Month: June 2018

Summer plans and what you sacrifice for your dreams

This week I’d like to talk about the cost of working for your dreams. I also want to highlight that this will be the last blogpost before I take eight weeks off the blog. To know why, continue reading.

To have gigantic goals and the drive to work for them is one thing, but what about when the going gets tough; when your savings are running short; when you struggle with how to split your time fairly between all that matters to you; when you don’t meet the expectations of others and their support weakens–what then?

Let me begin with telling you a short story. Let’s see if you can figure out who it’s about.

Once upon a time there was a young man. This man had a big dream of becoming an actor, but it just never seemed to happen for him. After struggling for some time, he moved to the city of angels and dreams–Los Angeles. Even though he was brave and did all he found necessary to succeed, there was still no luck. He was running out of money, twisting and turning every penny, finally forced to sell his best friend–his dog. It was either that, or his closest companion would have to starve. After finding inspiration in a boxing fight, he went home and wrote a movie script of ninety pages in three days. As he was leaving yet another failed audition, he told the producers about his own idea. He gained interest for the script, but since he wasn’t particularly successful himself, they wanted to give the lead role to someone else. He was offered $360,000 for the script on the condition that he wouldn’t do the main character. At this time, he had sold his dog to pay the bills and was left with $106 in his bank account. He believed in his script so much that he decided to take a leap of faith. He refused to accept the offer unless he got to play the main character himself. Eventually, he got a million dollars to make the movie, an extremely low budget for a movie even though this was some years ago. He made the movie. He played the main character. The movie was “Rocky” and it won three Oscar’s, grossing over $200 million. The man was Sylvester Stallone. The rest is history. (Forbes 2017)

My point is; no success comes easy. No success comes without putting in the work. Hard work. No success comes without dedication. No success comes from not doing what others won’t, but from DOING what others won’t. When you reach the end of the road, you have to find a way to go around the obstacle in front of you. You have to keep walking alone, on a road, path or track which you might be the first to walk. Maybe you’ll just have to walk a short distance alone, then you’ll meet someone else who’s walking alone too, and you can help carry and support each other. Eventually, you will get where you want to go. Don’t give up.

I haven’t yet been forced to sell my dog (I don’t have one), and not much else either for that matter. But I’ve had to struggle. I’ve had to make sacrifices. And I suspect more is to come before I reach my destination.

I’m a political scientist with a M.Sc. in Global Studies. I saved my money all last year to be able to take six months off and finish the manuscript of my first romance novel. Politics and romance, what a match, right? Six months have passed, and I’ve still got some money left, but I have to start thinking ahead. As I still want to use my brain for writing, I don’t want to work a job which exhausts my mind so I won’t have any energy left for my passion. Hence, I took a more practical job for a couple of months. During summer, I will work as Warehouse Co-worker at IKEA, driving orderpicker trucks.

Where is the sacrifice in this?

  • Money. I use all my savings to enable my writing, working to reach my goal of publishing Kilonova Blues.
  • Living. Since I use all savings for another purpose, I have to put aside what many others prioritize, such as travels, concerts, buying my own apartment, having a car, having pets etc.
  • Pride. I’ve got five years of studies from the university but take jobs below my competence level so I can keep my mind fresh for planning, writing and editing to reach my dream of becoming a published romance writer. Many people are impressed by the bravery to follow my heart’s desire, but many also see it as a naive waste of time which will never result in anything worthwhile, that I should be working within my field of study. It’s easy to get caught up in that way of thinking, that there’s something else one really should be doing, that one is shaped/formed/educated/whatever to do something else and therefore one cannot do what is best in that moment. No one is above anyone and as long as you don’t hurt nobody, there’s no wrong path as you work toward your goal.

I will continue to push forward. The third draft of Kilonova Blues is done, and today I’m sending it to my much appreciated beta-readers, who will get to keep it during the coming eight weeks while I’m working. By mid-August, I’ll return to the manuscript to work through their feedback, and by that time I’ll also return to writing blogposts. The next step is then to begin reaching out to agents and work to find a great partnership to approach publishers.

I wish you all a wonderful summer and you can keep up with me through Instagram for the coming weeks.

Remember–what’s worth having doesn’t come easy.

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

Kilonova Blues Chapter One

All right, lovelies. I always keep my promises. I said I’d post the first chapter of Kilonova Blues, and in honor of that I’m sending the full manuscript to my beta-readers on Monday, I’m dedicating this week’s blogpost to publishing what I said I’d do.

It’s the third draft and no professionals have looked at it yet, but here it is in its raw core. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

 

Chapter one

With a determined jerk, I pull the burgundy curtains apart and open the door to the French balcony. All buzzing sounds from the newly awakened city rush into the room. Cars. Bicycle bells. People laughing. Dogs barking.

