Lucky me: walking home with Pala today. The idea of the shaggy new foal didn’t thrill me as much as the possibility of being able to step inside her room, the smell of something baking sneaking past us from her mother’s kitchen. It’s so still here! No little children running around, no sheep milling in from the back. I’ve only been inside her giant bedroom once, and that was briefly, but now every time I come over I have to bite my lip to keep from asking to go up again. I remember a white coverlet. A mushy, squashy pillow and books piled in the corner.
Skipping a bit out, mainly from nerves, I turn to face Pala as we continue past a row of wood houses. Workers on ladders are nailing up big sheets of iron to them. My home and Pala’s are made of stone, though Pala’s is much more grand. “Pala? Why do you think these new people are covering their pretty wooden homes with iron? The light wood is so pretty.”
Pala turns halfway towards me, her step not slowing a bit, “Because of the earthquakes and the cold. Plus, we don’t have many trees left in Iceland, if you haven’t noticed. We can’t use up the remaining wood on new things when old things need fixed. Keep up, please, Svana…we’re almost there and I don’t have much time to show you the foal.” She seems distracted. Probably because of that new boy. If you could call him that, he must be almost eighteen.
I wait until we reach her walkway before I say, “What is the new student’s name again?” Even though I know its Geir, I want to see if she really reacts the way I think she will.
A slight flush on Pala’s pale cheek, “I think he said it was Geir, I don’t know, I wasn’t paying much attention when Herra Jonnson had him stand up. His accent was very provincial; I had trouble hearing him from where I sat…”
“But he sat right next to you! I didn’t have to strain to hear, and I sit all the way up by the front.”
Pala pouts and ignores what I’ve said, “Come, let’s go around the back. She should be out in the grass.” Pala opens the high gate into her walled garden, one of the largest in Reykjavik. Clumps of snow are beginning to fall on the grass, a bit late for November. Pala’s stick straight hair is getting filled with snow, and her red lips begin to quiver a bit as she looks around the garden for her foal. “No, she’s not outside, come into the stable, I think I hear her.” Putting her gloved hand out, I grab it without thinking, thinking only of the warmth of the stable and of her hand. My gloves are on my bed, forgotten this morning.
Pala stoops into the stone stable first, and though the day outside is grey and dim, my eyes blink slowly as I try to adjust to the darkness. I smell sod, hay, and a fresh kind of smell I can’t quite place. “Shh…we can’t spook her. She’s only a few days old, and already I feel like she’s skittish.”
I stoop down, carefully keeping an eye on Snaefell, the mother. She’s remarkably not nervous, slowly munching hay. Her shaggy coat is in, and I see that the foal’s coat is only shaggy and thick at the mane. “What will you name her? Will you get to name her? Or did your father already do it?” Pala rolls her eyes, I always ask too many questions around her.
“His name is Leif. Leif the Lucky. Like the explorer to America.”