Status: Updated unfrequently, but trying for frequent.

Slow Spinning Redemption

Chapter 13: Isolde Gets Pushed and Jussi Solves a Puzzle

Saturday, December 25, 2010
Prague, Czech Republic
Kolar Household
12:45 pm

“So what did you score this year?”

Isolde looked up from the baby she was making faces at to grin at Johana Kolar, Josef’s older sister. “Nothing much, mamma got me a new scarf and some clothing she’d thought I’d like.”

“Which you’ll no doubt be returning by weeks end.” Johana teased before cooing at her nephew.

“Most likely.” Isolde shrugged. “Daddy gave me cash as he usually does this time of year as he never knows what to get me, then proceeded to get drunk and sing along with the radio.”

“It’s not even noon.” Johana laughed.

Isolde snorted. “Mamma’s eggnog was more ‘nog’ then ‘egg’ this year and it is daddy’s only day off so he wanted to celebrate right.” She shrugged.

“No doubt you joined in on the singing.”

“Did you not hear us?” Isolde asked innocently causing Johana to laugh. “Of course, I can hold a tune.”

“Of course you can.” Johanna laughed as Isolde turned back to Mika scrunching her face to make a funny face causing the boy to giggle and pat her cheeks. Johanna grinned. “And when will you grace us with a baby Izzy?”

Isolde laughed, turning to Johana, “Not any time soon.”

Johana eyed Isolde critically before shaking her head with a sigh. “I really wish you’d stop letting the past haunt you.”

“It does not haunt me!”

“It does.” Johana said softly. “Ever since the accident-”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Isolde snapped softly, trying to keep her voice low for the sake of the baby she held in her arms.

Johana nodded slowly as she held out her hands for her nephew. Isolde obligingly handed him over. “All right, we won’t talk about it. I just don’t want you closing the door on future possibilities because of your past. Richard is a bastard and shouldn’t have left you the way he did, but you shouldn’t think that all men would do the same things when faced with the same situation.”

“Just because you and Mila married good men doesn’t mean all men are like that,” Isolde retorted.

Johana stared at Isolde sadly. “You break my heart, sestřička.”(little sister)

“I don’t mean to.”

“I know you don’t,” Johanna said, patting her nephew’s back as he babbled against her shoulder. “I just hate that you’ve become so cynical so young. Josef told us of the man you’re with right now.”

“I’m not with him,” Isolde said softy. “I just…like him. He’s good at the physical aspect of our….thing,” Isolde said with a wince, avoiding the word “relationship.”

“Good for you,” Johana laughed lightly. “But when you think of him, do you think if he was faced with the same situation as Richard was, he would follow the same path?”

Isolde stared at Johana before standing up and shaking her head. “I said I don’t want to talk about it.”


“No,” Isolde said as she crossed her arms over her chest. “I won’t talk about it and I won’t put him in the same position. Nor will I even imagine it, because at the end of the day, everyone leaves me.”

“Oh, Izzy.”

Isolde shook her head. “I’m going back to my flat.”

“You’re running again,” Johana said with a sigh. “I didn’t mean to upset you, Isolde.”

“It’s fine. I just need to get away for a bit.”

“Will you come back for dinner?” Johana asked. “I’m sure the boys would love to see you.”

“I’ll think about it,” Isolde said, gathering her bag. “Tell the others I’ve said ‘bye.”

Johana nodded as she watched Isolde leave through the back garden that lead back to the Caspari property, two miles away, instead of going through the house.

“You’ve upset her.”

Johana looked back at her younger sister and shrugged as she handed Mika to his mother. Mila sat down in the seat Isolde had just vacated. “She needs to be slapped upside the head,” Johana said with a sigh. “If it means picking at old wounds, then so be it.”

Mila shook her head. “Isolde isn’t like us, Johana. She’s more sensitive to her past then we are. Mama and Papa taught us to embrace our past, mistakes and all. We have a better handle on it.”

“Soya wasn’t this stubborn, and look at her now! Engaged to her long lost love.”

