thought that he might have made a mistake in falling in love with Carrie crossed his mind.
“He loves you,” Carrie said.
“And I love him,” said Sven almost immediately. “We’re best friends. We grew up together.”
“I said it wrong. I mean he’s in love with you.”
“Nonsense. We’re good friends I know but to say that he’s in love with me is preposterous!”
“Wait,” said Carrie suddenly. “You do suspect something of the sort, don’t you? Your response was a little too polished.” Carrie narrowed her eyes and asked, “Are you proposing to me so you can get him off your back?”
“O gosh! Carrie!” exclaimed Sven standing up. Everyone in the parlour stopped whatever they were doing and stared at him. Sven became aware of the eyes staring at him and then felt very embarrassed. He turned back at Carrie, paused a moment before snatching the box from the table and grabing his coat. “I’m sorry if I wasted your time, Carrie. I really thought you were the one,” he said in a low tone. Then he walked out of the ice-cream parlour feeling totally humiliated.
Carrie was shocked. She had not expected such a response from Sven. There was a pause as she composed herself. When she got out into the street to look for Sven, he was nowhere to be found.
♦ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ♦
“I can’t believe you left her in the ice-cream parlour like that,” said Marlene, Sven’s sister. “She was terribly upset.”
“How do you think I felt?” retorted Sven. “I’ve never felt so humiliated in my life!
“Carrie’s a level headed girl. I know she likes you. She’d never do anything to humiliate you on purpose.”
“A simple no would have sufficed. It might’ve broken my heart a little, but I would’ve accepted it, but to insinuate that Jorg was in love with me and that I was trying to use her as a means keep him away is totally preposterous! Why would she even bring Jorg into the picture is totally beyond me!”
Marlene looked at her brother in disbelief. She could not believe that her brother was so dense. “What was the question she was supposed to have answered?”
Sven recountered the short conversation between Carrie and him.
“You asked her to go steady with you?”
“Yes! We’ve been going out for the past six months and I just thought it’d be good to go one step further. I wasn’t asking her to sleep with me or to marry me, just to go steady. I didn’t expect her to over-react,” said Sven in frustration.
“You like her a lot, don’t you, Sven?” asked Marlene.
“Of course! Am I someone to take these things lightly?”
“There was one thing I didn’t mention to you about Carrie,” she said softly.
Sven looked at his younger sister. *What is it?* he asked. He was wondering whether it was more worth it to be celibate.
“A month before I introduced you, she broke up with her boyfriend.”
“So?” Sven asked, expecting an earth-shattering revelation.
“So she is afraid of having committed relationships,” replied Marlene.
“I can understand that,” said Sven, “but why didn’t she just tell me? Why did she have to bring Jorg in and all that imaginary stuff about him.”
“Because it is true?” suggested Marlene meekly.
“True?” asked Sven. “What do you mean it’s true? Jorg is my best friend. We grew up together. Wouldn’t I know if there was something amiss? He has always treated me with respect and honour.”
“You don’t have any idea, do you, Sven?” asked Marlene.
“I refuse to believe what you and Carrie are suggesting. Jorg is not a pervert!”
“Of course he isn’t,” said Marlene. “He’s a very upright man. However, he’s also in love with you.”
“That’s going too far, sis. I admit that he loves me. In fact, I love him too. Just because we choose to do things together doesn’t mean that he’s in love with me. If he were, don’t you think I would know? He’ll probably be all touchy and romantic with me. He doesn’t do the same things I do when I am with Carrie.”
“You’re too close, my brother. That’s why you can’t see what I can see. In fact, Pappa and Mummy see it too.”
“They didn’t say anything to me?”
“I asked them a few years ago about Jorg. I could see that he worshipped the ground you stood on but you were totally oblivious.”
“How did you reach that conclusion?” Sven was annoyed that he was kept in the dark.
“It’s evident in the little things that he does for you. He puts your needs first before his almost all the time. However, you’re totally oblivious to it.”
“He’s being a considerate friend. You base your accusation on the fact that he’s a considerate fellow?” countered Sven.
“The most evident things are the sacrifices he makes for you.”
“Sacrifices? I make sacrifices for him, too. Does that mean I’m in love with him,” asked Sven, still refusing to believe what his sister is saying.
“What sacrifices have you made?”
“Well … let me think … Ah! There was that time when he wanted to go skiing but I was more inclined to watch the Rugby finals. I gave up the Rugby finals to be with him.”
“Was it such a great sacrifice?”
“Yes it was! I missed the greatest game of the decade.”
“So you regretted going?”
“Did you have an utterably miserable time skiing?”
