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Stannie

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About Stannie

  • Rank
    Beer-Sensei

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  • Age in Years
    21
  • Gender
    Male
  • Sexuality
    Gay
  • Location
    The Netherlands
  • Interests
    Science, writing, reading, playing games

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  1. Thanks. I do have a good editor though, otherwise you would've known I'm not a first language speaker. And yeah, I do have assignments and I work as well, but whatever time I have, I mostly spend it writing (admittedly, I write several stories at the same time, so sorry for that). I hope I'll do well on my exams as well, thanks. I'll try to publish a Missing chapter every month from now on, by the way. So it's not gonna be as bad as it once was.
  2. I know how you feel. It's also frustrating when you know exactly where the story is going, but writing it down (especially since it's in another language) is slowing you down. It would be so cool if you could just think up a story and have it written down immediately . I got the rough sketch of next few chapters ready, and I feel more motivated than ever to write (with the patrons and all supporting me, it's an enormous energy boost). I have one more week of exams to go and then I'll have a week or so to write nonstop. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it
  3. "You're a snorer." Looking up, Milan has a confused expression on his face, as if he just woke up again. "I'm sorry." I shake my head. "Don't be sorry." It's cute, I add in my thoughts. Nervously, I take a seat next to him, contemplating whether I really want to tell him how I feel. I was okay all this time. Of course I thought Milan was cute even before we crashed on the island, but I never meant to fall in love with him. For some reason I managed to see him as a friend. All of a sudden this changed, but it could change back just as abruptly, right? "Something's wrong," Milan says. Now it's my turn to look confused. "With the island, you mean?" "With the island? How can an island be wrong?" Shrugging, I reply: "I dunno. Maybe you have a feeling something bad is going to happen. I have that sometimes." "Nah, I meant something is wrong with you." "Oh." He turns a little to face me better, even though we're still sitting next to each other. "Normally you're so talkative. You always wonder about things no one has the answers to. But now you're quiet." "You were the one who completely ignored me earlier this week," I smirk. "And now you complain about me being silent." For a split second, I notice a hint of guilt on his face, but it's gone as fast as it appeared. "I had a reason for that. A reason you were aware of." "Not at first." "We're not talking about that. I asked you a question: is something wrong?" This is the perfect time to tell him, I know it. But, I also know what he thinks about gay people. Being honest with him could destroy the friendship we have. Do I want that? On the other hand, do I want a friendship with someone who cannot accept me the way I am? Why is this happening? I don't want this. It's the kind of dilemma you can either try to ignore or give in to, but you can never really solve it. "I'm not sure. I think I've been wondering about the real world a lot, you know. About what life used to be." Alright… A lie. So much for being honest today. "I knew it. You're worrying again. You're good at that. Too good." He smiles and I feel an urge to kiss him right here and now. "We'll be alright, Ryan." "You really believe that?" "Yes. I do." Without really thinking about it, I hug him. At first Milan doesn't move, but then he slowly hugs me back. "Thanks." When we release the hug, Milan is still smiling. That's a good sign, isn't it? "I don't even know anything about your life before the crash," I say. Milan thinks about that for a second. "There isn't much to know. I was in school, in the honours program…" "That doesn't surprise me," I interrupt him. It causes him to grin. "And uhh, I'm not sure what else I could tell you about me." "Did you have a girlfriend? Or boyfriend?" He snickers. "No boyfriend of course, no. But that's really twenty-first century of you to add." He laughs again, and when his laugh has died out, he adds: "But yeah, I used to have… like, not really, but kinda… a girlfriend. Emily." My heart stopped beating for a few seconds. "What's the 'not really' about it?" Suddenly, his face takes on a bitter sweet expression, he looks nostalgic, as if remembering something. "I think it just didn't work out. We liked each other, but I didn't really love her. We're still friends, though." For some reason I feel relieved. As if suddenly I do have a chance with him. Of course I don't. "What about you?" he asks. "Uhh," I stammer, pictures of Luke flashing through my mind. He never was my boyfriend, but we did share a little kiss when I was on holiday last year. It was the most intimate I ever was with another boy and since then, the doubt about my sexuality was completely gone. He had to leave the day after, so we never had a chance to kiss again. He was very cute and I really wanted to look him up after we got back, but I never did. I wonder if he knows I'm one of the people on the plane that crashed. I'm sure we must be all over the news now, right? "No, never had a girlfriend. Never even kissed a girl." Milan grins. "You'd love it, dude!" "I guess." "So… What about your life before the crash?" I look out over the vast ocean as if I expected to see my old life floating towards me. "I wasn't in any honours classes," I say absentmindedly. "I liked art. Wood carving, painting and playing the keyboard." "Oh, you make music? Cool! What kind of music." "Mostly classical. I love Ludovico Einaudi, for example. I tried to learn it on the keyboard." "Cool! I never really listen to classical music, but I'm sure if I did, I'd like it. Isn't that Ludivico guy from Intouchable, the film?" I laugh at his horrible French pronunciation, but at the same time I know I wouldn't have done better. It's somewhat disappointing that he doesn't listen to my kind of music, but maybe it helps me getting over the feeling of liking him. "Yeah, it is. The song Fly appears in the film. It's one of the best songs." "I loved the film." "I did as well. But hey, I think I'm going to bed soon." It's now or never, I think to myself. I can tell him how I feel and even if he doesn't feel the same, we could still be friends, right? "I'll come soon. Goodnight, Ryan," he says and pulls me in for a hug. A little baffled, I hug him back. Breathing is becoming difficult. This isn't just a bro hug, is it? It's too long. We break the hug, and I say: "Thanks, Milan. For the hug, for the talk and for being a friend. I needed that." "No problem." He smiles. Walking away, I turn around to look at him again; he's staring into the blackness of the sea. The proverbial stone in my stomach was gone for a few minutes, but the hug brought him back again. My heart is beating from the adrenaline I felt when I was thinking about telling him, so imagine how my body would react if I ever told him. Never have I had this much trouble with coming out to someone. It feels like there is so much at stake, even though I know I probably won't see him again after we get rescued. Does it really matter? My spot between Kai and mom looks inviting, so without spending more time thinking about Milan, I snuggle in between them, put my arm around my favorite ten-year-old and fall asleep. I wake up to Kai shouting: "Mom, we got a pack of crackers and some extra olives from Casey!" "Sst, Kai. Some people in the camp are still asleep," mom whispers. "Oh, I'm sorry." After I open my eyes I need a few seconds looking at the ceiling of our hut, to get my brain warmed up. I turn around and see Milan rubbing his eyes. "Morning," I say with a rusty voice. I turn onto my stomach, my head resting on my arms. He smiles. "Good choice to leave the "good" in "good morning" behind." A chuckle leaves my lips. "There was a good, it was just more like a single "g". G'morning." "Well, at least it didn’t deserve to be pronounced fully." "Why? What's wrong?" "Being woken by an enthusiastic kid screaming practically in your ear isn't what I'd call 'good'." "Oh…" I hear from behind me. "I'm sorry, Milan." Turning around, I notice the boy standing in the doorway, his posture doing nothing to hide his sadness. "Oh, no, it was meant sarcastically," Milan says immediately. "I didn't mean it." "Okay..." He doesn't look too convinced. "Don't mind him, Kai. He is suffering from a well-known morning mood. I, for one, didn't mind waking up to your cool voice!" The boy beams. "Yeah. Milan has morning mood." Only now Kai says it, I hear how close 'morning mood' resembles 'morning wood'. Unwillingly an image of Milan's morning wood appears on my retina and a blush rises to my cheeks, but I shake it away immediately. No more crushing over the boy from now on! We have breakfast together, after which Kai and my mom go to the improvised classroom, and Milan and I head over to our fishing area. It isn’t long before Trenton joins as well. His mom decided to stay with his sister, so he doesn't have to babysit today. We have only caught one fish when Milan suddenly says: "I smell fire." "You smell fire?" Trenton asks. "Yeah, fire. Smoke." He looks around. "There!" I turn around and notice a small trail of smoke curling upwards from somewhere close to the camp. "You're right." "Let's check it out." Trenton reels in the line and puts the rod next to the rock we were sitting on. Together, like the three musketeers, we approach the danger. Once we're closer to the camp, we can see some people already gathered around the source of the smoke, just behind our camp a few meters into the woods. We walk over there, I carefully push someone aside and find Ronny in the middle of all the commotion. "I told you, there is nothing wrong! Just a stupid twig. I had it under control." "Why did you even make a fire? Why are you in the forest. We told you not to!" Matthew Bachmeier looks furious, almost spitting fire himself. "And what is this hideous construction. You trying to be like the gay kid?" I involuntarily flinch at the comment. Margareth gives a quick glance in my direction, probably to find out how much that hurt, but then looks at the misbehaving kid again. Just behind Ronny is some weird contraption. A pit with a small fire in it, some metal tubes above it, with a metal container on top. I wonder where he got it from. The edges of the metal container are sealed off with mud and clay and a tube leads from the container towards an empty bottle. I didn't see at first, but there is water dripping from the tube into the bottle. "You could have burned down the whole forest!" His right foot occasionally pounds on the earth, causing the construction to shake. Ronny's face is deadly pale. The once so talkative boy, the confident bully, is reduced to nothing but a fearful doll. "I had it under control, dad," he stammers and coughs. "No, you didn't. You risked our lives only to do… what exactly? Make this stupid thing? What does it even do?" He kicks the metal container, which tumbles over. All the water that had filled the container streams out. I feel my hand being grabbed and without looking I know the school has joined us as well now. Then someone else grabs the other hand, so I peek, my heart pounding as I imagine it's Milan. It's not him, but one of Kai's friends, Noah. Ronny is visibly sweating. "I… I was… distilling water." He swallows. "You were what?! You have got to be kidding me!" Oliver is watching, but he doesn't get involved. I may be wrong, but I feel like he is grinning. My mom quickly puts a hand on my shoulder, which by now is a gesture I know all too well. Then she walks right into the lion's den. "Matthew," she almost whispers. "It's okay. We all make mistakes." Within a second the man turns around and looks at my mom directly. If his eyes weren't spitting fire before, they surely are now. "This is MY son. We don't make mistakes." He looks at me holding the two boys hands, then at Milan and back at his son again. "Right now Ronny is a bigger disappointment than the son who's queering around with your son!" Milan's eyes lock with mine, his face showing an apologetic look. As he turns back to the spectacle, he takes a step away from me. I think he didn't want me to notice, but I did. And it hurt. It hurt more than what his dad was saying about me in front of everyone. Mom also looks at me, just like Margareth did earlier. As if she were trying to see how much the comment hurt and whether she had to defend me. She doesn't. "He was trying to help, Matthew." The man laughs. "Right. By doing exactly what Jan told us not to do." He turns his attention back to Ronny, which means he also turns his back to my mother. The whole camp has gathered here, but no one knows what to do. I think we're all scared. "Jan said that distilling water would cost too much time and wouldn't be safe. We don't know what shit is in the water!" Ronny coughs again. "Jan was wrong." Tears are gathering in his eyes, waiting for the cue to be released. "Distilling isn't dangerous." He coughs. "Have you been drinking the water?" With a tear running down his cheek, he nods. "So that's why you're sick. You're infected by whatever lives in the water. It's your own fault!" "I can't be. I can't be." Ronny is crying and I wonder if it's because he knows he's right and not being understood, or because he believes his dad and fears for his health. "Distilling is perfectly safe. Jan was wrong." The Bachmeier mom now stands behind her husband and puts her hand on his shoulder. "Your dad is right. You should listen to people who know better." "He doesn't... know…" Again a cough. "He doesn't know better." Seeing the boy cry, even after all the crap he has put me and Milan through, affects me. I feel a lump in my throat and I almost want to stand up for him. The resemblance between his dad and satan keeps me from getting involved, however. "Why don't we just head back to the camp and talk about it together," mom offers. "Shut up! I'm trying to teach my son to stop thinking he is better than the people around him. Keep out of it." There was a complete study done about keeping humankind safe in the future from our nuclear waste. They sought a universal way in which to communicate the danger to people thousands of years later, when people wouldn't understand today’s languages and couldn't read a written warning. Well, looking at the situation right now, all they needed is a picture of Mathew, his eyes and expression, is the universal warning they need. Mom seems to conclude the same thing, and a little resentfully takes a step back. Milan's dad lashes out and kicks the bottle away. The supposedly purified water trickles out onto the earth. "Clean this shit and go to bed. No dinner for you." "Matthew. Do you really think that's necessary?" Margareth asks. The man just nods and walks away, leaving us all dumbfounded. The mom glances at both her sons once more and follows her husband. Milan rushes towards Ronny and puts an arm around his shoulder and guides him away, Kai and Noah let go of my hands and run away, with my mom following them as close as she can. Slowly, everyone leaves the danger zone. I'm still here, staring at the distillation setup. Does this mean that Ronny was trying to help us all this time by getting fresh water? That's why he was so mysterious about entering the forest. The insults Matthew made today are echoing through my head and I feel tears in my eyes. Mom didn't defend me publicly and she didn't come to me to comfort me. It's as if she didn't even care. And Milan… he deliberately took a step away from me when his dad spoke about him queering around with me. He distanced himself from me, not caring what I thought or felt. He'd rather hurt me than have his name in the same sentence as the word queer. That's the answer to my doubts, isn't it? Does anyone care? I run a few meters into the forest, making sure I'm completely out of sight of anyone in the camp, and sit down against a tree. Trying to figure out what - from all the things that happened today - actually hurt the most, I feel a tear escaping from the pool in my eyes. I want to go home. So far, I have liked being on the island. I liked having to survive, getting to know all these people and starting to see them as a family. But people will always be people. They will only care about themselves. Except for Ronny, who apparently wanted to help, even though it was by thinking he's better than the rest. I wipe the tears off my cheek with my shirt and remain silent, engulfed by the darkness of the forest. After a few minutes I hear someone behind me. "Here you are," a whisper says. My eyes are still red as I turn around. It's Milan. "Yeah?" "Oh shit, you've been crying... Ryan, you shouldn't care about what my dad says. He can be an asshole sometimes. He says things that aren't true!" There is the sting again. Not as big as when he stepped away, but still a sting that's able to destroy me from the inside out. Milan walks over to me and crouches in front of me. "I'm sorry if my dad insulted you, really." Looking at that face of his, the boy who doesn't even realise he is the one that hurt me more than his father's words ever could, I can literally feel something snap inside me. "He was right!" I practically spit it out. "Huh?" He looks genuinely confused. Seriously, how stupid can one be? "I'm a fucking queer!" I screech. Even though I so carefully wiped my face clean before, tears are streaming down again. "You - the Milan Bachmeier, first of his name or whatever - you have been queering around. With a fag. A gay boy, a homo. Please, I'm sure you know more names!" He flinches and involuntarily takes a step back, all the while still crouching. I don't even care anymore whether he puts this distance between us because he's scared of my sudden outburst, or because he is disgusted by my sexuality. "Where are your excuses now, hah?" I swallow as I put my hands in front of my eyes, crying into them. "Your dad didn't insult me," I continue, "you did, when you shied away from me when your dad said those nasty things about me." "I'm sorry." "Oh, words. Finally." "I'm sorry, Ryan. I just… I'm not sure… I uhh." Slowly I allow a gap in between my fingers too look at his face. It's almost as pale as Ronny's was just half an hour ago. "I think I have to go back." A second of silence. "To… uhh… check in with my brother." "Go then. Leave me alone!" "I'm sorry, Ryan. I really am." The boy leaves me. He doesn't just walk, no, he runs.