“But Soya’s situation is different than Isolde’s,” Mila said softly as she rubbed her son’s small hand. “Soya didn’t actively date, and whenever she did, she always compared them to a man she never got a chance to be with. She’s run head-first into a relationship because for her, it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right choice. Soya doesn’t have a hard past to get over. She has confidence issues to overcome, yes, but not a past. Isolde has a past.”

“She’s holding on rather tight to it,” Johana muttered.

Mila shrugged. “Not as tight as she used to. Remember when Richard first left her? She went from zero to one hundred in the blink of an eye; from refusing to talk or date anyone, to picking up men in bars. She’s found a bit of balance in her life. Her photography has given her some of the freedom she’s been looking for.”

“She shouldn’t hold Richard’s actions against others, though,” Johana countered.

Mila shrugged once more. “Richard hurt her deeply, Johana. I don’t know if I’d be able to let that hurt go so easily, either.” She looked down at her sleeping son and smiled lightly before looking back at her sister. “Isolde wasn’t raised to deal with her issues, she was raised to hold on to them and never speak of them. I love Ita, don’t doubt that, she’s wonderful. But she wasn’t and still isn’t exactly the best mother figure. And Isolde’s father…”

Johana bit her lip. “I just don’t want Isolde’s past to dictate her future. Josef said that she’s found a wonderful man that seems to be quite enamored with her.”

“Who isn’t enamored with Isolde?” Mila laughed.

“True enough.” Johana smiled. “But he seems to be actively pursuing her, Mila. I’ve looked him up; he’s a friend of Soya’s. He’s very different than the business types Isolde usually dates.”

“Then let her figure it out, Johana! It won’t help matters if you shove something in Isolde’s face. If everyone around her says the sky is blue and that she should say it too, she’ll say it’s yellow just to spite them. If you tell her that she may have a future with this man, she’ll pull away and end things, then turn around and tell you were wrong. Let her be. “Let her figure it out on her own.”


“No,” Mila said firmly. “We don’t even know this man. He may be nice, but we won’t push her towards a relationship because everyone around us tells us they’re perfect for each other. It’s not fair to Isolde; it’s how she ended up with Richard in the first place. She needs to forge her own future and her own path without other people’s interference. Let her be.”

Johana sighed in frustration and looked over at her sister. “When did you get so fucking wise?”

Mila chuckled as she stood, shifting her son in her arms. “Let her be, Johana. She’ll figure it out on her own. I’m sure she already has and is just fighting herself at this point. Josef’s told me about Jussi as well, and I’m sure she likes him. She doesn’t need our interference in something she’s already fighting herself. It’ll only make her much more stubborn than she already is.”

Johana watched her sister walk back into the house and sighed. “I just want her to be happy,” she muttered before standing and following her sister. She could already hear her brother’s loud voices join in the fray of the group in the living room.


Monday, January 3, 2011
Helsinki, Finland

“Happy New Year!” Jussi greeted.

Isolde laughed, watching Jussi through the computer screen as Isolde shifted on her couch so she could rest on the pillow behind her head. “Well Happy New Year to you, too. Two days late, but it still counts.”

“Yes, it does. How was yours?” Jussi asked, readjusting his own pillow as he reached for the remote to mute his TV.

“Low key, actually,” Isolde stated with a small shrug. “Althea and I had drinks out on the balcony and watched the fireworks.”

“I thought you would’ve spent it with Josef’s family.”

“I was meant to, but Althea’s family is out of town and I didn’t want her to spend it on her own,” Isolde said smile. “What about yours?”

“It went…well,” Jussi said slowly with a frown.

Isolde blinked. “It doesn’t sound like it was.”

“No, it was. Overall. Just… a bit odd, too.”

“How so?”

“Well, Soya and Ville organized this huge party on top of Torni, as Ville and the rest of the guys haven’t seen the fireworks in a few years; they’ve always done Helldone for New Years. So this was the first year they hadn’t, and according to Linde, it was also the first year Soya was to see them too since she left Helsinki years ago. But when I got there around ten, Ville was off in a corner by himself and Soya was nowhere to be seen.”

