Chapter 15

- Aaaaaahh, finally some time off! Elliot troated bass-rumbling, and threw himself down onto the antique couch that was standing in the middle of the parlor on the ground floor.

He exhaustedly leaned his head back over the edge of the back of the couch and let out an extended, bored moan that rumbled through the great hall in the form of several echoes. The ceiling was high, and the room was surprisingly frugally furnitured considering the given space, so the boys had often in their childhood days amused themselves by screaming some more or less indecent things to each other and listened to all the echoes that bounced off the walls.

The cold light that was filtered through the big French windows behind Elliot gave him an eerie aura that seemed to glow around him.

He was still wearin the grey slacks, the white shirt with the tucked up sleeves, the dark grey-blue waiscoat, the black bowtie and the zealously plished black shoes that completed the waiters' work clothes at Cadeau. Despite the fact that he was a part owner in the restaurant, Elliot prefered to work actively on the floor rather than letting other people do it. He wanted to be in control, but he also liked meeting all the guests and seeing their happy faces when their food met or surpassed their expectations. If he was to be forced to sit in an office all day and take care of the accounting records he would undoubtedly lose his sanity within a couple months.

His skin would start to crawl.

- Ooh, why do we have to have so uncomfortable furniture? he complained half-heartedly and frustratedly squirmed on the couch in search for a more comfortable position.

- You know Mom wants to conserv this room exactly as it was five-hundred years ago, Ellis pointed out conversationally while carefully sitting down on the armrest of a very old armchair, which he knew to be too hard to even try sitting in.

- Yeah, but still! Elliot whined.

- Don't complain so much, you'll get a stomach ache.

The brother made a forced grimace at him.

The garden caught his attention. Clouds hung grey and heavy above the ground, but it had not yet begun to rain. The big terrace was cloaked in shadows, but beyond it the great, generous lawn seemed to glitter invitingly with its green grandeur. He longed to go out there and walk along the stone walkway and dreamily let his fingertips slide over the low hedge's new buds. He imagined that they would tickle his skin.

- Adelaide's home, Elliot suddenly said, as if he had just come to think of it.

Ellis immediately turned his attention to his sloth of a brother.

- You saw her? he wondered, curios to learn what the brother thought of her.

- I met her this morning before I went to work, he confided drawlingly and yawned to demonstrate that he was the hard-working one of the two.

- This morning? But it can't have been more than seven, eight before you left, Ellis expressed in baffement.

Elliot laughed slightly scornfully.

- Not everyone sleeps until twelve, Ellis, he pointed out teasingly. Some people actually get up on time and make use of the entire day.

- It's spring break, and it's Sunday, Ellis muttered to his defense.

- If you say so...

It became quiet between them. They just sat there, each thinking about their own situations. Ellis did not know if he just imagined it, but he thought that he could see the day outside the windows grow darker. If he was going to go outside he had better do it now, before it started to thunder.

Not that it had ever stopped him before, but...

- She looks good, Elliot declared, yet again speaking on impulse. You're a lucky bastard, you know that?

Ellis jerked. His brother's clear-sightedness actually surprised him somewhat. He did not doubt for a seconds that Elliot was smart, perceptive and intuitive, but still he had not thought that his brother would pick up on those signals this quickly. When the shock had settled he could not help but smile modestly, though.

- What are you talking about now? he wondered innocently, but could feel the knowing glint that came to his own eyes.

He had never been able to keep anything secret from his brother.

Therefore he hoped for dear life that the other wouldn't ferret out his new secret...

Elliot sat up straight on the couch and studied him with a sly, concessionary smile.

- It's just to 'fess up, dude, all she does is talk about you. Though she probably tried her best not to reveal too much her eyes sparkled every time your name was mentioned. And it's not exatly the first time... I mean, you were practically inseparable until she moved to Midair. So, tell me about last night's party. She was there, wasn't she?

