by Peter Conrad

Chapter 3

We said goodbye to Alexandre's friends, told them to enjoy the waffles, then Alex grabbed our hands again and led us away from the Christmas Market. After two or three side streets, we found ourselves at a park where the sleigh stop was apparently located. A group of four was just climbing into a Christmas-decorated horse-drawn sleigh complete with equally decorated horse. We would probably have to wait for the next vehicle.

"Kids, do you want to go on a sleigh ride, too?"

The driver looked at us questioningly while wrapping his passengers in warm blankets.

"Yes, Mr. Morgner. Will we have to wait long?"

"Ah, it's you, Alexandre. No, don't worry, Grandpa Gronecke should be back from his tour in no more than ten minutes."

"Cool, thanks, we'll survive ten minutes."

Probably. Although it was already quite cold now. Even if I had other plans: Skirt would be impossible from now on. At least here in this area. Well, I didn't plan to let my current outfit become the rule anyway.

We were lucky, a fter the departure of the now fully loaded sleigh, it was not long before another one, pulled by a large white horse appeared at the stop. A couple in their mid-twenties had to be made aware by the driver that the ride was over, so deeply were they engrossed in their smooching.

"Lady, sir, the ride is over. It would be nice if you would stop your fun for a moment and clear the sleigh for the next passengers."

The smooching mouths parted in shock, and with red heads clearly visible in the light of the street lamps the couple disembarked. Judging by the satisfied grin on the driver's face, the tip the man had silently thrust into his hand must have turned out quite handsome ly. After putting away the money, he looked at our group of three.

"Ah, young Monsieur LaGrange! Am I correct in assuming that you want to go on tour with your companions?"

Alex walked up to the driver and hugged him.

"Hello Grandpa Gronecke. Yes, this is Lia and Lio, they belong to Aunt Paula, and I'd like to show them around a bit on a sleigh ride."

"Ah yes, I see, so the long tour it will be. Well climb in you three. I guess there is enough space for all of you to sit next to each other. As long as you don't mind a little cuddling, otherwise one of you will have to sit across from the others with his back to the front."

We looked at each other for a moment, then boarded the sleigh and all three sat down on the back bench. Lia and I took Alexandre in the middle - I would definitely have no problem with the demanded cuddling!

"Good. Now, put on your blankets, it's already a bit chilly in the shade, and the tour will take a good hour."

This seemed to surprise our guide, because he looked at Grandpa Gronecke with a questioning face.

"A good hour, Grandpa Gronecke? Wasn't it always only 45 minutes?"

The driver laughed.

"Actually, yes, but for you three cuties I'll make an exception and take a slightly longer route. Besides, 45 minutes would probably remind you too much of a school lesson, and you don't need that during the vacations."

We laughed, and I found the old man (Grandpa Gronecke must have been 85 or so!) more and more likeable.

Meanwhile, we had two fluffy blankets spread out over us, and the driver climbed in his seat.

"So, all ready to go back there on the cheap seats? Yes? Very well, let's go! Oscar, go on!"

He clicked his tongue, and the sleigh slowly started moving.

"Please keep your hands and heads inside the sleigh during the ride, or they might be torn off by the airstream."

We laughed again, and I was sure it was going to be a very nice ride.

"Hey, Alex, does everyone here actually know you? And do you know everyone?"

"Hehe, Lia, it feels like that sometimes! Well, we're in a small town here, actually more like a village, here it's not as anonymous as in the big city. But I know Mr. Morgner and Grandpa Gronecke because my grandpa is a veterinarian here and takes care of the horses, among st many other animals. And since the practice is in our house and I sometimes help grandpa, I know some of the patients and their owners."

Okay, that explained a lot. And it was certainly very convenient, as Micco's master, to have the veterinarian in his own family.

"Yes, Doctor Heinrich is a real horse whisperer! Why don't you say hello to your grandpa for me, please, and wish him a Merry Christmas, Alex."

"Will do, Grandpa Gronecke."

The driver turned back to the front, and we gazed in silence at the deep ly snow-covered landscape for a few minutes. What I had first thought was a park was actually the outskirts of the town, and all around us was a lot of nature gathered. Since we had an almost full moon and the stars were twinkling, too, we could see well, and Grandpa Gronecke didn't have to steer his white horse blindly through the snow, either. Hm. Hopefully the horse didn't run away from him, the white animal would become invisible in the snowy landscape!

After a few minutes it was my sister again who couldn't stand the silence anymore. Why had we actually taken her with us? Alexandre and I snuggled tightly together under the blanket, and Alex gently stroked my left hand, well protected from spying eyes. And then Lia had to interrupt the comfy silence!

"Do you want to be a vet too, Alex?"

My hand stroker laughed out.

"Me, a veterinarian? No way. I help Grandpa a little sometimes, but I can't stand blood. The other dayour family doctor aka my dad wanted a blood sample from me, and I slid right off his chair and didn't wake up until I was on his cot."

"Haha, you're just as much of a wimp as Lio, he can't stand to see his blood either."

Hmph! I guess I should get something straight real quick!

"But I have no problem seeing other people's blood, for example, the blood of my older and then unfortunately much too early deceased sister. Don't forget that, Lia!"

Laughing, Alex poked me in the ribs under the blanket.

"But please be so good and wait until I'm out of sight before you let Lia bleed."

"Sure, I wouldn't want you to lose your consciousness on this festive occasion."

"Could you please take the carnage elsewhere, it is hard to get blood stains out of the cushions and blankets."

"Don't worry, Grandpa Gronecke, I'm sure Lio will be careful."

I nodded.

"Yes, I will, after all I don't want to splatter blood all over the sleigh."

"Very considerate, young man."

"Hmph! Little brothers can be so violent."

Grinning, I looked around Alex at my sister.

"Which is it, violent or wimp?"

"Violent wimp, one doesn't exclude the other."

Now we were all laughing, including the driver, and enjoying the wintry ride.

"What are you guys doing for Christmas?"

"I guess we'll celebrate quietly with Auntie. It's the first time for Lio and me without our parents, we' ll have to see if there will be any real Christmas spirit."

I couldn't really imagine that yet either, even if the local environment formed a good basis for a festive mood.

"And you, Alex?"

"I think I'll be longing for the peace and quiet with you guys! Today is the last peaceful day for me until after the New Year."

Oh yeah? I wanted to know more.

"What do you mean?"

"Tomorrow the relatives invade us. My uncle, my aunt and their three kids."

"Little kids?"

"My cousin Michelle is 16, will be 17 in January, and is annoyed every time she has to give up her nice big city life for a few days to visit us hillbillies. Joël and Noël are 10, and are always very happy to be here with us."


Laughing, Alexandre nodded.

"Yes, Lio, twins. Identical. And equipped with enough energy for a whole soccer team. Along with substitutes, coaches, and support staff."

T hat sounded like a lot of fun! Without much rest.

"Can't you just turn Micco loose on them?"

"Hehe, I'll do that anyway, those two are quite fond of the furry one. But eventually it gets too much even for Micco, he backs off, and the twins are all over me instead."

"Don't you like little children?"

"Yes I do, Lio, very much so. But those two make even me feel my advanced age!"

Our sleigh driver had overheard this too and turned to us briefly.

"Alexandre, please wait with dying of old age until after the tour, I don't feel like having to fill out a bunch of forms afterwards."

This Grandpa Gronecke was really a very special character and very likeable! But I still had one question for Alex.

"Michelle, Noël and Joël? I guess they're from your dad's family?"

"Yes, Uncle Jacques is Dad's older brother. He, Aunt Mireille and their children live in Nice."

Then the local winter must have been at least as unfamiliar to them as it was to Lia and me.

"Do they speak German, too? And if so do they also have such a cute accent like you, Alex?"

"Accent? Moi? I don't have no accent at all!"

"Oh yes, you do, Lia is right, you have a really cute French accent. Not particularly pronounced, but still clearly recognizable."

Alexandre spoke perfect German, but you could hear that he had grown up in a different language environment.

"All right, so I have an accent. And to get back to Lia's question: Uncle Jacques and Aunt Mireille speak fluent German, and so do the twins. Of course with an accent, more than me, since they speak mainly French at home. The worst German speaker is Michelle, she's just too lazy to bother with it much."

That seemed like a great gal. Not!

"Could it be that you don't like Michelle very much?"

Alex shrugged.

"If she would just sit in a corner and be quiet everything would be okay, but she finds fault with everything and everyone. It's way too cold, the snow is way too high, grandma cooks too German, the coffee doesn't taste good, the Internet is too slow, the computer keyboard is in German, the TV programs even more so, and so it goes on and on and on. It can spoil the best Christmas mood."

"Well, you could sic your dog on her."

Our local friend shook his head.

"No, Lia, I can't, Micco doesn't mess with lower life forms."

I snorted, that had just come across totally seriously. And I could totally understand the doggie there! I mean, a nibble of Michelle's nastiness might get stuck in his teeth.

"So they'll be hitting your place tomorrow?"

"Yes, Lio, probably late morning. The drive here from Nice is too long to make in one go, so they'll spend the night somewhere in between and be with us by lunch at the latest."

Sounded reasonable, especially with energetic kiddies on board such a long ride could get very... long.

Giggling, I squeezed his hand under the snuggle blanket.

"We'll think of you with sympathy while we're lazily lolling in front of the TV at Aunt Paula's."

"How incredibly nice of you! I was actually hoping you'd join us too, then Noël and Joël's attention would be divided among more people."

We'd certainly give that some thought. At least I would.

"Let's see, Alex. If we get bored at Auntie's, yes, that would be an alternative. I don't know how it is for Lio, but I actually enjoy not being in the hustle and bustle like at home in the big city."