A broad smile spreads across my face and I close my eyes to embrace the refreshing sense of freedom which begins somewhere in my stomach and travels through my veins to my heart, filling all its chambers before pulsating out again, straight up through the chest to my head. Sure, I could probably have found a hotel in a bit more authentic area of the city, but considering the stressful period I just left behind at work, I deem myself free to let this one slip and surrender to being a cheesy tourist for once.

I stretch my body and mentally check yesterday’s excursions to Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia and Camp Nou off my to-do-list. I sure am quite the tourist . . . but by the look of my swollen feet, today might be slightly less active. I glance up and spot the clear, blue sky lure promising above the rooftops and set my mind to the goal of the day–the beach. My phone buzzes and I turn to walk back to the night stand.

today 08:11

Alex! When are you coming back from

Barcelona?! I know you told me but you

know me, if I don’t write it down . . . ha ha.

It feels like you’ve been away forever, I

have so much to tell you! Talk to you soon,

love you <3

Emma. My best friend. She’s so close we’re practically family. Her wild, optimistic, impulsive and energetic personality is straight the opposite of mine, but somehow we complement each other in the weirdest way. What could possibly have happened since I left? I’ve only been away for a couple of days and nothing exciting was coming up that I know of . . . Well, there’s always something when it comes to Emma, I guess.

Hey! Wow, you’re unbelievable . . .

I’m coming back tomorrow, late

afternoon probably. I’ll call you when

I’m on my way. Can you pick me up

at the train station? Looking forward

to hear about the latest news! <3

Delivered

So, it’s like eight fifteen . . . That’s not too bad. Even though my body felt heavy as a truck when I first cracked my eyes open, now I’m actually feeling rather well rested. It’s just something about that sun and blue sky that energizes the body in a way we’re just not used to back north. Eleven percent. That’ll never last for a full day at the beach. I connect the phone to the charger before heading toward the bathroom.

It’s a beautiful hotel actually, considering the lack of effort I put in while booking it. And it sure meets the requirements of something central with easy access to the most attractive sights in the city.

Well, what do I know about that really. First time in Barcelona and all. Actually it’s kind of weird, since I love to travel and traveling is rather cheap and easy in Europe. I sweep my hands through my hair, collecting it in a pony tail as I enter the bright bathroom. The chilly stone floor soothes my weary feet. I chuckle at their funny appearance and glance at the flip-flops by the door, guess that’ll be the only option today.

I open the tap and cup my hands under the running water, before bending over to splash it upon my face. I refill the palms and douche my face once more, rubbing the eyelids gently. The water awakens my skin and sends tingly sensations toward my scalp, leaving me alert and clear-minded. I reach for one of the fresh and meticulously folded towels, glancing at myself in the mirror as I dry the drops of water off my face. There, some new life to these Scandinavian cheeks. I smirk at my reflection and my large, gray eyes stare at me from their sockets, creating a rather dull impression in combination with the pale skin. I sure could do well with some sun. With the toothbrush working on my teeth, I direct my steps toward the wardrobe and pull out a simple dress in bright-yellow linen. Maybe it’s too short for breakfast? Nah, it’ll do.

The toothbrush slips out of my mouth, painting my entire left cheek with toothpaste. Shit! I quickly return to the bathroom to wash it off while chuckling at the result of my wandering thoughts.

#

An old couple’s waiting by the elevator, holding each other’s hands. I nod and smile politely as I approach. That’s what everyone secretly longs for . . . isn’t it? They speak English, talking about the weather and some museum they’re planning on visiting.

The elevator arrives with a ping, and the old man presses the button that will take us down to ground level. We travel the five floors down in silence. I’ve never been much of a morning person, more like those who need a cup of coffee to function.

The couple exits the elevator and leads the way toward the hotel restaurant, and my mind wanders back to the office as I place myself in line for the buffet. Did I send that e-mail to Lisa before I left? I hope so. It would be so embarrassing if I forgot. If not, maybe they could access the information through our common files. Hope I saved it there. . .

I gently rub my temple and take a deep breath. Ah, there’s so much on my mind with the trip coming up and everything. And I have to write that report, prepare the interviews and finish the research . . .

No! Stop. This is vacation! Holiday. Free time.

I try to shake the thoughts of work out of my head while filling the plate with fresh fruits. Sweet scents of coffee, freshly baked bread and chocolate find their way to my nostrils and my stomach growls in response.