To his great chagrin, Ells had to lower his gaze. What the hell's happening to me? It was as if he was scared of his own brother, which was absurd! Elliot was like an older copy of him, both physically and personality-wise. People could have mistaken them for monozygous twins had it not been for the fact that Elliot was eight years older and eleven centimeters taller, because except for that they were identical. Ever since their childhood they had been incredibly close, and Elliot had always protected him when it had been called for. So why did he feel this reluctance to tell him about the feelings that Addie stirred within him?

It did not take long for the brother to pull every single detail out of him. With an open interest, he listened to Ellis's lovesick blabbering about what he hoped his and Addie's relationship to evolve into. In spite of the fact that it had only been roughly twelve hours since they parted, Ellis had already had time to create an intricate fantasy inside his head; he had constructed an enire life for them. It was damned freaky, but he could feel in the bottom of his heart that she was the right one for him - and what was even more frightening was that he had probably known it for several years. Without exaggeration, he could honestly say to himself - and others - that he could see her as his future wife and even as the mother of his future kids.

Fuck, he had never even liked kids! And now he was walking around daydreaming about marrying Addie and have two-three children together with her. Get a house, a car, a dog... the works.

- You're crazy, Ellis, Elliot said with emphasis and laughed somewhat scornfully at him.

That was a rather adequate summary.

A few minutes later, he went out into the garden, wandered slowly on the walkway that slithered through a labyrinth of meter-high Eugenia hedges. A harmonic, happy smile came to his lips as he drew the crisp, slightly heavy air into his lungs. It would thunder soon; heavenly tension was evident in the air. The earth seemed to be in need of a discharge. Some thin rain drops fell around him; a couple hit his forehead, one his hand. But it did not bother him; he liked rain. Rain was releasing and refreshing.

He reached the middle of the labyrinth and stepped out onto the ten meters in diameter wide stone circle. The cobblestones were lain in circles originating from the fountain the middle of the circle. He went up to it and dreamily filtered its water between his fingers. Listened to the purling.

This is life, he thought peacefully and closed his eyes. A deep sigh escaped him. If it could always be like this and feel like this I would be the happiest man on Earth. His heart started to beat harder inside his chest as he thought back to the night before. Her promising face...


He gave a start and spun around as if he was expecting someone to jump on him any second now. But when the sound was repeated he was able to identify it was his mobile's ringtone. Glad, he pulled it out of his pocket in the hope of it being Adelaide calling him as promised.

- HellothisisEllisGuinevere! he said so quickly that his words were melted together into a mess of sounds.

And one-syllable sentences were not often easy to comprehend.

A contemptuous, dark laughter thundered into his ear.

- Yes, hello to you too, Ellisguinevere, the friend's voice said in amusement, but gloat. What the fuck'd you eat for lunch?

Ellis stuck out his tongue defiantly even though Kyle could not see him.

- Ha, ha, very funny dickhead. Aren't you gonna go and be a stand-up comedian too?

- You know, I've always thought about that, Kyle joked ironically. Remember when we put together our own little variey show as kids?

- All too well, Ellis chuckled with cheeks burning of embarrassment. You'd stolen your old man's yellow golfing trousers and put them on your head and claimed to be a banana from outer space, then you attacked me and started to chew on my leg... D'you know I still have marks from your freakin' teeth? Fuck, is that how you show your affection to your friends? Give them tetanus... And Addie sang the national anthem backwards.

- Thos were the days, alright. Ellis... the reason I'm calling you is... well, I've sort of gotten into some trouble here.

Ellis frowned and turned to the fountain again. He absentmindedly lowered his hand into the cold water and stirred distractedly in it.

- What's happened? he wondered with concern.

Even though Kyle had consciously avoided for several months, been insufferable and shot him angry looks wherever he had gone, Ellis had never stopped thinking about him as a friend. He had loved Kyle ever since they were so small that they could hardly walk, as unconditionally and selflessly as he had always loved Elliot and his parents. As unconditionally and selflessly as he had always loved Addie... He would do anything for Kyle without doubting.