  4. Heya guys, I'm not sure if this is the right forum to post this in, so if it isn't, you can tell me or move this to somewhere it fits. Recently, I started writing another story. As English isn't my native language, I often struggle with the sentences and stylistic choices. I don't want my story to be full of mistakes, that's why I'm looking for an editor. Even though I'd love to have someone who can get rid of all those mistakes ( believe me, there are a lot), I'm also looking for someone who could look at my style and give feedback on how to improve. Just looking at whether sentences feel/sound right and maybe offering alternatives on how to phrase it. Thing is, I feel like I am somewhat proficient in the language, but this is on a communicative level. When writing and especially when describing things in stories, just getting across the message in a plain and easy way doesn't suffice. You often want the sentences to sound right. You want to create an image for the reader. That's my struggle and I hope someone could help me with this. As for the story, I'm quite happy about it (story-wise), but I always appreciate feedback on that level as well. Things like how a character feels, what you miss in them or what you think is too prominent. Whether you like the things that are happening etc. Just general feedback. In the end I want to improve my writings, so any feedback is welcome. I love learning, so knock yourself out! So, if you want to help me out, please send a pm. You can have a look at the first (two) chapter(s) and decide whether you feel the story or not. Thanks! Stannie
  5. After bringing the children back to my mother, I look around for Milan. Apparently he started fishing again. "Hey," I call out. He looks up. "Oh hey. Did you finally get rid of the kids?" I grin. "I thought one Kai was a lot to handle, but imagine three of those boys. Damn, I feel sorry for my mother." Milan laughs. "So did you catch anything while I was gone?" "Nope." "Maybe the new couple would like some fish? They must be hungry." Milan scrunches his forehead into a frown. "I think right now they must be getting frustrated with everyone buzzing around them, better give them some space." "Yeah… You're right. Anyway, wonder what they've been through." Milan reels in the line to see if there is still bait on it. Looking up he casts the line into the sea, before turning his head to look at me. "I can't imagine how it must have been all this time out there alone. Over a week or so." "Ten days," I confirm. He thinks about this for a moment. "Seriously? Ten days already? Holy shit!" "I know, right. It feels like we can't have been here for over a week, stranded on an island. Yet, it seems so long ago when I was getting on that plane." "Yeah. It's weird." "And all this time Henry and Karen were alone in the woods. With the natives around. Must have been so scary." Milan says nothing, simply nodding his agreement. We both stare at the wooden floater. Life is weird, you know. You feel like you can influence the outcome in some way, as if you can make conscious choices to change the path of life, but at the same you have no control over what happens. You have to go with what god - or whatever there is - hands you. But apart from the fact I'm scared - we're all scared - life on the island isn't that bad. I'm not really worried, I guess. Yet, I do already know that this day will scar me for life. Even if we were to get rescued tomorrow, this experience will shape me. "Ten days…" Milan says absentmindedly. "We will be world news when we are rescued." He looks at me. "We should enjoy our privacy on this island, probably will be our last. We'll be super stars!" I laugh. "I thought about that, yeah. I can imagine some talk shows wanting to interview us, but after a few months or so everything would calm down again." We lapse into silence as we contemplate what life back in the real world would look like. I would probably have to tell the same story over and over again. "I wonder if people will keep in touch after going home." "We could organise a yearly reunion." He smiles. "I'd love that." Milan looks like he's deep in thought: "Do you want to get rescued?" The question takes me off-guard. "What do you mean?" "Do you want to get rescued?" he repeats "I don't know. Of course I want to get rescued, like, I don't want to have to live on the island forever. But at the same time, life on the island right now is quite relaxing." Milan nods, lost in thoughts but with a weird grin on his face. "You know? No stress or whatever. No deadlines, no school. No need to find yourself a spot in a complex social system." Milan snickers. "I love how I can ask a yes-no question about getting rescued and you reply with something about social systems." I blush a little. "I'm sorry." "No no, don't be!" "Hey guys." Turning around, I see Trenton standing there. "Yo. How are you?" He smiles. "Good, actually. I tried to teach my sister some of the wood carving skills you taught me. Though maybe I shouldn't have taught her how to use a knife, now I think about it." I laugh. "Well, if she can handle it, it's cool! We can make a huge carving in a tree or something. Like a totem pole." "Teaching the natives on this island what a totem pole is, makes sense," Milan laughs. I try to figure out what time it is, looking at where the sun sits in the sky. It's something I'm getting quite good at lately. I can't tell exactly what time it is, but I can get an indication. "Any idea if my mom's school is done already?" Trenton nods. "That's how I'm here already. School's done, my brother is babysitting now." Several people are walking around the camp. I see my mom talking to Casey over by the fireplace and Matthew, Milan's dad, pacing around his hut impatiently. I can account for almost anyone, but I can't see Kai. "I wonder why Kai isn't here yet. Normally he he joins us immediately." Milan shrugs. "Maybe he's playing with this new friend of his? What’s his name?" I survey the camp. "No, Noah is running after a girl, don't know who she is though." "Must be Pauline," Trenton says. Frowning, I look at him. "Who's that?" "A girl in your mom's class. She came here together with her dad, Samuel." "You've been studying names," Milan remarks. "Well, Samuel has been paying way too much attention to my mom lately, so I’m keeping an eye on him." A snicker escapes my lips. "Anyway, I'm gonna look for Kai." "Want me to come with you?" Milan asks. "Nah, it's fine. You can try catching some fish on your own for once!" Milan mimics looking hurt and Trenton laughs. I leave them to it and head back to the camp. Noah is still there chasing this girl. Apparently they’re having fun, you can hear their laughter through the whole little settlement. I smile to myself. It's good to have the sound of laughing kids around, they make this whole situation more bearable. I join my mom, who's talking to Rick. They're both looking up at the sky. "You can feel the air is dry, can’t you?" My mom nods. "Well, those clouds up there are so-called nimbostratus clouds. They often forecast huge storms." "But the weather is still really nice, and they seem to be really far up in the sky." Rick nods. "That's why they are considered really treacherous. If the wind starts blowing down in coastal areas when there are nimbostratus clouds, a nice summer day can suddenly become a downpour. Within a few minutes." I stand and listen, I see mom has noticed I'm there. "But the wind isn't blowing down, right?" "You're right. But you never know. It's always good to be on your guard." Mom smiles. "I will be. Now, Ryan, what do you want?" "If there’s gonna be a storm, we should get some containers to catch the water." "And we should make sure our huts are waterproof," Rick says. "I bet they're not." I laugh. "Yeah. I don't think anyone has anticipated rain." He shrugs. "Yes, well, weather can be quite treacherous, especially in a hot climate." "Anyway. I'm looking for Kai. Have you seen him?" My mom quickly scans the camp. "No, I thought he would be with you, to be honest." "Yes, me too. But he isn't." "That's odd." I nod. "Are you going to look for him or should I?" I shake my head. "I will, he can't be far. Thanks." Smiling, I leave them behind. Where could he be? As I wander through the camp a little aimlessly, I find myself walking to the Bachmeier's residence. Maybe he wanted to find out what the new couple had to say? But Milan's dad sends me away. "You should leave, kiddo," he says. I hate it when adults act disparagingly towards children. We're all people, you know. You don't have to keep reminding me I'm young. I really feel bad for Milan, having to put up with this man all the time. I check our own hut thinking that maybe Kai got tired and went for a nap? Nope. I ask around, but no one has seen the little boy. Normally he's quite noticeable, to say the least. I'm starting to become a little stressed, when Margareth notices me. "Hey Ryan, what's wrong?" "I'm searching for Kai. Can't find him anywhere. I'm starting to worry, actually." She frowns, "I haven't seen him either. He wouldn't have just wandered off, would he?" "I don't think so…But I don't know for sure." " Strange. Where could he be?" "That's what I'm trying to find out. I have literally no idea." "What about his grandfather's grave?" Surprised, I look at her. "Of course! Haven't looked over there. He must be there." "Well, be nice to him then, Ryan. He's a young child, you know." I frown. "I know." I thank the woman again and walk to the spot where we buried Jonathan. As I'm coming closer, I can see him sitting on the sand cross-legged. I wonder why he'd come here. Can't be for a good reason. I notice I'm becoming a little nervous as I have no clue as to how to approach him. Maybe I should just leave him be? But then the boy turns around and sees me. And I see him. His eyes are red. He looks exhausted. I can feel myself tear up as well. His laugh may be really contagious, but so is his sad face. "Hey buddy," I say as I reach him. "Hi." His voice is soft. It sounds like it could break at any moment, just like his heart. Sitting down next to him in the sand and for a few minutes I stare at his grandpa's grave. The final resting place is quite sober. It's just a cross made of two sticks nailed together. I'm not even sure if Jonathan was buried on this or the other side of the cross. If it's this side, that'd mean we'd be sitting right on top of him. I have no idea what to say to Kai, but I feel like refraining from talking is the best thing to do. I, for one, always appreciate having someone around who's not saying anything when I'm sad. Just knowing you're together can be reassuring and it often brightens the mood, if only a little. I put an arm around the boy. I can feel he's trembling and there are still soft sobs every now and then. I wonder why he suddenly feels this sad. Together we stare at the simple cross as I'm patiently tracing circles in the sand. I hear a movement behind me, so I turn to look. It's Milan. He sees me and stops dead in his tracks. He nods at me and walks away again. I love that he came to look for me and I love it even more that he understood the situation immediately. For a posh kid he is really considerate. "I…" Kai says after a few more minutes. "Why am I always happy?" He turns to look at me. His eyes are red and his cheeks are irritated by his tears. "What do you mean?" "I'm supposed to be sad." He starts tearing up again. "I should be sad. This is my grandpa." I don't say anything. The little boy swallows. "I forgot about him. Grandpa Jon. I… How." He starts sobbing again. "I should have been here for him. Thinking about him. Crying for him." "Hey, Kai. It's alright to be sad now." "No! I should've been that before." "Well, there was a lot going on. There are lots of distractions." He moves closer to me. "He's gone," he stammers. "He… he is really… forever gone. Away. He left." I notice I'm starting to tear up as well as I'm staring at the sticks in front of me while having his boyish voice hitting me with reality. "I think I wanted to forget about him." I pull him closer. "I think sometimes we have to park our sadness when there is a lot going on. So you can reach out to it whenever you have time and strength to do so, you know? You can process it at your own pace." I can see Kai has to think about this; he doesn't reply. Five minutes later he speaks up: "what would my mom think if she knows I just ignored grandpa and went fishing with you instead? She would be so disappointed." "You know you're my best friend, right?" He nods and wipes a tear from his cheek. "Well, then believe me when I say: I'm sure your mom would be proud of you. There is so much going on. And you're coping amazingly well. Better than I would, really." His face lights up as he looks at me with those sad red eyes, "Really?" "Yes! You're so fun to have around and you're always laughing. You make everyone in the camp much happier. Everyone here loves you! I know I do." A smile breaks across his face, "Thanks, Ryan." "Anytime, little bro. Now, what about we stay here a few more minutes to think about grandpa Jon, is that alright? To think about what an amazing man he was." "Yes, he was amazing." Another tear rolls down his cheek, but he’s still smiling when he says, "I miss him, Ryan." "There is nothing wrong with that, Kai. Once we get rescued you can grieve together with your family." He looks up at me. "Grieve?" "Being sad about your loss," I explain. "Ah." And suddenly he hugs me. "Thanks for being my friend, Ryan." "Thank you for being mine," I smile. "What about we carve a really beautiful cross for your grandpa?" He beams. "Really?" "Yes, it will become magnificent. Something he would be proud of." "That'd be so cool. Thanks!" "No worries." The cross would become really beautiful, just like I promised the little boy. Moreover, it would become the most beautiful cross on the beach, its beauty amplified by the amount of plain crosses all around it. I think one of the reasons I wanted to go back to the island was to see whether the graves were still there. Maybe I'm afraid to feel the same as Kai did, maybe I don't want to feel like I forgot about them. Every single person who died on that island is part of me. Part of us. We should think about them, worship them like the natives worshipped their scientists. I know you don't understand this, Tom. I don't expect you to understand it. I merely ask you to accept it. Just like I don't want you to forgive me. I merely want you to remember me as if I never betrayed you. Can you do that? "Let's go back to the camp now, alright?" "Sure." Getting up I help Kai to his feet. We fall into another hug. "When we get rescued, do you still want to be my brother?" he asks. "Of course!" "Yay!" I wipe away the tears on his face with my shirt and together we walk back to camp. "Maybe you should go and find Milan, he was looking for you as well. He's probably fishing now. I'll be joining you shortly." "What are you gonna do?" "Just check on the new guys. Maybe