"Me too, sis. And what about you, Alex? I mean, you lived somewhere else before, too. Do you feel at home here now or do you miss your former home?"

Our companion thought for a moment before answering.

"To be honest, the first year here was not so easy, the difference to Marseille is really extreme. In addition, the death of my mother was not that long ago, so I was in a borderline situation. But little by little I liked it here better and better, and today I can't imagine living in a big city again. Well, and for Micco it would n ' t work there at all."

Yes, I always felt sorry for dogs in the big city. But here for Micco it was probably like in paradise. Except for the vet in his own house!

"It's really beautiful here, especially with so much snow."

Laughing, Alex turned to my sister.

"I'll take you up on that again after the first time you had to really shovel snow."

"Aw shucks, that's what I have my brother for."

"Dream on, sis. You put so much emphasis on being the oldest of the two of us, so that responsibility falls on you, too. The curse of the early birth."

"Of course, Lio. The responsibility. Which I intend to fulfill by supervising you while YOU shovel snow."

Impudence! And both Alex and our driver chuckled in amusement. Sigh.

For the next few minutes I stayed silent and looked demonstratively at the snowy landscape. The picture that presented itself to me was really beautiful, especially for someone like me who knew snow almost only from television. Fascinating, as Mr. Spock would probably say. Only a few days ago a documentary about the catastrophic winter of 1978/79 was on TV, and I wasn't quite sure even after thinking about it for a while whether I should wish for such a really heavy onset of winter now or rather be glad about its absence. Snowed in without a real disaster would be a possibility! Best with Alexandre (and without Lia!), indoor camping in front of a flickering fireplace. Just getting out in the snow with Micco every now and then. That would be something.

After a while, I rejoined the conversation of the other two sleigh passengers, which mainly consisted of Alexandre telling us a little about his home, how life was here, and what there was to do in summer and winter. If you were into nature and outdoor fun, this really was the ideal place to live. Other entertainment was a little lacking, and the nearest McD was hard to reach without a car. Which made survival a little more difficult for teenagers.

A while later I noticed that we were heading back to the starting point of our trip, and shortly thereafter our ride was over. A little bit I regretted this, because it also meant that the cuddling with Alex was over, on the other hand my bones were getting stiff, I needed some movement again. And something to eat! We climbed out of the sleigh, Alexandre paid Grandpa Gronecke, Lia and I thanked them both, and then we started the short walk back to the Christmas Market.

Arriving back there we first wandered around a bit along the booths. Mostly there were Christmas carvings, tree decorations, sweet stuff like roasted almonds, chocolate fruits and gingerbread as well as knitted goods for head, hands and feet. Oh, and while we were looking at tree ornaments …

"Lia, do you know if Auntie has a Christmas tree yet? A part from the one in the front yard?"

That one was already decorated with a colorful and flashing chain of lights.

"As far as I know, one will be delivered to her tomorrow morning."

Delivered? If that ever worked out. Not that she was going to get a total cripple. This reminded me of a song from an old Christmas carol record our parents had inherited from their grandparents in the East. Quietly, I began to sing:

"Alle Jahre wieder die gleiche doofe Tour:

Die andern hab'n 'nen Weihnachtsbaum und wir 'ne Witzfigur"

style="text-indent:10"(("Every year again, the same stupid situation :

style="text-indent:10"The others have a Christmas tree and we have a joke."))

Lia recognized the song immediately and sang along with the second part, while Alex could hardly contain himself from laughing.

"It's not going to be that bad!"

"Your word in God's ear, or at least Aunt Paula's! Because we're going to have to decorate this thing on the twenty-fourth."

In my mind I saw knotted fairy lights strings, statically charged tinsel, and precious glass balls shattering on the floor - all to the beat of Christmas carols. HELP!

"As far as I know the ranger's daughter takes piano lessons from your aunt, and he can't afford to deliver a crippled tree to her."

Hehe, that just might work. If Auntie wasn't satisfied with the Christmas tree the ranger delivered, she could tell her piano student to practice the F lea Waltz at home for three hours every evening over the holidays! Even the most hardened cripple tree supplier would not risk that.

We walked on, slowly but unerringly working our way to a booth where delicious things were sizzling away on a huge round grill.

"Are you guys as hungry as I am?"

Both Lia and I nodded, so we queued up. A nd a fter Alexandre took over paying for the sleigh ride, I decided to pay for the food.

"Pick what you want and I'll pay," he said.

"But I invited you to the Christmas Market!"

"And you already paid for the waffles and the sleigh ride, now you're invited for once. No protesting, Alex. "

A few minutes later we carried our conquests to a high table. Alex and Lia had opted for steaks with onions, while I had treated myself to a half-meter bratwurst. My sister had a cup of hot lemon on the table, Alexandre and I had opted for kids p unch. It took two or three minutes for the first munchies to pass, before conversation was possible again.

"Well, how do you like our Christmas Market?"

"Quite nice and not as completely crowded as the markets at our place."

"Lia is right. And also somehow... more Christmassy. Not quite as commercial. And I only saw one lottery booth and only one children's carousel. It's less of a carnival here, and that fits great with Christmas."

Alex nodded in delight.

"Cool, I was afraid it might seem boring to you guys. Kinda hillbillyish in our little village, hehe."

"Well, villagedoesn't automatically means bad. A little peace and quiet from big city life can be quite pleasant."

"Ha, my younger brother is becoming a small town lover. I didn't expect that."

I looked at Lia in wonder.

"Why not? I guess out of the two of us, you're more big city kid than me. You're out somewhere shopping - or looking for cute boys - every other day, right?"

"Haha! You could just join me once in a while!"

"Why should I?"

"Well, to look for cute boys, then we could talk about them."

"Yeah sure, since you're always out with your girlfriends, I wouldn't survive all the giggling and cackling."

"Blah. Every gay boy needs a clique of girls to take care of him."

Alex snorted out, glad he had just emptied his mouth.

"I'm with Lio on that one! I really don't need anything like that! However, Lio, you might want to join your sister and her friends for one thing."


"What for?"

"Well, for shopping. Skirts and stuff like that!"

"Menno! I don't need any more skirts or even 'stuff like that', whatever you mean by that."

"Why, Alex has it right. Let's see, maybe Santa will bring you a few things to complete your wardrobe."

I stuck my tongue out at Lia, then turned to Alex.

"If you're that much into it, just get your own skirts. Or at least get more shorts, like, for winter."

"Haha, thanks, but no thanks. Skirts don't suit me! And shorts are done for now, colder than today and they are out of the picture. Even with thick tights underneath. By the way, are you cold, Lio? You r skirt and boots leave a bit more open to the cold air than my stuff."

"I'm okay. We were mostly in motion, and in the sleigh we had the warm blankets. But I'm glad that it isn't any colder!"

"Ha, typical boys. All sissies! It gets a little chilly, and they're already shivering their butts off."

"Spoke the girl who doesn't even put on skirts or shorts."

"Don't fib, Lio, I do wear shorts!"

"Yes, but only in summer! Just look down at yourself."

"Pffff! I didn't bring any shorts here! And Auntie only got me the long overalls."

"Correction, Auntie got ME the long overalls. And then I let you talk me into letting you have them. I'm just too good for this world. Sigh!"

Alexandre followed this teasing with great amusement.

"Do you guys always fight like this?"

Lia and I looked at each other.

"Fighting? Lio and me? We never fight!"

"Right. We've never knocked out teeth, broke noses, or dislocated fingers."

"Oh, and what was that just now?"

"Sibling love. Even if we're mad at each other sometimes, we've never been at odds for more than a few hours."

"Cool, Lia. I know some other sister-brother combinations where it goes quite differently. They're like cats and dogs, fighting each other almost constantly."

I shrugged.

"Maybe it's because we're twins. We've always been together since before we were even born, so we know each other inside and out and what we have in each other. We more or less have the automatic best friend right in the family. Anyone who messes with one of us has to deal with both of us."

"Exactly. You should have seen the idiot from our class who wrote 'Lio is a cocksucker - only 5 euros!' all over the school restrooms."

I laughed out.

"Oh yeah, that's when Lia had a really great and extremely nasty idea!"

Alexandre looked back and forth between us, then couldn't take it anymore.

"Well come on tell me, what did Lia do?"

I looked encouragingly at my sister, she should tell it, it had been her idea.

"Well, he was really moving from school restroom to school restroom, and since he seemed to have such a fascination with toilets, I thought we'd broaden his horizon a bit. You know those porta-potties, right?"

Alexandre screwed up his face in disgust.

"Indeed, those stinky things that sit around construction sites or festivals."

"The very ones. It just so happened that one of those things was sitting around on Olaf's way home, at a construction site, where no construction worker had shown up for days. So we waylaid him and locked him in the little thing. In the well-stocked porta-potty, if you know what I mean."

Our native companion nodded and held his nose.

"Ah yes, you know what I was getting at. And then we knocked the thing over. "

"WOW...oh man, I guess everything spilled out! Poor, poor Olaf!"

Grinning, I nodded.

"At least we were nice enough to not push the toilet onto the door. Before we took off, we unlocked the latch again so he could climb out without help. Wrapped in a cloud of that very special full-body perfume."

"God, that was nasty! But well deserved. And he didn't rat you out later?"

Lia shook her head with a feral grin.

"No, he didn't. Maybe because I announced to him that next time I'd put him head first in that thing. He kept his mouth shut everywhere, both at school and at home with his parents. And he never made any stupid remarks about Lio again."

"Hehe, I probably wouldn't have dared to do that either after a lesson like that. With you guys, one really has to be careful."

