Sunny morning - Was it worth it? Part III

4. července 2009 v 14:12 | Cirrat |  Skřeky cizojazyčné
Konečně jsem se dostala k tomu, hodit sem třetí díl té povídky v angličtině. Sice ji mám odeditovanou přes měsíc, ale nemohla jsem se dokopat k tomu, ji uveřejnit...



After Rudi said that he was here to talk, I just nodded. Really, in the past few weeks my neck muscles have been worked pretty hard. Whatever, they will rest soon. I lit another cigarette. Strange, I had not needed the nicotine the whole time I was closed in there before. Only when Rudi came in did I feel the craving. Interesting…Does he make me nervous? I started contemplating that question, noticing only after a while that he was saying something. "I'm sorry, what?"

"You're gonna kill yourself with those," he repeated.

I could not help it; I had to laugh. "You don't believe what you just said, do you?"

He smiled awkwardly again. "Well, you never know…" His voice trailed off, his eyes -those bright pools of blue- avoided mine, and his stance suddenly became awkward.
I looked up to him again. "What's up, Rudi?" Before he could think of something to say, I continued, "How about you sit down for a while…? I'm sorry, but I don't feel like standing up and my neck hurts when I look up at you."

It was his turn to nod now, before he walked over to the wall to my left and sat down, leaning on it, his eyes closed. We were both silent for a while, both lost in our own thoughts, running through our own contemplations.

Finally, I reached a result of one of my mental exercises. I put out my cigarette and turned to him a bit more. "You know, I'm gonna miss you."

He looked at me incredulously. "[i]You[/i] are gonna miss [i]me[/i]."

I nodded again, "Yeah." Seriously, I needed to do something about how often I repeat that gesture. No, wait, that was a silly thought. I chuckled slightly.

"What?" He looked at me as if he was afraid I was going crazy.

Who knows, perhaps I was… "It just occurred to me that I nod too much lately…And I wanted to do something about it." I waved my hand in the air to signify the foolishness of the thought.

Rudi just sighed and closed his eyes again. More silence followed before he finally spoke. "You know, I knew about Bartal much earlier than the captain did. He was a good one."

"He [i]is[/i] a good one." I interrupted him.

He looked at me again, this time he appeared a bit confused.

I waved another cigarette in the air, the small cylinder still unlit. "[i]Is[/i]; not [i]was[/i]."

He understood, "Sorry. So, he [i]is[/i] a good one. He managed to escape any suspicion for a long time, and I was observing him for six months at least. Eventually, he grew reckless and forgot to lock the office door when he was copying the data. That's when Tivadar caught him…But I never thought that you guys would come to rescue him. I never saw him contact you or Minke."

"That's because Minke was a sleeper and I'm a newbie," I said, as I lit the cigarette I held…Or at least, I tried to light it.

His hand stopped mine with the lighter. "Can't you stop, at least for a while?"

I looked at him, the unlit cigarette dangling from my lips. "I don't know," I put the cigarette behind my ear, "Better?"

"Much better;" His hand still did not leave my wrist.

I did not know what to think about that. My mechanical facade was cracking up. I started to feel something, and the first feeling to come back was confusion. Well, at least I knew this one and I could deal with it. "Why didn't you turn him in? Or me, for that matter?"

He looked surprised. "I didn't know you were an agent until now."

I played with the lighter, flicking the small flame on and off. "…And if you had known, would you?"

His hand left mine. "No, I wouldn't."

I felt cold suddenly. As if the return of feelings made me more vulnerable to my environment too, but only a little. "Why…?"

He thought for a while, his head resting on the wall behind him. "You see, I'm here for my own purposes. I don't believe their propaganda, but there's a reason for me to be here. I couldn't help you or Irving, but I also had no reason to stop you or harm you. So I didn't care about what you guys were doing."

I took the cigarette from behind my ear and played with it. Twisting, turning… "Is that all?"

