Sebastián & Greta

á & Greta

Illustration by Christine Nishida

fiction by Jeff H.

Sebastián didn’t exactly fit the stereotype of a Latin lover—dark eyes, yes, but he was not tall in comparison to his American classmates, and en general his looks were more boyish than handsome. He liked playing chess and video games, and out of all the girls in the high school he thought his best bet for a prom was fellow foreign-exchange student Greta.

Greta was Norwegian, and she did fit some of the stereotypes of Nordic beauty. She was athletic, with pale blue eyes, and nobody had asked her to prom yet. But that wasn’t anything she’d considered; the dance was still four months away and no one proposed—or “promposed,” as they called it—that early.

Except Sebastián, who always planned things lejos in el futuro.

“Go to prom with me?” he texted Greta in broken Norwegian. He’d gotten her number from the school’s foreign exchange director, and then used an online translator.

The prom in four months? Greta thought. She hardly ever talked to Sebastián; she’d thanked him for picking up her pencil the other week in physics, and that was their only interaction she could recall. So was this some sort of joke? Or was asking for a date four months out what Americans did?

Unsure of what was proper, she decided to text back laughing—it had to be a joke, right? And if he was going to write in Norwegian, she could reply in Spanish. In America, students wrote “Hahaha.” But in Spanish J’s make the H sound, so….


Sebastián didn’t need an online translator to know what “Ja” meant in Greta’s native tongue, and he was ecstatic. “You make my dream come true!” he told his date the next day at school.

Greta was aware before studying abroad that she’d encounter some miscommunications in everyday life. She was also a nice girl, as well as one who respected courage and assertiveness. So, four months later, she went to prom with Sebastián, and the pair ended up having a good time. He was a better dancer than she had expected—utmerket, actually—and it turned out that they supported all the same fotball clubs. Following prom, they started seeing each other regularly, hanging out after class and then going trips to the movies and to local malls together.

After graduation, Greta did a gap year in Bogotá. 

After that, Sebastián transferred to a university program in Trondheim.

Later, during the last year of their studies, while in the Colombian jungle for Winter Break, Greta stopped walking because Sebastián had fallen behind. His legs were shorter and he was sometimes slower, but never that slow. Greta turned and found Sebastián on one knee, ring in outstretched hand. His Norwegian had improved greatly since his last proposal, and this time his question, after a short speech, caused no confusion: “Will you marry me?”

“Ja!” Greta replied, and without a single moment’s hesitation.

Sebastián sprung up. They kissed, they embraced, and tears of joy streamed down their faces. Macaws flew overhead. The cicadas hummed. All was perfecto, or perfekt, until Sebastián whispered something else—he had realized there was a small nagging doubt in his mind and he needed to be certain. 

“That was not a laugh, right?” 

“Ja,” Greta replied.


“Jajaja!” Greta kissed Sebastián once more, then turned in the direction they’d come from. “Let’s go tell your parents the news!” she shouted, and in the next instant she was running up the trail. As Greta ran, she repeated her answer loudly and with glee. 

Well, it looked like he had his answer. 

Giggling like a schoolboy, Sebastián chased after. 

Jeff H. is a high school English teacher and tennis coach. Recently he has had fiction published in Mystery Weekly Magazine, The Centropic Oracle, The Eunoia Review, and Page & Spine. In his free time, Jeff blogs with his wife, a dietitian, at They write about writing, food, and everything else. 

This article originally appeared in the October 18, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.