"Not really careful, just nice is quite enough. You just shouldn't attack Lia or me. We really can't stand that."

Alexandre laughed.

"Okay, good to know that. And if I ever need to teach someone a lesson, I will turn to you for ideas."

"You're welcome, Lio and I are happy to help in any way we can. At least when it goes against idiots like Olaf."

We devoted the next few minutes to destroying our dinner again, and yes, half a meter of bratwurst really wasn't an insurmountable task for me! Finishing up with some kiddie punch, I looked around the immediate area for a bit. Maybe two or three meters away from us stood a young mommy with her maybe three-year-old child in a stroller. The mommy stood in front of the vehicle and fed the child small pieces of sausage every now and then. Hm, I wouldn't mind Alex doing that to me, too! A really nice, peaceful picture, though....


My gaze jerked up to where the warning had come from. Strictly speaking, it came from directly above mommy and stroller. They were standing under a row of balconies, and on the balcony on the third floor, a flower box was hanging by a thread in the form of a string of lights, which probably wouldn't be able to hold its weight much longer! A man was looking over the balcony railing, his hands wrapped around the light string and frantically trying to pull the flower box up again. I had no illusions about the chances of that to work out and jumped to the stroller, grabbed it by the handles and dragged it out of the potential danger zone. Just in time, because the string of lights snapped, and the flower box followed the laws of gravity, to hit the sidewalk exactly where the kiddies vehicle had just been parked moments before - right at the mother's feet.

"Shit!" - from above.

"Nicky!" - from the mother.

"Lio, watch out!" - from Lia and Alex.

Watch out? Again? But before I could even think about what to watch out for, a piece of fairy lights hit me. Fortunately, I was well padded by my cap and thick winter jacket. I was even luckier in that the second falling flower box, to which the piece of fairy lights decorating me now originally belonged to, hit the ground half a meter away from me. Fortunately I had no pants on at all, in which I could have messed myself, otherwise exactly that might have happened right now. I quickly pulled the stroller a little further out of the danger zone, who knows what else would come falling down! And the child's mother also jumped away from the house, then immediately rushed to her stroller.

"Nicky! Is everything okay?"

"Mommy, sausage!"

The little girl or boy (I couldn't tell yet) seemed to have survived the event better than all of us others. Well, Nicky had probably not even realized how narrowly he/she/it had escaped a nasty impact.

I, on the other hand, was now starting to get shaky knees, and I just about made it back to the table to hold on to. I didn't really notice that I was dragging behind me the flower box that was still hanging from the string of lights attached to me.

"Gee, Lio, are you okay?"

"I... uh... I think so."

"Hang on, let me get this stupid thing off of you."

Lia unraveled the fairy lights that had gotten stuck in the zipper of my jacket, thus freeing me from the unusual appendage I had put on so unexpectedly. Having accomplished this, she hugged me.

"Well done, little brother. But don't ever scare me like that again."

She gave me a kiss on my left cheek, then released me from her embrace, giving Alexandre the opportunity to copy her. Except his kiss landed on my mouth! The next moment, he pulled back hastily.

"Shit! Sorry! I shouldn't have done that!"


"What shouldn't you have done?"

"Well gosh, kiss you. On the mouth!"

My dear that-much-older sister was able to giggle again.

"Alex, in case you haven't noticed, Lio didn't push you away!"

Of course, I wasn't that stupid. Alexandre looked at me with his head tilted, I should probably put him out of his misery.

"Come close again."

Tentatively he approached me, and I took the opportunity to return his kiss.

"There, now we're even."

Grinning with relief he nodded.

"Whew, I was beginning to think I made a huge mistake. But after you licked the vanilla cream off my nose earlier, I thought... Well..."

"You thought right, that was totally fine with me."

The problem with the soon to be long distance between us didn't matter to me right now. Unfortunately, we could not enjoy this moment longer, because suddenly I was grabbed from behind, turned around and found myself at the rather expansive bosom of the child' s mother.

"Thank you thank you! You saved my Nicky! I will never be able to make up for you saving him! Thank you!"

She had said ' saving him ', so at least now I knew that the stroller's occupant was a little boy.

"No problem, you're welcome. I was just in the right place at the right time."

"Don't downplay it, young lady, not everyone would have reacted with such a quick mind and in the right way."

Young lady. And that didn't mean the woman who was now releasing me from her embrace. Full beard! That's it! I could let myself grow a full beard, which should make sure that people didn't get the wrong idea about me. There was only one problem: I did not have facial hair yet. Not even the slightest trace of it. Sigh. But maybe I could borrow one of Alexandre's Christmas grandpa's stick-on beards! Now who had called me a young lady?

I looked around and saw the local sheriff standing in front of me. Before I could worry about correcting his gender confusion, Alexandre was already taking care of that. Chuckling. Just great.

"That's not a young lady, Uncle Alois, that's a young gentleman named Lio."

Uncle Alois? Alex really seemed to be acquainted and on a first-name basis with at least every other native here. The same Uncle Alois was now eyeing me with double interest.

"You're a boy? Is it true what Alexandre says?"

"Yes, it's true."

I just managed to refrain from adding that Alex probably wouldn't have kissed me on the mouth otherwise.

"Well then, I'll put it on the protocol like that. By the way, I'm Hauptkommissar Schaffelgruber, I'm in charge of the local police station."

Protocol, well great, that was probably the end of our merry Christmas Market visit.

"Alois, do you really have to record this? No one really got hurt."

Another man had joined us, and I recognized in him the one who had tried so unsuccessfully to prevent the balcony flower box from falling down.

"Max? What are you doing here? Don't tell me the boxes fell off your balcony!"

The newcomer sighed.

"Yes, the boxes are mine. I was trying to pull the string of lights through all four boxes, and somehow I got caught in it, and that unhooked the first box. And then when it crashed down, it pulled the second one down, too."

"Seriously, Max, something like that just must not happen! If it wasn't for the young hero here, this could have ended really badly!"

"I know, I know, and I guarantee you something like this will never happen again."

The police chief mused to himself for a bit, then turned to the young mother.

"Mrs.... uh...."

"Blaugold, Maria Blaugold, Mr. Hauptkommissar."

"Thank you. Mrs. Blaugold, has anything happened to you or your son?"

Mrs. Blaugold (Blue gold? I only knew yellow, white and red gold.) shook her head.

"A side from getting the shock of my life, no. I don't think Nicky even realized what almost happened to him."

Hehe, yeah, he was much more concerned with getting more sausage bits put into hi s mouth. Considering how delicious the sausages were, that was perfectly understandable.

"But I will make sure that he learns - as soon as he is old enough to understand - that a young man saved his life."

I raised my hands defensively, but the mother did not accept the gesture.

"I'm sorry, my boy, but it is important that such good deeds are appreciated. Maybe it will lead to someone else sometime and somewhere to do the right thing, too, instead of just standing around gawking when someone is in danger."

Protests on my part were blocked by the representative of the state power.

"Mrs. Blaugold is right, Lio. Just accept it."

Sighing, I surrendered to my fate.

"Good, son. By the way : Did anything happen to you? Did you get hurt or something like that?"

I shook my head.

"No, I'm fine. The gentleman from the balcony had bad aim, thank goodness."

That same gentleman from the balcony immediately jumped at that.

"You have to believe me, that really was a completely unintentional accident. I never thought something like that could happen."

I believed him, and the police officer also seemed to accept it.

"Very well, if all parties involved agree, I'll just make a small report, charges on my part are probably not necessary either."

Fortunately, everyone readily agreed, and after the sheriff writing down our personal data, we were released to continue our Christmas Market visit. Mrs. Blaugold had also taken down my name and address, and I did not even want to think about what she was going to do with it. A little later she said goodbye and left with her now completely fed offspring. Now only the failed assassin was with us and still busy apologizing to me. After repeatedly making sure that I was really okay, he grabbed the remains of his flower boxes and fairy lights and went back into the house - but only after he had put a 50- Euro bill in my hand. As a little compensation for my shock. He did not accept my refusal, so at least our dinner was more than paid for. If it always went like this, one could throw things at me more often. At least as long as one aimed that badly!

"Okay, what are we going to do now? Are you still hungry? Or got an appetite for anything? Our food money has just been well replenished."

Alexandre just shrugged his shoulders, but Lia apparently hadn't had enough yet.

"How about something sweet to finish? Cotton candy? Or maybe potato pancakes?"

Suddenly, a gap in Alex's stomach seemed to announce itself as well.

"Well, if you ask that way... potato pancakes sound good!"

Grinning I nodded.


We returned our punch cups, then wandered across the market to the booth where the desired patties were sizzling away in hot oil. A little later, each of us had a plate of potato pancakes in front of us, accompanied by apple puree and sugar. No drinks this time.

"Alex? The police officer just now. Uncle Alois?"

Hehe, my sister had stumbled over it too, though I'm sure there was a perfectly simple explanation for Alex calling him uncle.

"Lia, I'm sure the Hauptkommissar and his police horse are customers of Alexandre's veterinarian grandpa."

"Oh. Yes. Sounds logical."

Alexandre, however, just laughed.

"Sorry, no police horse!"


"Police dog?"

"No! Just three totally non-police cats. Norwegian Forest Cats, really cute fuzzy bundles of fur. And they even get along with Micco."

Well, the dog was such a cute fuzzy bundle of fur himself.

"You really have connections on all levels here!"

"There's no way to avoid it here in the country, Lia. There are people you run into again and again, and you get to know them little by little. By the way, there are also some people I really don't want to have anything to do with. But as long as they leave me in peace, I don't care."