He shrugged. "I don't know, Theo." He looked at me again, his eyes nearly glowing in the dark room.

It was at this moment my emotions decided they were held at bay for too long and flooded back into my system. The onslaught of so many feelings; sorrow, failure, protest, and anger, with the hint of hope and wanting, had the same effect on me as a fever would have. I did not know whether I should laugh, cry, try to break something, or simply die on the spot.

The blond soldier noticed my shivering. "Are you cold?"

I shrugged, my teeth chattering. It was true, it certainly was cold in the room, but I guessed this was the backlash from the afternoon, as well as the failed mission.

Rudi put his hand around my shoulders and pulled me closer to him. He held me close, our sides touching, his warmth flowing into me, his hand rubbing soothing circles on my back.

I calmed gradually. Soon, I was leaning into him, searching the warmth or the human contact, for what, I did not know. Before long, I felt my heartbeat speed up, the heat becoming much more intense. The feeling of thousands of butterflies fluttering in my stomach was not helping at all. I nuzzled his shoulder. "How long can you stay?"

His hand stopped on my back. "As long as I want to."

I slipped my hand around his waist and pulled him even closer, "And how long will you want to stay?"

His hand slid down my side to my hipbone. "As long as you want me to," He turned his head to look at me.

I cupped his face with my other hand, distantly noticing his rapid breathing and the slightly visible flush on his face. Suddenly, I was upset about the darkness. I wanted to see him clearly. I wanted to be able to perceive him with all my senses. Slowly, so slowly, I leaned in, giving him the chance to move away, should he want to.

Our lips connected. His were so soft; it made me slightly self-conscious. Mine were chapped for sure, and I tasted like an ashtray…But then his lips parted and all coherent thinking was gone.

The kiss grew more and more passionate, until he broke it. "Minke…"

I leaned back and pulled, so that he was laying partially over me. "I never had anything with Minke. That was a cover story." I kissed him again, this time letting my hands roam over his body. I stroked his back, enjoying in the feel of silk and his warm skin under my palms, and I felt his hands travelling up and down my sides and chest.

Suddenly he tensed under my hands again.

"What's up, Rudi?" I asked while nipping at his jaw.

He shuddered and closed his eyes. "I just recalled tomorrow."

I pulled back and looked at him. "Listen, let's forget about tomorrow. Let's just live today, while we still can…while I still can."

[i]Oops.[/i] Judging by the way his muscles tensed even more, that was a bad thing to say.

I embraced him. "Listen, what happened to the number-one-cynic? There's no way I'm gonna get a death row pardon, we both know it. There are two ways to go about it. One, I could sit here and panic about it so much that by the time morning comes, I would be a total emotional wreck without a shred of dignity. Or, two, I can enjoy some time with you and just face what is inevitable like a man. What would you chose, if you were in my place?"

Instead of an answer, the blonde man kissed me again, much more aggressively. I parted my lips to invite him in, and got lost in the feeling of his body on mine.

***

After several hours, during which, we did not rest at all, Rudi stood up and started to dress.

I only watched him; "It is time?"

He just nodded.

I got dressed too, then sat back down and lit a cigarette…the one Rudi stopped me from lighting before. I noticed his disapproving stare, smiled back at him, and continued to drag on the tobacco tube.

He continued to glare at me.

I stood up, walked over to him and kissed him lightly. My lower back stung nicely, reminding me of what he had done to me (and what he let me do to him) over the past several hours. "Come on, one last cigarette isn't gonna kill me."

He sighed and looked away. "I know."

I understood then. "Look, it's gonna be okay. You're gonna handle it."

"I know," he repeated. "It's just…surreal."

I smiled and took another drag. "Toughen up, soldier. Do you need a paper pusher to remind you?"

He grinned half-heartedly. "Maybe I do." He sighed again. "Look, if there was a way out for you, would you take it?"

I nodded, and was okay with it that time. I had not nodded during the past several hours, after all. "If I did, would you find me later? I'd probably open a bookstore again…" Why was I requesting a promise from him?