The restaurant’s bright and airy with white walls, large windows on both sides facing the streets surrounding the building and a lot of mellow plants placed out everywhere, creating a leafy atmosphere. People wander back and forth between their tables and the breakfast buffet. At the far end of the dining area, I spot a free table by the large windows toward the street and stroll over. A strong wave of satisfaction swells through my entire body as I take the first bite of a freshly baked pain au chocolat. I wash it down with a large sip of coffee, suddenly aware that all thoughts of work have tracelessly disappeared from my mind. I alter the pastry with some scrambled eggs and freshly squeezed orange juice. Mmm, nothing like a hotel breakfast.

The city pulse beats through the busy morning on the other side of the window. The sidewalk’s filled with all sorts of people; businessmen in suits with elegant and professional portfolios; families in beach wear heading toward a full day of ocean and sun; dog-walkers; skaters with sunglasses and big headphones; people on their phones with take-away cups from Starbucks.

I love big cities, to melt in with the crowd and be anonymous. I take another sip of coffee as my mind drifts off to the whereabouts of the people outside, but an awkward feeling of not being alone seeps up from my unconscious. Or that I’m being watched, I’m not sure which.

My eyes scan the restaurant, sweeping the dining area. People are keeping busy at the buffet, moving in a slow pace through the restaurant, chatting at their tables. Then my eyes get caught in the gaze of a man sitting a few tables away, staring directly at me.

The oxygen’s knocked out of my lungs.

A man with improbable beauty and elegance has locked his eyes on mine, and they’re the most unique I’ve ever seen, square formed and ice-blue. The intensity of his gaze is so strong it’s almost unnerving, but at the same time it enchants me completely. I can’t take my eyes off him. He has deep-brown hair, almost black, just like mine. His countenance is hard, with a sharp-lined jaw and straight chin, no beard. He’s in a dark suit with a white shirt beneath the jacket. He’s pushed the cutlery to the side, and his clasped hands rest on some document in front of him, sharing the space with just a cup of coffee. Or maybe it’s tea? He’s accompanied by a man and a woman, both of them also in suits. I force myself out of the weird, visual lock-down and lower my eyes to the table, wrapping my hands around the coffee cup and turn my head toward the activity outside.

Oh. My. God. This is the most gorgeous man I have ever seen.

Butterflies rage my stomach and my heart is thumping, leaving me slightly light-headed. I shift uncomfortably in my seat as my mind all of a sudden wants my body to straighten itself from its relaxed position. I can’t sit here like a bag of rice with a man like that staring at me!

After attempting to fight the fact that I desperately want to take another look at him, I fail and surrender to the urge. My eyes gaze back in the direction of the table where the gorgeous man is sitting and find him engaged in a discussion with the man and the woman.

Great, a chance to observe him undisturbed for a moment.

His white teeth glimmers occasionally as his lips form around the words he’s articulating. He gesticulates modestly with his hands as he speaks and lays out some documents in front of the man and the woman, who are giving him their full attention.

What are they talking about?

Mr. Gorgeous appears collected, like he knows what he’s doing. The man and the woman nod their heads and Mr. Gorgeous listens with full focus to their response. As he begins talking again, he points to specific parts of the documents, to which the woman nods and the man lowers his shoulders as though he relaxes a bit.

The woman signs one of the documents before passing it to the man, who signs as well and returns it to Mr. Gorgeous. He signs them too and fires off a smile that punches me straight in the solar-plexus, and I hasten to collect my jaw who unannounced just dropped open.

Is that smile even legal?

Polite small talk takes place as all three of them gracefully rise from the table, collecting their things. They’re obviously done with whatever they were doing.

I quickly turn my face toward the safe area that my overly organized brain now has categorized as The Sidewalk Outside, so Mr. Gorgeous won’t catch me staring. My heart is racing.

After what seems like an eternity, but probably really is something like thirty seconds in the real world, I shoot a glance back in the direction of Mr. Gorgeous’ table.

He’s gone.

My eyes scan the entire dining area but there’s no trace of him. In a weird way, the restaurant suddenly appears empty. Hm.

The butterflies in my stomach land one by one, making me return to reality.

Who was that? It’s as though someone just ran into me, making me lose my balance. But mentally. Who was he?

I jerk out of my paralyzed state and smile at my own ridiculousness. I really need to get a grip of myself and get my ass outside. I’m in Barcelona for heavens sake! I take another sip of coffee to clear my mind. Ouff! It’s cold. That’s it, there’s my cue. I’m out of here.

#

With the beach bag on my shoulder and the map in my hand, I approach the receptionist who greets me with a friendly smile.

Good morning! How can I help you?”

Hi! I’m on my way to the beach, but I’m not sure quite how far it is and which is the best way to get there.”

All right. Well, it’s not far at all. I see you have a map there, let me show you.”

I spread it upon the counter while the receptionist gets a pen and returns to position the map in an angle which makes it easy for me to follow.