“Soya’s in New York,” she said, her forehead wrinkling in puzzlement.

Jussi blinked at her as he sat up. “What?”

“Yeah. I talked to Josef this morning…Which was odd because he’s usually at rehearsals. But then he started ranting about what a bitch his supposed boss was, upsetting Soya the way she did.”

Jussi frowned at Isolde. “And Ville wasn’t there?”

“Was he supposed to be?” Isolde asked slowly.

Jussi nodded slowly. “They were both supposed to leave for New York yesterday.”

“As far as I heard Soya was there, and had been there for quite a while. I didn’t hear about Ville at all,” Isolde responded. “Why?”

Jussi shook his head as he thought about New Year’s Eve and the way Jyrki had stuck to their friend; the fact that Ville had left early and Soya, as excited as she had been to organize the event and strong arm them all into going, hadn’t been there. The excuse being that she was spending New Year’s Eve with Aida. It had made sense at the time, but as Jussi thought about it, the less sense it made.

“I need to go,” Jussi said suddenly.

“Why?” Isolde asked, sitting up. “What’s going on?”

“I’m not sure, but I need to go talk to Jyrki. I’ll call you later, all right?”

“Sure,” Isolde nodded. Jussi watched as she closed out of their Skype conversation before closing his own laptop and grabbing his phone off the table. He dialed Jyrki’s number as he pulled on a shirt.

“Hei?” Jyrki answered.

“Hei! Where are you?” Jussi asked.

“Corona, why?”

“I need to talk to you. I’m on my way. Don’t move!” Jussi shouted, trying to balance the phone on his shoulder and straighten his jacket.

“Wasn’t planning on it.” Jyrki muttered before hanging up.

Jussi grabbed his keys, making sure he pocketed his wallet and phone before leaving his apartment. He exited the complex and headed out to the street towards his car. Fifteen minutes later he was parking near Corona, making sure his car was locked before rushing into the bar.

He looked around, not surprised when he found Jyrki at the bar, rolling a beer bottle between his hands as he talked with the bartender.

“Hei!” Jussi shouted as he made his way towards the bar.

“Hei,” Jyrki said turning to greet Jussi. The bartender grabbed a beer for Jussi before wandering off. “You know, it’s odd,” Jyrki stated.

“What is?” Jussi asked.

“You are not the only person who has been looking for me today. Linde and Mige were asking for me too.”

“I think it’s about the same thing,” Jussi said with a sigh.

“No, wait! I think Rosalind’s psychic powers are rubbing off on me,” Jyrki teased as he put his fingers up to his forehead. “It’s about….Ville and Soya.”

“Well, Rosalind’s rubbing off on something,” Jussi laughed as Jyrki rolled his eyes.

“So what question did you have about Ville and Soya?” Jyrki asked.

Jussi was about to speak when Jyrki’s name was called out from somewhere behind them. The two turned to see Linde and Mige walking over towards them, both waving off drinks from the bartender.

“Thanks for staying,” Linde said as he settled onto the stool beside Jyrki. Mige stood behind him, his hands in his jacket pockets.

“I hadn’t planned on leaving,” Jyrki answered. “Jussi was looking for me for the same reason as you. What’s going on?”

Mige frowned at Jussi. “Why were you looking for Jyrki?”

“I had a question about Ville and New Year’s Eve,” said Jussi.

“What was your question?” Linde asked.

“What he and Ville talked about,” Jussi said, gesturing to Jyrki. “I just got off a Skype call with Isolde and she said that Soya is in New York and has been for a while.”

Jyrki nodded slowly. “That sounds about right. Is she okay?”

Jussi shrugged. “I’m not sure. Isolde said she was upset. But she was talking to Josef, not Soya; apparently Ville’s not in New York with Soya.”

“No,” Linde muttered, his voice low and angry. “He’s not. I just got off the phone with Soya.”

Jyrki looked over at him, eyebrow raised in curiously. “Did you now?”