I can help them." He hasn’t stopped smiling. "Cool." And he runs off. I'm glad he's not so sad anymore, it hurt to see him that way. I get it though, so much is happening. You need moments of reflection once in a while. That's why I often wander down to the beach at night, to think about everything that's happening. I believe it's this reflecting that has kept me sane and alive throughout the year on this island. I also think it's what helped me keep Milan alive. In some way, everyone who died on the island lost his or her sanity at some point. They made mistakes, they rushed making decisions and they forgot to take it slow. It was this encounter with Kai at his grandfather's grave that caused me to realise Kai was one of those people who didn't take time to reflect, but instead let the stress build up over time. It was this moment I learned I had to protect the boy, not only against the island and its piteous conditions, but against his own coping mechanism. If only I had suceeded, then maybe I wouldn't be writing this book right now. "What'ya need kid?" Matthew Bachmeier asks as I approach their hut. "I was wondering if maybe I can help you with something? I want to help the new couple out." I notice Ronnie watching us and grinning. "We don't need you. Go play or something." That dude is so annoying. "I can prepare some fish for them. Might be a nice change in diet after spending so much time in the forest." He smirks. "If I want them to eat fish, I would get some." What the… "Where?" I ask. "You're the guy that made the fishing poles, right? Well, I'd get some from you then." This makes me smile. "I wouldn't give them unless you asked nicely." "You think I have to ask for those fish? I can take them if I want." Imagine having him as dad. No wonder Ronny is the way he is. It leaves you to wonder why Milan is cool, considering all. "That's what I thought." Milan's dad doesn't even try to hide his feeling of superiority, but his voice reveals he's getting irritated. Good. I notice Ronnie is still watching me. He seems content, as if he thinks his father is going to get mad any moment. He could try. I already saw Margareth is right behind me, probably listening to every word being said and my mom is probably in that hut, actually trying to help the new couple. "I'd rather throw them back in sea than give them to someone who talks with so much disdain about and to younger people. We are kids still, you're right. But you're talking about the kids that are getting your food while you're playing guard." Admitted, my rudeness surprises me a bit, but I think the thought of Milan having to put up with this guy constantly triggered my storage of impolite things to say to overflow. "Watch your mouth, kid." I smile unconvincingly. "Exactly what I meant. Anyway, just tell Karen and Henry they can get a nicely prepared fish if they want. I'm sure they would appreciate that." Milan's dad makes no reply, Ronnie doesn't look too pleased either. I ignore them both and turn my attention to Milan and Kai. The two boys are sitting side by side, something which makes a nice picture. I'm so glad Milan isn't like the rest of his family. "You shouldn't talk to my dad…" Ronny coughs as I try to walk past him. "Not like that." He coughs again. "Why shouldn’t I? He's acting as if he's my dad. He isn't." "He's the boss around here for a reason, kiddo." Wow, this is insane. That guy is even younger than I am. It's so sad. "The boss?" I raise an eyebrow. "You're disconnected from reality, that's what you are." He laughs, but it fails as he coughs even more. "That doesn't sound too good. Maybe let Casey check it out." Grinning slyly he replies, "It's just a cough. Only a little fag would have it checked out." "Whatever." I shrug. "Have fun being lonely, kiddo." I turn and walk away. "Oh god, I hate your family," I sigh as I reach the fishing spot. "They're not that bad," Milan replies without looking up. "Why are they interfering with everything? And why does your dad constantly treat me as if I'm a kid!" Milan looks defenseless. "I don't know. I guess because we're still kids?" I groan. "Still no reason to treat us like that." "I guess. But as I said, they're not that bad. They're just having difficulties getting used to this island." Sitting down next to Kai I pull him towards me, to make sure he still feels alright after what happened this afternoon. I really want to be a brother to him, even more than I already am. I'm going to protect the little guy. "We're all having difficulties adjusting to life on the island. No need to project that onto each other." I understand Milan is trying to come up with another way to defend his parents and I realise I may be pushing things too far. "Anyway, you're right. It's difficult for all of us. I guess we're all trying to cope with it in our own way." "Yeah." "I'm just happy you are not laying it on us." Milan smiles. "I'm happy you're giving me no reason to." "I think there's a fish trying to get your bait," Kai whispers. Milan stands up and tries to catch it by suddenly pulling the rod in. The hook flies out of the water and we can see a fish dropping down in the water again. "Ouch, close one!" "That was a big one!" Milan exclaims. "His lips must have torn or something." "A shame you let it go," I remark and Kai giggles. The boy sits down again. "Stop bullying me, you're just like my brother." I laugh out loud. "That may be the worst insult one could give." Both Milan and Kai burst out laughing. "About my family," Milan says after a few minutes. "This new couple is gonna sleep in our hut. We don't have that much space, however, so I was wondering if you guys have some room? So I could move to your hut for a few days until we find a new hut for the two." "Yay, a sleepover!" Kai shouts. I smile. "I guess that's alright. If you bring your own bedding." "Of course. Thanks man." "I should check with my mom first though, but I bet it's okay with her as well." "Great." We don’t catch any fish, but we still have fun that evening. Trenton joins us again a few hours later and I teach him some more wood carving tricks. I notice Kai is watching us closely, probably looking forward to making his grandfather's cross. He's happy again, even though I sometimes see a flash of sadness on his face, apparently he realised that being sad wouldn't help him, he has to stay strong. I turn towards him and smile. He smiles back at me. His smile really is the best ever. I know I keep saying this, but his smile is so contagious. I wish I could write down the effect his smile has, not only on me, but on everyone, but I can't. There simply aren't the right words for that in our language. I tried painting it once, but it never had the same effect as the real life version did. I wish you could have seen it, Tom. "I wonder where the others who went looking for water are now," Trenton says suddenly. I nod. "Isn't it just weird we don't even know whether they're alive or not right now? Where they are, what they have been through these last days." A shiver runs down his spine. "Just weird." "Yeah, it does really make you wonder," is my response. I notice Milan is looking at me, as if he's expecting a really wise comment next, but I don't know what else to say. "But I think, in some way," Trenton continues, "we also don't know what the rest of the world is like. Maybe a nuclear war broke out or something, which is the reason we're not rescued yet. Then we'd come back to a completely destroyed world." I quickly glance at Kai to see what his reaction is. I normally wouldn't mind speculating about these things when younger kids are around, but you know, with him being a little down today, we should be careful. He doesn't seem to mind though. "If you're looking at the limit of possibility like that, anything can be weird," Milan says. "Ever read the article about a brain in a vat by Putnam?" We both shake our heads. Kai shakes his as well, which I think is cute, as probably no one expected him to have read it to begin with. "Putnam was a philosopher who tried to criticise this view of the world that says everything is a simulation. Pretty much like The Matrix, ever saw that movie?" "Yeah, I loved it," Trenton says. "Basically, did you ever think about the world being a simulation? What if evil aliens abducted you when you were one year old, extracted your brain and put it in a vat. Then they connected your brain to a really good computer and they simulated a world just like the real one. How would you know?" "You can't take out my brain and keep me alive," I say. "I need blood and food." Milan frowns. "The aliens are really advanced, they made a system that could provide blood and energy. Just look behind those practicalities, would you be able to say for sure you're not simulated?" I think about that. "Yes, because if the world was simulated, I wouldn't be able to talk to you guys, right?" He grins. "That's the question. What if they made a computer good and clever enough to simulate a whole human being?" "I don't think you would know," Trenton says. "But would it really matter?" Milan asks. I expect him to have an answer to his own question, but apparently he hasn't. "I guess it wouldn't?" I say hesitantly. "Whether you're simulated or not, it wouldn't matter, I'm used to you guys the way you are." "Exactly. I love that you said this! I also believe it wouldn't matter to me to find out everyone was simulated. Wouldn't make you less real." "Then this would be like a computer game?" Kai asks. I'm surprised he followed the conversation to this point, I even had difficulties understanding it. It's not the first time I suspect my little bro is quite the smart boy. "Right. But, if those aliens are able to make a computer in which the simulated people are as real as they appear to you right now, it raises another question." At this point we aren't fishing anymore. I bet there isn't any bait on our hook anymore, and if there is, the worm is probably drowned by now, so not many fish would consider eating it. "Namely, if they managed to computationally make a living being, how would you know you're not just a simulation?" Milan continues with an even bigger grin. I look at him in disbelief whilst I let these words slowly seep in. And all of a sudden, I fall in love with him. Is that even possible? Can you just suddenly fall in love with someone? Of course there must be this point of no return, this moment when you go from "liking someone" to "having a crush on someone", but can you really pinpoint that moment when it's happening? Still, it feels that way. I thought he was cute before, of course. And I liked his personality, or I wouldn't have befriended him, but still, I wasn't in love with him or anything. It's this moment, while looking at his enormous grin and trying to understand his weird brain twisting, I feel my stomach rumbling. I feel this gnawing at my heart. I wanted to kiss him before, but this is much deeper. I don't even want to kiss him now, that would supersede the feeling I'm having right now. Instead, I'd rather find a better moment to kiss him, only that would qualify for the emotions I'm feeling. I try to suppress this thought. Milan could never love me back. Why would I fall in love with him over this one conversation? what's wrong with me. I know he doesn't like me. And I already knew he was smart, I knew he was considerate and I knew he was handsome. What different does this conversation make? I want to know. I don't like it when I don't understand my own emotions. "What's wrong?" Trenton asks. "Uh… I think I was… Just flabbergasted by this conversation, you know?" I try to laugh it off. "I never thought about it this way." I quickly glance at Milan, his grin is still huge and if I'm not imagining it, a small blush on his cheeks. "It's a topic we could talk about for ages," Milan says. I'd love to. "But I guess we should head back to the camp, food will be almost done. I can already smell it." "Yeah," Trenton gets up slowly. "I wonder if the new couple will be there." We grab the fishing rods and my carvings and head back to the camp. "It's weird the couple only arrived today, you know? It feels so long ago already," I say. "I was thinking the exact same thing! Days on this island seem to take forever compared to back home." We arrive at Trenton's hut, so he says goodbye and goes inside. I sigh as I feel my legs hurt. "I'll be happy when I can finally go to bed." "Wait, aren't we going to the rock tonight?" Milan feigns sadness. I smile. "Maybe. I don't know. I can imagine I'll immediately fall asleep and won't wake up until tomorrow morning." He laughs. "No problem. Been a rough day, for sure." "What's the rock?" Kai asks. "Nothing. Just when we can't sleep, we head over to that rock next to the sea," I say as I point towards it. "Just to stare into the ocean and talk a bit, you know?" "I'd like to come too!" I snicker. "I don't think that's a good idea. If I'm tired after today, I'm sure you should be even more tired. You're always so active! I think you need your sleep." "I guess I never wake up anyway," he pouts. We all laugh. During dinner Oliver suddenly stands up. He has an announcement. From now on, all food is supposed to be shared. It's the property of everyone. While Oliver was lecturing the group about laws and rules, I notice Milan's dad looking at me with a huge grin. I know this is his doing, he didn't like my attitude about the fish. From now on, the fish will be for all of us. To be honest, it already was, I just didn't like him playing boss while Milan and I were doing the hard work. "All the food we gather is to be shared evenly." Oliver is still preaching. "No one owns the food he or she gathers or catches, okay? No matter what happens, we - the leaders - are to determine who gets what." That grin of Matthew’s is really sad, actually. He is obviously happy because he gets it his own way. He must feel like he won. Even though he tries to remind everyone constantly that I'm just a "kid" to him, he is happy about winning over a kid. How pathetic can one be. I smile back at him, making sure he knows I'm staying on the higher ground I've been on all this time. I don't care about him winning this. I never decided to fish for me, I wanted to help out the camp. I would love to share! After the announcement we all finish our dinner in silence. Then we clean up. It's late, so I decide to go to bed. The new couple already settled down in the Bachmeier's hut, so even though I didn't ask my mom yet if Milan is allowed to sleep over, she basically has no choice. So while Milan grabs his bedding, or at least whatever he used to sleep on, I ask my mother if he was allowed to sleep at our place. Of course she accepts, though she also winks at me, causing me to blush. She used to wink at me a lot, as she already knows I kind of like Milan, but after my sudden realisation I like him a lot today, it puts me off a little more than usual. I'm blushing more than I normally would, which I think mom also saw. Milan sets his stuff up a little away from us. Mom, Kai and I still sleep next to each other, but Milan is on the other side of out small hut, probably to get as much privacy as possible or maybe to give us some. After we went to bed, I wait a few seconds until I hear him breathing rhythmically, indicating he's asleep. Then I turn around to look at him, with both Kai's arms tightly around me. Milan smiles in his sleep. And he snores really lightly, which I think is cute. I look at him, wondering about what his life has been like before we got stranded. I'm also trying to figure out why I suddenly feel nauseous whenever I look at him. I know it's what a teenage crush feels like, I've had it several times, but I just can't figure out why it came this randomly. It must have been this conversation about simulations. Maybe I just like the fact he's smart? I don't know. I sigh and I pull Kai's arms a little upwards towards my chest, as they were a little too close to my waist. Especially now I'm watching Milan sleep, I don't want anything weird to happen down there. I sigh again as I drag my blanket over my head, trying to think about anything other than Milan. Obviously, I'm still awake an hour or so later when I hear Milan get up and walk out of the hut, probably heading towards our rock. I think about ignoring him and finally try to get some sleep, but I don't. I can't. I know I really want to talk to him again. I have this feeling of unrest settled deep down in my guts. This feeling of butterflies, the random crush I developed all of a sudden, I know I can't be around him if it stays. It would distract me, it would basically shut me down whenever he's close to me. And there is only one way to get rid of it. After a few minutes of contemplating I silently get up.
  6. Yes, I have. I will announce the page when I upload the next chapter! Thanks for asking.
  7. Hey guys,