This is where we are,” he begins and marks the hotel. “This road outside, right here on the map, is La Rambla. But I’m sure you know this,” he smiles. “When you come out of the hotel entrance, you turn right and follow La Rambla to the very end. There you’ll cross the road and turn left. Walk along the harbor and then make a soft right as you get here,” he explains as he draws on the map. “Then just follow this road straight ahead for five or ten minutes and you’ll arrive at Barceloneta. You can’t miss it.”

Thank you so much Mr.,” my eyes search his suit to find the name tag, “de León.”

De nada,” he beams. “And if you don’t feel like walking in the lovely weather we’re blessed with today, I could get you a taxi?”

Ah, no thanks, I’d love to walk.”

Mr. de León nods politely.

Can I leave my key here?” I’m not sure it’s a good idea to bring it to the beach. My wandering thoughts might betray me and I might end up back here with no clue where it has gone.

Sure, what’s your name and room number?”
“Alexandra Johnson, 524.”

Vale Señorita, it’ll be here waiting for your return,” he smiles and wiggles the card in front of him before placing it in an overly organized drawer with different compartments.

Muchas gracias Señor,” I articulate, proud to conduct my first full Spanish sentence since I got here. Then I turn toward the large glass entrance, framed by marble and shiny brass, and soon I find myself being just one of all the people on my way somewhere on The Sidewalk Outside.

#

The sun warms my entire body, caresses it, soothes it, providing new life to my skin and energy to my soul. This is heaven. I dig my feet deeper into the sand and enjoy the cool sensation beneath my toes, creating sharp contrasts to the August sun radiating mercilessly over the rest of my body.

Mojito, mojito! Cola, Fanta, Sprite! Mojito, mojito,” an old salesman persistently repeats as he passes behind me, but I give him no more attention than what I can master from peering through my lashes.

Children are playing right at the water brow where the Mediterranean Sea breaks upon the yellow sand grains, mixing the rumbling waves with laughter. The beach is crowded but I’ve sunken into my own, sacred space, relaxing every single muscle.

A sudden lump makes itself known in my stomach and I twist slightly in discomfort, trying to fend off the vicious thought responsible for the unwelcome interruption.

No, I don’t need anyone. I’m completely fine being single. I don’t need to have a man by my side to feel complete. No men, no heartbreaks. I’m doing perfectly fine. I’ve got amazing friends, a loving mom, a wonderful home and a great job. Everything’s just fine. Nothing could be better. This is an amazing trip and I’m an awesome, strong, independent young woman. Better to be alone than to be with any shallow-minded man who hasn’t yet figured out how to do his own laundry. Who’d want to settle for less anyway?

The lump slowly fades away in response to my familiar inner chanting. I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with new, fresh oxygen.

Without warning, the memory of the ice-blue gaze I encountered earlier resurfaces in my mind and my eyes flash open.

Mr. Gorgeous . . . What was the deal with him? Such intensity, almost as if he could see straight through me and uncover every inch of imperfection, flaw, fear and dream that’s ever run through my mind. And he didn’t falter, it was I who turned my eyes away, startled and overtaken by his energy.

I want to see him again . . . Maybe tomorrow, at breakfast. What time was he there today? It must have been around eight forty or something . . .

No, stop! What am I doing?

I moan in frustration, annoyed by the fact that the brain isn’t a muscle I can tell to relax. I’m on holiday in Barcelona, for Christ’s sake! I’m supposed to chill out, take time to catch up with myself, be gentle with my over-worked brain. I am not supposed to be laying here, on this amazing beach, thinking about men!

I mutter at my stupidity and turn to my stomach, reaching into the bag to pull out a book in an attempt to interrupt my strain of thought. Argh, nothing is as tiring and exhausting as my own brain. I gulp some water from the bottle, put the sun glasses on and place myself in a comfortable reading position. After separating the covers, it doesn’t take long until I’m deep into the adventures of young Santiago.

Hi!”

A bright, female voice pulls me up from the depths of my book, forcing me to look up. My eyes land upon a young woman, sitting on her towel about six feet in front of me. I estimate she’s somewhere in her mid-twenties. She’s got long, thick, blonde hair, of which wet strands are covering her shoulders. Her body’s still dripping of the ocean, glistening in the sun’s reflection.

Hey.”

You’re reading Paulo Coelho,” she nods at my book. “I don’t want to disturb you, but I just have to say that I love his books! I haven’t read The Alchemist yet and just wanted to ask what you think of it?” she continues.

Sure,” I smile. “Coelho is one of my favorite authors and this one’s my absolute favorite. It’s my fifth time reading it actually.”

Wow, really?” she replies, eyes flashing wide open.

Yeah, if you like his other books, you won’t be disappointed when you read this.”