It was his turn to nod.

We heard a key in the lock. Rudi immediately left my side and stepped into the shadows just behind the door so that nobody could spot him at the first glance. The officer that came into the interrogation room with Bartal beckoned to me, as two soldiers with rifles aimed at me stood behind him. I stepped out of my prison cell, the cigarette still glued to my lower lip. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something a bit darker than the surrounding shadows slip out of the door and head to the stairwell, whereas we continued in the direction of the interrogation room. [i]Hmm…[/i]

I expected to be chained to a chair and interrogated, but that was a wrong assumption. I was put in line together with Minke and the Alpha. I did not look at them; they did not look at me. We stood each for ourselves. We were separate units, after all, and we had all malfunctioned. I thought distantly that perhaps I should be afraid. Somehow, I could not myself care, especially after the night I had spent with Rudi. I decided not to care about the obvious lack of proper emotional response to the situation, or about whether I would really die or not. I felt satisfied and serene, which was kind of strange; I was dirty, unwashed after having sex for hours, tired, unshaven, stinking of sweat and semen, and there were people in this room who obviously wanted to kill me, as well as people whom I had failed. Yet, I was basking in a perfect moment of balance and bliss.

The door flew open, and Captain Tivadar came in, ignoring us as well. He stopped in front of the chief officer and saluted.

The jovial man beckoned to him. "We decided to give you one more chance, Ernie. Don't mess it up."

The dark man nodded silently. I could see the vein on his jaw popping; he was horribly angry, he was barely containing himself.
The other officer continued, "You are directly to supervise the termination of these traitors. Should the termination fail, you are to execute them yourself." The balding man paused, and then added as an afterthought: "No, you will terminate them yourself. It's time for you to get your hands dirty directly again." He left the interrogation room, leaving an irate and humiliated captain behind…leaving us all behind.

Tivadar turned to the soldiers, still refusing to acknowledge our presence. "Escort them to the front of my office."

One of the soldiers nodded and we moved. After scaling the stairs, we were left to wait in the corridor, right in front of the window that was opposite to the door of my office. My former office, I corrected myself. Waiting…funny, one has to wait at the doctor's; at any offices really, and now, we had to wait even for our own deaths.

Rudi appeared from around the corner, obviously freshly showered, his hair still damp even. He was cleanly shaven and wearing a fresh uniform. Both the blouse and the trousers were perfect today; no crumples, no little stains. He did not look at me directly, not that I would expect him to do so. That would be foolish. The blonde approached the group of four soldiers that escorted us and dismissed them. After getting a strange look from one of the guards, he snapped, "What; do you think that I won't be able to handle a bookworm, a woman, and an underfed prisoner?" This made the other soldiers leave immediately.

I half turned and observed the street outside. It was still early morning, but the day was already bright, maybe too bright. It promised to be an unbearably hot day, just the right weather to resort to some nice café near the beach with a glass of something iced, a cigar, and good company for a lazy talk. Children were running on the streets, their parents walking leisurely behind them, hand-in-hand. Of course, yesterday had been Friday, so everybody had the day off today. It was one of those days you wished would never end. I could nearly feel the moisture collecting on the chilled glass wetting my fingers, and I sighed.

The Alpha, no, Irving - at least in the last few minutes, I should acknowledge him as a person - leaned on the wall near me, looking out the window too. Minke stood in the middle of the corridor; her head hung low, her arms crossed. Her hair looked a bit dishevelled, but her uniform was still intact. I guess nobody touched her, and she had a cleaner cell than I had. I glanced on my stained trousers, noting that not all of the mess was the result of me and Rudi having fun; there were smears of dust and grime, some of the stains on my blouse were Irving's blood, especially on my left shoulder and arm. Perhaps Minke just stood the whole night in the middle of the room, not sitting down at all? Maybe she was such a machine that she did not need any sleep? Maybe she just went into a stand-by mode instead? I shivered a bit; that was not a nice thought to think about anybody, much less your own colleague. I looked at Irving again. Although weak and obviously in pain, he seemed to be contended with looking out of the window. Of course, he spent several months in an underground cell, with only the poor light of a single weak light bulb to keep him company. I could see how he squinted a bit, the harsh sunshine too strong for his eyes, but he did not look away from the window.