“What did Ville say to you?” Mige asked Jyrki with a frown.

Jyrki shifted in his chair. “I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to share.”

“Bullshit. Apparently Ville’s telling people that he and Soya broke up,” Linde growled. “What did he say?”

Jussi blinked. “They broke up?”

Jyrki shrugged. “I don’t think they did, but Ville’s convinced they have.”

“Why?” Mige asked.

Jyrki sighed as he dropped his beer on the bar’s countertop and rubbed his face. “They had this fight. Ville went to cool off but he told Soya to leave, that he didn’t want her in the tower anymore. And when he got back, she wasn’t there. There was a note and…” Jyrki lifted his hips to dig around in his pockets. His fingers finally grasped the ring that he’d kept in his pocket ever since Ville had given it to him on New Year’s Eve.

“Her engagement ring,” Linde said quietly, reaching to take it from Jyrki’s fingers.

Jyrki shrugged. “I really didn’t think it was a sign. Soya had bitched about the ring a few times to Rose because it’s too tight.”

“But she didn’t want Ville to fix it.” Mige muttered.

“The note was pretty damning though,” Jyrki remarked.

Jussi looked at his friend. “What did the note say?”

Jyrki shrugged. “Something about not being the one to break his heart, but him breaking hers, or something like that. Really short, to the point. Really hit home.”

Linde disbelievingly shook his head. “There’s more to this. Ville’s just gotten everything confused.”

“What did Soya say?” Jussi asked Linde.

“She’s fucking devastated. She found out from Bam that they were broken up. She’s been leaving messages for Ville, asking him to join her in New York. “

Jyrki sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “His phone is-”

“Broken.” Mige finished for Jyrki. “Yes, we know. Linde told Soya that.”

“The asshole hasn’t gotten a new phone, though,” said Linde as he shook his head in frustration. “And he hasn’t bothered to check his messages at all.”

“So, they’re not broken up?” Jussi asked.

“No.” Mige sighed.

“Soya got called to New York early for rehearsals,” Linde explained. He shook his head. “She got kicked off of the company because of her ankle. The same day Bam told her that Ville and she were broken up. She’s had a bit of a rough week,” Linde said sympathetically. He stood up, motioning to Mige. “Come on. Let’s go talk to Seppo,”

Mige nodded. “Thanks, Jyrki.”

“Glad I could help,” Jyrki nodded.

Jussi and Jyrki watched as Linde and Mige left the club, talking and agitatedly gesturing to one another. Jussi settled on his stool. “Well…I didn’t even think Soya and Ville fought,” he said quietly.

Jyrki winced. “It was a rough fight. Ville says it was stupid in the long run; he just didn’t think Soya would leave.”

“Well, technically Soya didn’t leave because he told her to,” Jussi pointed out.

“True.” Jyrki heaved a sigh and looked over at Jussi. “Why’d you come rushing over here? You could have just asked your question over the phone.”

“I was going to go to Ville’s tower after this to see what was going on. But it looks like Linde and Mige have taken on the role of the overprotective brothers, so I’m not going to bother this time around.”

Jyrki snorted as he took a sip of his beer. “And how is Isolde?”

“She’s good.” Jussi nodded. “I think she’s in Prague still.”

“You’re thinking of asking her back here, aren’t you?” Jyrki said with a smirk.

Jussi winced. “I’m really holding back,” he admitted. “I think Christmas kind of threw her off.”


Jussi sighed, rolling his own half-drunken beer in his hands. “She has this really weird habit.”

Jyrki laughed. “That can be good or bad in so many ways. And from what you’ve told me about Isolde, it could go either way.”

Jussi chuckled. “It’s not bad or good, it’s just weird. She doesn’t sleep with her partners.”

Jyrki snorted. “I’m sorry? I’m pretty sure you’ve already had sex with her?”

“No!” Jussi laughed. “She has sex with me, she just doesn’t….sleep with me, you know? Like...afterwards.”

“Jussi, are you a cuddler?” Jyrki teased.