That sounds promising! I’m Eliza by the way.”

Alexandra,” I smile.

Are you alone?” she asks, scanning the people around us.

Yes. Just taking a couple of days off work.”

So you’re not only alone at the beach, you’re traveling alone as well?”

Yes.”

Cool, so am I,” she smiles. “Where are you from?”

Sweden. You?”

I’m from the U.S.”

Yeah? From where?”

Seattle. Or I’m originally from San Francisco, but I’m studying in Seattle so I’ve been living there for a few years now. Have you ever been?”

No, not yet. But that’s quite funny actually, I’m going to Seattle for work in a few weeks,” I chuckle.

Oh, really? How exciting! What do you do?”

I’m a project manager at the Historical Museum at Lund University. I’m actually a journalist, but this opportunity popped up and I couldn’t say no.”

Ah. So Lund, that’s a city in Sweden or something?”

Yeah. In the southern part of the country. It’s not big, but it’s quite beautiful.”

What will you be doing in Seattle, then? Sorry, I’m attacking you with like a thousand questions,” she laughs.

No worries,” I smile. It’s actually quite nice to have a conversation with someone. Alone time in all its splendor, sure, but not for too long. “I’m leading a project to set up an exhibition about the lives of all the Swedish people who migrated to the U.S. during the nineteenth century. I’m attending a workshop at the Nordic Heritage Museum on how to create interactive exhibitions.”

How interesting!”

Yes, I’m really excited.” Eliza’s bubbly personality reminds me of Emma. “So, what are you studying?”

Criminal Justice at Seattle University.”

Wow, that’s something completely different.”

It is.” She nods her head affirmatively, raising her eyebrows.

And now you’re in-between semesters?”

Yep. Decided to finally go on this Euro-trip I’ve always dreamt of,” she beams.

Good for you. Where are you going?”

I’ve been to London, Paris, Rome, Cannes . . .”

And now Barcelona? Impressive.”

Yeah, it’s been amazing. Barcelona is my last stop.”

Eliza’s vibrant and outgoing, and we lose ourselves in conversations about all possible aspects of life, love, work, friends, family and dreams. It’s as though I’ve known her for a long time.We have the exact same humor and I can’t remember the last time I laughed this much. I spend the entire day with my newfound friend, and we take turns watching our stuff as we enjoy the warm, welcoming Mediterranean Sea.

You know, it’s actually my last evening tonight before I return to the States,” Eliza says after we’ve laid in silence for a while, drying our bodies in the caressing rays of the afternoon sun. “Do you have any plans for tonight?”

That’s so weird,” I chuckle, “I’m also leaving tomorrow, around noon.”

You’re kidding? That’s so funny!” What a coincidence. “Would you like to go out tonight? I mean, I really enjoy your company and it would be so much fun to have a girls’ night out with some cocktails and dancing,” she continues. The excitement in her voice is contagious.

Sure, why not?” I smile. I’m genuinely glad she asked. I haven’t had the time nor the energy to go clubbing in a very long time. “Did you have something special in mind?”

I don’t know what type of music you’re into, but I was thinking maybe we could go to Hotel W?” she says and points across the beach.

At the far end, located right at the brink of the ocean, is a tall skyscraper with a large W on the top of the building. It’s built in the shape of a sail and its glass facade mirrors the sun all over.

Wow, it’s beautiful” I sigh in admiration. “But doesn’t it look more like a hotel?”

It is. The nightclub is on the ground floor and partly out on the terrace. During summer they have this special event called ʽWet Deck Summer Series’ and it’s the season finale tonight.”

Finale? Tonight? It doesn’t seem like the season’s over to me,” I say, peering lovingly toward the sun.

Me neither,” she chuckles.

But sure, let’s go! I just need to get back to the hotel and chill for a while. Maybe we could meet up to get something to eat before we head over there?”

That’ll be perfect. More tapas for the people!” she grins.

Do you know what time it is?” I ask. “I forgot my phone at the hotel.”

Sure. No wonder you were a bit absent-minded this morning.”

At least it’ll be fully loaded,” I mutter in response to her teasing of what I told her about my encounter with Mr. Gorgeous.

It’s ten past four.”

Really? Wow, time flies.” I sit up and try to rub the sun out of my eyes. “Well, I’ll just head back to the hotel and take a quick nap and a shower, then I’m good to go again.”

Sure, Alexandra. How about we meet up for dinner at eight?”

Eight’ll be perfect. And call me Alex.”

Great!”

I actually was at this amazing tapas restaurant yesterday, which shouldn’t be too far from here. I wouldn’t mind going tonight again if you don’t have any other suggestion? It’s called Segons Mercat.”

Segons Mercat it is,” she exclaims.