That sounded logical, anonymity was probably not very important here. But I couldn't think about it any further, because suddenly two more plates filled with potato pancakes landed on our table.

"Make some room, others want to eat too!"

"Sebbi, if you would eat less, you wouldn't need that much space at the table."

"Oh Alex, if I had enough space to eat I would eat more and then soon I would need more space to eat again. A vicious circle."

Lia and Anni laughed while I took another closer look at Sebbi. He really had no reason to go on a diet, he was athletic and slim. Most of his girth was probably due to his thick winter jacket.

"Hey, did you guys hear anything about an incident at the market? Someone supposedly threw a Christmas tree out of the window and crushed a stroller and baby with it."

Now Alex and Lia laughed, while I looked annoyed to the sky and hurried to clarify the things Sebastian had mentioned.

"Someone has a very vivid imagination here! First of all, that wasn't a Christmas tree, those were two balcony flower boxes. Second, no one threw them either, they fell due to unfortunate circumstances. And third, they didn't hit the baby carriage at all, not even the three-year-old sitting in it. To quote Shakespeare, 'Much ado about nothing.'"

Sebastian looked at me questioningly.

"And how do you know that for sure?"

"We were there when it happened. It happened right next to us, and no, nothing happened to us either. As I said, once again the rumor mill made a mountain out of a molehill."

Unfortunately, my sister did not agree with my attempts to quickly deal with the issue and then let it fall into oblivion.

"Well, well, well, little brother, you forgot to mention some important details! It actually went like that..."

Ignoring my annoyed looks completely, Lia now told long and wide what had happened between the first " WATCH OUT!" and the impact of the second flower box next to me. With the result that both Annita and Sebastian stared at me with ever widening eyes.

"Well, and that was the whole story. No one was hurt, and no one was arrested. The only casualties were two flower boxes and a string of lights."

Oh yeah, the boxes were a little broken, and the torn string of lights would probably never be able to serve its function again.

"Wow, Lio, you're a real hero! I didn't think you had it in you."

Hmph! Why not? Anni, on the other hand, disagreed with her friend.

"Idiot, that's really no surprise. All you have to do is look at him and you'll see what he's made of."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Well honey, a hero in tights!"

Sebbi laughed out.

"Oh, I see. You're right, super heroes always wear tights. And Alexandre is probably his sidekick? I mean, he's wearing tights, too. Batman and Robin?"

Alexandre puffed up his chest.

"Well if I am then I guess I'm Batman, after all I'm the older one!"


"Well, whatever you say. But back to the accident: the idiot who crashed the flower boxes won't be punished?"

"Nah, Sebbi, why should he. As I said, nothing really happened. Besides, Max was already totally contrite, he even gave Lio a fifty in the end, as compensation for the scare and as thanks for the rescue."

"Well, that's the least he can do."

"Wait a minute, Alex. Did you just say 'Max'?"

Alexandre nodded.

"Yes, Anni, Uncle Alois... I mean the policeman apparently knew him and called him by his first name right away."

"Ohkaayyyy...where was that exactly?"

"Right next to the barbecue booth. Why?"

Laughing out loud, Annita shook her head.

"Well that explains everything! I know a Max who lives in that house. Max Hämmerlmeyr, and if he had his hands in it, then it's really a huge miracle that nothing much actually happened."

"Hämmerlmeyr? Do I need to know him, Anni?"

"If you're in the volunteer fire department, the police or the rescue service: yes! And you better give him a wide berth, especially if he handles any vehicles, equipment or even tools."

The other two locals still didn't get it, so Sebbi's girl friend explained further.

"Remember that old forage silo that was supposed to be torn down last year, and then it fell the wrong way?"

Alex laughed out.

"Oh yeah, and right on top of the car of the guy who was going to tear down the silo."

"Well, and That guy goes by the name of Max Hämmerlmeyr. Next question: the burst slurry tanker that emptied its contents over the mayor's convertible driving behind it?"

"Don't tell me that was also this Hämmerlmeyr!"

"As he lives and breathes, Sebbi."

I wondered one thing about the description of the person, though.

"If the guy is a farmer, why does he have an apartment at the market place? Shouldn't he live on his farm?"

Anni chuckled softly.

"After a heat lamp he had put up himself fell down and almost turned his piglets into roast ed pigs, he realized he wasn't cut out for the job of farmer. He sold the farm and moved to the city. But this did not put an end to his clumsiness."

As was demonstrated today.

"Two months ago, during the move, he managed to push his piano, which had just arrived at his apartment door, right back down the stairs. He didn't need the piano tuner anymore, and a neighbor was just able to protect her dachshund from the instrument crashing down."

Okay, this was getting spooky. And dangerous!

"So far, your little town had looked nice and quiet and peaceful to me, but with a resident like this, I think I'm going to have to revise my assessment."

"Exactly, Lia! The least you could do would be to hang up appropriate warning signs wherever this Mr. Hämmerlmeyr might show up."

"Haha, I'll suggest that to Uncle Alois the next time I see him! But in any case, it shows that both Little Nicky and Little Lio were very lucky to have survived their encounter with Mr. Hämmerlmeyr unscathed."

Well, Christmas was known to be the time of miracles, apparently we had benefited from one. Alex, on the other hand, would need a much bigger miracle if he were to dub me 'Little-Lio' again!

In the next few minutes, to my relief, the conversation turned back to other topics, and after everyone had eaten their potato pancakes, we parted ways. Sebbi had promised Anni to take her home, so these two said goodbye to Lia, Alex and me. When the three of us were alone again, Alexandre looked at his watch.

"We still have a little time left. Shall we go to the lottery booth?"

Why not, actually, I could invest the remains of my surprising financial blessing in lottery tickets...

We didn't have to walk far, on this small town Christmas Market everything was really easy to reach. Arriving at the lottery booth, we each bought ten tickets, then set about opening them.

My first tickets were all losses, it almost seemed like I had already used up my daily ration of luck. Lia was faster at opening tickets, and probably had some luck left over, anyway, she grinned contentedly when she received a large jigsaw puzzle game from the ticket seller. Shaking my head, I looked at her.

"2000 pieces? Are you out of your mind? You better plan on put ting this thing together by yourself!"

"Will do, Lio. Big puzzles are made for older and wiser people. For people like me."

"Well, then you'd better get it done real quick, before you get gout or rheumatism in your fingers."

Now my sister pouted at me, but it lasted only a short time. If you dish it out, you have to be able to take it, too - she had internalized this principle very early in life, just like me.

"And what do you have, Lio? No winning ticket?"

I was down to two tickets, and even the second-to-last one proved to be a miss. But I was lucky with the last one, and grinning, I held out my winning ticket to the lottery booth operator. He looked at it, then pointed to a corner with prizes.

"You can choose anything from here."

I looked at the selection, then made my decision.

"This one, please."

The lottery man handed me my prize, which I didn't keep for myself. I walked over to Alexandre, who wasn't done with his tickets yet.

"Hold your head out for me, please, Alex!"

"Huh? Why?"

"Just do it."

"Do I have something on my nose again?"

"No, you don't, but now do it, please. "

Finally, Alexandre leaned down slightly so I could put the big gingerbread heart around his neck. I took a step back, and Alex looked down at his gift in an attempt to decipher the text on it. When he managed to do so, he smiled happily at me.

"Thank you, Lio! And yes, I like you, too!"

Which I guess made it clear what was written on the gingerbread heart in icing.

"Ahhh how romantic, little brother. Pardon me, younger brother."

Alex looked alternately at the gingerbread heart and at me, he was still half out of it, hehe. But then he turned his attention to the rest of his lottery tickets. Apparently he had won something too, because he went to the ticket seller, but he was busy with another winner, so Alex had to wait a bit. Enough time for Lia to pull me aside a bit and address me quietly.

"Lio, that was really sweet, but are you sure you want to go that route? Remember, we're going back home in a few days. I don't want you to fall in love unhappily."

Sighing, I nodded.

"Yeah, I think about that all the time, Lia. And it probably won't turn into anything long term. But I just want to spend some time with Alex in the next few days. And don't worry, nothing more than cuddling and maybe a little smooching is going to happen."

"Hmm, all right, you need to know what you want. But please don't cry my ears off afterwards when you're back home and Alexandre is still here. Oh, and you should definitely talk to him about it, everything should be clear between you two."

"Yeah, will do. I mean talking to Alex, not crying your ears off."

"Good, then I won't say anything more on the subject. Oh, and here comes your boyfriend. And he's not alone!"

I turned around, had Alexandre met another acquaintance? Uh oh. Was I supposed to be jealous over the cuddly hug Alex was giving the newcomer? Well, probably not.

"Whew! That thing is pretty heavy!"

The thing was a huge teddy bear, probably three feet tall, that had made itself comfortable in Alex's arms.

"Wow, Alex, I think that puts you ahead of both Lio and me, by a big margin."

By a lot of weight, too, though!

"You've put on quite a bit of weight there, Alex. Have fun hauling that teddy home."

"Hauling it home? Me? Where did you get that weird idea from, Lio?"

"Um... What else are you going to do with it? Or is there a state certified teddy bear carrier among your many acquaintances here?"

"Hehe, I don't know if he's state certified, but yes, I know a teddy bear carrier."

"And where is he?"

"Oh, he's right in front of me."

Right in front of Alex was... me?

"It's for you, Lio. That way you'll have something to snuggle up to when I'm not available."

With those words, our local friend pressed the giant plush creature into my arms. Oh boy.


"Very really, Lio. Like I said, I like you."

I had a little trouble looking past the stuffed bear at Alex.

"Thanks! You really didn't have to do that, but anyway, thank you."

Alexandre smiled happily at me, probably very pleased with how things were turning out.