Jussi glared. “I’m not!”

“There’s nothing wrong with that!” Jyrki chuckled into his beer. “Rosalind’s a cuddler; she likes being the big spoon.”

Jussi refrained from saying he knew that Rosalind liked to cuddle, as he knew that would take away his friend’s good mood. “No, it’s not…the cuddling or holding each other after. I could give a fuck about that. She just…doesn’t sleep on beds, so when we’re done, she’ll wait for me to fall asleep and then move to the couch.”

Jyrki shrugged. “To each their own.”

“She’s freaked out the couple of times I’ve moved her. Nearly broke my fucking nose the first time, she was so panicked.”

“Everyone has their quirks, Jussi. Rosalind still wakes up from nightmares from the car accident. She can’t even sleep at her brother’s house because of it.”

“Her brothers are idiots,” Jussi scoffed.

“They are,” Jyrki nodded in agreement. “But Rosalind feels the guilt that Luis just pins her with, so she just doesn’t like sleeping over there. She’s a bit better at Hugo’s, but even then she’s not big on staying there.”

“And it’s guilt?” Jussi asked

I think it is,” Jyrki admitted. “I mean, Luis practically blames her for the car accident that took their parent’s lives. She hates being alone with him, so I think it has to do with some misplaced guilt.”

Jussi nodded slowly. “So it’s something left over from the past.”

Jyrki shrugged. “Not like Rose would admit to it, but I think so. Why?”

Jussi looked over at his friend with a small smile. “Just thinking.”

“You think Isolde’s past is holding her back?”

Jussi mulled it over before nodding slowly. “You just…You should have seen her when I gave her a present for Christmas. It was this little USB hub from her favorite TV show. She acted as if I’d handed her an engagement ring. Any type of affection that isn’t….sex…she’s odd about.”

“You always pick the ones with issues,” Jyrki teased as he took a drag from his beer.

Jussi snorted, taking a drag from his on bottle. “You’re one to talk. Rosalind’s riddled with them.”

“That she is!” Jyrki grinned.

Jussi sighed. “I’d like it if she came back, but I know it’d just push her further. I think we left things on an odd note when I saw her off a couple of weeks ago.”

“It’ll work itself out, Jus.”

Jussi nodded. “I hope so.”


Friday, January 14, 2011
Kavárna Slavia Cafe
Prague, Czech Republic

Isolde bit her lip as she stared at her computer screen, trying to figure out the wording on the article she was writing for Alisha. She tapped her fingers on the keys before looking out the window towards the street with a heavy sigh. The Café she sat at was a part of Old Prague. It was further away than she usually ventured when it came to going towards town. She’d even dug out her car keys and taken her little Beetle out for a spin.

She’d felt the need to get away from her flat. The walls had started to crowd in on her and she made a point not to venture into the center of town as she usually did when she was in town. The risk of running into Richard was too high; Johan, Josef’s older brother, had told her when she’d gone to visit him at the tourist agency he and his brother Július ran that Richard was in town. The risk of running into Morgan was even higher. While Isolde tended to shy away from altercations with Richard, her altercations with Morgan tended to get physical if no one was with her to mediate the tension.

Venturing towards the outskirts of town had been the safest bet, and just reminded her that she needed to get the hell out of Prague sooner rather than later. Isolde stared at the people walking by the large window, the smell of coffee and warm pastries filled the coffee shop as the murmurs of patrons whispered in her ears. She let it fill her as she processed her thoughts, sorting through the words and ideas. It was on the tip of her tongue! Isolde closed her eyes she felt the words form and fully had them in her grasp. However, her concentration was broken when her name was called out.

Opening her eyes, she turned slowly, only to blink as she saw the blonde man standing at her table and grinning at her with a wide smile. “Alex!” Her eyes widened and her voice was filled with surprise.

“Hey! I thought I recognized you from outside!” Alex said.

Isolde blinked as she stood to hug him lightly. “It’s good to see you.”

“Is it?” Alex teased. “We didn’t part on the best of terms.”