Okay,” I smile. “Are you staying a while longer or what are your plans?”

Yeah, I think I’m staying, at least half an hour or so. I love the beach.” Eliza’s green eyes beam of contentment. “Maybe I’ll try to finish my book, only have a few chapters left.”

All right, you do that. And you have to put The Alchemist next on your reading list,” I urge and collect the few things I brought with me.

For sure,” Eliza replies. I’m folding my bath towel, observing her writing a note at the corner of my eye. “Here. My number. Just text or call if something comes up or if you get another idea or anything, otherwise I’ll meet you at the restaurant.”

Great.”

Oh! Right, maybe you could just text me the address?”

Of course, and thanks for today! I’ll see you in a little while,” I say and reach down to hug her.

Hey, the day isn’t over! Tonight’s going to be so much fun. I’m really glad you want to go,” she smiles friendly.

True. I’m glad you asked!” I smile back and wipe off some sand from my legs. “I’ll text you the address as soon as I get back. See you later!”

See ya!” Eliza shouts at my back as I tiptoe across the beach, desperately trying to avoid the hot sand burning my soles.

#

A rough jerk pulls me out of my sleep and the darkness outside the window instantly alerts me. I reach for my phone and press the home button. 19:06.

I exhale deeply and fall back on my pillow in relief. It could’ve been worse. But I still need to get this party started if I’m going to pull off being at the restaurant at eight. So much for a quick nap, why does it never work? I sit up and scroll through my playlist. Nothing’s more mood-setting for a Spanish August evening than some reggaeton. The bass and rhythm is so comforting and embracing somehow, while yet passionate and intense. The music flows out of my phone and I get on my feet.

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I contemplate what to do with myself. My skin has gotten some new life from the earlier caress of the sun, very different from my reflection this morning. Gazing at my sun-kissed face, framed by thick, dark, newly washed hair, I guess I’m actually rather . . . beautiful. I frown at the unfamiliar thought and examine my skin, running both hands along my cheeks, down toward my pointy chin. My gray eyes are glistening. This holiday’s doing me good.

Maybe I should just go for a natural look tonight? I reach for the bronzer and brush it lightly upon my skin, leaving a golden shimmer. With skilled fingers, I apply two thin lines of eyeliner and some mascara. Luckily, the eyeliner doesn’t mess with me today. Even skilled fingers can’t save an escaped wing out on the corner of the eye if it’s decided to be uncooperative. Finally, I apply an orange-red, matte lipstick to seal the deal. I judge the overall result in the mirror. Hm, this will do. I brush my hair quickly and head back for the phone to check the clock. 19:32.

Okay, clothes.

I pull the two dresses suitable for a night on the town out of the wardrobe and hold them in front of my body to compare them in the mirror. Nah, this’ll be too much. I hang back the red one and quickly pull the black up over my hips. I step into the matching pumps and twist back and forth in front of the mirror to examine how the tight dress hugs my body from every angle. Hm, not too bad. All right, let’s go. I turn the music off, grab the keycard and throw it into the clutch before heading out to catch a taxi.

#

Oh my God,” I pant after our giggle attack due to both of us practically falling into the taxi. “Eliza, I’m so glad you came up with this idea.”

Me too,” she replies, still giggling. The sangria we had at the restaurant has left me light-headed and happy in the most satisfying way. Eliza calms her giggling and directs her attention up front to the driver who’s thoroughly entertained by his new customers, judged by the wide grin on his face.

Hotel W, por favor,” she instructs him.

Vale,” he replies and takes off into the busy traffic.

Do you know what time it is?” I ask Eliza. “No wait, I actually brought my phone.” I open my clutch and press the home button. 23:02. “Eleven? Really?” I burst out in shock by the fact that three hours just flew by.

It’s amazing what a couple of cans of sangria and good company can do, right?” she giggles while opening her window, letting the warm summer breeze into the car. The soft wind plays with a wisp of my hair and reaches in behind my neck, caressing the skin, providing refreshing clarity.

Right here, right now, everything is perfect. Life is perfect. Maybe it’s the better part of the sangria that’s getting to me but frankly, I don’t care.

My chest’s light and released from all the burdens of hard work and anxiety of what the future may hold. So far, my short holiday has been nothing but wonderful. And today I’ve met a new friend. We’ve just had some delicious food and drinks. I’m staying at a great hotel in the heart of Barcelona. And now I’m on my way to a season finale at some fancy nightclub at the brink of the Mediterranean Sea. On top of that, my favorite reggaeton song pours out of the radio into the taxi. I lean forward as the driver comes to a stop by a red light.

Could you turn the volume up, please?”

Qué?” he replies, shooting me a puzzled glance in the rearview mirror.

La radio, up, por favor,” I say and point to the ceiling with my index finger.