"Oh my gosh, you two are so cute! It makes me jealous. But you guys do realize that we can't walk around much more with the giant teddy bea r, right?"

I nodded, I already felt the weight of Alexandre's gift. And the gift-giver had to agree with my sister, too.

"Yes, you're right. I suggest I call home now and order the car service. Agreed?"

When he didn't get any objection from us, Alex took out his cell phone and made the call.

"Dad? Alex here! Could you pick up Lia, Lio and me from the Christmas Market now? Or maybe grandpa? Or grandma?"


"Cool! We'll be waiting at the town hall parking lot in ten minutes then?"


"Okay, in fifteen minutes. See you soon!"

Alex ended the call, then looked at Lia and me.

"All settled, my pop will pick us up in fifteen minutes."

Hmm, fifteen minutes with the heavy teddy in my arms?

"We should go to the town hall already, there are benches there too, so Lio doesn't have to carry the bear all the time."

A very good idea! So we set off, and I had to be careful that the bear didn't catch a load of mustard or mulled wine from someone, as the market filled up more and more. With adults who were not satisfied with children's punch! It probably would have been the right time to leave the market even without the teddy.

"Lia? What time is it anyway?"

"Almost six-thirty, why?"

"I just wanted to know if we need to call Auntie. But since it's not that late, we can save ourselves the trouble."

"Oh yeah, that's right."

Shortly after, we had arrived at the town hall and actually found a wooden bench on which we sat down. We wouldn't be able to sit there for long because of the temperature, but we wouldn't have to. Alexandre's father would surely show up soon.

"Ah, that feels good, sitting down again!"

"Lio, your sister really seems to be a lot older than you, the way she complains about that little bit of walking around we did."

"Pah, walking around is not a problem, but standing in one place for a long time is quite tiring in the long run."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it, old sister. Ouch!"

Old and violent. Alex was really lucky he had a crush on me and not Lia!

"Well anyway, in a minute you'll even get to park your rear end on a warm car seat. By the way, are you guys still hungry?"

"Well, if we were we could only blame ourselves. If you go hungry here, it's your own fault. I guess Auntie again won't have to make dinner today. At least for Lio and me, I'm sure she'll find something for herself."

"Hehe, that's right. I think I've also eaten more than ever before in such a short time. But Lio?"


"You've got to make sure that skirt fits you for a while. Don't get too fat for it, that would be a real shame!"

"Oh don't worry about that Alex, if he asks Aunt Paula politely, I'm sure she'll get him one in the next size."

Alex chuckled softly to himself.

"Good to know that! Maybe I should talk to her about Lio's future wardrobe anyway."

"Guys, enough! I did put the skirt on again today because Alexandre wanted me to. It won't happen again."

Alexandre put his right arm around me and pulled me close, then gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"We'll see... Oh, look : Dad's coming. That SUV there should be his."

Our guide pointed down the road with his left hand, from where car lights were approaching. Quickly, the vehicle grew larger and revealed itself to be a SUV of French design. A moment later the car stopped next to us, and the driver got out …

"Here I am, Alex! Introduce me to your friends real quick before we get in the car and hit the road."

"Hi Dad! This is Lia and Lio, unfortunately I can't tell you the bear's name. Guys, this is my dad."

Lia and I greeted Mr. LaGrange, then I lifted the teddy and looked him in the plush face.

"A teddy bear without a name, that's really not good. I therefore christen you... hmm... Alex!"

Alexandre's dad laughed, but his son acted indignant.

"You call him Alex? I'm not really that hairy that you'd have to think of me at the sight of him."

"Hehe, the sight of him will always remind me that you gave him to me, though."

Tilting his head, our driver looked at his son.

"You gave Lio the teddy, Alexandre?"

"Um yeah... I won that one, and Lio had just given me the gingerbread heart he won. Look!"

Alex lifted the gingerbread heart a little and held it in front of his father. The latter looked at it, then looked back and forth between Alex and me.

"Ah yes... Well, get in."

Alexandre walked towards the passenger door, so Lia and I parked our rear ends in the back seat, and the newly christened teddy bear sat between us.

"Don't forget to buckle up."

After we all confirmed we were buckled up, Alexandre's dad drove off.

"So, now that we're all in the warm car... Did you guys have fun at the Christmas Market? You guys seem to have won quite a bit."

Mr. LaGrange also had a distinct French accent, even slightly more pronounced than his son's.

"Oh, and you can call me 'Uncle François.'"

"It was cool, Uncle François. Very different from the Christmas Markets in our town, much smaller, but also somehow much more Christmassy."

"My sister is right, although I'm sure all the snow also made everything seem twice as festive."

Our driver laughed.

"Oh yes, the snow! When you live here, it's very easy to forget that white Christmas is the exception rather than the rule elsewhere. Here with us, the white splendor can sometimes become downright annoying."

I couldn't imagine that at the moment, but that was probably because I've never had to shovel snow yet. Alexandre, however, seemed to know exactly what his producer was getting at.

"Fortunately, we have a small snow blower! And for the next few days at least, the dynamic duo can do the snow plowing."

His father couldn't get out of laughing.

"You're going to leave the snow removal to Noël and Joël? Brave, brave."

"Why, Dad? They both love snow, they don't get to see any at home."

"That's precisely why. Do you really think they're going to get any work done between snowball fights, snowman building and snow romping with Micco?"

"Hm. Crap. Right again. Well then maybe Michelle?"

"Ha, that might work! If the snow catches on to her foul mood, it'll go away all by itself. Maybe even melt away voluntarily."

It seems Alexandre hadn't exaggerated in his description of the cousin.

"That bad, Uncle François?"

Our driver shook his head.

"No, Lio, of course not."

I would have been surprised.

"Much worse!"

And that came from Alexandre's father as well, I would have rather expected that from our Christmas Market guide!

"Don't be so nice about her, Dad!"

"Hehe... Oh by the way, Alex, when we get home there's a surprise waiting for you."

The passenger looked at the driver.

"What kind of surprise? Michelle isn't coming to visit with us this time?"

"Then I would not have spoken of a surprise but of an extravagant Christmas gift. No, Michelle is coming to visit with us this time too. In fact, she's already here, and so are the twins and their parents, of course."

"Huh? Why is that, they usually stay overnight once on the way here."

Uncle François stopped at a stop sign, looked in all directions, then accelerated again before answering his son.

"That was the plan, but when they arrived at the hotel where they were going to spend the night, all that was left of it were some walls. The hotel completely burned down last night, luckily all the guests and staff made it out unharmed."

"Oh man, that's heavy! They were lucky it didn't burn down a night later, they would have been hit full force."

Despite the serious occasion, Alex started giggling.

"What's so funny about that, son?"

"Oh, I'm just picturing Michelle in her nightgown, shivering on the street in front of the burning hotel, outraged that the hotel internet isn't working and she can't stream the whole story live for her followers."

"Ha, yeah, I can vividly imagine that too. Well anyway, Jacques and Mireille decided not to look for another accommodation but to go straight through for once, so they arrived at our place an hour ago. Fortunately, we had already prepared the rooms for them. And we have enough food, so nobody has to starve. Whereas, knowing you, you're totally stuffed by now anyway."

"Guilty as charged! But I had two accomplices!"

"Yes, in good company everything tastes twice as good."


"And by the way, I have to agree with you, Alex. Lio really looks very good in his skirt. Your outfit surprised me a little, though. The last time I saw you in shorts and tights must have been about 5 years ago. More like 7 or 8 even."

Ah yes, it seems Alex had told his dad only about my part of the clothing deal.


My sister wasn't going to let him get away with that so easily, though.

"That's Lio's fault. Or Alex' s. Well, both of them, actually."

"I don't need to understand that now, do I?"

Lia giggled before explaining to Alexandre's father how I had found myself in a skirt again today, and how his son ended in shorts and tights. When she finished, you couldn't see the grin on the driver's face from the back seat, but you could definitely feel it.

"I had already thought of something like that, but my son probably wouldn't have come up with this idea on his own. And Alex, i t looks cool. But you do realize what's going to happen when we get home, right?"

"What do you mean, Dad?"

"Well, since you mentioned Michelle and her internet followers... As soon as she sees you in that outfit she'll take your picture and upload it to Instagram or wherever."

"Merde, right. And probably tagged with a catty comment. That stupid bitch!"

That Uncle François didn't reprimand his son for his language almost said more about his cousin than anything Alex could have expressed in words.

"I would assume so, too. But on the other hand the twins will immediately besiege their parents and beg them to quickly get them some shorts, too. They're wearing tights anyway."

Alex chuckled softly to himself.

"Do you really think so, Dad?"

"Of course! Lia, Lio... Noël and Joël love Alexandre to death and try to imitate him as much as possible. So Jacques and Mireille will hardly be able to avoid getting them outfits like that, too. And Alex? I hope you realize that you'll have to keep walking around like that, too."

"Oh man, if only I had known that before! But wait, that can't happen anyways, Dad."

"And why not? You know you're the greatest of all possible great role models for them."

"Yes, I realize that, but think about the weather forecast. It's going to get colder and colder over the next few days - and today this combo was barely warm enough. Starting tomorrow, no one will get me out of the door in shorts, no matter how thick the tights underneath are. And Lio probably won't wear a skirt anymore either. U nfortunately. "

Alex was sooooo right, and not only because of the temperatures.

"Oh. Well, then I guess you got lucky for this Christmas. At least as far as the twins are concerned. As for Michelle, you'd need a whole year's worth of luck to escape her nastiness."

"Crap. I need blackmail material. Lots of it!"

"If you find any, please let me know."