Isolde shrugged. “I’ve parted on worse. What are you doing out here? You usually don’t venture into Old Town.”

“That I don’t, but Bela lives out here.”

“Bela?” Isolde asked with a frown.

Alex rolled his eyes. “My nurse,” he said, pointing his thumb over to the raven haired women ordering at the counter. She was tiny, Isolde thought as she examined Alex’s girlfriend. Tiny, compact and quite adorable. She’d met the woman a couple of times before, but she was always sitting behind the nurse’s station or rushing off to a patient’s room. And nurse’s scrubs did nothing for a woman’s body. Looking at her now though, she could tell the Bela was a good fit for Alex’s taller frame.

“Would you two like to join me?” Isolde asked. She was curious about Bela; she’d never really spoken too long with her, mostly idle chit chat about the weather. Nothing substantial.

“It won’t be awkward?” Alex asked with a wince.

“Not unless you make awkward,” Isolde laughed. “Please, I insist.”

Alex nodded. “I’ll go get her.”

Isolde smiled as Alex left the table. She sat back in her seat, saving the document she was working on, as her words and inspiration were now gone. She then packed the laptop away in her messenger bag.

“Isolde,” Alex started, causing her to look up once more. She smiled as Alex pulled the seat out for Bela. “This is Bela. Bela, Isolde.”

“We’ve met, Alex,” Bela laughed shyly, tucking a long piece of black hair behind her ear.

Isolde waved her hand. “Not officially. It’s good to see you out of the hospital.”

“It’s good to be out,” Bela laughed. “Both Alex and I have been working double shifts in the emergency room. It’s been crazy.”

“It’s our first day off in about a week and a half.” Alex said, rubbing his face tiredly.

“And you’re spending it out in a coffee shop?” Isolde asked with a grin.

“It’s our first stop.” Bella smiled “I’m restocking groceries after this so I can cook the first home cooked meal we’ve both had in a while. I haven’t seen you around the hospital in a while, Isolde.”

She saw Alex wince, and smiled lightly at Bela. “No… I tend not to stop by if the hospital board members are around. Sucking up to people isn’t really my favorite thing to do. I hate it, actually.”

Bela laughed. “It is a bit tedious.”

“If I visit the hospital, my father tends to corner me and make me put on a fake smile and I’d just rather not even bother.”

“And I mean without Alex, you don’t have an excuse to hang around anymore,” Bela said matter-of-factly.

Isolde looked at her in half surprise, half amusement, only to laugh when Bela squeaked and shook her hand.

“Oh! God! No! That did not mean to come out as an ‘I have him and you don’t’ type statement. Oh god,” Bela groaned, burying her face in her hands. “Just kill me now.”

Alex snorted. “Bela has a flair for the dramatic.” He grunted when Bela elbowed him in the ribs, unearthing her face from her hands to glare at him. “And a flair for abuse,” he groaned as he held his side.

“I did not take it that way,” Isolde assured, calming Bela’s fears. “If I can speak candidly?”

“Oh please do!” Bela nodded.

“Alex and I had fun, but we were never fit for each other.” Isolde smiled. “I’m glad he’s found someone who’s able to care for him in a much larger and truer capacity then I was able to.”

Bela blushed but grinned. “Alex told me you’re with someone as well.”

Isolde raised an eyebrow at Alex. “Did you?”

Alex shrugged. “Last we spoke you were with him.”

Isolde nodded slowly. “I am seeing someone, yes. It’s a causal type of thing, though.”

“Have you seen him recently?” Alex asked.

Isolde shook her head. “In person, not since just before Christmas. I went out to Helsinki to go to a Christmas party he and his friends organized, though I talked to him last night. He was packing for his concert tomorrow, though.”

“Concert?” Bela asked, tilting her head curiously.

“He’s in a band.” Isolde shrugged. “Our schedules don’t quite mesh well.”

“Are you heading out soon?” Alex asked. “I ran into Mila a couple days ago and she said you’ve been here since Christmas. You’re nearly hitting a month here.”