- I've met your overman, Ellis, Kyle told him bitterly, or rather overwoman. My uncle didn't come to pick me up last night, so I had to ask Ladpants to find me a host family for the night. It's just that... they're stinkin' rich and have all these servants doing everything for them, and that's not really my style. I feel bad for them every time I see them, because I keep thinking about all the horrible things that must've happened to them if they got to slave for some Croesus to survive. Don't know how much longer I can stand being here, man... But the thing is, there's been some sort of accident on the tracks and there won't be any trains to Diversity for at least three days. So I'm kind of stuck here.

- Ah..., Ellis said, understanding his problem. Yeah, I saw something about that on TV... So, what do you want me to do?

It was silent for a long time at the other end. It was apparent that Kyle was very reluctant to ask Ellis of the favor that he obviously had in mind.

- Dude, sorry but... I was kind of wondering if maybe you could send your private jet down to pick me up? I'm going insane here if I have to stay much longer, and the prince can't do shit and he's in a meeting all day...

Ellis did not need to think it over before replying:

- Of course. Anything, you know that. I'll talk to Dad and ask him to prepare the plane. But they won't be able to take off until this evening, you know, so you'll have to wait until maybe eight or nine. Are you aware of that?

- I was counting on that, so it's cool. Thanks Ellis. I don't deserve your friendship, but I'm damned grateful.

Ellis laughed. He was just about to say I know when something big and round hit him hard in the back of his head. For a fraction of a second he lost his breath. Then he became angry.

- Ow, what the heck...!

When he angrily swirled around to (figuratively speaking) attack whoever it was who was throwing stuff in his head he noticed Adelaide standing on the other side of the Eugenia. She smiled apologetically and somewhat embarrassedly at him. He completely lost his thread and just stared at her.

- Whoops, sorry, she said embarrassedly. My aim was a little off... I did't mean for it to hit your head, I was sort of gonna kick it into the fountain to make the water squirt all over you, and... Well, I thought it'd kind of be a annoying enough, yet mystifying entrance.

She shily shrugged her shoulders.

He found himself laughing at her without really realising that he had opened his mouth.

That made her blink nonplussed towards him a few times before bursting out in a guffaw herself, and the whole incident was forgotten. Just like it always was when they kidding around.

He carefully rubbed his fingertips on the sore spot in the back of his head.

- Don't scare me like that! he accused. Are you gonna give me a heart attack, or what?!

She limberly jumped over the hedge and went after her football. Ellis noted appreciatingly that she was weaing her worn blue shorts and a grey hood with the text GAMMA EAGLES on the chest.

The school soccer team.

- What's goin' on? Kyle asked in the phone.

Ellis had totally forgotten about him and jumped high at the sound of his voice.

- Right, Kyle... It was just Addie kicking a football into my head. Freak...

She stuck out her tongue at him. In response, he raised his free hand and signed to her to come closer. Only three seconds later he had her in his arms, and a warm, tinkling feeling spread through his body. When she stood that close to him he could smell her newly washed hair, hear her pounding heart matchin his own and feel her warm breath on his cheek. He could get intoxicated by her...

He covered the cell phone with his hand.

- Are we together? he asked her softly while lovingly stroking her smooth hair, which was dancing wildly in the wind, with his hand.

She giggled happily and nodded eagerly.

- Addies home? Kyle wondered, happily surprised. Send her my best. We haven't seen each other since she moved to Midair, for crying out loud...

- I know But things have changed a bit... Eh, I can hardly get it myself, but she's actually my girlfriend now. This holiday is a little surreal.

- You're kidding me!? Congratulations! It's about fucking time! Get how long I've been waiting for the two of you to understand that you like each other!

Ellis laughed. He felt an increasingly stronger need to be alone with Addie and tell her exactly how he felt around her.

- The plane arrives at nine, Kyle, he therefore said and ended the conversation. Good luck.

Almost immediately after hanging up, Addie slithered out of his arm. A childish, selfishly possessive feeling came over him when she no longer was pressed to him; the warmth of her body left him cold and abandoned. He wanted to snag her and force her closer to him again, for he never again wanted to feel that intrusive, painful cold. Now that he had found the soul with which he wanted to share the rest of his life he hardly wanted to be alone, not even for a fraction of a second.