A while ago, I wanted to know if this cousin could really be as bad as Alexandre made her out to be - but now, after hearing his father on the subject as well, I didn't really want to meet her in person. However, the subject was now settled, mainly because Uncle François had turned onto the auntly property in his car.

"Here we are! Lia, Lio, it was nice to meet you. I hope we'll run into each other again in the next few days, I do very much expect that Alex will invite you to join us sometime. Or will invite himself to join you if he wants to escape all the chaos of the big family Christmas at our house."

"He would definitely be very welcome, Uncle François. And t hank you for driving us home."

"You're welcome, Lio. Now get out of here."

We said our goodbyes, then left the warm vehicle, taking the giant teddy bear with us. Outside it immediately felt a few degrees colder, but before heading in to Aunt Paula's nicely heated-up house, I quickly went to the whirring down passenger window, from which Alex almost climbed out a moment later.

"Lio, here is my cell phone number and email addy! Will you call me later?"

Delighted, I accepted the piece of paper, then leaned over to Alex and gave him a quick kiss.

"Will do. And thanks again for today, it was a great afternoon."

"Yes it was! Well, have a good evening for now!"

"Same to you!"

I stepped away from the car, the window whirred back up, and moments later the big car left the lot. Sighing, I turned around and walked to the front door, which was already open.

"Well, did you give your sweetheart a proper goodbye kiss?"

"Oh shut up, Lia."

"Uhoh. I guess I hit the bull's eye."

I gave my sister a venomous look.

"You can be a real pain sometimes."

"Sorry, bro, no offense. But isn't that exactly what I warned you about? Falling in love with Alexandre?"

Sighing, I shrugged.

"The heart says ' Yes!', the head screams ' N o!'. Some things the mind just can't control."

"Ouch, now you're already starting to quote song lyrics, it must be really serious."

"And it's getting more serious every minute I'm around Alex."

"Then maybe you'd better not see each other anymore?"

"Forget it, that would be even worse."

In the meantime, we had stripped ourselves of shoes, jackets, caps, and gloves, not even noticing that Auntie had joined us.

"What would be worse, Lio?"

Oh God, not she too. Fortunately, Lia took over the explanation.

"Despite plans to the contrary, Lio and Alexandre are falling in love with each other. I guess you can see the problem with th is, Aunt Paula."

I had expected our hostess to immediately strike the same tone as my sister and warn me of the seemingly inevitable, but actually she just gave me a quick hug and ruffled my hair.

"Ah, young love, that won't let cold facts get in the way. But take it as it is, make the best of it, and who knows what else might happen."

That was really a completely unexpected piece of advice, and I looked at our aunt in amazement. But she had now discovered the teddy bear.

"What kind of plush monster is that! Did you win it at the lottery booth or what?"

And again it was Lia who beat me to the explanation.

"We didn't win the bear at the lottery booth, Alexandre did. And he had nothing better to do with it than giving it to Lio."

"Oh how cute!"

I stuck my tongue out at both females, but was glad that the conversation was now not quite as serious as it had been a moment before.

"Well, Alex probably felt a little obligated after Lio won a gingerbread heart with 'I like you ' written on it and gave it to him. And to take the sweet talk to the extreme, my little brother promptly christened the teddy 'Alex'!"

"Ohkay... I can see it really hit both of them hard. Well, enjoy the next few days for now, after all, it's Christmas, the time of miracles, maybe one will happen for you two lovebirds."

Hmm, this was starting to get a little creepy. With all of Aunt Paula's hints, I was starting to feel like I was in the Twilight Zone!

"What do you mean, Aunt Paula?"

"Oh, just in general. You rarely know what the future holds anyway, and as I said, Christmas is a very special time. So, kids, what about dinner? Are you hungry?"

Great, now we probably wouldn't be able to get anything else out of her.

"No, thanks, Lia and I ate our fill, there were lots of yummy things at the Christmas Market."

"Good. Did you have enough money? For food and the sleigh ride?"

"Alex invited us to waffles and the sleigh ride, the money you gave us was enough for the other food and the lottery, thank you very much for that. And besides, Lio grabbed another fifty anyway."

"O h, how did he do that?"

I shot Lia an at least half-deadly look before answering Aunt Paula.

"S ince my least favorite sister seems intent on spilling the beans anyway, she might as well tell you everything. I'm going upstairs, get in the shower, and get into my pajamas, the day has been pretty tiring. See you later."

Without paying any further attention to the two relatives, I marched up the stairs to my room. There I turned up the heat a bit, as I wanted to get ready for bed but not sleeping yet. I got out of the bib skirt and sweater, grabbed my onesie and went to the bathroom.

There I spent a good half hour, showering including hair washing, hair drying, teeth brushing and so on.

Back in my room, I grabbed my iPad and threw myself on the bed. Nice. I could stay like that for a while. If I had hoped for peace and quiet, however, I was quickly proven wrong. There was a knock at the door, and sighing, I placed the iPad on my nightstand.

"Come in."

The door opened and Lia stuck her head in to the room.

"May I come in?"

"Like you'd take 'no'!"

"Hehe, true, but I want to at least keep up appearances."

"Enough keeping up appearances. What do you want?"

"Believe it or not, I want to apologize to you, little brother."

Now that was something new.

"Oh yeah, go ahead and shoot."

"I didn't mean to tease you about Alex, and I should have kept my mouth shut with Aunt Paula. Sorry, bro."

Sighing, I nodded.

"That's okay. But I can't wait for you to fall in love for real, sis. Then you'll get it all back times two or three."

"Hehe, whatever you say. But on a different note... Tell me, did Auntie seem strange to you earlier? I mean her remarks about Christmas and miracles and all that?"

"So you noticed it too."

"Of course, I'm not that obtuse."

"Oh really? I hadn't noticed."


"Yes, that's you. Stupid woman. Nah, stupid girl."

"Pfff. What are you up to now?"

"I want to see if I can catch Alex. He gave me his cell phone number and email addy earlier."

"Ah yes, but don't let Auntie catch you having cybersex. I'm going over to my room. See you later."

Sadly she was out of my reach faster than I could give her a good knock on her head, and giggling she dashed out of my room. Cybersex. Honestly, that really wasn't on the agenda for me.

I decided to check my own emails first and grabbed the tablet. Indeed, some messages had reached me, including some picture attachments. Lia and I in our onesies. Lia and I in our confuse -the-aunt outfits. And most importantly, Lia and I with Alex in the middle at the Christmas Market! Since I was supposed to send the latter to Alexandre anyway, I grabbed the piece of paper with his email addy and did that first, combined with the hint that I would have time to chat now, if he was available. And while I was emailing anyway, I also sent the photo to our parents, Lias and mine, with a short text and the explanation who the strange boy between us was.

After that was done, I was going to haunt my favorite story site on the internet, but before I could even get to it, the messenger app pinged.

-- AlexLG: anyone there?

Wow, looks like Alexandre had just been waiting for me to contact him! I quickly wrote my answer.

-- Lio: yes! did you get home okay?

-- AlexLG: yes, i did, but then the drama started.

Oh my, that didn't sound good at all, and I had an idea what it was about.

-- Lio: michelle?

-- AlexLG: that's the one, stupid bitch

-- Lio: what did she do?

-- AlexLG: exactly what dad expected her to do, first she laughed at me and then she took a picture and uploaded it to instagram with the comment that it was her faggot cousin. unfortunately i had already taken off my moon boots, so it was obvious that i was wearing shorts and footed tights.

-- Lio: shit, that's really a bitch!

-- AlexLG: yes but this time she went too far, even for her parents.

-- Lio: what do you mean?

-- AlexLG: uncle jacques saw everything, took away her cell phone and deleted her instagram account. and she won't see her cell phone again anytime soon, she's banned from the internet for the whole time she's here. and she can probably only dream of christmas presents.

I liked this uncle Jacques right away!

-- Lio: cool, she has earned that!

-- AlexLG: oui, she ran to her room snorting with rage and hasn't been seen or heard from since.

-- Lio: hehe, maybe it will be a peaceful christmas after all!

-- AlexLG: that would be great. aunt mireille surprised me the most, she usually trie s to smooth things over, but this time she freaked out even more than uncle jacques. if he hadn't reacted so quickly, she would have booked a boarding school place for michelle today.

-- Lio: well, at some point even the most peaceful soul loses its patience.

-- AlexLG: looks like it. but... well... lio... I have to discuss something with you.

Hm, that sounded very serious now.

-- Lio: what?

-- AlexLG: well... i think... no, i know, i 've fallen in love with you.

-- Lio: and i've fallen in love with you.

-- AlexLG: that's what i hoped. but also feared.

And I knew why.

-- Lio: we're going back home in a few days.

-- AlexLG: exactly. what should we do?

Alex couldn't hear my sigh, so I kept typing.

-- Lio: good question, but a untie said we should just let it run and enjoy the time together.

-- AlexLG: i was hoping you'd say that, even though it will definitely be hard to let you go in a few days.

-- Lio: that won't be easy for me either, but aunt paula also made some cryptic remarks. about christmas and it being the time of miracles.

-- AlexLG: huh, what did she mean by that?

-- Lio: i have no clue.

-- AlexLG: hm, then i guess we'll have to do what she told you. enjoy the time together and see what happens.

-- Lio: okay, if that's what you want, then that's what we'll do.

-- AlexLG: i wouldn't know an alternative anyway, i can't just turn off what i feel.

-- Lio: me neither. so boyfriends over the holidays?

-- AlexLG: boyfriends over the holidays, and then we'll see.

Y essss! I could live with that, at least for the next few days. W hat would come after that was a matter of waiting and drinking children's punch.