“I know,” Isolde groaned. “I don’t have anything until February for Ivan. I’m thinking of heading out to London to see Ben and Alisha…or maybe head back to New York to see Josef.”

“Or you could go see your boy out at his concert,” Alex said with a shrug.

“He’s not my boy. He’s a boy,” Isolde corrected. “And no. It’s out in Finland and that’s just way too much trouble.” She waved the idea away. “Maybe once they’re closer.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “You’ll end up with him by the end of the week; you’re getting antsy to leave again.”

Isolde shrugged. “I haven’t been to London in a while“ she reasoned. I don’t know, it’s all up in the air.”

“Oh, to have your schedule.” Bela sighed, only to wince when a beeping came from her purse. “Oh it never ends!”

Alex chuckled as he held her purse open so she could dig through it, pulling out her phone and sighing as she clicked onto the message. “You have to go?” Alex asked.

Bela nodded. “I’m sorry, Alex,”

Alex shrugged. “It’s fine. I’ll grab the groceries and have dinner ready for when you get back.”

Bela nodded as she gathered her things. She kissed Alex lightly before smiling at Isolde. “I’m sorry to leave. I’m still on call and in the middle of training some new nurses.”

“No, please. Go, save lives,” Isolde said, waving Bela away.

Bela chuckled, waving goodbye before rushing out, her phone already attached to her ear.

“She’s cute,” Isolde smiled as she looked at Alex and fiddled with her mug.

“She’s…perfect.” Alex smiled back lightly. “So, how’s it really going with…Jussi, was it? I mean spending Christmas with him, that’s huge. I never got a major holiday,” he teased.

Isolde chuckled lightly. “It’s….good.” she said slowly before chewing her lip. “He’s overwhelming at times.”

“How so?”

Isolde shrugged. “I like him Alex. I like him a lot more than…”

“You liked me.”

“I loved you,” she defended, frowning at him. “Don’t ever doubt that.”

Alex winced. “It wasn’t the type of love I was hoping for, though.”

Isolde chewed her lip before sighing. “I never meant for either of us to get hurt.”

Alex nodded. “I know, and I’m glad we ended things the way we did. We didn’t part on the best of terms, but we left each other with our friendship intact and that matters a great deal to me. While you are an amazing lover, Isolde, you’re an even better friend when it suits you.”

Isolde chuckled. “Yeah, Josef tells me that.”

“That you’re an amazing lover?” Alex teased, causing Isolde to snort out a laugh.

“You’re an idiot.”

Alex laughed. “In Isolde speak that just means ‘I love you.’”

“That is…also very true,” Isolde nodded slowly, smiling at her friend. “I’m glad you’re happy Alex. I would never begrudge you that.”

“I know.” Alex nodded slowly. “You should be happy too, you know.”

Isolde wrinkled her nose. “I’m happy.”

“Not as happy as you could be,” Alex stated. “I know you’re not the type of person that needs to be in a relationship to be happy, Isolde. You’re fiercely independent. If anyone knows that it’s me, but you really should be happy. You deserve it.”

“Again, I am happy.”

Alex shook his head. “You put everyone’s happiness before your own. You step aside when one of your lovers finds a relationship, like me and Bela. But when are you going to stop stepping aside?”

Isolde rolled her eyes. “I really have no idea why everyone is suddenly so interested in my love life.”

“Because you’ve never posted on your blog about a man the way you have with this one.”

Isolde shrugged. “He’s good at sex.”

Alex sighed. “Iz.”

“Jussi’s different, yes, I admit that. He’s different type-wise from anyone I’ve dated.”

“He looks nothing like the Richard copies you’ve been dating,” Alex cut in.

“And,” she continued with a glare. “He’s easy to talk to. Easy to trust.”

“He offers you a way to travel, what with the band and all,” Richard added.

“Could give a shit about that; I travel on my own and on my own time,” Isolde retorted. “I just…I hate getting pressured into something.”

Alex nodded slowly. “I get it, Isolde.”

“You really don’t.” Isolde sighed. “Everyone says they do, but they don’t.”