“Well, uh … no,” admitted Sven. “I enjoy skiing as much as Jorg does. But I’m sure it’s the same case with him when he sacrifices for me.”
“Do you know that Jorg doesn’t like the sea?” asked Marlene.
“Yes. He prefers solid ground, but he does like the beach though.”
“How many times has he gone scuba diving with you?”
“Well, he never says he … wait. You mean that every time we went, he made a sacrifice? I don’t believe it. He’s a good diver. He even got himself certified!”
“Auntie Gertie told me that Jorg had a scare when he was very young. The Vengroms had gone to the sea. This was even before I was born, and I can’t remember why you weren’t with him. Anyway, he was brought out into the sea by his father in a rowboat. Auntie Gertie remembered that Jorg was very afraid of being in the rowboat. His mother was pregnant with Marie and so she stayed on the beach. Jorg was afraid that the boat would capsize and he wasn’t able to swim in the strong currents. However, his parents insisted and so Jorg went. True to his prediction, the boat capsized but Mr. Vengrom was able to keep the both of them safe from harm. Jorg was greatly affected by the incident and would always stay a safe distance from the sea from that time.”
“He must have overcome his fear when he grew older. You know that we all have our irrational fears?”
Marlene disregarded her brother’s explanation and carried on, “When Great Grandpa died, we had to go for his funeral. That was three weeks before the first ever scuba diving trip. Jorg surprised his family by saying he wanted to take lessons so that he would overcome his fear. In the past, no one could even ask him to walk at the edge of the water on the beach! Jorg was a wreck during the first week of lessons. He often came back pale but with a determined face. He actually lost a bit of weight during the first two weeks of training. When he was finally able to dive despite the fear, then he gained a bit of confidence and weight.”
“Why didn’t I know this?”
“Have you known Jorg to brag about his achievements? The difference between your sacrifice and his is that he never regretted what he sacrificed for you. Furthermore, when Auntie Gertie brought him for a serious talk — and we all know what that means — Jorg revealed that he decided to overcome his fear because he didn’t want you to be disappointed in him. He sought your approval.”
“So, he sought my approval. He hero-worships me. That doesn’t prove that he’s in love with me.”
“Listen to yourself Sven. He’s the closest friend you have and you talk as if you don’t know him,” protested his sister.
“I know him, sis. That’s what I’ve been trying to say! If you say that he’s in love with me, then I don’t really know him.”
“If he heard your words right now, he’d be totally devastated!”
♦ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ♦
Jorg was very uncomfortable but he kept silent. After the weekend, Sven seemed to be avoiding him. Did I offend him without realizing it? I’ll let him cool down. He’ll usually confront me after he’s cooled down. I’ll wait for tomorrow and see, Jorg thought. Maybe something happened at home. After all we’re no longer neighbours. However after some more thinking, Jorg was still disturbed. Auntie Elise and Mummy are very good friends. If anything happened, Mummy would know immediately. What’s wrong? Sigh! I must be patient and wait for him to tell me like he always does.
Jorg was thinking all of this when he was supposed to be training. The first part of the training was an exercise of suspending a balloon filled with water over the head. After about half an hour, the instructor would move away the balloon and initiate the psychical training towards the next level. Jorg was in level three and was quite close to reaching level four. Jorg was easily one of the best in the class and so he was keeping the balloon over his head whilst brooding over the change of Sven’s behaviour instead of concentrating on his exercise. Visually, one could not tell that there was something amiss with Jorg.
However, this was different when one was able to sense things on the psychic level. Master Blaise Mondin sensed that Jorg was distracted and so called on him.
On detecting being called, Jorg jumped. In so doing, he released the balloon for a split second. However, he wasn’t successful in catching it. The balloon hit his head, emptying its contents on him. He was drenched.
*Yes Master,*; he replied, ashamed that he had failed in his exercise. The other students were still meditating, apparently.
*Concentrate! The whole purpose of this exercise is to train you to be totally focused on your task. If you let go of your guard for just one instant, someone might lose his or her life. How can you hope to be a rescuer if you can’t keep your concentration? Instead of saving lives, you lose lives!*
Blaise sensed a troubled mind in Jorg but did not pursue it. It was not his job to counsel his trainees. The school counselor was supposed to do that. He transported Jorg back to his bunk.
*Get changed. You have two minutes to be ready, after which I will transport you back to class.*
*Yes Master,* replied Jorg.
*You shall not go for recreation later today. You’ll report to me at 1500 to finish your exercise. You'll not be able to finish training during class today.*
*If you need to see the counselor, see her. I don’t like to see a trainee coming for exercises with a troubled mind,* the Master instructed firmly but kindly.