-- Lio: cool! love you!

-- AlexLG: love you too, my little lion.

Lion was better than bear. Meow!

-- Lio: and what else is going on in the full house?

-- AlexLG: it's quiet at the moment.

-- Lio: oh, i would have thought you would be besieged by the twin boys.

-- AlexLG: it was like that, but some 15 minutes ago their parents sent them through the bathroom, so that they could go to bed at any time. they had a long day on the highway.

-- Lio: i always sleep on long trips, so i arrive at my destination well rested.

-- AlexLG: you're lucky, i can't do that, and neither can Joël and Noël.

-- Lio: well, i just trust the drivers!

-- AlexLG: hehe, dad is okay, grandma too, but when grandpa is driving they should broadcast warnings on the radio!

-- Lio: why, is he the typical senior driver? a grandpa with a hat on?

-- AlexLG: more like a formula 1 driver. according to the motto 'if i wanted to reach my destination slowly, i could just walk'.

-- Lio: ohoh.

-- AlexLG: not that he races senseless, but he drives fast and uses every chance to get ahead faster. but always according to the rules of the law. it's just not very relaxing riding with him.

Well, most of the time such driving only took a few minutes from the needed time, even on longer trips. But well, as long as Grandpa Santa Claus put no one in danger, who was I to criticize him. Where I myself was not even allowed to ride a crotch rocket yet. Sigh.

-- Lio: anyway, you can be thankful for tired twins.

-- AlexLG: yes, they have said that they want to come to me later, but they will certainly not last long today.

-- Lio: hehe, good. by the way, i 'm already in bed in my pajamas.

-- AlexLG: oh? really? already? why?

I shrugged, even though Alexandre couldn't see it.

-- Lio: fresh air, lots of food, lots of excitement. and since i didn't have much else planned for today anyway, at most some reading and chatting with you, i went through the bathroom earlier and got ready for bed.

-- AlexLG: hm, sounds reasonable, you are also a lot younger than me, small children just need their sleep.

-- Lio: hmpf! i 'm not a little kid. and i didn't say anything about sleeping yet!

-- AlexLG: hehe, you are younger than me and even younger than your sister!

-- Lio: seven minutes!

-- AlexLG: seven minutes are seven minutes.

-- Lio: pffff. which one of your cousins is actually the older one?

-- AlexLG: you'll laugh, they won't tell anyone, and even aunt mireille and uncle jacques are keeping it a secret.

-- Lio: cool, i wish it was the same with lia and me.

-- AlexLG: i can imagine that, but on the other hand i think that it can also be quite nice to be the youngest.

-- Lio: maybe it could be, but the seven minutes difference are not enough for that.

-- AlexLG: well that's stupid then, you should have some advantage of being the younger one.

-- Lio: right, hehe, maybe i should just try this excuse, when the dishes have to be done or something like that.

-- AlexLG: good luck. by the way: want to see!

-- Lio: huh? what do you want to see? me playing the i ' m the youngest card?

-- AlexLG: hehe, no, you lying in bed in your pajamas.

Ah yes!

-- Lio: naughty!

-- AlexLG: giggle giggle.

Hmm, why not actually. I was in bed, but my adonis body was completely covered except for my head and hands.

-- Lio: well, if you care that much... facetime?

-- AlexLG: oh yes, will you dial me?

-- Lio: okay, doing it right now.

I tapped on the display, and a moment later the messenger image was replaced by the one from the camera. And there was Alexandre, smiling at me and waving happily.

"I see you! But I don't see any of your pajamas yet!"

Someone was in a hurry!

"Don't rush me, I have to take a proper pose first!"

Alex giggled, while I now lifted the tablet away from me as far as my arms would allow, to expose as much of my body as possible to the camera. My virtual counterpart seemed to like the sight!

"Woooohooooo! Cute! The red menace!"

I stuck my tongue out at him, but then had to laugh at his enthusiasm.

"So, is that acceptable?"

"Wow more than that!"

"Oh wait, I forgot something else."

I reached behind me and quickly pulled the hood over my head as well.

"Oh cool. Wait a minute. Is that what I think it is?"

"I don't know, to answer that question I would have to know what you think it is."

"Well, it looks like a long onesie to me! Even with feet!"

I had to disappoint him there, though.

"Sorry, onesie is right, but no feet on it, my socks are just of the same color."

"Ah okay. Nevertheless cool! Didn't expect that."

I shrugged again, and this time Alex could see it.

"Why not, these things are practical. Nice and warm and the whole body is wrapped up without any gaps."

"Hmm, sounds logical. Does Lia have one of those too?"

"Well, sure, we're twins after all, hehe. Wait a minute, I have to look, there's a photo of the two of us somewhere. Give me a moment."

I didn't have to look for long, and I sent the picture that Aunt Paula had taken of us on its way to Alex. It arrived quickly, and I saw him grinning into the camera.

"Totally cool, that way no one can tell you from each other at all! And n ow I know why you really walk around in a skirt."

"Huh? W h at? Why I really walk around in a skirt?"

"Well, sure! Somehow you have to be able to distinguish yourself from your sister when needed!"

I guess you could look at it that way! If you wanted to see it that way. Which I didn't.

"Haha, thanks, but it's not really that bad with us. We rarely wear similar clothes, and Lia usually has slightly longer hair than me too."

"Oh too bad... By the way, it's funny, Noël and Joël always, but really always have the same clothes on. And exactly the same hairstyle."

"Ouch, then no one can ever tell them apart!"

"Yep, true. Or would be true if it hadn't gotten too bad for even their parents at some point."

"Oh, what did they do? Give them nose rings in different colors?"

"Haha, that would have been a cool idea too! No, they got necklaces, each with a little tag with their name on it."

Hmm, that was nicer than nose rings, but I still saw a problem there.

"They can still swap them amongst each other, right? Then you still don't know who you're dealing with."

"That would be a possibility, though, but first of all, the necklaces are too tight to be pulled over their head s, and secondly, the clasps have little pad locks on them. Unless the brats have lockpick genes, they can't get out of the necklaces."

That was nifty, hehe! Their parents were apparently used to grief, or they wouldn't resort to such means. Well, still better than tattooing their names on their foreheads!

"Cool idea, I like that. Putting your own offspring in chain s. I'll keep that in mind for later."

Alexandre looked at me with a tilted head.

"You want to have kids?"

"Yes, definitely. K ids are cute. Lia and I are very popular babysitters in our area. Do you have a problem with kids?"

"No, absolutely not! I love the twins, and you saw on the walk with Micco that I didn't have a problem with our companion kiddies either."

Oh, yeah, right.

"I just never thought about having kids of my own until now. I mean, as a gay guy..."

"Gee, Alex, adoption! It's possible by now, if not easy yet. But by the time we're at the age when that becomes interesting, I'm sure it will have improved even more."

"Hm, true again. Papa Lio sounds kind of cool, too."

"Indeed! So now I want to see more than your face."

"Hehe okay, fair enough."

Alex was now holding his tablet away from him so the camera could transmit more of him, and I realized he was sitting cross-legged on a couch apparently. In a t-shirt and tights.

"Nice look."

"Well, of course, it's me! "

"I'm a little surprised you're sitting around in that outfit after your encounter with your cousin. Especially with your other cousins still planning to visit you."

Now it was Alexandre who shrugged.

"I don't mind them seeing me like tat, they knew I was wearing tights anyway, and besides, they walk around in the house like that too. Only Michelle makes fun of them, and her brothers haven't taken her seriously for a long time. Somehow they seem to have something on her, she's usually not quite as mean to them as she is to me."

"Maybe she doesn't dare, because of her parents. With you, she thinks she can get away with more. Well, seems like she was wrong on that."

"Indeed! I still can't really believe it, to be honest."

I didn't have a chance to answer anymore, because in the next moment I heard a door rattle loudly and after that two childish voices in stereo.

"Alexandre! Nous y revoil à!"

"Now I would never have noticed that if you hadn't told me, dwarfs."

"Nous ne sommes pas des nains!"

Just one voice this time.

"If I say you are dwarfs, then you are dwarfs. Besides, didn't we agree that you would only speak German here?"

"Mais vous parlez Français!"

Again, just a voice, but for the life of me I couldn't tell if it was the same one as before or a different one. Twins.

"Yes, but we're here in Germany, and not everyone can do that. For example, I don't know if Lio can understand you."

"Qui est Lio?"

And again in stereo. Alexandre was silent and waited. And waited. And after waiting some more, I guess his invaders understood what he expected of them.

"Who is Lio?"

Oh man, the little boy 's accent was just adorable.

"That's better. Lio is my boy friend, and you just burst into the middle of our conversation."

"Does that mean he is your … your petit copain?"

"Yes, Noël, he is. Boyfriend means 'petit copain'."

"Cool. A re you talking to Lio on video?"

"Yes, do you want to see him?"

"O h yes!"


Ha, this time the two identicals had answered quite unidentically for once!

"All right, but first he should see you. Line up next to each other. Very nice. Lio, I'll switch to the other camera. By the way, I'd like to see you like that too, it would suit you even better than the red menace onesie."

W hat did he mean by that now? I didn't have to wait long for the answer, because Alex switched to the rear camera, and there they were. Two cute ten-year-old boys, grinning broadly, with black curls on their heads, and all the rest of their bodies wrapped in onesies, and these really with feet on them! I looked closer and recognized the colorful motif: Paw Patrol. These two were really stunningly adorable.

"Oh m y, Alex, they are so cute. I wonder if I can talk their parents into selling them."

"Haha, I don't think so, they're really attached to the twins. But you might be able to get Michelle."

"Forget it!"