    I'm writing another story right now, called Police Trouble (as for now). My editor indicated however that he won't have a lot of time to edit it, so that's why I'm asking whether you know of anyone (or yourself) who could maybe help me with my writings. I feel like I got better at it since I started, but still I make a lot of mistakes and I do need some help with keeping my style consistent. Please let me know!

    ps, right now I'm mainly looking for some early feedback on my first chapter, I'm going to write at least the first ten chapters before I start uploading, so there is no hurry.

    1. Emi GS

      Emi GS

      Post a topic at editor's forum and ask for help. You might get a good one there, if there are any free from the works of other authors... 

    2. Stannie

      Stannie

      You're right. I wanted to try here first, as people who will read this are mainly people who know my stories and thus know my style. Thanks for the reply.

    3. Emi GS

      Emi GS

      Don't worry. As far as I know, you are a good writer. Just post a topic in the forum. I sure you will find a good editor definitely... 

  8. You're absolutely right with the distilled water thing. Let's say Jan doesn't know everything (or just bad research by the author). Anyway, I hope you still enjoyed the chapter/story.
  9. I tear up as we're waving the group goodbye. Although we crashed on the island a week ago, we have spent so much time together already. We’ve started to trust each other. Now they're heading out; carrying bottles of water, packages of food, and home-made weapons. I don't want to be dramatic, but the uncertainty as to whether or not the people you like will ever return provokes an odd feeling. Moreover, if they do not, the rest of us will be damned. Without any water. We just had a big collective breakfast. I couldn't help but make an analogy with the Last Supper. With the apostles walking away from us directly into the darkness of the forest. Most people only watch them walk away for a few seconds before continuing with their daily chores. But mom, Casey, and I, keep waving until they're completely gone from our sight. Even after the other women walk away, I remain, staring into the woods a minute longer. They're gone! I swallow. Really gone. "They won't magically come back." I turn around. It's Milan. "I know. But it's weird, isn't it?" "What is?" "Being alone." He smiles. "We're not alone. Look around." "You know what I mean. They're our friends. They'll be all alone in the creepy forest with natives probably watching their every move." A grimace appears on his face. "You watched too much TV, dude. Come on, let's fish some more. I haven't grown tired of mackerel yet." "Is that what we've been catching?" He laughs. "I have literally no idea. But it tastes good, doesn't it?" I nod. "I already caught some grasshoppers this morning." "Nice preparation. And you're right, let's do something productive." We get the fishing poles from my hut and bring cutting tools and wood. We came up with this routine when fishing. Milan looks at the floaters while I work on my carving. Once in a while we swap around, but he always gets quickly bored cutting wood, so we'll swap back almost immediately. I'm constantly looking at the camp, trying to make the carving as realistic as possible. I already did the outlines of the encampment, but then those people decided to make latrines, so now I have to do one side all over again! Luckily the piece of wood is thick enough to afford some corrections. As I keep glancing over at the camp, I notice that Oliver and Milan's dad are talking with each other again. Even from this distance I know they wouldn't want anyone to overhear their conversation. Mom is surrounded by five kids again, but she's obviously enjoying it, and Casey is taking care of the rations now her husband is gone. Rick is staring at the sky absently, whilst Margareth is cleaning up the stuff from breakfast. Some other people are finishing the construction of the latrines or trying to fortify their huts, but with our carpenter gone, that's going to prove to be difficult. I'm not sure why he had to join the expedition, in the camp he's of much better use in my opinion. I keep watching the camp and forget about my carving for a second. I notice how Barbara and Deborah are gathering driftwood for the fire. The Russian woman is collecting the little water from our plastic bags and of course Milan's mom is sunbathing. Ronny is trying to carve a little spear out of stick. I involuntarily smile at the similarity between his occupation and mine. Then I notice the adolescent couple who have been very silent so far, secretly sneaking away from the camp into the forest. I grin. Even though I would never dare to leave the camp like that. Now with Elisah gone they can finally have some alone time. They're in their twenties, so I bet they need it. I already wondered if other couples ever did any of that stuff since the crash. I, for one, didn't have an opportunity to fulfill my teenage needs yet. But fortunately I'm not that crazy about it like I know many of my peers are. I glance at Milan and wonder if he found any privacy yet. If not, I could offer to help him out. Right? I grin at my own dorkiness. "What are you smiling about?" Milan suddenly asks. "Shush! You're scaring away the fish." He smiles. "Just wanted to be involved in whatever is making you that happy." I laugh, but quickly stop, afraid I made too much noise already. "Believe me, you don't want to know." He raises an eyebrow. "Okay then. So, how's the carving going?" he asks, still watching the floaters intensely. "After we get rescued, this piece of wood will be worth tons." "Sure." I smile and suppress a weird urge to hug the boy. We really shouldn't spend this much time together, it's getting me to see him differently than I want to see him. On the other hand, as long as I manage to suppress the feelings, nothing is wrong, right? It's actually really nice to completely trust someone for once. "Your parents must've liked our breakfast this morning," I say. He looks at me confused. "They couldn't keep you from having any," I explain. "So much for them boycotting your food." "Actually I'm very happy they didn't have to find out I'm getting my breakfast separately now. I wonder what they'll do if they find out. Oh shit, I think there is a fish biting at your bait." He carefully hands me the rod. I stare at the piece of wood acting as a floater. With all the little waves crashing onto it, it's hard to see whether it's going down because of a fish or if it's just the wave. Then it abruptly goes down completely and I give the rod a big haul. I immediately feel the fish pulling back and the rod bends. Got him! The fish feels pretty strong and I have to pull really hard to even get him a little closer. Jan told us to try to pull him towards the rock, followed by giving a little slack. If you pull too hard, he said, the fish will probably manage to break the line or his lips while trying to escape. If you give him room to swim, however, you can manage to get him tired. Then it should be easier. He was right. We managed to catch three fish yesterday. And this time it's going pretty well, too. Milan is watching me closely as I'm playing with my prey. Walking away from the sea, reeling in the fish a bit, and back towards the edge of the rock again. I continue doing this four times before I notice the fish pulling back weaker. My breathing is becoming heavier and I wonder if I'm really exhausting the fish or if he's not the one playing with me instead. "Want me to take over?" "No, it's my fish," I pant. Milan laughs. "That's true. You put so much effort into this catch already." "Well… it's not as if watching a floater is that hard," I remark as I pull the fish in a bit more. It's amazing that the agave fiber doesn't break. I give some room to the fish again and pull in. This time I manage to lift the fish out of the water. It's fairly big, around twenty centimeters long, and still thrashing around as I hold it in front of Milan. He grabs the slimy animal with both hands, I put the rod down on the rock and take hold of the line and the hook. Jan taught me how to remove the hook yesterday, but it was really hard and disgusting. I didn't like it at all. But someone had to hold the fish steady whilst the other one could remove the hook, and I'm sure as hell not going to touch the fish, so I'd rather pull out the nail. I wiggle the hook around a little, notice some blood next to the wound and manage to pull it out quickly. Yesterday Trenton was with us, so he did this most of the time. I hope he'll join soon. Now the hook is out, Milan tries his best not to drop the fish. I smirk. "I love helping out by catching food, but I'm sure I'll never get used to these weird creatures." "They're just fish, Ryan. Not that weird." We only catch one more fish that morning, but that doesn't get us down. We love the feeling of productivity and each others company. We spend several hours at the beach, most of them in silence. It's peaceful. But then, when it's around three o'clock, my mother decides class is over, resulting in a hyperactive Kai rushing towards us. "Hey guys! Did you catch any?" He is still a few meters away. I hide a smile and put a finger to my mouth. "You're scaring the fish," I whisper loud enough for him to hear it. He immediately stops walking fast, but instead he slowly crawls closer. As if he believes talking loud and moving fast correlate. "So, how was school?" Milan asks. The boy glows. "It was amazing. The other kids are really cool. Noah and I became friends." "Noah? Who's that?" I ask. He frowns. "He has black hair. And he has flip flops. Which is really cool, I wish I brought mine." I laugh. "Do you know who his parents are?" He shakes his head. "But he has a sister. Zoey was her name, I think." "Must be the kids from Barbara and Chris," Milan says. For some reason it surprises me that he knows those names. I'm not sure why it surprises me, he already proved to be a nice guy. I think it's just because I know his parents don't know any names and my stupid brain keeps believing deep down Milan is like them. We chat a little, but we don't catch any more fish. At some point Trenton joins us and I try to teach him some basics in wood carving. He is a much faster learner than Milan. He doesn't say a lot, but Milan and Kai gladly make up for his silence. I can see he is enjoying our company. And he must feel grateful for being able to leave his sister's care once in a while. He told me she had a disability and that he has to help her, but I never really see the girl around. I have no idea what is actually wrong with her. I should ask Trenton once we're alone. This is how we spend our day. And the next day. It's getting the feel of normal repetitive days like one has on the mainland. I sometimes even forget we are stranded and waiting to get rescued. This groove gets disturbed the next day, however. The day starts just like any other. I wake up early and I watch Kai and mom sleep for some minutes and then I grab my carving and silently continue the tedious creation. I occasionally glance at how cute the two are together. Kai is snuggled up against mom, who in turn has an arm protectively around the boy. I smile. I know my mother really needs him. She needs this feeling of being able to take care of him. She has me to take care of, of course, but she works wonders with someone younger, someone more vulnerable. To really be a mother to someone. I think in some way everyone needs the boy and his energy. Surely I do. He makes the days on this island so much better. My mother wakes up and accidentally, by taking her arm off the boy, awakens him too. They both look confused at first, then see each other and smile. It looks adorable and funny. I crack up, which causes them both to look at me. "What's so funny?" mom asks. Trying to talk through the laughter, I explain: "it's really silly, but the way you guys woke up. Both looking around not knowing where you were or something, but then when you noticed each other, you automatically smiled. It was really cute." Mom smiles, but Kai looks a little embarrassed. The day continues as normal. I get breakfast for the three of us plus one portion for Milan. I then walk over to their hut to get the guy. Yesterday the Bachmeier parents looked confused at first when Milan joined us for breakfast. I think they really believed that Milan didn't eat anything since they stole away his food. Guess again! So now the boy just has breakfast with us. Of course they didn't like that, but really, what can they do? I have so much compassion with Milan though, having to put up with parents like that. I sincerely hope they weren't this bitchy before the crash. After breakfast mom gathers the kids for her little school again. Milan and I check if Trenton wants to help out fishing, but his mom had decided to try and help the Russian woman by teaching her some English, which meant that it was babysit duty. I manage to get a quick look at his sister, but she looks back at me annoyed, so I immediately turn my attention elsewhere. So far this day isn't unlike any other day. It's when we're fishing - or more like: when Milan is fishing and I'm carving - that I notice something out of the ordinary. I'm once again watching the camp while trying to copy it as exact as possible on my wood, when I notice some movement in the forest. My mother brought the kids close to the border of the forest, probably to have them look for firewood, so I'm immediately wary. The movement struck me as odd, even though the trees and groves had been moving all the time, as it is quite windy today. This movement was different though, it didn't correspond with the rhythm of the wind. It's weird that we have this sixth sense to pick out those subtle variances even when we're not looking for them. It must be like our ancestor's survival instinct. I stop carving and squeeze my eyes, trying to determine whether I just imagined the movement. No, I didn't. It's there again, but this time more prominent. Mother sees it too now, and she calls the kids back to her, while slowly moving away from the forest. One of the bushes gets pushed aside and through the opening two people appear. Some other people in the camp notice it too. They drop what they’re doing and walk towards the scene. One older guy and a somewhat younger lady are suddenly in our territory. "Milan," I whisper. "Look over there." The boy turns around. His eyes widen when he sees the duo. Then I recognise them. It's the couple from the plane. When mom and I were making up stories for people we saw this older man with a young girlfriend. I came up with this story about his wife being sick and this lady being the caretaker. After the wife died, the caretaker and the widower became a couple. I never wondered what had happened to them. I think I subconsciously just assumed they died in the crash. Milan pulls the line and bait out of the water and lays the rods down. "Come on, let's go there." "You sure?" "Yes of course. Those are normal people, are they not?" I nod. "I remember them from the flight." "Well then," he says. "Let's hear their story." Oliver apparently decides to do the same, because as we're walking back to the camp, he walks up to the couple, with Milan's dad following him closely. I can't exactly hear what he's saying, but he's clearly asking them a bunch of questions. Why do they even care. I thought he only wanted to complain about things. And