She yet again leapt over the Eugenia hedge with a limberness that impressed and intrigued him. During all those years that they had played and done sports together she had of course made him aware of her suppleness, but he had never really taken any greater notice of it before. Now he appreciatively studied her elegant movements; the curvy hips that would never be hidden completely by any fabric, the long, slender legs that were incredibly flexible, the thin waist, the muscular arms and the sporty, broad shoulders...

For a moment she disappeared behind the hedge, but reappeared as quickly again.

He linked baffledly at the plastic bag that she now held out to him.

Her smile was sunnily warm and just a tad mischievous.

He wondered what she had planned now.

- I brought along a little surprise, she told him, and it was apparent in her voice that she was eager to see his reaction as she showed him her "surprise".

Curious, he went closer to the hedge.

In the very next moment, she had taken out two identical notepads with pink covers from the plastic bag. They had a wavery, squiggling, bubbly pattern of curves in a lighter shade of pink; the background color was cerise.

Ritual Notebooks.

He glared at them wide-eyed. Blinked a few times. Shook his head lightly in an attempt to clear it. She'd gone and bought Ritual Notebooks... ? For him?

He felt touched deep in his soul.

- Addie... this is absolutely wonderful, he whispered, overwhelmed. So it's actually for real? It's really you and me now? For ever?

She laughed at his shocked face.

- I hope so, she said with honesty and warmth in her voice. Now come on, let's run inside and pull the beds apart, okay?

Her encouragement turned into a challenge, which he gladly accepted. Laughing insanely, they rushed side by side to the big house's back door, reached it at the same time and both fell noses first when they desperately tried to press through the door at the same time. With a loud thud they landed on the floor of the parlor. Elliot was obviously still lounging on the uncomfortable antique couch, because he sat up in fright when they, literally, fell into the room.

- What the Hell are you two doing?! he exclaimed in fright, but collected himself quickly and grinned at them knowingly instead. See, I told you you're a lucky bastard.

Ellis gathered that his brother had noticed the Ritual Notebooks that they were desperately holding fast to.

With dignity, they got up on their feet and brushed off imaginary lint as a reflex. The floor was already as clean as clean could be, so there wasn't really any dust to brush off.

- What are you gonna do now? Elliot wondered mockingly.

The brother obviously thought that they were gonna go straight to the bedroom, like young lovers may do in his world...

Although, it was sort of right...

- We're gonna pull the beds apart in Mom and Dad's room, Ellis told him.

- I already did in my parents' room, Addie added grinning broadly.

Ellis turned to her in bafflement.

- You did? But you... I mean, that was before you came out there and kicked that ball in my head, so how could you... ?

She playfully hit him on the cheek.

- Silly, it was as good as clear even last night that we're a couple now, she declared lovingly. Sure as Hell I pulled the beds apart as soon as I woke up this morning! I wanted everyone to see that I've got myself a cavalier.

According to a very old tradition all new couples were to perform the Communion Ritual the same day that they decided to be lovers. The ritual was to buy a couple Ritual Notebooks and proudly display them for everyone during 24 hours. You had to hold the notebooks up to your chest all the time so that everyone could see, otherwise their union was illegal. But one was of course allowed to put the notebook down while eating, bathing, going to the toilet and so on.

Besides that, one traditionally had to pull the beds apart in the master bedroom of their parents' house to emphasize that someone in that family had gone into a new relationship.

If later on it was decided that they would go their separate ways and no longer be together, they had to perform a Separaton Ritual to show the world that they were single again. That was simply to let people know that they were back on the market, so to speak. The Separation Ritual was similar to the Communion Ritual in the sense that they once again were to hold up identical notebooks to their chests, but the motif on the notebooks were slightly different. They were of the same color as the ones used when estimating the new relationship, but the Separation Notebooks bore huge black crosses that signified the end of the relationship.

Ellis dearly wished that he and Addie would never have to buy such notebooks.