Finally, the door opened. Tivadar came out and pointed to the blonde woman, "Ladies first, I guess."

The secretary did not utter one word. She just straightened out her posture and smoothed down her skirt, before entering the office. The door closed behind them.

Only now did I look at Rudi again, finding him observing me. I motioned him closer, slipping my left arm around his waist and leaning my head on his shoulder. He held me around the shoulders loosely. Neither of us spoke. Neither of us moved. I still watched the bright world outside the window from the corner of my eye. I felt a strange hollow pain in the pit of my stomach. I had to analyse it for a while to realize what I was feeling, but then it struck me with a full force. I wanted to live. I wanted to live so badly it made my entire being hurt. I wanted to breathe. I wanted to touch Rudi, wanted to kiss him, talk with him, and be silent with him. I wanted to live so strongly it made whole my world reel. I shut my eyes, hoping it would help. It did not. There was a mantra going on and on in my head now: [i]I want to live, I want to live, I-want-to-live-I-want-to-live-I-want-to…[/i]

A gunshot sounded. It was muffled, but it was a gunshot nevertheless. I realized that several minutes had passed since the woman entered the office. I had spent them all just thinking about how much I do not want to die. Perhaps I should have thought of a plan instead? Before the door opened again, I whispered to Rudi, "After I go in, take him away. Get him out."

He let go of me and looked at me questioningly.

I smiled. "Trust me, it's gonna be okay. Will you do it? For me?"

The young soldier nodded.

It took my attention suddenly, how the freckles on his nose and cheeks made him seem younger, while at the same time the subtle lines in the corners of his eyes and mouth spoke of much more experience than anybody his age should have. It was a strange time to notice all of that. I squeezed his waist once more and let go of him too, just in time.

The door flew open and two men with a stretcher came out. Minke, the blonde ice queen, laid silently on it, with a big hole gaping in her right temple. Her hair and blouse were heavily stained with fresh blood, while only a few droplets on her face accented her sudden pallor. Her lips had a strange, unpleasant greyish tinge, as had her eyelids. One of her hands, the right one, fell off the stretcher, the cuff and sleeve sprayed with blood, the roots of her nails turning blue already. The men did not stop walking, and soon, they disappeared around the corner.

The tall dark captain did not appear. He just called from the office, "Next!" Just like at the doctor's…

I smirked and went in. I closed the door behind me and turned to Tivadar. He was wiping his bloodied face with a tissue, his uniform shirt sprayed with blood as well. Obviously, he stood very close to Minke when she died. He was wiping the right side, I noted. [i]Interesting.[/i] He beckoned me to enter his office.

When I did, I noticed how spacious, airy, and light it was compared to mine. Two big windows were letting enough sunshine in to make the whole scene feel like an overexposed photograph. I could hear voices of children from behind the curtain that was billowing in the wind already wafting with heat. I was shown to a chair in front of the captain's table. It was a massive piece of furniture, probably made of walnut wood, highly polished. Even from there, I could see few drops of blood…fresh blood. I smeared it with my finger and cleaned it on my trousers. I noticed each detail with surprising quality.

I was handed a freshly made cup of coffee and a cigarette. It was one of the good brands, which I normally could not afford. I had to hand it to the captain; he was definitely no miser when it came to executions. I fumbled slightly with the lighter before I managed to light the cigarette. The smell of coffee and tobacco smoke mixed with the smell of freshly cut grass and water nearby. I remembered there was a fountain close. Finally, I looked at Tivadar. "This is my last," I beckoned to the cigarette. It was more a statement than a question.

He nodded.