I thought Milan's dad only wanted to sunbathe and be served while doing so? When we approach I overhear Oliver asking a question. "So what did you do after the crash?" The older man responds. "Can we talk about this later? Can't we just get some rest. We've been walking for days. Do you have water?" "We're not sharing any of our water with you until we know we can trust you." A little crowd gathered around the couple. My mother is one of them, surrounded by the five kids. She looks around until she spots me, a sign of relief appearing on her face. "Of course you can trust us," the lady says. "Why wouldn't you?" "We don't know who you are. You were on the flight with us?" The man sighs. "Of course we were. Do we look like natives to you?" He looks defeated and exhausted. Milan's dad, who is coincidentally at Oliver the Grumpy's right side, speaks up. "You know about the natives? You've seen them. What are they like?" "Can you just shut up," the lady says. "Look, we're tired. We know you have questions, but right now we're just really happy we found you. Those people attacked us several times. My body hurts. And I just… I can't… And…" She starts crying. My mother looks at me, then at the kids, and then walks towards the couple. She hugs the woman. I instinctively know she wants me to go to the kids, so I do exactly that. I grab Kai's hand. He hadn't even seen me coming and he doesn't even look up when I touch his hand, he's too fixated on the couple. And on mom, of course. "It's okay, it's okay. Oliver and Matthew are just being cautious." Mom glances at Milan's dad. So that's his name! How does mom know? "Are you hurt?" "Just tired," the older man says. "You should get some rest. I remember you from the flight, so we don't have to worry about you being natives." She smiles at the two. "What are your names?" "I'm Karen," the lady sobs. "That's Henry." I feel a touch. One of the boys grabbed my right hand, just like I was holding Kai's hand with my left one. "Okay Karen and Henry," Oliver says. "I believe you are trustworthy for now. You can get some sleep in one of the huts. Then we want to hear everything. Understood?" They nod. "Thank you," Henry says. "Thank you." "Matthew, can they sleep in your hut?" Mr. Grumpy asks. For a second the man looks like he's about to object, but he doesn't. He defeatedly nods. Barbara and mom guide the couple to the Bachmeier's residence and the others continue the activities they so suddenly dropped a few minutes ago. Everyone seems to accept what just happened. Even Milan starts walking back. I'm still here with the kids surrounding me. Stunned I look at Oliver and Matthew, who have their backs turned against me. They're chatting, probably about what to do next. I don't really care what they're talking about, I'm just confused. Who made Oliver our leader? And why does no one seem to care? I don't like this. I don't like it at all.
  10. I'm writing the next chapter right now. Thank you for your comment, it means a lot to me! :)
  11. I admit I'm pretty happy no one asked us to help make the latrines. And no, I'm not scared of making something that is supposed to hold our shit together, quite literally. Apparently people are constantly arguing over where to build them; how to keep in mind the tidal changes, how to induce at least some privacy, whether to make seperate toilets for women and men. In short, it wasn't fun. Not that I noticed a lot of the struggle, I spend most of my time with Jan, Milan, and Kai. We're collecting all the bags from the trees. There isn't much water, but I think Jan never expected to collect a lot to begin with. Adding all bags together, we manage to fill two and a half bottles of water. On the other hand, however, two and a half bottles a day could help us out a little bit. Considering we've only been drinking one bottle per person each day (which is half a litre), we have extra water for five people with this. But that means we'd need over two hundred more plastic bags if we want to get enough water for everybody from the trees. We better find a water source fast! For now though, anything is better than nothing, right? Apart from which, it's cool. We're collecting vapour from trees! "And now we're going to make fishing lines!" I'm not sure if Kai meant that as a question or an order. Jan chuckles at his never ending energy. "I'm not going to make them, but I can show you how to do it. I'm sure you are handy enough, right?" "Ryan is!" Kai exclaims. "Well then, come on guys. Let's butcher some agaves!" We follow the Dutchman like ducklings follow their mother. Jan shows us how to extract the fiber from the plants. It's pretty easy actually, though I would never have thought of it. You grab the spine of one of those long spiky leaves with your teeth, hold the leaf with both hands - being careful not to cut yourself in the process - and twitch your mouth until the spine is really loose. Then you can just pull. The fiber is strong, it won't break. "See?" Jan asks after he explained it all. "Just roll the fiber through your palms like this. You practically weave the tiny fibers into one bigger one. And now, pull." He offers me one end of the fiber. I pull carefully. "Is that all you got? Come on, show me those muscles!" I grin and pull even harder. I pretty much use my full weight trying to snap the line, but it doesn't work. I look over my shoulder at Milan. "I'm a warrior," I say and I pull even harder. I even roar like a real warrior, but it doesn't even stretch a little. "It's seven times stronger than your ordinary fishing line, if I'm not mistaken," Jan says proudly. "Wow." "They are not long enough to use as a fishing line though," Kai says. "Then you just tie a few together." "But… I thought fish don't bite if they see the line or the rod?" Milan smiles. "I don't think that'll be a problem." "You're right," Jan says. "Fish eat if there is a plant with branches touching the water, this isn't that much different. You should be careful with showing yourself, however. They scare away if there is too much movement on the shore, frightened of predators. And keep in mind, they can see you better than you'd expect." "Yeah, I know. I actually learned that in my physics class when we were being taught about refraction." "Exactly! Doesn't it amaze you how useful physics can be?" I laugh. "It does. Anyway, thank you Yang." "No problem. My name isn't Yang, by the way. It's Jan. It's a Dutch name. A popular one even. You pronounce it a little bit like Yang, but without the 'g'." "Oh, I'm sorry." "No problem. Just pointing it out. I'm glad I could help you guys out! Do you know how to prepare the fish?" I swallow. "To be honest, I didn't even think about that." Jan laughs. "No problem. The rod isn't finished yet, right? First you have to put everything together and find bait. And oh, you should consider using something as a floater too. It's not a must, but it will make it easier to spot when you get a bite. If your hook isn't heavy enough to pull the bait under, you should attach a stone or something to the line as well. I'm sure you'll figure something out. Then I'll teach you guys how to prepare the fish." "Oh, thank you. We will. I guess we will be finished and ready to start fishing tomorrow." He frowns. "Tomorrow, I'll be gone. Elisah asked if I could join the quest for fresh water. She needs my expertise." He shrugs. "You're like a saint around here," Milan jokes. "Ryan, I think we should be able to finish the rod today." "Yeah, I guess so.. But it'll be only the two of us," I turn towards Kai, "school is going to start soon." "Noooo. Can't I just help you? You need to finish the fishing rod today! It's important I help." I smile. "No, no, I promised…" I hesitate for a second. "I promised mom I'd make sure you'd be there on time." You should've seen his face when I called her our mom in front of Jan and Milan. He almost glowed. "I can bring him back to the camp?" Jan offers. "So you two can get some more fishing lines from the agaves?" "That'd be great. Though I'm not sure if Elisah would like us being here on our own. We can't even see the camp from here." He laughs. "I'm sure it won't be a problem. Elisah is a cop, she see danger everywhere. Especially since she is an American cop." I raise an eyebrow. Is that what European people think about our police? He is right though, she is seeing danger in something that may as well be perfectly safe. But still… Rick disappeared. And Milan and I encountered one of the natives already. At least, we think we did. We haven't really talked about it yet. "I can't stay. I have to return to the latrines. Oh, boys, do you think you can continue the thing with the plastic bags while I'm gone? We're actually running very low on water and I'm not sure how long we will be gone." "Sure." "Good luck. Tell me when you're ready for the crash course 'preparing fish'." Milan’s laughing at his joke. Jan and I look at him confused. "Crash course, get it?" His stomach rumbles. Jan and Kai walk away. Kai glances back a few times. I know he doesn't like leaving us, but I'm sure he enjoys being with the other kids. And I like spending some time alone with Milan too. I hear his stomach rumble again. "Dude, are you hungry?" "Nah, it's okay." He shrugs. "You sure?" He nods. We continue getting the fibers and tie them together into fishing lines. His stomach keeps making noises, but he clearly doesn't want to talk about it, so we don't. When we're done, we head back to the camp. I expected Elisah to comment on us having been outside the camp on our own, but she doesn't even pay attention to us. I guess she is too busy getting everything ready for their expedition tomorrow. We attach the fishing lines to the rods. It looks nice. Then we walk over to the edge of the forest to look for insects to use as bait. It's actually really relaxing. We're not talking much and I think neither of us really feels the need to. We're completely synchronised now, looking for grasshoppers and collecting them in a jar. We also grab some twigs to use as floaters, and stones as weights. Just like Jan taught us. By the end of the morning the fishing rods are ready. As if we're admiring a relic, we hold the two rods in front of us. "We should get Jan now," Milan says and his stomach rumbles again. "Ah, fuck it. I'm going to William. I frown. "What's wrong?" For a split second the gorgeous boy looks embarrassed. "I didn't have any breakfast." "Why not?" "I didn't get any." I'm sure I look very confused now. "Well… my parents told me not to hang out with you today. But I wanted to finish the rods, so I made my choice." "Wait, you mean… What the hell, dude? They didn't give you any breakfast because you wanted to finish the rod? You're right, we're going to William!" He laughs. "I knew this was gonna be your reaction. It's not that big a deal, though." Not a big deal? "Of course it is! Why didn't you tell me?" I grab his hand and practically drag him to William, who is still hiding in his little fortress of suitcases. "William!" "Yes, Ryan?" "Do you maybe have some food left for Milan?" William grimaces. "I'm sorry boys, we're rationing and I can't make any exceptions." I look at Milan. His stomach rumbles. "Milan's parents didn't give him any food." "What?!" "Please, William, don't make a scene out of it," Milan says. "I'm just hungry. If I can get even one sachet of peanuts, I'll be happy." "Why wouldn't they give you any breakfast?" The boy smirks. "They don't want me to talk to the rest of the camp." "That's bullshit! Oh, I'm sorry boys, but that's nonsense." "Let's say we're trying to work on it," I quickly interrupt him, fearing he’d storm over to the Bachmeiers. "As Milan said, we don't want a scene." "Okay. If you say so, but I will tell Elisah about it." He rummages through one of the suitcases for a moment and grabs two little sachets of peanuts. It's not a lot, but it'll probably do. "Here you go. From now on, I'll give your parents food for three, okay? So you can come get your own." "That's amazing. Thank you!" We head over to Jan and tell him we're finished. He is still helping out with the construction of the latrines, which are starting to look quite fancy. I think there has never been a more elegant toilet on a deserted island. They made three wooden cubicles, each with a hole in the ground and a lid covering it, made from two palm leaves and some sticks. The holes are fairly big, but I still wonder what they'll do once they get full. One of the cubicles is for men and two are for the ladies. The men also got three big poles in the ground a little distance away, which they surely could use as urinals. I've never felt comfortable peeing when I know people could see me, so I'd probably stick with the cubicle. Jan is quite surprised we're ready. He inspects a rod, primarily the line and the floater. He tells us the stone will probably fall off, as we didn't know how to attach it seems we did it badly. Even Jan couldn't really help us out with that, apparently. "Well, I think I can only help you guys out further if you caught a fish, right?" I think about that. "I guess." "Paul!" he shouts. The man appears from one of the cubicles. "Yes?" "Do you have a bucket or something? Milan and Ryan are going fishing." He brushes his hands against his pants and then wipes away the sweat on his forehead. "You should ask Deborah." "Where is she?" Milan asks. The carpenter points towards the other end of the camp. Milan and I immediately turn around and rush towards Paul's wife, both really excited to start finally get ready to start fishing. That joy disappears quickly when we're suddenly eye to eye with Ronny. "You hungry?" he asks. "No." "You should be. I hope spending time with the fag is worth it." Milan smiles. "Actually, it is. How was your day in the hut? You had fun all on your own, with only mom and dad to entertain you?" "I wasn't home." "Where were you?" I'm trying to pull Milan away discreetly, but Ronny notices. "Your boyfriend wants to go." "Dude, stop it. We're just having fun, making these fishing rods. Ryan isn't gay." Oomph, that hurts and I don't know why. No one ever assumed I wasn't gay, I'm that obvious. So I guess it's weird when someone does. Especially if he's using it as an argument to prove I'm fun. I'm sure he doesn't mean it like that, but still, it makes me wonder what he'd do if I outed myself to him. Ronny snorts. "Riiight. Anyway, while you were queering around, I was in the woods looking for food." I frown. "Did Elisah know you were in the forest?" "Of course not, retard!" "Milan, let's go. He's not worth our time." He nods, so we leave the pathetic boy behind. We find Deborah. As promised she has a bucket for us. Then we go to the spot I discovered earlier, close enough to the camp to see the others, but on a rock a few meters in the sea, so we can reach the deep water. I always thought bigger fish lived in deeper water. Over the next few days we caught a lot of fish, which made our diet much more varied and tastier. More importantly though: Trenton, Milan, Kai and I went out fishing together a lot, during which we got to know each other better. We started to trust each other. That bond proved important, because after Elisah, Jan, Paul, William and the three remaining bachelors left for the search for water, Oliver the Grumpy became more prominent, as if he had been waiting for an opportunity to rise to power. The group leaving meant the end of the happy chapter of survival and introduced darker pages filled with violence and fear.
  12. Stannie

