A very dark slice of whole meal bread, topped with a mixture of seeds, rested on a milky white plate. Next to the plate stood a glass of ice cold water and an eggcup living in symbiosis with the
Egil was a man who recognized the importance of what he put in his mouth. The calories should never be empty like those in sweets, crisps and the remnants of the tasty food in the world. Every extra pound on his body, which didn't consist of pure muscles, would simply drag him down. He needed to have a somewhat light body to be able to quickly ski uphill and he needed the muscles to gain speed on even ground.
Being an athlete meant that Egil Brekke had had to sacrifice a lot of things. Every single day was a struggle to not be seduced by temptations such as candy and lazy days on the couch. No, he couldn’t afford falling for all that and still be on top. Sometimes he didn’t want to wake up early to go skiing and every now and then he felt like aiming at his trainer, during shooting practices, instead of at the actual target; but he had to push through the rough feelings and get himself together anyways.
He carefully smeared a lump of cottage cheese on the bread and then added a slice of lean turkey to the sandwich equation. The breakfast was full of protein and fibers which would keep his hunger in check until lunch time. Hopefully.
The biathlon star sat alone by a table, ignoring all of the talking and laughing around him. The luxurious hotel was the choice of many of his opponents and the biathletes came to the fancy dining room in streams to claim their pricey breakfasts. Egil didn’t dislike his opponents; he just didn’t feel like he had anything to contribute as they started conversing. See, they all liked discussing trivial things such as which one of the female racers had the nicest shaped butt, but Egil felt more comfortable while solely talking about skiing and shooting.
Egil didn't feel comfortable around other athletes. They could laugh, shake hand and exchange polite words, but the friendships were never real. As soon as the signal sounded and someone had to win and lose; their eyes turned cold and the politeness vanished.
After a while, someone sat down by Egil’s table and he turned his focus from peeling off egg-shells to the new person. It was Karl, the Norwegian team’s shooting instructor. He was a man in his early forties who had been just as much of a successful biathlete as Egil, but Karl's golden years were buried in the dust of a decade. Karl had been competing with the Swedish flag over his shoulders, but after retiring he had decided to move to Norway where the next generation of outstanding biathletes was born.
Karl smashed a German newspaper on the tabletop and grinned at Egil. “Read it! It’s hilarious!”
Egil furrowed his thick, dark eyebrows and started scanning the front page with his eyes. He could barely understand a word of it. He shifted his gaze to the shooting instructor and looked at him questioningly. Flipping through the pages of a newspaper in a different language was merely a waste of time; time he could have spent on devouring the perfectly boiled egg in front of him.
“Stop glaring like you had missed all five shots in the first shooting,” Karl mocked and bit into a marmalade covered biscuit, “Just go ahead and look at the sports pages.”
Egil licked his lips and opened the newspaper’s midsection.
On the left side was a picture of a hockey player with his teeth knocked out with some text to go with the picture. On the right side was a caricature of a man in a tight red suit. The man in the caricature sketch was wearing a vest with the number one printed on it. The hair was messy like a hedgehog’s and he was about to cross the finishing line on a pair of skis. The nose of the skier, as Egil had understood was a picture of himself, was crooked and crossed the line way ahead of the rest of his body. A red shade, matching Egil's Norwegian suit, painted the tip of the nose and went all the way to the forehead.
He dropped the newspaper, feeling slightly agitated. “Is it legal to publish something like this without my consent?”
Karl burst out laughing and chunks of the half-eaten biscuit fell out of his mouth and landed on the shiny tabletop. “Isn’t it great? But wait, the text is the best part!”
“I don't understand German!” Egil hissed quietly to not draw attention to himself and shoved the newspaper over the table to Karl, who was still grinning foolishly.
Egil felt waves of discomfort rolling over him. He had never wanted people to think of him as inadequate in any way and the caricature showed a picture of himself that he didn't approve of. That man with the monstrous nose and empty eyes was not the man he wanted people to see.