He smiles and turns the volume up as he accelerates, his eyes back on the road. I lean back and open the window on my side as well, and as the wind rushes toward me, I close my eyes and surrender to life.

#

Look at this place!” Eliza exclaims as the taxi comes to a stop. She pays the driver and we both get out of the car. As he takes off, Eliza walks up next to me. She’s dressed in a loose fit, light-gray dress with spaghetti straps, falling beautifully over her slim body. She’s matched it with a pair of silver pumps and put her hair in a lose bun at the back of her head.

You look stunning, do you know that?”

Come on, Alex,” she chuckles and grabs my arm. We walk together toward the line leading to the terrace entrance, and the heavy bass of house music fills the warm air of the late summer evening. We take our place at the end of the line and I scan the great mass of people in front of us. Just as I turn back to Eliza I spot a security guard with a microphone taped to his cheek tap her on her shoulder. As she turns he makes a waving gesture, encouraging us to step out of the line.

Come,” he commands.

Eliza stares at me with raised eyebrows and I simply nod in the direction of the man to encourage her to go with him. We try to keep up with him as we patter past all the people waiting. Heading toward the entrance, he checks back on us once in a while to make sure we’re still with him. He comes to a stop and calls on the attention of a young man, holding a black folder and a pen in his hands. The younger man eyes us from top to bottom and directs a discrete nod to the security guard who brought us here. The situation’s a bit awkward, as if we’re up for some sort of test. Then just like that, he releases a white rope from a steal pole behind him and welcomes us in with a sweeping arm gesture and a smile. Eliza takes my hand, nods politely and passes him confidently, dragging me behind her. Once we’re inside she turns giggling toward me.

What just happened?” I ask, astonished.

I guess we put the right dresses on tonight,” she murmurs and shrugs her shoulders with a smile, letting her eyes sweep the club.

As much as I get she’s probably right, I can’t help to despise the fact that my dress would be the reason we just skipped the entire line. It leaves a bitter, cheap taste in my mouth.

I try to shake it off and absorb the amazing atmosphere we’ve gotten ourselves into. We’re standing in the corner of a summer night paradise, beneath the open night sky of Barcelona. House remixes of popular summer tracks beat through the club, tuning out everything else. To my right there’s a long, white bar with three guys behind it, working fast and focused to serve the waiting guests. Straight ahead is a large pool, with big balloons in various metal colors floating in it. A large, white figure of the letter W is majestically placed in the center of the pool, excluding any misconceptions of where we are. The pool area’s framed with candle-decorated, white tables, coupled with matching leather couches, already crowded with people.

I thought we were early?” I say to Eliza, who shrugs her shoulders apologetically in response. My eyes get caught upon one of the dancers on a podium at the short end of the pool. She moves rhythmically to the beat, dressed in glimmering stone adorned underwear and a wide, purple, translucent fabric hanging from the back of her neck, swaying in the wind. Her face is glistening by all the glitter of her make-up, and her hair’s pulled back into a tight bun at the back of her head.

This place is amazing,” I conclude as I let me eyes continue sweeping through the vibrant atmosphere.

Isn’t it?” Eliza beams.

I put my hand on her shoulder and nod in the direction of the other side of the pool and start walking. She accompanies me as we zigzag through the crowd of people to get across. I lean my underarms upon the waist-high plexiglass, looking out over the beach. Right below the terrace, palm trees are lining up as the only thing separating us from the Mediterranean. The entire Barceloneta is laid out before us as we stand gazing out at the landscape.

Can you imagine we met just a few hours ago right over there?” Eliza asks and points toward a spot further away at the beach.

No. But I’m so glad we’re here,” I smile back.

I turn and my gaze travels to the opposite side of the pool from where we’re standing. The club extends inside beneath the hotel, onto a large dance floor which is also full with people. Blue and purple lights are decoratively illuminating both the interior and the guests. I tilt my head back and let my gaze sweep up over what appears as a never ending, shiny facade, reaching for the sky. The lights and life of the nightclub is reflected in the lowest part of the building and then the dark, star-filled sky takes over. The new moon accompanies the stars in the sky this evening, promising new beginnings.

Let’s head for the bar,” Eliza suggests close to my ear.

Sure,” I articulate through the loud music.

We slowly make our way back through the crowd of people, and as we approach the bar, a couple of guys conveniently leave and open up a spot for us.

Isn’t this place amazing?” Eliza beams and leans on the counter.

It’s so beautiful. It’s pulsating with summer vibes,” I smile.