I looked around. "Thank you for the coffee…No alcohol?"

The dark man shook his head silently. He looked completely indifferent. As if this was something usual for him: execute three people at the morning, have lunch, invade a country, and then have a cup of hot chocolate with your dinner. Then, perhaps all of it was common for him. After all, it had been his plans we disrupted so many times.

I chuckled lightly, "Good, at least I'll die healthier."

Tivadar did not seem to appreciate my joke. He waited for me to finish my coffee and put out my cigarette, and then he beckoned me to stand up and come closer. When I did, he gave me a pistol.

I recognized the type. I had the same one at home. I wanted to lead my own personal guerrilla war with it all those months ago. I checked the chamber: one bullet. Not that there were more needed for the execution. On the shelf beneath the big portrait of the Prime Minister of the Revolutionary government was a box with more ammunition.

Tivadar came close behind me.

I released the safety and cocked the hammer.

He grasped my right hand painfully, bringing it up to my right temple. Ah, so this is how he did it with Minke. His other hand pressed me close to his chest. He was slightly taller than I was.

The fractions of seconds, before our right hands were levelled to my head seemed to drag for aeons. I could feel his heartbeat, his breathing, which was smooth and low. I could feel my own heart trying to rip a hole in my throat with a rapid staccato and the pain in my belly telling me how much I want to go on living. I could still taste the high quality tobacco on my tongue, together with the coffee and my morning breath, as well as a touch of the young soldier, who -hopefully- was no longer in front of the door. I squeezed my eyes shut and distantly noticed the sudden need to empty my bladder and recalled the stain on Minke's skirt, right between her legs. I also felt Tivadar's arousal pressing into my back. I wondered vaguely, whether it was me making him hard, or the thought of dealing out death directly, with his own hands, instead through papers from behind a desk.

It was a second that seemed to take ages. Just as his index finger pressed mine to the trigger, I jerked my right hand back, caught his head with my other hand, and bowed forwards.

He probably expected me to try to jerk away. He probably expected me to try to pull our hands down, as if a shot through the chest would be any less fatal instead of only more painful. Perhaps he assumed that I would simply accept my fate without fight. In any case, he certainly had not expected me to do [i]that[/i].

The gunshot sounded. Unpleasantly close to my right ear. I opened my eyes slowly and fell forward on my knees. I took a breath, than, another one. I was alive. The relief threatened to flood my limbs and turn them into a portion of cooked spaghetti, but I could not afford it. The men with the stretcher would be back soon enough. I turned around.

The captain lay on his side like a crumpled doll, part of his face missing. I could see his brain. I felt the back of my head, looking on my hand as I pulled it away. Wet…with blood; His blood, not mine. I was alive.

I stepped to the small sink in the corner of his office, put my head under the faucet, and turned on the tap. The cold water felt beautiful on my heated skin. I rubbed my scalp until the water ran clear and then took off my blouse while rummaging in a nearby cabinet for some spare clothes. All I could find was a white shirt a tad too big, but I was not complaining. I put it on quickly, grabbed the pistol, the box of ammo, put them in my pocket, and searched the desk for any information I could find.

With a few of folders stuffed into the captain's attaché case, I went to the window and jumped out of it. I landed just a couple of feet lower on the roof of a smaller building, where the cafeteria was. I ran quickly, crouched to avoid unnecessary attention, to the fence and scaled down the wall surrounding the backyard. I thanked any deity that would listen, that the Revolutionary government did not care much about the state of their own headquarters, the crumbled bricks leaving gaps big enough for me to hold on comfortably even without any training.

I remember that I did not run. I walked briskly, to the opposite side of town than our headquarters was located. I still had my wallet; the soldiers had not frisked us upon capture. I went into the first clothes shop I found and bought myself new set of clothes. I always dressed formally, so I decided that habit had to go. I chose a pair of black canvas trousers and a black shirt to go with them, finishing the deal with a black leather jacket.