“Lucky for you, my German teacher back in intermediate school was quite hot,” Karl said, with a toothy grin, and cleared his throat before calmly reading the caption underneath the caricature out loud, “Biathlete Egil Brekke should be disqualified and forbidden from ever competing again. See, his nose creates a wind sucking which carries him forward in a rapid speed and crosses the finishing line before the other opponents have even started.”
Egil felt his heart starting to maniacally pound against the inside of his ribs, like it had expanded and was about to break. A sudden lack of oxygen turned the dining room into a choking-chamber and he realized that he had to get out. He got up to his feet, clenched his fists, and walked away; away from the hotel's breakfast, away from Karl and away from all judgmental opinions.
His feet steered him towards his hotel room. He picked the coded card up from his pocket and slid it through the slit. A green light flashed and Egil pushed the door open and exhaled loudly. Well inside, the emotions started swelling up to the surface once again and he let them swirl around freely. Stumbling, he managed to kick his shoes off and stagger towards the bed room. The bed had become his haven and Egil nuzzled into the cover as his entire body trembled. Everything in the bed felt so soft and secure.
Egil couldn't understand why no one ever cared for his feelings.
Only because he was a grown and muscular man didn't mean that hurtful words didn't do any damage; because they did. If he weren't famous, nobody would've looked twice at Egil – and he knew that. He wasn't gifted with the looks of Robin Beckenbauer, but he had other things to offer and compensate the inadequacy with. He was a splendid biathlete and worked so hard to be the champion time after time.
Egil's mind grazed the memory of Frida. The memories of her sinful hips and almond-shaped eyes went right into his brain without permission.
Frida was a beautiful girl, indeed, and she had chosen to be with Egil even if she was way out of his league. He had been so happy to be privileged enough to indulge in her full lips and smooth skin. He had had someone to share his inner thoughts and dreams with and he hadn't planned on ever letting her go. She had had another agenda, though.
Deep down in the locked chest, which was his heart, Egil knew that he wouldn't have been able to be with the lovely Frida Allum if he weren't a successful athlete. It had bothered him, but being all alone was more scary than the thought of living with a woman who didn't love him for who he was; but for his money and fame. Waking up with a pair of cold blue eyes was better than to wake up with an empty space on the mattress.
But then she had disappeared one day, stating what he had already known; that she didn't love him.
“Where are you going?”
“I'm going back home.” She held a suitcase in each hand and wore a flustered expression on her beautiful face.
Snowflakes were falling and landed softly, resembling a white blanket on her golden locks of hair. They stayed visible for a little while and then melted into plain water.
Egil dropped his skiing poles and stretched his arm out towards the female he loved so dearly. The cold wind bit his cheeks and parts of his face were numb. “Why? Has something happened to your mother...?”
Frida shook her head and backed away from Egil's arm. “No, Egil. I'm leaving you. I'm going home.”
“You're leaving me?” Egil asked, mostly to himself. His entire world was collapsing and his legs were shaking; both because of the skiing lesson he had just gotten home from and because of Frida's determined voice. “Why?”
“Egil...” her voice started to shatter like a glass hitting the floor.
Egil just wanted to reach out and hold her; tell her that everything would be okay if she took the words back and held his hand. He wanted to tell her to come inside and cuddle in bed like they had done so many nights before. But he couldn't say words like that anymore.
She inhaled sharply, grimacing and holding back tears, before opening her mouth again. “You're a great man, but I don't love you. I know nothing about your long term goals and I've realized that I don't know who you are. For a man who gives such expensive gifts it's a shame to confess that the love you've given is far from rich.”
With that, she took her things and left Egil. He stayed outside and looked at the horizon for hours, like a Labrador waiting for its master to return home, hoping to see her car again. He waited until the sun was setting and his mind really started to understand that she was not coming back to him.
That night, Egil Brekke cried himself to sleep.
The mere thought of the last time he had seen Frida brought back the emotions. It felt like a heavy hand pressed down Egil's chest and breathing became difficult. The pain of missing her had turned from psychological to physical a long time ago and every inch of his body ached.
He had to work harder and become an even better biathlete; only then would Frida ever consider taking him back, Egil thought.
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