"Hehe, that's what I thought. There, now they want to see you too."

"Okay, fair's fair."

I lifted the iPad away from me again, and from the fact that a part of Alex was now reappearing on the display, I could tell that he had turned his tablet toward the twins without switching cameras again.

"Oh, wait, I still have to switch cameras."

Ah, so he had noticed it too. A moment later, I saw Joël and Noël looking at the display and then waving at me.

"Hello Lio!"

"I'm Noël!"

"And I'm Joël!"

I pulled my tablet close to my eyes and looked twice and really closely, then shook my head.

"Nice try, guys, or wait : nains, but your necklaces say otherwise."


"That's something you really shouldn't say!"

"But Alex, that's just not fair that one can recognize us by the necklaces! And we didn't know that Lio understands French!" complained Noël.

I giggle d at the indignation of the two little ones.

"I don't understand French at all."

"But you called us nains. Dwarfs!"

"True, Joël, but I was just listening carefully to what Alexandre was calling you earlier."


"Yes, Noël, oh. And by the way, Lio knows exactly how to handle twin pranks, because he's a twin himself."

The twin dwarfs' eyes flashed, and there was suddenly no sign of indignation.

"You have a twin brother, too, Lio? What's his name? Mio?", Joël now wanted to know.

Laughing, I shook my head.

"No, I have a twin sister, and her name is Lia."

"Ah, but then you can't confuse others like we do."

Alex chuckled softly.

"Come here you two, I'm going to show you something."

I had an idea of what Alexandre was up to, so I leaned back comfortably into my pillow and waited for the things to come.

A little later, Noël and Joël had joined their cousin left and right, so I now saw three heads on my iPad's display at once. Interesting, the three had completely different hair colors, Alex blond and the dwarfs black, but curl-wise there was no difference.

"Here, take a good look, and then tell me which of the two is Lio and which is his sister."

The faces of Alex's two side-s it ters looked spellbound at the display, and I could literally see their brains working behind their brows. And working. And work ing. But they didn't seem to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Finally, Joël complained.

"It's not fair with the hoods! And the onesies are way too wide, you can't see who has the... hm what's the name... who has the bust!"

I laughed out, the little guy had hit the nail on the head.

"True, Joël, but this proves that my sister and I can still trick other people, even being girl and boy."

The twins nodded slightly, pouting, and I saw Alexandre s wiping around on the tablet. Somehow I knew what was coming next.

"So, now look at That picture. Who is Lio here and who is Lia?"

Again, the two looked spellbound at the display, but pouting was quickly replaced with triumph.

"That's easy! The one on the left with the skirt is Lia!"

I was already about to set the record straight when I saw Alex lean over to Noël and whisper something in his ear. With the result that the latter's eyes widened and his jaw dropped.

"What!!! Really? You want me to believe that?"

"Indeed, Noël, I want you to believe that."

"That... oh..."

Joël now leaned forward and looked around his cousin at his twin brother.

"What is it, Noël?"

"Alex says that's Lio in the skirt! And his sister wears the pants!"

Ha, but only clothing-wise speaking!

Joël's gaze immediately jerked back to the display of Alexandre's tablet.

"Wow... Really?"

I nodded.

"Yes, quite really, the one in the skirt is me."

"Do you always wear girl clothes, Lio?"

Okay, I guess it was time to clear things up a bit. Ha, I should record the explanation somehow so I could just play it back when needed without running my mouth over and over again!

"No, I don't, and neither does Lia, and that's exactly why I did put on the skirt."

And I began to unravel the story of Aunt Paula's skirt conspiracy, as well as Lia's and my counter-conspiracy. As the story unfolded, the twins grinned wider and wider and literally fidgeted with excitement on the couch, so Alexandre had trouble keeping the tablet still.

"Now sit still for a bit, or I'm going to drop the iPad out of my hand!"

"Oh, but that was to ooooooo tal ly cool of Lio and Lia!" said Joël.

"And brave, too!" added Noël.

Apparently my image had just risen mightily in the eyes of the dwarfs . It felt nice to be adored by the cute little guys.

"You guys tricked your aunt! Did she really not notice?"

I guess I should stay honest.

"Well, Noël, when she finally looked closely, she realized what we had done. But the first time she just looked at us for a second, and she addressed me as 'Lia'."

Now his identical brother looked a little sad.

"Too bad, that would have been great if she hadn't found out."

"Oh you know, actually that was a good thing that she did notice."


"Well, I told you that she tried to tell Lia what kind of clothes to wear being a girl. If she hadn't realized that I was the one in the skirt, then she would still think that Lia was finally dressing the way she thought a girl should do."

"Oh. And did she get angry?" Joël wanted to know.

"No, on the contrary. She was surprised at first, but then laughed, and now she doesn't try to tell Lia what to wear anymore."

"That's good, girls are allowed to wear pants too. Maman and Michelle almost only wear pants!"

Alexandre grinned to himself, then looked directly at me and raised his eyebrows. What did he want now... oh... hehe... I was suddenly very sure what he expected me to do!

"That's exactly right, dwarfs. And boys are allowed to wear skirts, of course! How about it, don't you want to try it?"

Now there were two jaws dropping at once, while Alexandre hurried to jump on the band wagon.

"Oh yes, Lio is absolutely right! You guys really need to do that sometime, I'm sure Aunt Mireille will love buying you some nice skirts!"

The twins at first looked shocked out of their footed sleepers (ha, I finally remembered how those things were called in America), but then their expressions turned defiant.

"Only if you do that too, Alex!" said Noël to an eager nod from his identical brother.

"Hehe, no, it wouldn't look good on me. But you would definitely look totally cuuuuuuute in a skirt or even a dress! Even cuter than you already are."

"We are not cute!" protested Joël.

Forget it, little one.

"Yes, you are. I'm really jealous of Alex for having you guys as cousins."

And that was meant absolutely honestly. Though I would rather have them as little brothers, not as little cousins who lived hundreds of kilometers away from me. Sigh. Again, that stupid distance.

"See, that's what I keep telling you, and Lio has only known you for a few minutes and has already figured it out, too."

The twins looked at each other, then grinned at the camera.

"Alright, we're cute, but only for you guys, not for Michelle!"

"Haha, okay, Noël, you don't have to be cute for Michelle. To be honest, it would probably be best to be invisible to the bitch."

"You called Michelle a bitch!" laughed Joël, but Alex just shrugged.

"I'm sure you've already called her something much worse."

The dwarfs continued to laugh, then Joël made a very serious face, or what a ten-year-old would consider one.

"I refuse to testify because I don't want to incriminate myself!"

Now it was Alexandre's and my turn to laugh, and Joël couldn't keep up the serious expression for long either.

"Okay, Joël, you and your brother are hereby permanently pardoned for all rants concerning your sister."

"Oh, does that apply to me too, Lio? Please, please, pretty please!"

Grinning, I nodded at Alex.

"Sure, you're one of her victims too."

"Cool, I'll fire up Google later and find some new swear words!"

"Hehe, do that, but all three of you shouldn't let the adults catch you doing it, they might not recognize my pardon."

"Hehe, the way Aunt Mireille and Uncle Jacques were freaking out earlier, I guess we don't have to worry much about that. As long as Michelle doesn't apologize seriously and, more importantly, honestly, she's going to have to listen to a lot more things than being called a 'bitch'."

Well, I really wanted to hope that her parents stood firm and didn't buckle after all. Michelle needed to learn that she wasn't going to get away with being a bitch in the long run.


"Yes, Noël?"

"Your onesies are boring though, only red!"

Great, now he turned into a fashion critic.

"Can't everyone have cute onesies like you and your brother. With feet on them, too. I didn't know they made them for big kids. At least not here, only in America."

In fact, I had seen similar colorful onesies in advertisements here in Germany, but always without f eet on them. Hmm. That would be even more practical than my footless one plus fluffy socks.

But Alex knew better.

"Don't be so sure, Lio, those things the dwarfs got from here. There's an US store two towns over that carries those footies, and Grandma Ilona just gave them to the guys earlier today."

"Y eeee aaaa h and they're really great!" cheered Joël, accompanied by his brother's vigorous nodding of the head.

"Exactly, and they also are good at hiding our..."

Suddenly Noël slapped his hand over his mouth and didn't speak further.

"What are they hiding well?"

"Ah... Nothing, Lio! But you need one of these cool pajamas too!"

Hm, kind of weird, but well, I didn't want to be too nosy for once. Especially since Alex immediately responded to the twin suggestion.

"Right! Maybe Grandma or Grandpa will drive me to the store tomorrow, then I'll get you one as a Christmas present, my little one. Let's see if you dare to wear something like that."

Alex should have learned not to challenge me, but he had probably already forgotten how he had to 'pay' for my Christmas Market appearance in the skirt.

"Only if you get one for yourself too, Alex."

"For me? I'm really too old for something like that!"

"Yes, just like you are really too old for shorts with tights."

Now my boy friend looked a tiny bit shocked, the twins on the left and right of him, however, were enthusiastic.

"Oh ye s, then we can have a real pajama party!" suggested Noël.

"Exactly, and only those who wear footed sleepers can participate!" his brother specified.

"Come on, it'll be fun!", and now both in stereo.

Of course Alexandre couldn't resist such a concentrated attack for long, soon he nodded contritely and capitulated.

"Okay, okay, but first we have to find out if they even have anything like that in my size."

"Cool, and if they do : please bring one for Lia too, but I'll pay for it. Would be another Christmas present for my sister."

Already he smiled again, that's how I liked him best. Now, however, our intimate round was disturbed, someone knocked on Alexandre's door and shortly thereafter I heard a woman's voice.

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