The shop attendant looked at me wide-eyed. I could not blame her. I don't know how I would react, if somebody wet, with a half-insane face, wearing dirty and bloodied trousers would barge into [i]my[/i] shop. Still, she agreed to lend me her hair gel and a comb.

I paid for my purchase and left her a good tip. Then, I changed into my new clothes, moved the firearm and ammunition to my new jacket, and tried to smooth my hair down in the fashion of the street rogues, whom I had observed often enough while in the city with Thalia. I returned the items I had borrowed to the attendant, left the bag with the old dirty clothes -after she promised to me to throw them out- and exchanged another bill for a pair of sunglasses somebody had forgotten there. A few steps from the shop, I took the streetcar back into the centre of the city, and then continued on foot to our headquarters. I had to suppress the urge to go back and see for myself, if Irving had made it out, if Rudi was okay, if Tivadar was really dead. I had not touched him after the gunshot, except for wrestling the gun out of his grip.

I had to remind myself to stay calm. I threw my documents away at the streetcar stop, to avoid being identified by name in a case of a document check. I felt like everyone was looking at me, as if every patrolling soldier already knew I killed somebody, one of theirs, and was ready to shoot me on sight, as one puts down a rabid dog. I had to remind myself every few steps to breathe, just to keep walking. I think it took all the reserve I had not to break into a run. Eventually, I arrived at my destination.

Patrick looked up with surprise in his eyes when I entered the small, shabby flat. He recognised me only when I took the sunglasses off. For the first time since I had started cooperating with him, Patrick was at loss for words.

I gave him the case wordlessly, grabbed his pack of cigarettes, fished one nicotine treat out, and tried to light it. My hands shook so much that after a few attempts, I broke the cigarette. I let the two halves fall, then sat down on the floor and cried like a baby for the second time in years. My body shook so fiercely that I could not breathe properly. I could feel my nose running badly and tried to wipe it with my sleeve. I cried so much that I started to hiccup and roll on the floor. Suddenly, I felt a sharp sting to my face, closely followed by another, and then a third.

Patrick stood up, massaging his hand. He passed me a handkerchief and a tall glass full of whiskey…straight, no ice.

I blew my nose and cleaned myself up a bit, then drank the alcohol as if it was water.

My friend passed me a lit cigarette silently.

I stayed sitting on the floor, dragging on it hungrily, as if I hand not smoked in ages. Finally, I spoke, "Minke's dead. I saw her body. I killed Captain Ernst Tivadar and ran. The papers are from his desk. I don't know about the Alpha, I asked one soldier to get him out, and couldn't check back on him."

Patrick went through the papers and nodded. "He got out okay. He's already out of the city and heading for a hideout in another country. You will need to leave too."

I knew that already, but I did not like the idea.

He did not look up from the papers I brought. "You know it has to be this way. Look, you can always return, after the whole situation is over."

I did not answer.

"Your part is over, and you're compromised."

I knew that too. I was not stupid.

Perhaps I was thinking too loudly, because Patrick chuckled slightly. "You did a good job, but I cannot use you anymore. The half of the government headquarters knows your face and you are the most wanted person in the state right now. I am not saying that you are stupid or useless, but you have to hide now. You collected the money from the insurance on your shop already, yes?"

I nodded, still not speaking. I did not trust myself to speak just then.

"Good. I will have somebody hack your account and get the money to you, so you should have enough to live off. I'll add something from myself too. Consider it a hazard bonus, all right?"

I waived my hand, as if to say, 'whatever'.

"All right, then. Tonight we will move you out…here." He pointed to the map, indicating a small country in the south, near the sea.