♣ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ♣
Things for Jorg did not improve after lunch. Sven continued to avoid him. When he went for his extra exercise at 1500 hours, he was still troubled. Master Blaise could sense that he was still troubled but kept quiet. Jorg started his exercise and successfully kept his concentration because he was able to contain his emotions in such away that although they were present during the exercise, it did not affect him. Master Blaise was very impressed. Very few magi could do what Jorg did. Normally, magi would switch off the memory for the duration of the exercise. That would help them focus on the situation at hand. However, this was not ideal. Any physical or emotional experience linked to that memory would be unavailable, even when it was a useful experience.
After half an hour, Master Blaise guided him into his training. Jorg was still using the technique to keep his emotions at bay.
After his exercise, Master Blaise spoke to Jorg.
“Tell me, Trainee Vengrom. Where and when did you learn the technique to contain your emotions like that?”
“You mean what I did with the emotion that distracted me?” asked Jorg.
“I had to learn how to scuba dive when I was in my early twenties, Master, and I was afraid of the water. I had fallen into the sea once as a child and the fear had stayed with me. When I needed to learn to face my fear, my father taught me to shut off the awful memory in the past. I guess I didn’t shut it off properly because during one of the dives, the memory suddenly popped up. I was in deep water and I panicked. I wasn’t able to shut off the memory. So I told myself that if I didn’t face the fear, there’d be worse consequences. So I concentrated at the task at hand whilst still feeling the anxiety. As I approached the surface, I realized that the emotion was still there but it had become part of the background, much like the situation in a crowded bus. Everyone’s talking at the same time. Though I’m able to hear all the noise, I’m still able to hold a conversation with someone.”
“And you’ve been using this method to keep distractions at bay?”
“Yes, Master. It’s also how I was able to keep the balloon afloat this morning whilst being distracted,” confessed Jorg.
Master Blaise widened his eyes in surprise. It was the first time that a level three student was able to accomplish that. In fact, Master Blaise was not able to do that successfully all the time.
“Have I done something forbidden, Master?” asked Jorg, afraid that he was practising something unorthodox.
“No, Vengrom. Though the technique’s not unorthodox, I’d rather that you use the method to keep your distractions at bay rather than to keep your main objective in the background.”
“How old are you, Vengrom?”
“Thirty-eight, almost thirty nine, Master,” replied Jorg.
“Let me tell you a little secret, young magus. You’ve mastered a psychic technique that even level fifteens have trouble with. You have a gift, use it well. If you use it well, you’ll not only advance quickly, you’ll be effective as a rescuer. Don’t waste such a precious gift.”
“Yes Master,” replied Jorg seriously. He could not believe what his instructor was saying.
“Thank you, Master.”
♥ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ♥
“Sven!” Jorg called out to his friend as soon as they were dismissed for the week. Sven was just a few metres in front of him in the corridor.
Sven did not acknowledge his friend.
Jorg let out a psychic yell directly to his best friend’s mind. It was one of rage and sadness.
Sven turned around and asked, *What do you want?*
*What’s happened? You’ve been avoiding me all week!*
*Nothing. I just had a lot on my mind.*
*Cut that bull!*
Sven was surprised at Jorg’s mental tone.
*I was afraid I’d hurt you unknowingly and so I hoped that you’d simmer down and confront me like you normally do after a few days but you’ve never not talked to me for more than four days. Then I thought that there was a crisis at home. I contacted Marlene to ask what had happened. She sounded surprised that you were avoiding me. She told me only you could tell me. I’m your best friend, damn it! Even if you want to end our friendship, you should have the guts to tell me in my face and not treat me as if I wasn’t existing. I deserve better than to be ignored!*
From Jorg’s mental tone, Sven knew that Jorg had suffered a lot. Jorg had never raised his voice, physical or mental, at him. The only time when he had seen Jorg really angry was when Jorg found a group of teenagers bullying a small boy in a forest track a few years back. Needless to say, the teenagers were taught a lesson they would never forget. In fact, Sven had begun to be afraid of his usually mild-mannered friend.
Not knowing exactly what to say, Sven blurted out, *I am afraid of you, okay. I wonder if you’re treating me as a friend or more as something else.*
Jorg was surprised at this answer. He had never threatened Sven until a few moments ago. He paused to recall if he had ever threatened his best friend
That pause gave Sven the time to give Jorg the slip. When Jorg discovered this, he called Sven psychically. This time, Sven did not answer him at all. Jorg knew where is friend was. Sven was already on his way to the special transportation booth for those below level four. Jorg and Sven were both still level three magi and were not able to transport themselves yet.
A very dejected Jorg went back to his bunk to collect his stuff. This was the weekend he was supposed to spend with Sven. Instead, he was going home.
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