    Sinterklaas

    Yeah, I know. This story was experimental. I wanted to focus on it being "educational" as well. I never intended the story to be easy to read. As I explained, I constantly had to look up those American idioms, so I wanted this story to mimic the effort I needed to read a story. But you're right. I originally didn't want to write a sequel though. That's why I wrote it the way I did. On the other hand, I have to admit, I grew fond of Vincent. He's a fun guy to write. Maybe I'll consider writing a chapter 2, not too sure about it yet.
  13. Stannie

    Sinterklaas

    Ohh, I forgot to mention gevulde speculaas! It's amazing, indeed. Especially if it's home-made and still warm. And hot chocolate or coffee, of course! Mmmm.
  14. Stannie

    Sinterklaas

    This story is about the Sinterklaas celebration. It's the Dutch version of Santa Clause. Actually, the name "Santa Claus" is derived from the word Sinterklaas (if an American or British person were to pronounce Sinterklaas it would sound like Santa Clause). The word Sinterklaas comes from Saint Nicholas, or Sint Nicolaas in Dutch. We celebrate this the 5th of December, that's why I uploaded this story today. To give you some more context (if you're interested in that) I'll list some links at the end of the story. Please let me know what you think! *** Why? Why did my mother manage to talk me into this? I look silly! She was right, I do like dancing around, jumping around, doing cartwheels and so on. But that's at home. I don't want to do that at all in public. That's embarrassing. And yet here I am, having my face painted black. I'm wearing stupid clothes. Very baggy, colourful clothes. And don't even get me started on the… I don't even know how to call it. A hat? A cap with a large red feather on it. Okay, I have to admit, I love this holiday. Who doesn't like getting presents? And even now I'm older, I still love the ambience of the day. It's not even just one day, it's a few weeks. A few weeks a year Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas as we call him, visits the Netherlands to give all kinds of presents to kids. And this whole period we eat cinnamon biscuits, called 'speculaas', marzipan (marsepein) and something I guess best described as little biscuits, kind of like gingerbread, but really small (pepernoten). Mixed with all kinds of sweets, Sinterklaas and his helpers - the black Petes (zwarte piet)- throw around. You read that right, he throws them around (in Dutch we even call it strooigoed, which pretty much translates to throw stuff)! If he's inside, that is. If you're outside during one of the many parades, they'll just give you a handful. And boy oh boy, does Sinterklaas have many Petes. And they all have their own burlap sack with them, filled with sweets. These couple of days are just… well, there is no English word that fits it. I'm sorry. You're just going to have to believe me when I say it was gezellig! When I was young enough to be considered as part of Sinterklaas' audience, his target group, my brother and I used to go to the parade with a big wagon (bolderkar - literally "roaring car", because it makes a lot of noise if you pull it over the uneven streets). See, we discovered the black Petes would look at whether you were already carrying sweets, or not. If you weren't, they'd walk over to you and give you some. All the kids would eat some and keep the rest in their hands or pockets. Way too obvious, we thought. So we brought the wagon. We'd stuff all the sweets we got underneath some jackets. And then we'd go to the parade again, look sad, and get more. Repeat for profit! This year is going to be different though. I'm on the other side of the parade this time. I'm going to be a black Pete. and that wasn't really my idea. I'll try to explain how it all started. Apparently, Sinterklaas sometimes needs a little help. He has a lot of black Petes, but not enough. The good old man has to visit all the cities in the Netherlands and Belgium. That's a lot. So, when you accidentally discovered Sinterklaas was actually your uncle Tom, dressed up as Sinterklaas, he'd tell you the man was too busy to come all the way here and he asked uncle Tom if he could help him out. He'd be helping the real Sinterklaas. Following the same logic, I was asked to help out the Petes. It wasn't Sinterklaas who asked me though. It was mom. Though admittedly, sometimes she does act as if she thinks she's a saint. Apparently, a good friend of hers helped organising this years Sinterklaas' arrival (sinterklaasintocht). And she needed more Petes. So mom promised the friend I'd help out. She volunteered me without asking first. What the hell, mom. And of course, joining in a parade like this isn't the end of the world. But, did you know that black Petes are supposed to do all kinds of acrobatic tricks? They have to act really enthusiastic and be very energetic. I may fit the description, but I'm not outgoing at all. Perhaps that's why they paint the Petes black, not to be racist or anything, but to protect the dignity of the people who are making fools of themselves in front of those kids. On the other hand though, I guess it's great to finally give something back to this holiday. As I said, I really liked it. Not just for the presents, but for the overall feeling. The excitement. I tried to explain this to an American friend of mine. I told her about Sinterklaas to which she replied, it had a lot of similarities with Santa Claus. Which is right. Where do you think the name Santa Claus comes from. It has an awfully lot in common with the name Sinterklaas, right? One of the biggest differences, however, is that Sinterklaas doesn't hide the presents under a Christmas tree. No, at Sinterklaas eve, you gather with your family. You'll be singing Sinterklaas songs, to show him you're home and waiting for him. Then, at some point, after the fourth song you sing, suddenly you'll hear loud knocks on the door or the window. Loud followed by soft knocks, if the songs are correct. It'll always take you by surprise, even though you know it's coming. That is, for me, the magic of Sinterklaas. It's like getting your eyes tested and they're about to blow some air to check out your reflexes. You know it's coming, and still you're nervous, anticipating the inevitable. It will still catch you off guard. That sensation, especially for a kid, is amazing. You're singing, constantly waiting for the knock. And when it finally comes, your heart is racing, practically trying to escape from your chest. You rush towards the front door, but you'll never spot Sinterklaas in the act. Instead, there'll be a basket or a burlap sack in front of you. Filled with presents! "You're done," the nice lady tells me. "Thank you." She smiles. "You should join the others. When everyone is done, they'll explain what you have to do." "Okay. Thank you." I walk towards the other boys and girls. Nearly everyone is around my age, fourteen or fifteen. Some of the kids are probably older, sixteen or seventeen, maybe. There are adults as well. Not everyone here is painted completely black, like I am. No, in the last few years, black Petes have been covered with some greyish sweeps across the face as well; the so-called chimney Pete. When talking about Dutch culture, you should include the well-known black Pete discussion (zwartepietendiscussie). Ughh, I shouldn't even start about this. It's complete bullshit. From both sides, by the way. I'll give a quick crash course on this topic, but believe me, it's not worth investing too much time in. So, Sinterklaas is a saint, originally from Turkey, but according the myth of the holiday, he lives in Spain. If you think that's weird, keep in mind Santa Claus is originally the same man. Ending up on the North Pole when you're from Turkey, well, that's even worse! Where Santa has the elves, Sint has the black Petes. As I said, they're painted black, they wear wigs with frizzy hair, wear golden earrings and necklaces and have bright red lipstick on. I have to admit, knowing that originally slaves were being promised bright jewelry, and lured into captivity that way, makes it really weird to believe there isn't a connection. And they're Sinterklaas' helpers. They're black. They have frizzy hair. It all adds up; there is probably a connection between this tradition and the slavery history of the Netherlands. This all resulted in a group of people in the Netherlands who want to get rid of the stereotype and the connection to those black pages of the Dutch and even the human history. But, we're talking about a tradition. About culture. If you touch someone's culture, expect some resistance. The question is whether this stereotype really influences anything. Whether kids see it, for example (yes, that's an argument in the discussion). Another question is how important you think culture and history is. Do you always have to look ahead, try to adapt, try to change, or can you look back. Can you accept what was, and turn it completely to a tradition. This is what the black Pete discussion is about. And my view on the matter? Well, I hate fights and discussions. I really do. Even if two people I don't know are fighting with each other, it can get me really upset. I don't know why. I just never see the point of it, I guess? So I don't care how, but please, stop this discussion already. I join the group. "Hey," the boy next to me says. He is painted to be a Pete as well. So, pretty much the only thing I can see that is really him, is the shape of his head. Which is normal. But… I can also see his eyes. Holy shit. He has the brownest eyes you can imagine. Like, really deep brown. Dark brown, as if you're directly looking into a cup of coffee. Can one fall in love with eyes? Of course, I don't know what he's like, or what he looks like apart from his posture, the shape of his face and the colour of his eyes. I smile. "Hey man!" "I haven't seen you around here before," he says. I frown, but I'm not sure you can even see it will all this paint on. "What do you mean? Do you guys do this every year?" "Pretty much. Well, you can't be that young when you start doing this, of course, but I know most here, yeah." "You're right. I'm new here." I reach out my hand. He does as well. "I'm Maarten." "Vincent," he says. "Can I ask why you decided to join us?" I laugh. "I didn't, really." He looks at me questioningly. "The organisator, Inge, is a good friend of my mother. Apparently they needed more Petes." Vincent laughs as well. "So you got dragged into this?" "I guess." "Believe it or not, it's actually a lot of fun to do. You get to make loads of kids happy by acting silly. And afterwards we all get together and have lunch followed by cake and soda somewhere. And you're getting some days off school, of course!" I frown. "What do you mean." "We have to visit primary schools over the next week. That means you don't have to go to school, man!" "Seriously?" "Yeah!" I smile. "Wow. That's amazing." "Three hoera's (hoorays) for Sinterklaas!" he says and instead of leaving it at that, he literally hoorays. "Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!" he shouts. The other Petes look at him at first, but they quickly turn their attention elsewhere. I look at Vincent. He's grinning. "You're weird," I say. He laughs. "I know. Thanks!" I roll my eyes. Some lady starts speaking. "Hey everyone! Thank you all for helping us out. We're going to be making this Sinterklaas period amazing! All these kids will be thankful. Today, we're going to do the arrival of Sinterklaas. That means that within twenty minutes, people will come get us. We'll be going to the pakjesboot ('presents boat') fourteen. Then we'll be entering the city by the river. Now, I know there are some new Petes with us, but don't worry, being a Pete is extremely easy. Once we arrive with the boat, you will have to follow Sint to the mayor. He will give a short talk. Just remember to act happy. That's pretty much all there is to being a black Pete.There will be loads of kids near the marina, all cheering and smiling. They'll probably hate the mayor's speech, they want to see Sint!" Some people chuckle. "They want to talk to him, they want to show them their dances and plays. More importantly though, they want sweets. That's your job, boys. Dance around, jump and laugh. Walk over to the kids and hand them sweets. Give them a lot! They earned it. Make sure no one is left behind. You just have to follow Sint to all the presentations. You'll be walking all across the city, and believe me, even though it's only two hours, you… will… be… exhausted. But it's all worth it. It really is." I smile. Maybe mom was right, maybe I will like this. Vincent catches my smile. "That's what I like to see! This will be fun." "Yeah, I guess it will be." "Afterwards we'll all go together to the old paper factory. There we will get rid of all the paint and stuff and we'll have some cake. But, that's not going to be all of course. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we'll be visiting primary schools in the area. You're expected to be here at 8 AM. Next Friday afternoon we're going to visit the hospital and later that day some community centres in the area. For those of you who normally have to go to school, everything is taken care of. You only need to attend on Monday and Friday morning. Are there any questions?" Nobody says anything. "Well, let's put on some music to get in the mood!" Sint music starts playing. "Zie ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan…" (Look there is the steamboat from far-away Spain.) Everyone starts going nuts. They dance, they laugh, and they make cartwheels. I feel kind of uncomfortable watching them. I smile awkwardly and try to slowly move back and disappear against the wall. What the heck am I doing here? I can't do this. Vincent sees me. He walks over with a huge grin on his face, which dissolves when he reaches me. "What's wrong?" I shrug. "I don’t think I can do this?" "What?" "This. Acting out. Going bonkers." He smiles, the friendliest smile I have ever seen. "Nonsense. Everyone can." I laugh uncomfortably. "Not me." Vincent grabs my palms with his hands and starts swinging them around. I let him lead me, but the moment he lets go, my hands drop again. He frowns. "We got ourselves a hard case here. Come on, copy me." He crouches down and does a head roll. I slowly imitate him. "Yes, very good! Now do this." He jumps in the air with his arms outstretched. It's an easy task, not sure why he'd let me do this after that head roll. I grin and mirror him. "See? It's not that hard?" I laugh. "Still not feeling it." He suddenly starts dancing. Not really following the rhythm of the music, that's not even possible with these simple children songs. No, he really goes crazy on some non-existent beat. What the hell is wrong with this guy. He's making pirouettes now. Everytime he faces me, he makes another face. Sad. Happy. Angry. I chuckle. I notice the friend of my mother is watching us with a smile. Vincent stops. He's out of breath. "Now… you…" he pants. "I'm not going to do THAT!" "Of course you are. We can't have those kids thinking black Petes suddenly got boring now, can we?" I roll my eyes. "It's easy. It really is. See, just do this." He puts his hands in the air and starts swinging them around. I hesitantly mimic his movement. "Good. Now, turn around." He shows me his pirouette while still swinging his arms. I do the same. He grins. I even imitate that, though it wasn't intentional. "Now, the head roll again." He starts doing one, but halfway through he hits another Pete. They both tumble on the floor. I can't help but crack up. I guess the tension from the awkwardness I felt all comes out at once. He gets up and helps the guy he knocked over to stand. Then he turns his attention at me and smiles. "You see? We're having fun!" I laugh even harder. "You're silly." He grins. "The good silly, I hope?" "Yeah, the good silly." "I hoped so. You know, when was the last time you laughed that hard?" I think about that for a second. "I uh… I'm not sure?" "Then this week is going to open up your eyes! And I'm personally going to guide you through it all." I laugh. "Did I ever give you permission for that?" He laughs. "You did when you let those people put black paint on you! You're all mine now!" He tries to laugh like an evil Disney character, but he fails. His laugh turns into a childish giggle instead. And apparently his giggle is really, really contagious. Soon not only him and me, but also some other black Petes are laughing and giggling. "And what are all my Petes laughing about?" someone with a heavy voice suddenly asks. It's Sint! "We actually don't know." "Well, if you can manage to get the kids this happy, I'm happy as well." Someone laughs. "Of course." "Well then, I guess it's time to head for the pakjesboot? The kids are probably waiting for us." "Let's go." We all follow the Sint towards the presents boat. We climb aboard and don't even have to wait too long for the ship to start moving. We are handed sacks filled with sweets. The friend of my mother explains what we have to do one last time. All these kids are depending on me. If I do something stupid, they'll think a real black Pete did that. Sinterklaas and his Petes are depending on me. I'm here in their name. If I fuck up, it'll be them who fucked up. It's actually a big responsibility. Now I come to think of it, it may be the biggest responsibility I ever had. Vincent puts a hand on my shoulder. "Everything will be okay man." I smile. "I know, I know." "Well then, we're almost there. Let the boring speech begin!" I chuckle. I remember from when I was a kid I always hated it when the mayor was talking. It was a different mayor then, but for some reason they all seem to be extremely boring. Imagine if the mayor was your teacher. I guess they are the ONLY people on the world who would actually be able to make school more boring than it already is. Our boat stops. We're in the marina, I guess. Vincent and I look out over the city, the spires of the cathedral sparkle in the late evening sunlight. We can see the river with the boat moored at the old quay. The clouds are moving faster across the sky, threatening rain, perhaps even snow. Imagine that! Snow. I hear some cheering in the background. People are still singing songs. Everyone knows Sinterklaas is drawn towards the songs. You have to sing very loud for him to hear you. And he ALWAYS gets lost somewhere. As well as that, something always goes wrong. Sometimes he gets lost at sea travelling from Spain to the Netherlands. Sometimes they lose all the presents. Another year the pepernoten (gingerbread nuts) factory stops working. Every single year it's a fearful question, whether or not he will even reach the Netherlands. But this time he did. We get off the boat and head towards the mayor. Spread out across the whole marina and even further than that, are hundreds of kids. All dressed up as little Petes or Sints and all singing at the top of their voices, trying to get our or Sint's attention. We climb onto the stage and the mayor starts talking. There are cameras following every movement. I feel exposed here, on this podium, but I take some comfort from knowing that you'd have to know I was up there in order to recognise me. I don't pay too much attention to the speech, I stare at all the kids who seem not to be watching the saint, but looking at me. Then I notice how Vincent is waving and smiling, so I try to copy him. I feel awkward, like I don't fit in. When the speech has finished, we clamber off the stage. Some people bring a horse to Sint. He has his own, a white horse called Amerigo. The old man climbs on the horse and off we go. Slowly I get used to the enthusiasm. I simply imitate Vincent like I did earlier. Luckily, we don't have to do any head rolls here, we're pretty much just waving and handing out sweets. Many kids have made paintings and drawings. We collect them all and put them in the burlap sacks. I wonder what will be done with the drawings? I expect, even though it sounds weird, they will be thrown away. At least, I can't imagine anyone would want to keep those paintings. I wave and I smile. I even see some kids I know from my neighbourhood. I hope they don't recognise me. "Pete, Pete!" I turn around and see a little girl. "Pete, over here, I made you a drawing." I walk over her. "Hey there." "I've been good this year, Pete. I didn't do anything I wasn't allowed to… except… I took a biscuit from the jar once. But I apologised about that to mom!" I smile. "I believe you. I don't have the big book of Sint with me anyway, so I can't look up your name. But you look like you're very nice." She beams. "I am!" "Did you earn some sweeties as well?" "Yes!" "Here you go!" I rummage through the sack with my white gloved hands and I grab a large handful of sweets. I pass them to the girl, but as her hands are much smaller than mine, some of the candy falls from her hands. I'm sure she'll be able to grab the rest once she’s eaten what she’s got a hold of. I turn around and notice the group has already moved on a few meters. "Oops, I gotta go. I don't want to lose sight of Sint!" "Thank you Pete!" I smile and take another hand of candy. I put the sweets in the pocket of her jacket. Her smile grows even bigger. Then I jump up and run away. I wave another time when I'm a few meters away and turn away for good. I run towards the parade again, pretty much ignoring some of those kids begging faces. "Welcome back." Vincent smiles. "Made some kids happy?." "You bet I did." "Nice. Now, we're starting the first act. I think the primary school kids are going to dance, but I'm not too sure, I guess at some point some Petes are going to rush onto the stage to join them. You can come too, or you can stay here, your choice." I frown. "I won't be the only one to stay here, will I?" "No of course not. Just a few Petes will dance with them. Did you think all the Petes would fit on that platform?" I grin. "I guess you're right. You are going, I bet?" "Of course!" "Thank you Sint for visiting our small city," a guy on the stage says. I think it's a teacher. "We know you are very busy, but we want to ask you to stay here for a little while. The children from "The Stone Bridge" elementary school (yes, many Dutch elementary schools have these arbitrary names) prepared a show for you." "I have to ask hoofdpiet ('principal Pete'; boss of the Petes). I'm not sure how much time we have." Sint looks at the black Pete next to him who is turning the pages of a big red book really quickly. "Uh… this is the city Ede, right?" he asks. Sint laughs. "Yes, Pete. This is Ede." "And it's Sunday today?" "All day long, Pete." "Ah no, we don't have any time, Sint. We really have to move on now, we have to go to "The Stone Bridge" elementary school! We're running late, Sint." The nervous kids on the stage giggle. "Pete, we ARE here already." Hoofdpiet looks up from the book. "Oh we are. Hello!" He waves enthusiastically. "Wait, is that Mr. Misk, teacher of the fifth grade? Oh, you grew big already! Last year you were like… this." He holds his hand one meter above the ground. "And now you're adult." The teacher who was talking before laughs out loud. "Pete, that was thirty years ago! I've been grown-up for years now." "Oh, my bad then. And what about all the children over there? Are they growing up too?" "Pete!" Sint says. "What about we let those children do their act?" "O yeah, of course. Go… go on kids." The teacher leaves the stage and the music is starting. The children start out a little clumsy, but soon they find the beat and I have to admit, for a bunch of eight year olds, they are moving pretty synchronised. Two minutes into the show, some Petes do indeed run up to the stage. Vincent is one of them, as expected. I'm not sure if they're even trying to do the same as those kids. Some of the Petes are copying the pupils, but way too delayed. Some others just run around and throw their arms in the air. Vincent conjures three medium-sized balls out his colorful jacket and starts juggling while circling around the group of kids. He tries to sing along with the music, but he fails. I'm pretty sure he does that intentionally. Some of the kids get distracted by his silliness and stop dancing for a moment and then try to get back into the song awkwardly. Everyone in the street who is watching the act, is laughing. I notice some kids pointing at Vincent and I see a boy who tries to juggle with three pepernoten, but it results in all three pepernoten dropping on the ground. He just takes three new ones and tries again. And again. I think, I have rarely seen so many happy faces together, even parents who are laughing openly. Everyone is grinning, eating candy and some kids are even dancing as well. Oddly enough, I feel kind of proud of Vincent. Just by doing crazy things, he is making several people's day. That must feel amazing. When they're done, the Petes run off the stage, grab their sacks and run back on. They give every kid an enormous heap of candy and run away again. Sint is asked to climb onto the stage. The teacher continues by explaining how all kids have been nice the whole year and that they definitely earned a visit on Sint's eve. He also tells the old man that he doesn't know anyone who has been naughty, and hence no one deserved to be kidnapped. Yes, that's true. Sinterklaas will put you in a burlap sack and bring you back with him to Spain if you were naughty last year. As I said, this holiday is a little old-fashioned. Especially if you consider the fact that, according to some Sinterklaas' songs, Pete carries a roe (a bunch of twigs tied together used to hit kids when they did something they weren't supposed to) with him. Nowadays he doesn't. At least, I don't have one, but he still carries it in the songs. Vincent walks over to me again. He's out of breath. "That was fun." I grin. "You were amazing dude. I didn't know you could juggle?" He laughs. "You only met me today, silly. You found out I can juggle the first day you know me! Most people don't know it for years or so." "It was cool, man. You even inspired some kids." "What do you mean?" I nod over to the boy that is still trying to juggle with the pepernoten. Vincent smiles. It really is the most genuine and friendly smile I've ever observed. "Cool!" he says. "I'm heading over there." I frown as I watch him walking away. He approaches the boy, who didn't notice him until he was really close. You should have seen the face of the boy, it was as if he just met his biggest hero. And maybe he did? Vincent says something, which causes the kid to laugh. I see how the parents of the kid, or well, the couple I assume are his parents, look at Vincent and smile. This is the first time I realise it must be a nice holiday for the parents as well. Being able to see their kids this happy, the whole period long, it's cool. Then I notice Vincent giving his juggling balls to the kid. If I didn't know better, I'd think the eyes of the kid could pop out any moment. The amount of energy that's rushing through his body now, seems not to find its way out through facial expressions, so the kids start jumping wildly. Vincent says something to the kid, and the kid starts trying to juggle again, but of course that doesn't work out. Pete takes two balls from him and shows how to juggle with two balls instead of three. He then gives them back. The kid tries it again, and I guess this time it goes somewhat better. At least, he doesn't drop the balls immediately. Vincent tousles the boy's hair and walks away. "That was the sweetest thing ever." He grins. "In ten years or so, I hope that kid will be a Pete." "I'm sure he will." "Thank you Sint! We hope to see you in our school this week." "I'm sure you will." With some difficulty the old man descends from the stage and gets on his horse again. The fanfare starts making music again and the parade continues. And we, we start laughing and waving again, handing out sweets in the process. Seeing all those kids smiling, makes me happy, truly happy. When I'm back home, I'm going to hug my mom. We continue our path through the city, creating a wave of joy all around us. Suddenly, a kid catches my attention. I'm not sure why, it's a boy with big round glasses, all alone, with no parents or friends close. I pat Vincent on the shoulder to tell him I'm running off again. We're pretty much doing this the whole day already, we meet up in the middle of the parade, look around for kids to share candy with, pat each other on the back and we run off. I like the routine we built up. So I run to the kid. He looks surprised and even shies away a little. "Hey!" I smile at him. "Hi." "So, have you been nice this year?" He shrugs. "I guess." "Good! Where are your parents?" He shrugs again. "Dunno." I think about it for a second. "Hey, have you ever shaked Sint's hand?" He shakes his head. "You're not scared of him, are you?" Where the kid was looking sad and down before, now he stands up straight and it even looks like he primitively pulls his shoulders back to show his chest for a second. "Of course not!" "Good! Come on, we're going to Sinterklaas." The boy hesitates and looks at the barrier tape. I pull the tape up a little, which he knows is an invitation to crawl underneath it. I grab his hand and together we run to the