Our final character interview is with Niklas, the Swedish man Laney has lived with for the last five years. Niklas isn’t so keen on being interviewed, so let’s see what he’s willing to share with us. We’re sitting in his living room. He preferred not to sit in a public place and discuss his private life.
Me: So Niklas, let’s cut to the chase, was Laney right when she suspected you were involved with your ex-wife again?
Niklas: That’s a rather personal question, isn’t it?
Me: Of course it is, but these interviews are so people can get to know you. And soon people will see more of your private life in the novel.
Niklas: Fine, fine. Yes, I was…and still am…involved with Karolina, my ex. And before you paint me as some cold-hearted bastard, you have to understand that sometimes it felt like Karro and I were still bonded in a way that never quite manifested itself with Laney and me.
Me: How long have you been involved with her?
Niklas: It’s been a while. Laney probably thinks it’s been going on for years, but I can assure her—and you—it’s only been of a sexual nature for a little over a year.
Me: How did it start? And why did you stay with Laney if you wanted someone else?
Niklas: How does anything start, really? By chance. Always by chance. These things are never as calculated as people assume. Karro and I will always be bonded in some way— we have two children together, we were married for close to twelve years. That our marriage ended was something that always struck me as unexpected.
Me: Why is that?
Niklas: Well, you can’t possibly love as intensely as we did, as we still do, without making the assumption it will last until the end of days. That was what I’d assumed would be the case for Karro and myself. Neither of us was mentally prepared for how parenthood would affect us. How the arrival of children changes the dynamic of a relationship. In hindsight, I understand we were in flux, floundering as we tried to be the couple we were pre-children without adjusting to how one remains in love post-children. And for Karro the children came first, she loves them fiercely. And before you say anything, I am well aware that Laney doesn’t agree with this. But I think she’s looking at it from a very American perspective. Swedish parents want their children to have their own lives, to make their own decisions. And as Karro and I are both therapists, we understand the importance of giving children physical and emotional space.
Me: You still haven’t answered my question though. When did it start?
Niklas: Oh for the love of God, we were both drunk. We’d had too much to drink at a dinner party. Laney left early, I suppose she was bored. I know my nephew was hitting on her and she felt uncomfortable, so I told her to go home or go meet her cousin, Eddy. Karro and I had too many glasses of wine. I’m not going to recount every detail. Suffice to say, we ended up in bed together. And things kept bringing us back together.
Niklas: Well, it was obvious Laney was dissatisfied. Before we went to New York, we were barely speaking. She didn’t tell you that, did she?
Me: No, she didn’t. So why weren’t you speaking?
Niklas: She was getting restless. And Siri was driving her mad. I I supposed I should have intervened but I assumed she’d be able to speak to Siri without it turning into a childish argument. In hindsight, I see that I should have taken Laney’s side. In the end, she was right—my daughter was out of control. But I was distracted… well, I should have supported her. Perhaps we wouldn’t have ended up as we did.
Me: How long did you know about Mads and Laney?
Niklas: I read the text messages he sent her when she first came back from Copenhagen. I thought he was someone she worked with. I thought she was having a harmless flirtation. But then I didn’t think about it for a while. Yes, she was distant, sometimes she was a bit secretive, but this was typical Laney. She ran hot and cold. Even when we first met, I had a hard time reading her. The moment I thought I’d figured her out, she’d do something that threw me for a loop.
Me: But were you certain…?
Niklas: I pieced it together. When I met him, I saw how he looked at her. I saw how she was looking at him. And I knew. But I told myself it was nothing. It was a crush. I didn’t think it would become more than that.
Me: Why did you wait so long to tell Laney about your vasectomy?
Niklas: I thought she knew. I was certain I’d told her.
Me: You never discussed it in the five years you were together?
Niklas: It simply never came up as a topic of conversation between us. I was certain she didn’t want children. She never seemed interested in them.
Me: But if you hadn’t had a vasectomy, would you have started a family with Laney?
Niklas: I honestly don’t know. Sometimes I think yes. Other times…no.
Me: Did you love Laney?
Niklas: I did. I still do. I don’t think she believes me. But I loved her, in my own way. And I know it’s not enough for her.