Matthias returned the look. "Yes."
Nicholas gave a sigh of relief and picked up his fork again. "So you tried it? What was it like?"
"Great! At first place nothing happened but after a little while I felt light and easy and thought I could do anything." He lowered his voice, "And I thought I could fuck forever."
Nicholas grinned. "Fuck forever, eh? And Tina?"
"She had gone home."
Nicholas couldn't quite understand why Tina was so upset. Matthias felt well obviously and nothing bad was happened. "And now?"
"Everything is all right again I guess." His face lit up. "Hey, what are you doing on New Years Evening? Want to come with us to a party?"
Nicholas frowned. "With that awful techno music? I hate it, you know."
"Come on, they won't only be playing techno. You'll enjoy it, or has your Marcus planned something special for both of you?"
"We haven't talked about it yet. I don't know. I'll tell you tomorrow, ok?"
"All right then." He put his knife and fork down on the table. "I'd like to know this Marcus, too. Must be exciting to have so much money that you don't have to work all day and can do anything you like."
"But of course he has to work. He travels around the world, almost. But I guess it's only for fun, he doesn't have to do it if he doesn't want to", he admitted. He paused for a second. "There's something else. He want me to quit my job and go back to the academy. What do you think?"
Matthias looked a moment at his friend in disbelief. "Go back to the academy? Do you want to?"
"What if you meet Frank again?"
"There are other teachers than Frank, and then, what if I do? I'm done with him. He can't hurt me any more."
Matthias looked thoughtful.
"Well, if you really want to, then do it! But I'll be really sad not to have you around anymore. I hope you won't forget me, will you. Does Marcus want to pay for everything?"
"Yes. But I'm not really comfortable about this."
"I can imagine. I wouldn't be either."
When Nicholas unlocked to his small, single-room flat, he threw his mail onto the old sideboard which stood in the little floor. He skimmed through the letters and advertisements and found nothing interesting. Behind the curtain which partitioned off the room, he looked for and found his rucksack. He stuffed all the clothes he could find, dirty or not.
In the living room, which was also his bedroom, he stood for a moment and looked around. "Too fucking depressing," he muttered.
The paper on the wall was scarcely visible, all the spare space being covered by his paintings. There were sketches of the faces of old people, hands, shoulders, forearms and muscled thighs. Watercolour paintings of a castle, of the neo-Baroque dome in the centre of the city, impressions of the river which cut through the town, with deserted bridges and a pair of lonely swans.
Nicholas removed the pins from the drawings and lifted the framed ones from the walls. He laid then all together in a pile, took his small suitcase from the top of the wardrobe and put everything in.
From the desk by the window he picked up all the pens, pencils, brushes and paint boxes and put them into his suitcase as well. Then he looked out of the window down to a square court where children would have been playing if only the weather had been better and the echoes of their high-pitched voices would have come through the window at all hours. Many nights he hadn't been able to get any sleep when drunks came home from their pub tours, bawling, shouting and puking. The police were well-known guests in these street. Above his flat an unemployed man trampled with his heavy boots on his nerves because he suffered from insomnia and stunned himself with watching porno-films, so that Nicholas could hear the lustful moanings of female voices through the thin walls.
He closed his eyes for a moment and turned to the tiny bathroom where there was only just room for a shower and grabbed his razor. Above the sink he looked into his eyes in the mirror.
"How long?" he asked himself, "how long will it last until Marcus gets tired of me?" He blinked. How could all this be happening? Which angel had guided their feet at that particular day to that particular place so that they met? To release him from all the crap he lived in... And even if it did not work out with him and Marcus, he - Nicholas - would never be the same person again. He had looked too deeply into a different world and he felt he was not doomed to spend his future life in this dark cave of a flat, in these uncongenial surroundings. There would have to be a better place...
Nicholas wiped his palm over his face and tried to smile. The books! He rushed to the living room again and put all the important books into the suitcase too. Now it was pretty heavy. He switched off the light and threw a last glance around. Maybe we will see it again sooner than I want to...
He slammed the door behind him.
One hour later Marcus opened the door and took the heavy suitcase.
"What's in it, stones?"
He carried it into the living room, sat it down, turned and pulled Nicholas to his chest. "I've missed you, honey."
Nicholas felt his warm lips on his own and kissed back. All his doubts, his frustrations fell away from him.
"Welcome home," he heard Marcus' voice near his ear. "Have you given your notice?"
Nicholas stepped back a little and looked into Marcus waiting eyes.
"I have to be sure you really want me to stay. Do you trust me?"
Marcus looked puzzled.