She was his, and she would remain his. For ever.

- Ellis!

Elliot was calling him from downstairs and brutally broke through his thick dream-wall to bring him back to the present, to reality. Swallowing a sigh so as not to make Addie think that he was displeased with her, he went out into the hallway and called back:

- Yes?

- Sorry to bother you guys, but there's someone here to see you, the brother revealed seriously.

Ellis raised an eyebrow pensively. Someone there to see him? Who could that be? Addie looked curious too, so with a short nod to each other they began to run down the stairs together to find out who it might be.

Just inside the door, Cody was standing, and he did not exactly look happy. His dark-brown eyes were lusterlessly sullen, his shoulders drooping and his lips tightly pressed together into a thin line. Restlessly, he shuffled his feet repeatedly; could not stay still. Ellis noticed at once that something was wrong. His first impulse was to hug his comrade and bring him into the parlor, where they could sit on a perfectly hard, buttock-numbing couch and have an intimate conversation with each other, but for some reason he did not think that Cody was in the mood for a peaceful conversation that day. Jodi's words during their last rendevous as lovers still echoed in his memory: This is the FOURTH time now! He wondered if he would ever be able to see Cody upset again without wondering if it would lead to another suicide attempt later.

- You can never guess what that asshole's trying now! was Cody's first words, and they were uttered with a passionately furious voice that simmered over with sarcasm.

Addie seemed somewhat shocked at Cody's abrupt outburst, so did Elliot, who gave his little brother an inquiring, puzzled look.

Ellis felt a small sting in his heart. He had just perceived the hurt undertone in his friend's voice, an almost insignificant detail well hidden behind a smokescreen of anger and irony. When he took a closer look at Cody he saw that Cody's eyes were not dark with fury at all, as he had thought at first, at least not exclusively, but wet with pain, betrayal and sorrow - there was also a streak of disbelief, as if he could not understand how that "asshole" could have done that to him.

He frowned slightly.

- Excuse me if I'm a bit slow here, but who are we currently talking about? he wondered.

Cody let out a hurt, scornful laughter.

- James, of course! Who else? He's really one of a kind... as if he was completely innocent and never did anything to mislead me... No, it is only me, isn't it?

The wrinkles on Ellis's forehead deepened.

- Cody, what... what are you talking about? Did James do anything? I'm not a mind reader...

Yet another bitter laughter, but this time his voice broke, and he had to stop to prevent himself from starting to cry.

Ellis reacted immediately.

- But honey, he said tenderly and put his arm around Cody's shoulders, don't cry. D'you wanna come in and have a seat for a little while? he then wondered, and when Cody nodded mutely in response he turned to his brother: Elliot, could you make some tea?

They sa down in the parlor, Ellis and Addie on the couch that Elliot had previously been occupying with their backs to the stormy heavens, while Cody somewhat uneasy at heart took a seat in the armchair that Ellis had rejected earlier in the day because of its stiffness. He was twisting his hands in his lap due to nervousness. Kept his gaze lowered. Elliot brought the tea in on a tray and put it on the table between them. He had even put a few cookies on a plate, as if this was merely a tea-party and not at all a serious talk with a friend who seemed to be in trouble.

Coy bit his lower lip.

- I'm sorry I'm barging in without calling first, he mumbled softly while nervously scratching his right cheek. It was just the most natural place to go...

Because we both know James, Ellis thought, nodding. The one who knew the most about what was going down between the two lovebirds was of course him, and he gladly followed the intriguing development from the front row. It was no longer only his natural yearning for suspense and intrigue that made him run to the frontline in the war for James's favor, but also a wish to see both of his friends happy. Since he had gotten to know Cody he had more strongly every day sensed that this little guy was meant for James, that he was the one who could make life worth living for Ellis's best friend. And he wanted to help them get there.

- It's cool, he therefore said, you can come over anytime you want, you know that, right? You're always welcome.

Cody seemed to relax somewhat.

He sensed that Elliot and Addie were confused by this whole situation and decided to shortly explain to them who their guest was.

