Every morning for the almost four decades they had lived in this house, Ove had put on the coffee percolator, using exactly the same amount of coffee as on any other morning, and then drank a cup with his wife.
Ove didn't really care who was parked in the guest parking area, of course. But it was a question of principle. If it said twenty-four hours on the sign, that's how long you were allowed to stay.
Because nowadays people are all thirty-one and wear too-tight trousers and no longer drink normal coffee. And don't want to take responsibility. A shed-load of men with elaborate beards, changing jobs and changing wives and changing their car makes. Just like that. Whenever they feel like it.
And if you could just go and buy everything, what was the value of it? What was the value of a man?
He was a man of black and white.
And she was color. All the color he had.
Since his father's death he had begun more and more to differentiate between people who did what they should, and those who didn't. People who did and people who just talked. Ove talked less and less and did more and more.
He'd discovered that he liked houses. Maybe mostly because they were understandable... Houses were fair, they gave you what you deserved. Which, unfortunately, was more than one could say about people.
Straight lines, even edges. People don't shovel snow that way anymore. Nowadays they just clear a way, they use snow blowers and all sorts of things. Any old method will do, scattering snow all over the place. As if that were the only thing that mattered in life: pushing one's way forward.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. You work and pay off the mortgage and pay taxes and do what you should. You marry. For better or for worse until death do us part, wasn't that what they agreed? Ove remembers quite clearly that it was. And she wasn't supposed to be the first to die. Wasn't it bloody well understood that it was his death they were talking about? Well, wasn't it?
"And you can't let the girls freeze to death tonight, Ove, right? It's quite enough that they had to watch you assault a clown, no?"
And now she stood outside the station with his flowers pressed happily to her breast, in that red cardigan of hers, making the rest of the world look as if it were made in grayscale.
She wanted to get married, so Ove proposed. She wanted children, which was fine with him, said Ove. And their understanding was that children should live in row housing developments among other children.
As if the kitchen had been built for a child. Parvaneh stares at them the way people always do when they see it for the first time. Ove has got used to it. He rebuilt the kitchen himself after the accident. The council refused to help, of course.
But everywhere, sooner or later, he was stopped by men in white shirts with strict, smug expressions on their faces. And one couldn't fight them. Not only did they have the state on their side, they were the state.
When she says that last bit she points at a figure in the middle of the drawing. Everything else on the paper is drawn in black, but the figure in the middle is a veritable explosion of color. A riot of yellow and red and blue and green and orange and purple.
"You're the funniest thing she knows. That's why she always draws you in color," says Parvaneh.
After the accident Ove bought a Saab 95 so he'd have space for Sonja's wheelchair. That same year Rune bought a Volvo 245 to have space for a stroller. Three years later Sonja got a more modern wheelchair and Ove bought a hatchback, a Saab 900. Rune bought a Volvo 265 because Anita had started talking about having another child.
Rune and Anita's lad grew up and cleared out of home as soon as he got the chance. And Rune went and bought a sporty BMW, one of those cars that only has space for two people and a handbag. Because now it was only him and Anita, as he told Sonja when they met in the parking area. "And one can't drive a Volvo all of one's life," he said with an attempt at a halfhearted smile. She could hear that he was trying to swallow his tears. And that was the moment when Ove realized that a part of Rune had given up forever.
When he almost imperceptibly takes a half step backwards into the hall...he notices, from the corner of his eye, the photo of Sonja on the wall. The red dress. The bus trip to Spain when she was pregnant. He asked her so many times to take that bloody photo down, but she refused. She said it was "a memory worth as much as any other."
He thinks about how Sonja would have taken it if she'd found out. If she'd known that her best friend had not asked for her help because Sonja had "enough problems." She would have been heartbroken.
"They can call me whatever they like. No need for you to stick your bloody nose in."
And then he puts up the drawings one by one on the fridge. The one that says "To Granddad" gets the top spot.
The woman is pregnant. Her eyes glitter as she walks through the rooms, the way eyes glitter when a person imagines her child's future memories unfolding there on the floor.