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The game of hide-and-seek has an end (short story)

Brigitte Neumann

There’s no wind. No blade of grass and no flower move on the lush green, colourful summer meadow. A few butterflies flutter in the warm sunshine.

“Beautiful here, isn’t it?” Oliver bends over to look better into the open picnic basket.

“What did you pack?

Pia turns to him and laughs.

“You’re hungry, aren’t you?”

“Yes - and how.”

“Do you like pickled sheep’s cheese? Or tomatoes with mozzarella? And grain baguettes?”

“Sounds good! I’d love a little of everything.”

Pia distributes the sheep’s cheese and the tomatoes on two plates. A spicy note of garlic and basil mixes with the scent of the summer meadow. She gives Oliver the bread. He breaks into large pieces and places them on a napkin. The first ants come crawling on the blanket to get the breadcrumbs.

“Did you pack anything to drink, too?”

Pia laughs again. She fetches a bulged aluminium field bottle from the picnic basket. “Yes, I did.”

“Hey, that’s our canteen!”

This water bottle had always accompanied Pia and Oliver when they were still children and strolled through the fields. They lived house to house and saw each other every day. It’s been that way for a long time. When Pia was in love for the first time, only Oliver heard about it. The first love passed, a new one came - and Oliver remained a faithful friend. He fell in love several times, but always with other women. With one of them, he moved to another place last year. Pia now lives with a fellow student.

They no longer meet often, but when the opportunity presents itself, they rediscover the old familiarity. Friendship yes, love no, they assured each other.

Oliver takes a good sip from the canteen. Pia sees the movements of his Adam’s apple, observes how his lips come loose from the neck of the bottle, how he strokes the palm of his hand across the opening before closing it again and then drives himself over his lips with the back of his hand.

“It’s great that this canteen still exists.”

“I think it’s just as good that our friendship still exists!”

Oliver puts his hand on Pia’s knee as a matter of course. He does that a lot when they talk to each other.

He looks at her, “Yeah, me too.”

Today she takes his hand off her knee.

“You, Oliver, but something’s changed.”

“Soo? What’s changed?”

“Don’t you feel that?”

Her heart beats up to her neck, she fears that her hints have put her friendship at risk. But now she can’t go back. And she doesn’t want to go back either. She’s had no secrets from Oliver before.

He looks at the ground, picks a blade of grass and wraps it around his right index finger. Time holds its breath, butterflies continue to flutter. He turns to her again: “Yes, I feel it already longer. I didn’t want to admit it, because I was afraid for our encounter.”

“And now what?” Now she puts her hands on his knees. There’s a tremor in her voice. “Let’s be honest with each other - as always? Or do we have to hide from each other now?”

Oliver resists her gaze and says, “No... I mean, yeah. Yes, let’s be honest - as always!”

They hug each other, nestle close together, rediscover each other. Butterflies dance in her belly.

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