Oh, look! There’s Rachel and Jessica,” Eliza exclaims. “Rachel! Hi!” She waves energetically toward a couple of girls who are standing a few tables away. “I shared a room with them at a hostel in Paris,” she explains briefly, “I can’t believe they’re here!” Rachel acknowledges Eliza with a wide smile and waves back. “I’ll just go and say hi quickly, then I’ll bring them over. Can you get me a Margherita if I’m not back when the bartender comes to take our order?”

Sure! Got it,” I beam as she turns around, heading for Rachel and Jessica.

I turn toward the counter, observing the organized chaos on display in front of me. The bar is full of people waiting either for their drinks or to place their order. The bartenders work methodologically with sharp multi-tasking skills, preparing and completing several drinks simultaneously. This really is a handcraft.

Then I get that awkward feeling again. I know it from earlier this morning. Someone’s watching me. I glance back over my shoulder, only seeing people chatting and drinking, taking no notice of me. I uncomfortably shift my weight from one foot to the other, eyes scanning around me, and gasp when discovering the reason for my uneasiness. Over at the short end of the bar, there they are. The one of a kind, ice-blue, square formed eyes. Staring straight into mine.

#

AAAAAH. There you have it. There are seventeen more chapters making up the Kilonova Blues-manuscript, and I hope you’re just as excited to read them as I am to share them with you.

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

Affirmations and aspirations

Affirmations shall not be underrated in one’s life. Below I share the ones I do my best to live by since years back. I saved the list from somewhere a long time ago, and now I cannot find or remember who wrote it originally. If you know, please enlighten me so I can give credit.

Find inspiration in this or write your own list to provide guidance in your life.

  1. There are people in this world that would die for me.
  2. There are people in this world I would die for.
  3. The truth will set me free. I will never lie.
  4. People are not mind readers. I must never hesitate to tell someone how I feel.
  5. Mistakes happen. I must learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others.
  6. Life is short and people are not perfect. I will forgive myself. I will forgive others.
  7. My smile brings happiness to the world around me.
  8. There is nobody else exactly like me, with my exact abilities, talents, and ideas.
  9. I can help myself by helping those around me first.
  10. The people I care about deserve to know it. I will show them how much they mean to me on a regular basis.
  11. I will accept compliments and criticism openly and make educated decisions based on a weighted sum of the two.
  12. Information is infinite. There are ideas, products and cultures I do not yet understand. I will always keep an open mind to new formulas.
  13. I am in competition with one person, and one person only… myself. I am competing to be the best I can be.
  14. True wisdom is the byproduct of life experience. I will seek as many real world experiences as possible.
  15. Education involves self-imposed discipline. I can only learn if I want to learn. I want to learn.
  16. I will treat everyone with the same level of respect I would give to my grandfather and the same level of patience I would have with my baby brother.
  17. I am what I eat. My body is a machine that must be fueled properly if I intend to make it last.
  18. I will think before I act, but I will always act.
  19. I will try new things for the sake of broadening my horizons.
  20. I will never be reckless with another person’s feelings.
  21. I will never let someone persist on being reckless with my feelings.
  22. The three most important things in my life are my health, my family and friends, and my education. Everything else is secondary.
  23. I will celebrate my successes. I deserve it.
  24. Money will only make my life easier if it is mine free and clear.
  25. If I wake up several mornings in a row and hate what I am about to do with my day, I will make a change. Life is too short.
  26. I will never be jealous. Jealously only deteriorates possibility.
  27. My attitude can change my reality.
  28. If I want to remember it, I will write it down in a trusted location.
  29. I will never spend more than I have.
  30. I will thank the people who have helped me, and I will return the favor as soon as I am able.
  31. I will never complain about a problem. I will supply a solution instead.
  32. I will listen more than I speak.
  33. If I don’t know, I will ask questions.
  34. Everything is nothing without happiness. I must do what makes me happy.
  35. I will never succumb to greed. Enough is enough.
  36. Time is precious. I will manage my time effectively.
  37. Right now is the only guaranteed moment in my life. I will make the best of it.
  38. I will stand firm by my values without senselessly promoting them.
  39. I will never over-promise. I will over-deliver on everything I commit to.
  40. I will always assess the situation and provide value where needed.
  41. I cannot make someone love me. I can only be someone who can be loved.
  42. I will always strive to be the best I can be, but I will never try to be someone I’m not.
  43. I will always articulate my words so people understand me.
  44. I will slow down and become conscious of life’s simple pleasures.
  45. Everything I do is by choice. There is always another option.
  46. Less is more. I will get rid of the stuff I do not use.
  47. If I never try, I will never know.
  48. I will face my fears. I will not cower.
  49. My habits define my life.
  50. I will always take ownership of my actions, or my actions will own me.
  51. I will never make decisions in a state of emotional haste.
  52. If I don’t finish what I start, my success rate will always be zero.

That’s all for now,
hej så länge!

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