Oskar Høiland hides from life. It just makes things easier that way, not having to face all the fears and drama of living. He especially hides from other people, because Oskar has grown up fearing the snide remarks and the quick glances that strip him of the tiny scraps of confidence he still has left. He is just going to keep existing. Work hard to complete his medical degree and perhaps watch a few more series on Netflix in peace and quiet over Christmas.
Erik Nøst Hansen should be an almost fully-fledged adult. He should be able to sort out the mess that festers in his head and stop lying. It’s just hard. And it’s bloody terrifying to even acknowledge the thoughts that swirl around in his head at night when he can’t sleep. He also needs to figure out how to talk to the boy downstairs. The one with the golden curls and the crooked smile. The boy who is completely monopolising Erik’s messed-up heart.
A story of falling in love and being brave. A Christmas tale with a difference, set in the university dorms of central Oslo, where lies are uncovered, snowflakes are falling all over the place, and beds are made to lie in. There is a slightly unconventional family. A mess of animal onesies. Too much food and a very Merry Christmas.
- 1 To Be Read list
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Coming of Age, Coming Home, First Time, Hurt / Comfort
Word Count: 63000
Languages Available: English
Oskar’s first instinct is to flee. Run. Hide somewhere until the thing in his bed has disappeared. He blinks. Shakes his head in disbelief and looks again.
Nope. He’s still there. There is still a very-much-fast-asleep person in his bed, his breathing soft against Oskar’s pillow, and that ridiculous pink bandana is sliding down over his eyes.
He moves carefully to get a closer look, then recoils back as he remembers. No clothes! He is stark naked in his own room, like a normal person would be. It’s just, this dude is there. Right there. On his bed.
Yes, he had left his door unlocked, but then that doesn’t mean any random person can just come in and decide to sleep in his bed? Does it? Especially when the random person is flat-out drunk. Oskar can smell the alcohol now, his body recoiling at the fumes escaping along with little bubbles of spit at the corner of the dude’s mouth. Beer-scented mouthfuls of air with every breath. Every little snore.
He doesn’t know how he didn’t realise someone was here before. I mean, the dude is not exactly quiet, snuffling and snoring and smacking his lips together in his sleep.
Oskar’s eardrums are still ringing from having his earphones on the highest volume, and the beats from upstairs are still going strong, but still, he should have noticed. How the fuck didn’t he notice?
There are a pair of threadbare joggers on the floor, which he pulls on, and the t-shirt on the floor looks clean enough, so he pulls it over his damp hair and tiptoes further up along the side of his bed to get a closer look.
It’s definitely one of the guys from upstairs. The tall pretty one. The one with all the girlfriends. The one with the reputation.
Yes, Oskar listens. He might not speak much to the other students, but his hearing is good—well, it was until today, and he will sue if his hearing is damaged from this bloody party, starting with suing the pants off this dude that has crashed Oskar’s planned Netflix marathon—and he pays attention to the stories. The tall tales of weekend shenanigans. The obvious boasting and lies. And the things that might actually be true.
Like the whispers doing the rounds about this guy. The tall one with the messy dark-brown hair and full lips. Kisses like he means it. Great lay apparently. Can get any girl he wants. That’s what he has heard. Hangs around with the dark-haired guy with the black floppy fringe, and that lanky boy with the frizzy hair. Well, he probably hangs around with everyone. Always smiling and never alone. Never sitting on his own in the cafeteria like Oskar, hiding in the corner with his headphones on.
No, this dude is always the centre of attention. Surrounded by people clinging to his every word. Laughing at his jokes. Staring adoringly at him as he throws his head back in laughter.
Except this dude is now here. And Oskar hasn’t got a clue what to do.
He could go get Freddie, he supposes, and they could probably manhandle the dude out of the room. Dump him on the sofa for the night. He is quite sure the girls would approve, and in the morning, he would wake up and find this guy on the sofa making all the girls laugh, having charmed them into making him coffee and buttering his toast and spoon feeding him their secret imported stash of Swedish Treo hangover fizz, whilst placing tiny morsels of hot buttered toast on his tongue.
He pushes that scene out of his head with a sigh. The boy is his problem. He is in Oskar’s bed. And if he doesn’t get him out of here, things will be shit awkward in the morning, he is sure of that.
“Dude,” he whispers, and nudges the guy’s shoulder before he can stop himself. He should think this through, make some kind of plan. Maybe wake him up gently so he doesn’t scare the shit out of the poor guy, waking up and realising he has crashed in Oskar’s bed, instead of wherever he thought he was crashing.
He probably took a wrong turn, thinking this was Madeleine’s room. Or Ingvild’s. Or one of the other girls. Maybe he thought he could get lucky by just throwing himself in some lucky girl’s bed. Just like that. Oskar wonders if people do that, just full-on go for it and shamelessly offer themselves like that.
Oskar shudders at the thought. It’s a mistake whatever it is, and Oskar won’t let him get away with this. Not tonight. Not now. He doesn’t need the grief, or the inevitable shaming in the morning when this dude tells all his friends that the nerd downstairs tried to get him in the sack. Lies and raw laughter trying to make light of a situation that he knows will end badly, with Oskar being the butt of every joke. The one the girls will gossip about and point their fingers at. The one that came on to one of the beautiful people. One of their people. Where Oskar just doesn’t belong.
Because the boy is beautiful, even Oskar can see that. Soft long dark hair framing his face, freckles decorating his pale skin and those lips. Even his fucking profile is perfect, his straight nose burrowing into Oskar’s pillow.