“Richard screwed you over, Isolde. I get that.”

Isolde bit her lip, before shaking her head. “Seriously, you guys only know half the story. You have no idea how fucked over I got. I’m trying, Alex, I really am. It’s hard to let go of something when I’ve been holding on so tightly to it.”

“I don’t get why you’re holding onto Richard so hard, though,” said Alex.

“Fuck Richard!” Isolde snapped. “I could give a shit about the bastard. He’s the liar! He’s the cheater, and I came out the bitch at the end of everything. I’m the one that got blamed for it! ‘Oh Isolde how could you let such a nice man go?’” she mocked. “‘Oh Isolde, Richard is doing so well for himself, it’s a shame that didn’t work out for you.”

“Iz,” Alex sighed

“You think I wanted to end it?! Especially with the way that jackass ended it, with me lying in a hospital bed? Six fucking years, Alex! I gave the man six fucking years, and what do I get? Jackshit. So forgive me if I have a bit of an issue with commitment. Men really don’t have the best track record when it comes to me.”

Alex bit the inside of his cheek, before speaking slowly. “One man.”

Isolde blinked. “What?”

“One man doesn’t have a good track record with you,” Alex sighed. “Look, Richard is…a dick. He’ll always be one. And what happened between you guys, Iz, there are no words to describe just how painful that must have been for you. And if you say that I only know half of that story and the half I know is pretty damn shitty, then what you must be going through must be hell. I get that. But you can’t hold Richard’s sins against others.”

Isolde opened her mouth to argue, only for Alex to put his hand up and stop it. “I don’t blame you for holding it against me. Richard and I were friends once upon a time and he’s technically my boss now. I can’t shake him loose, so you holding it against me- you holding yourself back from committing to me or trusting me more, I get that. You holding it against Jussi, who hasn’t even met the man and has no connections to Richard whatsoever and knows a handful of details of the story and the relationship? That’s not fair, Iz.”

“You don’t know Jussi to make those judgments,” said Isolde.

“I don’t have to know him to know that he’s not Richard!” Alex laughed, rubbing his face in agitation. “I only had to have a five minute conversation with Josef to know that this guy is bending over backwards to kiss your ass, and a nice ass at that, only for you to not give him an inch of leeway. I had an advantage Isolde. I knew you. I was friends with you before we got together and I saw your relationship with Richard crash and burn.”

“Literally,” she mumbled.

Alex winced. “Sorry, bad choice of words.”

Isolde shrugged. “It’s fine.”

“My point is, is that I knew getting into our relationship that there were parts of you I would never be able to breach, and I accepted that.”

“I told Jussi-”

“No, you probably told him that you wanted a no strings attached relationship, but you forgot to tell him that the strings that are attached, you control.” Alex shook his head and raised his hands in surrender. “I can tell this conversation is going to just keep going around in circles, so I’m just going to stop now.”

“I’d prefer it,” Isolde muttered.

Alex sighed and stood from his chair, picking up his coffee. “I have to get going. But at least think about what I’ve said, Isolde. I, as your friend, refuse to watch you hold your heart back because of one asshole. We’re not all like Richard. Some of us really do want to love you; you just have to be willing to let us.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “It was good seeing you, Iz.”

“You too,” said Isolde softly. She looked at Alex as he left, sighing she looked down at her own coffee mug. Alex’s word circled around in her head. Her shoulders slumped and she gave out a groan.

Reaching for her bag, she dug out her cell phone and found the number she was looking for before dialing. “Hey!” she said brightly as the person answered. “Where are you guys right now?”
♠ ♠ ♠
Isolde’s café outfit

So I am so so so so very sorry for the long ass wait on this!! Life kinda got in the way and my muse just recently returned with this story and I'm so excited to be writing to it again!

The next chapter is finished and with my beta and the chapter after that is about a quarter of the way done! So I'm hoping for biweekly updates *fingers crossed*

Again, i'm so sorry for the wait! And I hope you all enjoyed this chapter!!