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The girl you want to marry

PRIEST ISLAND stretches out like a sunbather as you approach her by boat across the icy Baltic. Each time you look away, then back, she's different, larger. Slowly, she moves closer. Soon you can discern the white and black lighthouse staring resolutely outward in all directions. It stands at the height of a gray-green hill of boulders - they're almost white now in the afternoon sun - where Vikings once kept their lodgings. Then you see the small beach with its fine strip of sand, and the natural wood-finished sauna - a weak mist of smoke rising from the chimney. After another 10 months as a Swede in America, you're home.

Home, where the leaning old cabin with the musty bed-sofa welcomes you. Home, where the nets in the shed stink pleasantly of brine water. Home, the place that has remained in the family for 350 years now and will soon be yours. Where your grandfather, the fisherman, worked and died. Where your grandmother lived obediently at his side through the summers, and the place - you just found this out (you're no kid anymore) - she always despised.

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But you don't despise it. You could've traveled Europe by train this summer. Could've seen Paris, Seville, Rome, could've caught trout in the mountain streams of Spain. But you didn't. Now you're here. The salty wind blows over the bouldered hills that shelter the harbor village and pushes through your hair. You sniff the air: the smell of whitefish smoked over tender juniper twigs. There are the best friends hurrying toward you along a pebbled path. And here, her legs, arms, and face, as always so smooth and tanned, the girl you want to marry.

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