“Dude, come on! Wake up.” Oskar shakes his shoulder this time, but the guy is dead. Dead to the world. Not a hint of pretending to wake up. He just snores and burrows further into the pillow.
“YO. MATE!” This guy is no mate of his. Nor will they ever be, mates or whatever, but Oskar is shouting now. Desperate. He needs to get to bed. He needs an hour of some mindless American sitcom to calm him down. He needs to sleep. Please.
He tries to pull the guy off the bed, grabbing the dude by the ankles only to realise the guy is still wearing shoes. Big clumsy boots with heels. Ridiculous. I mean who wears shit like that in the middle of winter? It’s not like December in Oslo is the place for something that wouldn’t look out of place in a Texas rodeo.
“Fuck,” he grits between his teeth.
The sofa out in the main room is seriously uncomfortable. No one ever bothers to even sit on it, and even if he considers sleeping there, the bleach fumes would make him retch before long.
It’s not like he could go sleep in anyone else’s room. It’s just not the kind of thing he could do. Not his thing. Not that he is close enough to any of the others to warrant such a request.
He could sleep on his own floor, he supposes, except that the dude is lying on top of his duvet.
It takes a few good pulls, but finally the duvet gives way and the dude rolls over as Oskar drags the fabric from underneath his body. He almost bursts into laughter, because the dude is now on his back, mouth wide open and the bandana has slipped down covering his eyes and nose. He looks like a twat.
A drunk snoring twat in ridiculous boots.
Oskar is a medical student. Oskar fucking knows what can happen. He wouldn’t be a responsible human being if he didn’t ensure that his unwelcome roommate at least survives the night.
The boots come off his feet to reveal socks underneath. Ridiculous socks with little reindeers and Santas that make Oskar swallow another inappropriate giggle. This isn’t funny. This isn’t funny at all.
He rolls the bandana up over the dude’s fringe, carefully removing it before tossing it aside, and straddles his body to try to roll him into the recovery position. He has done it several times in training, but always with willing and perfectly conscious subjects underneath him. Never a half-dead comatose man breathing alcohol fumes at him, making him retch in disgust.
It takes a few goes, and Oskar gets braver as the guy is definitely out for the count. He doesn't wake up, even when Oskar knees him in the balls by mistake, trying to manhandle his shoulder over towards the mattress. But he is finally there, safely in position on his side with his hand supporting his chin, so any accidental vomiting won’t choke him to death and there is nothing restricting around his neck to hinder his breathing. His airway is open, and he is safe. In the middle of Oskar’s bed.
Oskar wants to cry. He wants to bury his face in his hands and howl. Scream out in frustration.
Instead, he covers the unconscious body in his warm duvet and switches off the light. Lets his own body slide in under the covers at the very edge of the bed, as far away as he can get. Oskar lies there, perched on the edge of the mattress, yet he can still feel the breath from the other man hitting the back of his neck. Soft puffs of air stroking the skin under his still-damp hair.
He shudders. It’s hours until he finally falls asleep. Restless and terrified of what he might find next to him in the morning.
I know we’re not here to share song titles or Youtube-links. But the other day I stumbled upon this amazing song, “Falling Free”, by Danish singer Eivør (she’s from the Faroe Islands, in fact), where the chorus goes, “Now I surrender / I am falling down / Hoping you will catch me / Before I hit the ground. / You are all I see/ For you, I am falling free.” Listen to the song, listen to the text, listen to the singer’s powerful voice and intensely emotional singing, and you’ll get in a nutshell what this book is about. Two young students, full of insecurities and doubts, meet, fall in love with each other against all odds, and their love is beautiful, pure, a thing meant to last. Both of them could say about the other “You are all I see/ For you, I am falling free”. This is a wonderful book about growing up, about trust, about letting go of one’s fears and inhibitions, about allowing oneself to fall free, to fall in love, to love and be loved. Wrap up this central message in a Christmas-time frame, set it up in oversnowed Oslo and rural Moss, and you get a story as sweet and moving as a story can get. I was all but sniffling while reading.
Once again, Soames writes a book that is extremely messy. The characters are messy, their development is messy, the writing is messy. The plot is straightforward, you could say, but messily so: nothing’s smooth or silky or predictable. Don’t get me wrong, this is not me complaining, quite the contrary; I love it. Everything Soames creates, almost despite herself, is messy, but it’s the same sort of messy all our lives are. I’ve come to equate that messy thing she’s got going in her novels with Scandinavia, for her main characters are always Scandinavian, at least partly. They do strange things, they have strange reactions, you don’t always understand what they want, what they say or where they think they’re heading, but in the end, everything makes sense (more or less). Everything turns out for the best. What I really like about these characters is… precisely that: that I like them. They’re never black or white, not even grey for that matter, but highly colourful, erratic, intense, lively, endearing. Life is pulsing throughout the story, life with its odd turns and twists. And nobody ever reacts the way you’d expect, and as a result, they don’t go in circles, but reach goals they never even knew they had.
Yes, I loved this book as I loved the two previous ones I’ve already read. Goose-pumps, tender tears, and feverish page-turning guaranteed. A foolproof 5 stars. Alas, I have to take off half a star, to my utter regret, because this time, the book has really been shoddily proofread and edited. Word repetitions aplenty (you can’t use “just” or “get” or “whilst” several times in a row, in one single paragraph, without me rolling my eyes), and at places a bit too much swearing that seems to obscure what the author wanted to say. I hope that will be remedied for the final, published version, which I urge you to grab, no matter what, because you’ll want to read this story! It’s Christmassy as hell, it’s cute as fuck, it has the most amazing title I’ve ever seen, and one of the sweetest love-stories ever.