parade, which has progressed in the meantime. "Sint! Sint." He turns around on his horse. "Oh, hey Pete. What's wrong?" "Nothing. It's just that…" I look at the boy. "What is your name?" "Karel," he says shyly. "Of course it's Karel, Pete. We knew that, it's in the big red book." I grin. "I know. My bad, sorry Sint. But, Karel would really like to shake your hand personally, don't you Karel?" He nods, but doesn't dare to look the old man in the eyes. "Is that right? Hmm." Sint orders his horse to stop walking. "Petes, help me off the horse please." The whole parade slowly realises Sint wasn't moving anymore, so it completely stops. Sint is being helped off his horse. He kneels in front of the kid. "Hi Sint," Karel says. "I'm sorry I haven't been nice the whole year. I just… I…" He starts tearing up. Oh shit, I didn't expect this. I brought him here. "It's mom… and Steven. They…" "Karel, look at me. You don't have to apologise, okay? You're a good kid, I know that." The boy smiles, but his eyes are still tearing. I just hope he doesn't start crying. Secretly, I look around and I notice everyone is watching us closely. "Thank you, Sint." "Now, did you want to shake hands? Or, you know what? We can hug as well? So we both know everything is okay." He nods. Sint hugs the little boy. Then he says goodbye and gets on his horse again. Karel just stands there, watching Sint as the parade slowly starts moving again. I notice Vincent is watching me. I smile at him and turn my attention to the boy again. "Let's go back now, okay?" "Yes! Thank you, Pete." "No problem, Karel." I grab his hand again and we walk back towards the spot where I think he was standing before. I don't know if it's exactly the right spot, but considering he wasn't with his parents or friends, I think it doesn't really matter to him where I'll bring him. The parade left this part of the city behind now, so I bet he'll return home. Wherever that is. I wave goodbye and run back towards the parade. I don't see the stone sticking out. I'm too focused on reaching the procession before they leave my view. So, when my left foot hits the sett and my gaze, previously focused straight ahead, slowly tumbles down as my whole body falls towards the street, I can consider myself lucky enough that my hands react in time. I catch myself, so the only real damage are some scratches on my hands. But, everyone saw it. The whole audience, they were pretty much all watching me because I was the only Pete left. And they all saw me tumbling down. Vincent, apparently, saw it too. He rushes towards me. "Pete! Are you okay?" I slowly get up and look at my hands. They hurt a little. "I guess." Then I notice my wig on the ground. The wig with the frizzy hair. I dropped it. My bloody hands reach for my head, as if to determine whether that wig is mine. Vincent sees it too. Completely startled I look around. I see all the kids looking at me with big eyes. I swallow. Vincent grabs the wig and puts it on my head again. "Fuck," I whisper. "What did I do." "It's no problem, Maarten, this happens all the time." "No, no, no." I swallow again while looking around. All those kids. Oh my god!. I feel myself turning red. My vision gets blurry. "Hey, Maarten. It's okay. It really is. You're a helping Pete (hulppiet; the non-official Pete, actors helping out the real Petes). The kids know that." I turn around to where I left Karel. He isn't there anymore. Did I scare him away? Vincent grabs hold of my hands and hugs me. "It's okay, he whispers." "Are you sure?" "Yes man. I am sure. Now, how about we return to the rest? There are many more kids waiting for you." Even though we didn't stop hugging, he puts a little more force into the hug to amplify his sentence. "Mommy, those Petes are cuddling!" a girl says. I quickly push Vincent off me. I don't want him to think I disliked the hug - because to be honest, I loved it - so I smile. "Yes honey. Even Petes hug sometimes." "By the way," Vincent says, "I loved how you helped out that kid. That was really cute." I smile. "Thanks." "Do your hands hurt?" I shake my head. "Let's go." We walk back to the parade together. The rest of the morning goes better. We just walk through the city, handing out candy. We wave. We laugh. Most importantly, we're having fun. A lot of fun! As noon is approaching, many people leave the city to go for lunch. We continue walking with the parade until we reach the old factory. There is, as promised, food and cake waiting for us. "Let's get rid of the paint first," someone says. "Sounds like a plan." The friend of my mother starts talking to us collectively. "Thank you for making this day amazing again, guys. I gathered a few people to help you guys remove the paint and the Pete clothes, but we're not so many. We'll just be getting you guys one by one. In the meantime, you can grab any food you like. You earned it!" People start rushing towards the table with the food on it. Vincent and I wait, we're both exhausted and not really in the mood to queue up. We're just talking. "Let me see your hands," Vincent says. I frown and show them. He grabs my hand and traces the scratches with his finger. "You should get it cleaned. Don't want it to get infected." I smile. "It's not that bad." "I hope so." He smiles at me. For the first time since we started this morning, I can look in his eyes without risking getting disturbed by kids at any moment. And oomph, what the hell. They are beautiful. Oogverblindend mooi ('so beautiful it turns you blind'). I glance at the table with the food on it and realise I'm suddenly not hungry anymore. And no, I'm not stupid. I'm fifteen already, I know what this means. It's just… weird, don't you think? Of course, Vincent is a cool guy, and a sweet guy moreover. And yes, his eyes are stunning. But that's too little to go on, right? You can't fall in love when that's all you know. Then what the hell are my hormones doing? Slowly, the Petes are transformed back to real people again. I've been around these guys the whole morning, and this is the first time I really see them. A lady approaches us. "Vincent, do you want me to get you cleaned up now?" "Yes, please." The woman smiles at me. "Someone will come and get you soon." I nod and look at Vincent as he walks away. He must know I'm watching him, because he randomly jumps in the air, makes a pirouette and then runs towards the lady again. Such a crazy boy. Five minutes later another lady comes for me. I follow her to the bathroom, which they converted to something I always imagined a beauty salon would look like. "Take a seat," she says. I sigh. "Finally getting rid of the paint and make-up." She laughs. "Yeah, always when you remove it, you realise how annoying it had been all that time. You can take off your hat and your wig now, by the way. And close your eyes." She uses some really smelly liquid to remove the black paint from my face. It itches a little, but I'm happy to finally feel the air on my face again. Is this what real make-up feels like, I wonder. If so, then why do women use it so much? Nothing fun about it. After she removed all the paint, I go to a stall to get rid of the Pete clothes. I don't really have to change clothes or anything, the Pete clothes are very baggy, so you just wear it over your own clothes. And, it's cold outside, so only wearing the thin fabric would be way too cold. Although, considering all Petes are always running and dancing, I wonder if it would be really that cold. I thank the kind lady and head back to the big room. I'm actually really hungry now, so I immediately make my way towards the big table with sandwiches. "Boo!" Startled, I turn around. Gulp. "Vin… vincent?" "Yeah silly. Who else do you think would try to creep up on you." He smiles. No more black paint. No wig. If I thought his eyes were oogverblindend mooi, then I surely hadn't seen the rest of him. Holy shit. It's hard to describe him, any word I choose to use will fall short, but I'll try, bear with me. I told you about the brown eyes, like a cup of coffee, right? Or chocolate brown, that would fit too. His hair is long, blond with brown strands in it. Beautiful enough to make you wonder if it is real at all. It's the kind of hair you expect cute guys to have on those magazine covers that gets you to believe they could turn any straight guy gay immediately. His hair is long enough to appear from behind his ears again, cutely curving upwards. Of course, I had seen his nose before, be it was covered in black paint, suddenly it seems even more adorable than it had been before. It's a small nose, kind of pointing upwards, but not in a pointy way. It's hard to explain, but I can tell you it fits his face extremely well. Did I say 'holy shit' already? Yes? Well, here it goes again, he earned it. Holy shit! Vincent looks tanned, which is weird; it's almost winter. And his lips are almost pink, as if they forgot to take off the lipstick completely. They are small, not like my big puffy lips. No, they are tight and perfect. And hell, they make his smile a thousand times cuter than it had been before. I swallow. He smiles. "Maarten?" "Uh… yeah?" "You're… you're kinda staring." I turn bright red. "I'm sorry. I guess I expected you to look different." "Yeah, I know right, it's weird to have a fun time with someone without knowing what he looks like. I know what that's like." How do I talk to him? He's like, way too cute for me to even look at him. For real, if I had known this is what he looked like, that first conversation would never have happened. He would've asked if it was my first time, to which I probably would've replied "yeah", followed by walking away. He grins. "Well, this is me." He spreads his arms graciously. "I hope you being silent all of a sudden isn't a bad thing?" Okay. I'm being awkward. Get your shit together, Maarten. "Uhh, yeah. I'm sorry, my mind sometimes needs time to understand changes like these. I think I had an image of you in my mind which doesn't check out." He laughs. "You look exactly like I expected you to look. Well, that isn't fair, I saw you walking in this morning, so I knew what you looked like." And still he decided to talk to me? What happened to the social rule of only befriending people within your own league? "Did you eat already?" I shake my head. "No, I was about to grab a sandwich when you decided to scare me." He grins again. I'm not sure what I like better, his smile or his grin. His smile is really sweet, but his grin shows his perfectly white teeth and is mischievous, which fits his crazy personality. "Scaring you by saying "boo" or by showing my true self?" I laugh. "That's for you to decide." My heart is slowing down a little bit. It's the same guy, I shouldn't forget that. Just the guy who is funny and crazy and had been entertaining loads of kids all day long. Nothing changed. Holy shit. It's the guy that hugged me today. If I knew then what I know now, I think I would've fainted! Can I still faint now? Fainting retroactively. We both take some food and walk to a sofa in the corner of the old factory. "You made that little boy's day," Vincent says with his mouth full. "I think so. He earned it." "You actually looked really determined when you said you were going to him. Why was that?" I shrug. "I dunno. He was just so lonely. He looked scared." "It was really a sweet thing to do. To take him to the Sint. As far as I know no one ever did that." I smile. "I just wanted to help him. When he finally dared to look Sinterklaas in the eye, he almost started crying. He kept saying he was sorry. And something about his parents." I start to tear up. It's weird how such a short encounter with someone can sometimes have such an impact on you. I just feel it, deep down, I want to help him. He needs it. And surely he earned it. "Hey, don't you start crying now," Vincent warns. I smile. "I won't. It's just sad how much pain there is in the world, don't you think." "Oh, we're moving to the serious topics fast now. What happened to smalltalk?" "I'm sorry." "Don't be. I'm just joking. You're right though, it's sad. But that's why these days are so important. Show the world love." "Why can't it always be Sinterklaas (Sinterklaas is both the name of the person as the holiday, so when you say "it is almost Sinterklaas", it's like saying "it is almost Easter")," I think out loud. "Then it wouldn't be special anymore." I nod. "But it would be better nonetheless. Always focusing on happiness rather than on sadness." "Hey, now is not the time to ponder! It's Sinterklaas, we should have fun." "I know, I know." He jumps up. "Where is the music?" he shouts. "Ugh, Vince. We're tired. Do you never run out of power?" someone complains. He feigns contempt. "Tired? We should be having fun." He starts dancing without any music. Some people chuckle, some others cheer him on, but soon everyone starts minding their own business again. Vincent sits down next to me with a huge grin. "Fun! You see?" "You're crazy!" He laughs. "Crazy? Do you want to see real crazy. Come, follow me." He jumps up again. I sigh. "Come on, get off your lazy ass. We ought to have fun!" "Yeah, you said that." I can't help but smile. It's kind of cute. A crazy beautiful guy full of energy. He grabs my hand and pulls me up. "Follow me." He doesn't leave me much choice, as he doesn't let go of my wrist as he drags me behind him. We leave the main room in the factory and walk towards the stairs. We start climbing the stairs. Well, he's practically running, so I have to run as well if I want my wrist to stay connected to my arm. We're both out of breath when we reach the top floor, which is the eleventh floor! "Is… is this… you think is… fun?" I pant. He grins. "Wait until you look out that window." I look up. Damn, the view. It's amazing. You can literally see the whole city from here. I look at all the buildings, all the houses. I try to spot my own house, but it's fairly hard to navigate when looking from this angle. "Amazing, isn't it? It's all so small." I'm still out of breath. "Yeah, it's cool." "I told you I would show you crazy." I look at him. "This isn't crazy, it's beautiful." He grins again. "I didn't mean the view." He moves closer to me, looks me right in the eyes with those coffee eyes and leans in, pressing his smile against mine.
  15. Hey Canuk, Thank you for the comment! You're right, this chapter is kind of the filler chapter, in the sense that we're getting to know more people while we're slowly approaching some more action. I wasn't too sure whether this chapter really needed to be uploaded at all, but I wanted you guys to meet Trenton, he's worth your time, believe me ;) I'm glad you liked it!
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