***

Two years passed. I became pretty well established in the other country and, honestly, I did not want to go back. I still had issues with my impromptu career as a killer and, more often than not, I woke up in a cold sweat, recalling the morning of white sunshine. I even managed to open a bookstore again, near the seaside. I did not take any lovers, male or female. I did not trust anybody and I did not want anybody to touch me. Whenever I suffered from some illness and had to visit my doctor, I felt as if I was supposed to be executed again. Sometimes, a ringing in my right ear occurred, and my hearing was slightly damaged by the noise of the gunshot. Overall, however, I lived pretty well. One year after my covert emigration, the regime in my old homeland fell. I liked to think it was because of the information I had provided from Tivadar's desk, but it was probably just an illusion of grandeur. I had not contacted Patrick or Thalia, and they never contacted me. It was probably for the better. Oh, and I quit smoking.

It was a bright sunshiny morning, when somebody entered my shop. I was just restocking the shelves, when I heard a voice speak…

"Theo?"

I answered without turning back to face them, "I'm sorry, nobody with that name works here. My name is Simon Braith. How can I…" The words stuck in my throat as I finally did turn and nearly fell down the ladder.

There he was, a ghost from my past, with a slightly uncertain smile. He was more tanned, which made his freckles more accented, his blue eyes shone from his face that bore the colour of light caramel. He had let his hair grow out, and the blond mane was flowing past his shoulders, obviously slightly bleached by the salty water and the sun, he was still well built but not bulky, his short-sleeved shirt showing a few scars on his arms. There was also one crossing his face from under his left eye down to his chin.

"Ru… Rudi?" I could only gasp.

"So it is you!" He grinned just as he used to. "You haven't changed one bit."

"You have…But it looks like it is for better." I could only shake my head numbly. I felt slightly awkward. What do you say to the person that you slept with two years past and then left suddenly, leaving a bloody mess behind? Ah, I know. "Say, I have always wondered, how did you get Bartal out?"

"Oh," he shrugged. Obviously, that was not what he had expected. "I just led him down the corridor and told the watchmen at the gate that he was a beggar and that they should kick him out and not allow him to return. He flew down a flight of stairs, I'm afraid, because they took me too literally." He frowned a bit, "And how did you get out of there?"

I stopped listening as he spoke. I could only drink up his appearance. Suddenly, I grew afraid that he would disappear from my life again, but I shook myself of the panicky feeling. "I tell you what, I'll close the shop for today and we'll talk it all over, how about that?"

His smile came back. I liked it when he smiled. "I like it. Do you have any idea how long I was looking for you? It took me about nine months!"

I was already by the door, locking it and turning the sign from 'open' to 'closed'. "So why didn't you give up?" I asked.

He punched me lightly in the shoulder but -surprise, surprise- I did not mind it. "I couldn't. You kept your end of the bargain, so I couldn't go back on my word, could I?" His hand landed on my elbow; "Besides, I wanted to see you again."

[i]Hint, hint.[/i] Subtle boy, as always. I smiled, "And? How did you find me then?"

He sighed, "After the Second Revolution I was able to trace you back to that girlfriend of yours, the Sikke girl."

I protested, "Hey, Thalia was a cover story as well!"

Rudi threw his hands up. "I know, I know, she told me. I give up. Anyhow, she took me to her cousin."

I nodded, "Patrick."

The blonde man grinned again. "Exactly; Patrick Sikke… So, he was very suspicious at first, he only admitted to knowing you after he ran my name with Bartal, and even then all he told me was that you are in this country, running a bookstore someplace by the sea." He shook his head slightly and put on an exasperated face. "You have no idea how many bookstores there are on this shore. I've been travelling along the beaches for five months already."

I grinned back at him. "Well, you've found me now. Come on up, I'll fix you a drink." I grabbed his arm and dragged him behind me.

We spent the whole day on my terrace, lounging in the shade of the house, drinking chilled tea with mint and lime, and telling each other our stories while looking at the sea. I knew why I picked this house. Some of those stories were funny, some less, some were tragic. Nevertheless, they had to be told. Our hands touched sometimes, our looks lingered on each other. It was a perfect way to spend a hot day, when the sunshine was so bright that the whole world seemed whitewashed, and I knew that the evening would be even better.
 

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