- Cody and I take history together, he explained, and he used to share a room with James. That's how we all know each other.

- No, I knew James long before, Cody objected all of a sudden, he was one of Henry's best friends.

Ellis blinked at him, nonplussed. The fact that he had just mentioned Henry that unaffectedly, despite all the pain he evidently felt after his brother's death, shocked him.

- Sorry, Cody said and waved his hand about a little, continue.

Ellis stared at him for a short while. Then he forced himself to collect himself.

He cleared his throat.

- To make a long story short, Cody's in love with James, and James is most probably in love with Cody too, but since he is afraid of admitting to himself that he's gay he's trying to pretend as if there's nothing going on and he can be damned cold to Cody sometimes. Addie, you saw Cody and James at the party last night - what did they look like to you?

Addie jerked, surprised to so suddenly be asked of her opinion.

- Well, er... In my eyes it looked as if James were flirting pretty heavily with Cody, she said slowly, as if she was expecting him to correct her if she did not answer the question to his delight.

- Exactly, Ellis put in noddingly before turning back to Cody. And I guess that James wasn't in a mood for flirting today?

Cody's anger at once burned anew.

- That fucking moron has the nerve to claim that he doesn't remember shit! he exclaimed violently. Since he was so hot for me last night I thought I could stop this whole thing with David because it wasn't needed anymore—

- Cody's new roommate David is playing Cody's boyfriend to make James jealous, Ellis explained quickly to Addie and Elliot, who both nodded mutely as a mere reflex, but who both seemed to have trouble keeping up anyway.

- —and believe me, there is nothing I would rather do than shrug off David entirely so I can come off his constant groping, but when I got to James's place and gave him a kiss he smacked me and asked me what the fuck I was doing! Naturally I wondered what he was pulling this time, so I confronted him about the party, and then he said that he'd been drinking too much and couldn't remember a thing when he woke up in the morning. Have you ever heard anything of the sort!? He made out with me all night yesterday and then he has the nerve to claim that he doesn't remember it! And here I thought we were finally getting somewhere! That we coul be like a normal couple after this...

He abruptly fell silent and bit his lip again, probably because he was once again about to cry. With his head lowered he scratched his left hand, but Ellis assumes that it did not itch at all, but that it was simply something he did to keep his hands busy and to appear unaffected in their eyes. After having known each other such a short time, Cody had come to mean so incredibly much to Ellis, and he deeply, profoundly wished that he could do something for his friend to lessen the risk of having to see him upset in the future. In every person's life problems appeared, and every person's life was skirted by moments of sorrow, anger and indignation, just as well as it was skirted with happiness, well-being and success - but that did not mean that a person did not worry for his beloved or wished to spare them of hurt.

Addie was studying Cody, whom she had met for the very first time only the night before, with her eyebrows knitted with concern, though with some degree of confusion. Ellis's heart skipped a beat. It warmed him that she cared about his friend, even though she did not really know him at all.

Elliot was nibbling loudly on a cookie. Crunch, crunch.

Cody licked his lips once, twice.

- I...

He was interrupted by the doorbell. Everyone exchanged surprised looks. Then a dark shadow of realization flew over Cody's face, very briefly, and then his anger blossomed anew on his face. With a stern expression on his face, he fisted his hands, as if he was getting ready for a one-on-one. Ellis looked at him with concern.

The doorbell rang again.

As if they had just communicated with each other through telepathy, both Ellis and Elliot rushed up from their seats and out into the hall. Ellis reached the front door first and ruthlessly yanked it open. James. Why was he not surprised?

- I need to talk to you, James said gravely. He was panting, as if he had run all the way there. Since Ellis had already heard one side to the story, it wasn't all that hard for him to guess that this thing he wanted to talk to him about concerned Cody. But before he could sigh and say oh, well Elliot jumped backwards in fright with his right arm pointing at James.

- Huwaaaaaa! he exclaimed with emphasis. It's him...!

Ellis gave him a disbelieving look. What in the name ...?

James totally ignored Elliot's sudden outburst and instead put a hand on Ellis's shoulder. Ellis peered at him suspiciously, because he had a funny feeling that James was going to shake him.

- Ellis, you have to help me, James begged desperately, I don't know what to fucking do to get rid of him anymore! He's so fucking demanding! Just because I made ou... I mean, just 'cause I drank a little too much and let my guard down he thinks we're a couple or something! But that was just something that happened 'cause I was drunk! Like Hell I'd kiss him if I was sober!

- Really? Ellis said, not convinced.

- Of course I wouldn't, you dickhead! That guy is g... and if I was to... You know, I sorta told him I didn't remember anything to get rid of him, and—

- Aha! I heard that! Cody exclaimed, suddenly coming out of the parlor like a canon ball with his finger pointing accusatory at James.

James jerked and instantly shied back, a terrified, but at the same time busted, expression now visible on his so-recently desperate face.

- Shit! he said, and turned on his heels and ran.

- Now wait just a minute! Cody yelled furiously and ran after him in an attempt to intercept James before he had time to go out the door and continue down the driveway in front of the big house, but he was foredoomed to fail from the start: There was no chance that he would catch up with the two decimeters taller and much faster James, who unlike Cody had the benefit of having long legs and because of it was able to take longer strides. Oy, chotto matte yo! (Hey, wait just a little!) he shrieked, and suddenly, in the heat of the moment, he switched to Japanese, which surprised Ellis enormously. Matte yo, baka! (I said wait, idiot!)

But James was already gone.

Cody stopped short of the door and leaned forward, panting from the strain, and supported his hands on his thighs. Then he suddenly straightened up and stamped his foor down hard on the floor once.

- That is so typical! he thundered in disappointment.

Elliot had followed the gambit with globe-round eyes, his mouth agape in rapt awe.

- This is freakin' better than Days of Our Lives, he said in a low voice, impressed and perversely interested.

Ellis hit him on the side of his head with the palm of his hand to mark that his reaction was not propriate.

Cody continued to mutter angrily to himself, sometimes in English and sometimes in Japanese and stamped his foot repeatedly on the floor or made exaggerated gestures, as if he was talking to an invisible illusion of James - or possibly busy rebuking himself.

Ellis shook his head in resignation. Now the circus was on again...

There were lots to talk about, but Adelaide had to return to Midair over the day to pick up some things she had left behind in her room at Perfection's dorms. Therefore Ellis was forced to say a reluctant and disappointed goodbye to his loved one far earlier than he really was ready for. But before she went she leaned on over his shoulder and whispered teasingly in his ear:

- Wanna know a secret?

Next thing she smiled lovingly at him and opened the pendant that she always wore around her neck. With glittering eyes she looked at him as the inside became visible to him. Inside were two small photos of Ellis, one that had been taken at the party that Addie's parents had held before she moved to Midair three years previously, and one that was new, and especially that photo surprised him. It had been taken the night before, while he had been standing at the refreshment table, shortly before she had said hi to him... Had she taken this picture in secret with her digital camera and printed it out as soon as she had gotten home? To have a newer pictur of him to take with her wherever she went?

He could not hide his puzzlement over this, and he could not at all understan why she was carrying that old photo of him as a faking, tough-guy-smirking thirteen-year-old around day in and day out - or why she would want that photo of him from last night's party around her neck. But she gave him the answers to all his questions right before she jumped in the taxi that was going to take her to the station.

- You have always been in my heart, Ellis. Always. Now I finally get the chance to be in yours.

He looked after the car in wonder, with the curly hair dancing in the wind and his head filled with new, baffling thoughts.

Hello! Yaaay! Finally I was able to finish chapter 15 and get it up! XD Yaaay indeed! For some reason I had a really hard time getting this one out... First of all, it took me a looooot of time to find the right words to writw down what I saw in my head (it was like an anime), and then it took me all day today to translate this chapter into English... Phew, all done finally! And now I have to sleep... I feel like I'm gonna pass out otherwise, haha... :P

Take care, and review please! ;)
Love, Shifumi